The Ultimate Mastering Manga Review

By Donald Ash | Japanese Textbook Reviews

"Mastering Manga" by Mark Crilley is a book that really enjoyed using! For those of you who want to skip the review and get your own copy, you can click here to go to Amazon.  For everyone else, let's take a closer look at all of the ins and outs of this manga instruction guide. This is the Ultimate Mastering Manga Review!

Quick Book Info

Title: Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley: 30 Drawing Lessons from the Creator of Akiko
Author: Mark Crilley
Length: 128 pages 
Subject: A step-by-step guide to quickly learning the basics of manga-style art.
Copyright: 2012

Price: While I paid $22.99 (USD) / $23.99 (CAN) at my local book store, prices may vary.
Where to Buy: AMAZON please note that this is an affiliate link


This page contains affiliate links. When you purchase through the links on this page,
I do earn a small commission.


Anyone Else Like Manga?

Did anybody else out there like to doodle as a kid? I know I did! I remember that kid in school who was naturally, artistically talented. Put a pencil, brush, or chisel in this kid's hands and they could draw, sketch, sculpture and watercolor anything that their minds could conceive. Drawing was one of those skills that everybody wanted to do as children but only a rare few were really good it. 

You would draw your best picture as a kid, and you'd get excited...I mean really excited. In your young, unripened, brain you THINK you’ve just drawn the equivalent of Leonardo Davinci’s “Vitruvian Man." When in reality it looked more like this:

Mastering Manga Ultimate Review

To say drawing was a "challenge" for me is putting it lightly, until recently...

The Ultimate Mastering Manga Review

From the time I watched Mazinger Z (Or was it Voltron? Or maybe it was Robotech?) for the very first time, I became an instant anime (Japanese cartoons) fan. I wasn’t a crazy, over-the-top fan, but I was a true blue fan nonetheless.

I think the Ranma series was my first exposure to manga (Japanese comic books). Manga & anime art had a style that really captured my imagination. I would always wish I could draw in that style. The wishes never translated into reality, though. I would practice and try, and try some more, but my efforts would always fall flat because A) I didn't know what the frick I was doing! and B) I would get discouraged & give up because I wasn't making any progress.

For those who struggle with drawing or those who have a big interest in creating the manga style of art, I tried using a book that makes manga drawing concepts SO MUCH easier to grasp.

The name of the book is "Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley."


1. Simple Explanations, Non-Intimidating Tutorials

This guide is designed in a way that’s as practical as it is simple. The tutorials are so step-by-step that a small child would have no problem understanding it. But at the same time, the information is presented in a way that doesn’t insult your intelligence as an adult.

As far as explanations go. I really enjoyed how Mark Crilley took a subject like character proportions, a topic I generally find boring (just being honest), and turns it into something both fun and easy to understand. I like how he shows you exactly how to draw a circle and guidelines to help you get a feel of exactly where and how to draw facial features of a well-proportioned face, EVERY TIME.

2. Extremely thorough Starting Guide

Who ever said a guide for beginners had to be skimpy on content? This book gives you a THOROUGH, 30-lesson foundation on everything from 2 and 3-point perspective, to inking, to fighting poses, to hairstyles, to drawing manga eyes, to chibi emotions and so much more! If you’re looking to get all-around exposure to all aspects of manga creation, you’re in the right place.

Mastering Manga Review

From facial expressions to chibi emotions to drawing hands, clothing, manga eyes, and 2/3-point perspective, this is one of the most well-explained, thorough, beginner guides out there. Click one of the images above to go to Amazon!

3. Teaching By Example

I don’t know about you, but the best way for me to learn how to do something is if someone shows me how to do it. Mastering the Manga is surprisingly light on the text and surprisingly heavy on examples. You see EXACTLY how to draw what you need to know, and even how to draw what you want through step-by-simple-step examples.

4. It Works

I couldn’t draw very well at all before getting this book. Admittedly, I’m still no manga master. While I still consider myself a beginner, I am FINALLY starting to see some progress. In this book I found a teacher that could explained things to me in a way that was fun and encouraging and just started drawing. If I can do it, anybody can use this book to learn how to draw better. Here is some of the stuff I sketched as I was starting this book:

Ultimate Mastering Manga Review

Not Renaissance-grade artwork,

Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley Review

but we all gotta start somewhere.

Here are a few of the things I draw as I started to learn more of the concepts taught in Mark Crilley's book
 (some of these sketches may be familiar if you frequent The Japan Guy blog): 

Former logo for

This was my former Japan Guy logo before I put it into the computer and retouched it. Now you know where the inspiration came from. Thanks Mark Crilley!

Mastering Manga Review

I drew this sketch for a post on what I termed "Japanese Dejavu Expressions." If you wanna check it out, just click one of the heads 😀

Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley Review

Saw this character on a train and wanted to see how close I could get. Not perfect, of course, but my confidence is growing.

A Great Start To Manga Art!

Mark Crilley's "Mastering Manga" does a lot of things right, especially if you'r a beginner.  Want to try it for yourself? 


1. I Wish It Was Longer

This is probably more me being a bit selfish than actually being a drawback. But this book’s lessons pull you and leave you wanting more. It’s the mark of a good book I guess. In other words, the book is over before you know it, and you kind of don’t want it to end. Even though I do want the book to be longer, Mark Crilley does have other books to keep the lessons going. His YouTube channel is also pretty interesting.

2. More Detail on Comic Book Paneling Process

I am very interested in the entire comic book creating process, so for me, the section on comic book paneling fell a little short for me. While Crilley does give some great information on creating stories through panels, I wanted to know more about he “how:” how to create panels, how to measure panels, standard panel sizes, etc.

Not Perfect,
But Still Amazing!

Even with its flaws, "Mastering Manga" is a book worth getting. Still wanna try it?


1. The person that has little to no drawing/art experience
I definitely fell into this category. I attempted drawing a bit on my own, but wasn’t getting anywhere. This book shines a gigantic spotlight on some important basics that’ll get you drawing right away.

2. The person who has an interest in manga-style art
Naruto? Dragonball? One-Piece? Something else? Do you like manga? Although all manga art differs from comic to comic, I truly can’t think of a better place to start.

3. The person who wants to become a manga artist and has no clue whatsoever of where to start


I don’t think think the Mastering Manga book would be as good a fit for the following two types of people:

1. Those who think you can simply learn art by looking at cool pictures

Art is a skill that take practice & precision to improve. The vast majority of people can’t get better by simply looking at pictures. You have to get in there in draw! Personally it’s some of the funnest practice I’ve ever done, but you do have to practice.

2. Those who are interested in sketching reality
This book focuses on the basics for manga-style art, so if you’re wanted to draw exactly wha you see in the physical world, this may not be the book for you to start with. Keep in mind though, that Mark Crilley is quite gifted in both styles of art and I if it hasn’t come out already, he has a book coming that gets into the realistic side of drawing/art.


Here are the EXACT things I did once I got hold of Mastering Manga:

I found what I liked…
First I browsed through the table of contents and selected only the things I had an interest in, namely drawing faces, and manga eyes.

I actually went through the ENTIRE Lesson…
Next I would take the time to go through Mark’s tutorial, form beginning to end, at least three times. If the concept was harder for me to grasp, or if I felt it didn’t come out like I wanted it to, I would practice more like 7-10 times (or more)…while looking very closely at the book for reference.

I Tried It On My Own…
I would wait a couple of days and see if I could repeat the steps on my own with no reference. Almost like a drawing pop quiz.

How I'm Currently Using It...
I’m going through book again. However, I've decided to do the lessons from cover to cover this time around because of how much it could help me to improve my overall  drawing skills. So I will follow the same steps that I did above, but for every single lesson in the book.


I can’t recommend this book enough if you’re interested in learning how to improve your drawing skills. This book is very inexpensive already, but considering the lessons you get from it, it WAYYYYY more valuable than the price you’ll pay.

The link below will take you straight to the Amazon store if you’re interested in buying this book.

Yes, this is an affiliate link. I don’t want you to click, purchase, and then say “Hahahaha! I got a commission off you!” I do get a small commission if you purchase through this link, but even if you don’t go through this link, know that this book is everything that I say it is: “An amazing practical way to get started learning art.”


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

  • Derrick says:

    Dude, I’ve been living on Mark Crowley’ s YouTube tutorials. The guy is a beast in drawing fun light spirited Manga. I may have to buy that book though. Seems pretty informative! .

    • thejapanguy says:

      He’s incredibly good, isn’t he? I stumbled unto his video tutorials after having bought the book myself. It was more than a pleasant surprise! That realism challenge he does is incredibly cool, too!

  • DL says:

    OMG YOU’RE ALIVE! You DO realize there was a half-year gap in your posts?! I was worried you’d fallen in with the wrong crowd and ended up as a drink pourer for the mafia or something. Glad you’re back! Also, we need more posts on F O O D

    • thejapanguy says:

      I wouldn’t leave you, DL 🙂
      I can’t believe it’s been that long! Got mix it up! I need to remember that my blog is FIRST! I’ve been making loads of videos lately , but the blog is my baby. Can’t neglect it. Thank you so much for your comment, DL. So good to hear from you!

  • John says:

    Unfortunately, not everyone goes thru the same process. I for example, just started drawing manga, and I am progressing slowly. The first article that helped me progress a bit and draw a manga that actually looks like a manga is this one

  • Buy Manga Online says:

    I stumbled on Mark Crilley’s YouTube channel a few months ago and have watched and enjoyed quite a few of his videos. He has on in particular comparing Disney to manga style, which does a good job explaining specific differences. I didn’t know he’d written a book. I might have to check it out!

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