Tokyopop Quick Takes – Karakuri Odette, Neko Ramen, How to Draw Shojo Manga

Karakuri Odette Volume 4

I think this takes the prize for most consistently charming shoujo manga. I mean, take a look at the riff on Revolutionary Girl Utena in the cover illustration. How cute is that!? Odette makes a new friend when she meets Shiroyuki, a rich girl who lives in isolation because she can read people’s minds. When Shiroyuki meets Odette she’s happy that she can’t read her thoughts, and Odette encourages Shiroyuki to start attending school. Shiroyuki thinks that Odette must be picked on at school and is determined to save her. Unfortunately Odette already seems to have things well in hand, despite her tendency to immediately do other people’s classroom chores when asked. There’s also an appearance by Kurose, Odette’s juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold non-boyfriend. He starts getting stalked by another girl, which awakens feelings of jealousy in Odette. Suzuki’s pacing is great. There are little hints here and there that show Odette might becoming something more than just an android. Her dependence on her battery seems to be lessening, and her experiences of new emotions through her interaction with her friends seems to be increasing. There are only two volumes left in this series, and I’ll be sorry to see it end.

Neko Ramen 2

People who liked the first volume of this series about Taisho, a cat who inexplicably runs a ramen shop, will find the second volume equally enjoyable. There are plenty of gags about Taisho switching out different theme corners of his shop in an effort to find an added attraction. He goes through options like a petting zoo and spiritual fortunes in short order. Taisho also does curry experiments, with disastrous results.It felt to me like there were a few more long form comics included in this volume as opposed to the 4-coma strips. The longer stories focused on Taisho’s famous cat model father and a food competition that seemed like a satirical take on the food battles often found in cooking manga like Iron Wok Jan. Hapless businessman Tanaka gets a shock when his father has a mid-life crisis and confesses his secret desire to open a ramen shop. This is one of those manga that I think is best read in spaced-out stages, because while the jokes are funny, there’s a certain element of sameness for the reader when reading a bunch of similar gags back to back.

How to Draw Shojo Manga

I’m not an artist, but I think that this how to draw book will be interesting for shoujo fans since it was put out by the editorial teams of some of Hakusensha’s manga magazines. There’s a simple story used as a framing device – enthusiastic but slightly clueless aspiring manga artist Ena gets put through her paces under the guidance of Sasaki, a manga editor. Topics like what tools to use, drawing people and objects, composing panel layouts, working on storyboards, and developing characters are briefly touched on. While this volume is too slender to use as a true drawing textbook, it does introduce a lot of terminology and concepts that provide a basic overview of the manga-making process. Some of the details included are likely to be too specific to the Japanese system to be very useful for American aspiring manga artists. An appendix on alternate routes to publication, like how to create a webcomic, might have been useful. Still, I enjoyed leafing through this book but I was tortured by the inclusion of some of the examples from untranslated Hakusensha manga. Now I’m curious about English Tutoring School Wars, Go! Hiromi, Go!, and especially the Tea Prince’s Princess which appears to feature a hot guy playing the cello with some unfortunate bowing technique. I do think this title would be a popular addition to any library’s collection of how to draw books.

Review copies for Neko Ramen and How to Draw Shojo Manga provided by the publisher.

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