December’s Final Denouement: Swan and the Godliness of Page Design

It has been said that sometimes great design is great because you don’t notice it. It brings you the information you need without you having to struggle but doesn’t impress itself upon your mind, unless of course you are looking for it. Design, when it is good, can be an unsung hero that enhances your experience but for the most part goes unrealized. This is no less true when it comes to manga page layout. There are a lot of approaches to page layout to be sure, but I’m choosing to focus on Swan because it accentuates manga design so well and is an amazing sight to behold. (I apologize for the crease in my scans; all images can be enlarged)

The most basic function is obviously to lead the reader’s eye through the story. But page design can do so much more. Using the above image you can see the calm of the right page contrast with the chaos of the left. This chaotic feeling is achieved through the angles of the boxes and the way they fit together. From this a momentum starts to build up. Then the way the dancer is swept into the air where her toe points into the negative space your eye follows through the action. You literally might find yourself taking a breath like the gasp the audience utters as the movement leads you to the next page. Moving on to another example, the following spreads come one after the other.

Continue reading


November’s Final Denouement: A Tale of Master and Student – Kenjiro Hata and Koji Kumeta

hisuiconAt first Hayate the Combat Butler by Kenjiro Hata and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei by Koji Kumeta might not seem like manga with a common ancestry. The sense of humor and storytelling is quite different in both manga. Hayate has a very traditional design for a comedy manga in Shonen Sunday where as Zetsubou-Sensei is very stylized. But when we realize that Kenjiro Hata used to be an assistant to Koji Kumeta we begin to see greater similarities in their styles. When we look at, Katte ni Kaizo, a manga they both worked on together we can see how Hata was influenced by Kumeta. Hata’s work on Heroes of the Sea Lifesavers is clearly influenced by his mentor. Hata would go on to develop his own style in Hayate while Kumeta would further continue to refine his own style in Zetsubou-Sensei. I have compiled some samples from each manga to help illustrate this evolution.

Continue reading

October’s Final Denouement: The Lies 90′s Anime Fans Told

*I am aware that much of the anime we enjoyed in the 90’s was produced in the 80’s. But this is about what I thought anime was in 90’s, what was available in the 90’s that shaped that view, not what was produced at the time.

I started watching anime, at least what I knew to count among anime, in the summer of 1995 with the infamous Ninja Scroll. I followed that with Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Demon City Shinjuku, and more from the few local video places my friends and I frequented. If you had asked me back then, and people frequently did, just what was this anime we were gobbling up, I probably, no in fact I know, I would have said some thing about anime’s maturity, perhaps its dark or adult themes, and maybe some violence for good measure. And I probably would have thrown in some jabs at western works, too.

Continue reading