Manga isn’t all awkward schoolgirls and giant robots. There has long been a very strong alternative and literary thread of manga, and two recent articles give you some perspective on it.
I would call Ryan Holmberg’s Proto-Gekiga: Matsumoto Masahiko’s Komaga a must read, but I have to confess, it is very long and involved, and I have set it aside for weekend reading. BUT the important thing is that he compares and contrasts Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who is kind of credited as the father of “gekiga” or realistic manga, with Matsumoto Masahiko, a figure who appears in Tatsumi’s autobiographical A Drifting Life under another name. Masahiko’s work went down a slightly different path than Tatsumi’s but Holmberg shows that it was equally important: