Sunday, April 6, 2008

Fair haired, fair browed yet dissimilar


I've been wanting to write this one for a couple of days. One of my favourite anime and manga storylines is CLAYMORE. The main characters in the story are all blonde. Every last one of them. It's part of a trait that makes them what they are.

And no, I'm not about to go off on a rant about blonde white girls taking over everything or blondeness as a special power.

I like CLAYMORE. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Xena. I find it kickass. I'm more excited than I know what to do with to realize that the manga is still ongoing and that it differs from the anime. As I've no idea when/if series 2 of the anime is coming out. And the manga is currently giving me all new story!

But I repeat, it's a black and white world in the manga where all the major female characters are BLONDE.

And none of them look alike!

That, ladies and ladies and one or two gentlemen, is my point.

Insert the obligatory kick to Greg Land's worthless nutsack here. [ kick! ]

But I was absolutely enthralled when I realized how much the artist for Claymore was kicking the ass of Land and several of his contemporaries.

How often do I find myself trying to identify female characters by their costumes when I read super hero comics? All the fricking time, is how often. Ok, maybe 90% of the time. But here is a comic, sequential art, where all the main characters, and there are several, are blonde and wearing the same damn uniform! And yet the artist has them with different noses, lips, shape and size of mouth, eyes, hair styles, breast sizes, heights, reaches.

It made me think of the phrase I've seen a lot since I started blogging and reading blogs about comics; "What mysterious power does manga hold?"

And I think being able to tell characters apart is one of them. A big one.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that for me manga goes weird in the other direction. I can tell the girls apart, but the men? They often look the same - pretty, with either short or long hair; spiky short hair, long swishy long hair. And male body types seem to fall into; broad shouldered, long legged male, young lanky twinky male, muscular patow! bulging! male and the rounded face barely into their teens proto-child.

I'm going to wait and see if it's because I'm more aware of the female body and there are subtleties I've yet to read in the male form in manga. It's also possible that most of the manga that catches my eye has female protaganists (I leave you to wonder why - ahem - not so subtle) and so I just haven't been paying attention to the boys in the same way.

Because as I think about it now, I do note that male costuming is somewhat elaborate. In their street clothes/ school clothes I tell Ichigo and Ishida apart by their hair mostly. But not in street clothes, their costumes are distinct and elaborate, Ishi and Ichi both having the long, lanky, twinky body type. Naruto had the round face until Shippoden.

Hmm, more thinky thoughts for later. Still though, a manga of all blondes, each with different body types, hair, eyes, mouth, nose, sneers, smiles, and body language? Yeah, I can see why manga could be winning a younger generation. I'm not even in that generation and I'm all HELL YEAH!


  1. Hey just the recent return of Spoiler/Steph could have easily been a very mean joke by Secret/Stargirl/Wonder Girl/etc and you couldn't tell by the unmasked character is no reason to go calling DC artists to the carpet is it? Oh wait. Yes it totally is...

  2. The major complaint I hear from local manga fans is to much similarity. These aren't necciserily american comic fans either. I mean my best friend is a die hard manga fan and all he reads of American supers are Teen Titans (a mutual intrest).

    It's also the most common complaint of the customers I try and get to pick up manga.

    So uhhh, yeah, not sure where I'm going with this but I thought I'd share. I mean it could just be the books being shipped and promoted in the US. Like Claymore isn't appearing in many ordering forms and Fairy Tail (which I'm currently reading)has a small little box almost dead center in the preview book.

  3. lol @lurker

    it's like churchill and how all his female chars look EXACTLY THE SAME except for the hair and breast sizes.. it's like that's all he thinks are different from woman to woman >.>

    it would be rly nice if they had some sort of "series bible" where the general body type, features, personality, etc are set down for each char and general ideas on how their faces should look, so that the writers and artists have a little more CONSISTANCY when writing or drawing the chars.

  4. Thank you for pointing out Claymore!! I had the exact same thought when I read the manga and then saw the anime. Here you've got a cast of a dozen women, who all have identical costumes, hair color, and eye color... and yet they [i]all look[/i] distinctive. That's amazing.

  5. Marvel used to have character models. And an art director. Then, apparently, he retired, & people liked the off-model stuff Todd MacFarlane & Sam Keith were doing, so they ran with that. (sigh)

  6. I'm a big manga fan so I guess I'll be the guy who points out that sameness effect happens a lot in manga, as well. Though it doesn't manifest exactly the same. Rather than one artist drawing all her/his wo/men the same there seem be stock archetypes that get spammed constantly after someone makes the first popular. Shoujo and harem manga are positively overflowing with these near-pallet swiped characters.Although I'll add that the source of a good bit of these are house-styles (yes, they still exist there) and artists developing a similar style to the manga-ka they'd worked with before striking out on their own.