Well, here's the last three. I'm getting to the tired stage and have this god-awful test tomorrow in physics that I think I'm sure to fail :( He's a pretty bad professor.
#3) Please Save My Earth
Sci-fi and Shojo are two genres that rarely get to breed, which is a sad thing because when they do, the result is usually epic good as demonstrated by this series. This series was so big in Japan during its run that people believed they were the main characters and they had to put a disclaimer on every chapter and manga. Why it's so relatively unheard of in the States is beyond me, but it's an epic to the max and the longest of my top 3 series at 21 volumes. The premise is that 7 teens in Japan are all having dreams about their past lives as researchers from another planet observing Earth from a moonbase. Now, at first, this all starts off as well and fun, kinda like an RPG or something, but it quickly turns sour because their past lives weren't exactly guilt free fun and the more evil of the moon past lives is out for revenge in this one for a reason that I can only call fair. A lot of the series is spent in the present, but several volumes are devoted to the past lives of two of the characters: Mokuren and Shion who both lead very different but very interesting lives and Mokuren is such a doll, she's a great character and nothing like her current life's personality. Most of the present is spent with both the current reincarnations of Mokuren and Shion, but also of some of the other characters who didn't get or really need their own back story but are much more key to the present events (which makes sense as this is about the present and how the past is affecting them). And since this is sci-fi shojo, of course it involves psychics. In the first several volumes, the author (Saki Hiwatari) has a tendency to make some in-jokes and calls herself out on a few things, but as it gets more series, these disappear too. Really, this is a great read, bit hard to find at this point, but suuuch a good series!
#2) Maison Ikkoku
This was one of my earliest manga I ever read and collected and it's still one of my favorites. It's like now that I'm in college, this becomes ever so slightly more relevant and the main's extremely poor luck and living situation has me finding more pity for him than ever. It's genre is "romantic comedy" and it certainly has both, but this is clearly Rumiko Takahashi's (also know for Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2) masterpiece as this is the only one in which she seems to know how to balance them both perfectly. And this series has a lot of gut wrenching moments, but as painful as it is, it's very much so worth reading through. But then the actual comedy in the series is all very good and original. Considering that the entire housing unit is filled with comic relief characters, it could have easily gone out of whack at the wrong times, but it never does and the housing characters are able to remain a constant source of comedy without overusing anything like she does in her later series (for example, Kyoko, the main female love interest, doesn't respond to Yusaku, the main's nudie mags by being a juvenile and shouting "PERVERT" then slapping him, which Akane does to Ranma far too often for it to be funny anymore and usually over the smallest things. Not to say Kyoko doesn't slap quite a bit, but most of the time, Yusaku had it coming if you ask me). Later on in the series, the comic reliefs can ever get series and everyone in the universe has a great tendency to call out on certain things like character traits and potential plot holes (for example, noting how spineless Yusaku is, hoe overly jealous Kyoko gets, and what on Earth Mr. Yotsuya does for a living, which we never find out but is still proposed as a question rather frequently). This is romantic comedy done right at its finest, the funny is hilarious at all times, I don't think a single joke fell flat on its face in the entire 15 volume run, it's the right length, it has a conclusive ending, and it builds depression perfectly to make the FINALLY! moments all the more worth it. I wasn't even able to read Ranma 1/2 after this.
#1) Banana Fish
Man, how to describe this? It's always difficult to describe your favorite thing sometimes, isn't it? Especially when it's so unknown in the states but so influential in Japan. Another problem being that the strange name and artwork is an instant turn off to a lot of people who want to read pretty things only, it's such a shame because the story and dialogue is so gripping I'm not looking at the art half the time anyway. What we have here is a political thriller full of drama and action. The whole story is just a beast moving in continuous motion without pause for any silly stuff, it's all serious all the time, but it gets away with it because the ever so rare interludes of just Ash and Eiji (the two mains) is spent to build the relationship between them. I don't think a single line or scene is wasted. The plot progression feels natural, like nothing suddenly comes in or leaves without being explained well and no plot point happens after the obvious plot trigger which also gives the series its name that feels like it came out of nowhere, the story telling is just flawless. The way the characters interact just make them feel so real to me, even Ash to some degree even though finding someone like him would be incredibly unlikely and beyond belief. It's not the most realistic depiction of NYC or street gangs, but it's kinda like how we let movies get away with being incredibly inaccurate and still be entertaining. And the author doesn't know her guns too well but I honestly didn't give a damn. The story starts off with an incredibly intelligent pretty who's a super shot with a gun receiving a mysterious phial and being told to "go see Banana Fish", thus spurring the plot into motion of what exactly it is. It quickly becomes apparent that it's a drug that Papa Dino, who is technically who Ash reports to, wants for whatever reason, but Ash is no lapdog about to just hand it over if he wants it that bad. Good guys and bad guys alike are intelligent and all too often we get wars between geniuses and I've not doubt that Ash would put Light Yagami (Death Note) or even Shinichi Akiyama (Liar Game) to shame in that department. What starts off as a little spat quickly escalades into something of epic proportions and the story never stops rolling. It's hard to beat out an old favorite, but Banana Fish did this for me and anything new I saw or read for a month after just couldn't compare. This is my perfect series and without a doubt my #1 of all time for both anime and manga.