In anime, character eyes usually have highlights that are usually white. They seem like a light reflection or something.

The Eyes Have It

Do the highlights have a name? What are they supposed to be?

  • 2
    if your talking about the white within the iris (where the colour is) that is the light's reflection from the eye
    – Memor-X
    May 2, 2014 at 4:12
  • see also movies.stackexchange.com/questions/18640/…
    – Hakase
    May 2, 2014 at 4:15
  • @user1306322 monocles? is that what it called?
    – Darjeeling
    May 2, 2014 at 4:29
  • @ShinobuOshino no, that other guy is a doofus. Those are just reflections of light sources. Overly dramatic anime eyes usually reflect more light than they should for greater emotional impact.
    – Hakase
    May 2, 2014 at 4:32
  • @Memor-X yeah, I'm thinking if it has a name
    – Darjeeling
    May 2, 2014 at 4:32

2 Answers 2


For illustrative purposes, I have taken the first four images off a Google search for eyes (note: you may not want to perform this search yourself, as there is at least one disturbing image on the front page).

an eye two eyes an eye yet another eye

As you can see, all of these images contain a similar "white space" / highlight. That's because if you're taking a photo, you need a light source - and the eyes, being reflective, are going to reflect that light source.

These "white spaces" are called catchlights, and are naturally found in film and in photography. It is unsurprising that animators and artists would imitate this for added realism - Disney's been doing it since forever.

Ariel - The Little Mermaid Jasmine - Aladdin

Of course, catchlights are somewhat more pronounced in anime simply because characters drawn in an "anime style" tend to have large eyes - and hence, correspondingly large catchlights.

For more information about catchlights in photography, see the question In portrait photography, what is a “catchlight”? at Photography.SE.

  • 7
    i never realized they actually had a name, +1 for finding it out
    – Memor-X
    May 2, 2014 at 5:32
  • @Memor-X I'll be more surprise if it don't have a name, it will hard to say "you need that white space thing in their iris bigger" it's important part of anime, and apparently in film and in photography as well
    – Darjeeling
    May 2, 2014 at 6:41

The Japanese term for "specular highlight" or "catchlight" is 「鏡面ハイライト」 (kyoumen hairaito), meaning "mirrored surface highlight" or "specular surface highlight." 「鏡」 can be pronounced "kagami," "kyou," or "kei" and means "mirror,"「面」 is pronounced "men," "omote," or "tsura" and means "mask" (as in the word 「仮面」[kamen]), "face," or "surface."

The sort that appear in human eyes are called 「人物のハイライト」 ("jinbutsu no hairaito" = person's highlight), 「眼球のハイライト」 ("gankyuu no hairaito" = eyeball highlight) or 「眼球ハイライト」 ("gankyuu hairaito" = eyeball highlight). A specifically manga-style specular highlight can be referred to as 「漫画的に描いたハイライト」 ("manga-teki ni kaita hairaito" = highlight drawn in manga-style).

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