The DISTURBING Truth Behind Why Anime Characters Don’t Look Japanese

anzu shiina blonde hair

The argument of whether anime characters LOOK white or Japanese has been going on forever now. And the debate never seems to an end, no matter HOW far each side takes it.

Putting all the irrational bullsh*t and agenda-driven comments aside, there is some good points on both ends of the stick.

But as with every argument or debate….


There are two sides to the same story

I’ve written about this before, so I’m not new to this topic.

In my first article: I talked about the MYTH of anime characters looking white. Mostly to supremacists and some white people who think the world shines out their rear-end.

And to a degree – a small portion of fans in general.

I explained in that article that I “understand” why people believe this. I’m black. So naturally if I see a brown character, bias will kick in and “claim” that character looks like me, and IS like me.

We all do it to an extent, because that’s how we relate to the characters and even understand them.

umiko ahagon new game anime

I also mentioned how anime characters are inherently Japanese, and most Americans, courtesy of bias, will find “blonde” characters to prove their arguments (even though there are examples of Japanese looking characters to destroy the argument).


But there’s another side to the story that has “truth” to it

eriri spencer blonde girl

And that’s the side I’m gonna address in this post. Highlighting the dark truth of why anime characters don’t look Japanese.

And everything connected to that in Asian and Japanese culture.

Let’s get to it.


1. Self-hatred in Asian culture (not just Japan)

The things I’m gonna get into aren’t covered by ANYBODY in the anime industry. And that’s because it’s an uncomfortable truth.

So what am I implying when I say “self hatred”, you might ask…

chinese american woman eye lid surgery

eye lid surgery article

Take the image above as an example. It’s a comparison of a Chinese woman who went through “surgery” to make her eyes more “Caucasian”. Because she hates the way her eyes look.

THIS is the kind of comments that drove her to do it:

“There is the infamous story of Julie Chen in the 90s, the Chinese-American television personality who underwent double eyelid surgery after her boss said she’d never make it as a top news anchor because her eyes made her look “disinterested”. And because she was Chinese.”

Source: Eye Lid Surgery

I mention this because it’s a common thing in Asian culture.

Now let’s get into Japanese culture itself.

japanese eye lid surgery

This article from Business Insider highlights some disturbing facts about Japan.

“Japan and other Asian countries accounted for more than a fifth of the 1.3 million eyelid procedures performed worldwide.

The trend has grown steadily over the past decade, and it’s led some experts to claim that Asian patients are using the procedure, known formally as blepharoplasty, as a way to turn the Asian “monolid” into the double eyelid of Europeans.”

The article THEN says:

“They want a Caucasian-looking eyelid with a fold or a crease of the upper eyelid, as opposed to the classic Asian lid which doesn’t have what we call a tarsal crease.”

Source: B.I


THIS is what I mean by “self hatred” in Japanese and Asian culture

As far as things stand, only a small percentage of Japanese or Asians are having these kinds of surgeries to make themselves look “white” or westernized.

In a lot of cases – it’s the older generation who convinces Japanese people to get plastic surgery, or in this case: eye lid and nose surgery to make their features more European.

Insecurity and being ridiculed is the breeding ground of this, depending on the context and not being happy with their natural looks.

ko yagami gif new game

And even though a lot of Japanese creators, animators, and business people in the anime industry WON’T say it out loud, it’s the damn truth.

Not all of them think this way, but it has a MASSIVE influence on anime designs, characters, and their tendency to look anything BUT Japanese.

erza fairy tail

It’s the reason why you have so many blonde characters with blue eyes, or red-haired characters who don’t look the slightest bit of Japanese.

It’s easy to use the excuse of “BUT it’s harder to make anime characters look Japanese” but in reality – they’ve proved it’s possible already.

shinichi chiaki japanese

kenzo tenma sad

Take a look at the characters in the images above. They have a “natural” Japanese look. And I LOVE these designs because they’re authentic.

As an outsider, I watch anime to experience Japanese culture. That also means to experience Japanese people in animated form.

So when so many anime characters look anything but Japanese, as an anime fan – it can feel strange.

western anime characters

If I wanted to see a western character, I’d watch American cartoons or the equivalent. I don’t watch anime to see characters that DON’T represent Japanese people.

So when characters are designed in this way because of bias or false ideals, it makes me scratch my head a little.


2. The propaganda of so-called “beauty standards”

You can go to most countries across the world, and ONE thing is common in all of them: racism.

What does that even mean? The media portrays the image of “light skinned tones” being superior and darker skin tones inferior.

Or in the case of Japan: “Asian” skin tones not being as “beautiful” as westerners.

japanese beauty standards

There’s no excuse no matter how you wanna put it for anime characters “not” looking Japanese. Or Asian at the least. Because as I already said – it’s been done before.

Nodame Cantabile is one of 100’s of anime shows to do a good job of drawing realistic Japanese characters. For this reason, it’s one of my favorite designs in anime.

sakamoto anime funny

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto! is another anime that does a good job, too. The main character feels Asian to me, and there’s no hint of “trying to look white” at all.

It feels authentic, as it should be.


But propaganda is a disease

Yes, there is such a thing as “white supremacy” even though it’s not something I mention or ponder on.

Whether this group of people are few and far between or not, this is part of the propaganda that’s been spread all over the world.

Mostly by powerful media companies rather than individuals.

Japan isn’t the only culprit either.

agni indian anime character

India as an example has their own racism. And the darker you are, the more looked down upon you are as an individual.

This stretches to Jamaica, UK, America and many other countries in some variation or another.

vogue magazine racism

And then you have beauty magazines, which to me – is a BIG part of the reason so many people equate “white” or light skin with beauty.

You’ll struggle to find anyone of a certain skin tone in beauty magazines or media. Because that’s not what the media wants you to believe is “ideal.”

Japan is no different. The lighter you are according to Japanese skin tones, the more revered you’ll be as a person.

Being pale is admired in Japan.

light skin japanese culture

QUOTE from Wikipedia:

Bihaku (美白) is a Japanese term meaning “beautifully white” which was coined in the early 1900s with the emergence of skin whitening products and cosmetics.”

Source: Wikipedia

When you blend that with the fact so many Japanese are getting surgeries to “look” western, and how that trend is on the rise, it paints a clear picture of anime character designs.

And knowing this kind of thing ALSO happens in Korea, China, and so on, only adds more pressure and propaganda across Asia.

You’d be a fool to believe this doesn’t affect the designs of anime characters, and how they’re portrayed in 100’s of different anime shows.

yui hirasawa brown hair

Not everything is about “diversity” when it comes to anime designs.

Sometimes it runs deeper than that. And it’s more about fitting an “ideal” internally (for the animator), than it is about making an anime character stand out, visually.

Related: 7 Visually Pleasing Anime With A Realistic Art Style


3. The obsession with blonde hair and European features

adele von royal tutor

This is an extension of what I’ve mentioned already. But it’s stunning how many anime characters have blonde, red or ginger hair in anime.

Or a mixture of green eyes, blue eyes, and a “bigger” chest than is normal in Japanese culture.

hibiki sakura blonde hair

Sometimes it’s so obvious that it’s happening as well. Even if some fans will deny it.

Japanese people have straight hair, usually black or brown. No different to every other race outside of the WEST in general.

So if the anime character’s backgrounds or historical references holds no clout (when it comes to European features), than it’s nothing more than proof of the obsession Asians have with European features.

saber fate stay night king arthur

With characters like Saber from Fate Stay Night, it makes sense because it’s based on logic.

Saber is a depiction of “King Arthur” from Britain. So it’s correct to give her blonde hair and what not.

But a lot of the times there’s no logic or reason to an anime characters designs. Other than to portray a disconnect of how the Japanese want to look, Vs how they actually look in real life.

And yes – sometimes it’s used for “differentiation” but that’s besides the point I’m making.

Related: The Ultimate List Of Fate Stay Night Quotes


Do ALL anime characters look westernized?

The obvious answer is no.

The point of this post is to show the bias, insecurities, and obsessions associated with characters that DO look westernized. And the reasons behind it.

But whether we wanna deny it or not – a LOT of anime characters are designed to look anything other than Japanese. Even if that’s not always the FULL intention.


Will this ever change in the future?

I doubt it. But maybe it doesn’t need to.

Remember what I said? Only a SMALL portion of Japanese and Asians live this way, act this way, and even think this way. Regardless of whether they’re in the anime industry or not (statistically).

But I would love to see anime creators, designs and studios work on characters who “feel” and “look” more Japanese in future. Unless relevant.

I’m sure all of us want that. Otherwise – can we really say what we’re watching is Japanese, besides the subtitles?

violet evergarden episode 2


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7 thoughts on “The DISTURBING Truth Behind Why Anime Characters Don’t Look Japanese

  1. K Jay says:

    The points here were well made. I have no arguments with any of the main points. Just an actual comment about the last part.

    “But I would love to see anime creators, designs and studios work on characters who “feel” and “look” more Japanese in future. Unless relevant.

    I’m sure all of us want that. Otherwise – can we really say what we’re watching is Japanese, besides the subtitles?”

    Though I respect the Japanese culture that anime is built on/around, I personally don’t watch anime simply because it’s Japanese or because I want to call it Japanese. I genuinely enjoy the way they make their shows more than American shows. I appreciate the art-style, animation, and music that I get from these shows that is often unique to this genre of show.

    Anime is a gift to me because I continue to be a child in my head (lol) watching hours of fantasy, isekai, and other war/action themed shows whether they are set in old Europe, a made up land, or Modern Japan. It’s an entertaining brand of stories that I don’t ever really get to experience with any other culture’s shows. That’s why I stick with anime. And I prefer subbed over dubbed not necessarily because of the Japanese, but because that was how the show was originally produced. I appreciate the originals in that manner.

    So to be honest, I don’t care what they do with their characters as long as they keep entertaining me, haha. That’s up to them and how they feel about themselves in those situations.

    That’s only me. I’m sure everyone has their own unique answers

  2. R Muracka says:

    This is article is a classic example of inconsistent thinking prompted by hostility, and I’ll definitely use it as an example to my students of how hostility towards other people (in this case, the author’s anti-white hatred) robs people of their ability to think clearly.

    • Theo J Ellis says:

      LOL. Good luck indoctrinating your students with your propaganda.

      “Anti white” sounds like a defense mechanism and psychological projection. Along the lines of “I disagree with you and it bothers me”.

      Disagreeing is fine, but don’t try to make it into racism or “hostility” when it’s clearly not.

    • K Jay says:

      Even if you took all the strong opinion statements out of here and only left hard facts, the narrative wouldn’t be very different. The article more so exposes parts of Asian culture that are kind of serious in certain ways. The inability to accept oneself/ the need to get surgery… The surgery count heavily consisting of double lid procedures… there’s undeniable evidence.

      Also, Anti-white hatred is a double negative. It means you hate people who hate white people. The author didn’t provide his opinions on those people. He also doesn’t hate white people. He never voiced it as such. You can blame history, society, the mechanics behind psychology, and anything else for it, but it’s undeniable that many, or at least the media, perceive(d) beauty as European features until recently. A few years ago, if you searched “beautiful” on google images, you’d likely find 90% images of white women and nature. Another ethnicity here or there. That means that there were more (quantity) and more popular pages that had white women next to beautiful. (I know because I’ve proven this point for many years now using this method). Now if you try it, you can no longer do a custom search for certain dates in images. They still provide an image preview in web though. Custom search ‘custom range’ From ___ to 2015 for example and my point still stands.

      Undeniably any culture or subculture that has power or control at one point in time will not simply lose it because ‘we know better.’ History is dark and we’ve since learned from it, however our clothing, media, and other parts of shared culture are European in origin/style, and not just because they work. Because of history. I said all that to say it’s not far fetched to say European styles and features are still held in high regard over others. Why do Asian cultures have so much plastic surgery, why do black girls often have weaves, extensions, perms, and whatever else? Wider eyes, straighter hair? It’s only the past 10 years that people have started to truly become openly comfortable in their own skin on all front in America en masse. Everything more diverse now here.

      The author of the article, didn’t have a hostile vibe, only arguments with facts. And opinions based on those afterwards. Until you do the same, “Our Murica” I’ll assume your comment was made purely on overall feelings as you did not directly address any of his points form the article. I’m disappointed that you’re a teacher, but you do not take the time to break down your arguments a support them. Telling your students how it makes you feel isn’t teaching them to think. It’s like telling them the Earth is flat and to believe you, rather than to calculate it for themselves with shadows and math. Or is it that you wouldn’t want them to tell you it’s wrong after calculating? Who knows

  3. Goat says:

    I’m just surfing the net. Saw this and am confused.
    You first say Japanese cartoon characters looking white is a myth, then this article says it’s true.
    Firstly, I should say I watch hardly any Jap cartoons, manga, anime, whatever.
    So, maybe some of the characters are actually ‘western’ whites, but I’ve rarely seen characters who look more oriental than western.
    It’s not a myth, and it’s definitely true they whitewash themselves.
    It’s clearly true because virtually all Japanese people have ‘slitty’ dark brown eyes, flat noses and faces, and straight black hair. They draw characters with blue eyes and blonde hair, which is virtually unknown in native Japanese people.
    I assume they just prefer the way western whites look. That said, they also seem quite insular, racist and anti-western too – probably due to the 1945 nukes. It seems they rarely consult with native English-speakers, hence even today you often get terrible and frequent mistakes in their written English translations.

    • Theo J Ellis says:

      You’re talking about this, aren’t you? The MYTH Of Anime Characters Looking “White”, And Why You Believe It’s True

      There are two sides to an argument. That argument of it being a myth is JUST one side. And it’s a side that holds true for the most part. Especially if you understand nuances within anime and character designs.

      The argument in THIS post about anime characters not looking Japanese (the ones who actually don’t) is the other side of the argument. Both are true and have their own nuances.

      That’s why you have so many damn blonde hair, blue eyes characters. Almost in every “school” series or otherwise. Or how in some anime the characters say things like “I love white skin”, which tells an interesting but deep and disturbed story of how some Japanese think.

      You do bring up some good points though. Especially with them “whitewashing” themselves. I’ll take that.

    • K Jay says:

      I’ll break it down point by point

      “You first say Japanese cartoon characters looking white is a myth, then this article says it’s true.”

      I think you missed the point here, Goat. The response to what you just is more a, “kind of? depends on the situation.” The point here was that anime reflects what their society thinks is best/ the most beautiful.

      “Firstly, I should say I watch hardly any Jap cartoons, manga, anime, whatever.
      So, maybe some of the characters are actually ‘western’ whites, but I’ve rarely seen characters who look more oriental than western.” “They draw characters with blue eyes and blonde hair, which is virtually unknown in native Japanese people.”
      The first sentence explains why you stated the second sentence. The point of this article is that they don’t want to look like themselves. Had you done some watching you’d learn 2 things:
      1. Not only do they draw blue eyes and blond hair, they draw white, green, blue, purple, orange, the whole frikin rainbow for both eyes and hair. Not only do they white-wash themselves, they alien-wash themselves. lol jk. This is what I meant by “kind of. depends on the situation.” When you see only natural hair colors, I’d say you can consider it whitewashing. Then there are media that have absolutely no attachment to reality and everyone there is a fair-skinned character with a hair and eye-color made form a rainbow random color-picker. At that point it’s less whitewashing and more so making them look like anything but themselves. This much can be applied to hairstyles as well… but this is where we get into point 2
      2. Artists and local viewers tend to imagine real-life versions of these characters as their own nationality (or at least those who were asked said they do). If you or someone you know has ever attempted to draw someone/something and it looked exactly like someone else, this is a similar situation. You’d find that within a show or series of manga or whatever most characters have almost the same shaped head the same eyes, similar build etc. Sometimes the characters tend to look Asian. Other times they look like caricatures of Europeans. It’s more or less just a projection and exaggeration of desired characteristics of their own people. It’s partially because the likely find beauty in European features, but also because they don’t necessarily like to like like themselves as in this post. I’m assuming they imagine these characters look like themselves with dyed/styled hair and features. Ironically if you do a google image search or “k pop stars” you find real people with hair dyed natural European colors as well as colors of the rainbow lol. So you’re kinda right but didn’t hit the nail on the head imo.

      “I assume they just prefer the way western whites look.”
      In the end, it’s not necessarily they prefer the way they actually look, rather they prefer some of their features projected onto themselves. Hence the surgery and whatnot. So in a nutshell you’re right lol. They like what’s not themselves and that includes Eu looks.

      “That said, they also seem quite insular, racist and anti-western too – probably due to the 1945 nukes.”
      hmm… this does have some truth; it’s likely the kind of racism that’s stems from ignorance and preference than mindless hate. But all human groups with little to no diversity are guilty of this. For example in some parts of Africa, American blacks are idolized while African blacks are sort of looked down on. Or if you’ve ever been to an ‘all black school’ “that one” white or asian kid gets special treatment. In Asia, the opposite would be true. The non white in a white school can be similar. When you look at what naturally happens it’s more or less ignorant human nature, rather than a hateful racism. Don’t think it’s really due to nukes, although I’m not exactly sure how their people feel about WWII. (Especially the ones who weren’t around for it)

      “It seems they rarely consult with native English-speakers, hence even today you often get terrible and frequent mistakes in their written English translations.”
      Most people don’t translate for free… If they have the skill to do it right, they probably do it as a profession. And then things get expensive. So the translations you see were probably from someone who did it in his or her spare time out of the kindness of his or her heart. I mean ask a weeaboo (google it if u don’t know) to translate English to Japanese and watch what happens. Japanese to English translators typically do a better job than you give them credit for.

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