Welcome to your hair fantasy.
This article has been stewing since the first character designs were revealed before the beginning of the season. The time has come. It’s time for this to shine!
Hair is an integral part to character design for anime. Many otaku folk have gotten hair-based characterizations down to a science. That girl with the long red hair is probably tsundere. That guy with average length hair with average black color is probably on the serious side. Think about it. Light color or blond hair can indicate a dynamic or playful personality and has been associated with the “yankee” delinquent types. Although archetypical hair is considered Wikipedia-level factual, the Spring 2016 season was breaking all the barriers. Here are the trends in men’s hair that defined the season, especially for all our favorite protagonists.
Trend #1: The Quirky and The Realistic
We can always count on supernatural powered anime to give us some great unique hairstyles. Shounen anime Boku no Hero Academia’s main protagonist has an interesting green color to match his name, Midoriya (“green valley”). Before you say, “Yeah, that’s been done: Kuroko no Basket’s Midorima,” we’d like to draw your attention to all the hair gems in Boku no Hero. All Might’s hair stands up like rabbit ears that match his superb jumping ability. Shouto Todoroki has bicolored hair that comes from his half-and-half super power. From interesting colors to bold cartoony shapes, Boku no Hero characters have some weird but wonderful heads of hair that match their Quirks!
Likewise, the young protagonists connected by sharing their pain in the sci-fi Kiznaiver have some interesting hair on their side. Agata Katsuhira has curly white hair with brown lowlights, which adds more dimension to his face. His rambunctious muscle-headed friend Tenga Hajime has bright pink hair that he normally matches with even brighter colored clothing. Although this article is focused on the boys, Niiyama Nico won’t lose in the hair battle with bleached orange hair and playful teal highlights. These unique hairstyles fit in well with the unique story and animation in Kiznaiver.
Not to outdone by its school-themed rivals, the supernatural seinen Bungou Stray Dogs also has a main protagonist with a unique set of locks. After an unfortunate haircut from another child at his previous orphanage, Nakajima Atsushi’s gray hair grew out into a shape that’s definitely something new for an anime protagonist. He has diagonally cut bangs that frame one side of his face. In Bungou’s opening animation when the camera perspective pans around from one side of Atsushi’s face to the other side, we can’t deny the appeal of asymmetry. In the Port Mafia, the young antagonist Akutagawa Ryuunosuke’s hair is dark like his soul, but his side hair is (1) unusually long and (2) white at the ends, ala the ombre dying style that became popular as a women’s dying technique in recent years in real life and in anime. Seeing this cool and unique coloring on a man is strangely appealing for this complicated character.
Atsushi and Akutagawa’s real-life-inspired hair design is only the tip of the realistic iceberg this season. For Joker Game, when everyone is wearing great-looking suits, there are only a few things you can change to keep the characters looking different: height, facial features, and hair. While maintaining realistic hair color, Production I.G did its best to give their characters realistically different hairstyles that would match their mid-twentieth century time period. Our favorite narcissistic spy Miyoshi wears an 80:20 side part with a long wispy bang in his face that elevates him straight to bidanshi status. From varying degrees of short hair to slight changes of part ratios, Joker Game demonstrates a good mix of realistic men’s hairstyles that they even wear differently to hide their identity out in the field. Who knows? Maybe your next hairstyle inspiration could come from Joker Game!
Trend #2: The hair speaks for itself.
While hair is a great way to reflect personality and abilities, hair can also be used as a storytelling device. In the case of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Ikoma starts off with a full head of shaggy greenish hair. That doesn’t last for long, as Ikoma gets bitten by a zombie-like Kabane. Ikoma manages to fight off the Kabane virus and keep it from reaching his brain, but he is left with a stripe of white hair that reflects his status as part-Kabane and part-human, or a Kabaneri. Finally, in the last major step in his character development, Ikoma takes on a new badass attitude and chops off most of his hair. Now that looks more like a hero, Ikoma. Honey approves.
Hair changes might be the new costume change for anime characters of Spring 2016. Let’s face it though: hair is so much more personal than clothing. Just like Ikoma, Hirose Koichi in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable finds his hairstyle changing as his Stand evolves and becomes more powerful. In Kiznaiver, Katsuhira originally has fairly normal dark-colored hair, but his hair loses its color as he develops insensitivity to pain because of the Kizuna System. When All Might deflates to his alter ego Yagi Toshinori in Boku no Hero Academia, his crested helmet victory-exuding hair falls down as long, messy bangs around his skinny and angular face. Not to be outdone by the boys, when Luluco finally reaches her coming-of-age transformation, she loses her side ponytail for side swept hair power in the final episode of Space Patrol Luluco.
For most of us, a big hair change is usually associated with a big life change: breaking up, getting a new job, graduating, joining the military, etc. This also holds true for many of our favorite anime characters. A hair change can mean a lot more than just a simple change in aesthetics. In order to be more sociable at school, Shiraishi changes her everyday hairstyle to look more stylish in Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge. With a small change, her life changes drastically. She goes from unknown nerd to adored school idol overnight. This change, surprisingly, is also reversible! For us, when we get new haircuts, we may be secretly expecting that level of change in our lives. While we can’t necessarily have the same kind of success as Shiraishi or Ikoma, at least our anime friends can live out our small fantasies for us.
Trend #3: Brown hair for days.
For anime boys in Spring 2016, brown is the new black. Many dark-haired viewers are pretty familiar that their hair is probably more of a brown than a raven black, so it should come as no surprise that brown can also be considered a fairly realistic hair color. This realism, again, is seen in the character designs of Joker Game, as all the main characters have a shade of naturally brown or black hair.
The brown-haired boys don’t end with Joker Game. Brown hair was a full-on trend this past spring. Normally regulated to side characters, such as Kiyoshi Teppei from Kuroko no Basket or Tachibana Makoto in Free!, it’s almost strange there aren’t more brown hair protagonists, considering how many people in the world have brown hair. That’s very not true for this season. If you don’t believe us, take a gander at this list of major male characters with brown hair below.
- Dazai Osamu from Bungou Stray Dogs
- Nishimura Hideki from Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?
- Mitsumune from Mayoiga
- Enmadou Rokuro from Twin Star Exorcists
- Miyoshi, Kaminaga, Amari, Hatano, and Jirou Gamou from Joker Game
- Asanaga Shun from Endride
- Kaidou Ren from Super Lovers
- Komiya Chihiro from Shounen Maid
- Hiyama Kazuma from 12-sai.: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki
- Banagher Links from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
- Kumai Natsu from Kuma Miko (Yes, this counts.)
Brown hair resided in all genres: shounen, shoujo, seinen, echhi, mecha, BL, slice of life, you name it! Even without super fancy hair colors, these characters are likeable and interesting protagonists that are now even easier for many to identify with, so brown hair cosplayers rejoice! Now you can get that character look without necessarily buying a new brown wig! It’s probably for the best since you may need to spend all your money on a fancy new suit.
Trend #4: A peculiar focus on the do.
It’s not completely uncommon where a character’s hairstyle is the focus of dialog in anime. For example, when Hara-sensei points out that Kusakabe Hikaru’s blond, fluffy hair is way too long in Doukyuusei, we all know this is an all too common occurrence. Beyond just a passing comment, this spring was full of focused attention on hair.
In JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Higashikata Jousuke is generally a nice and polite young man and avoids being physically violent when confronted. That is, unless you mock his hair. Jousuke is so attentive to his do, he takes any comment that’s short of “amazing” as a personal attack. In the first episode, Jousuke was ready to let some bully senpais off the hook until one made a small insult on his hair. Unable to control his anger, Jousuke hits him hard with his Stand, Crazy Diamond.
We’re all familiar that hair can be particularly hard to animate, but JoJo continues on with more hair motifs, including a female Stand user, Yamagishi Yukako, whose stand has everything to do with hair. David Production did a wonderful job making her hair move in a hair-like manner while also looking powerful. Yukako has obsessive love disorder for Hirose Koichi, and their interactions eventually lead to one of Koichi’s aforementioned hairstyle changes. Namely, she implants her hair into his scalp, and well, he gets rid of them and gets a new flat top!
Additionally in Sakamoto desu ga?, the animators at Studio Deen know that perfect hair is the key to making all of Sakamoto’s actions absolutely perfect. Blowing gently in the breeze or amazingly wet, Sakamoto’s hair isn’t necessarily taking over the scene, but it’s definitely not ruining that cool mood either. As for anime with interesting hair designs, Nakajima Atsushi’s strange hair design could potentially lead to awkward hair moments in Bungou Stray Dogs, but Bones stays completely on point with every action scene with Atsushi’s hair always giving the right amount of movement. Overall, as animation techniques continue to improve, look forward to more great hair-improved scenes in the future!
Here’s to hoping summer doesn’t disappoint.
A sizeable group of titles had, one way or another, decided to give hair some focused attention. Be it the interesting hair styles that required advanced animation in Bungou Stray Dogs, or drastic hair changes at key points of character development that need extra character designs in Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, it’s all about the hair. Seriously, these aren’t just the musings of some hair-obsessed otaku, the source material creators, character designers, and animators themselves were letting you know how important hair is to them. Not only did we get some unique and bold hair decisions, but superb animation really brought out the best that hair can do to add to a scene.
Sadly, the spring that has shown us the greatness that hair has to offer is over; but lucky for us, continuations are already planned for Boku no Hero Academia and Bungou Stray Dogs. Not to mention, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure will continue on up to 39 episodes. While spring was the season of hair, what will summer have to offer in terms of anime style? Only one way to find out! In the meantime, let us know whose hair won you over in the comments!