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Review: How to Draw Shojo Manga

The editorial staff of four Japanese manga magazines have compiled a guide for aspiring shojo (girls’) manga creators. They cover the basics of plot, art, supplies, layout, and submission, while using examples from popular shojo manga creators.

How to Draw Shojo Manga
by collaborative editing of Hana to Yume, Bessatsu Hana to Yume, LaLa, and Melody editorials
Publishers Age Rating: Teen/13+; GCFK suggests: ages 15+, grades 10+
TokyoPop, November 2010, ISBN 978-1-4278-1665-8
176 pages, $14.99

The biggest problem with this nonfiction, non-comic format guide is the title. It is not actually a “how to draw” book, so the title is extremely misleading. Rather the work focuses on how to assemble a manga story with the aim of submitting it to a Japanese manga publisher. The editors assume familiarity with shojo manga stories and art styles, art supplies used in the creation of manga, Japanese manga magazines, and, mostly importantly, how to draw. In other words, this is not a beginner guide.

However, that said, this is still a useful educational work. There are plenty of young artists who have the basics of drawing down, but who need help with plot and page layout and the other elements of comic creation. And for rabid fans who are particularly interested in creating manga in Japan, this can be a wonderful resource. The details on submitting to several different Japanese shojo manga magazines are included and there are notes for English-speaking audiences reminding them that being fluent in Japan might be required to be published in such magazines or even to speak to editors. (There is a note about how to speak to United States publishers at conventions and the like.) As it was originally printed in Japan in 2006, the U.S. editors strongly encourage readers to double check that submission guidelines haven’t changed, though unfortunately the Japanese websites for the magazines are not included, which would have been helpful.

What are most useful, however, are the details about how to improve your work. The editors cover the elements of creating characters, backdrops, and storylines. They discuss how to layout work on a page or on two pages. They give tips on how to get ideas, how to improve your drawings, how to place panels, etc. They even cover the basics of critique and teach readers how to take criticism and use it to improve their work. Throughout the collection there are a lot of examples (both right and wrong) and an ongoing manga which is created by a manga artist posing as an amateur to show the process of manga creation. The section on art supplies is rather rushed and oddly placed at the beginning of the book, but otherwise there is a lot of useful information for readers who want to create their own manga. Libraries in or near schools with advanced art classes or comic classes should definitely consider stocking this. Even with its odd lapses and Japan-specific focus, there is a lot of useful information for budding comic creators.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © TokyoPop.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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