Character Design of the Week: Akari (Aria Series)
Posted by Digibro on January 14, 2009
Character designs are very important. There are characters out there who exist solely based on their design. More than anything, it is what makes a character them. No matter how much a doujin or fanfiction may change their personality, the character design remains itself to define the identification of that character. I want to take the chance once a week to spotlight one of my favorite character designs. This week, after watching episode 8 of Aria the Natural which had a lot of focus on some key points of Akari’s design, I decided to post about her.
There are a large number of key points to this design, none less important than the last. I’d like to start off with the uniform. Akari’s uniform is representative of her gondola company (Aria Company) and assuredly mandatory for members. it consists of a long dress, an over-the-shoulder piece, boots, a hat, a glove, and a ribbon. I’ll focus on the accessories individually afterward.
- Uniforms are used very commonly in anime, partly because they are an easy way to show the character wearing one outfit all the time that it makes sense for them to wear so often. Usually, though, it is a variation on the school uniform, whereas in some cases such as this, it is a uniform unique to the anime. The great thing about a uniform is that while wearing it all the time makes the character identifiable, it also makes it so any changes to the uniform are instantly recognizable and special. The most common uniform alteration is switching between summer and winter uniforms, which Akari’s uniform does by removing the over-the-shoulder piece and wearing shorter sleeves.
- Just as the uniform itself is immediately identifiable, so are the accessories, and they are swapped even more often. Akari’s boots, for instant, are unmistakably hers. In episode 8 of Aria the Natural, Akari removes her boots and puts on a pair of rain-boots to walk around the flooded city. This slight change can provoke a huge reaction among fans who are excited to see the small alteration. Often times, large amounts of fan material are produced based on these changes.
- Akari is almost always seen wearing a single glove (oddly not present in my second picture, making the artist full of fail) on her right hand. It is a fingerless glove reaching halfway up her forearm with a huge gold bracelet. It immediately struck me when I saw it since I could never wear a glove or bracelet on just one arm. However, uncomfortable as it may be, I do love that glove and can’t easily imagine Akari without it.
- Hats may be the most ultimate of accessories. A great hat design is one that is both easily recognizable and as abnormal as possible so that cosplayers unmistakably know how they must wear it! Akari’s hat is splendid, perfectly blending the traits of her hair style (to be discussed shortly) as well as being a strange but not unwearable hat unmistakably blazoned with her company’s logo.
- The blue stripes on Akari’s uniform are the key factor in differentiating it from any uniform, especially in the show itself. Her white dress isn’t the most common of designs, especially with it’s part over the legs, but not totally unseen (Index is a good example) but the blue marks sell the originality home. The design is attractive, yet asymmetrical in a way that makes it appear both intricate and simple at the same time. It’s not something you’d never see on a piece of anime clothing, but it’s just unusual enough in combination with the rest of the outfit to stand out.
A character’s hairstyle is perhaps THE most important factor in their design. In anime, one of the first things we identify a character with is their hair color (the green haired one!) and sometimes hairstyle (the twintailed girl!). Akari’s hair is notably pink among other things.
- The first thing people are likely to notice about Akari’s hair are her pigtails (which the character Akatsuki is always pointing out). Akari’s pigtails stretch from beside her face down to her sides. The pigtails are always totally straight, adding to the sense of girlishness and cuteness about her. The pigtails also serve to bring out her face and look great when whisked lightly in the wind.
- Akari has bangs down to about eye level, which help with the pigtails to really frame and bring out her face. The bangs are a perfect combo with the pigtails to get a duality of the cutest aspects of short and long hair. The bangs are also parted just right so as to not be in her eyes (and thereby not annoying.)
- The back of her head has some short hair thanks to all the long hair having been pulled forward. This too adds to the effect of containing the cute parts of short hair, and also adds more to Akari’s youthful appearance. Long hair is often associated with a mature look, which wouldn’t fit with Akari, so she has the youth of short hair in spite of her actual hair length.
- By having long hair, Akari is allowed to change her hair style or let her hair down. Therefor bath scenes and getting-out-of-bed scenes feautre her hair without the ponytails, which is an important part of showing the audience all the different appearances of the character, which furthers our familiarity with them. It is also essential for fanart to see the character in situations with their hair altered so that it can be properly reproduced in art where necessary.
- Akari usually wears a hat. The hat perfectly ties together all the elements of her hairstyle by hiding the rest of her head and singling out just the noticeable parts of her hair. This also makes it so that so much as removing said hat is a noticeable change.
As far as body type goes, Akari’s design does a great job of being cute without flaunting attractiveness. She doesn’t have noticeably small or large breasts, isn’t particularly tall or short, and is as slender and girlish as we’d expect a girl to be. This way, we don’t have to be distracted by sexual thoughts or anything when we watch this show which has zero fanservice (I find Aria porn incredibly awkward.) However, Akari is still cute so that while you may not have dirty thoughts about her, you certainly don’t mind looking at her. She’s got more of a ‘waifu’ quality – an attraction that brings out the innocence in the viewer as much as it does in the character.
She also has a cute face with an ever-present smile and round eyes that are reflective of her personality. Even the outlines of her eyes seem to have been designed in such a way as to look as natural when curved into arcs as possible, since her eyes are often like that.
Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Chibi Akari either! Each of the girls in Aria has their own unique chibi mode. Akari usually goes into chibi mode when she’s surprised or pleading. Her face evokes a message along the lines of ‘pleeeeeeaseeeeeee~~’. I always kind of laugh when I see it.
Anyway, I’ve said as much as I think I can about Akari’s design. Be sure to comment with your thoughts on her design and your favorite things about it!