This is an interview included at the end of the Honeycomb Production Note. Director Akiyuki Shinbo, Character Designer Yoshiaki Ito, and Design Assistant Tatsuya Oishi talk about capturing each character’s personalities through their character designs and room layouts. Yoshiaki Ito also makes some brief comments concerning the more minor characters.


Ume Aoki: The renewed character designs for Honeycomb paid great attention to my own artwork and incorporated my character pointers. They were carefully considered so the oddities that often result from animating the manga’s drawings were eliminated. Now that the designs have been replicated so well, I feel that Hidamari has truly evolved from manga to anime throughout its four whole seasons.

Akiyuki Shinbo: The anime’s character designs are renewed every season to follow the evolution of Aoki’s artwork. I think the unique use of colors in Honeycomb is very close to matching that of Aoki’s artwork today.

We wanted to reproduce the 4koma manga atmosphere from the very beginning in regards to art. Our goal was to make it clear that you know it’s Hidamari when you see it on the screen, no matter what scene it is. We applied all our experience up to this point, so I think that made Honeycomb even more stable. Hidamari has the most designs out of all SHAFT’s series, doesn’t it? Honeycomb is the compilation of six years’ experience.

Yoshiaki Ito: In season 1 I did the character design and room layouts, and worked together with Tatsuya Oishi on the art designs. Oishi drew the roughs and I finished the final designs. The small details come from his good taste.

In the anime there are some incorrect aspects of each room’s layout. Everyone’s room is about 6 tatami mats (~9.2m2 or ~100 ft2) large, which isn’t really that spacious. The rooms were rearranged to let them fit neatly on-screen.

Tatsuya Oishi: It started with Director Shinbo’s orders. He wanted to show Hidamari Apartments from a small set of fixed camera angles, with only one angle for each girl’s room. The Hidamari Apartments themselves are also shown at only a select few angles.

At first I was wondering how I should make the concept art fit these orders. Then I finally grasped it the moment I turned the scenes colorful with no drab colors at all. I created a style that would show colors and lines neatly, show light objects with light lines, and be fit for inserting photographs. I tried to make scenes that would seamlessly with the lines in Ryubido’s backgrounds.

About each room, I aimed to give the girls stylish rooms like you’d see in classy select shops. They’re art students after all. Even things like the mailboxes employ modern art motifs too. No matter how they were done, I wanted to make things look sharp and stylish. As for the color schemes and such, I made color balance my first priority. I picked the color of each door starting from Yuno’s character color being pink.

It was fun seeing how each episode, Ryubido added buildings like TBS’s “Big Hat” broadcasting center to the frontal shot of the Hidamari Apartments.

201 Yuno

Akiyuki Shinbo: At first I wanted to make her X hairpins curved. But then Aoki said, “Her Xs do not follow the shape of her head exactly.” After hearing that I felt like they symbolized her. Everything really started from Yuno’s Xs. (laughs)

Yoshiaki Ito: I gave Aoki my first drafts of Yuno’s character design and she checked them to make sure they matched the manga’s most recent artwork. For each Honeycomb episode we gathered reference photographs for her casual wear, and after Director Shinbo gave the OK, they were given to Series Composition Director Miyako Nishida and Animation Director Kazuya Shiotsuki to be worked on.

Yuno has to be drawn cute so that she keeps her “mascot” feel to everyone. I liked Oishi’s X hairclip designs from season 1 so I continued using them. I tried not to take many liberties with her facial expressions as to not stray from the manga’s atmosphere.

If the animators felt they were gradually drawing her chest bigger and bigger by accident in her bath scenes, Director Shinbo would retort, “They’re a little big, I suppose.” He also requested that her hands and feet shine.

Tatsuya Oishi: At the time season 1 began, there weren’t many illustrations of her room because of the manga’s 4koma format. The angle of her room comes from a fixed camera at her TV. Her table is in the middle of the screen when viewed from that camera. I wanted to insert things to the left and right of that so I gave her framed photographs and a wooden mannequin. At first her wooden mannequin was supposed to remain stationary but Ryubido posed it in a lot of different ways. That made me really happy. When Miyako gets scolded and sits seiza, the mannequin also sits that way. Ryubido’s tinkering really helped the scene pop.

At first I wanted to have girly stuff like perfume visible in the reverse angle, but I took them out when Aoki told me that Yuno doesn’t use those kinds of things.

I wanted to try sticking artwork by Norman Rockwell in Yuno’s room, but nothing fit in at all. I also wanted to give her a Gaspard plush doll but that was an obvious no-no. (laughs)

[Gaspard, the cute black rabbit-dog-thing from the “Gaspard and Lisa” children’s picture book series (originally written in French). So popular in Japan that a themed cafe has been opened there.]

202 Miyako

Akiyuki Shinbo: In the first season I was careful not to make her appear cheeky. She acts like both a genius and Shigeo Nagashima*. No matter what she does to the others she can be forgiven because she’s Miyako.

*[A former professional baseball player and manager known for being bizarrely forgetful and making odd comments in general. Whether he’s serious or not is often a mystery.]

She’s nothing but energetic. Sometimes she’ll go too far and say too much. She gives a bit of a boyish impression because she wears a lot of hand-me-downs from her older brothers. Skirts aren’t something she wears. However, I adjusted her clothing so that her hand-me-downs didn’t appear too baggy despite their size.

I think of what she’d look like when eating something delicious before I draw her. Being so energetic and lively, she’s a fun girl to draw.

Tatsuya Oishi: To me, Miyako’s room is a creator’s dream room. After all, you can say she’s a genius. It’s the kind of room that’s not necessarily comfortable to live in but instead a secret room where someone can immerse themselves in their work, secluded from the outside world. I made the room while imagining a gifted artist with dreams of flying to New York after graduating high school and letting their artistic talent bloom. She doesn’t have a washing machine so she uses a washboard in her bathroom instead. Her kitchen doesn’t have a microwave.

Her room looks completely random at first glance, but actually has a lot of thought put into it. She’s the kind of character whose room expresses her. It’s the room I was most picky about. My reference was a Yoshitomo Nara solo exhibition at the time being displayed as a workspace, where there were many drawings covering the walls of a small room.

I went searching and I believe this is what he's referring to. You can see more here and here.

It took some searching but I believe this is a match. You can see more here and here.

101 Hiro

Akiyuki Shinbo: I’m glad we were able to pay close attention to her proportions in Honeycomb and keep her figure slim. Even to this very day I still don’t understand how her odango hair works. (laugh)

Yoshiaki Ito: Generally speaking, Hiro is difficult to draw because of her curly hair. It’s not just simple layers, so we were careful to make those parts distinct in Honeycomb. In addition, because she’s left-handed, we must take caution not to accidentally draw her holding things with her right hand. While we do pay great attention to avoid these mistakes, they sometimes slip through when the scene checks are rushed.

Then there’s Sae, who isn’t a character that always worries about her weight. While we do try to draw Sae thin and slender when they’re together, Hiro isn’t drawn to be more plump.

Tatsuya Oishi: The fixed camera in Hiro’s room always used to be at the entrance. As the story progressed it became necessary to design a reverse angle. Ito did the interior arrangement first and then I revised it.

Because there are so many eating scenes in her room thanks to her personality, we thought of making her dining table flat to reduce the drawing workload. If the perspective were on the table and small objects were visible, it would mean a lot more work because it increases the number of things we have to draw. The staple angle is a composition viewed from the side of her bed, but the truth is it’s an illogical drawing. It’s not eye-level, and if you look at it normally the bed appears to have sunk to the floor. We had to force the scene in order to make it work because it kills the perspective. Looking at it logically, it just can’t be drawn.

102 Sae

Akiyuki Shinbo: Her glasses never leave her face even in the manga, so I decided to follow that rule in the anime as well. It was especially troublesome to uphold while she was in her futon or in the bathtub.

Yoshiaki Ito: Sae has many facial expressions since she gets involved in a lot of emotional episodes. It’s fun drawing her in different ways. In episodes when Chika appears where she goes through a lot of different emotions, I took care to let her show especially tender expressions.

I made sure that her design was feminine because she’s boyish yet not actually like a boy. She’s thin but has a nice slender figure, and her hair is short but she’s not rude. She has a maiden’s heart, after all.

Tatsuya Oishi: At first we made a bird’s-eye-view plan of her room. In any case I wanted to put in a red sofa and a white desk next to it. I arranged everything else with those in mind. I added a big picture frame because only the area above her chair was empty when viewed from the side. I wanted to put in artwork by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein but that didn’t work out for several reasons. Instead, I made the picture frame display each episode’s part.

She has Zetsubou-sensei books on her book rack. She must have put them there herself but even now it’s a mystery why she picked them.

Everything in her room is oriented flat so it’s an illogical drawing too. I hadn’t really thought about how Sae would sleep. However, I knew it was probably not in a bed. She had a lot of furniture already so I didn’t add a bed.

It worried me whenever the reverse angle of the horizontal scene was shown. I didn’t want it to seem like I gave her a lot of bookshelves just because she’s an author, so I turned the shelves into a wall fixture.

103 Nori

Akiyuki Shinbo: I think it’s difficult to not make her seem cheeky with her upperclassmen or harsh on Nazuna. She’s the most representative “modern times” girl of the six, so we were careful to give her wardrobe much variation.

Yoshiaki Ito: Nori’s energy is the same as Miyako’s but she’s calmer because she doesn’t goof around like an airhead. Her stern way of talking to Nazuna might seem rather distant for a Kansai native.

We made sure not to draw her eyes as big as the other characters’ because hers are a bit narrower. We were also careful with her figure because surprisingly, she’s only second to Miyako in breast size.

At first glance she seems boyish because she often wears pants, but she’s actually more girlish than Sae. Her fashion taste has some boyishness mixed in. She gives the impression of being a bit more stylish than the other girls. It feels like she chooses her clothes and coordinates them herself.

Tatsuya Oishi: A first year student introduced in season 3. Her room is made to appear very clean when viewed from the side. I asked Ryubido for materials to help minimize the resemblance between her room and her four upperclassmen’s rooms. He marked my rough drafts and gave me photographs and pages from interior design magazines to use as reference.

203 Nazuna

Akiyuki Shinbo: Being an even softer character than Yuno, she has become very well-acquainted with Hidamari Apartments since she arrived. I think a character like her, someone who has such a hard time leaving the nest, is hard to actively dislike.

Yoshiaki Ito: She’s an iyashikei girl, so I was careful not to make her overly gloomy and depressed. She has some similarities with Yuno so it was difficult to draw them differently at first. I’m happy that her relaxed, carefree nature is able to show through. She wears clothes with a lot of frills and ribbons and the colors are often monotone. Overall she has a “chic” feel.

Tatsuya Oishi: I found a cool bed and bookshelf while searching for reference materials and started arranging the room from there. I made the space underneath her bed visible from the front because I thought it was really cute. In season 3 I was in charge of designing the new students’ rooms and the constellation count lead-in.

Ume-sensei

Yoshiaki Ito: We only had Aoki’s recent self-portrait when we decided to make her appear in the anime. I heard she used a certain work’s green thing as reference, so I used that as a reference too when doing the character design myself.

The Principal

Yoshiaki Ito: He’s difficult to animate because he never stops shaking. Actually, depending on the series director, sometimes his whole body shakes and sometimes it’s only the lines used for effect. In Honeycomb only the lines shake. Occasionally, because his head is so long, the length of his head varies so that he can fit on-screen.

Yoshinoya

Yoshiaki Ito: Yoshinoya is all about cosplay, isn’t she? A distinct character like her is fun and easy to animate. In contrast with her showy cosplays, she has a lot of surprisingly conservative casual wear. To create this contrast I made sure her poses and proportions accentuated her womanly curves as much as possible.

Natsume

Yoshiaki Ito: Until now I honestly didn’t think she would become an important character. Ume-sensei had plans for the episode where she met Sae from the very beginning. She’s Hidamari’s only tsundere character, so I wanted to make it clear that she loves Sae.

The Landlady

Yoshiaki Ito: She doesn’t really care when it comes to her clothing and isn’t the type to dress up. Basically, she has a masculine rather than feminine kind of coolness.

Chika

Yoshiaki Ito: It was difficult to make sure she didn’t feel out of place with the other characters when coming up with her anime design, since she didn’t originally appear in the manga.


There you have it. It wouldn’t be surprising if that “certain green thing” from a “certain work” is Metapod, would it?

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