Until recently, translated manga was not very accessible to the general public in the United States. One of the first major titles to be translated was Lone Wolf and Cub, the story of the Shogun's executioner's struggle to get revenge on the clan that killed his wife and reduced him to the level of a criminal. Early in this series' translated run, it had forwards written by the well-known comic book artist, Frank Miller. Miller did the introductions because even though he did not understand the Japanese, Lone Wolf and Cub was still his favorite comic. In these enlightened times, however, there is a great variety of translated titles for the non-Japanese-speaking fan to enjoy. Anyhow, here are four publications that are not only translated but are also pretty good, in my opinion. I hope that something here grabs your interest.
Animerica Extra -- This release is a compilation of four good series: Fushigi Yuugi, Video Girl Ai, X, and Steam Detectives. Fushigi Yuugi should be fairly familiar to regular CJAS attendees, and the manga, created by Watase Yuu, is basically the same story. The art is a bit different but is still cool, in my opinion. Video Girl Ai, created by Katsura Masakazu, is a romantic comedy with a lot of drama. If you have only seen the anime, the manga is much longer and really deals with a lot more issues. The art is excellent, and this is really the only work by Katsura that I like. X (X/1999 in the US), created by the manga group CLAMP, is an action/drama series. It is the story of a climactic battle that will determine the fate of the world, a fate that only the hyper-powerful Kamui can determine. This is the least entertaining title in this collection, but it still has some of the best art that I have ever seen. The eye-candy factor makes up for the only-tolerable writing. Finally, Steam Detectives, by Asamiya Kia, is a story set in an alternate universe where everything is powered by steam. The main character, Narutaki, fights crime in this perpetually foggy city with the help of his partner, Nurse Ling-Ling. This series is fun and has a really cool feel to the art.
Blade of the Immortal -- This manga, created by Samura Hiroaki, is one of the coolest action series that I have seen. The basis of the story is that Manji, a powerful swordsman, must kill a thousand evil people to lift his curse of immortality. The art is great, the story is good, and the main character is damn cool. This manga is just loaded with the over-the-top feudal Japan feel -- lots of sword fights and funky weapons. One warning though -- this title is not for the squeamish, as there are many brutal deaths.
Adolf -- This series created by Tezuka Osamu, a.k.a. the God of Manga, is one of the rare titles that have been translated in their entirety into English. Adolf is the story of three men named Adolf -- Adolf Kaufmann, Adolf Kamil, and Adolf Hitler. The story follows the lives of these men through the World War II era and sees how their fates intermingle. There are no purely good or purely evil characters in this manga, which makes it all the more interesting to read. Tezuka's storytelling really shines in Adolf, and the story is one of the most interesting dramas I have ever read.
Black Jack -- Created by Tezuka Osamu, this is the story of a brilliant mercenary doctor who has various adventures in his practice. The manga is very different from the anime in that it uses older-style art and that the stories tend to be very philosophical. Like almost everything that Tezuka has done, Black Jack is fun to read and is cleverly written.