Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, January 11, 2009
      ( 1/11/2009 10:21:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"YOU MELON HIGH SCHOOL FREAK!" Let's start this out with my own admission of personal bias. I took Statistics as a graduate student way too many years ago, and while I did okay in the class at the time, I must confess that a good 90% of the material fled my brain fifteen minutes after I aced my final. Stats and me are not close friends -- let's just say I'm numerically challenged and leave it at that.

I thus approached Shin Takahashi's The Manga Guide to Statistics (No Starch Press) in a somewhat resistant frame of mind. "So you're gonna make Cramer's Coefficient interesting to this numbers fumbling geezer? You've got your work cut out for ya!"

The "EduManga" is told through a young girl named Rui, whose father works for a marketing firm. When Rui's dad brings home a dreamy-looking co-worker named Igarashi, the fourteen-year-old immediately develops a school crush on her elder. To get him to return to her home ("Thinking of him makes me happy," she says as she squeezes her teddy bear), she asks her father if she could be tutored in statistics by one of his colleagues. Dad, tearfully overjoyed to learn that his daughter is interested in his job, agrees.

The tutor that Rui receives, however, proves not to be the handsome Igarishi, but a bespectacled nerd named Mr. Yamamoto. Rui is disappointed by this seeming bait-and-switch, though most readers can immediately guess where that aspect of the storyline is headed once Yamamoto removes his Coke-bottle glasses. Still, she accepts her new tutor's teachings, which are conducted on a chapter-by-chapter basis –- first in manga format than as written exercises.

The manga portions, illustrated by Iroha Inoue, are clean and cutely rendered in shoujo style. Girly Rui is your typical uniformed schoolgirl: prone to histrionic overreactions that are utilized for comic effect. Though much of the art is focused on student and teacher interacting in Rui's home, Inoue does toss in a few visual jokes: imagining a frustrated Rui as a distressed Picasso-esque figure for the space of one panel, drawing Yamamoto as a mustachioed waiter serving up a lesson's "main course" in a later panel. To my eyes, the book could've benefited from more of these moments, but perhaps the textbook's creators were concerned with visually straying too far from the task at hand.

In general, I found the manga lessons clear-cut for the first half of the volume -- and less immediately readable as the subject matter grew denser and more graph-beholden. Takahashi (abetted by scripter re_akino) utilizes some clever character-driven examples to demonstrate statistical concepts. When we learn that both Rui and her teacher follow a girl's manga series entitled Melon High School Story, for instance, Yamamoto uses a reader's survey to demonstrate the difference between categorical and numerical data. Later on, we see that the teacher has won a Melon High School Story key chain for himself taking part in the survey. Just another grown-up manga freak.

Statistics proves to be the first of several translated "EduManga" being released by No Starch Press (among the upcoming titles: Guides to Databases, Calculus, Physics and Molecular Biology). The series' shoujo style and spunky schoolgirl heroines make the books a good potential fit for those manga readers who've made Fruits Basket a hit, though I can't help wondering how many male student readers will key into panels showing Rui adolescently mooning over blond-haired Igarishi. Perhaps the aim of this series is to make math friendlier to an audience that historically has been perceived as indifferent to this type of material. (Though in America, at least, recent studies have suggested that young girls are catching up to boys in the arena of math skills.) If so, who cares what the boys think?

And for the record, while I enjoyed reading this wittily constructed manga textbook, fifteen minutes after I put it down, 90% of the information fled my brain . . .


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter