Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Draw Shojo Manga

Written by the editors of Hakusensha's shoujo magazines, art by Yui Shin. Released in Japan as "Shoujo Mangaka Ni Narou!" by Hakusensha. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

I'll just come right out and say it: I can't draw. Heck, I have trouble making reasonable stick figures - they always come out too short and stout. Therefore, from a creative perspective, this book is likely not going to help me much. In addition, there are numerous 'How to Draw Manga' books that have already come out in North America from various Western publishers, none of which I have read.

So why did I buy this? I was curious. I'd long been a fan of Hakusensha's shoujo magazines, and I wanted to see how it would be styled. Would it be cutesy, with various licensed characters like Tohru and Kazuha telling you how to draw? Plus I like supporting Tokyopop, and felt this was a very interesting pickup for them.

As it turns out, there's not much from other artists beyond the use of panels as examples. The book came out in Japan 4 years ago, and we see some manga that was popular at the time being used to show you what to do. Of course, much of that manga is *still* popular - Ouran High School Host Club, Maid-sama!, and Vampire Knight are all seen here - but we also get tempting shots of other releases such as Himitsu - Top Secret by Reiko Shimizu, her long running thriller series from Melody magazine. But if you buy this as Tohru's on the cover, you may be disappointed.

Most of the actual art inside is from a minor Hakusensha artist named Yui Shin. Checking her bibliography shows that she only has about 2 or 3 series under her belt, and at the time this was written she only had one. Oddly, this helps to make the book better suited for beginners - you aren't being shown the ropes by someone intimidating. The basic premise is that we see a newbie author, Ema, being guided through the process of submitting a manga for Hakusensha's new talent contests with the help of a young male editor, Sasaki. Towards the end of the volume, having seen her come of with the idea and have it critiqued by Sasaki, the manga is printed, and we then see the editors critique it.

The manga isn't that great. And the editors note this, indicating that her characters are too dull, her art is too sloppy, and there's little tension. It's very much how they would judge a beginner's first-time work, as they note that most folks fail with their first submission and have to try again.

The majority of the book is an actual guide to drawing manga, going from supplies and art styles to coming up with ideas and storyboard, to inking the final product. There's even a small section on digital publishing. All of these are told simply and as plainly as possible, trying to encourage while also showing how much of a huge job it is to actually produce something worth publishing. They talk about how you should practice drawing everything (well, almost everything - they note to be careful when drawing people as real life humans are far stockier than shoujo characters), how to be inspired by others without ripping them off, how to use special effects, putting important panels right before the page turn... it's nicely detailed.

Towards the end they give the details of the contests themselves, if anyone wants to give it a try. Before a couple of years back I'd have said this was well-nigh impossible, but after Felipe Smith broke into Kodansha, who knows? The magazine editors are all encouraging, noting the differences between the four (Melody is more mature, and as it only comes out 6 times a year, is also choosier; whereas Hana to Yume is broader-based, and discusses its many big hits), and you even get the address of the company, if you feel like stalking them.

As a manga reader, I found the book highly interesting, giving me insight into Hakusensha's editorial process and the type of shoujo that they create. As an artist, I imagine I'd get even more out of it. Still, even if you don't draw, I'd still recommend this.

(I'd also love to see Hakusensha get its artists from Silky to do a How to Draw Josei Manga volume, but I don't think Silky takes newbies. Or even worse, Young Animal telling you how to draw seinen. "Chapter 3: Nipples.")

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