My Research Methodology project was focused on the Japanese folklore surrounding the Fox (or Kitsune in Japanese). Kitsune in Japanese mythology are intelligent beings who posses magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Most importantly they are commonly known to be shapeshifters, who can transform into human beings using their power source 'Hoshi no Tama' (translated as 'Star Balls').
My primary goal was to create a narrative depicting the transformation of the Kitsune. Firstly, I had to research into how transformation could be displayed. Most of this research comprised of the concept art for the Harry Potter film franchise which included many humans turning into various creatures and vice versa. After this, I attempted to create my own transformation sequence of a human becoming a fox:
I found that the in between stages in my illustration, displayed on a page permanently rather than quickly sifted through like in film or animation, looked very awkward and strange. Thus I later decided after I had written the plot for my story that I would have the transformation happen in a particular way so that the awkward in between stages could not be seen by the viewer.
I decided to do this by using the pond the humans protagonist is sitting by in this scene, The Kitsune would jump in one end as a fox and appear as a human at the other, leaving the readers to fill in the blanks using their imaginations.To imply a transformation was happening, I wanted to show patterns forming on the surface of the water. To find out what textures and patterns I could use, I experimented with how water and ink act together. First by photographing the patterns formed once ink was dropped into water, then adding ink to existing droplets on a page and letting it dry overnight. Thinking about texture in terms of transformation, I had to think how texture could symbolise a smooth surface (skin) changing to a fluffy one (fur). After experimenting with different patterns in varying media, I found microscopic images of human skin and fox fur. I also gathered some images by photographing water, and observing the surface patterns. This research concluded with a gouache painting that symbolised the fox / human transformation, utilising a combination of the textures I had created and seen:
These patterns were then utilised in the final comic on the surface of the water to imply transformation (see below).
This project also included character design, how could I portray the qualities of the Kitsune in a single character?
After having created some rough sketches of what I thought the two protagonists could look like, I decided to look into name symbolism, as symbolism within a character’s design is very crucial to me and can be very insightful and interesting. I decided to give the Kitsune a unisex name (Yuu, which means gentleness, lithe, superior (very much fox features)) and an androgynous appearance to draw parallels with the fox in the sense it is very hard to tell males and females apart. His human form has many fox features: long face, high cheek bones, slight slant of the eye and slightly pointed ears. I have also drawn upon an earlier idea to have markings on the face that remain in both fox and human form. Yuu’s colour palette is symbolic, with his hair being white (an auspicious colour) and clothing being blue (meaning purity).
Finally, here is an excerpt of the final comic scene I illustrated, depicting the transformation from fox to human: