A Decade of Bishoujo Anime Character Design



Scrutiny of the character design used in bishoujo anime now versus that of ten years ago reveals a certain amount of evolution, or at least modest sideways motion.

A key difference is the near absence of noses on contemporary characters; CG animation also seems to have introduced some marginal improvements in shading. Apart from that, little seems to have changed?

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    Comment by Anonymous
    04:13 12/01/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    Superficial analysis:


    Older -- More horizontal stretch to accommodate all features. Angular points (background cheek, chin). Made more use of the mouth for expressiveness.
    Newer -- Making the nose a minor point allowed compression in the horizontal range, leading to a more rounded look. Softening of the angles of the chin and cheek.


    Older -- Wider, more likely to go for angular effects, have eyelashes, necessitate wider heads. Cooperative element with other aspects of the face for expressing emotion.
    Newer -- Rounder, more likely to expand vertically, no eyelashes. Eyes have become the major element for expressing emotion.


    Older -- Major element of the face, used as a strong part of showing emotional range. Wide face allowed room for wide mouths, and usually most of that space was used.
    Newer -- Minor element of the face, used as a subtle accent to emotional range (or perhaps just showing more with less). Narrower face leads to less space focused on the mouth.


    Older -- Prominent element. As a part of the general structure of the face it helped distribute attention somewhat evenly across several features.
    Newer -- Suppressed/implied element. It is no longer the central focal point when looking at the face. Combined with the attenuation of the mouth, more focus is driven to the eyes.


    Older -- Heavier color saturation. Wilder designs in order to create the illusion of hair separation. Hair rarely moves other than change in perspective when the character's head moves.
    Newer -- Softer tones, gentler shading, more gradients, accent marks used more precisely. More natural designs since the hair can more easily be actually drawn and moved separately now with computers, allowing the hair to move and flow.

    Just looking at the pictures, for the newer series the first thing I see is always the eyes, followed by the hair. For the older series, there's no particular part of the face that is the initial "go-to" point, it's somewhat randomly distributed among eyes/hair/nose/mouth. As such I can see this following a sort of marketing 'brand' trend -- trying to narrow the focus of the initial impression to a single point so you can control the initial impression.

    With older series, your focus is drawn to several points, and you have to bring them all together into a cohesive whole. The newer methods reduce the complexity of the impression while still trying to convey as much of the full extent of the 'feel' of the character as possible. Basically it's an extension of the core of the anime style itself -- "big eyes, small mouth", as it were, where large eyes are used for their range of expressiveness.

    So far, in any field that works to reduce the complexity of the user's interactions with the device, there is no real impetus to increase that complexity again later unless that complexity can add new 'features'. Art being art, there's no guarantee of a duration for this trend, but I don't expect any strong counter-trend unless someone can indeed show 'value' in pushing such features back into prominence.

    Complexity isn't a fault, but it is a hindrance in grabbing the consumer's attention, and it's that attention (and associated money) that the companies want. So, for those who want to escape the moe effect, you need to find a way to express the 'feel' of the character in a non-distractive, simple, easily accessible manner that doesn't depend so heavily on the eyes. Likely a rather difficult task.

    Avatar of CC
    Comment by CC
    17:57 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    No old Tetsuwan Birdy vs new'ish Tetsuwan Birdy? makes for a nice comparison.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:41 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Oh, yea. Dita and Sakuya for the win ^^

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:12 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Up till now, I still think Dita makes a rockin' waifu.

    02:26 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Kinda agree... though, I still prefer Barnett or Kero Kero loli nurse, Parway(sp).

    Avatar of Spitfire
    Comment by Spitfire
    03:53 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Also Meia was quite attractive I must say :3

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:32 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Gone Nose Gone

    Avatar of Zippydsmlee
    Comment by Zippydsmlee
    01:52 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    To much moe not enough detail.....its nto that moe is bad but moe tends to have less detail....mabye thats why its such a trend....mmmmmmm

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:31 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well at least I would agree they did a good change in nose only... I don't have to see Pinocchio now

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:26 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ahh.. Gate Keepers was awesomeness maximus~~

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:09 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    my exams me reminded which is the name of the manga of 2nd small picture in the first frame me not me recall more of name

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:52 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Are you talking about Hyper Police or Vandread?

    02:31 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The misleading new Kyou No Go No Ni over the OVA as representation? That's just plainly wrong..

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:54 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    more like herecy

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:33 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    lol. K-on still there

    but Saki still rocks.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:35 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Dual was the shit!

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:13 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Somewhere after 2005~2006 the noses just disappeared.Still have my old vandread dvds for the memories...

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:20 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I don't see any evolution

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:28 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Going through both stages of development I have to admit I like the direction things are going...
    Gatekeepers eyes freaked me out.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:14 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Are you sure, you are talking about Gatekeepers? The eyes in GK looks kind of Keionish.
    3rd from the left in top row.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:14 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I always wonder why the noses were drawn like that in today's anime, I mean not all anime have em like that but most do. But are they really noses? They're more like triangles sticking out of their faces

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:30 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Saber Marionette! Fuck yeah!

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:36 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    XD swear they look younger now >:D fap fap

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:21 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I recognize every character in that chart... is that bad? >.>

    Starting from Dual Parallel Trouble to Kannon... ugh...

    Is it bad?!?

    Please somebody console me.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:38 13/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    22:12 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Only 10 years? What about Sailor Moon? How can you even THINK about a discussion about Bishoujo without Sailor Moon?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:42 14/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Because it's several years older than anything else in that top pic?

    Avatar of Ukonkivi
    Comment by Ukonkivi
    13:26 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Who is the one with the baseball?

    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by Anonymous
    09:16 13/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    woow, in antiquity they have noses.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:52 22/03/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I love how people complain about anime characters having no noses, but then when you show them something out of the 90s, they go "Omg those NOSES are so huge I can't get past them."

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:54 25/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Damn!With that 10 years versus I can say that we come from afar
    BTW Nagi-sama rocks DFC FTW!

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:46 14/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    As much as I'd like to blame K-On for all creative evils, Azumanga Daioh probably initiated the moe-blob look 9 years ago.

    Avatar of Kokoru_Pride412
    Comment by Kokoru_Pride412
    06:37 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    so..Moe-blob = bishoujo... YADA

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:56 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    man, back to the days I used to LOVE that AIC character design used in Tenchi Muyo and Dual (for example).

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:00 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That sort of "business minded" approach is what kills national economies. When corporations start outsourcing everything they are killing local economies for profit, and thats when people should take to the streets with pitchforks.

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:44 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    change: they look younger.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:18 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Is dat some Tenchi up there I see? Ah..good times, good times.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:12 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    i don't understand why Sakuya is there
    i mean that series really not good as other Tenchi OVAs

    Comment by Dark Mage
    03:13 13/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I miss that show it was awesome.

    Comment by Schrobby
    08:00 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Tenchi is good, but why Tenchi in Tokyo - and why she off all people..?

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:17 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Apparently, Artefact found her more bishoujo than the others. I must say I concur with him.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:18 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ah, the wonders of RGB.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:17 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think it would be a good idea to remake the classics and up the animation since we're not getting good ones over the past few years... Like how 'bout Vandread and Rurouni Kenshin? Those would be nice to see with better animation. (3D CG of Vandread would look better with today's technology)

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:37 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    In this case, its not so much the animation techniques, as it is the budget of the respective shows. You've seen the kenshin OVAs right? The animation is ridiculously better compared to the series.

    Avatar of motaku96
    Comment by motaku96
    18:14 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Who needs noses anyway. Woot Nanoha!

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:52 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Kaiji would like to have a word with you.

    Avatar of pluki7
    Comment by pluki7
    18:33 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Tell that to Kuririn.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:50 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The fact that you´ve choosen several examples of art by the same character designer in the first list (Keiji Gotoh, responsible for Vandread, Gate Keepers, Hyper Police and Nadesico) makes it not very representative.

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:35 14/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah, there is that. Who chose these?

    Avatar of Malakim
    Comment by Malakim
    19:01 11/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Anime girls and noses cannot coexist together? MYTHBUSTERS WHERE ARE YOU!!!

    Comment by Takumi
    01:08 12/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They're too busy shooting rocket powered trains into cars!

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