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A lot of anime contain characters with a snaggletooth - typically a fang-like tooth that is displayed on its own. I found it odd as snaggleteeth (misaligned teeth) are rarely ever shown in any other media. Here are some examples :

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[Lucky Star, Oreimo & Slayers Revolution]

I'd like to know how recent this trope is and why it's used so often - does it serve a specific purpose?

Who was the first character to have a snaggletooth?

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    The term/trend in Japanese is "yaeba," (八重歯, literally meaning "doubled/multilayered tooth"). It's a genetic trait, a genetic trait said to have originated from Okinawa. It's been around awhile. but the exact origins are hard to pin down. Apparently only in Japan do they see it as a cute trait. – кяαzєя Jul 11 '13 at 18:19
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Who was the first character to have a snaggletooth?

I don't have any source for when historically in anime/manga this was used. But the earliest that I can think of is Lum from the Urusei Yatsura manga and that was published in the late 70's. From Chapter 1:

enter image description here

and also seen, for various circumstances, throughout the run of the manga and anime. So it's possible that Rumiko Takahashi may have popularized it. You can see these snaggletooth in a lot of her later work (Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, etc.)

As for the meaning/purpose, the TV Tropes site has a page for this under "Cute Little Fangs", and this excerpt sums it up pretty well:

Most often, as suggested by the trope name, the character sports enlarged canine teeth. For maximum cuteness, at least one fang will be visible at all times, even when the character's mouth is closed, and especially if they have a Cat Smile. These indicate, generally, that the character is mischievous, slightly hostile, or a trickster, but not actually "bad."

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The snaggletooth trope started in the manga GeGeGe no Kitarō, which was first published in 1960, with the first monster-cat girl Neko Musume, making this 6 years older than the magical girl trope and preceding anime by 4 and regular cat-girls by at least two decades.

Neko Musume

Its original purpose was to remind you that Neko Musume had a mouth full of dangerous monster-cat fangs that could rip you apart.

  • To potential downvoters / deleters: Yes, I saw the first version without the name of the manga. Ignore that. This is now a perfectly legitimate answer, and even seems to have topped the accepted answer by finding something older. – Torisuda Jan 19 '16 at 4:31
  • Yeah, sorry about that. I can't help but having have different priorities than others. I prefer giving lazy vague answers immediately, then hunt for the oldest example, then edit the post to make it more accurate, rather than giving well thought-out and written answers that trust second-hand sources. – Folatt Jan 23 '16 at 12:59
  • Love the added picture by the way. Great edit Torisuda! – Folatt Jan 23 '16 at 13:44
  • Thanks, I thought it would be nice to see the character since this manga is a bit obscure. As to the practice of putting up placeholder answers, I've seen it done on other Stack Exchange sites where "Fastest Gun in the West" is more of a problem, but it's not really necessary on Anime and Manga. We're pretty sleepy, so you probably won't get scooped unless you're answering Naruto and Dragon Ball Z questions. We've had some good questions sit without answers for months. And our community tends to reward long, obsessively researched answers over short, pithy ones. Anyway, welcome to the site! – Torisuda Jan 24 '16 at 1:12

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