What does it mean when an anime or manga character
gets a bloody nose, or grows a giant sweatdrop next to her face?
All these are uniquely Japanese symbols used in anime and manga,
intended to communicate a particular emotion.
Embarassment Blushing is a common way of showing
embarassment or romantic feelings in any culture. In anime and manga,
however, various forms of blushes are used liberally to signify
almost every grade of feeling. A slight embarassment might be indicated
by tiny red lines across the cheeks, a more deeply felt embarassment
might provoke a thick red line across the nose and cheeks, and something
really embarassing might cause one's whole face to go red!
|Yukino blushes just a little bit.
||Yukino blushes a lot.
"Blushing" in blue still carries the connotation
of embarassment; however, this usually indicates embarassment mixed
with anger. It seems to indicate that the person is almost frozen
with embarassment! This is frequently accompanied by evil-looking
eyes, and perhaps a sweatdrop or an anger vein.
|Yukino is angry and mortified.
In other situations, sweatdrops might form beside
a character's head. These sweatdrops also indicate embarassment,
the severity of which is determined by the size of the sweatdrop
and, sometimes, the number of sweatdrops. This generally indicates
a less severe sort of embarassment than the blue blush and a less
romantic type of embarassment than the red blush.
|Misty is extremely embarassed.
When a character gets extremely mad at something,
a stylized vein might appear on their forehead or fist. These "anger
veins" can be used liberally, though not necessarily realistically.
Curtis Hoffman writes that "...this gets carried to extremes, as
in the manga where an identical vein pops up three different places
on the back of a guy's hand."
|Yukino looks very scary.
A bloody nose doesn't mean that a character is actually
injured - rather, it means that he (the afflicted character is seldom
a she) is thinking lustful thoughts and/or looking at a beautiful
woman. But what does the bloody nose have to do with lust? Gilles
Portras, author of The Anime Companion, wondered the same
thing: "So I asked a few Japanese and got a variety of pseudoscientific,
and occasionally embarassed, explanations about humidity and blood
pressure. But the best response I got was from one fellow who simply
recounted that when he was a child he was told by his mother that
if he stared at a pretty woman he would get a bloody nose."
|Takeo envisions two of his friends doing whatever
When anime and manga characters cry, they -cry-
. One form of crying comes in "tear lines," where two wavy lines
are drawn from each eye to the bottom of the face and filled with
white to indicate that the character is crying. A more exaggerated
form of crying takes the tear lines off the two-dimensional space
of the face and arcs it out into the sky, making it seem as if the
character is crying whole waterfalls. These forms of crying are
not generally serious; in serious, dramatic situations, the crying
is much more subdued.
|Tear lines are used frequently...
||...and tear waterfalls show even more misery...
||...but extremely emotional moments don't need
Tezuka Osamu, the father of anime and manga, drew
the eyes of his characters large so that they could express more
emotion; to this day, the eyes are the most expressive parts of
an anime character. The eyes of someone good and innocent are large
and childlike, while someone who is more conniving and sneaky will
have smaller eyes. Evil characters have the smallest eyes of all.
When an anime character is expressing emotion, the eyes can do several
different things to reflect their mood.
|Nuriko is quite innocent...
||Yui is less innocent...
||...and Soi is not very innocent at all.
A normal anime character can get "evil eyes" when
thinking evil thoughts or reacting angrily to a situation. The evil
eyes are often accompanied by a blue blush, an anger vein or a sweatdrop,
depending more specifically on the case. Happy eyes, however, are
much more common. The anime character's eyes turn into two thick
half-circles, giving him or her an extremely cute, delighted look.
Both male and female characters can have that form of "happy eyes";
peculiar to females are the starry-eyes. Females with otherwise
normal eyes will suddenly have their pupils grow to huge sizes,
and stars and dozens of little white spots will appear. This signifies
extreme happiness, and is also a parody of eyes in some shoujo manga
and anime, where the eyes of all the girls are drawn like
that, all the time!
|Ash's mother is very proud of him!
||Misty looks very happy and cute.
Super-deformation, when a character is drawn "deformed,"
with much less detail and much more cuteness, has no real catch-all
meaning. It might be done to make the characters seem cute, or to
indicate that they're not being serious. It might be used when they're
embarassed, or when they're happy. If one had to assign a specific
meaning to super-deformation, one could say that it means the characters
are being playful and not all that serious, but it is impossible
to pin it down completely.
|Super-deformed Yukino enjoys herself.
Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion, Stone
Bridge Press, Berkley, CA 1999
Curtis H. Hoffmann, Cheats, Cliches, Cartoons,
Kareshi Kanojyo no Jijyo
Mahou Tsukai Tai!