Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Why do anime villians have small eyes?

Sorry folks, the review isn't happening tonight. I'll make sure to get on it tomorrow.
However, to make up for not getting it done, here's a (very casual) explanation on why some anime characters have wide eyes, and why villians are portrayed with small eyes (which we see as being more Japanese).

Today I was browsing the Anime News Network forums when a user named philg asked why anime characters are often portrayed with large eyes and hair color that we typically associate with caucasian people. He also noticed that a lot of the villians are often portrayed with smaller eyes.

There's a lot of really good answers in the original topic, so I encourage you to take a look at it. But by the time I got done with my answer to the topic of the villian's eyes, it was long enough that I thought it might be worth posting here so you guys could see, as well.

I once read an anime drawing book that said that heroes tend to have wider eyes and clothing that looked more 'normal'--they aren't wearing a costume, just wearing clothes.
In contrast, it said, villains in anime tend to have narrower eyes, hair covering the face, and clothing that is more like a costume than actually wearing average, everyday clothes. (Unfortunantely, I can't remember which book this was. I want to say it was one of David Okum's books, but I can't say for sure. If anyone knows the correct reference, please let me know so I can give the author proper credit!)

The reason for the differences is because with wider eyes and hair away from the face, the character appears more 'open'. Your typical innocent, wide-eyed hero has nothing to hide. That being said, a villian (or anti-hero) has quite a bit to hide, so that shows in the narrower eyes and hair covering the face.

You can see this sort of principle at work in a lot of anime. For example, in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji's character design is fairly open--short hair cut away from the face and wide eyes. As seen here:

In comparison, Gendo has comparitively smaller eyes, and they're often covered by a glint in his glasses.

(Although, Gendo could just have smaller eyes since he's an adult. Adults tend to have smaller eyes in proportion to their face than children and teens do, even in real life.)

Another example is in Princess Tutu (this is my favorite anime, so you'll see me refer to this a lot).
Fakir, a very mysterious and often threatening character, has extremely narrow eyes and large (VERY large) black bangs that sweep across his face. (this isn't the best angle--depending on how you see him the bangs might obstruct his right eye completely from view)

Compare Fakir to Duck, the heroine of the story. She has very wide blue eyes, and while she has a large clump of hair to the right of her face like Fakir, it stays almost completely off of her face. Even when she's squinting her eyes slightly in worry, they're rather large.

That being said, they DO have a tendancy to have 'western' features be on more attractive woman. But, like others have said, it's more just because of how atypical it is. We do the same thing, if you think about it--Twi'lek in the Star Wars universe are more often than not portrayed with asian or african looks, particularly when the characters they play are slaves or dancers. Why? Because it's 'exotic', I'd guess.

So, there you have it. A little explanation on why there's often a difference in eyes between heroes and villians in anime. Of course, this isn't always true, as every anime has a different style to it. To paraphrase Barbosa, it's more of a guideline than an actual rule.

So, what do you all think? Can you think of better examples than I gave? Do you know of an anime or manga that goes against this theory? And do you think that some anime characters look too "western?" Click the "comments" link at the bottom of the post and let me know what you think!

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