--> Blue Face - Japanese with Anime
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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Blue Face

In anime, sometimes a character's face turns blue due to shock, fear, disgust, or other sort of distress, discomfort or sickness. The reason for this is mostly that when someone seems unwell, we usually say that they're "pale" in English, but in Japanese they're said to be "blue" instead.

Togashi Yuuta 富樫勇太, Tsuyuri Kumin 五月七日くみん, example of sweating blue face.
Left: Togashi Yuuta 富樫勇太
Right: Tsuyuri Kumin 五月七日くみん
Anime: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! 中二病でも恋がしたい! (Episode 2)

Explanation

Things such as fear, anxiety and shock can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. Low blood pressure means there's less blood circulating to your face, and blood is red, so less blood means it becomes less red.

Kisaragi Amatsuyu 如月雨露, his face going blue with shock.
Character: Kisaragi Amatsuyu 如月雨露
Anime: Ore wo Suki nano wa Omae dake kayo 俺を好きなのはお前だけかよ (Episode 2)
  • kao-iro ga warui
    顔色が悪い
    The facial-color is bad. (literally.)
    To look unwell.

In English, we call the new, less-red color "pale," which is sort of white, but in Japanese it's called "blue," ao 青, probably because cyan is the opposite color to red.

Olivia オリヴィア, example of blue face.
Character: Olivia オリヴィア
Anime: Asobi Asobase あそびあそばせ (Episode 1)
  • shokku de massao ni naru
    ショックで真っ青になる
    To become "pure blue" with shock.
    To become pale with shock.
    To go blue with shock.
  • ganmen souhaku
    顔面蒼白
    The term one's face to turn pale from shock.
  • hiyaase
    冷や汗
    Cold sweat.

Note that the English expression "to go blue" also means to become pale, so it's not like the idea is exclusive to Japanese.

Naturally, people don't actually turn blue in real life, so more realistic anime that rely less on manga symbols will avoid the unnatural blue color and go for something closer to the skin color.

Typically, when characters are tense, their foreheads are drawn darker than normal.

"Priestess," Onna Shinkan 女神官, example of terrified face.
Character: "Priestess," Onna Shinkan 女神官
Anime: Goblin Slayer, ゴブリンスレイヤー (Episode 1)
  • ao-zameru
    青ざめる
    To blue-discolor. (literally.)
    To turn pale.
    • sameru
      褪める
      To fade. To discolor. (zameru is due to rendaku 連濁.)

The effect is also used when a character feels sick, "[like they're about] to puke," hakisou da 吐きそうだ.

Akutsu Mabu 阿久津真武, example of blue face.
Character: Akutsu Mabu 阿久津真武
Anime: Sarazanmai さらざんまい (Episode 7)

Ryuugazaki Rei 竜ヶ崎怜, example of character feeling sick, blue face.
Character: Ryuugazaki Rei 竜ヶ崎怜
Anime: Free!, フリー! (Episode 5)

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