Friday, January 24, 2020

sanpakugan 三白眼

In Japanese, sanpakugan 三白眼, known in English as "sanpaku eyes," refers to eyes that have small irises, such that the white part of the eye, the sclera, is visible between the iris the lower eyelid, shita-sanpakugan 下三白眼, or between the iris and the upper eyelid, ue-sanpakugan 上三白眼.

When the sclera is visible both above and under the iris, the term is shihakugan 四白眼.

Akagi Shigeru 赤木しげる, Nangou 南郷, Yasuoka 安岡, example of small irises, sanpakugan 三白眼.
Anime: Touhai Densetsu Akagi: Yami ni Maiorita Tensai 闘牌伝説アカギ〜闇に舞い降りた天才〜 (Episode 2, Stitch)

Meaning

The term sanpakugan 三白眼 means literally "three-white eyes," in the sense that three sides of the eye—left, right, and bottom, or left, right, and top—are white.

Diagram showing the difference between sanpaku eyes, shita-sanpakugan 下三白眼, ue-sanpakugan 上三白眼, and shihakugan 四白眼.

The basic idea is that, in a normal eye, the iris goes from the lower eyelid to the upper eyelid, so you can only see the sclera at the left and at the right of the iris, not above or below.

Aiura Mikoto 相卜命, example of gyaru ギャル character.
Anime: Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan 2 斉木楠雄のΨ難 2 (Episode 8)

Since left and right are two sides, this could be called nihakugan 二白眼, "two-white eyes." But then again, these are ordinary eyes, so nobody would call them by special names. Similarly, ippakugan 一白眼, "one-white eye," if such thing existed, would have only one side visible somehow.

The term sanpakugan normally refers to there being some white space between the iris and the lower eyelid.

Sakaido 酒井戸, example of sanpakugan 三白眼.
Anime: ID:Invaded (Episode 1)

Specifically, this is called shita-sanpakugan 下三白眼, "lower-sanpaku eyes," because the lower part of the eye is white.

Shidare Hotaru 枝垂ほたる, example of sanpakugan 三白眼.
Anime: Dagashikashi だがしかし (Episode 1)

Hijikata Toushirou 土方十四郎, example of small irises, sanpakugan 三白眼.
Anime: Gintama 銀魂 (Episode 17)

The opposite would be ue-sanpakugan 上三白眼, "upper-sanpaku eyes." These are sometimes also called jagan 蛇眼, "snake eyes."

Honda Hanako 本田華子, example of ue-sanpakugan 上三白眼.
Anime: Asobi Asobase あそびあそばせ (Episode 2)

Although ue-sanpakaugan are also sanpaku eyes, they're less likely to happen. The human upper eyelid normally retracts only as much as necessary, so there's rarely any white space between the upper eyelid and the iris.

Lastly, there's shihakugan 四白眼, also read yonpakugan 四白眼, which is when all four sides surrounding the iris are white. These tend to require a combination of small irises and large eyes.

Endou Saya 遠藤サヤ, example of tiny irises, shihakugan 四白眼.
Anime: Dagashikashi だがしかし (Episode 2)

These terms can be used toward real people and anime characters.

Looking upwards makes the bottom of your eye white since your irises will move up, therefore, in order to tell if someone has sanpakugan or not, the eyes must be classified according to how they look when looking straight forward, that is, according to how they look normally.

Similarly, you don't say a character has shihakugan just because they've been drawn with small irises one time or another when they were shocked by something.

Senku's weird face.
Anime: Dr. Stone, ドクターストーン (Episode 3, Stitch)

Historically, sanpakugan has been associated with some very bad stuff.

For starters, sanpakugan originates in traditional Chinese medicine, in medical face reading, in which having sanpakugan means your yin-yang is out of whack and the universe hates you, or something of sort.

Similarly, in Japan, the stereotype is that people with sanpakugan are criminals.[三白眼と犯罪者って関係あるんですか? - detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp, accessed 2020-01-25]

There's even an Italian criminologist, Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), who once theorized that certain facial features, like sanpakugan, are common in criminal minds.

Obviously, this is all hogwash—disproven theories, stereotypes and pseudoscience. Your eye geometry being in one way or another doesn't affect your life any more than the shape of your nose or of your ears. But it's worth knowing about it anyway.

References

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