Book Review: The Manga Guide to the Universe
The Manga Guide to the Universe, by Kenji Ishikawa, is an educational comic book illustrated in the Japanese manga style. It features an engaging narrative - explaining astronomical and cosmological phenomena through the story of three girls putting on a play about a space-related Japanese myth.
The guide covers topics such as the nature of the solar system, galactic formation, the age and size of the Universe and the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. It does not simply explain our current understanding but runs through the history of the development of scientific knowledge on the Universe, from the ancient Greeks through Galileo to the modern era. Reassuringly, the book does not shy away from equations and calculations (e.g., in explaining Kepler's laws) but the detail is not overpowering.
The pages of comic book panels are interspersed with conventional pages of text which are themselves replete with figures, diagrams and illustrations. There are concise profiles of the planets, Moon and Sun. The final pages of the book contain a gallery of full colour images of space. Many books cover Greek and Roman astronomy-related mythology but a unique aspect of the content of the book is that it introduces readers to Japanese and eastern mythology.
It's worth noting that a few of the illustrated panels in the book are somewhat suggestive which will not be to everybody's taste. This book is one of a series of Manga guides, topics covered in the others include relativity, physics and molecular biology. The author ends the book stating that "we will never lose our fascination with the universe". Certainly, for those fascinated, this book answers some questions and while providing insights into those as yet unaswered.
Reviewer: Marc Delehanty