13 July 2017
This is anime-zing drawing game! ...we'll see ourselves out.
If, like me, you grew up in the ‘90s and early noughties and spent a not inconsequential amount of your spare time doodling made-up comic strips or trying to copy the distinct art style of manga, anime and Japanese RPGs, Mangaka is the drawing game for you.
What makes Mangaka stand apart from many other drawing titles is right there in its title, which is Japanese for ‘comic artist’. Over four rounds you don’t just sketch one-off illustrations – the point is to create an ongoing strip and narrative, contributing two, four, six and finally eight linked panels in the space of around five minutes. Holding the continuity together are theme cards, drawn at the beginning of the game, which have to be communicated in your strip to earn the maximum amount of fame points.
Later rounds introduce trend cards, which are more involved achievements for that turn only – show two characters falling in love, name an unnamed character, have a celebrity cameo and so on. Both the themes and trends tend to dodge the tired tropes of drawing games in favour of genuinely interesting (and often challenging) ways to test your visual skills. Fans of anime and manga will likely best appreciate certain references and the cards’ own Japanese-inspired artwork, but anyone can have a good time playing.
The static time limit but multiplying number of panels has the amusing side effect of quickly degrading your initially detailed drawings into abstract stick people, which makes for a lot of laughs but also encourages expressive use of the space rather than simply deciding who can draw best. There’s a genuine feeling of satisfaction at the end of the final round, with the comics forming absurd mini arcs.
The concept of earning fame can feel a little irrelevant at first, as it's relatively easy in the opening rounds for everyone to achieve full marks given that there’s no player voting – this again avoids the obvious separation by drawing talent. As the number of panels and trends ramps up, though, it does help to ultimately decide who has best expressed their themes. Anyway, it hardly matters who wins – everybody goes away with a smile etched on their face.
Time: 30-60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the June/July 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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