These days, we’re seeing more and more manga and anime being adapted into live-action movie, stage, and musical versions. In other words, Japanese animation and comics are going from the 2-D world to the 3-D one.

But it turns out there’s an intermediary step that we’ve been forgetting. Here with a reminder is one talented comic artist who’s using illustrated cutouts of his characters, settings, and even sound effects to create an amazing 2.5-D manga.

Muneo Saito has served as a character artist on a number of Pokémon anime productions, and also drew the Pokémon Gold and Silver Golden Boys manga. His latest project, though, is the original manga Attack 00 Gakuen 2.5D.

As with any other manga, Saito starts by grabbing his pens and pencils and drawing the cast of his schoolgirl story.

Once he’s done inking his artwork, however, things diverge pretty sharply from ordinary manga production. Saito cuts out the characters, ending up with piles of illustrated paper dolls, which then get attached to special stands the artist makes himself.

The end result is miniature manga standees, the first visual component of Saito’s 2.5-D manga.

As cool as the effect is, it creates another unique problem for the artist. Even if they’re paper-thin planes, the characters all now exist in three-dimensional space. That means they can’t really be depicted interacting with two-dimensional objects, so Saito has to craft Attack 00 Gakuen 2.5D’s props, too.

In order to keep things properly in perspective, the manga’s scenes usually involve a grid-patterned floor, which helps with determining correct spacing between the various elements in each photo.

▼ The artist is even able to pull of 2.5-D environmental censoring of panty shots.

You may have noticed that the trash containers and desks aren’t the only three-dimensional extras in the above photos. Since the manga’s panels are all photographs, they need backgrounds, too. Saito has built a whole schoolhouse in which to tell his story, and has special walls and partitions for interior shots as well.

Dialogue and minor sound effects are about the only parts of the visuals that aren’t made of paper, as Saito instead opts to use superimposed text for them. When he’s going for extra dramatic effect, though, even the sound effects take the form of cutouts.

Saito posts new Attack 00 Gakuen 2.5D panels, as well as behind-the-scenes photos of what goes into their making, through his Twitter account. We can’t wait to see what comes next, as his clever project offers an amazing amount of visual impact.

▼ Especially when things are literally going boom

Sources: Culture Lab, Togetter, Twitter (1, 2, 3, 4)