Recommended Watch: Anime’s Hidden Four-Act Story Structure (kishoutenketsu)

Title: Anime’s Hidden Four Act Story Structure | Source:

I’ve been learning more about Japanese narrative forms lately. This idea was something introduced to me by a professor, and I’ve been looking into it a lot more as I write a paper on the difference between Japanese manga heroes and American comic heroes (which is hard to summarize, but let’s leave it at that for now).

The kishoutenketsu is a narrative form that actually comes from a Chinese poetic form first, but in the Japanese tradition can be explained as such:

The Japanese interpretation of it is, essentially, broken down as follows:

  • ki (起)’: the introduction
  • shou (承)’: continuation of the established norms from the introduction
  • ten (転)’: twist
  • ketsu (結)’: conclusion

This is seen best in the yonkoma style of comics from Japan, like that of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun or Lucky Star, but can also be found in many other series. I think of, for example, Charlotte the anime from 2015. We had a light-hearted start then a major twist, then a rapid conclusion that threw a lot of people off, but it kind of made sense after reviewing some of the different narrative styles in Japan. (Though, realistically, the Charlotte example was an unintentional consequence of having your runtime and budget shortened.)

ANYWAY, I highly recommend checking out this video from
TheCynicClinic on the topic. It’s really interesting and explains the concepts far better than I’ve done here.

Notes from AX coming this week!

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