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BOOK REVIEW: The Manga Guide to Relativity

For a change of pace, No Starch Press sent one of their Manga Guide books, which explain high-level fields like physics and molecular biology but in a manga comic-book format. I read The Manga Guide to Relativity by Hideo Nitta, Masafumi Yamamoto and others.

The book is unique in that it combines a university-level topic like relativity with a storytelling format like manga, which should not be considered juvenile just because it’s telling the story with pictures and word balloons. The artwork is typical manga style and it’s well-done, though I’m not a manga reader and others who are might think other artists are better.

I was really impressed how the concepts of relativity are explained with clarity. You really can learn more about a topic like relativity with a comic book like this. Not only that, but each section is followed by a few textbook-style pages that explain the section’s content in a more traditional American style. Unfortunately, I’m not a relativity theorist either so I can’t point out any flaws in the book’s teachings. But the content did align with what I know about relativity and I learned some new things about the field.

Non-Japanese readers and manga newbies might find some of the artwork and manga style off-putting. For example, the lessons on relativity are set up by a subplot (shown above) where the student body president is learning relativity in summer school so the rest of the students don’t have to. The weird part is the school’s headmaster will make the boy his personal “secretary” love-slave (my interpretation) if he doesn’t learn relativity. Re-read that sentence again to make sure you read it right. And in another wild plot twist (spoilers ahead!), the school’s superintendent turns out to be a young woman who transforms into various forms including a purse doggy and a Power Ranger-looking robot warrior. I don’t know if all this is typical in manga, but I know it’s not typical in American books.

The Manga Guide to Relativity is fun in any case, so pick it up if you enjoy learning about science and also enjoy manga (or don’t mind jumping into a totally new writing and reading style). It’s only twenty dollars so it’s not priced like most books I review here on Designorati and a good buy for anyone who enjoys learning about the sciences.

The Manga Guide to Relativity
Hideo Nitta, Masafumi Yamamoto and others
Published by No Starch Press
US $19.95
Rating: 8/10
Click to buy at Amazon.com