I wanted to jump into this how-to book as soon as I received it. Manga Secrets is immediately welcoming, with well-laid-out pages, lots of attractive spot color, and an approach that suggests that anyone can draw manga with its help.
Lea Hernandez clearly knows her stuff. She’s created her own manga-influenced graphic novels and worked as a retouch artist and manga rewriter. The introduction is done as a comic strip, demonstrating her art style while communicating her love of manga and the start of its history. She states from the beginning that, while manga style is hot, there’s a lot more to it than superficial design elements, providing an important grounding for aspiring artists.
After a glossary and list of suggested art supplies, the first section begins with a focus on features: eyes, mouths, hair, hands, feet, and overall expression. The second section is “Characters and Creatures”, a gallery of people, animals, and monsters. The last section covers setting, props, backgrounds, and page construction.
Most of the examples are printed in a pencil line that hasn’t been overly cleaned up, as though the reader is getting to look through an artist’s working sketchbook. The pages are easy to read due to plenty of white space with explanatory notes. I like the way Hernandez emphasizes giving characters different ages and avoiding overused types and elements.
The highest compliment I can pay this book is that it made me want to draw. I wanted to read it with pencil in hand so I could try out the suggestions and lessons. Even though I’m no longer an artist, I learned a lot about manga expectations and conventions, which will help me in understanding the manga I read.