by Yukako Ikezoe
Having read Terry Kawashima’s piece, “Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual tropes of Racial Differences”, I also started wondering why the eyes of characters in Japanese manga are big, even though I had never strongly questioned that before. Readers from Western countries might have wondered about the looks of characters in Manga because the characters’ features are similar to the features Caucasians have, including round eyes or blond hair.
Thinking about the real purpose of this kind of trend from the perspective of Japanese myself, I would say that is not because Japanese strongly desire to get big eyes like Caucasians, but rather because big eyes are one of the most important techniques to express characters’ minds and make it easier for readers to observe its minute movements, since only iconography and visual languages are used to let readers read what characters are thinking. Therefore readers can easily read characters’ thoughts by looking at their facial expressions with unique movements of their eyes.
There is a proverb “目は口ほどにものを言う” ,meaning that “the eyes are the window of the mind”, or “the eyes say more than the mouth” in English. This thinking also makes us consent to the trend of large eyes in Japanese Manga. Making up for sounds or animation which enable us to understand situations and feelings of characters more easily, various movements of eyes are also a center tool for writers as well as for readers. Using large eyes can be considered as one of the essential tools or techniques to add affluent expressions on characters. Inspired by Disney cartoons, Osamu Tezuka known as a talented Japanese manga writer, also started using that technique in order to emphasize greater expressions of characters. His works then have been the basis for all manga today. In spite of the fact that the way of drawing characters was also influenced from the West, a reason is not always the strong desire of Japanese towards Caucasians, but rather Japanese manga writers adopt the Western styles into their drawings.
I am always amazed by that technique when reading manga since characters with various expressions on eyes give plenty of punches and enable me to empathize with the manga world in which only visual languages and pictures are used. Japanese writers uniquely use huge eyes as a technique to add greater emotions on characters, which is still putting many manga fans from all over the world into a trance today.
Tabatha Butler.(2013). How Walt Disney Influenced Anime. Retrieved from http://themovieblog.com/2013/how-walt-disney-influenced-anime/
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