Wednesday, April 3, 2019

ganguro ガングロ

WIP : this article is incomplete and might change in the unforeseeable future.

In Japanese, ganguro ガングロ refers to the artificial "dark skin" that's basis of various makeup styles in gyaru ギャル fashion, like manba マンバ and yamanba ヤマンバ. It can also refer to a girl that wears ganguro.

The ganguro makeup makes use of the dark skin color to be contrastive. It tends to have light colors for the lip and eyes, with the hair colored orange, blonde, or white.


A common way ganguro is attained is through tanning. During the ganguro around year 2000, part of the gyaru culture was going to tanning salons get an artificial tan. A natural tan, under the natural sun, on the beach or pool, also counts as ganguro. As does a fake tan through cream or spray.

The point is simply to make your skin dark, through whatever means necessary.

Note that a gyaru that just has dark skin is simply called a kuro-gyaru 黒ギャル, "black gyaru." For example, the following gyaru may be called kuro-gyaru but not ganguro:

  • A gyaru with natural dark skin.
  • A gyaru with a tan, but not wearing a contrastive makeup.

Note that in the western anime fandom, the term ganguro is used toward pretty much any dark-skinned girl.

In any case, in anime, it can be very hard to tell whether a girl has natural dark skin or artificial dark skin.

Some related terms:

  • yakeru 焼ける
    To roast. (food.)
    To burn.
    To tan. (skin.)
  • hiyake 日焼け
    Tanning. Sunburn. "Sun roasting."
  • hiyake saron 日焼けサロン
    Tanning salon.
  • komugi-iro hada 小麦色肌
    Light-brown skin. "Wheat color skin."
  • kasshoku hada 褐色肌
    Dark-brown color skin. (natural or artificial.)
  • kokujin 黒人
    Black person. (race.)
  • hakujin 白人
    White person. (Caucasian only, in spite of most Japanese people having white skin.)

Black Face

The ganguro is used as basis for the makeup on your face, so it's not necessary to give your whole body dark skin when the makeup is on your face alone. The practice of wearing a black face, through black foundation (cosmetics), is a way to get this ganguro basis.

Sumiyoshi Kanako 住吉加奈子, example of ganguro ガングロ.
Character: Sumiyoshi Kanako 住吉加奈子
Anime: Nyan Koi! にゃんこい! (Episode 2, Rotated)
  • Context: a character with a darkened face compared to the rest of her skin, due to makeup.


There are two theories for the origin of ganguro:

  1. The gan part comes from gangan ガンガン, a mimetic word meaning "vigorously."
  2. The gan part is the on'yomi reading of the kanji for "face," kao 顔, the body part, which is gan 顔.

In either case, the guro グロ part comes from the color "black," kuro 黒, the k turning g because of rendaku, as it's a suffix. (it definitely doesn't come from the grotesque kind of guro グロ which has nothing to do with this word.)

So the literal meaning of ganguro must be either "vigorously black" or "face-black."

Blackness Levels

There are actually different terms for different levels of ganguro ガングロ, according to how dark the skin becomes. They are:

  1. ganguro ガングロ
  2. gonguro ゴングロ
  3. bachiguro バチグロ
  4. oniguro オニグロ

Most of these terms aren't really used anymore. Just ganguro is still well-known Furthermore, although bachiguro is supposed to be darker than gonguro which is darker than ganguro, I have no idea how dark we are talking about here.

I just know it's darker. Is it light brown, dark brown, black? I have no idea.

The words are also spelled ガン黒, ゴン黒, バチ黒, オニ黒, and 鬼黒. The last one, oniguro, comes from the word oni which is a kind of ogre demon.

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