I thought it’d be a fun little exercise to try and pull out as many mangaka names as I could without relying on references. This is that list, written on lockdown mode and complete with the reasons why I remember them.
Osamu Tezuka – The film buff with a medical degree who is both the father and the god of manga. Absolutely the best mangaka in existence by any meaningful measure. Tied himself for the Kodansha Manga Award. If anyone tells you he isn’t the best there ever was, you just rub their face in a giant pile of manure.
Naoki Urasawa – The genius national treasure of Japan responsible for 20th Century Boys, Monster, Yawara, Master Keaton, Happy, and Pluto. All of those works belong on a list with one another. The best living mangaka.
Takehiko Inoue – The dedicated artist who left Weekly Shonen Jump at the height of his most well-known work’s (Slam Dunk) popularity. Now, he’s drawing two series at once, one about wheelchair basketball and the other about Miyamoto Musashi.
Moyoco Anno – I have a friend who’s crazy about Sugar Sugar Rune, and I’ve been enjoying her Happy Mania since I picked it up at a used bookstore a month ago. Also, she’s married to Hideaki Anno, which makes the 6 degrees of 5Ds* game ridiculously easy to play.
Komi Naoshi – This dude not only drew the regrettably-cancelled Double Arts and the instant-hit Nisekoi, but he’s a class act; he gave the money from his prize-winning debut oneshot to his parents.
Adachi Mitsuru – Is an emotionally manipulative bastard who draws the same manga over and over again. But he’s so damn good at it, and his style feels like some fierce god breathed life into a cutesy 1920s cartoon.
Nobuyuki Fukumoto – Author of Ten – Tenna Toori Kaidanji, one of my all-time favorite manga, along with a host of other awesome ones (Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji, Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa, Gin to Kin, etc.). He is specifically the best of any mangaka I’ve read at placing narration and dialogue bubbles to guide the reader through the thoughts of his characters, a skill that really boosts the psychological bent of his manga.
Akira Toriyama – Everybody knows his name because of Dragon Ball, but people forget that Dr. Slump was also a hilarious comedy that sold over 20 million volumes.
Takako Shimura – One of the very few authors not to treat LGBT characters as either jokes or sexual fantasies. Not to mention her art is beautiful in a very sunlight-through-the-trees sort of way.
Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro – The author of Toriko, which has both the most delicious foods and the best-incorporated fan pandering this side of weekly manga. And it’s hard to forget that he had to end a previous popular manga (Leader-den Takeshi) because he was caught soliciting sex from a minor.
Yoshida Motoi – The author of Koi Kaze, a manga whose visual style and introspective script allowed it to greatly exceed its premise. Currently draws Natsu no Zenjitsu, an artbook-posing-as-manga which is uncategorically my favorite currently running piece of media.
Oda Eiichirou/Masashi Kishimoto/Tite Kubo – Three authors who, as of right now, are each synonymous with the one series they’ve drawn.
Yuriko Nishiyama – Author of a long-running basketball manga (Harlem Beat) who brought that same level of intensity to a series about male pop idols. The result, Dragon Voice, is a marvel of modern entertainment.
Sugita Naoya – SWOT was far too terrible to forget.
Yusuke Murata – He’s more of an illustrator than a writer, but he’s creative as all-get-out in that area. One Punch Man’s flipbook chapter and the doodle comic he posted on twitter for kicks are my favorite examples of his work. Eyeshield 21 is one of my 5 all-timer manga, so that’s a nice bonus.
Go Nagai – Manga’s ancestral troll started a calculated war with PTA groups across the country that launched Weekly Shonen Jump to immediate prominence. Too, he invented the genre of Giant Robots that people ride inside of (Mazinger Z).
Ai Yazawa – Nana and Paradise Kiss make a pretty fine resume. It’s a pity she always has health problems.
Umino Chika – Honey and Clover is what it is. Namely, it’s a huge manga whose adapatation broke the ice and allowed noitaminA to flourish. Sangatsu no Lion, her current series and winner of [I believe] the Kodansha Manga Award, paints a fantastic picture of loneliness by contrasting empty space with dialouge-packed crowd scenes.
Shinobu Kaitani – He’s the author of my favorite Baseball manga of all time (One Outs), and another great mindgames series (Liar Game) to boot.
Yoshihiro Togashi – Togashi is the king of hiatuses and author of two very finely choreographed battle series.
Takahashi Rumiko – Weekly Shonen Sunday’s long-standing best female author has, between Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura, brought more laughs into this world than almost any stage comedian. She’s also famous for never missing a deadline.
Takashi Shiina – Ghost Sweeper Mikami is a comedy that survives the transition to battle series thanks to its blustering, bluffing main character Yokoshima, and I love what he’s done with Zettai Karen Children (long-running flashback arcs aside). I once got up early to watch a livestream of him inking a drawing.
Kazuo Koike – He wrote the best samurai manga ever, Lone Wolf and Cub. And he liked Madoka Magica enough that he now has an upcoming magical girl series in the pipeline. Kazuo Koike is hot stuff.
Shohei Manabe – His artstyle is the closest I’ve seen manga get to stereotypical indie comic atmosphere, and his subject matter is fascinating. Ushijima the Loan Shark is horrifyingly engrossing.
I think that’s just about gassed me out. If I forgot anyone important, let me know. I’m pretty confident I got most of the ones that loom large in my memory, but there’s always gonna be ones left out. There are so many talented mangaka in the world, and so little time.
*The director of Yugioh 5Ds got his first job on Hataraki Man, which was adapted from a manga written by Moyoco Anno, who is married to Hideaki Anno, co-founder of Gainax. That gives you two additional degrees to connect any animation studio or director to Gainax. Not terribly hard. Alternatively, Hataraki Man aired on Fuji TV’s noitaminA, so you get three degrees to connect any animation studio or director to a major TV station. Easy mode. Or, Yugioh 5Ds is a part of the Yugioh series, which originated in Weekly Shonen Jump. Four degrees to connect to almost any mangaka. This deserves its own article some day.