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Gaijin 4koma (Japanese: 外人四こま, “4-frame foreigners”) is a series of four-paned comics based on two photographs of IGN reporters reacting to Nintendo’s announcement of new titles at the E3 conference in 2003 and 2004 respectively. The multi-pane set up is typically used to express one’s disappointment and excitement over two separate things, in similar vein to the “at first I was like X, but then I was like Y” snowclone.
The photograph of four IGN reporters (Matt Casamassina, Craig Harris, Chadd Chamers, Peer Schneider) looking rather disinterested was originally taken during Nintendo’s conference at E3 2003 Expo, where Nintendo’s CEO introduced “Pacman vs.” for GameCube.
The photograph of the same men looking excited was taken one year later during Nintendo’s conference at E3 2004 Expo, where they announced the release of a new Zelda title.
Originally posted on IGN board, these two photographs were incorporated into the Yonkoma comic-strip format on /ghard/ (Game Hardware) board in 2channel, where it was dubbed “Gaijin 4koma” or “4-frame foreigners” in Japanese. According to the archived threads, the comic strips became popular on 2channel as early as in June 2004.
Yonkoma (4-pane Comics)
Yonkoma (4コマ漫画) manga refers to vertically-oriented comic strips featuring four panels of equal size. The format has been used across various Japanese publications including manga magazines, newspaper comics and more recently in web comics. First introduced in 1902 by the Japanese artist Rakuten Kitazawa, Yonkoma strips typically follow a structure known as Kishotenketsu:
Ki: The first panel forms the basis of the story; it sets the scene.
Shō: The second panel develops upon the foundation of the story laid down in the first panel.
Ten: The third panel is the climax, in which an unforeseen development occurs.
Ketsu: The fourth panel is the conclusion, in which the effects of the third panel are seen.
The multi-pane series was soon picked up by English-speaking visitors on 2channel and brought into 4chan and other Japanese-affiliated communities, where it became known as the “Reaction Guys” series. The photographs are usually set up in the following way:
Panel one: Something fair or lame
Panel two: Disappointment
Panel three: Something awesome
Panel four: Euphoria
Occasionally, the colours can be inverted to denote super awesomeness as a result of zero division. There are thousands of Gaijin 4koma instances in circulation, fueled by 4pane comic generators as well as the single serving site Gaijin4koma.com. On December 4th, 2009, four IGN.com editors depicted in the image appeared on NHK’s Japanese TV show The Net Star to speak about their internet fame.
Anime Vice – Four Gaijin Guys on Japanese TV