The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: the last career guide you’ll ever need
story by Daniel H. Pink; art by Rob Ten Pas
Riverhead Trade, 160 p.
Older Teen (16+)

Johnny feels trapped in his dead-end job until a magical pair of chopsticks releases a career counselor unlike any other—a sprite-like creature named Diana. Despite the slightly cheesy-sounding premise, Pink, a writer who focuses on the world of work, offers up a solid career guide with a lively and interesting storyline.

The book’s success lies in several areas. First of all, Pink knows comics. He studied the manga industry in Tokyo thanks to a 2007 Japan Society Media Fellowship. So, instead of Johnny Bunko coming off as yet another attempt to cash in on the comic industry, it actually reads like a comic should. Even in the areas where Pink is trying to impart a lot of information, he is careful to break it up into portions that work within the framework of comics.

Second, Pink keeps his information general enough to work for a wide variety of interests and skills. His six tips are very broad, but cover most people, whether they are first time job hunters, long-time workers tired with the rut they’re in, or even high school and college students wondering where they want to go in the future. His tips are illustrated in a lightly humorous and informative way, pushing the message through cleanly and clearly.

The third area of success is in Ten Pas’ art. He’s a winner of one of TokyoPop’s Rising Stars of Manga competition, but his work, though obviously inspired by manga, doesn’t have the awkwardness that some young comic artists have. Instead he has his own style and his work feels like he is comfortable within that style. Additionally he knows how to draw expressive faces and bodies; he knows how to lay out a page; and he knows how to keep the reader interested.

Finally, Pink and Ten Pas succeed because they speak to very audience they hope to reach—young adults. Johnny and his friends use current slang (WTF?) and there are visual references to popular characters from Naruto and Dragonball Z. But, that said, they don’t talk down to that audience. The characters look the age they are supposed to be—mid-20s—and they believably act that age, giving the book a nice air of realism, despite the fantasy elements.

If you’re looking for a career guide to help the teen in your life set goals as they look toward college and future work, Pink’s book is worth taking a look at. Even though teens are not the main target audience, Pink’s generalized advice is applicable to any age and having it presented in such a nice form is the sugar that makes the medicine go down easier.

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