Reviews

The Manga Guide Series (2004)

Commentary

Informal textbooks in narrativized sequential art form. There is a shell of fiction, but I’m classifying the series as non-fiction.

Japanese production non-fiction sequential art series

Entry:

The Manga Guide to Calculus (2005)

Creators

Togami Shin (artist), Kojima Hiroyuki (writer).

Commentary

Inadequately adapted to the medium. I can see the need for teaching the clunky traditional notation, but sequential art provides larger opportunities than are used here.

Japanese production non-fiction sequential art

Entry:

The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology (2008)

Creators

Sakura (artist), Takemaru Masaharu (writer).

Extent

Read in 2019.

Commentary

A lot of the illustrations are clearly lifted out of traditional textbooks. The narrativization is a curious balance between anthropomorphization (“Enzyme Man!”), the conceit of VR for viewing realistic cell internals up close, and the outer, human-level story of Professor Moro teaching two near-dropouts for the selfish purpose of curing his own disease. It works surprisingly well, concluding with discussions of the 2006 and 2007 Nobel prizes in Physiology or Medicine.

References here: The Manga Guide to Biochemistry (2009).

Japanese production non-fiction sequential art

Entry:

The Manga Guide to Biochemistry (2009)

Creators

Kikuyaro (artist), Takemaru Masaharu (writer).

Extent

Read in 2019.

Subject

A high-school studient learns about biochemistry until she can penetrate the bullshit of dieting fads.

Commentary

As a comic, it’s significantly better than The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology (2008), being less contrived. Instead of VR on a desert island, there’s just an appropriately marginal endoscopic robot premise. The non-comic portions between chapters are thinner and flow better. The science content itself seems more appropriately apportioned. It ranges, amusingly, to the topic of mochi springiness. The previous book’s discussion of a couple of Nobel prizes is replaced by nine pages of the author’s personal reflections on the differences between the two disciplines, via what appears to be his thesis project.

The main character of the narrative, Kumi, is driven by a desire to lose weight, but there is no sign that she is overweight. If any manga should have an overweight and adult protagonist, surely it’s this one, given the purely pro-science, incidentally anti-Banting message and college-age target audience. And yet, even here, the protagonist is a high-school girl on the slim side. More surprisingly, all three characters in the book are diligent and enthusiastic from the start, even if Kumi is a bit of a ditz for comic relief.

Japanese production non-fiction sequential art

Entry:

The Manga Guide to Physics (2009)

Creators

Takatsu Keita (artist), Nitta Hideo (writer).

Extent

Read in 2020.

Subject

Newtonian mechanics via an athletic high-schooler’s interest in tennis.

Commentary

Relatively basic stuff for the series. My high-school physics class covered all of it, including the calculus, which is reduced here to fairly long text-only intermissions with clear warning labels. The medium is used fairly well and the story is kept appropriately simple, but despite Nitta’s ambitious preface, most of the visual aids are the kinds of easily portable props a teacher would use in a classroom, rather than the larger means at the artist’s disposal.

non-fiction sequential art