Secrets of Manga #5 – Composition

It’s time for Secrets of Manga #5.

 

Today we’re going to be talking about composition. I’ll be honest — I only use a certain number of composition patterns when I draw. Character-wise, I use long shots that show the character’s entire body, bust shots, facial close-ups, and then close-ups on body parts like hands and eyes.  I draw them from bird’s-eye views, from below, or from eye level. This is the basic formula by which I draw most of my manga. All I think about with the panels are the size and the angle of the object I’m trying to draw.

 

Have you ever read a manga drawn by an illustrator or a children’s book author — basically, a manga drawn by any pro artist who isn’t a pro mangaka — and thought that even though the art was beautifully drawn, it was somewhat hard to read? They may draw warriors fighting in mid-air from a ground level view, or the main character hanging from a building and looking down on throngs of people who look like little ants, or faithfully sketch in every single wrinkle in a high schooler’s panties, which can just barely be seen under her skirt from a lower step on the elevator. These professionals are all skilled artists who can draw anything from any angle, but for some reason, when it’s in manga form, it becomes hard to follow. Every single image is extremely high-level and good-looking, but looking at them all in succession makes the reader feel like they’re zig-zagging around. Do you know what I mean?

 

I think that with manga, the most important thing is art ability, rather than unconventional composition. It’s important that all the art flows well together.

 

In order to make the art flow, the first thing I always think about is “Where are we looking from?” For example, if this was something being videotaped, where would the camera be standing? Is the camera close to the ground, or is someone carrying it, or is it high on the second story of a building? The angle can really change the picture.

 

When showing images in succession, one thing to remember is that changing the camera angle too much can confuse the viewers. When I’m drawing images that all happen in the same place and I think: the first panel will be low, the second panel will be about ten meters off the ground, and the third panel will come from beneath ground level, as if there’s a hole dug there… I’ll end up moving the perspective around so much that it’ll take time for readers to figure out where they are and what they’re looking at.

 

I always try to draw characters and backgrounds from the same angle. I also take care not to change the height of the angle when I change the camera position. (Eye level = the horizon) In the end, it may seem boring to have a bunch of images all lined up that are more or less from the same angle, but I feel that the story and characters can make up for that, so I always try to make my images flow.

 

 “How can I make it easier for them to understand what I’m trying to say?”

 

I’m always thinking about the same thing. It’s really a pain to try and explain this in words, so let’s look at the example we always use.

 

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Let’s try drawing where the camera would be in each panel.

 

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In Panels 1, 2 and 3, the camera is looking down on the characters from the ceiling. Do you see how it starts out as a long shot, then gradually moves in closer to the character in the center? Here’s where the camera would be.

 

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Since it’s just closing in on one character from the same angle, when readers look at these images in succession, they should be able to clearly follow the zoom. It’s necessary to start with a long shot to show the characters and what they’re doing. I used an angle from around the ceiling to get a better view of the entire room.

 

In Panels 4, 5 and 6, we move from the center character’s shoulder inward.

 

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Can you see how these three panels are also coming from the same angle? We see the center character’s shoulder in Panel 4, so even when the camera switches over to character behind him, the images are still connected. In Panel 5, we zoom into one of the characters in the back, and then, in Panel 6, we show the center character again.

 

Here’s where the camera would be.

 

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The camera has gotten down off the ladder and is looking at the characters eye-to-eye. Panels 7, 8 and 9 move to a different place, but the angle is the same. The camera is looking at the character from eye level.

 

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Panel 7 is a bust shot. Panel 8 switches to yet another place, but it’s still at the same level, and Panel 9 is just a zoomed-in version of Panel 7.

 

Here’s where the camera would be.

 

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Here’s how Panel 8 works.

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Well?

 

The camera position changes four times, and the point of view only changes one: from the ceiling to eye level. If I were to change the point of view a lot, it would make the pages really messy and stress out the readers. I think not changing the angle unless I have a specific reason to is the safest strategy.

 

So, as you can see, I just figure out the camera position, then decide whether it’ll be a close-up or a long shot. I just keep repeating that. I keep the connection between the images in mind as I draw, and make sure not to draw from too many different locations and angles.

 

What should we talk about next time? I think this is about everything I think about when I draw the art and the panels, so next time I guess I’ll write a summary of everything we’ve talked about.

 

My biggest fear is that someone reading this will think that they have to memorize everything I’ve written in order to draw manga.

 

Manga is easy to draw.

 

All anyone needs to draw manga is a pencil and paper.

 

If you think that what I’m writing is too complicated, then just don’t worry about it.

 

There’s only one thing I’m always thinking about — and I included it in this post already — “How can I make it easier for them to understand what I’m trying to say?” Everyone thinks a different way in relation to their personal style, so as long as you remember that there are people out there with different opinions toward manga, you should be fine.

 

But as far as reading and drawing go, understanding how manga works makes everything much more fun.

 

 


 


Sato’s Road to Manga #5

I started drawing my own manga.

 

For the first four or five months after I started working at F-san’s studio, it took all of my energy just to keep up with everything. Once I started getting used to work, I started doing nothing but thinking about how to get out. The contract I had signed was for two years, so the only way to proudly announce that I was quitting was to become a mangaka.

 

In the first month, I only spent a total of seven to ten nights in my apartment. The rest of the nights I slept at the studio. That left me with absolutely no private time, and of course, no time to draw my own manga.

 

But human desires always change depending on the situation.

 

Every time I would go back in to work after a break, I’d think “will I be able to go home today?” Whenever F-san had trouble getting his creative engine running, he’d tell us we could go home in the evening, so I was always waiting for that. When it got past midnight, and the trains stopped, I’d give up all hope of going home.

 

Then I’d hear that the deadline was in two days, and my fear would turn into “Will I be able to sleep tonight?” If it got past 7 AM, and F-san hadn’t asked us if we wanted to sleep yet, it meant that we had to keep working. And when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, my thought process changed to “When will I be able to eat?” F-san would make his art staff keep working while he got rest, and there was no way all of us could eat without him. (Of course, whenever this happened, Thor and Grande would slump over on their desks and fall asleep, which meant that I was the only one still working.)

 

When I arrived at the studio in the morning, my desire had been to “go home.” The next thing I knew, it had been two weeks since I’d been home, I had given up on sleeping, and just hoped and prayed that I could eat something. My desires gradually got smaller and smaller.

 

But there were some desires I refused to lose: the desire to draw manga and to become a mangaka. Since I was drowning in manga day after day, you’d think that on the few days I got off, I’d want to distance myself from manga. But if that was the extent of my desire, I knew I’d never be able to really become a mangaka. It didn’t matter how hard I worked as an art staff member — that alone would never make me a mangaka. And just resting on my days off wouldn’t get me anywhere.

 

Acting normal would only keep me normal.

 

This experience helped me learn that lack of sleep and food alone won’t kill a man.

 

And so, I started drawing my own manga on my days off.

 

At first, using the technique I had learned at work and drawing art at a level that I hadn’t been able to reach before was so much fun. I spent most of my scarce days off drawing manga.

 

After I told that friend of mine that I was going to become a mangaka, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to face him again until I actually came up with some results. In the first few months after I took time off school, I didn’t communicate with anyone, but once in a while people who apparently missed me would be nice enough to call me up and come see me. And what did I say to them?

 

“Going to school is pointless. If you want to go on living a boring, average life, then go ahead, keep going to school.” At the time, I was a real jerk.

 

Actually, I guess I’m still a jerk.

 

But at the time, I think I was being suffocated between the me who was an absolute nobody and the me who was still clenching onto some pathetic, tiny little scrap of pride, believing that I was somehow different than all those sponging students out there. I was deep in solitude, and when someone approached me once in a blue moon, I became confrontational.  My frustration pushed me to want to make myself stand out, while a sense of alienation and discrimination spiraled up within me.

 

And I pushed all my problems onto manga. I believed that becoming a mangaka would solve everything.

 

I didn’t know what to draw. I knew I still had to draw something, but it was still hard for me to take that first step. I knew I had become a better artist than before, though, so without thinking up a story or doing storyboards, I just sat down with a white piece of manuscript paper and started drawing and inking, one page at a time.

 

Until that point, I had never inked a 20-page manuscript before in my life. Even if I thought up an interesting beginning, I’d get tired of it after drawing several pages and lose all sight of what it was I wanted to do. I kept starting over on new paper, so in the end I decided to just aim to finish an actual chapter, regardless of how good or bad it was.

 

Without any idea about what I wanted to draw, whether I really wanted to become a mangaka or whether I just wanted to draw manga, and feeling more and more frustrated at how slow the process was moving, I squirmed and writhed across the page, as if crawling out of a deep, dark cave.

 

Several months later, I finished my first short piece.

 

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After that, I had to stay at the studio again for several weeks, and then, oddly enough, I got three full days off. I called up a certain editor and scheduled a time that I could bring in my manuscript to show him. I remember that my voice was shaking on the phone.

 

What if I suddenly get my own serialization? How will I be able to quit the job I have now?

 

I had forgotten what F-san said when he first hired me: “Once your two years are up, I’ll start treating you like a human.” I thought I had become a human already, and now was my time to shine.

 

This was the first manuscript submission I’d ever done.

 

To Be Continued

 


 


Secrets of Manga #4 – Dialog and Word Count

Today, I have an announcement to make. “Secrets of Manga” is going to become an actual book. The series itself is only in its fourth installment, but a publisher was still nice enough to approach me with a plan. I intend to publish it as a proper book once I come up with enough content.

 

I’m very thankful for this opportunity. I finished the meeting the other day, so now it’s all a matter of how hard I want to work. (?) I need to keep doing my best so that this book becomes a possibility.

 

Now, let’s get down to business. Today on Secrets of Manga, we’re going to talk about dialog.

 

Let’s begin by looking at the same old page you’ve all grown to love. Do you notice anything about the dialog in it?

 

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Let me type out the dialog so that it’s easier to read.

 

“He’s unconscious.”

 

“The leaked oil and seawater must have mixed to create a poisonous gas.”

 

“If we leave him, he’ll die down there.”

 

“He might even drown if the water keeps leaking.”

 

Take a good look at the sentences. Do they all seem short to you?  In Japanese, the longest sentence is only 37 characters.

 

The truth is, manga as a medium just isn’t made for long sentences. In film and novels, we often see scenes where people are going on and on discussing some topic. It works there. If you have a charismatic character, you can keep them talking for five minutes straight and it’s still interesting. With film, you can rely on the acting and the camerawork, while novels are composed purely of text, so long sentences don’t particularly stand out, and they can still grab the readers’ hearts.

 

But manga doesn’t work the same way. First of all, there’s a limit as to how many characters I can fit into a bubble. The maximum number of characters I ever try to fit into a bubble is 40. I aim for 8-10 characters a line. Anything more than five lines long becomes difficult to read. If I do 10 characters a line, then 4 lines is the max, and if I do 8 characters a line, then 5 lines is the max. That’s where I get my magic 40 from.

 

If I draw small bubbles, then the number drops from 40, and if I draw bigger bubbles, then I can fit more than 40 in. But why? Wouldn’t you agree that excessive text just makes the page look messy and difficult to read?

 

This is just my opinion on what’s easiest to read. It isn’t some absolute standard that exists. There are lots of manga out there that put way more characters than that into bubbles and still sell many copies. For example, Bakuman. Manga in Shonen Jump tend to have high word counts. I get the impression that they keep the number of lines in each chapter high in order to push the story along so it’s harder for anime adaptations to catch up with the manga.

 

I understand that there are exceptions to the rule, but I still try to adhere to my standard of 40.

 

Manga is a medium composed of art and text, and I believe that there’s a beautiful balance that exists somewhere in there. Some manga purposefully destroys that balance to create a unique, different balance, and that’s fine, but I think it’s better to understand the basics before you start trying to destroy them. For example, take Taketomi Kenji’s “Suzuki-sensei.” The long lines in that manga perfectly match his particular mode of expression. I think it’s genius. But I lack Taketomi-san’s skill in that area, so I stick to the basics.

 

40 is my magic number. I always try to finish dialog within 40 characters.

 

Additionally, if you look at the above image in Japanese, you’ll notice that I never use commas or periods. Instead, I put in line breaks where you’d expect punctuation to be. I use a lot of ellipses, but that’s just one of my habits. Tokko Island doesn’t have any punctuation, but Umizaru and New Give My Regards to Black Jack both do. Give My Regards to Black Jack has none.

 

The reason for this is that publishers have different rules about punctuation. Shogakukan allows it, while Kodansha doesn’t. With that said, I imagine that most Japanese readers read manga without ever focusing on punctuation. As long as I’m careful as to where I put my line breaks, I can still get the meaning across regardless of punctuation.

 

In addition to line breaks, there’s also a limit as to how many characters one can fit into a bubble, which makes long lines unsuitable. It’s possible to connect a longer sentence through multiple bubbles, but if the same character’s drawn repeatedly in a bunch of panels, that makes the manga boring. Likewise, if there are a bunch of bubbles in the same panel, it makes the manga seem more like a novel with art thrown in here and there. In these cases, the dynamism of the medium known as “manga” is lost, and in both cases, the manga isn’t very fun to read. (Which is why I think Taketomi-san is such a genius.)

 

I wonder if dialog in manga isn’t closer to poetry. Manga transmits meaning with rhythm, through a limited amount of words. Therefore, while the dialog itself doesn’t differ from actual speech, the condition in which it’s said is very different. Needless words need to be cut away. Only logical words that can transmit meaning in the least amount of words possible can be used. In daily life, we use a lot of meaningless words and let our sentences trail off, but not in manga.

 

Once in a while, I read a manga written by a mangaka who’s really trying to recreate natural dialog. Since it hasn’t been edited, however, sometimes it’s really hard to follow.

 

Whenever I think up dialog, first I write it all down just as it is, then start cutting out words that aren’t essential to expressing what I need to. I suppose here, what I’m trying to create isn’t “natural” dialog, but edited, filtered dialog like what you’d see in a novel. I think about where to put the line breaks, and try not to use more than ten characters a line. It may seem like a difficult process, but I believe this process of trial and error makes the manga easier to read. To sum up what I said, I think that long dialog puts strain on the readers, so I try to make my sentences as short and logical as possible.

 

One day, a fellow author called me up and invited me out for a drink. On the phone, he said he’d text me the directions, and I was surprised by what he actually sent:

 

“Face Yodobashi Camera / go left, turn left / at the second corner / go right / continue / go left / I’m in the place / at the end.”

 

Obviously, I couldn’t find my way there, but I really thought the way he way he wrote his text was the perfect example of how a mangaka writes. That friend of mine mainly did work for Kodansha. If someone who normally writes without any punctuation and is always trying to shorten what they write suddenly creates a text message, I guess this is how it turns out. It’s a professional disease.

 

I try to never put more than 10 bubbles on a single page, and always keep my total word count under 400 characters.

 

Next time, we’ll talk more about composition.

 

 

 


 


Sato’s Road to Manga #4

F-san was usually never at the studio for more than half the day.

 

As I wrote in the previous installment, whenever F-san was around, Thor and Grande acted like completely different people. When their employer was around, they would work hard, and when he was gone, they would hardly work.

 

Especially Grande.

 

The moment F-san left to go work on the storyboards, Grande’s head would slam down onto his desk, and he’d fall asleep.

 

I’d quietly work on drawing, and when I was done, I’d shout at him to wake him up. He’d wake up, check my drawings, and then I’d start inking them. Around this time, Grande’s snores would begin to echo around the room again.

 

Thor also took naps, read Voice Acting Monthly, and did a bit of work at a relaxed pace.

 

F-san would always give us a goal before he left the studio. For example: “Finish ten manuscript pages before I return.” Instead of splitting the pages between us, he would line us all up in front of him and give us the directions for all ten pages. He didn’t really seem to care who drew what.

 

If he left at noon to work on storyboards, he often returned in the evening. During the half the day that he was gone, the three of us had to figure out how to complete the ten pages before he returned, or at least show them to him when they got close to completion. He had ordered us to do it all while he was out, after all.

 

That meant that each person had to do at least three pages. I couldn’t count on my senior co-workers, and was prepared to draw an extra page. I decided that I’d take care of four pages, proactively choose the pages that took more time, and finish each page within three hours. I sent sidelong glares at the snoring Grande as I finished sketching, then shook him to wake him up so that he could check them.

 

Grande opened his mouth and began to speak. “The point is, we really need to finish these pages while sensei’s out. I think probably, the deadline for these pages is probably until tomorrow or the day after, so we can’t, you know, waste time. Thor and I will work on the handwritten dialog, concentrated linework, and effect lines, so if you focus on all the background images, then I think, logically, we’ll be way more efficient. Right, Thor?”

 

Thor smiled and nodded. And so, Grande and Thor took naps, talked about their favorite anime, and spent six hours working on effect lines that could easily be finished in one. Meanwhile, under pressure from the realization that if I didn’t work my hardest, we wouldn’t make it on time, I continued to draw in all the backgrounds.

 

I probably ended up drawing six or seven pages out of every ten. I also had to go buy food and prepare it for my senior co-workers during this time. Going to the library and finding references was also my job, since I was the newbie.

 

If F-san came back at night, and the drafts were done, then there would be no blood. We’d continue working until around six in the morning, then sleep, then wake up and start working again. As I explained earlier, F-san didn’t really care who drew what page, so there was no way for him to know that I had spent the whole day working like mad to finish everything in time. When F-san was there, Grande and Thor worked hard, so I doubt he suspected that they were slacking off when he was gone. Thanks to this, I got much, much better at drawing backgrounds, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that the whole situation was very unfair, and I wondered if I should tell F-san about it.

 

One day, after F-san left, Grande started sleeping as usual.

 

He seemed really exhausted that day, and didn’t budge even when I tried to wake him up. There was nothing I could do, so I gave up at trying to get him to check my drafts, which had really only become a formality at that point, and went back to the drawing board.

 

Soon, six hours passed. Even after the seventh rolled around, Grande still hadn’t woken up. He was snoring so loudly that I could still hear it in the bathroom. It was late at night, and I had just started getting hungry. Suddenly, I heard clinking from the door to the studio.

 

Oh no! I thought, and shouted to Grande. “Sensei’s back! Wake up! Grande!!”

 

But he didn’t wake up. His snoring was only getting louder. I desperately continued shouting. “Please wake up! Grande! He’s back!!”

 

Then, F-san opened the door and entered the room — right as Grande awakened.

 

I froze.

 

Grande was still half-asleep, and couldn’t really tell what was going on. Thor was smiling and acting innocent. Had F-san heard me shouting from beyond the door? He looked at me in perplexment as I stood behind Grande, in the same position I had been in during the shouting, and spoke.

 

“What’s going on here?”

 

I didn’t know how to answer. If I was going to reveal the fact that my senior co-workers were slacking off, then I had a feeling that now was my chance. But the moment I did that, I knew that it might bring forth a level of monstrous rage that I had never experienced thus far.

 

Slowly and silently, Grande began to understand what was happening.

 

F-san asked his question again. “What’s going on here?”

 

If no one answered here, F-san would just get more irritated and another spiral of anger would begin. In the end, I thought the best plan of action would be to let Grande explain himself.

 

“Um… well, Grande…” I said, trailing off. But Grande stayed quiet, pleading for help with his eyes.

 

The silence continued.

 

Then F-san smiled. “I know! You’re all hungry, aren’t you?”

 

“You were hungry and talking about where you wanted to get food from, right?” F-san went on. Unable to either assert or refute his claim, I stood frozen in silence. “I heard someone shouting from the hallway. Sometimes conversation really gets heated when I’m out, huh? I understand. It was the same way when I was in your shoes. Just don’t get too carried away, alright?”

 

Once F-san had decided the matter on his own, he told me to go get some food. Grande and Thor looked at each other and shared a laugh. I continued to stay still, unable to join in their mirth.

 

I think this happened on the day that Takaoka Saki’s nude photo collection went on sale.

 

“Pick up her photo collection the way back,” F-san added. Knowing that there was absolutely no way that any bookstore would still be open this late, I rode around to the nearby convenience stores, but ended up coming home with nothing but food.

 

After getting a little angry with me for not finding the book, F-san ate his meal, and I was left feeling hopeless.

 

The next morning, when I was pulling out my futon to sleep at the office yet again, Grande leaned over and complained to me.

 

I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like “You were going to tell F-san that was sleeping, weren’t you?” and “Why did you ink everything without letting me check it?”

 

The dark fact that I hadn’t — that I’d been unable to say anything swirled deep within my mind. Clenching my fists inside my futon, I remembered the story about the staff member who had quit after one day. He was gone once they woke up. I bet if I met him now, we’d have a lot to talk about. 

 

I waited until they both fell asleep and I could hear their snoring. I can’t believe he can actually sleep more after all that. 

 

Over and over again, I imagined myself slowly standing up, quietly getting my things together, and walking out the door. I tried to actually do it. I put my feet on the ground, then thought for several minutes in that pose. In the end, I slid the futon cover back over my head and laid back down.

 

I’m going to get out of here as fast as I can, I vowed.

 

What I mean was, I’m going to become a mangaka and go beyond this place as fast as I can. 

 

To Be Continued

 


 


Secrets of Manga #3 – Character Size and Organization

Alright, it’s time for Secrets of Manga #3.

 

In the previous installments, we talked about visual guidance and using panel size to establish a constant rhythm. Today, we’re going to keep talking about rhythm.

 

I’m going to be using the same two pages as an example today. In addition to visual guidance and panel structure, I’ve used quite  a few other tricks in drawing these. First, let’s look closely at it again.

 

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Well? Did you notice that in these two pages, most of the characters’ faces appear in different sizes?

 

If we break it down, here’s what it looks like.

 

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There are a total of eight panels that feature characters in them, and most of them are different sizes.

 

The characters in panels 5 and 6 are the same size. I did this on purpose in order to show that they both carry the same amount of importance in the conversation. Changing the size of the characters can add even more rhythm to the composition.

 

Putting in a string of panels with characters who are all the same size will give your manga a flat, mechanical rhythm, and it’ll lose all modulation. There are some people who aim to do that, but apart from those sort of intentional situations, it should be avoided.

 

Aside from giving your pages rhythm, changing up the perspective can also express what role the characters are playing in different scenes. Characters who appear larger look like they’re playing larger roles, while characters who are smaller don’t look very important. Drawing a character large in a large panel makes them look extremely vital, while drawing a small character in a small panel will make them look insignificant.

 

I’ll explain this concept in detail now.

 

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Panel 1 is a long shot.

 

Bird’s-eye views explain the positions of characters in a space to the readers. Letting the readers know who’s standing where and doing what will spare them a lot of stress. In these panels, characters should be drawn on the smaller side. What’s important here is to show the space and the tense atmosphere. The panel is large, and the space itself is given first priority, so the characters are small.

 

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Panel 2 is a close-up on the character in the center, from almost the exact same angle. Readers learned about the characters’ positions and the tense air in panel 1, so now we zoom into a single character. By placing a speech bubble next to a face during a close-up, it becomes clear who’s speaking at that moment.

 

This is a bit off-topic, but in these panels, it’s important not to change the character’s angle. When characters’ angles change all of a sudden between panels, readers instantly get confused as to who it is. Let’s give it a try.

 

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See? When you look at panel 2, you think “Woah! Where the heck did this guy come from?”

 

If this character was shot from the back in panel 1, with his facial expression hidden, and you wanted to reveal it like so in panel 2, it could be possible to set things up like this. I’ll give you another example.

 

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In the last panel on the right page, we see the character’s back, and then in the first panel of the left page, we see the character’s expression from the front. I made a point of never showing the character’s expression on the right page, while upping the speed with emotional dialog and panel construction, then began the left page with a silent zoom-in on the character’s face to give his expression impact and shut down the momentum.

 

Oh, incidentally, did you notice that I never showed two characters at the same size in these two pages either? I also made sure to keep the panels from intersecting between the two pages. The visual guidance also lines up perfectly.

 

Let’s say you were watching a soccer game on TV, and the camera was positioned behind the goalie’s back, focused on a player attempting to score a goal. Even if the camera shifts to catch the shot from the front of the goalie, what’s on the “right” side will always stay on the right, and what’s on the “left” will stay on the left. I think they make sure to always shoot the match so that it looks like Team A is always coming from the left, and Team B is always coming from the right.

 

Readers don’t get very confused about what’s in front and what’s behind, but mixing up left and right can make things become very chaotic. Therefore, when I need to switch up your angles in terms of left and right, I always stick in a shot of the background or use some other trick to make it go smoothly.

 

No one ever taught me how to do this. It’s just something I’ve continued to do, hoping that it makes the manga easier to read. The explanation may make it seem really complicated, but all I ever really think about is how to make easier for people to understand what I’m trying to depict.

 

Reading this, you may think “Wow, I didn’t know mangaka cared about details like that!” You’re free to interpret this however you like, and I encourage all people to develop their own beliefs on how manga should be drawn.

 

This is merely my style — nothing more, nothing less.

 

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Panel 3 is an extreme close-up of the same character.

 

Here, readers will intuitively understand that time has passed between panels 1 to 3, that this character plays an important role in this scene, and that they need to carefully read what he’s saying. The dialog in panel 3 doesn’t bear any special meaning other than that, so this is as big as this panel needs to be.

 

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Panel 4 features the characters who are listening to the character in the center. Panels 2 and 3 were zoomed in on that character, so I left his shoulder in the shot to explain the characters’ positions. In this panel, however, the dialog is the most important information, so it’s a relatively long shot.

 

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Panel 5 is a dialog scene featuring a character that appeared in panel 4.

 

I planned to have him speak here, so I snuck him in from the same angle in panel 4. As you can see in panels 2 and 5, whenever a new character starts speaking, I always draw them alone in a panel. It wouldn’t be unnatural if there were other characters and background objects featured in this panel, but I purposefully leave them out in character introduction scenes like this to make it clear who’s speaking.

 

If you read a manga where it’s difficult to tell who’s speaking at certain times, then they probably don’t follow this rule.

 

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Panel 6 features the center character again in a silent shot.

 

Since this character’s decision is going to deeply impact the story, I want to show what sort of an attitude he listens to his subordinates with at the same level of importance as the conversation itself. That’s why this panel is this size.

 

Even though panels 4 and 5 feature different characters, and this panel is drawn from a different angle as panels 1 and 2, you never think “Hey! Where the heck did this guy come from?” Since this panel is shot from the front just like the previous one, there’s nothing jolting about it. Here, I managed to change the angle in a natural manner.

 

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Panel 7 takes us to a completely different place. On a previous page, I drew the same character in the exact same place, so despite the sudden jump here, readers will think “Oh yeah, it’s that guy” and understand where we are.

 

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I slide in a background panel here…

 

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…and then we see the character from panel 7 speaking. So as not confuse the readers, I drew this panel as a close-up from the same angle and used it to heighten the intensity.

 

I’m not very good at making characters unique enough so that readers can easily tell them apart, so I use page composition and angling to make sure readers don’t get confused regardless of how bad my art may be.

 

And I guess that’s about it.

 

Hopefully this showed you how you can make a manga easier to follow by manipulating character sizes in relation to their importance while explaining character position.

 

Next time, let’s talk about dialog.