As I’ve stated before, I love a good pun as a title and What the Font?! is a great example of the kinds of titles that make me snicker. Written and illustrated Kuniichi Ashiya, What the Font?! A Manga Guide to Western Typeface is an educational comic that seeks to instruct you on fonts by anthropomorphizing them as cute and friendly manga characters.
Marusu is a young office-worker who finds herself unexpectedly in charge of designing a logo because the usual designer is unavailable and she’s the only one at her small company who has any experience with art. But drawing manga as a hobby doesn’t make her an expert on design and Marusu feels completely out of her depth! Luckily, the personification of Helvetica (the font) has been observing her struggles and offers to help introduce her to the world of Western typeface.
Essentially, this is an introduction to the different types of Western typefaces, and how their individual properties lend themselves to different usages, and I felt that What the Font?! succeeded in giving me a basic understanding of the major kinds of fonts and a greater appreciation of their unique elements. Presenting the fonts as human characters helps to succinctly convey the feelings that different typefaces can evoke and also delivers this information in a more memorable way then a paragraph of text could. Having the Comic Sans font show up looking like a plain and kind of shlubby dude shows us that this is a casual font without any of the characters having to say anything and, thanks to his dumb bowl-cut and nerdy persona, I’m less likely to forget him then I would a written statement about the font. The manga also includes little notes in the margins and summaries at the end of each chapter that more directly layout all of the key pieces of information, but these just help to drive home the main points and provide supplemental information.
I can’t say that I’ve ever felt much curiosity about how different typefaces came to be, but I actually found learning about the histories of various fonts to be fairly interesting. I was able to breeze through this manga quickly and I didn’t find that it ever felt tedious. It’s not exactly an exciting page-turner, but it avoids becoming too dense and is a pretty easy read.
That said, this is an educational manga and, while it may be a cute and accessible textbook, it’s still a textbook. There’s no real narrative in What the Font?! beyond the simple premise that a young woman needs to learn about typefaces to help her with making a logo. I think people who are interested in design will get a kick out of seeing the human versions of the the different fonts, but if you’re looking for something with a story, this isn’t going to give you that.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
What did you think of this manga? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on this manga, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
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