Whether we admit it or not, most comic fans will keep a running list of the good, the bad, and the ugly of their comics reading experience throughout the years. When convention season rolls around, however, Deb Aoki and her team of ragtag manga experts and enthusiasts offer up the ultimate experience when it comes to making these lists something more public: The Best and Worst Manga panel.
New York Comic Con 2022 hosted the Best and Worst panel for its second time this year – the first being for San Diego Comic Con – with a whole new crop of manga enthusiasts at the helm alongside veteran manga reader, journalist, and Mangasplaining podcast co-host Deb Aoki: New York City librarians and manga experts Jillian Rudes, Renee Scott, and Joe Pascullo, as well as NYC school graduate and manga enthusiasts Caleb Williams. YouTuber and manga reviewer Alyssa Cruz could not make it, but had her choices read aloud by the attending panelists.
Much like the larger readership of manga across the world, the choices across the seven categories — Best New Manga for Kids/Teens, Best New Manga for Older Teens/Adults, Best Continuing Series for Teens/Adults, Worst Manga, Underrated Gem, and Most Anticipated — were astonishingly varied, which each panelist making a timed case and spoiler-free synopsis of their choice. If the panelist went over their allotted time, a small bell was rung, signaling that they were being 'played off the stage.'
The real shift between the choices of comics came from making sure that the titles chosen fit within the categories' age ranges — a feat that is often difficult for children’s librarians trying to parse what fits the appropriate age groups. A few names came up multiple times across several categories such as Wataru Midori, whose work has been offered across several manga publishers, with titles such as Run Your Own Legs through Yen Press, as well as Cat + Gamer; both titles deemed both silly and heartwarming in a way that reads well to younger kids.
Among the work for older teens and adults, both new and continuing, cuteness and romance still reign supreme, with Penguin and House from Akiho Ieda coming in the lead for Rudes, Kaiju No. 8 for Williams, and Medalist for Aoki, who took an extra moment to comment how it’s sometimes difficult to find teen titles that don’t talk down to their audience, and that Medalist meets the audience where they are while acknowledging that the experiences of the story are hard in a way that gives them an important agency as a reader.
One of the worst was, naturally, the wonderfully titled Does A Hot Elf Live Next Door To You — a story that, according to the panelists, should have everything. There’s a busty woman. There’s a helpless artist who wants to make manga. There’s an interest between the two. There’s even more busty women! And yet nothing works; instead yielding to an utterly bland story. “I will spend money on porn. I love porn. If this is considered porn then this is some really boring porn,” laughed Aoki.
Also listed was Ghost Reaper Girl – a title that caused one audience member to cry out “No! My heart!” – a story of a girl whose violent streaks just seem to make the dating life harder at the over-ripe age of 28 years old. Between a borderline pedophilic theme and a rough take on the ageism theme of women over the age of 20 not being able to be wanted anymore, this story was one was clearly sent Rudes running for the hills upon finishing it.
The panel ended on a high note with every panelist revealing the manga that they were most looking forward to reading in the upcoming publishing schedule. The responses ranged from The Boxer and Shy from Yen Press out in December 2022, Blue Box in November, and Soloist in a Cage and Show Ha Shoten in May 2023 — giving a great deal of material to look forward to, to the happy and eager audience.
Throughout all of New York Comic Con 2022, Popverse is going to be keeping up with everything that happens, from panels and breaking news to interviews and the best cosplay on the show floor. We’ll be sharing everything as it happens — including exclusive livestreams from the biggest panels at the show — so let us keep you in the loop all weekend.
If you’ve enjoyed this coverage, please give Popverse a shoutout by tagging us on @PopverseSays on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or linking to us at www.thepopverse.com.