Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova (amazon) 4 stars

This was a title from Tokyopop that I was looking both forward to and dreading a little bit. The dread was due to me not being very interested in the premise – goings on at an anime convention. I know I’m a geek, but I’ve never gone to a comic or anime con and I didn’t find the idea of that setting very appealing. I decided to take a leap of faith and order the book anyway because I really enjoyed Chasing Rainbows. I’m glad I ordered the book, because I think this is one of the better OEL manga that Tokyopop’s put out.

Christie is a budding manga writer, and she attendes her first convention with her artist partner/boyfriend. She’s 17 years old and even though she can be sarcastic and witty, she has a hard time sticking up for herself when she sees that her boyfriend Derek has decided to flirt with girls in bunny costumes as part of his technique when selling art prints. Christie gets upset, leaves her boyfriend at their booth, and runs away into the crowd, bumping in to an enigmatic sunglasses wearing cosplayer named Matt. Matt comforts her, and Christie starts talking with him as if she’s known him for years. Although Matt feels free to give Christie advice about her love life, he doesn’t reveal much about himself.

Matt keeps popping up to save Christie from the horrors of the convention, and they keep talking and getting to know each other better. Christie’s boyfriend beings to act like even more of a jerk, and the title of the book suits the plot, as the drama continues to build over the course of the anime convention.

Chmakova’s art is assured and expressive. Much of the art that I’ve seen for other books from Tokyopop’s OEL line tends to come from artists at an earlier stage of development – the characters sometimes look stiff or wooden, with pasted-on expressions, and the panel layout isn’t as sophisticated. This isn’t an issue with Dramacon at all, as Chmakova captures Christie’s rapidly changing emotions with ease. The characters slip in and out of super deformed style which adds a slapstick comedy element to the book. The backgrounds change to emphasize the inner turmoil of the characters.

Some of the characterization seems a bit broad, as Christie’s boyfriend is SO much of a jerk, you begin to think that she’s an idiot for going out with him in the first place. Matt is the embodiment of “the cool haunted older guy” that a high school girl might be attracted to. It looks like Dramacon will take advantage of the three volume format Tokyopop is using for these releases, because the later volumes will explore what happens to the characters one year later at another convention. The convention is really just used as a setting to showcase the evolving relationships between the characters, and I think that someone with no knowledge of anime conventions could pick up and enjoy this book, as there aren’t too many inside jokes. I enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.