Manga for the Beginner: Chibis—Everything You Need to Start Drawing the Super-Cute Characters of Japanese Comics. By Christopher Hart. Watson-Guptill. $21.95.
Fashion Origami. By Eva Steele-Saccio. Klutz. $19.95.
If you think manga characters, with their huge eyes and exaggerated postures, are extreme, then what will you think of chibis – into which manga characters sometimes turn at times of heightened emotion? Chibis take all the extremes of manga drawing and push them to extremes. Eyes are not big but huge; bodies are not small but tiny; motions are not emphatic but super-exaggerated. Christopher Hart expertly details the differences between manga and chibi, and shows in very considerable (but easy-to-follow) detail how to create chibis of your own, in his latest Manga for the Beginner book. Hart has the chibi drawing approach down pat: manga artists “have their figures follow what’s called a line of action [that] keeps the poses on target. …With chibis, limited action is the key to drawing funny poses. That’s because chibis are short and ultra-compact characters.” How short? That depends on how exaggerated you want them to be. “Chibis typically have giant heads on small, childlike bodies and little round hands and feet,” but the head-to-body proportion can be varied. The average chibi is three heads tall, but a chibi can be two heads tall or can even have a head twice as tall as the body – and Hart’s excellent illustrations show what happens as the proportions change. More than that: he shows that “everyone can be ‘chibified’” in a series of outstanding comparative drawings of normal manga characters with various expressions – and chibis with the same expressions. The differences when the characters are disgusted, exhausted, curious or embarrassed show very clearly where chibis fit into the manga universe. Hart gives excellent, precise guidance for drawing chibis in multiple poses. For example, for a three-quarter view, he shows a simple outline including center lines for head and egg-shaped torso, the comparative size of the two sides of the face, and positioning and appearance of both arms. Three steps later, the line drawing is filled in, filled out and looks exactly right for the medium. Hart discusses the simplicity of chibi hands, the subtle ways to make clothing seem real, how to draw footwear (“the key word here is clunky”), and all sorts of chibi props (electronics, vehicles and more). Then he discusses the differences between shoujo (girls’ comics) and shounen (boy-oriented action comics) and the different ways characters look in the two genres; and he gives lots and lots of examples of specific characters, how to draw and position them, and how to give them individual expressions and action poses. In addition to human-looking chibis, there are anthros (combining human and animal appearance), robots, monsters and even chibified dogs, cats, raccoons, penguins and more. Throw in some special effects for use in fight scenes – and Hart shows just how to create them – and you have everything needed to create a whole series of wonderfully, authentically styled characters that bring a touch of humor to manga’s typical action orientation.
For girls who like doing crafts rather than drawing, Fashion Origami offers a very enjoyable form of creativity. Like manga, origami is Japanese in origin; and one style shown in Fashion Origami is a specific Japanese approach called harajuku, which includes wild patterns and bright colors thrown together every which way. Eva Steele-Saccio’s spiral-bound, open-flat book, like other Klutz crafts offerings, contains not only instructions but also the materials needed to do the projects – in this case, 80 sheets of custom-designed patterned paper (in two sizes), plus sequins and other decorative items and glue to hold everything together. Steele-Saccio starts with such basics as how to hold the paper, how to fold it (“slowly and carefully”), how to check your work as you go along and how to dress up the patterns you make. This is a book about fashion origami, so the first section shows how to fold paper into clothing and the second focuses on such accessories as purses and shoes. Most of the book consists of step-by-step folding instructions, carefully diagrammed: nine steps to make a jacket, 14 for pajamas, 18 for a skirt, 20 for a party dress, and so on. Shoes are difficult to make but look really neat when done carefully. And the folding itself is only part of the fun here, since decorating the fashion items is really delightful (and can sometimes cover up a less-than-perfect fold here and there). Girls ages eight and up with an interest in what makes fashion – and in doing some of their own designing – will find Fashion Origami fun from start to finish.