“The Manga Guide to Electricity”, part of “The Manga Guide” series by No Starch Press, is a novel approach to the old problem of getting over the initial mental block when trying to learn electronics.
We decided to compare this book to another introductory text: “Getting Started in Electronics” by [Forrest M. Mims]. [Mims]’ book is a handwritten masterpiece of electronic literature. The writing style is friendly and concise, the examples are simple, and the drawings are excellent. It also makes sure to keep the learning process as application based as possible. Unlike other books, it doesn’t bog the reader down with math and theory that is only useful to advanced students. Since its original printing in 1983, [Mims]’ has become the de facto standard for beginner electronic literature.
“The Manga Guide” attempts to walk the beginner through the very basics of electronics using the interactions between [Rereko], a resident of planet Electopia; [Yonosuke], a transdimensional robot cell phone; and [Hikaru Yano Sensei], an electrical engineering researcher at a Japanese university. [Rereko] is apparently very bad at electricity, and is sent to learn the basics from Hikaru over the summer by her professor.
“The Manga Guide” is a lot of fun to read. The interactions between the characters are lighthearted, and the whole setting has a sort of quirkiness about it that makes you keep reading just for the joy of it. It covers most of the basics thoroughly and with excellent examples. The art is a very well drawn, playful style of manga.
Unfortunately, in order to keep the story going, a lot of little but important details were left out of the manga. To compensate for this, there are mini chapters of what can be politely described as some of the most dry electronics text ever written. We found ourselves skipping over this text often to get back to the manga parts of the book. Another disadvantage to this book is that it is hard to go back to previous pages in order to reference things since one subject may be spread across several pages of story. This is just an unfortunate side effect of the manga format. A book like [Mims]’ has the advantage here because the information is denser and easily indexed.
In conclusion, this book is a great addition to any library, but not to be relied on for learning. While “The Manga Guide to Electricity” introduces you to the basics very well, unless you want to suffer through the mini chapters, you will be no closer to building a circuit at the end than when you started reading. [Mims]’ book, on the other hand, leaves you with all the skills to begin experimenting with, building, and designing your own circuits. Luckily, at the price range of this book, there is really no reason not to pick it up and give it a read.
No Starch Press has provided us with two copies to give away. Just leave a comment including the words “I want this book.” and you’ll be entered in the random drawing. Please only use the phrase once or you’ll be disqualified. Entries will close 12PM PDT Thursday August 6, 2009. Congratulations to our winners [daniel n.] and [Fiach Antaw].