Comic Panel Slow Read #33
From Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano
As a (mostly) daily exercise for 2017, I’m trying to slow down my reading and look deeply at one particular panel of a comic for about 15 minutes in order to really study its construction.
This is quiet but disturbing horror story contains a lot of beautiful scenes like this showing conversations that manage to be both intimate and impersonal at the same time. The man and woman here are two teachers talking in an empty classroom and, unbeknownst to both them and the reader at this point, there are two children hiding under the desk, eavesdropping. Asano frames this panel (as well as the subsequent ones in this scene) in a way that makes the reader an eavesdropper as well. We’re watching them from behind at a slight distance. We can’t get a good look at their faces while they’re talking. Even though the woman is doing all the talking, the word balloons on the right float confusingly without a pointer to let us know for sure, at first, it is her (it’s not clear if this is a mistake or something Asano has done on purpose).
I love how the two figures are positioned. The little bit of light that paints his edge from his shoulder on up to this ear separates the two figures. We see just enough of her face to understand the effect her story has on her as she tells it, but he is a complete unknown to us at this point. Is he even looking at her? They’re standing close enough to each other to touch and her pose seems submissive but we don’t know yet how he is reacting to her at all. His posture gives us no clues. He is stiff and rigid like the grid of windows behind them or the phallic legs of the chairs that are pointing straight up.
Asano uses a lot of photography in this book for backgrounds and objects, sometimes traced to integrate with his drawings, sometimes just placed in digitally. Perhaps not so much in this panel, though, unless with the frames of the windows which have a very photorealistic light and shadow on them. He uses very fine halftone dots for the gray tones and achieves a really pleasing balance of light and dark in this panel between the subtle gradient of tone in the shirt against the stark white outside the windows.