The Versatility of the Kyoani Face

Though a fair number of anime studios can be characterized to some extent by the types of shows they put out, the only current ones I can think of that have a house “look” on a character design level are P.A. Works (SHIROBAKO, Hanasaku Iroha) and Kyoto Animation (Suzumiya Haruhi, Tamako Market). I think this is especially noticeable with the latter studio, as the “Kyoani Face” is instantly recognizable, and is even sometimes imitated, such as with Sound of the Sky.

While watching the first episode of Kyoto Animation’s newest work, Sound! Euphonium, it occurred to me how versatile the Kyoani face is to a certain extent. It’s not so much that Sound! Euphonium alone that made me realize this, but rather that it was a slow culmination of watching their shows over the years. Namely, i find that their iconic face can be fitted, or perhaps was slowly adapted over the years, to match not only a variety of body types but also a range of character designs from cutesy caricature to more realistic proportions.


The most obvious example of this would probably be the Free! character designs, shown above, but I think you can see it in their more historical tendency to make stories about cute high school girls. All of these characters are supposed to be roughly the same age, and yet while they share that signature look in terms of their faces, their bodies are all noticeably different. I’ve even made all of the characters the same “height” in order to emphasize this.


From left to right: Ritsu from K-On!, Hazuki from Sound! Euphonium, and Gou from Free!

Of course, not every one of their shows uses the Kyoani face of course (Lucky Star being the notable exception), but I think it goes to show just how important that particular facial structure is to the identity of the studio. Otherwise why would they use it again and again? At the same time, I wonder if it also shows Kyoto Animation’s willingness to experiment, at least within their particular areas of specialty, in terms of both story and visuals.

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The Threat of Emasculation in the World of Fictional Icons Beyond Manga

For many years now, manga has undergone a curious transformation. Where once comic magazines devoted space to stories which taught boys how to be men and provided ample role models for how to live, that innocent desire has been corrupted by a display of weak-willed, wobbly-kneed pretty boys who fight not to save the world but to draw power away from men and place their entertainment in the hands of the opposite sex.

Originally, even though I could only shake my head at the manga aisle at the Barnes and Noble, I at least was confident in the knowledge that this breakdown of integrity in fiction was limited to what we’d call “entertainment.” Manga, television shows, books, it was as if the ovarial agenda was happy to willfully quarantine itself to the realm of fictional tales. But I realize now that I was simply too naive, and that the attack goes well into the realm of iconic figures who exist in our daily imaginations.

Look at this man here. You might think he’s the main character in the newest Jump comic, or perhaps his clean-shaven look and gentle eyes mean he’s the latest teen heartthrob. But sadly, truly sadly, you are incorrect. This is the Brawny Man.

Looking back, the clues were obvious. Paper towels absorb the messes of kitchens and bathrooms and store a record of human activity. Likewise, manga pages absorb the ink from the artists’ pens, also resulting in a similar record of human activity. Paper towel rolls and manga magazines are essentially cousins, and if the integrity of one can be damaged, the other is just as vulnerable.

It’s a likely possibility your mind blocked out the first image I showed you. For your benefit I have included a picture of the previous Brawny Man to help transition your mind into the harsh reality of the present. Comparing the two, it is clear that at some point  the powers that be decided that the Brawny Man was too great a symbol of all that is good and decent in the world, and so took steps to correct this “error.” They were threatened by his full mustache and his rugged looks, and concluded that the only solution was to begin depriving him of the very essence of his influence.

The new Brawny Man is still fairly masculine, but the fact that he escaped still well on the side of the Y-chromosome is attributed more to his inherent fortitude than anything else. A lesser male character would have transformed into a female baboon. A visual kei member would have found new life as a sentient petticoat. It is an ordeal few can survive even once.

Let us pray for the Brawny Man. Though he may now be too malformed and misshapen to ever inspire a generation of true men, we must still accept and forgive him.