Anime physics

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For criticism see Criticism of Anime_physics

Anime physics is a reference to the fact that animation allows regular laws of physics to be ignored in different and often specific ways for dramatic or humorous effects, the first being more common in anime and manga than in cartoons. It is eiher referenced from popular series in the past or considered a subset of cartoon physics.

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A vein clearly seen on Edward Elrich from Fullmetal Alchemist.
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Edward Elrich displaying "fake" sharp teeth in a minor event when he gets upset over his stature.

Face expressions

Anime characters may employ wide variety of facial expressions to denote moods and thoughts.[1]

  • Characters that are shocked or surprised will perform a "face fault", in which they display an extremely exaggerated expression.
  • Male characters will develop a bloody nose around their female love interests (typically to indicate arousal, based on an old wives' tale).[2]
  • Embarrassed characters either produce a massive sweat-drop (which has become one of the most widely recognized motifs of conventional anime) or produce a visibly red blush or set of parallel (sometimes squiggly) lines beneath the eyes, especially as a manifestation of repressed romantic feelings.


  • Angry characters may exhibit a "vein" or "stressmark" effect, where lines representing bulging veins will appear on their forehead.
  • Angry women will sometimes summon a mallet from nowhere and strike someone with it, leading to the concept of Hammerspace derived from cartoon physics.
  • In extreme anger, a character may have a somewhat realistic, but physically deformed face of rage.
  • An angered character may develop short-term sharp teeth, with which he may even bite the one that sent him into that state. However, the sharpness has no effectiveness on said bite, and for a normal plot, it has no battle-decisive or even injury purposes. They exist mostly for intimidation and humor.


A common approach is the large eyes style drawn on many anime and manga characters. Osamu Tezuka, who is believed to have been the first to use this technique, was inspired by the exaggerated features of American cartoon characters such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, and Disney's Bambi.[3][4] Tezuka found that large eyes style allowed his characters to show emotions distinctly. When Tezuka began drawing Ribbon no Kishi, the first manga specifically targeted at young girls, Tezuka further exaggerated the size of the characters' eyes. Indeed, through Ribbon no Kishi, Tezuka set a stylistic template that later shōjo artists tended to follow.

Coloring is added to give eyes, particularly the cornea, and some depth. The depth is accomplished by applying variable color shading. Generally, a mixture of a light shade, the tone color, and a dark shade is used.[5][6] Cultural anthropologist Matt Thorn argues that Japanese animators and audiences do not perceive such stylized eyes as inherently more or less foreign.[7]

However, not all anime have large eyes. For example, some of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Toshiro Kawamoto are known for not having realistically proportioned eyes, as well as realistic hair colors on their characters.[8] In addition many other productions also have been known to use smaller eyes. This design tends to have more resemblance to traditional Japanese art. Some characters have even smaller eyes, where simple black dots are used. However, many western audiences associate anime with large detailed eyes as many shōnen or boy manga and shōjo young girl manga are the one being imported over the Josei or women's and adult, but not pornographic manga.


Hair can only be altered in the following ways

  • If a character hangs upside down
  • If the character is completely submerged in water
  • If a character restyles his or her hair

In 1980s-'90s series, some characters would have the hair in front opened in a heart-style. This is most known in Sailor Moon.

Race of anime characters

Although preliminary views seem to lean toward the idea that characters in anime are not necessarily European, a Chinese/Japanese people notice that they are indeed supposed to be European. There is evidence for both conclusions, however there is disent between source representative of the Japanese public, as well as Western ones, colliding with cultural anthropologist with inherent multicultarist bias. The problem deepens as most are indeed culturally Japanese and have Japanese names. This may be attributed to the Japanese people having inferiority complexes regarding looks and height, as well as the larger and more exotic pallet of characters that can be drawn inspiring from Westerners.

This phenomenon obviously depends on the show in question. Most of the characters in Neon Genesis Evangelion, for instance, are Japanese; they live and work in Tokyo, have Japanese names, interact with the Japanese government; and so forth. Most of the characters in Rose of Versailles are French, live in France, and so on. Most of the characters in Gunsmith Cats are American; live and work in Chicago in the U.S., and most have English names. The characters in Mobile Suit Gundam or Macross are of various backgrounds and live in space, anyhow.

Generally, in any culture, when presented with characters who are not overtly of another race, there will be an assumption that they are of the same race, especially given the decades of variation in artistic styles. Unless stereotypical features are exaggerated and emphasized, there appears to be no particular reason for a Japanese person to assume that a character is foreign based simply on appearance; hence, there are other immediate indicators that a character is foreign, such as name, lack of cultural knowledge, speech, etc.

Note, however, that some artists do use stereotypical features for indicating foreigners, and when that is the case, the paradigm is set that all "foreign-looking" characters are actually foreign, while all others are Japanese. For example, in Hikaru no Go, the various international players are all drawn with racial features, yet the main characters in the story obviously do not resemble Japanese people.

Taking Excel Saga as an example, the whole anime is set in F City, Japan yet most of the characters bear little strikingly Japanese characteristics - the main character has blonde hair and blue eyes. Pedro the foreign worker also doesn't have that many "foreign" defining features (except looking slightly Spanish by having darker skin). There may be little thought about this from the artists (as they do have a tendency to edit backstory .etc).

Again taking RahXephon (a realistic setting anime), we see Tokyo as having what seems European characters (mixes of blonde, brown and black hair), but this doesn't mean they are European, and that Japanese perceive them as so.


A particular characteristic in fictional works of manga and anime is the characterization and gender differentiation of female characters unlike anything in the real world. This goes beyond the stereotypical political correctness which occurs mostly in western shows or live action ones, and makes up its own rules on how women react in certain circumstances. Some would argue this is because the shows have been originally made by men, who had a hard time understanding women in the real world and would just make up rules concerning them as their imagination told them.

Any female can, if angered by someone, pull out a wooden rice mallet, of any proportions, from hammerspace and hit the offender with it to let go of some aggressions.

  • It should be noted that no matter how large the mallet is, or how flat the offender gets after the pounding, he/she will always revert to original shape without having to experience any lasting health deterioration from the whole ordeal, except for the occasional lump on their head from where the mallet had struck.

In fights

Tokyo is the most dangerous location in the universe. It is destroyed in nearly every second anime. [1]

Dramatic moments tend to distort time, either by slowing it down (usually long enough to call out the name of an attacker or the name of the "special move" used in the attack, or for bystanders to comment on the situation), or by looping three times.
  • Similarly, transformations (especially those animated with stock footage) also seem to stop time until completed, allowing them to be used to counter attacks, or not allowing the person to be attacked while performing them.
  • Time is entirely relative in apocalyptic situations
  • Death is not instantaneous to significant characters. Permanent death is also a rare occurrence.
Attacks strong enough to shred entire planets will not destroy anyone's clothes or hair.
  • Conversely, certain attacks can destroy a female character's clothing without significantly harming her body) — in some cases, without her initially noticing this.
  • Any fire-based attack on a character will not burn his/her clothes but will leave black stains instead.
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Aoi Kunieda from Beelzebub using a wooden sword to slice glass or even concrete.
A single cut can be made swiftly, cleanly. This is possible with any object, particularly with hands, paper, swords, and even air. This concept was originated by Akira Kurosawa, the concept of a superb blade and utilized in many of his samurai films.
  • A sword, especially a katana, can cleanly cut through anything, even including large objects (such as ships) and hair, but not through other swords. There is a slight loophole in this law - if an expert fighter (even if using hand-to-hand techniques) wishes to end a duel with an obviously lesser opponent in an appropriately dramatic way, he can execute an appropriately dramatic attack that destroys his opponent's weapon-often without their knowledge; after completing a seemingly successful attack, they will notice the expert is unharmed and look at their weapon quizzically, at which point it will either fall into two cleanly cut pieces (in a dramatic battle) or shatter like glass (in a comedic battle).
  • Wooden katana (bokken) can cut just as well as the real thing, if not better, and are almost never destroyed by the aforementioned loophole.

During the end part of some battles, characters may opt to charge at one another with their sword, meaning to chop the other in half. At the point of contact, all that will be seen is a bright white slash going across the screen, but it will remain unclear who is hurt. The two characters will then stay, kneeling on the floor, facing away from each other, until the evil character falls into pieces, having been killed minutes earlier.

  • For added dramatic effect, the good character may clutch the area that they were hit or cough up blood, after the two have performed their attacks and are facing away from each other, making it appear as though they lost. A few moments later, the evil character will fall to the ground, defeated.
  • In addition, death is never, under ANY circumstance, certain; a character can be impaled, literally from navel to nose and come back later, unscathed.


Every human body contains 47 gallons of blood under high pressure-a familiar term used is "to make it rain blood".
  • This will not occur if whatever inflicts the wound is left in it, which allows the attacker to withdraw it, turn, wipe it clean, and put it away-blood may begin spraying from the wound like a firehose after any one of these actions. Alternatively, the mortally wounded character may pull it out himself and use it to execute a final attack.
  • Non-impaling wounds, such as being crushed or falling from a great height, usually do not cause these geysers of blood. However, nosebleeds will often fountain immediately upon a character's recognition of appropriate portions of an attractive female body. This also occurs when a female character is witnessed in the nude, scantily clad, or in a compromising position. Note that nosebleeds are fairly uncommon in serious and/or erotic manga, or similarly when direct sexual activities ensues.
  • Bandages heal all wounds and may sometimes appear spontaneously while a character is off-camera.
  • A wound to any part of the body will result in the character receiving such wound bleeding from the mouth.
  • Attacks strong enough to shred entire planets will not destroy anyone's pants (but will usually destroy all other clothing).
  • Any fire-based attack on a character will not completely burn his/her clothes but will leave black stains instead.


Trains and other unlikely forms of transportation can fly, through either technology or magic. Also, the size and speed are directly related.

Faster than light travel is possible with many characters, particularly those engaged in martial art battles; vehicles in this case tend to be overshadowed and have limited use.

Common occurrences

Death can be suspended until it is appropriate, suspenseful, or ironic.
Loud noises, such as screams of anguish and explosions, can be heard from space. All sounds can be transmitted in space, e.g. transmitted differently then with air-compression waves.
Any pain inflicted in a humorous fashion will almost never cause any lasting damage.
Whenever a female character falls down while running in any non-humorous scene, she will almost certainly sprain her ankle in such a way that movement becomes impossible.
  • Furthermore, if the character is the leading female character, she will be found or be in the company of the male lead and he will carry her on his back, sparking a deeper romantic interest.
Should two characters of the opposite sex fall within proximity of each other, the male's face will end up planted in the female's crotch or chest.

Skirts will helpfully flip up to provide maximum humiliation to both parties, exposing the girl's undergarments, and shirts will burst open to reveal maximum cleavage. Towels will fly off both parties for this same reason. In the rare occasion that the female is wearing pants, the male will instead be on top of the female while groping the female's breast(s). Nosebleeds are common in these scenarios.

In a similar sexual vein, a pre-adolescent girl will blossom out with full breasts and hips, sometimes growing instantly out of her clothing (common in erotic manga.)
The hero always wins with two exceptions
a. the other guy cheated
b. the other guy is a master at fighting or other skill.
b1. Amendment: no matter how strong the other guy is, the hero will be able to beat him or her with an intense compacted training session, usually in the span of a few days (unless handwaving time compression technology is available, enabling the hero to accomplish weeks or months of training in that same period of time).
b2. Amendment: the other guy will eventually like the hero and instantly switch sides, often including a tear jerking, episode long flashback that involves crying, childhood memories, and random other events involving the other guy, often in the middle of a battle with time standing still (in tandem with first example).
No matter the relative strengths or abilities, a male character always takes a maximum amount of damage, and will have no way of defending himself either, when punched by an angry female character in a comedic manner.

This happens often with the male being knocked bodily to the ground, across a room, or sent flying; there are sometimes very rare exceptions.

In situations of extreme jealousy or cleverness, certain characters can sprout cats ears.

Several rules in erotic manga exists, such as these:

  • Clothes are easily removed or destroyed.
  • Getting sexually transmitted diseases is almost impossible no matter what happens.
  • Body parts are sometimes exaggerated to a size that is beyond impossible.
  • Bras are rarely, if ever, worn.
  • Ejaculations can release up to gallons of semen at once and sometimes with such force to knock something down.
  • The female character almost never gets pregnant.
Chibi effect

There is a recurring joke in anime and manga that characters "shrink" to small versions of themselves (but with no child-like features except the size) with disproportional heads and small bodies, usually when they do "stupid" or joke-like situations, or when some feel embarrassed. This can be combined, as repercussions sometimes, with some of the above comical situations.

Alternate list

  • Dramatic moments tend to distort time, either by slowing it down (usually long enough to call out the name of an attacker or the name of the "special move" used in the attack, or for bystanders to comment on the situation), or by looping three times.
  • Human bodies contain more blood than a barrel of the same size, often under high pressure.
  • An angry girl will be able to hit any male (usually one who is romantically involved with her) hard enough to knock him into low Earth orbit.
  • Characters have an extradimensional storage space normally used for the concealment of weapons or tools. This is usually an oversized mallet in the case of many females. Because of this, this space is commonly known as Hammerspace.
  • Anime characters often have impossibly large sweatdrops coming from their heads when they are angry, or as a visual representation of a groan.
  • Any character of superior athletic ability can jump no less than ten feet into the air. In addition, feats of incredible strength, such as wielding ten-foot swords and punching through concrete, are relatively commonplace.
  • A group of five heroes will likely consist of a handsome guy, his best friend/rival, an attractive woman, a massive oaf, and a diminutive, annoying creature (usually a small child or magical being). This holds true for groups as small as three or as great as ten members; groups larger than ten are extremely rare. This also includes an intelligent and/or wise person (either a child computer whiz or an old man) or a mystical creature that specializes entirely in magic. [2]
  • When a character or multiple characters hear another character say something completely unexpected or the exact opposite of expected speech during a humorous or compromising situation, all said listening characters will experience a massive tug of gravity, causing them to instantly fall to the ground with significant force. Note that they are completely unharmed by this and often get up quickly to scold the other character. This is known as the "face-fault'.
  • No matter what the temperature or voltage, characters struck by fire or zapped by electricity will get no more than a blackened face.
  • If a character hears a comment to respond to from a few yards away, either he/she runs at the speed of light to face the commenter or his/her neck stretches such that his/her head will be near the talker.
  • A villain will not shoot while a character summons his or her armor or while a mecha is transforming. (With the exception of GaoGaiGar, whose enemies are smart enough to consistently interfere in such transformations.)
  • Any color in the visible spectrum is considered a natural hair color. If the colors are not enough, each character can have multiple hair color at the same time. This color can change without warning or explanation.
  • Similarly to cartoon physics, if a character is stabbed in the buttocks, he/she will jump miles high.
  • If two characters are challenging each-other, either one character(enlarged as to fill up most of the screen) will perform a move and then the other character will do the same, or (mostly in the case of Pokemon), there will be a split-screen
  • The eyes and mouth of a character are huge in proportion to the rest of the face, usually taking up 3/4 of the face.
  • In space, sound travels faster because there is no air to get in the way.
  • Female boobs are almost always larger than actual breasts.
  • Guys sometimes nosebleed when they're aroused.
  • During a battle, sometimes all the heroes fall to the villain as if about to be defeated. After this, a deus ex machina comes to their rescue to cease the villain. And then the main hero knocks down the villain in one hit.
  • In some form of argument, both participants' bodies may become much smaller and move through a 1-3 frame shaking-cycle until the fight is over. This is intended, generally, to be somehow humorous.
  • Some anime characters have 3-5 blood vessels concealed under the bridge of their noses. When embarrassed or sometimes angered, these blood vessels become very apparent.
  • Any superpowers and magical spells must be shouted as loudly as possible in order for them to work.
  • When certain characters are blown up, or involved in an explosion, instead of dying, they are shot so far into the air that they turn into a little sparkle and disappear, yet they can still be heard shouting back at the other characters.

For humorous effect, people will be literally run over by other people running right over them. The next scene usually has the person(s) run over, on the floor, with foot marks on them, sometimes flattened. They recover quickly.

Note that many of these laws only apply to the shōnen genre.


Some anime or manga may not use the examples above, or give them a twist.

More specifically, anime with political plots and other more serious subject matters, have abandoned the use of these techniques.

Specific physics

Besides the above, which apply in part to most of anime and mangas, there are ones that only exist in a certain anime world, as there are those specific to certain movie or comic franchises.

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Raditz landing.
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Rock falling weird.

Dragon Ball

In the series Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, the settings is a varied Earth, on which humans and anthropomorphic animals, most with hands and feet, live as equals and members of society. While humans themselves are not scarce, comprising themselves probably at least half of the sentient beings on this world, it seems evolution has done equal job on humans' normal descendants, as well as on animals', alike. There are still animals in their former medium (see tiger chasing Gohan during his training with Picollo), but in general, most are just evolved into human-like people which live in society with normal humans, get along with them and even have the same human tastes.[9] This may be due to a wish by a forgotten man (or creature) to become king, thus changing the history of the world forever in unknown ways[10] and probably making anthropomorphic creatures seem "regular" in it.

When moving to Dragon Ball Z and the vastness of space, a multitude of creatures with abilities to bend the rules of space and time are encountered, among which someone who can stop time as long as he holds his breath, thus having the advantage in a fight, or moreso proving useful in a team manner, as the others can protect him while he can do highly specialised tasks which first appear to base themselves on super speed.

A peculiar form of physics found only in this anime is that, when characters are flying, their feet become almost numb appendages. This meas that they're not flying or channeling their ch'i from the feet up, but that their torso, or sometimes hands are the ones allowing them to fly. If the chi is channeled from below, through the feet above, this depiction is a mistake of the creators.

Another example is a rock Son Goku and Freezer were standing on crumbling from down to up, and entire chunks of stone floating for a few instances with nothing under them (pictured right). This could be explained by being on a strange planet, or the two's tremendous gravitational forces acting to keep the rocks in momentum for a short time.


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A diagram of the Eight Chakra Gates and their points in the body.

In the anime and manga Naruto, the ninjas from that fictional universe accept the existence of a power made from the energy of a person, called chakra (a sort of spiritual energy). This chakra can be used either in its raw form, as Naruto himself and few others manage to do, because of the massive energy and concentration it requires, or in more subtle ways, as used by most ninjas. The chakra training and use, although known to be mostly used just by ninja, is recognized and treated with respect by most of the inhabitants of the world.

Chakra can give additional "superpowers", including moving objects with one's thought, healing even without touching someone, or even seeing the future. Chakra can be added to various weapons or contraptions to give them a boost or to change their purpose. In one of the movies, it is used for gliding machines.

In addition to this, there are the nine beasts, monsters as big as mountains with high energy/chakra. Most of the world knows of and accepts their existence, but few dare to talk about them, and also they do not want to have anything to with them. As a consequence, as some of them are sealed in human hosts, the people fear such persons, wrongfully believing to be the incarnations of the monsters, which in their eyes make these persons monsters themselves.

Code Geass

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The mark of geass on Jupiter's Great Red Spot made by Lelouch Lamperouge.

In the series Code Geass, there are two very obvious distinction from an usual Earth: one is Geass, the power to bend a human's will, and the other is a rare material with unique properties, sakuradite, both of which have triggered many wars. In addition, there are special places - temples - on the Earth which appear to connect with the planet Jupiter, and through this with the sum of human consciousness, which powers the Geass.

One Piece

In the anime and manga One Piece, the main bend of physics are the Devil fruits, very rare results of plants existing on the bottom of seas and oceans, which give the one that consumed them a random superpower. This makes the first episode a bit confusing at first as Monkey D. Luffy uses his ability to stretch his arms, which gives the impression of a temporary, cartoon-like bent of physics, but is quickly explained in the the seconds following this event.

As the One Piece universe progresses, there are revealed many strange, unbelieved to actually exist situations and creatures. The sea is filled with monsters, there is a region which houses Giants, and even a city in the sky, with earth sustained on the clouds, where people which have grown wings live.

As well, characters may be out-right flattened or drained of all water, or shot directly in places that would otherwise cause death, and still survive. This is mostly explained by the main characters' sheer will-power and physical power from training, but will sometime happen to more minor and relatively normal characters, with similar effects.

However, hard strains or big wounds may leave serious repercussions on the characters, although for a relatively short time compared with regular healing. There are implications that some techniques or forcing of the body may have the effect of reducing someone's lifespan.

Fullmetal Alchemist

File:Nina ChimeraForm.jpg
A Chimera resulted from Alchemy.

The driving force in all the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise works is alchemy. This is a result from a time-line divergence from an universe similar to ours, where instead of science evolving from alchemy, and abandoning the latter, alchemy was found a lot more useful and adopted, with what we know as science being almost forgotten. The alchemy is an effective plot device, and it allows abilities close to magic, although it is seen as an exact science and is studies as such. There are both good and bad results from it, as State Alchemists, but also Homunculi, man-made "humans", or Chimera – forcefully merges between two or more sentient beings, usually animals, but sometimes with humans used – a sort of extreme gene-splicing.

Additionally, when trying to go beyond the limits of "normal" and universally accepted alchemy, the Gate of Truth is found, which is a literal doorway to another dimension.

Eye colors play an important role in the anime, especially in the readaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. There are three main eye colors, blue, red and yellow. While the first two of their "owners" are at war, the third are the last remainders of an ancient and extinct race, and hold great power, despite being only three in themselves.

  • Red eyes: in the 2003 anime, they are first used to describe the State Alchemist killer Scar, although later giving the character a more appealing personality. It is rarely associated with his race, but this tries to make the entire situation less pleasant and more neutral. In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, it starts with Scar, then continues with a Ishbalan from major Armstrong's unit. The later Ishbalan is shown a lot more sympathetic. In both series, the red eyes are an oddity to the country of Amestris, and the eyes are hidden most of the times. In neither do they define a definite evil, although they are used in the introduction to "scare" the viewers.
  • Blue eyes. These are the main characteristics of Amestrians, and have no other role than distinguishing and pointing out, sometimes for dramatic effect, this race (it gives no superpowers, doesn't warn on plot changes etc). These go with blond hair, as a parallel with the Fuhrer and the Arian race, in an opposition with the Ishbalans, who they have almost wiped out, that have red eyes.
  • Yellow eyes. Edward Elrich, his brother and father have yellow eyes; this has several philosophical implication: for once, the eye colors are in contrast and different than the Ishbalans (red) or the Amestrians (blue), which are fighting each other; Hohenheim at least is much above average humans, as it is written in different texts; his sons, having visited "The Gate" and having basically found out all the alchemical secrets except human transmutation, may be considered to be way above the humans in the anime; they are also above regarding the fight between the Ishbalans and Amestrians, and all try to make peace between both sides, not having grudges on neither "race". Thus, the yellow eyes in FMA, while not giving special powers, give the sense of advanced abilities of understanding, acting and even knowing alchemy.

See also

External links


  1. "Manga Tutorials: Emotional Expressions". Rio. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  2. University of Michigan Animae Project (Current). "Emotional Iconography in Animae". 
  3. Schodt, Frederik L. (Reprint edition (August 18, 1997)). Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics. 22x20px Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International. ISBN ISBN 0-87011-752-1. 
  4. Schodt, Frederik L. (1996). Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley, 22x20px California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-8806562-3-X. 
  5. "Basic Anime Eye Tutorial". Centi, Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  6. "How to color anime eye (YouTube)". Carlus. 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  7. "Do Manga Characters Look "White"?". Retrieved December 11 2005. 
  8. Poitras, Gilles (1998). Anime Companion. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN ISBN 1-880656-32-9. 
  9. This is also noted in an article on TV Tropes.
  10. Dragon Ball Wishes on Dragon Ball Wikia