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Why Super Deformed Cute Girls are so now Common in Anime and Manga?




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Jose Cruz



Joined: 20 Nov 2012
Posts: 1344
Location: Serra Gaucha/Minnesota
PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:00 pm Reply with quote
For anyone with experience in manga and animation, it's very common right now that extremely distorted representations of cute girls are abundant. This is not quite true in adult manga, by the way, where there are significantly more older characters that don't look cute, although this also changed recently. In fact, over the past several decades the art style of anime/manga became progressively cuter on average, specially adult titles. This is not true only for "slice of life" moe titles but its true in general.

In fact, cutesy characters were only common in children's manga until the 1980's. And even today some of the most popular adult mangas have quite realistic character designs while others are deformed/cute their degree of cuteness is usually not as high as in the most popular anime, on average.

While the most popular adult anime titles usually have has much more deformed character designs, like Madoka, Lain or even March Comes Like a Lion. Yes, many are based on manga, but these manga are usually cuter looking than the average.

So, why is that progressively character designs became more deformed, the fraction of characters being girls increased and anime (and not manga) is usually at the forefront of this process.

Well, I think that there are several causes:

First animation fans are more experienced with abstract representations than manga readers. That's because manga is supermainstream in Japan so manga readers tend to be commoners while animation fans are more hardcore fans. So, being more hardcore means they developed greater tolerance for abstract representations. Also, in Japan, animation nerds are usually a bit younger than typical manga readers, so they will tend to identify more often with younger looking character designs (as cuter usually means younger as well).

Although Japanese animation nerds are still usually older than the characters in most shows aimed at adult fans: Madoka's main character is a 14 year old girl, for a show aimed at men aged 18 to 40. While, traditionally, manga aimed at adult audiences usually has adult male main characters: Monster's main character is about 35, Space Brother's main character is 31, Vagabond's main character age varies from 18 to about 30, in recent years more cutesy style has also infected manga though to a smaller degree.

One should also note that today the majority of manga fans, the vast majority of amateur manga artists and the majority of the people who work in animation studios in Japan are women. This is I think a relatively recent development and has been "feminizing" anime/manga: I think that the majority of otaku in 1980 were men but after a couple of decades they are women.

This feminine presense, while not usually reaching the elite of the profession (the top directors and more famous manga artists are still overwhelminly male), exert powerful feminizing influences over the whole manga/anime culture and specially over animation, which is a more collaborative work than manga, which is under more strict control of the individual manga artists (who are usually male).

Also, most people who work in Japanese and other Asian animation studios tends to be very young because wages in animation are very low. So, most animators in Japan are very young women who still get money from their parents (and/or husbands) to complement their very low starting income. So it's natural these almost "childlike" young women would tend to animate childlike female characters.

Another reason, as I said before, in Japan animation fans are more experienced than manga fans and more experienced consumers of narrative get bored of narratives made in traditional sense: that is, made with characters that the audience is supposed to identify with (exp. adult male for an adult male audience), when consuming a fictional narrative from the perspective of characters very different from oneself can be regarded as an innovative act of rebellion. I personally am bored of traditional Western narratives always and everywhere dominated by adult/teenager male characters (which also show how sexist Western fiction is: even Harry Potter, the biggest selling book ever written by a woman, stars a mostly male main cast).

Consuming fictional narratives featuring casts very different from what you would expect has it's own countercultural attractiveness and hence is the main reason why I am a fan of fiction influenced by shoujo manga. Although I am also a big fan of a lot of traditional narratives centered on not-cute adult male characters in manga and animation (Vinland Saga, Monster, 20th Century Boys, Lone Wolf and Cub, LOGH, among others), I always find having "weird" main characters to be entertaining (like in Vivid Strike, the show is ok but I found it much more entertaining due to its absurdity).

Another important factor for the appeal of the cute bishoujo archetype in character design is that cuteness and beauty are automatic attractors, not only sexually but also in many other ways. I am not heterosexual for instance yet a big fan of animation and comics featuring these cutesy female character designs. I think that Western culture lacks the same development of cuteness due to some form of cuteness repression, perhaps also due to sexism, since male sensibilities are overwhelmingly dominant in Western fiction and also due to the it's low degree of development in comics and animation.

Finally, my last and strongest argument: I think cute characters are the a perfectly logical outcome of comics and animation, since you draw the characters the way you want you will tend to make they look nice, charismatic and pretty. And the cute style in modern anime is the easiest way to achieve that, hence it emerged as a natural evolution for the medium of comics and animation. And female characters tend to feel more natural in the cute style than male.

Finally, anime characters tend to be cuter on average than manga characters because in manga you don't need to draw many frames so you can draw more realistic characters while in animation character designs tends to be more stylized in general, which again tends to favor the cute style.

Hence, cute bishoujos would emerge and predominate naturally in the medium of animation and to a smaller degree, comics.
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 8:00 pm Reply with quote
I think the Madoka girls actually look their age, a good deal more than say, the crew of Sailor Moon Crystal CAUSE NO YOUNG TEENAGERS ANYWHERE ARE ALL LEGS) lol

If you compare them side by side, by real human standards, Madoka looks closer to 14. Because 14 isn't that much older than a child (12), there wouldn't be major changes yet and the person still looks very young. Usagi on the other hand looks over 20 for how tall and shapely they made her.



Fourteen my ass.

Rolling Eyes

As for the abundance of SD-character designs....I'm pretty sure those come from 4-koma manga. Four-koma are jokes told in four short panels and because of so little space to work with, it's easier to draw the characters short and cute than their normal proportions. I think Lucky Star probably started that trend...though maybe one before it did. I'm not really sure.
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Errinundra
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 8:35 pm Reply with quote
Who is the older character here? Robin or Kanna?



If you weren't an anime aficionado you'd get it wrong.
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Chiibi



Joined: 19 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:10 pm Reply with quote
Lol, when I learned Robin's age the first time, I was very shocked. Anime hyper
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DuskyPredator
It...it's not like I post for you or anything!It...it's not like I post for you or anything!


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:25 pm Reply with quote
I am not entirely sure if you are referring to more moe designs in general, or including shows that would have art shifts suddenly to super deformed. I just finished watching Hinako Note and it was quite common that characters would enter a super deformed style, usually when reaching the punchline of a joke, which I think that Chiibi might be onto something there at the prevalence of 4koma. An understanding that the specific design of characters really does not need to stay static and can be used to get a specific response from the audience.

Should Himouto Umaru-chan be brought up? She switches from being regularly designed to become full deformed chibi like a small animal, the transition really supposed to show a shift in her character. But I will also take this focus a little away from cute girls that I said so far, as The Royal Tutor is mostly males and also pulls this animation shift. The Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor had its episode previews entirely in the super deformed chibi style where it could have a lighter tone to perhaps laugh at itself, like a 4koma panel section at the back of a manga, including male characters.

But some of what was brought up here in cuter designs to make characters look younger is more of a case of "moe" rather than I think saying "super deformed". You are looking at the prevalence of shows that wanted the audience to have feelings of wanting to protect the characters, which may have not been a thought before. I think that this. I don't know if I giving too much credit for it, but I specifically think of what Kyoto Animation and perhaps Key did, which may have opened up to the cuter designs. And then you have shows that would try and play on that cute design while being darker, to illicit I think this feeling of melancholy horror.
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Jose Cruz



Joined: 20 Nov 2012
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Location: Serra Gaucha/Minnesota
PostPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:58 pm Reply with quote
DuskyPredator wrote:
But some of what was brought up here in cuter designs to make characters look younger is more of a case of "moe" rather than I think saying "super deformed". You are looking at the prevalence of shows that wanted the audience to have feelings of wanting to protect the characters, which may have not been a thought before. I think that this. I don't know if I giving too much credit for it, but I specifically think of what Kyoto Animation and perhaps Key did, which may have opened up to the cuter designs. And then you have shows that would try and play on that cute design while being darker, to illicit I think this feeling of melancholy horror.


One thing is that I noticed this trend got much stronger over the not so recent past. In manga/anime of the 1980s it was like Akira. That was very "manly" stuff in the 80s, excluding the shoujo mangas, in circa 1990, a typical seinen manga looked like Akira or Oishinbo (both adapted into anime). A typical adult anime series from 20 years ago was LOGH. The level of stilization was far lower than in the current stuff.

Now apparently the shoujo manga aesthetic heavily influenced the aesthetic of modern manga, including seinen manga, that is manga aimed at adult audiences. Hence, also heavily influenced modern anime. In the book "The Moe Manifesto" they start the whole book by quoting men who read shoujo manga in the 70s and 80s, essentially starting the whole movement that can be called "adult shoujo manga".

Kyoto Animation came up far later than that but I guess their shows like Clannad, K-On! and Kobayashi's Dragon Maid are among the best examples of the genre, so they represent the culmination of those trends. But even in a workplace series like Shirobako the characters now look very shoujo manga like. Back in a 80's manga about office work, Japan incorporated the style was far less cutesy.
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Jose Cruz



Joined: 20 Nov 2012
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Location: Serra Gaucha/Minnesota
PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:51 am Reply with quote
Chiibi wrote:
As for the abundance of SD-character designs....I'm pretty sure those come from 4-koma manga. Four-koma are jokes told in four short panels and because of so little space to work with, it's easier to draw the characters short and cute than their normal proportions. I think Lucky Star probably started that trend...though maybe one before it did. I'm not really sure.


I wasn't talking specifically about SD designs but about the general trend towards cute designs in general. Back in the 1980s most manga/anime aimed at an older audience looked way more realistic than nowadays (i.e. Akira, M.D. Geist, LOGH, other OVAS were more realistic looking than the current stuff, most adult Manga had a limited level of stylization as well:



That was a typical manga of the 1980s. Frederik L. Schodt writing in 2011 said that the current moe stuff was a recent phenomena that overwhelmingly dominated the manga/mediums and that people currently are not even aware of its domination being recent. In fact in the West "anime" is often associated with that.

I think that's the natural evolution of the mediums of manga/anime as it is getting progressively disconnected from physical reality and more and more and more its own reality.

About SD characters, well we have super deformed characters in Gunbuster in 1988 and Manga written by Masamune Shirow around the same time. This kind of art emerged in amateur manga circles in the late 1970s and 1980s. It got mainstream recently though.
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