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Kakimoji S.O.S. #16 – Kakimoji are not SFX!?

Enrico Croce Enrico Croce 07/06/2018 7 min read
So you’re well on your way to completing your manga! You’ve paneled it to perfection, your art is on point and you’ve crafted an entertaining story, wrapped around an exciting protagonist… but it’s still missing something… Onomatopoeia, of course! We all know that Kakimoji can turn a static scene into a dynamic, atmospheric feast for the eyes. But how can we let the readers know that a door has been knocked? Or a plate has been smashed?? Or a window even?! Basically, are SOUND EFFECTS different from KAKIMOJI?! …or SFX for you movie buffs out there.

 Ryan Dickey/Flickr 

To answer that question, let’s go back in time to the Dawn of Cinema. During the silent film era, the action on the screen was always accompanied by a live musician or band of musicians to help tell the story. With fast paced scenes, fast paced music. With love scenes, romantic music, and so on. Still, something was missing… Where’s the fun in seeing silent film superstar, Buster Keaton fall through a plate glass window, without the sound of shattering glass? Or laughing along to face full of custard pie with the sound of the “squelch”? Yes, dear readers, the cinema hungry throngs were even hungrier for SOUND EFFECTS!  It was back back in 1913 when the world first experienced “talkies”, or sound tracked films. Not only did the use of recorded sound enhance the viewers experience, it also gave the director an almost limitless scope for crafting entertainment.   

Stefan Schubert, Laurel and Hardy (Flickr)

We take SFX pretty much for granted these days, but what would a Star Wars battle be without that PYU PYU sound? How could we FEEL the awesome power of a transforming Transformer without hearing TUTUTUTUTU? And lest we forget, how could we know of the awesome power generated by Dragon Ball’s Goku, without the powering sounds of FZZ FZZ?! These sounds have now entered the halls of pop culture, forever synonymous with the characters we associate them with. So, are SFX and Kakimoji the same thing? In a word…no. Kakimoji’s role in manga is to be completely integrated into the design on the page, enhancing the action to amazing effect. A misplaced Kakimoji could be devastating, not only in loosing the impact of your scene, but maybe even signaling the death knell of your tankobon! So unlike SFX, Kakimoji are actually characters within themselves. They are used as a final flourish to your manga to help bring color to the scene, or in some cases, if the Kakimoji is strong, they can actually inspire a scene! ***I would love the create a Slum Landlord characters, moving from apartment to apartment accompanied with the Kakimoji “ヤチン” “ヤチン” (“Yachin”, meaning rent in Japanese. But with the added, acute sound of “CHIN” we have a coin reference, so it really fits well with a “IT’S RENT DAY MY FRIEND, PAY UP!”onomatopoeia). 

 Just look at him! Let’s create a manga about this greedy guy! (and yes, I did this all by myself, Penmaru)

Oh, I see… uhuh 

  But there is something both Kakimoji and SFX have in common: without either, the entertainment we love so much, from movies to manga, will loose a vital part of what makes them amazing.    So yes, Kakimoji (onomatopoeia) and SFX might be two completely different elements, one for manga one for movies, but they both aim to achieve the same goal: enhancing the audience experience so you feel like you’re part of the action, rather than a mere spectator.    See you next time for more Kakimoji magic!   CIAO!!
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Enrico Croce

Enrico Croce