The visual evolution of Jin--some notes.


Of all three Champloo main characters, Mugen is said to be the one who was redesigned most often, but the visual evidence doesn't seem to bear that out. All the early promo art I've seen of Mugen has the same details as his final version--red jacket with triangle, geta, stubble, earrings, non-Japanese sword-- while Jin has not only had nearly all his basic details modified but lost a few he was evidently intended to have. Here's a quick rundown:

1. Hairstyle.--This early piece of Jin art shows his maegami--side locks--gone and his forehead shaved back in a typical adult male hairstyle, while Jin as we know him kept the teenaged style; by custom, he should have lost the maegami by age 17. I've heard lots of speculation on this, ranging from the practical (hair around the face gives more visual interest to a moving figure; and fangirls love long hair =) to the theoretical (as he had no family, he had no reason or real inclination to follow a formal rite of passage into adulthood) and the downright yaoi-curious (since a young man really wearing this style would be announcing himself as an uke, or passive sex partner, to older men). Whatever, we can see in all these images that the lack of maegami was consistent in all early Jin character art.

2. Clan mon.--The design on the back of Jin's indigo kimono bears no resemblance to the quartered-diamond clan mon he would eventually wear. I'm not sure if it's intended to represent a different mon or just to say "we'll put a design here".

3. Pinstriped hakama.--These were typical enough at the time, but of course became plain black along the way.

4. Bare feet.--This early Jin is not wearing the traditional tabi socks that he would eventually acquire.

5. Ankle nenju.--This detail, much loved by fan artists and doujin-ka, matches Jin's nenju wrist beads; but while wrist nenju are traditional prayer beads--and would eventually be worn by other characters in the series along with Jin, notably the Niwa twins-- the ankle bracelet would have been a complete Champloo invention as far as I've been able to determine. (Nenju have never been worn there, for the obvious reason that there'd be no way to use them in prayer. --well, maybe while sitting crosslegged, but we doubt it.) However, they feature in so many fan drawings and doujinshi that he might as well have worn them for real.

6. Kiseru pipe. Hands down, the most loved accessory that Jin never actually used; a visual staple in the work of such top-notch doujinshi artists as Saimin and Tsubaci. It certainly appears to have been considered for awhile, as it appears in more than one of the early promo images. It's easy to see what makes it so intriguing; not only does it have the same kind of slightly illicit, racy elegance as a long cigarette holder, and adds visual interest with its long graceful line and thin curl of smoke, but one has to wonder: what's in it? Opium (most likely)? Hashish (hey, it's Champloo--you never know)? And what would coax self-controlled Jin to partake of such smoky treats; was he perhaps originally intended to be more openly self-destructive or melancholy than he eventually became? There are so many reasons to find this idea fascinating that the main question becomes: why'd they change their minds? Or should we guess that he actually had it in his sleeve the whole time..?



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