Panels in Japanese vs. American Mainstream/Indie comics

This semester my student Amaro Taylor-Weiner did a great senior project following up to my cross cultural study comparing Japanese and American comics. He was one of my students in my “Visual Linguistics of Comics” class last Spring, and he jumped at the chance to do some work of his own.

We compared the amount of information held in 300 panels from each of 10 Japanese manga with 20 American comics of different genres: 10 Mainstream books and 10 “Indie” comics**. We found that the genre differences in American comics were marginal compared to Japanese manga, which used types of panels in very different ways. A poster of the study can be read here.

Interestingly, not shown in the poster (outside the error bars on the graphs), the patterns found in the Japanese panels were far more consistent across books than panels in American books, which were much more variable. The most variable were actually the Indie comics — some seemed to pattern like the Mainstream books and some like Japanese manga.

We interpreted these results as having connections with aspects of Asian versus American cognition related to research on attention, and further support that there are indeed different cultural visual languages.

He did a great job on the project, and I wish him the best as he goes on to his post-graduation endeavors!

**Thank you to all the great comic companies that donated books to these efforts! I’m still accepting donations from anyone who wishes to contribute (especially international books!!).


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