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I know the term 4koma only from the .hack series, in which it normally relates to the parody manga .hack//4koma, and it's also the title of the bonus videos unlocked in .hack//G.U. on the desktop.

However, I have seen the term 4koma used in other places, so I am wondering if the term 4koma is a generic term used to describe something, and if so, what it actually means.

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4koma (pronounced yonkoma) is a Japanese word meaning "4-panel"1, and refers to a type of manga which is formatted as a series of four vertically-stacked panels. This term is used in contrast with "regular" (non-4koma) manga, which do not typically adhere to a rigid panel structure.2

Here is an example from one very long-running (and famous in Japan) 4koma manga, Sazae-san:3

Sazae-san 4koma strip from July 4, 1962

Some of the most famous 4koma manga among Western audiences are Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, Hetalia, and K-ON. As this list suggests, the 4koma format is heavily populated by gag comedy manga.


1 from 四 yon "four" + 齣 koma "scene, frame, panel"; usually written 四コマ today.

2 Think of 4koma as being sort of like your bog-standard weekday newspaper cartoons (at least in the US) in that sense - 3 or 4 panels, and no real freedom as to how to use the space available.

3 Note that most 4koma these days have narrower panels (usually square), allowing two 4koma to be printed side-by-side on paper with a standard A or B aspect ratio

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