The Strategic Use of Color Sets Fantasy Anime Apart

By Sean Aitchison

From the colorful worlds of Fairy Tail and Black Clover to the darker tones of series like Berserk and Attack on Titan, fantasy anime is rife with diverse and appealing adventure, all woven together through the strategic use of color.

Through the palettes of these series, fantasy anime takes us to incredibly beautiful worlds ripe with style, humor, grit and emotion. Fantasy anime isn’t just a sub-sect of the storytelling genre, but a pillar strong enough to stand with the greats, from Arthurian legend to The Lord of the Rings.

And it’s that eye for color that sets them apart.

In a world…

Fairy Tail fantasy anime

How does fantasy anime’s color design elevate everything from character interaction to world-building? Let’s take a look at Fairy Tail.

The series’ world is inhabited by countless types of magic users — from elementals to summoners and everything in between — and to reflect this, the characters’ designs and the color choices that go with them are varied and tie in with their abilities, personalities or allegiances.

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This collection of diverse designs serves to build the specific fantastical world that Fairy Tail aims for, and many other fantasy anime follow a similar model. 

In Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-, we’re introduced to Subaru Natsuki, a shut-in who is transported to a medieval fantasy world with the video game-esque power to die and respawn the day before his death, with all of the knowledge that led up to it. Sounds pretty dark, right?

But Re:ZERO contrasts its dark content with its colorful world and character designs, making the series’ gut-punches that much more impactful, setting them against a tantalizingly colorful setting.

Like the real world, fantasy anime is not limited to greens and earth tones. In these series, there are reds and blues and beautiful gradients found everywhere from wildlife to people’s outfits. Look no further than Sword Art Online, The Slayers, Hunter x Hunter and more to see this strategic use of color in action.

Dark and colorful fantasy

berserk fantasy anime screenshot 1

Like all genres, dark fantasy can sometimes be a little hard to define. In some cases, it means more blood and bleak overtones, both visual and thematic. In others, it represents horror and gloom injected into a fantasy setting.

No matter your preference, these darker anime always find ways to keep color alive in their darker worlds, just maybe not how you’d expect.

For example, the world of Berserk is dark and full of death, but amongst the dark grays and deep blues, there are subtle hints of color in its design, reflections and shading, all eclipsed by the sharp splashes of blood that give the series its iconic style.

mikasa attack on titan EOD

Then, of course, there’s Attack on Titan. Though there’s a focus on earth tones of the titan-deflecting walls of humanity’s last resort, we still find the strong, calculated usage of reds and greens to break them up. The show’s color palette diverges greatly from many of Western dark fantasy’s grays and blacks.

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Drifters presents another style: deep, gradient shadows on top of strong colors, with the main characters’ colors designed to make them pop against the dark colors of the world, the entire palette shifting between night and day to make for a gloriously fitting aesthetic.

These approaches of diverse color use easily complement the narrative in other series like GOBLIN SLAYER and The Rising of the Shield Hero.

Familiar, but different

Fantasy anime, through its use of unique color design, finds itself just as captivating and endearing as timeless classics in the space. And why shouldn’t the likes of Attack on Titan, Berserk or Hunter x Hunter stand tall next to fantasy’s greats?

Anime offers a multitude of fantastic worlds to experience. Maybe Game of Thrones didn’t live up to your expectations, or your Dungeons & Dragons campaign needs a bit of creative inspiration?

Whatever your reason, fantasy anime is there to provide unique and colorful worlds to explore. And sometimes all you really need is a splash of color to elevate a journey from memorable to timeless.

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