Why digital comic Phallaina is an amazing audio-visual experience

Feb 17, 2016, 08:00 IST | Hassan M Kamal

Inspired from mythology and cognitive sciences, Phallaina leads the way for futuristic digital comics with the clever adaptation of technology

The sound of waves hitting the shore fill the air, and is heightened with melancholic beats. A young girl walks slowly towards the sea, submerging herself completely into it, only to get lost in the darkness and a dream where fish swim through the air. They appear small initially, and transform into huge white whales, while the city melts down. Gradually, they turn smaller and dissolve into a frame featuring a group of medical professionals staring at what seems to be scans of a human brain. The patient’s name is Audrey.

These opening frames from Marietta Ren’s new digital comic, Phallaina, are poignantly cinematic similar to a master long shot taken straight out of the works of directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, or as if words from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot have been brought to life. It’s sad, melancholic and at the same time, engaging.

What we like
Phallaina is a digital comic book that traces the journey of Audrey, a young woman who suffers from hallucinatory fits (epilepsy), during which she has visions of whales. Her neurological examinations reveal the existence of a physeter in her brain: an anomalous structure which enables its carriers to hold their breath for sustained amounts of time. The comic book follows her journey as the doctor  puts her through tests, exploring the world of cognitive sciences and mythology.

Apart from the subject what sets Phallaina apart from other digital comic books is its horizontal scrolling (they claim to be the first), which when combined with audio-visual elements, animation and the black and white drawing style of Japanese Manga comics, offers an immersive story telling experience.

The horizontal scrolling also takes away the need to flip pages or press next, thus creating a fluid reading experience. The style enables the reader to become an unhindered co-passenger, as its lead character Audrey’ traverses between her hallucinations and the real world.

The effects can be best compared to what one would have felt while watching Terry Gilliam’s Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas which starred Johnny Depp. In short, it’s trippy yet fun.

Produced by Smallbang and France télévisions Nouvelles écritures, the comic book was released in January at Angoulême Festival in France, and is available for free download for Android as well as iOS devices. There are no in-app purchases but it’s heavy with  a download size of 318 MB.

What it means however is that the app is completely offline, and requires no Internet connection. So, if you are planning to download the comic book make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi and have plenty of space for other apps on your phone.

What we don’t
Phallaina opens new avenues for digital comic books, and is the best digital comic book we have come across in a long time, but the app seems to have a few bugs, as it crashes a lot. The app also stops responding if you try to multi-task or attend a call while reading.

Log on to: Phallaina.nouvelles-ecritures.francetv.fr
Price: Free
Available on: Google Play Store and Apple App Store

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