Less painted-on looking eyes

I have created this model, but at the moment, the eyes are looking a little too much like they are just painted on (which they are, but they don’t need to look like they are). I’ve tried adjusting the specular, and modifying the colours, but I can’t get the look I want.
Here’s the current output:

And here’s a reference that I used:

My eyes just don’t have the life that are in the reference image. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Nyaromon_comp.blend (196.8 KB)

I think the main difference is your texture. I up-rezzed it to 2K (cause, jaggies, you know) and I simply cut out the shape from your reference, un-skewed it in Photoshop and sharpened it up a bit. That seems to get it closer to the goal.
Nyaromon_comp.blend (388.4 KB)

Another point, I think, is the Eye Speculars. Creating them with actual lights is probably not the smartest solution here, you want to be able “art direct” where those things go, regardless of where the light is coming from. Also they would have to be super hard to match the reference, that would not look good on the rest of the model.

I have seen something close to that in Danny Mack’s Eye Designer. He uses a “Fake Specular” shape that you can move around to get that specular point just where you need it. Check it out here:

Danny Mac’s Eye Designer with Movable Speculars

You could use a sphere normal map like

to make your eyes shade like they are spherical, even though they are flat.

Thanks. I will try these approaches and see what gives me the best result. I’ve already widened the eyes and I’m working on applying a sphere normal map.

Consider cleaning up the topology around the “ears” a little, too. Things are getting stretchy up there.