How Not to Draw Manga
by John Kantz, Chris Reid
(Antarctic, 2005)

Like it or not, manga is popular. Clearly, many people do like it, to the point of wanting to add their own contribution. But how, in a world already full of action heroes and big-eyed schoolgirls, can a new creator compete? How can aspiring manga artists create their own style and tell a unique narrative, while capturing the essence of the form?

John Kantz and Chris Reid don't know. But they're ready to tell you How Not to Draw Manga. Presented as a guidebook in comic style, How Not to Draw Manga covers the six types of characters every manga uses, the importance of clothing and the keys to accurate research, all with tongue firmly bitten off in cheek. Kantz and Reid, who produce Legends of Darkwood, have experience in doing things right, and present their shared knowledge with graceful artwork and jokes that actually earn a laugh.

It's not a perfect presentation. Like all sketch comedy, some of the sections run a little long; the mocking of panty shots, in particular, crosses the line from parody into exploitation and back more than once. The book's magazine-sized format often seems unnecessary, although the image of a leather-clad hero fighting off zombies from the back of his flying whale deserves all the room it can grab.

The real purpose of How Not to Draw Manga is to single out and denounce all the cliches that make the art form less than it could be, and here Kantz and Reid succeed brilliantly. Their mini-comic "Slayer Sword Legend" is a six-week course on creativity all on its own. The only problem with their approach is that those who most need to learn the lessons they offer will almost surely imitate the book's hypothetical neophyte creator, and miss the point completely. But for those with a touch of humor, be they old fans, non-fans and especially new fans, How Not to Draw Manga is one of the best guidebooks on the subject available.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 1 October 2005

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