The above video clip was recently posted to the forums. It is an odd music video mini-rant about how people keep saying (and writing, and discussing) how anime characters look Western. She (he?—for ease of discussion, let’s assume it was a she) brings up and refutes the biggest arguements for anime characters being Western, and its worth looking over her shoulder at the original arguments and her reactions.
Big eyes. Apparently the arguement goes, that since anime characters have large eyes, and Westerners have large(r) eyes, anime characters are Western. However, there are a couple problems with this. One point the YouTuber brought up was that Westerners don’t actually have bigger eyes, and to some extent I agree with her. While her juxtaposition of squinty white men next to wide-eyed Japanese girls was a bit anecdotal (men generally have narrower eyes, don’t they? Especially in anime) it is true that the size of Western/Eastern eyes doesn’t differ much, though the shape does. Besides, NO ONE has Fruit Basket sized eyes.
The YouTuber also brought the good point that eyes are big because bigger eyes express emotion better. This is born out by the fact that the biggest eyes occur in the girliest manga, where it is considered strange if the main character isn’t functionally manic-depressive. The more realistic an anime’s art style – Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies – the more normal the eye size. Also, large eyes are used for girls and girly manga because our brains are wired to think of large eyes in small faces as cute – it is the same proportions as puppies, kittens, and human children.
Hair color. Anime is known for having absurd hair colors. Since Northeast Asians all have black hair (which they don’t, actually. Shades between red and black are all possible, though the former is unlikely) , anime characters must be Western. WRONG! Even ignoring the fact that Japanese kids often dye their hair kinds of crazy colors, it’s not like Westerns have pink hair either. Also, as the YouTuber points out, hair color and style is often used to help identify characters, especially in shojo manga where most characters are pretty and thus look remarkably similar. Plus, it is also possible to get anime without funky hair colors – Maison Ikkoku comes to mind. The craziest hair is usually connected to fantasy and sci-fi.
Light skin. Now, I’m willing to concede the fact that Northeastern Asians generally have slightly darker skin (though their standards of beauty have them bleaching it while we tan, so it’s all relative) but there’s more than enough variation that seeing a lighter skinned character in an anime doesn’t say much about their race. The YouTuber also brings up the point that pale skin is prized in Japan, and has been so for centuries. Light skin is a sign of beauty.
The YouTuber also give the somewhat related point that the profile of Westerners is very bumpy (eyes, brow ridges, etc.) while Northeast Asians have much smoother profiles with picture evidence. And, since anime characters have smooth edges to their faces, they are clearly Japanese. There is some merit in this, though there are also problems. Anime characters’ faces are probably smooth to make them easier and faster to draw. Also, Western standards of beauty prefer much thinner faces, which means more prominent facial structure.
She also mentions that fact that the Japanese generally find it easier to cosplay and that their idea of beauty, for both men and women, differs significantly from Western standards. In Japan, men are perferred to be slight and a bit delicate, while in the West the ideal is very masculine. Women in Japan’s ideal is the idea of kawaii – very youthful, almost childish, with light skin, while women in American are tanned, busty, and unhealthily thin. Both of these ideals are very obviously bourne out in anime. In the showing this semester, even the “manly characters” (e.g., the King of En, Kamina) are still much prettier and slight than they would be in a Western cartoon.
The YouTuber brings up a few more minor points, but this is the bulk of her argument, and it is a good one. I’ve definitely heard – from my father no less – that anime characters look Western. But, the more you think about it, the less they look Western and the more they look…like anime characters. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to show Macross Plus this week during its allotted time slot. Instead, we will be moving up Ghost in the Shell one week to fill in the void left by Macross Plus’s disappearance. However, because of the length of the movie we will not be airing Twelve Kingdoms 32 or 33 this week, and will instead move them into the first two slots Ghost in the Shell was to take up next week, with the first episode of Macross Plus – NOT the second – to be shown afterwards. Additionally, if you want to view the conclusion of Macross Plus, you will have to unfortunately wait for our semesterly marathon.
To sum up, instead of the initial viewing schedule this semester, we will be following from this point on: