Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?

Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?

Time marches on. Things change. So do styles. But how did Japan's animation and manga styles evolve?

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Twitter user @mayousa_desuga uploaded the above comparison between two children's book versions of The Little Mermaid: one published in 1985 and the other published this year.

The story is the same, but the art style is... different. It makes for a fascinating comparison.

As mentioned above, the publishers are different, but both books are aimed directly at Japanese children. The newer books are being published this year and feature art by manga artists and animators, most notably Futago Kamikita of Pretty Cure fame. Pretty Cure is infamous for big-eyed characters.

Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?
Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?
Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?
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Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?

It's worth noting that these days not all Japanese anime or manga looks like this. However, you can perhaps see how these children's books reflect a common style found in this generation.

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Many commenters on 2ch, Japan's largest web forum, seemed to prefer the older style. One wrote that nowadays the eyes of characters are overdone. One 2ch user thought that the fairy tale characters looked like nightclub hostesses. Others even thought that the Snow White cover looked liked an adult video or an erotic anime! "Those dwarves are creepy," chimed in another.

Another commenter posted this old chestnut that shows the country's stylistic evolution:

Illustration for article titled Have Japanese Art Styles Gotten Better? Or Worse?
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"The olden days art was better," wrote one 2ch user. "Why are they doing this style of anime images? Probably because this is the only style they can draw."

Another asked, "Don't you wonder what kind of drawings will be popular thirty years from now?" At this rate, one shudders to think.

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最近の絵本がヤバイwwwwwwwwww進化しすぎwwwwwwwwwww [2ch]

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.

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DISCUSSION

OddDino
OddDino

I've always found it strange how little deviation you see from the anime style within Japan.
As somebody who studied illustration and reads a lot of small-press comics, it's very clear to me that western audiences (outside of the general marvel/dc crowd) really appreciate unique art styles in their work.

I look on my bookshelf and see a hugely varied array of art styles in there.
Simone Lia, Christopher Mitten, Ben Templesmith, Jeff Smith, Enki Bilal...
They all have their own very distinctive and very different art styles.

The collective anime style has a very broad appeal.
It can fit in to pretty much any situation, where there are plenty of western artists who I feel limit the themes they can work within due to the style they work with.
There are just certain ways of drawing that don't fit with certain narrative themes.

There is of course deviation within the anime/manga style that adds definition to each artists work.
You can always tell when you're watching a Ghibli film, just as you can usually tell when you're reading something by Clamp.
More recently I've really enjoyed the style of Attack on Titan which I find to be fairly unique within the limitations of the anime/manga style.

But I still wonder, why less deviation?
Are there artists in Japan that work in massively different styles and do well for themselves but never make it outside of Japan?
I remember listening to an interview with an illustrator who moved to Japan who discussed having to find work abroad because as soon as people saw his work was in a style that deviated from the norm he found it impossible to get any work.
Instead he has to work with a British publisher.

It's always been something that really interested me since I do occasionally see artists from Japan that have very distinctive unique art styles, but rarely if ever do I see them turning up with a big fan following or integrated into pop culture in any way.