Style elements of manga and anime

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In the course of time, modern manga ( Japanese comics ) and anime (Japanese cartoons ) have developed special stylistic elements that are often regarded as characteristic of them. However, they do not have to be present or they can also be used deliberately contrary to normal reading and viewing habits.

Development of style elements

The styles of manga and anime were influenced by Japanese art of the Edo period as well as western styles. However, little was taken directly from traditional Japanese art, but rather “re-imported” from Western styles such as Art Nouveau , which in turn were influenced by Japanese woodcuts.

Many symbols and stylistic elements of modern manga were introduced by Osamu Tezuka , who was heavily influenced by European novels and American films. But by the first half of the 20th century, essential elements such as caricature, simplified representations of the characters, influenced by European and American comic strips, were widespread in Japan. In the 1960s, the anime industry, especially Toei animation , was also influenced by Russian cartoons and developed its own styles.

Figure design

"Western" appearance

Manga and anime characters are often assumed to have a western or European appearance. The reasons given for this are the varied color of the hair, the large, rounded eyes, which are also variable in color, or the simplified facial features (see section Child Scheme ) of the figures. Occasionally, this form of representation is even interpreted as an unconscious desire of the Japanese for a corresponding and therefore conspicuous appearance that stands out from the crowd. In fact, according to the Japanese understanding, this form of representation is neutral and without direct assignment to a specific ethnicity or phenotype , as long as the works themselves are not classified. This can also be traced back to the fact that Japanese artists who were influenced by Western comic strips in the 19th century gave their characters a “European” appearance, even though they represented Japanese.

Child schema

Manga-style fan art depicting the child's scheme

One of the most common Manga and Anime elements, especially when depicting female characters, is the child-like scheme with a large head and greatly enlarged "googly eyes". This figure design is so characteristic that it is often interpreted as a generally valid characteristic for Japanese productions or products derived from them.

The child schema occurs above all in productions for children and young people and in the ecchi and hentai area (stories for adults with more or less pronounced sexual content). Manga and anime with a serious or demanding background, on the other hand, often have a more realistic character design.

Face build-up

Manga and anime characters are often drawn with greatly enlarged eyes, since the eyes in particular convey feelings and personality of the character. Therefore, in contrast to western comics and cartoons, the pupils are usually shown. Depending on the realism of the action, the eyes are also drawn smaller.

Since the nose has hardly any meaning for the representation of feelings and emotions, it is mostly only hinted at and usually shown very small. The mouth is also drawn comparatively small, but can also be shown exaggeratedly large in the case of emotions such as anger or perplexity. In anime, however, the mouth is often only slightly animated or only a few shapes of the mouth are used. On the one hand, this is due to the Japanese tradition of acting with dolls and masks as well as the usual subsequent synchronization.

Super deformed and chibi

To emphasize emotions or facial expressions, but also for belittling or parodic reinforcement, figures can be represented in an extreme form, the so-called super deformed . The characters are deliberately not drawn in an anatomically correct manner, whereby those parts of the body that are relevant for the action are particularly emphasized. This form is often used in humorous cutscenes.

The term chibi describes the representation of a character in a childlike, mostly squat form. The child schema is deliberately taken to extremes , and some super-deformed style elements can also be found in the representations.


As Kemonomimi human-designed figures are designated with characteristics of animals. In contrast to Kemono , which in classical Japanese art depict animals with human characteristics and ways of life, Kemonomimi only have individual elements of animals such as animal ears or tails. Their role models can be found in Japanese mythology . One form of Kemonomimi are so-called "cat girls", girls with more or less pronounced cat features.

Even normal people can be briefly shown as kemonomimi in manga and anime, for example when characters get a "cat's mouth" when they have mischievous thoughts or utterances. Similar to the super-deformed style, this is used to exaggerate irritability or cuteness.

Image elements

Representation of feelings

Representation of feelings and states of a character through symbols

The following graphic elements are common in both manga and anime, mostly in scenes with funny or satirical content:

sweat drops
represent embarrassment, embarrassment, or stress.
Characteristic representation of anger in Manga and Anime: furrowed forehead, vein cross, drops of sweat and narrowed eyes
Cross on forehead
symbolizes swelling blood vessels caused by anger or anger.
Mucus bubble from the nose
symbolizes that the figure is sleeping.
Sexual arousal or desire, sometimes up to fountains of blood.
Spiral eyes
stand for exhaustion or loss of consciousness.

In addition, feelings are often conveyed or reinforced with expressionistic backgrounds, abstract shapes and lines.

Image composition and backgrounds

The backgrounds are often more detailed and realistic than the characters. In this way, similar to the European style of the Ligne claire , identification with the characters is facilitated and at the same time a realistic world is created around them, in which the reader can “immerse”. Details from the natural world often find space in the pictures.

In the background, however, “speed lines” and similar expressionistic means are used that represent high speed or strong feelings. They are used more often in manga than in anime. While z. For example, in western comics the speed lines often start from a moving object, like a stationary camera where something is passing quickly, in manga the focus often remains on the object and the speed lines start from the environment, like with a moving camera. In this way a greater dynamic is conveyed. The background may also disappear completely. This also creates an additional focus on the acting character.

Individual evidence

  1. a b Jaqueline Berndt : Manga Mania - dis / continuities, change of perspective, diversity in Ga-netchû! The Manga-Anime Syndrome . Henschel Verlag, 2008
  2. Daniel Kothenschlute: Opulence and Limitation - Styles of Early Anime in Ga-netchû! The Manga-Anime Syndrome . Henschel Verlag, 2008
  3. Matt Thorn: The Face of the Other , 2004 (English)
  4. Patrick Drazen: Anime Explosion! - The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation , p. 23. Stone Bridge Press, 2002
  5. Yoshimura Kazuma: Manga is face - Manga, photography and portrait in Ga-netchû! The Manga-Anime Syndrome . Henschel Verlag, 2008
  6. Osamu Tezuka (preface), Frederik L. Schodt: Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics , p. 91 f. Kodansha America, 1983
  7. Patrick Drazen: Anime Explosion! - The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation , p. 22. Stone Bridge Press, 2002
  8. a b c d Patrick Drazen: Anime Explosion! - The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation , p.25. Stone Bridge Press, 2002
  9. a b c d e f Scott McCloud: Reading Comics Correctly , Carlsen Verlag, Hamburg, 2001
  10. ^ Scott McCloud: Making comics , Carlsen Verlag, Hamburg, 2007.
  11. Patrick Drazen: Anime Explosion! - The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation , p. 21. Stone Bridge Press, 2002


  • Patrick Drazen: Anime Explosion! - The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation . Stone Bridge Press, 2002. ISBN 1-880656-72-8 . (English)