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30 May 2010 @ 10:10 pm
design theories in Bleach  
I don’t know if this this is a Captain Obvious sort of post, so just bare with me. :D It may be obvious to fans with serious Graphic Arts Skills but not to everyone.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been awaiting the scans of the spines every week. It’s not that I only want to see who’s next, though. I am also interested because after the first eight spines, I had a feeling I knew where Kubo was going with this artwork.

First off, it’s a challenge to compose this work. It’s of constant height but the width is seemingly endless. It’s like a mural on a very long wall. For something so long to have some overall unity, the artist got to have some tricks up his sleeve.

Thankfully, Kubo is ever the classic draftsman. Remember, this is a man obsessed with design. I’m not an artist myself but my love for the visual arts has led me to observe some things. Right now I’m thinking about the triangle (and reverse triangle) composition scheme! It’s fairly simple. Here are some samples:

Bertin by Ingres Mona Lisa by Da Vinci Bellelli Family by Degas
If you go though a couple of centuries of European art, the upright triangle is fairly common in portraits. The Bellelli Family by Degas (third painting) is an interesting example -- the mother and daughters form their own little triangular niche while the father is chopped liver. It's suppose to depict the emotional distance of the father from the rest of the family.

Since the Mona Lisa is an example, yes this composition style is as old as the hills. Here are some of Bleach examples:

bleach OT3
Why yes, Ichigo's crotch is the point of interest here. It is a depiction of a love triangle after all. :D Kubo, I see what you did there.

Return of Deathberry
It's good to point out that some experts say that the upright triangle invokes stability and solidity -- so it's absolutely perfect for Ichigo in this color spread.

And so we come to the spine artwork. Wider space means more space to play, but also more space to make composition mistakes. Kubo sidesteps the problems neatly with a simple pattern:

Scrapbook version (click click click to enlarge to 100 percent):

analysis - kubo's spines

Photobucket version (split in two because photobucket keeps resizing the damn file):

Original scan compilation by Zangetsu01 from BA. Matsumoto boob scan by Spacecat. Awkward photoshopping at the tail end is just me.

The only break in the composition so far are the figures of Renji and Ikkaku, yet they both form diagonal lines, almost like scales that break up the monotony of triangle theme. They are probably there to demarcate the start of the SS arc.

Each section has focal points that the eye is naturally drawn to -- Rukia’s profile leads to Isshin's tiny figure which leads to Orihime’s boobs (LOL). Orihime's breasts lead to the peak of Urahara’s striped hat, and so on. Hitsugaya’s shota cheeks are balanced by Gin and Kenpachi on either side of him. Byakuya’s bishie hair (fangirl squealing here) and his downward gaze leads directly to Matsumoto’s cleavage (more LOL).

Another scheme (broken blue lines) may be a secondary pattern, although after the first few spines I have difficulty tracing its path. I may be totally mistaken about this one. :( Still, there’s always a possibility it was abandoned or modified by Kubo to fit in more characters or naturalize poses, like Hitsugaya’s raised elbow. If some body parts shifted between doing the pencils and coloring, it would make sense.

I think it would be safe to predict that the rest of the artwork follows the general format of the red lines, with perhaps two or three more breaks of diagonals. I suspect other diagonally-oriented figures would be prominent characters from the Hueco Mundo arc, possibly Hiyori and Shinji or Grimmjow and Ulquiorra.

I also assume that two more Ichigos should make an appearance, one in hollow form and another in shinigami form.

To make a bolder prediction for Kubo’s intention for this drawing, though, I feel that either of these two future Ichigos will form diagonal lines with the Ichigo from the very first spine, so that the final artwork can be viewed as a continuous whole. Bleach, after all, is about death and re-birth, and it would simply be great if the whole artwork forms a giant circle.

Now wouldn’t that make a lovely pattern for an extra large Bleach umbrella?! Official merchandising, here we come! *is shot*

I hope no one thinks this post is out to prove there is some sort of hidden meaning in character placement, or worse, that there’s validity in shipping by geometry. :D Hardly so!

I just wanted to share some observations regarding Kubo’s possible intentions for this particular work. Kubo’s current manga chapters gets flak for a lack of scenery, phallic imagery (GIANT AIZEN CONDOMS! EXPLOSIONS!), and a bunch of other complaints.

Reluctantly, I feel that this current work is proof that Kubo still knows what he’s doing with his art 100 percent of the time, even if he’s not as sure with his subplots.

Uhm, feel free to agree or disagree with me regarding my current crazy theory. This is absolutely unbeta-ed and I hope it doesn't totally fail. *bites fingertips off in fear*

Oh yeah, and special thanks to hinodeh who posted Zangetsu01's pic when I asked last week! I know you had no idea I was going to do write this...

Additional thanks to karenai for uploading the large pic to her photobucket. :D *hugs*
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Kylara: Deeper than words Ichigo and Rukiakarenai on May 30th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
You know, I tell chuuni this all the time but I have almost no eye for the arts. I can tell you right now that I never in a million years would have caught this and can in no way reinforce or disagree with you -- however, it WAS a fun read.

Also, if you want me to upload a single image on PB that doesn't get resized -- I try to use my paid account as mercilessly as possible, so PM me if you like.

To make a bolder prediction for Kubo’s intention for this drawing, though, I feel that either of these two future Ichigos will form diagonal lines with the Ichigo from the very first spine, so that the final artwork can be viewed as a continuous whole. Bleach, after all, is about death and re-birth, and it would simply be great if the whole artwork forms a giant circle.

Forgot to say, this would be awesome if it were true. I already do want this as a poster -- that would make it a necessary buy.

Reluctantly, I feel that this current work is proof that Kubo still knows what he’s doing with his art 100 percent of the time, even if he’s not as sure with his subplots.

I just try not to think about Kubo's pacing anymore, tbh. XDDDD I find it keeps me saner than if I did otherwise.

or worse, that there’s validity in shipping by geometry


Edited at 2010-05-30 03:03 pm (UTC)
laurie_bunter: ichirukilaurie_bunter on May 30th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
YAY I will PM you! *hugs* I had no idea photobucket is so mean. I just wasted two hours trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. :(

XD XD And yes I know I'm evil <3

(no subject) - karenai on May 31st, 2010 03:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
sorry for the late reply - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 07:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
カゼ: Fanboykamikaze43v3r on May 30th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
Hey this is very interesting, I really enjoy reading all these theories and studies, and I do think this one's not crazy at all! There is evidence that Kubo's doing a lot with his work that I've found myself, but of course no one's perfect and he does have a number of mistakes while working. Keep looking out for such things and share ^_^
laurie_bunter: sanjilaurie_bunter on May 30th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Whew! *sigh of relief*

Thanks for thinking I'm not off my rocker for posting this. XD
Super Nintendo Chalmersstrawberries_85 on May 30th, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
Wow, I hadn't noticed this before but I do quite like it. I think it shows Kubo really knows what he's doing when it comes to the composition of his art. I mean it may like it's as simple as placing a couple of characters on a page, but there's definitely more to a good picture than that. It's like the rule of thirds in photography or balance of different elements in design.

I want a Bleach umbrella.
laurie_bunter: trust melaurie_bunter on May 30th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
:D Yes, Kubo is totally in love with design. His best color spreads have amazing balance and symmetry to them, but
sometimes he rushes his manga pages (or maybe his assistants are at fault) so there are occasionally kinks.

And you're right to think of thirds in photography... when I started googling stuff regarding composition in visual arts, so many websites mentioned that too! It's all part of the golden mean. :D

I want a Bleach umbrella too. Sniff.
(no subject) - strawberries_85 on May 30th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 07:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
shinebunny: bleachshinebunny on May 30th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
This is so cool! I love seeing the artistry that Kubo puts into his work, even if it's deft for him.

See, this is why I could never write a manga. xD Only geniuses like Kubo can do it.
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 07:57 am (UTC)
Thanks. Since I posted this, a lot of people have commented with differing opinions, but it's cool to think about it. XD

Everyone can create something... don't put yourself down! But whether it will be as successful as Bleach, well... we'll never know until we try, right? Kubo and other top-tier mangakas went through a lot of hard work before getting their own titles.
cavisze: 314cavisze on May 30th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
That is interesting. I never would have thought to really study and predict the outcome of the figures and their placement, probably because I get too excited waiting for them to come!

However, I do know that the human eye naturally gravitates to symmetry (in this case, via triangles), and Kubo grew up in a society which places a high emphasis on using symmetry and balance to convey mood and general statements. Whether or not you are completely *right,* Kubo is for sure an artist and he is bound to employ artistic devices to make his work look...not like a car wreck in the making.
deleonjhdeleonjh on May 30th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
But a lot of traditional Japanese art isn't actually very dynamic, in fact the subject of the works are usually smack dab in the centre of the picture. It's also meant to look flat and not three-dimensional. That's one of the reasons Japanese art was so influential in the 19th century, it was breaking the rules of composition and depiction that dominated European art, especially the rule of thirds. Kubo's composition more closely follows European, not Japanese, composition.
(no subject) - deleonjh on May 30th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cavisze on May 31st, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
Ananomoreprinces on May 30th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
Something to consider as to why the patten breaks at Renji and Ikkaku. There's a shift of plot/location right there. Although Ichigo fights the deciding fight with Renji in Soul Society, his first encounter with him in Karakura. Ikkaku is his first fight in Soul Society. Noticeable shift there. I expect we may be coming to another one soon if that's the case.

Or it could just be a wild coincidence.
laurie_bunter: supermanlaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:11 am (UTC)
I don't think it's a wild coincidence, I think it was Renji and Ikkaku was done as parallels intentionally. It looks cool, too. :D They got a whole manly men vibe going on there.
Kim!: Mushroom Mushroomspartydragon on May 30th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Jaded artist alert!
Uh... yeah so? We all know Kubo's great at composition and color. If I had my way I'd have him draw ALL of the color spreads for Jump. XD

Oh, the color spread with Ichigo standing in front of the firebird thingy the name of which I cannot recall is actually this sort of composition:

You can ADD triangles to it, but it still boils down to that. Isn't it nice and balanced! :D
_debbiechan__debbiechan_ on May 30th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Jaded artist alert!

If I had my way I'd have him draw ALL of the color spreads for Jump. XD

If I had my way he'd be doing murals on my living room walls. XD
Re: Jaded artist alert! - ellenkim on May 31st, 2010 12:48 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Jaded artist alert! - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Jaded artist alert! - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
Grenat: virgoescarboucle on May 30th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
I studied History of Art for 4 years (never repeated a year either) and we never bothered with those triangles - yes yes I'm French, and I also studied the Joconde, of course, because it's such an awesome piece of art, albeit not my favourite. Why? Because it doesn't matter in History of Art, everything is a matter of composition and technic.

Yes there are a lot of triangles, but you know why? Because most of them had them sat on a chair, that's why. People standing up, people sat, there will ALWAYS be triangles. Where you see triangles, I see the need as an artist to put depth in his picture, putting some characters in the forefront, hiding others, giving some more importance than others. And it's not a matter of triangles, it's just a mere matter of composition, IMHO.

Now, triangles DO exist in pictures. And you know what? It's to symbolize the Franc-maçonnerie aka Freemasonry [hi thar].

Everything has a symbol in painting, especially since before the XIXth century they couldn't go outside to paint what they had under their eyes - they always painted in-doors, Leonardo himself used to sketch a lot, lot when he went outside to get his own ideas because he was very restricted when he painted. [and so, the most interesting pieces to look at are the mythical ones and the biblic ones].

Example: the Bellelli family, you see two triangles, I see a play with gazes - the woman and the youngest daughter have their attention caught by something offscreen, and the husband is looking at his wife, while only one daughter is looking at us. The atmosphere is heavy, and the wife is obviously mourning, all in black - a quick search reaffirms this, it was after the loss of her father - they're all Degas's family, BTW. Although you can't see it on your pic, there's also the portrait of her father near her, on the wall - what does it say about your triangles then? ;)

I also found the interpretation on the Orsay museum website [here], if you're interested:
The baron was an Italian patriot, banned from Naples, who lived an exile in Florence. His wife is in mourning for her father, Hilaire, who died recently and whose portrait appears on the framed redline painting close to his daughter's face. In 1860, the two granddaughters, Giovanna and Giula, are 7 and 10. The mother is impressively dignified and affirms a slightly severe authority, contrasting with the relative aloofness of the father. This family portrait evokes those of Flemish painters, van Dyck in particular. Masterpiece of Degas's early years, this portrait evokes the family tensions isolating each member of the family. The imposing dimensions, the sober colours, the structured games of open perspectives (doors and mirrors), all converge in strengthening a climate of oppression. All the more so as suggestions of escape appear, such as this curious little dog split by the frame. The almost playful position of the younger daughter alone, crossing her leg under her skirt, contrasts with the heavy atmosphere whereas her elder sister seems already prisoner of adult conventions.

Yeah, definitely a heavy atmosphere ;_;

My motto, as someone who studied European history of art, is to not to try to lay on things that we invented later on older pieces. Things come naturally, for artists who have a natural talent for placement and such. They don't begin their painting with a triangle, they send us messages on how they want us to interpret their pieces, but that's about it. I will forever lulz on a XXth century painting that was put on the wrong way for YEARS before they discovered a picture with the painter and this picture in the other way... yeah it happened. XD See what I mean? XD

Also if you want to draw a triangle on the IchiRukiRen pic, it's in the other way, IMHO. Clearly.

/end of nerd
deleonjhdeleonjh on May 30th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Now now, the OP's examples may not have been great but some of those triangles in European art were definitely deliberate and probably unconnected to the Freemasons - see The Wreck of the Medusa above or David's Oath of the Horatii. Or da Vinci's Battle of Anghiari. And Degas' family probably didn't look that way at any specific moment, he most likely arranged them that way afterwards, so the triangle theory still holds. Although yeah, it doesn't really add much to most analysis besides the observation - Hey triangles! Which backwards painting are you talking about, by the way?
(no subject) - escarboucle on May 30th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - vayshti on May 31st, 2010 10:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - escarboucle on May 31st, 2010 11:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - vayshti on May 31st, 2010 12:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on May 31st, 2010 07:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - escarboucle on May 31st, 2010 11:24 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - la_kalaka on May 31st, 2010 12:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - escarboucle on May 31st, 2010 06:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
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(Deleted comment)
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 08:59 am (UTC)
*is sheepish* I'm not formally trained, either. At least, I don't have a degree in art studies. A few classes in the basics, alas, is not enough!

Here's a link to the original image: http://img34.imageshack.us/i/lib246982.jpg/

I don't know if anyone has a clearer, newer version with Matsumoto's boobs tacked on.

Thanks for reading :D
ouri: Sephiroth - smirkouri on May 30th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
Well, if one goes by shipping-by-geometry, then that one pic means that both Rukia and Renji are after Ichigo's crotch, right? Woo! XD
ouriouri on May 30th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
^ (SO not meant to be taken seriously, btw. ♥)
(no subject) - sleepwalkerrrr on May 31st, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - laurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
♀*La Muerte Chiquita*♀la_kalaka on May 30th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the theory and how you put it :3 I who loved to draw I found this quite enjoyable, a person never stop to learning something new everyday and the most fun come with the opinion of the rest *_*
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:02 am (UTC)
Thanks. I don't know if I'm right nor not, but it's nice to think about something new. Never-ending arguments about power-ups and shipping in Bleach can get tiresome.
ellenkim on May 31st, 2010 12:47 am (UTC)
I have little to no knowledge when it comes to art, so this was cool! It sure seems like a plausible theory to me (but then again, I'm clearly not well-informed... so at the very least, you know you can be pretty persuasive! :D).

Why yes, Ichigo's crotch is the point of interest here. It is a depiction of a love triangle after all. :D Kubo, I see what you did there.

laurie_bunter: supermanlaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:07 am (UTC)
Thanks. This is just some over-thinking on my part, really. :) I don't mean to be too persuasive -- if anyone else can come up with a plausible theory on Kubo's design scheme for this work, I'd love to read it. GUESSING IS AWESOME. Just thought it would be a nice topic to try out with the comm!
bluejesusbluejesus on May 31st, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
All those art comp/found/hist classes were not in vain!
Thank you for proving that to me. I approve of your essay =D
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:09 am (UTC)
*is sheepish* Somehow I know I didn't take enough classes in art. Self-study can only go so far :(

Thanks for approving of my essay, though.
HappyLittleMoronmoronqueen on May 31st, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
Very interesting! I know pretty much zippo about art, but your essay really did provide some good food for thought. :)

My more new age-y side was also reminded of the numerology inherant in the triangle, and by extention what kind of numerological connections there are in Bleach.

Right off the top of my head, I tend to find it interesting that the Fourth Squad specializes in healing, concidering the number four in the Japanese culture has an intimate connection with death.

...one day when I'm more awake I might write it all up after doing some more reasearch...

In any case...I enjoyed the entry. :)
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:17 am (UTC)
Oh my. I actually steered clear of the new age-y connotations of the triangle, because I don't want people to think I was arguing for numerology. I know some Bleach fans are into that, but that wasn't my intention here :D I just wanted to share my thoughts on what I think is a recurring pattern in this particular work.

But if you are planning to write an essay regarding symbolism in Bleach, don't let me stop you :D You might have a lot of interesting insights for the fandom.

If I was going to argue for new age beliefs in a manga, though, it would definitely be FMA. :D But then with alchemy, it kind of goes with the territory. There was one particular essay regarding the symbolism regarding a character's secret tattoo... but I digress.

Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed this.

maewiemaewie on May 31st, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)
Gotta say..im a bit surprised why Shinji isnt first of the vizards. He was the first one to show up yes? Then Hiyori..and then Ulquiorra and Yami popped up.

So..its obviously a break with the theme from the ss arc, where all chars are in almost exact order.
laurie_bunter: uraharalaurie_bunter on June 1st, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)
Well, Kubo did switch people around... it's not about who appears first, I think. Maybe it's about who he wants to emphasize? It surprised me, for instance, that Aizen shows up behind Hitsugaya instead of being giving more frontage. Then it occurred to me that maybe Aizen will get another appearance, this time as the Big Bad without the Glasses. Hmm.