Any die-hard anime fan knows full well that creators rely on a ton of visual cues to help depict what is happening in a given scene. Manga creators do the same thing. It is easy to understand why visual cues are an important part of the manga art form. But do they really have to be fully understood in the anime universe?
You could make a case both ways. On the one hand, there are plenty of anime fans who have no idea what some of the visual cues mean. Yet they still enjoy the art form to its fullest. On the other hand, some anime fans insist that consumers cannot fully grasp all the finer details of a story if they don’t understand the visual cues.
1. Visual Cues in Manga
Visual cues are important to manga because you don’t have the benefits of motion, background music, and spoken dialogue. You are basically looking at static 2D images interspersed with text bubbles and backgrounds. You rely on visual cues to understand everything from motion to emotion.
Speed lines are a great example. Manga creators rely on them to depict motion. Speed lines can take many forms, but they all do the same thing. Animators make use of speed lines from time to time, but it is usually reserved for characters or objects quickly leaving the frame while the background of the frame remains intact. Speed lines demonstrate such motion more succinctly.
Manga would be difficult to follow if it weren’t for visual cues. Readers rely on seeing exaggerated tears to understand a character’s anguish. They need to see the popping vein to understand anger and rage. They need the bloody nose to understand the hidden meaning behind it because artists couldn’t depict the real thing and still get past censors.
2. Anime Speaks for Itself
Anime is a medium that speaks for itself. Speed lines are less common in anime because motion can be animated. You can actually watch a character or object move across the screen. Having said that, some anime creators don’t practice pure animation. Instead, they tell a story through a series of still images that flash on the screen every few seconds. In such cases, speed lines become important again.
Other visual cues seem to be quite unnecessary in anime. The popping vein is easily replaced by depicting an angry facial expression and combining it with movement, music, and dialogue that clearly communicate the emotions in question. The cat mouth is another good example. Anime allows you to use motion and sound together to display the cattiness this visual cue depicts in manga.
The nose bleed and sweat drop are a different matter. They have hidden meanings that cannot be easily displayed without causing problems. They are absolutely necessary to anime.
3. Anime Isn’t Static
The entire reason this discussion is even necessary is the fact that anime isn’t static. Technically speaking, anime is supposed to be animation. But fans do not necessarily see it that way. For instance, fans can buy anime t-shirts and hoodies from the Umai boutique brand. All of Umai’s images are static and 2D. They are not animated.
That being the case, Umai artists rely on the same visual cues in their images. Without the cues, images might not be fully understood by consumers.
The most ardent anime fans will insist that visual cues are absolutely necessary to fully understand a story. Likewise, casual fans may find anime quite entertaining despite having absolutely no knowledge of the visual cues they are seeing. So there’s really no good answer to the question.