If you are looking for a touch of magic in your life, fantasy manga is what you need. But the titles like One Piece and Fullmetal Alchemist, which are often suggested under this particular category, don’t even come close to high fantasy!
FMA is definitely a top tier fantasy manga, there is no denying it.
True, fantasy manga is home to a broad range of settings that include anything out of the ordinary, but then it becomes hard to find good suggestions that involve your love for slaying a dragon or going on an epic adventure with your companions.
Fret not, in this article, I will be recommending some of the best fantasy manga that have borrowed the high fantasy setting featuring elves, beasts, kingdoms, elements that scream medieval world, adventuring and magic in all senses; that and some intricate and sound worldbuilding.
Best high fantasy manga recommendations for you:
Black Clover, Fairy Tail and Seven Deadly Sins can be termed the more popular series from this genre. But, I won’t be including them in this list, frankly because I was not exactly feeling fulfilled after reading these.
Nevertheless these would be a good place to start if you are new to reading manga and understanding the common shonen and other tropes that come with it.
The high fantasy setting is also heavily employed in isekai manga and light novels. But the plot progression, characters and their journey/motives in an isekai series is quite different from that of a proper high fantasy manga.
The best isekai manga/novels will be explored in a different article later. For now, we are going to stick to the best high fantasy manga series that I feel you should definitely read.
Here we go!
Thanks to its depiction of extreme violence and dark themes, Bastard!! is a dark fantasy manga that has earned comparison to Kentaro Miura’s magnum opus, Berserk. However, it is not as well recognized or critically acclaimed as the latter.
Even so, upon reading, I found it quite engaging.
The plot follows Dark Schneider, a powerful and chaotic wizard sealed in the body of a 14 year old boy, Luche, by a priest. When the kingdom of Metallicana is threatened by monsters and evil entities, Schneider is unleashed by the daughter of the priest, Yoko, as a final resort.
Though he proves to be a handful, Schneider eventually agrees to help her out. But by doing so, he is pitted against his four former companions, who are now looking to resurrect Anthrasax, a God of Evil.
However, Schneider is hellbent on world domination himself, with Yoko being the only one who can control him to a certain extent.
The highlight of Bastard!! manga is Schneider himself. He is arrogant, chaotic, highly unpredictable and brazen in a charismatic sorta way. While the plot keeps jumping between being somewhat predictable and being a classic, Schneider is the one that takes away all the points.
The story is episodic as in Schneider and Yoko defeat a villain one after the other, but there is also an overarching plot that connects it all making it more interesting. There are also some pretty good twists in the manga, and after the halfway mark, I found the plot getting more complex and convoluted.
Despite being a dark fantasy manga, Bastard!! also features some old shcool humor, sometimes even in the most serious moments,
While art of the manga is pretty great, get ready to be hit in your face with some retro shounen character designs. That said, the monsters and the backgrounds are detailed, and I did spend a good time admiring them.
Depending on your preferences, you might find Bastard!! to be either a classic or a title not worth reading. Also, one of the reasons why it ranks low is because Bastard!! manga is on a hiatus for a long time and the story won’t probably conclude anytime soon.
Despite all that, it is one of the best high fantasy manga out there and definitely books a spot in this list!
Claymore is manga with a cult following, and has often been compared to Berserk for its dark fantasy vibes and gore, though always considered to be less explicit version of the latter.
Created by Norihiro Yagi, it is set in a world where humans are threatened by monstrous creatures who feed on their flesh, called the Yoma. These monsters disguise themselves as humans and hunt their prey making it hard to identify them.
The only people who can sniff them out are an organization of female warriors known as the ‘Claymore’. These warriors possess superior strength, as they are part-yoma themselves.
The story unfolds as we follow the journey of a Claymore named Clare, who seeks revenge against the Yoma that killed her family. Along the way, she meets and befriends Raki, a young boy who becomes her companion.
While the plot initially seems episodic, this is just the author’s way of building the world and getting us familiar with the ways of both Yoma and the Claymores. However, once we get to know Clare’s past, it starts getting more interesting.
It won’t take long for you to understand that the world of Claymore is not very straightforward and hidden motives soon creep in, adding a sense of mystery to the proceedings.
The art and characters are good, however, they are not over the top. At one point, I felt like a lot of side characters did not end up fulfilling their potential. And that left a bad aftertaste.
However, it does not affect the overall enjoyment that the manga has to offer. The action and battle scenes are certainly a standout point and Clare’s journey to get revenge too is something that will keep you hooked throughout Claymore, making it a good manga to start off this list!
There are also some underlying themes about struggling with one’s identity and losing sight of who you really are. This is where Raki plays an important role as he is always the emotional anchor that keeps her grounded in times of need!
7. Sousou no Frieren
As I mentioned at the beginning of this list, there are certain tropes that are common in a high fantasy manga. A group of adventurers banding together to take down the evil demon king is one of them.
However, have you wondered what happens to the heroes once the demon king has been defeated? What do they from that point on?
Do your live your life in peace or do you still continue your quest for adventure. Does the human world continue to live in peace and harmony? And if so, how long will this continue?
Well, Sousou no Frieren is a manga which just about gives answers of most of the questions I posed. It follows Frieren, an elf, who outlives her adventure party, after they defeated the demon king.
For Frieren, the human life span is fleeting, as time passes differently for elves. This also dictates the bonds she formed with the people around her, as she mostly stays aloof. At that start, it feels as if she isn’t affected much as she sees her companions pass away one by one.
However, when one of her members entrusts an apprentice to her, Fern, before he passes away, Frieren agrees to take care of her. Thus, the two of them embark on an aimless journey across lands, sometimes helping people, and sometimes fighting monsters.
Sousou no Frieren is not something that you are expecting it to be. It leans more towards the slice of life genre, as the manga takes us through an emotional ride. During the journey, Frieren reminisces the time from her past quest to defeat the demon king.
As she gets closer to those around her and also her emotions, she regrets not having had a better relationship with those in her adventure party, especially the hero Himmel. Frieren’s emotional development has formed the crux of the story till now, though I feel there is lot more that authors Abe Tsukasa and Yamada Kanehito can explore.
We are introduced to the world which the manga is set in, through the different places that Frieren and Fern visit. The plot is mostly episodic, except for a couple of arcs down the line.
At one point, I seriously felt that there was an overarching plot regarding the demon king (because they begin appearing more as the story progresses) in motion, however, there haven’t been many instances supporting my theory.
Even if such a thing doesn’t come to pass, Frieren is an amazing story in its own right. The creators took the cliched fantasy genre by its horns and just turned it upside down, giving us a fresh story to enjoy and contemplate, making it one of the best high fantasy manga of modern time!
Also, depending on how the story unfolds further in the manga, it will move further up or fall down in the list!
Helck is a manga which is much closer to the Isekai tropes when compared to the others in this list. It has power levels listed, a high ranking short tsundere demon general, an overpowered hero, and other ingredients which would otherwise scream isekai manga to you (even the art).
But it is not.
There is something about this manga which, despite all its generic elements, won’t let you keep it down once you start reading it. And it’s all thanks to how well author and creator Nanaki Nanao has executed these elements in the story.
The plot follows Helck, a human hero who is taking part in a tournament to decide who will be the next Demon King. This irks Vamirio, a high ranking demon (the tsundere), who is not only surprised to see a human being allowed to participate in the tournament, but is also suspicious of Helck’s motives.
She considers him an enemy and decides to keep a close eye on him. Since the story is narrated from Vamirio’s perspective, we are always left guessing as to what Helck is up to.
The initial few chapters focus on Vamirio hatching plans to thwart Helck from being the champion of the tournament, and her plans subsequently getting foiled in hilarious fashion. However, with each chapter the mangaka also builds up the mystery, which piqued my interest and kept me hooked to it!
It picks up pace once the tournament ends, and we are pulled into a nest of hidden motives and some intriguing developments. The world building is also done at an interesting pace, with the author offering just the right amount of information everytime to reel us in.
While the rest of the manga in this list boast of having an array of different characters, who over the course of the manga get amazing arcs, Helck is more focused on the interactions between Helck and Vamirio and the friendship that blossoms between them. Others come and go, but their development or their arc isn’t substantial enough.
That said, Helck is a wonderful mixture of humor, intrigue and some emotional moments, making it a unique high fantasy manga that you need to check out!
5. Akatsuki no Yona
Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy adventure manga written and illustrated by Mizuho Kusanagi. The plot follows Yona, the princess of Kohka kingdom, who is forced to flee with her bodyguard and best friend Son Hak, after her childhood sweetheart Su- Won conducts a coup of sorts and murders her father.
However, she is desperate to restore her kingdom and thus she sets out to find the four dragon warriors who would help her in her quest.
Let’s get one thing straight, Yona of the Dawn is pretty famous for being a reverse-harem manga. It has heavy shoujo themes through and through. However, the best part about this is that manga puts a lot of focus and effort on developing the characters and working on their interactions.
So get ready to see a slew of flashbacks and emotional dialogues and whatnot. If you are not very familiar with this genre, you might find yourself getting frustrated a bit in the start thinking that the plot is lagging.
But then, once you are a couple of chapters in, you’ll see that Kusanagi is a master at story-telling. As Yona travels from place to place and understands her kingdom better, we too get to experience the wonderful world that is slowly unraveling in front of us.
The politics and intrigue too keeps getting intense, and you’ll soon find yourself immersed in Yona’s journey. Sure, she is not a very likable character at the start, but as the story progresses, you get to witness how she grows, both as a person and warrior, making the read even more wonderful.
Now, you might hear some complaints about how Yona could have been more of a warrior and less of a damsel in distress waiting for the main guys to swoop in and save the day. But then, this aspect didn’t stand out too much for me and I guess its up to a reader’s personal choice.
The art will seem old-fashioned compared to what you see today (despite having released in 2009), however, it’s pretty detailed and quite wonderful! You’ll get used to it and by the time you catch-up to the latest chapter, and notice that there’s some minor improvements made here and there!
Wait till you see the old-fashioned art in some other manga that I recommend in this list!
In the end, Akatsuki no Yona is definitely a high fantasy manga that you must not sleep on! It’s one of the more recognizable titles in the list and definitely lives up to its name.
4. Witch Hat Atelier
At first look, Witch Hat Atelier seems pretty generic. A girl who was supposed to be a commoner suddenly unearths a truth about how magic works in this world, putting her on a path to become a witch herself.
However, once you start reading the manga, you’ll realize that it’s a lot more to it than just that.
The plot follows Coco, who has always been fascinated by magic. However, only people who are born as witches are able to wield this amazing power. Or that’s what the witches had the general people believe.
One day, when Qifrey, a magician, arrives at her house for some business and she happens to spy on the spell he was performing in secret. Coco deduces that witches are not born, and in fact it is a person’s skill at being able to draw or conjure ‘spells’ (a magic circle) using the magic ink, which decides how powerful of a witch they can be.
Now, this adds real life dynamics to all generic tropes that are usually found in a high fantasy manga, say like a person’s aptitude for magic and all that, which I personally liked a lot.
It is akin to how people in the real world need to study and hone their skills so that they could be successful later on in life.
The best part? Author Shirahama has executed this trope perfectly in Witch Hat Atelier. The secrecy surrounding magic and spells was maintained because there was a high chance of it being misused, which again feels quite realistic.
As Coco dabbles in magic, learning spells through a book that she obtained, she ends up causing a mishap at her house. While she is bailed out of the situation by Qifrey, the latter realizes that the cat is out of the bag and it would no longer be safe to just let her be.
And thus, Coco begins on her journey to become a witch. However, there is also an ulterior motive for why Qifrey decides to take her in. This adds an element of mystery to the plot to make it even more intriguing.
While the story will easily keep you hooked and the worldbuilding is quite amazing, it is the art of Witch Hat Atelier that stood out for me the most. It perfectly complements the world that is being unraveled, and you’ll find yourself lost in it before long!
Witch Hat Atelier is a manga that has got its basics right, and then goes on to build a wonderful premise on top of it. It should without doubt stand out as one of the best high fantasy manga out there!
I feel that there is still someway to go before the manga reaches its conclusion, but despite that I am ranking it pretty high owing to how good it has been till now!
3. Dungeon Meshi
Dungeon Meshi is a high fantasy manga which is as unique as it comes. It blends two genre, fantasy and cooking, and it does so seamlessly to give us the best from both worlds.
Just when you think that this genre might be hitting a roadblock of sorts, out come series like Frieren and Dungeon Meshi, which basically refresh the entire trope.
Dungeon Meshi, or Delicious in Dungeon, basically takes place inside a large dungeon. This dungeon was once a kingdom, which sank underground due to the work of a lunatic magician. One day, the King of this kingdom emerges above ground and promises to give all its treasures to the person who manages to find and defeat the magician.
While the premise might seem limiting to many, trust me, the setting is far more diverse and elaborate than what you assume.
Author Ryoko Kui has meticulously created a world which is nothing short of amazing. You will be amazed by the small details and all the foreshadowing that is there in the manga.
The plot follows Laois, who is the head of a small adventuring party eager to dip his hands into the spoils from the dungeon. However, his sister gets eaten by a Red Dragon while below, and he then sets out on a mission to save.
As his supplies ran out, he decides to consume the monsters that are there in the dungeon, instead of going back up and restocking.
Both the cooking aspect and the fantasy aspect of the manga are perfectly executed. While it might just seem like your everyday cooking manga at the start, the plot begins to deepen pretty soon, and you’ll find yourself on an exhilarating ride.
The intrigue and the thrills never drop off. We are in the final arc of the manga and I am still as excited as ever for a new chapter!
The author manages to weave a perfect tale for us. Dungeon Meshi has to be the most refreshing and unique high fantasy manga to have released in the past decade and is definitely a must read!!
Basara might not be a well known title when it comes to fans these days, but take my word, it is one of the best manga, fantasy or not, that you can get your hands on. It comes with a well thought out, intricately woven story and equally well written characters.
True, it is not the magic heavy middle earth rip-off that you might have expected it to be, but it more than makes up for a lack of sorcery with abundance of political intrigue, some amazing character arcs and in-depth world building.
And then there is the whole sword-fighting, fate, destiny and other stuff.
Basara is set in post-apocalyptic Japan, which is currently under the rule of an emperor and his four sons. The story begins as two twins Tatara and Sarasa are born in a village.
Tatara was branded the Child of Destiny who will overthrow the Emperor, however he dies when the army of the Emperor’s youngest son, The Red King, attacks her village. In order to protect her people, Sarasa takes up the name of Tatara and becomes the child of destiny in his place.
What follows is a story where Sarasa has to go from being a weak cry baby who was always in her brother’s shadow to someone who will take down the most powerful person in the country.
However, in this journey, she also has to deal with her feelings for the Red King, as she might end up falling for the person she is supposed to hate and defeat.
If I may say so, Basara is an epic. True, the artstyle might put you off at the beginning. But if you manage to get through some ten odd chapters, you’ll start getting used to it and the characters will start growing on you.
In the end, I highly recommend Basara to any one who is looking for an amazing high fantasy manga series to read. With 112 chapters (27 volumes) it won’t take up too much of your time either, because once you start it, it’s going to be hard to stop!!
Kentaro Miura’s Berserk is a manga that does not need any special introduction. Not only is it the highest rated manga on MAL, it has also managed to set a benchmark when it comes to artstyle which is often hard to scale.
Berserk starts off as a dark fantasy manga with plenty of gore and bloodshed. The story follows Guts, a human who is out for revenge and has to fight his way through demonic entities in order to reach his goal. Swinging a sword larger than himself, Guts slashes his way through obstacles and garners a name for himself.
Now, my description of the plot in no way does justice to what you will experience when you read the manga. Guts is not your typical protagonist. He has sunk his hands deep into dirt in order to achieve his goals.
He is willing to set aside his humanity if it puts him within sight of his revenge. Even so, it doesn’t get easy for him, as he has to fight tooth and nail in order to get a result.
The initial volumes of Berserk do a great job in portraying evil and how it corrupts people. While most of it just Guts journeying from one place another killing off a big bad character, the themes are the darkest in these parts.
It then shifts to more of a medieval tone, and then to the high fantasy genre as the story progresses adding more layers to the world it is set in.
Contrary to belief, the art style in the manga only keeps getting better as we go further, and the plot becomes more thicker. Except Puck, the fairy who is just there for comic relief, all the other characters grow and evolve along with Guts, making it an interesting journey.
To add to it, Berserk has one of the best antagonists in Griffith. Tbh, he is more alluring and intriguing than the other characters in the series, evoking a true sense of despair and charm at once.
I could go on and on about it, but in the end, what I want to say is this. No matter your preferences, Berserk is a manga that you just have to pick up. True, the chapter release schedules might be frustrating, but still you need to check it out once.
There is nothing else like Berserk when it comes to the dark fantasy genre, and it rightly sits at the top of this list.
What are your thoughts on the high fantasy manga that I recommended? Which of these have you read? Do you have any other suggestions for me to consider? Let me know them in the comments below. You can also reach out to me on Reddit/Twitter!!