I have written several articles about hair color in anime and Japanese lite novels and games. My first two articles in the series dealt with brown hair in the Oregairu series, which includes a novel series (My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected) and a three-season anime series based on the novels (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU).   The first article dealt with one of the series characters, Iroha Isshiki, a Japanese schoolgirl who was portrayed as having brown hair in both the novels and the anime series.  One volume of the novels made clear that her hair was naturally brown, which was interesting in light of the fact that some other characters with brown hair were noted to have dyed their hair that color.  In a second piece, I discussed a minor character in the series, Kaori Orimoto, who was portrayed as having brown hair in the anime despite having black hair in the underlying novels.  My studies of brown hair in Japanese media were inspired in part by an article about a Japanese schoolgirl with naturally brown hair being forced to dye her hair black by her school.  (See also my study on hair color in Kimi ni Todoke.)

With this background, I was intrigued when I came across a July 2022 article by Irina of the Drunken Anime Blog titled Top anime characters with brown hair and brown eyes.  (While I am a teetotaler, I added the blog to my RSS reader for the anime content.)  Her article took a different approach to the brown-hair-in-anime issue than mine did, surveying anime ranking sites to come up with a list of the most popular anime characters with brown hair and brown eyes (unsurprisingly, most of the list consists of 2D girls).  From the outset, I note that I defer to Ms. Irina’s ranking with respect to popular characters, for I have little idea of who is popular and who is not among the online communities.

Haruhi Suzumiya is excited about an idea as she sits behind a tired Kyon in class in the fourth episode of the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
This image from episode 4 of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a summary of the series. (See below for my discussion of Haruhi’s (the girl in the back) hair color.)

I have seen the shows of five of the nine characters on her list.  I thought it would be interesting to consider how their hair colors should be understood.  However, note as I write this list that in three of the five cases, I last watched the shows referenced a long while ago.  (Numbers refer to the character’s ranking on the Drunken Anime Blog list.)

  • 9. Mitsuha Miyamizu from Your Name. Number nine was technically “movie heroines” with brown hair, but Ms. Irina used Mitsuha from Your Name as the primary example. Your Name is by Mr. Makoto Shinkai, the man behind my favorite movie, 5 Centimeters Per Second. I prefer 5 Centimeters to the far more successful Your Name, but Your Name is a great movie in its own right.  Hair color in Mr. Shinkai’s movies is a touchy subject for me. I once found myself in a 40-plus minute argument with a friend about hair color in his first significant film, Voices of a Distant Star (the same friend from my philosophical piece on 2D people hair and the ship of Theseus).  With that being said, Mitsuha’s hair looks black in certain lighting and I do not think that Mr. Shinkai intended for us to understand her as literally having brown hair.
  • 7. Hori Kyouko from Horimiya.  I referenced Horimiya in my review of 2021 anime series with great disappointment.  It was disappointing because it should have been good, but for reasons involving pacing and questionable plot prioritization choices, the product as a whole is underwhelming.  Hori is unquestionably portrayed as having brown hair.  Is she another Iroha?  I fear not.  Horimiya makes use of some interesting hair colors (purple, green, red, and pink) despite its real-world setting, and there is nothing I remember from the series to make me think that there is anything more to Hori’s hair color than the exercise of aesthetic discretion.
  • 5. Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket.  The new Fruits Basket adaptation gave us my anime of the year for 2019, my second runner up in 2020, and my first runner up in 2021 (its 2001 adaptation was also very good).  Tohru was my pick for best female character in 2021, so it should suffice to say that I think she is a high-level character.  Fruits Basket would make for a very interesting hair study because it makes expressly clear that some of its interesting hair colors are literal.  Tohru, however, is a very sweet and ordinary girl whose hair is not a focus of the story.  Tohru’s mother has orange hair, but she probably dyed it.  I’m inclined to view Tohru’s hair as aesthetically brown, but it is not impossible that she has naturally brown hair.  (We can rule out the possibility that Tohru dyed her hair based on her characterization.)
  • 4. Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaFor every year that I saw enough anime to have a comprehensive view (going back to 2005), 2006 is my favorite year.  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya may well be the most well-known and influential 2006 series.  I do like it, although I am not sure it has aged well (maybe I need to do a 2006 review article…).  It has been close to 10 years since I last watched the series.  The character Haruhi Suzumiya (see above image) is better known for constantly changing her hair style than she is for her hair color.  Determining the truth of Haruhi’s hair color is complicated by the fact that a number of characters in the show have unusual hair colors.  Moreover, the nature of Haruhi herself leaves open every possibility.  Hair dying would be well within Haruhi’s personality, but I suppose it is possible that she has naturally brown hair.  Moreover, Haruhi could probably will her hair to be whatever color she wants it to be.  Unless the underlying novels address the issue (I have not read them), the matter of Haruhi Suzumiya must be left unresolved.
  • 3. Light Yagami from Death Note Death Note achieved some popularity in the West because it was aired in English on Adult Swim a good while ago.  It is kind of a fun show if you turn your brain off — not a good show, mind you — but fun in the right mental state.  Light Yagami, the main character of Death Note, does have brown hair — and I discovered that there is apparently some debate with respect to whether he is dying his hair (note, some spoilers in the last paragraph).  I am agnostic on this point.  Death Note has a real-world setting (with some caveats) with few exciting hair colors that could not be explained with dye.  Hair dying does not seem to fit squarely in Light’s character, but notwithstanding he could have naturally brown hair, his parents and sisters have black hair.  Light could plausibly be an Iroha case, but I am too far removed from having last seen Death Note to take a strong position one way or another.

(Note:  Ms. Irina lists a character from Attack on Titan in first place.  I saw a few episodes of the first season and that was more than enough to make me run far, far away, so I have no hot takes on hair color in Attack on Titan, although in light of the fact that the characters are not Japanese — I defer to t Ms. Irina’s analysis.)

This brief analysis highlights why Iroha was an interesting case in the field of anime hair color research. There are many brown-haired anime characters – many more such characters than naturally brown-haired Japanese people, relatively speaking.  The brown hair usually goes without comment.  That Oregairu affirmatively noted that Iroha had naturally brown hair is unusual. (Iroha is also a very good character beyond the points of interest about her hair color.)