In this article series, Lucy Rubin breaks down anime analysis for Around Akiba and shows how we can use it in our everyday anime-watching lives. This time, we will explore character design.
Character Design: An Introduction
In our last article, we talked about color and how it used in anime.
In anime, unlike in live action film, everything that appears on the screen is a completely constructed world. Everything is deliberate and can be altered and specified to meet very specific needs for telling a story. One of the greatest tools in a creator’s toolbox, in that case, is color. In the beginning production stages of an anime, creators will most often consider a specific color palette that can work to set a specific mood, evoke a certain time period, or just be visually pleasing. (Color in Anime)
However, beyond color, character design is also another critical component to style. One of the greatest freedoms afforded to filmmakers working in anime is the endless possibilities for character design. Granted, nowadays with visual effects in live action films getting better and better, there are more and more opportunities for unique use of character design in live action. But the very notion of creating a character of purely artistic design that needs to hold no bearing to anything that can be found in reality can be traced back to animation. Think about the days of Windsor McKay in animation’s earliest days – what character did he choose to work with? A dinosaur!
Tying it back to our purposes though, let’s think not just about the possibilities of character design, but consider how character design can influence the way that we process the narrative of a show and contribute to the show’s overall ‘look.’ We can almost think of character design as a kind of casting – would we feel the same way that we do about Jerry (Larry, Terry, Barry) Gergich if he was played by Jeffrey Tambor? Similarly, how would our first impression of Ryuuko change if she had brown hair and dressed like Rikka Takanashi?
To explore this further, let’s examine the character design of Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars in the next article.