Published In

Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies

Document Type


Publication Date



Japanese literature, Graphic novels


Natsume Fusanosuke presents in this essay the core ideas of his formal ‘theory of expression’ (manga hyōgen-ron) that focuses on three basic elements of manga: words, pictures, and frames. In the 1990s, Natsume emerged as a seminal scholar of Manga Studies, whose influential works include Manga no yomikata (coauthored, 1995) and Manga wa naze omoshiroi no ka: sono hyōgen to bunpō (1997), where the present essay is found. Here, Natsume describes the central aspects of panel constructions in manga: creating a sense of order for the reader by segmenting time; shaping the reader’s mental perceptions by panel compression (asshuku) and release (kaihō); and, making a symbolic space within the frame. For Natsume, manga artists in the 1960s, most notably Ishinomori Shōtarō, pioneered these techniques during this seminal and creative period of manga, effectively establishing the techniques that all manga artists have used since then. In this culminating chapter from his groundbreaking 1997 work, Natsume describes how these artists made manga more ‘interesting’ (omoshiroi) by transforming and leveraging the formal aspects of the manga page and the layout of panels in order to both generate new psychological effects and greater reader involvement with the story’s characters and its mood.


Copyright (c) 2021 Jon Holt

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Persistent Identifier