Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY WE began a celebration of manga, the Japanese genre of pictorial storytelling. Today in Part 2, we’ll see how manga pacing and text presentation set it apart from the comic book.

Real Page-Turners. Manga pacing is designed to heighten the impact of page turning. Often, an action is previewed in several panels on one spread, with the result dramatically portrayed overleaf.

I don’t recall Western comic books striving for such dramatic turning of the page.

Manga Bubble Conventions. Manga’s paucity of words gives rise to its visual clues, known as manpu, that tell (and encourage one’s emotions about) the story. In his London Review of Books article, Ben Walker gives several examples: “Gappy parallel lines running horizontally behind an object suggest that it is moving at great speed; tight, vertical lines on the face of a character, or as a backdrop to a scene, indicate ‘darkness/fear/sadness.’ ”

Walker continues, “Speech, when it appears, is to be read differently depending on the shape and size of the bubble that encases it. Some are self-explanatory: a spiky bubble indicates exclamation.”

Image from

Walker says, “Others are less clear: a voice ‘echoing in the head’—a deity perhaps, or a malevolent spirit—appears as free-floating text encircled by thin strokes. The subtle, percussive styled of manpu sets manga apart from the crash-bang-wallop of American superhero comics.”

There are scads of manga themes: kids’ fantasy, young adult romance and adventure, historical sagas, horror, and even adult porn. Convenience stores in Japan seem to stock all types.

A Manga Proposal on my Part. To the best of my research, though, I haven’t seen a manga Ring Cycle. The nearest I’ve found is this anime (animated rendition).

Wagner’s epic four operas have everything for dramatic narrative and pictorial enrichment: gods and goddesses misbehaving big-time, frolicking Rhinemaidens, power-crazed underworld beings consumed by greed, even the mortals acting up. A graphic artist would have a ball with the characters, attire, scenery, and action.

I have no artistic ability whatsoever. However, I’d love to collaborate by providing panel-by-panel suggestions, including the appropriate manpu page turners.

Any manga artists out there interested? I’d be happy to help. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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