Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sweat Drop

In manga and anime, the sweat drop, or "sweat mark" in Japanese, ase maaku 汗マーク, is a large teardrop-shaped symbol representing sweat, that has basically nothing do with actual sweat, generally used when a character is perplexed, bewildered, confused, or otherwise at loss of words.

Maria マリア, example of sweat drop, ase maaku 汗マーク.
Character: Maria マリア
Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 11)


The anime sweat drop is always used when a character is reacting to what another character said or did. The exact reaction varies.

Sometimes, it's because the character is embarrassed at what another character said or did, at their antics, at an awkward situation, or at Too Much Information® such that they simply can't deal with it.

They may be confused or perplexed, and a large number of times they'll laugh it off, smile nervously, pretend they didn't see or hear anything, make an appeasing comment, and then change the subject completely.

Haruno Haruka 春野はるか, example of spiral eyes, guruguru-me グルグル目.
Character: Haruno Haruka 春野はるか
Anime: Go! Princess Precure (Episode 1)
  • An utterly confused Haruka, with the sweat drop and swirling eyes.

Comedy anime often feature characters with so little common sense that they'd be honestly impossible to deal with were they real people. In such anime, instead of having someone say "what's wrong with you?!" every five seconds, the sweat drop tends to be used instead.


The sweat drop is often rendered at the right or left side of the forehead, or around the cheeks. It's rarely rendered at the middle of the forehead.

Like the anger mark, the sweat drop is a sort of emanata drawn on top of the character, rather than on the character's skin. As such, the sweat drop is commonly visible on the character's hair, or floating on the background, unlike an actual drop of sweat.

Since it's pretty much always used in reaction to someone or something, it's common for the sweat drop to be drawn on the back of the character's head as the camera points toward whatever they're reacting to.

Example of sweat drops on the back of the heads of characters.
Anime: Ouran High School Host Club, Ouran Koukou Hosuto-Bu 桜蘭高校ホスト部 (Episode 4)
  • Three characters witness some cringe-worthy stuff.

The sweat drop isn't actually sweat, it's just a symbol based on sweat. Characters end up looking like they're sweating, but they aren't actually sweating. Nobody sweats on cue like this, and nobody sweats this much.

An eye-ball robot with a sweat drop.
Anime: Choujin Gakuen Gowcaizer, 超人学園ゴウカイザー (OVA, Episode 1)
  • Robots lack the sweat glands necessary to sweat.
  • They physically can't sweat.
  • That doesn't stop the sweat drop from showing up on robots, though, since it isn't actually sweat.

Other Sweating Symbols

Besides the large sweat drop, there are actually a few other ways sweat is used symbolic in manga and anime, each of them rendered differently.

Small Sweat Drop

A single drop of sweat, drawn on skin, normal-sized, like a real drop, tends to be used when a character is slightly nervous, anxious, afraid or tense about something.
  • kinchou suru
    To feel nervous. To feel tense.

Nitta Yoshifumi 新田義史, example of sweat drop.
Character: Nitta Yoshifumi 新田義史
Anime: Hinamatsuri ヒナまつり (Episode 1)
  • hiyase
    Cold sweat.

This includes situations where the character feels timid about something.

The large and small sweat drops are treated as different symbols in most series. The large drop tends to be featured only in comedy anime, while the small drop is featured more generally.

Some series may use the small sweat drop as if it were the large sweat drop, but the large sweat drop is never used in tense situations, as it's exclusively a symbol for comedic purposes.

In any case, these two drops make it look like anime characters are sweating all the time, even though they're only drawn for the purpose of expressing how a character feels at a moment.

In extremely tense situations, multiple drops may be drawn.

Aguri 亜玖璃, Uehara Tasuku 上原祐, Hoshinomori Chiaki 星ノ守千秋, example of characters sweating.
Left: Aguri 亜玖璃
Middle: Uehara Tasuku 上原祐
Right: Hoshinomori Chiaki 星ノ守千秋
Anime: Gamers!, ゲーマーズ! (Episode 6)

Sweating Profusely

This one is common in the west, too: when a character is extremely nervous, anxious, afraid, etc. they're drawn sweating profusely, with sweat drops covering their face.

Sena Izumi 瀬名泉水, sweating profusely.
Character: Sena Izumi 瀬名泉水
Anime: Love Stage!! (Episode 1)

Sagara Sousuke 相良宗介, sweating profusely.
Character: Sagara Sousuke 相良宗介
Anime: Full Metal Panic, フルメタル・パニック! (Episode 9)

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)

Panicked Sweating

When a character panics trying to explain a situation, convince someone of something, ask for something, and so on, a bunch of small circles are drawn flickering around their head, as if they were a human sweat-sprinkler or something like that.

This sometimes also happens when they're just worried, distressed or impatient.

Hiraga Saito 平賀才人, example of sweating circles.
Character: Hiraga Saito 平賀才人
Anime: The Familiar of Zero, Zero no Tsukaima ゼロの使い魔 (Episode 3)

Hakubi Ryouko 白眉魎呼, Masaki Tenchi 柾木天地, example of character sweating in panic.
Left: Hakubi Ryouko 白眉魎呼
Right: Masaki Tenchi 柾木天地
Anime: Tenchi Muyou! Ryououki 天地無用!魎皇鬼 (OVA, Episode 1)

Watanuki Banri 渡狸卍里, example of sweating circles.
Left: Watanuki Banri 渡狸卍里
Right: Shirakiin Ririchiyo 白鬼院凜々蝶
Anime: Inu x Boku SS, 妖狐×僕SS (Episode 4)

Spilling Sweat

In some cases, one drop or a few drops of sweat are drawn spilling away from the character's head to express vexation or impatience. This isn't very common in anime, it happens more in manga.
  • aseri
    Anxiety. Impatience. A feeling of urgency when things aren't going the way you want.
    • aseru
      To feel anxious. To feel impatient.

Akaza Akari 赤座あかり, sweating.
Character: Akaza Akari 赤座あかり
Anime: Yuru Yuri ゆるゆり (Episode 1)

The Nichijou series is a bit peculiar about this symbol because the teacher character spills sweat practically every time she speaks. This is probably due to her timid nature.

Sakurai Izumi 桜井泉, spilling sweat.
Character: Sakurai Izumi 桜井泉
Anime: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 1)

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