A Tiny Use Case approach to a preliminary overview of formal and stylistic transformations of character designs between the 1990s and 2000s

This is a guest post written by Oscar García Aranda, who is currently a PhD Candidate and pre-doctoral researcher in the Department of Translation, Interpretation and East Asian Studies of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), and who undertook a short research stay at the JVMG project with us in Stuttgart to work on further developing his dissertation research.

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Tiny Use Case 5 Part II – Actual Co-Occurrence of Blood Type and Character Personality Traits

Part one of this blogpost introduced the research questions of our fifth tiny use case, which stem from the circulation of popular beliefs regarding blood type and temperament in Japan, and their potential influence on character design practices. The two questions were as follows:

  • Do these beliefs about the connection between blood type and personality translate into character designs, such as a correlation between blood type and specific personality traits/descriptors?
  • Does its representation in character data reflect popular beliefs circulating in Japan or does it differ?

We took our questions to two datasets, one coming from VNDB , another from ACDB .

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Tiny Use Case 5 Part I – Blood Type and Character Personality

Within Japanese visual media works, it is not unusual to find mentions of a character’s blood type within the work proper or within connected texts such as databooks, author interviews etc. In Japan blood type is widely believed to be a predictor of personality and temperament, each blood type corresponding to a set of temperaments, personality traits and quirks. The listing of a character’s blood can be found across multiple media types and franchises, with popular intellectual properties such as NarutoOne PieceBleachAttack on Titan and My Hero Academia all featuring information regarding a character’s blood type in one way or another. Do these beliefs about the connection between blood type and personality translate into character designs? Do these representations reflect popular beliefs circulating in Japan or do they differ? We took these questions to our data sources in our fifth tiny use case.

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Tiny Use Case 4: Examining the concept of media mix by looking at networks of co-starring characters

Taking inspiration from the network representation of real-life actors co-staring in movies (see Bacon number) the central question for this Tiny Use Case (TUC) was can we find patterns in the networks of co-appearing characters that are specific to Japanese media mixes (explained below). The short answer is we couldn’t, but read on to learn about the interesting things we found in the process of trying.

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Tiny Use Case 3 Part II: Stratifying Our Dataset

During the first part of this blogpost, we outlined our investigation into recurring practices of character design in visual novel games employing character data from The Visual Novel Database (VNDB). To map these practices, we visualized our dataset as a network of nodes, and examined its modularity and the eigenvector centrality of its subnetworks. Through the combined examination of modularity and eigenvector centrality, we were able to observe patterns of trait distribution across our dataset. We identified three trait communities, one of which included the near totality of character traits describing character sexual activity and pornographic depictions. The gendered distribution of types of pornography in the field of visual novel games elicited us to stratify our dataset according to characters’ intended audiences. This second part of our blogpost describes the results of our data stratification.

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Tiny Use Case 3 Part I: A Bottom Up Approach to Visual Novel Game Characters

The process of designing characters for a visual novel game relies on shared conventions for drawing character clothes, hairstyles, accessories, for articulating character demeanor (through visual and other cues) and more. In some cases, certain character types are conventionally depicted with certain visually recognizable traits. For example, a character’s hair could be drawn so that it sports a strand of hair which moves according to the character’s mood, this is called an ‘ahoge‘(idiot hair), and signifies a correspondingly whimsical personality. Another character might treat their love interest coldly while secretly harboring affections for them, struggling in the contradiction, a ‘tsundere’ demeanor, which does not necessarily have a corresponding outward visual trait to signify this personality type. Ahoge and tsundere are two of hundreds of templates for character design, which combine to shape a character’s identity.

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Tiny Use Case 2: Can we test one of the points from Hiroki Azuma’s “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals” with the JVMG database? Part 4: Questions of validity and the theoretical implications of our results

It has been quite a journey getting to this fourth part in our series on Tiny Use Case 2. We started out by introducing Hiroki Azuma’s discourse defining work, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, and picking out a claim that would be worth examining on the JVMG database. Next we introduced the two datasets (The Visual Novel Database (VNDB) and Anime Characters Database (ACDB)) we were employing for our analysis, and examined some key descriptive statistics. Finally, in part three we employed the toolkit of regression analysis to see whether our two hypotheses are confirmed or contradicted by the data at our disposal. Our hypotheses were:

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Tiny Use Case 2: Can we test one of the points from Hiroki Azuma’s “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals” with the JVMG database? Part 3: Regression analysis

Following the first part of this series, where we introduced Hiroki Azuma’s seminal book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, and identified the point (“many of the otaku characters created in recent years are connected to many characters across individual works” (p 49)) we are testing on the JVMG database; in part two we discussed the two datasets (The Visual Novel Database (VNDB) and Anime Characters Database (ACDB)) we are working with and the operationalization of our concepts on these datasets. Furthermore, we examined some key descriptive statistics , and based on what we saw, we reformulated our initial two hypotheses to be the following:

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Tiny Use Case 2: Can we test one of the points from Hiroki Azuma’s “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals” with the JVMG database? Part 2: Descriptive statistics

In the first part of this series we introduced Hiroki Azuma’s seminal book Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, and identified a point to try and test on the JVMG database, namely that “many of the otaku characters created in recent years are connected to many characters across individual works” (p 49). This led to the formulation of the following two hypotheses.

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