‘Stardust’, An Anthology by Sweatdrop Studios

This review was written a little while ago but thankfully the book is still available to buy from Sweatdrop Studios’ online store.  Many of the artists whose stories appear in this book have since gone on to even better things, so keep an eye out for newer work from them too.


This is a collection of short stories that were originally entered into Tokyopop’s ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition (Sept 2005). They may not have won, but each short story reflects the artist’s best work at that time, and showcases these creative individuals’ talents.

Stardust is a chunky little book

Strange Harmony by Johanna Zhou (Scorpio)

This is a sweet story based around a country girl (Melissa) and her cousin from the city (Jazmine) who comes to visit. Some funny moments come from showing their differences, like when burying a hedgehog (as Melissa often goes out and gives roadkill a proper burial) Jazmine drapes her necklace over the grave, saying it can enjoy some bling in heaven. The characters are slightly cliched, but they work for the story. The artwork and pacing is very strong, at least on a par with the year’s winners of RSoM.

Dollhouse by Jaqueline Kwong (Marbles)

A dark short story with a gothic lolita style, Dollhouse is about a girl and her relationship with one of her dolls, who is more than she seems. The characters and dialogue bring across the gothic lolita style very well, being well spoken in a slightly disturbing way. Some might say that the scary doll story has been re-trodden quite a bit lately, but then again what hasn’t? The artwork is strong – especially the detail on the figures, faces and clothing, although the placement of the text and lack of backgrounds means it falls short of some other stories in this book.

On with the Show by Rebecca Burgess (Bex)

A heartwarming tale about a rich man who throws it all away to become an actor in the West End. There are a few ups and downs in the storyline (in terms of what happens, not how good it is), but ultimately it is a happy tale about following your dreams. The characters and art style both reflect the Victorian era English setting well. The artist had obviously studied the clothing, buildings and transport of the time before putting pen to paper, and bravely includes a lot of relevant visual information in the panels. The busy line and tonework means that sometimes the reader will have to think about what is going on in a particular page, but that does give you time to appreciate the passion that went into producing this story.

Bad Luck by Selina Dean (Buu)

A slightly creepy short story about a girl who sees a strange dog one night and from then on has terrible bad luck. The story fits very well into the page allowance and has a snappy ending. The characters are not explored in a lot of depth, but this does not harm the story in any way, in fact it makes it nice and easy to get to grips with as a short. The artwork is uniquely styled and has a chibi look, which contrasts well with the more grown up storyline. It could possibly use more detail, but the simple style does make it easy to read and understand. The pacing is well carried out and some interesting camera angles are used in a lot of the panels.

New Year’s Kiss by Sarah Burgess (Denji)

New Year’s Kiss is a shonen-ai short with a little bit of angst and a little bit of fluff. It involves two guys who work in a cafe and war over the affection of the new girl, only to find out their real feelings once she shows her true colours. The characters are slightly stereotypical: the artist, the playboy and the hot new girl, but their motivations are delved into which makes them more unique. The artwork has a sketchy style, which shows promise in a lot of instances but sometimes is difficult to understand. However, the pacing is good and the writing has a strong manga feel to it.

Reya by Sergei and Morag Lewis (Moonshadow and Sun Kitten)

A fantasy tale of a girl from a distant land and her encounters with a group of magicians and their dangerous pets – tigers. The narration has a gentle pace and is written in quite an olde worlde style (not old English, but not completely modern either). Characters are believable and the cast is diverse and well thought out, although they are not particularly quirky or emotional. The art style suits the story very well, having been drawn with a nib pen. Some of the depth may be lost to readers as lineweights do not vary much from foreground to background, however there is a lot of detail to be savoured.

Different for Girls by Laura Watton and Jake Laverde

A manga with an English edge, this story centres around student life and romance here in good ol blighty. It about Angie, a student who’s looking for her perfect man but doesn’t realise he might be right under her nose. Its a sweet little tale -you may work out whats going to happen almost straight away, but enjoy the ride as some quirky elements have been thrown in (like featuring the lyrics from a song which complement the story). The characters are easily identifiable. Some might say they’re quite sterotypical, but the story is somewhat using this to its advantage with a message that stereotypes of ‘perfection’ are possibly not that great after all. The artwork is professional and at least as strong as the winners of this RSoM competition. There are also some little Japanese manga moments which are a nice touch.


One Response to “‘Stardust’, An Anthology by Sweatdrop Studios”

  1. […] Neither can I, unfortunately, tell you much more of the plot, as with only one chapter to read there’s not an awful lot that can be said at this stage.  However, if you’re hungry for some more Reya straight away, you might be happy to know that this is not the first time we have been graced with her presence: she was originally part of a short story that was submitted to a past Tokyopop ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition.  Unfortunately she didn’t win, but her tale can be found in Sweatdrop Studios’ ‘Stardust’ anthology, which I reviewed in a previous blog entry. […]

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