I've noticed a recurring design in anime, manga, and other Japanese art and I'm wondering where it comes from. It's basically a jet-like machine or creature with a pointed head, tufted "ears", long neck, and sharp wings attached to a back-heavy body. Here's some examples:

The Gekko from Eureka Seven:

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Latias/Latios from Pokémon:

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Chiara Toscana's weapon/vehicle from Shakugan no Shana:

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Are these simply coincidences or is it a design trope, similar to something like mecha? Is there more history behind this shape? If you know of any other examples, I'd love to know about them.

  • 8
    Birds, they're all based on birds... as are all planes. All designs are unrelated, any resemblances are probably coincidental.
    – кяαzєя
    Jul 6 '15 at 21:59
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    I don't really understand the close votes. This doesn't seem any more opinion-based than Why do some characters have broken lines for mouths?. @ʞɹɐzǝɹ's comment seems like it could be expanded into a reasonable answer with sources. Can anyone who close-voted explain why they think this is primarily opinion-based?
    – Torisuda
    Jul 6 '15 at 23:01
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    I don't think this has much to do with anime even, it's just how nature and then people designed flying things. It's more of an aerodynamics question and would fit better on Physics.SE than here. The examples only happen to be from anime, but other cartoons and fantasy artworks have the same creatures. The significance of these similarities is kind of a stretch.
    – Hakase
    Jul 7 '15 at 0:00
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    @Hakase I would consider the design and concepts behind anime/manga to be valid topics of discussion (same would apply to tv and movies). A lot of real life concepts are reflected in anime. This is a question on design aesthetics, not technical specifications.
    – кяαzєя
    Jul 7 '15 at 2:23
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    I agree that these are clearly based on birds; the anime-related aspect would be why do designers consider this to be what birds look like (feather tufts on the sides of the head, long neck). If you asked a classroom of American kindergarteners to draw you a bird, I don't think this is the common design that you'd get from them. This seems along the lines of why Japanese dragons have eel-like bodies and long whiskers whereas Western dragons look more like dinosaurs in build
    – seijitsu
    Jul 7 '15 at 12:26

As @ʞɹɐzǝɹ and @seijitsu mentioned in the comments, these designs appear to be based on birds. Specifically, the long neck and football-shaped body look like a crane or goose.

painting of Japanese goose

red-crowned crane

The red-crowned crane has a significant place in Japanese and Chinese culture. It figures in the fairy tale Tsuru no Ongaeshi. As txteclipse mentioned in the comments, Japan Airlines even uses the red-crowned crane as its logo; the Wikipedia article says this symbol was chosen by an American branding expert due to the positive image of the crane in Japanese culture and mythology. Given that, it makes sense that Japanese artists would think of using the crane as a basis for imaginary creatures or flying vehicles.

The crane-like design is also unusual in real world aircraft. As you can see from the first image of the goose, the goose's and crane's wings angle forwards; this is replicated in the OP's first image of the Gekko from Eureka 7. Real-world aircraft tend to have a more straight, cylindrical body and wings which angle backwards:

f15 fighter boeing 747

These differences give aircraft based on the crane design a unique, fantastical appearance.

I couldn't track down any species of crane or goose which has tufted "ears" like the Gekko or Latios. Some geese do have tufted feathers, but they seem to be always on the back of the head. However, some bird species, such as the the great horned owl and the juvenile of the house finch, do have such tufted "ear" feathers:

great horned owl young finch

When it comes to designing a fictional creature or aircraft, a design based on the crane's head is a little bit boring to look at. The tufted head feathers also come from real-life birds, but they add visual interest to the head area, without seeming too ridiculous or over-the-top like the head adornments of certain bird species.

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