I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. There is some great information and illustrations in here that are educational and worthwhile. What puzzles and frustrates me the author's bizarre and narrow take on character archetypes, including sections like 'Female Character Design: Creating Distinctive Sexuality and Beauty'. I have no problem with characters being sexy, but this book is ridiculous in its portrayal of female characters. This section, and indeed anywhere in the book where a woman is featured, depicts each character with slim shoulders, huge breasts, waists that are literally the width of my pinky finger and large butts (no, seriously, the subtitle of Physical Features of Females is "thin shoulders and big butts"). If one of the authors is truly a veteran with over 20 years of experience under his belt, they should be well aware of body shape variation, height, weight, posture, personality through body language, facial expression, clothing, and the functionality of that clothing based on its purpose. This book's idea of female clothing is varying states of bikinis, short shorts, tight pants and halter tops ("a designer is advised to choose costumes revealing the back and part of the breasts in order to highlight the character's sexual appeal").
Next, "Male Character Designs: Highlighting the Character's Heroism". According to the authors, female characters are meant to be nothing but vacant eye candy ("the ultimate objective of female character design is to capture a feminine sexuality and beauty that appeals to human's primitive consciousness") and the male character must be a jacked up power fantasy with muscles bursting at the seams ("men are expected to be trusted with important tasks, which has determined that they have to look serious in the first place.") I can't even begin to depict all of the sexism running rampant here, for men and women both.
Are these traits the status quo? Absolutely. Should they be, and should that status quo be encouraged? Absolutely not. Character design should be as varied as possible to express the personality of the character and the desires of the intended audience, whether that character is an old crone, a battle scarred warrior or a lanky academic. Heroes can be anything, and so can villains, regardless of their sex and gender. The book puts emphasis on characters needing to be memorable, and yet describes character archetypes that are unoriginal and forgettable.
An excellent example of good character design is Avatar the Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra. These series contain popular, well executed characters designed in a way that are eye catching, expressive of their personalities and suitable for the intended audience. I highly recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender (The Art of the Animated Series); it is not intended as a how to guide, but the included character designs are informative and far more imaginative than what is included in this book. I'd also recommend Okami Official Complete Works, another good example of character and environment design and a wonderful lesson in taking inspiration from objects and mythology and turning that inspiration into a viable, good looking design.
Don't get me wrong, there are sections that are educational and worth reading, such as What Is Character Design?, the Basic Principles and Procedures of Character Design, Q-style Character Design, Monster Character Design, Animal Character Design, Inanimate Character Design and Mechanical Character Design. The illustrations included in Supportive Role Design are great, but again the authors narrow the archetype down to "defined by ordinary, lazy, careless, stupid and gluttonous, etc." The same applies to the section on villains; the idea of what constitutes as a villain is very narrow.
At the end of the day, I regret buying this book and I will be returning it. If the authors wanted to make a reader feel uncomfortable and frustrated, they certainly managed it.