Konata wasn’t lying when she said in an episode of Lucky Star that July 7, the day of Tanabata, is also Ponytail Day. There is a Japanese Ponytail Association promoting the date Ponytail Day, and for the exact same reason that Konata gives. This has given anime fans an excuse to honor their favorite ponytailed characters, of course, be they girls or guys. And so, I myself would like to take the chance of this occasion to talk about my fascination to one of my most favourite ponytailed characters, Signum, the flaming knight from the Lyrical Nanoha franchise.
Introduced in the second series, Lyrical Nanoha A’s, Signum is the commander of the Cloud Knights (Wolkenritter). The knights are artificial creations of the Book of Darkness, programmed to protect the master of the Book and help gather magic to complete the Book. However, the new master (or mistress for that matter), Hayate Yagami, is a lonely crippled child who simply wanted the knights to be her family and live a peaceful life, and swore them to never fight and harm others. Just as the knights had come to enjoy their life as a family, though, Hayate’s condition worsen because of the Book was sapping her source of magic. They are forced to break their oath and began stealing magic for the Book to save Hayate’s life, tragically unaware that the master would die when the Book is completed.
Undeniably, appearance plays a significant part of my attraction as Signum has a very striking appearance. Coming off as dashing and elegant, if Yoshiyuki Sadamoto said that a good character design ought to make the character can be understood just at a glance1, then Signum’s design manage to present her a as a strong and firm warrior combined with feminine charm and beauty. The stern and fierce expression on her face, accompanied with silky pink hair, tied into prim, elegant ponytail. Her firm body covered in gallant, knightly suit and jacket. Her ample bosom actually accentuate her mature and imposing look. And her armory is fantastic; having a sword that can transform into a chain whip (Schlangenform) and a bow (Bogenform) looks really cool.
These visual characteristics not only establish Signum as a mighty knight, but also provide a sort of image of an older sister figure. Young but mature enough. Strong, reliable and also caring. This sort of could be considered as her role in the Yagami family, particularly to young Hayate and Vita. In addition to her loyalty as a knight, she also really embrace Hayate as a family.
With the character strongly expressed through character design, it should come to no surprise that I came to be drawn to visual representations of the character. Thomas Lamarre has highlighted the power of anime character design to leap through various media2. And tracing Signum’s leap across different media representations has been quite enjoyable for me.
Take for example, how I’ve been attracted to the figma action figure of Signum for years. The figure attracts me not only because it provides a tangible representation of the character, but the poseability and the inclusion of all three forms of her weapon also offers a range of possibilities for personalised display. It was difficult to find, but I’ve finally obtained one while I was on my trip to Osaka two years ago.
But the most intense expression of being a Signum fan to me is through drawing, for drawing is one of the means through which the fan becomes an active cooperator in taking the character image to leap across media. I’ve drawn fan arts of Signum more than any other characters. I’ve even sent one piece for the fanart column of a local anime magazine and got published. There’s a pleasant feeling in drawing the curves of her body, wrapped in her gallant knight costume, with the dashingly billowing skirt, the charmingly fluttering ponytail, and the fierce look on her face. Would this be what some people referred to as byōsen ni yoru kairaku (the pleasure of lines)3?
At the end of it, admittedly my reasonings might come off as rather shallow. But the case might illustrate how the ingenuity of character design can create such a powerful impression that captivates a fan not only to consume the media images of the character, but also to reproduce the character image on his/her own terms.
- 1 Quoted in Thomas Lamarre, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), Chapter 15: “Full Limited Animation,” p. 204.
- 2 ibid., pp. 201-206.
- 3 Patrick W. Galbraith, The Moe Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming (Tuttle Publishing, 2014), “Interview with Go Ito: The Pleasure of Lines – Riding the New Wave,” pp. 163-165.
Text, photos, and illustrations by Halimun Muhammad