When you first start to watch anime, you naturally encounter concepts that seem strange. Like those funny blue lines that appear over a character’s head when they’re on the receiving end of some particularly bad luck, or the ever popular nosebleed, usually by a male character who’s thinking impure thoughts about a girl. There’s a complex “meme pool” in anime that we all tap into, with visual jokes that make perfect sense to the Japanese but which might be more difficult for us to understand. When a character is portrayed as extremely handsome, for example, they’ll have “sparkly glitter” shining around their head (or sometimes just on their teeth), and when a character is in “super romantic mode” they’ll appear slightly out of focus against a background of roses or bubbles. These memes change with the times, too. In the 80s characters who pulled out “hyperspace hammers” to smash someone who had done something ecchi was a staple gag, while the 90s saw the “giant sweat drop” that grew over the heads of characters when they were upset was popular. I wonder what the defining visual anime joke of the current decade will be?
Anime employs many subtle visual memes that are fun to analyze.