Otaku Culture

What Do Those “Weird” Eye Expressions Mean?

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One of the first things many fans notice when they first get into anime/manga is how the eyes are constantly used as a way to express the characters feelings. The old saying goes that your eyes are the window to your soul, and that couldn’t be truer for these mediums. But have you ever really thought about what they meant? Well let’s take a look at a few that pop up all the time.

The blank, white eyes of nothingness.

Blank Face - White Eyes - Anime Face

We’ve seen these characters sprawled out on the floor, breathing heavy or not breathing at all. They’re basically lying there, temporarily dead. Well, these are eyes of a character that’s been stunned or traumatized into a state of blankness in their mind.

This could be in both a good or bad way, good being more romantic, bad being heartbroken. Consider it a hyperactive version of having your eyes roll up in the back of your head.

Hiding the eyes.

Anime Face - Hiding Eyes - Scared Expression

Perhaps one of the most telling things in eye expressions is when they’re not there at all. Hidden behind bangs or brows, this tells us that the emotional reaction of the character is beyond that in which can be expressed.

They are usually in a dire situation – someone close to them has died, they’ve been abused, or a secret of theirs has been revealed. There is also shade drawn on their face, further hiding them.

The “cat eyes.”

Anime Face - Cat Face Expression

These are emoticon’s that look like “:3” and they usually invoke a sense of playfulness to the character. His or her eyes tend to be a bit narrowed, like they’re up to no good but it’s not something terrible. If anything it’s usually teasing or flirting, or both. Special note of the mouth, as it tends to be a bit squiggly

The “puppy eyes.”

Anime Face - Puppy eyes

As a counter to the rather hidden intentions of the “cat eyes,” we have the puppy eyes, which is much wider. They’re meant to invoke a sense of vulnerability and honesty within the recipient and thus make them sympathetic to the one who expresses themselves like that.

As the eyes are the window to the soul, they are meant to allude to someone opening wide and signaling for those who see it too look inside and see how innocent this person is. However it can be just as conniving as the “cat eyes.”

The shoujo sparkle.

Anime Puppy Eye Expression

This is your day dreaming sort of a character, found especially in the shoujo realm of anime and manga. Their eyes take up a lot of the space on the page, and sometimes seem to glint with a sheen and sparkle in them.

Sometimes you’ll see small allusions to what they’re feeling. For instance, sometimes there is a sky in their eye, and you can practically see stars in them. Or there’s little hearts floating in the pupil area. These characters are usually overcome with infatuation and adoration for the person who their eyes fall on. This leads to…

What’s in your eye, literally?

Anime face expressions

This is when the eyes basically become something else. Are you in love? Your eyes literally become two hearts? Angry? They’re two sets of flames.

But it’s not always drawn out for the reader or watcher. Sometimes, like the swirls in one’s eyes, can mean something more symbolic. Like for instance, Gurio Umino from Sailor Moon has big swirls for eyes, which is meant to represent his crazy, creepy undertones.

Tearful eyes.

Aniime Tearful Eyes Expression

There is a variety of different tearful eyes, but the two main ones are either eyes that are glistening with tears, or the full works in which it seems like tears are gushing out of the character’s face like a geyser.

For the lingering, glistening tears, there is meant to be a an unsettling feeling that builds up in us like that of the first seen from Plastic Memories in which the two main characters first meet.

The other is more comedic and usually all emotional intensity is spent on the character, not us. We’re meant to laugh at their misfortune and their over expressiveness.