Here's the first of the Famous 50 People series, repeated here as an example of the rest of the issues.
#1 - Edison
Page one starts out introducing the series, with a mass group painting of about 35 of the featured names. Then there's the full list of all 50 people and a brief mention of what they're famous for. The next 4 pages are the intro manga to set up the main premise. A newscaster announces that something has just smashed into Earth and created a crater. Nearby, 5th grader Youichi Makiba comes home with a box that contains what he thinks is a rare horned cat. His younger sister, Mami, discovers that it's actually a sheep dressed up in fancy clothes. This is Merrino do Panpeipu, the Prince of the Sheep planet. He'd escaped from home in a rocket to search for excitement on various planets. He asks if there are any famous people on Earth, and Youichi tries to show off as a tour guide by saying he'll talk about the great inventor "Esojin".
(Merrino, Mami and Youichi)
The "biographical" manga is very simplified and takes its material from the regular sources. The character designs don't even try to come close to the real thing. Edison starts out trying to make another kid fly by feeding him baking powder. He quits school, gets home-tutored by his mother, works by starting up his own newspaper and selling that and candies on the train to Detroit, fails at marketing his first invention, and learns the lesson that he should only invent things people want to buy. The manga indicates that his staff was just a group of helpless followers and that Edison himself was the only reason the inventions eventually worked. Interestingly, while one village in Japan was the sole source of the bamboo used for the light bulb filaments in the Edison bulbs, it's not mentioned at all in the mook. There is a mention of the voice recorder wax cylinder, but the main invention is the long-life electric bulb, and this is where the manga ends.
(The section on Henry Ford.)
The textbook section includes descriptions of Edison's friendship with Henry Ford, and a short background on Ford himself. In the list of contemporary inventors, there are short blurbs on Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, and Loius Braille. Featured inventions include instant coffee, sticky notes, the first Japanese TV, velcro and blue jeans. Finally, the last manga has Merrino deciding to stay on Earth with the 2 kids as his subjects, so they put him in a box to donate to someone else. There's then a list of recommended reading if you want to know more about Edison, and a 3-page write up on how to understand the trading cards and use them in a kind of Pokemon-style card game. The full set of cards covers 450 people. The first 9 in this book includes Khufu, Moses, Ramesses II and Hammurabi. The artwork in this set makes the characters look like manga-tized versions of baseball cards. Nothing that bad, but not particularly inspired.
(Sheet one of the trading cards.)
These are inexpensive mooks, albeit all written in Japanese. The photos are good, and there may be stuff about certain people that I didn't know about before. Fortunately, the Japanese is geared towards kids, so it's easy for me to read.