7 Drastic Character Design Changes
by Lynzee Loveridge,
I'm in Anime Expo recoup mode, guys. I braved miles upon miles of foot traffic, over 100,000 people crammed into Los Angeles Convention Center and lines out the door to get those panel reports and premieres in and BOY I am wrung out dry. I'll be back next week with a whole new List, but never fear! Here's a rerun in case you missed it the first time around.
The transition from manga to anime isn't always a seamless process. Projects hire character designers to reinterpret static artwork into something that can be animated in a manageable way. This can mean losing detail or streamlining a unique art style. In a perfect world, these changes lead to a better-looking production overall, but that doesn't mean fans always appreciate the shift in style.
Pokémon Sun & Moon You can read Callum May's detailed editorial about design changes to the long-running Pokémon anime over the years, but none of the slight aesthetic changes from each season garnered the amount of backlash as the currently airing Sun & Moon. The simpler, rounder approach was immediately rejected as too goofy and unattractive by a vocal portion of the fanbase. Many of these points were reiterated when Misty & Brock returned for a short episode arc and were also redesigned to match the new look. Despite mixed feelings, the change has also ushered in a much more dynamically animated show, which could also be due to the staff's increased use of digital animation software, although streamlined character designs couldn't hurt either.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal While other entries on this list are examples of strong deviations from the original artwork, Sailor Moon Crystal is its own can of worms for being more adherent to Naoko Takeuchi's leggy, wispy-haired art. The classic show's original run of 200 episodes underwent its own style changes, and I'm personally a fan of S and SuperS for getting significantly "prettier" compared to the earlier two seasons. That said, at no point was the original series seeking to match Takeuchi's own style, something the revival decided to recreate more faithfully for the first two seasons of Crystal. Unsurprisingly, the original manga designs do not animate well, even when episodes are on a bi-weekly release schedule. The series design was overhauled for the third season and will presumably stick with these changes going into the two-part film adaptation of the fourth arc.
Flowers of Evil Anime fans who hadn't seen A Scanner Darkly or similar works got a crash course in rotoscoping when Flowers of Evil premiered in 2013. The manga is a scathing tale of one self-described intellectual high school boy, his relationship with the most beautiful girl in class, and his blackmail entanglement with the self-destructive class oddball. Shūzō Oshimi's art is amazing. The character designs could be considered average, but Oshimi really shines through his eye for highly detailed background work and nuanced facial expressions. ZEXCS took an incredible risk adapting a manga driven by fairly unlikable characters that's designed to continually punch readers in the gut, but the show's staff took things a step further when they isolated fans further by rotoscoping the entire series. Opinions can be divisive on whether it was worth the effort, but it certainly made for a one-of-kind anime production.
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid Since his debut, Coolkyoushinja has been nothing if not prolific. He's the creator behind I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying, Komori-san Can't Decline, and Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, and those are just the few that have anime adaptations. Coolkyoushinja is serializing almost 10 separate manga simultaneously in some form or another. Their topics vary widely, but one thing they all have in common is a rounded, almost super-deformed art style. This is consistent regardless of the character's age, which was adjusted quite a bit when Kyoto Animation took on Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. Tohru had a much slighter build, and Kanna could even appear sinister in the original artwork. Only Kobayashi herself seems the most similar to her original design, whereas KyoAni plumped both the dragon girls up by comparison.
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor The Irresponsible Captain Tylor's anime character designs are mostly indiscernible from other early 90s anime like City Hunter '91, Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water, and Blue Seed. In any case, Tylor and his crew don't look anything like the novels' original artwork. The biggest discrepancy in design is alien princess Azalyn, who looks like she'd fit right in with the chibi style dragon girl Mink from Dragon Half.
Tokyo Majin Teens fight the reanimated dead in this super-serious anime series loosely based on a series of video games that first premiered on the PlayStation in 1998. The anime protagonist Tatsuma Hiyū shares his name with the early game's lead, but that's about it. He no longer has the lackadaisical delinquent look, and the rest of the cast is nigh unrecognizable. Chalk it up to art trends changing significantly from the PlayStation era to 2007.
Future GPX Cyber Formula Futuristic racing bros breeze through all the shōnen championship staples like how heart beats out technology and what the true competitive spirit of racing means, while making lifelong friends and rivals along the way. Mutsumi Inomata was in charge of the show's original designs and stuck with the project until the Future GPX Cyber Formula Saga OAV, where My-HiME character designer Hirokazu Hisayuki stepped in, suddenly causing all the teen boys to get a lot prettier. 14-year-old Hayato Kazami traded in his chipper appearance for a much more dramatic look.
- Final Fantasy
- Kingdom Hearts
- Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross
- Dragon Quest
- Star Ocean
- Seiken Densetsu ("Mana")
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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