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Book Review: Dramacon

High-Schooler and budding graphic novel writer Christie is on her way to her first anime con with her boyfriend, Derek. While she’s traveling with two 21+ friends, she’s getting thrown into the deep end with having a table in the Artists’ Alley. The con is huge. Confusing. Worse, Derek and her friends seem to think the best way to experience a con is to be thrown in feet first – sink or swim – without checking to see if the person is able to handle something like that. And worst of all, her boyfriend, and also the artist/partner on her graphic novel/webcomic, is flirting with every cute cosplayer who stops by their table.

When Christie can’t handle it any more, she takes off. Running through the crowded halls and directly into the chest of the too-cool-for-words Matt. The sparks fly. And when did Christie’s life turn into a Shojo Manga?

Oh my stars, how Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova takes me back. Initially published in 2005, the manga accurately depicts the convention scene from back then – I should know; I worked them. Everything from the chaos (which still happens), to the labyrinth of the various convention centers (which is still the case), to the sleeping arrangements (Let me tell you of the time I slept in the bathtub of a hotel) rings true to reality. There’s lots of in-jokes and callbacks to the time. Like the lines. The Pocky. And the cosplayers.

The story is definitely in the vein of a Shojo manga. There’s a lot of the same tropes and beats – the whole thing is very much an homage to both the convention world and Shojo. It reminds me in some ways of Skip Beat! and KareKano. The art style is lovely. Especially if you like the styles seen in things by Yuu Watase and Arina Tanemura – especially Watase, seriously some of the asides reminded me of how Watase did them.

Seriously!  LOOK at this amazeballs art!

I mean look at that Kimono… the detail!

And trust me the splash art is equally lovely.

(Thank you TOKYOPOP for providing samples for reviewers to use… I don’t typically feel comfortable sharing artwork without the publisher approval.)

Seriously, I’m getting MASSIVE Yuu Watase Vibes… like all of them.

So back to the story, I especially liked the characters – particularly Bethany and Matt. Christie is a pretty typical teenager – in fact she reminds me greatly of the kids I’d see at cons. Most of the cast could easily be a typical con-goer… you have the purists, the old-pros, the n00bs, the cosplayers, the fangirls, etc. There’s even an older Mangaka, Lida, who is there as a Guest of Honor.

One of the things I liked most about this collection as a whole is that it features PoC and people with disabilities. That’s something that is still rare in graphic novels/manga.

As a note, it is laid out/written Left-to-Right as opposed to Right-to-Left so don’t do what I did and start reading from the wrong side. LOL

Also for those who need them, there are some pretty hefty trigger warnings I should share - spoiler alert since some are definitely late game.

Triggers - attempted sexual assault, underage drinking, infidelity, racism, ableism, jealousy, emotional abuse, family drama, medical trauma, unwanted physical contact.

Let’s just say that Dramacon lives up to the title and that the book doesn’t shy away from showing the seamy and darker side of the convention and artistic life.

Frankly I really loved this trip down memory lane complete with nostalgia glasses.

Five stars

If this is your jam, you can get the paperback omnibus here. Or it’s on Kindle - Volume One, Volume Two, and Volume Three.

If you like these kind of honest reviews, please consider supporting us here!

I received an ARC via NetGalley.  

Definitely consider getting the Omnibus which has all three volumes. Reading on an e-reader doesn’t quite have the same feel.

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