Author: Mana Takahashi
Publisher: No Starch Press
Aimed at: Comic book aficionados wanting to begin learning about database theory
Pros: Works surprisingly well
Cons: Only works if you can suspend your prejudice against comic books
Reviewed by: Mike James
I didn’t really want to review this book because while databases interest me, manga style comic books don’t and I feared the worst. My first reaction was true to expectations – what rubbish and I nearly threw the book in the bin, angry that anyone would waste my time so blatantly. Then something happened and I started to get into it.
The story is trite and predictable and the characters paper thin but it sort of works. You are slowly but surely spoon fed database ideas in comic book format. The kingdom of Kod, (Kod as in Codd get it?) has a fruit export business to run and the need to make it work smoothly motivates Princess Ruruna’s efforts to learn about databases as explained by the fairy Tico … no I’m not joking…
After every few pages of comic book illustrations complete with speech bubbles the ideas are summarised in plain text with a few questions and answers. The amazing thing is that it seems to work and to be honest I’m not sure why. The information density is low and so is the reading age and this probably makes a difficult subject easier, with or without comic book illustrations.
After a basic introduction to the idea of a database we are quickly introduced to the relational model and ER diagrams. Things do get a little sticky when we reach normal forms and here perhaps the problem with the format starts to show in that when the information density necessarily increases it can be confusing. However, if you have never encountered normal forms before you should begin to see that they are necessary and useful, even if you still can’t tell a second normal form from a third.
From this theoretical grounding we move into the area of SQL and operations on tables. The final chapters are about more advanced topics such as transactions, stored procedures and optimisation. These aren’t covered in depth and given that no actual databases were harmed in the examples you will need to consult another book to go further - but for getting you started and giving you a grasp of what there is to know it works very well.
Of course the manga approach isn’t likely to be for everyone and you might start to read it only to conclude that it really is rubbish and actually bin it before it has time to work whatever magic it has.