I remember there was a series of “learn how to draw animals” books when I was growing up that were aimed at young kids. They all had the same formula of five to eight steps and then you got a great looking animal, but they all had the same problem. Steps one through four tended to be basic shapes that you would build on top of and then the last steps showed you how to add details. Except they tended to forget they were aiming at kids, so the horse that started off as basic shapes that they could draw, suddenly ended up being looking like something that was trying to be by da Vinci. Let me tell you, it’s a pretty crappy feeling to look at your horrible drawing of a horse compared to the one in the book. And it was hard to get better at it, because they weren’t explaining how to go from simple to complex. It was just suddenly *boom* complex. Unfortunately this is a problem that Manga Art for Beginners experiences, and its not the only one.

The first problem it has is that it isn’t sure about the audience it’s catering to and this is something that is evident from the beginning. It starts with a “How to get started” section that tells you that you can use a pencil and paper to draw with, ink over it, and then scan it in to finish later. Or you can use a computer for the whole process. And that’s it. See the problem? If this is a book for a beginner are they going to know what type of paper to pick? Or what the author means by inking? Or why they should scan their art at the end? And I get it, they don’t want to go in a lot of detail about how to do these things because that’s a whole book in itself, but if this is truly a book “for beginners” they should have included some of this information, or offered a glossary to explain what the terms mean.

The second major issue I have with the book is that it glosses over a lot of steps necessary to create the characters it’s showing us how to draw, especially when it comes to drawing the body itself. It shows how a more seasoned artist draws a body, with circles and boxes breaking down the various parts of the body as it’s first example, but never explains how this works. Then we get a very brief explanation that bodies are seven heads high, which isn’t the best standard to measure by anyway, and then it never mentions or shows the heads again. I’m not asking the artist and writer to give a full detailed explanation, but something would be nice, right? I mean they do break down how to draw a human head and hand, so why not the body, which is horribly complex to draw for a beginning artist?

Next, the book takes a turn for the weird, at least for me. It gives directions like, “this is a teen girl, so she’ll be less curvy than an adult woman.” But there’s no indication of where the curves are less. Maybe they think we can figure this out or we’ll see it in the drawing. But if that’s the case, why write it in? And then it goes a step beyond where they seemingly draw a young nude woman with….let me just say you’d get a better idea of how the human figure looks by looking at Ken and Barbie dolls than these drawings. There’s no explanation of why they’re drawn naked only to then cover them up with clothes. I get it, its manga and their proportions can be a bit off, but they at least still frequently play to reality as far as the general structure goes. This just doesn’t at all.

Basically this book skims over a lot of steps and explanations on how to get started. I know introductory books are supposed to be brief and not include all of the steps, but they should at least give people something to start with, and this one doesn’t. The whole book just leaves me scratching my head wondering if I missed pages or if this is a book in a series. It’s hard to recommend something that doesn’t have a coherent teaching method. Maybe if a reader has gotten the gist of drawing from someone else, this can then be used to get an idea of different ways expressions can be drawn, but that’s kind of stretching a bit. Basically this isn’t a book I would recommend for a collection or someone trying to learn how to draw manga, as it skips too much.

Manga Art for Beginners: How to Create Your Own Manga Drawings
by Danica Davidson
Art by Melanie Westin
ISBN: 9781510700048
Skyhorse Publishing, 2016

  • Dani Shuping

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Dani Shuping is currently a wandering librarian looking for a home. She has been involved in libraries for over nine years and and has had an interest in graphic novels since before that time. Dani began the graphic novel collection at Mercer, works with an English professor from time to time on a class on graphic novels, and just recently started a graphic novel book discussion group. She love attendings comic conventions, especially the smaller ones when they can, and one day may just have a comic of their own. Dani can be found at ashuping.net and goes by the user name ashuping where ever they can, such as on Twitter: @ashuping.

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