Manga for the Beginner: Kawaii (Watson-Guptill)

Christopher Hart’s latest instruction manual teaches “How to Draw the Supercute Characters of Japanese Comics.”



192 pgs., color; $21.99
(W / A: Christopher Hart)
I’d say that Japanese popular culture recognizes as many gradations of cute as the Inuit do for snow, except that that whole “90 words for snow” thing turned out to be a myth. Be that as it may, there certainly are a lot of different type of cute in Japanese popular culture, and Christopher Hart’s latest instructional volume is devoted to one of them: kawaii, rightly described in the book as “so cute it hurts.” Hello Kitty is kawaii, and so are the Pokemon characters, and now you can learn to draw your own kawaii characters as well.
Hart does a great job of breaking down the characteristics of kawaii to its very basics: body proportions (height = 1.5 heads), facial proportions (round head, simple features, eyes placed low and wide), then adds in the details to create different types of characters. There’s even a section on drawing kawaii foods, so if you’ve ever wondered how to make an ice cream cone or a hamburger adorable, this is the book for you. There are also sections covering different types of anthros (hamsters, pandas, tigers, etc.), dark kawaii types (skeletons, evil dolls, etc.), and cute fantasy and animal creatures. There’s also a section on creating complete scenes with kawaii characters, which can only be described as aspirational for someone at a true beginning level, but could be very useful for someone more experienced (or for a class of students led by a more experienced instructor).
My standard regarding books advertised as “for the beginner” is this—can I follow the directions and come up with something resembling the art in the book? With this volume, the answer is yes—you need no artistic talent whatsoever to draw acceptable kawaii figures, if you go through the steps as Hart presents them. Of course, if you do have some talent, so much the better—you can use the basic examples in this volume as a jumping-off place for creating your own original art. If you need inspiration, there’s an interview in this book with a mother and daughter who run a business creating commercial kawaii art, as well as suggestions for creating kawaii greeting cards (an obvious market if ever there was one) and other products.
The one misstep in this volume is the inclusion of a brief selection on drawing moe style, a more realistic version of cute. This type of character is much more detailed and drawing them requires a big jump up in skill, so the brief treatment in this volume is not nearly enough to help a beginner actually create their own moe characters. Setting that objection aside, Manga for the Beginner: Kawaii is a great beginner’s book for anyone who wants to learn to draw in the supercute style. | Sarah Boslaugh

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