The Aesthetics behind Eyes Concealment: Long Bangs

by Kai and Yi.

Mirai Nikki Yuno Gasai

Anime has always been a world filled with visuals of thorough imaginations. There are quite a number of interesting anime looks, like the presence of fangs for one, or animal ears. There is however, one other intriguing thing—the art of “eyes concealment”—through the use of long bangs.

Among an anime characters’ physical features, none is more expressive than the eyes. The range of emotions and information contained in one’s eyes supersedes other non-verbal signals. Particularly, in a medium often limited by and styled through simplification, characteristic distortion, and constrained motions, anime relies heavily on the eyes to convey the subtle details that may otherwise be lost. Disgust, for instance, is a universal expression that presents a very distinguished, but relatively understated look—a wrinkled nose and raised upper lips and cheeks. Yet, anime aesthetics forgo the details that a disgusted face wants. The alternative: a simple distortion of the eyes (and perhaps with some shadows for added effect). If eyes are so important for expression, what then does concealing them do?

zan sayonara zetsubou sensei

At first glance, characters with concealed eyes almost seem like he is nothing but a “blank state”, he has no unique trait or quirk—a pretty ordinary dull person that is easily faded into the background as compared to other more outlandish people. However, that lack of traits creates a mystery sensation that he is perhaps more than he seems. Nobody could easily notice whatever they are hiding, whether or not it be emotions, or a plan. If one is normally calm and collected, coupled with a poker face; a sudden smile under that eyes-less face changes everything from dullness into spookiness. Perhaps he may had broken down from all those piled-up negative emotions; perhaps he is the manipulating type; or perhaps he is thinking of a heinous plan so evil, yet solid that he could turn everything in his favor.

Covering the eyes gives the character an impression of decreased identification. Vague characters such as these create a pretty mysterious appearance. With their eyes concealed, it made it seems like they are hiding something, a painful emotion perhaps, that he does not want everyone to notice he is currently experiencing; he does not want to share the pain with everyone else. Or perhaps, for a character suffering from an extremely heavy mental stress, with his head lowered down, his eyes covered by his hair, eye concealment shows that he is still somehow keeping his mind from breaking down, defending whatever sanity is left.

Akiyama Shinichi Liar Game

When a character suddenly has his eyes covered, it also makes it look like he is planning something. He may look like he is doing something outrageous, something reckless and incomprehensible, but surprisingly enough, he has a foolproof plan under that careless facade; one cannot outwit him and let his guard down, because it, of course, wouldn’t end pretty for him. People like them sometimes even fool their own allies, since, per the famous saying: “In order to fool your enemies, you must first fool your allies.” Akiyama Shinichi from Liar Game is a prime example for such a personality; he plays a sort of survivor game that involves deceiving other people and tricking them for their money. His eyes are obviously invisible most of the time, especially when he is in one of the rounds of the game. Not coincidentally, he is also a psychologist so he is well-versed in how humans think and act.

The underlying thread of the above ways of eye concealment and relevant examples is anonymity. The characters hope to maintain a low-profile. Blank-state, broken emotions, calm, trickster, depth, ominous history, tension—whatever those characters without eyes are defined by, they all just want to be left alone, even if it is just for the moment. But they are still be defined. Fringes offer a convenient way to hide the eyes without attracting too much attention. Unlike glasses or other accessories that inherently give additional sources of information, long bangs come naturally to the default look of anime characters.
Further, they still maintain a base level of characterization—suits, hair color, height, weight, gender—thereby avoids relegating to shadowy figures of true nameless anonymity.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai opening Rena eye shadows

Indeed, long bangs are such a perfect, exact, yet easily applicable way to achieve a wanted effect that the look has become universal in anime. Somewhat ironically, for a look that intends to obscure and hide telling information and emotions—and it does so for the character on screen—we the audience have come to know exactly what lengthy fringes, shadows, and concealed eyes imply. As well, the variations and counter-examples that arise from this look all come with their own contextual meanings. This certainly highlights the dynamic understanding between anime style and audience interpretation.

About the Guest Author:
Over at deluscar, Kai writes on interesting topics and often hosts anime projects for the anime blogging community.  When he contacted me about a collaborative project, I happily took the opportunity. The result is this cute piece from us on eyes and hair, two favorite and lovely features of anime. Be sure to visit his blog for more wonderful writing!

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29 Responses to The Aesthetics behind Eyes Concealment: Long Bangs

  1. Kai says:

    Reblogged this on deluscar and commented:
    A post I co-wrote with Yi of listlessink, detailing on the art of eyes concealment – a certain visual trend in anime.

    • Yi says:

      Thank you so much for the collaboration! I really had a lot of fun writing this with you, and the process is surprisingly light, casual, yet sophisticated. So, thanks again Kai! It’s always lovely to do something together! ^ ^

  2. Overlord-G says:

    Pretty much summed up as you want to see the characters’ eyes, especially girls. I’m not familiar with this trait when guys do it. I’m more used to anticipating when girls finally reveal their eyes because the mystery of their character will be solved after one gaze…or something like that. I don’t have much else to say about the topic besides that. I don’t have a favorite character who is defined by this trait so…yeah. The payoff is what I’m usually after.

    • Kai says:

      Eyes tell a lot about an individual. When a character had his or her eyes hidden, it concealed a lot of information. Suddenly with his or here eyes revealed, it does certainly make quite an impact.

    • Yi says:

      Hm… Interesting that you find this gender difference in anime. I actually had an easier time finding examples for male characters than for female character. Although, another interesting gender difference—from my severely limited sample size bias, mind you—is that male reveals tend to show a stroke of genius while female hidden eyes often hide a yandere or some deep-seated emotion. I am certain this has to do more with the type of anime and manga I consume than anything else, but still kind of an amusing observation.

  3. Baka-Raptor says:

    Fine, for Akiyama I’ll allow it.

  4. Foxy Lady Ayame says:

    Reblogged this on compass on my field trip.

  5. Anne's Anime Blog says:

    Nothing says super-creep like long bangs

  6. thehippiefreak says:

    Got here through Kai’s site
    Great post, bangs are yet another veil to move aside to see the true side of a given character

  7. Chris says:

    It is interesting how subtle elements like bangs lend themselves to mood and characterization. Manga and anime are surprisingly effective because of their focus on only the necessities of expression.

    • Kai says:

      Indeed, anime has such expressive abilities no other medium can attain. Manifesting such powerful emotions is one of anime’s forte.

    • Yi says:

      While I would not say that anime can express more than other medium, I agree that it is very efficient. It’s not just that it focuses only on the necessary elements of expression, but also that it consolidates the means to facial expressions to only a few exaggerated features: the eyes are the most prominent of those. In its concentration and relegation of expression to a single place, anime successfully becomes highly effective in representing specific expressions and context. Of course, the trade-off is that we may lose the finer details and gain distorted proportions. However, that is precisely one of the things that makes this medium so unique and charming. ^ ^

  8. Pingback: The Aesthetics behind Eyes Concealment: Long Bangs | Découvrir l'animé — アニメ入門

  9. finallyanime says:

    it’s always seemed like more reservation or ill-intent rather than blankness or neutrality to me. It definitely works in certain situations. Sometimes i think it’s far overused, but definitely something anime does uber well.

    • Yi says:

      I’d add further that it’s often neutrality and blankness from the other characters’ perspectives, but ill-intent and reservation from the audience. Overused, maybe. It certainly has been used enough to become a widely—and immediately—recognized signal for a certain mood or attitude.

  10. jreding says:

    My favourite eyes concealer is Tsubaki from Nazo no Kanojo X. Her long bangs, which completely cover the eyes, create an aura of mystery, just as you point out in your excellent essay, dear Kai and Yi. As she’s also of the silent type one can only guess about her mood and intentions. This applied in particular in this series, as there actually is a mystery around this girl.
    The concealment also greatly increases the effect when, for a short second, one gets to see one of Tsubaki’s eyes. Even more so in ep. 9 when Tsubaki decides to wear twintails for one school day in order to counter an imagined romantic challenger!

    • jreding says:

      Correction: Tsubaki is the guy’s name, the girl I was writing about is called Urabe. Sorry, I mixed the names!

    • Yi says:

      She is, after all, the mysterious girlfriend.

      “The concealment also greatly increases the effect when, for a short second, one gets to see one of Tsubaki’s eyes. Even more so in ep. 9 when Tsubaki decides to wear twintails for one school day in order to counter an imagined romantic challenger!”

      Interesting point! The timing of when such characters reveal their eyes is something that can be explored further. Someone who never shows the eyes, someone who does so sparsely or frequently, and someone who uses it at only specific, but predictable moments may all carry different connotations. Likewise, a randomly timed reveal (or lack of a reveal on a predicted moment) has its own effects.

  11. glothelegend says:

    My favorite bangs is Ochibana from Denpa Teki na Kanojo. There’s something about long bangs that I love. I love how the way a character’s eyes are covered can completely change what they seem like. Eye concealment could create a mood of depression, a mood of anger, or a mood of “hey she’s hot.” In conclusion:

    Ochibana is awesome.

    • Yi says:

      I love long bangs as well! In fact, I think this post stemmed from my two previous collaborations with Shance on hime cut (long bangs) and glasses. I guess I tend to keep coming back to bangs, just with a different approach.

      p.s. Agreed about Ochibana! ^ ^

  12. Pingback: Log Horizon – Glasses and It’s Ability in Masking Personalities | deluscar

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