Classic mangas for me are:
20th Century Boys (Naoki Urasawa)
Kenji is a rock musician whose dreams of stardom have faded away as he's settled into a mundane life as a convenience store manager. But when a childhood friend dies under mysterious circumstances, Kenji suspects that a strange cult is behind it all.
Astro Boy (Osamu Tezuka)
When Dr. Tenma loses his only son Tobio to a traffic accident, he vows to bring him back to life as an atomic-powered robot. While Tenma eventually rejects his robot creation as his son, Atom goes on to use his super-strength become a hero to the world.
Astro Boy is one of Osamu Tezuka's most famous and beloved characters. While these stories are over 50 years old, many of them have been adapted as animated films and reinterpreted for new generations. While it's not the latest manga sensation, Astro Boy is an important part of manga history.
Berserk (Kentaro Miura)
Berserk is manga mayhem to the extreme - violent, horrifying, and mercilessly funny - and the wellspring for the internationally popular anime series. Not for the squeamish or the easily offended, Berserk asks for no quarter - and offers none! His name is Guts, the Black Swordsman, a feared warrior spoken of only in whispers. Bearer of a gigantic sword, an iron hand, and the scars of countless battles and tortures, his flesh is also indelibly marked with The Brand, an unholy symbol that draws the forces of darkness to him and dooms him as their sacrifice. But Guts won't take his fate lying down; he'll cut a crimson swath of carnage through the ranks of the damned - and anyone else foolish enough to oppose him! Accompanied by Puck the Elf, more an annoyance than a companion, Guts relentlessly follows a dark, bloodstained path that leads only to death...or vengeance.
Death Note (Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata)
Light Yagami is one of the brightest students at his school — but he's also very bored. That changes when he finds a black "Death Note" notebook. Light then meets Ryuk, a grim reaper who explains that when a name of a person is written in the Death Note, that person dies instantly. Light uses his powers to kill criminals, but his killing streak doesn't go unnoticed and soon he's matching wits with L, an eccentric super-sleuth.
Death Note packs in a lot of action and supernatural suspense in 12 volumes; so much that a 13th "how to read" companion volume was published to help fans sort things out.
Fullmetal Alchemist (Hiromu Arakawa)
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemists who made the mistake of trying to push the limits of their craft a little too far, and it nearly cost them their lives and limbs. Recruited as a State Alchemist, Edward works with the military, which gives him the opportunity to travel around the country as he searches for the Philosopher's Stone that has the power to restore the brothers' bodies. However, there are many sinister and powerful people looking for it too.
This perennially popular 26-volume manga series offers a winning mix of action, drama, fantasy, horror and memorable characters that keeps fans coming back for more.
Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (Hayao Miyazaki)
Anime director Hayao Miyazaki is well-known for movies that express ecological themes in endearing and engaging ways. One of his first creations was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, an epic fantasy tale set in a world that has been devastated by an ecological disaster. Nausicaä is a sky-soaring princess who's out to discover the secrets behind her world's decay and find a reason for the planet to heal itself again.
This seven-volume fantasy epic is sure to entrance teens and adults alike, especially those already familiar with Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.
Lone Wolf and Cub (Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima)
Former executioner to the Shogun Itto Ogami was framed for treason, but rather than live in unwarranted disgrace, Ogami and his infant son Daigoro take to the assassin's road. Father and son travel the countryside in search of vengeance, and mete out their own brand of justice along the way.
Considered one of the finest examples of cinematic storytelling in graphic novels, Lone Wolf and Cub is the winner of numerous awards in Japan and the U.S..
Monster (Naoki Urasawa)
Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant Japanese neurosurgeon based in Düsseldorf, Germany has the skills to save lives. His life turns upside down on the day he finds out that a boy he operated on nine years ago has grown up to be a murderer.
This 18-volume manga series also earned numerous Award nominations, and is well worth recommending to readers who appreciate smart, multi-layered suspense stories.
Nana (Ai Yazawa)
Two young women named Nana meet on a train to Tokyo: Nana Komatsu is eager to live a glamorous city girl's life. Nana Osaki is a rock star on the rise. How their destinies intertwine make Nana an addictive drama that rises above the rest.
Pluto (Naoki Urasawa)
Based on a classic Astro Boy story "The Greatest Robot on Earth," Pluto is a bold, inventive remix of Osamu Tezuka's tale as seen through the eyes of a minor character. Gesicht is a German detective who's trying to find out who has been killing robots and humans, all the while knowing that super-robot Atom may be targeted next.
Overall, Pluto is a thought-provoking and touching sci-fi series for teens and adults that readers will recommend to their friends too.
Rurouni Kenshin (Nobuhiro Watsuki)
Rurouni Kenshin is set in the early years of the Meiji Era, a time when Western culture and ideas were first widely introduced to Japanese society after years of isolation from the world. The story focuses on Himura Kenshin, a wandering swordsman who was once a deadly assassin. Now that he has turned away from that life, Kenshin is looking to make amends for the people he has killed by offering protection to anyone who asks for his assistance.
Skip Beat (Yoshiki Nakamura)
Kyoko Mogami followed her boyfriend Sho Fuwa to Tokyo, and spent her days toiling at two jobs just so Sho could pursue his career as a rock singer. But when Kyoko discovers that Sho has just been using her as a maid, her fury knows no bounds. Kyoko vows to beat Sho at his own game by getting into show business herself. After a rocky start, Kyoko gets cast in commercials and TV shows. While she's not a superstar yet, she finds that revenge is taking a backseat to her passion for acting.
Funny, romantic and eccentric, Skip Beat! is a quirky shojo manga series with a heroine who is about more than just looking for love.
Slam Dunk (Takehiko Inoue)
One of the most popular manga in the history of manga! Winning isn't everything in basketball, but who wants to come in second? It takes dedication and discipline to be the best, and the Shohoku High hoops team wants to be just that--the best. They have one last year to make their captain's dream of reaching the finals come true--will they do it?
Vagabond (Takehiko Inoue & Eiji Yoshikawa)
Shinmen Takezo is destined to become the legendary sword-saint, Miyamoto Musashi--perhaps the most renowned samurai of all time. For now, Takezo is a cold-hearted killer, who will take on anyone in mortal combat to make a name for himself. This is the journey of a wild young brute who strives to reach enlightenment by way of the sword--fighting on the edge of death.
Other mentions: Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon.