Anime Characters White Hair is a symptom of Mental Breakdown: Explained

In this coming generation of anime characters, there’s a recurring medical mystery, unusual phenomenon, and transformation cliche. In simpler words, anime characters with white hair can be a symptom of mental breakdown. For an instance, you must have seen Tokyo Ghouls Ken Kaneki’s hair turn white after due to severe torture.

But why do these characters undergo such a huge change in appearance? Is it depression? Or trauma? Well, keep reading to know about this dark truth.

Marie Antoinette Syndrome causes Anime character’s white hair

anime characters white hair
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Marie Antoinette Syndrome also called Canities subita or Thomas More Syndrome refers to a situation where someone’s hair suddenly turns white (canities) or grey overnight due to stress or trauma.

  • Hypothesized to be a variant of spot baldness or non-scarring hair loss. That selectively affects all pigmented hairs, leaving only the white hair behind. This condition is not age-related.
  • It has been found that some hairs can become colored again when stress is reduced. While it’s possible for your hair to turn white in a relatively short amount of time.
  • This isn’t likely to happen within minutes, as is suggested by supposed historical accounts.

But where did this Marie Antoinette Syndrome come from?

The name of this condition comes from specific cases in history including that of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Her hair was noted as having turned stark white overnight alter her capture following the ill-fated flight to Varennes during the French Revolution. Or before her execution in 1793.

  • It’s also important to note that regardless of whether the stories are true, Marie Antoinette was only 38 years old at the time of her death.
  • An older case of Sir Thomas More‘s hair turning white the night before his beheading has also been recorded.

Although a number of cases of rapid hair greying have documented the underlying pathophysiological changes. But not sufficiently studied.

As a Fictional Trope


Triggers according to this syndrome were postulated in the 19th century, including sorrow and fear, fits of rage, extreme stress, and unexpected bad news. These form the basis of most uses of ideas in fictional works. Making a turning point for the characters affected by it. Just like we saw with Ken Kaneki’s hair turning white.

Often instantly or overnight as a result of a particularly traumatic event that changes their lives forever. It may also return back to its original color over time, but atlas, anime does exaggerate things.

This trope can also be referred to as Prematurely Grey-Haired, with a Disease Bleach subtrope. Where the life-changing event is a life-threatening illness, injury, or another kind of bodily harm.

Cases in Anime and Manga

1. Shigaraki Tomura 

anime characters with white hair
Image Courtesy of @givenshero on Twitter

From extreme amounts of stress, shock, or trauma from childhood. His hair appears to become even white during the final battle of the Meta Liberation War Arc after he remembers everything

2. Ken Kaneki 


Ken Kaneki is the most well-known sufferer of this syndrome. Kaneki’s white hair is due to brutal torture. Later turns black again with different phrases to it, symbolizing his journey and the struggles he had to endure.

3. Nagato (Naruto)

why do anime characters have differen hair color
Image Courtesy of Apple TV

After he performs Rinne Tensei, his hair turns white as a side-effect of the jutsu, and it remains that color after he is reincarnated. Until he absorbed Naruto’s KCM chakra and reverted back to his youthful state.

4. Knov (Hunter x Hunter)


Near the day of the assault on the Chimer Ant King’s palace, Knov‘s hair turns white after he experiences a mental breakdown. After coming into contact with Shaiapouf’s henious En.

5. Kaeda Manyuda (Kakegurui)

kaneki hair transformation but why
Image Courtesy of

Kaede is a tall, pale-skinned student with well-kept black hair and dark eyes. After his traumatic defeat at the hands of Yumeko Jabami, his hair turns white.

6. Allen Walker

His hair turned white from the shock of reviving Mana as an Akuma and destroying him. He revealed that he had tried to dye it numerous times, but eventually gave up as it should return to white in no time.

7. Enishi (Rurouni Kenshin)

japanese animations have mental breakdown
Image Courtesy of

Enishi witnessed Kenshin’s accidental killing of Tomoe, his sister, which left him traumatized. In a state of perpetual shock, resulting in his hair turning white.

Power dyes your Hair

Marie Antoinette Syndrome is not to be confused with this trope where a character’s hair color changes (not limited to white) as a result of a power boost or mode activation. Most notable from the Dragon Ball series, or from being the ten-tails jinchuriki from the Naruto series.

Mallen streak

guts in white hair and ken kaneki
Image Courtesy of

A white/grey is known as a Mallen streak. A case of poliosis (when a person is born with or develops a patch of white or gray hair white otherwise maintaining their natural hair color).

Not all cases of Mallen Streak result from Marie Antoinette Syndrome but a good example could be: Guts as a result of putting on the Berserker Armor for the first time. The stress and toll it took.



Hope this sums up your question about why Anime character’s hair turns white. Who’s your favorite anime character with white hair? Which do you find more realistic? What other characters suffer from it?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Sources: Tv Tropes, Wikipedia

Also Read: Record of Ragnarok Season 2: Will it release in India? Everything you need to know

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