Review: The Manga Guide to Relativity from No Starch Press

Being a casual student of cosmology, I was excited for the opportunity to read The Manga Guide to Relativity by Hideo Nitta, Masafumi Yamamoto and Keita Takatsu. I have read several works explaining relativity and therefore the thought of relativity explained through comic book characters seemed a little far-fetched. My thinking was that the concepts were too complex to show with a few pictures. That said, it is much easier to understand relativity with a few pictures sprinkled throughout the text as opposed to text only.

The writers did a great job in explaining the concepts of relativity. Both the special theory and general theory of relativity are explained in the book. They are both important concepts and apply in real-world situations today. Without an understanding of Einstein’s theories, we would not have the accurate GPS abilities that we have today. In fact, the book ends with an explanation as to how these two theories are used in the GPS system.

I have not been a fan of manga because of the often lewd clothing and sexual innuendos often found within their pages. Unfortunately, this book does nothing to change my mind. Halfway through the book, chapter three opens with the shapely teacher in a bikini (which is way too small) having her teenage student fanning her like a slave. Then when he asks why they are having their one-on-one class at the pool she says that he should just be happy to “to look at your beautiful teacher in her bathing suit.” Completely inappropriate and exactly why I generally don’t like manga. For this reason, I won’t recommend the book to my teenage son who would probably otherwise enjoy the content. The next 22 pages are filled with pictures of the teacher in various provocative poses while teaching her one-person class about relativity.

As far as teaching the concepts of relativity in an understandable way, I would say this title delivers fine on that. Would I recommend it as a book? No. And I am much less interested in reading other books in the series, even though the books about physics and electricity are appealing.

If your are interested in understanding relativity, the best book I have read (that did not morally offend me) was Stephen Hawking’s Illustrated Brief History of Time, although I believe he approaches cosmology from a flawed faith in the Big Bang theory.

[Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.]

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