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The Manga Guide to Biochemistry Paperback – 14 Nov 2011

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About the Author

Masaharu Takemura is an Associate Professor at the Tokyo University of Science who specializes in molecular biology and life science. A Doctor of Medical Science, he has written several book about biology.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 30 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Manga Guide to Really Sink Your Teeth Into 27 Feb. 2012
By Michael Larsen - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a tester, I used to tell people that I could go into any field and I'd be able to test their software, and for a long time I believed it. that is, until I went to work for a company with a product that was heavily dependent on physics and physical phenomena, which was not my strong suit.

I learned from that experience that domain knowledge is vital, and while you can fake knowing some things, there's some stuff you just can't fake. Physics is one of them. Biochemistry is definitely another. It's just not something you can casually pick up on the job, you really have to spend some time with it and come to grips with the world of biological interactions and the cross section of biology and chemistry. For a minimal pain related approach, The Manga Guide to Biochemistry is a wonderful way to get that fundamental domain knowledge.

NoStarch has gamely taken on publishing "The Manga Guide to..." series of books in English, and for those of us who are proudly Otaku in our general interests, to have Manga volumes dedicated to some of the headiest technical topics in the sciences is pretty awesome.

Make no mistake, these books do not dumb down the topics, but they do use the conventions of Manga to illustrate topics in the classic ways that have endeared generations of Otaku to Manga. The silly drawings, the subtle fan service, the inside jokes, the goofy drawing styles to show stress, pain, embarrassment and joy help keep the reader engaged and entertained as they go through what is, seriously, a challenging topic to digest. It's a true testament to the effectiveness of the Manga Guide series that they Are able to tackle these subjects so effectively time after time.

TMGT Biochemistry starts at the beginning, and walks the reader through the basics of cellular structures, and then moves into the chemical structure of cells, the methods of nutrient absorption, and the chemical reactions and the mathematical models to understand and interpret the results of experiments relate to respiration, metabolism, photosynthesis, lipid absorption, breaking down of saccharides, and amino acid construction and even protein folding.

There are two levels to these books, the actual Manga story (of a high school girl named Kumi obsessed with dieting, and her friend Nemoto hoping to get her to see beyond her obsession by teaching her about biochemistry. Aided by his biochemistry professor, Kurosaka (who also see that Nemoto is completely smitten with Kumio and decides to play matchmaker... hey, this is a Manga after all ;) ), Nemoto help Kumi understand the complex interactions inside of her body between lipids, saccharides, amino acids, cholesterol and enzymes and how they work and are constructed/deconstructed on a physical level) and the more in depth study of how these processes actually happen.

Bottom Line:

There may come a time when someone will want to explore this topic, whether as an introductory text to get their heads around it, or maybe even to give a first glimpse into what working in biotech might entail. While I cannot say this would be the only reference you will ever need (not even close), I can say that it will go a long way towards de-mystifying the subject and give you a lot of good tools to reason through and understand how biochemistry happens inside of living organisms and how we can make use of that information and approach towards constructing tests to address that phenomenon. Yes it is "so kawaii" (meaning "so cute") but don't let that deter you. There's a lot of meat here to digest (pardon the pun) and this is a fun way to consume and digest it.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A Cute Overview for a Complicated Subject 28 Sept. 2012
By R. Stewart - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a senior biochemistry undergrad who likes Japanese culture, I was immediately interested in this book. It mostly met my expectations for a cute presentation of a complex scientific subject.

I could say that it presents a simplistic view of the subject, but that's through the eyes of a student about to earn his bachelor's in this science. From the standpoint of a high school student or beginning college student, this book provides an excellent overview of the subject. The student will retain foundational concepts after reading this, i.e. the four classes of macromolecules and the concept of metabolic chemical reactions. The immediate application of each concept to a real-life example will aid retention, as will the little bit of cute humor and low-key romance :)

The story itself isn't super-dramatic or risque, but that's certainly a good thing; such would be distracting from the educational value of the comic.

I highly recommend this book to any high school students or undergrads who haven't learned biochemistry in any depth yet. For an educated student and above, it'll be a fun review.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Another Good "Manga Guide to" Book 12 Dec. 2011
By AstroNerdBoy - Published on
Format: Paperback
Note: This review of mine was originally posted on AstroNerdBoy's Anime & Manga Blog and is being reposted here.

The folks at No Starch Press sent me the latest in The Manga Guide series, this time covering the subject of biochemistry. The story framework has female high school student Kumi wanting to lose a little weight and struggling against her desire to eat her favorite, fattening foods. Her male friend from college, Nemoto, doesn't think she needs to lose weight, but decides to get her to see beyond a few pounds and how the body works -- biochemistry. To this end, Kumi agrees to come with him to the university to meet his biochemistry professor, Kurosaka. Kumi wants to be as beautiful as Kurosaka is and is all down to learn biochemistry. Kurosaka sees that Nemoto is romantically interested in Kumi and decides to help there while teaching biochemistry at the same time.

The book is broken down into five sections, each with multiple subsections. The main sections cover what happens inside your body, photosynthesis and respiration, how biochemistry affects our daily lives, enzymes and chemical reactions, and finally, molecular biology and the biochemistry of nucleic acids. Since the manga story is designed to show how biochemistry comes into play in so many activities in our life (with food and its interactions with the body and such), I figure a lot of people will be able to relate to this, possibly more so than any other Manga Guide book to date.

As usual, the story framework is just that -- a framework and nothing too deep. The manga aspects of teaching biochemistry do so in a way that is both fun and easy to understand. However, there are times when deeper explanations than can be given in manga form are required, which is when the book switches to a more textbook style of writing, though never to the level of being super dry, tedious, or boring (well, assuming you are interested in biochemistry to begin with).

Since the story framework began with Kumi wanting to lose weight, it is possible that people wanting to lose weight may read this book and have a better understanding of how the foods they are currently eating interact with the body to make weight loss harder or easier. As such, it might help encourage those wanting to lose weight to do so in a sensible fashion rather than follow some fad diet, which will work, but only ask long as you stick to the diet. Understanding biochemistry in your own body might help one to lose weight and then keep it off.

The artwork here is nice, clean, and attractive, which helps since sometimes, the artists used in one of these books can have art styles that can be more distracting. That is not the case here and I am glad for it.

In the end, I think this book will have a greater relatability factor to people than any other in the series, simply because food consumption, fats, body weight, and the like are all discussed here. For those interested in such things and more with biochemistry, I do recommend this book as a fun way to learn the subject.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Processes of Life - in Pictures! 13 Dec. 2011
By John Jacobson - Published on
Format: Paperback
What combines lipids, carbs, proteins, and cartoons? Why, it's the . . . Manga Guide to Biochemistry. This book is another in the series of Manga books that tackle serious science such as cosmology, physics, and calculus (among many others).

Biochemistry is the chemistry of our bodies, but not just our bodies. It is the chemistry of all living creatures, both plants and animals. This book teaches the basic concepts of biochemistry through an engaging story about a young girl who is concerned about her weight. In the process of learning about metabolic concepts, she also learns the science behind weight control.

The story starts out with the chemistry of basic nutrition, the cell, and how the cell creates energy from the nutrients we eat. Some emphasis is given to plants and how plants differ from animals in how they generate energy. The three basic nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids, are covered in the most detail. There are a number of "asides" discussed in no particular order, including storage of fat, what happens to excess carbs (they turn into fat!), the meaning of blood types, and why are Mochi rice cakes spongy? Another 40 pages are devoted to enzymes and 30 pages to molecular biology, the "building blocks" of life. The book closes with a description of some of the basic tools used by scientists in their study of biochemistry.

I didn't find the story as engaging in this book as it is in some of the other Manga Guides. Others may differ. There are some puzzling omissions in the science of nutrition, including the role of vitamins, and the effect of excessive amounts of insulin on metabolism. Weight control is given as a simple balancing of caloric intake and energy output, which is a great theory but doesn't work too well for most people. Current evidence suggests that altering ratios of the intake of the 3 basic nutrients, carbs, protein, and fat, so that insulin secretion is minimized, is a more effective approach to weight control. Nevertheless, this book is a good introduction to basic biochemistry concepts for many, and an easy review for those who studied the science in the past.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
MEh 25 Jun. 2014
By Catsy22 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love manga and (albeit to a much lesser degree) enjoy biology and chemistry. This book promised to a lot but fails to make it interesting.
Either presents info that is too basic to really give any foundation in biochemistry, or just lists out the more complex info.

Only made it through 1/3 of the book before I tucked it under my bed. Have not touched it since.
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