Edumanga (aka: Atom Pocket Jinbutsukan) Vol. #01 - Helen Keller -

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Mania Grade: C

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  • Art Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 168
  • ISBN: 1-56970-976-9
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Edumanga (aka: Atom Pocket Jinbutsukan) Vol. #01 - Helen Keller

By Sakura Eries     April 14, 2006
Release Date: December 01, 2005

Edumanga (aka: Atom Pocket Jinbutsukan) Vol.#01 - Helen Keller
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Sozo Yanagawa / Rie Yagi
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:

What They Say
Helen Keller was robbed of her sight, hearing and speech at an early age due to a childhood illness. Nevertheless, she overcame her disabilities with the love and tenacious teachings of her tutor Anne Sullivan and the encouragement of other individuals such as Alexander Graham Bell. This is the courageous story of one woman's amazing triumph of will over her impairments and the inspiring legacy she left behind.

Join Astro Boy and his friends as they learn what it is like to live without something we take for granted everyday.

The Review
This title is part of DMP's educational series Edu-Manga that highlights the accomplishments of various historical figures. Obviously, this title showcases the life of Helen Keller. She is featured with her teacher Anne Sullivan in the center of the cover against a plain white background with Astro Boy in period costume to their left and Astro Boy's female friend to their right. Anne is wearing a blue dress and dark glasses, and Helen is in her Radcliffe graduation clothes. Above is the Edu-Manga logo in brown, which consists of "Edu-Manga" in prominent capitals, and Astro Boy with a smaller bubble of text "GOOD FOR THE BRAIN" above it. (When I first read that, I found it absolutely silly and laughed out loud.) Below is a brown purple bar with the publisher's and series logo. The title is in block capitals to the left, and author / artist credits are in black capitals to the right. The back cover features the Edu-Manga brown logo on top. Below the logo is "Helen Adams Keller," which is straddling the brown background of the top and white background below so it looks somewhat awkward. In large (14 point?) bold font is the story summary. To the right is a picture of Astro Boy sitting at a desk "reading" Braille with his two friends next to him. The inside front and back covers contain information about the Edu-Manga series.

I find the overall impact of this cover kind of cheesy. Perhaps it's because it seems a bit incongruous to have Astro Boy and Helen Keller in the same space. But hopefully the combination appeals to the primary school readers, which is the target audience of this title.

The binding job feels somewhat flimsy (the front cover feels as if it will rip off if I'm not careful), and the tint of the paper is a bit yellowish instead of the bright white that is pretty much standard for English manga translations. Extras consist of DMP ads and a forward from the Director of the Tokyo Helen Keller Association.

This is the second DMP title I've read, and the contrast between this and the production job for Café Kichijouji is rather jarring. The presentation for Café was slick, very polished, and unfortunately, the packaging for Helen Keller is nowhere near that quality.

The artwork is definitely not the selling point of this manga. The style used to tell the Helen Keller story is certainly not the overly cartoony, caricature-heavy style used in Astro Boy, but it's not much better. Character designs strike me as flat and not very defined. Faces seem overly broad, and there's a shapelessness to bodies that lends them a dumpy quality. Backgrounds also lack detail. However, while the illustrations aren't particularly artistically appealing, they do get the message across and tell the story with clarity.

Translation is about average. The way the other characters referered to Anne Sullivan as "Teacher" was a little strange. While it makes sense for Helen to call her "Teacher," it seemed a bit odd for Helen's parents to call her "Teacher." I'm guessing the original Japanese text did say "Sensei," but I would think Helen's Alabama parents probably actually just called her "Miss Sullivan."

Translations for sound effects are placed next to original Japanese sound effects. Except for a few exclamations, there's no variation in dialogue font. The font style used is very similar to that of American comic books where individual words are regularly emphasized in bold italics. There are a number of pages that are nearly all text (a reference table, mini-biographies on those associated with Keller). While these text are informative, I found it strange that everything was written in capitals. In fact, except for the back cover summary and the DMP ads for other titles, everything was in capitals. Also, the reference table could have been designed in a more visually appealing manner.

This manga is a graphic biography of Helen Adams Keller that is "hosted" by Astro Boy. The story unfolds when Astro Boy saves a blind woman from being hit by a car because an inconsiderate person has parked his bike on top of the "tactile" pathway used to guide the blind. This incident sparks a conversation between Astro Boy and his friend Dr. Elefun about the disabled, and specifically Helen Keller.

Five chapters follow, detailing the life of Helen Keller. The first chapter describes her background and how she lost her sight and hearing at a very early age. Chapter 2 introduces Anne Sullivan and describes how she came to become Helen's teacher. Chapter 3 tells the story of the breakthrough moment that enabled Helen to grasp the concept of language. Chapter 4 describes her desire to learn how to speak and her accomplishing that goal. Chapter 5 details Helen's adulthood accomplishments, including graduation from Radcliffe College, writing an autobiography, and becoming a world renowned lecturer. The chapters about her life are interspersed with question and answer segments between Astro Boy and the Dr. Elefun regarding details on important individuals and events in Helen Keller's life, her legacy, and sign language. At the very end of the manga is biographical information about Anne Sullivan, Alexander Graham Bell, and Takeo Iwahashi and a time line of Helen Keller's life.

This title falls into the genre of educational manga (duh) that is a legitimate Japanese genre, though it is the first I've seen translated in the United States. Not that American publishers haven't ventured into this particular genre themselves. In the late 1980s, I remember seeing a comic book biography of Pope John Paul II in my dentist's waiting room. Sad to say, I think that the artwork for that American comic book was better than what I found in this manga. This is not a title that people will be collecting for its prettiness. Perhaps DMP figured that any extra packaging effort wasn't worth it because younger readers were going to mangle it anyway?

However, while the artwork is boring, the story is not. It's quite engaging once you get started, and it is very informative, though it tends towards the melodramatic and some of the dialogue is contrived. There is a scene in Chapter 2 where the head of Anne's School says to her, "Yes, Anne Sullivan. You, who graduated at the head of the class from this Perkins School... your abilities are remarkable. This is a task that only you can accomplish." I would find it quite odd if someone spoke to me like that.

As a sixth-grader, I tried reading Helen Keller's autobiography "Story of My Life," and unfortunately found it a very difficult read because the text was somewhat dense and did not provide any context for the events she was describing. While the Edu-Manga's storytelling is somewhat simplistic, it does provide context (especially for the Frost Fairies incident, which I totally did not understand when I was reading Keller's autobiography) and quite a few facts. The writers obviously consulted with several sources, including Temple University Japan, Corporation for Social Welfare, and the Tokyo Helen Keller Association, for the production of this book.

So will kids read it? Now presenting...(drum roll)... Sakura's Kids Test!!! Two days ago, some friends and their 12 and 14-year-old daughters came by to visit. The kids got bored and started poking around for something to read, and the Edu-Manga was what they picked! Thinking to give them more variety, I also pulled out Nausicaa and Forbidden Dance, but they weren't interested in those titles and stuck with Helen Keller. So there you have it, kids will read it!

This title is rated for all ages, although DMP should rethink which ads they stick into the back of their "All Ages" titles. Books advertised in the back of Helen Keller included Café Kichijouji de, which is a 13+ title, and Antique Bakery, which is a yaoi romance.


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