“We are not alone!” (“Ui aa natto aroon!”) was the shared response of Natsume Fusanosuke and his colleague Takekuma Kentarō when, as if visited by extraterrestrials, they encountered a kindred spirit in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (first published in Japanese as Mangagaku in 1998; retranslated in 2020).1 Natsume and his fellow critics and scholars had published their own definitive study of how to understand comics in 1995: the now out-of-print co-authored How to Read Manga (Manga no yomikata, Takarajima), for which Natsume made a considerable contribution. Like McCloud, Natsume trailblazed a long-lasting path about how to understand sequential panel flow, character design, and other interesting aspects crucially important to manga, such as hand-drawn onomatopoeia. In 1996, Natsume adapted his ideas for television in a twelve-episode educational series titled Why Is Manga So Interesting?: Its Grammar and Expression (Manga wa naze omoshiroi no ka: sono hyōgen to bunpō); the series was broadcast from July 4 through September 23 on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of PBS. For its Human University (Ningen daigaku) shows, NHK publishes print guides so readers can prepare for and later review each episode. Natsume’s printed digest consisted of nearly 150 pages. Natsume later expanded his guide into a version that has had multiple printings since its publishing in 1997. The present translated essay is the ninth chapter of Part One of Why Is Manga So Interesting?: Its Grammar and Expression.
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Holt, Jon and Fukuda, Teppei, "The Construction of Panels (Koma) in Manga: By Natsume Fusanosuke from Why Is Manga So Interesting?: Its Grammar and Expression (Manga wa naze omoshiroi no ka: sono hyōgen to bunpō, 1997)" (2021). World Languages and Literatures Faculty Publications and Presentations. 153.