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Old 29-04-2012, 01:44 PM   #1
Hoshii
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Default Japanese SFX for Visual Effect

Hello, long time no see sweatdrop!
I promise this is not just another SFX thread, I've searched and read through several here, but I have a rather specific question that I'm keen to discuss with you all!

In short:
How do you feel about the careful use of Japanese SFX (written in Japanese) for it's aesthetic value alone? (Not trying to actually communicate sound to your English speaking readers).


What I mean by this is not that all of the sound effects should be written in Japanese, and certainly not that most important sound effects should be written in Japanese!

If you use English sound effects where sound needs to be conveyed to the reader, is it okay to also use Japanese sound effects for visual effect in some places too?

An example would be a scene where something is happening out of sight, and the sound effect indicates that something and what thing has happened. This should be written in English as you're trying to communicate a souind.
However a scene where someone is being punched dramatically into the sky, along with the impact and speed lines, have some scribbley katakana for a punching sound for visual effect (a kind of reference or even visual gag to real Japanese manga), because we all know what a punch sounds like so there's no need to actually include a sound effect other than 'for effect', and the majority of your readers will know the kind of panel you're referencing from real Japanese manga.

Although just to point out that I do think that if your work is based outside of Japan, and you aren't parodying Japanese culture at all, it's really not necessary to include Japanese SFX.

Should it be acceptable for an artist to use Japanese SFX as a decision they have thoroughly thought through*, or should they never ever use Japanese SFX?
*I really want to emphasise I'm not saying use them everywhere willy nilly, but where it would potentially add something aesthetically to the work.


(Backstory):
The reason I wanted to bring this up is because I love the really exaggerated Cool Japan culture and wanted my creations to really parody that (for example, everyone in sailor suits), and I felt that Japanese sound effects in certain places would really add to the visual feel of the work.
However I had a week long discussion in a forum with someone who insisted that as soon as I use a SFX I must be trying to convey sound in a way nobody can read, and I can't simply use it for visual effect. I was happy to listen to their points but it quickly became pages of them literally insulting me in every way they could, so it was impossible to actually find out their reasons, or explain mine.
Hence I am now here, hoping to talk to you lovely, much nicer people XD
Civilised discussion FTW!
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Old 29-04-2012, 05:17 PM   #2
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I on the other hand have not read a single thread about SFX here, so if I end up repeating somebody else, I apologize XD I'm not sure if I can answer these questions individually as they all seem to merge together, so I'll just ... write.

The reason Japanese SFX is Japanese is because the manga is drawn in Japan where people can read Japanese. So... it kinda makes sense. If I'm wrong somewhere then please enlighten me because I'm not Japanese and have never been to Japan. I'm just saying what seems reasonable :>

The point that I'm trying to make is that the SFX is in there to create sound effects in the manga. Sound isn't possible in images, so any onomatopoeic words help especially if you're actually able to read it. For us in the UK, the best option is to go for English. Now, when I think of BOOM and KNOCK, I think of bold, rather unattractive and obtrusive words in red and yellow completely ruining the atmosphere of the panel, as seen in old western comics. I think that's one of the reasons why people are drawn more towards Japanese SFX - they are drawn so well that they actually merge into the picture and doesn't stop the reader from being immersed in the story, unlike the western counterpart >:T

How to fix this? Play with your hand writing. You don't need to express every single English SFX in nasty block capitals. Look at websites and explore the many varieties of fonts you could potentially use which not only help the reader understand what the sound is meant to sound like in English, but it also looks aesthetically attractive. Japanese characters are essentially strokes on paper. And so is the alphabet. You just have to focus on making the alphabet more arty and thus you get the best of both worlds!

You don't even have to use complete words like Knock Knock Knock. You can use Ta ta ta! Listen to noises. Forget about what the conventional word would be for them. Maybe the noise does indeed sound like Swoosh so you can draw in Swoosh, but then again, maaaaaaybe you could find just a little aspect which most people overlook. You never know what you will discover!

Personally though, I would never mix English SFX with Japanese SFX. It's for the sake of consistency - the reader has to be comfortable with reading and not have to always flick back and forth confused about what the dominant language is. Also, if you don't know the language, it's probably not best to pretend that you do. I don't know about Japanese, but for Chinese lettering, there is a certain way that you have to draw the strokes. If you put emphasis on the wrong bits, you may have a mistake which, not only would you never have intended, but would never ever see until it's too late and embarrassing. That or it just looks plain rubbish ._.

If you want proper visual effects, there a plenty of visual effects out there. Speedlines, dots, sweatdrops, gradients, alternative types of shading, even the panel shapes! For the flying punch I probably would add a lot of speed lines and a few dust clouds trailing behind the victim. Maybe a 'weeeeeeeeeee' noise as the character is flung across the page too.

There are no rules though in art, just there are ways which work better than others. We can give you advice but in the end, you are the artist, so you do what your judgement says is best, and do what you CAN do best! Good luck!
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Old 29-04-2012, 08:02 PM   #3
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Thanks for your response, yes it's a bit more general than what I was looking for but you got those points out of the way so that's good
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katja View Post
Sound isn't possible in images, so any onomatopoeic words help especially if you're actually able to read it. For us in the UK, the best option is to go for English
Yes, I agree, in all cases where you are trying to convey sound, best to write those sounds in the language your readership speaks, but for the purpose of this thread: What when you're not trying to actually convey sound at all? Sound effects there not because a sound needs to be expressed, but because a sound effect in that panel would add to the appearance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katja View Post
How to fix this? Play with your hand writing. You don't need to express every single English SFX in nasty block capitals.
Yes! For sure, make English sound effects look nice like Japanese ones, rather than the 'big nasty block capitals' we think of in super hero comics, and like the Beano.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katja View Post
Also, if you don't know the language, it's probably not best to pretend that you do.
Oh my goodness yes, please don't fill comics with Japanese lettering when you don't actually know the language.
In my own case, I know enough to feel confident doing it, and have people I can double check with.

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Originally Posted by Katja View Post
Personally though, I would never mix English SFX with Japanese SFX. It's for the sake of consistency - the reader has to be comfortable with reading and not have to always flick back and forth confused about what the dominant language is.
Now this is more the point I wanted to discuss
I'd hope that the dominant language would be obvious with the majority of SFX in English, as well as all of the speech, but I guess it would really throw some people?
I got the impression, from my discussions with people over the last week, that some people just can't stand to see Japanese in an English comic, even if it's just the one panel in the entire thing, so I guess those people would always be very uncomfortable with it.

I have to wonder though, is being uncomfortable at the sight of a Japanese SFX really so common?
Would a SFX as a visual gag not work because it's hard for people to get their heads around Japanese letters being presenting to them, even in passing?
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Old 29-04-2012, 09:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoshii View Post
I have to wonder though, is being uncomfortable at the sight of a Japanese SFX really so common?
In one sense, yes. When I read a comic, my brain processes text and visuals at the same time. A bit of text I can't read will jerk me out of 'story' mode and into 'calculation' mode as I try and work out what it means. It happens automatically - it's not something I control. FWIW, a typo does exactly the same thing (and is why I recommend multiple proofreaders!).

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Originally Posted by Hoshii View Post
Would a SFX as a visual gag not work because it's hard for people to get their heads around Japanese letters being presenting to them, even in passing?
In your original posts, you said you were trying to parody a Japanese style. Without having read your comic, I can't really say, but I do think a parody is the only place you could legitimately use a foreign language in a comic without a translation. Just as it's not normal for schoolchildren in this country to wear sailor suits, it's not normal to use Japanese sound effects - but both could be utilised for a parody. But I haven't seen your comic so I can't actually say, sorry. I think it would be quite comic-specific.
EDIT: And bear in mind, that kind of parodying reduces your audience - even if just for that gag - to those who have the requisite experience.
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Old 29-04-2012, 10:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun Kitten View Post
In one sense, yes. When I read a comic, my brain processes text and visuals at the same time. A bit of text I can't read will jerk me out of 'story' mode and into 'calculation' mode as I try and work out what it means. It happens automatically - it's not something I control. FWIW, a typo does exactly the same thing (and is why I recommend multiple proofreaders!).
Ah, yes yes I understand
I see how it would snap someone out of the almost meditative state one gets in when reading a good comic, if they see something out of the ordinary, such as a character with a randomly awkward facial expression, or a man in a modern suit in a story based in ancient Japan... actually it's tempting to do that in the background just for kicks, but it'd be something I'd definitely have to decide "Do I want to pull people out of the story just for this gag?", and if I felt the answer was yes I could make that as an informed decision.
Definitely something to deeply consider when doing that kind of gag.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sun Kitten View Post
In your original posts, you said you were trying to parody a Japanese style. Without having read your comic, I can't really say, but I do think a parody is the only place you could legitimately use a foreign language in a comic without a translation. Just as it's not normal for schoolchildren in this country to wear sailor suits, it's not normal to use Japanese sound effects - but both could be utilised for a parody. But I haven't seen your comic so I can't actually say, sorry. I think it would be quite comic-specific.
EDIT: And bear in mind, that kind of parodying reduces your audience - even if just for that gag - to those who have the requisite experience.
I think minor visual parodies probably limit the audience anyway, considering what you said about jerking out of reading mode, not everyone would appreciate, let alone laugh about, a gag that pulls someone out of the story world.
Actually, to be honest there are some anime that have really annoyed me for constantly doing things like that, but there are others that I have really enjoyed, I think the ones that annoy me are when it's trying to be a very serious story.
I guess the whole context of the manga would have to be a gag story for it to work.

Also, yes, I realise my comic idea is pretty specific, I'm not worried about limiting my audience as much as being charged down by some angry small-press enthusiasts for daring to include Japanese text ^^;;
It tends to come across that way.

(I haven't actually written anything yet, but there are a few ideas swirling around my head!)

Thanks for your insight~!
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Old 29-04-2012, 10:37 PM   #6
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Well I guess most of my points are out of the way, I can narrow down on things.

Like I said, I will never mix English SFX with Japanese SFX.

I am currently flicking through a manga with both types of SFX. Swan Vol. 3, by Ariyoshi Kyoko just in case you're interested. It's the manga I refer to most when I need help on my own. I see the English SFX, and I hear exactly what I'm meant to hear, and I completely understand what the manga wants to portray. As soon as I see the Japanese SFX, I don't have a clue what is going on. I don't know Japanese so they're just lines. Even if they have completely different sounds, I wouldn't know; they're just pretty lines on the page which don't contribute anything at all and just take up space. I can accept this though because I know this is a manga from Japan. It does also jerk the reader out of concentrating on the story '-huh? I can't read this- oh - it's Japanese .... oh...'

So, Japanese SFX has no effect on me. But is it purely the English SFX which immerses me in the manga? Nope. What really gets me emotionally, and what I'm usually looking for when reading through this are the backgrounds of the panels. It's the squiggly lines illustrating the sickness of a character, the sharp white explosions on a black surface showing snappy, harsh, shocking emotions, those stippled bubbles when the main character is in a happy dreamy state. You don't need sound effects for those. Those patterns/screentones/backgrounds are so clear in their emotion that you can - or at least I can - hear a sort of soundtrack/noise which *would* be there, if the manga was an anime. The way you apply images on paper make all the difference to the overall presentation of the piece. Swan's artwork is so dramatic that you can easily be swept up in the emotions. I get all teary eyed every single time I read that volume. THey're much more effective than SFX in a language I wouldn't stand a chance at guessing.

Image composition is good too. If you can capture a calm scene, it's easy to tell if it is silent. If something is filled with action, those speed lines speak for itself - literally, if you will. I guess you just have to be more dramatic about things.

I don't know how familiar you are with music or synaesthesia but if you want to take up space with sound-effects-which-are-not-sound-effects, listening to the timbre of music and imagining how you would draw them could give you a few inspirations.

I what I'm saying is 'Drop sound effects if they're not even used for sound, and concentrate of what already exists as visual effects'
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Old 30-04-2012, 12:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katja View Post
I what I'm saying is 'Drop sound effects if they're not even used for sound, and concentrate of what already exists as visual effects'
I think the logic here would be that they're not being used for sound (although that's their original purpose in Japanese), they're being used to make a joke. It's like those comics where a character grabs a speech bubble by the tail - I'm afraid I can't think of one or find one off-hand, but I have seen them. It's a slightly fourth-wall-breaking visual gag, the use of something out of its context, to make a joke.
It won't work for everyone, of course, but that's always the worry with a joke.
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Old 30-04-2012, 07:22 AM   #8
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Hmm... I'm trying to visualize what you're trying to say ... I kinda get where you're coming from though I can't think of any specific examples. Ack sorry I didn't get it sooner! Anyway I've said my piece, even if it's aimed at a different genre :P

If the whole thing is for a gag ... even then I don't think flipping languages would work, but I can't say for sure until I see it in action . You know what you're trying to do, and obviously I've missed the point XD I think visual demonstrations would be useful and that's probably the best basis for me to form an opinion. Never know until you try =/

Still, if the whole manga is blatantly a parody then readers should be able to take a joke...
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Old 30-04-2012, 08:52 PM   #9
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Spoiler: Katakana is used for emphasis, and so IS "big nasty block capitals" to Japanese readers XD. I don't see why you'd not want to use block capitals for dramatic effects, for instance explosions, though.

Anyway I have actually seen a few Japanese comics that use "sound effects" for things that don't actually have sounds, such as a mess, or the fact somebody is tall XD. Black Butler is full of it, and early Bakuman volumes have some "loom"-ing people to emphasise the "small" feeling of the characters who are trying to get into the manga industry while they are still at school.
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