>> Thursday, March 3, 2011
Well, an interesting experiment. Somehow, talking about manga seems to have driven off my few remaining readers. Odd. Well, that's hardly surprising. Ever since I was young, I devoured books, good and bad, picking them apart so I understood why I liked them, what moved me, what left me cold so I could emulate the one and avoid the other.
Truthfully, I was as surprised as you all appear to be that I have so thoroughly enjoyed manga, since I think I had a rather dismissive attitude in the beginning. Please, comic books? Ah, but now I'm so grateful I really tried to accept and understand. If I hadn't, I would have missed out on a whole new world of experiences, clarifications and variations on character types I love, a sizable amount of laughter. And, if it's bothered you all that I've "wasted my time" waxing on and on about manga, it hasn't been a waste to me. Expressing what I loved and even didn't love helped me understand it better, just like analyzing a novel. And I've enjoyed reliving piences of the manga.
So–insert groans here–I'll be doing more of the same, this time describing manga that didn't make my top rating and even, eventually, those I actively disliked and why. Before I do, however, I'd like to go over a few observations from manga that I thought were interesting and perhaps even challenging for someone unfamiliar with the world of manga.
Mechanics and appearance:
- First, a large percentage of Japanese origin manga read differently than we US folks are used to. They read "back to front", generally right to left and top to bottom. I say generally because manga don't always keep their drawings in tidy rectangular boxes and almost never in uniform sizes. Angled, even curved areas, whole page and even two page presentations, tiny boxes focusing on a small aspect of a bigger picture might be superimposed on another panel. Thoughts and discussion also might go from one box to the other, making following the "action" and thought/dialogues can take a bit of practice. The inconvenience of learning a new way to read "comics" is more than made up for in the creativity that results, where the shape and configuration of the drawings enhance the impact of the drawings. Way cool.
- Secondly, the caliber and style of drawings vary widely, not only manga to manga, but within a manga. Lush detailed drawings with textures and shading and elaborate costumes and backdrops might be juxtaposed to line drawings to show emotion next to simplified drawings (even stick figures) that emphasize mood, attitude or position. Some use many gradations between these levels, like Minami (Special A). This also can take some getting used to. Some authors, Hino (Vampire Knight) have very limited reliance on the simplified drawings but do considerable work with the line vs detailed drawings. Manhwa artist Mi-kyung (Bride of the Water God) tends to keep everything at a high level. Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club) runs the full gamut, often mixing the stylized/simplified with the detailed almost willy nilly, including stick figures. Some mangaku make the absolute most of their simplified drawings, making them the punchline or adding visual hilarity with manga exaggerations for a slapstick element.
- Manga tends to incorporate a great many exaggerated mannerisms. Olympic level weeping, excessive shock, rage, befuddlement, embarrassment and even violence (and reaction to violence, such as overblown bumps on the head) abound. This symbol, ╬, for instance, is frequently used to indicate irritation, even rage (like a vein throbbing). Bigger and bolder (or more of them) indicate the level. Blushing/fever might be full faced and physically sizzling. Tears can leap out from the face, flow in unending rivulets down the face or even form pools of water. A new reader, unused to such stylistic eccentricities, could readily be confounded by them, but, with patience, one can see that they only serve to communicate something simply and easily without slowing things down. They can also be hilarious.
- Dialog can be confusing, with different shapes for shouting (pointing) or happy things (cloudlike) mixed with thoughts and internal dialogue and talk bubbles, often ambiguously attributed, especially if the conversation involves a large group (as happens in Fruits Basket and OHSHC). In many cases, differentiation might include a symbol within that box to denote speaker (like one of the zodiac animals or a ricecake for Tohru in Fruits Basket or the glasses for Kyoya in OHSHC). Or a particular font or style might be used, like Huninozuka's flowers all over his comments. Like most manga tendencies, following dialog and various trains of thought over diverse panels and through complex relationships gets easier with practice.
- Sound effects and action effects. Yeah, I know, sound effects? Well, some I can see: crash, bam, clatter, zap, etc. And I can understand some actions that aren't quite obvious ("moves hair," "fingersnap," and the like), but they often include the sounds of footsteps and heartbeats. The words used to describe them often change; for heartbeat, I've seen: b-bump, b-dump, dokin, thathump. And why do I need to have footsteps? These special effects are often part of the drawing in kanji, which is sometimes translated in the English versions and sometimes left as is without explanation. (Ironically, with the volunteer translations, they seem to translate the effects the official versions don't - and vice versa.)