There’s a popular trope about eyes going on called “Color-Coded Eyes.” Often, the eyes are called the windows to one’s soul; for anime, they take this meaning to its literal sense. Over the years, creators have been designing eyes, especially the color, to give life to the character.
The color of the eyes reveals a lot about a character in the world of anime and manga. Things like intention, personality, roles, and even how strong a character is can be revealed by the color of a character’s eyes. Speaking of strength, if you’re into fantasy anime like I am, you’ll probably know what element the spellcaster uses based on their eye color.
While I can’t go through all the eye colors used in anime and manga. Here are a few common eye colors often used by creators to bring their characters to life. I’ve also included a couple of common traits anime characters tend to share if they have the same eye color.
The most common and close to life color in anime and manga. You would often see this color belonging to background characters. If this color belongs to the main character by any chance, this could mean the character comes from a simple background. In the fantasy genre, the character who owns these colored eyes may be non-magical characters.
The eye color is also often used in Daily-Life or Slice of Life anime, where the creators try to emulate real life. For example, Tohru Honda, who is a normal school girl in the 2019 Fruits Basket anime, had plain brown eyes. This was a tool used by the animators to separate her from the other characters who were cursed.
Often, red eyes mean trouble, but not all the time. Red is an intense color, so this could mean the character is strong, brave, or maybe a bit different from the other characters. There are times were creators have their characters shift to having red eyes for brief moments when the character does a grand display of strength.
Red could also mean the characters have demonic traits or possess some sort of power that comes with the color red. It could also mean the character may have fire-related magic if you watch a fantasy-type anime.
A sample of red eyes being used to display strength and anger is when Levi from Attack on Titan was fighting the Female Titan. Canonically his eyes are a dull gray color, but the directors had him change his eye color for that specific scene to highlight his mental and physical state he was in.
A classic example of a demonic character who possesses red eyes is Black Butler’s, Sebastian Michaelis. We’re pretty sure this character is up to no good; how people easily trust him is a mystery.
Green with jealousy must not be a popular phrase in anime since green eyes are usually not portrayed in a bad light. It’s a rare color that the protagonists are sporting in recent anime. Green could also mean a sort of gentle power or just a kind personality.
Izuku Midorya and Makoto Tachibana are both characters with a pair of green eyes and are noted to be powerful and gentle. Izuku is known for being an absolute powerhouse in My Hero Academia. Meanwhile, Makato is the gentle but capable president of his swim team in Free!.
A unique color even in anime. Characters with this color eyes usually mean they are important. It’s hard to find a background character with this color. There seems to be a fair share of antagonists and protagonists who share this eye color.
Usually, if there is a purple-eyed character in the show, they play the mysterious but powerful characters among the cast. Kenshin Himura from Rurouni Kenshin seems to fit the trope; he hides the fact that his past still bothers him with comedy. Kenshin is also one of the strongest characters in the anime
While not a protagonist, Rika was a character from Digimon Tamers who had purple eyes. The main team had trouble with her, even when she was on their side. Despite being part of the main team in the latter half, she was a bit awkward and wanted to stay mysterious to the rest of the gang.
It seems in anime and manga, Blue-eyed characters seem to be a long-time favorite for creators. Blue eyes can mean a variety of things. For example, blue could signify innocence in younger characters. However, it could also give off an icy vibe on other characters.
Main characters, especially in earlier anime, often are portrayed with blue eyes. By any chance the character has magical abilities; it is commonly water or air-related.
Fay’s Blue eyes in Tsubasa Chronicles are specifically tied to his magic. When he traded his magic for Kurogane’s new arm, the color blue was extracted from his eyes. Meanwhile, Belldandy from Oh My Goddess! fits the innocent blue eye trope very well; even her magic is based on the air element.
This is when a character is shown to have different shades of eye colors, usually making one eye color different from the other. This is often seen in dogs and cats, but a small percentage of humans have this condition in real life.
In anime, this condition is usually given to someone with unique abilities, usually magic. Some characters may even have it due to past injuries that caused them to implant an eye or promise power where the eye will be used as the source of power.
Shoto Todoroki is genetically born with this eye condition. The mangaka probably decided to put an additional visual representation of his quirk other than his hair color.
Sometimes this condition is given to animal-like characters or is some sort of animal-turned-human. Neko from K is an example of such a character.
Does the Eye Color Always Have Meaning?
The eye color doesn’t necessarily have to mean anything. Some characters display other characteristics outside their eye color tropes. It’s not a rule that characters have to act according to their assigned eye color, but keeping to their eye trope allows readers and viewers to figure out how they will react to certain situations.
Having characters with unique eye colors also separates them from supporting characters in the cast. So, look at is a tool the mangakas and animators use to hint you to keep a lookout for a specific character. Of course, this isn’t the only tool artists use to get a character to visually stand out, but it is a strong one.
However, there’s more to what meets the eye. Anime is growing, and people are coming up with even more complex characters by the day. While color-coded eyes can help us read characters on the surface level, it’s always a good idea to watch and read anime and manga to figure out the character.