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The Manga Guide to Calculus

Hiroyuki Kojima
No Starch Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Student Helps
[Reviewed by
Donald L. Vestal
, on

This is a bit of a risky review, as I’m not a big fan of manga, but I (naturally) love calculus. The intended audience for this book is probably the opposite: readers who like manga but maybe don’t care much for calculus. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book.

The book attempts to introduce readers to the key concepts of calculus through a story told in the manga format. The story has two main characters: Noriko Hikima, a humanities major who has just been assigned to the Sanda-cho branch of the Asagake Times, and Kakeru Seki, the head of the Sanda-cho branch who sees everything in terms of mathematics and statistics. So, as Noriko strives to become a journalist, Kakeru uses her research to introduce her to functions, differentiation, integration, and Taylor expansions. The book even includes a handful of exercises in each chapter to get the reader to test their skills.

The explanations of the mathematics behind calculus are done fairly well. (There is a typo in the power rule for integration on p. 112 to watch out for. And the claim on p. 125 that “integrals are easier to obtain than derivatives” is a little suspect. The development of the Cobb-Douglas function in the Partial Differentiation chapter, on the other hand, is explained well.) The mathematics is readable, provided the reader is willing to work their way through it. And if the discussion becomes too complicated or gets too far away from the subject at hand, the authors try to place the readers at ease. For example: “[This] is the standard deviation. If you don’t know statistics, simply regard it as a magic word.”

One drawback to the book is the use of some stereotypical behavior. Noriko comes across as a ditz (although she dreams of wearing some interesting calculus pajamas). And their rotund coworker Futoshi only cares about eating. (“Futoshi! Why does he get to eat chow mein while I have to learn about integrals?” asks Noriko at one point. And when the gang is reunited at the end, he wants to celebrate, saying, “Woo! I’m going to eat everything in Okinawa.”)

If the reader is sufficiently motivated, however, this book will provide a nice introduction to calculus.

Donald L. Vestal is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at South Dakota State University. His interests include number theory, combinatorics, spending time with his family, and working on his hot sauce collection. He can be reached at Donald.Vestal(AT)

Prologue: What is a Function?

Chapter 1: Let's Differentiate a Function!
Chapter 2: Let's Learn Differentiation Techniques!
Chapter 3: Let's Integrate a Function!
Chapter 4: Let's Learn Integration Techniques!
Chapter 5: Let's Learn About Taylor Expansions!
Chapter 6: Let's Learn About Partial Differentiation!