Pen & Ink Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: C
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 19.95
  • Pages: 114
  • ISBN: 1569709173
  • Size: B5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Pen & Ink Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     September 05, 2006
Release Date: June 14, 2006

Pen & Ink Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Comikers (various)
Translated by:Melanie Schoen
Adapted by:

What They Say
Good pen and inking comes with knowledge and practice, and Comickers has enlisted famous pros to bestow their wisdom upon you. Contains step-by-steps by these industry giants Yasuhiro Nightow, Oh! great, and Satoshi Shiki, to help you master your craft.

The Review
Another beautifully done packaging job by DMP! This B5 sized text comes with a colorful dust cover featuring Vash the Stampede in an action pose drawn by Trigun creator Nightow Yasuhiro on the front and an original drawing featuring a girl "dressed" (I use this term very loosely as she is essentially topless) in commonly used drawing tools by manga artist Oh!great. The background colors for the dust cover are dark teal at the very top and orange below that. Vash with his trusty gun takes up most of the space on the front with the book's title at the top in white font against the teal background. The names of the specially featured artists (Yasuhiro Nightow, Oh!great, and Satoshi Shiki) are placed to the lower right. If you flip open the front flap of the dust cover, you'll find a second drawing of a more mellow Vash in black ink against the orange background with the title logo above against the teal background.

On the back of the dust cover, Oh!great's redheaded drawing tool girl is displayed in full-color in a box to the lower left. Oh!great has cleverly drawn the tools to look like accessories (collar, armband, necklace, hair accessories) for his female subject. A continuation of this drawing extends beyond the full-color portion as a white outline in the surrounding orange background. Also against the orange background is the book's summary in black font arranged around the female subject. The book's title logo is placed towards the top left. If you flip open the back flap of the dust cover, you'll find more of the Oh!great drawing outlined against a teal background.

The actual cover of this book is a softbound cover with a grayscale version of the dust cover design. The first two pages are a nice heavyweight textured gray paper followed by title pages in vellum and heavyweight paper featuring the black-and-white version of the Oh!great cover drawing. DMP does a splendid job with reproducing the numerous photographs and color drawings in this book. The background layout for the artist interviews on pages 6 through 34 are printed in color (a grayish blue with orange for highlights) instead of grayscale or plain white; however, these colors are somewhat inconsistent from page to page. Extras, conveniently enough, include ads for other DMP manga instruction manuals and a manga artist suppliers' website at the end of the book.

My only complaint with regards to the packaging is that, because this is an instruction manual, artists purchasing this book will probably want the pages of the book to lay flat when opened so that they can follow instructions as they do the manual's drawing exercises. However, because of the way this book is bound, there is no good way to do this without pressing the pages flat and creasing the cover. My copy ended up somewhat warped by the time I was done with this review (I ended up pulling off the dust cover to keep it from getting damaged as I did my review). However, because the pages are made of heavier weight paper, there should not be any problems with the book falling apart even if it does get warped from use.

I really wish that DMP's editing effort was on par with its production effort. It reads more like a rough first cut than a final edit. There are spelling and punctuation errors throughout the entire book. The most irritating spelling error is the repeated use of "stationary" in place of "stationery," and the one that made me laugh out loud is the "toothbush" listed on page 110 as one of Mizushiro Setona's drawing tools. In general, the translation comes off as unpolished. Also, parts of the Shiki Satoshi interview are confusing; it seems like the text for some of the answers are matched up with the wrong questions.

Most of the text in the book is arranged in columnal format (either two or three columns per page), which is fine considering the amount and type of material presented. However, the formatting of these columns is inconsistent. Spacing of the lines varies within sections and sometimes even within the same page, and some of the text ended up going outside of its frame on page 61.

DMP's "How to Pen & Ink" is indeed an excellent manga artist's guide to using pen and ink, but it is much more than that. As it boasts on its back cover, it is a combination "instructional manga manual, Q&A resource, and exhaustive equipment guide." Also, while it is primarily an art instruction book, hard-core fans of Yasuhiro Nightow, Oh!great, and Satoshi Shiki might just want to pick it up anyway because of the in-depth interviews of these artists included in the manual.

This book can be divided into five sections. The first section, "Close up on How a Manga Is Born," is part instructional, part interview, and part inspirational. In this section, Yasuhiro Nightow, Oh!great, and Satoshi Shiki each create a drawing, and this process is recorded step-by-step in photographs and text. The pieces created by Oh!great and Yasuhiro Nightow are the same ones used in the cover art. Also included are instruction on drawing techniques (with the featured artists providing demonstrations), the preferred tools used by these particular artists, Q&A about their careers and creative processes, and a listing of their works.

The second section "I Want to Draw Manga!" is a primer for progressing from penciled doodles to a one-page inked manga. It is presented in comic book format drawn in deformed character style.

The third section, "There Is A Lot I Don't Get When I'm Starting Out..." is a Q&A section addressing everything from manga layouts to tools selection and maintenance to drawing styles. The explanations of drawing tools, particularly regarding pen nibs, grips, and ink, are extremely informative and among the most valuable parts of this book.

The fourth section, "Four-Week, Professional-Level Pen Training!" is exactly that. It provides four weeks worth of pen exercises designed to help you master the basics of using a manga artist's pen (i.e.G Pen, Kabura Pen, Round Pen).

The final section is "A Huge Survey of 71 Manga Artists and Their Tools." This section includes the rankings of the most popular tools, as well as the actual responses of each manga artist participant. So, if you are interested in learning what tools Yuu Watase uses to draw her titles, you can find out -- she's on the survey! Interspersed in this section are also suggestions on places to go for particular tools. Unfortunately for most English readers, most of these supply sources are Japan specific with the notable exception of Snopake (a particular type of white out preferred by Mizuki Ken) which is found in Canada.

This book is a wonderful reference. It really does seem to have a little something for everyone, from those that are just interested in the creation of manga from an intellectual standpoint to hard-core artists wanting to check out what other artists are using. There are multiple contributors to this book, and from the way that the credits are arranged, it is a little difficult to tell who is responsible for which parts. However, the technical parts of the book are written at least in part by instructors from the Manga Department of the Chiyoda Engineering and Fine Arts Vocational School, and I feel that the thoroughness of the instruction provided reflects this.
Please keep in mind that it was written for a Japanese audience. Therefore, some of the information and terminology (i.e. "name" and "beta flash") may not necessarily apply to publishing houses outside of Japan. Also, depending on your own geographic location, it may be difficult to obtain the recommended supplies. However, the drawing techniques and skills described in this text and the accompanying exercises, as well as some of the basic guidelines on designing your own manga, are valuable no matter what part of the world you live in. Also, while this text is touched briefly on color and the impact of color, its main emphasis is on black and white art, primarily pen work (ergo the title "How to Pen and Ink" -- duh) though they do provide instructions on applying and choosing tones as well.
One final note. This instruction manual does not have an age rating. However, I do not think that this is the best manual for those under 17. There are two reasons for this. The first is that much of the text is very technical. I think most teens' eyes would glaze over if you made them read the highly detailed portions of this book. The second is a few pages of sample artwork featured (especially those by Oh!great) are inappropriate for younger readers. There are PARTS of this manual that are fine for younger artists. The chibi-drawn second section in particular could probably be pulled out/photocopied for even elementary school students, but I certainly would not hand over the whole book to a 10-year-old.


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