August 4, 2006

The Changing Faces of Anime Characters

Have you noticed the changes in how anime characters are drawn since the art form started in the 1950s in Japan? In the early days, the characters were round and cute and had a strong Disney influence. They were also simpler in shape and not all that humanly realistic. For example, observe how Astroboy and Doraemon were drawn.

In the 70s and 80s, slim delicate characters with extremely large starry eyes became the norm. Even male characters had really beautiful large eyes and slim frames so much so that sometimes you can't tell whether they are male or female until you hear them talk :-P

In the late 90s, realistic character drawings became more common due to the influence of "realistic" anime like Ghost in the Shell, i.e. eyes became smaller and body shapes became more realistic (but male characters were generally still more androgynous than manly). Only Anime made with younger children in mind bucked this trend and still followed the earlier "cuter" styles.

Recently, it seems that cute characters are making a comeback in anime... But with more stylised exagerrated body shapes that are used as a tool to highlight the character's personality. A greater variety of body and facial forms also seem to be the norm, for example, in the anime Desert Punk, it can be seen that different drawing styles were applied for the different characters, the most obvious example being the huge difference between Kosuna and Sunaboozu :-P

However, it seems that even with the greater prolification of anime now, none have managed to reach the popularity of early animes like Astroboy, Doraemon and Kimba... Perhaps time to go back to simple designs?

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