“The Power of Onomatopoeia in Manga,” an Essay by Natsume Fusanosuke with Translators' Introduction
Natsume Fusanosuke is one of the founding critics of manga that pioneered a style of formal analysis of manga in the 1990s. Natsume’s first important foray into his “theory of expression” (hyōgenron) was seen in the collaborate work, Manga no yomikata (How to read manga) in 1995. He later streamlined those ideas in a twelve-episode series Manga wa naze omoshiroi no ka: sono bunpō to hyōgen (Why is manga so interesting?: Its grammar and expression) for NHK television in 1996. The accompanying expanded book (1997) consists of well-ordered, individual essays on elements of manga such as line, character creation, and panels. In the present translated essay, the eighth chapter of part one, Natsume explores how hand-drawn onomatopoeia—or comic-book interjections—are quite nuanced, conveying additional information about time and space as a part of the larger narrative flow, which Natsume asserts is uniquely characteristic of Japanese comic books. This early essay, representing the beginning of Natsume’s scholarly arc, is important for its examination of how hand-drawn onomatopoeia are vital tools for the manga storyteller. Natsume argues that these graphic giongo, gitaigo, and other mimetic expressions also reveal how Japanese audiences are predisposed to reading and processing verbal information in both as words and as pictures. The translation and introduction make available in English for the first time a part of a key text in the history of manga studies in Japan.
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