Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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Kyoto Animation is one of Japan’s most famous anime studios. Besides its shows, the studio is famous for another thing: large eyes.

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This piece originally appeared 10/21/15.

Many anime characters have abnormally large eyes. And many studios in Japan have their own house style. Kyoto Animation is no exception! What’s interesting is that the anime characters it creates often have similar eyes, hence the clever pun “Kyou Ani-Me” (京アニ目), which means, “Kyoto Animation Eyes.”

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Photo via 2ch]

The anime K-On! (lede image) was, in particular, noted for huge eyes, thus leading to the term in Japan けいおん目 or “K-On! eyes.”

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Image via GA]

The big K-On! eyes are not entirely Kyoto Animation’s fault. Below, you can see how the original manga (top) compares with the anime (middle).

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Image via けいおんファンサイト]

Those are the voice actors on the bottom.

Huge eyes, of course, originally came to Japanese manga via the big-eyed characters found in highly influential Western cartoons, such as the work of Walt Disney and Max Fleischer. (Read here for more on the development and meaning of anime.)

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At this point, though, modern anime and manga are probably drawing more on dominant Japanese stylistic conventions than directly from, say, Betty Boop cartoons.

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo: maiki_doramu]

This is evident when you see drawings of people practicing their Kyoto Animation eyes.

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Photo: Furan495Toho]

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo: chiu_1234]

But what exactly makes a Kyoto Animation eye a Kyoto Animation eye? That’s a trickier question than you’d think.

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Photo: kinokio0121]

This is a close-up of your typical Kyoto Animation style eye.

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo: eroron_eroron2]

Using a practice drawing by Twitter user eroron_eroron2, let’s analyze the different parts of the Kyoto Animation style. Note that there are sometimes reflections in the bottom part of the eye, too.

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If we look through anime the studio’s created, we do see a definite pattern. Again, this is not a bad thing! This is Kyoto Animation’s style.

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via NicoHaya398]

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via Other_8909]

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via NicoHaya398]

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo: nnshrk63]

There are caveats, such as anime boy characters whose eyes are slightly smaller. This is a way to make them appear cooler. Anime boy characters with big eyes can be cuter.

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Photo: Rin874_252521]

Also, Kyoto Animation’s style has developed and changed over the years.

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via 2ch]

There are some nuances, even in recent work from Kyoto Animation. For example, this is from 2014:

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via 2ch]

And this is from 2015:

Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes
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[Photo via 2ch]

They’re not exactly the same eyes, but you can tell that Kyoto Animation created these images.

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Illustration for article titled A Serious Look at Big Anime Eyes

[Photo via ettirgam2]

And that’s the way it should be.

Top image via avaronsukareto

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter@Brian_Ashcraft.

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Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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