Hair color is frequently used in Japanese animation as a mechanism to differentiate between characters, but did you know that specific hues have an associated symbolism?
While not always 100% consistent, there is a connection between hair color and personality type in anime.
According to Carl Jung, there is a shared collection of mental associations that are within the collective unconscious of humanity. Along with repetition, and eventual simplification, these ideas come together to become the stereotypes described:
Mysterious, refined, traditional, cerebral, capable, powerful, independent, sad, cruel, macabre
As opposed to their bright-colored friends, black hair can define a character as being more traditional. Black is a neutral color that is associated with positive personal traits. These characters tend to be deep thinkers that can see the “big picture”, and seldom need advice.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Hei Darker Than Black, Kagome Higurashi Inuyasha, Rokuro “Rock” Okajima Black Lagoon, Ranma Saotome Ranma 1/2, Mio Akiyama K-On!, Yoite King of Nabari, Black★Rock Shooter (self-titled), Brandon Heat Gungrave.
Calm, balanced, demure, sophisticated, sublime, logical, composed, disguised, obscene, irreverent
Grey-haired characters have a mix of moral black & white—much like their hair. They are “do-it-your-selfers” with problem solving methods beyond the status quo. Characters may also have grey hair to emphasize a modest, self-less nature. Also, while not always evil, may have a hidden power.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Yu Narukami Persona 4 The Animation, Moka Akashiya Rosario + Vampire, Kakashi Hatake Naruto, Fuko Ibuki Clannad, Violetta Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Shi Ryuuki The Story of Saiunkoku, Shizuka Queen’s Blade, Kilik Air Gear.
Approachable, comfortable, temperate, charming, practical, consistent, sincere, enduring, predictable, boring
The staple color of any stock character or “normal” person, brown is also a common color for the main protagonist. When characters have darker or lighter brown hair, they often absorb the traits of yellow or black. This color can be deceiving, as a character with this hair color may be far from normal.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Italy Hetalia, Chihiro Spirited Away, Kyon The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Tohru Honda Fruits Basket, Haruhi Fujioka Ouran High School Host Club, Hideki MotosuwaChobits, Sakura Kinomoto Cardcaptor Sakura, Keima Katsuragi The World God Only Knows.
Passionate, seductive, feisty, enthusiastic, adventurous, dynamic, primal, hot-headed, aggressive, opinionated
For red-headed characters, the western “hot-head” stereotype is true. Tsundere alert: their emotions are explosive! Strangely, male protagonists with red hair are often calm, humble, and disciplined fighters.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Ayano Kannagi Kaze no Stigma, Grell Sutcliff Black Butler, Natsumi Hinata Sergeant Frog, Renji Abarai Bleach, Spirit Soul Eater, Lisara Restall So, I Can’t Play H!, Lavi D.Gray-man, Yoko Littner Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Courageous, loyal, spirited, optimistic, unpredictable, brazen, testy, selfish, annoying, attention-seeking
Orange-haired characters have a personality combination between red and yellow. They can be very interesting in that they have the courage and fire of a ginger, but with less rage and more optimism. The down-side is that they can be attention whores, which can be annoying.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Asuka Langley Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ichigo Kurosaki Bleach,Nana “Hachi” Komatsu Nana, Tasuki Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play, Kazuma Kuwabara YuYu Hakusho, ErisCat Planet Cuties, Hiroto “Cherry” Sakurai Gantz, Nami One Piece.
Confident, happy, romantic, artful, whimsical, Naïve, ditzy, impish, manipulative, callous, stubborn
Although not absolute, blondes loosely fall into three camps:
1.) Dumb blonde: They may also lack maturity, and have selfish attitudes.
2.) Troublemaker: Unwittingly attracts chaos. They have street-smarts, charm, and plenty of tricks.
3.) Prince: This protagonist is rare, and demonstrates the western “prince charming” archetype. This hero/heroine is chivalrous, humble, and pure.
Blonde may be an assigned to indicate a character has foreign ancestry. Usually European/American.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Naruto Uzumaki Naruto, Pacifica Casull Scrapped Princess, Vash the Stampede Trigun, Astraea Heaven’s Lost Property: Forte, Saber Fate/Stay Night, Shizuo HeiwajimaDurarara!!, Misa Amane Death Note, Soubi Agatsuma Loveless.
Easy-going, trustworthy, docile, enlightened, tolerant, rejuvenating, of raw energy, roguish, imprudent, poisonous, jealous
A cross between warm and cool colors, green imparts a unique energy to a character. Like mother nature, green is capable of an evolving, healing atmosphere as well as bringing destruction and decay. These characters tend to side with the protagonists, even with bad first-impressions.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Roronoa Zoro One Piece, Eureka Eureka Seven, Cilan Pokémon: Best Wishes!, C.C. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, Rin RIN: Daughters of Mnemosyne, Quiche Tokyo Mew Mew, Lum Urusei Yatsura, Nicol Amarfi Gundam Seed.
Wise, impartial, talented, mature, intuitive, introverted, concerned with science, justice, reason
Cool like water. While not always noticed, their influence is clearly felt (also like the element of wind). Blue-haired characters have many hidden talents, and a keen awareness of the emotions of themselves and others. Unlike black-haired characters, they are not averse to seeking advice. With their smarts and even-handedness, they often play the role of teachers, tacticians, and confidants. The darker the hair, the more responsible–but they may be an elitist jerk. Supernatural abilities are common to blue hair.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Blue Rose Tiger & Bunny, The Count Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo, Mercury Sailor Moon, Johji Koizumi Paradise Kiss, “Big Bro” Kamina Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kuroha Diana Shiraroti Eden of the East, Lord Darcia III Wolf’s Rain, Rei Ayanami Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Powerful, privileged, noble, elegant, intriguing, restless, fickle, conflicted, pompous, egotistical
Purple-haired characters rarely have to assert power through force; they are entitled to it. Full of hubris or out of touch with other characters, their goals may revolve around prestige and the acquiring of material possessions. Protagonists with purple hair must face the challenge of balancing the red and blue oni within themselves.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Sinbad Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Kagami Hiiragi Lucky Star, Dark Mousy D.N. Angel, Unchou Kan-u Ikkitousen, Faye Valentine Cowboy Bebop, Chrono Chrono Crusade, Misato Katsuragi Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tieria Erde Gundam 00.
Benevolent, feminine, youthful, innocent, cheerful, cute, orderly, accomplished, gullible, frustrated
Characters with pink hair may at first seem saccharine, but their natural charisma combined with their desire for order can bring about a positive change in others. Pink haired characters can have a great destiny. Whatever their sexual orientation, male characters with pink hair can be perverse. Perhaps this is to accentuate/overcompensate for the feminine connotations of pink. Characters with bright pink hair may share some personality traits with red-heads.
Pictured Above (From top left to bottom): Natsu Dragneel Fairy Tail, Utena Tenjou Revolutionary Girl Utena, Shuichi Shigeno Gravitation, Lacus Clyne Gundam Seed, Milfeulle Sakuraba Galaxy Angel, Szayel AporroBleach, Kurumi Steel Angel Kurumi, Renzou Shima Blue Exorcist.
Pure, ethereal, magical, serene, lucid, mature, humble, indifferent, narcissistic, immoral
A strange, inhuman essence surrounds white-haired characters. Their purity can be unnatural and over-sanitized. These characters are usually strong-willed, skillful, and dignified. If a woman, it is common that she is either magical or of the spiritual realm. If the character is a guy, he usually has a broken moral compass, and is an anti-hero–on a good day. If he is a bishonen, odds are he is bisexual/homosexual. Egotism is common, and if inflicted with an injury (however minor–especially to the face) these characters will go berserk.
The combination of white hair and tan skin can indicate middle-eastern/foreign ancestry. In this case, the above description does not apply.