Review by Rio
Manga University I-C Background Collection Workbook #1: Tokyo Sites is a collection of backgrounds, as the title suggests, provided by I-C Inc who is one of the companies selling tones and other manga-making-related products to the Japanese market. Thankfully, through Japanime and it’s American division, Manga University, we have a nice part reference, part toning, part instructional, and part instant-background-for-your-use book. What’s with all the “part-”, you say? Well, let me explain.
The book has 15 backgrounds all from the Tokyo area from around Shibuya, Ginza and other notable landmarks. Each page is split into two. One half of a page has the background in line art and the other half is of the same location but toned. What’s with the two versions? It’s to allow you to a) practice your toning (or CGing for that matter) and b) instantly use the background for your own manga. Sweet! The books encourages you to either cut the backgrounds out, photocopy via a photocopier or through digital scanning, or trace them. Personally, I would photocopy or scan them since you can use them infinitely. Not bad for an $8 purchase, don’t you think?
Now, the first half of the book has backgrounds but the latter half has toning instructions. Unlike other How to Tone books, this book does not instruct you on the proper angles, stacking, erasure and use of tones, but rather it gives you insights on which tones to use to achieve the toned backgrounds found within the earlier part of the book. The instructions in the back cover all the 15 backgrounds in the book telling you which tones were used, depicting the reference photo of the location, and a short paragraph or more of why certain tones where used. Some parts even go further by explaining the different tones used between night and day, how to depict sunshine through tones, and making it as life-like as possible. The book ends with a page of photos from other Tokyo locations.
Considering this is mainly a collection of backgrounds and toning instructions, this book is for anyone. Beginner, intermediate, or advanced, anyone can take away something from this book be it for practice, reference, or manga use. The book does state that the images within “may be reproduced for private, noncommercial use” only so a heads up for those of you seeking to use the backgrounds for works to be published and sold.
The book is an abnormally large size at 11.5 x 8.4 inches compared to the usual 9.9 x 7.2 inch How to Draw Manga book editions. With it’s 50 pages and large size, you can open this book up and not have to use props to keep the pages down making it easy to photocopy, trace or look to for reference. With that said, the pages are thin allowing for easy tracing and the other side of each background page is blank so backgrounds will not have the problem of prints from the other side showing through (i.e. though there are 15 background pages, there are also 15 blank pages behind each background).
If you’re looking for something that 1. allows you to use backgrounds for your manga 2. practice toning 3. learn more about which tones to use for backgrounds or 4. have reference photos of Japanese locations, then this book is a good fit for you! Although the price is an ultra-reasonable $7.99, due to the lack of re-printing and profiteers – you may have to pay a lot more to get your own copy. At the time of this writing, even Manga University themselves didn’t have any copies in their store. If you see a copy of this floating around for less than $20… pick it up! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed (and if even if you are, you can sell it for money)!
Manga University I-C Background Collection Workbook #1: Tokyo Sites
by Manga University
Introduction – How to use this Workbook
Shibuya Station/ Shibuya 109 Building
The Streets of Shibuya – Part 1/ Part 2
The Streets of Shibuya – Part 3/ Part 4
Shinjuku Station/ Shinjuku Entertainment District
Advanced Techniques – As Real as It Gets
Tokyo From Above/ Sunshine Street, Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro Station/ Ginza Intersection
Advanced Techniques – Easy Does It!/ Color Selection
Advanced Techniques – Strong Sunshine/ Nightfall
Ginza Intersection/ Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Entrance
Tokyo Station, Yaesu Entrance/ Yokohama Landmark Tower
Additional Reference Photos