I am a fan of non-brainless manga, epics, sorrow, love, war, betrayal, reality and drama, as well as good, old fashioned shonen manga. i also read too much of it, as you can see from the long list
to that end, i'd suggest a few for the most incredible plots, and a few for the most unique and stunning artwork
all these can be read on www.onemanga.com, or downloaded/read from www.anime-eden.com (user account needed, which is free and no strings)
about three, Genius young warriors, who meet and become friends at the tample/temple mercenaries. the story is very strong, with really refreshing, clean artwork with good lines. bits of this will make you cry, others fall over laughing, and the action is not neglected either.
2)blade of the immortal
set in historical japan, it follows manji, an 'immortal' because of the blood-worms in his body that will heal all his wounds in minutes, and Rin, the daughter of a dojo owner who was killed by the itto-ryu, a group who believes only in strength. vowing to revenge the murder and rape of her father and mother, the two team up.
brilliant art - you have not seen art until you see hiroaki samura's double paged spreads
and brilliant characters
3) legend of basara
sarasa and tatara were twins born to a desert village in post apocalyptic japan, where the desert is covering all and society is now feudal, under a tyrannical 'Red King'. the boy, tatara, is prophesied to be the Savior of his people, and so all her life, sarasa has lived under his shadow. but then, one night, the red king decides to raid sarasa's village. tatara is killed, and the villagers are in danger of being executed. sarasa decides to take on the role of her twin, dressing up as tatara to inspire the villagers to save themselves. Thus she becomes the Savior, bearing the burden of her people's hope whilst trying to grieve and carry on tatara's legacy.
brilliant, crying and laughing and so sad, and so good. its an old manga (the old ones are the best) with v. good ,traditional manga-art, and the ending, apparently, is heart breaking.
come on, who can resist a group of four bad-*** cool guys who can kick the living daylights out of any youkai(monsters) in their way?
hilarious, nice plot, fun - though it might get a bit annoying after a while, all that bad-assing, that is :D
5) Shin Angyo onshii
this is incredible!
an epic with strong elements of korean culture, myth and history, it is equal to any literary classic. detailing the life of munsu, the fallen general of the great country 'jushin' and his quest to defeat the one who killed his best friend, his true love and all who were once his best friends. it is incredible, complex, haunting and there are beautiful colour spreads, esp later on.
6) ayu no monogatari
the best shojo you could ever find in your life. this made me cry just about non stop for the whole hour it took me to read this through. the story of a high school girl who has fallen through the cracks, prostituting, hanging out with a druggie boyfriend, utterly without hope, who finds a purpose. tragic.
7) nana - the story is so real! like a roller coaster ride that once you get on, you have to follow it through, no matter how terrifying and sad and happy it may be. romance and life, music, fashion and the human condition. brilliant
8) (for a bit of lightheartedness) - Ludwig Kakumei
not that kaori (author) is light, exactly, but this work is - a hilarious take on some well known fairy tales with our gorgeous and egotistical prince as our main character, there are ridiculous, charming and thoroughly funny elements in here, and it is not too long (20-something chapters)
9)petshop of horrors
more standard fare here (ie you can find it in borders/waterstones) with disturbing, dark and really very good stories about one count D and the mysterious petshop he runs, selling pets that look like humans who give their owners EXACTLY what they deserve.
10) tarot cafe
the most romantic, sweet, heartbreaking, tragic short stories you will find ANYWHERE, with utterly gorgeous artwork, stunning.
hope you have fun with these