Recently, I had the misfortune of going to the orthodontist. While I was lying on the chair with two sets of hands jamming sharp wire into my mouth, I had an interesting thought. I realized that, at least in my experience, it is quite rare to see a female orthodontist. Even though the dental assistants are generally women, you rarely see them in the director’s chair.
As an avid animation fan, this reminded me of the history of animation studios, both in the west and the east. The directors and key animators were generally men, while the coloring and sometimes background art were handled by women. Despite not being in the spotlight, the work done by these women was crucial for the quality of the animation as a whole. Take for example the concept art for Disney from Mary Blair or the color design by the prolific artist Michiyo Yasuda for Studio Ghibli and Mamoru Oshii. These animated works would not be the same without them. The same could be said for dental assistants in relation to dental and orthodontic work.
After running this through my mind for a while, my original thought expanded into the territory of teeth in general, specifically, teeth and their representation in anime. Most people are familiar with the classic toothless design in anime, featured prominently on cute characters. For instance, something like this:
However, every once and a while, a character will show some teeth.
It is fascinating to look at some examples of how different artists have their own ways of showing teeth.
Teeth in anime extends beyond just character design. There is an odd tendency for anime directors to show teeth brushing. I would be curious to see an anime character flossing.
Even the great Satoshi Kon is not immune to this charm.
[NSFW?] And then of course, there is, uh, this….
Even dentistry itself is represented in anime. Studio Khara’s Animator Expo had an entire short film about dragon dentists. Yes, dentists for dragons.
Japan’s culture also has a long history with teeth. Up until the Meiji period in 1868, there was a custom called ohaguro, where people would dye their teeth black. Dyeing was primarily done by married women, and it even had the added benefit of functioning in a similar fashion to modern day dental sealants. Flash forward a few hundred years, and now we have the modern trend of yaeba, where Japanese girls intentionally make their teeth crooked.
A lot of anime fans and creators tend to focus on the hair and eyes as the main features of an anime character’s design. I would argue that teeth also play an important role in shaping the look of a character and how that character’s emotions are expressed through animation.
And that concludes my foray into the world of anime teeth. I am an insane person. Here, have a smile:
Oh crap, wrong one. Here ya go: