the simpsons

In Contrast: Facial Expressions in Anime and Cartoons

In this post we will take a look at the difference in facial expressions between anime and cartoon productions. There is a major difference in the presentation of emotion between these two styles of animation, and i believe that by outlining these differences we can better understand the importance of eyes in anime to convey emotion.   Facial expressions in anime cartoons differ in form to their cartoon counterparts. As outlined numerous times throughout the study, the main element for expressing emotion in anime productions is a character’s eyes, associated with the use of iconography. Iconography in these productions include the visual appearance of stress marks, such as the cruciform, which represents bulging veins that appear on a character’s forehead. Another famous example of iconography is the sweat drop, which appears in cases where character’s are experiencing embarrassment. Characters who are experiencing shock or other exaggerated expressions will perform a “face fault”, which can dramatically alter the facial construction of a character in order to effectively show their emotion. These visualised motifs convey emotion in a way that is not seen in cartoons.

In cartoons there is less emphasis on the detail of the characters eyes. In the American animated television series ‘The Simpsons’, the characters eyes are simplistic, as they are just dots for pupils. The eyes in The Simpsons are not used for storytelling, and in fact the entire facial structure remains relatively similar throughout the series. The extent of emotion in cartoons such as The Simpsons comes from the mouth of the character, by either smiling or pulling particular faces to reflect certain emotions. These emotions are evoked by the basic facial prompts we associate with emotion. The expressions that are made by the characters mimic realistic facial structures, where anime over-accentuates emotion in a more visualised manner.

If "The Simpsons" was an anime.  Source: SpaceCoyote on deviantart

If “The Simpsons” was an anime. Source: SpaceCoyote on deviantart

In terms of the overall contrast in facial expressions, the avenues in which anime and cartoon productions expression emotion utilise separate devices. Anime productions use a characters eyes to express emotions, coupled with iconography to accentuate emotion further. Cartoons emphasise emotion through a characters mouth, which they use to imply certain emotions, instead of expressing them in the visualised manner that is expressed in anime.