Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sweat Drops

In manga and anime, characters are often drawn sweating. This can happen for various reasons, with the sweat drops being drawn in various ways. Most of the time, the characters aren't physically sweating, the sweat merely symbolizes their mental state, like anxiety.

A collage of different types of sweating symbols in anime.
Top-left: Hinamatsuri ヒナまつり (Episode 1)
Top-middle: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 11)
Top-right: Full Metal Panic, フルメタル・パニック! (Episode 9)
Bottom-left: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 1)
Bottom-middle: Inu x Boku SS, 妖狐×僕SS (Episode 4)
Bottom-right: Bonobono ぼのぼの (1995) (Episode 1)


For reference, how to say sweating in Japanese:
  • ase

    • ase maaku
      Sweat mark. (literally.)
      The term for the large anime sweat drop symbol.
    • hiya-ase
      Cold sweat.
      • hiyasu
        To cool. To refrigerate.
  • ase wo kaku
    To let sweat surface.
    To sweat. To perspire.
    • kaku
      To touch a surface with something pointy. To touch something with a finger. To scratch. To touch something with a blade.
      To let something unwanted come out to the surface.
      • kaku
        To write. (by scratching a paper with a pointy pencil.)
      • kaku
        To draw. (same way.)
      • haji wo kaku
        To let embarrassment surface.
        To feel embarrassment in public.
  • ase wo nagasu
    To let sweat flow. (literally.)
    To work up a sweat. To sweat due to a physical activity. To be dripping in sweat.
  • kinchou suru
    To feel tense.
  • aseru
    To feel anxious, impatient. To feel urgency when things aren't going the way you want.
    • aseri
      The feeling of aseru. (noun form.)


In manga and anime, characters can be drawn sweating for various reasons. Some of them are real—like due to physical activity, or sickness, fever—while others are symbolic, in which case the sweat is merely a visual cue that hints the character's current mental state.

Large Sweat Drop

The "anime sweat drop," as it's typically called, is usually a single ridiculously large sweat drop drawn dripping from the side of a character's forehead, or from their hair, specially if their back is faced to the camera.

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.

This symbol is used when the character is perplexed, bewildered, confused, or otherwise at loss of words.

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.

It's always used when the character is reacting at what another character said or did. In comedy anime, characters say absurdities constantly, so instead of making a remark every time, other characters may just smile nervously and shrug it off with s sweat mark.

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 a symbol like the anger mark, and therefore can appear even on characters that should be incapable of physically sweating.

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.

Small Sweat Drop

Besides the large sweat drop, smaller sweat drops are also constantly used in manga and anime. In fact, they're even more ubiquitous, appearing basically everywhere.

They frequently show up due to nervousness, anxiety, shyness, but sometimes they may appear due to excitement, too. This is also the style used in more realistic sweat, like from sickness or physical activity.

Ikeda Kana 池田華菜, example of fire eyes.
Character: Ikeda Kana 池田華菜
Anime: Saki 咲 (Episode 19)

Often, small sweat drops are drawn on the cheek of characters to make their expression appears more tense than normal.

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)

The more sweat drops there are, the stronger the anxiety or excitement.

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)

These are sometimes compared to the shihiragana due to their shape.

Kageyama Shigeo 影山茂夫, example of odoro-sen おどろ線.
Manga: Mob Psycho 100, Mobu Saiko Hyaku モブサイコ100 (Chapter 55, 知らない)

Dripping Sweat Drops

Typically, sweat drops drawn symbolically don't drip down the face of characters. Instead, they simply stay there. In some cases, however, the sweat drops are drawn dripping, or are drawn as if they were about to drip from the chin.

When this happens, it's probably because the character is sweating profusely, which means they're extremely nervous, shocked, frozen in fear, or in a state of absolute panic.

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

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)

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)

Asagaya Minoa 阿佐ヶ谷未乃愛, sweating profusely.
Character: Asagaya Minoa 阿佐ヶ谷未乃愛
Anime: Animegataris, アニメガタリズ (Episode 1)

Spilled Sweat Drops

Drops of sweat drawn on the air, as if they're spilling away from a character, are called plewds.

Plewds are more common in manga than in anime, and they're used when a character is worried, flustered, timid or in relief.

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)

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

Flickering Sweat Drops

Drops of sweat drawn as circles flickering over a character's head are used when the character is flustered or panicking, typically when they're trying to explain something and fumbling due to nervousness.

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)

Shooting Waves of Sweat Drops

An exaggerated variant of plewds seen in some series are waves of sweat drops shooting away endlessly from a character.

Dino ディーノ, example of sweat flying away in waves.
Anime: Blend S, ブレンド・S (Episode 8)

Bonobono ぼのぼの, Shimarisu シマリス, example of sweating waves of plewds.
Left: Bonobono ぼのぼの
Right: Shimarisu シマリス
Anime: Bonobono ぼのぼの (1995) (Episode 1)

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