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Big Anime Eyes

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Characters with eyes bigger than normal that aren't just from Japanese Media.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Sackett on May 26th 2012 at 6:15:45 AM
Last Edited By:
Basara-kun on Jan 26th 2018 at 8:50:29 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/smokey_anime_eye_makeup.jpg

Large eyes emphasise the youthfulness and cuteness of a character. They also make it easier to convey complex and nuanced emotions. Eyes are an important tool for emotional communication for humans; the difference between Japanese and occidental smileys (which focus the information on eye and mouth shapes, respectively) would suggest that the importance of eyes is even higher in East Asia.

Exaggeratedly large eyes are one of the most famous and recognisable elements of anime and manga. Large eyes are ubiquitous in shonen and especially shoujo, which also happen to be the two best known demographics outside of Japan. Chibi style, again common in manga and anime aimed at kids and teens, exaggerates the eye size even further. Also it has to add that older shonen (and some newer ones) avert big anime eyes, instead the eyes tend to be either narrower or realistic.

With "anime eyes" not only the size increases, but also the shape is exaggerated (and usually gives a hint whether the character is generally active or passive), the iris and the pupil grow in proportion and change shape to compliment the general eye shape, and especially in the romantic genre, the reflections are greatly exaggerated. Horizontal lines above the eyes represent the folds of the upper lid and are not necessarily realistic for Asian characters, but serve as a visual anchor that makes for a lightning-fast distinction between a narrow eye and a half-closed eye. The range and flexibility of the eyebrows is also exaggerated.

Thus big eyes are very very popular for characters intended to be cute and endearing, and in genres which rely greatly on emotion and melodrama. Even in works that employ more realistic proportions use eyes as a major tool. Only in the gag genre and some more experimental styles are eyes downplayed.

On the other hand, characters with small and possibly oversimplified eyes are usually intended to be incredibly ugly, and are used more as tools for gags rather than fully-fledged characters. Characters with no eyes at all are the faceless mass, part of the background, moving standies, or perhaps intended to be as emotionally distant from the other characters and the reader as possible.

The main trend of big eyes in Japanese Media was started by Osamu Tezuka, considerated by many as The Father/Godfather/God of Manga, who was based on old Classic Disney Shorts to get this kind of eyes in his creations, notably Astro Boy. His works became so important for the industry (first manga and later anime) that the concept of "anime eyes" was widely accepted and much of the works use this kind of eyes until today.

"Anime Eyes" is an Omnipresent Trope in Japan, so the list of works would be huge and widely common, so this trope is about Western or non-Japanese works that use this as a resource intended to be "anime eyes". In the case of works from Japan, only should be added if it's the case of Lampshading, Subversions and Aversions.

Compare Puppy-Dog Eyes, Anime Hair and Disneyfication (a Western version). Strongly related to Windows to the Soul, as well with Good Eyes, Evil Eyes. See also Animesque and OEL Manga, in which Western and non-Japanese creators draw their creations with big anime eyes as a way to emulate and/or make tribute to Japanese Media.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
In Japanese Media, this is an Omnipresent Trope (being Osamu Tezuka the Trope Maker and Codifier), so the examples in this section are exclusively about Lampshading, Subversions and Aversions of this trope. For the same reason, examples from Tareme Eyes and Tsurime Eyes shouldn't be mentioned here since they're all straight examples.
  • If well it's a trope present in almost all manga and anime works, there're creators that are Genre Savvy of the industry and try to avoid the "big anime eyes" making them more small and realistic. Some notable examples are the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo and Takehiko Inoue, just to name some big names on industry.
  • Though it's a Studio Gainax production, and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt mostly adheres to this trope, it's pointedly averted in the episode "Vomiting Point." As Garterbelt succinctly describes it: "In this ghetto-shit place [Little Tokyo], ghetto-shit people seek ghetto-shit happiness as they live out their ghetto-shit lives." Reflective of their miserable existence, the people are drawn with tiny, mismatched eyes, bordering on gonk.
  • Bleach anime The Lost Agent/Fullbringer/XCution arc. The Fullbringer/XCution character Riruka Dokugamine Lampshades this in one episode when she says that her eyes dry out easily because they're so large.

    Comic Books 
  • Lampshaded in an issue of the The Simpsons comic book where Comic Book Guy lived his life as a Japanese cartoon, and did so with the help of some extra-large contact lenses.

    Fan Works 
  • Referenced in the web round-robin short story Lungfish Alpha features a future in which people can make quite literally whatever physical modifications to their bodies that they want. The main character, Itsuko, was born to a pair of anime Otaku modifications.
    They'd geneered their daughter to resemble the characters they loved: ridiculously colored hair, extended legs and arms, a tiny mouth and eyes that took up 70 percent of the face.
  • The Doomy Adventures Of Irken Doominess: All characters created by Jir will automatically have these sort of eyes.

    Film - Animated 
  • Invoked on Robots. As Fender is taking photos of Rodney, he asks for "big anime eyes".

    Literature 
  • In the fourth book in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, there's a clique called "manga-heads", who get surgery to make their eyes appear larger and who have crazy hairstyles in order to look like they're from manga.

    Live-Action Film 

    Music 
  • Kyary Pamyu Pamyu usually gets inspiration from anime and kawaii, in which various of her costumes uses big anime eyes via makeup and masks. Also used by her Western counterpart, Lady Gaga, specially when she went to Japan.

    Tabletop Games 

    Web Original 
  • Franken Fran: One strip revolves around a girl who asks Fran for surgery to look like a chibi manga character to get her crush's attention (a supporter of the "2D girls are superior to real life" debate). She keeps coming back to Fran for more modifications, until she finally has the opportunity to sleep with him, at which point we see the extent of the changes: her eyes are half the size of her head, her mouth is shrunken, her nose is gone and her hair fell out: she looks like one of The Greys. Unsurprisingly, the guy swears afterwards that he experienced alien contact.
  • Homestar Runner: In "japanese cartoon", Strong Bad speculates about how he'd look if he were an anime character. Naturally, giant eyes are one of the first things he brings up.
    Strong Bad: Okay, so first of all, my head would have to be a little bean. With real, real big eyes.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb: When Phineas and Ferb visit Tokyo, they briefly Art Shift into anime-style, in particular, their eyes change to be huge and sparkly.
  • Despite taking place in the equivalent of The Roaring '20s, Ikki from The Legend of Korra draws in a manner akin to 1990s shoujo manga, complete with big eyes.

    Real Life 
  • Here's what Roger Ebert (probably the most famous film critic in the United States) has to say about anime eyes.
  • If well it's almost impossible to get the eye size for normal humans, there's a way to get the optical effect of "anime eyes" via makeup as seen in the main image, having many tutorials about how to make this on YouTube and Tumblr.
  • A famous (and non-anime related) example is The '50s American artist Margaret Keane, who was famous for drawing paintings with big eyes, and mainly paints women, children and animals in oil or mixed media. Her story, as well the case of the trial of her ex-husband Stealing the Credit of her work, was shown in the Tim Burton's 2014 biopic Big Eyes with Amy Adams as Margaret Keane.

Feedback: 68 replies

May 26th 2012 at 6:22:46 AM

  • Lampshaded in an issue of the The Simpsons comic book where Comic Book Guy lived his life as a Japanese cartoon, and did so with the help of some extra-large contact lenses.

May 26th 2012 at 9:02:36 AM

I dunno if it's a distinct trope, since big eyes are practically synonymous with the anime and manga medium as a whole (though it's technically not true: large eyes are generally an attribute of the Bishoujo style, rather than the medium itself). At best, this can be used in instances where an Art Shift gives all character large eyes in an attempt to look Animesque, but the title and the write-up should be clear about that.

And btw, TVT engine doesn't allow hotlinking images from other sites.

May 26th 2012 at 9:18:11 AM

There are many manga styles from the old style shoujo manga, to Puni Plush and other modern moe styles, etc, etc. But yes, this is a super trope. BTW Haibane Renmei is an anime in the small eyed style.

May 26th 2012 at 2:51:57 PM

I inverted this for a chapter of my Yu Gi Oh Manga Synoptic Theater--Anzu sees an American comic book and complains that all the characters have "unrealistically small eyss."

May 26th 2012 at 3:51:59 PM

This is one of those tropes that I think hasn't been made because it seems we all think the page is here.

And it should be noted that this covers manga, and all media with similar styles.

Plus it should be noted that Osamu Tezuka was the Trope Maker, inspired by the big eyes in the Classic Disney Shorts.

Jul 16th 2012 at 2:03:36 PM

Almost every character from [[Anime|Pokemon]].

Jir
Jul 16th 2012 at 3:15:55 PM

Jul 16th 2012 at 6:39:18 PM

  • Invoked on Robots. As Fender is taking photos of Rodney, he asks for "big anime eyes".
  • Ironically, two of the best known anime directors, Hayao Miyazaki and Katsuhiro Otomo, generally avoid large eyes in their works.

Jul 16th 2012 at 7:08:01 PM

You might want to check Good Eyes Evil Eyes and steal some material from their description.

also fro the description:

In Japanese culture, the eyes are the most important part of the face. Japanese has many proverbs about eyes, and one of them says "the eye talks as much as the mouth does", which means you can express and read emotions through eyes. In other words, Japanese view the eyes as a window to the soul.

Jul 17th 2012 at 2:41:24 AM

Also related directly to anime, when there are characters who have large eyes and those who don't, the ones with smaller eyes are not considered as beautiful as the ones with the saucer-eyes. (Typically, it's either the guys or gonk-type girls who fall victim.)

Jul 17th 2012 at 3:31:36 AM

I went and edited it.

It's still Up For Grabs.

Tareme and Tsurime are not subtropes; they occur and apply with eyes of all sizes.

I have the thought that shoujo publications such as Nakayoshi and Ribon have production criteria covering among other things the proportional eye size of the characters. Can anyone confirm?

About the page image... provided we get the permission, I'd prefer the non-chibi one.

Jul 17th 2012 at 3:42:28 AM

Well, it would be nice if the picture was a proper reflection of how well-drawn anime eyes look, rather than this talenteless, bland, completely-missing-the-point parody. It's a sort of a trend among Western "manga artists" that they get the art horribly, hopelessly wrong, or that, at best, they seem to be stuck in The Nineties.

Jul 17th 2012 at 5:08:29 AM

Sure, and a composite of big, realistic, and real eyes would be great as well.

Aug 14th 2012 at 6:28:17 PM

You should mention that Big Anime Eyes were originally inspired by Big Disney Eyes.

Aug 14th 2012 at 10:02:24 PM

Go ahead, mention it yourself. Up For Grabs and everything.

Aug 14th 2012 at 10:29:22 PM

So what would make good examples? Lampshading?

Aug 14th 2012 at 11:12:31 PM

Referenced in the web round-robin short story "Lungfish Alpha" features a future in which people can make quite literally whatever physical modifications to their bodies that they want. The main character, Itsuko, was born to a pair of anime Otaku.

They'd geneered their daughter to resemble the characters they loved: ridiculously colored hair, extended legs and arms, a tiny mouth and eyes that took up 70 percent of the face.

Dec 24th 2012 at 6:18:26 AM

There was an anime I saw a lot of years ago, but I don't remember the title; it was some sort of space adventure or alien invasion thing. Most of the characters had big anime eyes, but there were a couple of characters, one a scientist and the other a kid, whose eyes were little dots very close together. So does anyone know the title of that anime?

Dec 24th 2012 at 11:20:38 AM

This would work as a Useful Notes, as the whole large eyes in Anime thing was directly influenced by 20's and 30's American cartoons such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse.

Dec 24th 2012 at 12:57:58 PM

The image's copyrighted.

We can't have that.

original image can be found here. Notice it says "Sample".

Dec 24th 2012 at 2:27:01 PM

Literature:

  • In the fourth book in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, there's a clique called "manga-heads", who get surgery to make their eyes appear larger and who have crazy hairstyles in order to look like they're from manga.

Dec 31st 2015 at 5:12:46 PM

Tabletop Games:

Dec 31st 2015 at 9:38:04 PM

Examples would be references, lampshades or discussions about big anime eyes.

Jan 1st 2016 at 1:41:12 AM

As I noted, since Disney does this, and inspired it, this need not be limited to anime and manga. It could cover any time eyes are drawn larger to help make them more expressive.

Feb 28th 2016 at 1:19:09 AM

  • WOOT WOOT, THE NOOB IS HERE*
How about the NPC Mii Siobhán from Wii Sports Resort? She has extremely large eyes. http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/w__/images/0/0e/Siobhán.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20150107190528&path-prefix=wiisports

Feb 28th 2016 at 8:30:32 PM

So we're going to list only references, discussions, lampshades etc and not straight examples, right?

Feb 29th 2016 at 5:03:22 AM

^^^ If we go that route, how do you like the name Exaggerated Expressive Eyes?

Apr 15th 2017 at 3:11:59 PM

New here, but I found this on a google search, may as well lend my two cents. since I landed here while trying to see if there is a page for this. This is NOT special to anime. It's a universal trope.

Eyes are exaggerated in size in ALL visual mediums. Not just Japanese style Illustrations, but also photography. Models are often photoshopped to have larger eyes,

Larger eyes, smaller nose, smaller mouth: Younger, smaller, cuter. More innocent.

Smaller eyes, larger nose, etc etc: Older, more threatening (notice how large, often dangerous animals have very small eyes), harder to identify with. Feels more evil.

Apr 15th 2017 at 3:19:26 PM

Edited draft to move third paragraph to the beginning. The article should lead with the why; that's what a trope is.

Apr 15th 2017 at 4:01:37 PM

^^ Isn't what you're talking about already the definition of Tareme Eyes? Big rounded eyes means cuter and more innocent?

Apr 16th 2017 at 4:51:34 AM

Here's what Roger Ebert has to say about anime eyes.

Apr 16th 2017 at 12:22:01 PM

I will say here that I haven't read the whole comment chain, but really isn't this something that is only trope worthy when it's lampshaded in some way?

Apr 16th 2017 at 6:19:36 PM

It's an omnipresent trope in anime and doesn't need lampshading for it to be in effect, but we could consider limiting examples to only lampshaded ones and/or aversions.

Apr 16th 2017 at 11:56:49 PM

Anime amd Manga

  • Bleach anime The Lost Agent/Fullbringer/XCution arc. The Fullbringer/XCution character Riruka Dokugamine Lampshades this in one episode when she says that her eyes dry out easily because they're so large.

Apr 17th 2017 at 5:59:38 AM

^^ that's pretty much what I meant. Unless you want to list every anime and manga, and manga-style fan arts of everything ever.

Apr 25th 2017 at 7:59:04 AM

Compare Puppy Dog Eyes and Anime Hair.

And I think the huge eyes trend was kickstarted by Osamu Tezuka, who was inspired by Disney characters.

Apr 25th 2017 at 6:50:49 AM

Maybe change this to be about big animated eyes in general? Cartoons do this for similar reasons too.

Apr 25th 2017 at 8:58:37 AM

^But anime eyes are unique enough to warrant special attention. As the description says, it's not just the size but also the shape and details. Western characters like Garfield or the Simpsons have eyes that are bigger than most anime, but no one would mistake them for anime eyes.

Apr 25th 2017 at 9:53:59 AM

Anime And Manga

  • Though it's a Studio Gainax production, and Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt mostly adheres to this trope, it's pointedly averted in the episode "Vomiting Point." As Garterbelt succinctly describes it: "In this ghetto-shit place [Little Tokyo], ghetto-shit people seek ghetto-shit happiness as they live out their ghetto-shit lives." Reflective of their miserable existence, the people are drawn with tiny, mismatched eyes [1], bordering on gonk.

Apr 25th 2017 at 2:34:20 PM

^^ But the purpose of big eyes is still the same in both halves of the world, right?

Apr 25th 2017 at 7:27:51 PM

I dunno if we could add Trope Tan as the page image...

Oct 25th 2017 at 9:59:46 AM

Franken Fran: One strip revolves around a girl who asks Fran for surgery to look like a chibi manga character to get her crush's attention (a supporter of the "2D girls are superior to real life" debate). She keeps coming back to Fran for more modifications, until she finally has the opportunity to sleep with him, at which point we see the extent of the changes: her eyes are half the size of her head, her mouth is shrunken, her nose is gone and her hair fell out: she looks like one of The Greys. Unsurprisingly, the guy swears afterwards that he experienced alien contact.

Nov 25th 2017 at 5:34:16 PM

Nov 26th 2017 at 5:26:28 AM

Music:

  • Kyary Pamyu Pamyu usually gets inspiration from anime and kawaii, in which various of her costumes uses big anime eyes via makeup and masks. Also used by her Western counterpart, Lady Gaga, specially when she went to Japan.

Real Life:

  • If well it's almost impossible to get the eye size for normal humans, there's a way to get the optical effect of "anime eyes" via makeup, having many tutorials about how to make this on You Tube and Tumblr.

Note: if this draft is going to be revived, I suggest to use an image like this based on my RL example instead to use that suggested copyrighted image.

Note 2 (edit): Since it's a common trope on Japanese Media (not just anime), examples from there should be lampshaded or mentioned, and the Western ones should be straight IMO

Dec 1st 2017 at 7:27:18 PM

Is there someone in charge of this draft?? I guess OP isn't touching this since years, but has been already taken bu Up For Grabs?? If not I want to take it to add examples as well clarify some stuff said here (like anime & manga examples only will be added if it's about lampshading, for example)

Dec 1st 2017 at 7:58:01 PM

  • Phineas And Ferb: When Phineas and Ferb visit Tokyo, they briefly Art Shift into anime-style, in particular, their eyes change to be huge and sparkly.

Dec 2nd 2017 at 1:55:49 AM

^^ The OP Sackett put this Up For Grabs when they first created it and it has been ever since.

Dec 13th 2017 at 7:05:14 AM

OK, taken Up For Grabs and adding all your examples and references to improve this draft. As noted above, the examples on Manga and Anime section will be only for lampshading, subversions and aversions since it's stated as a Omnipresent Trope.

Also, I'm going to add the images I suggested some posts above, if there's no objections. As always, any help is welcome ;)

EDIT: Added the Alita Battle Angel example since it's very recent and VERY related to this draft

Dec 13th 2017 at 11:41:06 AM

Web Animation:

  • Homestar Runner: In "japanese cartoon", Strong Bad speculates about how he'd look if he were an anime character. Naturally, giant eyes are one of the first things he brings up.
    Strong Bad: Okay, so first of all, my head would have to be a little bean. With real, real big eyes.

Dec 13th 2017 at 11:57:30 AM

This just seems The Same But More Specific to Animesque. It's just one aspect of it and I don't see the point to splitting it off.

Dec 13th 2017 at 3:11:16 PM

^Animesque is about works (and not just about the eyes), this trope is about characters. Also, these characters are aware of the "big anime eyes" and usually lampshade this

Dec 13th 2017 at 4:46:32 PM

^ Why did you change the meaning from "Anime using big eyes" to "non-Anime using big eyes"? That's like a 180 degree turn in where this trope was going. Or have I missed the memo?

Dec 13th 2017 at 3:46:27 PM

Description still neglects that "animé eyes" began with Disney art style.

Dec 15th 2017 at 7:02:43 AM

^^"anime using big eyes" makes this an Onmipresent Trope, so I redirect it into "anime eyes" only from other media and only lampshade/subversion/aversion in the case of anime, that's the main idea

^I'm seeing how to mention it in the description, probably I've to make a new paragraph before the last one where I mention the inspiration from Disney and Tezuka's influence. I'll add that during today

Dec 16th 2017 at 4:47:24 AM

OK, added the references to Osamu Tezuka and Disney Classic Shorts to the description

Dec 16th 2017 at 11:16:45 AM

  • Probably should not have an Anime section at all since this is being defined as non-Japanese media.

  • Probably should not call it "Big Anime Eyes" since it is being defined as non-Japanese media. The concept of big, wide eyes was not invented in Japan.

Dec 20th 2017 at 8:47:04 AM

Fixed and stated that "anime eyes" are not exclusive for Japanese Media, also adding Disneyfication in "Compare"

Jan 19th 2018 at 7:20:36 PM

Well, seems this is more than ready to be launched, what do you say??

Jan 20th 2018 at 2:36:56 AM

Gonna have to add that older shounen (and some newer ones) avert big anime eyes, instead the eyes tend to be either narrower or realistic.

Jan 25th 2018 at 2:13:10 PM

^Done. Well, seems this is ready, launching it during these days. Thanks to all for your help ;)

Jan 26th 2018 at 8:51:59 AM

^Thanks for pointing it, adding it

EDIT: Added as well her biopic Big Eyes. OK, ready to launch this, thanks to all for your help!!

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