“The tutor could be one of your workers,” she helpfully suggests. Tears of pride running down his face, her father skips off to make it so.
On the first day of her lessons, however, she runs down the stairs to meet Mamoru Yamamoto, who lives closer than Igarashi and is also good at teaching. But not only is he not Igarashi, he’s a hopeless geek: His hair is messy, his glasses make his eyes look huge and bug-like, he is more interested in shojo than Rui is, and he even absent-mindedly wears one shoe and one sandal on one occasion.
Oh, the irony! Rui soldiers on though, thinking that if she masters statistics she can impress her true love later, and she is slowly won over by the young teacher’s knowledge of statistics, his growing indifference to her school girl charms (playing hard to get—works every time, guys!) and the fact that he looks pretty hot without his glasses.
It’s hardly the most original or compelling storyline really, but given that it occurs in The Manga Guide To Statistics (No Starch Press), which is, for all intents and purposes a math text book, well, it’s certainly the best romantic dramedy I’ve ever read in a math text book (Although, come to think of it, some of the word problems I encountered in school involving trains speeding in different directions did have a certain air of mystery about them…)
The first page of the book promises “Statistics With Heart-Pounding Excitement,” and while my heart never pounded—or even beat any quicker than usual—I did read the whole thing, and given the fact that I wouldn’t read a book on statistics on a dare under normal circumstances, I can only assume that this means kids who want to (or have to) learn more about statistics will find this a decent introduction. (And, according to the preface, that’s who the intended readers are—people interested in learning more about statistics, not cranky, jaded comics critics like me who basically just review what gets put in front of them).
Shin Takahashi is credited as the author, although trying to untangle who did what, it seems like he provided the script, and employees of “Trend-Pro Co., Ltd” (which is also given cover credit) handled the manga-fication. (In the preface, Takahashi thanks Trend-Pro for “making my manuscript into a cartoon,” and singles out scenario writer “re_akino” and illustrator Iroha Inoue.
So I’m not sure exaclty who to praise for what, but Inoue’s art is clean, cute and simplified, and it works with machine-like efficiency—the artist not only knows and speaks the language of manga, but does so fluently, which makes this a better effort than some of the other, more cynical attempts to use a hot, new publishing craze to try and get kids interested in some form of education, be it classic literature or test-taking. That is, the manga was of the quality one would expect to see in a manga digest, regardless of its educational value.
After the all-manga prologue, the book divides into chapters, during which there’s a story set during the tutoring sessions, in which Yamamoto-san teaches us statistics along with Rui, Inoue and company taking advantage of comics’ ability to communicate to the audience on two levels simultaneously to walk us through some fairly complex and abstract math problems (as well as throw in sight gags).
Each chapter ends with a mostly illustrated prose recap of the lesson, and the sorts of practice problems and examples you’d expect to find in a regular, non-manga textbook. As it wears on, and the aspects of statistics that get discussed become more complex, more and more space is given over to charts and prose than in the beginnng.
As to how well the book works as a textbook, I’m ill suited to judge, in large part because I didn’t actually do any of those practice problems at the end of the chapters. I do know a little bit more about statistics than I did before reading (i.e. nothing), but I can’t say I’m any more interested in the subject than I was before either. But then, you can’t wring blood out of a stone, even with manga.
For some sample pages, check out the publisher’s website.
UPDATE: I had originally credited Takahashi as the sole creator of the book. This review has been updated to correct that.