This large colorful paperback is subtitled “Everything You Need to Start Drawing the Super-Cute Characters of Japanese Comics.” Japanese comics, or manga, have become a very popular subculture entertainment all over the world. The comic style seems to constitute an addiction, with its charming combination of traditional Oriental pen-and-ink motifs and its very modern take on teenagers, robots, animals and superheroes (Astro Boy is a manga creation). The stories are a lot more sophisticated than the comics most of us grew up with, incorporating magic, science, action, fantasy, teen and adult themes in a way that speaks to its audience in a direct, yet whimsical way. Manga has been around in Japan for a long time but only recently hit the American streets, and now there are aspiring Western cartoonists who want nothing more than to become manga artists.
Christopher Hart, an expert in reproducing drawing styles, here deconstructs a particular aspect of manga for these wannabe cartoonists. That aspect is the
It seems that when a manga character becomes upset, overwhelmed by strong emotion, he or she “goes chibi”: “ an uncontrollable surge of emotions triggers manga characters to suddenly …exhibit a broad, chibi expression for an instant, before snapping back to their normal selves just as quickly.” The chibi is an imp, one’s inner manga child. Therefore, to draw the chibi, one has to adhere to certain rules. Unlike a regular manga character which is relatively lifelike (even if he or she is an alien or a large furry animal), a chibi has limbs without joints, a protruding possibly triangular tongue, huge eyes that can spout tears like a faucet, and an oversized head about one-third the size of the entire chibi body. Hart and other contributing artists show how to obey the rules of the chibi spirit to depict a manga character who is exhausted, disgusted, in pain, or just suffering a case of the munchies – any state of mind that makes the character give in to his or her inner childlike self, the chibi.
From the book you will not only learn the rules for drawing the chibi, but you will learn to accessorize your chibi – the chibi purse, mascot, weapons, and the all-important hairdo. You will also become familiar with archetypal chibis: raccoon girl, fox girl, secret agent, mad scientist, goth boy. You will, if you follow the techniques illustrated beautifully in color, become quite a competent cartoonist no matter what comic genre you ultimately choose.
But most importantly, in the process of reading and thumbing through this diverting look at chibi-world, you will enter into the bizarre but appealing mind-space of manga and will doubtless want to get a manga comic and see for yourself what’s up with that.
If you want a book that will provoke conversation with all your visitors no matter what their age, buy Manga for the Beginner, throw it on the coffee table and see what happens.