Action has been the most popular genre of manga for decades, which is why a very good percentage of manga include battling or fighting as their main topic. For originality’s sake, a huge variety of sub-genres have appeared and blossomed over the past few decades with entirely different settings, tones and characters.
One of these sub-genres is manga about delinquents. They are distinguishable by a few characteristics that they all share: A school setting, teenagers who like to fight and are not regular students, a good amount of comedy and sometimes a few hints of romance. Generally, a manga that includes superpowers shouldn’t be considered a delinquent manga. There are, however, a few exceptions, and one of them is included here. Here are some of the best delinquent manga.
Written by: Kozueko Morimoto
Normally, delinquent manga barely show any teachers and are mainly about the delinquent students. There are two main exceptions (both of them in this list), and this is one of them. In fact, the main character of this manga is a teacher, Kumiko, trying to teach a class full of mean delinquents. What they don’t know is that she’s pretty mean as well.
While it might not be as good overall as Great Teacher Onizuka (number 4 on this list), I had to add it because this is the delinquent manga that handles romance the best. In many other titles it feels shoehorned in to attract some female readers who self-insert into the main character’s love interest. This is not the case at all in this manga. The romance factor evolves naturally, is not the focal point of the story, and feels real.
The love blossoms as it would in real life, slowly and steadily. Love at first sight may or may not exist, but it shouldn’t be used in manga, or in literature of any kind for that matter – it’s a cheap and lazy way to add a love story. Good job, Gokusen, for proving that delinquent manga can properly include love as one of their topics!
Written by: Ryūhei Tamura
Tatsumi Oga, one of the strongest delinquents around, finds himself forced to take care of a baby he found. The baby, however, turns out to be the Great Demon King! Hijinks and epic battles ensue.
That’s basically the plot of Beelzebub. Being the exception I was talking about, it includes superpowers. I added it to the list mainly because of its incredible popularity. It’s most likely the best known delinquent manga. Although there are superpowers, the first half strikes a really good balance and doesn’t go overboard with them. The story is still mainly about Oga’s school life while raising a demon baby.
The second half, however, reads much more like a regular shounen battle manga. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on the reader. Personally, I enjoyed the first half much more, but the second one is not bad either. The art improves over time as well and is amazingly done. The characters remain consistently interesting and there are many of them. It’s also really funny.
8) Rokudenashi Blues
Written by: Masanori Morita
Want to see how Japan was in the early 90s? Check out this classic. Rokudenashi Blues started being serialized in 1988 – 28 years ago as of 2016! It’s one of the original delinquent manga and was quite a big hit in Japan. Unfortunately, not many people in the West seem to have read it, perhaps because of the old looking art style or the length (over 400 chapters!)
I feel like it deserves a spot on the list not only because of its legacy, but also because it’s simply one of the most well-crafted delinquent manga out there. The story follows Taison Maeda (yes, seriously, Tyson) on his journey to become the strongest delinquent in Tokyo, starting out as a small fry. Delinquent manga usually try to add some “politics” into the mix. By politics I mean diplomatic relationships between schools, alliances, all-out wars, etc. This manga creates a really complex, multifaceted political setting and it’s super cool. Many have tried to copy it, but few have succeeded.
7) Midori no Hibi
Written by: Kazurou Inoue
Seiji, the strongest delinquent in his school, wakes up one day with his right hand replaced by a tiny version of a girl from a different school, Midori, who is in love with him. Many adventures occur as they try to hide this from the rest of the world.
This manga focuses much more on romance than on fighting (It also made my top 10 romance manga list), but I feel like it still counts as a delinquent manga because of the main character. Seiji is pretty much the stereotypical delinquent manga lead. I put this one on the list because it’s hilarious, and because, like in Gokusen, the romance is really well done. It has a superbly-done ending as well, something that many manga in this genre lack. If you’re hungry for a romantic comedy that also has some fights, this will do more than just satisfy you – it’ll actually make you think about what it means to love someone.
6) Hareluya II Boy
Written by: Umezawa Haruto
Hareluya Hibino is a ridiculously strong delinquent who uses a frying pan as his weapon of choice. Watch him and the friends he makes along the way get into crazy misadventures through his years in high school in this hilarious manga.
To be fair, Hibino is a bit of a Gary Stu. He always defeats his opponents and usually without much issues at all. The manga is not about close fights or tough situations, it’s more about Hibino crushing his opponents convincingly. It’s not done poorly, though, and Hibino’s overpowered character synergizes very well with the rest of the cast.
He always saves the day, but the enemies are so well done and believable that you feel excited every single time he does. The support cast, Hibino’s friends, are also all really good characters with their own storylines and entire arcs dedicated to them and their character growth.
In fact, I would say that the manga is less about Hibino himself, and more about the supporting cast. Hibino is just what they all have in common, and the “last-second hero” when they get in trouble. Hareluya II Boy’s ending is also really good, in my opinion. You’ll know what I mean when you read it, and I would love to discuss it with you once you do – send me a message!
5) Angel Densetsu
Written by: Norihiro Yagi
This manga is so funny I could die. The main character, Seiichirou Kitano, is a kind-hearted man who deeply cares about other people, even strangers. Unfortunately, he looks extremely scary, and people think he’s a mean delinquent out there to hurt them. This puts him in some hilarious misunderstandings, and somehow he becomes his school’s delinquent boss.
As the manga goes on, he gets into wackier and crazier misadventuers, but he also makes some good friends who understand who he really is. In the end, it’s a comedy manga about the meaning of friendship. There are also some fights, but they are by no means the title’s main topic.
4) Great Teacher Onizuka
Written by: Fujisawa Tooru
Perhaps the most popular and renowned manga on this list, Great Teacher Onizuka (often referred to by its initials GTO) is an absolute classic and a must-read for anyone that likes manga.
Class 3-4 is the rowdiest class in the entire school. Every single student in it is a delinquent, and they’ve ruined the lives of at least three teachers (one died, one joined a cult and the other one had a nervous breakdown). Their new teacher, Eikichi Onizuka, is the one to break the curse, as he used to be a delinquent himself.
At first, it’s impossible for him to control the class, but over time he earns the respect of the students and becomes friends with them. He’s incredibly stupid, though, so he never actually teaches them anything in the program. He does give them something perhaps more important, though: Life lessons, mainly about how to deal with pressure and about being happy with who you are.
Written by: Hiroshi Takahashi
While some manga dilly-dally for hundreds of chapters with nothing really happening, Hiroshi Takahashi managed to fit a very long and complex story with literally over fifty characters in less than 100.
The manga follows the main character, Harumichi Bouya, as he enters high school and becomes a strong delinquent. Yeah, pretty typical for a delinquent manga. As it goes on, however, Bouya very quickly becomes just another member (maybe with slightly more screen time) of a huge cast of main and secondary characters who all have their own stories and ambitions.
Yes, you can actually tell the characters apart in this one! And I don’t just mean art-wise. They actually have distinct personalities and they develop in different ways! It’s one of the main things that makes a manga good, and Crows aces it.
The story is complex and intricate in regards to the “school politics” as well. Crows is kind of like Rokudenashi Blues, but with better art, better pace and more characters.
Definitely one of my favorite manga. Give it a read!
2) Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
Written by: Yoshikawa Miki
One of the most recent manga in this list, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (I refuse to use the official English translation of the name, “Flunk Punk Rumble”. Horrible!) ended in 2011, with 211 chapters.
It follows the story of two unlikely friends, the punk Shinagawa Daichi and the studious class representative Adachi Hana, who have a lot more in common than it seems, as they get into crazy adventures and tough fights.
It’s not a romance manga, though. It feels like it’s in between two genres: At some points it reads like a delinquent fighting manga, and at others like a slice-of-life manga. In any case, the entire cast is really funny and reading their daily life hijinks is always very funny. You’ll be left wanting more when it ends.
1) Kyou Kara Ore Wa!!
Written by: Nishimori Hiroyuki
The cast of Kyou Kara Ore Wa!! is much smaller than those of Crows or Rokudenashi Blues, but it’s more than enough. Itou and Mitsuhashi, the main characters, are hilarious and complex characters that you really get attached to over 300 chapters.
Mitsuhashi is not your typical delinquent. He’s very strong, but not because of the “power of friendship” or silly things like that – no, Mitsuhashi is a cheapskate. He does whatever it takes to win a fight, which makes for amusing situations.
Kyou Kara Ore Wa!! has something special, a kind of X factor that made me give it the number 1 rank on this list. It’s also one of my favorite manga of all time. It’s definitely the funniest one in the list, and in over 300 chapters, it never feels like the mangaka is dragging it out. The arcs are all engaging and fun, and they all contribute to the advancement of the plot.
The character development is done so succinctly that it’s mind-boggling. Mitsuhashi and Itou grow as people in front of your eyes, but you don’t really notice until you look back on it. What makes it so beautiful is that the changes in the characters are not expressed in words. At no point do they say stuff like “This event made me a different person. Now I will be nicer!”, or anything like that. All changes are shown through actions and scenarios.
The art is a bit old school, but give it a few chapters. You get used to it very quickly. Overall, this is the delinquent manga I would recommend to absolutely anyone, new to manga or not.
Honorable mention: Rookies by Masanori Morita