11 Useful Manga for Anyone Preparing to Work in Japan
In Japan, mangas are being read by many business people as a source of inspiration for anything from leadership, business strategy, to organization management or team building.
So it is no wonder that in daily conversations and business meetings in a Japanese company—whether big or small, whether corporate or startup—mangas are often used as references or metaphors to make a point or put things into context.
And if you have read some of them, we can almost promise you that it will help you in catching important contextual information, getting a better sense of the emotional sentiment in the team, and will open up doors for deeper conversations with others about what the business or project at hand is really about, or how they feel about it, or their motivation.
In short, mangas are a way of deciphering Japanese business communication and business relationships.
So if you’ve been wondering if there’s manga for working adults and business people to read that are useful for business, here are some top choices of manga (mainly sourced from Tachiyomi’s reader-generated list) for anyone preparing to work/working in Japan! Plus, short synopses along with Tachiyomi’s reader reviews, so you have an idea of what to expect.
Note: Some of the following manga have official English translations where you can purchase the manga on Amazon. Others have fan-translated versions uploaded to sites like manganelo.com.
Kacho Kosaku Shima, written and illustrated by Kenshi Hirokane, is a manga series depicting the career of a fictional salaryman. The first volume was published in Kodansha's Morning in 1983. An official Japanese and English version of several of the volumes is available on Amazon.
“A good manga to learn that as a salaryman, you need to be flexible and respond to the trends of the times. It's also a good way to learn about the company structure, labor unions, and many other things.”
Salary Man Kintaro, created by Hiroshi Motomiya and serialized from 1994 to 2002 in Weekly Young Jump, follows a former bike gang leader who becomes a salaryman to fulfil a promise to his late wife. Manga Planet announced they had licensed the manga, so expect an official English version at some point.
“Kintaro, a man among men, becomes an office worker and creates a stir in the company and society. A man who hates injustice, Kintaro is a cool and refreshing character. This series is a great way to relieve the stress you usually feel at work.”
Investor Z is a Japanese manga by Norifusa Mita, serialized in Morning magazine from 2013 to 2017, with investment and stock market themes, featuring real people, as well as characters from past manga by Mita. Official English translations are available for purchase.
“I'd recommend this manga, especially for newbies because you get to learn about how society works and about investing! I wish I had read it earlier in my life.”
Angel Bank: Dragon Sakura Gaiden is a Japanese manga series by Norifusa Mita, serialized in Morning magazine from 2007 to 2010, featuring a high school English teacher who struggles to find a job but then meets a charismatic career change agent. Currently only available in Japanese.
“This is a sequel to Dragon Zakura and is specifically geared towards working adults and changing jobs. It is a helpful book especially on how to think and be aware [regarding career changes].”
Kingdom is by Yasuhisa Hara, featuring a fictional war orphan set against the Warring States time period as he goes on a quest to become the greatest general and unify China. Available in Japanese. This has also been adapted as an anime, currently with 3 seasons and with a 4th season on the way.
“What’s great about this manga is how it shows a servant (slave) moving up the ladder. You hit a wall, and you don't have to face that wall alone, you have allies, you increase them, and you get stronger too! And what makes you stronger is how you express yourself in the midst of all the hierarchy, business rules, etc.! I think you'll learn a lot!”
ONE PIECE is a manga series by Eiichiro Oda, featuring a boy who gains the properties of rubber after eating a Devil Fruit. The series follows his band of pirates in search of the ultimate treasure. The manga series—first published in 1997—has spawned many spinoffs and has a wide, cult following. Official English translations are available for purchase.
“I've been reading this book since it was first serialized, and I found it interesting and inspiring. It encourages me to do my best when I feel down because of work mistakes, and to do my best to finish what I set out to do.”
Hataraki Man is a series by Moyoco Anno, initially serialized in Morning magazine in 2004 to 2008, featuring the woman editor of a magazine. The four volumes of manga are only available in Japanese. However, this has been adapted into an anime series, the rights of which were purchased for distribution in North America.
“The heroine's stoicism toward her work was so inspiring that I wanted to work as hard as she did. There are also elements of romance and comic elements, so I read it in no time at all.”
Space Brothers is by Chuya Koyama, first serialized in Morning magazine in 2007. The story follows two brothers who have ambitions to reach the Moon and Mars and follows their journey to do so. Official English translations are available for purchase. An anime and a live action version of the manga has also been created.
“The manga teaches us the importance of bonding with our workmates and following our dreams. It also gives us the exhilaration of overcoming any difficulties with courage, wisdom, and cooperation with our friends. The manga has many wise words that can be used as life lessons.”
Giant Killing is a series created by Masaya Tsunamoto and Tsujitomo, first serialized in 2007 in Morning magazine. Since then, it has won numerous awards and was adapted into an anime series. Official English translations are available for purchase.
“Takeru Tatsukai, former star player of the Japanese national team. He has returned to his old team, ETU, as a coach, and he has many strategies and words of wisdom to rebuild ETU, which had become a weak team. This work is a textbook of organizational development.”
Created by Tochi Ueyama, Cooking Papa is one of the longest-running series by volume number at 157 volumes. The story features a working dad who also likes to cook but doesn’t want his workplace to know about his secret passion. Available in Japanese.
“This is a manga about a father who is an office worker who can cook, and through cooking, he can heal his family, his work, and his relationships. This is a manga that should be read by fathers who are usually busy with work.”
A series by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Hyouge Mono is a fictional retelling of the historical character Furuta Oribe. In the manga, the warlord faces opposing desires between his obsession with the tea ceremony and his ambition for promotion. Also adapted as an anime series.
“For those who like a taste of history in their manga, this one gives you that plus great insight into hierarchy, class, and character—much of which is still present in Japanese workplaces today."
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