The world of manga has contributed a uniquely stylized form of drawing that can be easily identified by a single glance. The schematized large eyes, small mouth and pointy chin is largely due to the work of Osamu Tezuka creator of the iconic Astro Boy. However the inspirational force behind Tezuka’s artistic style was none other than Carl Bark’s one of Disney’s most esteemed artists for the Donald Duck comics. To read more about Tezuka please refer to Phantommiriag’s post here.
One of the special aspects of this unique art style however lies in its ability to graphically conceptualize emotion, state of mind and motion all through the use of manga iconography. These normally invisible traits are all brought dynamically to life allowing us to behold such things as the force of a kicked soccer ball, the allure of the pretty boy or the fiery wrath of the school rival. Some of the most recognizable traits of manga iconography are seen in the depictions of emotion, notable examples include: characters displaying a bulging crossed vein and fangs when enraged, a large sweat drop appearing on one’s head showing embarrassment or nervousness and sudden bodily deformities when shocked, excited or just a general lack of seriousness. Aside from these popular depictions there are many other emotional states that are conceptualized by different graphic symbols and even multiple ways to display the same emotion, for a more comprehensive list check the manga iconography wiki page.
Manga iconography also has a rich tradition of appearing in many different symbolic or metaphorical forms that help set the mood of a scene or highlight certain features of a character. For instance a romantic scene may utilize flowery imagery or sparkling lights to demonstrate the affection of two lovers or sometimes the same imagery may be used when a character is attempting to highlight their attractive or dashing qualities.
Other more hostile scenes, though often still comical, may utilize symbols such as fire or lightening to capture the aggression of one or more characters. Such as sparks literally flying when two adversaries eyes meet or a character who has become so enraged that the backdrop explodes into a fiery inferno. Additionally more abstract backgrounds may be used at times when a character is engrossed in personal thought or reflection; often these scenes are depicted with dark clouds or spiraling imagery while in a foreboding or depressing scene. There are also times when the character is struck with a sudden realization and is shown by a flash of enlightenment.
Finally perhaps the most diverse use of manga iconography is the use of kinetic lines to display motion. According to visual language specialist Neil Cohn, rather than showing lines trailing behind the moving object, manga often show the moving object statically with lines streaming behind it; other times the object may be covered in a flurry of lines to indicate a blurred motion. Comic theorist Scott McCloud has noted that this allows manga to give a more subjective viewpoint. These drawing techniques quickly spread as manga became more popular in the west.
Image credit goes to selected panels from the following works:
- Shinigamisama ni Saigo no Onegai
- Ouran High School Host Club
- Marmalade Boy
- Kamisama no Iutoori Ni