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.