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In several episodes of Assassination Classroom (animated version), characters develop spontaneous nosebleeds seemingly in response to becoming sexually aroused. This occurs with a number of male characters, though I can recall at least one instance where it happens to a female character as well.

Here's an example on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKNRnL6E64Q

Is this a common trope in anime, or something that's unique to Assassination Classroom? And in either case, is there any rational explanation behind using this seemingly bizarre method of depicting arousal?

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This is a common trope in anime. Many examples of it can be seen on Dragon Ball with Master Roshi:

Master Roshi's nose bleeding

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0-Ep3UI2SI [potentially suggestive content]

According to AnimeNewsNetwork, it is a long-standing Japanese folk belief.

  • As for why it happens, I'd assume it's another anime exaggeration to show the increased blood flow to "other" areas. – CommandoAir Jun 22 '17 at 13:29

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