Justin from Grandia, RPG for PSX, courtesy of the Grandia Sanctuary

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Visuals in Temuair (Manga and Anime - A style guide)

I remember a DAML post by Cliona, where she more or less asked why DA visuals look like they do.

Now, fortunately ;-), I am a pretty big Manga and Anime fan in general, and we have a publication for those over here, which tried to answer that sort of question for their readers a while ago: what is Anime style, especially compared to western comics-style.

I am trying to translate and summarize the bits and pieces that are relevant to Temuair. Credits and explanations are given below ;-)

Manga Style | Anime Style | Subject Themes | Terms

Water color from Bishojo Manga Vampire Princess Miyu; and yes,this is a man ;-)



Use of colour is frequently different from western comics usage: different, more pastel shades of colour are used, the pictures have more of a likeness to water colour paintings, they have shadings and subtle degrees of colour (in direct contrast to the popular primary coloured panels à la Mickey Mouse). Shonen Manga has more of a tendency to use primary colours than Shojo Manga, which experiments with neon- and chalk-like tones (as you can see on the left ;-).

The importance of the line as the main element of drawing developed, on the one hand because of the necessity to keep production costs low, on the other hand out of the graphics tradition in Japanese art (calligraphy and woodcutting); the drawings are not dependent on colour to arrive at certain effects or spacial depth. It comes as no surprise then, that Mangas normally only have coloured pages in their pocket book form: everything else is black and white.

A super deformed fairy anime styleContrary to western comics, where there still is a far reaching distinction between funnies and serious comics, there is no definitive style customary for a specific genre in Japan. Very elaborate works can always be interrupted by humorous scenes using superdeformed (sd) character style.

This use does not break the mood for Japanese readers - the different drawing styles are interpreted as varying ways of expressing different moods, to be used as necessary; varying words in a language of form which matches on the whole.

Talking about sounds and noises: these, too, are used in an effort to recreate a certain mood. The Japanese have perfected the technique of representing sounds by certain written effects in all three of the Japanese alphabets, depending on situation and object. ((That would be much too elaborate for Temuair, but do think of the visual spell effects and the effects for physical attacks, or even the tears which fly and the kisses that are blown visually.))

Parn as SD character from Record of Lodoss War

Animestyle in action in Temuair: the Grimlok queen

Notice the babylike head proportions: this is kawaii

The best know characteristics of Japanese comics and Anime are the large eyes. The fascination for large eyes can be found in cultures all over the world, and Walt Disney is using them to great effect as well, but the art form certainly was perfected in Japan.

One reason for that being, of course, the attraction of the exotic: in Shojo Manga especially (where certain publishers have a guideline for graphics artists to have the eyes take up at least one third of the face) there are many stories taking place in distant, non-Asian locales with blonde and European heroines.

The main reason for the large eyes, however, can be summarized with the word kawaii: cuteness. The characters are supposed to be cute, so that the reader likes them and is instinctively moved to feel with them. The large, widely-spaced eyes, the small nose, often only hinted at as a shadow, and the proportionally small mouth are taken exactly from the well known baby characteristica in nature.

However, the eyes are not always so round and large. Especially in Shojo and Bishonen Manga long and slit eyes are used often.

The bizarre hair styles, often wildly coloured, are additional evidence for the ability of Japanese readers of every age and gender to distinguish between Manga reality and real life. Those completely unrealistic arrangements, which never lose their form even during the wildest turbulences or hinder their bearers in an way, and their vivid colours of pink, blue, green or violet are sometimes the only way of distinguishing characters with often very stylised faces.

Even a black and white Manga may have the hair of a character in one panel black in front of a white background - in the next, in front of a black one, white. It is an unvoiced agreement between reader and artist that this is part of the form language of the medium, always knowing that the hair of a young Japanese girl will in real life most probably be black.


The Japanese have a completely different aesthetic approach to movies and video. For them it is transporting and enlarging the theatre repertory in a different medium. And, just like all classical Japanese art, Japanese theatre is not interested in any kind of direct representation of real life on the stage: the point is rather to detail, with as little effort as possible, two or three characteristics of a protagonist. It is a stylised and momentary representation of the world.

This means that no Japanese would think it necessary to observe a lion for days on end, if he wanted to represent a lion in an Anime (contrary to the technique used by Disney, for example). The artist would use his memories and the culturally agreed on characteristics for a lion (i.e. fierceness, pride, strentgth etc.) to design a lion-characteristic much more lion-like than an actual copy from real life.

That does not mean that the Japanese don't research their characters and settings: they don't use them as proofs however, only as starting points in their rather rough, for western tastes almost extremely simple and stylised, animation, an essential part of their aesthetic program. Open-minded approach will soon result in the insight that this animation can often be more dynamic and expressive than the western style.

Subject themes:

Science Fiction and Fantasy are defined differently from the western idea in Japan, and are not so strictly distinguished between: that explains finding so many mixed versions, strange to western tastes. The Japanese interpretation of the word Science fiction is closer to the initial idea of fiction about science, depicting science which could theoretically be possible in the future, based on the further development of today's technologies.

Fantasy, on the other hand, covers anything which is fantastic in some sense of the word - from heroic epics with sword and sorcery to mysterious forces that possess a person. Tolkien-influenced roleplaying games have left a lingering impression in classical fantasy, so that many epics now have the typical class distinction into warrior, magician, priest and thief, while the races are made up of humans, elves, dwarves and goblins.

nonsd Manga beauty Neese from the Chronicles of the Heroic Knight manga


Hair and style example in Temuair: notice the proportions of eyes and face, the missing mouth and nose. Emerelda, courtesy of Pashura's DA Vault



Anime Hairstyles


Taken from the English word for animation it is the Japanese word for cartoons, used in the west to distinguish the Japanese style of animation from the western one.

Can be translated loosely as "unreliable pictures". It can describe caricature, comic strips and comics, but never animated cartoons. The expression "Gekida" (dramatic pictures) is used sometimes in connection with very serious and realistic series, and some Japanese prefer the expression "komikksu", which describes the preferred reading direction (from back to front and upper right to lower left).

The word Manga was first used used by the famous woodcutting artist Hokusai in 1814, but it only became popular at the beginning of our century in its current usage. Manga industry started to take off after the Second World War; anything can be used as a subject: romance, comedy, horror, science fiction, fantasy, sports, crime, even cooking etc. For almost any subject, be it ever so absurd, an appropriate Manga can be found in Japan.

Stands for Super Deformed. A general expression to describe compressed, cute versions of characters. SD characters tend to be as overdrawn in spirit as in body. No popular media personality is safe from this caricatures, not only Anime and Manga characters. Another variation of this is "CB", which stands for Child Bodied, a Version of "Chibi" (Japanese word for "small").

Japanese for "girl" (Also, Bishojo = beautiful girl). Additionally, name for those Mangas intended in their subject matters mainly for female readers: school romances, romance, romantic comedy, magical girls (Sailormoon, e.g.), romantic drama.

Japanese for "boy". (Also, Bishonen = handsome boy, many of those appear in Shojo Mangas ;-). Additionally, those Mangas intended mainly for male readers, with lots of action (Streetfighter and its Anime versions come to mind).

However, the androgynous ideal of beauty in men is not a new development of Manga. The long-haired, fragile male youths can be taken from a very old Japanese ideal for male beauty: the hero of the "Story of Prince Genji" from the 10th century is already described much like a woman. In classical Japanese theatre, in the famous Takarazuka-Revues, in Visual Rock and Pop culture playing with gender stereotypes is a favourite subject.


All the information given here has been losely summarised and translated by me. It was taken from the Fan-Art special of the German Magazine AnimaniA, specifically from the Anime-ABC and the article "Manga? Anime? What's that?"©1998 Weird Visions Media, all rights reserved.

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