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The Interesting Reading Experience of Kikomachine Komix (draft)

by Kazumi


   Kikomachine Komix is a Filipino comic strip series by Manuel “Manix” Abrera that’s been running in the Philippine Daily Inquirer since 2001—that makes the series about seventeen years old. It appears on the newspaper daily from Monday to Saturday, but if you don’t read newspapers, you can buy any one of the twelve compilations of Kikomachine published by Visprint.

   The comic strip series centers mainly around the adventures and trials of college life and early adulthood. From those sources, it finds quirky and sometimes super absurdist humor. When it’s not doing that, it delves into the current issues of the time—political or others—sometimes even going as far as to attempt to answer life’s greatest questions, like “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose in this universe?” Then it finds super absurdist humor in that too. There’s rarely a dull moment in Kikomachine Komix, basically. Even when it makes you think or tries to expose a problem in modern society, it makes you laugh.

   Kikomachine is special to me because this is the first newspaper comic strip which I genuinely got into, and the first comic to make me laugh. As in, not just amuse me, not just make me smile, it made me laugh in a way that got me a weird look from my mom once. So far I’ve been trying to understand what makes it so special and what kept it solid for over a decade and a half. I don’t think I’ve understood everything yet, but I hope that what I’ve written in this essay can encourage you to go check this incredible read out, or at least leave you with a deeper appreciation for comics.

1.

   The newspaper comic strip format can be pretty limiting due to the amount of space you’re given  per day/week, so one way Kikomachine works around that is by making space for a whole lot of words. The important visual elements (like the comic’s characters) are pushed down to the bottom half of the panel, letting the words take over half the space of each panel. Sometimes it even takes over three-fourths of the vertical space per panel. That’s a lot.

   The good thing about that it gives the comic freedom to extend the time of each panel by adding a truckload of words. Words add time to a panel. A panel with words doesn’t end until you read all the words within these panels, and voicing out these words in your head take time. That’s one of the ways this static medium can convey time.

   No wonder why Kikomachine comics rarely feel very fleeting despite them being small on paper. That’s a problem with me personally regarding newspaper dailies. They’re just really fast sometimes, you feel? Like, one second you’ve just started, and in the next moment you’re done reading the thing, and you feel nothing because you passed by that so quickly. No such thing in Kikomachine because you’ll be reading it for a little longer.

   This is something I believe only this type of comics can do. Constantly high word density per panel like in Kikomachine won’t be well-received in longer-form comics. I mean, wouldn’t it feel really lazy and bogged-down if all the panels in your hundred-page graphic novel were half-full of just words? Where in the world’s the artwork at? Some people read comics just for that, you know. Plus, wouldn’t it be a very intimidating and exhausting read for the casual viewer too? That book wouldn’t sell very well.

   However, it doesn’t feel boring at all in Kikomachine Komiks because each strip is so short and tightly-written that it doesn’t have much room to get boring before the punchline.

   More importantly, doing that gives the Filipino language actual space to develop and flourish as needed, which plays exactly into the hands of my next point.

2.

   The dialogue of this comic is so relatable. As in, it captures the details of what everyday people would say in real life. Like the anos, the kuwans, the slangs, the many quirky mutations of everyday words (i.e. “olats,” “gelpren,” “labs,” etc.), the English indiscriminately woven into the Tagalog in small bits, the perceived pretentiousness of English in everyday conversation, the Filipino’s knack for cool lines and humor in everyday situations, the conversational Tagalog’s feel and cadence, and the imperfect sentences, among others that I don’t know of yet.

   But most importantly, I feel that the dialogue beats with the heart of a Filipino. Reading the dialogue, I always get this feeling like Manix Abrera doesn’t do research or role-play or put on a persona or anything like that while writing the script. He doesn’t need that. I feel that he simply writes the script as if he were just talking. Since the important visual elements are always pushed down, the dialogue’s also got all the space to add in all the needed quirks of the Filipino language, and it does.

   Combined with the comic’s very cartoony style and the downplaying of visual elements I mentioned above, what results is a reading experience that feels so natural. Since it recreates the everyday language of everyday Filipinos so well, you don’t have to make voices for these characters or anything like that. You can just breathe life into the lines of these characters using the voices and cadences of the everyday Filipinos around you. You can just read the lines of the comic’s students in the voices of your own classmates, friends, or siblings and cousins in college. Those of the comic’s professors you can vitalize with the voices of your own teachers or professors. Those of the characters’ lolos, lolas, titos, titas and parents, you can fill with those of your own lolos, lolas, titos, titas, and parents. And it’s so lucid and easy because we hear this kind of talk every day, in living our day-to-day lives. It fits so well, like a key custom-made specifically for a lock.

   No wonder Manix Abrera's such a rock star around the youth these days.

   Of course, what I mentioned up there all depends on how immersed and versed you are in this super breezy kind of Tagalog. I know comics depend on your real-life experiences a lot, but I think this one does even more so. But since we all live and study in the same place, I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to this, even just a little bit. I’m just hoping that at least one of us knows and feels exactly what I mean in this essay.

   I think what we can take away from Kikomachine in the end is that conversational language can be just as powerful as scholarly.

   School doesn’t reward using the breezy kind of Tagalog that Kikomachine uses, but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior. Its power lies in the fact that this current generation has chosen to speak this language. In simple terms, this is the language of the Filipino youth. Maybe not this school’s youth, but definitely that of the general Philippine youth. Aware or not, they chose to speak this language with friends and family as a sign of intimacy. The youth has colored our culture with this language, and the results are the OPM, Filipino memes, hugot culture, spoken word, art, komiks, and fiction we’ve come to know and love (or hate). And even in the chaotic social landscape of the Philippines today, the youth chooses to fight with this weapon of language in the battlefields of online discussion and raising social awareness.

   I know, dude. It sounds super squammy and sagwa sometimes. But by harnessing this language, you also unlock the emotions, the desires, and the trust of millions of Filipinos here and abroad. You could expose to everyone the sins and flaws of the government and end corruption in the Philippines forever. You could woke Filipinos to issues around them like poverty, fake news and depression, inspiring them to take quick action. Or maybe, you could make another long-running comic strip that makes the lousy day better for all its thousands of young readers.

***

Hi, Kazumi here. Uh, yeah, admittedly this is way more rushed than all my previous works. I usually take care to make my works the best they can be before posting them here. But I think that perfectionism's really hurt my output rate really badly, so I'll try shaking things up for a bit. I hope you won't mind. Translations and images of the source material will be added later on, don't worry. I'll use the negative energy harvested from your reviews to make a hella polished revision of this essay next time around.

I'm also back at it again with that essay for a super niche target audience. I'm sorry if you wanted to be in on this, but lately I'm not really concerned about publishing works for YWS. This place is not the end goal for me at the moment. I'm just posting this here so I can get free feedback. But hey, maybe I might publish something that isn't exclusive to Filipinos only lol. Though if you still choose to review this thing despite not understanding the comic I'm analyzing, then a big highkey thanks to you. All feedback helps me a lot.

If you're a Filipino, please come in and give feedback. If you're a Filipino comic fan, then I urge you even harder. You guys know a lot about the heart of the matter, so your comments are super valuable to me right here.

Thanks for reading so far.


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Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:57 pm
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Carlito wrote a review...



Hey Kazumi! I'm here to bring this out of the green room for you!

I'm not familiar with Kikomachine Komix, but after your review it makes me want to learn more. I like how you started off by explaining what the comic is for those that are not familiar. Then no matter who your audience is, everyone can follow along and enjoy.

I obviously can't review on the content because I'm not familiar with the comic and the views in this piece are your opinion. What I will comment on is the tone and the structure :)

Overall, the tone sounds somewhat informal because of the "you" ("you know", "you guys", etc.) It can be risky including "you" in essays because you never know who your audience is going to be and "you" could be very different. If a Filipino is reading this and you're making a point about the language and say "you know?", they might think "yeah! I get you!" If a Canadian is reading this and you're making a point about the language and say "you know?", they might think "no, I don't know" because they've never read it. If you're hoping your audience will only be people that have read the comic, the informal language may be okay. But, if there's a chance people who haven't read the comic will read it, you might want to think about taking out "you" because you don't know who "you" will be.

The only other thing I wanted to mention is that you make some great points in your essay about why you like this comic and why you think this comic is so great and popular, but I wasn't clear where the essay was going from the beginning. When you talk about why Kikomachine is special to you, I'd think about adding in some kind of thesis statement that simply describes what the key points of your essay are going to be. Something like "Kikomachine is special because it makes space for lots of words [first point you mentioned in the essay], it has high word density [second point you mentioned], and the dialogue is relatable [third point you mentioned]." Then when you go into the rest of the essay, we as readers are expecting you to talk about those three points and explain and give examples about those three points.

I'm curious whether there are people who don't like Kikomachine, and if so, what are their arguments against it? Sometimes it can help your positive argument if you show a dissenting opinion and why you think your opinion is still the right one.

Overall, I thought this was an intriguing piece. Like I said before, I liked being able to learn about something I'd never previously heard of and I'm curious to learn more about this comic now! Let me know if you have any questions or if there's something you'd like feedback about that I didn't mention! :D




Kazumi says...


My savior <3

Thanks for that feedback though. I'll definitely think about it along with the other feedback I received when I rewrite it this week. You shouldn't worry about Canadians reading this though, because they are absolutely not part of my (relatively) very small target audience. No ordinary Canadian or foreigner in their right mind would try and read Kikomachine Komix lol.

Thanks again for the feedback, and thanks for putting up with this late reply.



Kazumi says...


My savior <3

Thanks for that feedback though. I'll definitely think about it along with the other feedback I received when I rewrite it this week. You shouldn't worry about Canadians reading this though, because they are absolutely not part of my (relatively) very small target audience. No ordinary Canadian or foreigner in their right mind would try and read Kikomachine Komix lol.

Thanks again for the feedback, and thanks for putting up with this late reply.



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Sat Jun 23, 2018 2:11 pm
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Kresle wrote a review...



This review will be pretty brief.
I am quite familiar with Kikomachine Komix, but not to the point that I know and have read all his compilations and comic strips. Put simply, I'm not a very avid fan or reader of Kikomachine Komix. I do enjoy reading the strips, and I understand its charm.
I'm just saying this so that you know that my knowledge and understanding of Kikomachine is pretty limited, but here we go:

Your introduction is clear and well explained. You gave out information regarding your topic so that your readers would understand what you're talking about, and that's good. My only problem with this is that I feel that you did not state your sources. If you already knew this beforehand, you may probably want to at least imply it by using phrases such as, "from what I know" or "if I remember well." However, I suggest you avoid doing that and present valid sources to firmly back up your given information's accuracy.
Another is your lack of a thesis statement. Not all theses need to have thesis statements, but having one will help your reader understand your essay better. It basically tells the reader what to expect in your essay, which makes the reading flow smoother.

Your first point is okay. I think that you got to describe its appeal nicely. Yes, the text is pretty lengthy at times, and they might not appeal to some people, but it's also what makes it special.

Your second point is pretty long compared to the previous one, but that's okay for me. It may slightly disturb the balance of text between the two points, but I've read others like that. Honestly, when I first read Kikomachine Komix, I felt a bit alienated by the words. The words used were way more slang-y than the ones I normally hear everyday. Considering how old this series is, I feel that it also shows the evolution of how we communicate in our everyday lives. This could mean that the usage of these slang words date way back to 2001, and I think that's pretty cool.
I feel though that your last paragraph is kind of extreme. I personally think that just your way and style of speaking won't get you those kinds of things. A lot of us speak like that everyday, so why haven't things like that been fixed yet? Sure, you get to speak like how a lot of people do, but that will not immediately get them to open their hearts to you.

I still feel that you could have added more points. I think that you had a potential one in your introduction in the second paragraph, actually. You could have talked about the interesting topics and the humor Manix Abrera brings out from it, and expounded more from it.
That, and also the comic's iconic, unique and quirky characters. Part of what makes Kikomachine Komix are the characters too. Each one seems to appeal to a certain stereotype, while at the same time having characteristics and traits still make them stand out and different. What's also really cool is how easy it is to envision these people being your friends.

So there, that's my review. Thanks for reading.





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