Reaction between bromo tricarbonyl manganese(I) and N,N′-bis(phenyl)-1,4-diaza-1,3-butadiene ligands, bearing different electron-donating and electron-withdrawing groups R = OCH3, Cl, and NO2 in the ortho- and para-positions on the phenyl substituent, afforded [MnBr(CO)3(N–N)] complexes. The influence of the character and position of the substituent on the dark stability and carbon monoxide releasing kinetics was systematically investigated and correlated with the data of the time-dependent density functional theory calculations. The combined UV/Vis and IR data clearly revealed that the aerated solutions of [MnBr(CO)3(N–N)] in either coordinating or noncoordinating solvents are dark stable and the fluctuations observed during the incubation period especially in the case of the nitro derivatives may be attributed to the exchange of the axial bromo ligand with the coordinating solvent molecules. The free ligands and nitro complexes were non-cytotoxic to HepG2 cells under both the dark and illumination conditions. In the dark, Mn(I) compounds, incorporating o-OCH3 and o-Cl, exhibited excellent cytotoxicity with IC50 values of 18.1 and 11.8 μM, while their para-substituted analogues were inactive in the dark and active upon the irradiation at 365 nm with IC50 values of 5.7 and 6.7 μM, respectively.