by Koji Aihara & Kentaro Takekuma; adaptation by Yuji Oniki
published by Viz; $15.95 US
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga hides useful information about creating and analyzing readable, marketable comic stories inside savage parody of the industry.
Inspired by the crap people read and publish, two manga creators decide to lay bare the secrets of success, using the rationale “if they can do it, anyone can”. They aim to create popular series that become anime, spawn character merchandising, and make them rich. The first lesson is therefore choosing the right pen name, which isn’t the best choice, since it relies on in-jokes based on a high level of manga familiarity.
The next chapter gets a bit more down to earth, discussing panel borders, their importance, and how to create them cleanly. After that, the pace increases, with lessons on facial expressions, figure drawing, and generating ideas. The chapter titled “Youthful Arrogance” rips into the difference between art and entertainment with energy, even if it’s not always coherent. The rest of the book consists of parodies and breakdowns of different manga genres.
Readers of adventure or other types of boys’ manga will likely recognize more of the art styles and panel compositions than I did, since I mostly read shôjo, but the dramatic closeups and other genre conventions are obvious enough to still be funny to even the most casual reader.
Since this material is aimed at the adult, there’s nudity and various scatological gags, including one bit where a scrawny naked man executes a series of porn poses. Also, according to the authors, comics for men and women are all about sex. It may be vulgar, but it’s often funny, especially when they compare women’s comics, and the way they seek to fill emotional gaps, to Tetris. The basis of the humor is how no one — not artists, readers, or publishers — is treated with respect.