To the Anime Girls who Wear Nail Polish,

A perfect example of a girl who defies the stereotype, and also of wishful thinking on the fan's part.

A common misconception about girls who wear nail polish is that we are vain and a tad on the snobby side, which may be true in some cases, but is often false in reality.  Some people wonder, “Why wear nail polish?” Is it just to grab attention? Is it some way of showing how fashion forward you are? Or is it a pretty acrylic mask made to cover up the embarrassing inconsistencies beneath? In a way, all of these guesses are correct.

Almost any color of nail polish is bound to grab your eyes, as that pop of color jumps at you from an unexpected location.  Like any other accessory, nail polish serves a multitude of purposes.  The ones I focus in on today, however, exemplify a common vein of anime characters who appear one way, but act another.

Kohsaka Kirino of Ore no Imouto is perhaps one of the most popular heroines lately, as she fulfills both the little sister fantasy, as well as one of a shy, hidden, otaku hobby.  I can’t stand her character at all, but can understand to a certain the degree the fascination many others have with her.  She is a wonderful illustration of warring emotions and that ever-popular tsundere archetype.  On the outside, she’s a dedicated student athlete, a successful young model, and an adoring daughter.  She scores A+ on bitch-sister of the year with her terrible treatment of her older brother, treatment that is largely unwarranted.  She dresses stylishly with the most fashionable clothes of the season, including a variety of jewelry and nail polish colors. Underneath her public display, she hides a passionate hobby for dating sims, specifically the little sister type.  The hobby expands to include similar anime and correlating merchandise.  It quickly becomes apparent throughout the anime that despite her seeming seething dislike for her bother, she has actually come to depend on him, even come to look for his approval on various matters.  Throughout each episode, she struggles to maintain her hobbies under the radar of her friends and parents, using her brother and otaku friends as she deems necessary.  These inconsistencies of emotions reflect her inconsistent participation in either world, both of which she struggles to belong, yet also refuses to give herself over to 100%.

Anjou Naruko, known to her childhood friends as “Anaru,” is from the current, Summer 2011 airing anime, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.  She is similar to Kirino in many respects, including attention to fashion and less-than-cool hobbies.  The biggest concern for Naruko is self-confidence, of which she has almost none.  Apparent from flash backs of childhood, she has always been one to follow the whims of those around her, an unhealthy practice that she continues to do as a high school student.  She copies the fashion sense of her peers, even going so far as to copy their treatment of those who don’t fit in their circle of friends.  It isn’t until further time spent with her old friends does her true self shine through, one of a sweet girl who loves playing video games.  Unlike Kirino, I feel that Naruko’s use of nail polish is less that of just liking the pretty colors, and more of just wanting to fit in with her “cool” friends.  It also disguises her low morale, yet adversely cries out for attention and approval.

Sheryl Nome, from Macross Frontier, was not my favorite heroine of the anime, but definitely one whose style sense I liked.  This “galactic fairy” is accustomed to the spotlight, using her voice and looks to push forward her vibrant career as a singer.  She oozes with self-assurance–so much so, that she comes across as full of herself.  But, her composure certainly doesn’t lack backing, as she never shies away from applying herself to any duty at hand.  Sheryl’s major weakness can be found in her past, one of poverty and orphan-hood.  This early impression can explain her desire for the stage and adoration, as well as her attraction to the male protagonist, Alto Saotome.  What she yearns for, above all else, is intimacy–a luxury she seems to never have experienced until meeting Alto.  Ignoring her beauty, seeming self-confidence, and fandom, she suffers from issues similar to those of Kirino and Naruko.

So before you dismiss a girl with nail polish, try to look past the acrylics and see what’s really there.  More often than not, you’ll discover that very human wish for acceptance…and hey, what’s to say she can’t give you a tip or two on what colors and cuts fit your look?

8 thoughts on “To the Anime Girls who Wear Nail Polish,

  1. Does nail polish really entail all that? I tend to look at it as being an accessory of sorts. I don’t know if you can draw all that from a character’s nail polish. But given that we have the benefit of being the viewer, we get a closer look into all that the characters think about. But wouldn’t it be interesting to be deprived of any previous knowledge of the anime characters and to then judge them based on their nail polish. I think that would be quite a novelty and definitely an interesting look into social psychology, the human pscyhe, all that stuff.

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    • Nail polish doesn’t have to entail all that, no; I was just drawing some interesting similarities between the anime characters I noticed who did wear it. Even of more interest to me is that rarity in anime for characters to have nail polish at all–it’s like adding in that extra little detail to fingernails is too trivial for animators to think about. So, when I do see it, it makes me happy that such habits were included into the character. The same thing goes for anime characters wearing jewelry. It’s not too often that you see characters who wear jewelry; when they do, the piece usually has some sort of significant meaning.

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  2. It’s interesting how you recognize and remember the characters who wear nail polish. Same here, whenever I see a character that has some design on her nails, it also easily catches my attention. Perhaps because viewing also brings out how conscious I am in the appearance of my nails in real life.

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    • And it’s like noticing these girls wearing nail polish prompted me to get into a whole nail polish frenzy myself :p Not only is it pretty, but it also helps thicken my nails, which usually break really easily.

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  3. That’s an interesting approach you have there. I didn;t really think that nail polish could tell so much.
    In general, I think taking care of your nails and making them look nice is something most girls should do, so I don’t think it’s always a cry for attention. Besides that, you can make them really cute! I draw strawberries on mine before, and it always brightened my day just by looking at em’!

    Btw, you forgot that some girls in Mahou Shoujo Madoka had nail polish on their nails too : )

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    • No, it’s not always. Like I said to tomphile, wearing nail polish most definitely doesn’t always mean what I talk about. I was just noticing some interesting similarities between the anime characters who I noticed did wear it.

      I didn’t notice any MSMM girls wearing nail polish; did you mean the design that Homura (I think it’s her…or was it Sayaka?) has on her fingernail? I wasn’t sure if that was nail polish, or just a symbol of their contract.

      I love that you draw strawberries on yours!

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  4. Super late here but this was an interesting post I wandered across and I enjoyed your take. I have only been watching anime for maybe 2 years but I have to say that characters who wear nail polish in most shows will always jump out at you, especially because it is so unexpected in the genre (almost no one seems to wear it in anime). So I began to surmise that the intention of the artists in including it was to draw your attention or to make some sort of statement about the character.

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    • I’m very glad that you enjoyed it, and that I’m not the only one who has noticed those characters with nail polish! I’m sure you will see many more characters with such style sense in the years you continue to watch anime. Just today I looked at my aqua-colored nails and was reminded of Hatsune Miku🙂

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