What are “manpu”? Anime and manga comic symbols and how to use them right! Part 2

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From sweat drops flying up from characters, to lightning striking all around, anime and manga are full of emotive symbols to make scenes more dramatic and entertaining! You may have seen many of these marks, but would you know exactly when and where to use them in your own work?

Let’s go through more of these symbols, or “manpu” as they’re known in Japanese, so that you can use them with confidence in your work!

Don’t forget to check out part 1 of this feature, where we go through the first 7 “manpu” symbols from our list → Read part 1 here!

Once you’ve caught up, let’s get started with today’s set of manpu!


8 – Vertical “gaaaan!” lines: Shock and disappointment

You’ll see these lines a lot in anime and manga, often accompanied with a “gaaan” sound, the Japanese onomatopoeia for shock and disappointment. These lines can appear either on a character’s head or face, or we might see the whole background fill up with these lines. We usually see the top half of the character’s face turn blue or grey in scenes like this to further express their shocked emotion!


9 – Three lines: Realisation, noticing something

These lines are another common sight in anime and manga, but it might be hard to know exactly what they represent. These lines show that a character has been made aware of something – it can range anywhere from shock/surprise to a simple “oh, hi didn’t see you there”.

These lines always come above or beside the character’s face.


10 – Lightbulb: The “bright idea” mark

This is one that we see in Western comic symbols too, and the meaning is similar. This represents a light going on in the character’s head – they’ve just realised something important, or had a bit of a brainwave!


11 – “Moya moya”: Confusion, unable to understand

This squiggled mark may well represent the character’s tangled thoughts, as they try to process something they can’t understand. Depending on the character’s expression, it can range from confusion and struggling to understand, to being annoyed at someone and being unable to understand or accept what they’re saying. “What’s this guy on about… (sigh)”


12 – Lines on the cheeks : Embarrassed or shy

This is such a common one, it’s likely many anime fans can work it out! These lines help emphasise when a character’s cheeks are red. Whether they’ve seen their crush or they’ve got a fever, these lines will show off your character’s rosy cheeks!


13 – Zzz: Sleeping

Just like in Western comics, the Zzz emote can be used to show when a character is sleeping. You’ll sometimes even a bubble coming from their nose too!


14 – Heart eyes: Love

Whether it’s their love interest, or their favourite food, these heart eyes show that the character’s seen something they love so much they can’t contain themselves!


15 – Dollar eyes: Money on the mind

This is another one that we see in Western comics too. Japan uses Yen as their currency, but we often see dollar signs in the eyes of characters when they have money on their mind! Use these marks to make it clear when a character is thinking about money, or how they could profit from a situation.


16 – Fiery eyes: “Fired up”

You’ll often see this mark when a character is getting fired up or competitive before a contest or sports event. It shows they’re ready to give it their all!


17 – Eyes squeezed shut: Pain/distress or laughter/joy

These super simplified eyes represent the character’s eyes being squeezed shut. The rest of the character’s face will really dictate how the emotion comes across here – a wide smile and happy eyebrows can show uncontrollable joy or laughter, and a sad mouth and eyebrows will show pain, distress or frustration.


18 – Soul sucked out: Various meaning

This little ghostie cloud being sucked out of the character’s mouth represents their soul leaving their body. There’s no one set meaning or situation for this mark, but we use it when the character is in a stupor. Maybe they’re utterly exhausted after a long day, or maybe they’ve had some unbelievable bad luck like losing lots of money or being rejected by their love interest. They’re beyond speaking or moving, and their eyes are usually white to represent how they’re unaware of their surroundings. The “soul” cloud sometime has its own little face, and sometimes is just a plain cloud of smoke.


That brings us to the end of today’s set of “manpu” marks. We’ve got more coming, so watch this space! In the meantime, try using some of these marks in your work to enrich your scenes and make them more “manga” like!

→ Read part 1 here!

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