Response to Understanding Comics

I’ve never really considered myself to be a “comic book person.” In grade school I didn’t know a single person who read comics, nor did my parents read them growing up. Basically, I had zero exposure to comics and knew them only through Marvel movies and Japanese manga. McCloud’s book has been a great introduction to comics and has given me a greater appreciation for the art form, certainly, but I was most intrigued by the analysis of east-vs-west style.

My four years of high school Japanese class were filled with self-proclaimed “otaku,” or people with obsessive interest in Japanese anime, manga, and general culture. I was never able to understand the infatuation and had mentally condemned it as a form of cultural appropriation. After being required to read manga and watch anime for class, I did get a certain feeling from consuming the material. I didn’t know what it was- apart from calming vibes- and it definitely didn’t constitute an obsession, but the feeling I was getting put me a little closer to grasping the passion of my classmates.

McCloud’s description of the aspect to aspect panel transitions- namely how they define Japanese comics- explained the vibes I was receiving. I immediately realized that this seemingly arbitrary “scene setup” was the reason manga had given me such a distinct sensation. A manga reader has a very thorough understanding of the environment in which the story takes place. As manga is Japanese, this environment is often Japan. Perhaps this is why manga obsession so frequently goes hand-in-hand with cultural infatuation, while western comics (which lack aspect to aspect transition) rarely achieve this effect.

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