“Why Do Anime Characters Have Such Huge Eyes?”

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Anime fans pondering the question of why anime characters often have massive eyes and how big is too big have explored a number of interesting issues in character design.

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The discussion began by pointing out a recent experiment involving the “uncanny valley,” a widely accepted theory developed by roboticist Masahiro Mori to describe why representations of humans, particularly robots and CG figures, begin to look disturbing the more realistic they become, short of being perfect facsimiles of real humans:

The most important feature when deciding whether someone is human or a robot is the eyes, according to new research.

Telling the difference allows us to pay attention to faces that belong to living things and so are capable of interacting with us.

A new study published in Psychological Science finds that a face has to be quite similar to a human face in order to appear alive, and that the cues are mainly in the eyes.

Many robots that attempt to seem lifelike often fall short because of what is termed the ‘uncanny valley’ – when a humanoid robot becomes creepier the closer to a human it looks.

[…]

Wheatley and Looser set out to pin down the point at which a face starts to look alive. Looser visited toy shops and took pictures of dolls’ faces.

He then paired each doll face with a similar-looking human face and used morphing software to blend the two.

This made a video that blended intermediate pictures that were part human, part doll.

Volunteers looked at each picture and decided which were human and which were dolls.

Looser and Wheatley found that the tipping point, where people determined the faces to be alive, was about two-thirds of the way along the continuum, closer to the human side than to the doll side.

2ch picks up the discussion here, pondering the existence of a similar phenomenon in the world of anime and its saucer-eyed damsels:

“I think the uncanny valley is a bit off here.”

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“Maybe so, but in the nineties things were getting a bit bad…”

“This is certainly too huge. What if some idiot girl tried to look like that with surgery?”

“Shoujo manga are messed up.”

“Her eyeballs are larger than her fists…”

“It’s not just their eyes, their entire faces are warped.”

“When I look at Saber Marionette these days they all look like hideous mutants.”

“Real Japanese:”

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“Lately they’ve got smaller, especially comparing to the nineties and early 2000s.”

“With Itaru’s art in Canon and stuff they were really starting to look like creatures.”

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“She’s a real angel!”

“Japanese anime characters:

Blonde
Big eyes
High noses
Thin lips
Good teeth
Long legs

We have a complex about white people, don’t we?”

“White people’s eyes aren’t that big?”

“The heads of anime characters are also an issue – their necks are way to thin. They shouldn’t be able to support their heads.”

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“That’s taking things a bit far.”

“Notice how ugly plain characters are always drawn with smaller eyes?”

“The ones which are too realistic are as creepy as the ones which are too unrealistic though.”

“It’s a bit off – when 2D characters are based on reality, it seems many people find them appealing if they are based on cats.”

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“So lots of cat-lovers love bishoujo characters?”

“Trends in recent shoujo manga:”

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“I like the 70s style.”

“Look at the 90s…”

“The changes in the 2000s probably owe much to changes in the production environment, don’t they? Now anime and manga are prepared with computers, so that has an effect on the art style.”

“What will the 2010s bring?”

See also the previous “Why do anime characters look white?” discussion for similar analysis.


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    Avatar of Sandalphon
    Comment by Sandalphon
    03:05 24/12/2010 # ! Quality (+0.8)

    In my years of pondering the matter I got the conclusion that: the reason for such big eyes is that eyes express a variety of emotions that not necessarily erect any other facial reaction [consternation, hesitance, etc], big eyes just make it easier to draw such emotions.

    As a point of contrast, take a look at the original Spiderman TV show. The eyes' size and shape are quite natural, but they are also emotionless stains of black on the face.

    I guess big eyes in anime/manga was more a technical limitation in the early days of the industry than an actual desire to draw big eyes, and the style just stuck after that.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:31 24/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    A tip for robot builders:

    -Make robots like the Chobits :3

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:50 24/12/2010 # ! Good (+0.6)

    “She’s a real angel!”
    +1

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:37 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    I like how a minimal part of the anime in those decades ends up representing the whole medium during that time period.
    Sadly, the 00s one is quite accurate.

    Avatar of Chen-04
    Comment by Chen-04
    04:07 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Only, it's 2007 (2004-2010). Go watch some anime from 2000 to 2003, you'll see the difference.

    And.. anime from the seventies didn't look like that. At least not the ones I saw. Uchuu Kaizoku Captain Harlock for example. Females from that time all had the same heads with different hair colors. Same for the sixties.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:08 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    yeah,it's after Nanoha that all hell's breaks loose ...

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:01 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    Tat reseacher's last name is "Looser"?

    Avatar of Yuuki
    Comment by Wisteria Berlitz
    Avatar of Sido-nii
    Comment by Sido-nii
    04:43 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh boy, that person sure was bullied on school...

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:52 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.4)

    bring back the 80s ;.;

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:37 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes! The 80's were the best. ;_; Well, I like many of the current day ones too, especially with the nice atmospheres they manage to create. But purely animation wise... 80's plz.

    Avatar of Dudenkoffer
    Comment by Dudenkoffer
    07:09 30/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    This anon knows what he's writing about.

    Avatar of Ben
    Comment by Ben
    05:21 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Wanting good teeth is surely a sign of wanting to be of different nationality!

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:17 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    NEKOMIMI

    thats ALL i care for, and yes i do also like cats irl...

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:54 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    The rule of anime a while back was that Big Eyes portrayed innocence or good heartedness. Thats why all the little kids had them or the good guys. Smaller/Slant eyes represent deviousness or evil, which is why the evil guys had smaller eyes. Im pretty sure this rule is mostly enforced today.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:13 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Or the adult Japanese population seriously has a weird creepy fixation on children....

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:55 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    The Boobs in Animes are mostly extremly big, in Real life are the most womans flat like a Chicken, without silikone and stuff, so, who cares, it just looks better then a Real life Woman ;D Vote for Animes, Mangas & Co!

    PS: Sorry for Bad English :)

    Avatar of Rick
    Comment by Rick
    03:53 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    It's worth noting that real life women with large breasts often sag and have stretch marks, even when they're young.

    Moderately sized breasts age better.

    Women with very flat chests often feel inadequate, but they don't sag when they get older.

    Also, women with moderate breasts look unimpressive when their waists are thicker than 70% of their hip width. A thick-waisted woman with soft muscles looks much more overweight than a thick-waisted female athlete.

    03:50 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    At least your honest about being bad at english, but this is about big eyes not big boobs. :3

    04:19 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    ^oh well i like boobs any ways.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:53 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Like someone is actually mad because girls in anime have perfect boobs.
    Maybe gay people or impotent loosers or people who likes small boobs.

    Avatar of alex251
    Comment by alex251
    02:54 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I approve of using Tenshi as example of perfection :)

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:10 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    I did research on it and it was linked to osamu tezuka and how he really liked how expressive bambi's eyes where when he saw it.

    Avatar of the7k
    Comment by the7k
    03:21 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Eyes are the most expressive part of a character. Making them bigger makes expressions themselves bigger.

    Eyes also allow us to connect with characters. Having them bigger makes the connection easier.

    Bigger eyes also tends to be a sign of youthfulness, vulnerability and femininity - qualities that are highly valued in anime/manga culture.

    In the end, they HAD to be big. Every other part of the face (mouth, nose, ears, etc.) is simplified so that attention can be given to the eyes.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:15 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The obvious answer is lack on originality from Japan. Most Japanese animation harks back to the days of Disney animatiuon such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and so on. They all had large eyes and any realist knows that while Japan are good at refining they are horrible at creating brand new goods. It is why most of their principle goods are the same and anything new and original gets slapped down and rejected.

    Avatar of Kitsune9Tails
    Comment by Kitsune9Tails
    02:42 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You mean like Hybrid engines? Lessee, developed by..? Oh, TOYOTA. Licensed for reuse by lessee... oh FORD. Oops.

    As far as anime goes, it's pretty clear that Japanese animators haven't been drawing in one style since the 60's. Same for American animators. One would wonder why, while Americans are so inventive, most of U.S.-based animation still has characters drawn with larger eyes and other "childish/feline" features (Dreamworks, Pixar, Don Bluth, even goddamned Ralph Bakshi) just like Snow White 73 years ago. So maybe, just maybe, there's a REASON that style works better than others? A different reason other than "no one is inventive anymore".

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:22 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I thought it was because you can see a characters expression better through the eyes.

    Avatar of PrinceHeir
    Comment by PrinceHeir
    15:14 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    not this argument again.

    it will just turn into an endless flame wars.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:59 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well I thought anime eyes were inspired by Mickey Mouse?? am I wrong??

    Either way, they should just shut up and watch the show :P

    Avatar of RiskyDINGO
    Comment by RiskyDINGO
    15:35 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    now we should have a boob and ass timeline.

    Avatar of Kitsune9Tails
    Comment by Kitsune9Tails
    09:36 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think this is simpler than people make it out to be.

    This is all IMHO, but as far as I've figured out:

    Children have disproportionately large head to body ratio and a larger eye area to face ratio than do adults. So, the proportions used in anime (and a lot of Disney and other American animation) are meant to capture that same child-like feeling. Children are endearing to us at an instinctual level. Even people who say they "hate children" would be drawn to such features (likely the things they "hate" about children are noise, behavior, etc., not physical features).

    I think child-like qualities, physical to some extent, but mostly behavioral, drive most of human attraction (especially true for filial IMHO, but maybe even romantic). Innocence, curiosity, kindness, honesty, and lack of guile are all generally positive qualities in relationships between people, and hence attaches us to characters in stories we watch/read. And the large eyes/large head proportions are one good way to subconsciously evoke that child-like attachment in animation.

    If you look at cats and puppies, you'll notice very similar eye proportions to human children. And people adore cats and dogs. Coincidence?

    anyway tldr: IMHO it's all about making anime characters look like kittens, puppies, and kids.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:54 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If they're too close together or too wide apart, it bothers me. Same goes for real people.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:49 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well I must say I like Tenshis eye size not that bad and cat eyes ^^. Also 90's &_&

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:34 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Same reason babies, puppies kittens baby seals, all have big eyes, not because the eyes are born full size but its a cuteness love thing that the mother of the newborn will overly fall in love it with and protect it no matter how big a pain it is on the other hand.

    Avatar of Kitsunemimi6
    Comment by Kitsunemimi6
    08:55 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    This does pose a good question, I do tend to care a little about eye size as sometimes they are just too big & there really isn't a good reason for it, though most of the time, they are just the right size imo...

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:12 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Q: Why Do Anime Characters Have Such Huge Eyes?
    A: The Better To See You With My Dear.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:02 26/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Watch the noses vanish as time passes. Honestly, that so called "angel" looks like nothing but a pair of eyes and hair on a pentagon. The nose and mouth are almost invisible.

    Comment by Anonymous
    19:13 26/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    On a related note, looking at this picture made me shake my head and go, "that thing is supposed to represent a human being?"

    http://imgur.com/rjX3q.jpg

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:10 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    wendy in fairy tail also looks cat based

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:39 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Eyes? Are you serious? Who's getting this concerned about this?

    Avatar of KingFisher
    Comment by KingFisher
    21:49 26/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Notice how in the 2000's the eyes and face structure start to only resemble slightly to 80's style. Retro?

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:40 25/01/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    you forgot "almost no nose"

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:45 27/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Anyone remember that in the 30's, there was Betty Boop? Sure, the beauty canons aren't the same as of todays trends, but she's got these large eyes too right?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:46 27/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Haha, one of stories in Franken Fran dealt with this.

    God, the outcome was horrible >_>

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:45 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    1.Large eyes are a sign of youth, since your eyes don't grow, a baby will appear to have large eyes since they have small heads.
    2. Big eyes are more expressive, just look at clown paint, they tend to have oversized eyes and mouths.
    3. The "proper" style of eyes has already been established, there are more reasonable proportions out there, they just look weird or non standard.
    4. Asian people are flat, bucktoothed, bow legged, black haired and slanty eyed. Anime has the highest ideals of the human figure.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:56 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Unfair

    the Nineties had good eyes, the damn 2ch idiots looked only to Saber Marionette J for failed caricatures.

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:28 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its Anime for crying out loud its not reallife its just something to have fun with, we don't need EVERYTHING to be reallife-like. If thats the case ill just go watch a movie(A human movie).

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:49 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The Chinese or Korea characters in manga always have smaller eyes than the Japanese chara...

    Avatar of Pyrus
    Comment by Pyrus
    21:26 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    1. Most art is the physical representation of the artist's perception of reality or conceptualizations.

    2. What the artist produces is bounded by emotional state, mental state, and medium of expression.

    3. Expressing somthing that's 3D in a 2D format causes distortion because the missing dimension gets translated into into some feature of the remaining two dimensions.

    When we look at an anime or manga character, we're seeing something of how the animator or mangaka sees people with emphasis on those features best capabable of conveying that perception.

    Avatar of yurichan
    Comment by yurichan
    22:18 24/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    No no this whole article is just lolz. The usage of big eyes is just coincidental. It was a certain mangakan who set the standard by how he saw Western People. His focus was on the bigger eyes compared to Japanese. And this setup the unqiue anime style in Japan as of today. I think everybody knows this allready?

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:54 25/12/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I heard it's because large eyes mean "innocence". In the beginning it was probably because it was a cartoon. Now I'm just convinced that anime characters are engineered to be cute. I can't find the site now but I basically searched why people think babies are so cute. What I found was basically big heads, large, low-set eyes, and clumsy movements. Now ask yourself, who did I just describe? A baby or a moeblob?






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