Manga for the Beginner: Chibis

(subtitled) Everything You Need to Start Drawing the Super-Cute Characters of Japanese Comics

I find Christopher Hart’s books to be very light on the basics, enough so that I would not recommend them to a young artist who doesn’t already know the foundations of drawing. However, this book does have some value as an idea generator, and if you want to replicate the kinds of characters shown, you’ll appreciate the structure breakdowns.

Manga for the Beginner: Chibis cover
Manga for the Beginner: Chibis
Buy this book

The promotional material calls chibis “easy to draw and the perfect subject for beginning manga artists”. That’s entirely the wrong approach. Making something cute and simple and small works better the more you know about the standards. That way you know what to adjust and tweak. Starting with these because you think they’re simpler is an attempted shortcut that will not benefit your art. But then, the PR also claims that “without [chibis], manga would barely exist,” another wrong statement. (There are plenty of manga with super-deformed characters, but there are also plenty of manga without them, especially once you look outside manga aimed at kids.)

On the plus side, there are lots of pictures of cute, big-headed characters throughout. Just flipping through the book will provide plenty of funny pictures that catch the eye, and some might inspire ideas for stories or characters of your own. In fact, I don’t recommend reading much of the text. Just the introduction had me gritting my teeth, wanting to argue back. But the pictures are adorable, and some of the individual tips will benefit the reader, like how to draw hair highlights or eyebrows to make a sly expression. There are plenty of samples of color schemes, school costumes, shoes, props, smiley flowers (?), and a ton of character types, including five kinds of magical girls and lots of fairies and pets.

I found the copyright page particularly interesting, because Hart lists 12 contributing artists, one of which is himself. I found myself wondering just how many of these drawings were his? (The publisher provided a review copy.)

5 Responses to “Manga for the Beginner: Chibis”

  1. Caporushes Says:

    Christopher Hart, as far as I can tell, does very little of the art himself. I don’t know about this one, but his older books would list pages his contributing artists had worked on, versus himself. Maybe a handful had been done by him. (On a side note, Svetlana Chmakova was an artist for at least one of them.)

  2. Torsten Adair Says:

    As a bookseller, I never liked the Chris Hart titles. Partly it was because the author had no professional experience outside of writing how-to books. (Compared to Hogarth, Eisner, Buscema, Janson…)

    For manga, the Graphic-Sha “How To Draw Manga” series is much better, offering numerous specific titles for every aspect of drawing.

    For superheroes, there’s How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (as well as the Klutz edition), Burne Hogarth’s “Dynamic” titles, and the DC Guides.

    For general licensed properties, Walter Foster has an ongoing series of titles. (I don’t know about now, but back when the DC Adventures style was brand new (1998), WF published treasury sized books on Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and DC Superheroes, each created by Ty Templeton! Each gave the basics of drawing figures and objects, showed you how to mimic the style, and gave a few lessons.)

  3. December Says:

    The problem with these “how to draw” books is that the artists involved actually suck at drawing what they’re trying to teach. Anyone experienced with manga can tell instantly that these drawings don’t look “authentic”. The same thing happens with how to draw animals or dragons or whatever–the artists are never good at drawing those things. It’s bizarre.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for sharing your recommendations, Torsten. It’s good to know about the many alternatives out there.

  5. Ashleen Woods Says:

    I totally agree with both the reviewer, and the other people commenting on this page. I’m not saying this Hart guy doesn’t have talent, but his books really aren’t good examples of manga: they look just like what they are–someone not immersed in the art trying to tell others how to do it. I bought one of his monster drawing books, and it’s okay, but like you say–it’s more of an inspiration thing, than an actual skill and art lesson for me. I’m still not where I want to be as a mangaka, but I’ve found a couple really good resources. First, yes, the “How to draw Manga” series is great. It tells you how to do it, how to work on perspective and proportion, and much more. I also really like some of the online sources you can find, like This website is really good, and helped me get my start. Thanks to other, better sources, I’ve been able to become published and have my own website.

    Really, if you’re just getting into drawing manga, and have to watch your cash, don’t bother with Chris Hart. He might be a good artist, but he doesn’t know manga, and those helping him aren’t as skilled as the people doing the “How to draw Manga” series.

    ~Ashleen Woods




Most Recent Posts: