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The Visual Language of Anime

From action to slice-of-life…


Anime is a world of animated works regardless of their style or origin. It does not have a specific genre per se. Ranging from adventure, thriller, horror, sci-fi to even romance. You name it and they have it all!

So what is it that makes its viewers keep on coming for more? It is undeniable that apart from the visual representation, visual language also has a part to play. Visual language is like the vocabulary of the anime world. Whether it is about highlighting strong emotions to adding humor to the subject, they add more details to the character’s behavior.

For an instance, visual language focuses on the eyes. You must have seen characters with large eyes instead of their usual size. Don’t they fascinate you? Aren’t they unique?

Well, they aren’t just unique, they also have a purpose to represent. Anime uses large eyes as a better emotional expression than those of the small ones. Emotions tend to get highlighted to a better extent.


Here are some of the unique facial expressions you can connect with:


Glittering eyes or eye twinkle might tell that the character is feeling overwhelmed


The red squiggly lines or the straight pink lines show the character blushing which is of course very self-explanatory it is also done in order to make the character look cute or sexual or in some cases just general embarrassment. However in order to show sickness or illness black or purple lines are used instead of the red/pink ones.


The bleeding nose links with a sexual attraction that is often shown by men in anime


Yuri in Yuri On Ice Anime Nosebleed
Yuri in Yuri On Ice || Source: https://twitter.com/pineabul/status/1265642325520285696/photo/1

De-animation represents the anime characters abruptly changing into pencil sketches in response to extreme happiness, shock, or if caught by surprise. It is usually done in order to add a kick of humor to it


Some other visual emotions which are commonly seen in these cartoons are:

The blank face is also quite common in anime, which usually depicts the character’s embarrassment, guilt, or shame.

The fountain of tears a.k.a the crocodile tears is very popular among the anime characters which expresses the character's immense pain or sadness, often exaggerated a bit.

The Ghost effect: A tiny ghost or the spirit comes out of the anime character's mouth in order to show that the character is depressed or has been knocked out of surprise.


All of these visual representations seem to add humor to the roles and behaviors of the characters. It sounds a bit strange for those who have just started watching anime, rather difficult to comprehend at times because let's be real. Squeaky eyes and the abrupt background changing in response to the action are not quite common. However as the viewers dive into the world of anime, all of these small visual languages add up to its animation and in return express their thoughts and actions to its viewers in a much better way!



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