MangaManga Panel: What Is it & How to Read it

Manga Panel: What Is it & How to Read it

While watching anime, do you ever wonder how the tiniest of actions and expressions got showcased in the manga? 

Animation can produce every little detail, but mangas don’t have that luxury. That’s why, with so little room to work with and so much to express, mangakas deserve a lot more respect and credit for every single page of their manga.

However, over time, mangakas have developed techniques of their own to show more details of every scene. With manga paneling, creators/illustrators/mangakas have carved out spaces within spaces to tell everything they want to. 

Here’s everything a manga reader should know about a manga panel.

What Is A Manga Panel?

Instead of telling you, let me show you exactly what a manga panel is, and then I’ll move on to the details.

Below is a picture of a manga volume- One Piece(East Blue Saga), to be specific.

one piece east blue saga

And following is a manga page- the first page of the long-running One Piece manga.

You can see 3 different sections on this manga page- 1 horizontal rectangle on the top and 2 vertical rectangles at the bottom. Each of these separate sections is a manga panel and showcases a single moment in the story.

So, the images you see below are 3 different manga panels, presenting 3 different moments on a single manga page.

This One Piece manga panel introduces us to Gold Roger, the King of Pirates. And the second one gives us a close-up of Gold Roger, where he talks about the One Piece and kick-starts a new era of pirates.

one piece chapter 1

And the third panel on the page shows the people gathered to witness his execution.

third panel on the page one piece

So, while the whole page shows Gold Roger’s execution, the 3 manga panels all show 3 different moments of his execution- one showing his execution, one where he talks about his treasure, and one where the crowd rejoices.

There are different layouts of a manga panel and different purposes as well. And depending on the mangaka, the story they’re trying to tell, and the style they choose, there can be manga panels of all shapes and sizes.

It’s a vague and open aspect of manga creation, and defining it isn’t easy. 

What’s important is that, as manga readers, you know how to follow a manga panel and, in effect, follow the story instead of wandering around on the page. And for that to happen, you have to know about the different manga panel layouts.

So, let’s begin.

1. Spreads – 1 OR 2 Page Panels

Spreads are the biggest manga panels, usually taking up the whole page. And it’s common for spreads to take up 2 adjoining pages as well.

Authors and illustrators mostly use this kind of panel to show a bigger picture of the story. But they can also use it to show off their skills sometimes- like Masashi Kishimoto is doing in this double spread of Sasuke looking over the Konoha village.

double spread of sasuke looking over the konoha village

It’s hard to look away from these kinds of manga panels, and rightly so. Just look at the detailing on the mountain.

Here’s another beautiful double-page spread from the Attack on Titan manga.

double-page spread from the attack on titan manga

2. Dialogue Panels

Dialogue panels might be the simplest ones, but they are definitely the most important ones. Here’s an example- a page from Hunter x Hunter manga.

page from hunter x hunter manga

Mostly divided into grids of 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 (although modern mangakas don’t care for these layouts), the dialogue panels are full of dialogue bubbles that help move the story along.

So, skipping a page full of dialogue panels is never a good idea.

Here’s another dialogue panel- Eiichiro Oda using a 2 x 6 grid for a dialogue between Luffy and Shanks.

dialogue between luffy and shanks manga

3. Action Panels

Every awesome anime fight you’ve ever seen was once an action manga panel.

Favorites of many, and rightly so, the action panels have little to no dialogues- but a lot is happening in them. 

manga action panels

These are bigger than dialogue panels but smaller than spreads, and you’ll mostly find them in shonen mangas like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, and more recently, My Hero Academia.

Here’s a personal favorite Deku manga panel where he raises his power levels to 8% for the first time while facing tough competition from Bakugo. 

deku manga panels

But “action” doesn’t always mean fights. Action panels can be used to illustrate all types of things happening in the story. For example, here’s a One Piece manga page with 7 action panels where the characters are having a party on Skypiea after defeating Eneru.

7 action panels

While spreads will make you stop and stare at the picture for a while, it’s the action and dialogue panels that are the most important. And reading them right is important if you want to enjoy a manga to the fullest.

How To Read A Manga Panel?

There’s no shame in not knowing how to read a manga panel. Even I had problems at first, and now I’m writing guides on it.

Reading a comic book is straightforward- you read from left to right and top to bottom. Here’s an example-

But how do you start a manga panel? Well, manga have a partially-reversed reading pattern. So, when reading a manga, you read from right to left and top to bottom. The top-right panel is where you start and the bottom-left panel is where a manga page finishes.

Here’s a visual guide-

how to read a manga panel

Jump panel to panel and dialogue bubble to dialogue bubble from left to right, and you are on the correct reading sequence.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind when reading manga. 

Anime usually has plenty of flashbacks- ever wondered how those flashbacks are shown in mangas? Mangakas use different techniques to show flashbacks. Here are the two most common ones-

  1. Completely black spaces between the manga panels indicate a flashback. These black spaces are sometimes accompanied by subtitles or a character mentioning the date to let the reader know how distant the flashback is.
flashback in manga
  1. When the spaces between manga panels go from black to white on the same page, it indicates a transition from flashback to the present. Here’s a beautiful example of this from the Naruto manga, where Naruto and Sasuke are having flashbacks of their childhoods while fighting side by side.
transition from flashback to the present in manga

It does sound a bit tricky right now, but it’s all about getting accustomed to it. You’ll fly through manga panels and pages once you get the hang of it- and it doesn’t take too long for that to happen.

The important thing is to remember what you’ve read here.

Before closing this manga panel guide, I’d like to share some of the best manga panels from my favorite manga because why not!

Best Manga Panels From Naruto, One Piece, & More!

Manga panels really are the heart and soul of any manga page.

While some only showcase the artistic mastery of a mangaka, some manga panels become iconic and get etched in every fan’s heart.

Here are, for me, the most iconic manga panels from some of the most popular mangas.

1. Itachi & Sasuke – Final Meeting

itachi and sasuke last moment

The best Sasuke and Itachi manga panel, not just for the articulate drawing from Masashi Kishimoto, but for the sheer emotions that this manga panel represents.

2. One Piece Panels

one piece panels

Oda loves his spreads, and fans loved this one the most- all of Straw Hat Pirates reassembling at Wano.

But when it comes to iconic manga panels, it’s hard to look past the Ace and Luffy manga panel, with Admiral Akainu’s fist piercing Ace’s heart.

admiral akainu first appearance

3. Saitama Staring Down Boros’ Ship

If there is one manga panel that I could stare at for hours and hours, it’s this one. Props to Yusuke Murata for this one.

saitama staring down boros’ ships

Let’s stop here, or we’ll be here for a long time.

Now you know the basics for reading a manga panel and the whole manga page. It’s all about reading from right to left.

If you’d like to know how to make a manga panel, read this manga paneling guide.

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