Evolution of anime eyes and their features (Topic)

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Evolution of anime eyes and their features


You have all heard the expression that the eyes are the window to the soul. If anyone has taken this expression seriously, it is the anime industry, where the eyes of the characters have largely become the hallmark of this type of animation. And anime eyes had their own evolution.

It all started in the 60s

The person to whom we owe this signature anime style is none other than Osamu Tezuka, who in principle is called the godfather of anime. Tezuka was largely inspired by Walt Disney and works such as Bambi and character designs from Mickey Mouse such as Donald Duck.


However, if we draw parallels between character design, the Japanese have gone beyond their American counterparts, and in the Tezuki anime, not only the eyes, but also the hairstyle, facial features and clothing largely described the archetype.

In general, character design plays a role in conveying the emotion of any given scene. This focus and careful attention to eye design is effective in itself. Tezuka and many of his followers realized that the eyes can create the mood for emotional scenes, which launched the chain of evolution of the eyes in anime.

Eye Archetypes

So, the eyes began to fully personify this or that character, acting as an identifier. Where appearance was paramount in American animation, oriental animation was concentrated primarily on the eyes. First, let's go over the highlights of how today's anime eyes have literally become a mirror of the soul.


A character with very large eyes and a mouth in the form of a bowl, so to speak, is innocent and looks at the world with admiration and genuine joy. Very often this can be found in moe, as this genre elevates the cuteness of characters to its apogee.

In contrast to them are characters with narrowed eyes with sharp contours. Most often, such characters are evil or at least cynical. But behind those harsh anime eyes, they hide a bit of tenderness or love, as happened, for example, with Kyon from "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

However, in male characters in general, eyes can change with age. For female characters, too, but with male characters this happens more often due to Japanese culture. With age, the boy's large and round eyes can sharpen, as a kind of symbolism that he has grown. For example, you should just compare Sasuke's eyes before Itachi massacred the Uchiha clan and after he defected to Orochimaru's side.

At the same time, such characters, while retaining that very particle of goodness, can become kinder again with age, or at least wiser. Their eyes, though also narrowed, are no longer so sharp, and wrinkles can be seen around them.


The bottom line is the following - the rounder the character's eyes become, the more good qualities appear in him. Also, the practice of creating eyes is useful in expressing reaction, besides increasing or decreasing in size. For example, when a character falls in love or sees something that he likes and wants to get it. This is especially evident in Sailor Moon.

To show the absolute anger or even madness of the character, they often use a technique when the eyes are genuinely large, but the pupils themselves are narrowed. And in some cases, it also personifies fear. In this case, it all depends on the expression of the mouth.

As opposed to this, there is a technique when the pupils are large - this is used to show sadness and this is the most insidious technique that makes you sympathize.

And my favorite moment is the empty pupils showing either the moral exhaustion of the character, the depressed state, or its complete change inside.


Evolution of eyes in anime itself

Naoki Saito, an animator and artist who has been playing the Pokemon series for many years, clearly showed the evolution of eyes in anime in one drawing, and who knows how such an important element of character design as eyes evolves.


According to the illustrator, the image on the left shows how the eyes were drawn a long time ago, with a vertical long oval shape and lots of empty space around the pupils. The portrait in the middle shows the transition to more angular eye shapes, which are larger overall, with an emphasis on strong dark lashes. On the right, we have an image that is commonly used today, with less white space inside the eye and features that are more conservative and restrained than in the past.


According to observations from people on his twitter, the image on the left resembles characters from the Slayers anime franchise, which began in 1989. The middle image resembles K-ON! The characters first appeared in the manga in 2007, and the picture on the right looks like the characters from Sound! Euphonium 2013.


And yes, as for me, these examples given by Twitter users under his post perfectly describe the transition. Especially K-On !. For me, the moe genre has largely determined the design of many of the characters and their eyes today, as it finds a balance between the insane dimensions of the past and what they impose today.


So conditionally we can divide the types of anime eyes into three eras:

  • The era of big eyes and narrow pupils
  • The era of big eyes and large pupils
  • An era of balance between eye and pupil size

However, this is in general, and if we consider isolated cases, it is not. I want to say that we are speaking in general terms.


But no matter how things turned out, the eyes in the anime tell an amazing story of character evolution, and my favorite example is Sasuke, as I mentioned earlier. And he is not the only example of such an evolution. Think of Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate / or Kenzo Tenmu from Monster and Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass.


Some anime may have more subtle designs for the anime eyes of their protagonists, but they still include expressiveness only found in mediums like animation, which explains why such concepts are animated in the first place.

The Topic of Article: Evolution of anime eyes and their features.
Author: Jake Pinkman