“Everything starts from a dot.”
It’s amusing how many things are produced, or art styles invented, simply in the interest of saving money.
Benjamin Henry Day Jr. is a mere blip on history’s radar, and yet the printing process he pioneered now has a storied tradition well beyond a cost-cutting measure to save ink. The son of New York Sun founder Benjamin Henry Day, Day Jr. developed the “Ben-Day dot” technique of printing. Ben-Day dots, named after Day Jr. himself, are dots of the exact same size made up of different colors of ink. Instead of spending more money to print the color purple, for example, one can print magenta and cyan dots overlapping each other and our minds will gladly fill in the rest for us.
Ben-Day dots as a definitive style, as opposed to something that simply existed in printing, exploded onto the art scene thanks to 1950s-1960s American comics and American artist Roy Lichtenstein. Using comic strips as his subject, which by this point nearly all used the Ben-Day inking style, he magnified it, drawing attention to each and every dot. If Ben-Day had not been synonymous with American comics prior to Lichtenstein, his paintings cemented the marriage between the two while also allowing Ben-Day dots to be viewed as their own art style. No longer used simply for coloring, they could be used in more stylistic choices and in other mediums.
Acchi Kocchi has already drawn attention from others for its use of arrows and overall visual style. It’s also interesting to note that the series uses Ben-Day dots to either draw the viewer’s attention or force it to one place. In the screenshot above, the Ben-Day technique is used to create aerial/atmospheric perspective; simply put, the things that are further away from the viewer are also lighter in tone, denoted by the white dots that inhabit the more distant students.
In addition to physical distance, the series has also used Ben-Day dots to reiterate figurative distance from the viewing audience. In the scene below, we see random students doing mundane things. They’re present, but to us as an audience, they’re not particularly important. The dots tell us to regard them more as a background pattern than actual people.
From cost-cutting inking method to a deliberate animation style in a Japanese cartoon. As Kandinsky said, everything starts from a dot.
As an aside, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu was the first series that I know of to use Ben-Day dots as an overall style. I’d be curious to see if their usage was similar to Acchi Kocchi, or directing the audience in a different manner.
EDIT: How could I forget Hidamari Sketch?