Anime and Idealized Figures

When it comes to figure drawing in the western art tradition, the standard human is marked at about 7-7.5 heads tall. Increasing those proportions will result in a more idealized figure, to the point where if you want to make a figure look heroic you make him 9 heads tall. However, based on information I’ve learned from the manga drawing workshop at Anime Expo 2012 (and backed up by the Wikipedia entry on body proportions), it turns out that manga and anime much prefer a 6.5-head-tall character as its baseline, and in some cases as an ideal.

The Wiki entry gives moe as an example of where those proportions change, but even putting aside moe girls and going straight into masculine tough guy territory, what I find particularly interesting is that even some of the majestic figures in anime and manga are about 6.5 heads tall.

Reinhard von Lohengramm (right) is a genius tactician and a brilliant leader beloved by all who serve under him, someone who’s not just heroic but legendarilygalactic heroic, and yet he himself is only 6.5 heads tall, maybe 7 heads at best.

Kinnikuman is a super powered wrestler with muscles rivaling even the greatest of American comics superheroes, and yet he too ranks in at about 6.5 heads tall. The same even applies to that most recognizable of anime superheroes, Goku.

Obviously not all anime and manga characters are 6.5 heads tall, and there are plenty of tall, svelte characters who go into fashion model territory, but I have to wonder how this might affect people’s perceptions of characters both male and female. For example, are anime characters viewed as more child-like or less powerful when viewed by someone unaccustomed to manga for these reasons?

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4 thoughts on “Anime and Idealized Figures

  1. What would be interesting is to see what the proportions are for more traditional Japanese art and for early American animation, as both of these influenced early anime/manga style.

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  2. Do you think this has anything to do with the fact that Japanese people tend to be of smaller stature (less than 7 1/2 heads)?
    What about the shoujo-esque depictions of males (very tall and lanky)?

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  3. Holding my thumb up to the monitor, covering the chin and most but not all of the hair, and stepping down carefully to the heal of the foot on my right, I get a Vitrivian 8 heads tall for von Lohengramm, 7 and change for Kinnikuman. Only Goku comes in as near 6. Maybe someone reading this has a working printer and can measure them with a ruler? I don’t think my measuring is wrong though.

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    • Hmm. I may have measured wrong for Reinhard, though when I look at an image of a younger Reinhard from earlier on in the series, he doesn’t seem to be 8 heads tall. It might be that as the series progresses he gets more and more into the “ideal” proportions.

      One thing though is that even taking all of those characters as “8 heads,” the fact that a super muscular figure like Kinnikuman is still a little under according to your measurements (which may be more accurate, I’ll have to check into it) is still in-line with what I find to be so interesting about this.

      I also realize I mistyped and put 8 heads as heroic when I meant to follow the chart and write “9 heads.” Oops!

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