Digital comic, scrolling comic, touchscreen comic, no matter what you call it. Phallaina is a gem.
Designed by Marietta Ren, a young French illustrator and animator who has worked on Ernest & Celestine, Avril et le monde truqué, Wakfu and Les terres imaginées, produced by Small Bang and the digital storytelling division of France Télévisions, Phallaina accomplishes a major feat: breaking free from the panels of comic books while inventing a new, impressively natural narrative grammar for handheld devices.
A (beautiful) black and white graphic novel, Phallaina tells the story of Audrey, a young woman prone to hallucinations during which she sees whales. Following a medical exam, a neurologist discovers she has a physeter, a rare anomaly in which subjects develop the capacity to hold their breath for a long time.
Breaking free from panels into a long tracking shot, Phallaina is a work of talent that lives up to the promise of what “digital storytelling” should be, but usually fails. Frames blend into each other seamlessly, fusing solid black & white and parallax effects, providing the depth digital comics sometimes lack. The sound design and music (both outstanding) add a lot to the immersion in subtle ways, building up tension in harmony with the graphic direction.
In Phallaina, all elements converge and combine to deliver a truly original immersive storytelling experience that feels incredibly natural. One of its strongest points is its well-mastered pace, which keeps the story flowing while leaving the user in control. The clean, well designed interface is also a winner – provided you don’t forget to switch on airplane mode – transforming a simple touchscreen into a perfect storytelling device. On top of all, the app is free, available in both English and French, for iOS & Android.
Scrolling through Phallaina will take you a little under 90 minutes. When the end credits appear, you might get the feeling you’ve sat through a unique experience, part movie and part comic book. This innovative form will likely inspire other creators to push the boundaries of mobile storytelling in creative ways.
Author: Marietta Ren
Production: Pierre Cattan & Alexandrine Stehelin
Technical Design: Christophe da Silva
Animation & compositing: Julien Baret
Sound design & music: Côme Jalibert
Co-published by Small Bang & France Télévisions Nouvelles Ecritures
- COMFORT / USER EXPERIENCE10