New Essay: Japanese Visual Language

For the first time in a long while, I’ve got a new essay up for download. This one discusses the visual language that underlies manga, and will be part of the Manga: The Essential Reader collection published next year by Continuum Books. Here’s the abstract:

Over the past two decades, manga has exploded in readership beyond Japan, and its style has captured the interest of young artists all over. But, what exactly are the properties of this “style” beyond the surface of big eyes and “backward” reading? This paper explores the structural elements of the Japanese Visual Language (JVL) that comprises the “manga style” — ranging from looking at the “big eyes, small mouth” schema as a “standard” dialect, to examining the graphic emblems that form manga’s conventional visual vocabulary. Particular focus will be given to JVL grammar — the system that creates meaning via sequential images — and how it differs from the visual languages from other parts of the world. On the whole, manga provide an excellent forum for understanding the scope of the visual language paradigm.


  • Excellent! Many manga published in Japan, at least the most popular titles, are first serialized in weekly or monthly magazines before being collected into large volumes. That is very similar to the western monthly pamphlet serialization. In the western-style comics the action moves quickly through the single issue while manga will dwell on a single situation for the entire update. But that could come back to the fact the manga creator knows they have a large collection to fill.

  • Nice!!!
    I am just thinking of writing a paper for my degree and am looking for diffrent kinds of input on japanese mangas, from structure of the text, point of view.
    Will DL and read yours essay.

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