I was reading Kotaku this morning and an article about the evolution of anime styles caught my eye. The post featured an image of how K-On! would have looked had it been made in each of the previous decades dating back to the 1960’s with an tongue-in-cheek bonus ukiyo-e styled print added at the end. Many of us are familiar with the maturation of Belldandy’s look in the Ah My Goddess manga and it serves as a good example of design trends over a period of time.
In reading the comments regarding the article, one reply suggested that the 90’s look wasn’t all that prevalent during the decade. The comparison was made to Saber Marionette J (1997), and it was characterized as being unique. I didn’t find that to be true at all. In fact, like the K-On satirist, I identify that style specifically with the 1990’s. I see that character design influence in:
- Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki (1992)
- Magic Knight Rayearth (1994)
- Blue Seed (1994)
- Dirty Pair Flash (1994)
- The Slayers (1995)
- Burn Up W (1996)
- Martian Successor Nadesico (1996)
- Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
- Hyper Police (1997)
- Knights of Ramune (1997)
- Battle Athletes Victory (1997)
- Lost Universe (1998)
There are many shows from this same time period with different art styles than this; some subtly so (El Hazard the Magnificent World ~ 1995) while others more definitive (Serial Experiments Lain ~ 1998). I do not think that everything from the 90’s looks the same, but I do think there was a “look” to the decade.
That thought made me wonder what shows exemplify the look for the current generation of anime. Is it K-On? I remember remarks about Sora no Woto K-On-like appearance and I, myself thought that this summer’s Kokoro Connect was a spin-off or something.
I think it’s what’s become the traditional moé design as seen in Clannad and Lucky Star. I can see that style repeated in a variety of romantic comedies of varying quality such as Hayate the Combat Butler to Kanokon. Hell, Tayutama -Kiss on my Deity-, Haruka Nogizaka`s Secret and Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun are practically indistinguishable from each other. If there are complaints about modern anime (we’ve all heard or voiced them in abundance) it’s that it looks the same. I don’t believe the detractors are just talking about clichéd characters and unimaginative story development, but also about monotony within the art itself. This decision to cash-in on the moé popularity is ultimately what killed it. While I remain a fan of the romantic comedy genre, I’m not sorry to see its recent signature style go.
That actually makes me wonder what influence will proliferate the medium next. What anime will represent anime’s look into the next decade?