ONEと村田雄介 (ONE and Murata Yūsuke), 2012. 集英社 (Shueisha Inc.).
(READ RIGHT TO LEFT)
In drawing a chapter of OnePunch-Man, Mr. Murata’s constraint is depicting ONE’s original OnePunch-Man webcomic in such a way that his work does not catch up to ONE’s serialization. This constraint is sometimes resolved in the form of extremely decompressed double-page splashes rendered with a cinematic, spectacular quality. Never betraying the tone of the work, these scenes are always delivered with tongue in cheek.
Above, the titular character stands in place as the ninja Sonic demonstrates his speed in preparation for an attack. The perspective is one that circles the cool, almost affectless Saitama while also encapsulating Sonic in its gaze. The perspective seems to “approach” Saitama and then “back away” a little bit. It may be likened to a camera taking shots in panoramic mode—
—and it almost makes that “READ RIGHT TO LEFT” an unnecessary note. Mr. Murata does not seem to have drafted these pages with a particular “direction,” or an intended path of the eye for the reader, in mind. He wants the reader to regard the pages in such a way that they may transcend their medium and become animated. Mr. Murata’s OnePunch-Man is a webcomic, published by Shueisha Inc., which is read through an online flash reader. This tool allows the reader to switch between pages quickly, achieving the same affect as the animation above.
If Mr. Murata did intend for any part of the sequence to be read as a comic book first, it would probably be the beginning splash. Here, Sonic’s speed trail originates from the right side, at a place which could either be considered the entry point of the splash or a short distance from the entry point of the splash. The reader’s eye passes over Saitama as Sonic’s speed trail cuts through the bottom of the page, emerges to the right, and ends just off-center. The reader’s eye again goes to Saitama near the center, and he becomes the exit point of the splash.
When Sonic’s speed trail leaves the page after skirting its corner, the author’s indicating that the scene is not meant to be read as a manga, and that reading it as a manga will create an uneven flow; the sentiment is only affirmed by the weird path of the eye following the reappearance of the speed trail. To convey that the first splash should be regarded all at once, Mr. Murata teases the reader by making it appear as though the page should be read as previous pages were—with the speed trail emerging from the entry point of the page—and then betraying that mode of reading as quickly as it’s suggested.
Film critic Roger Ebert has an interesting article interpreting Professor Louis D. Gianetti’s “intrinsic weighting” in film shot composition. He writes that the concept tends to exist independently of whether a culture reads “right to left or top to bottom.” Mr. Murata’s first page becomes much more satisfying when assessed through this lens. Consider Saitama’s placement in the composition’s “positive space,” just right of center; according to Mr. Ebert, a person in this portion of the shot will be more “positive,” or “‘seem’ dominant” compared to a person on the left. Therefore, the artist is suggesting that Saitama is Sonic’s superior, which is emphasized later in the sequence when the “camera” captures the nonchalant expression on his face.
Any page in the sequence and the sequence as a whole may be analyzed through a film perspective, and the result is always more satisfying than analysis through a strict comic book perspective.
My interpretations are tenuous, I admit, and they don’t sufficiently engage intrinsic weighting as a quality that can exist in movies and comics. Still, I think this is a fantastic sequence.
The animation at the end of this photoset is taken from Caramel Swirl.