October 17, 2012
The art of the matter
Normally, I don’t care much about whether a series has great art or not. I’ve written before that it bothers me when fans ignore great series because they have unique or ‘ugly’ artstyles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate good art, and while shojo art often gets criticized for being ‘simple’ and that it ‘all looks alike,’ I find myself drawn to the textbook shojo aesthetic, which often features frills, flowers, pretty girls and even prettier boys. In particular, there are some artists whose style I find myself drawn to. Here are some of the shojo artists whose art I really love:
Wataru Yoshizumi: Some people might argue that Wataru Yoshizumi’s art is textbook shojo. And while I wouldn’t disagree, I feel that Yoshizumi does textbook shojo better than anyone else. I love her character designs – her boys are handsome, while her girls are feminine with large eyes yet still not sugary to the level of Arina Tanemura’s characters. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the basics.
Ai Yazawa: Ai Yazawa is one of a few shojo/josei artists (along with Chika Umino and Moyocco Anno) whose style I consider to be extremely distinct. Her character designs are edgy yet realistic, featuring smaller eyes and thicker lips than the average shojo characters. Her costumes are inspired by real-life designers such as Vivienne Westwood, so her characters are always fashionable. But where Yazawa really shines is her use of facial expressions. Yazawa is amazing at being able to create drama through closeups and the way she frames important scenes. Thus, Yazawa’s storytelling is layered – rather than just relying on multifaceted characters and great dialogue, the story’s emotional punch lies just as much within it’s art.
CLAMP: I love CLAMP’s artwork, but only for a few specific series. I’m not a fan of the more angular art style shown in their older works (such as Clover), nor of their latest lanky character designs where even young characters appear to be six feet tall (which is especially prevalant in Tsubasa). However, I adore CLAMP’s character designs for Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits, which are adorable without feeling overly saccharine, and just generally very feminine. I also love their detailed costumes, from Sakura’s battle costumes in CCS to Yuko’s kimonos in xxxHolic. But the main reason I know I’m a fan of CLAMP’s artwork is because a picture of Chi will pull me in every time, despite the fact that I don’t even like Chobits.
Yuuki Obata: At first glance, Yuuki Obata’s artwork for We Were There seems pretty straightforward. She uses bubbles, sparkles, flowers – all staple elements of the shojo aesthetic. But her character designs only appear to be typical on the surface - on closer inspection they’re rounder than the average shojo characters, and Obata depicts her characters aging skillfully and realistically. But more than for having a distinct style like Ai Yazawa or being amazingly detailed like CLAMP, I believe Obata evokes a certain warmth from her artwork that makes me go ‘awww’ every time I see it.
Yuu Watase: Yuu Watase is the queen of the recycled character design. Tamahome, Night, and Uruki (among many others) are basically the same design over and over again. So why did I put her on this list? Because it’s a damn good character design. No one knows how to draw a pretty boy quite like Watase does, and in many ways the people who accuse Watase of copying her own designs are ignoring the fact that this is true for many other manga artists as well (coughArina Tanemuracough).
There are many other shojo manga artists whose style I really like. I love Kyosuke Motomi’s character designs – they’re sharp and attractive and almost feel as though they walked out of a shonen manga. And I’ve always liked the pretty boys from Vampire Knight, despite the fact that I don’t care much for the series itself. There are even some shojo authors whose works I haven’t read but I find their art extremely addictive, such as Io Sakisaka. So are there any shojo artists whose character designs or costumes you can’t get enough of? Share your thoughts, guys!