And kanji with manga
Thursday, April 30, 2020

Elf Ears

In anime, elf ears are long, pointed ears, which may or may not be attached to an elf.

Rimuru リムル imagining elves.
Elves: unnamed
Slime: Rimuru リムル
Anime: Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken, 転生したらスライムだった件 (Episode 4)

Definition

Generally speaking, elf ears are simply long, pointed ears. They have basically nothing to do with elves, or the elf race, or anything like that.

There are many characters with pointed ears that aren't elves. They're often fairies, or demons, or basically any sort of fantasy race. Their ears are said to be "elf ears," erufu-mimi エルフ耳, in spite of them not being elves.

Likewise there might be elf characters without pointed ears.

To be honest, I've never seen one. As far as I'm concerned, in anime, all elves have pointed ears, and pointed ears are basically the only obvious thing that distinguishes elf characters from the average human character.

Some other, less obvious common features of elves are:
  • Tendency to live in the forest for some reason.
  • Uses bow and arrow as weapon.
  • Can use magic well.
  • Lives longer than humans, doesn't age as quickly.

Origin

The spread of the association of long, pointed ears with elves in manga and anime is attributed to the novel Lodoss-tou Senki ロードス島戦記, and its high-elf heroine, Deedlit ディードリット, who was designed by illustrator Izubuchi Yutaka 出渕裕.

An illustration of the high-elf Deedlit ディードリット, by Izubuchi Yutaka 出渕裕. The character is said to have popularized pointed elf ears in anime.
Character: Deedlit ディードリット
Illustrator: Izubuchi Yutaka 出渕裕
Source: https://news.denfaminicogamer.jp/interview/180514

In the 1990 OVA adaptation, Deedlit's ears were animated pretty much like "donkey ears," roba no mimi ロバの耳, in the aspect that they could move upward and downward expressively.

Deedlit ディードリット, example of elf ears.
Character: Deedlit ディードリット
Anime: Lodoss-tou Senki, ロードス島戦記 (Episodes 2, 1, 5)

The Lodoss novel was first published in 1988, and it was influenced by table-top RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons.

D&D was first published in 1974, by the way.

Despite how often elves show up in anime, they aren't actually a Japanese fantasy creature, but a western one, so it makes sense for the historical origins of the long, pointy ears to also be western.

Notably, The Lord of the Rings (Yubiwa-monogatari 指輪物語, "Ring Tale") by J.R.R. Tolkien, first published in 1954, supposedly had pointy-eared elves, or didn't, because this very important detail about elves wasn't written clearly and unambiguously in the books.

Let me clear up something: classic fantasy works said elf ears were pointy, not long. As in: they're about the same size as human ears, except elf ears are not round, they're pointy. In Lodoss, the elves' ears weren't merely pointy, they were also ridiculously long.

If you watch the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, you'll see elves like Legolas having pointy ears that are nowhere as long as the donkey-sized ears of Deedlit. That's the type of ear that Lodoss popularized, not simply pointy ears in general.

In Germanic folklore, elves are human-like supernatural beings, and that's pretty much it. In typical classical art fashion, they're often depicted frolicking and prancing around in forests, swamps, and all that European kinda stuff.

There's nothing about elves that says they have pointed ears, although there are reasons for them to hang around in forests, to have supernatural abilities (magic), and to have an affinity for communicating with forest spirits and fairies.

Title: Ängsälvor, by Nils Blommér, 1850 (Public Domain)
Source: eoskins at flickr
  • Blunt-eared elves depicted performing the lewdest, most obscene act known to man: hand-holding.
  • The title of this work is "Meadow Elves" or "Fairies of the Meadow," because, historically, the English word "elf" was loosely synonymous with the French word "fairy."

In Japanese

The term for "elf ears" in Japanese is literally erufu-mimi エルフ耳.

It works in the same way as nekomimi 猫耳 means "cat ears."

Shera L. Greenwood シェラ・L・グリーンウッド, and Rem Galeu レム・ガレウ, example of elf and cat girl, respectively.
Left: Shera L. Greenwood シェラ・L・グリーンウッド
Right: Rem Galeu レム・ガレウ
Anime: Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu 異世界魔王と召喚少女の奴隷魔術 (Episode 1)

Examples

For reference, some examples of elf ears in anime:

Elf Elf Ears

Fiel Nirvalen フィール・ニルヴァレン, example of character with cross-shaped pupils.
Character: Fiel Nirvalen フィール・ニルヴァレン
Anime: No Game No Life, ノーゲーム・ノーライフ (Episode 8)

Dark Elf Elf Ears

An elf that is "dark-skinned," kasshoku-hada 褐色肌 is also known as a:
  • daaku erufu
    ダークエルフ
    Dark elf.

Pirotessa ピロテース, example of "dark elf," daaku erufu ダークエルフ.
Character: Pirotessa ピロテース
Anime: Lodoss-tou Senki, ロードス島戦記 (Episode 9)
  • tanima hooru
    谷間ホール
    Cleavage "hole." (literally.)
    Cleavage window. A hole in the middle of a girl's clothes designed to show cleavage.

Aura Bella Fiora アウラ・ベラ・フィオーラ and her younger brother Mare Bello Fiore マーレ・ベロ・フィオーレ, example of heterochromatic eyes, elves.
Left: Aura Bella Fiora アウラ・ベラ・フィオーラ
Right: Mare Bello Fiore マーレ・ベロ・フィオーレ
Anime: Overlord, オーバーロード (Episode 1)

Half Elf Elf Ears

A "half elf," haafu-erufu ハーフエルフ, is a child born from an elf with a human. In other words, half-elf, half-human.

Half elf ears are half as long. That's just math.

Emilia エミリア, example of "half elf," haafu-erufu ハーフエルフ.
Character: Emilia エミリア
Anime: Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活 (Episode 1)
  • Elf Ear Length ÷ 2
  • + Human Ear Length ÷ 2
  • = Half Elf Ear Length.

It's worth noting that, in Japanese, "half," haafu ハーフ, is sometimes used to refer to someone who is half-Japanese, half-foreigner. This usage may be considered offensive.

Demons Elf Ears

Etna エトナ, Laharl ラハール, examples of anime fang.
Left: Etna エトナ
Right: Laharl ラハール
Anime: Makai Senki Disgaea, 魔界戦記ディスガイア (Episode 2, Collage)


Example of "succubus," sakyubasu サキュバス.
Character: unnamed
Anime: Demi-chan wa Kataritai, 亜人ちゃんは語りたい (Episode 1)

  • The most common type of monster girl.
  • sakyubasu
    サキュバス
    Succubus.
  • inma
    淫魔
    Lewd demon.
  • muma
    夢魔
    Dream demon.
  • tsubasa

    Wings.
  • shippo
    尻尾
    Tail.

Jin 陣, example of anime fang.
Character: Jin
Anime: Yū☆Yū☆Hakusho 幽☆遊☆白書 (Episode 39)
  • oni

    A type of horned evil spirit in Japanese folklore.
  • tsuno

    Horn.

Demon Demon Ears

The term akuma-mimi 悪魔耳, "demon ears," refers to pointed ears that are curved upwards, rather than the traditional elf ear that goes far outward.

Lum ラム, example of anime character with "fangs," kiba 牙.
Character: Lum ラム
Anime: Urusei Yatsura うる星やつら (Episode 1, 町に石油の雨がふる)

Okumura Rin 奥村燐, example of fangs.
Character: Okumura Rin 奥村燐
Anime: Ao no Exorcist, 青の祓魔師 (Episode 5)

Valac Clara ウァラク・クララ, example of "jagged teeth," gizaba ギザ歯.
Character: Valac Clara ウァラク・クララ
Anime: Mairimashita! Iruma-kun 魔入りました!入間くん (Episode 3)

Other Elf Ears

Aiwarn アイワーン, example of one-eyed monster girl.
Character: Aiwarn アイワーン
Anime: Star☆Twinkle Precure, スター☆トゥインクルプリキュア (Episode 16)

Aloe アロエ, example of "womb tattoo," and other lewd crests, inmon 淫紋.
Character: Aloe アロエ
Anime: Ishuzoku Reviewers, 異種族レビュアーズ (Episode 2)
  • fearii
    フェアリー
    Fairy.
  • inmon
    淫紋
    [Womb tattoo].
  • hane

    Insect wings.
  • mimi-kazari
    耳飾り
    Earrings. "Ear decoration."

Paimon パイモン, a djinn, example of three-eyed character.
Character: Paimon パイモン
Anime: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, マギ (Episode 5, Censored)
  • jin
    ジン
    Djinn. Genie. (Arabian folklore.)
  • tagan
    多眼
    Many-eyed. (e.g. having three eyes.)
  • mimi-piasu
    耳ピアス
    Ear piercing.

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