Up to volume 7 of Saiyuki, and this time I'm going to focus on characterization, because I noticed a few things about body language that brought the topic to mind, and because I don't want to repeat myself. (There are two page-layout items below the cut, but only two.)
Spoilers, of course, for volume 7. Still haven't read Reload, so no spoilers please; have read Gaiden (hence the gratuitous icon), but a lack of spoilers for that would also be appreciated.
Images are from the scanlations; the ones on the page have been saved at 50% quality to reduce their size, but the "characterization" images have been scaled down to 50% size, rather than my usual 33%. Click on images for a full-sized version. Page citation convention: volume.chapter.page (Tokyopop editions).
Two quick page layout things
I know, I know, you're all sick of hearing about Minekura's page layout. I will be brief.
By zig-zagging the black speech balloons on the right, the layout creates a kind of beat as the reader lands on each one. If the faces were all lined up on one side, the reader would pause less at each panel, diluting the emphasis. At the bottom of the page, my eye runs straight across rather than up, which I suspect was intended; however, it doesn't matter, because the two speech balloons on the left side of the page can be read in either order.
The red lines of doom appear below, highlighting the way that the speech balloons draw your eyes across the characters' faces (even providing the reader with A Clue at the same time, not that you can see it at this size, probably).
7.40.114 is a layout that might be trying for a thematic transition, but ended up confusing me:
At the top, there's a big speech balloon that's Kinkaku speaking, the continuation of a speech from the prior page. Then at the bottom of the same panel, there's an overlapping speech balloon that starts out (in the Tokyopop edition) "My brother and I"—but that's not Kinkaku talking as I first thought, because after I finished the reading the speech balloons, my eye came to the foot and skull, making it clear that we've moved to the gourd and it's Ginkaku talking. The gutter is also a standard width, which added to my wrong impression. This confusion between the twins might have been intentional, but if so I'm missing the reason, since they aren't currently aligned in interest, as it were.
Right, enough of that for now. On to:
Volume 7 draws heavy parallels between Gojyo and Kinkaku, which is what started me thinking about characterization through art and how I'd not talked about it so far. Our first Gojyo-Kinkaku parallel of the volume is on 7.37.20, where Kinkaku says that he didn't do anything and Gojyo flashes back to his younger self:
The present-day panel has speed-lines and a close-up, while the flashback panel is still and quiet, but even without the similar text, you can tell that a parallel's being drawn by the postures. And then, three pages later on 7.37.23, Gojyo's just been punched in the face by Sanzo, who yells at him over the first two panels:
And Gojyo reacts by going into the same posture as his younger self, along with a very meek verbal response. (Sanzo, to his credit, realizes that things are very wrong and stops yelling. The next two panels show this lessening of tension by moving from Sanzo's turned-away face to his feet.)
On a more general note, my impression of Gojyo's body language from browsing this volume is that it tends to be very loose and take up a lot of space (which increases the wrongness of his reaction above). For instance, on 7.39.95, he and Sanzo are recovering after he's pulled Sanzo up a cliff:
Gojyo's sprawled out to catch his breath, while Sanzo . . . is not. Sanzo, as befitting his character, tends to be much more self-contained in his postures; he doesn't take up as much space, but it's his space and he won't hesitate to shove
Gojyo people away who invade his personal space—by leaning over his shoulder, for instance.
Gojyo likes to lean over shoulders and does it a lot, such as on 7.41.176, a page that sums up the four of them nicely:
Sanzo's face and the position of his hand are tight and controlled (it's hard to tell with the speech balloon, but I fancy that the cigarette-smoking is almost disdainful); Goku's face and body language broadcast his feelings for all the world to see; Gojyo leans over Hakkai; and Hakkai is arms-crossed reserved with a piercing look thrown in as a bonus. Also, I don't think it's a coincidence that Gojyo has his hair tied back here after the encounter with Kami-sama, much like the style in the 7.37.20 flashback.
Oh yeah, this is the volume with the one-time change Gojyo's headband, where the symbol says "kill" (per Tokyopop on 7.38.51) rather than the usual "pleasure." It's a joke, an indication of the focus on Gojyo in this volume, and another resonance with the twins.
What about Hakkai & Goku? There's a three-page sequence just after they awake in the gourd that caught my eye with a repetition of Goku's facial expression, and it's not a bad example for both of their characterizations.
Here's 7.38.58; panel two is the Goku expression that will be repeated two pages later. Panel four has Goku bouncing up and down in agitation, while panels one and three show Hakkai's tendency to rounded shoulders, in line with his generally self-effacing presentation.
The first panel of the next page, 7.38.59, is another good example of their body language, with Goku's outflung arms and Hakkai's hands in pockets:
The last panel is also an interesting transition to the next page; the importance of its text is signalled by all the space, which is filled with a tone rather than the gourd's background. However, because of the width of the shot, there's little realistic detail in the faces. In contrast, the first panel of the next page, Goku's face is depicted more realistically than anywhere else on these three pages, to emphasize his seriousness:
The repetition I noticed was in the last panel of the above page; it's very similar to panel two of the first page of the sequence, showing Goku from the left side with big eyes and his mouth all on one side with no lips. Only the emotion is different, and that difference stands out because of the repetition.
(I also like the relative positions of Gojyo and Sanzo in Hakkai's little fantasy about the two of them by themselves; you just know Gojyo's about to lean over Sanzo and say something lewd.)
And just for reference, here's the only glimpse of Hakkai's youkai form in Saiyuki on 7.39.91 (the ivy is much more stylized than the ivy I mentioned in the volume 4 post, which makes me wonder if it really was a reference):
I am grateful for the little highlights around his limiters falling, because I needed them the first time I read this. (I realize that putting them in his pocket wouldn't have been as dramatic, but I can't help but think that it would have made more sense.)
And because it's cute as well as a good illustration of Hakkai's usual curled-in posture, here he is after replacing his limiters on 7.39.103:
I wonder if I'll still find stuff to talk about when I re-read volumes 8 and 9 . . . Does anyone have any suggestions or requests for topics?