February’s Final Denouement: The mysterious use of screentone in OEL.February 1, 2010
Because of a random comment that occurred while looking at pages from King of RPG’s, I found myself taking a closer look at the use of screentone in manga the past couple of weeks. Essentially the comment was that something about the way OEL uses screen tone feels different from manga which it is supposed to be derived from. But what exactly was the difference, well, that required closer inspection, thus I type before you now.
Screentone use in manga I came to feel, or realize, was lending texture, pattern, the idea of color, or providing emphasis or deemphasis as it may be, and even creating mood. The characters themselves were often devoid of tone, except maybe a pattern on their clothing or perhaps their hair, with little shading.
And shading is where I started to feel the difference. Screentone in manga is used more flatly, whereas in OEL there is depth emerging. Characters in the foreground were not being given pattern with screentone, but instead were being shaded extensively with it in OEL. When screentone was showing up in the background of manga, it was more for pushing back the image in order to let the foreground characters pop. It was also lending a mood or feeling to the events occurring on the page. Contrastly in OEL, backgrounds were becoming less abstract with more of an emphasis on perspective. OEL is attempting to create a more multidimensional space using screentone as the central tool.
Randomly, I feel that digital screentone is still working the kinks out. This method is quite popular in OEL. I won’t say I can always tell when it is being used, but it can be easier to pinpoint. There is such a crispness to the lines when working completely on the computer that it becomes more obviously manufactured. There is a disconnect from the slight fuzziness that happens when scanning in a work of art.
Since all artists have their own styles and quirks there are always going to be exceptions and incidents here and there. But I think I have come to grasp some of the basic general uses of screentone in manga and OEL and the differences that can be seen. While I can’t say what has caused OEL to move in this direction, perhaps it is just a western emphasis on a more realistic aesthetic. The more I looked, the more I came to find OEL to have this emerging stylization even if only by accident.