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Review: Makeup Is Not (Just) Magic

Makeup Is Not (Just) Magic

Makeup Is Not (Just) Magic: A Manga Guide to Cosmetics and Skin Care
by Ikumi Rotta
Seven Seas, $13.99
Ages 13 and up

Learning makeup through manga is a great idea — the visuals provide a terrific format for illustrated guides and educational content. Unfortunately, the material here is too often overwhelming and off-putting, likely to turn off the new readers whom the author says she wants to help.

The author tells us she was previously a beauty consultant. Now she draws manga. Makeup made her feel confident and gave her a way to feel beautiful and accept herself. She shares her tips on “the magic of makeup” on social media, and this manga aims to answer reader questions.

The first, obviously, is “Where do I start? What do I buy?” She begins with base, which is a good choice, but when she starts listing types, there’s an overwhelming page of options: primer, foundation, bb creams, tools, powder, concealer, each with multiple choices. She narrows them down for the questioner — who remember, doesn’t have any idea where to begin — only to then demand washing the face, applying moisturizer, and skin prep (unexplained) before application. That’s followed by another page delineating skin types, makeup content, and color choices.

I used to sell cosmetics, and even with that knowledge, I found this mind-boggling. It’s simply too much. It’s not welcoming; instead, Rotta seems more interested in showing off her knowledge. Several of the topics she tries to cover in just this first chapter — application techniques, blending, skin protection choices, shade selection — would have been good chapters in themselves.

Later sections cover determining your skin type; the importance of shopping with a beauty consultant; making up eyebrows, eyelashes, and lips; cleansers and skin care products; and eye makeup.

Rotta does a wonderful job drawing lovely faces, selling the dream of beauty through makeover. She’s also good at depicting people who look mousy or shy or confused or as she puts it, frumpy. And she captures well the techniques and the details of products: packaging, contents, applicators. It’s the amount of content she’s trying to shove into relatively short chapters that needs work.

That complaint leaves aside the underlying premise, which is that this level of effort and consumption is necessary, even desirable. The book is an advertisement for a lot of products, and the idea that women need this much help, and to go through all these processes, daily may not sit well with some. Young readers may seize on it as a guidebook, but hopefully, others will be available for guidance with questioning the assumptions underneath the tips and lists.

Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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