Why do anime heroes have large eyes? - Anime Jinsei

Anime in Focus

Anime 101

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Why do anime heroes have large eyes?

Ah, we come to this — what is perhaps the most asked question regarding anime.

As some so-called experts would have it, anime characters having large eyes is a sign of the Japanese's frustration and insecurity over having small, slanty eyes. But I think this is reading too much into things.

They may have popularized it (and exaggerated it to an extent) but this rendering is not an innovation introduced by Japanese animators. They actually got the idea from Disney films.


The Japanese took the concept of eyes being windows to the-soul a step further in animation. The character's eyes they use to convey emotion, mood and overall personality.

If you observe closely, you'll notice that heroes generally have larger eyes than villains. This probably stems from the superstition that slanty-eyed people are generally suspicious. So if you're seeing a series for the first time, watch closely, the one with the smaller oculus would turn out to be the antagonist.

Also, children have larger sets than older characters. It's because they're still wide-eyed with wonder. Hehehe! Corny but true.

Similarly, a character's changing emotions and moods can be seen through his eyes. They well up with tears (sometimes it's not just a well of tears but a waterfall of tears ala Akazukin Cha Cha) when sad, glaze over or become heart-shaped when one is in love, become balls of fire when angry and become spirals when confused or dizzy.

Related: The Art of Anime Hair: How does it reflect an anime character's personality?

Eyeglasses are no impediment either. Just take Dr. Tofu of Ranma 1/2. Watch his glasses fog up whenever his crush Kasumi is around.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Kenshin. His eyes change colors depending on the degree of emotion — from gentle Rurouni purple to angry Battousai amber.

Read more about the art of anime hair and how it reflects an anime character's personality.

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