The Manga Guide to Calculus, by Hiroyuki Kojima is an ambitious attempt to help those who are not inclined to like mathematics much to understand its importance. Whether we realize it or not, all of us incorporate math into our daily lives. Think about this — when going out to eat, do you try and figure out the tip? Or check the weekly paper to clip coupons in order to save on your grocery shopping? Most people want to get the best value for their money. Understanding math concepts can be a big help.
The author wisely uses a story to get his point across. Noriko, the main character, is hired by the Asagake Times as a new reporter. When she meets her boss, Mr. Seki, it’s not what she is used to. Seki is math minded to a large degree. He sees the world in terms of calculus and doesn’t understand anyone who cannot be swayed to its good side.
Seki is an interesting character, but he has an obvious flaw. This guy seems to be not much older than Noriko. Should he be in charge of a newspaper department? Make Seki about five years older than he is right now, and it would help credibility.
While the formulas are a little tricky, the calculus is simple enough. Every fact is related to another fact in some way. One just has to figure out how. For example, advertising on television has a cost involved. Run a commercial during an episode, and people go out and buy the product. The more bought, the more money made. What’s the key? Bring in more than what it costs to make the ad and profit! Knowing calculus helps one to figure out if more commercials should be made, or, if the profit is so huge, less ads need to be run.
The real life examples aid with comprehension. I understand those much better than any formula listed. Technically speaking, calculus is fairly close to algebra. It just takes longer to finish the process. Since this is basically a graphic novel, the comic styled drawings just might help get readers interested in math. Artist Shin Togami does a respectable job showing Noriko’s frustration at having to learn the concepts. Her boss Seki is pretty much focused solely on calculus, which Togami aptly reflects in the driven junior executive.
Beyond the number stuff, there is also a story about relationships. Noriko wants to cover the hard hitting stories without first learning the basics of being a reporter. Seki must employ all of his patience in his dealings with her. There are a few times where her frustration leads to aggression. By no means is this acceptable business practice, yet she manages to keep her job. Since this is a fiction story, one must allow for some breaks from reality.
Mr. Oblivious Seki also doesn’t notice his latest member of the team has something of a crush on him. All he thinks about is calculus, which does a lot to explain why he is not too far up the corporate ladder.
Math has never been my strong suit, so it’s hard to tell whether or not the formulas work. Perhaps the best way to describe calculus is to think of it as pattern interpretation. Is a trend occurring? The outcome can be worked to try and decide if it looks positive or negative. Things are charted over time and then examined closely.
Overall, though, both writer and artist do a decent job of keeping readers entertained with a tale which should keep them interested from beginning to end.