Manga hair color
Back when artists were just starting to draw what
we would consider "manga"
today, they only had three options for hair color: black, white
and grey. It would seem that, when trying to draw Japanese characters,
only black could be used, but shoujo manga artists started to leave
the hair of their Japanese characters un-inked. Doing this allowed
the reader to distinguish between characters easily, and it also
helped balance the page and make it more artistic. However, the
Japanese characters were still presented as looking traditionally
Japanese, and the reader accepted them as Japanese. Even though
a character may have beautiful, wavy, seemingly blonde hair, the
manga reader knows that in reality, the character's hair is beautiful,
wavy and black - even though the character might be directly portrayed
otherwise. "In recent years," writes Frederick Schodt in Manga!
Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, "on the covers and initial
color pages of the magazines, what can only be Japanese girls are
often drawn with distinctly blonde hair and blue eyes." For a westerner
this can lead to some odd situations. In the section from Tomoko
Taniguchi's Aquarium below, Suzuki tells Koko that he went
to church when he was young because seeing a foreigner was such
a novel experience. Yet Koko, with her apparently blonde and wavy
hair, seems just as Western as the priest must have been!
Tomoko Taniguchi's Aquarium is a Japanese student.
to Koko about seeing the foreign priest in his childhood.
Anime hair color
Hair color in anime is a different beast altogether.
Even traditionally Japanese anime characters can have hair of any
color, even colors that don't traditionally appear on any
real human! Like with manga, assigning different hair colors to
different characters allows the viewer to recognize which character
is which. Hair color has also traditionally been used to indicate
some part of the character's personality. A character who is feisty
and hotheaded may be given red hair to emphasize these aspects of
his or her personality; red hair can also indicate spirit possession,
as it does with Ranma's female form. Many male main-characters will
have black hair to emphasize their traditional nature, distinguishing
them from their friends who have many colors of hair; Tenchi, Ranma
and Ash are good examples of this. Many blondes are either vain
and conniving or completely airheaded. Serena from Sailor
Moon would reflect the air-headed
part of this, while Nanami from Revolutionary
Girl Utena is completely spoiled
and whiny. Characters with special powers or origins may have the
oddest hair colors of all to reflect their extraordinary nature.
Many of the women in Tenchi
Muyo are powerful aliens;
it would be odd for Ryoko, a bizarre and powerful character, to
have hair like that of any real woman on Earth!
It must be emphasized that the color of a character's
hair doesn't necessarily mean that they will always behave like
other characters with the same color of hair, or that they won't
have completely contradictory aspects of their personality. Assigning
Touga from Revolutionary Girl Utena the same personality
as Asuka from Neon
would be a very simplistic mistake, even though they both have long,
bright red hair. Hair color is not an accurate reflection of the
person - it just indicates what color the creator thought best suited
the character. Also, as the general cliches regarding hair color
have settled and become more common, many anime creators have played
with the sterotypes, using them to confuse and surprise viewers.
For example, Tomoyo from Card
Captor Sakura would seem to
be a very traditional character; her hair is long and black, and
she is unfailingly proper and polite. It would seem that there is
nothing about her that would keep her from being a model young Japanese
lady. However, she is in love with her friend Sakura - a very non-traditional
Touga from Utena is
a very cold, calculating character...
...while Askua from Neon
Genesis Evangelion is a very emotional, outgoing character.
||Tomoyo from Card Captor Sakura seems
very traditional, but has a few very unexpected qualities.
There is no one set of rules for each color of hair,
despite the valiant efforts of many fans to categorize them. Yet
though there are no set meanings for each color of hair, it does
have symbolic value and should be recognized as such.
Frederik L. Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World
of Japanese Comics, Kodansha America, NY, NY 1983
Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion, Stone Bridge Press,
Berkley, CA 1999