"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fred Patten Reviews Dramacon, Vol. 1

Dramacon, Vol. 1
Author: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: TOKYOPOP
ISBN 10: 1-59816-129-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-59816-129-8

Christie Leroux is a high school student and anime fan attending her first anime convention, with her boyfriend Derek, to sell their amateur comic book – she writes it, he draws it. This 172-page young teen comic tells what happens to Christie during the three days at her first convention; but it is less about the chaos and traditions of big fan conventions – although that is certainly captured here authentically and hilariously – as it is about the emotional turbulence experienced by a sensitive teenager on her first solo outing from home.

How will she and Derek react in the “artists’ alley” to the fan public’s response, and to the criticism of professional cartoonists, to their amateur comic book? Is Derek just being friendly and a good salesman to attractive girls who look at their comic, or is he flirting with them? What should she and Derek do when their school roommates/chaperones stay out all night, leaving the two alone? Christie realizes that both she and Derek are immature, but how much self-centeredness should she tolerate from him? When Christie meets Matt, a sophisticated college student from across the country, she is torn between an instant attraction (is this just adolescent hormones or True Love?) and loyalty to Derek – but does he deserve it? “My first anime convention… did not go smoothly. But all things considered… I can’t wait to go back.”

Svetlana Chmakova is the young Russian-born commercial artist and anime fan who is one of the leading creators of what fans call “American manga” or “OEL (original English language) manga” – original American comic books written/drawn/published in the traditional Japanese manga style. DRAMACON reads front to back and left to right like standard American books; otherwise it is almost indistinguishable from a Japanese comic book. The art is black-&-white, presented in a thick paperback format. The style varies sharply from realistic when the characters are acting seriously to grotesquely “squashed” when they are acting silly. The art is heavily shaded and toned to compensate for the lack of color, and romantic scenes are full of the “shojo sprinkles” such as hearts & stars that Japanese romance cartoonists put into their art. The dialogue is full of fan slang such as “cosplay” and “J-Pop” .

DRAMACON Vol. 1 was published in 2005, and is currently in its fourth printing. Each volume takes place at the fictitious annual anime con, and shows Christie a year older with both her personal and creative relationships more advanced. It is a success both as a romance comic book, and as a primer for what to expect at your first anime convention. Vol. 3 will be published this December 10th.

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