I was going to have an "art" section in the whopping big Saiyuki post, but decided to break that out into multiple posts so that I could inline the images without killing people's connections. No deep thoughts here, just stuff I noticed in re-reading volumes 1-3, from an incredibly newbie perspective. Spoilers, naturally, particularly for volume 3. Also, I'm trying not to repeat things said by coffeeandink's three posts on Saiyuki, or telophase's Manga Analysis series post, or snowyheart's grid structure post, because they said it better and more helpfully.
Finally, I haven't read Reload or Gaiden yet. Do not spoil me for those volumes, or I will kill you with my brain.
Page numbering convention (which I, umm, made up): volume.chapter.page. All images are from the scanlations.
Someone, possibly coffeeandink, remarked that Minekura's art style improves over time. I hadn't realized it, but going back to volume 1 really makes it clear how this is true. I mostly noticed it in the faces, which are somewhat weirdly pointy around the jaws. Consider Gojyo and Hakkai in the prologue (1.0.28):
By the end of volume 3, there is still some pointiness, but it's getting better (3.17.184-185):
The other character thing I want to remark on in these volumes is on 2.6.17, where we see little baby Gokus scampering about the text balloons, I believe to indicate who's talking (as if it weren't obvious). This is the only time we see this technique in these first three volumes, at least. I find it a little cute for my tastes.
You've already read the links above the cut, right? Right.
When I first starting reading Saiyuki, I paid a lot of attention to panel flow and direction. Mostly I had no problems with this, which is why 1.1.54 gave me such trouble, and continued to do so on re-read (original size):
As far as I can tell, the most natural path for your eye on this page is . . . a circle, which was disorienting for me when I was trying so hard to remember to read right-to-left. I've marked it up below to show what I mean:
*shrug* A minor point, but one that caught my eye.
Here's something that's so basic that I'm almost embarassed to mention it, but everyone knows I'm a manga newbie. I found myself surprised at how easily that I picked up the right-to-left—but more than that, at how easily I didn't keep going right-to-left when I was supposed to drop down a line, even though the drop came before the edge of the page. I realized that Minekura (and probably everyone else) makes this easy by using the panel edges as cues and barriers. Here's a better example edited shortly after posting (2.6.39) (original size):
Instead of going across the top to "She's not thinking, right?", my eye follows the path drawn in red, because the panel edges (highlighted in blue) automatically redirect my eye. Like this:
Also note how the speech ballons draw the eye in the right direction. Like I said, so very basic that I almost didn't mention it.
Other panel flow things:
One of my favorite layouts in volume two is this double-page spread (2.9.114-115) (original size):
I first noticed the way that Hakkai and Kougaiji's eyes meet, and the way that the connection pops off the page, even with all the other things going on. Then I noticed how the sword to the right of Hakkai sets up a line that's followed through in Hakkai's eyes and the mountains in the background; and how Kougaiji's leap sets up the other two sides of a triangle, with his legs and Hakkai's head, like so:
I dunno, I just think it's neat.
Oh, speaking of panel layouts—we all know that Minekura loves the two-panels-across, one-person-per-panel thing, yes? For parallelism, emotional emphasis, or other punctuation? Okay. There are so many examples of these that I'm afraid to start on that for fear I'd never finish.
Foregrounds and backgrounds:
telophase pointed out the use of "tones", and thanks to her post, I noticed that Minekura really makes a lot of use of tones of a wide variety. Here are four examples from within just six pages of one chapter (3.12.24, 3.12.26, 3.12.29, and 3.12.30):
This is a slightly different use of tones: the people in the foreground aren't interesting, so they're faded out (2.8.78):
Finally, and again this is so basic I hate to mention it, but I liked the occasional use of backgrounds that had different events than the foregrounded panels. Sometimes this is to show other locations in the present (2.6.9) (original size):
But more (and more interestingly), it seems, it's used to indicate events that the foregrounded character is thinking of, like when Goku flashes back to Gaiden (presumably; remember, I haven't read it yet) and then goes beserk (3.12.13) (original size):
Or the last scene between Sanzo and Rikudo (3.14.91) (original size):
It takes a little more parsing for me as a reader, because I have to notice that we're not progressing linearly between panels any more, but it's worth it.
And . . . that's it. Hope I haven't embarrassed myself too much.
9:58: okay, I'm done having better ideas about the images and formatting and such. Sorry if anyone was reading during the edits.