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Hanko-e Philosophy in Animation: Shining Hearts and the Uncanny Valley

Character designs by Tony Taka for Shining Hearts (2010, Sega).

“My eyes have been trained to examine faces and not their trimmings.”
– Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

I’ve discussed it before, but let us once again touch upon the topic of hanko-e. Literally meaning “stamp picture,” hanko-e is a style of character design in which all of the (usually female) faces have the same design, often to the point where characters remain distinguishable only by their hairstyles and other peripheral features. This is such a common practice for visual novels (especially eroge) that fans have even wryly designated a “Big Four” of hanko-e designers: Naru Nanao, Aoi Nishimata, Bekkankou, and Kazue Yamamoto. And of course, there are many more such artists, including Tony Taka, a prolific eroge character designer who has also worked on more mainstream works, such as Shining Hearts, as seen above.

So what happens when you apply this hanko-e philosophy to animation?

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Filed under Editorials, Modern Visual Culture, Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan