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by Sara Pocock,

Tokyopop Manga Creator 2

Tokyopop Manga Creator 2

In this age of global communication, manga and anime are more widespread than they ever have been before and enjoy a large, fiercely loyal fanbase. In an age where wide-eyed, youthful kids dream up brilliant, ninja-filled storylines overflowing with intrigue and action, the itch to create original manga is growing more and more prevalent among young fans and blossoming artists. Whatever is an inexperienced fresh bud of creativity to do?

Enter Tokyopop Manga Creator 2, a new manga-creation software designed to appeal to manga fans and casual artists. The first aspect of the product you will notice, and by far the most attractive, is the price. With Manga Studio selling at just under $250 and Photoshop and Illustrator hovering around $600, Manga Creator provides an affordable alternative for those wishing to test their creative skills at an alluring $49.99 (or $29.99 for Manga Creator 1.0, for those who are willing to forgo Vista compatibility. For the many cash-strapped manga fans who have humbly accepted their collective fate as perpetually impoverished graphic novel addicts, such reasonably priced software is practically a godsend.

Manga Creator 2 is remarkably easy to use and sports a clean, intuitive interface. Its basic tools and functions appear in a window on the left side of the screen. These include background patterns, word bubbles, clip art, and links to outside media—images, audio and video—you have stored on your computer. A window with slightly more detailed controls—font, image transformation, balloon position, etc—appears on the right side of the workspace. The layout is simple and very user-friendly. Manga Creator also provides a wide array of panel templates the user may choose from when creating a new “page.”

Once the template for your page is selected, the rest of the work is merely a matter of drag and drop. It couldn't be any simpler. Herein lies both the charm and the weakness of Manga Creator 2. The great thing about the software is its easy learning curve. Even the most self-proclaimed technologically illiterate person will have no problem at all creating comic stories in a matter of minutes—even your mom could do it!

The bad part is, well… it's so simple that there's not all that much to do, really. Considering the word “creator” is part of the software title, there's really not all that much creation going on. There's no tool that allows the user to draw directly into the pages; all artwork must be imported from outside sources. If you're an artist and are looking for software that allows you to color, screentone, or even ink your work, you're similarly out of luck. In fact, there's not much creative control at all. The pre-existing templates are absolute and cannot be tweaked. It would be nice if the user got just a little bit of control in the placement and size of the panels, especially considering that manga as a sequential art form uses some of the most diverse and unconventional layouts in the world. These inhibitions make Manga Creator a practically useless tool for comic artists. Also annoying is the fact that a small “Created with TOKYOPOP Manga Creator” caption shows up at the bottom of the page once it is published and there's seemingly no way to get rid of it.

That said, it's hard to deny that Manga Creator is addictive in its own way. Although it's not necessarily the best program to create your own artwork, its ease and simplicity opens the door to a sea of other possibilities. For instance, everyone has spent a rainy afternoon indoors, daydreaming about their favorite anime characters acting out scenes from their favorite movies (this isn't just me, right?), and now Manga Creator can make all those fanciful dreams come to life! What would Pulp Fiction look like if acted out by the cast of Bubblegum Crisis?


Also, somewhat contrary to the title of the software package, Manga Creator 2 includes audio and video options (these are not available in Version 1.0), just in case you get tired of that lame old “static” art. Manga Creator 2 allows you to insert video in a variety of file formats—this reviewer used an .avi clip—into comic panels, in order to create the most dramatic of effects. Is your gripping WWII story missing that extra spark of pizzazz and YOU just don't know how to fix it? No problem! Just throw in that old atomic blast stock footage you've been storing on your computer from that documentary film you never got around to making. Is your harem drama missing that extra spark of well-timed melancholy? Some time lapse clouds ought to create the mood you're looking for. Fabulous.

All in all, the enjoyment you will derive from TOKYOPOP Manga Creator 2 entirely depends on what you expect from it. If you enter the program expecting a comprehensive imaging software package like Photoshop, you're bound to be disappointed. But if you're an aspiring young artist taking your first steps into the foray of comic creation, Manga Creator might not be a bad first step, especially considering its inexpensive cost. But after this gets boring—and trust me, this does get boring—you're better off with Manga Studio—or better yet, old-fashioned Bristol board and India ink.

Overall : C+

+ Price, very easy to use, wide variety of panel templates
Extremely rudimentary, limited control of artwork

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