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Post Reply Are anime characters supposed to look like Japanese people?
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22 / M / Cali
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Posted 7/30/17 , edited 7/30/17
are anime characters supposed to look like Japanese people"? The reason why I ask this is because this topic has been talked about a lot in the anime community and people are split. Some say that they are supposed to look like Japanese people while others say they look Caucasian. I kind of think that anime characters are just the best part of people (of all races) put together. People who tell me that they look Japanese and not Caucasian say that because most anime characters are drawn with small noses and round faces and that those are traits of Asians not Caucasians and that when Caucasians are drawn in anime they are given big noses and big chins. While that may be true in some cases most Caucasians I have seen in anime like Fullmetal Alchemist, Black Butler and others I have seen that these character look the same as every other Japanese anime character. Plus I think that's just a stereotype cause I haven't seen a Japanese person with small nose before and both Asians and Caucasians generally have the same nose sizes. Also its been said that Mangaka's draw foreign characters based on old stereotypes but with things like the internet around can't they just use that as a reference? I feel like if you want to know what a character's ethnicity is than you should just look at the name but even that can get confusing. The creator of the popular anime/manga ONE Piece surprised everyone when he said that the main characters of the anime were all different ethnicities which was confusing cause most of them looked like ever other anime character. I know I wrote a lot but this subject has been on my mind a lot lately.


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Mᴇᴡɴɪ
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Posted 7/30/17

They draw both
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41 / M / California
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Posted 7/30/17
No. The character from Jormungand and Hellsing clearly werent Japanese. The characters from Black Lagoon were from all over the place. Eren Jaeger sounds like an Euopean name. Light Yagami sounds Japanese. To me it just depends on where the anime takes place. Gunsmith Cats is in America so I see them as Americans. Thats just me
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26 / M / bathtub
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Posted 7/30/17
Using big eyes for anime came from imitation of early western cartoon characters. You can check that, I didn't dig around much to really fact check it, but the idea is certainly out there.

I do know that big noses are like a foreigner stereotype to some asian cultures. I also notice that in anime and manga where the style is not on the more realistic side, the facial features of foreigners are dialed up. That's interesting because in a way using the cartoony anime style for all the faces of the japanese characters makes them homogenous and makes characters with more detailed faces stick out. Usually a member of one group saying all members of a different group look alike, not the other way around. xD Chalk it up to a collectivist mind set? However, there are plenty of anime where the same difference in facial details is there except the more detailed faces are given more detail to convey age.

I don't think small round faces are an especifically asian trait considering that having a small head or a small face is considered a desirable and sought after physical trait in Japanese culture. Why would people be concerned about having a small, round face if they all already have that uniformly? Perhaps the people who made that argument to the op conflated Japanese beauty ideals with actual trends in bodily features. Or maybe I don't know what I'm talking about and they do have mostly smaller, round faces, making not having such an alienating feature.

If a Mangaka has a stereotype of what a foreigner looks like they can still use google to find references that fall into that stereotype. As much as an artist may have a bias or preconcieved notion of their own, it is also very possible that stereotypical features are used to que in their audience as to who they are trying to represent. Big nose? Probably a foreigner. I'm not saying it is a right or wrong, just saying sometimes you create more to your audience's anticipated ability to follow along.

So to answer your question, no. The anime style of representing people does not necessarily denote the character being Japanese and how closely they fit into the pattern of how most anime characters look probably shouldn't be seen as denoting their distance from the appearance of Japanese people.

To say something of representing ethnicity in anime, I might add that someone's ethnicity is not something easily determined by appearance alone in all cases. What you said about going based on name is usually where I take my direction in determining a character's ethnicity if the shows doesn't tell me. Obviously, it is more important to convey ethnicity in some way when it is important to the story. In Haganai Kadoka has dirty blonde hair because his mom was English, but people misunderstand him and think he dyes his hair to look like a delinquent and so they shun him. That's my best example off the top of my head. Both the manga and the anime both do a great job of making sure we know this about Kodaka from very early on so we are informed when people treat him coldly.
Posted 7/30/17 , edited 7/30/17
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42 / M
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Posted 7/30/17
I think that asking what race the Simpsons are is very instructive.

Anime characters, aside from the ones that emphasize realistic art, tend to resemble emoji more closely than they actually resemble actual human beings.

Some people might claim that something like this emoji is clearly caucasian and can't be anything else unless the eyes are drawn as slanty lines or the color is much darker, never mind the fact that no normal human being actually has a face that resembles that smiley. Personally I consider that argument kind of racist- they might as well be asking the question "How am I supposed to know that they aren't white if you make them that attractive?"
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26 / F / Various
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Posted 7/31/17 , edited 7/31/17
Done to death topic, but if you insist...


mintyfraud wrote:

I think that asking what race the Simpsons are is very instructive.

Anime characters, aside from the ones that emphasize realistic art, tend to resemble emoji more closely than they actually resemble actual human beings.

Some people might claim that something like this emoji is clearly caucasian and can't be anything else unless the eyes are drawn as slanty lines or the color is much darker, never mind the fact that no normal human being actually has a face that resembles that smiley. Personally I consider that argument kind of racist- they might as well be asking the question "How am I supposed to know that they aren't white if you make them that attractive?"


^ This, though. There's a blog about how to write about "people of color", and it basically says that you have to beat the reader over the head with the character's race, because all readers are racist and will assume the character is white if you don't. And if anyone, anywhere, still assumes the character is white, then the writer is racist. But they're basically saying ^ that.

(That blog was also like, "any dark-skinned person would be offended by having their skin color compared to food," but like... I wouldn't, but I guess I don't count? I don't know, I write a lot of dark-skinned characters just because I... do? I don't do it intentionally, it just comes out that way, and I'm always scared people are going to say I'm doing something wrong...)

I think Westerners - especially Americans - just really have no awareness of how Japanese people think of race. Some anime characters are meant to be Japanese and the fact that they have pink hair and blue eyes has nothing to do with it; some are meant to be foreign, but end up looking more Japanese than the Japanese characters (see Lelouch and Suzaku); and some manga artists actually do try to make their essentially-Japanese characters look foreign (as the creator of Naruto has said about his characters). But Westerners assume their reasons for doing so are based in some sort of shame, of thinking Europeans are prettier or something... but people really don't seem to understand that Japanese people aren't a minority in Japan. It should be obvious, but people just don't seem able to process a country (and an entertainment industry) that really isn't controlled by white people. I'm not saying white people should be offended by Naruto the way people get offended by someone dressing up as a Native American for a costume party, because that would be silly, but it is closer to that than to whatever shame they assume is there (at least in most cases. Nothing applies to everyone).

(Also, speaking of Code Geass, people assuming Britannia has the exact same sort of race issues as the west in real life when literally the first and third highest-ranking people outside of the royal family are black... obviously there's racism, but it's not exactly the same.)

Also side note? Those characters who are still Japanese, but have darker skin than the rest of them sometimes? Hot. Especially with white/blond hair.
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Posted 7/31/17
The short answer is, assume they're Japanese unless informed otherwise, regardless of the art style used.

Longer answer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unW7b6psLQI
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56 / M /
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Posted 7/31/17
It's all about how people perceive themself, both idealistically and realistically, so in anime characters unless obviously foreign will appear to the Japanese as Japanese. One reason that a lot of 'foreign' characters will be half-Japanese.
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16 / M / California
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Posted 7/31/17
Anime characters are supposed to look like anime characters.
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Posted 7/31/17
Not this again...
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Posted 7/31/17
They look like the classic "grey" aliens wearing human suits and contacts to me.
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23 / M / Fraxinus
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Posted 7/31/17
They're supposed to look like whatever they're supposed to look like. If a circular tautology isn't what you're looking for, then they're supposed to look like unrealistic, animated versions of whatever nationality they're supposed to be. When characters can have drills for hair, or purple, red, gold or multicoloured eyes, unnecessarily and unrealistically large boobs, or any other strange physical characteristics, then you can't really completely hold them to real life standards.
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47 / F / Europe
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Posted 7/31/17
I think anime/manga characters are drawn the way they are primarily for practical reasons. Aside from general stylistic trends which have changed over the years, the reason they they have differing hair color etc. is to make it easier to distinguish them from one another. That and what is generally thought appealing like big eyes, small noses.
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26 / M
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Posted 7/31/17
The short answer is "no". Anime characters are already very stylized depictions of humans. Nobody in real life has eyes that big or noses that small. They're not supposed to be accurate representations of any human beings. You just know they're Japanese because they're in Japan and they have Japanese names.
The longer answer that animators do tend to use some visual characteristics to distinguish people when it matters to the story. Caucasians sometimes have bigger noses and chins, for example. Some shows also take hair color seriously, and talk about Japanese characters bleaching their hair when they look blonde. Other shows have people with purple, green, and pink hair running around, unrealistic natural hair colors for any race.
The way I look at it is that even when the animators make some effort to distinguish characters from different races, they all look a lot more like "anime characters" than any real human that has ever lived.
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