Act-age: Master of White Space

White space? Well, it’s not always “white”, but that’s what you can call it.

White space is that…well, space…that’s got nothing on it. When learning how to make a basic website years ago, I ended up taking this away as a critical factor for design in general.

What’s that gotta do with Act-age?

I noticed, while reading the first chapter in anticipation for reading this post, Act-age has a rather distinct way of using white space in order to utilise the fact Shonen Jump in all its incarnations (except Manga Plus, which only shows a page at a time) is a publication involving two pages side-by-side.

Sidebar: I mention the one-page vs. two-page thing because comfortable reading via a phone app is more easily facilitated by having the former, so making a choice between the two options for formats that can handle two pages (such as using a manga viewer on a computer) is critical to the immersion.

This is the set of panels that made me realise Act-age utilises the double-page spread. Notice the blank panel with the gradient that takes up most of the left side. (Image source: Act-age ch. 1)

Certainly, Shonen Jump mangaka are some of the best at using this layout – they’re not some of the best-selling manga ever for nothing. You’re also probably rolling your eyes and going, “So what? You just keep stating the obvious.” Act-age made me realise it’s a lot harder to get basic white space to work for a mangaka, the same way badly-done amateur scanlations (and even tiny font in professional work!) taught me to be careful with font choices and speech bubbles. Certainly, I’m not a mangaka or even an aspiring one – but given the fact I could use my translation skills to do the entire manga translation package with enough practice, I have to pay attention to this stuff.

Furthermore, in Weekly Shonen Jump in particular, seeing a female protagonist is definitely cause for celebration. However, the exact set-up of Akira and Kei, a generically pretty actor and actress pair, makes me wonder (and possibly even worry) if there might be some kind of romantic plotline later on…(“Romance on the set” is such a cliche, so I’d be disappointed if the series ever stooped so low.)

Well, it’s not all praise from me about Act-age. There’s a page with a chevron design, which makes it unclear which way to read since the eye is directed downwards but the rest of the chapter’s pages start with reading right to left at the top, making it a bit of a jolt to suddenly change directions. Not only that, but one of the points of the chevron has the name “Kuroyama”. At this point, you don’t know who Kuroyama is, but this is because he’ll introduce himself by the end of the chapter – you don’t know you’re looking for such a thing until the change in directions occurs. (Come to think of it, I intended for this comment about the mention of Kuroyama to be taken as a criticism for the panel layout, but depending on how you look at it, it could be taken as a roundabout bit of praise…?)

The aforementioned “chevron”. (Image source: Act-age ch. 1)

Sidebar 2: Act-age is, according to the katakana (アクタージュ), pronounced “ak-taa-ju” and not as two separate words. As to what the title means…even I don’t know. Sorry.

I’m far from caught up on Act-age, but deliberately going out of my comfort zone to write about a manga I might never touch again is a bit of an interesting thought exercise, because it gives you a sense of professional detachment from the series.

So what did you think about this first chapter, even though it was released about a year ago? Please don’t spoil the rest of the series if you’ve read more than the first chapter though!







5 thoughts on “Act-age: Master of White Space

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      1. It is. Every now and again, I’ve been picking up 100 Bullets, which is an American comic. They have this really fascinating lay out style that ignores framing entirely. At least from what I remember.

        So I can understand it’s interesting to think why the artist chose to use blank space there.

        Liked by 1 person

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