Manga Mania Shoujo and Fantasy Sketchbooks (Chris Hart Books)

mangamania-header.jpgThese two instructional collections promise both drawing tutorials and your own handy sketchbook, but on both fronts come up lacking.



144 pgs color and b&w; $12.95

(W / A: Chris Hart/Various)


Upon receipt of these two hard-cover books, I was initially thrilled. Here there seemed to be two lovely hardcover, fairly thick artist collections/tutorials on how to draw essential elements of manga: fantasy and shoujo. Surely, I thought, with as many pages as each looked to have there would be plenty of insight, detailed examples, and instruction on how one can further fledgling manga artist skills! It was an unpleasant surprise, then, when I opened up both books and found a vast majority of those pages to be blank.

The cover to the Manga Mania Fantasy Sketchbook. Click for a larger image.Chris Hart’s Manga Mania Sketchbooks are literally that—small, blank sketchbooks for the aspiring artist to scribble in. Not a collection of shoujo or fantasy artwork by renowned manga artists, as I had thought. This is not to say that neither book has tutorials, for indeed the first twelve pages of each book are devoted to a sort of bare bones instruction. If you’re looking for well-told teachings on the inner workings of manga art though, I’d highly suggest a different artbook. The characters provided for both give only the most basic of character types (literally titled: trendy girl, cat girl, school girl, and evil beings—one archetypal witch) with the meanest of sketching instruction. While it’s true the artists’ drawing process is shown, it hops from a mishmash of shapes to fully constructed character in "three easy steps," which could easily frustrate the novice artist who demands more instruction. Obviously, the reader is supposed to already have some drawing know-how, and know what shapes to use to construct their own character’s foundation. Additionally lacking were any helpful hints on how to flesh out a genre character with those most important elements: costume details. Costume silhouettes surface in the second-stage drawing, but then immediately materialize in all their detailed glory in the third drawing, sans any transition. The side notes such as "Creepy sleeves!" really don’t help an artist if they don’t understand that, say, jagged edges convey fabric being ripped or torn apart as opposed to a calming, straight-edged sleeve, and are thus appropriate on evil or horror characters.

The cover to the Shoujo Sketchbook. Click for a larger image.Complaints about the lack of instruction aside, if all you’re looking for is a nice acid-free sketchbook that will handle various mediums, well…I’m afraid you’ll have to look somewhere else for that as well. Despite the book’s claim on the cover page that the sketch pages are suitable "for pencil and pen…and will withstand vigorous erasing," I discovered that only the "pen" part applies. I laid out a few sketches with a nearby Bic, and I do have to say that the lines did not bleed through to the other side, nor were any other marks visible. Attempting to draw with the traditional pencil, however, is another story. The sketchbook’s pages are slick and shiny, and while you are certainly able to draw with pencil, trying to erase lines leaves behind large dark streaks, and the underlying sketch is still visible. Oh, and don’t try to ink in this book, either. I took a Copic Multiliner small brush, waited a few moments, and then ran my finger over the ink I had just laid down. Nothing but smear!

To any potential buyers of Manga Mania Fantasy and Shoujo Sketchbooks, their covers are deceptive, so beware. You will find neither collections of manga artist work nor even very good how-to tutorials within the hard covers, but instead minimal sketching demonstrations and instructions, and a collection of blank pages meant to be for the budding artist. Because of the nature of the pages however, even that cannot really be used. My advice? Save your money and apply it to a real sketchbook or manga tutorial which spans more than twelve pages. | Elizabeth Schweitzer


Visit Christopher Hart’s website at

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