Just a quick link this morning to point to today’s Otaku Bookshelf column over at Manga Recon, which includes my review of Shoujo Art Studio, a book that claims to contain “Everything You Need To Create Your Own Shoujo Manga Comics.” You can see what I think about that over in the review and also find the very silly one-page comic I made using the book’s tools and instructions.
Something I didn’t get into too deeply in the review, but which really bothered me while working with this book, is the author’s discussion of the history and nature of shojo manga which claims that “there are really no limits on what can be shown in a shoujo manga,” but then goes on with statements like, “Some heroines are still damsels in distress, but most are independent and successful in their own right. However, supremacy in school or magical combat rarely translates to confidence around boys!” Both the instructions and provided art reinforce the most overdone shojo clichés and it’s difficult to imagine what real fan of the genre could possibly enjoy this or find it of much use. With the background scenery provided–the school, amusement park, girl’s bedroom, etc.–it is a toolkit geared toward creating a parody of shojo manga more than anything else. I can’t even bear to discuss the outfits.
Check out my review for more information on this instructional book. You’ll also find reviews from Michelle Smith and Jennifer Dunbar on two other books of this kind!
Travis saysNovember 7, 2009 at 3:44 am
I actually have a real problem with “how to draw manga” books written by non-Japanese people. The fact that this one was written by a person of color doesn’t make it feel any less appropriationy.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 7, 2009 at 10:53 am
I’ve been thinking about this… I think I don’t necessarily have a problem with that as a concept, or perhaps it’s that I feel I shouldn’t. I mean, I don’t have a problem with books *about* manga being written by westerners, such as Jason Thompson’s Manga, The Complete Guide or Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! On top of that, I write an entire blog about manga myself. Is the difference that it is a “how-to” book? Maybe that *is* a significant difference. Can you explain a little more why you feel that way about a drawing book in particular? Perhaps that will help me clarify my own thoughts.
Short version: your point is well-taken, but gives me some internal conflict.
All that said, this book actually gives no advice at all on drawing manga. Heh. That’s part of what I think is misleading about it. It’s basically a photoshop tutorial, no more, no less.
Travis saysNovember 7, 2009 at 11:10 am
I don’t think that all how-to books are going to be appropriative by default, but from what I’ve seen, they tend to be really sloppy and not written by people who actually know what they’re talking about. There are a ton of how-to books in Japan, so the fact that rather than translating something by someone who is well-versed in the culture, they’d rather toss something together is really what doesn’t sit well with me.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 7, 2009 at 11:17 am
Ah, yes, that is something I can definitely agree with. And this book definitely falls into that category.
laurie saysNovember 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm
dude, that sounds so racist.
like cause it was a person of color makes it even worst then a Caucasian that not Japanese.
and I thought the author was Asian?
I’m tried of all these books giving surface studies of this when all of that info is readily available (and better) online? just try DA and look up tutorials on ‘how to draw a character’ or ‘add tone in photoshop’ what they need to fucus on is story telling, paneling and pacing.
Travis saysNovember 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm
Uh, no. I did not say that it was worse because the author was a person of color. I said that just because they are a person of color doesn’t mean it’s not appropriative. Learn to read.