Art Evolution

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On the left: 1978. On the right: today. Notice the difference?


Elan: But at least you got some snazzy new boots, and I got this clasp for my cloak!

Haley: (whispering) Pssst! Elan, it's an art upgrade, we're supposed to pretend we were always drawn this way.

When an artist begins drawing a series for the first time, chances are that the art and character designs will be crude or basic due to lack of practice. As the artist gains expertise during the run of the series, there will be a gradual shift in the art as rough lines are smoothed out and designs refined. This evolution normally stops when they are satisfied with the art quality and it crystallizes into its final stage for the rest of the series.

First-time series for new animators are most susceptible to this, but arguably almost every animated and graphic series undergoes this to some degree as the animator finds out how best to make the characters look attractive while saving maximum time and money.

Art evolution will be most noticeable in evolving character designs, but more subtle things can change too, including better shading and more detailed backgrounds. Every long running series involving artwork tends to show the effect to a greater or lesser extent. This may or may not be caused by the fact that the show has been running for a long time, and may had multiple artists, and/or different animating equipment.

An art evolution, however, is not necessarily an upgrade. The animation may actually become worse if the animators become Lazy Artist or their budget is slashed, especially in long-running series which are more likely to have an Off-Model episode or two. Artistic quality is also highly subjective, which can lead to some fans becoming displeased with the new art style over the familiar old one, even as others praise it.

Very obvious in webcomics, since the vast majority of webcomics are amateur work; it may be the artist's first sustained attempt at drawing at all. Professional artists often recommend such artists continue honing their style rather than becoming too comfortable too soon. Genuinely good artists tend to have five hundred drawings for every ten good ones, even if they hide them away from the comic's archives.

Not to be confused with Art Shift, which is a sudden, temporary change in artistic style as Homage or parody. However, lampshadings of Art Evolution are often accomplished by means of an Art Shift. In a series with significant Art Evolution, the older style may reappear for a Retraux Flashback.

May cause Early Installment Weirdness. Also see Vocal Evolution.

Examples of Art Evolution include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • This site has a compilation of vids that show art evolution from different manga authors. Some are really drastic. (The site itself is NSFW.)
  • The artwork for the original Slayers novels shifted rather oddly. The first few novels featured characters with very delicately detailed clothing, a trait that fades away in the later novels. Another notable change is the faces of the characters: the female characters have very rounded eyes and cheeks, and the males actually have masculine jaw lines; Gourry the swordsman and Rezo the priest looked far different originally. By the eighth novel, all of the characters had generic pointed chins and faces, and the anime adaptation followed suit with these designs.
    • Many changes can be attributed to the fact that Araizumi is now using Photoshop and SAI to draw and color his art, resulting in a saturated, pastel-like color palette, whereas, up until around that time, he used all traditional media, followed by it mixed with a minimal amount of technology. Along with this, most of the characters, especially Zelgadis, now resemble their anime designs.
    • There is also the manga adaptation of the first two anime seasons; the first half of the manga was well-detailed and fluidly drawn; by the 5th graphic novel the art deteriorates severely, as if the authoress lost all interest in doing the work. By the final graphic novel, all of the characters resemble paper cut-outs.
  • The art style of Tsutomu Nihei's Blame changed not once, not twice, but several times throughout its course. Thankfully, Nihei's style appears to have finally become consistent.
    • However some of his fans decry the art of The Knights Of Sidonia as being too different from the styles featured in Biomega and Blame!
  • The characters in the Ah! My Goddess manga went through several different designs before they finally stabilized somewhat, and minor changes are still being made in the latest volumes. This webpage shows just how much Belldandy's look alone evolved.
  • You can see Ken Akamatsu's style evolve by reading his various series in order. Late A.I. Love You looks like early Love Hina, late Love Hina looks like early Mahou Sensei Negima, etc. Mahou Sensei Negima is getting long enough that there's a marked difference between the first few chapters and the more recent ones. In particular, Negi is drawn noticeably different, although whether this is just Art Evolution or an intentional reflection of the fact that Negi is about two years older is up for debate. The first chapters of Negima had a very different style from Love Hina, a conscious shift that was later unmade when Akamatsu slowly returned to his older, more familiar style (which then continued changing from that).
  • Ai Yori Aoshi in its first chapters the characters look quite amateurish and not as great, but the characters get much better looking at the series goes on. Then the art takes an inexplicable drop in quality in the last volume or two, carrying into Umi no Misaki before becoming good again after a while.
  • Natsuki Takaya's artstyle has changed rather drastically from being reminiscent to that of old-school shojo with character designs being rather lanky, to a more consistent, smooth, and organic style she draws with now. This change can be easily seen by comparing the much earlier chapters of her successful Fruits Basket to the more later ones. The characters were drawn thin and with sharply-defined, pointy features. Later on, they became smoother and wider.
  • A case of deteriorating art: The manga of MAR from Nobuyuki Anzai began with a cute and rounded, yet highly detailed style that shifted from endearing to startlingly serious rather nicely; all of the backgrounds were also well-drawn. By volume 7 of the manga, the characters appear sharper, backgrounds are often left out, and the quality of the lineart is exceptionally poor.
    • Nobuyuki Anzai's previous work, Flame of Recca was the exact opposite as well as a great example of this trope, comparing the crude and bland designs of the first volume and the fine and visually appealing art of the later volumes, you'd think he was making a hentai at first.
  • The change in Godchild is nothing short of drastic. The series began in the 1990s, and then later in 2001 Kaori Yuki returned to it. The art in the earlier volumes is very typical shojo, and does not stand out. Later on, however, the art is exceptionally detailed and the people are rendered much more realistically. Here is an example from the beginning of the series and here's an example from the latter part of the series.
  • The art style in the Gravitation manga changes so radically from Vol. 1 to 12 that if you pick a random page out of each of the two volumes, you wouldn't believe that they were made by the same artist, much less that the main character is the same in each one. Just compare this image of Shuichi in volume 1 to this one of him in volume 6.
  • Individual characters in the Genshiken manga start out drawn fairly realistically, but grow more stylized and cartoonish as the series goes on. By the time the ninth volume rolls around, you wonder if this is how the characters in the first volume would have depicted themselves in a doujinshi.
  • The character designs in Urusei Yatsura slowly changed over the series. This normally wouldn't be very noticeable from episode to episode, however, the Title Sequence with the old character designs didn't change for a large part of the series. The manga, on the other hand, has a quite different style at the beginning before settling into the style more usually associated with Rumiko Takahashi.
  • The change in character designs for Rumiko Takahashi's other series Ranma ½ is even more noticeable. Compare the rounder, cartoony character designs of the earlier volumes to the lankier, more serious ones in later books. And the gradual shift to more stylized figures over the course of the anime, culminating in the "Gainax treatment" that all the girls got for the 2nd movie (especially Nabiki) .
    • You could probably trace her art's evolution all the way from Urusei Yatsura through Maison Ikkoku and Ranma ½ to the end of Inuyasha for that matter.
      • In fact, you can trace that evolution (well, from Urusei to Ranma anyway) all the way rather quickly with Mermaid Saga, which she worked periodically on from 1984 to 1994.
      • An even better example would be One Pound Gospel, on which she worked from 1988 to 2007. The first 2 volumes look like Urusei Yatsura/Maison Ikkoku, the 3rd one like Ranma ½ and the 4th like Inuyasha.
    • Ranma's braid seemed to do a reverse evolution, however, going from much more realistic-looking in the earlier volumes to something that looks like three balls and the end of a paintbrush.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has come a long way from its early chapters. In Part 1, the characters were so overmuscled that they barely looked human, and moved their joints in such strange ways that they looked even less so. Contrast to Part 5, where everyone looks slim but realistically muscled, and also very feminine.

Here is a timeline of the art change throughout JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. And if you want to go back even further than JoJo, this is a panel from Hirohiko Araki's previous series, Baoh the Visitor.

  • Hunter X Hunter, on the other hand, did not fare as well. Recent chapters of the manga were drawn while the author was ill, and have been noticeably decreasing in art quality, some of them looking like literal scribbles. The author wisely chose to take a break and focus on recovering from his illness, and the latest chapters he released after the end of his hiatus are of fairly good quality. Thankfully, he also revises the art for the tankoban collections, so it looks much better.
    • To compare, here is chapter 252 when it was released in Shonen Jump. Yes, the entire chapter (previous ones as well) looked that bad. Here is the version released in the tankoban.
  • Early volumes of Death Note are done in the fairly typical Shonen style, with frequent Face Faults, Visible Sighs and Sweat Drops. As the series gets darker though, all these effects disappear and the artwork becomes sharper and more realistic. A flashback to the first chapter uses this for effect as an Art Shift. When Light gives up his memories and reverts to his mostly-innocent personality from the beginning, his face changes dramatically. His eyes open much wider than normal, stress lines disappear and he seems younger and less evil. The artist of the series admitted that it was hard to unlearn everything he'd innovated and go back to the original sketches.
  • The change from the beginning of the Hikaru no Go to the end (5 years) is remarkable. At the start, the art was relatively cartoony, while the series wrapped up with art that was far more realistic and subdued, like the artist's later works of Death Note and Bakuman。.
  • Detective Conan is rather interesting, as the anime has actually followed the art evolution of the manga very closely. Given that Gosho Aoyama's art style has evolved considerably in the past 13 years, it makes for a very jarring experience to go back and read the first issues or watch the first episodes.

Aoyama's style change is even more evident in his shorter manga, Magic Kaito. Considering that he only makes a chapter every few years, the series shows significant style changes in each volume (especially the 4th one, released 13 years after the 3rd).

  • Pikachu has undergone quite the style change as the Pokémon anime went on, as has Meowth. The quality of drawing is noticeably better, they're actually using CG in scenes now, and the art gets even better during important battles or when the animators just want to show off. The same applies to the games. The same thing can be said for the human characters as well, particularly concerning the eyes. Originally everyone had skinny eyes (except Brock), but as the series progressed the majority of the characters got more rounded eyes. Compare Ash in early Kanto to Ash in Unova.
  • Bleach has evolved significantly over its run. The first few volumes have a distinctive rough, square-jawed style carried over from Kubo's first series, Zombie Powder. By the time the Soul Society arc begins, the art style has become smoother and more detailed. That move towards more graceful lines seems to have continued, although slowly and subtly enough that it is not usually apparent, up to the current Hueco Mundo arc. However, it WAS noticeable when Uryuu turned up again for the first time after an absence of dozens of chapters, compared to his previous appearances. Exhibit A: Uryuu. Exhibit B: Ichigo.
    • Another example: compare the Gotei 13 as seen in their first appearance to the later chapters.
    • A compilation of the earlier drawings of the main cast, some of the Gotei 13, and others compared to their more recent drawings here. (Warning: Some spoilers!)
  • One Piece's distinct style has changed quite a bit over its decade-long run. In the beginning it used many thick lines, giving the art a round, bouncy, cartoonish look. The lines eventually became thinner and crosshatching and line shading is used extensively. The characters' features have become more loose to the point where Zoro, for example, can look buffoonish one frame and a hard-boiled Badass the next. This carries over to many a character.
    • Chopper didn't start out looking as ridiculously cute as he does now... though he was pretty cute to begin with.
    • Looking back, the backgrounds and layouts were pretty bland compared to more recent ones. They were functional and well drawn, but weren't quite the feast for the eyes they are now.
    • The change in style is actually extremely appropriate. The art seems to get more detailed and emotionally intense as the story gets progressively darker and more adult.
    • This image sums up the Art Evolution over the last 12 years. Luffy actually appeared more grown up at one point before once again becoming more child-like later on.
      • Indeed; how grown up Luffy is drawn seems to largely depend on how Oda feels at the time.
    • There is also a chart depicting the female characters' subtly growing breast sizes over time.
  • The Art Evolution in Naruto has been somewhat unusual. The drawing style becomes far more linear over time, making it a little less cartoony. This has an unusual effect on character faces. From straight on, they often end up being very flat, unemotional and generic. However, they are greatly improved in profile and at 3/4 angle. Also, in later chapters of the manga, the characters look boxy when standing still, as their bodies don't seem to taper at all at the hip (this has improved somewhat).
    • During the Tsunade retrieval arc, Kishi seems to have started making rather noticeable eyelash marks on the characters' eyes, giving many characters a temporary feminine look.
    • People who got into the series from the anime (which has art based on later chapters) may be surprised by how amazingly different some characters look in their first manga appearances. Shikamaru in particular was almost cro-magnon looking in contrast to later where he merely has a distinct looking nose and brow, and in that same chapter Choji's eyes frequently look like singular lines while later he's merely squinty.
    • It's even more noticeable with characters who only appear every once in a while. Compare the Iruka in an early chapter with this one. Gaaah.
      • Well, that had at least something to do with the lighting and the artist probably not being familiar with drawing him anymore, he looks far less creepy (though still different) in some later appearances.
  • Rurouni Kenshin also changed its art style greatly between the first volumes (somewhat amateurishly drawn) and the much more polished Kyoto/Ten Swords arc, then it went on to an even more stylized style for the final volumes.
    • And in the recent Kanzenban re-edition, the new covers and new character designs are once again completely different.
  • The art in the later volumes of X 1999 is very different than in the earlier ones, not surprising since publication spanned over more than a decade. More generally speaking, with CLAMP you can follow their art evolution through their manga from RG Veda or CLAMP School Detectives to their latest works like xxxHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, since that they have alternated Mokona and Nekoi Tsubaki as main character artists in different comics. Overall, they have shifted towards using more elements of Nekoi's delicate style.
    • It's particularly glaring each time a character from one of their earlier works shows up in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, looking somewhat different compared to how they did in their own series.
    • This is actually explained by the fact CLAMP likes to try to keep the art style in each of their series different from each other.
  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has a brief insert in between two chapters lampshading this.
  • Kentaro Miura's artwork in Berserk has gone from being average to arguably being the best in the manga industry as it became more and more detailed and realistic. From volume 7, Miura has continued to refine his artwork, especially in the his characters' faces.
  • Dragon Ball started off with Toriyama's signature style with nearly uninterrupted lines, in other words almost no sharp angles. As the series progressed, the most notable change occurred mid-way through the Saiyan Saga of Dragonball Z and the characters were almost entirely made of sharp angles.
  • While somewhat subtle, Azumanga Daioh saw this happen. In the beginning of the series, Chiyo-chan's pigtails are shaggy, Mr. Kimura's mouth is closed, Mr. Tadakichi looks more realistic and Osaka has eyelashes and a more feminine cast to her face. It takes a while for the characters to develop what one would consider their signature appearances. Notably, the evolution continues, and near the end Chiyo-chan's eyes have a... distinctive look.
    • Azuma Kiyohiko eventually redid the series with the finalized art style for its rerelease in 2009. Have a comparison. (NSFW)
      • Making everything look like Yotsubato!
  • The art from the early (~1-10) volumes of GetBackers is remarkably different; the anime's character designs are based on the later volumes, so those who were introduced to the anime first often react negatively to the earlier, grittier character designs. The most dramatic differences are probably in Ginji, whose hair lengthened quite a lot, and Himiko, who started out looking very plain and almost boyish in her introduction story, but is incredibly pretty by the time we hit the Eternal Bond arc. Something in the way her eyes are drawn and her lips are shaded does it. That Rando Ayamine improved drastically over the course of 39 volumes is the general consensus.
  • Osamu Tezuka evolved from being a competent amateur to being the best artist in the field he helped invent. Compare this from Diary of Ma-Chan (his first published work) to THIS from Ode to Kirihito made about 25 years later. One is comedy and the other horror, but damn.
  • Aria: Kozue Amano's artwork evolved considerably compared from her short story work to AQUA, and AQUA to ARIA. The anime also has this in every season, possibly with budget increase.
  • The frogs in Keroro Gunsou became less tubbier as the manga progressed. Sgt. Keroro and Pvt. Tamama look like they ate too many sweets in the past. Meanwhile in the anime the way the frogs have been drawn has changed slightly too.
  • The art in Axis Powers Hetalia has gradually become more rounded and sketchier. Just compare this to this.
    • While some of the characters have stayed relatively similar in design over its run, America originally started out with sleeker, center-parted hair. In time, he would wind up sprouting an Idiot Hair and his overall hair style became a bit mussed with a side part. Italy's own curl also started relatively small, but quickly grew into the defining characteristic (the difference was even poked fun at in an illustration).
    • France originally had shorter, somewhat greasy-looking hair, and the early art style definitely didn't do him any favors. While his hair grew out with the style change, he also lost the white spats over his boots.
    • Estonia and Lithuania had slightly different hair styles in their debuts, with Estonia having less of a bowlcut and Lithuania having less fringe. In comparison, Latvia started out as slightly smaller than the other two, but wound up shrinking and becoming more child-like.
    • South Italy was originally somewhat taller than his younger brother as both a child and adult, but wound up shrinking to become the same height.
  • The art style used in Beyblade changed after season 1 to a softer style that made (some of) the characters look younger... and then changed again in season 3 to give the characters edgier and more grown-up looks. And the animation quality was much better.
  • The Soul Eater manga's art has grown significantly more refined since the first volume. Notable differences are the generally softer and rounder lines and shading and specifically Maka's design, which was originally much more child-like. The anime adaptation took this eventual change and used it from the start for a more consistent look. There's even a difference from the pilot chapters to the first one. Compare this to this. Also, the number of Panty Shots and nudity scenes have toned down considerably, though the occasional one is still tossed in for the sake of Fan Service.
  • Vinland Saga, when it changed from being a weekly Shonen to a monthly Seinen, the art became much more detailed and a few of the character designs were tweaked. Most notably with Bjorn, a character that went from being a slightly pudgy Big Guy who could easily be described as fat, to a burly wall of berserker muscle.
  • In the first season of Digimon Adventure, Leomon's special attack was animated as an orange lion's head flying toward the target. In season 3, it was animated as a stream of fire beginning with a lion's face.
    • The manner in which the characters were drawn in Digimon Savers was also different to the manner they were drawn in earlier seasons.
  • D.Gray-man started off as a sort of generic-looking manga but has since developed a more distinctive look. The art has become much more detailed and dynamic, and the characters (namely the Noah) have gotten much... prettier. No, seriously, see what happened to Tyki and Road for yourself: this to this and this. Some fans lamented the loss of "shota Allen," though.
    • Also, Kanda. This and this and then this. And now this.
    • On the subject of shota!Allen versus bishie!Allen: Allen in Chapter 6. Allen in Chapter 184.
      • There's a compilation of the art evolution for Allen over the 19+ volumes here.
    • The art also changed noticeably between chapters 186 and 187, when the author went on hiatus due to illness. When it came back, it was much more detailed and some of the characters had changed again; Allen and Tyki (who's also had an Expository Hairstyle Change) for comparison.
      • Although Tyki has returned to his original look, likely due to fans' requests.
  • My God has Katekyo Hitman Reborn's art changed... vastly. All the characters, as the series goes on, get handsomer and handsomer, and "ugly," "no-good Tsuna" has somewhat evolved into a cute little boy catering very much to the fans that like pairing him with the other men. Pictures of Tsuna's evolution: From this to this and then to that. The Big Bad for the 2nd arc, Xanxus, gets a big makeover 10 years into the future... from this to this and this.
  • While not really the case in the anime (being based on later novel designs), the character designs of the Baccano! Light Novels have noticeably changed over the course of the series—especially in the case of Isaac and Miria, who started out rather sleazy and end up looking like poster-children of hyperactivity that they are within a couple of books.
  • The art in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga changed pretty drastically after the first couple volumes.
    • If you look at the cover art on the bunkoban releases of the manga, Takahashi's art has gotten much more realistic-looking. Here ya go.
    • Between Volume 1 and Volume 5... Jonouchi's hairstyle changes from a Leonardo DiCaprio-esque style to the signature Jonouchi style, and the general appearance of the characters changes. The Other Yugi appears increasingly less evil. Originally, Yugi was often drawn without a nose.
    • Honda looked pretty thuggish in the first volume. Kaiba was kind of short (compared to him towering everybody later on) while Mokuba was a rather chubby and really mean-looking.
  • Ken Ishikawa: Just look at the first series of Getter Robo (made in the 70s) compared to the second series, Getter Robo Go (made in the 90s). Back then his style was almost identical to his mentor, Go Nagai, and had lots of weird, warped proportions and expressions. As time passed, he retained the intensity of expression and sense of movement and refined it with stronger anatomy and greater detailing to create one of manga's most distinct art styles.
  • Eyeshield 21's art evolution is more noticeable with certain characters. Hiruma in chapter 1 kind of looks like Eddie Munster, but when that scene was redrawn for a flashback he's lost some of that feral look. Monta too changed over the course of the series. The evolution is especially noticeable with the Book End, where a two page panel from the first chapter was redrawn with all the new team members and showing how both the characters and the art progressed.
    • Similarly, characters that were once incredibly distinctive in their Gonkiness were toned down considerably as time went on; Kurita became less cartoony, and Niinobu Kasamatsu became about 1/3 his original width.
  • The Hellsing manga's style changes considerably over time. In the first volume, most characters have a generic manga style with huge eyes and tiny chins and not many unique facial features. The characters also have a tendency to be inconstant and facial features warp from panel to panel. This changes once Hirano gets comfortable with his style however. This is a character in 1 and here's what she looks like in 7.
  • The Higurashi no Naku Koro ni anime underwent a significant style change during the OVA Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei, greatly improving on almost all the anatomical errors present in the first two seasons of the anime.
    • Before that, Kai got a massive face lift when compared to the first season, which was often rather flat and rough. While this did occasionally work for the Sanity Slippage and Laughing Mad scenes, most of the time it was simply Off-Model to the point where there was no model to begin with.
      • It's especially noticeable when they had a flashback to one of the more memorable question arc scenes, the scene where Mion and Rena visit Keiichi while he's "sick". They look cuter more welcoming.
    • Art Evolution appears in the manga when the same artist draws two arcs (question and answer). Like the Onikakushi artist. Her art style changed, and she got Mion's bangs right.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho saw its share of this, the manga and the anime. Hiei was the most significant example.
  • Kinnikuman's artwork began in a very simplistic, cartoony style befitting the comedy focus of early chapters. When the author genre shifted the primary focus from silly jokes to wrestling, the art becomes drastically more defined; characters have an actual shape rather than being mostly blobs.
  • Not only the art in Angel Densetsu evolved considerably during the series, the author usually talks about how he's refining his drawing skills in the tankobon's notes.
    • To take things into perspective, compare this and this.
  • Bakuman。's art has changed, but the mood itself is the most noticeable. Everything at first, from the expressions to the staging, are all rather low-key. As the hero gets a more Hot-Blooded attitude towards his work and life in general, the art gets much looser and more energetic (but retains the careful attention to detail).
  • Hajime no Ippo. Oh boy. Compare old art: [1] [2] with new art: [3] [4] [5].
  • Author Kouji Kumeta, best known for Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, has a habit of starting of starting off series in one style, and ending them completely differently. His first relatively successful manga, Go!! Southern Ice Hockey Club, started out in a fairly generic late-'80s style and worked its way into a much more angular, completely different look. Following on that, Katte ni Kaizou started out with this angular, shaded look, and ended up as, well... Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei. His latest series has had a modest amount of change in the way characters are drawn, but not as extreme as his previous two series. This is lampshaded substantially in episode 2 of Goku, where everyone is drawn in the author's art style circa 1991.
  • Somewhat apparent in Venus Versus Virus. The characters round out more evenly after volume 5. Very apparent when you look at the oneshot from the first volume.
  • In Rosario Plus Vampire, if you look at the first chapter and the most recent one without reading any of the ones in between, you'd think they were drawn by entirely different artists. The characters looked much rounder and more cartoonish (and just plain not as good) in their humble beginnings, but given the series began as a romantic-comedy, this evolution is plenty justified when Cerebus Syndrome set in, turning the events of the story into a full-blown shounen direction.
    • This is an especially striking example due to the astonishing speed with which it happened. Rosario Plus Vampire is 7 years old, but by its 2nd serialization less than 4 years later it was barely recognizable.
    • Compare this with this. No, seriously; that's the same artist, same series, only five years apart.
  • Yami no Matsuei, where the manga artwork and the characters—especially the male characters—start out damn pretty, then through the first 11 volumes gradually became drop-dead gorgeous and sexy. Unfortunately, the very last manga installments suffered from a massive drop in art quality, with the character designs becoming distinctly crude and blocky compared to the earlier artwork, possibly because of health issues with the author.
  • Observable in Video Girl Ai (and probably continuing through all of Masakazu Katsura's works as well).
    • I''s, a later work, undergoes intentional art evolution. Early chapters, based when the characters are in early high school, use a shonen "typical" manga style. With successive chapters, as the characters grow older and more mature, so does the art style. Towards the end of the series there is a flashback to early on, complete with original art style. It's quite a shock compared to what you have gotten used to seeing over time. (See the example in the title's article.)
  • Since season 1 of the anime version of The Slayers came out in 1995 and the most recent (Evolution-R) in 2009, obviously this would happen, but even watching the season 3 (TRY), which came out in 1997, then going back and watching some of the early episodes can be rather jarring. Lina's design in particular has changed quite bit? Most noticeably, her hair started out as reddish-brown and over time changed to bright red. Interestingly, though in all continuities there is a running gag about Lina having a flat chest, it started out rather large in the anime but actually seems to have become smaller over time (though it still isn't as small as it's made out to be).
  • Although Chrono Crusade is a fairly short series, it was released over a time period of about five years, and Daisuke Moriyama obviously improved as an artist over that time. Just compare the cover of the first volume with the color insert in the final one of the two main characters. Then, the series was reprinted with brand-new covers. The change in art style is surprising, in fact you could probably fool someone into thinking the covers were drawn by a different artist!
  • Elemental Gelade falls into this category as well. Look at Renfrom the early chapters and compare to these later images of her.
  • Loveless. Compare the earlier art earlier art to this.
  • Rave Master was Hiro Mashima's first big manga, and he never worked as an assistant for anyone, so the style at the beginning is a little crude, and improves drastically over the 35 volumes the series runs for. In addition to everyone's faces looking less pudgy, Elie stops looking like every other girl who appears, Haru's hair spikes up more, Plue's ability to emote improves, and everyone under the age of 30 actually starts looking their age, rather than anywhere from 3 to 7 years younger.
  • The shift in Fairy Tail isn't significant, but if you compare the first few chapters with the current ones, Mashima definitely has a better idea of how to draw Happy now.
  • Monster by Naoki Urasawa. The art in the beginning is a bit flat and somewhat cartoony with the characters. Later volumes the characters look like they have more depth and more realistic looking. See Inspector Lunge in Volume 1 [6] and then in Volume 18 [7]
    • The character Johan Liebert goes from looking like this to this in Volume 13 (a flashback of that same scene).
  • K-On! started with the characters' pupils taking up all of their eye, and the lines gradually became thinner, cleaner, more solid, and were on-model.
    • The anime seasons also had their own evolution. Season 2's characters' models are more consistent, their heads are ever so littler in proportion to their bodies, and particular animation sequences make those in the first season look like chicken scratch!
    • In the beginning of the manga, Mugi didn't have distinctively large eyebrows, though they were slightly thicker than the others to give them a "blonde" appearance.
  • The Ichigo Mashimaro manga has this in spades; in the first volume the characters change almost unrecognizably between the earlier and last chapters. This may have to do with the fact that two years had passed by between making them.
  • D.N.Angel has a drastic change in style, possibly due to the many hiatuses the mangaka took. Just compare Daisuke in the first chapter to Daisuke in Stage 4 Vol. 4.
  • Yumi Tamura's Basara underwent quite the change from its first volume to latter ones. The art began rather rough and angular but became more round and defined.
  • Hana Yori Dango began with lackluster art. Tsukasa's hair looked odd, but as the volumes progressed, the art got better, and it looked less like something on his head and more like hair. The eyes and faces also underwent a few changes.
  • The BL manga Love Mode. Just compare Reiji and Naoya in the second volume to the oneshot sequel.
  • Pokémon Special changed artists at one point. The first artist had a chibi-ish style with simple backgrounds, but she eventually got sick around the middle of the 3rd arc. The second artist initially attempted to mimic her style. It started out rather rough, but as time went on he smoothed things out with his own style, a more typical shonen style with more detailed backgrounds.
  • Future GPX Cyber Formula originally started out with average-looking art design, particularly the car designs, which looked more like toy race cars than real ones. But by the time the OVAs rolled around, the character and mechanic designs improved significantly, and the cars now looked like real race cars. Strangely, it also mixes with Art Shift in the last 2 OVAs, where some of the flashbacks has kept the older art, so some viewers might be confused.
    • The series' last two OVAs, SAGA and SIN, has a change of the art style. The clearest example of the trope is Asuka Sugo, the protagonist's fiancee. She looks clearly like a full-grown woman, but since several flashbacks and photos of her younger days keep the old art, Asuka ends up having 2 different looks in the same show. For an example, here's her look in the TV series and here's her look in SIN.
  • Compare Yoshihiro Togashi's art style from his debut work Okami Nante Kowakunai to early Yu Yu Hakusho to late Yu Yu Hakusho to the recent chapters of HunterXHunter, and tell me the man's art style hasn't changed over the years.
  • The Big O had a significant art upgrade between its two seasons. This may be in part because season two was drawn on computers; legend has it that season one was the last major traditionally drawn anime.
  • Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo started off fairly crudely drawn, and very rough looking, but over the span of its 28 volumes (including Shinsetsu, the timeskip) the art improved vastly; compare the eponymous character in the first volume to him in the final volume.
  • In Akuma de Sourou, compare the cover of the first book to later.
  • The artwork of famous character designer Akio Sugino has changed drastically over the years. Just compare this shot from the 1973 version of Ace wo Nerae to this one from 1988's sequel.
  • Lucky Star - This rather generic-looking girl on the right is everyone's favorite otaku, Konata. It doesn't take long, however, for her to obtain her trademark lazy eyes, and cat-like smile.
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: At the beginning of the manga, everyone (especially Kyon) look a bit more chibi than in later chapters
  • The difference between a late-90's Magical Star Magical Emi OVA and the series made in the late 80's put whether it belongs to the same series in question.
  • Wandering Son has far more detail in its artwork, has gotten cleaner and rounder, and is better with its facial features. Compare this scene from volume 1 to its flashback in volume 11 or this scene from one of the first few chapters to the 100th chapter.
    • The first volume had a comparison with a protagonist of a previous series by the mangaka. The latter relied on Artistic Age, while the former had realistic looks for their ages. The protagonists of said manga were middle schoolers, not that much older than the Wandering Son gang near the beginning of the series, but are lanky and look years older than they are. Compare this to this and this.
    • Colors have changed in Wandering Son. Takatsuki originally had brown hair before changing to black around volume 3 and Shi originally had blond. Everyone has Curtains Match the Window's, so the brunettes have Brown Eyes and the raven haired characters have Black Eyes; Takatsuki changed eye colors in volume 5 and Chiba in volume 4 (apparently Anna too). Nitori's hair color has darkened over time too, from light brown to a darker shade.
  • You're Under Arrest's most noticeable change was between season 2 to season 3, though there's a noticeable change (de-evolution) from the OVAs to season 1. The series has gone through several design changes during its run, each to fit the style of the time period. Most noticeable being the eyes which have gotten more big, colorful and bright. Aoi gets a noticeable change in appearance over the pace of the series.
    • Very apparent in the manga, where originally the characters looked nothing like their iconic designs.
  • The main evolution Good Witch Of The West took was between the first and second volume when the artist abandoned the childlike figures and to draw them more realistically. The male characters took quicker form than the female characters. Along with this the artist drew less and less flowery backgrounds as the series got more serious.
  • Elfen Lied's first volume was extremely Off-Model and very 90s-style. The manga however quickly became more high quality, to the point where by the last volume it could pass as being drawn by a different mangaka; it also looks like it went from Shojo style to Shonen style. The Diclonii's horns were also a lot longer originally, though later they started to look like cat ears.
  • Slam Dunk went through extreme jumps in quality for a manga that only lasted 6 years (relatively short by Shonen Jump standards). The style of the early chapters was generic and dated; thick lines, too much shading, and pompadours everywhere made it look like any late 80s and early 90s shonen manga. By the end of the manga, Inoue has his trademark realistic style, making Slam Dunk distinct from other mangas by the mid-90s.
  • Noblesse has had 2 major art shifts. According to fan polls, it gets worse each time. If it didn't have the same artist's name on it, you'd think they were drawn by someone else.
  • The anime of Sailor Moon is noticably different between the first and 5th seasons. Just try watching the first season after finishing the 5th. It isn't simply better animation, the characters look noticably different (to be fair they're supposed to have aged 3 years). Usagi herself has become rather sexy by the end.
  • Birdy the Mighty 1985 vs. the 2003 remake.
  • Early chapters of Kodomo no Jikan featured highly simplistic, flat character designs and little shading. As the manga has accumulated more installments, the artwork has become noticeably cleaner and more detailed.


Card Games[edit | hide]

  • Magic: The Gathering underwent this, quite subtly for the most part until the major redesign. Compare cartoonish, coloured pencil works of the first few sets with the detailed paintings of modern cards and you will see that the overall quality has improved dramatically. This is mainly thanks to detailed art style guides of each of the new sets created.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh Card Game also has shifted since the beginning. The art is more detailed and less cartoony. For reference, compare Karakuri Spider with the other Karakuri.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • James Howard got his start working on The Astounding Wolf Man and his growth as an artist is very evident. In the early issues his art was cartoony and character anatomy was a little odd. Yet he improved so that by the last issue he was using much more shadow and his designs were significantly more intricate and detailed.
  • Naturally, every Golden Age character has gone through this. For example, Superman's emblem wasn't quite the shape we know today when he first came out. Also, Batman's costume was modified a lot in the first few stories and, appropriately enough, it wasn't until Robin debuted that Bob Kane had come up with all the main elements of the design.
  • Tintin improved enormously as Hergé developed his signature ligne claire style.
  • The Wolfrider elves in Elf Quest were originally quite short and stocky, since their design was influenced by the elves in Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. As the series went on the elves appeared to gain about 6 inches in average height. When the original series was reprinted by Marvel comics additional pages had to be added to fit Marvel's page count, and the difference in style between the old and new artwork is very noticeable. (The new pages were retained in subsequent reprints and the online edition).
  • André Franquin's style evolved dramatically during his work with Spirou and Fantasio and Gaston Lagaffe.
  • Scott Pilgrim has become much less scratchy and much more rounded, smooth and neat as time progressed. Just compare the covers of volume one and volume 4!
  • Gold Digger has improved a lot over time, the linework improving very noticeably over the first 25 issues or so and continuing to get better in smaller ways, and the jump to color which started good and became incredible.
  • Likewise fellow Anartic series Ninja High School did so as well. Starting off from a look reminiscent of Golden Age comics to a more cartoony look giving the characters wider eyes and less thick outlines.
  • Craig Thompson. You can tell Blankets and Habibi are done by the same guy, but the difference in skill and execution is amazing.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark faced a drastic improvement in its artwork over the first 50 or so issues as Dave Sim moved from aping Frazetta-style fantasy art and started developing his own style. When Gerhard started doing the comic's background art, freeing Sim to concentrate on the characters, the art improved again.
  • Buddy Longway. Even if Derib's way of drawing landscapes has always been extremely detailed, his character design went from somewhat cartoonish to highly realistic and detailed during the years.
  • The entire point of the "Mick McMahon Collection", a collection of Judge Dredd strips bagged with Meg 301, seems to have been to illustrate just how much McMahon's art improved. "The Howler" is crude and blocky, and it's often difficult to tell what's supposed to be going on. "Voices Off", on the other hand, looks like it was done by a completely different artist; it's very detailed, infinitely more realistic, and also nicely fluid.
  • Nodwick gradually got more stylised during its time in Dragon magazine. Most notably, in the early strips, Nodwick's nose and Piffany's glasses are both realistically sized. (One strip suggests Nodwick's nose has gained mass to balance out the stuff he's expected to carry on his back, and in an interview Aaron Williams says Piffany's eyes keep getting wider with shock at what her teammates get up to.)
    • Parodied/Lampshaded in a Dork Tower strip celebrating Dragon magazine's 30th anniversary. The strip purports to show how the three strips then running have evolved over the years. A genuine early Nodwick, crude stick figures that are supposed to be "early What's New?", and an "early Carson the Muskrat" ... who is actually Yamara.
  • This becomes a minor plot point in Teen Titans. In Raven's early appearances, she looked every bit like a teenage girl. But artists over time sunk her eyes and receded her hairline, giving her a darker, more sullen look. Cyborg notices this early in the Terror of Trigon saga when he looks through some old photos, and is the first to realize her demon father's influence is taking over.
  • In Generation X, Skin has the mutant power of extra skin that he can control at will, sort of a pseudo-Rubber Man. However, it left him grey-skinned and ugly in the beginning. But by the end of the book's run, he had this roguish handsomeness going on. It's never addressed in the books, but it's fun to imagine that as he found new ways to make his powers useful, he began altering his appearance, or that his improved self-image made him more attractive on the outside.
  • Behold! The exact moment Mickey Mouse's eyes changed in the comics!
  • The Walking Dead changed artists between volumes 1 and 2.
  • The Mask, the original series' first album, illustrated by Dough Mahnke, goes through quite an evolution in its art and coloring style.
  • This also happened with Love and Capes, between the first appearance of Abby and Mark and just an issue later.
  • Archie Comics has gone through some serious redesigns over the past 50+ years. The art was simplified sometime within the 60s or 70s and occasionally Archie tries out a new design - to which they always return to the "classic" one in the end.
  • Mortadelo Y Filemon looked like this in 1956. And this is the cover for one of their latest books.
  • Noticeable in The Beano when David Law was drawing Dennis the Menace UK the character actually grew over the years from a small child who looked about 8 to by the 70s the character was lanky almost teenage looking character. The character's design stayed constant when David Sutherland took over drawing him in the 70s and then finally the character was made smaller and younger looking in the 90s in time for the Animated Adaptation.
  • Steve Moncuse's art in Fish Police took a more "shiny" appearance when the comic changed from black-and-white to color upon moving to Comico. Interestingly, he kept the color-friendly style even when it moved to Apple Comics and reverted to black-and-white.

Films -- Animation[edit | hide]

  • Pixar itself has undergone this as it has grown more skilled at averting Uncanny Valley and No Flow in CGI. This is especially noticeable when you compare the look of the Toy Story characters from movie to movie.
    • In the first Cars film, Lightning McQueen is depicted with a pair of large stickers on his front bumper that resemble fake headlights (hence his nickname, "Stickers", from his girlfriend Sally). In the sequel, for some reason has his fake "headlights" replaced with real ones, and has remained that way ever since (calling him "Stickers" would now be pointless since he has real headlights now). Also, in the first film, all of the background cars are clearly based on completely fictional models, while in the sequel, all of them are now based on real models.
  • Wallace and Gromit look very different in their first short, A Grand Day Out, which was effectively a glorified student film. Wallace, in particular, lacked his characteristic wide-mouthed grin (except while saying "cheese"), and Gromit looked rather anemic. Also, the modelling and production were rather more rough-and-ready. The designs (and production methods) were greatly refined in their next film, The Wrong Trousers, and have remained that way ever since.
  • Most of the Disney Direct to Video sequels from The Lion King II onwards.
  • Kung Fu Panda first played this straight with the sequel Kung Fu Panda 2, but inverted this with the TV spinoff Kung Fu Panda Legends of Awesomeness.
  • Combining this with Technology Marches On, try watching the first Shrek after watching Shrek Forever After. Three films' worth of subtle CGI improvement become immediately apparent.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Warrior Cats graphic novels, illustrator James Barry's art has gotten noticeably better between his first trilogy and his most recent volumes. While in some of the older works, the cats more or less had Only Six Faces, but now, in addition to being better art in general, the cats are a lot easier to tell apart and they all have distinctive facial features.
  • In Septimus Heap, illustrator Mark Zug's images of the characters have become progressively more mature over the series, following Character Development.
  • Since the Dorrie the Witch books were written from 1962 to 1992, the art in them evolved considerably.
  • Arthur underwent a complete design overhaul over the years, going from something that looked like an actual aardvark before his snout gradually shrunk until becoming a basic Cartoon Creature.
  • An interesting in-setting example is shown in the novel My Name Is Red, in which the traditional Ottoman/Persian style of art is being influenced by European and Chinese styles. The reaction to these changes are a major impetus for the novel's plot.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The remake of Battlestar Galactica received a number of visual upgrades throughout its run. The easiest way to tell is by comparing the Cylon Centurions from Season 1 with the Centurions of season 4. A notable example occurred in the season 4 premiere, when a certain epic battle looked notably more epic than it might have in seasons past.
  • Babylon 5, similarly, saw a number of changes in art style, most noticeably between the cancellation of Crusade and the production of The Lost Tales, 8 years later. When J. Michael Straczynski was shown the first low-resolution renders of the models for The Lost Tales, the company doing the CGI was concerned he might not understand why they were in such low resolution. Turns out, the low-res demo renders were as good as the high-res production renderings ever got for the original show a decade earlier.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise, being a prequel series, ran into the problem that it was being produced over 30 years after Star Trek: The Original Series, but was supposed to be chronologically set 100 years before it. The set design and costume departments have a lot to say about their struggles to make it look like a logical evolutionary step between a modern-day NASA space shuttle and Kirk's Enterprise from the Original Series...even though 1960s designs look very backward now.
  • In an unusual example, the sitcom Reba. Earlier episodes used standard establishing video shots of the characters' house. Around Season 2 these were replaced with warm-filtered, soft-focus zooms on stills of various set details.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Peanuts was a little more detailed in the earlier years before evolving into Schulz' signature minimalism. Characters and objects were never shown from anything other than front or side views, and the face/head designs changed from ovals to circles. This further evolved a looser, scratchier style due to Schulz losing fine motor control as he aged.
  • Garfield famously went from a thick-bodied, beady-eyed creature to the more symmetrical, goggle-eyed form seen here. Ironically, even though he's a cat, the original design of him looked more catlike than his refined design. Also evolved was the style - the strip originally looked slightly more realistic in its designs of people and animals. By 1983, the style became more cartoony.
    • And Jim Davis' other comic, U.S. Acres, went from a cutesy, round style similar to early-80s Garfield to a loose, cartoony, frenetic style.
  • Compared to Peanuts and Garfield, the change of Calvin and Hobbes' actual character designs was relatively small. However, as Bill Watterson's art improved by leaps and bounds and the strip was granted a larger Sunday format, lineart became crisper and less sketchy, dinosaurs became more realistic and anatomically correct, and the backgrounds became more detailed.
  • For Better or For Worse changed artwork styles wildly over its run. From a rough looking beginning (no background, slightly odd-looking but serviceable character design) the characters and background became slowly much more detailed and realistic to the point where the attention to detail and shading seemed extremely obsessive and a little intrusive. but interestingly, the artist is now reversing the art evolution and simplifying her artwork for health reasons.
  • In the ten years who Mafalda lasted, Quino's drawing went from crude and slightly Off-Model to refined and fine-line drawing, with a more consistent character design.
  • FoxTrot was a lot looser and more detailed in its first couple years, with more realistic backgrounds. Throughout most of the 1990s, it gradually became more flat and cartoony (most notably, there was more of a "gemoetric" feel — eyes became straight circles, the strands of hair over Jason's glasses became evenly spaced, etc.). In the last few years before the strip switched to Sunday-only, Bill Amend also began putting less detail in the background.
  • Luann. Lampshaded in the 25th anniversary Sunday strip, which had Luann, Bernice, and Delta commenting on the "twerpy little freshmen" who look exactly like them when the strip started.
  • Lampshaded in Ginger Meggs (although considering it's been going since 1921 and has had like half a dozen artists in that time, a fair amount of mutation would be inevitable). On a trip to Paris, Ginger has a caricature done and says it looks nothing like him; the caricature is definitely the original, when-your-grandparents-were-young artwork.
  • Bill Holbrook's strips have evolved over time, with the oldest, On The Fastrack, showing the most change. Even his webcomic, Kevin and Kell, shows gradual shifts in how he draws the characters, syncing up with how his art for his syndicated strips changed over time. A flashback gag in 2010 for On The Fastrack showed the current cast as they looked in the 1980s.
  • Funky Winkerbean, in its earlier years in the early 1970s, used a much more cartoonish and loose art style matching the "gag-a-day" nature of the strip. As Cerebus Syndrome took hold, the art also became far more realistic—though this is also when the cast developed almost permanently depressed facial expressions. A flashback storyline in 2010 in which the middle-aged Funky meets his teenage self places the drastic art style change in much starker light, as even the youthful Funky was drawn in the modern style instead.
  • Alley Oop did a Lampshading story arc a few years ago where Alley's no-good cousin Early Oop shows up in Moo and makes trouble by impersonating Alley, despite Alley's insistence that they look nothing alike. Naturally, Early is designed to look like Alley's original appearance, all those decades ago.
  • Eek and Meek by Howie Schneider was consistently well-written and funny throughout its run, but artwise, the characters eventually became so abstract that a new reader probably couldn't tell they were supposed to be mice without being told.
    • Eventually in the early 1980s Howie Schneider decided to just turn them into humans. It was never brought up in the strip until the next-to-last comic, where Eek said to Meek that he wasn't a bad mouse either in the beginning.
  • Bloom County is also a very extreme example. In the first year, the art was very blobby and scratchy, and then it started to ape Doonesbury for a while—something that even Berke Breathed himself admits to. Over time, it gradually became much finer and clearer, with Berke putting more detail into his inking and crosshatching at times. The fine, crosshatched style carried over to successor Outland, and by the time he made Opus, he even changed up his coloring style drastically.
  • Speaking of Doonesbury... here's the first one, October 26, 1970. You can page through the series and watch Trudeau's style smooth out.
  • Popular Norwegian comic Pondus made a huge art shift from flabby caricature drawings to a more realistic style early in its run. Compare this early strip to this recent one... and yes, the black-haired man is the same character.
  • The popular Filipino comic Pugad Baboy show shifts through this during The Nineties. What started out as a sketchy, three-panelled strip turned into a rounded, high-detailed, ass-kicking satire strip.
  • Little Orphan Annie used to have huge red hair which was a white girl's afro, which later shrank to a realistic size. And the rest of the art grew more consistent and less sketch-like, too.
  • Over the Hedge became somewhat less scratchy-looking over time, with the characters' designs also morphing over time — most notably, RJ's head changed from rounded to a more realistic raccoon appearance, and Verne's nose became larger.
  • Beetle Bailey gives an example that has been around since 1950, so that the art has had an opportunity to shift around for several decades even after it found its own distinctive shape. Most of the evolution—towards rounder, more stylised characters—took place within the less than ten first years, and during the sixties, the art reached almost exactly the form it would have from then onwards. Still, there are always small differences at different times. Insofar the art has changed since the eighties, it has mainly become sloppier in the 2000's. Somewhere along the way among the older comics (not necessarily strips at all, but slightly longer "stories") there is also found a version of the art style so odd that one wonders who actually drew those.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Dungeons & Dragons artwork has changed quite a lot since it was first released in 1974. The art has gotten steadily more Dungeon Punk, but this has let up somewhat in 4th Edition. A lot of fans of earlier editions do not like artwork from newer editions of D&D, and some fans of newer editions of D&D do not like the older artwork.
  • The artwork for Warhammer 40,000 has changed almost as much as Dungeons and Dragons over the years, starting off with goofy, oversized scifi drawings not out of place in the first edition of Shadowrun and hewing steadily more and more toward Frazetta style apocalyptic science fantasy. Most of the combatants received major redesigns along the way as well.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Legend of Zelda has undergone this quite a bit. Compare Short, squat, brown-haired Link with his modern tall, blonde, bishonen counterpart. It is worth noting, however, that these are technically separate characters.
    • The Zelda games actually had different artists throughout the years. In the beginning it was Yoshiaki Koizumi and former anime studio employee Yoichi Kotabe that worked on the first few Zelda games. However Metroid artist mainstay Yusuke Nakano is the most popular one due to his work on Ocarina of Time (which was his first Zelda project). Later he did Majora's Mask, the Oracle games (for a guy inspired by Kotabe's work on Link to the Past and Link's Awakening for his work on Oracle of Ages/Seasons he didn't do too bad) and his work on Twilight Princess (2006) shows how his style improved drastically since Ocarina of Time (1998).
    • Yusuke Nakano also did the artwork for The Wind Waker. It's also noticeable: Look closely at the artwork in the instruction booklet and you will find the way the outlines are drawn to be quite similar to the artwork of Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess. Even though it Super-Deformed, it's still his style. Nakano himself stated in an article, that he liked working on Twilight Princess the best, because he is into this kind of fantasy art, but found The Wind Waker to be an interesting experience as well, because of the drastic change in style.
    • However, you can even notice it with Links that are the same characters. Ocarina of Time Link has gone from having small pupils and a long nose to gigantic pupils and a small nose, from the original game art through appearances in spinoffs, to the 2011 3DS remake.
  • Street Fighter has had noticeable art shifts within the various incarnations of just the main franchise. The original game used character designs that were more realistic than cartoony, though the four new challengers that popped up in Super Street Fighter II pushed this. Realistic design was thrown out entirely for the prequel Street Fighter Alpha series and the characters all took on a more anime-inspired look that also led to a few looking noticeably different in both costume and builds. Street Fighter III backed away from this and returned once more to more realistic designs. Street Fighter IV appears to be looking to blend the two concepts by maintaining cartoony facial expressions but otherwise returning to more classic, realistic character designs. However, many characters are noticeably a lot more muscular.
    • Chun-Li. The first game portrayed her as a very slim, slightly athleticized build. By Alpha, her build had gotten more muscular, notably her thighs, which would make sense considering her signature move utilizes them. Her thighs stayed about the same size in Street Fighter III, which also added a lot more panty shots to her sprite set and also added a thong to her outfit. Street Fighter IV has actually pushed her to even more muscularity, and her thighs are downright monstrous.
    • Meanwhile, the crossover games keep shifting around: the SNK Vs Capom games veer for a realistic approach, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has an anime-inspired style, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom merges realistic and anime designs. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 uses what Seth Killian describes as Japan's interpretation of the Western comic book style.
  • Trauma Center's art style was cartoony and unrealistically proportioned in the first game (even for anime styled artwork), but the subsequent sequels and remakes improved the artwork by a huge margin.
  • Bubble Bobble: Bub and Bob have basic 8-bit sprites in the original. For Part 2, they only have (color) and white for their sprites but get a simplified outline and a new short square silhouette. Bub and Bob get nicely shaded yet still keep their silhouette for Bubble Symphony. They get brighter shades and get a slimmer silhouette for Bubble Memories, in which by that time they don't have literal-black-line-struck-out eyes upon death anymore -- their eyes go missing.
    • Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move: The 1st game follows yet slightly improves the original Bubble Bobble sprites. The 2nd game follows the Bubble Memories' sprite style (as both games were released around the same time). The 3rd game has an Anime style, and the 4th game goes back to the 2nd game's style.
  • The main artist for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise is Kazuma Kaneko, and has been almost since its earliest era. He used to have a more traditional, generic anime style. Then around the late 90s, the man discovered Adobe Photoshop and dramatically altered his art to the porcelain doll/Brian Molko look that the franchise is usually associated with. You can see this shift at its most dramatic by comparing how a character he drew for the original Persona looks in the first game and Persona 2 after the art change.
  • Space Invaders is quite an odd case. Nowadays, they're usually depicted in their classic pixelated forms (even the UFO), but in the Bubble Bobble series, to fit in with the new sprite style of Bubble Symphony, they look more like robots (and the UFO became sentient). The opening sequence of Amiga version of Super Space Invaders '91 actually manages to feature warped versions of the Bubble Bobble designs.
  • Ken Sugimori of Game Freak is known for his style change over time. It certainly shows in Pokémon in the jump from the second generation to the third. Originally, the artwork had been stiff and lightly shaded, like that of Akira Toriyama. As time went on, Sugimori's style had become more natural and fluid, and more shading has been used. The Pokémon themselves have undergone art shifts over time. Just look at their sprites from the original Red and Green Versions (*shudder* horribly deformed Mew), and look as they have changed over time as the series continued.
  • Shinkiro, a video game artist for SNK and Capcom, has had his style change dramatically overtime. His early work, such as for Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters have some realistic touches but still look hand-drawn for the most part. Later on, his work (for example, the cover for Samurai Shodown II, the SNK-style artwork in the Capcom VS SNK series) became very realistic, while avoiding some details to avoid going into the Uncanny Valley. His current style, seen in Tatsunoko VS Capcom, is a mix of both, almost appearing as cel-shaded. Though early on, it is an evolution in art, he attributes his current style to his preference to draw digitally nowadays. His art is immediately recognizable in all styles, though.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series had an art evolution from their original designs for Sonic Adventure. Amy Rose and Dr. Eggman in particular have changed a lot since the classic games.
    • Even the designs themselves have had changes. Originally his arms and legs were very lanky and long. He has since become more compact, and his limbs more shorter, to the point where in the Sonic Unleashed beta he was his classic design with green eyes; his fur color was also darker in the early to mid 2000s. Likewise his classic design went through various changes, most obvious to westerns the change from his original Western design to his Japanese design.
  • World of Warcraft has gotten progressively more stylized since the game first came out in 2004. Early weapons and armor were fairly mundane and realistic, while newer items are larger, more colorful, and more extravagant.
    • Until you hit "Wrath of the Lich King". While these items are larger, they seem to have turned the trend upside down in terms of coloration and texturing—nearly all Wrath armor is drab (to avoid Clown Suit armor) and textured in a semi-realistic way. Case in Point: that horse you can buy from the argent crusade. It's the direct opposite of the happy, fantasy, colorful paladin mount—drab and gritty.
      • But once again true in the last few raid dungeons. Sure, most of the generic armor is drab, but the Tier sets and the high end weapons take the grimdark thing and run straight int the realm of flashy evil looking weapons and the tier10 armor is all based off various undead monsters.
  • Since Adventure Quest has been adding new content every week for years and hiring more and more decent artists along the way, the art has changed a lot. There's even a page in the forum-based encyclopedia showing the old versions of monsters that have been redrawn. The differences can be memorable.
    • Even the ones that haven't had their basic design changed can look very different; their Mascot Mook the Frogzard went from this to this. They revamped a lot of old low-level monsters at the same time, such as the Arroc, formerly this ugly thing into this, which actually looks kinda cool.
  • The Touhou series has the protagonist Reimu Hakurei change a lot over the years. Take a look at her.
  • Final Fantasy VII's designs and art style in the original PlayStation game are extremely anime-like and cartoony. The recent Compilation games have dumped that for a heavily realistic style. Even when you take into account the loss of those awful polygon characters its still a huge shift. Compare the artwork from 1997 to 2007.
    • There is a pretty noticeable chain of art evolutions in Nomura's work, seen in about three different phases: his pre-1999 stuff, when he drew mostly lego-people, his "Belt and Zipper" years where people were slightly lanky and had very detail-heavy costumes, and his stuff starting from the Compilation of FFVII on, where the black outlines of characters have more weight (and in some games, replace color shading) and more attention is given to poses and colors rather than clothes.
  • Star FOX goes through this a lot. Fox's outfit in particular seems to be completely redesigned every game.
  • Mutsumi Inomata, the artist most frequently used for character designs by Namco for its Tales (series), has really refined her art style as the series has progressed. Her work has gotten more detailed and the proportions have improved (many of her early character designs look anorexic), she uses more vibrant colors, and male characters (usually) look less effeminate. Compare Leon of Tales of Destiny's character artwork from the original game to that of his updated artwork in the remake.
  • Trolls in the Warcraft series have had their appearance change a little bit throughout the years. In Warcraft II, they had 5 fingers, only Berserkers seemed to have tusks, and their ears were much shorter. In Warcraft III they now had three fingers, almost all trolls had tusks, and their ears were longer and more exaggerated.
    • High Elves also had this happen to them. In Warcraft II they had normal eyes, regular eyebrows and short pointy ears. In Warcraft III their ears were long enough to poke someone's eye out, their eyebrows were similarly long, and they had blank white eyes. Their appearance changed again in World of Warcraft: the Burning Crusade and now they all had blue or green Glowing Eyes of Doom.
      • Also, their designs became almost Animesque when they were made playable in Burning Crusade.
  • This is the Japanese cover of Mega Man 1. This is Mega Man 7's. Can you notice any difference? In fact, even the Mega Man X series suffered Art Evolution - the cover for the first game still has shades of its Lighter and Softer older brother; but if found its own style a few titles later.
  • While still primarily stick figures and simple illustrations, revamped zones in Kingdom of Loathing will often get new art of better resolution and detail.
  • The Ace Attorney series' art has changed a lot over the past 10 years. Compare 2001 Phoenix and 2004 Phoenix or Demon Prosecutor Edgeworth and Edgeworth in "Ace Attorney Investigations". It's extremely noticeable in the games themselves, due to their tendency to reuse sprites from the first games in the later ones. By the 4th game, the new sprites look so incredibly much more impressive that the old characters appear to be downright ugly standing next to them. Maya suffered from it the most, to the point that she was almost unrecognizable as herself when she had a new pose, "just exorcised and exhausted", added to her sprite repertoire in the 3rd game. The new sprite looked a whole deal better than all of her other sprites. Also, in her Maid spriteset, the differences between the shading on her body (old) and on her clothes (new) are painfully obvious. Problems like this are avoided in the most recent game, Ace Attorney Investigations, which had all Sprites redrawn from scratch, even those of old characters.
  • Series 1 and 2 of Telltale Games version of Sam and Max Freelance Police had a semi-cartoony but perfectly workable fitting style. Come season 3, The Devil's Playhouse, and the same style is around, but with added textures on the backgrounds, much more detailed and complex animation and a nice noir-style grimey filter over everything. It's quite a jump to go from one directly to the other.
  • Kirby's eyes and face have gotten larger in recent installments of the series.
  • The Umineko no Naku Koro ni sound novels has roughly the same art through all episodes but instead the intro is the thing that evolves (though it is more his use of CGI and movement that is evolving not the ground artwork). Just compare the intro to episode 1/2 and ep 3/4, also look at the opening for 5/6 and 7/8 which evolves it even further. Though be warned that it is slight spoilers in them.
  • Early Rance games have the protagonist's face shift whenever he's about to do something less-than-heroic. Later games give him a consistent (if somewhat unusual) appearance.
  • Dead or Alive, the 5th installment is moving the game away from the animé look of its predecessors to a slightly more realistic style similar to Ninja Gaiden.
  • The Living Books games started with some basic graphics (the characters had no shading and had noticeable aliasing). The animations were also basic and were normal sprites moving across the screen. As time moved on, the characters started to look like actual illustrations, and the animation got more complex.
  • Looks like Mario actually lost some of that weight nowadays, didn't he?
  • Every Mega Man series has undergone a noticeable change over the years. The classic series started with artwork of rather crude, chibi-esque character designs that progressed into a more serious and detailed style over time, reaching its peak with the 8th game. When Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 came out for the Wii, the time gap between new games led to a hybrid of both the class NES-style artwork and more detailed NES/Playstation era Mega Man. The original in-game sprites, however, haven't changed much at all, aside from lone games that were on more consoles that had better graphics to work with. The Wii downnloadable games actually revert back to the original sprite style out of nostalgic reverence. Plus, it's cheap.
    • Mega Man X has official art with a very distinct cartoonish, almost 80's shonen feel in the first few games, notably the original. As the plots of the games turn increasinglly dire and the platforms for each change, the art detail dramatically spikes. In that same vein, so the game sprites, first subtle changes, then major alterations to in-game sprites as the console graphic capabilities are ramped up.
      • To take it into perspective, the "classic" style designs are used from the first game to X3, growing more pronounced in detail with each sequel, along with sprites that have more elaborate, shaded coloring (very noticeable in X3.) X4 marks the jump to Playstation, where the characters gain sterner, toughened looks that reflect the darker nature of the plots, and the sprite artists try to replicate their appearances in respect to their artwork as faithfully as possible with immense details. By X6, the sprites even undergo slight palette changes to more accurate colors. X7 is the first game to be on a 3-D platformer, now shifting to polygon models and a few updates to character designs. X8 goes as far as to give the Reploids lankier, humanoid-proportioned armor and smaller, oval-shaped eyes, but these changes are disregarded in Command Mission- though this time, X sports new body armor and a Scarf of Asskicking out of the blue.
      • Compare Sigma in Mega Man X to Maverick Hunter X and you'll see his look has gone from cartoony to downright menacing.
    • Mega Man Zero has a similar change in art. Faces seem a bit more circular and puffy in the first game, but by the last game, their appearances are more angular and unique, especially Zero. In the inital game, he's sporting generic, determined expressions, but remarkably hardened, stern, and outright badass by the final game installment. The mugshots, too, reflect changes. The initial game actually used rough concept art for the mugs, but the later games have sharper and cleaner pixel art ripped straight from official art or done by hand.
    • Mega Man Battle Network changes art style in between 3 and 4. The character's eyes are rounded instead of semicircular (most prominent on Mega Man) and the shapes of their bodies feel more slender and less blocky, though the Navis are prone to some wacky, farfetched designs. The games themselves shrink down sprite dimension and gain thick outlines to create a crisp feel of objects. Mugshots also change considerably, going from fairly Off-Model to almost spot-on by the last game.
  • Since Kinnikuman: Muscle Fight is known for being in continous development, Matayan is known for putting sprite and move updates into various characters and making them look nicer as a result. This can be seen in the Mountain, Kinnikuman Soldier, Sneagator and Kinnikuman Big Body.

Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Homestar Runner. This is lampshaded in the eponymous flashback in the Strong Bad Email flashback; it features crudely-animated art based on that in The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest, a children's book made by the series' creator before their website was established. In the Email lady...ing, Strong Bad presents a clip parodying the crude animation style and personalities of the very, very early Homestar Runner short Marshmallow's Last Stand.
  • Fairy Foxes has gone under Art Evolution throughout its 6 episodes. The foxes started out as cute little chibis. However, their designs changed to an anthro look and stayed that way since episode 3.
    • And since episode 7 came out, StickFreeks (the creator of Fairy Foxes) has switched from MS Paint to Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0.
  • Much like the Fairy Foxes example above, Wolf Dragons also started out different than it is today. Here are examples of the pilot episode: Before and after. Additionally, voices didn't appear in the first version until around episode 3, while in the better version, there were voices from the start.
  • Banana-nana-Ninja! has improved in both art and audio quality from this to this.
  • Red vs. Blue had a unique form of evolution: through the first few seasons, the voice acting and video quality improved somewhat, from the low-quality early episodes to much better sound and video by Season 4 or 5. In addition to progress with equipment, though, the series gained significant upgrades with the release of each new Halo game, and by Revelation, also features extensive CGI thanks to Monty Oum joining the crew. It comes full circle with the release of remakes of the first 5 seasons, re-filmed in HD.
    • It was stated at one panel that as their sound equipment gradually became better, fans started to complain that the voices sounded "too good" and the team decided to work the audio a bit to maintain the low quality feel.
      • Somewhat justified in that the characters are supposed to be speaking either through communicators inside their helmets or through their helmets, so sounding crystal clear is rather odd.
  • Nameless progressed from relatively crappy quality to quality rivaling that of some professionally-made cartoons in a few episodes.
  • The Bionicle Flash episodes (which consisted of cutscenes from the Mata Nui On-Line Game and a short series of non-game animations) went through some degree of evolution:
    • At first, the animations, as well as the game, blended 3D graphics with standard, 2D Flash animation, and as such, some of the movements had many individually rendered frames showing off bodyparts/machinery from just slightly different angles. The characters also had a lot of shading, and the backgrounds were immensely detailed. As the game progressed, the visuals changed to standard 2D imagery, with the animation consisting of the same couple of images being repositioned to simulate movement. The characters only had a few basic angles to their parts, and barely any shading that matched their environment, which also became less detailed. So when you went back to the first areas of the game, characters suddenly tended to look out of place. Thus, this can be seen as an example of the art de-evolving through the course of a series/game.
    • The Kanohi Pakari, Great Mask of Strength (the type of mask worn by Onua Mata). It went through several redesigns, even though the actual LEGO piece itself was not all that complicated. When Onua first appeared, his mask looked really close to the real piece, with some minor differences. By the end of the game, he and every other Pakari-wearer were outfitted with a completely Off-Model-looking mask, that only faintly resembled the original. When the web episodes took over from the game, the animators thankfully settled on a design that later became standard, and looked exactly like the Pakari.
  • An Akatsukis Life. From its somewhat crudely animated and muffled-sounding beginnings, it eventually evolved into this. The latest episodes contain a handful high frame-rate shots that (aside from the obvious pixels) wouldn't look too out of place in an actual cartoon show.
  • One could say the art style for Foamy The Squirrel went through this, starting from very rough design and animation and it now a lot smoother.
  • The Castle Series. Just look at the first part versus the second part.
  • The art in Happy Tree Friends became less stiff and more "cute" over time, mainly by making them overall a little rounder and cartoonish. The overall animation quality also improved. See this illustration.
  • Ashley in The Crazy Kids of Grade 5 has went through a character redesign. Compare this [8] to this [9].
  • While the Ducktales characters still look as crappy as they did in the first Ducktalez, Vegeta has seen an incredible improvement between Episodes 3 (fairly well animated for a Flash cartoon in that age) and Episode 7 (professional-quality CG animation).

Webcomics[edit | hide]

Seeing as how webcomics generally include inexperienced or non-professional artists, Art Evolution is often the default.

  • Academicon Ex Virtus changes really quite rapidly, even adopting full color pages.
  • Monsterful Has shown tons of improvement in both it's gray-scale and colored versions, including lineart, coloring, shading, texturing, lettering and though not as widely used, in backgrounds as well.
  • Sailor Moon CS completely changes its art style the second issue and changes from color to a black and white format in the forth issue
  • Supernormal Step has some really impressive Art Evolution. Comparing current pages with the first few shows a clear improvement in coloring, background detail, proportions, and shading. Compare Hall and Eva from their first appearance in Chapter 1 with the first page of Chapter 5.
  • Cwynhild's Loom has changed significantly since its beginning. The artwork can often shift significantly between updates and has leaned more towards realism over time. Cwyn's hair is a prime example.
  • Compare the first strip of Sequential Art with this callback strip of the same situation. You can't even tell it's the same character.
  • PK Comic shows a definite improvement in the art over just the first few comic strips
  • This got a good Lampshade Hanging in Comedity.
  • Also got a lampshade in the "Full Circle" arc of Fans where the heroes encounter themselves from the past. How do we tell the two groups apart? The ones from the past are drawn in the old art style.
  • Serious Emotional Disturbances does this, but it is intentional. The artist believes that the art should grow up with the comic/characters.
  • Darkbolt: From 1999 to 2003 Sean updated his art style so that it looks way more crisp and clean than before, in 2005 he started with full color pages every weekend or every so often and by 2008 full color pages were being done a lot more.
  • Completely averted in Dinosaur Comics. Part of the comic's gimmick is that it always uses the exact same image for every single comic. The only thing that changes is the dialogue.
  • Averted in Ornery Boy in terms of character art, but definitely evolved when it comes to handling Flash
  • Silent Hill: Promise: The first few screens do not have colored backgrounds.
  • Dream Catcher has had a noticeable improvement.
  • A Girl and Her Fed switches from quick sketches to high details and color in just one strip. Check out this strip and compare with this one.
  • Questionable Content is in a constant state of incremental artistic alteration, as artist Jeph Jacques likes to try out new things and use the strip as a means to improve his skills; his motto is, "If you don't like the art, come back next week, it'll probably be different". To see just how drastically his artwork has shifted over time, check out the difference between these five strips.
      • And helpfully brought into focus by the direct comparison presented here, and by these two.
      • And again. You've got to hand it to Jacques, he's not a man to rest on his laurels.
      • If Jacques Tumblr is anything to go by, we are about to see another major change in style
  • The style of El Goonish Shive has changed drastically over the course of its run. Compare Nanase and Justin in this strip (the redhead, and the blonde guy), and in this strip. (Yes, they are the same characters albeit one of them got a haircut.)
  • Zap is a good example of Art Evolution, in a positive sense. Example: Reona, Issue # 4 vs Reona, issue # 519.
  • Another very striking example is Wapsi Square, whose initial sketchy art style quickly developed into a much more professional look.
  • Megatokyo also changed quite a while during its run, with a cartoonish style that gradually becomes more realistic and with a more detailed shading. If you want a reference, compare strips #9, #500 and #1025.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures is a long-running series, and over time has evolved from being very crudely drawn to being very well drawn as the artist learned how to draw. The artist herself has commented that looking back at her old art is painful.
  • Penny Arcade. This is the earliest strip on record. Penny Arcade now.
    • As of October 2008 there's a noticeable difference between the drawings in the comic and on the header of the website.
      • What's more, with Lookouts, Automata, and Jim Darkmagic, the artist proved that his art can be even better, in many different styles.
      • Lampshaded in this NSFW comic; the corresponding front-page post has Tycho praising Gabe for the leap that has occurred over the years.
    • Played straight in a November 2011 Newspost add-on, featuring graphics showing the evolution of the two main characters over time.
    • MacHall started by emulating then-current Penny Arcade strips. It ended like this. As of its Spiritual Successor Three Panel Soul, Ian is still getting better.
  • PvP has undergone several art evolutions, which are often lampshaded. Comparing the most recent strips with the oldest ones, shows a dramatic shift in style over the years, though except for a few large leaps, these have largely been gradual changes accumulated over time.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court, although its art has always been quite good, has become vastly less stylised (in the perspective and the characters' anatomy) over time. Compare this scene in Chapter 2 with this flashback to the same scene in Chapter 18.
    • Lampshaded here, where the characters recap the entire events of the comic to another (mercifully offscreen).

"The first few chapters of exposition looked a little weird."

  • The art style in Misfile has gone from heavily shaded, more straight-line art to a lighter and more rounded look so gradually you never notice the shift while reading it. However, it is quite jarring if you go back and read some earlier panels. Compare this to this
  • Hero in Training has changed so much that the author has completely re-done the first chapter.
  • The very first Nedroid comics were hilarious, sketchy, and experimental like this one. Over time his style smoothed out. Experiments still pop up but never break too hard from the established style.
  • Sluggy Freelance, the first comics of this continuity appear sloppier, and the artist had a less accurate perception of human anatomy. Especially Egregious in his second strip, where Torg goes from looking 12 in the first panel, 16 in the next, and finally 21 in the last panel. That, and in the first strip, Riff's looking more like a troll than anything else.
    • Also, primarily starting with the "Fire and Rain" arc, the format has shifted away from "three panel strips with a punchline and full-color Sunday" to longer and more dramatic layouts throughout the week. Has a lot to do with the Cerebus Syndrome.
    • For example, compare the art in the above early gag strip with one from the dramatic and violent "Dark Days Ahead" arc from 2002. The strip, as of this post, looks like this, although the very best artwork was probably from the (long, very dark, and spoileriffic) "That Which Redeems" arc from a few years ago.
  • The VG Cats artist has almost completely redesigned the way he draws the two main anthropomorphic cat characters. He has redrawn some of his old comics using his new style. Every strip looks slightly different, though there is definitely a pattern. For example, his newer stuff is a lot more Animesque than his old stuff, and its pretty obvious that hes relying on his computer a lot more.
  • Schlock Mercenary. The creator points this out in the annotation to the very first strip, as well as providing what he apparently considers a better starting point for new Schlockers, but invites them to see his art progress from 'bad to, well, marginally less bad' by starting at the beginning.
  • Adventurers! went from this to this, and is lampshaded here.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja started out in stark black and white. Then in issue 6, Kent Archer began shading the pages in Photoshop in addition to inking them. In issue 8, a computer problem forced Hastings and Archer to start posting updates without the proper shading. Positive reactions from a vocal portion of the fanbase led Hastings and Archer to run a poll to see if the fans preferred the comic shaded or unshaded. After the results were in, the authors Took a Third Option and hired Carly Monardo to color the comic.
  • Molten Blade has undergone gradual art evolution... definitely a change for the better
  • Drowtales has gone from quite frankly sucky art, to impressive. The early example there is even a larger step up from the original chapter 1 art than the page it's being compared to, it just kept improving.
  • Earthsong's artwork improved over the years to the extent that the creator completely restarted the comic from the beginning. And, unusually for such endeavours, is still seeing it through.
  • Fan Boys has gone from this to this.
    • Lampshaded here as the creator re-uploads the archives to a new site.
  • Darken, quite impressively.
  • The webcomics of John Allison have undergone a lot of evolution, which isn't surprising given that he's been at it for ten years. See Shelley, the red-haired girl in the first ever strip of Bobbins, here in 1998? By 2000 she looked like this, then this, and then Scary Go Round started, with a new artistic direction. Since then, the art has changed from digital to hand-drawn and back again twice. The art's been fairly stable now since 2006, despite a switch from pen and ink (digitally coloured) to hand-drawing on a tablet PC.
  • Out at Home's artist has been in art school for the duration of the strip, and man, does it ever show. It went from wonky black-and-white pen to animation-quality in only 14 months!
  • Last Res0rt evolves so rapidly that you can tell when Rachel's worked on other projects between strips thanks to the jumps in quality. Compare this strip drawn in May 2007 to this one from May 2008.
    • And for good measure, here's May 2009 and May 2010.
    • The characters themselves get a fair bit of evolution as well—The two most obvious examples are Adharia's face (which is slowly becoming more lionlike as opposed to, say, a bear or a wolf) and Jigsaw's eye stripes, which gradually creep further down her face.
  • UG Madness: Compare this (the first appearance of Dom and Ty and the 3rd comic overall) to this (the last comic, number 471).
  • Apple Geeks has had numerous changes in art style, most noticeably between #195 and #196, and had a recurring alternate artist, for yet another shift.
  • Over time, Venus Envy has gone from a crudely drawn Animesque style, to a more nicely drawn Animesque style, to its westernized current look.
  • Khaos Komix has gone through an immense evolution, to the point that the author was so displeased with the old ones they rewrote and redrew them. Three times. At the moment, the art style is a bit inconsistent, as the Retcons have been done where there were plot holes, leaving patches of the previous style between newer parts. The old versions are available on download as .zip files.
  • The art in Mike: Bookseller has gotten a lot neater since it began in 2003.
  • Chibi Mikusan, as can be seen with the first strip and the remake of it 230 strips later.
  • Penny and Aggie used to use a cartoonish art style reminiscent of Archie, but gradually moved towards a more realistic style. To put it in perspective, compare the very first strip to this one recreating the same scene.
  • Starline Hodge's Candi'
  • Least I Could Do has had significant changes in style over the years. Compare this comic to this one, this one, this one, and this one. The style greatly changed to a more realistic, detailed, and colored one. This is less due to "the artist getting better" and more due to "changing artists several times over the course of the comic."
    • The evolution was demonstrated in this strip as a celebration of the 2000th strip. For record, the second from the left was the first known version of the character. It's up to Wild Man Guessing as to who the first guy is.
  • The art of CRFH has gone from "those are supposed to be people?" levels at the beginning, to "damn, I wish I could draw half that well." The six characters in the first comic and the six in the second? Same people. (And yeah, that one guy did pick up a tentacle for a left arm along the way. Just read the comic.)
  • Girl Genius went from black-and-white to color, and Phil Foglio's skill at anatomy has also improved; for the first couple of years, he was especially prone to making character's heads too small for their bodies (Klaus and Othar were the most common victims) and the occasional giant hands or freakishly long forearms. He's straightened out now, though, and it's one of the best-looking webcomics out there.
    • Girl Genius has also gone through a lot of evolution when it comes to inking and coloring. While YMMV, the low point was probably the start of volume 2, where Foglio's pencils were practically un-inked and the new color was applied in eyeball-searing neon gradients. The style has gelled since, with better inking and a more subtle, attractive palette.
    • Although there is still the odd slip.
  • Although Lint [10] is not as popular as some other examples here, the absolutely enormous difference between early, black-and-white, amateurish art such as this can barely be recognized as the gorgeous, textured masterpieces like this. And it's gotten even better if more Bishouneny.
  • Striptease's evolution is an insane jump from this to this
  • The artist for Triquetra Cats collected her evolution in this image
  • The Life of Nob T. Mouse went from poorly hand-drawn sketches as demonstrated by the first strip to a far more rounded, streamlined style including subtle shading and backgrounds, like this strip from 14 years later.
  • Similarly, All Over the House has evolved from crude, angular characters in its first few comics to rounded, coloured and shaded characters after only a few months. Compare this first outing to its latest episode.
  • Averted for all intents and purposes with User Friendly which has gone from this to this in just under 12 years.
  • In Coming Up Violet, the comic has gotten noticeably better in the few short years it's been out. Its predecessor Fur Will Fly had quite a bit of this as well . . . possibly. It was pretty hard to tell considering just how much the art shifted from arc to arc. There were at least three different artists.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles: See the first comic in Campus Safari. Then see the current Akaelae strip. Very different art style, definitely better art quality.
  • Eight Bit Theater has gone from this to this. It's quite funny to see Art Evolution in a sprite comic.
  • Sam and Fuzzy, then and now.
  • Polk Out's improved a bit, as seen here and here.
  • The Order of the Stick has retained its simple stick-figure art, but it has become somewhat less scratchy and smoother, and the characters occasionally have new details added to them (with Lampshade Hanging). This is a lot more noticeable in the panel lines—they started out all over the place, and now they're completely straight. The sheer detail in the background of panels, even pretty simple ones, has gone up quite a bit as well much of the time.
    • The character designs have also drastically improved; when the artist had to take some time off due to a hurt wrist around the hundredth strip, he took the opportunity to improve the character designs, adding details like a clasp to Elan's cape (which had been superglued to the back of his neck or something before that) and the runes around the bottom of V's cloak. Over time he has started using more standard character models, making the art far more consistent and slip-ups less frequent.
  • Times Like This has changed drastically since day one. Compare the "introductory strip" back in 2007 to a retelling of the discovery in 2012.
  • Here's Summer and Carrie from an early Everyday Heroes page—and a more recent one.
  • Kagerou shows vast improvement in the time it's been going, and the artist has done an obligatory side-by-side remake page to show it. Although, the remake shown there doesn't quite do justice to Luka's improvement. This does.
  • There's been considerable art evolution in the Walkyverse, as one might expect over a ten-year run, but it's especially noticeable over the It's Walky run due to large number of flashbacks caused by the Cerebus Retcon. Observe: Roomies! #1, It's Walky! #1, Shortpacked! #1, Dumbing Of Age #1.
  • Bigger Than Cheeses underwent the biggest Art Evolution ever. Here is the very first strip and here is one of the latest ones. Thankfully, the jokes got better as well.
  • Lampshaded in Ozy and Millie here with an Art Shift.
  • Acrobat starts off with rough lines and slowly changes to smoother ones.
  • Narbonic and then Skin Horse. It's most obvious as you look at how Shaenon Garrity does her fills and backgrounds.
  • Twokinds. It started out looking like something a beginner with only a how to draw manga book as a guide, and currently is rwaching near-professional quality. Just compare this this early strip with this later one.
  • The webcomic Shape Quest features a nice "upgrade" in detail following Chapter 3.
  • Amazingly averted in Sabrina Online, which has been running since 1996 without the art style or quality changing in any way whatsoever.
  • Chasing the Sunset has gone from "crude" to "gorgeous". Alien has gone back and redrawn the prologue, so now it's "decent" to "OMG PRETTY!"
  • Charby the Vampirate, the author summed it up in this picture. She added that if she could draw as well as she does now when she started the comic, the characters would have looked like this.
  • Khatru's creator has blamed some of the comic's Schedule Slipage to his fiddling around with the art style.
  • Ciem went from this to this, without even changing game engines!
  • The Doctor Who fancomic Search For the Truth began like this. Over time, the art became more clean and details and today the Doctor actually looks remarkably like David Tennant. Interestingly enough, SFTT is technically a toned-down version of the artist's style, as flipping through her gallery will yield some beautifully photo-realistic Doctor Who art. Wordlessly lampshaded here.
  • Niklas and Friends has gone from looking like this in 1998, to looking like this in 2005.
  • Juathuur has a slow but steady art evolution, that is most apparent in the passage from black and white to full color.
  • In an unusual reverse example, Girls with Slingshots has actually become less realistic and more cartoonish over time. Compare Hazel and Jameson in the first strip with their more recent look.
  • Collar 6 starts out black and white, and quickly shifts to color.
  • The-FAN started with ugly thick lines, inconsistent text boxes, and lots of gradient fills. and went with them for a long time. The most changes occurred during episode 3, when the author finally learned how to use layers properly, and halfway through the episode, when the thick lines were abandoned in favor of sketchy lines due to technical issues. The latest change happened halfway though episode 4 when the sketchyness was turned down.
  • Planes of Eldlor: The artist has stated that she is intentionally using this comic to evolve her skill and style, which is already somewhat evident in the comic archive.
  • The first 21st Century Fox strips were barely legible black and white pencil sketches, since then it has upgraded to full color and occasional animated gifs.
  • A Magical Roommate quite visibly improved during its first strips, and still manages to maintain its trademark Stick Figure Comic/Animesque hybrid style.
  • The Whiteboard takes it a step further: not only Art Evolution, but also a medium change. The original medium was Exactly What It Says on the Tin (which has become an Artifact Title).
  • Bittersweet Candy Bowl shows this very clearly, going from lined paper with a simple grid layout to its current form of inventive panelling and exquisite toning.
  • This trope can even apply to photocomics: If you take one of the older themes in Irregular Webcomic and compare the first strip with a more recent strip (for example the Cliffhanger strips 24 and 2297), you can see how far David Morgan-Mar's photography skills and/or equipment have improved.
  • Springiette style has evolved, with now much more detailed backgrounds and consistent character design.
  • The artwork of Josh Lesnick has been evolving constantly through his entire career as a webcartoonist, and is particularly noticeable through his time drawing Girly, a comic that started out as very Animesque (much like his past projects, Wendy and CuteWendy), and eventually evolved into something more organic. This is also very noticeable in his porn comics, sometimes starring characters from Wendy.
  • In another mostly stick art comic, Left Handed Toons has improved considerably—particularly Drew. This is probably because the artists are getting used to drawing with their left hands. Compare this and this.
  • Aside from the generally improving styles over its course, Keychain of Creation pulls off a major evolution in comic #319, which goes from partial stick-figures to fully fleshed bodies. For bonus points, it hangs a huge lampshade on it by having the evolution occur as a function of Secret and Marena's sorcery initiation, implying that it's actually one of the rules of the universe.
  • Slightly Damned: One of the first pages, compared to the middle of the comic's run, and finally the current style.
  • MS Paint Adventures as a whole has undergone immense changes over time. Problem Sleuth went from this to this in a little less than a year. One year after that in the latest adventure, Homestuck, we get this update which effectively illustrates how much more skilled Hussie has become with animation since the series started.
  • The Other Grey Meat The characters have undergone significant changes from their original design.
  • Nature of Nature's Art 's 10%+ story has artwork that improved significantly near the end of the incredibly long battle between Meander and Quintet versus Rule and Polarizing. So much so that looking at the older strips is actually a little jarring, even after the artist re-drew a few.
  • The creator of Mulberry posted a picture on his Deviant ART detailing the evolution of the title character.
  • This filler comic of The FAN illustrates how much the art has changed during the course of the first three episodes. An art shift caused a decline in quality but the comic has been recovering. This is a more recent strip, black and white, but one of the better ones.
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name started out rather well, but became amazing within a few months.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob—Check out the very first spaceship roof crash compared with a recent giant robot jumping on Bob's roof. For that matter, check out the early Princess Voluptua compared with a more recent version.
  • Though the art in Ménage à 3 was good from the first issue onwards and the art style overall has remained pretty consistent for such a long-running comic, the series is slowing shifting from a straightforward Archie Comics style and occasionally incorporates a few manga features like enlarged eyes (Recent examples from end 2010):
  • Juathuur goes from black-and-white with occasional color strips in "One Way or Another" to fully color with more fully fleshed-out character and background designs in "Gatecrash."
  • In Fite!, each strip has a header with portraits of the main characters. However, by the start of Round 4, the art had evolved to the point that Lucco and Guz's faces in-comic no longer matched the old header pictures. The header was updated a few strips later.
  • Dominic Deegan has definitely become cleaner compared to the old scribbles.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del went from kind of scribbley to clean and consistent thanks to a file of body parts, and later he goes back to drawing all the characters individually. Buckley is currently experimenting with watercolor textures (coincidentally after Penny Arcade began using them).
  • The Devil's Panties were more the scribbles of this comic personality but portions and cleaness of the lines has gotten better with time.
  • Tales of a Gay Asian is obviously a great example of this for 2 reasons 1.It is the creator Brian Morris's first comic and 2. Due to his busy schedule and other comics he draws 8 pages of gay asian weekly. Which attributes to the art change and how he is progressively getting better.
  • Visible, that it even needed it from the start, in Lackadaisy. As you progress through the comic you see the lighting becoming more expressive and detailed (thanks to computer rendering) and the cat-bodies becoming more proportionate and closer to human body types. Now every frame looks like an authentic 1920's photograph.
  • Archipelago starts out very scribbly in book one. Each progressive book gets a little better, with excellent quality work appearing in book 6. Compare this with this.
  • The creator of Dragon City and Jix is constantly improving his art to the point where the beginning of the comic doesn't really look like it was drawn by the same person as the current comic.
  • LeveL has an unbelievable amount of Art Evolution going from a rather bland manga-like style to THIS.
  • Freefall has seen modest amounts of art evolution, especially from the full-page magazine comics to its current webcomic form.
  • No Need for Bushido underwent a massive Art Evolution, going from artwork that wasn't bad, but wasn't very good, either (as seen here) to something lifted from a spectacularly well drawn cel shaded movie (as seen here, with iiiiitty bitty spoilers. Teeny tiny ones.). Thee best part is that it was a gradual shift, rather than a more sudden one.
  • Miscellaneous Error went through very rapid Art Evolution over its first 4 strips. It's almost as though the author was an ameteur with no prior experience or something.
  • Elf Blood's art has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past year of its life. Change tends to happen fairly slowly and organically, but the biggest change was also the earliest, changing to full-color from black white and screentone after a few weeks of publishing. Consistency in the art style seems to have settled in in the last story arc or so, resulting in fewer obviously off-model characters, and the backgrounds are improving in level of detail as well.
  • For Voodoo Walrus vast improvements have taken place since the comic first went live in 2007. Compare this comic to this. Same leading female character, same artist, but 4 years of practice can make all the difference.
  • Mayonaka Densha's artwork has gone from being flat and and toneless with very disproportionate characters and little to no backgrounds to this and this within the space of a couple of years . The author made the choice to partially or completely redraw some of the older pages which she deemed particularly bad or inconsistent with the story, just look at the old and new pagesside by side
  • The artwork of Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes has changed so much over the years that the first page of the archive, rather than the first strip, is a page showing just how much the art has evolved. Most recently he has begun shading the comic to dramatic effect.
  • Off White had a rather dramatic change. Just compare this and this, or this and this
  • The earlier pages of Westward have a simpler and rougher appearance than later ones, though many of them have a certain charm precisely because of that cleaner, simpler approach.
  • Coffin Comics can be seen with this due to a transition from pencil to digital and again later on when the style was upgraded.
  • Lampshaded in this busybee comics comic, showing how the artist's self-representation and style have changed drastically over the years
  • The evolutions in Our Little Adventure came in three major waves and a few small adjustments.
  • Skin Deep has improved vastly since its launch in 2006. Compare the first page of the Orientations arc to the last page. And then take a look at Nixie Spit.
  • Happened to Roommates too. You can compare this to this.
  • Virtual Shackles: While the art started out somewhat close to where it is now, there have been some changes to shading, ears, and lines to make things seem sharper in general. Compare this early strip to this much later one.
  • Rusty and Co demonstrates this using the original Princess sketch v.1, then The Princess as-she-appears-in-the-comic sketch v.2 where her design 'get... well, let's say "streamlined"...' -- and the hypothetical v.3 -- in Order of the Stick style.
  • Minus. At first, the eponymous character's Idiot Hair looked quite normal and possible in real life. However, very soon after that Ryan Armand starts to make minus's ahoge thicker and longer, to the point where it looks more like a ponytail than a few hairs that refuse to be combed.
  • It's not suprising that this is the case in Ears for Elves, given that it's the artist's first comic. The artist admits that drawing is a learning process and she's experimenting with styles and tones.
  • There's a lot of art evolution in the first 10 comics of Level 30 Psychiatry due to the comic being a year in development before launch and due to coloring and text duties being split. For comparison here's the comic when done by the writer, Guybrush20X6 in pencil, when done by GigaNerd17 on the lineart, text and coloring and with GigaNerd on the lineart, TheMightyBox doing the colouring and Guybrush20X6 on the text.
  • Nuzlocke Comics and its spinoffs tend to experience this, enough so that for some people it's as much a part of the challenge as the gameplay restrictions are. For the main series, compare then and now.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Rare live-action example: Shiny Objects Videos underwent vast improvement in camera work, film quality, and editing as they progressed. To be expected, of an amateur production.
  • Quirky Misadventures of Soldine the Cyborg: overall audio-visual quality has drastically improved since the beginning of the series. Compare the first episode of the series with its remake, or a more recent (as of February 2012) instalment.
  • As Machinima becomes more popular, the tools and options available increase, whether it be because of the use of a mod or actually added in by the Developers. Halo 3 is one of the most notable developer additions (with the Replay Feature and Stage alterations), and Brawl seems to be becoming one of the most Game Mod-based, from stages to movements.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Animation as a whole slowly went through this phase from The Silent Age of Animation to The Golden Age of Animation. Early cartoons were very crudely made-they were very stiff, rigid and mechanical in appearance and movement, had no construction, no line of action, lots of symmetry (which made them look flat) and the body parts were piled onto each other, rather than being directly connected by form. This began changing when Disney began forming and refining The Twelve Principles of Animation, as well as animators like Fred Moore altering Mickey's design to become more pear like and organic, allowing it to not only be three dimensional, but also be more pliable and organic than the earlier, rigid designs from shorts like Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie. Disney immediately adapted this to their other characters, and everyone else in the animation industry (sans Max and Dave Fleischer) copied this immediately, sending classic rubberhose animation to its grave within a few years.
  • The second season and onwards of American Dragon: Jake Long animation used a much simpler and fluid style of animation compared to the first. The character designs, especially Jake's dragon, form changed considerably; in the first season he is tall and muscular and from season two and onwards he is short and scrawny.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force was never very solid to begin with, but it somehow improved vastly. Initially, Meatwad's shape would vary constantly, before settling in on its more rounded, meat-y roundness at some point in the middle of the first season. The biggest evolution was the vast improvement in lip syncing, where the first episodes typically had the characters' mouths move in the same one or two animations for all dialogue, they now move faster and more accurately to the words. More recent episodes also saw animation breakthroughs such as Carl running (complete with jiggling!) and loads more realistic animation and poses for real people and the Aqua Teens.
    • The serialised Teens are quite different in appearance (especially Frylock), and distribution of personality, to their original appearance on Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
  • The Backyardigans' five-kid-cast got improved with Season 2. You can barely notice any change on Uniqua, and it's more noticeable on Austin (who looks nothing like he did during the first season).
  • Batman the Animated Series had very full and weighty character designs and animation. When it was Uncanceled the designers wanted to modify a lot of the designs for several reasons: the weightier designs were more difficult to animate, improve design "mistakes" in their opinion, simpler designs made the emotional actions clearer. Many fans didn't like the relatively "blander" designs, but mostly the new Joker. (Even the creators acknowledge it didn't turn out the way they wanted, it looked good on paper but not animated, and lacked the deep redness of the lips that gives him such a manic grin). This said, some, like Scarecrow's new nightmarish appearance, Poison Ivy's green skin, and Penguin's less Burton-esque revamp came out okay. A good discussion of the changes can be found here.
    • For purposes of more illustration, take a look. The same villain (Baby-Doll) as seen in TAS and in New Adventures.
    • With Batman Beyond and more so in Justice League, the Timmverse got its final revamp. While the BTAS era had every character given a weighty look and the STAS era gave everyone a sleek look, the 3rd revamp added more lines. The best example of the changes would be the Joker, though, as he was present in all three eras and was wearing the same clothes, for the most part. In the BTAS era he had a rounded face and detailed features. In the STAS era he was drawn very basically with few lines. Even his eyes were simplified and his mouth became simple curves. In the JL era he got more lines and a face more similar to the BTAS version, but with the sharper lines and details (and red irises in his eyes.)
      • Batman is a good guide as well. Here are three images, from BTAS, the New Batman Adventures and the Justice League. Notice how the inner leg in the TNBA one is represented by a single curved line, while in the JL one there is a distinction between thigh and calf, and in the BTAS one both the thigh and calf have curved lines. And the gauntlets are different. In the TNBA one they are drawn in a single zigzag, and in the JL one each is its own defined curve.
  • Beavis and Butthead had developed its own refined low-key style of animation by the last few seasons. The very early episodes comparatively look like they were drawn by blind toddlers.
    • The Revival looks to be even more drastic, especially when comparing their characters' designs to the rest of the universes.
  • The Ben 10 meta-series had changed in looks between the original series and its sequels to look less cartoonish. For example, Ultimate Alien, which brought back the 10-year-old Ben in one episode, had slight changes in detail to him and the aliens he used.
  • The Boondocks' art style changes every season, the character designs that have changed the most are Sarah Dubois, Ed Wuncler, and his grandson Ed Wuncler III. CN hired a new animation studio for the latest seasons.
  • The first two seasons of Captain N shared the same character models. However by the time season 3 came around the production quality took a nosedive. Compare: Season 1 and 2 Mother Brain to Season 3 Mother Brain.
  • Chaotic: The first season is animated in flash; this was an awkward style to some people. Then the second season was more like Afro Samurai with the colors of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Chowder had completely different designs in the first episode, "The Froggy Apple Crumble Thumpkin". Mung had bigger ears and a smaller nose and eyes, Shnitzel has smaller eyes, and Chowder had a smaller face. In newer episodes, Mung has a bigger head and Chowder is thinner and has bigger eyes.
  • In The Critic, all the characters were given updates to their character designs. Jay Sherman and his sister Margo had the most changes.
  • Danny Phantom
    • Most of the characters (usually the main teenagers) started off looking like stick figures and in certain episodes, loose and gangly. Later, they gain thicker muscles and retain a more solid structure, sometimes to the point of stiffness.
    • In season 3 the fight scenes were better and improved. The first 2 seasons often showed basic punches and Ecto Rays with an irritating overuse of onomatopoeia comic book-ish freeze frame. season 3 made it better by reducing the last and bumping the others; the results are often surprisingly fast and fluid.
  • The later seasons of Dexters Laboratory experienced a drastic change in character and background designs, to the point where it lost its cherished Thick Line Animation.
  • In the Oh Yeah Cartoons shorts of The Fairly OddParents, the characters' appearances were slightly different than in the show itself. For example, many of the characters had stretched heads and bodies, Wanda's skin tone was a little more pink, and Timmy's eyes were always crossed. In an issue of Nickelodeon Magazine, Butch Hartman, the creator, mentioned that Timmy looks much cuter than when he first appeared.
  • Another show with quite obvious change is Family Guy. Early episodes are still fun to watch but are not as great looking as they used to be. Later on in the series the quality improves and looks great.
    • The attention to detail in the backgrounds and objects improved over time. In one of the commentaries, the writers noticed how the pancakes in one scene is so crudely drawn that it looks more like a beehive or a stack of huge Honeycombs cereal. The food in the more recent episodes look more like real food now.
    • Parodied when Brian and Stewie go 5 years into the future and everything is 3D animation. They also go back to 1999, the same year as the pilot episode and are shocked to see how different things look back then. They even poke fun at the Off-Model issues the series suffered in its early years, such as one of Peter's eyes is drawn over his nose.
    • Background characters are also drawn with great detail, including the dancers for the opening intro where there are characters from the series appearing as the dancers instead of generic characters.
  • Lampshaded in a Stylistic Self Parody in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, in the episode where the characters are doing a Rashomon Style on how they met. Billy and Grim give wild, fantastic tales, then Mandy summarizes the pilot episode in ten seconds over clips of it, prompting Grim to scoff, "That doesn't even look like us!"
  • Hey Arnold! - Season 1 looked much cruder compared to the other seasons (especially see Helga's face compared to the later seasons). Season 4 and 5 looked dramatically different from earlier seasons due to the switch to computer coloring.
  • Home Movies stopped using Squigglevision after its first season, and switched to a much more fluid Flash animation style from there on out.
  • Honey Halfwitch, an otherwise short-lived series from Paramount Pictures Cartoon Studio, went through an extreme character redesign near the end, where she went from looking like a Harvey Comic character (she was created by Howard Post, who drew for Harvey) to looking like a girl Charlie Brown. What happened was that Paramount fired Post and replaced him with veteran animator Shamus Culhane, who ordered to have the character redesigned.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: Starting in the second season, the animation got a bit more detailed and much smoother.
  • In season one of KaBlam!, Henry and June were very crudely drawn. Starting from season two, their appearances got cleaned up, and they finally got eye colors.
  • While Kevin Spencer is not known for its amazing animation (and occasionally lampshaded, being that they're a low-budget show), the first season was so ghastly that nothing was ever on model at any point. By the second season, the animation improved. The series got better in terms of animation, which can best be seen with Anastasia's hair becoming more realistic.
  • Season 2 of Kidd Video had a drastic change not only in the character design, but backgrounds as well, giving the show a more Disneyesque look than the more traditional designs of the first season.
  • Shows like King of the Hill have a large change in art quality from early episodes to later episodes. The pilot is crudely drawn and looks very dated. There is some improvement as season one goes on, but the change overall in how the series looks throughout the show improves later on.
    • Buck Strickland's design has changed the most as in his first appearance he is very short and fat and has a different shaped head, by mid season 2 he is taller a bit thinner but with a pot belly and a thinner different shaped head.
  • From Avatar: The Last Airbender to its Sequel Series The Legend of Korra Art Director Brian Konietzko has discussed his evolution towards more realistic proportions and less oversized heads, which is particularly noticeable when redrawn original series characters appear during Korra's Opening Narration.
  • Mainframe Entertainment improved their hardware several times, and the results were noticeable between seasons of their various shows.
    • In Re Boot, one hardware upgrade in mid-season two allowed for much more variety of motion than they had before. Season 3 showed another upgrade with much more texture like eyelashes, partially because it wasn't produced until a year and a half after season two ended. Season 4 was the Uncancelled season three years later and the characters had a much greater sense of weight.
    • Beast Wars had a major jump at the beginning of season two, with the introduction of the "transmetals" the robotic appearances looked better then ever. Beast Machines featured some amazing and lush explosion effects as well as a decent range of emotion from at least one character that did not have a face.
      • Just in Beast Wars, the CGI evolved a great deal through its three season run, as the bare and flat plains with occasional rock formations gave way to lush jungles, deep forests and underwater environments. Even non-robotic characters were way ahead of previously featured organics in terms of visual appeal: Just compare the great looking Cyber Raptors from season 3 to Dinobot's original beast-mode that had visible "seams" where his body parts met, with a terribly segmented tail, and constantly deformed in awkward ways when he moved. Or the saber-toothed cat from season two to the tiger model from the first season, which also tended to look like separate body parts stuck together. None, however, evolved as much as the butterfly—although the outdated model did appear at later points, even when the better version had already been featured.
  • Metalocalypse was fairly consistent in style in the first two seasons with lines getting smoother, motion less clunky, and better coloring over time. Season 3 was a huge shift from the first 2 thanks to an increased budget the characters now have pretty full range of motion compared to the first two seasons where most of the action involved the band members standing around and talking.
  • Many classic cartoons have gone through design changes; Mickey Mouse is probably the most famous, but his was rather subtle evolution, being tweaked here and there as animation techniques were being refined, such as giving his eyes movable pupils. A much more obvious design change can be seen in Donald Duck who looked like this when he debuted... a big difference compared to this
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has cleaned up over the episodes, in subtle ways. One noticeable change is that unicorn horns now are a part of the head instead of being separate. Another is that Applejack's freckles don't vanish when she runs anymore.
    • The whole setting is also much more alive in later episodes. The crowd scenes in early episodes, for example, feature groups of near-identical ponies who just stand there motionlessly, aside from occasionally blinking their eyes. In later seasons, the animators have given background ponies unique animations and movements so they express personality and don't look like they're just there to fill space.
  • In the sneak preview for Recess the characters (aside from Ms. Finster and Mikey) look very different than they do in the series proper.
    • During season 3, some episodes were done in digital coloring as opposed to season one and two's coloring which was only hand-painted cels. The digital and hand-painted would often go back and forth with mixed results, and the last episode before the DTV movies was hand-painted, in a Book Ends sort of way.
    • T.J. looked a little different in season one as well. He used to be a bit more round and he had highlights in his eyes.
  • Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon. John Kricfalusi himself described the APC as his best work in terms of animation (though he's not so proud of the show's pacing problems and forced "adult" elements).
  • Rugrats began very crudely drawn, with rather grotesque, angular, exaggerated shapes and muted colors. By the end of the series, it featured smoother lines and more realistic coloring.
  • The Simpsons has lampshaded its art evolution since the Tracey Ullman Show shorts a few times. In the episode "Lisa's Sax", the early shorts are described as "crudely-drawn filler material". These shorts were so poor because Matt Groening quickly sketched his character designs to serve as inspiration for the animators, but they copied the designs exactly.
    • The standards of art and design in The Simpsons were mostly tied to the budget. The initial animation team consisted of four men: Matt Groening, who did (very crude) sketches and storyboards, and just three animators at Klasky-Csupo. As the series progressed, and ratings remained high, the budget, the team, and its capabilities increased. When the Tracy Ullman Show finished, Fox wanted to spin off The Simpsons as a half-hour program series, and asked Groening to make a pilot. Not wanting to go to the effort of making a pilot, which might be shelved without ever being aired, Groening refused. If the Fox executives wouldn't approve a full season based on past performance, he said, he would rather leave them and go back to his popular Life in Hell strip. In the end, they compromised, agreeing on a half-length season of 13 episodes. When this season had aired with ratings success, they got a full budget for a full second season and were able to improve the animation qualify and spend time firming up the designs.
    • This comparison of the show's original and updating openings is a good demonstration of how the art has evolved. Notice how stretchy and fluid the original animation is relative to the stiffer modern animation.
  • South Park: It began with "only show people from cardinal directions", and everyone shuffled around, never moving their legs. Although the art style has remained identical, now they can show a fairly wide range of movement. What's even more surprising is the fact that they can still make them in a couple days, due to switching from trying to "animate" static paper cut-outs to actual animations on Maya, one of the most powerful 3D animation programs in existence.
    • The show itself has acknowledged this a couple times.
      • "Free Hat": Not in the plot itself, but features a fake commercial for a "digitally remastered" version of "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" (the first episode), also featuring a Conspicuous CG spaceship and aliens, plot changes, and Imperial Walkers in the background (the whole thing is a parody of the Star Wars remakes). Notably, the animation style is a huge improvement over the original version...by being about on par with the style of "Free Hat" itself.
      • "A Very Crappy Christmas": One of the subplots features the kids making a cartoon about Christmas. They base the characters on themselves and do all the animation in construction paper. The joke is that the entire process is similar to how Trey and Matt first created the South Park characters to begin with, and the few scenes shown in the episode are lifted directly from their animated short "The Spirit of Christmas - Jesus vs. Frosty". Because the short is completely unaltered it ends up looking like a crude cartoon compared to the episode it appears in.
    • And compare the way animals looked in season 1 to how they look in season 11, quite a difference. The animals of the earlier seasons looked very cartoony and in the later seasons they look very realistic and lifelike.
    • The evolution in character designs is especially noticeable when you compare any new adult characters to old ones like Ned, Officer Barbrady, or Jimbo.
      • The depiction of celebrities has evolved from crude representations to more realistic caricatures. Compare the appearance of Geraldo Rivera in the first season to his appearance in the tenth season here.
    • The backgrounds are also a lot more detailed, with the buildings actually having perspective.
    • The first few seasons involved computer animation being used to replicate the same cardboard animation used for the pilot and earlier "Spirit of Christmas" shorts. This was because using actual stop-motion cardboard techniques took far too much time to make a syndicated series out of. Eventually, the novelty of attempting the old minimalist approach wore out, and the show took its original artistic style and just ran with it, forgoing restraints. Seasons 4 and 5 showed signs of going this route (lampshaded in the "4th Grade" intro sequence), with Season 6 being the primary turning point, beginning with a "repeat" of the pilot episode's opening scene using the show's current-at-the-time rendering techniques.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants. Season one looks very different from the rest of the seasons. It is the only season that used hand-painted animation cels (beginning with season 2, the series switched to digital ink-and-paint), and the animation is noticeably more crude and inconsistent. Also, Patrick's appearance is slightly different.
  • The Spot the Dog animated series has went through this several of times. Between the first season of the 1985 series to the last season from 2000, Tom the Crocodile loses those menacing incisors and Helen the Hippo loses those eye sacs. And everyone changes to a lighter shade of color they were originally in. Although the changes itself could be reflecting the art evolution of the books, though.
  • Star Wars the Clone Wars. The animation quality has steadily ramped up through the last 3 seasons, both in overall visual quality and in the movements of the characters (which have become less puppet-like as the seasons progressed), which was one of the main criticisms of the show at the outset.
  • Teen Titans originally looked quite angular and cartoon-y, with simple backgrounds and rather basic coloring. It kept the same basic style, but subtly evolved to have smoother lines, much more detail, and more natural coloring.
    • Also, in the early episodes, Beast Boy disappeared just offscreen to transform into whichever animal he was going to use. In later episodes, Beast Boy's transformations were on-screen. It starts some point within the first season, very awesomely in "Apprentice" which for a freezeframe you got Beast Boy as half-ram and half-snake.
  • Occurred constantly during the last 3rd of the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. After 5 seasons of consistent designs, the series' art style was dramatically changed for its season 6 retool, which resulted in simpler, more angular designs, and a less subtle color palette. Then, after the series was retooled again for it season 7, most of the regular characters were redesigned to look more like their movie counterparts—most notably, the turtles' eyes now had visible irises, even when they wore their masks—and the color palette became somewhat more dark. Afterwards, for the Grand Finale movie Turtles Forever, the art style was tweaked yet again, with the turtles returning to their season 6 models (albeit lightly modified) and with several other characters—particularly Splinter and Hun—getting slightly more complex shading.
  • Tom and Jerry were originally drawn fairly realistically, especially Tom, who had realistic cat's claws and moved and acted much like a real cat. As time went on some Art Devolution occurred and Tom became much less realistic and more anthropomorphic.
  • The Venture Brothers subtly but noticeably steps up the animation at the beginning of each new season.
  • Woody Woodpecker went through some of this. The early entries in the series were very crudely drawn, and Woody had a ghoulish avian design. By the 10th short, when Shamus Culhane took over direction, he simplified the backgrounds, and gave the series a more or less refined art style (as refined as that low budget Walter Lantz studio could get, anyways) that would continue changing from there on out.
  • From the jump from webseries to television cartoon, Making Fiends got noticeably cleaned up. The backgrounds are a lot more detailed, the characters are no longer scribbly, and background characters are given brighter colors. For a comparison here's one of the protagonists house in the web cartoon and TV cartoon.
  • In the first Winnie the Pooh feature Piglet looked incredibly different from his official design. Everyone else looked the same so it's a redesign.
  • Despite being made by the same producers behind The Simpsons, whose animation had been perfected in the course of over a decade, Futurama started out looking alarmingly similar to the early days of its sister show. Fry's distorted, squished face when he says, "Michelle! Baby!" in the pilot episode is a good example. Luckily, the staff were able to get this under control in just a few episodes. Later seasons would up the artistic ante by having more detailed environments and more complex scenes, especially in the post-Fox era when the show switched to High Definition and took on more serious situations.