Time & Motion: Toree Boutz


Page 23 and 24 of Keiji Nakazawa’s graphic novel, Barefoot Gen, Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima (2004, Last Grasp Publications).

In their book, Graphic Design: The New Basics, Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips explain how designers create movement and showing the passage of time, even when working with a 2-dimensional, static medium.


Lupton and Phillips write that motion is created by illustrating change. This notion is demonstrated in many different comics. Specifically, we can see this exemplified in Keiji Nakazawa’s graphic novel, Barefoot Gen, Volume 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima. As readers, we understand that each frame represents some passage of time. We read each frame with the understanding that we are taking in the story as it happens. Nakazawa mostly does this by cropping certain frames close in and breaking some frames up. Some images are also repeated to get us to slow down and focus on them. This is seen on page 24, when Gen is biting down on the official’s hand. We see full shot of both Gen and the man, and then we see a smaller frame of only Gen’s face and the man’s fingers. The way Nakazawa does this slows down the story for us.

Nakazawa overlaps lines and shapes to create motion in her graphic novel. This is seen in the fighting scenes when Gen’s sister slaps the official, and then the official’s assistant hits Gen over the head with a rock. She uses lines to illustrate Gen’s sister’s hand swinging around and spiked shapes to make us feel the abruptness of the hand and rock when they hit their targets.

In this spread specifically, Nakazawa illustrates chaos and the movement of bodies by using design elements in a more literal way that is easily understood by the reader.

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