Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cartoon Characters and the Finger

Most cartoon characters have only 4 fingers (or 3 fingers and a thumb, to save Martin S correcting me 😃) because a four-fingered hand is easier to draw than a five-fingered hand. It also simplifies the design of the hand in the same way that the rest of the body is simplified. Hands with 5 fingers tend to look large and klunky.

Where the cartoons and animations depict people, the move is towards depicting the full set of 5 fingers on each hand, leaving the 4 fingers for the traditional cartoony depictions.

Interestingly, 4 finger depictions rarely appear in Japanese works. This is because:
  • Yakuza members traditionally chop off fingers if they are unable to pay back a debt, or as punishment for other offences that don't warrant death.
  • The four-fingered hand is taken as a derogatory reference to the burakumin social class (four fingers = four legs = animals).
  • In Japanfour (四) can be read as "yon" (よん) or "shi" (し). The kanji for death is "shi" (死), which is why the number four is considered unlucky.

Bonus item:

Whilst talking of fingers . . .

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