Fanart Friday returns, introducing itself as just an ordinary Friday column like any other. Last week, we had an especially dramatic and emotionally intense game night as we looked through fanart of GAME-themed titles, but this week we're taking a look at some of the most, uh... basic of character designs. You know exactly who I'm talking about: not every character design goes quite as far as One Piece or Dragonball or Toriko, instead going for the most straightforward and plain look.
For extra fun, just imagine every character in this installment singing this song
In some ways, this is out of necessity--the main character can work as an avatar for the reader (or the player, in the case of games), so a more generic design will help make them more appealing, or more easily relatable? There are many ways of looking at it, neither of them right or wrong, and we'll be looking at a bunch of different characters from different titles. The real strength of a character, no matter how plain their design, is their personality, which more often than not sets them apart from the rest. Funny just how many of them are from light novels, though... anyways, let's get started!
DISCLAIMER: None of the art presented is the property of myself or Crunchyroll. All characters and series are tm and © their respective creators and corporate owners. All art is the creative property of their respective artists. Any artists who wish to have their work removed from this article may contact me, and appropriate action will be immediately taken.
A part of me just wanted to throw the whole Little Busters cast on here, but Riki Naoe follows a lot of the rules of "standard male lead design." Dark hair (black or brown is fine), simple and not-too-outlandishly-styled hair (has to stay realistic!) and a general slim or average build, and of course, a school uniform, because you'll be hard-pressed to find a character like this over the age of 17.
Case in point: Clannad! It's a thing you're going to see me mention time and time again--female character designs work in different visual themes, each character stands out individually, and then when it's time to design the guy, like Tomoya here, just grab a white button-up and dark slacks, and you're good to go!
Although really, the first character that pops into my head whenever this topic is brought up is Tenchi Masaki, alien prince and Japanese Archie equivalent. Tenchi's a rarity in this group in how his life is balanced between day-to-day romcom hijinx and vicious life-or-death fights to the finish.
The real problem with this characters, at least for me, is just how little fanart there is of them, especially by themselves. Love Hina has tons of fanart of every one of the girls, and then poor little Keitarou always gets thrown into group shots or just completely forgotten.
At first, when I heard Golden Time's Banri Tada introduce himself, I thought he said "ただの万里," (tada no banri) or "just another Banri." I guess I could say with his design that he's ただのラブコメ主人公 (just another romantic comedy protagonist)? I'd say it's fair. HE EVEN HAS A CHILDHOOD LOVE AND CONVENIENT AMNESIA
School Days' Makoto follows most of the "design rules" I talked about to a T, except he goes against one of the major character rules: he's more than willing to take advantage of the girls who are into him. Worst part about it? He's too stupid to actually learn anything from his whole situation... or maybe he learns too late? You decide.
Maybe it's a personal bias, but I don't see Silver Spoon's Yuugo Hachiken as a particularly generic protagonist. I think it's just Arakawa Hiromu's art, or maybe it's the fact that he's kind of an asshole instead of a generic loved-by-everyone cypher?
Like I said earlier, a lot of these characters have pretty big differences in personality, but with a lot of them, there's a very familiar air of cynicism about them. A Certain Magical Index's Kamijou Touma very slightly stands out with his spikey hair (with how well he fights, I'd think he'd have some muscle too, like Monogatari's Araragi), but has that still-funny "why me?" attitude.
It's not just fantasy or slice-of-life titles that get these protagonists--they're in mecha shows, too! Poor, beat-up, downtrodden and put-upon Evangelion lead Shinji Ikari is as boring a design as you can get, but his personal and mental troubles aren't by a long shot.
Durarara has pretty basic, real-world character designs across the board, but along comes Mikado Ryugamine to look more real-world than just about everybody else in the series.
I almost didn't include Sakamoto (of the hilarious Sakamoto Desu Ga?) because he's way too fabulous, but despite being taller, he does hit every note that I'm looking for in terms of character design for this theme. I cannot wait for this series to get an anime.
It's somewhat fair to say that D.N.Angel's Daisuke Niwa fits this theme, as well. This type of character can have brightly-colored hair, but I think it's the outfit (and his general personality) that seals it for him. I think it was specifically to set him apart from Dark, and make the transformation feel more impactful.
A reader asked for dead-eyed Shuffle! lead Rin Tsuchimi, and y'know what? I ran into the same problem I did with Love Hina's Keitarou, because nobody ever draws Rin. Instead, I found this happy cosplaying pair, where this guy is the only person I have ever seen who cared enough about Rin to make something in his honor.
In my opinion, the important thing to take from this is that anime and manga characters don't often have costumes, they wear clothes, so I don't expect anything particularly over-the-top from any of these titles. For The Daily Lives of High School Boys, a reader (correctly) singled out Tadakuni, but all three of the leads have pretty familiar designs.
And we don't even know his real name! Kyon is--to me--the exemplar of this whole theme, a plain and nondescript guy who gets to shake his head and facepalm as hard as he can at all the crazy stuff going on around him. In a way, you could also bring up how The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya uses a lot of familiar female designs, too...
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White Album 2's Kazusa and Setsuna really aren't original snowflakes in terms of design or personality, but again, the important thing to take away is how the characters are used in their respective stories. How many anime have you seen that have a brown-haired, pigtailed super-popular girl and a cool-as-ice beauty with long dark hair? Now, how many have you seen where the (also very plain-looking) male lead must make a difficult choice between the two?
...maybe that wasn't the best way to get my point across, now that I think about it. Hey, for all I know, it's still good--I liked the first White Album!
Y'know, I find a strange Rumiko Takahashi-ness about Mysterious Girlfriend X, even with the weird drool thing. Akira Tsubaki's hair is a little puffier and the series' linework is a little more old-school, so he fits right in alongside Yusaku Godai (Maison Ikkoku) and Kousaku Hatanaka (One Pound Gospel).
1- woman in a maid outfit with killer sentient bandages. 2- little schoolgirl with fire-red hair who's usually wreathed in flames. 3- A GUY IN A REGULAR SCHOOL UNIFORM WIELDING A BROADSWORD. Shakugan no Shana has a ton of unique character designs, but next to all of them, Yuuji Sakai just feels out of place. Apparently he gets some cool armor later on in the series--good for him!
I'm just gonna come right out and say Tonari no Seki-kun is my favorite of the new season (right next to Witch Craft Works, but we'll get back to that later). It's also worth noting that the character's names (save Rumi) are punny as hell: "Seki" is not only the name of the guy next to her, so "tonari no seki-kun" can mean "the guy in the seat next to me," or "Seki in the seat next to me." Also, the tall guy in front of Seki (whose very presence lets him get away with all the crap he pulls) is named Maeda--like "mae," or "in front of." If you hate puns, Japanese is not the language for you.
Jesus, Kyousuke, why so glum? Is it because you have a thing for your sister and that's kind of illegal (only kind of in Japan)?! All jokes aside, I really do feel bad for Oreimo's Kyousuke--he has this whole histrionic "why me" thing going on, for very good reason, because Kirino gives him nothing but trouble. It's all your fault, dude, you should've just left her alone and let her have her freakin' DVD without a word, then you wouldn't be in this situation!
Y'know what's funny? I didn't mind Kirito's plainness much in Sword Art Online (even when he immediately went for the all-black outfit and longcoat that every gamer who fancies himself a badass does), since he was a fairly nice guy who would help anyone out of a tough situation. The problem is, I only found myself cheering for him during the fights (because damn, those fights!), because he was kinda forgettable otherwise.
Some of you may wonder why I'm constantly down on slice-of-life anime. The thing is, I'm not--I actually like stories about real people in real situations--I just tend to prefer shoujo titles for that, like Kimi ni Todoke. Kazehaya's the f**kin' man, too, and he's a fair-enough stand-in for a hundred other male leads in a shoujo series, at least in the looks department and give or take a couple bottles of hair dye.
So here's a funny thing about Rumbling Hearts, one of those rare instances where we have an anime based off a visual novel and I was totally hooked on it--look up other visual novels by âge. Doesn't matter which one--MuvLuv (a side-story of which was turned into Total Eclipse), Kaseki no Uta, that awesome Akane Maniax side story--whether it uses characters from Rumbling Hearts or not, it's very likely you'll see the two main female characters following the design template of Haruka and Mitsuki (short auburn hair and long dark, sometimes purple hair, and the one with longer hair is often taller and curvier).
Also, I'm posting these two because I couldn't find art of Rumbling Hearts' Takayuki Narumi. Dude, nobody likes the male characters in shows like this!
I mean, I was hard-pressed to find art of Ah My Goddess! leading man Keiichi Morisato, and he's actually a pretty well-rounded character, considering the genre he's in! I've been meaning to rewatch this series at some point, but my schedule's been kinda full (and there's all the new stuff right now). It really does need one, though.
I feel kinda bad for already using that awesome picture of glasses Shinpachi in the younger brothers/sisters theme almost a year ago--it is to me the single best piece of Shinpachi art ever. Like I said then, his features are just so average that you kinda forget what he looks like, and only remember one key feature.
So you watch the opening of Witch Craft Works and only see one guy, and he's the most boring-looking dude ever (but that's okay, he's hilarious and the show kicks ass). Then you see him get princess-carried by the much, much cooler female lead Kagari, and your mind goes to Arakawa Under the Bridge, where plain-looking Kou Ichinomiya gets princess-carried because his pathetically weak arms can't carry Nino. And then this brilliant artist adds Attack on Titan's Eren and Mikasa into the mix. Yeah, I'll let you guys do the sarcastic commentary on that, I'm spent.
And that's everything for this week! I always say "there's no way I could have included every character," but I freakin' mean it this time, there is literally no way short of doing a huge Fanart Friday that every generic protagonist could be included--who are your favorite plain-looking heroes? Sound off in the comments!
Don't be shy about sending your art in, either--your work is always welcome on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill level or experience. Just PM me a link to your work, and I'll be sure to include it in a future installment! Here are the next three themes for Fanart Friday:
-Next week, on JANUARY 31st, we ring in the Chinese New Year--the Year of the Horse--with a HORSE-themed installment (of course, of course). This is gonna get kinda weird, since there are only so many famous horses in anime and manga and movies and TV... let's see where it goes. AND NO WORDS WORTH. If you don't know what that is, don't look it up. THIS IS THE ONLY THEME I'M TAKING REQUESTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-Then, on FEBRUARY 7th, I'm gonna start a semi-regular look at the works of individual animation studios, starting with STUDIO MADHOUSE! The house that Maruyama, Dezaki, Rintaro and Kawajiri built gets the spotlight!
-On FEBRUARY 14th, of course we're doing a VALENTINE'S DAY theme! But of what? For our first go-around, we went with famous couples in Reservation for Two Edition, and then the following year we did the very appropriate Forever Alone Edition. What could possibly be next?
Thanks again for dropping by to check out Fanart Friday! Have a great weekend, and I hope you come by next week, too!