Manic Manga: Dramacon



Title: Dramacon
Alternate Titles: Драмакон
Author & Artist: Svetlana Chmakova
Year: 2005
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Shoujo
Volumes: 03 (Complete)
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Things just keep getting hotter for Christie as she faces up against her first ever fan convention. She’s got a boyfriend, but suddenly she’s not sure if he’s really the one for her, and the events of the con keep throwing her in Matt’s path. Matt’s somewhat of a mystery, too. He’s always got those wacky sunglasses on, and he can’t seem to decide if he wants to be nice to Christie or just be a sarcastic jerk. Throw in an encounter with Lida Zeff, manga-ka extraordinaire, and Christie’s dealing with one surprise after another. Of course, convention weekends tend to end all too quickly, and what will happen when suddenly distance is added to all of the factors keeping Christie and Matt apart? All information come from Manga Updates. This blog post will contain spoilers so please read after the cut if you’ve already read the manga.

Once upon a time, there used to be a company called TokyoPop. They helped translate and publish manga to the west so people could purchase it and read it on their own time – before the scanlations were as open as they are now. One day, they realized, “Hey, we got a bunch of western fans who love manga and would love to draw them! Wouldn’t it be great to have a contest to publish their very own manga here?” Thus, the competition, “The Rising Stars of Manga” was born. To make a long story short, eventually, there were some nasty dealings going on behind the scenes which angered many artists and people online were made wary: “Do not participate in the ‘The Rising Stars of Manga’ contest!” For the next few years, the company struggled until they closed their US doors in 2011.

This was one of the artists that managed to have her own series published. When this first came out, there was a lot of debate over what was actually manga and what wasn’t. Looking back on it now, it’s kind of silly since manga are just comics. It’s asking if it’s a comic – of course it is!

The manga focuses on a writer and avid anime fan named Christie. The three volumes of manga cover her first three years of going to an anime conventions and the crazy drama that can happen within the span of a weekend. Each one has their own different set of problems but ultimately, one really arching conflict – the possible long distance relationship between Christie and Matt.

Granted, with each new volume, Christie updates the readers on her life during the aftermath of the conventions in the beginning and what she plans to do after the current one at the end. Also within the manga, we get a glimpse of what the anime community was like during the early to mid 2000s. This is more obvious with a lot of the referential anime (which has been changed up for copyright issues) as well as certain merchandise now banned from the convention main areas.

The problem, though, with adding in the anime (even if it is just referential) is that it makes it dated. To be fair, it wouldn’t be an anime convention without anime but this is one of the aspects that make the story a little weak.

There are other issues I had with this manga: mainly, the dramatic moments and the tone shifts. The tone shifts are fine when it gets from silly, serious, and back to silly again; but when there’s suddenly a dramatic moment and then a silly moment, it takes away from what just happened.

There is one instance where it doesn’t happen and it’s in the first volume. Christie’s ex-boyfriend attempted to rape her after drinking some beer the two found in their room because he was jealous of Christie’s behavior around Matt (and he caught them kissing). This was handled with great respect towards the characters and didn’t make Derek, the ex-boyfriend, a complete villain – just a one-dimensional one.

And it brings us to another problem –  the one-dimensional side characters. The main characters, Bethany, Christie, and Matt are written beautifully. They have their flaws, goals, and seemed like actual people. They’re realistic and relateable and they didn’t overpower the other characters’ stories if they ever were to focus on them for a little bit. The side characters though, they’re very archetypal and they really don’t seem to have their own identity, with the exception of possibly Raj. Raj does seem to be his own character but eventually he’s defined by his feelings towards Bethany.

It would have been nice to get a better glimpse of Bethany’s family (especially with her mother), but all things considering, it was still well-written and nicely executed.

It starts off strong in the first volume with Matt’s introduction and his convention friends and it ends strongly with Bethany’s story making its close. The weakest one, though, would have to be the second volume. Sure, it’s nice to see Christie’s more immature side and meeting Bethany for the first time, but, again, it suffers more because of the one-dimensional side characters. Like the catty neighbor and their protective neighbors in the Artist Alley, it would have been nice to know something about them.

Another aspect that could annoy audiences is its conveniences in terms of how people react to certain things. A famous manga artist was talking to Bethany about having American made comics when they overhear a couple of kids talking about it. One kid mentions how it’s not “real manga” because it’s American-made and even points out that Bethany isn’t white so it shouldn’t be regarded as such. Then, his mother comes out of nowhere and chastises him for saying such racist things. It’s just a little too convenient that his mother would come out of nowhere and overhear it especially since the scene has shown how crowded the hall was, but I’m being nitpicky.

Granted, it’s a manga – a lot of things are going to be exaggerated (especially  Matt’s girlfriend in volume two) but despite it’s weak points – it’s a solid story. Clearly, the author has a love of anime and being an artist/writer and wanted to have fun in it. Clearly, the author does have a penchant for a realistic setting but it could be something more than just a romance story. It had the right idea with Bethany with how she enjoys her hobbies and it probably would have done better to expand the side characters more.

As for the romance between Matt and Christie, it’s done realistically in the sense that if she were to be in a relationship with Matt: age would be a factor, distance, and just their completely different personalities. It would have been nice to expand more on Matt’s past but the seriousness of the scar on his eye is also done fairly well. It does show her hesitance on pursuing a relationship with him because of distance pretty well.

The art for the manga, though, seemed to struggle a bit at first and a little less in the second volume. However, when it came to the third volume, the artist knew exactly what she wanted to draw. It’s a good example of an artist’s progression throughout the story and the chibis are adorable! So no real complaints here.

The ending was intended to be open-ended but it might have been obvious on what was going to happen from then on. Would I recommend this manga? Sure, but keep in mind that while it’s a solid story, it definitely could have been more.


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