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Kishōtenketsu (起承転結?) describes the structure and development of classic Chinese, Korean and Japanese narratives. It was originally used in Chinese poetry as a four-line composition, such as Qijue, and is also referred to as kishōtengō (起承転合?). The first Chinese character refers to the introduction or kiku (起句?), the next: development, shōku (承句?), the third: twist, tenku (転句?), and the last character indicates conclusion or kekku (結句?). 句 is the phrase ( ku?), and (?) means "meeting point of 起 and 転" for conclusion.

The following is an example of how this might be applied to a fairytale.

  • Introduction (ki): Topic toss or introduction, what characters appear, era, and other important information for understanding the setting of the story.
  • Development (shō): Receives or follows on from the introduction and leads to the twist in the story. Major changes do not occur.
  • Twist (ten): Turn or twist to another, new or unknown topic. This is the crux of the story, which is also referred to as the yama (ヤマ?) or climax. It has the biggest twist in the story.
  • Conclusion (ketsu): Resultant, also referred to as the ochi (落ち?) or ending, it wraps up the story by bringing it to its conclusion.

A specific example by the poet Sanyō Rai (頼山陽):

  • Introduction (ki): Daughters of Itoya, in the Honmachi of Osaka.
  • Development (shō): The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen.
  • Twist (ten): Throughout history, generals (daimyo) killed the enemy with bows and arrows.
  • Ketsu (?): The daughters of Itoya kill with their eyes.[1]

The same pattern is used to arrange arguments:

  • Introduction (ki): In old times, copying information by hand was necessary. Some mistakes were made.
  • Development (shō): Copying machines made it possible to make quick and accurate copies.
  • Twist (ten): Traveling by car saves time, but you don't get much impression of the local beauty. Walking makes it a lot easier to appreciate nature close up.
  • Conclusion (ketsu): Although photocopying is easier, copying by hand is sometimes better, because the information stays in your memory longer and can be used later.

In the structure of narrative and yonkoma manga, and even for document and dissertation, the style in kishōtenketsu applies to sentence or sentences, and even clause to chapter as well as the phrase for understandable introduction to conclusion.

The concept has also been used in game design, particularly in Nintendo's video games, most notably Super Mario games such as Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario 3D World (2013); their designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Koichi Hayashida are known to utilize this concept for their game designs.[2]


  1. Maynard, S. K. (1997). Japanese communication: Language and thought in context. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 159-162.

See also