I noticed that red apples seem to have symbolic meaning in Anime and I wonder if it is in line with western interpretations.

Erased: After waking up in the hospital, Satoru's nemesis Yashiro sits besides his bed and peels a red apple.

AnoHana: When Jinta's mother explains the concept of reincarnation to Menma, she peels a red apple.

Death Note: Well... Ryuks favorite food and he's a Shinigami, a death god...

So yea, common theme, must have to do with death.

From what I gather, a typical western interpretation, among others (e.g. sin) is rebirth, which does fit the bill regarding the first two examples and to some extend also the third.

So my question: Is it what it seems or is there yet another meaning attached in eastern symbolic that I don't know of?

  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_(symbolism) "Though the forbidden fruit in the Book of Genesis is not identified, popular Christian tradition holds that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden." This would be the best guess.
    – Someone
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 14:53
  • Thanks. I am aware of the christian interpretation of the apple, growing up in a Christian tainted country. I am boiling down to what's beyond that, given Japan and hence the writers background is not.
    – sbcordt
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 19:07
  • 1
    Kind of related, perhaps: Is the amount of Christianity portrayed in anime representative of Japan?
    – Aki Tanaka
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 5:41
  • @sbcordt May be the European meaning; don’t forget how much the cultures are internationalized nowadays.
    – Someone
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 9:46
  • Yea indeed I didn't mean to undermine the current state cultural exchange on a global scale, I was just, well not assumingor expecting, but rather also considering the idea that besides a typical western interpretation, there's maybe a more eastern meaning behind the apple
    – sbcordt
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


All of these references point to similar ideas. Erased, Anohana and Death Note all have similar plot lines dealing with death:


29 year old Satoru Fujinuma is sent back in time 18 years to prevent the events leading to his mother's death, which began with a series of kidnappings in his 5th grade year.


Five childhood companions reunite when the ghost of their dead friends appears, and demands they grant her final wish.

Death Note

An intelligent high school student goes on a secret crusade to eliminate criminals from the world after discovering a notebook capable of killing anyone whose name is written into it.

Apples represent a few things in myth and fiction, one being death and the other being rebirth--usually in the form of having your eyes opened (revealed knowledge). A common one is from Genesis 3:5:

"For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The use of the apple also shows up in Disney films, one being Snow White, where Snow White eats a poisoned apple. This type of common theme is called an "archetype," or the perfect representation selected across time to convey an idea. These types of ideas can be rooted in human biology and passed down through our genes, the apple specifically is one of those ideas. Human vision is precisely evolved to detect danger(blood), ripe fruit as well as human sexuality (blood in the blushing of cheeks and red lips--also why sports cars are red, they're more sexually appealing that way).


The specific correlation here is that humans evolved to detect danger through acute color vision to see blood and death (red, like apples). Simultaneously the acute vision lead to the ability to see time and look into the future where you could possibly die. So humans started to store up food and gather resources. Women couldn't always take care of themselves in history due to child birth, so men did all of the hunter gather stuff. So what happens is that men gained selection pressure through resources over women (best hunter got the best women, survival). Simultaneously women had less danger to contend with and evolved to convey sexuality (ripeness) through their skin, lips and cheeks. This would appeal to hunter gatherers and the best hunters would flock to the most sexually ripe women. Men also achieved this feat, in that sexuality (ripeness) is correlated with fitness (ability to hunt).

Now when it comes to reproduction, the main function is to pass on your genetics. So whomever holds genetic selection power can pass on their genetics more easily. So if you were less visually appealing it usually correlated to your ability to either provide (men) or reproduce (women).

This gave women sexual selection power over men in that they can decline men the ability to pass on genes, e.g. death because their looks correlated to their ability to gather resources. Which is important for childbirth and care. This made men subconscious of their looks and abilities. Hence why in Genesis Eve gives Adam the apple, she judged him and made him aware and self-conscious.

This play between men and women was in essence what caused the awakening of consciousness, ability to see death and the future as well as to see ripe fruit. Hence the correlation between the different stories with women, apples and death.


So when this sort of archetype is utilized in media in this manner it's usually subconsciously being used to convey an idea that your physiology may understand, but consciously you don't. That's why these shows are so captivating, they have ideas rooted in their substructure that appeal to you at your core and represent ideas spanning the entirety of human evolution/existence.


I don't have a copy on hand to check, but according to the Death Note Wiki:

"in Death Note 13: How to Read, Tsugumi Ohba states that there was no underlying reason for his choice of apples. He is quoted as saying that he liked the way the red apples contrast with Ryuk's dark appearance."

So so much for that idea. Doesn't surprise anyone.

A lot of the time authors of popular fiction put something in their book because they thought it sounded or looked good or it was something that reminded them of a friend or family member and the moment the reviewers, critics and teachers get hold of it it becomes some awesome symbol of death or evil or whatever.

But even though the apple symbolism turns out to be readers' bias rather that author intent, Death Note stil has tons of symbolism to discuss, most notably the ubiquitous doves and crows ...


Forbidden fruit - Death Note makes many references to Christianity. The apple is popularly thought to be the forbidden fruit in Genesis, which the snake told Eve would make her smarter, open her eyes, and elevate her to the status of God. ... Eating the apple was the Original sin and the first symbol of temptation.

Here is an answer to a similar question.

Many anime use this symbolic meaning of apples.

Hopefully that answers your question :)

  • "Death Note makes many references to Christianity" - I did notice that too but could you elaborate on this a bit more? Very interesting topic. In general, being kinda new to Anime and (contemporary) Japanese art I try to make sense of many visual queues. Often I have the feeling: "This means sth." without being able to point a finger at it.
    – sbcordt
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 19:02
  • If you watch some of the less mainstream anime like Tears to Tiara, Makai Ouji (Devils and Realist), Ao no Exorcist (Blue Exorcist), Hataraku Maho sama (The devil is a part-timer), etc. you'll find all sorts of re-interpretations of christian symbology.
    – Gwyn
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 7:37
  • 1
    I’m disappointed to see that the bulk of this answer has been plagiarized from Quora. It is generally ok to include other people’s work in your answer, but only if it is properly attributed!
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 11:17
  • @Laurel As far as stories go, i couldn't have re-phrased anything. You can't change a story from a book. I was simply answering a question regardless of plagiarism.
    – Weeaboo
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 15:21
  • “[M]ake sure you do all of the following: Provide a link to the original page or answer; Quote only the relevant portion; Provide the name of the original author” — The Help Center. It’s really that simple.
    – Laurel
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 15:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .