published by Tokyopop; $14.99 US
This is a rather odd volume. It’s a how-to book translated from the Japanese, so English-speaking readers in other countries may find the information of limited use.
The introduction sets some high standards for itself, promising that the reader who follows along and works hard “will find [herself] transformed into a professional shojo manga artist!” They go on to reference other how-to-draw books without saying what makes this one any different, although (and here’s another warning sign), they do promise that “this book is of particular value to those who have submitted their work to Japanese publishers and are still waiting for their work to be recognized.” That gives me the feeling that they’re not selling lessons so much as hope, giving those disappointed at not yet being discovered something to buy to make themselves feel better instead of giving up.
Again, that doesn’t seem like a good choice for the American audience, especially given how, as Tim Beedle recently pointed out, “the majority of western comic book publishers really have no interest in publishing manga-style comic art.”
The book’s lessons are illustrated by manga featuring Ena, a young, starry-eyed girl who aspires to make manga. She’s frequently told how much she’s doing wrong by Sasaki, the male editor. We start with supplies, many of which are listed under Japanese brand names and measurements. The lessons, once they start, are brief in length and complex in content. I suspect a true beginner will find these too complicated, without the step-by-step instruction that they need. The material moves very fast without a lot of detail or explanation. The visual examples are either much more accomplished than they should be, or not discussed in any depth, so of limited use for educational purposes.
The book will be of most use to those who are interested specifically in creating formula manga for Japanese publishers, as the introduction states. It almost seems like it could have been inspired by a publisher’s style guide, getting into specifics about page sizes and lettering spacing. Given how unlikely it is for an English-speaking reader to enter one of the submission contests, I am suspicious of why Tokyopop released this book. Based on admittedly no evidence, I wonder if this was part of some license package deal, or if they hoped to attract readers with the title and the promise of an illustrated guide. Those will find little of practical use that isn’t covered elsewhere in more suitable books. This is a dream book, something to buy because one imagines one day magically becoming a manga artist, not any sort of practical help to get there.
The afterword that states “this book isn’t really about ‘how to draw shojo manga'” makes the title a lie and says it all. The only customer I can recommend this for is someone studying the details of how the Japanese manga publishing industry works. (The publisher provided a review copy.)