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I am sure many of you have come across this trope in some anime/manga, where a character gives a thumbs up with an imprinted spiral.

Charlotte Re:Zero Touhou Ibitsu

The spiral is probably a simplified hanamaru:

Hanamaru

which basically has the same meaning as a thumbs up, or "good job".

The focus of this question, however, is on the spiral that appears on the index finger.

Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu Ibitsu

In the two examples shown above, the characters were obviously not showing approval, so the idea of the spiral being a simplified hanamaru is out.

Someone has asked the same question here:

Spirals. Just spirals. Apparently there are "spirals of depression" and "spirals of happiness?" I think I heard the depression spirals are meant to represent "sad spirits/ghosts" or something like that? But if the character has spirals on her cheeks, she's happy. If there's a spiral on her finger when she points at you, she's being triumphant or prideful. Can anyone clear this up? :3

Is there any source to that statement in bold?

My question is: what is the intended effect of the spiral on a character's index finger, and where did this trope or art style originate from?

  • 8
    its finger print – mirroroftruth Dec 3 '14 at 9:15
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    That's what I thought at first, but why do they appear mostly in comedies? And in some anime, they are moving as well (?) What kind of effect is it trying to create? And anyone feel free to edit the title because I probably haven't worded it as I would like to. – Gao Dec 3 '14 at 9:20
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    With the image you have posted it's almost as if Chidori is pressing her finger against the screen and telling the audience to "Go! Now!" – Memor-X Dec 4 '14 at 0:09
  • I think the idea is to create an extreme close up of the finger, meant to portray the idea that they mean business. Showing the fingerprint is a way of saying "wow, we're up CLOSE!" – Killua Dec 8 '14 at 20:04
  • 1
    This also happens when characters give a thumbs-up sometimes; see media.animevice.com/uploads/1/12141/490423-konata.jpg. – Torisuda May 27 '15 at 21:01
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As mentioned before, it's a fingerprint.

Usually the spiral only appears when the character's finger/thumb is close to the screen. The reason for this is simply to add detail to something which is taking up a lot of the screen. Look at the image without the spiral:

enter image description here enter

Because the finger takes up a lot of the screen it's harder to focus on when it's all the same colour. The inclusion of the fingerprint helps break up that space - even if it is a basic design.

The reason it's a spiral is for simplicity's sake. Fingerprints are very intricate and are more trouble that it's worth, unless perhaps the entire animation is ridiculously detailed - otherwise you would get a sharp jarring contrast between the foreground and background:

enter image description here

Obviously, this is exaggerated, but I imagine half-hearted attempts would also look out of place.

If there's a spiral on her finger when she points at you, she's being triumphant or prideful.

I don't think there's any real evidence to suggest this. This design is used in many situations, often when a character is angry.

TL;DR - It's to break up the area on the finger without going into much detail

  • 1
    This is a plausible argument, but I really need to watch more anime and identify more scenes with this "trope" to really appreciate it and clear my doubt of possible counterexamples that can not be overlooked. – Gao Jan 4 '15 at 13:41

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