And kanji with manga
Saturday, August 5, 2017

ahegao アヘ顔

In manga and anime, ahegao アヘ顔 means a certain iconic panting facial expression, an "O-face." It's a recurring trope in drawn pornography, in non-drawn pornography, and even in non-pornography. So ahegao is pretty much a meme at this point. It looks like this:

Kuroki Tomoko 黒木智子, example of ahegao アヘ顔. This image was a single frame Easter egg hidden in the ED of the 5th episode.
Anime: Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! 私がモテないのはどう考えてもお前らが悪い! (Episode 5)

Do not confuse ahegao アヘ顔 with ahoge アホ毛. Although they sound similar they're not the same thing at all.


Generally speaking, ahegao is an expression which shows euphoria and an open, panting mouth. There are many variations of it: with saliva dripping or sticking from the ceiling of the mouth, with tongue out, with eyes rolled up, etc.

Ristarte リスタルテ, example of ahegao アヘ顔.
Character: Ristarte リスタルテ
Anime: Shinchou Yuusha 慎重勇者 (Episode 10)

Although it's mostly known for its occurrence in hentai and doujinshi 同人誌, it makes its appearance in all sorts of anime. Specially those in the ecchi genre, which likes to parody ideas from hentai, and gag comedy, which likes to make fun of basically anything you can make fun of.

特にZZ(ツインゼット)と弐号機が同時に絶頂を迎えるときの表情がもう最高ですね こんないいアヘ顔を描ける作家はそうそういませんよ
Manga: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai 僕は友達が少ない
  • toku ni {tsuinzetto to nigouki ga
    douji ni zecchou wo
    mukaeru} toki no hyoujou ga
    mou saikou desu ne

    In particular, the expression [on their faces] when {Twin-Z and Machine #2 simultaneously approach climax} is the greatest.
  • konna ii ahegao wo kakeru
    sakka wa sousou imasen yo

    There aren't so many artists who can draw ahegao this good.

Double Peace

Although double peace signs often appear together with ahegao, they have nothing to do with the word. The term ahegao refers to the panting face only. It's just that a double peace ahegao is also a trope.

Aioi Yuuko 相生祐子, example of ahegao アヘ顔 plus daburu piisu ダブルピース, "double peace" signs.
Anime: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 8)

Terms for the peace signs in Japanese include:

  • piisu
    • Often refers to the "peace" sign, use when making a pose to take a photo, etc.
    • heiwa
      Peace. (as in, not at war.)
  • daburu piisu
    Double peace.
    • Peace sign with two hands.
  • daburu piisu
    (same meaning.)
  • vi

    V. (alphabet letter in katakana.)
    • Because they're V-signs.

In Real Life

Since ahegao is just a facial expression, real-life people can do it too. It's not limited to drawings.

However, given it's a completely and totally unnatural expression, real ahegao is pretty much always deliberate. If someone does it it's because it's a meme. People don't ahegao naturally like they laugh in reaction to a joke.

Kanji & Translation

The word ahegao is a compound of ahe アヘ, an onomatopoeia for *pant*, plus the word kao 顔, which means "face." So ahegao アヘ顔 is, literally, a "panting face."

But wait a second. The word kao, "face," starts with a ka, not with a ga. Why does kao become gao in ahegao? Shouldn't it be ahe-kao?

This happens because of rendaku 連濁, which's a thing that affects the pronunciation of suffixes by adding a diacritic to their first syllable so the whole word becomes easier to pronounce. See:

Although kao 顔 is written with kanji, the word ahe アヘ, like most onomatopoeia, doesn't have kanji and therefore can only be written without kanji, so it's spelled with katakana instead.

Like many other onomatopoeia, ahe アヘ has a reduplication: aheahe アヘアヘ., which refers to a continuous panting sound. Basically, If one ahe = one *pant*, then aheahe = *pant pant* or something like that.

  • ahe-ahe suru アヘアヘする
    To pant-pant.
    To be panting. To start panting.

If aheahe アヘアヘ sounds pretty weird for a panting to you, know that it's kind of a panting mixed with gasping, and that there are other sounds for painting in Japanese. Like:

  • haahaa はぁはぁ
  • heahea ヘアヘア

They're just like "ha," "haa," haahah" and so on.

Manga: JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 - Part 3: Stardust Crusaders (Chapter 54, 太陽 その②)
  • hera hera hera hera ahe ahe ahe
    (unintelligible panting.)

There are some Japanese words known in western anime communities that are kind of like ahegao.

For example: gesugao ゲス顔. Its gao is the same gao as of ahegao.

The word tsundere ツンデレ combines tsuntsun ツンツン with deredere デレデレ, which aren't onomatopoeia, but something similar: mimetic words.

Meme Edits

In Japanese, ahegao-kin アヘ顔菌, literally "ahegao germs," refers to a meme of editing or redrawing random characters with an ahegao face.

The first image above is the first one posted on Pixiv, by user Yukiman ゆきまん, in 2008-07-10. In the post, the author says the illustration is based on an ahegao edit of Suiseiseki 翠星石 (from Rozen Maiden) posted in some thread on 2chan (futaba 双葉).

I haven't been able to confirm which image was it exactly, since it was posted in a random thread on the internet over a decade ago, so it's long gone, however, it's probably going to be this one:

Suiseiseki 翠星石, origin of the ahegaokin アヘ顔菌 style meme edits. The bottom image actually comes from the anime. The top image is an edit, and possibly the one that started edits like it.
Left: Suiseiseki 翠星石
Right: Souseiseki 蒼星石
Anime: Rozen Maiden: Träumend, ローゼンメイデン トロイメント (Episode 1)
  • The top image is the edit. The earliest instance I found of it was in a random Russian blog in a post from 2007-12-28. The bottom image is from the actual anime episode.
  • Differences between the edit and the original image include:
    • Contrast, color balance. It could be due to the source used, but there doesn't seem to be any images of this screencap with similar color balance as the edit, so maybe the edit changed the colors for some reason.
    • Cropping and scaling. The edit is 4:3 while the original is 16:9. What's the point of cropping it? It even cropped Souseiseki in half. Maybe it's because the source was recorded from a 4:3 TV instead of being taken from Blu-rays?
    • Souseiseki has a large sweat drop dripping from her hair. In the anime, she didn't make an expression like that, with eyes closed ito-me 糸目 style.

It could be another image, but, I mean, I'm not aware of any other ahegao edits of Suiseiseki that have been posted all over the internet, so it's very likely this one.


The romaji ahegao is commonly misspelled "aheagao," due to this misspelling being used in the often reposted meme template know your gaos.

Searching for the mispelling "aheagao" on Google returns many results.

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