Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
And the American is...?[1]

"The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skin is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years. If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin will become white, and our hair blonde."

Den Fujita, first president of McDonald's Japan, 1971.

Mukokuseki is the use of ambiguous racial features in anime, with characters having traits like wide eyes, light skin, great stature, and various hair colors. It literally means "stateless", though the term relates to more abstract anime and is used for hyperbole in this case.

This can be seen in fantasy and science fiction anime, where characters are given colored hair, enlarged eyes, and oddly proportioned human bodies. Phenotype Stereotypes are used to differentiate Western characters from Japanese ones, and the actual features are sometimes not intended to be a direct matchup of reality. It can cause some other problems with a Live Action Adaptation... do you cast a character based on canon ethnicity or what they actually look like?

The general reason behind the presence of mukokuseki is to diversify the character roster and distinguish between individuals, which is more often required in works set in the largely homogeneous Japan, where hair and eye colours are typically (naturally) black and brown only, respectively. This usually only gets noticeable with a large enough cast that gives a sampling of the artistic style given for a particular ethnicity. You may find two characters who are Asian while one of them has more in common visually with a Caucasian character. Note that just because you perceive someone as being a particular ethnicity despite Word of God saying otherwise doesn't mean it is this trope. The comparison between characters of different races is where this trope is the most obvious.

Arguably started by Osamu Tezuka, whose art style was heavily influenced by the works of Walt Disney, Max and Dave Fleischer and other American cartoonists. The trend was further developed to its modern form by Kenichi Sonoda. Sonoda honed his Signature Style as a character designer for sci-fi anime and adventure series set in exotic locales, where the cast was meant to have a more international flavor, but continued using similar character designs in works explicitly set in modern Japan. Another big Trope Codifier for this was Sailor Moon. Going down our main cast list, we have two blue-eyed golden blondes, a blue-haired trope codifier in her own right (with blue eyes, natch), a dark-red-head, and reddish-brown with green eyes. All five of them have unmistakably fair, Caucasian-like complexions and big round eyes... and all of them, to a girl, are supposedly 100% unblemished Yamato in ancestry. Sailor Moon's all-pervasive influence on Japanese pop culture helped to spread the concept a lot.

This trope has not transitioned well when the time comes around for the Hollywood Live Action Adaptation. As most Western audiences generally perceive all characters to be white unless stated otherwise, whitewashing has become all too common in Hollywood when casting actors to play an otherwise Japanese character (see the controversy around the live action movies of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Dragon Ball and the upcoming Akira for example). See the link under 'Discussions' for more.

Note that even stories that deliberately avoid this may have a main character who fits the bill, especially if that character's design is primarily based on their cuteness or oddity. Heck, another reason this trope is so prevalent is because in Japan white skin is widely considered to be the most beautiful. Some anime even take it to the extent that if they darken the tone of a character that is supposed to look relatively African...the skin is hardly darkened at all, leading to Unfortunate Implications on the author's part...

Compare Ambiguously Brown and Only Six Faces (where there is little difference at all in character designs).

It would probably be easier to list Japanese comics, videogames and anime that don't indulge in pure Mukokuseki, so....

Exceptions to this trope

Anime and Manga

  • Pokémon: The main characters are all of indistinguishable race and heritage. Justified considering it takes place on the fictional continent of Kanto (and later other regions).
    • Curiously Kanto contains locations from both Eastern and Western countries. Meowth comes from Hollywood even in the Japanese version.
  • The human characters in Inuyasha (which takes place entirely in Japan) are all realistically Asian, although, admittedly, this is more prevelant in the manga than the anime.
    • The same can actually be said about any of Takahashi's series. Ranma ½, Urusei Yatsura, even RIN-NE (save for the red-headed Rinne Rokudo himself), all feature better-than-average depictions of Asians.
  • In Azumanga Daioh, the characters from different areas of Japan look believably similar to the real-life skin-tones/hair colors. However, there is orange-haired Chiyo-chan (although redheads are known to exist naturally in Japan, they are fairly rare.)
  • Averted with Akira, where everyone (save the foreign troops) looks convincingly and realistically Japanese.
  • The original Mobile Suit Gundam's Mirai Yashima & Hayato Kobayashi are fairly Asian-looking compared to the rest of the cast. Series protagonist Amuro Ray, who isn't may get a pass, as he's part foreigner, his mother being either American, Canadian or Mexican depending on the version.
    • 0083's Kou Uraki is often commented on as being the most Asian-looking character in all of Gundam.
  • Most of the characters in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water are European whites and look the part, with pinker skin and such. All of the characters of different races look like their respective races. The only exceptions are the Atlantean characters, who are a sort of brown skinned mukokuseki, somewhere between Indian and African.
  • Most of Naoki Urasawa's manga are drawn very realistically. The Caucasian looking people in his work actually are Caucasian (with huge noses though), as many of his manga are set in Europe or other exotic locales. In fact, Urasawa occasionally goes too far in the other direction. Monster 's Eva Heinemann, a German, has a slightly Asian look to her. Just about the only time he plays this trope straight is with Kana from 20th/21st Century Boys, who has more of a typical big eyed, fair haired "anime girl" look to her, resembling Monster's Anna/Nina, but this is probably to emphasize the character's "otherness", as she has supernatural powers.
    • Also played somewhat straight with his redesigns of many classic Osamu Tezuka characters for Pluto, especially Ochanomizu & Tenma, due to their comedically oversized schozzes, which could never be reduced to typical Japanese proportions without rendering the characters unrecognizable. So while they do look realistic in a sense, they don't look like people who could realistically be named Tenma or Ochanomizu. Shansaku "Mister Mustachio" Ban also suffers from this, as his character model was recycled from Monster's Dr. Reichwein, who is in turn based on the American actor Wilford "Diabeetus" Brimley. Urasawa does a surprisingly good job on Inspectors Tawashi and Nakamura, though, as Well as Astro Boy and his "sister" Uran.
    • That being said, Dr. Tenma, of Monster fame, who is supposed to be Japanese, is drawn stylistically very similar to several characters who are supposed to be German, even if his skin and hair color are realistic.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist mostly avoids this, as it takes place in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of central Europe and visitors from the east like Ling are stereotypical Asian-looking for the most part. It also inverts this trope with Roy Mustang, who looks more like somebody from Xing than Amestris. Fanon has it that his mother is from Xing, but within the manga this is never commented on.
    • Since his foster mother has been shown to be madam of a brothel there's no knowing which of his parents could be from where. Also worth noting is Izumi also sports a much more Asian in appearance then the rest of the cast as well, and not to mention has a distinctly Asian first name amongst a cast that has predominantly Western names even despite her Western maiden name, "Harnet". Like Mustang her ethnicity has yet to be commented on. Note that since Amestris does sport a variety in race in its population it might not be considered worth commenting on by the rest of the cast.
    • Compare Mustang to many, many other characters in the series, and it becomes noticeable that while he loves to mention Ed's shortness, he himself is actually not very tall. He's only a little taller than most of the women, and shorter than all but two of his subordinates. Combine this with his Asian-esque eyes and pitch black hair, and it becomes very likely that he does have Xingese ancestry.
  • A curious inversion occurs in Patlabor. While it plays this trope straight to varying degrees with the main cast, in order to emphasize Kanuka Clancy's otherness she was drawn as the the most Japanese-looking.
  • Oddly played in Cardcaptor Sakura; Syaoran and Meiling are somewhat more obviously "asian" than most of the rest of the cast (likely because they're Chinese, rather than Japanese) as does Syaoran's Hot Mom, Li Yelan. (Her five children, however, almost play the trope straight; obviously, they take after their late father.) Sakura's brother Toya is also rendered in a far more "asian"-looking manner... which often makes it look like he and Sakura aren't even related, because Sakura herself follows the trope straight almost all the way to the hilt. Clow Reed also averts the trope.
  • Windy Tales uses a Korean art style where the characters are very clearly not white.
  • Chang Wufei in Gundam Wing looks recognizably Chinese. Heero Yuy falls squarely into this trope, being Japanese but possessing generic features and blue eyes. A more obvious example is Quatre who is supposed to be Arabic, but is a blond haired blue eyed bishonen.
    • For years Fan Wank attempted to explain Quatre by saying he's Berber; more likely it has to do with his mother being Caucasian, blond, and blue-eyed (with Fan Wank again stepping in to claim she's French). Heero, on the other hand, is revealed to be half-Russian in the novel Frozen Teardrop.
  • Setsuna F. Seiei from Gundam 00 is an odd case, looking vaguely Japanese before it's revealed that he's actually Kurdish and that's simply a code name (real name: Soran Ibrahim).
  • The characters in Hikaru no Go really do look Japanese. The same goes for Death Note, which isn't surprising since Hikaru no Go artist Takeshi Obata was also the artist for that manga.
    • What's bizarre in Hikaru no Go is that the Koreans are walking Asian stereotypes with considerably less distinction from one another than the Japanese characters. Now, Japan has historically been more racist against the Koreans than any other foreign nationality, but it's still a little weird to see. Because the phenotype is actually really close. The Chinese that appear in the manga have more Japanese-character-like variation, but their Asian qualities are accentuated, too.
  • Death Note: Light Yagami, the main character, has a thoroughly Caucasian appearance when compared to the other characters. His mother, father, and sister are all obviously Asian. He is depicted with common European traits, like white skin and light brown hair. Misa Misa is also depicted with blue eyes and dyed blond hair, though she's never described as a white person. In the manga, her eyes are brown and her hair is dyed.
  • In Pretty Sammy, Mihoshi Mizutani, Sasami's teacher, is depicted as a natural blond with blue eyes despite being Japanese.
    • Between that series and Sasami: Magical Girls Club, you get a lot of non-Asian-looking Asians due to the cast keeping their Tenchi Muyo! looks despite being normal Japanese people instead of long-lived Human Aliens. Mind you, it's that or everyone becoming unrecognizable.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, Japanese characters Hikaru and Kaoru both have red hair. Tamaki has blond hair, but he is said to be half French. Funnily enough, his blondness is brought up as a reason Haruhi should've guessed he was half non-Japanese but Honey, also blonde (blonder, actually), is full Japanese.
  • Pretty much everyone in Genshiken is recognizably Asian, and the only two light-haired characters explicitly dye their hair. The two American characters who visit in the second season are also distinctly Caucasian.
    • Sue looks more like an American-styled cartoon character than an actual American.
  • In Ghost in the Shell most characters look more or less as if they could be actually Japanese, depending on the art style of the different artists/animators. Except for Batou and Togusa, who don't look asian at all.
    • Most of the deviations are somewhat justified, in that, with the exception of Togusa and a few others, a majority of the cast are heavily modified cyborgs, with Batou and the Major (at least) basically being robots with human brains. They could look like any race at all, and in Motoko's case, even her original sex is up in the air (as well as the one she ends up with in the manga and first movie), though in 2nd Gig it is heavily implied she was born female, but never outright stated.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms starts off in Japan, and people look decently Japanese. Youko's reddish hair is called out from the beginning as natural, unusual, and inexplicable. There's a mysterious blonde, then another one, but they have reasons, as is revealed after the action moves to the fantasy world, where people explicitly have anime-diverse hair and skin colors. Dark skin, red eyes, purple or orange hair, it's all there (and in the original novels). (But not many blondes.) Youko herself transforms to scarlet hair, emerald eyes (vs. a gray or very dark green in Japan) and brown skin.
  • All of the characters in Paranoia Agent look very much Japanese.
  • The characters in Gantz mostly look distinctly Japanese. Gantz is very big on anatomical correctness.
  • Tokyo Tribe 2 has everyone looking Japanese.
  • Most of Tsutomu Nihei's manga have several distinctly Asian-looking characters, although considering the trans-human leanings of most of them, this could often be more an issue of personal taste than ethnicity. Nihei even pokes a bit of fun at racial differences in Blame! when Japanese-looking hero Killy passes through a land of blonde people who are all at least twice as tall as he is.
  • Somewhat averted in Soul Eater, where the predominance of caucasians is justified by Shibusen's being located in America. Concurrent with this, there are several darker-skinned characters as well.
  • This seemed to be the case in Digimon Adventure with Yamato and Takeru, until Digimon Adventure 02, when it's revealed that they, the resident blond-haired blue-eyed heroes, are a quarter French.
    • In Digimon Tamers, Henry Wong looks distinctively Chinese with his yellowish skin tone, Thicker eyebrows and Sharp eyes.
    • In Digimon Frontier, there's Izumi Orimoto, blonde with blue eyes. Her backstory is that since she lived in Italy for most of her life so perhaps this was a deliberate coloring choice to accentuate her "differences" from other Japanese kids. For the record, the other Chosen are relatively dark haired/dark eyed with different skin colors.
    • Digimon Xros Wars features Kiriha Aonuma and Yuu Amano, who both are this without any explanation. Even more confusing, Yuu's sister Nene is decidedly not an example herself, having brown hair and a slightly darker skin tone.
  • There are a substantial number of Japanese characters in Area 88, two of whom are at the eponymous airbase. Can you tell who they are without knowing names?
  • Black Lagoon does relatively well: The assassin Shenhua (a.k.a. "Chinglish") actually looks Chinese, Mr. Chang is visibly an Expy of Chow Yun-Fat as a shout out to John Woo films, and Hotel Moscow does not blend visually into the Southeast Asia setting. However, while the Japanese characters arguably look relatively more Japanese than everyone else, some of them still fall under this trope. ** Chinese-American Revy began with very narrow eyes, but her design began to play this straight by the end of the first chapter; the same goes for her appearance in the anime's pilot episode.
  • Cowboy Bebop has a wide variety of ethnicities and there is considerable effort to make them appear properly ethnic. Some of the terraformed planets have an architectural Planet of Hats with corresponding cultures like Morocco, Ecuador and Vienna. In fact, some fans theorize that Spike Spiegel is Jewish.
    • His hair doesn't help, but Word of God says the name was picked because it sounded cool.
    • Neither does the gun that he uses being from Israel
  • Despite being largely responsible for this style, Osamu Tezuka himself has a few aversions. A few of his recurring characters, most notably Tonan Shipan are more distinctly Asian than most. Tezuka also often used an interesting workaround. When depicting his ostensibly Japanese characters traveling to the Western world, he would often exaggerate his foreigners' appearance; Tezuka's Westerners are usually taller than his Japanese characters, with wide shoulders and long noses. This is especially noticeable in Black Jack.
    • This is mostly averted in Adolf, wherein the German characters and the Japanese characters look noticeably different.
  • Mushishi almost entirely adheres to probable Asian eye colors, hair colors and facial features—which, of course, makes the white-haired, green-eyed, and anachronistically dressed Ginko stick out like a neon rainbow on a black-and-white photograph.
    • Well, when Ginko was designed the writer was imagining the story set in the modern era, with the first story set in a traditional house deep in the woods, but it somehow slipped into an alternate feudal era, leaving him with his anachronisms. At least according to the author's notes. But then, he's supposed to be a freak, anyway. His hair and eye(s) are justified: they're the result of a mushi.
  • The cast of Great Teacher Onizuka tends to look authentically Japanese but most of the young female characters are subject to Generic Cuteness, though to a lesser degree than usual. The manga has been advertised as "NO big eyes, NO magic powers, NO giant robots".
    • Similar to something mentioned above, there was a segment in the manga the depicted Chinese people in a more realistic (stereotypically Asian) manner than the characters, as part of a racist joke involving the hiding of illegal laborers, no less.
  • Darker than Black is a mixed bag. The Japanese characters are all over the place. Kirihara looks Japanese whereas all her co-workers have the Mukokuseki look. Most of the episodic side characters, such as Chiaki (ep1-2) or Mai (ep3-4) also have the bland non-ethnic appearance. I think this strange mixture is best seen in the main character, Hei. Most of the time as Li the Chinese exchange student, he actually looks rather bland. Li looks like any other Japanese character. However, when he becomes Hei, his eyes narrow and become sharper. He no longer has the bland Mukokuseki appearance and could plausibly be Chinese.
  • Most of the characters in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei have a somewhat normal Japanese appearance, with the obvious exceptions of Kaede Kimura and Taro Maria Sekiutsu.
  • Rurouni Kenshin - Kenshin has red hair and purple eyes (that turn gold when he goes into Battosai Mode), but his parentage is unclear since he's an orphan. (Epileptic Trees say he's at least part Dutch.)
    • Also to considered are the OVA movies; Kenshin comes off way more Japanese in those, but there is also a large shift in art style to consider.
  • Tokko - Though they all have Japanese names, this is especially obvious when Ranmaru and Muramasa are seen together.
  • Welcome to The NHK - All the characters are recognizably Japanese. The only character with blond hair is obviously bleaching it, since we see flashbacks of her in high school with dark hair.
  • Code Geass seemed to be trying to avert this trope in theory, especially since race and racism were major plot points, but its Britannian lead was designed so he could have been Asian (or a space alien), and its most major Asian character so that he could have been Causasian, and one of its most flagrant racists' right-hand man had a British name (Guilford) but an extremely Asian appearance.
    • Then there is Kallen Kozuki/Stadtfeld, the daughter of a Britannian nobleman and a Japanese woman. On the one hand she attends an elite Britannian academy. On the other she's a major member of the Japanese insurgency well before the Black Knights get going. It seems like one side or the other should have questioned her mixed heritage.
    • The Chinese who don't just look weird look Chinese, though, and most of the minor Britannian and Japanese characters look Anglo/Aryan or Japanese. Or like aliens.
  • You're Under Arrest's cast is pretty clearly Japaneses. Though they still have eye-colors which aren't really possible with Japanese people.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 starts out in a European/Russian NERV base under attack; most of the personnel in the base clearly are Caucasian (except for Kaji).
  • If the movie takes place in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki's characters tend to have dark hair and eyes. Fair-haired people crop up on occasion in the backgrounds, but most of them only appear if the setting is meant to be European.
  • Averted in Beck. To keep with the indie-film feel, the whole cast have rather realistic hair colors and rather look Asian. Of course, the series throws in a couple Black people and a few Whites for contrast.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh! is set alternately in modern Japan and a Northern European sort of fantasy world, where the Japanese main character gets a lot of attention for having black hair and black eyes. As does his older brother, eventually, who's less cutely designed and therefore more clearly Japanese. However, he still falls under the "big eyes" design. The Germanic looks of most of the main characters are noted in the first episode, while the lead is still finding his feet and has no idea what's going on, but afterward they don't really come up, since they're standard to the world they're in. Also some fantasy coloring like pink are green hair, and a couple of vaguely Asian-looking people here and there.
    • Like the third season's inexplicable soukoku Berias. Spoiler tag hides major twist. Who turns out to have been concealing his actual identity as a blond elf prince.
    • Played straight with the main character's mother (who may be Japanese-American although she's now living in Japan), who has curly light brown hair and Generic Cute features, though in one flashback scene in Boston she refers to herself as Japanese.
    • However, if asked about their ethnicity, most Americans would not answer with "American". They'd respond with the less obvious answer, naturally.
  • In Flag, the cast is multi-national and this is reflected in the design of the cast. The Japanese and Chinese characters look different from each other and they do not look anything like the American, European, African, and other Asian cast members. The inhabitants of the fictional country look like a cross between Indians and Nepalese.
  • Hanazakari no Kimitachi E, or Hana Kimi, is set in a Japanese private school where the ethnicity of the characters is obvious, especially whenever the manga-ka bothers to color in their hair. Main character Mizuki is half-American and given light brown hair, and her friends commented upon seeing her blond-haired blue-eyed brother that he looks more American- to which she replied they were actually half-siblings.
    • Osakan classmate Nakatsu is obnoxiously blond but is given a backstory wherein he explains why he dyes it.
    • The Dorm 3 RA Himejima seems to be a stereotype of French overdramatism and flamboyance, even carrying around a rose, having long blond hair and appearing with shoujo sparkles- but he is explained to be a half-German who worships his European heritage.
    • Mizuki's friend Julia has very blond, curly hair and blue eyes, which garnered lots of attention when she arrived in Japan to visit her.
    • In fact, the author seems to relish getting the chance to draw more than Japanese people, so there's an oddly high number of blonds, blacks, and more when the characters visit California.
  • Banana Fish does a good job making the different character's nationalities apparent in the art.
  • Project Blue Earth SOS has a very multi-ethnic cast and each cast looks appropriate. Earth SOS's character design even averts the large eye phenomenon, the eye size is normal.
  • All the characters in Gokusen including Kumiko actually Japanese. Even the many Gonks have that asian look to them.
  • Chrono Crusade is a bit of an unusual aversion—there are characters with strange hair and features that don't seem to fit under any particular nationality, but they're not human at all. The characters that have blond hair and blue eyes are all Americans, but there's also Americans seen with brown and black hair. Two German characters have red and brown hair, respectively. There is a White-Haired Pretty Girl, but she has red eyes and is probably supposed to be an albino (and she is supposed to be a little strange, as well). On top of this, in the manga a minor character appears obviously Japanese next to the Caucasian characters.
  • Most of Junji Ito's characters look quite realistic, though he has a strange habit of giving his main female characters slightly more European-looking hair & eyes (most notably Kirie from Uzumaki). The funny thing is, though, that because of his art style, these features look slightly unusual with the rest of their faces, giving his women a somewhat unreal, doll-like sort of beauty. Come to think of it, most of his heroines look an awful lot like Kristin Kreuk...
  • In Sword of the Stranger, the Chinese and European warriors all look significantly different from the Japanese. However, the title character somehow manages to hide his non-Japanese ancestry merely by dying his hair.
  • Noir does well with this. Especially noticeable since the main characters travel around the world doing their job, you see the differences clearly.
  • A few characters in Eureka Seven are distinctly Asian-looking. Talho Yuki is a bit of an odd case. Her Japanese-sounding surname gives the impression she's playing this trope straight to a degree, then we meet the slant-eyed, small-boned Rei and wonder what the heck Talho is supposed to be, since she's certainly not what Rei is...
  • Turn a Gundam has a truly weird inversion. One of the Moonrace officers looks like he was drawn by a completely different artist than the rest of them, closer to the way Japanese people are drawn in American comic books: small eyes; short, rounded nose; dark hair (in a samurai-esque topknot, even!). His name? Phil Ackerman. There's also Po Ai Zhi (or something like that), who looks more or less like somebody who would actually be named that. Most of the cast is either Caucasian-looking or Ambiguously Brown, though. The funny thing is, there doesn't seem to be anybody with a Japanese-sounding name in the cast. Big Bad Gym Gingnham likes to dress up like a Samurai, but he's just a huge weeaboo.
  • Combined with Phenotype Stereotype, in Samurai Champloo a one-off character was eventually shown to be from Holland and merely visiting Japan. The characters only notice he was a foreigner because he had light/wavy red hair and blue eyes. Otherwise the difference between him and all of the other Japanese characters was almost unnoticeable.
  • Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. Everyone had black hair and looked very Japanese.
  • Real Drive: The eyes are small, hair is brown, and everyone's body looks realistic. That is, they don't look like rail-think crack addicts.
    • The odd thing is that, while the girls' facial structures are more Asian-looking than typical anime girls, their figures are suspiciously foreign-looking. Most chubby Asian girls tend to carry more weight in their busts and bellies, while the RD babes are more bottom-heavy.
  • Dragon Ball's Taopaipai has a Chinese-ish name and he does indeed look Asian. However, other characters with Chinese-inspired names (Like Goku or Tenshinhan) don't. Justified with Goku and Tienshinhan, though, because they're actually aliens.
  • Dr. Slump has to convince his backwater grandpa that his blonde, blue eyed wife is in fact Japanese. He isn't entirely convinced claiming that the eyes and hair ain't proper.
  • Hachimaki in Planetes looks distinctly, almost stereotypically Japanese, with the yellowish skin, wiry black hair, and slanted eyes. In contrast, Tanabe is also Japanese, but her complexion is indistinguishable from the Caucasian characters.
    • Tanabe isn't the best counterexample, as she's adopted and her birth parents' ancestry is unknown.
  • Done somewhat in Eyeshield 21. All the Japanese characters have black/dark brown hair and brown eyes, the ones who don't have clearly colored their hair since their eyebrows are still black. Interestingly, none of them are ever draw with an eyelid fold either (though they still have rather anime style eyes).
    • However, when it comes to facial features, it's a no holds bar of weirdness. For example, a Japanese player who loves Egyptian culture actually LOOKS like an Egyptian, rather then just a really tan Japanese guy. The only prominent character whose drawn with Asian features is Seijirou Shin and that's because he's based off Bruce Lee.
  • While played straight in Shaman King, some of the non-Asian characters, especially Silva, have narrower eyes than the Chinese and Japanese characters.
  • In Ai Yori Aoshi, the natively Japanese characters have a "yellower" cast to their skin than the American Tina (except for Chika, who's darkly tanned). This is particularly noticeable when Aoi and Tina are seen together. Of course, all characters regardless of race have anime-style eyes and (save Kaoru, Chika, and Tina) unnatural hair colors
  • Parasyte characters look very Japanese, especially Mori Uda.
  • Durarara!! characters are convincing as the two other foreign characters (Celty and Simon) are designed differently. Any character with blonde hair are shown to have dyed it.
  • Rushuna of Grenadier appears and is even assumed to be foreign because of her blonde hair and huge bust.
  • The Wandering Son characters are all noticeably Japanese. Everyone has either Black hair or Brown Hair, and everyone has either Brown Eyes or Black Eyes. The anime adaptation subverts this though, as they gave essentially everyone new eye colors (typically Technicolor Eyes).
  • In My-HiME, while most characters are straight examples, Natsuki, in the side novel, "Natsuki's Prelude," finds it suspicious that "Yamada," her informant, "didn't look Japanese at all," and suspects that Yamada is not his real name. Yamada briefly thinks back to the time in the service of "his country," but it's never revealed where he is from.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, every human looks realistically Japanese, with standard black or brown-variation hair, except for Kuwabara and Kurama. Kurama's odd red hair color is likely a result of altering the genes of the human fetus he possessed. In Kuwabara's case, his hair looks like the result of a Japanese person dying their hair blonde without bleaching it first. This was actually a common trend among Japanese juvenile delinquents in the 90s. This trope is completely averted in the manga, however. In colored manga images, Kuwabara and Kurama both have standard black hair.
  • In the Lone Wolf and Cub manga, all of the characters look authentically Japanese.
  • Averted with a 'vengeance later in Slam Dunk which carries on into all of Takehiko Inoue's works. Most of the characters look unmistakably Japanese, and the ones that don't are quickly acknowledged as strange looking. The main character himself has epicanthic (single) eyelid folds and a somewhat wide nose, making him look the most Japanese despite having bright red dyed hair. On top of that, most of the characters in the show are far from fair-skinned.
  • As in You're Under Arrest (by the same author), there's a distinct effort to make the characters in Ah! My Goddess distinct racially. Belldandy and her sisters (goddesses suggested to be of stock similar to Europeans) have larger eyes than all of the Japanese characters (though some females come close), and Bell and Skuld have paler skin than any of the Japanese characters as well (Urd doesn't, but that's addressed when it's revealed that she's half-demon).
  • Full Metal Panic! characters, while a very diverse group, range from realistically drawn to not resembling anyone.
  • Who the hell knows with Hunter X Hunter; while obviously not in the real world, the given map is an upsidedown anagram of a real world map, and some locations have (polictically) relative equivilants, based on looks and names, but there's no way to determine anyones supposed ethnicity. Names espcially seem haphazard in distribution.
  • Ranma ½ features this in a way, as well.
    • In the manga, all Japanese and Chinese characters are depicted with what one would assume is either black or brown hair, and are generally differentiated by their style of dress (although Ranma prefers to wear Chinese-style clothing normally).
    • In the anime, this is done a bit more subtly - the Japanese characters do have either black or brown hair (or dark blue in Akane's case). Most non-Japanese characters will have some other hair color (blonde, purple, green, pink). Exceptions include Azusa Shiratori, whose hair is more of a darker honey color, and the black-haired, Chinese Mousse.
  • In Tsuritama the Frenchmen and Indians don't look significantly different from the Japanese characters - little things like Yuki's red hair or Akria's darker skin are the only clues to their non-Japanese heritage.
  • Detective Conan versus Lupin III has an egregious example. People from Vespania are portrayed with varying hair colors (while Japanese people in the series all have dark hair), and all the trappings of Vespania are European in style (although no location is explicitly mentioned). Yet Ran, who is Japanese, is a double for the princess of Vespania.
  • Played with in K-On! -- twice. Tsumugi is ethnically Japanese, but is explicitly blonde and blue-eyed in-universe despite this -- and no one seems to think it's odd, even though for two seasons of the anime and six volumes of the manga she is the only natural blonde to appear in the series. Once she heads off to college another in-universe blue-eyed blonde, Sumire, joins the Light Music Club -- whose family turns out to be Australian but who changed their names when they moved to Japan. Despite this, no one even realizes she's not ethnically Japanese until she outs herself.


Live Action TV

Video Games

  • Final Fantasy:
    • The in-game character models in Final Fantasy X follow this trope. However, the FMV ones have very noticeable Japanese features—for some of them, at least: Rikku is quite obviously Asian, as is Tidus, and Yuna is noticeably Asian but with slightly softer features. Wakka is Ambiguously Brown. Lulu, Auron, and Seymour, though, are white as the driven. These may have somewhat to do with their lifestyle rather than their race, though.
    • This is also seen in Kingdom Hearts.
    • In some scenes from the early concept trailers for Advent Children, Cloud looks rather obviously Asian. This was changed to the more racially ambiguous look (i.e. European in hair and eye color but with epicanthic folds and a mix of facial features) he and most other characters have in the final version(s) of the movie, as well as Dirge of Cerberus. This also arguably the case for both the early versions of Sephiroth and Kadaj.
    • Overall, most Final Fantasy characters, have Western eye and hair colors, but Asian facial features.
  • An odd variation on this occurs in Mega Man Battle Network with Dekao "Dex" Oyama, whose comparatively dark complexion & full lips give him an oddly negroid look, rather than the 'stateless' features typically given to anime characters.
    • This only gets weirder with his little brother Chisao, who, in sharp contrast, has very light skin, beady eyes, and a body shape that resembles nothing so much as a Bobble-Head. We don't know what the Oyamas are supposed to be, honestly.
  • Zettaizetsumei Toshi very noticeably did not use this for virtually the entire cast... making Agetec's attempt to Westernize it (they never quite realized it's not 1994 anymore and you don't need to do that) by giving a huge part of the cast blonde hair when they released it as Disaster Report painfully transparent. The sequel uses it a bit more, making the Westernization a bit less blatant.
  • The Persona series has characters that have consistent Japanese traits in contrast with the few Western characters (that is if you could look past the odd hair colors). Apparently, the characters in the first game looked so Japanese that the localization had to Photoshop them in order to make them look more "American".
  • Certain characters in Pokémon and its adaptations to an extent; Kanto and Johto being the most realistic, with almost everyone having realistic hair colors and eye colors for a Japanese person, and anyone who doesn't either fits into Ambiguously-Something or is American. In Unova though, it's hard to tell who's Asian and not. You'd expect the ones with Japanese names to be so, but one of the more well known cases is back in Kanto, which is realistically drawn and colored we have a red haired, blue eyed girl with a Japanese name.
  • Harvest Moon takes place in a European, or American, setting. This trope is usually subverted. A majority of characters are white, and when characters of other races appear it's apparent. However, a few characters are Ambiguously Brown.
    • With the addition of Tale of Two Towns, we finally have a town full of vaguely Asian-looking characters. The other eponymous town, however, is a typical HM town.
  • The early Sakura Wars games (set in Japan with a largely Japanese cast) play this straight, but Sakura Wars V (set in New York with a largely non-Japanese cast) averts it, with the two major Japanese characters, Shinjiro and Subaru, being noticeably Asian-looking in coloring and features.
  • Siren models all the game's characters after Japanese actors, complete with their real life faces, making this game as absolute an aversion of this trope as one could find.
  • Street Fighter typically averts this trope well, but certain characters still slip into it. R. Mika and Karin from Street Fighter Alpha look European, especially the former, however are apparently Japanese.
  • New character Natsu, debuting in the Soul Series's fifth main iteration, was born in 16th century Izumo, Japan and sports entirely incongruent strawberry-blonde hair and unambiguously western facial features. Her incongruity is compounded because the other Japanese characters, samurai Mitsurugi and Natsu's predecessor Taki, sport racially correct black hair and brown eyes.
    • It's a stretch but she could be related to Setsuka, who by the way is a natural blonde non-Japanese living in Japan.
    • Given how the Soul Series usually averts this, it's possible—nay, probable—that Natsu is just a foreigner who was raised in Japan, just like Setsuka. She doesn't even have to necessarily be related to Setsuka, either (much like how Arthur wasn't). Why people keep thinking that she's playing this trope straight and not a foreigner is a bit baffling, actually, not to mention the fact that nobody brings up Yun-Seong's bright red hair or Maxi's blondness in his alternate outfits. Though even they have Asian features, whereas Natsu is notably very Western-looking in facial structure.
    • It's a double-edged sword for Natsu: If she is Japanese ethnically, then that is ludicrous as she in no way shape or form looks it and is the very essence of this trope (this seems likely as the developers specifically stated Setsuka was Western, which they have not for Natsu). If she is Western (and it just hasn't been stated), then that's equally grating as it makes her the series' THIRD blonde, Western pseudo-Japanese castaway living in Japan at the time - surely the designers don't need to resort to Mukokuseki / But Not Too Foreign principles THRICE when creating "Japanese" characters?
  • Justified as a (minor) plot point in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. Of the three ethnically Asian-counterpart player characters, two look reasonably Asian-ish, and Amiti has the same generic features as the ethnically white characters. Turns out Amiti is a bastard of uncertain ancestry... and has a Strong Family Resemblance to Alex of Imil.
  • Valkyria Chronicles avoids this by having most of the cast hail from either Gallia, which has a wide range of hair colors typical of real-life Europe, or the Empire, which is an expy of WWII Germany and has mostly blonde people (for the few that have visible hair and aren't albino, faceless, Darcsen, bald, or obviously not meant to be loyal to Emperor Maximillian's philosophy, like Jaeger or Geld) as a nod to the Aryan ideal, along with bolder, more European looking features (often as a result of age markers). Unfortunately, the art style means that the young, good-looking characters meant to be sympathetic have more Asian-looking features no matter where they're from. This got them into a bit of trouble with the Darcsen: they're characterized with dark hair and good-luck dolls, leading them to look like the writers had given the Jews a Race Lift and rewritten them as Japanese.
  • Canon Foreigner You Ji from Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War completely (and pleasantly) averts the Mukokuseki principle - his look is unambiguously and realistically East Asian, amongst a cast of caucasian English and French characters. It's arguably a double aversion in You Ji's case, as Bladestorm originates from the Koei stable, who are notorious for employing Mukokuseki principles across their hero-series Dynasty Warriors, where auburn/red/light-brown/blond haired, green & blue-eyed asians abound in ancient China....

Web Comics

Discussions of this trope

Web Original

  • This blog post entitled "Why do Japanese characters look white?" considers two possible reasons for Mukokuseki. The first is that anime characters don't look white to Japanese people (because the assumption in Japan is "Japanese unless marked otherwise" instead of "Westerner unless marked otherwise" like Westerners are used to). The second is the heavy importation of Western culture to Japan after World War 2.
  • An old YouTube video, entitled "Are anime characters Japanese or Caucasian", argued that large eyes and pale skin are not necessarily Caucasian traits. Though the video has since been removed, some of the responses remain.

Real Life