Lighting in Bakemonogatari Episode 1: A Tribute to VOFAN?

Hey that looks kinda like...

When Bakemonogatari started, a lot of praise was given to the show’s spectacular background art, not so much because of the detail or style of the backgrounds, but because of the extensive lighting techniques. Some people have commented on the way that Bakemonogatari would not have been possible without modern technology, and many see it as a bridge into the future of what anime will look like. Of course, it being a SHAFT anime, most of the series doesn’t quite live up to the splendor of the first episode, but there’s something I feel the need to point out: I think there’s a good reason that this in particular was the show to use those new techniques on, and that reason was VOFAN.

Oh hey, meflouraine's avatar ~_^

If you’ve seen Bakemonogatari, then congratulations, you are already familiar with VOFAN’s art style, because he was the artist for the light novel series. However, whereas that would easily credit him with the character design and general visual style of the series, there’s a better reason that lighting in particular can be attributed to him. According to Faust vol. 1 (US edition), VOFAN’s trademark is his spectacular use of light in his art, and he has even been given the nickname ‘magician of light.’ And as you can see in the images throughout this post, he deserves the title.

Maybe I just wanted to show of VOFAN pics~

As the story goes, when NISIOISIN was first told that they wanted to make an anime adaption of Bakemonogatari, he thought that there was no way it would work, but when he talked with Akiyuki Shinbo about his ideas for the project, he became sure that it would work and gave his approval. I think that Shinbo and SHAFT really wanted to do respect to the original work, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was VOFAN’s legendary lighting techniques that inspired them to employ such a great visual touch to their show.

I coulda sworn that was Shinobu. No one does yellow like VOFAN.

I apologize, of course, if I’m totally late and everyone talked about this before, but the idea sprang to mind when I was re-reading the first volume of Faust.

11 thoughts on “Lighting in Bakemonogatari Episode 1: A Tribute to VOFAN?

      • Although B&W illustrations from VOFAN are quite rare, he has done some of them, though unfortunately they don’t make use of his characteristic lighting style.

        Also, although the main spread illustrations from the inside of the Bakemonogatari novels are rendered in black and white (Such as this one of Senjougahara Hitagi), they were most likely first done in colour and then changed to monochrome for printing, as can be seen from the heavy use of greys and blacks for shading. However, I’ve personally never seen the colour versions of any of these illustrations, so I’m not sure if they were indeed originally in colour.

        As well, VOFAN seems to work first in B&W to make a guideline, and then colour directly over the sketch, rather than refining the sketch to make line art to colour in, which is what the majority of illustrators do.

        Since he seems to like working practically completely in colour, I find it hard to imagine that he would be able to use the same type of lighting in B&W as in colour.

        Lastly, if you can’t get enough of VOFAN, I suggest taking a look at his public gallery in addition to his Pixiv account. The fact that he is very much into photography explains largely why he has a deep understanding of light and its orchestration.

        In reply to your post, I’m not entirely convinced that SHAFTxShinbo took too many pains to try to stay that true to VOFAN’s original style, as illustrations were incredibly sparse in the novels. There was only one spread illustration for each character’s arc, and along with the colour cover artwork, the total amount of pieces pertaining to the Bakemonogatari novel series number at around thirteen, not counting promotional artwork used outside of the novels. As well, the anime credits VOFAN as only the original character designer (and illustrator for the first ED sequence), so VOFAN most likely wasn’t consulted for input on the series’ art direction. The types of cropping and camera work don’t seem to be too close to VOFAN’s style either, and the colouring seems far more solid than VOFAN’s. I also didn’t see the VOFAN-type lighting being consistently used, either.

        My goodness this comment is long.

  1. I saw those second and third scans in an artbook I have and immediately fell in love with Vofan.
    The second is especially amazing. He is able to beautifully juxtapose the stripes on the shirt with the striped shadows to create such an incredible composition. It’s just gorgeous.

  2. Yup, my avatar. Vofan has been my favorite artist for a long time now.
    His lighting is…just too awesome. And he purposely does things to make it even better. For instance, in Light Feed ( he intentionally adds things to the image that create a special, awesome light.
    I won’t let myself continue with this comment because I could go on all night, but yeah, Vofan is wicked awesome. And I was shocked to see someone else writing about his work for once. XD

  3. Nice post. I’ve known about Vofan for a while but I only recent went through his art. Needless to say, I was impressed. I’ll have to skim through the first Bakemonogatari ep again if I hope to find traces of his style in the show, but I agree that his mastery of lighting is impressive.

    Incidentally, Goto-P is another artist whose lighting I had always liked but never realized I liked until someone pointed it out. His style is different but I think it’s equally effective.

  4. Breathtaking, gorgeous. Something about that second picture with the blinds fills me with such joy… It’s hard to describe. Like all my life I’ve been looking for that missing something, and it turns out to have been exquisite lighting in Japanese illustrations. But I know how ridiculous that sounds.

    Anyway, thank you.

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