A Guide to Anime Emoticons

And why they're getting popular


By Sohan D'souza

At the dawn of the internet era, BBS-users discovered that the lack of face-to-face communication resulted in conflict when, for example, parodies or humorous comments were taken seriously. Even telephone users could use voice tone to indicate anger, sarcasm or humor.

As such, they needed to find a way to express the tone of the messages they were posting. No need to go into how exactly it happened, but the first emoticons were a godsend, and prevented many an awkward, confusing or flammable situation. Over the years, with the evolution of the BBS into the Internet, and then the explosion of online websites, forums and chat interfaces, the proto-emoticon regularly evolved into a myriad sets, mostly unique to their hosts, and even developed into codes that were translated by the communication engine into images and sometimes even animations.

As the environment molds evolving lifeforms to its demands, each online community tends to mold the emoticon concept to its own needs and characteristics. The online community of anime fandom is no exception. The creativity and experimentation of fellow anime fans has given rise to the following set of anime emoticons that have withstood the test of time.

Emoticon Meaning Illustration
Root emoticons
^_^ or ^__^ Eyelids raised: smiling, happy
U_U or u_u Eyelids lowered: solemn, sad, sometimes exasperated
X_X or x_x Cross eyes: dead, tired, knocked out
*_* Starry eyes: fascination, admiration, euphoria
=_= or -_- Narrowed eyes: bliss, happy mood
O_O or o_o Wide round eyes: concern, shock, confusion
._. Dot eyes: blank expression, or puzzled
@_@ Spiral eyes: dizzy or confused
T_T or ;_; Tear streams or drops: crying
>_< Contorted eyes: anger, frustration
O_o or o_O One widened eye: sudden confusion
^_- or ^_~ Winking eye: humor, joke
$_$ Dollar eyes: money on the mind
9_9 or 6_6 Directed eyes: looking up or down
>_> or <_< Directed eyes: looking left or right
z_z or #_# Sleepy eyes: snoozing away
h_h "h" eyes: thinking perverted hentai thoughts
^o^ or ^O^ Laughing or humorously calling out someone
^.^ or ^.^ Oooh, amazement
=3 Neko mouth: Catty mischief or feline attribute
Diacritics/Accents
; as in ^_^; Adds a sweat drop to express awkwardness
# as in >_<# Adds a popping vein to express irritation or added frustration
* as in *^_^* Adds blushing cheeks to express embarrassment or humility
zZ as in -_-zZ Indicates that one is sleeping, or sleepiness
= as in =^_^= or =(|)_(|)= Adds whiskers to express felinity and catty mischief
^ as in ^o_o^ Adds pointy animal ears, usually represents a dog
x as in ^_^x Adds a scar like Kenshin (other scars also applicable)


So why are anime emoticons growing in popularity? Well, for one thing, nearly all of them are aligned such that you don't have to read them sideways like traditional emoticons. There is a large variety of expressions from which to choose, and not all of them require acquaintance with anime emotional conventions (no, not that kind of convention ^_^). For the most part, anime emoticons let the eyes do the talking, which comes across as natural. And of course, within the anime fan community, their use is a means of acknowledging fellowship and belonging.

I hope this little illustrated guide encourages more of us to use these emoticons among ourselves, and among outsiders when appropriate.


Top