Anime’s artistic evolution; what exemplifies today’s look?

Topic started by PenguinDust on June 15, 2012. Last post by ImmortalSaiyan 2 years, 9 months ago.
Post by PenguinDust (1,009 posts) See mini bio Level 13
Decades of K-On!
Decades of K-On!

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:

  1. Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki (1992)
  2. Magic Knight Rayearth (1994)
  3. Blue Seed (1994)
  4. Dirty Pair Flash (1994)
  5. The Slayers (1995)
  6. Burn Up W (1996)
  7. Martian Successor Nadesico (1996)
  8. Rurouni Kenshin (1996)
  9. Hyper Police (1997)
  10. Knights of Ramune (1997)
  11. Battle Athletes Victory (1997)
  12. 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?

Post by takashichea (16,555 posts) See mini bio Level 25


Great blog, PenguinDust! Thanks for clearing my misconceptions of Moe characters as sickVisionz pointed out for me. I can see how characters faces have become more and more similar, and the only way to distinguish them is by clothes, hair, and eye color.

Genres of anime swing like a pendulum. Some become popular while others decline. I don't have strong evidence for this pattern. That's what I think about the height of Moe anime's glory and its decline. It'll be back in its prime when they have something fresh. That's my guess. I never did try any Moe anime or manga series. It's startling that Rurouni Kenshin and Tenchi Muyo has some influences.

In Rosario Vampire II manga, I remember the author stating how confuse he is with Moe and his fans want his characters to look Moe. It's in one of the bonus features that I don't remember the exact volume. I'm in the same boat with Moe. I don't understand it either. Speaking of Moe, what is the opposite of Moe. Is it Tsundere?

Post by Azman (5 posts) See mini bio Level 13


Awesome post. Yeah, I had to take a second look at the Kokoro Connect promo picture when I first saw it. I thought for a minute it was another season of K-On!. After some research, the illustrator for the Kokoro Connect light novel, Yukiko Horiguchi did the character designs for K-On!, and was also the chief animation director. Which might explain the uncanny resemblance.


Your not alone there, I also have seen and heard about the popularity swing of anime genres. When I first got into anime the Harem shows were on the down swing, and the Maid/Butler shows were on the up. Then a think it was the Vampire shows turn. Then at some point Moe took over. I wonder which type of show will be the next best thing since sliced bread in anime?

Post by sickVisionz (4,332 posts) See mini bio Level 24

I saw that pic a few months ago and I'll say it now just like I said back then, I've got serious doubts that 90s moe involved making character look like mutant lizard people.

@takashichea said:

Speaking of Moe, what is the opposite of Moe. Is it Tsundere?

Oh no, tsundere can be the cutest of cutes (see Nagi from Hayate no Gotoku and any random handful of Rie Kugimiya). The opposite of moe would either be some character that is legitimately designed to be hated with nearly no likable personality traits (not even a tsundere heart of gold underneath the tough exterior) or some hideously ugly and disfigured character who also has no likable traits.

Post by ImmortalSaiyan (38 posts) See mini bio Level 9

I'm not a fan of the Moe look. I think it looked great in Lucky Star and every moe anime I have since seen has looked inferior.

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