There’s one problem here with these kind of thematic studies; it’s how we methodology go about aniblogging, go about analyzing. Since some wordpress dashboards can be so fickle, posting embedded youtube videos proves to be quite the hassle at times, and so we’re forced to resort to representing one medium – video – for a single image. This kind of paradigm shift really limits the breadth of information just a few seconds of video has over a single image. Of course you’re allowed to call me lazy, but if I were to post 25 videos in a visual study instead of 25 images, would you really watch every single one? I obviously wouldn’t want to extract 25 clips; that would be a pain in the ass. It’s an incredibly difficult effort to signify that breadth of time with an inert frame, there’s not enough room for meaning in that 3rd dimension, it needs the fourth.
But there are two problems at hand here. Concerning the last post, specifically the brief study of glasses as visual, cultural artifacts, we isolate the sign from its larger sign. Essentially, the representation of a character as a whole, in its entirety, is a syntagm, a structure of signs of which we are able to isolate, remove, speculate upon, analyze, deconstruct various paradigms within that structural syntagm. Paradigms are choices: hair, is it short, long or medium? Color, is it white, grey, silver, black, blue etc.? Skin hue, dark, brown, as pale as paper? Eyes, huge, a little less than huge? Glasses, no glasses? What is the ratio1 of her zettai ryouiki, the grade? A+, C, S-class Rin? All these kinds of choices (there are infinite more) constitute the paradigms that are inherently part the larger character structure. Luckily we are able to perform this very isolation.
There are a plethora of paradigmatic signs here, the syntagmatic sign-structure being the Kallen we are so familiar with. In the left picture2 there’s the glasses, an object of primary concern, the finger pattern3, the smile, the hair style which is nicely juxtaposed to the image on the right, the curvature of the eyebrows, once again juxtaposed to pizza-Kallen, the attire, seemingly attempting to emulate the school teacher, and so forth and so on. In the right image4, there’s the pizza, the facial expression that consists of the eye brow curvature, mouth, wide eyes, the school uniform, the hair style, the juice box, the finger position, once again contrasting the fingers on the left. We can then isolate these signs…
Even semiotic isolation proves to be difficult since the “invisible” Kallen behind the faceless hair styles pervades into the very essence of these stylizations. Nevertheless, the left, being messy, connotes, well, messyness, unrulyness, perhaps lazyness, rebellion, etc. The straight hair connotes self-order, discipline, hygiene, etc. The odd thing is that, as poignant a series Code Geass was, Kallen simply was a number of things. She was the cold-hearted killer, the indifferent school girl, the moe school girl (clad in thigh highs), the naked girl in an awkward situation, the valiant pilot, the helpless imouto, the Japanese, the Britannian, the rebel, and so forth. Kallen is, at one point or another, represented as all these archetypes. The narrow position of her self cannot, simultaneously, represent all these characteristic structures, so her representation is situational, dependant upon context.
Obviously the methodological problem here is attempting to depict a signifier with a complete sign (since I don’t intend to evoke the signified via the contextually incoherent signifier). Nevertheless, it does help to visualize if you have a floating signifier image at hand. So we’re left to equivocate one sign with another; obviously the hand in the left Kallen is not the same as the Nayuki hand here.
You can, if you wish, further divide these signs (syntagms in their own right) into more or less empirical paradigms. These more basic paradigms are things like color, height, length, width, “mass” (if that’s at all quantifiable in two dimensions).
The “first level” is the greater syntagm of Kallen, the entire representation. We can isolate the sign or cultural artifact, the hand, the kind of, so to speak, “semiotic clothing”, then further isolate its constitutive paradigms, one of them being color. Of course this is not to limit the adjustments of color to the effect of only the hand. Obviously if her skin color were different, say she were a greenish tint, that change would affect her entire representation, it would not have to pass through the sign of the hand like a car through a toll booth. The hierarchy of the syntagm does not operate in such a fashion; nevertheless, color is more basic than a portion of a character structure which is, in turn, more basic than the entire character representation, since we cannot signify voice and, generally speaking, personality within the two-dimensional image.
And, of course, pale skin is usually a sign of ambiguous things like grace, elegance, refinement, dare I say “purity“. I am dutifully obliged to note exceptions, this Kallen juxtaposition being one in itself: the pizza-eating school girl is slightly more tanned than our, what I would be inclined to call, seductive teacher model. Within the Geassverse there are exceptions plentiful: orange-kun is dark, and our lovely brown Britannian aren’t depicted as culturally “lower” than the light skinned ones, and this goes to contradict any absolute essentialist position which would posit that since Lelouch is light skinned, all Britannians must therefore be fair. You can, however, notice that a good chunk of the Japanese males are slightly more brown that the counterpart Britannians.
Suzaku seems to be mid hued compared to the darker Tamaki, while Kaguya is pretty pale. Of course it’s not hyperbolized to the point of, say, Honey & Clover (since god forbid a supposed Japanese girl look Japanese, but maybe she’s a foreigner or enjoys colored contacts?).
Take this doujin, for instance.5 There are a whole bunch of things going on here: the crying, the jump suite, the boobs, the protective hand, etc. These things I’ve listed are corroborated by the lack of headband and Domon-esque hair, two defining traits of Kallen’s battle-ready image. She does have, however, that jump suit, which might be more a fetishization of anything skin-tight (similar to thigh highs). The fighting girl concept, perhaps, paradoxically, contributes to this by negating itself. If Kallen is, primarily, a fighter, her position here nullifies those historically masculine things – since it was kinda weird seeing Kallen cry in various episodes, noticeably the one where Lelouch came on to her – with the emphasis on femininity. Here, feminine counter hegemony, the fact that she’s usurped the masculine position of ace pilot (juxtaposed by the GAR Knight of One, Suzaku, attested to by Cornelia) is refuted and appropriated by the dominating and traditional hedonistic (doujinshi itself is rather hedonistic) practice of patriarchal ideology. Contrast this to super-awesome, fist-pumping, Suzaku-owning, huge boob-growing-per-episode Kallen in the first image of this post. Totally in ideological contradistinction.
Essentially, since I’m past the 1000 word limit, it’s crucial to, in trying to understand how characters are constructed, analyze the character as structured, as pieced together with various elements – signs – which contribute to the entire image. This could have been developed more, buttressed with more examples, but the gist was sent. In the next post I’ll hopefully be able to expound upon that notion of “reverse closure” a little more, that is to say the relationships between signs which form the glue that holds the syntagm together. On that note, in summary, this post was briefly looking at key components of structures, not necessarily how they are architected and soldered into place.