Book Review: “The Manga Guide to Physiology”


The Manga Guide to Physiology by Etsuro Tanaka and Keiko Koyam is perhaps one of the best books I have read. The Guide is an understandable and entertaining guide to human body. It intertwines the story of Kumiko, a nursing student attempting to learn physiology , and the workings of human body. Dr. Kaisei ,a new professor, agrees to teach Kumiko about the body. In every chapter, we see Kumiko in a new situation and Kaisei using that situation to teach her about the body. The book itself is more a graphic novel than a textbook. It equals a comic book in all aspects but content. The authors present information with comical drawings and dialogues. The book does a great job of hitting the main ideas of physiology and providing more specific detail without overwhelming the reader. The book can be found on Amazon here


Manga is a Japanese art form that has achieved an almost cult-like following across the globe. More often than not, Manga is used in graphic novels. The Manga guide is part graphic novel, and part guide to the body. The authors write the book in a way that the story and the information are on equal ground. The story isn’t the focal point, but at the same time it isn’t treated as a mere sidenote. Tanaka and Koyam expertly balance the story and the subject matter.  Kumiko is a nursing student that has just failed her physiology test. With some strategic pleading, she is allowed to retake the exam. Unfortunately, Kumiko is absolutely awful at physiology and doesn’t have much of a work ethic. To make matters worse, she must represent her school in a marathon on the same day as the test. Through the inadvertent destruction of a $1000 model of the body, Kumiko meets Dr. Kaisei.  Dr Kaisei promises not to charge Kumiko for the model if she will learn physiology from him to prepare him for his classes. Kumiko is skeptical at first but begins to enjoy learning from Dr Kaisei. Throughout the story we learn more about Dr. Kaisei and Kumiko while also learning about physiology. Kumiko’s personality and subtle crush on Kaisei often lead to amusing situations.The book covers the big ideas in the comic strips, and focuses on the concepts in greater detail in sections between each chapter. Dr. Kaisei uses interesting examples to explain his topic such as explaining the workings of the kidney using his unnatural love for a junk pile, and purposely giving Kumiko and his lab assistants brain freeze to teach Kumiko about nerves. For me, the best part about this book was the diagrams.   The diagrams aren’t as overwhelming as those found in a textbook because of its unique manga form. The diagrams also engage and entertain the reader, leading to a truly special reading experience.


I would credit this book with inspiring my fascination with physiology. Because of this book, I signed up for Johns Hopkins biology course and have been exploring volunteer options at medical facilities. This book has been truly inspiring to myself and hopefully to other readers.  It isn’t often that book ,much less a graphic novel, inspires the reader to such an extent. Such books are truly great reads. Whether you are a student of physiology, a medical professional, or someone with an interest this book is sure to satisfy.


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