Being annoyed about all those 'neko-ear', 'top model', 'school girl' and 'lolita dress' Naruto OCs, I decided to make a guide to help people to make their Naruto OCs more believable and Naruto-like. Before I begin, I'd like to note a few things.
* First, I don't speak English as my native tongue (I'm a Finn), so there may be some grammar flaws in the tutorial. If you note a flaw, you can mention it, and I won't get angry but happy. People learn from their mistakes, and so do I!
* Second, this tutorial deals with just the clothing of Naruto OCs, not about actual creation of an OC. There are heaps of tutorials about it, just go see them! Think of this as a deeper view to the Naruto clothing issue.
* Third, this tutorial is not made to flame those OC makers that create 'un-Naruto-like' characters. I'm just going to tell tricks to make your character more suitable for the series. It's up to you if you want to use them or not.
* Fourth, this tutorial contains MINOR SPOILERS from Naruto series, like mentioning about manga-only supporting characters and shots from some characters' flashbacks that are not yet seen in anime. Those spoilers won't hurt you badly and they won't reveal anything big, but if you want to be totally spoiler free, skip this tutorial.
* Fifth... this is the FIRST PART of the tutorial. Here is another part, too! The link is in the comment box
I used as sources the Naruto series, Narutopedia and my own eyes and brain. And as you all know, the Naruto series and all of its clothing details belong to Masashi Kishimoto
Check also my General Character Design Tutorial: Click!
H O W T O D R E S S U P Y O U R N A R U T O O C
(and create his/her looks in other ways, too)
PART I: GENERAL STUFF ABOUT FASHION IS NARUTOVERSUM
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN OUR AND THEIR FASHIONS
So. Some people may ask that what differences are between the clothing culture of Naruto world and the one of our world. Naruto uses sometimes a t-shirt and pyjamas, doesn't he? Kiba has a leather jacket in Shippuuden, Sakura has tricot shorts, Gatou is seen in a business man suit and so on. They are all the pieces of clothing of nowadays, so why I can't go fancier and use the top fashion of nowadays? Isn't it cooler?
Most likely, not.
You have to note that there are crucial differences between the cultures of Naruto world and our own world, because our worlds are already a little different. Our world is differently formed than the world of Naruto. For example, the technology is more developed in our world than in the ninja world. No Naruto character have mobile telephone, iPod, laptop or stuff. Of course there is shown fridge, videos and even low-bit computers in the series (even space ships in the movies), but they are not so "new" stuff. I think that the technological state of Naruto is a couple of decades late from us. So is the fashion. And both of them have their own, unique quirks.
When you watch the anime and street views of, for example, Konoha, you can see that the street views are not similar to our street views. No one wears loafers, band shirts or stuff. Small kids may have t-shirts, shorts and nice skirts, but adults' clothing style differs even more. Many civilian adults in the series use clothes that give us hints of the traditional Japanese or Eastern fashion: kimono-like jackets, yukatas, long shirts. No windjammers, trenches or stuff. Teen characters like Naruto and the guys use most modern-like clothes in their leisure time, but their ninja suits are not that type with what most people would attend to school without getting attention.
So, what makes a Naruto costume? At least none of these:
ABSOLUTE NO-NO-NOES LIST
* Hottest fashion of this day (as said, Narutoversum is a couple of decades late from us.)
--- Sneakers, band shirts, tight jeans, loafers, lolita dresses...
* School uniforms (Is there even 'uniform needed' schools in Narutoversum? Not counting ANBU academies and stuff.)
* Fake or real cat/dog/animal ears and tails just as decoration. (Simply. Too. Over. Used. Also as part of a jutsu is over-used.)
* Wings (unless as part of a jutsu
and still overused)
* Special traits copied straightly from canon characters (like Naruto's 'whiskers', Hinata's hairdo, Neji's shirt, Kakashi's forehead protector & mask combination, Kurenai's eyes
). It is shameless and uncreative stealing!
You still can use them as source of inspiration, but they DON'T work as unmodified versions.
But before an OC can be clothed, we have to create him/her without clothes first! So, some words about the genetics of Naruto characters.
SO WHAT KIND OF ALIENS ARE WE CREATING FOR NARUTO FANDOM?
Most characters in Naruto series are ordinary humans. Most of them have normal-colored and straight hair and dark eyes, as most Asian people have. However, there is slightly more diversity you can use. But AN IMPORTANT NOTE at the start! Don't go crazy with creating the genetics. Usually just one or at max couple of "special" things in you character's looks are enough!
Also: Don't make the special looks the only "Big Thing" of your character, unless you're using it as minor supporting character. It doesn't work if the big-role character gets attention just by his&her looks and not by his/her inner traits. Develop him/her a proper personality and shape, first.
Alongside normal hair colors, of which black and brown are most common and blonds are not too rare, there appears some more exotic hair colors. Most famous of them is Sakura with her rose pink hair. Also, Konan has deep blue hair, Jiraiya has had white hair since his childhood, and Anko's hair can be called purple. However, don't get lured to use to shocking colors, like neon green! None of the special hair colors of Naruto is very bright: for example, Sakura's hair is not shock pink but more like pale pink. All hair colors in the series are some broken, not bright. Well, Karin's hair might be an exception, but it's not neon at least, and it's rather rare case.
About hairdos: Many Naruto characters, like Kakashi, Shikamaru, and Naruto himself, have that starchy hair that it constantly points out as spikes. It's natural to them, since they're seen to sleep / swim / have a bath with that hair and it still behaves like that. Otherwise, the rules of the physics rule the behavior of the hair. So, unless you use tons of hair gel (or mystical hair chakra), you can't make your one-meter-long ponytail point directly upwards without any waggling (though Moegi gets quite close). Also, ninjas rarely use very complicated hairdos, and usually ninjas with long hair anchor it in some way, like using forehead protector as hair band or using buns or ponytails. It's not nice if you are making some headbanging, and the enemy sneaks to you when your eyes are covered! It's also wise to leave complicated hairdos to female daimyos, since if Hokage is hammering your door and telling you to come to the mission right now, explanation like 'Yeah, give me a hour yet, I have to make my hair and mug' is not approved.
Also: Naruto characters have mostly straight hair, as usually Asian people have, but some characters (like Suzume) have curly hair, and also Kurenai's hair is wavy. So, curly hair is rare but not unheard in Narutoversum.
Most Naruto characters are depicted with black eyes, probably meaning dark brown or dark grey, but neither blue, green, or grey eyes are uncommon. Hyuugas are most distinct example of weird-colored eyes with their white eyes, but there are also people with odd-colored eyes and without doujutsu: Kurenai and Karin (red eyes), Juugo (orange eyes), Suigetsu (purple eyes in anime, blue eyes in manga) and Orochimaru (yellow snake eyes). Use with good taste. Also, remember that all people owning doujutsu don't have odd-looking eyes in the normal state: for example, the eyes of every Uchiha are normally common black.
There is also notable amount of characters whose eyes at least seem to lack pupil: Gaara, Anko, Hyuugas, Kurotsuchi
However, personally I think that this is just a drawing trick, and at least Gaara's pupils are faintly seen in certain type of light. So, I suggest you to use 'pupil-less' eyes just in non-realistic drawings, not in the fan fiction or realistic drawings, for just case. In reality, no eye work without pupil!
Also here are weird guys with odd-colored sclera: Kakuzu, Hanzou (in manga) and Genshou (anime-only guy). I suggest you to use it REALLY rarely. And note that thus far just bad, some unnatural guys have used them.
Most Naruto characters have normal fair skin, but there is also tanned ones, like Naruto and Iruka. However, all known notably dark-skinned people (except Kakuzu) originate from Land of Lightning. See the section introducing ninjas by their countries. (We talk later about odd-skinned creatures like Kisame.)
As you know, there is a diversity of body builds in Naruto world from well-eaten Chouji via muscular Lee to slender Gaara. Just note what the status of him needs: for example, no proper taijutsu user or sword-fighter can be a thin anorectic! And vice versa, if your biceps are like hams, you have to spend your time with training to maintain them, not talking about achieving them! Plus, a woman with notably big breasts probably doesn't feel comfortable to rush around with them wobbling, but she'd rather 'anchor' them in some way! (Like using bra.)
Tattoos and piercings
Quite many ninjas have some kind of tattoos or markings, even on their faces (something that doesn't appear usually in our world), so feel free to use them. However, make some research of existing tattoo fashion in Narutoversum: some ninjas use tattoos rather as organization symbols (ANBU, Inuzuka Clan...) than as decoration, and usually simple designs are favored. Sometimes tattoos can hide some kind of chakra seal or help chakra flowing. Piercings are not as common as tattoos, but they still exist. For example, junior members of Team Asuma have ear rings, and Konan has lip piercing, not talking about Six Paths of Pain (though those piercings are part of a jutsu).
There are few cases that are just partially considerable as humans: Kisame, Zetsu, Kakuzu etc. (Akatsuki invasion, huh?)... No explanation is given to their looks, except that there is another fish guy alongside Kisame in Kirigakure. As other odd quirks, I mention Inuzuka's canine teeth and slit-pupilled eyes that are not explained, either, though they seem to pass genetically. So, you may use bizarre features, too, but be careful for not leaving the design to flee from your hands! And NEVER stuff too many odd features to the same character, unless the character is meant to be REALLY odd!
That's almost all about the looks. Later I may mention something about outlook by villages.
Let's carry on. As most of Naruto OCs are ninjas, let's talk about them!
NINJAS! PRACTICALITY FIRST!
When planning ninja clothing, you must think about the job of ninja. What a ninja needs from his or her costume? What is impossible for ninjas? If you are ninja, the looks can't be the only thing you have to think of.
Let's think about that. So, what regular ninjas do? Missions. What do you do in missions? Use your body a lot, like in fighting and traveling. What kind of clothes can serve you in that case? Clothes that won't tangle to branches and in which you can move freely. Maybe some armor would be nice, and protection for your elbows and knees. But not too heavy or hot clothes. And I'm sure you don't want to twist your ankles with impossible killer heels when jumping and running!
As you may have seen, most costumes of original Naruto characters are surprisingly simple. They don't consist of very many pieces of clothing: Naruto has just his underwear, jacket, trousers, shirt under the jacket, forehead protector, ninja shoes, and the necklace given by Tsunade. They are quick to wear on you when the Hokage's underling comes to wake you up and tell that you are going to the mission, no matter you want to go or not. If not able to be worn quickly (not counting the bandages), the costume acts as armor (like the armors of the Akimichi Clan).
A check list: Be sure that...
* ...the character can move his/her limbs as freely as needed in his/her costume, like rising his/her arms any position that (s)he needs to move in battle. Though this depends of his/her fighting style: some characters use that kind of jutsus that they don't have to move a lot.
* ...the costume contains no long ribbons or hems or anything that can tangle to branches or to which your character can trip over. (*cough*Konohamarusscarf*cough*)
* ...the character can run, jump, kick and do anything needed with the shoes that (s)he uses. Ninja sandals are the best footwear for the task.
* ...the character doesn't have to fix his/her costume in every point. (Like, checking that the bandages covering her breasts are not going to fall.)
* ...the costume suits for the character's nature. For example, a very shy character simply can't use revealing clothes or shock colors!
* ...you don't have to make your hair and face a lot before you can enter out (...unless you are Kankurou). Light make-up, like the ones that Kurenai and Tsunade are using, is okay.
Not counting practicality, one of most important things in ninja clothing is to make it DIFFERENT enough from ordinary clothing. To put differently, if you set your character among normal people (of our modern world) of his/her age (like, a teen ninja among middle schoolers), and no one in the mass may think that the character doesn't belong to the group, you should make him/her a little more original. For example, a ninja that wears hoodie, jeans and sneakers is rather difficult to be recognized as a ninja and not as a normal teenager of your neighborhood. Also t-shirt and shorts users are in danger. Think stuff out of every day fashion, too! You are not going to go to school in costume that you are planning to your OC.
And why difference is important? Think a little about ninjas of Naruto series. How most of ninjas cloth themselves when in duty? Could you go to school in those clothes without feeling any weird? ...yup, I guessed.
Ninjas on free time and civilians
Opposed to ninja clothing, characters' free time (or civilian) clothing can be similar to our fashion (at least in Konoha). If you are careful, you may see that at least Konoha characters use rather normal-looking clothes when they are clearly away from their missions. For example, Naruto is seen to wear normal t-shirt and shorts when he had to have break from missions due his broken arm, and when Kurenai left to maternity leave, she started to wear simple dress. Also, small children wear quite normal or some Japanese-themed clothes, as seen in flashbacks.
The only difference between our leisure time clothing and theirs one is the shoes: ninja characters rarely wear other shoes than their toeless shoes, even if they had free time. However, I'd say that timeless footwear (like classical pumps and such) and other Japanese sandal types are okay, if ninja shoes simply doesn't suit for the clothing. However, at least Kushina is seen to still wear ninja shoes even with her pregnancy dress, so it seems that ninja shoes are generally extremely lot used footwear.
In other places than Konoha, the leisure time clothing is bounded to the culture. For example, in Sunagakure long robes are used a lot, because the inhabitants of Land of Wind have to wear something against hot sun. In Amegakure, leisure time clothing is not very flashy or detailed, because the village has (or at least had) quite bad economics. Also, in late times the civilian clothing used to be influenced a lot by traditional Japanese clothing (as you can see from Sannins' flashbacks). Inspect carefully the issue.
Next I'll introduce you some...
TYPES OF NINJA CLOTHING
Now I'll introduce my visions about the categories to which you can divide the clothing styles of Naruto ninjas (and some civilians). Here are four of them.
Uniform Type ninjas mean ninjas that use some kind of uniform. For example, Konoha's ninjas using Konoha's ninja uniform (green vest, blue trousers and shirt etc.) are that type. Some other people falling to this category are ANBU members, Akatsuki members, Konoha's hospital ninjas, and, technically, kages (they have their traditional robes and hats, though few of them uses them constantly). Uniform Type is favored mostly by mature ninjas (Kakashi, Iruka, Baki...) and side characters that may have a couple of lines of dialogue and that must be districted to be a member of certain group. In war, practically ALL ninjas wear their uniforms to tell other people where're they from. Also, I think that male characters use Uniform Type a lot more than female ones.
Uniform Type is not even nearly as popular as Free Type (mentioned later), because many people think easily that uniform 'restricts' the creation of the character and makes him/her to look like one of a great mass. It may be partially true, but please note that many characters wear their uniforms with some variations. For example, Kakashi has fingerless gloves, his trademark mask and forehead protector set non-horisontally, and Asuma wears bracelets, shoulder bandages and Twelve Guardian Ninja sash. Shizune has over-long sleeves in her Konoha ninja uniform (yeah, she owns one), Genma wears his forehead protector like a cap plus backwards and hold a senbon needle in his mouth. Plus, all of those characters look already very different by their faces and hairdos.
The best trait in Uniform Type is that it makes the OCs looks nearly automatically Naruto-like and faithful to the canon, at least if you don't add any un-Naruto-like accessories. It is really safe choice to a person that wants to his/her OC easy, useful and canon-like costume. The worst trait in Uniform Type is that uniform: if you make your character normal-looking and put him/her into normal-looking uniform, it's very difficult for the reader/viewer remember him/her later. Uniform Type is best for a character this looks already unique in suitable way, like Kakashi with his gray hair and mask. Instead, if your OC is a normal-looking guy in a normal-looking uniform, he fades into the crowd quicker than you can say, 'Hey, where is my OC?'
At the end of this guide, here is a list of the uniforms of different villages.
A fun fact: According the polls made within Naruto manga, Kakashi, a Uniform Type ninja, is the most popular character in the Narutoversum ever.
Traditional Type is most used among elder ninjas, ninjas of the history, and manymanymany civilians, but also among some younger ninjas, too. It follows the traditional fashion of the Kimono and Katana era Japan: kimonos, yukatas, getas, tabis, round straw hats. Also variations of these clothes (like cut-yukata-like jackets combined to ¾-legged trousers and sleeveless-yukata-like dresses) fall to this category.
Traditional Type is quite comfortable type to use: by sticking enough in the Japanese traditions, you can make beautiful costumes that are still faithful to the series. But note that a lady dressed in long-sleeved furisode kimono simply can't jump from a tree to another! Also, few ninjas can buy freaking expensive clothes like real silk kimonos! Remember to check out how kimonos and stuff really work, too, especially if you are going to make a comic about your character.
Examples of Traditional Type: Jiraiya, Shizune, Hyuuga Hiashi, young Sarutobi Hiruzen, young Sannins, Suzumebachi, Susuki, Utakata (you can find them in Narutopedia)
Free Type is absolutely most popular type among OCs, but it is also most dangerous. Free Type doesn't follow the uniforms or traditions, but mainly modern clothing. In the original series, Free Type is most used by young and teen characters, both among ninjas and civilians. For example, nearly all kids of Team Kakashi / Asuma / Kurenai / Guy use Free Type costumes. (At the end of the Part I and in Shippuuden, Shikamaru and Lee fall to the Mixture Type. See that type later.)
When creating a character design by Free Type, remember all the stuff I said before about modern clothes and all. Also, there is usually two almost-must-be traits in the Free Type costumes: the forehead protector and the shinobi sandals. If you have them, the rest of the costume can be made quite freely. If not, you have to be more careful and not to slip to too modern clothes. In any case, remember that Absolute No-No-Noes List mentioned above!
Mixture Type is mixture of the previous types. For example, Might Guy can be put in this category, because he uses his own green body suit (Free Type) with his ninja vest (Uniform Type). When creating Mixture Type costume, remember stuff mentioned in its parent types.
A COUPLE OF WORDS ABOUT WEAPONS
An area in ninja clothing may be sometimes the weapon that the character is using. This issue is more about the fighting style design and not so much about just outlook design, but I try to say something about the issue.
First, the word I've used a lot: PRACTICALITY. To carry a huge two-meter-long butcher sword - not talking about using it - you must have muscles. A LOT of muscles. And if you have that much of muscles, you simply CAN'T look like as thin as a twig! The same issue applies to other weapons that require physical power: mauls, bows, axes, halberds
Even the weight of a normal katana is 3.8 pounds / 1.72 kilos, and that's anything but a big sword!
To put short: choose the weapon that suits for your character. If your character lacks physical power, don't give him/her huge weapon (or weapon of which using requires physical power, like strongbows). And if (s)he wants to use a weapon properly, (s)he musts spend good amount of time to learn to master it! And that eats time for learning other ninja arts, like ninjutsu.
About the looks of the weapon... most weapons in Narutoversum look rather normal and undecorated, and they are still very effective. You can make good damage with normal kunai and shuriken, too. Special-looking weapons are veryveryvery rare, and they often have some kind of special ability. Again, think of rationality: a normal genin is rarely allowed to be swinging a BIG EPIC LEGENDARY SWOOOD in his/her normal missions under the watching eye of his/her sensei. Often, special weapons are given to ninjas that SURELY can use them. If inherited, they are still rarely given to a random brat before that brat is grown up. Note also that ninjas that are not weapon specialists rarely use special weapons. Even characters that have special weapons have started from normal ones: if you can use well a normal katana, it's probable that you can learn rather easily to use special katana, or at least LOTS faster than a person that has barely even seen a katana.
Also a note: Kishimoto has states that here is no guns in Narutoversum, except some kind of weapons firing chakra bursts.
SOME IDEAS FOR CREATING ORIGINAL COSTUMES
You may think, 'Oh man, that hag is just nagging about the faithfulness to the series, and I wanted to read about how to invent original character designs! This is just not helping me in my problem, I know what kind of clothes are not Naruto-like, but I can't invent my own original ones!'
Don't worry, now I'm trying to talk about the issue! But first I have to upset you: here is no guides for making amazing costumes. It's all up to your imagination and resources in your head if you can make amazing costumes or not. But I still try to help you to invent something your own.
Feed your brain, empty head can't offer you any ideas. Look at pictures about people wearing both normal and exotic clothes, other anime, fantasy clothing (highly useful), history clothing (another highly useful), or even leaves in forests, architecture, animals, your math teacher and such. Anything can spark an idea in your brain - just take care of feeding your brain with useful material.
Also, look at characters that Kishimoto / filler staff have made, and try to see the fashion quirks in Narutoversum via them. Not just the main characters, but also the background guys. Knowing the topic eases you inventing more stuff for it.
Hint! Saying no-no-no to nowadays' fashion doesn't mean you can't use them as resource. You just have to modify them more Naruto-like. You still can, for example, hunt for new ways to sew shirts or such.
Remember also flush your brain sometimes. You have to also note that the constant feeding of your brain may get your brain tired. Let it also have breaks sometimes: make something that relaxes your brain, like taking a walk, playing computer games, and such.
Doodle freely. When having a dull moment, like in long bus travels, take a piece of paper and pen and just start to doodle something. Usually starting the design process is the hardest part: when you get to used with it, it's easier for you to come up with clothes.
Make it differently. Try to invent new stuff, like new way to tie your forehead protector or place to attach the plate of the protector in new way to your clothes. What about using leaf-shaped cloth pieces when sewing clothes instead of square-shaped? Or making clothes that cover everything but your OC's eyes and midriff? Or placing seams front and back instead of placing them to the sides? Using one seam instead of two ones? Leaving just one sleeve for the costume? Using layered clothes? Remember still the practicality with the clothes!
Thinking differently is key word for the real world fashion artists, too, not just the ones that make the models wear something freaky cloth mutants for the catwalk, but also the ones that make clothes for us normal people. At least I like my winter shoes because their cuttings are so unusual, tennis-ball-seam-themed.
Also, Kishimoto has himself used unusual ways to wear his characters that are not often seen in the real world. Or is Neji's "man skirt" something you remember to have seen on any real guy? The base is still in the real world, of course.
Next time, I'll introduce you some common ninja clothing, aka ninjas' fashion catalog. Stay tuned!