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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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02/24/2008 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Enchanter, Vol. 6"

Enchanter, Vol. 6
By Izumi Kawachi
Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Tom Good

Characters in Enchanter don't just express themselves with their words, facial expressions, and body language. Some of them even emote with their hair. When Mana is calm and relaxed, her hair is also relaxed and her pigtails hang naturally, drooping slightly toward the floor. This first shot of Mana also shows Izumi Kawachi's special treatment of the eyes of some characters, where one pupil is much more dilated than the other. I discussed this in my previous review of Enchanter 5.

Mana with calm hairThen as Mana gets angry and jealous, her hair starts to change. In this intermediate state (not shown here), her pigtails rise to a more horizontal position, and a few single strands of hair begin to make little spirals that project up and out away from her head. Izumi Kawachi uses this spiral of a single strand of hair with other characters too, as a visual device that usually indicates a character's embarrassment or discomfort.

And finally, we see Mana's hair in full anger mode. Like a startled cat puffing out its fur, she has made her hair stand out in a spiky, forbidding pattern. Her pigtails have risen above horizontal to a diagonal position that suggests the horns of a demon, and the spiral strand of hair appears at the upper right of her head.

Mana with angry hairThe whole transformation is a wonderful effect, one that comics can produce effortlessly, but is rarely seen in, say, a live-action movie or stage production. Though special effects could produce this effect with live actors, it would usually seem too over-the-top. But readers of comics accept and enjoy this convention where emotional reactions become physically embodied.

I suppose it is debatable whether or not this sort of effect "really" happens in the world of the story, or whether it is an effect that only the reader can see. To take a more straightforward example, consider the convention in American cartoons where a light bulb above a character's head indicates that she has just had a new idea. Does the the light bulb really exist in the world of the story? If the character looked up, would she see it? If she reached above her head, could she touch it? Can other characters in the story also see it?

In the case of the light bulb symbol, I tend to think that the answer to all these questions is generally no. The light bulb is a kind of symbolic overlay for the reader, and the characters cannot see it, just like they would not bump their heads on the word balloons, or look over and read the chapter titles. However, the Enchanter hair effects seem much more real. When I see them, I do think these are physical events that the characters are aware of.

These kinds of details in the art make Enchanter a lot of fun to read. It's a series that I keep liking more and more, and I recommend it.

Previously at J LHLS:

Enchanter, vol 1, Tom Good

Enchanter, vol 3, Tom Good

Enchanter, vol 4, Tom Good

Enchanter, vol 5, Tom Good

Interview with Izumi Kawachi, creator of "Enchanter", Ginger Mayerson at Anime Expo, 2006

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