*Dramacon Book 2 — Best of 2006

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

She’s still writing her comic, but her new artist, Bethany, is a lot easier to get along with. (The former artist and boyfriend has been dumped.) This year it’s Bethany’s first time at the show, and Christie’s a lot more comfortable with the atmosphere.

Christie’s also seeing more realistically. The professional creator who encouraged her so much last year is back, but her appearance suggests that convention-going and comic-creating isn’t all positive. As Christie gains experience, her worldview becomes more nuanced. Svetlana’s writing is introducing growth and complexity to both the audience and the characters.

Dramacon Book 2cover
Dramacon Book 2
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Matt has also returned this year… but he’s brought his girlfriend. And right there, that’s the complicating incident that makes the premise so promising and keeps the reader’s attention for 200 pages. Christie had such hopes for seeing him again after the amazing-but-brief time they had together last year. And the reader had such hopes for seeing the two get together, because they’re so obviously meant for each other.

The art is amazing, so easy-to-read that you can zoom through the book (because of course, you want to know what happens next!) without noticing the skill that makes it flow so well. The characters have all the personality and visual expression a soap opera needs. The early section where Matt and Christie see each other again for the first time is a triumph, mixing slices of closeups with shaded memories of the key events from last year. It’s a beautiful way to sum up a lot of emotional history.

Svetlana’s using subtle approaches to catching the reader up on background. Curious tablemates means that Bethany’s conflict (a pushy mother who demands good grades and a career other than artist) will be naturally revealed during friendly conversation. Costumes and hairstyles are varied and appropriate, showing more about characters through their choices.

Some of the conversational debates — such as what it means to be “real” manga or how to attract fans to purchase original material or some of the stupid things thoughtless people say or do — are clearly heartfelt, and the situations will be familiar to many of the readers. (I especially liked the injokes about feeling old; Matt is drawn with a little arrow in him, for example, when the staff calls him “sir”.) They’re so well-presented, though, making points through entertaining encounters and realistic, three-dimensional characters.

The aspiring artist story allows for smart lessons about attempting to break into the business. The characters make realistic choices that still seem optimistic. This is the rare sequel that keeps all the good parts of the original, maintaining the appeal, but improves on them to create something even better.

24 Comments

  1. […] Reviews: Nice meaty ones today. At ANN, Pata reviews volume 2 of Old Boy. Otaku Champloo finds nothing remarkable about Tokyo Boys and Girls but describes Koukou Debut as “a fresh tale on what it’s like to fall in love the first time.” At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna gives volume 2 of Dramacon a rave review. […]

  2. Ed Sizemore

    Johanna, I loved this book too. I can’t wait for volume 3! Chmakova is now on my list of must read authors.

  3. I-CANNOT-WAIT-TO-READ-THIS-BOOK!
    The first one was SO well done, I shudder to think how a better version will be! Svetlana has a deft touch and her writing was very skillful in the first volume.

  4. I’m still deciding what I’m going to do with the OEL titles I have. So far I’ve only read Steady Beat, though I have copies of The Dreaming, Dramacon and… that gay one where I keep forgetting the title (Hands Off? Off Beat?) but haven’t touched them, figuring I could wait until I had the option to run to the store for more story.

  5. Yay Svetlana!

    Yes, this book makes me happy.

  6. Off Beat is “that gay one”, I think, but there’s a distinct lack of that type of content, although it was billed that way. It’s a shame — I think that aspect of it has potential. It’s so oddly paced, though.

    The Dreaming is nicely moody, but book two, I thought, told us things we’d already figured out and was just spinning wheels to get us to book three.

    Read Dramacon! It rocks!

  7. […] Johanna Draper Carlson reviews the second volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Dramacon. […]

  8. […] 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. […]

  9. I’ve read Vol. 1 and loved it (and also gave it a good review) but the bookstore I bought it at didn’t have Vol. 2. I’m hoping to find it in Toronto this weekend.

    Svet deserves all the praise and success she gets, and then some.

  10. venus cabrera

    i loved it pleaseeeeeeeeeee make more ……….. more more more i need more dramacon books MAKE MOOOOOORRRRREEEEE

  11. I love the two books. I’ve read them both like 3 times. I cant waite till the 3rd one comes out!!!!

  12. I really liked the art. It’s a very distinct style characteristic of Chmakova. The toning and inking is very neat and if I do say so myself. She has a talent for evoking the emotions of the readers, like in Matt’s flashback scene and the rain scene near the end of the volume.

    The whole “Is american manga, ‘actual’ manga” situation was a personal favorite scene of mine. She did a spread in the book Mangaka America concerning that debate specifically. I really like how Chmakova expresses her opinion through the character, Lida Zeff.

    Overall, I liked it but would like to see more into Lida’s character.

    Admittedly I’m hooked and can’t wait to get my hands on the third volume.

  13. I can’t stop thinking about that hot guy, matt. he caught my attention the first time i saw him.Even though he is a cartoon, he is so FINE. The first book was hot, I’m going to buy the nest one.

    I LOVE YOU MATT!!!, YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY!!!!!!!!!

  14. I love Dramacon. The art was great the characters better and Matt is really really really really really HOT!!! Now if he were only real…..

  15. MATT IS MATTILICIOUS!HE IS FINE!AND THE HOTTEST!THE BOOKS WERE VERY CAPTIVATING
    AND ROMANTIC!U MAKE A BETTER COUPLE WITH
    MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

  16. I’ve got a secret…

    who wants to know how Matty lost his eye? anyone, anyone?

  17. […] at the end, she wants to become a manga artist. The story begets creativity in others. […]

  18. […] Dramacon Book 2Easily the most entertaining graphic novel I read this year. Highly anticipated, Svetlana Chmakova achieves the rare feat of creating a sequel that’s more enjoyable than the previous volume. It’s marred only by the need to wait another year to find out what finally happens between the two leads of this romantic comedy. […]

  19. […] 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 huge […]

  20. hey how did Matt loose his eye? i didn’t get it in the book!

  21. […] 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 manga. […]

  22. i’ve read all of the books and i say it’s fantastic. actually it was the first manga i’ve ever read and since then i am obsessed with them

  23. where do u get the books ive read the first one but i want to own them all im so sad i cant find them in fort collins uuuuuuuugh!!!!!!
    x 1000001

  24. If you click the “Buy this book” link above, you will be able to order the books through Amazon. Or ask your local bookstore to order them for you, since they’re in print.

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