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KAKI-MOJI S.O.S. – #1 An Introduction to the Art of Visual Noise

Enrico Croce Enrico Croce 22/02/2018 7 min read





Hello readers!!

  That was a LOUD introduction for a such a quiet and humble guy like yours truly. But then, I, Enrico, wanted to kick off this fascinating journey with a BANG….ONOMATOPOEIA style! Sounds are a huge part of visual and audio storytelling, such as movies, podcasts and radio plays. Some say they have a bigger impact on our emotional responses than visual action, making the use of sound an integral part of story telling. An integral part that is impossible in printed media such as manga…or is it?   

  “Onomatopoeia”, is the closest translation we have for the Japanese concept of “Kaki-Moji” (描き文字), the art of drawing sound. By definition, an “onomatopoeia” is:  

“The property of a word of sounding like what it represents.”

  To translate “Kaki-moji” as “Onomatopoeia” is only about 50% accurate, as Kaki-moji represents so much more. Namely, drawing “emotions”, including emotional responses expressed through sounds.  

  Some call it “SFX” (Sound Effects), but then again, this is only half accurate. For lack of better term, we will stick to using “Onomatopoeia” for this series…  

I still need some time to understand this… Let’s see some examples!

  So what is this “emotion expressed through sound”, which are “visually presented as letters”? In most parts of the world, art is art and text is text AND never the twain should meet! The artist draws and the writer writes as sure as the Earth orbits the Sun. But this is Manga, and Manga has evolved in many unique ways. In fact, you could say Manga had its very own “Kopernikanische Wendung”, a heretical revolution that forever changed the way we look at the world of entertainment. A “Manga-lution” if you will! Put simply ;- “Aren’t words better DRAWN, than simply written?”  This was the pioneering moment when SOUND was introduced to the printed page, making manga a series of “movies drawn on paper”…and we couldn’t be more thankful!  

Thanks to Kaki-Moji, a sad Italian guy with simple letters written behind him…



    We at the SMAC! Editorial office are often asked, “what sounds effects should I draw?” We could guide manga creators to the plethora of resources on the web, but that really would spoil the FUN of using kaki-moji! Instead of flicking through a dictionary of endless examples, why not create your own? This is fun and immensely enjoyable way to express emotions and sounds. In fact, many Japanese manga creators often tell me how much fun they have when creating and DRAWING your own onomatopoeia. Just looking at how much enjoyment can be had in creating Kaki-Moji will make what seems like a daunting task infinitely easier!  

That’s why I’m bringing you my series, “KAKI-MOJI S.O.S.”

  I will show you how much fun onomatopoeia is to create and draw each and every week! Taiyo always says, “Manga creators are WIZARDS who cast spells on people with their magical drawing powers”. Kaki-Moji, Onomatopoeia is a brilliant little tool to assist in your magic making. You have unlimited magical powers as a manga creator, so let’s enjoy using your magic, turned up to volume 11! See you next Thursday!   Enrico   Any situations or moments, you’d like me to dig into? Why not tell me your favourite onomatopoeia on Twitter using #kakimojisos!!     Owwwww what’s happening between these two?! Can you read what it says? May be you can SENSE it as visual emotion? Find out in the next episode!!    To keep updated with everything Kaki-moji, manga or anime news, follow me on Twitter @kenrico7    
  Pen-Maru says… What a fun little way to express emotions on my pages!! Maru can’t wait to draw it too!!!
Enrico Croce

Enrico Croce