Manga & Anime Hair Color Meaning Explained
Now, anyone that has seen any anime ever probably knows that these shows tend to have characters with a variety of different hair colors, some of which are quite rare in real life, not to say extreme. This has pretty much become a tradition as far as anime is concerned and fans have now become used to such visuals. It is important, though, to note that these colors aren’t really a reflection of any realistic situation but have a symbolic meaning; they are not there to represent any racial, ethnic, social, religious or any other group.
Also, another thing, anime hair colors don’t always convey the symbolism you’ll be reading about in the text. Sometimes, they’re just hair colors, without any specific meaning (this often goes for more realistic, down-to-earth anime series), so when interpreting these facts and all the accompanying symbolism, be careful to avoid assigning meaning where there is none.
But, as stated, they usually do have a meaning and in today’s article, we have decided to give you an interpretation of these colors with some notable examples from the history of anime. Each color usually represents the character’s personality in some way and that is what we are going to explain in our text. Enjoy!
Black (黒 kuro)
Black hair is exceptionally common in Japan. It is, in fact, the absolutely predominant natural hair color in Japan. Now, what symbolizes something usual and natural in the real world is not necessarily the same in the world of anime and manga. Although black color can, really, signify a traditional or marginal character, it could also be a sign that you are dealing with someone far more serious and dangerous than you thought.
Black hair usually represents characters that are mysterious, refined, traditional, powerful, cruel and/or macabre in some way. Despite its dark color, it is not necessarily negative, as there are black-haired characters that are deep thinkers and seldom ask for other people’s advice, but there are also very evil characters with this hair color.
As far as girls go, most black-haired anime girls are shy and asocial, although this isn’t really a rule. There are those that are outgoing, but this group is usually accompanied by some sort of danger, be it something more benign (like a mischievous character) or truly dangerous (like sociopathic tendencies).
The rule is – if you see a black-haired girl smiling wickedly, run… run as fast as you can. Boys, on the other hand, aren’t that sociable and most black-haired anime boys are very clever and cunning. They are most often dangerous in some way, although they do not have to be bad necessarily; still, a lot of antagonists in anime series have black hair.
A lot of anti-heroes in anime also have black hair. Anyhow, black-haired characters should necessarily be avoided, but one should definitely be careful around them.
The closest color to black, in meaning, is dark blue.
Notable Examples: Shinya Kōgami from Psycho-Pass (pictured), Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan, Vegeta from Dragon Ball, Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto, Akeno Himejima from High School DxD
Brown (茶色 chairo)
Brown is a color that has become more popular in Japan in recent years, as many Japanese people dye their hair brown. The shades vary, but the color can be seen more often than in the past decades. This is why this color is usually associated with something normal or common, although not necessarily traditional. A lot of protagonists in anime series have this hair color and it usually doesn’t signify anything out of the ordinary.
If we had to, on the other hand, we would say that brown-haired anime characters are generally approachable, comfortable, charming, consistent, sincere and enduring. These are all relatively normal traits and they are something which you would expect from a normal human being or a protagonist of a certain show.
But, brown-haired anime characters can also be quite… peculiar, to use this word. Namely, and this most often concerns inferior, submissive male characters, brown-haired anime characters can be some of the most boring characters you’ll encounter. They are just so painfully normal and plain that they tend to get on your nerves.
On the other hand, and this is often the case with female characters, they can be so energetic, mischievous, and dominant that they will drain all your life energy and make you submit to their will. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not exactly what you’d want in life.
All in all, brown-haired characters are usually nice and normal people, especially if they’re protagonists, but there is a rare breed of this color that you should definitely watch out for.
Notable Examples: Taichi Yagami from Digimon (pictured), Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass, Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Shin’ichi Izumi from Parasyte, Tōru Honda from Fruits Basket, Shin’ichi Kudō from Detective Conan, Lain Iwakura from Serial Experiments Lain
Blue (青 ao)
Blue is a rare color, although not completely impossible to see. Of course, it is an artificial color and a person has to dye their hair in order to achieve a shade of blue. The shades range from lighter and turquoise tones to darker blue shades, depending on each person’s personal preferences. Blue hair is, socially, usually associated with certain subcultures or movements, but its anime counterparts have nothing to do with that.
The meaning of blue color in anime depends on the shade of blue, which is a common trait for unusual hair colors, where shades also have an important role. Sky blue, which is a lighter shade of the color, is quite possibly the rarest color in the world of anime, as other rare colors (such as purple, green or dark blue) tend to appear more often than the sky blue shade.
Sky blue hair usually means that it is safe to approach; these characters are generally cute and unassuming and are normally safe to approach, but since they most often appear in fantastical settings, you should not jump to conclusions beforehand.
As we go darker, the character becomes more serious, sometimes even colder and more calculated. But, they aren’t really bad characters, they just tend to be firm in their opinions and will not hesitate to cut a person down if they find it necessary.
Blue-haired characters are also quite intelligent and the best way to behave around them is to be as firm as them and not let your guard down, as they will react to any sign of weakness whatsoever. Blue-haired males tend to be courageous and have a lot of resolve, although that also varies. The rule is that, the darker the shade, the more serious the character considers himself or herself.
On a general level, blue-haired characters are usually special in one way or the other and in fantastical settings, they usually have some special abilities. Their personalities range from cute to calculated, but they are rarely on the team of evil in the world of anime.
Notable Examples: Rem from Re:Zero (pictured), Saiko Yonebayashi from Tokyo Ghoul, Shino Asada from Sword Art Online, Jō Kido from Digimon, Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom, Aoba Seragaki from DRAMAtical Murder, Tōka Kirishima from Tokyo Ghoul, Henry Wong from Digimon Tamers
Purple (紫 murasaki)
Purple is, alongside blue, likewise a rare color in real life, although it has become more and more popular in recent years. Purple doesn’t really signify anything particular in real life, as there are more and more women and girls who dye their hair purple for purely aesthetical reasons, although there certainly are shades of the color that do convey a somewhat deeper meaning of the color itself.
As far as anime is concerned, purple is more common in female than male characters, although the latter group is far from inexistent. Purple-haired characters are almost always quite special. They are strong and quite powerful, but at the same time quite mysterious, sometimes even unpredictable.
The contrast between the color’s inherent beauty and the danger that hides behind it is something that is truly characteristic for purple-haired characters in anime shows. They are entitled to their power and their posture speaks for itself.
They usually yearn for the privilege and material possessions; alongside that, purple-haired characters are often privileged, noble, elegant, restless, intriguing, pompous and/or selfish.
As said, purple is rare among male characters, while a lot of female characters with such hair appear in different shows. They are, though, often unique within their own worlds. If you encounter a purple-hair character, you should expect a strong-willed character, a character that you’ll probably like, and a character that isn’t necessarily evil, but certainly looks out more for himself or herself than for others.
As it is usually with anime characters, the darker the shade, the deeper and more complex the character is. It is closely related to the color green when anime hair is concerned.
Notable Examples: Rize Kamishiro from Tokyo Ghoul (pictured), Yatō from Noragami, Shinoa Hīragi from Owari no Seraph, Tōka Yatogami from Date A Live, Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shū Tsukiyama from Tokyo Ghoul, Iris from Pokémon, Yolei Inoue from Digimon
Green (緑 midori)
Green also tends to be a rare color in real life and is, like blue, usually associated with certain subcultures and movements; it is rare for someone to dye their hair green out of purely aesthetical reasons. Green is not so common on the streets and that is also something that is translated to anime panels.
Alongside the almost mythological sky blue, green is among the rarest colors in the world of anime. This is also one of the colors which has a large difference between female and male characters. A general trait is that green-colored characters aren’t really evil, although there have been some other examples.
Darker shades usually carry with them more complexity and signify a layered character, usually troubled by something. Still, these characters do tend to stick out and think of themselves as being different and special, although not necessarily in a good way.
As far as females go, a lighter shade of green usually indicates a cool, laid-back character with a lot of enthusiasm and a high opinion of herself. There is nothing a green-haired female cannot do and she is always opting to be the best character possible.
A darker shade, though, adds to the character’s complexity and these characters are usually far more mysterious and less one-dimensional. Males, on the other hand, tend to be different. Green-haired male characters don’t usually have a high opinion of themselves and tend to be more troublesome.
The good thing about green-haired characters is that, despite everything, they’ll usually side with the good guys and are generally not evil. They tend to be strange, though.
Notable Examples: Sabrina from Pokémon (pictured), Eto Yoshimura from Tokyo Ghoul, Roronoa Zoro from One Piece, Mion and Shion Sonozaki from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Tōru Mutsuki from Tokyo Ghoul, Shintarō Midorima from Kuroko no Basuke, C.C. from Code Geass, Jae-Ha from Akatsuki No Yona, Deku from My Hero Academia
Red (赤 aka)
Red has become quite a popular hair color in real life; the red we are referring to is different from the orange color associated with ginger people. People often dye their hair in different shades of red, which has become a popular trend among modern-day women. Red-headed men are quite rare, though. As far as the meaning of this color in real life is concerned, most red-haired people do it purely for aesthetical reasons.
Now, although red hair in real life is associated with women more than men, the situation is quite different in the world of anime. There, male characters have red hair more often than female characters. Why? Well, due to the symbolism of the color red, it is easier to attribute these traits to male characters, who are usually more straightforward than female characters. Female characters tend to be more withdrawn, which is why this color is more common with male characters.
Now, what does red symbolize? As you might have deduced, red-haired characters are passionate, adventurous, aggressive, hot-headed, seductive, feisty, and enthusiastic. They have very explosive reactions and their emotions are strong, whether they are good or bad.
This is why red is usually associated with hot-headed, slightly aggressive, and passionate male characters, although there are a lot of redheaded males that are quite calm and composed. Female redheads share the same traits, but they tend to be more subtle in their expression, which is why they are less common in the world of anime.
Redheaded characters tend to vary in the world of anime – there are both good and evil ones – with the most important element being that they are always very, very passionate about everything they do. That is why they are also quite popular.
Notable Examples: Battler Ushiromiya from Umineko no Naku Koro ni (pictured), Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail, Gaara from Naruto, Karma Akabane from Assassination Classroom, Otoya Ittoki from Uta no☆Prince-sama♪, Renji Abarai from Bleach
Pink (ピンク pinku)
We don’t know whether anime really popularized pink-colored hair in real life, but this is also a formerly rare (or even inexistent) color that has become quite popular in recent years. Different shades of pink can be seen more often than ever and this color is also usually chosen for purely aesthetical reasons.
From lighter shades to those that are borderline violet or red, shades of pink have been growing in popularity and since they’re most often present in anime, we’re quite certain that Japanese animation had at least something to do with the phenomenon.
As far as anime is concerned, pink hair is something that is generally associated with female characters and is almost exclusive to them, although we know that there is at least one male pink-haired character. Pink-haired characters were either the female protagonists of a show, or the love interests of the male protagonist, but that role has since evolved.
Historically, pink-haired characters were usually associated with childlike innocence and cuteness traditionally associated with the female protagonist of an anime show. Yet, the situation changed.
Namely, when the so-called moe (萌え) phenomenon kicked in, pink hair became a phenomenon. What is moe in the first place? The term can be connected on to another word that describes a personality or a physical trait. For example, you combine めがねっ子 meganekko (eyeglass girl) and 萌え moe together, and you get a word, めがねっ子萌えmeganekko moe (eyeglass-girl moe).
This word itself describes a person who is attracted to fictional characters wearing eyeglasses or, in this case, pink-haired anime characters. Pink-haired girls have become the moe of a whole generation of anime fans and pink hair has since become a popular brand and is more common in modern-day anime.
On a general level, with just a few exceptions, you needn’t be worried around pink-haired characters.
Notable Examples: Lucy from Elfen Lied (pictured), Hisoka Morow from Hunter x Hunter, Minori Kushieda from Toradora, Yuno Gasai from Mirai Nikki, Sakura Haruno from Naruto, Uranai Baba from Dragon Ball
Orange (オレンジ orenji)
Now, orange color is really not called like that in real life. This color is better known as red or ginger in real life and although there are a lot of people who dye their hair “orange”, this is one of the colors that also appear naturally in the real world, although it’s relatively uncommon compared to the three main hair colors in life. Redheads are quite popular in the real world and in that aspect, their presence in the world of anime should not come as a surprise.
Both male and female characters have orange hair in anime. What is important to know is that this anime hair color is very similar to the above-analyzed red when character traits are concerned. This means that these characters are quite passionate about everything they do.
They are usually courageous, optimistic, loyal, spirited and full of energy, but can also get selfish, annoying and attention-seeking, depending on how you treat them and the context of the situation itself. Although they’re usually the good guys – or are aligned with them – they can also be mischievous troublemakers.
Lighter shades of orange tend to be tamer, while darker, more aggressive shades share a lot of the same characteristics as red-haired characters. The main thing you should know about this group of characters is that they are usually energetic and optimistic, but due to their explosive nature, they are also somewhat unpredictable and you should watch your step as to not anger them.
Notable Examples: Emma from The Promised Neverland (pictured), Nami from One Piece, Sora Takenouchi from Digimon, Misty from Pokémon, Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach, Shōyō Hinata from Haikyū!!, Orihime Inoue from Bleach, Pain from Naruto
Blonde (金髪 kinpatsu) / Yellow（黄色 kiiro)
Blonde-colored people aren’t really that uncommon as a blonde (or yellow, or golden) is one of the three main hair colors. But, for Japan, it’s something quite exotic as there are no blonde people in Japan; that color just doesn’t naturally appear in the country.
Blonde people also often dye their hair to discover completely new shades, ranging from almost white, to a more golden shade of their natural color. Blonde is also a color that is, in the West, usually associated with ideal beauty and pureness, as most “ideal” women in the history of art and literature have been blonde.
Now, the world of anime does follow this tradition up to a point, but expands a lot on it as blonde hair isn’t tied exclusively to one type of character. This color is present in both male and female characters, and is more often than not associated with the protagonist of the show.
In fact, historically, all female protagonists of an anime were – usually – blonde. Male protagonists were less often blonde, but such shows usually never had a blonde character at all; if a male character with blonde hair appeared, he would usually be the protagonist of the show.
Now, as far as the characteristics of these characters are concerned, they are very hard to portray simply. A variety of character types is often associated with blonde hair, among which are white Westerners, a prince or princess, a rich person, or a juvenile delinquent; sometimes, these are even combined in one specific character.
This means that the character traits depend on whether the character is good or bad. A good character with blonde hair us usually confident, happy and naïve, while an antagonist is often portrayed as being rude, snobbish and self-centered. We guess you could say that you should just enjoy these types as the come, since there is no strict general rule.
Notable Examples: Edward and Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist (pictured), Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto, Vinsmoke Sanji from One Piece, Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon from Sailor Moon, Zoe Orimoto from Digimon Frontier, Beatrice from Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Takeru “T.K.” Takaishi from Digimon, Boruto Uzumaki from Boruto, Van Hohenheim from Fullmetal Alchemist, Thomas H. Norstein from Digimon Data Squad, Armin Arlert from Attack on Titan, Akira Mado from Tokyo Ghoul, Victorique de Blois from Gosick
White (白 shiro)
We’re down to our last color. White, grey or silver is a color that does exist in the real world and is usually associated with old age, as people start to become grey. Some people also dye their hair to be white or silver, but that is still a relatively rare occurrence.
In the real world, a lot of people dye their hair to cover up the grey hairs, but in the world of anime, this doesn’t necessarily have to be like that, as we are soon going to see.
Okay, one common trait between the real world and the world of anime is that white hair is traditionally associated with old age. This means that even in anime, old people usually have white or grey hair and that is considered to be completely normal.
Still, we won’t be talking about these characters here, as they are not as interesting as the young(er) characters who have white hair. White hair can be seen on both male and female characters in the world of anime and, as it should be due to the rarity of the color itself, signifies a character that is in some way special.
White-haired characters are usually very mysterious and special; they often have some special abilities as well, depending on the setting of the show itself. They are also very wise, intelligent and reserved, although not necessarily in a negative way; they are best described as being introverts, when they’re not antagonists.
But, despite their fragile appearance, white-haired characters are usually very strong-willed and have very strong personalities, although they seldom show their strength outwardly. As stated, the shades can range from clear white, to ash grey and silver.
Notable Examples: Shōgo Makishima from Psycho-Pass (pictured), Ken Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul, Kyōko Kirigiri from Danganronpa, Kakashi Hatake from Naruto, Killua Zoldyck from Hunter x Hunter, Norman from The Promised Neverland, Jūzō Suzuya from Tokyo Ghoul, Decim from Death Parade, Nate River (N) from Death Note