Anime Cliches 24: Heterochromia

Type: Character Cliché

What made it popular: Fetishization of the real life condition with the same name + Eastern Folklore

Cliché Level: Medium

Where can you find it: Haganai, Another, K – Project, Rozen Maiden, Dragon Crisis, Gundam 00, Overlord, Fate/Stay Night, Sankarea, Petshop of Horrors, Zero no Tsukaima, Legend of the Galactic Heroes etc.

Description:

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Heterochromia refers to characters whose one iris is of a different colour than the other, either as a result of naturally being born this way, injury or due to the usage of contact lens. It does not in fact refer to temporary change in eye-colour (due to some power or magic), it has to be permanent, which means shows like Naruto or Date A Live do not apply here.

The real life Heterochromia iridum does not always result in fully different iris colours (sometimes its only partial), but in the medium of anime only the full kind is shown (Due to obviously being more appealing). This cliché arose as a result of mostly the fetishization of something that is exotic and rare, it is something that people get turned on by and feel attracted to ( I know do). There is also some Folklore and Mythological influence due to the fact that many Chinese Gods and Japanese Youkai are most commonly depicted with unnatural eye colours (Meaning not common to the Japanese people such as Green or Blue).

Why its bad: Heterochromia in reality is quite rare, especially in humans. It mostly occurs as a result of inbreeding or due to genetic defects. So having a heterochromatic character is quite unrealistic, to the point that you might as well represent people with albinism, since it would make little difference. Although some modern-day anime manage to excuse heterochromia via the usage of contacts (Chuunibyou, Another).

In supernatural or fantasy anime, heterochromia is an usual indicator of a character’s godhood, demonhood or general unnaturalness (Ayanami Rei and other Science abominations.)

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2 comments on “Anime Cliches 24: Heterochromia

  1. librarian25 says:

    Sigh, it sort of saddens me that this is a cliche. Like how they are using it, Heterochromia is totally only on an aesthetic level even though there are instances where it does help the story, albeit rarely. Regardless I am happy seeing it in anime.

    I understand your points on why it is bad, but as somebody who does have Heterochromia I don’t see it as a representation. Unlike the color of someone’s skin, or what religion they believe in, Heterochromia is just not as noticable so when a character does have it I think “oh that’s cool, out of the norm” but never “oh I can relate,” because like you said so little people have it that when writing about it people just wouldn’t understand what problems you could write into your character to make it realistic. And just because it is unrealistic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. Have they been using it well in anime? No, but the fun thing about anime and any story telling medium is that it’s all fiction. It doesn’t need to be realistic, just having enough qualities for characters to be relatable is necessary. Eye color is just not relatable, at least for me, so the way I see it having fun with these characters is just having fun. I don’t think anime shouldn’t use them, I mean I’m not russian but I like writing stories set in russia, that’s just the beauty of fiction, you can do anything.

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  2. […] her seal” on her “evil eye” which she usually covers with an eyepatch. Heterochromia via eye contacts is a common element here. Takanashi Rikka and Megumin fall into this […]

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