“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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