With their last release being The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra back in May 2012, I had honestly not expected to see another volume in “The Manga Guide to” series from No Starch Press land on store shelves… ever. While time will tell if releases will become more frequent once again, the publisher surprised me a few months back by announcing their release of The Manga Guide to Physiology. Capturing the charm of its predecessors, this 240ish page book delivers not only delivers a decent storyline, but true to its title, serves as a great introductory guide to the various facets of the human body.
It should first be noted that The Manga Guide to Physiology is not an alternative to the bulky textbook many students will be asked to buy, which has the luxury of being heavily text based and a greater page count than this book. Especially considering how broad the field of physiology is, it would be difficult to cram everything into a manga as well. However, this covers many of the basic components of physiology well, and is a great choice for those after an introduction to the field or wanting to refresh themselves on the fundamentals.
Like past volumes, the storyline of The Manga Guide to Physiology generally follows someone who is bad at a particular topic, and is subsequently taught by someone experienced in the subject. In this case, the book follows freshman nursing student Kumiko Karada, whose focus on her college’s upcoming marathon has seen her fail physiology exams. Offered a make-up test by her lecturer yet struggling to study for it, she bumps into Assistant Professor Osamu Kaisei and his teaching assistants Toko Yamada and Atsuro Suzuki. Provided an opportunity to be a guinea pig for Kaisei’s upcoming remedial classes, Karada begins learning all about the different systems within the human body.
Excluding the prologue and epilogue, this book contains a total of ten chapters, each of which covers a different physiological system. Some of the systems featured include: the circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, the brain/nervous system, endocrine system and more. These topics are all lightly touched upon, and provide a good mix of storyline and educational material. Each chapter also includes several pages dedicated exclusively to the material covered in the chapter without any storyline, which is where a lot of the text-heavy content and diagrams can be found. Both sections of each chapter work in tandem to provide both an entertaining and informative read.
Like other “The Manga Guide to” books, the print and design quality of this release was great. Illustrator Keiko Koyama did a brilliant job at designing the characters, environments and other visuals which complemented the storyline and topic well. The book has been published in western Comic Book style which given the function of this book was an obvious choice. The translation was also solid, and didn’t seem to lose any quality or accuracy of the information presented.
It was hard to find any noticeable flaws with The Manga Guide to Physiology. While it is not something I would see replacing a good textbook anytime soon, it is a book which could serve as a great addition to your arsenal of study aids. Like past books, I would have liked to have seen more means of memorising content through things such as mnemonics. While no student can fully rely on these to understand the workings of the human body, the odd mnemonic can be well used during a “brain freeze” to get one back on track or memorise something which is difficult to remember in a short period of time.
After years, it is great to see another Manga Guide book released on store shelves, and that over this time the quality of the content and packaging has not dwindled. The Manga Guide to Physiology is another great resource, and one which believe would serve as a great introduction to physiology for those in high school or university. That being said, if you are not studying physiology or have no interest in the topic, then you might want to try one of No Starch Press’ other books in a field of your interest.
Final Score: B+