Part 6.1 - Aging Characters (Obata Takeshi, DEATH NOTE and HIKARU NO GO)

Obata gets an essay all to himself, because I am a squee-ing fangirl for his work. My flimsy justification is that I'm focusing on more complexly drawn, more realistic characters than in the previous one, but we all know that's a sham. So, on to ogle study Obata's work.

On to How to Age Characters - Part 2.

Obata has drawn two series that each have covered enough time within the series for the characters to age visibly. In Hikaru no Go, Shindo Hikaru and Touya Akira, among may other characters, age from about 12 to about 16 or so, if I recall correctly. Death Note so far covers about five years, and I'll talk about how Yagami Light is shown to mature from a 17 year old teenager into a 22 year old young man. In these, youth is also used to show innocence and to signify the general mood and theme of the work.

But first, a few words on aging from adulthood to middle age:

Here we have Chief Yagami, Light's father, and his small detective squad getting gobsmacked by something-or-other. You can see the differences between the adult and the mature adult here. The detectives are all in their mid-to-late 20s, possibly early 30s. Matsuda, on the far right, is the youngest of the bunch, at about 25 if I remember aright. Chief Yagami - note I do not have to tell you he's the one in the center because his age, his center placement, and his head being above everyone else tells you that he is in charge of the others - is somewhere around his 50s, I believe.

As the youngest, Matsuda's head is slightly rounder than anyone else's - their heads have subtle corners and more straight lines. He's got an adult jawline and adult placement of his eyes, but his eyes are also slightly rounder and larger than the others', and his neck is ever-so-slightly thinner. See how everyone else's neck is as wide as their jawline, while Matsuda's isn't, by just a hair?

Chief Yagami has several signs of aging. He's got - although you can't quite see it in this picture - streaks of grey growing from his temples. He's wearing square glasses and has a mustache, which don't age by themselves but when combined with other characteristics underscore the effect of age. They also make him stand out as different, so when he's drawn in a crowd of detectives, you can immediately pick him out. This and the grey streaks lend him an air of authority, almost a sense of command presence. His jawline is heavier than most of the detectives, which is a masculine symbol and also authoritative. Inspector Mogi - the square-jawed young man on the far left - has a jaw as wide as the Chief's, but the Chief's jaw is drawn ever-so-slightly sharper than Mogi's. The slightly-rounded jaw on Mogi signals his comparative youth.

Finally, we get to the signal that everyone thinks of as the most important signal of age - the lines on his face. Chief Yagami's cheekbones are prominent and his cheeks are slighlty sunken in, giving him a craggy Clint Eastwood-type face.

Note that most of the lines in his face go towards expressing emotion, rather than aging him. The line that most people usually put in to age someone - from the corner of the nose to the corner of the mouth - is barely there. If it was present, the Chief would be aged too much, and look elderly instead of in the prime of life. Neither are there crows-feet around his eyes.

The lines of his cheek extend down to surround his mouth, and there are other lines giving his mouth a sense of tension. The lines right underneath, to the side of, and above and between his eyes also all contribute to the tension. There is not a single line in his face whose only purpose is to age him - they all have two functions - primarily to give him authority or emotion, and secondarily to age him.

Hikaru no Go

Now on to HikaGo for a bit before going back to Death Note.

Hikaru no Go covers about 4 years, I think - the characters age from 12 or so to about 16. (I could be wrong about the age range, and if I am, I'm sure you'll tell me.) Obata exaggerates the youth of the characters, especially in the early chapters of the manga. This is partly a manga tradition, that characters always look younger than their years, but it also gives the manga an air of exuberance and non-seriousness. In the beginning, Hikaru is a young boy who isn't too concerned about much of anything, and he certainly doens't give a damn about Go. As time passes, Hikaru and the other characters get more serious about Go and about competition, and the themes and emotions of the story mature. The characters age to reflect this.

These pictures are of Touya Akira, who is a Go prodigy and becomes Hikaru's Go rival. He is, although he looks about 8, 12 in the first image and about 16 in the second.



The first picture is from the chapter where Akira meets Hikaru for the first time. He doesn't see Hikaru as a rival, because up until that point, he'd never had a serious competitor his age. And Hikaru, with his two-tone hair, goofy ways, and sloppy dress, doesn't look like he's got the makings of a Go champion. (Akira, of course, doesn't know that Hikaru is haunted by the ghost of a Go master, who serves as a mentor and trainer.)

Young Akira's head is rounder - emphasized by the curve of his hair in his younger picture and the straightness of it in his older picture - and his jawline is rounder. His eyes are big, and in the middle of his face. As he ages, his jawline gets more defined, his chin ever-so-slightly bigger, and his eyes get much smaller and move farther up his face. Making his eyes smaller also focuses his gaze and makes him look more intense. His eyebrows are meeting in the middle of his forehead slightly more than in the younger picture, which gives him an air of seriousness.



In this 3/4 view, you can see Akira's nose and chin better. His nose is slightly less tip-tilted, and his chin more prominent. His jawline is also a bit heavier, although you can't see where it meets his ear because of his hair. His right cheek has also matured - it's a bit rounder in the younger picture. His eyes are smaller, and his irises are smaller in the older picture, so you can see more of the whites of his eyes. The line right above the bow of his upper lip serves to indicate that he's tight-lipped with tension: if we tried to put lines around his mouth like Chief Yagami, he'd look middle-aged. His neck is also slightly thicker, although it's hard to tell.



And now we have his profile. The first two panels are his younger version, with a tilted nose, larger eyes, rounder chin and jaw, and a rounder head as emphasized by his curving hair. In the first two panels, he's also got one hell of an overbite, which has straightened out by the time he's 16 probably using InvisAlign braces since we never see him in braces. Note also how his upper lip is longer in the older picture, and how his jawline is straighter instead of curved. You can tell by the angle that if the spot where his jaw met his ear wasn't covered by hair, you'd see an angle there.

And then, there's Hikaru. Like Akira, he's 12 in the first and 16 in the second.



I don't think I need to point out all the differences yet again, since they're the same: jaw, chin, eyes, neck, etc. However, the differences in style from cartoony to more realistic are even more prominent. This is, I believe, to signify the change in tone of the manga as time goes on and the characters get serious about their lives. The first panel is Hikaru in his first game against Akira, when he's not taking it seriously and thinks it's just a fun way to pass the time, while the second is after he's pursued Go seriously in competitions for a long time. He's maturing from a goofy boy into a composed young man, while keeping his pleasant personality.



Here, he's even more cartoony as a 12-year-old. It almost doesn't look like the same manga, except that in the pages of Chapter 1, where the cartoony version of Hikaru comes from, the background and other people's hair are drawn with a fair degree of realism - pretty close to the hair and background in the second picture. You can see young Akira's realistic hair up above, too. So I think cartoony-Hikaru is a deliberate stylistic choice, made to underline Hikaru's attitude towards Go and life.



And the profiles. I trust you can see the differences between them. :) Young Hikaru has an overbite like young Akira. Older Hikaru's nose is just about as tilted as young Hikaru's is, but that's almost the only thing that remains the same. Check out the curve on that jawline, too: you can see that to age Hikaru to 25 or 45, you would make it more and more of an angle.

Here's another difference between younger and older people:




Kids are, for the most part, more open in their emotions than older teens or adults are, and this is reflected in HikaGo. As Hikaru ages, he gets more and more serious. Young Hikaru is quite goofy, which is one of his endearing traits, but by the time he's a young man, he's settled down into himself and become more composed. The above is about as broad an expression as he gets.

The last bit here is to focus a little bit on the figure as a whole from 12-16.



Here we see Akira maturing from a schoolboy into Xelloss a fine young man. Young Akira's head is bigger in proportion to the rest of his body than Older Akira's is. His uniform is also softer - note the rounded shoulders here as compared to the sharp shoulders on his suit jacket. Usually at 16, the male body hasn't really started broadening in the shoulders - there are always exceptions, of course - so Akira is still narrow-shouldered. If he were drawn at about 20, his shoulders would probably be broader. However, strong shoulders is one of the signs of maturity, and the Western suit jacket is constructed so as to exaggerate the shoulders, so they are padded and tailored sharply. This gives an air of authority that the soft shoulders of the school uniform lack.

Akira's school jacket is also slightly too large for him - obviously so he can grow into it - and his sleeves come down over his hands. This makes him look younger. Note in the other picture how Akira's about to outgrow his suit jacket. When you sit down and bend your arms, long sleeves will naturally ride up a bit, but they're riding up a bit too much on Akira there, so he's got the vague air of gangly scarecrow about him, and his parents are looking at the purchase of another expensive suit for him in the coming weeks. (Good thing he's a Go champion - those prize pots probably go to maintain his wardrobe and to purchase ties that make his opponents' eyeballs bleed.)



And now we have two of my favorite panels from HikaGo. The similarities cannot be coincidental, so we are meant to compare the two. The first one is young Hikaru's first game of Go with his grandfather, and the second one is a game they play much later, after Hikaru has been competing seriously for some time. Obata's style matures between the two, of course, but cartoony Hikaru is slightly more cartoony than the rest of the panel. The change in Hikaru signifies not just age, but maturity.

The similarites we're supposed to see are obviously, the perspective at which it's drawn, the checked pattern in Hikaru's clothing, Hikaru's elbows-out hands-on-knees posture, the same sweater his grandfather is wearing. These point out the differences: his grandfather's hair has gotten white (and he seems to have gotten a hair transplant, since it looks an awful lot like male-pattern baldness in the first. Perhaps that's supposed to be a highlight.) Hikaru's head is shorter than his grandfather's in the first panel, showing tha this grandfather is the dominant one in this scene - he's an experienced Go player and Hikaru is the rankest of rank beginners. In the second, Hikaru's tall enough that his head is higher than his grandfather's and he has more physical presence due to his darker clothing and wide-elbowed stance, and you can see the passage of time and gradual passing-on of authority here.

Hikaru's shoulders have broadened significantly - moreso than Akira's. If Hikaru were in a structured jacket like Akira's, he'd look almost like a football quarterback. He's not in one, however, because this is a casual game, not a competition game, and because his personality is more easygoing than Akira's. If Akira were having a friendly game with his grandfather, you just know he'd still be wearing a button-down shirt. Probably ironed. Hikaru wouldn't wear anything ironed unless his mother made him, and it would probably get wrinkled about thirty seconds after he put it on. He's physically bigger than Akira overall - slightly stockier through the middle. His torso has lengthened in proportion to his younger self - see how young Hikaru's elbows are higher than older Hikaru's, in the same position? And, like Akira, his head is proportionally smaller than his younger self.

Death Note

Finally, back to Death Note, in what has got to be my longest essay EVAR. For the three of you who haven't read my LJ and thus haven't seen me crow about this manga, the main character, Yagami Light, finds a notebook which, if you write someone's name in it following a bunch of rules I won't go into here, kills that person. Light decides to make the world a better place and thus starts his career as a serial killer.

Light ages from late-teens to young manhood over the course of the manga. Like Hikaru, he's drawn as much more cartoony to start with, but it is very obviously a stylistic choice to show his innocence at first.

Young and Innocent:

Young and Not So Innocent:

In the first two panels, from Chapter 1, Light doesn't look 17. He looks 12. In the second one, from Chapter 10, he looks 17. His hair and face shape hasn't really changed other than his cheek flattening out a little bit, but he's more controlled - you can't imagine the second Light letting loose in a big goofy yawn like the first one does. His lower lip is defined, which shows the tightness of his mouth and how much more controlled he is. His hair has gotten sharper and more defined, and is growing more over his face, because he's hiding his true face from the world. His eyes are close to the same size, but they're more lidded, no longer wide-eyed and innocent, but narrowing and hooding his gaze. Over the course of the manga, Not-So-Innocent Light's eyes get narrower and narrower, and more and more evil, as he gets deeper and deeper into it.

Now we have the contrast betwen 17-year-old Light and 22-year-old Light:



The signs of aging are subtle, but they're there. His nose has gotten a little bit bigger, and his eyes have gotten higher. His jawline is the most obvious change - it's gotten straighter, more defined, and acquired a very distinctive angle right before it meets the ear. His chin has also acquired itself an angle on the bottom. The most subtle thing is that his forehead has gotten flatter, and because his eyes are higher, slightly smaller. His hair is very slightly thinner, and more controlled. His neck is slightly wider, and his posture is stiffer and more controlled in the older version. I can't tell from these two pictures, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that his shoulder had gotten a wee bit wider - the suit jacket certainly gives them more prominence and him more authority.

And now a picture that I just like, to show the difference between a 22-year-old Light and younger Near - Near is somewhere in his mid to late teens, never actually given an age, but certainly no older than 19 and no younger than 16ish - he's a classmate with Mello, who's 19 at this point in the manga (see my essays on characterization to see them at 15ish). As part of his character and personality, he is portrayed as looking and behaving much younger than his actual age, but this also serves to contrast neatly with Light.

Light's face is longer, Near's is rounder. Light has a defined lower lip and a touch of definition on his upper lip, to age his mouth. Near's nose is much more infantile than Light's is. Near's eyes are larger, although his real age is signified by his comparatively small irises, and set lower in his head than Light's. They have similar hairstyles that come forward over their faces and hide their true selves, but Light is much more stiff and controlled than Near.

As per usual, I have no real conclusion to this essay. I've got some scans from Naruto and from Paradise Kiss so you can see - gasp - an actual girl aging, as well as to compare shounen and shoujo style art. It's way late now and I have work tomorrow, so I'll work on it later.

Index to the Series
Tags: manga_analysis
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