Reacting and/or Romping Through Manga and Manwha


 color of earth    Naruto 1    Ranma One Half vol 1    Ranma One Half vol 2


Manga and manwha comics offer a variety of features that evoke reactions in the reader.  [Such features appear in two preliminary examples here, and a third title is discussed in more detail.]  In Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth (manwha; 2003), for example, the fine lines, careful textures, and contrasts in visual tone evoke feelings of fascination and compassion.  This first comic in a trilogy tells a poignant story about coming of age, young love, and yearning.  Perhaps less subtle artistically, Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto (manga) series presents the story of Uzumaki Naruto, a rascally young ninja with secret power and a spirited goal.  In Volume 1 (1999), there are varied facial expressions, full-body action, and depictions of struggle within adventure.  Such features evoke empathy (Eisner, 2008, p. 47) for Uzumaki’s no-holds-barred approach, and anticipation and excitement about his actions and reactions.

In Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volumes 1 and 2 (manga; 1993), the main character (Ranma) is a spunky young man whose body hosts the spirit of a girl.  He navigates through martial arts and sports training, arrangements for a bride, high school bullies, fights, sports contests . . . and sex-changes dependent on douses of cold water (instant girl, breasts and all!) or hot (a guy again!).

In the Ranma 1/2 volumes, there are features that evoke reader reactions more conspicuously than do the features in The Color of Earth and Naruto, Volume 1.  Ranma’s hairstyle, for example, is always the same – a fluffy ‘do’ with a distinct braid in the back – regardless of the moment’s gender.  This consistency evokes an “Ahh, there you are!” reaction, and the reader can continue without having to backtrack through Ranma’s transformations.  The prominence of characters with black hair also catches the eye; the reader can effortlessly note their presence and involvement in the story.

Other features in Ranma 1/2 include the books’ endpapers and inside covers; circles of sarcastic pandas introduce comedy and elicit chuckles, and expectations of action ‘literally’ result from a  page devoted to the definition of “action.”  Within the books, predictable panel layouts and black-and-white images are easy to examine (McCloud, 1993, p. 192), supporting expectations for a friendly, unruffled read.

Onomatopoeia is the most provoking feature in the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2.  A plethora of action/sound words appear in a variety of lettering (Eisner, 2008, p. 61), from petite examples (“SNFF SNFF”) to moderate (“TUMP TUMP TUMP”) to bulbous (“PADAPADAPADAPADA”) to page-filling (“YAAAAAA! SHRAKKKKK”).  The reader swirls effortlessly into the story and stays there to ‘hear’ the scuffles and feel the fun of wild, fast-paced action.  The literary ‘icing on the cake’ consists of silly sights here and there, such as a silent panda holding up a sign that says, “Uh-Oh!”

Put together these features of Ranma 1/2, Volumes 1 and 2, and these “madcap” manga comics (Ranma 1/2, n.d., page title) render the reader helpless to resist moving quickly through the pages feeling entertained, amused . . . and wide awake!


Eisner, W. (2008). Graphic storytelling and visual narrative: Principles and practices from the legendary cartoonist. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Kim, D. H. (2003); Na, L. (Translator). The color of earth. New York, NY: First Second.

Kishimoto, M. (1999). Naruto, Volume 1: The tests of the ninja. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York, NY: William Morrow/HarperCollins.

Ranma 1/2: The all-time classic hit series of gender-swapping, species-bending, madcap martial arts mayhem! (n.d.).  Retrieved from the website of VIZ Media at

Takahashi, R. (2002). Ranma 1/2, Volume 1. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

Takahashi, R.; Jones, G. & Thorn, M. [Adaptors]. (2003). Ranma 1/2, Volume 2, Action Edition. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

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