Also known as Mimikaki, ear cleaning is a mostly Asian practice. It uses an ear pick (often shown with a puffy, cotton-ball like thing on the end) to remove wax from the inside of the ear. Because having this done to you by another person is considered intimate (and includes a free Lap Pillow), this is usually seen in anime and manga between parents and children, siblings, or two people who are lovers. As such it can be used for variations of Does This Remind You of Anything?, Visual Innuendo and even Accidental Innuendo.
It's a pleasant experience akin to having one's back scratched, and the sight of someone cleaning out another's ears is almost always an indication of a close, warm relationship.
In India and Pakistan you can even find people who will clean your ears for a small fee, usually around 50 rupees (around 75 US cents or 40 British pennies). This is done in India by the kaan maeliye, a subcaste of the Dalits, and recipients of the service unanimously agree it can be very pleasant and surprisingly relaxing. One American recipient tells his story here.
(Note that this method of cleaning your ears is not exactly medically approved, due to the risk of getting things stuck or potentially perforating your eardrums. Not that it stops anyone...)
- Lucky Star:
- Kagami does this to her sister Tsukasa.
- One of the character sketches in the manga shows the twins' mother Miki holding an ear pick while asking her husband to come closer.
- In Ranma ½, Cologne can be seen doing this to her great-granddaughter Shampoo in an early chapter of the manga.
- Similarly, in Rumiko Takahashi's earlier series Urusei Yatsura, Lum does this to Ataru on several occasions. In the anime version, specifically, the first time it happens is at the end of the second 'chapter' of episode 4. She's also seen doing it to him at school in the 17th episode.
- Darker Than Black features an Innocent Innuendo situation that turns out to be a widow cleaning out the ears of the private investigator she hired. Though for him it might not have been completely innocent...
- Revolutionary Girl Utena features Shiori cleaning out Touga's ears during their sex scene.
- Chie-sensei in the first episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei performs this on herself in a way that's not just a bit suggestive, even commenting that it's "no wonder that people enjoy this."
- Tomomi does this off for Kouichi in Moonlight Lady, much to the chagrin of Io.
- Bes and Karala pull this off towards the end of Space Runaway Ideon.
- In Missle Happy this turns out to be the innocent reason what's going on between Ryo and Mikako at the time. Her overprotective sister Megumi and his father are about to pay a visit when they hear Mikako practically moaning how good Ryo makes it feel and Ryo responds with asking if she wants him to 'go deeper'. Cue Megumi kicking the door down and preparing to rage at Ryo for taking advantage of her sister.
- Elda does the for her son in Karin. He meets the hazard, as well.
- In Hidamari Sketch, when Hiro, Miyako, and Yuno walk in on Sae's room and find her asleep on the floor with a note on the progress of the story she's writing, Hiro kneels down and puts Sae's head on her lap. Yuno, charmed at Hiro and Sae's intimacy, runs over and offers Hiro an ear pick, to Hiro's confusion.
- Happy Lesson gives us a terrifying version in which Chitose is Strapped to an Operating Table and ends up with a punctured eardrum.
- Done by Vanilla for Kokomo in one Galaxy Angel Party manga where Kokomo thinks Vanilla is his mom.
- Rather unusually done for Manji by Rin in Blade of the Immortal.
- In The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World, Teltina promises to give Rosie a Lap Pillow along with an ear cleaning to get Rosie to cooperate with Tougo and fight as Back-to-Back Badasses.
- One of the (very many) outlandish schemes to conquer Earth in Sgt. Frog involves using an energy wave that causes earpicks to appear in people's hands while giving them the subliminal urge to do this to whoever is next to them.
- There was a scene in a much earlier anime, where a maker of traditional wooden earpicks is almost phased out by a newfangled invention, the Mimikaki Machine. Resembling a sewing machine with a woman's folded legs at its base and a mounted earpick over it, the horrific implications became clear as the machine was turned on, and subsequently started bucking and jabbing up and down like an unbalanced washing machine.
- Occurs in Change 123 when Kosukegawa imagines Motoko as his wife.
- In the manga Osuteki Darling, protagonist Seri's brother-in-law wants to clean his wife's ears. She refuses, then says with a blush "The inside of my ears... are for Seri only." He then slowly turns to Seri and declares "You're my enemy!"
- In Samurai Gun, Hooker with a Heart of Gold Ohana does this for Ichimatsu, then suggestively asks if he wants anything else. Given his Celibate Hero nature, Ichimatsu doesn't.
- In Bastard!! (1988), Yoko cleans Dark Schneider's ear after chewing him out for using a very dangerous spell to utterly destroy an enemy (and nearly the entire village they were in with it). Dark Schneider, being the pervert he is, starts using the position he's in to freely grope her.
- One ending stinger panel of Case Closed has Heiji's dad Heizou submitting to an ear cleaning in which his Almighty Mom of a wife, Shizuka, was rougher than usual, being unhappy that he put Heiji in danger.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo episode 5, but besides the Innocent Innuendo because a certain someone misheard, it's played straight. Lap, pick in ear, feels good.
- Sana from Kodocha does this at one point to Hayama when she wants to teach him what it is like to have a mother (being Sana, she didn't have the proper tools handy and used a very thick branch as a substitute; Hilarity Ensues). They become a couple later on.
- In a sweet subversion of Futari Ecchi's usual stance that All Men Are Perverts, when Yura offers to do "anything" for Makoto, he asks her to do this.
- In the second season of Ah! My Goddess, Keiichi gets his ears cleaned by Belldandy in one episode and Hild in another.
- Atsushi's fiancee does this to him in a chapter of Higanjima.
- Poor Poor Lips has a chapter that revolved around Nako cleaning Ren's ear. The intimate subtext of the act gets lampshaded for all its worth.
Nako: (Describing her ear cleaning technique) You gently tickle the outside of the ear before you remove the earwax. That helps the person relax, so the hole opens up wider.
Ren: (thinking to herself) ... Foreplay?
- Otae does this to her future grandfather-in-law in Gintama in a show of how perfect a wife she would eventually be for the Yagyuu heir. And then she pulls out a really large blob of...stuff from the old man's ear. Horrified, and with some effort, she shoves it back in.
- In Witch Craft Works, Kagari does this for Takamiya as a method of drawing power from him in order to escape a very well-built prison cell. She considers it even better than a kiss (on the cheek), despite not showing any expression.
- In Sachiare!, Sachiko's attempts to clean her husband's ears are hampered by his playful face-burrowing.
- In Tokyo Ghoul :Re, Team Mom Sasaki readily agrees when Saiko asks him to clean her ears. It further establishes their close relationship, with him acting as a Parental Substitute and her affectionately calling him "Mama".
- The Elder Sister-like One: Since this is common for elder sisters to perform on younger brothers, Chiyo insist on doing this for her adoptive brother Yuu. With her tentacles. Judging from his reactions, this is an intensely erotic sensation, much like having someone lick your entire ear canal.
- In Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sou, Ayaka is exceptionally skilled at this. She's shown doing it for her sister Nana, Aki, and later Matsuri with all of them lying on her Lap Pillow.
- In a chapter of Squid Girl, Chizuru tries to do this to the titular character as she's sleeping on her Lap Pillow. Unfortunately, Squid Girl is so terrified of Chizuru that she misinterprets this genuinely kind offer as a death threat, and runs away in panic; to Chizuru's confusion and dismay.
- In, The Helpful Fox Senko-san, Senko does this to Nakano in the fifth chapter. Apparently, she is very famous for her ear cleaning skills. In the anime, she also performs it on the audience during the Super Senko Time of the same episode.
- In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Shirogane and Osaragi get so tired of Ishigami and Iino's cat-and-dog relationship that they attempt to improve the pair's relationship by doing several friendly/intimate things together. One of the ideas is ear-cleaning, but Iino is absolutely disgusted by the idea of putting her head in Ishigami's lap and he doesn't trust her with sharp objects, so it ends up with Iino laying halfway across a sofa and coffee table while Ishigami lies on the floor underneath her with the ear pick.
- Minare does this in Wave, Listen to Me! when she spends the day with her ex-boyfriend Mitsuo. She finishes up one ear before she is promptly reminded of why she broke up with him in the first place when she realizes he's still the same Manchild scammer he always was.
- I Want Your Mother To Be With Me!: The cover of the second tankobon volume has Yuzuki cleaning Ryo's ears. A bonus artwork shows her cleaning Haruka's as well.
- In the Chinese epic The Emperor's Shadow (Qin Song), the emperor's adult daughter cleans his ears with a wooden pick; at one point she holds his eardrum hostage with it in order to extract a favor from him.
- In the novel No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, Takeichi got an ear infection from staying outside in the rain so his friend Yozo cleaned his ears. Takeichi commented that Yozo's kindness can get him anything he wanted.
- In a scene in Japanese-Canadian author Hiromi Goto's novel Chorus Of Mushrooms, the main character's mother cleans her ears, which helps bond mother and daughter.
- In Higurashi: When They Cry having to do this was a frequent penalty in the club's punishment games.
- You must do this to have sex (or Hot Cocoa) with the girls in order to win their affections in Steambot Chronicles.
- During Lisianthus' path in SHUFFLE!, she does this to Rin as his birthday present to her.
- In Miki's route in CROSSCHANNEL, she does this for Taichi. It's actually incredibly painful for Taichi as Miki basically forces him into it.
- In Little Busters!, one of the CGs in Kurugaya's route involves her doing this to Riki.
- A throwaway scene in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory has Plutia cleaning Neptune's ears. All goes well at first, until Plutia pokes a sensitive spot, and then decides she likes Neptune's "ow" expression...
"You're stabbing my brain!"
- ASMR videos sometimes use this as a theme, either in roleplay scenarios or as simply using the tool(s) on a microphone with an ear-shaped receiver.
- Bob's Burgers: Parodied in "Pig Trouble in Little Tina", which has a subplot about Bob having an earwax problem. He's a little weirded out when Linda tries to make cleaning out his ears into a sexy couple's bonding thing.