Title: The Manga Guide to Biochemistry
Part of: The Manga Guide series
Author: Masaharu Takemura
Producer: Office Sawa
Published by: No Starch Press
Release Date: Out Now
Pages: 272 Pages
Cost: $24.95 with E-Book or $19.95 for E-Book Alone
Blurb: The ultimate study guide for Biochemistry! Featuring great designs, a lighthearted but relevant plot and science which is presented creatively – I highly recommend this book to High School and University Students studying the topic who like many… find studying from a big heavy textbook a daunting feat.
Having run The Otaku’s Study for many a year now, I have come across many innovative releases that have excited me…. but this might just be one of the most exciting products I have seen yet. Over the last couple of years, No Starch Press have been publishing a number of titles in the “Manga Guide” series – which takes a boring science, math etc topic and create a manga study guide out of them. Thanks to the folks at No Starch Press, I have been sent a review copy of their latest title “The Manga Guide to Biochemistry” and was more than happy to jump into it. Having completed my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science last year and mid-way through my Masters, I have studied the topic quite thoroughly through lectures and big thick textbooks which were a real pain to carry around. Would The Manga Guide to Biochemistry be a suitable replacement for the textbooks? Read on to find out!
Kumi loves to eat, but she’s worried that her passion for junk food is affecting her health. Determined to unlock the secrets of dieting, she enlists the help of her brainy friend Nemoto and his beautiful biochemistry professor, Dr. Kurosaka. And so it begins…
Follow along in The Manga Guide to Biochemistry as Kumi explores the mysteries of her body’s inner workings. With the help of RoboCat, the professor’s friendly endoscopic robot, you’ll soar through the incredible chemical machinery that keeps us alive and get an up-close look at biopolymers like DNA and proteins, the metabolic processes that turn our food into energy, and the enzymes that fuel our bodies’ chemical reactions.
The main objective of this book would be to take what many would consider the tedious subject of Biochemistry (I had to experience two whole semesters of it) and present it in a way that would encourage those who read it to both enjoy themselves while picking up the knowledge at the same time – a balance that I feel they got perfectly. The book is spread into five chapters, each with a scientific theme which occasionally come back to the fact that main character Kumi wants to lose weight and understand her bodies chemical processes and a means of obtaining the perfect diet. The five chapters are listed below:
Chapter 1: What Happens Inside Your Body?
Chapter 2: Photosynthesis and Respiration
Chapter 3: Biochemistry in Our Everyday Lives
Chapter 4: Enzymes are the Key to Chemical Reactions
Chapter 5: Molecular Biology and the Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids
The choice of topics were well picked out and start out assuming you want to start off with the basic concepts such as “What is a Cell”, “What are the Components of a Cell” and the concept of “Metabolism” while progressively building up to more complex topics such as the different structures of proteins, the many roles of enzymes in the body and even some discussion on practical lab processes such as chromatography and electrophoresis. A few other methods they used to get concepts across was interesting including applying theories to real life through questions such as “Why Fruits Become Sweet” and the differences between blood type groups. Also for those who perhaps really need to study without the manga characters, they do at the end of the chapter cover the more complex elements of Biochemistry with quite well detailed diagrams. While I would not call it a comprehensive guide considering that it is only 272 pages long when my two textbooks for the subject were over 1,000 pages long – it does more than enough at providing the primary concepts you need to know for the topic and would work well alongside lecture notes and of course, the odd glance or two at a textbook which you would otherwise be pouring over. So… for the science element.. it is a plus from me!
Getting back to the element of the plot, it succeeds in putting across that manga charm while not detracting too much for the science – but instead encourages you to read on and learn it without (For the most part) feeling that this is a textbook with a few characters scribbled onto the pages. It is without a fun plot that follows the slightly ditzy main character Kumi, her science student friend Nemoto who harbors a crush for her and his Biochem lecturer Professor Kurosaka who acts as both guide and cupid for both of them. You can’t expect an award winning plot from a book like this – but I will admit that even in the pages they covered with graphs, the witty writing and inclusions of characters on the page really did help keep my attention more than just the graph and some text would have. Overall, a creative plot that I really enjoyed reading and worked well in the delivery of the Biochem information.
The design of this book is actually another one of the strong points. Those who are used to reading manga in the normal Japanese style will have to get re-accustomed to the normal western comic style of layout which is obvious considering the function of this book. While there are only three characters and a robocat in the book, the level of detail they have put into the characters designs and emotions is really good quality and differs enough throughout the book to not get old. While they didn’t really delve into environment designs much with most of the pages having plain white backgrounds, this proved better when outlining the scientific drawings, graphics etc which look like what I would expect from an educational book (How many diagrams of a cell have I seen over the years…) and doesn’t really have any areas I could pick out where there were flaws.
Personally after digging around looking for any issue I had with the book there was only one minor one that I found which is more in line with my learning style which may be similar or different from another student. For example, they outline the Krebs cycle very well with diagrams but it would have been nice if they perhaps threw in a mnemonic or two which I found always helps if you forget a stage in the process. But as I said, it was a minor issue as I found it quite fun inventing them myself (Of course, in other subjects like anatomy “Some Loves Try Positions That They Cannot Handle” for the Carpus Bones or a really dirty one for the Crainial Nerves are almost stock standard I find).
I have to hand it to Dr. Masaharu Takemura as well as Office Sawa, Kikuyaro and of course No Starch Press for a brilliant release! I think that this book is something many students might find helpful in their studies even if it is just to have a helpful guide to use when reading lecture notes or to keep the content within the book embedded in your mind for an exam, tutorial or whatnot. Of course, if you are not studying science then unless you are interested in Biochemistry this may not be the book for you…. instead I would highly encourage you to check out No Starch Press’s other titles including Manga Guide to Databases, Manga Guide to Calculus, Manga Guide to Relativity, Manga Guide to Electricity or many other titles they have on offer. In the end, I can say that this is my ideal study companion!
Final Score: A