On July 10, 2023, I published an article about an internet debate concerning the animation quality (or lack thereof) in the just-aired first episode of The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses. One recurring theme in my analysis was that the studio behind the series, GoHands, put a tremendous amount of effort in animating the long brown hair of one of the two main characters of the series, middle school student Ai Mie. Long-time readers may know that I have published numerous articles about understanding hair color in Japanese anime, manga, and games. I nodded to that history in my July article:

The incredibly detailed animation of her hair will be a theme throughout this article. (Sadly, there is no commentary about her brown hair color. But if the series ever decides to get into hair color, you can rest assured that the leading anime hair color anthropologist will be on the case.)

(See my full collection of posts on hair color in Japanese anime, manga, novels, and games.)

While some fully Japanese people (for the purposes of our discussion, let us say people with two ethnically Japanese parents, neither of whom appearing to be obviously mixed race/ethnicity) have naturally brown hair, it is relatively uncommon. In light of some real-world controversies involving Japanese schools forcing students with naturally brown hair to dye their hair black, I took an interest in anime storylines in which a character is explicitly portrayed as having naturally brown hair. I first covered the case of Iroha Isshiki in Oregairu and then the case of two girls – a natural brunette and one who dyed her hair brown – from Ippon Again! Both main characters in The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses, the aforementioned Ai Mie and the view-point character, Kaede Komura, are portrayed as having brown hair. In general, the characters in the two series all have brown or black hair, so I was curious after the first episode whether the series had anything to say about Ai Mie’s brown hair color.

It took until episode 11 for the series to address brown hair head on. However, to my surprise, we learned about the brown hair of the short-haired Komura.

I say “to my surprise” because Komura’s hair has not been a focus of the series, whereas Ai Mie’s hair detail makes one wonder whether it caused GoHands to cut corners on other parts of the animation (many corners were cut, although the series does have its moments). While this post is not about the series beyond the hair color issue, allow me to offer a gentle intro. (Note: I will use the last names of the two main characters, Komura and Mie, since that is how they address each other at this stage of the series.)

Mie and Komura are middle school classmates. Mie somehow often forgets her glasses despite being very nearsighted (she is also reluctant to wear contact lenses). Komura, who has an obvious crush on Mie (it would be obvious even if we did not have access to his internal monologues) enjoys helping Mie when she is blind. Mie comes to rely on Komura and there are plenty of signs that she develops similar feelings for him. How Mie often forgets her glasses is left under-explained, but the series uses the gimmick well enough for its normal purposes.

I offered the introduction to set up the point that the series focuses more on Mie’s appearance than Komura’s. One reason for this is because the entire series is seen from Komura’s perspective, and he is often thinking about Mie’s hair or becoming nervous when she leans in very close to him when she cannot see. Moreover, while the series never suggests that Mie is the proverbial school idol, she appears to be recognized as being pretty. Conversely, Komura appears to be an average-looking boy in all respects, which is part of why he has trouble imagining that a cute girl would like him.

But this is not about the growing closeness between Komura and Mie. This is about their brown hair.

Episode 11 begins with Komura at home with his Mom. Komura is doing dishes while his Mom is sitting on the sofa with a beer. This is, to the best of my recollection, the first time we see Komura’s Mom in the series. She makes an impression as she teases Komura and tries to convince him to get his ears pierced. Komura resists the idea, not because he necessarily opposes ear piercings, but because he does not think he could pull it off. We then learn that he regrets having given in to his Mom’s prodding on a prior occasion:

Kaede Komura doing dishes in his home in episode 11 of The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses. The subtitle, which comes courtesy of Crunchyroll, records him as telling his mother: "You told me to dye my hair, so I did, and it doesn't look good." Komura has brown hair.
Subtitle courtesy of Crunchyroll.

That came out of left field. To be entirely honest, despite being an anime hair color scholar, I never thought too deeply about Komura’s brown hair. I found Mie’s to be more curious. But here we have a definitive statement from the horse’s mouth: Komura dyed his hair brown. We can presume then that Komura, like most of the background characters, has naturally black hair. Komura’s Mom disagrees with his negative self-assessment

The back of the mother of Kaede Komura's head in episode 11 of The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses. She has a pony tale and a beer and is watching TV. She is saying "Sure it does," which appears in the image as a subtitle. Here she is disagreeing with her son's self-assessment that his dyed brown hair does not look good on him.

Komura’s Mom is portrayed as having dark brown hair. Is her hair dyed too? It is certainly much darker than Komura’s, and dark enough that I suppose one could chalk up the brownness to artistic license. But given that she is trying to nudge Komura to dye his hair, there is a distinct possibility that Komura’s Mom is dying her hair as well, albeit darker.

Because no one has commented on Komura’s hair, we can assume that his school does not police hair color, at least certain hair colors. It seems more similar to the high school of Iroha Isshiki in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (aka Oregairu) than the stricter high school I covered in Ippon Again! Maybe it is due in part to The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses taking place in middle school.

What then of Mie, the girl with perhaps the most detailed hair animation in 2023, if not ever? Thus far, the series had been silent on the nature of her brown hair. While Mie is not vain, she has been shown to be concerned with her appearance to some degree, so this is not a similar case to the protagonist of Kimi ni Todoke. Knowing that brown hair dye is a thing in the series, I necessarily must consider the possibility that Mie dyes her hair. There is nothing about her personality that would lead me to think she would be unlikely to do so in an environment where it is permitted. I assume arguendo that Mie is fully ethnically Japanese since there has been no suggestion otherwise from Komura, whose thoughts are dominated by Mie, or any of the side characters with speaking lines.

While episode 11 does not definitively answer questions about Mie’s hair, we do get what could be a clue (again, note that I am not familiar with the manga source material, so my analysis is based solely on the anime thus far). There have been references to the fact that Mie is a touch sheltered and that her parents may be a bit over-protective. This becomes a key point later in episode 11 as her class, including Komura of course, is working on preparing for the cultural festival. Mie apparently has a strict 6 P.M. curfew, but as 6 approaches, one member of the class asks for a show of hands from people who can stay an extra hour to help with preparations. It looks like just about everyone except Mie raises their hands, but Mie eventually changes her mind (notwithstanding her curfew) because Komura stays (there is another thinly-veiled reason on top of that, but we will set that aside here). Mie ends up taking the worst of two options, leaving between 6 and 7 after she had already violated her curfew without having told her parents. Komura, concerned for Mie, chases after her and comes up with an excuse – namely accidentally taking Mie’s gym shoes (this excuse was made possible by the fact that Mie was ocularly-challenged on this day) and returning them, which he hoped would give Mie an excuse to appease her parents. Now see the below screenshot:

Scene from episode 11 of The Girl I Like Forgot Her Glasses with Komura standing inside the front doorway of the home of Ai Mie in front of Mie and her mother. He is holding Mie's gym shoes.

We are not concerned with the story here so much as Mie’s mother, who we see on screen.

Now recall from the second screen shot that Komura’s mother appears to have dark brown hair – clearly brown, but dark enough that one could plausibly suggest the series chose it as a proxy for black hair. Mie’s mother appears to have similarly dark brown hair – darker than Komura and Mie, but not black. Without more information (Mie’s father still only appears in the form of references), we cannot say for certain whether Mie’s mother’s brown hair is natural, and thus a clue that perhaps Mie’s hair is natural, or dyed. Moreover, while one could suggest that the strictness of Mie’s mother would weigh against her dying her hair, we learn later in the episode that Mie’s father is a bit more forgiving. And we already have evidence that in the context of Mie’s school, dying one’s hair brown is viewed as being acceptable.

While I hope to find some answers about Mie’s hair, I doubt that the anime series will answer my questions with only two episode remaining (I am inclined to doubt that it sees a second season, but stranger things have and will happen). The manga may contain answers to the question, but I do not expect to familiarize myself with those answers for some time. Rest assured, however, that if I find any updates (feel free to send them along if you have them), New Leaf Journal readers will be the first to know.