I’ve been trying out Manga Box lately, an official manga app for some more obcure titles. One of the titles I keep up with is NadeNadeShikoShiko, a bizarre 4-koma gag manga about a boy and the time-displaced cavegirl who loves him. It’s not the funniest thing in the world but it consistently gets a chuckle or two out of me.
The latest joke to get a laugh out of me involves one of the teachers. In the story, the boy attends a school with a “yamato nadeshiko” major where girls learn how to be traditional Japanese beauties. Part of the yamato nadeshiko thing is to contrast the cavegirl’s attitude, while another is to have kimono as school uniforms (which reminds me of Taisho Baseball Girls and its depiction of the transition between kimono and sailor uniforms). However, when we see the head teacher for the yamato nadeshiko department it turns out that she indeed embodies a more “classical” idea of Japanese beauty.
The joke of course is that she looks like stepped straight ouf an ukiyo-e print, and how this contrasts so utterly with the typical manga bishoujo style used for the rest of the characters. More than just being funny though, it really got me thinking about illustrated perceptions of beauty because neither the manga style as we know it nor this classical style of depicting women are “realistic” in the most common sense. They both make specific decisions on how features should ideally look (small eyes vs. big eyes), and while there are some overlapping points namely in the valuing of pure tones for skin, their differences really bring out the way culture plays into what we see as beautiful and how this builds upon itself.
Honestly, I can’t quite comprehend how that’s supposed to be beautiful. In realizing this, however, I realize I’ve been somewhat hypocritical when I question how younger or newer anime fans have trouble watching older shows. After all, if I can’t quite appreciate this older conception of beauty, am I all that different?