There are a million How to Draw Shoujo Manga books in the world, and most look much more deluxe than this modest volume, but don't be fooled. Written by real manga creators and editors, this book is filled with practical information and hard-nosed advice. For anyone who is thinking of actually going into the business, as opposed to drawing the same figure in the same pose over and over again, it may be the most useful book out there.
This is largely because the book was put together by the editors of several manga magazines, all published by the Japanese company Hakusensha, which runs regular manga competitions. The editors look at hundreds of submissions a year, and they are quick to point out the most common pitfalls, from inconsistent inking to weak characters.
Like many nonfiction manga, this book uses the gimmick of having two manga characters, an aspiring manga creator and the editor who works with her, introduce much of the information. Some of the instruction comes through their dialogue, but just as often they are there to demonstrate a point or simply provide comic relief. As is usually the case, the student is a very earnest, somewhat ditzy girl and the editor is a bossy guy in glasses (who looks like he is about 12). As tiresome as that is, it's a part of manga culture, and the core reader probably won't care.
What really matters about this book is the quality of information, and the level of detail is far above most other books in the genre. This book covers everything from creating thumbnails (a rough layout of the entire story) to drawing, inking, adding tones and effects, and lettering. There's plenty of solid advice (draw the word balloons first) as well as tips from the pros on things like how to apply screentone. The book assumes the artist will be drawing by hand, but there is a brief section on digital techniques at the end.
Because it is so dense, this book can be a bit daunting for a beginner, and it really is better suited to readers who have already done some drawing and are ready to move to the next step. Furthermore, it is a direct translation of a Japanese book and contains some material that isn't relevant (such as the advice to always include kana as well as kanji in the text) or is poorly localized (referring to international paper sizes, B4 and B5, rather than American sizes).
Still, even the information that doesn't apply to American readers is interesting to manga fans who are curious about how the industry works in Japan. Even for someone who has no aspiration to be an artist, this book provides an interesting peek behind the scenes.
This is not a beginner book, nor is it for younger readers. The information is presented briskly and at a high level. But for an artist who has been sketching for a while and is ready to move on to making a story, rather than copying favorite characters, How to Draw Shoujo Manga will be extremely useful.
Reviewed by Brigid Alverson on November 2, 2010