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The Unique Characteristics of MANGA


Since we couldn't cover all of the unique points of manga in the last volume, so let us continue with the manga characteristics.

First, the lines written out in bubbles:

These bubbles are called fukidashi in Japanese. The fukidashi system itself is not particularly a unique characteristic to Japanese manga, but in many cases in comics in the English speaking area tend to have lines written in handwritten lettering.

Japanese manga, on the other hand, has lines typed out in basically the same font for most of the time. However, font types and size vary in a wide range in order to express each situation or emotion more effectively. For instance, shaky font is used for horrifying scenes, and cracky font for hoarse voice.
Another notable point is the variation of types of fukidashi and the tacit rules that go together with them. For example, solid round fukidashi (this can be said the standard) are used for normal conversations or situations, but fukidashi with a cloud-like shape express excitement or joy, and sharp, pointy ones visualize shock, great impact or tension. Moreover, bubble-like ones stretching out from characters in bubbles instead of the regular pointy mark shows unspoken thoughts of the character, solid squares often times are used for monologue, and squares with short double lines in four corners or double-lined fukidashi usually express words spoken over the phone or on the TV (=not raw voice).
Like this, a wide variation of fukidashi and fonts are used to describe scenes, situations and emotions more effectively, precisely and realistically.

Next, the "manpu":

Manpu is a name for the symbols used exclusively in manga. To describe it in a word, manpu are: "expressions which are not real but are used to express certain situations, expressions or emotions." Too abstract? Hmm, hard to describe in words.

Take this for example: in Japanese manga, there are often scenes with huge tear drops hanging from the eyes of the character. These tear drops are actually not real tears of the character, but the readers can tell that the character is in a very sad mood or is crying.
Or what about the numerous straight lines stretching out in one direction from the character's back who is running? This tells that the character is running in a really high speed, and the lines are like afterimages left behind.

Here is a list of some other representative manpu:

- fine straight lines drawn spokewise to draw the reader's attention
- the deformated blue vein drawn on foreheads or heads expressing anger
- a sweat-like drop for confusion or tediousness
- two parallel lines running straight from the character's bottom rim of the eyes down to the cheeks means that s/he is bawling
- small jaggy lines for movement of small things or shock
- a bunch of horizontal lines drawn on the upper half of the character's face and head shows depressing feelings, shock or poor physical condition
- a number of slashes drawn on cheeks or upper half of the face denotes embarrasment
- a continuation of very similar panels (sometimes the same) showing the passage of a long time

and more.

By intertwining these elements, a panel, a page of a manga is made.

How difficult it is to describe all these in words! But these are so familiar to Japanese people and nearly all if not all manga readers tacitly understand the meanings at a glance when reading a manga, that you don't really take time to think, "Hey, what does this mark mean?" On the contrary, these unique characteristics seem fresh and interesting those non-Japanese encountering Japanese manga.

So we've briefly gone over the major characteristics of Japanese manga in two weeks. It might have been a bit hard to picturize in your head just by reading descriptions in words, but I hope you got to know something about manga.
From the next volume, why don't we simply see the current situation of manga in Japan?

Keep your eyes on Japan Mode MANGA ;-)


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