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Japan's Most Popular Manga is "4koma" – "Ki-sho-Ten-ketsu" 2 – Japanese Manga 101 #050

Taiyo Nakashima Taiyo Nakashima 26/08/2016 7 min read
Last time, we talked about “Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu”. The 4 part construction method, originating from Chinese poems that became the absolute foundation of Japanese Manga. Today we are looking at it with actual examples!   jm101_50_01   The origin of today’s Japanese comic style, Manga, is said to have originated in the 1800, the Edo period. Named after a master painter, “Hokusai Manga” is a series of books that resembles today’s manga style, the pages are divided into panels, with dialogues in each panel. Japan had a rather solitary time back then, then the westerners arrived in Japan bringing them with exciting new technologies, as well as cultural influences like books and comic strips.. Those were a great inspiration for the Japanese creators of the time. And it was in 1920, when a peculiar style of manga was born. And there was a national hit manga in that style, one hit title after another. That is “4koma”, the 4 panels manga style. Even today, every major newspaper has a daily 4 koma series right at the top. There are also Manga magazine that solely focus on 4 koma, the 4 panel manga only.   jm101_50_02   Did you know the most popular, longest running Anime series in Japan? It’s this, “SAZAE-SAN”. sazae-san The anime is the most well known, but it’s adapted from the four panel original. Four panel manga, so the oldest format, yet the most loved. Why is it so so popular? It’s because the set of 4 panels is “Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu” 4 part construction in Action! This, is a four panel piece by our masterclass senpai, Mikko Rassinna sensei. Let’s look at each of the panels, how story is constructed.

Introduction Development Twist Conclusion

<Detailed explanation> KI “Introduction” – Show the environment, the characters are in. jm101_50_06   SHO “Development” – Something develops in that environment, building anticipation. jm101_50_07   TEN “Twist” – A surprising twist, drawing in readers interest, the CLIMAX jm101_50_08   KETSU “Conclusion” – What’s expected from SHO, with unexpected TEN, leading to a unified conclusion. jm101_50_09 To make it easier to feel and understand, let’s focus on “reader’s change of emotion”.

<Reader’s reaction> Intro – Oh, so this is how a story begins.

Development – So this is how, the story will go on…

Twist – Oh the Climax Whaaat? Oh my what’s gonna happen?

Conclusion – Aha! So that’s how it is. Haha that was fun! This four panel manga is a classic four part construction executed brilliantly!

The important point we’d like you to pay attention to is the importance of the “TWIST” panel. Because something “Unexpected” happens, as a twisted extension of “the Expected” from previous development, it works as a great anticipation builder, rather than just some random shocker events.

  jm101_50_04   Because the reader doesn’t know how it will conclude, the built-up momentum of anticipation is used to max effect in the conclusion panel. Tease the reader and build up max anticipation, then turn that momentum into one big smile. The greatest joy of 4 koma manga may be in the technique of “Teasing”, that builds anticipation. GOT IT? So the wonderful world of 4 koma manga. Our manga god, Osamu Tezuka once said,
“4 koma manga, is the foundation of plotting out a long story manga”
In a nutshell, that means no matter how long the story, think of it as long four panel manga. If it’s a 32 page piece, think of it as 4 separate parts. That is Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu.   jm101_50_05   Film big-shots like Akira Kurosawa, who is said to had an influence on great creators such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, has also said the same thing. He used the same “four part construction theorem” Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu for every one of his films. Next week, we’ll look at not only the all time masters, but also the how nearly all Pro manga creators utilised 4 koma format, the four part construction to create much longer stories.
Taiyo Nakashima

Taiyo Nakashima