And kanji with manga
Monday, June 29, 2020

kuro-mesen 黒目線

In Japanese, kuro-mesen 黒目線, "black eye-line," or just mesen 目線, "eye line," also known as me-kakushi-sen 目隠し線, "eye-hiding line," are black censor bars covering someone's eyes used to make them anonymous in order to protect their identity and privacy.

Note: mesen 目線 also has other meanings.

Example of black censor bars covering eyes, kuro-mesen 黒目線, "black eye-lines."
Anime: Shinryaku! Ika Musume 侵略!イカ娘 (Episode 3)

Usage

Historically, black censor bars were used on a person's eyes in a published photo or video with the purpose of making them anonymous, or at least hard to recognize.

The black bars are typically associated with criminals, due to their usage on crime suspects who have committed crimes, or, allegedly committed crimes, plus anyone who appears on a photo with them, including victims of the crime, witnesses, and other people associated with the crime.

There are actually other usages of these bars. For example, in medicine, diseases may be studied using a photograph of a patient as reference. That photo will have the patient identity censored, with black bars.

Of course, the average person isn't a doctor, so they'll only see black bars on mass media, on the news, when the press reports a crime, or reports that some random teenager delinquent vandalized something, or whatever. Hence its association with unethical things.

Example of black censor bars covering eyes, kuro-mesen 黒目線, "black eye-lines."
Character: Matsuya Misaki 松屋美咲
Anime: Excel♥Saga, エクセル♥サーガ (Episode 6)
  • kao-dashi enu-jii
    顔出しNG
    Showing [one's] face is no-good, out of limits, not allowed, etc.
    • Not to be confused with someone cosplaying as 2B.
    • mekakushi
      目隠し
      "Eye-hiding."
      Blindfold.

They aren't actually used in modern times as much as they were used in the past, probably due to advances in technology that brought us new ways to censor things.

Example of "mosaic" censorship, mozaiku モザイク, pixelization.
Character: Matsuya Misaki 松屋美咲
Anime: Excel♥Saga, エクセル♥サーガ (Episode 6)
  • mozaiku
    モザイク
    "Mosaic."
    Pixelated censor filter.
    • Not to be confused with:
    • dotto-e
      ドット絵
      "Dot picture."
      Pixel art.

When they are used nowadays, it's often as a joke, as parody.

Dekomori Sanae 凸守早苗 and Nibutani Shinka 丹生谷森夏, example of black censor bars over a character's eyes.
Top-left: Dekomori Sanae 凸守早苗
Top-right: Nibutani Shinka 丹生谷森夏
Anime: Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren 中二病でも恋がしたい!戀 (Season 2) (Episode 4)
  • I sense something immoral going on here.

Do these black bars actually conceal someone's identity?

A bit.

Well, I mean, it's better than nothing. Wouldn't count on it, though. Specially if we're talking about someone famous and easily recognizable.

Lina Inverse リナ・インバース, example of censor black bars covering a character's eyes.
Character: Lina Inverse リナ・インバース
Anime: Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki Desu ka? 通常攻撃が全体攻撃で二回攻撃のお母さんは好きですか? (Episode 2)

For reference, here's an After-Effects tutorial on how to add them:

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