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What the Font?! A Manga Guide to Western Typeface Review

What the Font?! A Manga Guide to Western Typeface Review

-Written by: Olivia

Although it’s not super common, there is a “What if ____ were an anime character?” trend in the anime/manga community. We’ve seen historical figures, countries, even gemstones get this treatment, and now typefaces can be added to the list.

I was initially expecting this to be more straightforward and textbook like, but What the Font actually begins with a story. We’re introduced to Marusu, a saleswoman who gets drafted into designing a proposal for her company since their graphic designer isn't available. Despite her coworkers thinking that knowing how to draw and graphic design are basically the same thing (an experience designers and artists are way too familiar with), Marusu is lost and doesn’t know where to begin. That’s when Helvetica introduces himself and takes Marusu and the reader on an adventure through the wonderful world of typography!

Helvetical explaining sans serif fonts. (What the Font?! Pg 18)

The story mixes in graphics and history surrounding a variety of classic typefaces in a laid back edu-tainment format. The characters introduce themselves into the story and help Marsusu out along her journey in four-panel comic format. There are brief info paragraphs on the side before getting the more in-depth biography and examples of all the letterforms that you would likely see in a design textbook. We start by learning about some of the most popular sans-serif fonts, then serifs, and finally the more decorative display fonts. The format remains the same for each section which is nice to use as a quick reference, but it can get repetitive if you’re reading it from start to finish like I did.

The most appealing aspect of What the Font is the way Kuniichi Ashiya personifies all these different typefaces. Some seemed like better fits than others, but then again I never thought about personifying fonts before and the author includes little details that show how clearly thought-out the character designs were. One of my favorites in this respect was Futura. I didn’t love her overall look but I did appreciate that her hair had two horn-like spikes at the top since I always recognize Futura by how pointy some of the capital letters are. I would love to see a sequel put out in the future, but I’m not sure the storyline was necessary. If Ashiya ever decides to make an art book with more characters, I’d definitely give it a try.


Some of the character illustrations on the back cover (What the Font?!)

What the Font is a niche inside of a niche that definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but there is a market somewhere. If you’re a graphic designer, a typography enthusiast, or always wanted to know what Helvetica would look like as a cute anime boy, add What the Font: A Manga Guide to Western Typeface to your collection.

What The Font?! A Manga Guide To Western Typeface

What the Font?! A Manga Guide to Western Typeface features story and art by Kuniichi Ashiya.

When the designer in a small production company suddenly disappears, Marusu is forced to take over the job of creating logos. Unfortunately, Marusu is a sales representative who doesn’t know the first thing about fonts! Luckily, Helvetica, the personification of that font, appears to guide Marusu into the world of typeface and design. Learn about typography in this fun manga story with anthropomorphic fonts as your guide!

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