Review: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko

Last month, I was reading an article about Daniel Pink and how he went to Japan to study the art and culture surrounding Japanese comics, otherwise known as manga. He was interested in the format's popularity; this was a book format that people of all ages enjoyed reading. He studied the culture and the form to see how it could be applied to other disciplines successfully. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is the result of that study. This introductory guide on life design and career planning in today's modern workplace uses the manga format to weave a story about a man who learns more about life and work in six easy lessons. It's a fast read, filled with entertaining scenarios, and some short but powerful ideas on how to get ahead in your career.

The book tells the story of Johnny Bunko, "who is a lot like you and me." He's gone to school, graduated, and has a job in a company and department that he's not sure whether or not he wants anymore. While getting food for another late night of work, he has a run-in with a "fairy god-friend", named Diana. His world and workplace are never the same after meeting her. She's a whiz at helping people find their truth and teaches them what it means to live the life they want to have. Through the use of magical chopsticks and some helpful wisdom, Johnny Bunko learns how to transform his life and pursue the career he dreamt of having.

Pink distills Diana's wisdom down into six statements. These statements hold basic truths that anyone who works these days can tap into and relate to:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It's not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

While none of these lessons are mind shattering, (many are spoken time and time again by "the productivity gurus", like Covey and Allen), what makes these principles stick is in the presentation-- story and artwork. Pink's creative plot and Rob Ten Pas's manga artwork work together to illustrate (literally) how individuals can apply each statement into various working aspects of their lives. This format easily allows anyone at a modest reading level to read and understand what each statement means and how they can apply it to their working life. Johnny Bunko fumbles his way through each lesson to learn exactly what he needs to do to get his career to align with his dreams. This book gives readers permission to play the "what-if" game and think about how they can get from where they are to where they want to be in life.

I'm not an expert on critiquing manga art. But I will say that I enjoyed Rob Ten Pas's black-and-white pen line art. The lines are crisp and clean and the comic book format was not hard to follow at all. Each pane flows into one another smoothly. This marriage between written storytelling and comic/movie story-boarding works in the book's favor. In a world where the written word is becoming the "last minute pastime", the manga format helps to draw people back to books. When you read a manga, it's more like you are reading a movie. Many people are visual learners and I think that if more books were written in this style, it would help break down and drive complex ideas (such as life design and career planning) into visual ways that people can just see how to apply these concepts to their own situations.

The Adventures of Johnny Bunko is a great graduation gift for those entering the job force soon. It offers any graduate, from high school to college, the chance to read through, learn, and see how these statements actually do and can apply to their own lives. The first non-fiction book to be written in a comic format, I sure hope it's not the last. Johnny Bunko is highly entertaining and the artwork aids in retaining the information inside the book. While it's not really "the last career guide you will ever need" per se, it IS a good book to keep around and read over and over again when you want to remind yourself of: where you are in life and whether or not your work, values and hobbies align with your ultimate vision of who and what you want to be doing in this world. Visit the book's website to learn more about it and to see an excerpt.

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16 yrs old

maybe this is a book for my brother who turnes 16 next week? he likes manga and is choosing schools right now, to get a work education of some sort...

though I've already ordered the last wish by Andrzej Sapkowski for him. I think I need to read that one too, have you read it?


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