Saturday, March 30, 2019

gesugao ゲス顔

In Japanese, gesugao ゲス顔 means "scum face." In anime, it normally refers to the twisted, grinning expressions characters that are scum, vulgar lowlifes, make when they're enjoying a situation. Savoring the fact they won, often mocking the loser. Or are scheming some evil plan. Or even just throwing slurs at someone they hate.

Generally, gesugao is depicted with the following features:
  • Looking down at the "loser."
  • Grinning, laughing, or putting their tongue out mockingly.
  • One eye slight closed.
  • Pupils drawn smaller than usual.
  • Shadow drawn around the forehead.

Gesugao of and Saotome Mary and Jabami Yumeko.
Anime: Kakegurui 賭ケグルイ (Episode 1)


A lot of western fans mistakenly associate gesugao with girls that are either yandere or "sadist," do-S, evil villains with God complexes that think other people are insects compared to them, and scheming bullies or cheaters getting high on the thought of crushing their victims.

Gesugao of Quinella .
Anime: Sword Art Online: Alicization (Episode 23)
  • You can tell by the fact that you can see Quinella's molars at the ceiling of her mouth that she is, indubitably, looking down at you.

Male Gesugao

However, the term actually applies to either gender, and you're more likely to see an evil dude with a gesugao than a evil girl with gesugao.

Ryuuzaki gesugao.
Anime: Tenjou Tenge 天上天下 (Episode 3)
  • Textbook definition of scum. Face and everything.

It just happens nobody cares about the dudes, as usual: people only pay attention when girls do it. So much that it's become practically a kind of fetish and consequently a type of fanservice by now.

They don't need to be laughing like a maniac either. Some gesugao are just grinning like an evil potato-chip-eating bastard.

Gesugao of Light Yagami.
Manga: Death Note

Not Evil Gesugao

Furthermore, sometimes a character does a gesugao and they aren't evil or anything. It can happen as a joke, in comedy anime, when the character gains some petty advantage over someone else, like winning a bet, or discovering some blackmail material, and then they pretentiously grin in gesugao as if they're now the king of the world.

Gesugao of Megumin.
Anime: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! この素晴らしい世界に祝福を! (Episode 11, OVA)
  • Here we have Megumin, acting smug for winning a match of rock-paper-scissors.

There are also those characters that aren't villain evil, but are definitely demons.

Gesugao of Raphiel Ainsworth Shiraha.
Anime: Gabriel DropOut (Episode 1)
  • Raphiel rejoices in humiliating others.

Not Smiling Gesugao

Since gesugao just means literally "scum face," and not "grinning face" or anything like that, the point of the term isn't that the character is grinning, but that their face lets it show that they're scum. Even though most of the time gesugao shows up in pleasure, sometimes gesugao shows up in displeasure, specially when the character is annoyed, disgusted. or angry with someone.

In Japanese

Linguistically, gesugao ゲス顔 is the word gesu ゲス which means "scum," as in a low-life, with no dignity, waste of oxygen, human-shaped trash, etc. and the word kao 顔 which means "face," the body part, and thus can also mean "expression." For why kao turns to gao as suffix, see rendaku 連濁.
  • gesu yarou ゲス野郎
    [You] scum!
    [Someone who's] scum.

Another word that follows the same pattern is ahegao アヘ顔, "panting face."


The word shingesu 真ゲス, meaning literally "true scum," refers to the gesugao of Shingetsu Rei 真月零, a certain character from Yu-gi-oh Zexal 遊☆戯☆王ZEXAL.

Yu-gi-oh Zexal gesugao of Shingetsu Rei.
Anime: Yu-gi-oh Zexal 遊☆戯☆王ZEXAL (Episode 96)

As you can see, his gesugao was so extreme that people gave a name to it.

The term shingesu 真ゲス is a portmanteau from his name, Shingetsu 月, and the word "scum," gesu ゲス, which we can assume was actually taken from gesugao. So shingesu doesn't actually mean "true scum," it just comes from the character's name.

However, it's a trope to call a something that's in full-power a "true something," like one's "true power," or the "True Goddess Reincarnation," Shin Megami Tensei 真・女神転生, and stuff like that. So shingesu kind of also ends up having that meaning of a true gesugao, a gesugao that's like Dracula, the true vampire, much more powerful than the weaker imitations of it/him.

Note that although shingesu was named after the Zexal character, it's become a meme, so you may see it in illustrations that don't feature the Shingetsu, or even Zexal at all.

In fact, you can even find references to this meme in manga and anime.

Gesugao of Runrun from Mahoujin Guruguru (2017)
Anime: Mahoujin Guru Guru 魔法陣グルグル (2017) (Episode 4)
  • Runrun ルンルン showed a shingesu gesugao for a fraction of a second. It was literally a single frame.

Further Reading


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