*Dramacon Book 1 — Recommended

In Dramacon, Svetlana Chmakova has created an instant classic. Never mind if you don’t like manga, don’t like non-Japanese manga, don’t like Tokyopop… this romantic comedy is witty and amazingly wonderful, hitting all the right notes in a unique setting.

Christie and her boyfriend have created a comic. (She writes, he draws.) To promote their effort, they’re attending an anime convention, she for the first time. She’s overwhelmed, mostly by how a different environment turns her boyfriend into a raging jerk. Or maybe he’s always been that way, and she’s been too naively desperate to notice.

Dramacon Book 1 cover
Dramacon Book 1
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When Christie bumps into Matt, her eyes start opening (which is ironic, given that Matt never takes off his shades, for good reason). They’re charming together, spatting and sparking in the classic way that suggests instant chemistry. He’s her hero, but it’s only a convention weekend. Everyone behaves differently than normal. She’s got to go back to the real world, and fun as it all is, she doesn’t want to change her life based on such an unusual experience.

For a first book, Chmakova’s work is impressively skilled. Emotional expression, caricatures, storytelling flow, attractive characters, backgrounds and settings are all included without drawing attention to themselves. She’s synthesized a lot of manga conventions and asides into an easy-to-read story that doesn’t require a translation chart. Any reader will be drawn in because the events and characters are so involving.

Chmakova captures all the aspects of fandom in a loving, insightful way. Those who know about convention-going will find it all pointedly realistic, while those who don’t will see what it’s like, good and bad, presented with humor. And it’s really funny, not just in-joke rib-poking that only makes sense to those who were there. The subplots with the established, famous creator and her advice are very true, from the aspiring artist who hasn’t learned yet how to take constructive criticism (and the misrepresentations he gives his friends to soothe his hurt feelings) to the life-changing effect one kind act can have.

Even the characters that sound like plot devices aren’t. Matt’s a dreamboat, but he’s not perfect… he’s admirable, not unreal. (Although I want him! I was pondering why I hadn’t yet seen a manga boy I could fall in love with, and here he is.) Christie’s friends, there to share room costs and serve as a relationship buffer, don’t have a lot of panel time, but they still seem like real people. Even the jerk is understandable, if not excusable.

The danger to the reader is falling too much in love with these people. The story’s over much too soon, and the sequel won’t be out until later this year. It’s so good that that’s going to be a very long wait for more romance, laughter, amusement, and drama.

The author has a website and a blog. She also does webcomics, Chasing Rainbows and Night Silver. The book is so popular it even has its own livejournal community.

38 Comments

  1. “The story’s over much too soon, and the sequel won’t be out until next year.”

    Volume 2 was solicited in the July Previews, so it should hit stores sometime in Sept/Oct.

  2. Thanks for that update! I’ve made the edit.

  3. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Looking forward to Volume 2.

  4. I just recently ordered it (still waiting for it to arrive). I’d been meaning to check it out ever since it was first published, but somehow never got around to it. Then, last month, it was published in German translation and also got rave reviews over here. Thus encouraged I finally managed to hunt down the preview and knew I had to have it… ^^;

    BTW, the TP site says volume 2 is schedule for October 10th.

  5. It’s a really super book. I loved it to bits.

  6. Svet’s a superstar in the making. That’s a certainty. Dramacon is one of those rare books where I’ve bought more than one copy so I can pass them on to friends.

  7. Allan, now THAT’s dedication! I’m just sorry it took me so long to read such a wonderful book. … And it matches the site color scheme so well!

  8. This book is one of those rare gems…period. Considering it’s “slice of life” flavor and my own anime con experiences (heartbreak included, lol!) it’s a book that’s impossible to put down once you start reading it.

    Chmakova is definitely an artist and writer who will easily impact and probably influence the current next wave of creators this side of the Pacific.

  9. Oh yeah, my local library actually has a manga section. I am SO buying two copies to donate next week!

  10. What a terrific way to support a great book!

  11. It is very rare that I like an OEL manga, because this is such a great story! It sort of is like a spin-off of Phantom of the Opera in a way.

  12. [...] The rest of the day was lunch distribution for guests and snack distribution for artists’ alley tables. Sometime among all that I was able to accomplish a few personal tasks: I got signatures from Kyle Baker and Dick Ayers (diverse, hunh?) for my retailer who was unable to attend. I was pleased to chat with Thom Zahler, who told me to look out for the holiday issue of Love & Capes in December. And I was thrilled to get to meet Svetlana Chmakova and have her sign the outstanding Dramacon for me. (Although that may have happened on Sunday.) [...]

  13. [...] Ending on good news, MangaBlog has some Dramacon links: read preview chapters of this terrific series, or buy one and get the second at half-price from the Tokyopop online store. [...]

  14. [...] TWO. Also in attendance will be Svetlana Chmakova, the Canadian author of the hit manga series Dramacon, from Tokyopop/HarperCollins. The most recent volume of the series, Dramacon 2, has just been released to much reader acclaim. [...]

  15. BEST MANGA EVER!!!!! Not just my opinion. I borrowed the first book from the library and recommended it to friends. So far about 16 have read it and still more waiting. Even my manga HATING friend loved this one! Each one was like shaking me LITERALLY to get the second volume!

  16. [...] Now available at PW Comics Week, my interview with Svetlana Chmakova, author of Dramacon. [...]

  17. [...] As promised at the end of the first book, in book two it’s a year later, and Christie’s back at the anime convention. [...]

  18. Kawaii Kami (anonimous pen name)

    Yeah the story’s good and all but the Art and the fact that it’s not Authentic Japanese Manga is soooo annoying her style sucks. some things are out of proportion and it’s disgusting when they use computer effects instead of screen tones and yes, I CAN do better MUCH better. I’m sorry but I really didn’t like it.If it was a novel, then maybe I’d
    consider it. Gomen Nasai it’s just my professional opinion

  19. So you’ve adopted a Japanese-style anonymous (note spelling) pen name, but it’s not ok for someone not Japanese to draw a certain way? If the story’s good, and the art’s great (as it is), then who cares where the person who created it is born? Or whether zip-a-tone or computers did the shading?

    Making decisions on something’s quality based on such external factors can easily become bigotry or hypocrisy (or both). You’re entitled to like or dislike whatever you want, but it looks to me like you’re making decisions based on the wrong kinds of factors.

    If you “can do better” and you’re really a professional, then you shouldn’t be embarrassed to provide your name and credits so we can check out your work.

  20. It seems a little ridiculous to be reviewing what it isn’t (it isn’t Authentic Japanese, it doesn’t use tones), rather than to review what it is — good comics.

    (And let me note that neither “anonimous” nor “anonymous” is right — Kawaii is pseudonymous.)

  21. I tink this book is great!!!!!! Write more

  22. Cameron(Lovin Dramacon)

    I need more!! Volume 3 please.

  23. [...] voting for Matt from Dramacon, although Momo from Tramps Like Us is also included. And based on the counts when I voted, every [...]

  24. [...] of talent on display here, in a variety of styles. Artists covered include Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon), Amy Kim Ganter (Sorcerers & Secretaries), Felipe Smith (MBQ), Corey Rey Lewis (Sharknife), [...]

  25. Dramacon is one of the best series I’ve read and that’s saying something because I’ve read a lot of manga…
    Like Naruto, though, Dramacon is experimenting with a new idea in anime. While Naruto took on the insane feat of making several groups of younger teens, expecting you to remember all of them (as well as their skills), and then making them grow up another 2 years so you have to learn all about them all over again (And by some miracle the series ended up as a hit!), Dramacon, on the other hand experiments with a different idea. Suddenly you are put inside the story because you, the reader, can relate to Christie. You know what its like to love, live, and breathe anime, but it also toys with the idea of having a personal life outside of the anime convention setting. The series is entirely realistic & yet a fantasy. Even Matt, the hunk and main focus of love interest through the manga series, could be a guy in real life. He’s quiet, moody, pesimistic, jerkish, and only has one eye….but at the same time, maybe these are the same qualities that attracts us to him because we know guys just like him in real life and we know what’s under their thick skin. And its just that. Behind his thick skin and dark shades, he really does care.
    The “human” factor of this series is probably what makes it so attractive to not only me but many other people as well.

  26. [...] have no problem calling books by non-Japanese creators manga (for instance, Dramacon) if they seem to fit and it’s a useful descriptor. In this case, though, I’m lost. [...]

  27. [...] greatly anticipating it, even though it has no definite date yet. I had similar high hopes for Dramacon, which second volume was also one of my best of 2006. Unfortunately, I found the concluding book a [...]

  28. [...] Dramacon.  Because who doesn’t love a manga with egotistical boyfriends, chibis galore, and hot guys in sunglasses? [...]

  29. awesome book! great drawings! cool action! and super hot boys!! LOL!! love it!

  30. [...] work. It’s a solid beginning to what promises to be another good read from Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon). I’m also a big fan of her bonus page in each issue. There’s a short interview with Chmakova [...]

  31. [...] is a graduate of Toykopop’s school of hard knocks for young artists. Her previous series Dramacon is generally considered one of the few successes for Tokyopop’s line of original [...]

  32. [...] magazine. BUT I still hadn’t really thought of exploring her other works until I saw that Manga Worth Reading named it a good starter series and had nothing but pleasant things to say about it. I’d say [...]

  33. [...] nine creators include Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon, Nightschool), Leisl Adams, and Queenie Chan (The Dreaming, In Odd We Trust). Their mission [...]

  34. [...] rights to upload any licensed properties, only those they own. Titles announced include Bizenghast, Dramacon, and Princess Ai, the book written by Tokyopop’s CEO Stuart [...]

  35. I’ve never read it but my initial reaction when i was saw the art work was not good. I’m glad that somebody can bring more fame to OEL manga and hopefully make the american manga industry better, but she needs to step up her art game if she wants to call it manga. Honestly I know some ppl who aren’t manga artists (yet) but they could do better. I’m glad that her story seems so good though.

  36. [...] only by Viz (with 217). That count does include their OEL titles, of which my favorites were Dramacon, Steady Beat, and Kat & Mouse. All created by women, which perhaps isn’t surprising, but [...]

  37. [...] for the same reasons guys do: to be fans. Some of each are looking to hook up, or be open to it if it happens, but more aren’t. Be a human being and treat each other with [...]

  38. [...] fables and fairytales illustrated by its members… and one guest, Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon). I always enjoy her work, and the illustrations here are no exception, but I’m left [...]

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