How anime characters appear caucasian?

Having just started watching season 1 of Bleach, I remembered something that had been niggle-ing me for a while.
How come, in most animes the characters look quite caucasian, most notably in skin tone and hair colour.

Why wouldn’t the artists want to make them look more Japanese?

(My apologies for not noticing the omission of ‘from’ between ‘how’ and ‘anime’ in the title, I posted before I realised)

From what I recall, anime/manga was originally modeled after Disney animation, hence the large Caucasian eyes. As for the colored hair, that’s just to make it easier to distinguish between characters in most cases.

This is just my personal theory and could be totally wrong:
First of all they want to appeal to American audiences.
Second it’s simply a case of copying those shows that are popular. The people who fund anime are afraid to take chances. They’'d rather follow the standardized formula.
By the way there are a few anime with Oriental looking characters, most notably Spirited Away and Tekkon Kinkreet.

Western things are “cool” in Japan, the same way Japanese things are cool here. There are some histories of anime and, more importantly manga, you can download but the gist of it is that using english names, places, etc was seen as attractive to potential buyers. You’ll also see sexy Italian sportscars or American muslce cars, not necessarily Japanese cars.

The early anime pioneers were also essentially copying Disney. That’s probably where it started. Copying Disney was a good way to be cool and to guarantee a quality product.

Thanks for the insight guys :slight_smile:

I just can’t quite get my head round the fact that (in this example, Bleach) the main character has been drawn with caucasian skin, ginger/blond hair, and then they call him Ichigo Kurosaki!

Moving to Cafe Society from GQ.

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I know, and this guy is named Urahara Kisuke! :smiley:

There’s also the argument that humans are hardwired to find big round eyes cute, like other babylike qualities.

I think partly it’s American sensibilities interpreting some things as ‘white,’ though, when Japanese audiences don’t consider them so. Pale skin has historically been valued in Japan, and I wouldn’t assume that pale = Caucasian. Anime characters who are drawn with large noses are supposed to be Caucasian, while a small nose denotes normal Japanese-ness.

The hair, as above, is just to differentiate and be interesting. Eyes too, I’m thinking.

I don’t think they particularly look Caucasian, and if you look at the way Caucasian characters are portrayed in anime, they look different from Japanese characters.

Sidenote: Ichigo translates to ‘strawberry’–his name (and possibly that of the show, I’m not certain) comes from his orange hair. There’s a point made early in the show that he gets picked on a lot because of his hair colour, which is unusual in Japan, hence why he’s so good at street fighting.

My best friend is a huge anime fan, so I’ll comment on some of these points based on how he’s explained it to me.

The Japanese interpret large eyes as being more “friendly”, and small eyes as “unfriendly”. Hence, villains are often drawn with small, squinty eyes.

[My own observation] I’ve seen plenty of Japanese, usually female, whose skin is whiter than mine.[/my own observation]

Exactly. If you look closely at a lot of “traditional” anime, particularly when the cast is all or mostly female, you’ll notice that their faces all look almost exactly the same. Hair color and style is how they differentiate the characters.

My friend says there are two standard ways to portray Americans in anime: “big and stupid” and “rail-thin, smart, and evil”.

Not at all. Most anime and manga are made exclusively for the Japanese market with no thought about how it will be exported to the rest of the world.

There are two factors at work:

  1. The influence of Disney on Osama Tezuka, the “father of anime”.

  2. Differences in how racial differences are coded in different cultures. In America Japanese characters are drawn with slanty eyes. In Japan American characters are drawn with big noses.

I just want to highlight this. In a few series you’ll have a Caucasian introduced into the scene. They’ll often be bigger and taller, and look nearly like albinos. They definitely look -different- however the artist decides to differentiate them.

Americans and Japanese look a lot more alike than we do different. In a medium like a cartoon, with very low detail, it’s going to be hard to tell the difference. So an American looking at a Japanese cartoon character will see “normal-looking human”, and since most Americans think of “normal-looking” as being “American”, they’ll look like one of us. Meanwhile, a Japanese person looking at the same cartoon will also see a “normal-looking human”, and so see the character as Japanese.

I think it’s funny that you use Bleach and Ichigo for examples, when you ignore the Kuchiki family, who represent traditional Japanese values - especially Byakuya.

If he’s at the beginning of the first season, as he said in the OP, he hasn’t met Byakuya yet.

Indeed, I’m only up to episode 3.

Could somebody post a link to an example of this?

This question has come up before, and with regard to skin color I have to wonder what color people think the Japanese are. The skin tone of most anime characters is not unrealistic for Japan. (It’s certainly more realistic than The Simpsons is for Americans!)

With regard to hair color, first of all not everyone in Japan has black hair. Most Japanese are born with black or dark brown hair, but a lot of adults (especially women) dye it other colors. You’ll occasionally see bleach-blonde Japanese, although that’s considered pretty extreme. Auburn or brown is quite common, though. Thinking of my office when I worked in Japan, out of 10 Japanese women only one or two didn’t dye their hair. Anime also uses all kinds of unnatural hair colors like pink, green, and blue, so why not yellow and red too?

As others have mentioned upthread, when an animator or cartoonist wants to indicate that a character is Western, they typically give him a big nose.