More commentary on Saiyuki's art, volume 5 this time.
Also, can anyone out there come up with a reference for the flower symbolism? I've been spotting repeated flowers, but I have no idea what they are or what they mean, and I really, really, really don't want to find myself making a series-wide index of all the flowers and the situations they're used in, because this series has eaten enough of my life already. Please?
Still haven't read Gaiden or Reload, still will kill you with my brain if you spoil me for them.
On to the discussion.
I'm not going to inline these images, because I don't have anything to say about them except "ooooh, pretty," but I have to post links because they are pretty: chapter art for "Be There " (a.k.a. the handcuff picture; note who isn't fully handcuffed); chapter art for "Be There " (a.k.a. Gojyo looking much prettier than I usually find him) (also available in color (and as an icon!)).
The opening of chapter 25 is kind of interesting. It starts with possibly the most shoujo page in the volume, 5.25.41 (original size):
Again I put out a plea for information on flower symbolism. Other than that, what's to say about this and its shoujo-ness?
Well, it's big and dramatic: the first single-panel page of the volume. It's a bleed.
It's got Cho Gonou—and it is Cho Gonou, note the longer hair—all bloody and sad. The three figures form a tall triangle; the last speech balloon comes atop a burst of pure white, which defines the center of the triangle and also visually emphasizes "He's a mass murderer on the run." Which deserves emphasis, since this is the first time Gojyo's heard that bit of news (and I think the look on his face and the angle of his cigarette indicate some shock).
And yet somehow I find it not very interesting. [*] Possibly because I had to remind myself that Gojyo didn't know what the guy he saved had done, since I knew perfectly well. (This comes back to my slight puzzlement at the placement of this arc, which I intend to go into in the non-art posts. Whenever I get there.)
[*] I am also curiously unmoved by the "Sanzo reads a sutra" pages (5.26.94-95), which seems intended as the big emotional climax of the arc. I think it's because I vaguely expect to see him knocking something over by the force of his voice, which is more comic than moving. I dunno, I'm strange. I did at least notice that it's a parallel layout to finding the castle burnt a few pages earlier (5.26.90-91).
I like 5.25.42, the next page, better (original size):
Gojyo's facing the same way as on the previous page, so when the reader turns the page there's some visual continuity. (He's recovered from the shock, now, also.) He mirrors short-haired probably-former-Gonou (it is ridiculously difficult to decide what the hell to call him during this arc): they're both looking down and off the edges of their respective sides of the page, and they both have their outer eyes obscured. They pivot around Sanzo, the only one looking straight ahead, as he calls bullshit and forces the action. (This page is also more dynamic than the last because it's divided into panels.)
The characters' faces and the speech balloons form two mirror-image triangles. Gojyo and probably-former-Gonou's gazes draw the reader down to the speech balloons below their faces; the reader has to work slightly harder to go up from Sanzo's face and light hair to the speech balloons above him, but only slightly because they stand out against the dark forest. The strict reading order has a lot of zigzags, but the triangles get you almost all of it:
I think I have a fondness for triangles.
Here's a neat trick with panel layouts, 5.25.46 (original size)
This strikes me as highly cinematic in the way the focus gets tighter from panels 1 and 2, to panels 3 and 4, and then zooms back out to show the bullet going past Gojyo and hitting the wall. And yet it's not just cinematic, because the top row gives you the strong impression that they're so upset, they're literally nose-to-nose; the dispelling of that illusion is part of the shock of panel 5. I think you've have to rapidly cut to get that effect in film, and it might not work as well.
Next, a layout that didn't work for me. Here's 5.27.105 (original size):
I initially missed the bottom text in panel two on both my first and second reads, because the stall divider (top outlined in red in the version below) between the different kinds of produce looks kind of like a panel border, and leads right into the next panel's bottom border (also outlined in red at the top). Also, the bottom text doesn't stand out well against the dark fruit.
Finally for page layout stuff, 5.28.136 has an effect that I don't recall noticing before (original size):
The characters' bodies are continued in the borderless panels, but are greyed out, possibly to make their faces and the speech balloons stand out better, or possibly to contrast them with Shangri-La on the right, or both, or something else I'm not thinking of. (That little burst of white next to Dokugakuji's face (and dear me what a name. Cut and paste, baby) both shows surprise and pulls the eye across the page so that the balloons are read in the correct order.)
(I also would like to note that thanks to the black and white art, I had no clue that Kougaiji also had red hair and eyes until later volumes, so I couldn't figure out why he'd care so much, on the next page, that Gojyo was probably sterile.)
After reading Understanding Comics, I decided to try and apply McCloud's characterization of panel transitions to this volume. I spotted one transition that I'd call moment-to-moment, the very funny little bit where probably-former-Gonou tells Gojyo about being in an incestuous relationship (5.25.56):
(The effect isn't the same with the scanlation's text, but the Tokyopop version cracked me up completely.)
Mostly I was looking for what McCloud calls aspect-to-aspect. The examples he gives are kind of successions of related images, and he talks about how they are usually parts of a single moment and establish a mood or a place. I didn't see a lot of that, because it's the rare panel that doesn't have dialogue over it, and as McCloud points out, sound introduces time so these don't feel like a single moment over several panels.
I suppose one could consider aspect-to-aspect the panels that are just objects with continuing conversation over/around them. I didn't get the impression that's exactly what McCloud meant, but it's interesting to note the prevalence of these panels anyway; sometimes they give physical context without cluttering up other panels (food, cards, furniture, those condoms on 5.25.58), and sometimes they emphasize (the eyes in a jar, particularly). The transitions to panels that are just text, plus a tone or flowers, seem to fit McCloud's scheme less well to me, but I don't know how much things have changed since McCloud wrote in 1992. Whatever you call them, reading his classification scheme did help me explicitly notice transitions that weren't action-to-action, subject-to-subject, or scene-to-scene.
As Sanzo remembers an imprisoned Goku calling him, there are these pieces of paper with characters on them, on 5.24.24 (full panel). Any ideas what they are?
Tokyopop didn't translate the symbols on Gojyo's headband in this volume, to my annoyance (I know we've seen a symbol translated somewhere else, but I can't remember which volume now). I think they're all the same, 5.28.131, 5.28.143, and 5.29.175, so here it is from 5.29.175, which is the clearest:
I am still frightened at how I keep finding more to say about these. Volume six won't be until next week at the earliest.