TRICK REVIEW - Manga Book Test by Michael O'Brien
Updated: May 14, 2020
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I received this Manga Book Test from Michael O’Brien directly. I take no consideration that the product is a gift and thus you can be assured that the review is 100% honest and unbiased as usual.
I have read the books and all the material before I do this review. Therefore
WHAT YOU GET?
You will receive a 66-page booklet (Physical version only)
A link is also provided for PDF version of the booklet, Performance video, Explanation video, and Bonus videos.
QUALITY OF THE BOOK
Since I have the PDF version only, I would based my review on the PDF booklet.
The format of the booklet is nice and it is easy-to-read. The main font is Garamond, which is a timeless font favoured by many print designers because of its high readability. There are total of 12,199 words in the booklet, with average of 24 lines on each page. The font is relatively large (14pt) compared to other PDF literatures, and thus the eyes are not stressed even it is read on digital devices. Below you can find the dummy page I created to illustrate the general format of the book (same layout, font size, font type etc).
The book is divided into 3 main sections, thought it is not explicit: 1. Techniques 2. Main Routine 3. Additional Ideas. Explanation of techniques usually last 2-5 pages. The main routine is 24-page long.
The writing style is very clear and it is understandable to beginners even with zero knowledge of magic. However, there is no photo or illustration in the booklet, which is a little bit inconvenient. Yes, there is a very detailed video explanation, but it would be much better to have pictures in the booklet to help learners to visualize some moves. Besides, while the format is very clean, it is not stylish in design (the booklet cover is cool, by the way). In other words, the layout is very plain. However, it doesn’t affect reading at all, therefore you don’t have to worry.
All in all, I enjoy reading the booklet much. In fact, I finished it in one reading! I particularly like the fact that Michael has given all the background of this routine (even explained what book test is) and full credit to inspirations he had.
QUALITY OF THE MATERIAL
Since the materials are taught on both booklet and videos, I will try to discuss the material in general.
The Book Test is well explained in a couple of YouTube videos on Michael O’Brien own website. The explanation is hosted by Michael O’Brien himself. The video is shot at home with a chest-up angle. The explanation is extremely clear and moves are demonstrated in great details.
Length (in minutes) of the main parts (I literally counted):
Introduction - 5:19
Performance - 13:54
Explanation - 1:49:25
Techniques Variations - 14:24
More Routining Idea - 10:25
Pocket Utility Switch - 10:52
The ‘Performance’ is a live act by Michael O’Brien with 4 volunteers in a parlour setting in restaurant. The show is the one described in the booklet and thus it is a good reference for learners to understand all the moves and subtleties by watching it actually performed. It is shot from one angle only but the video is clear. The routine is well constructed and a lot of techniques explained in the booklet are used here. So, you will have an idea how the simple techniques can be combined to make something very strong.
The ‘Explanation’ video is basically the video version of the book. In the first 19 mins & 12 secs, Michael gives you a full background of Manga Book Test and a full account why Manga is used. He also goes on with the explanation about the unique features of Manga. This section is helpful to people who may not have read a manga before.
In the next 17 mins & 37 secs, Michael teaches you 2 fundamental techniques. One is quite common technique but Michael has given many details on how to do it efficiently. Even seasoned performers may be able to learn a tip or two here. As for the second technique, it’s innocent, efficient and fair. This is probably the best technique which you can adopt to any ordinary books. It requires extra something that everyone own. The method itself is not groundbreaking but it is very solid in any kinds of situation. Besides, Michael has given a nice tip to justify the whole sequence in a convincing way. However, in some cases clean up is needed (but not in the main routine here) and there is no explanation of that. I hope Michael would have gone into details about cleaning up efficiently.
Next, Michael explains a well-known principle in mentalism. The teaching is clear and also gives learners a general idea of how to utilize it in the main routine. Then he goes on teaching a peek technique which is very useful. The idea is pioneered by a legend (to avoid tipping the method, I chose not to disclose his name) in Mentalism. Michael has adapted the method in a devilishly clever way. The method is the perfect fit for manga and very disarming. In my opinion, it may be the best method to do book test with manga.
Then, two combinations of techniques are discussed to expand the possibilities of multiple words guess. The methods are practical and are the building block of the main routine. Learners can adapt the concept and techniques for their routines as well. This section lasts about 8 mins & 26 secs.
The explanation of the main routine last about 35 mins & 16 secs. It is a detailed step-by-step explanation with nothing left out. The structure of the routine is very solid. It may be one of the most practical book tests which leave little doubt to audience. In terms of methodology, there may not be many ground-breaking concepts. But the combination of techniques and moves are well structured, making the routine very efficient. However, the explanation video assumes that you have watched the actual performance (it is another video). The explanation is mainly verbal. Therefore, it may be hard to some people who has not witnessed the act. It may be better to include the performance video right before the explanation, so that people can choose to watch or not before the routine is explained. Or clips of the actual performance can be included to make visualisation easier.
Then Michael gives some additional ideas to be used with the book test in a 14 mins & 50 secs section. These are some ideas which the creator has not put into his use but may be valuable to other performers. I personally find that some are good inclusions. In fact, I came up with the same thinking when I was reading the book. This section is more for experienced performers but not beginners. But it can be treated as an extension if beginners would learn more about book tests. There are several high quality book tests mentioned here.
When I was making this review, there are already three bonus videos on the site. The first video talks about the variations of the first technique explained in the booklet. This bonus video is golden. The variations are innovative and practical. They could be used with any books. The first variation is particularly good with hardbound book, though it is not mentioned on the video. The second video is about routine ideas. In the original performance, it last about 15 minutes, which may be too long for some performers. Here Michael has included a shorter version which somehow keeps the original elements intact. This routine is as good as the original one. Therefore, you can choose which version to use in your performance. The third video is about Pocket Utility Switch which is mainly used for card and index. It is introduced here because the switch is a good tool to make the principle taught above more efficient.
To conclude, the material is overwhelming and clearly taught. There are more than 2 hrs and 44 mins worth of material besides the physical booklet you receive. Michael has promised to add more bonus material in future. Which means you will be getting more ideas. Regardless your experience in magic, you will find something useful to make your book test routines better. And best of all, you can do it naked with a borrowed book if you want.
The techniques are not difficult. But learners have to put some efforts to make the move convincing.
Everything is examinable.
No reset time.
There are almost no issue on angle. However, in one of the variation of move, you need to watch the angle.
No special clothing is needed.
PROS ABOUT THE PRODUCT
The material is overwhelming at this price.
The tutorial is crystal clear. And the routine is very solid and practical.
100% impromptu and any books can be used.
CONS ABOUT THE PRODUCT
No photo or illustration in the booklet. Not a big issue because video explanation is provided.
There is no explanation of how to clean up in the second method. Clean-up is not a must, but it may be needed depending on how you manage your audience.
Manga Book Test hits me with surprise. I didn’t expect the amount of material at such low price.
Strictly speaking, it is a collection of practical techniques for impromptu book tests. While some techniques are not ground-breaking, the combinations introduced by Michael O’Brien are nice and useful. And there are some variations which are thoughtful and innovative.
Of course, you also get 2 very high quality routines. If you love book tests and want to add some different tastes to your routines, you may find something useful here. However, if you are knowledgable about impromptu book tests and have no intention to perform with manga (I suggest you should try. It’s fun!), then you may find little use of the material.
Manga Book Test is reasonably price at US$20 with tons of nice material and subtlety. You can use it as the building blocks to personalize your routines. I really like how Michale is passionate about the project and is adding bonus material on the site. It has my highest recommendation to any magicians, professional and hobbyist. I will certify it with ‘Perfect Choice’ without hesitation.
Video Quality: 8/10
Effectiveness of Tricks: 10/10
Cost Performance: 10/10
Final Score: 10/10
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