"All The Basics" is the first in a three volume "how to draw" series from Kodansha. This first volume explores the basic equipment manga artists need, characters, special effects and backgrounds. The book also includes interviews with Takao Yaguchi and Toru Fujisawa.
The book opens with two interviews the first with Takao Yaguchi who draws fishing manga "Fishing Mad Senpei", the second is Toru Fujisawa the artist behind GTO. Both interviews are extremely interesting, both talk about the motivations behind becoming manga artists and how they broke into the industry. There's also some discussion about how the artists work.
The main part of the book opens with a short introductory manga, and then guides the reader through the major stages of creating a manga from plotting, sketching through to inking and toning. This then leads into the first chapter which talks about the materials manga artists use. Since this is a Japanese book there's a strong emphasis on specialist manga materials. Some of these materials are fairly easy to get from art shops such as Rotring and Rapidograph technical pens, Japanese dip pens and screen tone are a bit harder to source though a few specialist manga retailers do stock them. Alternative materials are available from a few UK companies which have launched "manga" ranges. The book's aim is to explain how Japanese artists work so it can't be faulted for focusing strongly on Japanese materials, the popularity of manga style art has also made sourcing materials a bit easier. Usefully the chapter also covers paper sizes and topics such as margins and bleed, which is handy if you plan to print your work.
The next chapter covers basic proportion then goes into detail about areas such as the face eyes and hair. Whilst each section is brief the tips are helpful and easy to follow, the book makes a point about showing the transition from sketch to final drawing. This is a personal problem area so the tips were welcomed, as was the extensive discussion on drawing and shading hair.
Nagatomo also demonstrates a range of special effects such as speed lines, and star bursts. These techniques are tricky as with the section on toning largely rely on acquiring the right materials as well as skill. This is part of the reason so many artists work digitally many of these effects are automated and don't rely on expensive equipment. Despite this tips on what types of tone to use when are useful whether they are used via digital or real life supplies.
One of the most useful sections of the book is the one on perspective, the author explains clearly and most usefully includes a step by step guide on how to apply the techniques she describes to an actual illustration.
The topics in this book have been covered many times in other similar texts. What lifts it above the others are the insightful tips, and helpful step by step guides. The interviews with Takao Yaguchi and Toru Fujisawa also make interesting reading. Whilst it's no substitute for hard work Draw Your Own Manga: All The Basics is great at troubleshooting covering common mistakes in an easy to understand manner. The only downside is it's emphasis on Japanese materials and lack of discussion of digital alternatives.