The Manga Guide to Relativity

It has again been a while since I have reviewed a manga book. This is one of several atypical educational books that use graphic art to help teach difficult concepts or illustrate the action and another wonderful entry in the “Manga Guide to…” series that I have been reviewing.

The Manga Guide to Relativity follows the actions of a high school class president who steps in to save the rest of the students at the school who were being threatened by the school headmaster with a punishment for their lack of scholastic success. To save them, the brave student leader agrees to take a special summer course on relativity and write a report for the headmaster. The student doesn’t know what relativity is, but a kind and attractive teacher volunteers to teach him all about it. The story line is okay, but not as good as some of the other stories in the series. However, it still succeeds in its main task of easing the reader into the topic.

The book covers all the main questions and topics you would expect such as the definition of relativity, the Urashima Effect (where times slows down as speed approaches the speed of light), mass and the contraction of length (again, as speed approaches the speed of light),and the difference between Special Relativity and General Relativity. Each chapter contains a manga section with an introduction to and discussion of the topic. This is followed in each chapter by a more detailed and technical section filled with equations and deeper explorations of the chapter’s subject.

I’ve studied physics, and although I am rusty, I believe the book is accurate and it is quite clear. The story created to assist with that presentation is kind of silly, but does fulfill its mission of making a difficult topic a bit more approachable and the science communicated in both the manga and the technical sections is clear and well expressed.

My kids are too young to really understand all of the details of the topics covered in this series, but they continue to read the books with great interest. Most of the science is above the grade level even of my oldest (age 9), but their attention remains fixed on the art and the story and the kids are absorbing some of it as they read.

Overall, I would say the book is a success and recommend it without reservation for anyone wanting an accessible introduction to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and how it changed our understanding of physics.
Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy.