In Alita: Battle Angel, why did James Cameron decide to give Alita big eyes?

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  • Not quite an answer, but one school of thought might be that they'd never heard of Uncanny Valley; or perhaps that their personal threshold for Uncanny Valley creepiness is way lower than average.
    – Graham
    Aug 28, 2019 at 12:43
  • Being a cyborg, big eyes may have greater sense of action; that way she can react 10 time to 20 times faster if need be.
    – Abel Carti
    Aug 28, 2019 at 14:15

2 Answers 2


They wanted her to be like manga.

James Cameron's words from Yahoo News:

“I think Robert and I were both always in utter agreement that she should look like the character in the manga,” Cameron told us. “With our first trailer that went out, we weren’t quite there yet. And we got a lot of blowback from the fans. And there was a backlash reaction at the studio. ‘Better make the eyes smaller.’ I said, ‘No, let’s make ’em bigger.’

“When we expanded her iris and her pupil, she seemed softer, more open, more inviting. You kind of saw through the window of her soul into her character. And then it worked.

Salazar (Maze Runner, Bird Box) provided a cold hard fun fact about how much work actually went into designing her character’s peepers.

“In one of Alita’s eyes, there’s more detail, more mathematics, more geometry, more pixels than in all of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings,” she said.

Also Robert Rodriguez's words from Kotaku:

“The manga anime eyes that we’ve seen since the 30s and Astro Boy has never been done photorealistically. So, usually when we see an anime translated, it doesn’t feel like that.”

Continuing, he adds, “The early artwork I saw that Jim [Cameron] had, before it was even technically possible, had that in her [Alita]. It was so striking and so arresting, I thought, ‘My god, we have to do that. We have to be the first to bring a true manga and anime character to life.’”

  • 15
    "The manga anime eyes [...] never been done photorealistically" Oh I bet people tried, but they saw the result and understandably shot it down
    – GammaGames
    Aug 27, 2019 at 20:51
  • 2
    "In one of Alita’s eyes, there’s more detail, more mathematics, more geometry, more pixels than in all of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings” well, she does have a Berserker machine body. (Or are her eyes from her old body?) Aug 27, 2019 at 22:00
  • 1
    @Mazura This is a well known phenomenon with well documented history - because they were influenced by early Disney cartoons. And the reason Snow White, Sleeping Beauty etc. had big eyes is both technical and stylistic - due to the level of detail in drawings (or lack thereof) they exaggerate features to convey expressions/emotions, also making the head/eyes disproportionately larger conveys a sense of cuteness which is probably hardwired in mammalian brains to make us care for babies
    – slebetman
    Aug 28, 2019 at 3:56
  • 1
    @slebetman The words you are looking for are "Supernormal stimulus"
    – oakad
    Aug 28, 2019 at 4:26
  • 7
    @Mazura it has been asked and answered on Anime.SE: Why do anime/manga characters have big eyes?
    – Andrew T.
    Aug 28, 2019 at 4:40

For those of you who haven't read the original manga, Alita is an early generation cyborg. This means that her design wasn't as flawless as newer generations (much like comparing today's computers to, say, a Macintosh 128k). It has little to do with 'manga eyes' or any generalization of the standard Japanese manga art style. In the manga, the size of her eyes (and shape of her lips - not accentuated in the movie adaptation) is a plot point. Most of the characters that cross her path comment on how strange her facial features are as, even compared to other big eyed manga characters, her eyes are quite large.

Being a fan of the original manga himself, it makes sense that Cameron would pay attention to this point in his adaptation and I am personally happy that he didn't back down and stayed true to the source content.

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