Gestures and Body Language

When Americans are indicating themselves, they generally gesture towards their chest. Japanese point at their noses instead. Here, Egawa is trying to get his old friend Aoki to recognize him. (Aquarium #4, Tomoko Taniguchi, pg 105)

To signify embarassment, people will put one hand to their head; scratching is optional. Here Koko has made an error while playing snow soccer, causing her teammates to be irritated. (Aquarium #6, Tomoko Taniguchi, pg. 166)

The "OK" gesture, the thumb and first finger touched together with the other three fingers spread out, has come to mean the same thing in Japan. Here, Sakura indicates to her friend Tomoyo that everything's going well. (Card Captor Sakura #3, CLAMP, pg. 24) However, the same gesture has traditionally referred to money and has only recently been associated with "good."

Quickly waving one's hand is a gesture used to mean "no," with connotations of embarassment. In this case, Sakura is trying to deflect attention from her unladylike behavior two panels back. (Card Captor Sakura #14, CLAMP, pg. 8)

Having one's mouth open is considered rude, so women especially will cover their mouths while laughing. Here Hazel is shown being overly protective of Almond, on whom she has a crush. (Magical Pokemon Journey vol. 3 num. 3, Yumi Tsukirino, pg 8)

People bow when they meet each other. Here, Sakura is meeting a friend of her mother's. (Card Captor Sakura #6, CLAMP, pg 16) In many anime and manga scenes, bowing is part of a very heartfelt apology. Here, the author of Magical Pokemon Journey apologizes for not getting to her fanmail quickly enough. (Magical Pokemon Journey vol. 2 num. 4, Yumi Tsukirino, pg 35)


The V sign Americans asssociate with "victory" is widely used in manga, generally associated with success or good fortune. Here Haruki is happy because he's run into Maoka again (Aquarium #1, Tomoko Taniguchi, pg. 29). It's also used just to strike a cool pose, as Brock does in this sequence (Magical Pokemon Journey vol. 2 num. 4, Yumi Tsukirino, pg 36.)


-Liana Sharer Click to learn more about Liana


Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA 1999
Mangajin's Basic Japanese through Comics Part 2, Mangajin, Inc. Marietta, Georgia, 1996
Curtis Hoffman, Cheats, Cliches, Cartoons, Anime,

Card Captor Sakura
Magical Pokemon Journey

Be sure to check out our anime character emotions and hair color game under the Fun Stuff & Games section!













Another interesting article on conventions in character emotions is the Emotional Iconography article.


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The University of Michigan Japanese Animation Group
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