“Looking at anime eyes” sounds kind of creepy. As if I’m sitting in a café somewhere, wearing a nondescript raincoat and looking over the edge of a newspaper to catch a glimpse of an anime character’s eyes… The nerdiest peeping tom, Yup that’s me…
I won’t blame any of you for not knowing that I’m actually referring to one of my Pinetrest boards called anime eyes. I mentioned it months ago in my Pinterest journey posts and promised that I would eventually try to figure out some patterns in there.
It’s a bit hard to really do that though. Anime characters’ eyes are in fact as different as real people eyes varying a lot in shape and colour and when you look at them out of context like that, it just becomes a jumble of irises and lashes. Ok that sounds creepy again. It’s almost like writing a post focusing of disembodied eyeballs has something inherently creepy about it. How odd.
Because I give too much importance to colours, the first thing I did was to divide the eye caps I got by colour. I should mention, except for a few fan art exceptions, the 850 or so pins I have in there are all screencaps I’ve taken while watching shows. As such, there is an issue of biased sample here. Namely, I’m going by the eyeballs of anime characters in shows that interested me enough to watch. I have a pretty varied taste mind you but it’s still not a completely neutral representation.
Colour wise I have noticed that more recent shows do tend to feature yellow/amber/golden eyes a lot more than older series I have been watching. This may be a new trend to look out for. It’s still pretty unusual for now though. What was surprisingly common is red or pink eyes, and mostly red. Not just for evil or possessed characters either. Red as a “normal” eye colour. I think it may in fact be meant as an extreme variation of brown and it can in fact look rather mundane which is impressive. There are some very interesting looking red costume contact lenses but I’ve never tried them out.
However, the number one most common eye colour in anime (that I have watched…) is…. drum roll please…. cast your votes… blue. Yep, just blue. And if you were to throw purple in there then it would just overwhelm any other colour. That’s how frequent it is. Now blue is in fact the second most common eye colour in real life. Heck it’s my eye colour. We can simply assume that a super common eye colour is simply translating into a super common eye colour in art but I don’t think we can completely disregard geography here.
I’m not sure if it’s because blue eyed folks aren’t that interesting, but there really aren’t that many tropes associated with the trait. The most promising lead I have is the “evil or occult eye”. As in the talismans or amulets. You know those blue eye thingies.. wait let me just find one. This:
Evil eyes are part of very old and very widespread mysticism, and they are always blue.
Since the evil eye was mostly prominent in the Mediterranean and West Asian cultures, it’s been long believed that xenophobia had a role to play in the choice of colour. Most people from those cultures do not have blue eyes however the colour is conventional enough that you can easily imagine most people would have seen someone with blue eyes. A completely unnatural colour would have been more unnerving and striking but the choice of a possible eye colour changes things up a little. And there have been historical cases of bullying or shumming people in certain parts of the world because the had blue eyes and were therefore “cursed.
There is also long held connections between the colour blue as well as blue gems like lapis lazuli, and magic. So that might have played into it but evil eye talismans are often colours glass.
I should warn you, you are about to be completely dazzled by my anime knowledge! Whoa!!! So a lot of anime is created in Asia! I know you might need a second to digest l this new information. Specifically in Japan although we are seeing productions get outsourced to Korea and China more often. And traditionally, that’s a culture with fairly low blue eyed population. I should mention that although blue is the second most common eye colour, brown eyes do make up about 79% of the world’s population. So that number 2 spot is in fact less than 10%. In all likelihood, an average japanese high school wouldn’t have more blue eyed students. Or any high school for that matter. So in relation to real life or common demographic experience, those blue eyes are out of the ordinary in anime.
I don’t think that the blue eyes in anime are a form of xenophobia. If anything it might be the opposite. But I d think they are a way to distinguish a character as “special” or “different” without making them “alien”. Those blue eyes stand out and set them aside from the crowd but not completely beyond the realm of the relatable.It’s normal enough that you won’t necessarily even notice it but if you do, you now that one character is different than the others.
Since characters that get their very own spaghetti western style eye close ups are pretty much always part of the main cast (or at east leading antagonists), it stands to reason that those would be the characters marked as special by their design. Tis said, I’m only looking through my board here, I should try to pay closer attention to the eye colours of mob characters. Do they even have eye colours or are their eyes just black?
By the way, in my opinion, when isolated from the other features, pink eyes are the creepiest. I know they often go with adorable girls and when you see the entire character it’s really quite cute. By itself though, for some reason, pink eyes freak me out. A lot more than red ones. Maybe that’s just a me thing.
I also want to throw little random observation here. I wanted to discuss eye shapes at well but those are extremely varied. The one thing that did strike me is that when the image is focused entirely on the eye, I can’t tell the bad guys from the heroes. I thought for sure the shape would be a giveaway but it seems that it has more to do with facial proportions, placement and eyebrows than I thought. In fact even gender can get a little tricky to guess.
Do you have a fascination with anime eyes like me? Please say yes, I don’t want to be the only weirdo!