In Real Life, people's bodies change as they get older, and a few of these changes are near-universal, to indicate at least the general age of a person.
In drawn media, the subtler changes aren't always as easy to show compared to real life, so there are standards to make these changes more noticeable in stylized formats.
For Anime, Manga, and Animesque shows, aging often follows this pattern:
- Child: Short, round, and chubby. No difference between boys and girls except for clothes and hair styles; eyes the size of saucers.
- Pre-teen: If they hadn't already, kids have now lost the baby fat and are not as short. Girls develop A-cup breasts. Boys develop baseball caps. Eyes shrink a little bit.
- Teen: Differences between boys and girls become very obvious. Boys get tall and fit, while girls grow to be one head shorter than the boys and fill out into an hourglass figure. Eyes shrink from previous, but are still pretty big.
- Adult: Eyes are smaller again, and almond-shaped, but still larger than in reality. Facial features become much sharper.
- Middle Age: Adult, except add an age line or two: a small line under the eye and/or at the corner of the mouth (always on the side closest to the camera) is about right for the parent of a middle or high schooler. Eyes get smaller again, now pretty close to real world proportions. Male pattern baldness may set in.
- Old: Slight shrinkage in height, more visible wrinkles, and grey hair. Eyes may continue to shrink, or they may appear larger in proportion as the face gets more bony.
- Geezer: A hunched, shrivelled prune of a person who is 3 feet (1 meter) tall, often with a perpetual squint.
Many works will also depict teens as being significantly shorter than adults even at 17/18.
A Puni Plush art style will tend to make all ages look more short, rounded, and cute than standard. Compare Good Eyes, Evil Eyes, and Fun Size.
Contrast Older Than They Look, Artistic Age and Younger Than They Look, which can happen when an animated character has an animation anatomy that doesn't match their canonical age.
Works where this is especially noticeable:
- Completely ignored in La Seine no Hoshi, a Rip Off of The Rose of Versailles with Zorro elements. While the series covers about the same time span as The Rose of Versailles, none of the characters age (or change their clothes). Most painfully obvious in the heroine's sidekick, a boy of about 11 years, who never shows any sign of maturing over the course of 20 years!
- Record of Lodoss War: Particularly apparent with Parn and Deedlit (even though she's an elf!), if you look at the difference in their designs between Records and Chronicles of a Heroic Knight. In the former, Parn is barely more than a boy, all huge-eyed and smooth-faced. His design has rougher lines and more narrow eyes many years later, and the young-looking design is found in the new generation of heroes, instead, particularly in Spark.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The Distant Finale seems to suggest that greater age gives you a squarer jawline, in addition to the requisite smaller eyes and wrinkles.
- Ōoku: The Inner Chambers characters tend to die young or retire, but the shogun Tsunayoshi and her companion Yoshiyasu start showing their age after a while.
- The child characters in Wandering Son age visually over the several years the manga takes place. Their faces in particular have leaned down and become less round.
- Azumanga Daioh: A copy and paste will show that Chiyo and second-shortest character Osaka have larger eyes than Sakaki even by absolute measurement. Relative to their own bodies, Chiyo's and Osaka's eyes look absurdly huge.
- The Kingdom Hearts series has the teenage characters subtly but noticeably age a year; at 14, their eyes are larger and their cheeks are chubbier.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time features a seven year time skip, and has several small children who grow up into attractive men and women. Compare Link at ten◊ with his round face and big, innocent eyes and at seventeen◊, with narrower eyes and more chiseled features.
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon follows Marth's life and begins the story with Marth at a young(er) age. His expressions in cutscenes are very calm and passive-looking, but after the second half of the game, his age seems to progress, as his hair is longer, his skin is slightly darker, and his face bears an angry, yet confident expression.
- In the first Jak and Daxter game, the 15-year-old Jak's eyes take up about a quarter of his face. In the second game, his eyes have shrunk enormously—even though there is only two years between the games. The change shows the torture and experimentation has aged him prematurely, as well as turning him from a (quite literal) Wide-Eyed Idealist into to a cynic Anti-Hero. Compare.
- Klaus from Story of Seasons (2014) is a bachelor targeted at those who like older men. The main thing that indicates his age is that he has very faint, soft lines under his eyes.
- MapleStory player character designs all share the same body type and are all interchangeable, leaving only the design of the faces to express the apparent age of a class's "canon" appearance; The farm boy turned hero Evan has very large eyes, while the queen of the elves Mercedes has much narrower eyes.
- Ace Attorney:
- Trucy Wright in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is shown to have large eyes and large pupils when is shown as a child in some flashbacks. In her present day teenager appearance, her eyes are a bit smaller and more detailed. Similarly, Pearl Fey in the original trilogy had eyes that were mostly pupils since she was only eight to nine years old. By Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Pearl's eyes are a bit smaller since she aged into a teenager.
- Phoenix Wright in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney trilogy has somewhat large eyes normally seen in a typical anime, which suits him since he's in his middle to late twenties. In the later games where the timeline skips ahead several years, Phoenix's eyes are smaller to show him aging. Edgeworth, whose eyes were slightly small to begin with and being the same age as Phoenix, manages to get a bit smaller when he returns in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies to show his older look and the glasses he wears also signifies his older age.
- Isaac and Garet in Golden Sun Th Broken Seal start off as being twelve to thirteen years old in the prologue and have very large eyes. When they age a few years older in the main game, their eyes are a bit smaller. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn takes place thirty years later, which shows the two boys being middle aged adults with smaller eyes and pupils.
- Clementine in The Walking Dead is a young child with large eyes and pupils. In her later appearances in the later seasons, her eyes grow smaller as she ages.
- Dr. Light in the Mega Man games buckles the aging trend by being an old man with large eyes. In the animated backstory for Mega Man X, Dr. Light is shown with smaller eyes and wrinkles to signify that he's really old and doesn't have much time left to live. Mega Man X is the doctor's final creation before he passes away.
- In South Park, the kindergartners' eyes are a good 50% of their face. Older kids have smaller, but round eyes. Adults have eyes a bit smaller than that.
- In KaBlam!, all the adults in the Henry and June shorts have tiny eyes. The main duo, being somewhere around ten, have pretty big eyes (at least in the later seasons).
- Flashbacks in Avatar: The Last Airbender give all the main characters huge eyes (including, strangely enough, Azula) and round faces.
- The Boondocks: Children such as Huey and Riley are usually drawn with Big Anime Eyes whilst adults tend to have much smaller (close to realistic) eyes, especially after season 1.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, oddly enough, inverts the pattern for most female characters. From birth through adulthood, their eyes get larger as they grow older—larger both in absolute size, and in comparison to their head.
- In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when introduced, Ahsoka has eyes disproportionately large with her completely round face, her horns are only stubs, and her headtails barely reach beyond her shoulders. After the Time Skip in "Heroes on Both Sides", her eyes noticeably shrink, her face becomes longer and angled, her horns grow larger and curved, and her headtails reach the middle of her chest. Her adult self as see in Star Wars Rebels has almond-shaped eyes, an oval face, very large horns, and headtails reaching to her waist. An alternate design (seen in the Clone Wars episode "Overlords") has the tails reaching to her thighs.
- Rumiko Takahashi's older characters practically define the "prune" style, e.g. Happosai and Cologne in Ranma ½, and grandmother Godai in Maison Ikkoku.
- In one Ranma ½ episode, Mousse gets smacked when he puts on his glasses to see Cologne, and screams "Ahhhhh! Mackerel jerky!◊"
- An amusing subversion occurs in the manga when both Happōsai and Cologne separately recollect an incident in their shared past; in Happōosai's version, they were both normal-sized (and ridiculously attractive) young adults. Cologne's decidedly more plausible re-telling shows that Happōsai has been tiny his entire life.
- Old characters in Urusei Yatsura are depicted as short, squat, with squinty eyes. Also happens to Ataru and Lum when they appear as an elderly couple in a fairy tale episode.
- The toddlers in Gakuen Babysitters are particularly stylized in this fashion. They have large eyes, are about the size of infants in comparison to the older characters, and have round and chubby bodies and cheeks.
- Fairy Tail plays this trope straight, but the most notable example is Master Makarov. At 88 years old, he's about 2' tall, and he shrunk a lot. In a flashback to when he was 40, he's still short, but he's at least 5' tall. This is suggested to be a side-effect of his Giant Magic.
- Fullmetal Alchemist's Aunt Pinako, Winry's grandmother, is shorter than Ed. In a flashback from when she was younger she appears almost twice as tall.
- In Turning Red, Mei's pictures from when she was a toddler show her face was more rounded while that of her teen self is more pear shaped.
- In Up, Carl is perfectly round as a child, but becomes more angular in shape as he ages until he resembles a cube. Ellie, on the other hand, remains rounded throughout.
- Soseki from Harvest Moon: A New Beginning plays with this, mostly mentioning how he is apparently older than the rest of the bachelors. Out of all the bachelors, he is drawn with a more sharply-angled face and it does make him look older... but not by a whole lot.
- Link in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time starts out as a pre-teenager with an average body builds. When the time skip to seven years happens, Link is a young adult body that has him taller and with more muscles. Likewise, when Princess Zelda grows up into an adult, she is taller, has bigger ears, and has a slightly bigger bust.
- Children NPCs are obviously smaller than adults in Final Fantasy XIV, but children of some races have other bodily features that start smaller when are children; Elezen, which have pointy ears, possess smaller ears. Au Ra have shorter and almost nub-like horns. Mi'qote and Au Ra children both have short tails. The adult version of these races have their features more developed.
- Maya Fey in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is twenty eight years old and is shown with slightly large breasts and fuller lips, signifying her aging from her teenage years in the original trilogy where she had larger eyes and had a smaller chest. She is also bit more slim compared to her past self where she was drawn with a slightly rounded out look.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Sidekicks Assemble", the Teen Titans are pre-teen◊ in the Cold Opening flashback, and then teenage◊ in the main story.
- Father and Daughter: The protagonist ages from a young girl to an old lady. By the end, she's stooped over and her once-black hair has turned white.