Eyes are the windows to the soul, so naturally, they are one of the most emphasized aspects of character design in anime. When you think of the “anime art style” you instinctively think of the big expressive eyes. I will go over some of my favorite female eyes in anime and you might just learn a thing or two about my inspiration in art.
1. Nagisa – Clannad
This is one of the first characters that comes to mind when I think of the typical “big eyes”. Kyoto animation, who is responsible for this adaptation of the very popular visual novel of the same name, has made a reputation with their stunning animation and lively characters, and the eyes are a huge part of it. The use of highlights make them extremely expressive and fit the often times sad tone of the show. What I find most attractive about this style is the gradient inside the iris and the clear highlights.
2. Sailor Moon
These eyes are some of the most iconic in the history of anime. This show was one of the first I remember actively trying to replicate in drawings when I was very young. The style is very unique too, with the huge highlights in the center of the eye looking like white pupils. The lashes are very detailed and the shape of the eyes look very feminine and young, which is very typical of magical girl anime.
3. Hanekawa Neko – Bakemonogatari
Bakemonogatari has some of my favorite animation and the style to boot. These eyes are purrr-fect for any fan of cats with their sharp tiny pupils and striking yellow iris. This eye style has a very recognizable shape at the eyelashes and the eyes have a very modern size compared to more classic anime. This style also has less gradient and more clear shading and less highlights, which make them less outstanding compared to the rest of the character design.
4. Tanya – Youjo Senki
Tanya has very unique eyes. Big round eyes with long blonde lashes and a very clear blue color make them a perfect contrast to her hair. These eyes are not afraid to strike fear in the enemies. Even though these are not my most favorite eyes, I find them fascinating in their unique look. What I really like though is the concept of eyelashes that are not just black, but for instance actually take the color of the hair. The eyes are also very simple in shading, with subdued highlights.
5. Konata – Lucky Star
Konata’s eyes are very edgy in shape, but it fits her very well. This is an example of the “tired” look, where is symbolizes a character who is more mischievous and lazy. The iris are more rounded to contrast the edges of the lashes. The lack of clear pupils and very clear highlights also adds to the “tired” look because it makes the eyes look less focused. Meanwhile the gradient in the top of the iris, which is black, gives the effect of her lashes hanging over her eyeballs.
6. Zero Two – Darling in the Franxx
These eyes are very mysterious in shape, which is fitting with the character of Zero Two. I am personally a big fan of narrow eyes and draw them often myself. The lashes have a sharp shape to them, where they become thicker the closer they are to the middle and very thin in the edges. The lower lashes are very pointy and emphasized. The red markings add to her mystique and they stand out from the other characters in the anime. The red is also a signature color to her color scheme while also being a great contrast to her minty green eye color. The shading in her eyes is simple, only a lighter green in the bottom of her iris. An aspect I use a lot too is the highlight that goes over the lines in the eye.
7. Madoka – Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This art style has a very unique esthetique with pencil-like hatching and lines. The eyes are very recognizable with the lighter lashes which are drawn with many thin lines instead of being a solid color. The shape of the lashes make the eyes very child-like and innocent. The round irises and lack of lower lashes emphasize this aspect even more. The pupils are not solid, instead there is a gradient in the upper part of the iris with hatching effects. In general this art style reminds me of children’s books and that is very much the idea behind the show too.
8. Haruka – Uta no Prince Sama
Haruka’s eyes are unique even in the anime. The shape is dreamy, innocent and feminine. The anime Uta no Prince Sama is based on a visual novel “Dating Sim” in which Haruka is the playable character, so she doesn’t have much concrete personality because she is a vessel for the player. So when thinking of her character design and how it can stand out visually, they gave her these eyes. The big differing factor is the pale green pupils on her yellow iris, which makes her eyes look hazy. When I first saw this design I got inspired and I had never thought of making the pupils different colors too to add different effects to character designs.
9. Kirigiri – Danganronpa
The eye style of Kyôko Kirigiri is one of my favorites, because it is so recognizable and impactful in the character designs. The sharp edges in the lashes and irises with the small pupils and the signature circle around them. One of the major themes in the Danganronpa game franchise (with anime adaptations) is the whole “bullet” and “aiming” aspect, and the eyes subtly remind me of targets, which is a fun way to incorporate the game’s themes into character design.
10. Violet Evergarden
A more recent anime in the entry. This anime is well known for the over-the-top beautiful visuals and stunning animation. Made by the same studio as the first entry on this list, these eyes show a clear evolution in Kyoto Animation’s style evolution through the years.
The lashes are thick and the eye shape is slightly narrow and very serious. The coloring of the irises with all kinds of blue tones makes them look like the sea and you can easily get lost in them. The pupils are small, which adds to the serious aspect of her character. The use of only one clear highlight in each eye and the very dark upper half of the eyes give them an empty look, like the character has been through something traumatic. I really like all the subtle details in these eyes, which make them one of my favorite set of eyes in anime.
In conclusion, I like eyes very much and it is one of the aspects of my art I have changed the most throughout the years. It is safe to say that you can observe any art style out there and see different quirks in the eyes. Maybe try and look at some of your favorite anime characters and see if you can find the small details in them, that make them unique and special.