In a visual storytelling medium such as animation, character design is incredibly important, especially in this modern era where character goods make up a huge part of the anime market. Viewers have to be able to connect with a character design on some level in order to be able to connect with the character on some level. Many people let characters design largely factor into their willingness to watch a series, and I can’t say that I’m different – only that I’m very open to a wide variety of designs that will not limit my viewing too much. That said, even I have things that I find hard to watch when the designs repulse me enough (mostly graphically violent 80s and 90s OVAs), and of course, if I adore the designs in a show, it can do a lot to enhance my viewing experience. This post is about the shows that do this for me.
It is not, however, a post about individual character designs that I like. Indeed, there are a lot of shows that produce a single object of my adoration, or perhaps even a handful, but who do not extend this visual pleasure to the rest of the cast. One thing about the anime being produced today in the name of selling character goods is that most shows try and appeal to a broad range of people. For instance, while I love the designs of Lynette, Sanya, and Hartmann from Strike Witches, I am not as much a fan of the other designs, as they don’t hit into my ‘strike [witches] zone’. Even in a case like Bakemonogatari where I love most of the designs, I am still turned off by enough characters that I cannot truly say that I ‘love the character designs in Bakemonogatari.’ Therefor, I present this as a list of my favorite shows wherein I loved the designs of the entire cast.
Some Notes About My List:
– I find school uniforms quite boring. I am inclined not to like the designs as much if everyone wears a uniform, though I make exceptions if the characters wear enough alternative outfits.
– This list does not include manga, and also does not include instances wherein the manga art is better than the anime art and would sway my decision (thus, no Yoshitoshi ABe series, Ichigo Mashimaro, or Genshiken)
– In cases where I liked multiple shows by the same character designer, I picked the one that I liked most and made notes about the designer in my write-up.
– All art used in this post is official art. Also, I do not know if the Photobucket slideshows will show up in Google Reader.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Character Designer: Nishigori Atsushi
My favorite trio of designs from Gurren Lagann are those of the original team – Simon, Kamina, and Yoko, because they tie together so spectacularly. Simon and Kamina’s blue hair, Kamina’s big blue tatoo, and the blue of Simon’s jacket connect with the deep blue of Yoko’s bikini top and shorts, while Yoko’s blazing red hair and the flames on her top connect to the red trim on Simon’s jacket and Kamina’s fiery cape. Between the three of them, I feel a sense that ‘this is a team’ because of the way they all match and compliment one-another. I want to say that Kittan and his sisters were designed with similar intent, though they all simply wear black. The series introduces many would-be ‘teams’ of characters (such as the extensive crew who all look similarly ridiculous, and of course the villains who all have beast attributes), and this serves to accentuate the fact that Nia does not resemble anyone else in the cast. Cast out by the beastmen and not quite at home with the Lagann crew, she is an anomaly in the series, as reflected in her strange pink dress, two-tone hair, and sparkling eyes.
Everyone in the series is memorable and diverse in appearance, but there are some who stand out from the pack as truly awesome. The first, of course, is Kamina, whose buffness and tattoos make him look both strong and cool, and his lack of a shirt perfectly expresses his headstrong and unafraid nature. His rival, Viral, has everything that one could want in a rival, cool enough to feel like an even match but different enough to stand totally apart from his enemy. Viral’s pointy teeth and constant scowl perfectly convey the boundless rage of a true rival in pursuit of his ultimate enemy. Of course, my favorite design from the series is Nia, particularly young nia after having her hair cut. In a word: adorable.
Character Designer (and other shows that I liked their designs in): Kishida Takahiro (Arjuna, Durarara!!, Koi Kaze, Noein, Serial Experiments Lain)
Kishida Takahiro is one hell of a character designer, and I could have easily put Noein on this list as well if I hadn’t already decided to cover Baccano. The pervading theme behind every design in Baccano is that all of the characters need to be likable and cool. The series makes a point not to select a single main character nor represent one faction as righteous – anyone is allowed to be your favorite and main character, therefor everyone is cool looking and badass. This extends even to supposedly minor characters (though eventually, every character is going to be a main character in Baccano) and does not exclude older men, whose stern faces and cool demeaners ought to appeal to the Kanako Ohnos of the world.
The men are all handsome and well dressed, which has gained the series a large female following, but none of them are too feminine or gay for men to appreciate their coolness. Every character has a unique costume, which are usually quite simple but utterly cool, and just distinct enough that you couldn’t imagine the character without it (for example, Firo’s green tuxedo or Chane Laforet’s black dress). There is a constant feeling of ‘sharpness’ from the characters, which is certainly indicative of the series’ own sharp wit and brilliantly black and bloody comedy. There are far too many characters for me to get into any on a great level, but my favorite design of the bunch is Nice Holystone. There’s a lot going on with Nice, from the burn marks on her body to the glasses that she wears over an eyepatch, but it works stupendously, and her highly attractive red sleeveless top goes splendidly with those black pants that complete the slick and cool appeal.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
I have a theory that a truly attractive character (from a sexual standpoint) ought to be one who looks every bit as good with her clothes off as she does with them on. The cast of Haruhi is surely a prime example of that theory in action. I don’t know what it is about the way these characters are drawn that makes them so gorgeous, because I don’t know the technicalities of art and drawing, but I know the result – the girls are insanely fucking hot. It doesn’t really matter what they wear, be it the school uniforms that we usually see them in or any of their slightly less-than-notable street attire – whatever it is, it looks damn good on those girls.
I am not ordinarily a fan of large breasts, but both Haruhi and Mikuru have forced me to make exceptions. The way that Haruhi’s breasts are depicted in scenes where she dons a playboy bunny outfit are simply perfection, man. When I’m not making exceptions, though, I’m all about Yuki, whose smallness and apparent fragility brilliantly betrays her totalitarian power over time and space – yet, even as one becomes aware of that power, they nonetheless cannot separate the feeling of fragility from the character, which continually fuels a drive to protect her. Leaving the girls aside, Kyon and Koizumi are a pair of handsome young men who spawned no small amount of gay love artwork. I particularly enjoy Koizumi’s design because his smiling eyes and constant expressive hand gestures show a deep love for conversation on his part.
Don’t get me started on Kyonko. How the art community managed to create a pseudo-original character who perfectly embodies the design concepts of the series is beyond me, but I fucking love it.
(Continued on page 2)