Manga for the Beginner: Shoujo Review

This book is the latest in a series of instructional art books by Hart. Given the content and tone, it's geared towards female teens who have some exposure to manga and a little or no art training. In the introduction, it claims to be "the first book specifically designed to teach beginners how to draw [shoujo style of manga]. The book is designed for beginners, but it is better described a primer for female and male teen character designs rather than a comprehensive guide to drawing manga.

The book contains six main sections. They are:
The Shoujo Face
Female Bodies & Motion
The Shoujo Girls
The Shoujo Boys
The Key to Successful Drawing
Putting It All Together

The first two sections (The Shoujo Face and Female Bodies & Motion) provide the most practical material for novice artists. They illustrate the use of guidelines and the placement of shapes and curves to create the three basic angles of the face and the three basic views of the body. These sections also introduce the concept of the line of the spine and include pictorial glossaries of different eye types, expressions, hairstyles, and expressive poses. For some reason, a five-page subsection on silhouettes is also included. Sadly, there are no lessons on drawing hands, which I as an artist could really use.

The next two sections (The Shoujo Girls and The Shoujo Boys) are essentially indexes of different character types. For each entry, a blurb describes the character's personality traits, and four to five illustrations show the steps required to get from a stick figure to a finished color drawing of the character. While these catalogues are useful for practice, I do think the author could have provided a better selection. Out of the fifteen girl types presented, four are catgirls, which seems excessive (one catgirl would have been plenty). On the other hand, the book makes one mention of vampires but doesn't have a single vampire illustration (there are a couple demons in the lineup though). The author also makes suggestions for character development, but those are more his opinion than hard and fast guidelines.

The last two chapters provide tips on secondary action and character interaction: selecting poses to make illustrations more interesting. As such, they are more about artistic principles than drawing technique.

Speaking of techniques, if you want something beyond drawing basic teenage figures and faces, you'll need a different book, especially if you want technical information. A few captions make suggestions on color selection and line weights, but the book does not delve into the particulars or tools of inking and coloring. The text also makes no mention of screentones nor the floral backgrounds and foregrounds so prevalent in shoujo manga. Though there are no lessons specific to animals, some pets show up in the practice drawings in the "Putting It All Together" section, but stylistically, those animals look more like something out of a Disney animation than a manga.

While the book does accomplish the task of teaching how to draw Japanese-style characters, the text has a definite American flavor to it, especially in the character descriptions in the Shoujo Girls and Shoujo Boys sections. No Japanese mangaka are mentioned by name, and oddly, the only manga mentioned is The Prince of Tennis, which is a Shonen Jump title. In addition, the author uses the phrase "manga graphic novel" at least four times, a term I personally disliked.


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