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Why do the characters in most anime look Western (European)?

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Stoney Mason

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Was curious why this is the case to my eyes. By no means am I a real big anime fan. I tend to like the stuff my friends will point out to me as good such as Bebop, Trigun, Escaflowne, Evangelion, etc and I have a major thing from youth for Robotech/Macross, Voltron, etc but left to my own devices I probably wouldn't watch much of it. I'm more of a cinema guy.

But in most of the anime I've seen the characters often appear to have very classical "European" features. Blond Hair and Long Hair, nose and eye shape, skin tone, etc. I don't think I even realized as a kid that these characters were supposed to be Japanese in most cases. I thought they were just white people and I definitely in most cases didn't realize they were supposed to be asian unless the name somehow reflected that.

So why is this? Does the art form reflect an appreciation for a European aesthetic? Is it just a part of the history of the art form? Is it something that's not even there that I'm reading into it? I could probably go search on wikipedia or do google searches but I'm too lazy right now and I figure there are enough anime fans on this board to enlighten me.
 

Ichirou

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They don't look "European" (i.e., white). Japanese people think Europeans have big noses, ruddy skin, and are generally loud, fat, and hairy. :lol

Characters in Japanese anime generally have more delicate features (small noses, chins, very little or no facial hair, etc.) which is how the Japanese see themselves as. The hair/eye color variations are simply there to make it easy to distinguish between characters, I'd say.

The big eyes have been a part of animation tradition since Tezuka, who took his cues from Disney stuff, so that's where that comes from, I think.
 

Mute

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Ichirou_Oogami said:
The hair/eye color variations are simply there to make it easy to distinguish between characters.
There's a joke here that I'm afraid to make.
 
Yeah, it's how they see themselves. They have large eyes, little noses, and small mouths, straight hair that comes in a rainbow of colors and are silently kawaii.

/me scoffs.

The only thing that's mostly drawn right when japanese draw "themselves" are the lack of an ass and lips.
 

Ichirou

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Verboten said:
Yeah, it's how they see themselves. They have large eyes, little noses, and small mouths, straight hair that comes in a rainbow of colors and are silently kawaii.

/me scoffs.
It's true, though. See how Americans are drawn when they appear in manga. They have smaller eyes, big noses, and are generally quite hairy.
 

bjork

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hey, how come american comics draw everyone buff as ****? if we drew them like real americans, they'd have asses that stuck out on the sides and bellies that hung over their belts, right
 

BlackMage

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Ichirou_Oogami said:
They don't look "European" (i.e., white). Japanese people think Europeans have big noses, ruddy skin, and are generally loud, fat, and hairy. :lol
and all japanese look like clones of each other.. yeah i ****ing went there, you racist prick!
 

Ichirou

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BlackMage said:
and all japanese look like clones of each other.. yeah i ****ing went there, you racist prick!
God, you're a moron. Learn to read.

I'm not even Japanese so if your intent was to offend me, fission mailed, babe.
 
Nah, it ain't. I mean, as an artists, it's hard not to draw picturesque or ideally (how you want to look), but few styles have perfected that kind of skill where japanese the japanese look actually asian and other details. Can't think of many that come to mind right nw since I'm ass tired, but I'll post some probably tomorrow. Anime or manga, hell, art in general that can display beautiful, average, unique, and ugly people is rare. Balled up all together, I think that's what's true art.
 

BlackMage

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Jun 6, 2004
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Ichirou_Oogami said:
God, you're a moron. Learn to read.
i hate people like you who move to another country and think you're some kind of representative from there, now. **** you!
 

bjork

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What I want to know is why, when they draw the poop and pee in hentai, the people always shoot out way more than their bodies could ever hold.

You ever see that Night Shift Nurses where the lady gets the hose up her butt and then poops everywhere? Physically impossible, I says.
 

Ichirou

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Sep 2, 2004
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bjork said:
What I want to know is why, when they draw the poop and pee in hentai, the people always shoot out way more than their bodies could ever hold.

You ever see that Night Shift Nurses where the lady gets the hose up her butt and then poops everywhere? Physically impossible, I says.
It was compressed poop, that's why when it hit the air it immediately started to expand. Explains everything.
 
Ichirou_Oogami said:
God, you're a moron. Learn to read.

I'm not even Japanese so if your intent was to offend me, fission mailed, babe.
Don't be offended. Sometimes your japanophileness gives off a stink. I'm not trying to offend you, but if you are, hey. I usually agree with your sentiments, but sometimes you go to far. heh, remember that pocky thread?

Ichirou_Oogami said:
It was compressed poop, that's why when it hit the air it immediately started to expand. Explains everything.
That's stanlee-esque in a way. That's the same explanation for spidey's webbing.
 

Shouta

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Anime characters also aren't supposed to emulate Japanese people exactly as I recall.

Besides, anime characters don't really look all that western anyway. They're pretty neutral looking if you ask me but neutral in the sense that it could be anybody but actual Japanese people for the most part anyway. There's also anime characters that are Japanese that actually do look Japanese. Kanuka Clancy (although she's half-Japanese) and Takeo Kumagami from Patlabor actually look Japanese.
 

Ichirou

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Sep 2, 2004
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BlackMage said:
i hate people like you who move to another country and think you're some kind of representative from there, now. **** you!
You're just angry 'cause your mom sleeps with random men she chats with on the Internets. Keep it out of this thread. :lol

Anyway, one of my fellow teachers did a poll with her students as to what their view was of the typical American. The most common responses were "tall", "big noses", "fat", "hairy", "red skin" (i.e., sunburned) and "eat a lot of hamburgers."

We also must remember that a lot of Japanese people dye their hair nowadays. For example, look at something like GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka) - the main character has dyed blond hair. In this case, it's not meant to reflect his having a "European" look or even just to distinguish him from the other characters - it's done to represent his "tough guy" image.

In most other cases, though - the rainbow-colored hair, the outrageous costumes and bizarre school uniforms - they're all designed so the characters are easily distinguishable for merchandising and public recognition purposes.
 

BlackMage

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Jun 6, 2004
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Ichirou_Oogami said:
You're just angry 'cause your mom sleeps with random men she chats with on the Internets. Keep it out of this thread. :lol
why dont you keep your stupid shit out of this thread and mind your own ****ing business. god you are ****ing pathetic
 

J2 Cool

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Ichirou_Oogami said:
The hair/eye color variations are simply there to make it easy to distinguish between characters, I'd say.
Which is a terrible pass for designing same character over and over and over again. Not all anime is so unoriginal, but there's a good chunk out there that take that route. Some even posted in the "Best anime artstyle ever" thread. Ridiculous. I'm much more a fan of the directors and studios who actually create new and pretty bold character designs. Studio 4c or Shinichiro Wantanabe's guys' from Champloo come to mind.
 

Stoney Mason

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Aug 2, 2006
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J2 Cool said:
Which is a terrible pass for designing same character over and over and over again. Not all anime is so unoriginal, but there's a good chunk out there that take that route. Some even posted in the "Best anime artstyle ever" thread. Ridiculous. I'm much more a fan of the directors and studios who actually create new and pretty bold character designs. Studio 4c or Shinichiro Wantanabe's guys' from Champloo come to mind.

Interesting you brought that up as in the original post I was going to add pictures to sort of make my point clear to show different style. Like in Champloo they still have a few western style features but I always visually recognized them as their ethnicity like below.




Versus something like Evangelion which isn't going for this look.



No big deal like I said earlier. I'm more into the psychology and history side of things than animation techiques so it was always something that puzzled me when I watch anime. Thinking on it now, I also realize a lot of anime isn't necessarily representing Japan or other asians cultures but they take place in parallel universe world like Final Fantasy. Albeit they still look western to my eyes. :)


"Princess Allura"

I also don't won't watch a ton of anime so it could be just that percentage wise I've watched more that favors this style but that isn't reflective of the entire body of anime.
 

Jacobi

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Jun 11, 2004
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Isn't this because anime was based on western cartoons ? Saw a documentary of the history of cartoons and stuff... And that was what they said.
 

MetalAlien

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Shouta said:
Anime characters also aren't supposed to emulate Japanese people exactly as I recall.

Besides, anime characters don't really look all that western anyway. They're pretty neutral looking if you ask me but neutral in the sense that it could be anybody but actual Japanese people for the most part anyway. There's also anime characters that are Japanese that actually do look Japanese. Kanuka Clancy (although she's half-Japanese) and Takeo Kumagami from Patlabor actually look Japanese.

Neutral looking? Let's see every race but white comes in (mostly, I know it's not exact) one hair color. So if the character has any hair color but black, they dye it (in the story), or are one of the freaks that are not white and without black hair. (not to mention eye color)

sweeping generalities I know.. but this is GAF, anywhere else you can say something like this and everyone is like. "yea!" but here you have to prepare for the 2 people who completely disagree... there is always at least 2.
 

Cdammen

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Jacobi said:
Isn't this because anime was based on western cartoons ? Saw a documentary of the history of cartoons and stuff... And that was what they said.


Wasn't it Disney's Bambi that Tezuka got his inspiration from?

I'm just guessing so don't bash :)

*reading Wikipedia now*

(EDIT) In the anime article at Wikipedia.
Osamu Tezuka adapted and simplified many Disney animation precepts to reduce the budget costs...
So... huge eyes = easier (and cheaper) for characters to emote.
 

Shouta

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MetalAlien said:
Neutral looking? Let's see every race but white comes in (mostly, I know it's not exact) one hair color. So if the character has any hair color but black, they dye it (in the story), or are one of the freaks that are not white and without black hair. (not to mention eye color)

sweeping generalities I know.. but this is GAF, anywhere else you can say something like this and everyone is like. "yea!" but here you have to prepare for the 2 people who completely disagree... there is always at least 2.
Either I'm still tired or your post makes absolutely no sense.

Anime characters generally look neutral in regards to ethnic/racial origin except for the fact they don't look Japanese. If they want to signify someone of an origin other than Japanese, it's usually a stereotype or cliche rather than hair color or eye color such as Americans are all brash, loud, crazy and etc. It's stupid but that's how anime does it.
 

davepoobond

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Shouta said:
Either I'm still tired or your post makes absolutely no sense.

Anime characters generally look neutral in regards to ethnic/racial origin except for the fact they don't look Japanese. If they want to signify someone of an origin other than Japanese, it's usually a stereotype or cliche rather than hair color or eye color such as Americans are all brash, loud, crazy and etc. It's stupid but that's how anime does it.
so vegeta is an american? nice.
 

Escape Goat

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I hate how cheerful anime characters are. For example:


Generic anime hero: Lets go save Gaiku!

Generic female sidekick: *giggles* Right!

Lame animal character: We can do it! *nod, grunt*

Generic butch man sidekick: Lets go! Yeah!




or if a character is having trouble....

Generic anime hero: Unnngh!

Generic female sidekick: You can do it! *female gasp*

Lame animal character: Yeah, thers no stopping you!

Generic butch man sidekick: Don't give up! *fist clenched*
 

MetalAlien

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Shouta said:
Either I'm still tired or your post makes absolutely no sense.

Anime characters generally look neutral in regards to ethnic/racial origin except for the fact they don't look Japanese. If they want to signify someone of an origin other than Japanese, it's usually a stereotype or cliche rather than hair color or eye color such as Americans are all brash, loud, crazy and etc. It's stupid but that's how anime does it.

Naw, my point being to to japan and take a photo of a street crossing, and you see an ocean of black hair... pop in an anime and suddenly hair color is as random as for example... a street crossing in New York...

My point ends there though... any further conclusions are your own.
 
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Teh Hamburglar said:
I hate how cheerful anime characters are. For example:


Generic anime hero: Lets go save Gaiku!

Generic female sidekick: *giggles* Right!

Lame animal character: We can do it! *nod, grunt*

Generic butch man sidekick: Lets go! Yeah!




or if a character is having trouble....

Generic anime hero: Unnngh!

Generic female sidekick: You can do it! *female gasp*

Lame animal character: Yeah, thers no stopping you!

Generic butch man sidekick: Don't give up! *fist clenched*
wow what was the last anime you've seen? Sailor Moon? :lol :lol
 

PipBoy

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Jun 5, 2006
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MetalAlien said:
Naw, my point being to to japan and take a photo of a street crossing, and you see an ocean of black hair... pop in an anime and suddenly hair color is as random as for example... a street crossing in New York...

My point ends there though... any further conclusions are your own.
You should watch Mushishi, pretty much every character (exept the main one) look the same.
 

temp

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Teh Hamburglar said:
I hate how cheerful anime characters are. For example:


Generic anime hero: Lets go save Gaiku!

Generic female sidekick: *giggles* Right!

Lame animal character: We can do it! *nod, grunt*

Generic butch man sidekick: Lets go! Yeah!




or if a character is having trouble....

Generic anime hero: Unnngh!

Generic female sidekick: You can do it! *female gasp*

Lame animal character: Yeah, thers no stopping you!

Generic butch man sidekick: Don't give up! *fist clenched*
:lol This sounds like it was ripped verbatim from some anime to me.
 
Sep 27, 2005
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Cdammen said:


Wasn't it Disney's Bambi that Tezuka got his inspiration from?

I'm just guessing so don't bash :)

*reading Wikipedia now*

(EDIT) In the anime article at Wikipedia.

So... huge eyes = easier (and cheaper) for characters to emote.
Isn't it funny than decades later Disney [the company, not the man] went and plagiarized Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion to make The Lion King? [which funnily enough was known as one of Disney's first original feature films IIRC]. Well, I guess you give and you get.
 

J2 Cool

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Funny enough, about the eyes, sometimes it's just the studio being too lazy and too scared to change what works. Though we're used to Disney eyes over here, they really didn't change over the years either. Especially on female leads and their heroic men - or the princes and princesses if you will. They were all especially simple, non-flawed and non-distinct outside of eyecolor/hair - barring the fairly different Snow White..





That's why I always tended to enjoy the non-royalty "happily ever after" stories back then. They simply had more fun with the design. I'd much more biased to guys like Roger than any Prince..



And while that's still the popular way to go, companies are beginning to experiment again design-wise - both overseas and here. Along with the pre-mentioned Shinichiro Wantanabe, there's also Chris Sanders from Disney and Pixar who're always using fun and varied designs.




(Check out the variation in eyes and how they differed the usually generic females)





Really, since about Lion King/Pocahontas, Disney's gotten pretty good designing characters admittedly. Unfortunately the stories went down, but the actual characters designs of Pocahontas and Mulan are some of the best distinct female characters done in feature film. Lilo & Stitch and Emperor's New Groove also are bold and pretty great. Unfortunately the Disney eyes still diminish a character's strength or plague them wholy once in awhile. Tarzan's eyes bugged me, but he's a hell of a character design. Jim Hawkins meanwhile, didn't have enough redeemable design qualities to forgive the bland eyes, lack of actual teeth, and other qualities that seep into medicore formulaic works.

Teh Hamburglar said:
I hate how cheerful anime characters are. For example:


Generic anime hero: Lets go save Gaiku!

Generic female sidekick: *giggles* Right!

Lame animal character: We can do it! *nod, grunt*

Generic butch man sidekick: Lets go! Yeah!




or if a character is having trouble....

Generic anime hero: Unnngh!

Generic female sidekick: You can do it! *female gasp*

Lame animal character: Yeah, thers no stopping you!

Generic butch man sidekick: Don't give up! *fist clenched*
That's definitelty out there, but you have to go see more anime. Monster for instance.
 

AniHawk

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Teh Hamburglar said:
I hate how cheerful anime characters are. For example:


Generic anime hero: Lets go save Gaiku!

Generic female sidekick: *giggles* Right!

Lame animal character: We can do it! *nod, grunt*

Generic butch man sidekick: Lets go! Yeah!




or if a character is having trouble....

Generic anime hero: Unnngh!

Generic female sidekick: You can do it! *female gasp*

Lame animal character: Yeah, thers no stopping you!

Generic butch man sidekick: Don't give up! *fist clenched*
Are you sure you weren't watching Power Rangers?
 
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