If you've seen much anime, you're familiar with the male character getting a bloody nose when he gets sexually excited. For example:

Master Roshi (Dragon Ball) Umino Iruka (Naruto)

Master Roshi (Dragon Ball) and Umino Iruka (Naruto)

However, when I mentioned this to a Japanese person (someone who was not a big anime viewer), she was confused, and adamant that a bloody nose would normally just mean that the person was excited in general, and it would not necessarily have anything to do with sexual excitement.

This could (and seems likely to be) true for Japanese day to day real life, but very different in anime, where the connection to libido seems very clear.

Is there someone that can explain this difference? Is the "bloody nose" in anime just used to signify excitement, and it just happens to often (always) be sexual excitement because of the plot? Or is it supposed to be just understood how a bloody nose is interpreted in anime is different from normal life?

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    (And lemme tell ya...it's hard finding information on the internet about this...there's tons of info out there...but it's pretty much all based on anime/manga, and the conclusion seems to be inferred from guesswork based on the generalized experience.) – Beska Dec 11 '12 at 22:03
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    I can easily imagine anime depicting a boy getting a bloody nose after receiving a beautiful, shiny new scooter. – SF. Dec 14 '12 at 9:40
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    @Beska, you may like my answer at the SE question Origins of the nose-bleed in anime/manga. Yes, the trope in anime/manga implies sexual arousal and is recognized as such by otaku but, as you suspect, it is not a common belief among the general Japanese population. – seijitsu Jun 19 '15 at 0:34
  • Also a counter example to sexual excitement-related nosebleeds : nosebleeds due to overuse of ability – user6391 Feb 6 '17 at 17:34
up vote 43 down vote accepted

Gilles Portras, author of The Anime Companion, wondered the same thing:

"So I asked a few Japanese and got a variety of pseudoscientific, and occasionally embarassed, explanations about humidity and blood pressure. But the best response I got was from one fellow who simply recounted that when he was a child he was told by his mother that if he stared at a pretty woman he would get a bloody nose."

It's basically superstition, like if you sneeze once someone is saying something good about you. If you sneeze twice they are saying something bad. If you sneeze three times, you have a cold.

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    So basically the kids are made to believe that they will bleed (from nose) if they think of something wrong about the women in the society. A preventive measure for wrong adolescence sexual desires! – abhishah901 May 5 '15 at 6:34

The bloody nose gag exaggerates the rise in blood pressure when people are aroused, to such a degree that blood shoots out of the aroused character's nose.

  • Although this has fewest votes, it's the correct answer. Excitement increases blood pressure, the exaggeration of which is a bulging vein or nose bleed. – Gorchestopher H Jan 1 '13 at 6:37
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    @GorchestopherH I disagree. I think it steps around the question: whether there is a difference between what is understood in normal Japanese society vs anime. – Beska Mar 6 '13 at 16:10
  • This answers the question since animes exaggerate the person's reaction to the erotic events in a manner that (very) rarely happends in real life. It's like asking why cars explodes in moves and not in real life. Exaggeration (and false assumptions). Might add, that I used to know a person that could simple get nose bleed through standing in the sun for 10 minutes. That's enough to start a reference such as this one. – Robin Castlin Mar 7 '13 at 8:50

As far as I know, it comes from embarrassment more than arousal. Note that it tends to not be perverts who get bloody noses (at least not when they're dealing with someone other than their primary love interest). Instead, it is the semi innocent/honorable hero/supporting character, the one who is not actively trying to look at a female's chest.

When presented with this kind of situation, all of a sudden, they tend to become quite embarrassed. This embarrassment normally leads to the face being filled with blood (blushing). BUT, to show an extreme case of this embarrassment, their nose bleeds instead from the excessive blood pressure buildup.

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    This sounds like guesswork to me. (I don't mean that as an insult: it sounds like really good guesswork...it makes a lot of sense.) I'm just also hoping to find some external source to provide some solid evidence about this in one direction. – Beska Dec 11 '12 at 21:56
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    But then... Ikeda Chitose from Yuru Yuri has nosebleed precisely to point out she is a pervert (and doesn't show much shame about it either). – Camilo Martin Dec 11 '12 at 22:59
  • @Beska unfortunately, i cannot provide any external source. This is something that has come to me after watching quite a lot of anime over the years. – acolyte Dec 12 '12 at 1:44
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    What about Jiraiya? He used to get a nosebleed and he was a perv... – JNat Dec 12 '12 at 13:57
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    @JNat again, possibly the trope being used BECAUSE it is a trope. Lamppshading is pretty impressive at times. – acolyte Dec 12 '12 at 21:00

According to Wikipedia:

Male characters will develop a bloody nose around their female love interests (typically to indicate arousal, which is a play on an old wives' tale).

It has a reference in the end of this sentence that leads here.

I am not sure if these are reliable source, though...

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    That's the problem I have. I mean everyone seems to "know" this...I did as well. And yet, when I asked someone Japanese about it (far more likely to know about the cultural norms than me), they had no idea what I was talking about (and were very adamant that it was not the case that it was sexual.) – Beska Dec 11 '12 at 21:37

According here, in anime, nosebleed mostly happens to a character being sexually aroused. It is an exaggeration of having high blood pressure when a real person is sexually aroused.

In Japanese media, healthy young men that have no other sexual outlet will often suffer nosebleeds upon seeing the naked female body, or even just a pair of well-filled panties. It's probably a side effect of High Pressure Blood in a body that's Overdrawn at the Blood Bank.

And it is somehow a metaphor to this:

The nosebleed is, of course, a visual shorthand/euphemism for sexual arousal. It is commonly interpreted that way for males and females, with little trickles of blood indicating mild arousal, and gushing fountains of blood indicating erection/extreme arousal in both sexes. It can also be interpreted as shorthand strictly for erections in males. In that case, when blood shoots from the nose explosively, and in ridiculous quantity, the implication would be an ejaculation.

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    This answer is basically just quotations from TVTropes, which is editable by anybody and is frequently wrong. It also does not contain any information that the asker did not already know. – senshin Apr 18 '14 at 7:26

As explained on MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia:

Nosebleed can be caused by:

  • Irritation due to allergies, colds, sneezing or sinus problems
  • Very cold or dry air
  • Blowing the nose very hard, or picking the nose
  • Injury to nose, including a broken nose, or an object stuck in the nose
  • Deviated septum
  • Chemical irritants
  • Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays

Repeated nosebleeds may be a symptom of another disease such as high blood pressure, a bleeding disorder, or a tumor of the nose or sinuses. Blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, may cause or worsen nosebleeds.

To answer your question, your Japanese acquaintance is right that in real life, a bloody nose would normally just mean that the person was excited in general, and it would not necessarily have anything to do with sexual excitement. In my experience, though, it's usually due to the causes listed in the bullet points, not due to high blood pressure. I would go with @ʞɹɐzǝɹ 's answer that it is a superstition/myth that is perpetuated in anime and manga, which this potentially NSFW video debunks (rather unscientifically) in a light-hearted manner.

Screenshots from the video. The big captions read "Verification method: the woman in front will get naked without warning" and "Will the nosebleed come out?"

No actual proof here, but...

I would suspect that the anime writers just use bloody noses when they think it is funny, not taking actual Japanese beliefs or day-to-day customs into account.

It is way more funny when heroes get bloody noses when they get an accidental look than when perverts get a look (all the time).

On the other hand it is also funny when a pervert gets a bloody nose all the time (in extremes). As already mentioned, Jiraiya is an example of this. Sanji is even a better example as his bloody nose becomes life threatening at a certain point!

It's possible that the response of the 'Japanese person' in one of the above comments, that it's a sign of excitement in general, is probably correct. In 'Black Clover,' the character Gauche Adlai exhibits the characteristic anime nosebleed over a little girl, Marie - but she is merely his sister, whom he worships, and nothing more.

In anime, not all nosebleeds are a sign of sexual arousal - but perhaps all instances of sexual arousal are signified by nosebleeds.

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