What big eyes you have!
Submitted by dave_roman on January 30, 2009 - 17:32
I just came across this quote from a fairly well informed writer who I generally respect:
"*insert show title here* was created to be a Western approximation of certain Anime styles, which apparently includes the odd decision that Anime filmmakers and designers often opt for, that of making all their characters look more Caucasian than anything else. "
I disagree. And I think this is a common misconception that really needs to be addressed more. Iâ€™m certainly no expert, but based on everything Iâ€™ve read, big eyes in anime do NOT represent Caucasian. They represent CARTOON. The same way "pacman eyes" did in the early 20s or â€œgoogly eyesâ€ in the 80â€™s. They are SHORTHAND used by specific artists to convey heightened expression and emotion to the viewer. The kinds of broad strokes emotion that takes full advantage of the animation medium as well as sequential art. It's a stylistic philosophy that is intrinsic to cartooning (both western and eastern) and has nothing to do with attempts at realistic representation. Cartoonist usually arenâ€™t interested in complete accuracy of any facial features. Eyes CAN be changed to represent different races or origins, but more often they are not. Iâ€™ve seen anime about American families and anime about Japanese people and the approach to the eyes were exactly the same! No one assumes that â€œdot eyesâ€ in American comics represent people with actually tiny eyes. Little Orphan Annie isnâ€™t supposed to be the story of a girl with no pupils.
Big eyes in manga and anime are akin to that of Jim Hensonâ€™s Muppets, whose eyes were
strategically designed to captivating the viewer watching them on a TV set in contrast to the way regular puppets were built to work on stages. No further proof of the effectiveness of this trick is how often anime haters focus on the eyes and ignore everything else!
The fact that so many white people identify anime characters as white speaks to the universality of the characters and transcending power of the cartoon medium. Just like Scott McCloud points out in â€œUnderstanding Comicsâ€, we all see faces and give our own personality to the inanimate. And the simpler, the more universal. So itâ€™s understandable that weâ€™d all want to see cartoons in our own unique way. Itâ€™s why Iâ€™m glad they never animated Calvin and Hobbes, contradicting the way those characters sound in my head.
Back in the early days, shojo manga (for girls, but written by men) focused almost exclusively on emotion. The characters all had big eyes, the better to communicate with. Now that the lines have blurred, big eyes have become a trademark. They connote sensitivity; the bigger the eyes, the nicer and more sensitive the person. Usually.