At the end of the school year, after the stress of finals was over and the scent of summer was in the air, the atmosphere here at Manga Meditation was one of anticipation for change...a change in hair! The arrival of summer had effectively chased away all need for the heat-retaining, long and bushy look, and all three of us were itching to try out cute summer cuts, similar to the edgy new haircut of pop singer sensation Rihanna. A short journey to the beauty salon later, all of us had chopped off the excess keratin and now sported beautiful, swishy, shiny, bouncy bobs!
While it is easy for us to cut off our hair, it is not so simple in the manga world. Characters often look similar (if not exactly the same) without hair, and a signature hairstyle, be it short, spiky, long, curly, or blue often times is the only way to distinguish characters...especially in shoujo manga.
However! Not only is hair an important characteristic in physical distinction, it also creates certain impressions regarding the personality of a character. Based on the manga that I've read, I've compiled a list of character hairstyles and the personality traits that seem to correspond most commonly.
Short Hair: The boy cut, most commonly found in characters who are well-liked, gregarious, yet hopelessly naive and ignorant in terms of social relationships outside of friendships. Usually denoting athletic excellence, the short hair is also often paired with the alpha female personality, the "cool beauty" that other girls have semi-serious-but-not-really crushes on. (Shown: Mizuki from Hana Kimi)
Long Hair: Most commonly found in the beautiful, these girls walk into a room with their hair floating behind them, often times when there is no wind and their hair should be stationary. Screentone bubbles and fuzzy geometric shapes are usually added as well to show the arresting affect they have on everyone. Long haired girls tend to have more persnickety personalities, although they also tend to be more mature. . Besides the long haired beauty, there is also the long-haired bitch. With the same social viciousness with which the Plastics attacked each other in the brilliant movie, Mean Girls, these characters usually have long hair so they can flip it over their shoulders after delivering a particularly biting remark. The largest color gradient is found in this category, from teal to purple to blue. (Shown: Meiko from Marmalade Boy)
Chin Length: Chin length hair means you have glasses, which means you are studious, which means you are not very interesting, which means you are a secondary character. You stand around giving sometimes-helpful-but-not-really-because-the-main-character-always-does-whatever-they-want advice, but your interaction is mainly limited to saying, "Oh ho ho, how entertaining," in regards to the (often romantic) situation that the main character is embroiled in. Basically, this is the generic hairstyle that mangakas use for filler characters.
Curly Hair: Meant for the innocents, the characters who are cute as buttons, perfect in every way, and are as sugary sweet as Shirley Temple. Often times, they are romantic rivals to the girls with short or long hair, resulting in the development of an inferiority complex in the short/long haired girls as they always feel like they can't compete with such perfection. Not much depth is placed in this character, as they are usually whisked in and out of the story within a couple of volumes (Shown: Rumi from Akuma de sourou)
Straight forehead bangs: You are a warrior, a master at martial arts or kendo, and you don't take crap from anyone. You also misinterpret every little interaction with the opposite sex as threatening or inane. (Shown: Akane Tendo from Ranma 1/2)
I must remind the reader that these are, of course, my own personal observations, and as always, there are exceptions to the rules. Many people fall into neither category, as I have short hair and I am neither a cool beauty nor a perky, naive athlete.
Thoughts? Suggestions? Other characters that fall or don't fall under these stereotypes? Pray, leave a comment before the summer days carry you off!