Anime Cliches 21: Empty Eyes

Type: Art and Character Cliché

What made it popular: Possibly the earliest of Yandere visual novels such as Shizuku. Not sure about the exact cause though so don’t quote me on this one.

Cliché Level: Medium

Where can you find it: Fate/Series, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, School Days, To Love Ru (Golden Darkness in Season 1), Berserk, Naruto, Attack on Titan etc.


This cliché refers entirely to the phenomena when an anime character’s pupil’s are vanished from their eyes, causing what is usually referred to as the “Empty or Hollow Eye” look. This cliché can be further divided based on whether this is a permanent state in a character, meaning that their eye is always like this or if it comes out only under certain emotional moments  and circumstances such as shock, stress, fear, guilt or excitement.


Category 1: Temporary Hollow Eyes

Typically the marks of a Yandere or a Yangire character, that they display at the moment where they have been pushed beyond their limits and can no longer maintain their illusion of sanity and normalcy, it is the moment when the facade finally breaks down and their true nature is revealed. Alternatively it can also come as a result of a shock, like in certain anime if a character dies in front of another character who holds him dearly, then that character will go into a temporary state of shock and have such an expression on his face.


Category 2: Permanent Hollow Eyes

Eyes that have lost their “light”. Usually the mark of a character who has some troubled past and/or deep emotional trauma that he carries with him. The loss of a friend, family, lover, having done something wrong, having spent time in a war zone etc. It can be a result of a lot of things. Characters of this category almost never show genuine happiness or smile. And when they actually do it just looks forced. They have a permanent state of “disillusioned” aura about them.

Why its bad: Let’s start with the most obvious one.

Have you ever seen someone suddenly lose their pupils? Exactly. It looks weird and unrealistic that a character suddenly loses something that is normally permanent part of her look, this is obviously done solely for artistic purposes but still you get my point. It also exaggerates the expression way out of proportion for additional emotional impact induced in the viewer.

This is obviously not much of an issue within the second category, as such pupil-less state is their usual appearance (so you get used to it after a while) and it isn’t done for the purpose of exaggeration like in the first category, but to set a tone and mood for the character. The reason why its a drawback for Category 2 is because it has been done so many times that it isn’t unique anymore and one can immediately tell that this character has a tragic/sad back story just from looking at their eyes and the artstyle used, which I do not think is what you want to happen when you design a character with an interesting background. But then again, what do I know.


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