Sunday, April 03, 2005


In a comment to a post of Chris Butcher's discussing the issue of unflipped vs. flipped manga (via Irresponsible Pictures), Will Allison gives some potent arguments in favor of unflipped. (For those uninitiated into manga, "flipped" manga refers to translated manga in which the artwork has been mirror-reversed so that it will advance from left to right, as American comics do. At one time all, or virtually all, manga translated into English was flipped, but now at least 90% is unflipped.) Allison's post is too good to languish in a comment thread, so I'm taking the liberty of reproducing it here:

"I used to be a "flipped-manga" guy, to avoid the "zig-zag" effect of reading left-to-right text on a right-to-left page. But now, I'm an "unflipped" guy all the way. You want to know why?

I had to work on "Super Manga Blast".

... Pat Duke was the lead on that project, and the finished pages wound up looking fantastic.

But I noticed a couple of things while working on it. First, the subtle art distortion that every series suffered when flipped. It was like making a picture of your face using only one half: it looks like a face, but it doesn't look like you.

Second, I never realized just how much redrawing was needed to flip a manga. Word balloons had to be resized, signs had to be reversed... effects that took up a certain amount of space in Japanese took up less space in English, and all the negative space had to be filled in. It's not something I could quantify, but there was significant redrawing in every panel of SMB that I worked on.

That's why I'm for unflipped. The reading zig-zag is a small price to pay for the benefits of integrated artwork." [Ellipsis in 5th paragraph Allison's.]

In another comment, also well worth reading, Allison makes the cogent observation that "it's not the right-to-left that makes so many of these manga seem half-translated and half-baked, it's the crappy translation and production." (The allusion is to Bill Randall's claim, in the article that touched off this current round of discussion, that "Un-flipped manga is at best a half-translation.")

I plan to post some comments of my own on unflipped vs. flipped manga eventually, but I wanted to at least get this up for now.

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