Ambiguously Human

Guess which one is actually human. Here's a hint: it's not the one on the far left.

It's no secret that all sorts of weird beings exist alongside humans. Stories in the fantasy genre, for instance, give us fairy-tale figures like dragons, witches and wizards, elves and dwarves, and whatever other oddities a specific author may come up with to give their world some personal flavor. On the Science Fiction side of things, we meet aliens, robots, artificial intelligences, freaks of nature and all manner of homunculi. No matter how wildly they vary from one another, and from one series to the next, however, they all have one thing in common: they're physically distinct from humans, even if it's not by much.

Every now and again, though, while exploring the Fantasy Kitchen Sink, you'll run into a character of indeterminable race or species. Sure, they seem human, what with their upright stance, human-like intelligence, and ability to speak, and yet there's just something about them that gives them away as something distinctly other. Maybe it's that they live in a series where no human can do the things they do, maybe it's that a certain part of their body (or even most of it) is kept conspicuously concealed, or maybe it's that there just plain aren't any "other" humans around, raising suspicions. This person is Ambiguously Human. Fairly often, a series will go out of its way to avoid stating their out-and-out species, or they'll be called human or nonhuman in spite of their shared traits. If you can't figure out whether they spawned from the same end of the gene pool as you just by looking at them, though, they fit the bill.

Not to be confused with Rubber-Forehead Aliens, a trope more closely related to Special Effects Failure than to this. Or with Humans by Any Other Name, where it's clear enough that these are humans, only another term is used, to the exclusion of the word "human."

Related tropes include Human Aliens, Human Subspecies, They Walk Among Us, and What Measure Is a Non-Human?. See also Ambiguous Robots, Ambiguous Gender, Ambiguously Gay, Ambiguously Brown, and Ambiguously Jewish.

...so, did you Spot the Human yet? He's the one on the far right.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Nations from Axis Powers Hetalia all appear human, but live for ridiculously long amounts of time (China is 4,000 years old and, by Word of God, immortal) and their physical age is tied to the military strength of the country they represent. Their "birth" consists of them randomly showing up in an area as a very small child, and most if not all of their family relations are Not Blood Siblings. Also, their physical wellbeing is directly affected by the status of their country (Spain is made ill by The Mafia in his country, Lichtenstein nearly starves to death when her country is in a depression, and Hungary is "freakishly strong" around the time when her country helped with the War of Austrian Succession).
  • If you do a screengrab of Peppo in Gankutsuou and then clone her skin tone in MS Paint or a similar program, it suddenly becomes noticeable that her skin is mauve. Then you add in that manga!Peppo lacks nipples, in a canon that doesn't usually eliminate those (though that might also be intended as evidence of body-modification, as it's strongly implied that Peppo is Transsexual).
  • Take a look at Nagato, Ryoko and Kimidori in the Haruhi Suzumiya series. They look human, except for their strange hair color (purple, blue and green respectively). Yet they are interfaces created by an alien intelligence that exists as formless data and cannot interact directly with us. Meanwhile there are also seemingly normal humans with odd hair colors in the series, so that's not a dead giveaway for identifying "interfaces" in disguise.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh, there is no way to tell between demons and humans by looking at them. (Lampshaded in the anime when Yuri's mother is disappointed her husband and children don't have wings. The only difference between them is their aging process, so in order to see if someone is human or not you just have to lock them up for a decade or two. Or ask them.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Chao takes every opportunity to let the group know she's a "Martian" but doesn't clarify whether that means alien or just human living on Mars (she's also from the future), which got more complicated after it was revealed the Magical World is on Mars.
    • The demonfolk girl Poyo is introduced as the older sister of Zazie, which must account for something to do with the latter's anatomy.
    • All the residents of the magic world are apparently human but for, say, pointy ears, or dragon horns.
    • Chachamaru went comically unnoticed by most of the rest of the class (apart from Chisame), and has become more so with the addition of Synthetic Skin. This has reached the point that, where once it was obvious due to mechanical limbs, it's only the antennae that really distinguishes her as an android anymore.
  • The Medicine Peddler from Mononoke has facial markings, pointed ears, sharp canines, eternal youth, and flashy exorcism powers — and an alter-ego specifically designed for the purpose. Though his actual species is never revealed, it's rather obvious (to the viewers anyway) that he isn't a normal human. Not that it stops him claiming to be.
  • As they were originally planned to all be inhuman monsters, whether or not some of the members of Akatsuki in Naruto are human isn't initially clear. Kisame is a shark man, Kakuzu is a living rag-doll that steals people's hearts and can split demon-like creatures off from himself, and Zetsu is a Venus flytrap man with a Literal Split Personality. Later chapters and supplementary information show that Kakuzu is a human who heavily modified his body with forbidden ninjutsu, Kisame is just a weird looking human, and Zetsu's white half is an artificial creation of Madara's made from the first Hokage's cells while the origin of his black half is the creation of Princess Kaguya, who is of unknown origin and is basically a Physical God.
  • It's no secret that One Piece has a lot of Gonks and generally strange-looking people, but Gecko Moria seems too weird for even these. He is the tallest non-giant seen in the series, he has pure white skin, very sharp teeth, pointed ears and horns and generally looks like some monster clown devil, not really traits you connect with your average guy. Later knowledge of a race called "Snakenecks" came to light after his introduction, and given his very long neck and reptilian features it's a possibility. Word of God has at least stated horns (which Hannyabal also has) are something some people naturally have in the story's world.
  • Soul Eater: the only indication that Death the Kid is not a member of one of the 'verse's common races (Human/Weapon, witch) is his black-and-white striped hair. Unlocking his Power Limiter reveals only a few differences, and these are temporary (his healing ability on the first occasion, and Exotic Eye Designs when the limiter is removed completely).
  • Isis Egret of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, who appeared to be a normal human at first until the point where she took a super-powered axe blow that explicitly broke her neck and still continued fighting, a feat limited to the hardier Artificial Humans of the setting. The only thing revealed about her is that she's the daughter of a famous family which... doesn't say much about what she is considering how many people in this setting have adopted Cyborgs, Ridiculously Human Robots, Pure Magic Beings, and other seemingly human beings as family members.
  • In Anpanman, despite their appearance compared to the other characters (especially in a world full of animals and object-headed characters), characters like Uncle Jam, Batako, and Dr. Hiyari are actually NOT humans, and are instead fairy-esque creatures. However, humans do exist in the Anpanman universe, only none of them are in Anpanland themselves.
  • Chizuru Aizawa of Shinryaku! Ika Musume is an in-universe example. Her brother and sister don't appear to be anything out of the ordinary, but Chizuru is notably faster and stronger than the human norm, enough so people are suspicious about her (she's not happy about this, because she thinks of herself as a normal girl). There're also suspicions about Ayumi, given her ability to understand animals.
  • The sentient population of Earth in Dragon Ball is mostly regular humans, Talking Animals, Petting Zoo People, and monsters, but there are some that don't fit clearly into any of them.
    • Although Goku is well-known nowadays for actually being an alien, for a long time it was unclear (and often questioned in-series) whether his tail, immense strength, and turning into a giant ape were from some non-human origin or just some inexplicable unique qualities of his.
    • Tenshinhan is a regular human except he has a Third Eye. Chiaotzu looks like a painted doll version of a Chinese Vampire that has Psychic Powers and looks like a child even after getting a decade older. Mr. Popo has jet-black skin, Pointy Ears, and eyes like a Slime from Dragon Quest and has apparently served as assistant to the World's Guardian for hundreds and hundreds of years. Word of God has it that Ancient Astronauts landed on Earth long ago and interbred with early humans, and most humans have a little alien genetics, just not enough to be physically apparent. Those with more alien genetics than average sometimes manifest alien physical traits.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, after Tanya of the Seven Stars loses to Judai, she relinquishes her Shadow Charm necklace, and transforms into a white tiger, similar to the pet one she has. It is not known whether the tiger or her human form is her true form; it has been suggested that she needed the necklace to maintain human form. (However, she reappears as human again in the third season.)
  • Bleach: Quincies may or may not be human. There are four soul-races, Humans, Hollows, Shinigami and Quincies. Humans and Hollows are opposites, and Shinigami and Quincies are opposites. Hollows are opposite to Quincies and possibly Humans and Shinigami, but the relationship between Humans and Quincies is unstated. When Ryuuken mentions the concept of "human power" he puts Ginjou (substitute shinigami), Sado (fullbringer) and Orihime (a mystery) under that umbrella. While he includes his mixed-blood Quincy son, Uryuu, he excludes himself (a pure-blood Quincy) and admits he's stretching the definition of "human power" to include Uryuu at all. He doesn't explain that comment, not even to explain what the definition is. We eventually get an answer - Quincies were created by Yhwach, who himself is similarly Ambiguously Human.
  • Freddie from Cromartie High School is huge, rides an even huger horse, never speaks, and looks and acts exactly like Freddie Mercury. It's unknown if he's the same Freddie, undead or otherwise, but whenever animals are discussed, he tends to be included among them. Weirder still is his American counterpart, Mr. Mercury, who also looks like the deceased singer but can speak and has a distinct personality.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
    • The story arc "I Am An Alien!" from the Diamond is Unbreakable series revolves around a character who makes the titular claim. On the one hand, he has pointed ears, breaks out in a rash when he hears sirens, and can transform into any simple object he wants; on the other hand, he has no concrete proof of his species (he claims he traveled alone to Earth to assess its suitability for his kind, and his ship is too far away to call down), and people with similar powers through Stands are a dime a dozen in this setting; on the gripping hand, he can't see Stands (which is an ability universal to Stand-users). When Yoshihiro Kira tries to shoot him with a stand arrow (which had apparently chosen him to be a new stand user), the arrow suddenly veered away from him at the last second, leaving Yoshihiro completely baffled (and the reason why it happened is never explained).
    • Polpo from the Vento Aureo storyline is a massive towering blob of a man (at least 10 feet tall, when even the biggest Gonks in the series tend to have more realistic heights) with Black Eyes of Evil, able to disguise himself as a bed or a wall, and at one point even appears to eat his own fingers, though they're suddenly fine a moment later (none of this has anything to do with his stand's power, either).
  • Petit Idolmaster:
    • The Puchidols look and act like little Super-Deformed girls - specifically, super-deformed versions of 765 Pro's idols, who happen to co-exist with the actual idols. In addition, they have odd powers, only talk in Pokémon Speak, and are treated as magical creatures by the story.
    • The Producer has a giant yellow P for a head, which all of the idols and Puchidols treat as utterly normal. It's the fact that he'll pull on a human mask to meet outsiders they find weird.

    Comic Books 
  • The Iron Queen in Sonic the Hedgehog was this at first. She looked like an Overlander, but was married to the Iron King, an ox. Word of God claimed she was a badger at the time. However, when Ian Flynn brought her back, he reversed this. The Queen is indeed human, and the titles are purely honorary.
  • X-Men:
    • There seems to be no real consensus as to whether the mutants are human or not. They refer to themselves as "Homo superior" which would make them not human, but it's unclear whether that's an accepted taxonomy or not. They can interbreed with humans, which should make us the same species, and they're often as different from each other as they are from a normal person, so if they're not human, it makes more sense to say each is a Single Specimen Species than that they all make up a single separate species (some do pass on their powers to their children, making, for example, Banshee and Siryn a species of two, though if they have the exact same powers, the children technically aren't actually mutants). In light of how otherwise ordinary humans such as the Fantastic Four can gain superhuman powers either by accident or even deliberate artificial augmentation, the public assertion that mutants are not human because they are born with powers reflects a social judgement. However, even the X-Men themselves started strongly taking up the claim that they are a separate species, which ultimately just validates the claims of their enemies. However, aliens definitely consider mutants to be humans.
    • Later years reveal even more groups that the former mutants fall into: There's "Homo Supreme", a sort of super-mutant; the only known example is Mr. Immortal, who is theorized to have "evolved past death". Basically every Canadian mutant with a tie to Wolverine is actually a Lupine. They tend to be characterized by having a set of powers corresponding to an animal and a healing factor. Jamie Madrox, Multiple Man, is a Changeling and is characterized by being born with his powers active, unlike most mutants who only "turn on" at puberty.
    • Also, what a mutant is isn't quite clear. While the "X-factor gene" is how it works for most, the earlier explanations tying it to environmental factors such as radiation causing the affected persons' children to be mutants (Sunfire comes to mind) have never quite been made non-canon, and there are children who inherited their non-mutant super-powered parents' gifts (or other powers) and are considered mutants... and ones that did who are not. Sunfire is a mutant because his parents were in Hiroshima and so he was born with the Power Of The Sun, Storm is a mutant because of the X-factor gene, Franklin Richards is explicitly a mutant because his parents are cosmic-rays-affected Reed and Sue, while Spider-Girl, inheriting Spider-Man's powers, is explicitly not. There are also mutant Skrulls who, even if born with powers other than Skrull shapeshifting, obviously wouldn't have gotten it from the same gene humans do. It seems mutants are a Human Subspecies (as well as subspecies of whatever other races have them.)
  • Sometimes comics will have comic relief characters with tenuous-at-best ties to continuity - like Ambush Bug, 'Mazing Man, or Forbush Man - who have cartoonish bodies (oversized heads or feet, unnaturally thin limbs, no nose, etc.) but everyone they interact with is a normally proportioned human. They're gonks. They're assumed to be human because, well, what else would they be?
  • Cybersix looks and acts entirely human, but then she (and all of von Reichter's creations) were, well, created by him through cybernetic/genetic engineering.
  • It can be hard to tell if characters from Strontium Dog are mutants or aliens by looking at them. In universe, nobody knows what No Bones Jones the plastic man is.
  • It's still unclear what all of the "wonders" from Joss Whedon's arc on Runaways were. It doesn't help that the word was apparently used as an umbrella term for various sources of power.
  • Batman:
    • In the (two-part) one-shot comic "Madman Across the Water", which has the Rogues Gallery traveling from Arkham Asylum to Blackgate Penitentiary to play baseball against the prisoners there, one of the Arkham players is a green-skinned man named Dr. Faustus, who, as Dr. Jeremiah Arkham puts it, "claims to be immortal, although our records show him to be 43." Dr. Faustus also crashes a helicopter at the climax of the story, convinced his "immortality" will allow him to live through the crash... which it doesn't. There's also a minor character who has purple skin and zombie-like eyes; he's one of the Blackgate players, but all the other Blackgate inmates are recognizably human. No mention is ever made about this character looking so different.
    • The Joker has no origin story that he didn't make up himself, his bleached white skin and neon green hair (which he claims are the results of an acid bath) give him a distinctly inhuman appearance, has cheated death so many times it's speculated in- and out-of-universe that he's immortal, and he thinks and acts in ways so unpredictable and bizarre that the greatest superheroes and supervillains in The DCU are constantly on edge around him, but there's nothing definitive to say that he's anything other than "just" a normal, murderous human.

    Fan Fic 

    Film — Animated 
  • The dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It's uncertain whether they are the fey race or simply elderly, short humans. It bears mentioning that the dwarfs have only four fingers on each hand, while Snow White and other characters are drawn with realistic five-fingered hands.
  • Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent appears humanoid, but is actually a fairy just like Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Her film makes this explicit, and even explains why she lacks wings like other fairies.
  • Pinocchio:
    • The Coachman's evil Slasher Smile and what he does to the boys he collects has more than a few people wondering if he's human. Adding to this is the fact that unlike all the other humans in the film, the Coachman actually only has four fingers!
    • People also wonder about his hooded, hairy, shadowy minions: are they humans, gorillas, or are they demons? An illustration for the official storybook adaptation of the movie, which shows the thugs in a more well-lit scene, makes clear that they are indeed human: they have hairy, flesh-colored forearms, and their "black faces" are just executioners' hoods. But you can't know this from the movie proper.
  • In Treasure Planet, Silver seems to have a human appearance, but Word of God states that he's really a bear-human alien mix with cyborg parts.
  • Dr. Brine from Penguins of Madagascar looks like a human, but his movements fall deep in the Uncanny Valley. He's actually just an octopus in disguise named Dave.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Young kids are often confused about the Imperial stormtroopers. They look like robots, but their voices are clearly those of humans (albeit rendered tinny by the plastisteel helmets they wear). Luke and Han dress up as stormtroopers, but young viewers still might not make the connection. In the Kevin J. Anderson short story "Therefore I Am", the Dangerously Genre Savvy assassin droid IG-88 takes advantage of this ambiguity when he has his electronic brain uploaded into the Death Star's computer core by robot minions disguised as stormtroopers. And in Dark Forces, it's revealed that one faction of the stormtroopers - dubbed "Dark Troopers" - are robots (except for their leader, who's a human Imperial general encased in a gigantic cyborg suit).
    • Darth Sidious (a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine) looks reptilian throughout the original trilogy, which seems strange since he's heading a government made up almost entirely of humans. Not until Revenge of the Sith are we shown that he once was perfectly human-looking, and that his flaky skin is the result of being struck with his own Dark Side lightning after it is deflected by Mace Windu's lightsaber.
    • Darth Maul, Sidious's apprentice in The Phantom Menace, has horns growing out of his head but often covers them with a black hood, so he can easily be mistaken for a bizarrely face-painted human. On the other hand, he has orange eyes (though this could be rationalized as a sign of his Dark Side powers) and speaks very infrequently for someone who's supposedly human. Turns out he's a Dathomirian (a crossbreed of a Human mother and a Zabrak father).
    • The Tusken Raiders (or Sand People) are human-sized, and out-of-universe are played by human actors... but their bodies, feet, hands, mouths, noses, ears, and even their eyes are always kept covered, they are Always Chaotic Evil and pissed off all the time, and their language sounds more like barbaric screaming than anything truly verbal. The Expanded Universe eventually revealed that the Tuskens are a humanoid alien race (called either "Ghorfa" or "Kumumgah" in their own tongue) with slightly feline facial features, although occasionally there are some Human Tuskens who've been adopted into a tribe.
    • Boba Fett is seemingly made of metal (actually his Mandalorian mask and armor, which he almost never takes off, even to eat or drink) and speaks in a hollow, machine-like voice - but his speech patterns (when he actually does speak, that is) are obviously those of a human. ("What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me.") Not until Attack of the Clones do we see Boba's human face - and he's just a child, and not wearing the armor yet, so little kids still might not catch on. Frighteningly, Fett had even more of a reason to keep completely covered up after his escape from the Great Pit of Carkoon, where the digestive acids in the Sarlacc's stomach burned and corroded his skin so badly that he came out looking slightly reptilian. Despite this, there is at least one account of the post-Sarlacc Fett being seen nearly naked.
    • General Grievous (a sort of precursor to Darth Vader) is an example of Ambiguously Alien. He gets mistaken for a droid both in- and out-of-universe - which is understandable, because very little of his original Kaleesh biology remains.
    • Many, often minor, characters constantly keep you guessing about what they really are: the Mad Scientist Dr. Evazan (completely human, but looks almost like a pig due to scarring from being shot in the face by the bounty hunter Jodo Kast), the big-game hunter Sergeant Doallyn (who's actually a Geran, an indigo-skinned humanoid alien, but always keeps his face covered by a thick, dark breath mask both because he cannot breathe "standard" oxygen and because he was mauled across the face by a poison-clawed panther), and the exotic dancer Yarna d'al'Gargan (an Askajian, so has six breasts and a pot belly that stores water on desert worlds like the hump of a camel, but looks almost human when she slims down in moister climates).
    • Both the films and the Expanded Universe feature many "Near-Humans" - basically, Human Subspecies who have genetically diverged so far from the original Coruscanti stock that they are thought of as aliens (or sometimes not; how human or alien they are considered to be often depends on how committed a government or society is to Human High Culture and/or civil rights). Thus, there are "humans" who are albinos, hobbit-like folk, people with gigantism, etc. Strangest of all are the Zelosians, who look completely human (their emerald-green eyes are the only thing remotely exotic about their appearance), but whose behavior is quite strange: they are extremely afraid of the dark, and will stop whatever they're doing and head home once the sun starts to set. This is because the Zelosians are actually humanoid plants, and their blood contains a chlorophyll sap that nourishes them by photosynthesizing sunlight. Scientists believe that the Zelosians are a genetically-engineered species, since the odds of plant life naturally developing human-like physiques and intelligence are practically nil.
    • Most ambiguously human of all was Danetta Pitta, an Imperial Grand Admiral of half-Borneck ancestry. Borneck, one of the near-human subspecies described above, are pretty much human except for their mustard-yellow or bright-orange skin; Pitta's only trace of his partial ancestry was an unusually pale yellowish complexion. Despite this, he was extremely ashamed of his heritage, and ruthlessly persecuted anyone who looked more alien than he did.
  • Batman:
    • Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman. While his pre-clown persona, Jack Napier, is unquestionably human, you have to wonder about exactly what happened to Napier after he fell into that acid; after all, No One Could Survive That. It's undeniably creepy when the Joker tells his first victim: "I've been dead once already; it's very liberating." During his face-off with the Batplane during the parade, he seems almost totally unafraid of death; does he believe he's become immortal? And just how literally are we supposed to interpret the Joker's signature line "Did you ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?" (He was already saying that as Napier, but on the other hand it could have been Foreshadowing.)
    • In Batman Returns there's Selina Kyle, who's Ambiguously Alive. It's never made clear whether she survived being pushed out that high window (she only awakens after the alley cats lick and bite her, and up to that point she appeared pretty dead), and given Catwoman's borderline superhuman and/or supernatural powers (though many have noted there are logical in-universe explanations for those) it's possible that Catwoman/Selina is no longer human, but some kind of avenging angel/zombie/feline hybrid.
    • Almost all of the members of the Penguin's Red Triangle Gang, though grotesquely costumed, are obviously human in appearance, and even the Penguin himself is shown to be the deformed offspring of human parents... but then there are those "skeleton-bikers" who tear around Gotham Plaza when the gang launches its first attack. They're about the same size as the human characters, and obviously a villain with the power to raise the undead would have far grander plans in mind than the Penguin does in this movie, but... those skulls. They look real, and they're much too large to be ordinary masks. You have to look very closely to make out the actors' bare skin underneath, making it clear that what we're seeing is just a really high-tech Hollywood makeup job - although whether that's the case in-universe is doubtful, especially since the gang is living in near-poverty in the Gotham City sewers.

    Literature 
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy uses this trope very frequently, albeit (maybe) not intentionally. The author, Douglas Adams, occasionally describes his alien creatures' appearance in detail, but most of the time he neglects to describe them altogether other than to say that they're not from the Earth. In fact, only two species (the Bartledanians and Lamuellans in Mostly Harmless) were ever described as looking exactly like humans, but since no one ever said how the other aliens aren't like humans, most of them were portrayed by ordinary actors in the film adaptation (pictured above). Ford and Zaphod (the two aliens in the picture) do look human, though. Ford is able to pass for one for fifteen years without difficulty, and while Zaphod normally has two heads and three arms, when the extras are absent he can attend a human party with nobody raising an eyebrow.
  • In The Edge Chronicles there are various fantastic races (there are no Earth animals or plants whatsoever) but all of the protagonists are human-ish (they have pointy ears) and aren't given a race name. In around the tenth book, one of them is named as a 'fourthling' and described as what you get if you add up all of the other races and take an average.
  • Xanth gives us Humphrey, the magician of information. He is human, but centuries of dealing with high concentrations of magic seem to have given him a rather gnomelike appearance. Trent uses him as evidence as to why Xanth needs occasional fresh blood in the form of non-magical immigrants. Without periodic infusions of ordinary humans, the human race will either mutate into something else, or crossbreed itself out of existence.
  • In the Thursday Next series, fictional people and objects (from the Book World, where all literary characters live) are said to look different from "real" people and objects, but Thursday can't quite put her finger on the reason. When a villainous fictional character, Yorrick Kaine, escapes into reality, he's tricked into revealing his true nature because he can't discern who's talking without literature's "he said / she said" dialogue tags at the end of each spoken sentence.
  • Who Censored Roger Rabbit? has crossover Toons, Toons that look so much like humans, they can pass for one. In the series' 1947 setting, confirmed crossovers include The Three Stooges and Buster Keaton. No telling whether there are any left in today's Hollywood, but Johnny Knoxville, Jim Parsons, and Rowan Atkinson may be hiding something from us.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The people of Middle-earth are described as unsure how to classify wizards — they look like humans, including having long white beards, but like elves they don't seem to age even after centuries. In reality they're Maiar, angelic spirits that are just taking human shape.
    • Tom Bombadil looks human but is too short for a man, too tall for a hobbit, and obviously neither. (Even Tolkien doesn't know what he is.) His wife Goldberry is even more ambiguous, since we get neither a clear description of her nor even a Shrug of God.
    • Aragorn appeared to be a normal Man, but was actually one of the Dúnedain, and was stronger, more resilient, and longer lived than Men (Aragorn was in his late 80s during the events of the Lord of the Rings). Or more like Ambiguously Elven, since their long life makes humans assume that's what they are. The elves know better, but since only a handful know their true origins, they largely don't bother to correct this misconception.
    • The Hobbits are actually degenerated humans with a genetic predilection for red or reddish-brown curly hair...but due to their slightly pointed ears and large, hairy feet, it's understandable that first-time fans might mistake them for Elf/Dwarf hybrids.
    • Tolkien seems to have imagined elves looking very close to human; the only obvious difference Tolkien ever wrote about them, aside from being more beautiful, was their "leaf-shaped ears," which adaptations and imitators seem to have Flanderized more than Tolkien intended. The Silmarillion mentions one or two humans who get mistaken from elves, so they're clearly pretty similar.
  • Stephen King:
    • Randall Flagg, antagonist of several seemingly unrelated stories. His back story implies that he at least was human once, but his later incarnations are a bit less obvious about that fact.
    • Walter O'Dim aka Marten aka The Man In Black canonically Was Once a Man. Whether he's now a very powerful but still-human sorcerer or has been turned into some kind of demon after centuries (possibly millennia) of dabbling in evil magics, who can say. For that matter, the Crimson King: Evil God or man with an A God Am I complex?
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Melisandre of Asshai is a (literally) Hot Witch with a mysterious past implied to involve having been enslaved at some point, she now (among other things) has blood that smokes, the ability to keep warm in freezing temperatures with no special clothing to assist her, red eyes and hair, and an apparent ability to give birth to monstrous temporary shadow-person assassins through sexual intercourse with a human male. While other practitioners of her faith do appear in the books, and some of them possess mild-to-moderate magical control over fire, Melisandre outstrips them all to an extent that makes you wonder if she's still human at all.
    • The Targaryens, a family of beautiful white-haired nobles immune to all physical sickness and able to withstand generations of inbreeding with no gnarly deformities showing up in the gene pool (though the mental state of some of them is another story). The main Targaryen character, young Princess Daenerys, enjoys bathing in boiling water and survives throwing herself on a funeral pyre with no damage save her hair burning off (and growing back perfectly undamaged later on). In-universe, they like to boast of being part-dragon hybrids, but it's left ambiguous as to whether or not this is true.
  • Discworld: The City Watch of Ankh-Morpork is sometimes described as being comprised of "humans, dwarves, trolls, goblins, gargoyles, a vampire, a werewolf and Nobby Nobbs." He carries a certificate identifying him as human, but that only makes some people more suspicious.
  • Angela of Inheritance Cycle comes off as this. She seems like a young and very quirky human woman, but constantly claims that she's "older than she looks" and relates bits of back story implying a very complex and interesting life. She also seems to know certain spells that few or any other people can cast. Some fans have speculated that she is really an elf, though real-elf Oromis claims that she's human.
  • Neverwhere:
    • Those Two Bad Guys, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, are confirmed as nonhuman by Door, but we never find out what they are.
    • This goes for essentially everyone in London Below: they mostly look like (extremely idiosyncratic) humans, but have a variety of never-explained super-powers, seem to have been down there for generations, and occasionally traffic with overtly non-human beings.
  • In The Stormlight Archive the people of Roshar have some very strange genetics, with Multicolored Hair and strange eye colours abounding, to say nothing of various odd features of various ethnic groups (foot long eyebrows, bluish skin, and a shadow that falls towards light rather then away from it). They're all treated as humans in-story (except maybe the ones with the backwards shadows who got mostly exterminated at some point). Word of God from Sanderson is that the Fantasy Pantheon of his cosmology came from a world with humans, and so when they created their own worlds they used them as a template, but put their own spin on it. Also notable are the humans from Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, who are capable of surviving in a post-apocalyptic ash-choked wasteland that would certainly kill earth humans, though they don't look any different. It's stated in the third book that the Lord Ruler screwed around with their genetics so they could survive.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • White Court Vampires' demon doesn't physically manifest, even though there are subtle physical changes when they draw on their demon.
    • Changelings, half-humans-half-Fae, are human unless they Choose to be Fae.
    • Mac the barkeep, whose deal is a complete mystery, and Ms. Gard, whose species was not made clear for some time but was shown to be more physically capable than your average human. Turns out she's a Valkyrie.
    • Wizards like Harry are a bit more than human. Provided they decide to use their talents, they get a much longer lifespan and a minor Healing Factor.
    • Kincaid looks like and claims to be a "vanilla mortal", but Harry's skeptical. He's not. Really, really not.
  • In The Secret of Platform 13, many magical creatures look human enough that they can pass in society outside the Island (while the Island itself has some Muggles, including the royal family). The rescue team sent to find the lost prince—a wizard, a fey, a young hag and an invisible giant—were chosen not just for their skills but because they can move around London relatively unnoticed.
  • Arunis Wytterscorm, most prominent Big Bad (of several) in The Chathrand Voyages frequently makes disparaging remarks about humans and humanity in a context that makes it plain he doesn't consider himself one. The little that's revealed about his backstory leaves it unclear if he feels he's evolved beyond humanity, or if he was simply never human in the first place. Further complicating the issue is that while his body is human, he's a three-thousand year old body snatcher, so the form he takes during the books is not what he originally looked like. Later, one of his primary contestants for the Big Bad title is his equally horrible, equally ambiguous sister, Macadra.
  • Judge Holden, the Ax-Crazy, Wicked Cultured antagonist of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, is deliberately written so that the reader comes away from the story unsure of whether he's human or some kind of ethereal demon in human form. For the most part, the novel is a mundane, if extremely lurid and violent, depiction of life on the US Western frontier in the 1850s... until we're introduced to Holden, who's a completely hairless giant of a man with deathly pale skin (despite spending most of the novel in the deserts of Mexico), almost supernatural strength, an uncanny ability to master any trade effortlessly, and a tendency to randomly appear in people's lives without warning.
  • In Tuf Voyaging, Haviland Tuf is eight feet tall, heavily built even for his height, completely hairless and has snow white skin yet no one ever questions his humanity nor is any explanation ever given for why he looks this way. There do exist, however, genetically altered populations of humans in the setting, so maybe they assume he's one.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
    • The Haruchai are a warrior people who all share a telepathic link, possess absolutely inflexible morals and rarely show any emotion. They come across as so inhuman at times that it makes one wonder.
    • The Insequent: innately magical beings or just humans who have extensively studied magic? The world may never know.
  • The woman on the beach in DO NOT TAKE THE SHELLS looks like a ragged, skinny human being, but speaks and behaves so off it suggests she might be anything but. Then there's her remarks about living "below the water".
  • In Gulliver's Travels the Yahoos' origin implies that the whole species are the descendants of a European couple who shipwrecked on Houyhnhnm-Land decades before Gulliver showed up, and just kept breeding and breeding, with each of their children breeding with each other and each generation becoming increasingly feral until they were nothing but a whole race of inbred savages. Which just confirmed Gulliver's belief that Humans Are Bastards.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the original Icelandic stories and plays, Sportacus from LazyTown is explicitly called an elf. The releases in other countries make his race a bit more ambiguous, leaving his ears covered at all times.
  • Lazarus from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Alternative Factor" and his alternate universe counterpart: were they human, or Human Alien? The episode itself seemed confused on this point.
  • Thadiun Okana, the man who defined Informed Ability, from Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Outrageous Okana": Human or from a race of Human Aliens? Again, not otherwise specified.
  • Blake's 7: Is Cally a Human Alien telepath or from a race of humans who have artificially modified themselves to possess psionic gifts through cloning and genetic engineering? The series is confused on this issue. Dayna is also referred to as an "alien" at one point, but that may have been a legal as opposed to a biological definition: the implication being that she couldn't receive medical treatment on Earth because she wasn't an Earth citizen. In-universe, the common claim that all intelligent life originated on Earth is disputed, and there are several "alien" civilisations of entirely human-looking people that may or may not be descended from colonists from Earth.
  • Mr. Young:
    • Mrs. Byrne looks, behaves, and is treated like a human, but is billions of years old.
    • Jordan Slabinski is another example. He looks and is treated like a human, but it is stated in one episode that he looks the same now as he did when he was born. Another episode shows that he also looked the exact same when he was still in middle school, at least 7 years ago. This is made even weirder by the fact that he's noticeably larger than all of the other characters, most of whom are teenage or adult humans. He also appears to have slightly superhuman durability as in one episode an anvil breaks when dropped on his head, and he doesn't even notice. Adam, upon first seeing him, says, seemingly seriously, that he "can really see the Bigfoot".
    • Dang also looks and is treated like a human, but can teleport, defy gravity, be in two places at the same time, go inside a computer screen, and hear whenever someone says his name, no matter how far away they are. Also, his brother, Ding, was able to produce offspring with a duck.
  • Sebaceans in Farscape. When John first sees Aeryn on Moya in the pilot episode, he thinks she's human while she assumes he's Sebacean. At the end of the series, it is revealed that Sebaceans are the descendants of humans or early hominids who were taken from Earth and genetically modified long ago.
  • Bull from Night Court.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor himself (and his granddaughter Susan by extension) started off like way, sometimes more or less so. In "The Sensorites" the Doctor comparing the Sensorites' eyes to those of cats ("far better vision than us humans...") and at another point when saying the natives of a planet are "human beings, just like you or me". The Daleks also refer to him as human but then in "The Daleks' Master Plan" stated that the Doctor only makes himself appear human. On the other hand, he told Ian and Barbara that he was "not of this race" in the very first episode, and they are certainly from another planet. They also have some apparently extra-human abilities. Susan possesses some Psychic Powers, and the Doctor has all sorts of strange abilities like a Psychic Block Defense, the ability to remember the entire sequence of the Towers of Hanoi correctly and having unusual amounts of vitality compared to a normal person(that, when transplanted into a normal person, causes some pretty extreme results. Even when, upon his apparent death, he changed into a completely different person and was revealed as being centuries old, the Doctor explained that it was a feature of the TARDIS "without which I would not be able to survive", heavily implying it was a technological ability rather than an ability of his body. Even though the Daleks can recognise the Doctor's new face immediately, suggesting they're familiar with this process, they still refer to him as a "human being". Arguably, it was only at the Wham Episode, "The War Games" at the very end of the Second Doctor's tenure that he was finally declared to truly be an alien. The first Third Doctor story "Spearhead From Space" reveals he has a totally different physiology than humans, which contradicts earlier stories.
    • The series often gives no indication whatsoever about whether humanoid cultures in "space" stories are Human Aliens (of which there are many, especially in pre-2005 stories) or far-future descendants of human colonies.
    • There's at least one case of the show's ropey visuals creating an Ambiguously Human Alien species: "The Keys of Marinus" is ambiguous on whether the Voord are monsters or just a particular culture of sea dwelling Marinus natives Dressed All in Rubber. The Expanded Universe follows suit. The Target novelisation changes the dialogue ambiguities to make them definitely monsters, some books make them definitely human. The Grant Morrison Doctor Who Magazine comic "The World Shapers" retcons them into the ancestors of the Cybermen.
    • It is canon from their first appearance that the Daleks are heavily mutated versions of an originally humanoid race, although their actual backstory is very inconsistent (nuclear radiation causing mutations in "The Daleks", intentional genetic modification in "Genesis of the Daleks"). However, how human this precursor race is goes back and forth. In "Genesis of the Daleks" a Kaled scientist notes that although Harry (a human) looks like them his internal workings are completely different, yet in "The Parting of the Ways" the Doctor explains that humans were used as the source for the new Daleks because of their genetic similarity and in "The Stolen Earth" the Tenth Doctor tells Donna that the Kaleds were just like humans but with slightly bluish blood and a few fewer ribs. (Both of these can be explained with in-character behaviour - the Kaleds have an insanely racist culture where any deviation from the norm makes someone a subhuman, and the Doctor could have been exaggerating or lying to make a point.) At least one Dalek story went so far as to suggest the Daleks weren't even slightly human/Kaled or organic, just being robots rather than a Little Green Man in a Can.
    • The Drahvin in "Galaxy 4" look like Rubber-Forehead Aliens and have a unique culture and method of reproduction, but Maaga refers to her people as 'humans' and 'human beings' several times. This could be a purely literal description or a word-play: she's a 'human' being meaning she has feeling and understanding or that the Drahvin could be heavily genetically altered human colonists.
  • The Addams Family all look human (with the exception of Lurch and Itt; and Itt is only a cousin and therefore possibly not a blood relation, while Lurch is merely the hired help) and have no explicit supernatural powers, yet are usually treated as monsters by the narrative. The Movie reveals that they can survive crippling injuries without problems and apparently enjoy some sort of Biological Immortality - but whether that's because they're actually immortal or just too insane to realize they're human is never made clear.
  • For that matter, Marilyn from The Munsters, who looks like a normal human but is biologically related to the rest of her clearly non-human family. She shares some of the other members' inhumanness like her very low body temperature.
  • In The Flash (2014), the Reverse-Flash is depicted as this. He certainly looks human from a distance, but he's also constantly vibrating in an unstable manner, lets out inhuman screeches on several occasions, has glowing red eyes, and claims that his goals are beyond the understanding of normal humans. Not to mention just a general vibe of unnaturalness. Take a look.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: When Skye proves to be surprisingly compatible with an alien serum, Coulson theorizes that she might not be human. Turns out she's an Inhuman, which means that she's entirely human until exposure to Terrigen Mists... which happens in episode 2:10.
    Skye: [jokingly] Like, what, you think I'm an alien?
    Coulson: Well...
    Skye: Hold on, are you saying that I'm an alien!?
    Coulson: It's a theory.
    Skye: No, a theory is what scientists use to prove things in nature, this is you telling me that I might be an alien! That's not something you just say like it's no big deal!
    Coulson: I was trying not to rattle you.
    Skye: Guess what? Epic fail!
  • A Running Gag in Girl Meets World is that Farkle might be a clone or a robot. He's never seen his own birth certificate.

    Multiple Media 
  • Peter Pan makes this trope Older Than Radio. Peter doesn't age - but in Neverland nobody ages. He can fly - but, again, thanks to pixie dust anyone can fly. He has pointed ears - but was he born with them, or are they just a side-effect of living in Neverland? He certainly doesn't glow like Tinker Bell, and he is human-sized. Hook (which may or may not be considered official) "reveals" that Peter was originally a perfectly human boy taken to Neverland as a baby by Tinker Bell, grew pointed ears as a result of living there, reverted back to human when he returned to Earth to raise a family, and generally keeps flip-flopping between human and elf depending on where he is.

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Princess Peach's species is a matter of some debate among the series' fans. As far as anyone knows, she's a native of the Mushroom Kingdom, unlike Mario and Luigi, but if so, how is it that a human could have been naturally born in a world inhabited entirely by weird fantasy creatures? And if she is, somehow, just a very humanoid Toad (the mushroom people, not the amphibian), why does she look so darned human? The kings in Super Mario Bros. 3 all look human, so she's not that big an anomaly.
    • The Shy Guys are a sort of "tribe" of little guys so shy that they never expose anything of their bodies to anyone. They wear long cloaks, shoes, belts, masks and gloves, and when they lose their masks the first thing they do is run away while covering their faces. It's unlikely, given the Mushroom Kingdom's populace, that they actually are human, but their basic shape indicates that they are. In one of the Mario Power Tennis endings a Shy Guy's mask falls off, and while he's turned away from the screen poor Luigi can see it perfectly. He immediately falls over, looking like he saw a ghost, trembling in fear as the Shy Guy walks past him, seeming to imply that the Shy Guys are anything but human.
    • Wario and Waluigi, with their pointy ears, pink noses, and elf shoes, look more like goblins than regular people.
    • Dr. Snoozemore in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Is he human? Some unknown human like species? It's extremely hard to know, and it's never even hinted at in the game itself.
    • Rosalina looks very human, but at the same time she's also implied to be far older then she appears. Not to mention that she watches over the stars and outer space.
    • In early games, Mario and Luigi were considered to be normal people (possibly from Earth) who could just jump high. This was dropped, and since then... It's really not difficult to see that, even among human characters, Mario and Luigi are incredibly unusual. A couple of standouts are the fact that they were delivered by the stork and may not have ever made it to their parents; and can survive the end of the universe.
  • Mumbo the shaman and Gruntilda the witch in the Banjo-Kazooie series. Both of them have human forms, albeit with very strange skin color (bright pink and green, respectively), and Mumbo's face has been magically transformed into a skull-like mask, so there's no telling what he may have originally looked like. The manual says they used to be magic partners, so they could be members of the same species; a Witch Species, perhaps? This trend is continued in the first sequel with Humba-Wumba, who appears to be a normal Native woman, but she has a magic pool and appears to be much taller than Banjo.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Touhou usually distinguishes youkai from humans in some way, physically and/or mentality, but it's also made clear that the line between human and youkai is a lot more blurry than most realise, especially in Gensokyo where humans and youkai have existed in unusually close proximity for centuries.
    • Magicians have a natural affinity with complicated magics but humans can use them with sufficient training, aside from not needing to eat they're quite similar to humans, and some Magicians were human (Alice, Byakuren) before they performed some alluded-to ritual.
    • Marisa is noted to be more like a youkai than a human, and much of her behavior (isolating herself from humans, collecting magical artifacts, intense studying) are implied to be part of the ritual for human Magicians to transform into youkai Magicians. She insists she's human and is immensely proud of being able to hold her own in a land where Everyone Is a Super despite this, but it verges into Suspiciously Specific Denial territory; for example in Forbidden Scrollery (which is all about how the enforced separation and antagonism between humans and youkai is precisely because it takes the slightest nudge to go from one to the other) her title is "Extremely Ordinary Magician". Reimu seems to consider her human, but it's also established that Reimu is far more friendly with youkai than someone of her position should be.
    • Hong Meiling is listed as a youkai but not what type of youkai, unlike all but a few of the others. Fan theories include her being a dragon in human form (as she's thematically associated with dragons) or a martial artist who became a youkai via chi manipulation.
    • Sakuya is classified as human, yet her time and spatial manipulation abilities are far beyond the capabilities of any other human (as well as being very similar to the abilities of a Lunarian character), and characters have noted her to be far more mature and worldly than her apparent age would indicate.
    • While Yukari's powers are leagues beyond other youkai, like Meiling her species is not listed, and she's closely associated with the human Maribel.
    • Sanae's position isn't particularly ambiguous (she's fully a human and fully a god at the same time), but whether the human or the god part of her is more important varies depending on her mood. The profiles list her as human, though.
    • Not even ZUN knows whether Mononobe no Futo is human, with her profile listing her species as "Human? (a taoist who self-identifies as a shikaisen)". More broadly, this applies to Miko and Seiga, fellow shikaisen who essentially faked their death in such a way that the Celestial Bureaucracy fell for it, gaining immortality in the process.
    • Related to the above are hermits. Most are humans who get super-powers out of a strict training regimen. But there does seem to be some physiological changes, given that they act as Rare Candy to youkai. And they might not all have started out as human. The first hermit character introduced, Kasen Ibaraki, is very strongly implied to be an oni who's only pretending to be a hermit.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik has always been a little... off. Even when the humans are all just as cartoony as he is, or when he is made more realistic-looking to fit the setting, he has caused many a raised eyebrow.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe contains a number of species that look identical to humans but aren't. Biologists in the GFFA term these "near-humans"; one good example is the Echani who appear in the Knights of the Old Republic games.
  • Zer0 from Borderlands 2 is actually speculated in game to not be human. Prevailing theories seem to be on alien (he's only got four fingers on each hand), a robot (what with being utterly emotionless), or just a garden variety psycho.
  • The Four Tribes from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. All four are considered human and distinct from animals, monsters, and other sentient races like Moogles or Carbuncles. This is rather challenging for Yukes who may be pure spirits or gaseous beings in armor or Lilties that are half plant and grow like them.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Stephen is a disabled genius who somehow manages to show up in three of the five main games despite them taking place with large gaps in between and possibly in multiple universes, in addition to all of them featuring many disasters such as nukes and floods. In Shin Megami Tensei IV, there's also a weird distortion in his voice.
    • The Velvet Room residents in both Persona 3 and Persona 4 are of unclear origin and are only referred to as residents or perhaps of the Velvet Room. The siblings Elizabeth, Margaret and Theodore all appear to have the golden eyes of Shadows yet wield personas at a far greater level than your own group.
  • Street Fighter:
    • It's hard to tell just who or what Q from Street Fighter III really is, or even if Q is a single person. On one hand, he's clearly humanoid, has a very noticeable Vader Breath, and the back of his head can be seen in character artwork underneath his mask, where he has blond hair. On the other hand, his movements are very strange and unnatural, electrocuting him reveals some very weird, indistinct things underneath that mask and trenchcoat, and if he's defeated via Cherry Tapping then he's knocked out while still standing, like a robot shutting down.
    • Dhalsim is a balding, emaciated Indian man covered in facial tattoos and a necklace of tiny skulls and sporting blank white Prophet Eyes. He has the ability to stretch his limbs until they're as long as he is tall, breathe fire, levitate and teleport, all of which are Hand Waved with "Yoga". His portraits usually have him in bizarre, sometimes anatomically-impossible poses, and many of his alternate color schemes turn his skin tone into unnatural colors. Street Fighter IV acknowledges how weird he looks, with Dhalsim getting offended when Rufus asks if he's an alien.
    • If "yoga" isn't a strange enough excuse for weird powers, Blanka was Raised by Wolves in the jungle. Somehow this turned his skin green and gave him the ability to generate electricity (which he apparently learned from electric eels.)
  • The P.E.K.K.A from Clash of Clans wears heavy armor that covers every inch of its body, which also leaves its gender unknown, if it has one. In fact, one of the hints at the game's loading screen wonders if the P.E.K.K.A is a knight, a samurai, or a robot. Its TV commercials gives it a robotic voice, though.
  • Alex Kidd usually looks like a young boy with a mean case of '80s Hair, however sometimes he has monkey-like features.
  • It's unknown what species Jak from Jak and Daxter is. They have incredibly long ears and odd hair colors but are never specified as anything other than probably human.
  • Squeezed inbetween his looks, behavior, speech patterns and powers, it's quite obvious that the G-Man from the Half-Life series is not a human. No-one really knows what exactly he is but Word of God has it that he was designed to invoke the image of something that has assumed A Form You Are Comfortable With but isn't bothering to ''keep'' you comfortable with its form.
  • The titular Greendog in the Genesis platformer Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude is rendered in an extremely cartoony style, while every other human that appears looks more realistic.
  • Villagers from Minecraft look human, but have big noses and make weird noises, and are distinct from the more human-like player.
  • In Pinball Quest, the King, the player, and the other citizens of the pinball realm resemble round metal balls. However, Princess Ball looks like a human female. Whether she actually is a human or not is never specified.
  • The Ratchet & Clank series has a few human looking characters (notably Captain Qwark and Ace Hardlight), the most notable physical difference being they have three fingers on each hand.
  • The Final Boss of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a cross between Ambiguously Human and Ambiguous Robots. Is he a human with augmentations, or, as Doktor speculates, is he an android? Eventually it's made clear that both are the wrong questions to ask.
  • Kanna and Anderson from Three the Hard Way appear just as human-like as the rest of the party, but the former is a hundred year old alchemist belonging to a mythical ancient order, while the latter seem to have a close tie with the ageless Kaibutsu, and is very much implied to be Really 700 Years Old as well. Other cast members describe them as "weird" and "intense", and Vance frequently remarks that he wouldn't be surprised if those two are actually not human.
  • The Punch-Out!! series gives us King Hippo. All of the other boxers in the game are recognizably human, but King Hippo goes so completely against the established art style that it's impossible that he's simply an enormously obese Polynesian man. He has a semi-spheroid shape to his head, tiny sunken pig-like eyes, a flattened snout in the place of a nose, an enormously underslung jaw with a mouth that can open unnaturally wide, and two protruding flattened teeth that resemble tusks. The Wii version goes one step farther by giving him a series of animalistic roars and growls instead of spoken dialogue. Notably, while King Hippo reportedly hails from "Hippo Island", no other natives of that island have ever been seen in-game.

    Web Comics 
  • Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name:
    • The eponymous Hanna himself is theoretically a young man, but all of his True Companions are supernatural, vampires complain that he "smells dead", and he has an enormous scar on his chest that still has staples in it, which do not seem to impede his usual enthusiasm. He's also strangely light, even for his short stature, and goes to a shady medical school dropout when hurt. One vampire calls him a "hollowed-out shell" of a man, which some suspect is literal. It's also a running joke that he looks about 14 despite claiming to be 24.
    • Ples "Tik Tok" Tibenoch, with the most popular fan theory being that he's some sort of clockwork cyborg. The mixture of blood and oil certainly seems suspicious.
    • Veser is a Half-Human Hybrid born to a Selkie in human form; whether or not this gives him any selkie attributes is not clear. His design evokes a shark motif, and both he and his mother have very large green eyes.
  • Sister Catherine from Sister Claire seems human enough. But look closer. She's drawn differently than the other human characters. A lither body, angular eyes...on occasion you can actually spot some Cute Little Fangs. All of this is related to the comic's obsession with a certain species of animal...
  • Parodied in I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space wherein it is revealed that lesbians are this. A long and complex story is told off-screen to explain how come the protagonist doesn't have the lesbian antennae, nobody tries to explain when it turns out that lesbians exist in all other species also.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Jones looks human but can take a sword to the face with no injury, has superhuman reflexes, strength, and speed, and sinks like a rock in water. Chapter 40 reveals that she was present at the formation of Earth in her current shape and that she is completely opaque to X-rays, but nothing else. Jones herself has no idea what she is.
    • Played with in the chapter "Totem", where the lab technician responsible for growing human bodies for transitioning fairies and animals looks to be this trope (given her yellow eyes and prominent buck teeth), but she insists she's from Cardiff, not the forest.
  • Black Mage from 8-Bit Theater is established early on to look very much not human, but it's never made clear whether he started that way or was twisted by all the evil magics he collects.
  • Sette Frummagem from Unsounded is a human with a lion tail, an inhumanly acute sense of smell that can even detect magic, and no navel. She also hasn't aged physically for the last few years, at an age when she really should. Some people — including her — question whether she's really her father's daughter, and her mother is a completely unknown quantity. She can also manipulate the structure of the Khert with her hands, which just plain shouldn't be possible.
  • The Senkari look like humans, but...
  • Dr. Man in Awful Hospital is a bit weird looking but still looks human... in a hospital where all the inhabitants are sapient body parts, giant microorganisms, and living laboratory equipment. That his name is "Dr. Man" just makes him more suspect.
  • The Scumthorpe Files:
    • The series takes place in a world where multiple supernatural/alien entities walk amongst humans. Davina Midwich, herself a Half-Human Hybrid with psychic alien abilities, outright states that "the pure human genome is going the way of the Dodo bird".
    • One character remarks that it's taboo in their society to ask what species someone is if you can't tell on sight. That's how common Ambiguous Humans are.
    • A more specific example: Nikki Danton, a classmate of the titular Scumthorpe triplets, is implied to be at least partially non-human. Other characters have pointed out that she has hair the colour of blood and turquoise eyes (non-human qualities) but due to the taboo mentioned above, her species hasn't been elaborated and she's treated as a human.
    • One of the new kids at school, Danny Tarrare, is a Big Eater to the most absurd degree with big, exposed teeth. He doesn't speak in a normal way, takes Special Ed classes, and has to be stopped from taking bites of his school desk. He doesn't even seem to realize (or care) how bizarre his behavior is. It's never states if he's an alien, or just a human with a deformity.

    Web Original 
  • Phaeton has the Libran Blueprint from which many, many races start. Humans, or Adams as aliens call them, are only now starting to deviate from the blueprint.

    Western Animation 
  • CatDog has Mr. Sunshine, a green-skinned humanoid who speaks in a slow, languid voice. The ambiguity of his species is lampshaded in one episode when Rancid Rabbit starts arresting everyone for not having "licenses". (Dog doesn't have a "dog license," Lola doesn't have a "bird license", etc.) When he captures Sunshine, he says, "You're under arrest for not having a... not having a... not having a license!"
  • Ms. Bitters, the "skool"-teacher on Invader Zim. She looks like an old woman, yet she can hover, twist her body like a snake, pass through walls and is burned by the sun. She also has a Multiple-Choice Past, and none of these stories makes any sense. One of the creators is on record as saying she's non-human, but her exact nature is never exactly qualified.
  • V.V. Argost in The Secret Saturdays, who is actually a Yeti.
  • Adventure Time:
    • Finn is explicitly human, to the point where "Finn the Human" is treated as his official full name/title. The show is filled with other humanoid creatures, however, with odd skin tones and generally weird traits that show them to be something else. Finn believes himself to be the Last of His Kind, but later seasons establish that to not be the case. Complicating this further is that Finn and others might not be human as we understand it; his lack of nose is not just the way he's drawn, but a result of mutation that would not have occurred if not for the Mushroom War. And the things he gets up to strongly suggest that he has at least moderately superhuman strength, agility, resilience, and healing, but that might just be Rule of Cool.
    • Simon Petrikov, more commonly known as the Ice King, started as human but has been warped physically and mentally from centuries of exposure to an Artifact of Doom, and it isn't clear how much, if any, of his humanity remains.
    • Marceline is a vampire now, but what she was before is uncertain. She's apparently a Half-Human Hybrid (her father is the Lord of Evil and Word of God says her mother is human) but all the powers she's exhibited are implied to be vampire abilities, and what we see of her as a child pre-vampirism show her to be an ordinary little girl, albeit with slightly pointed ears and greyish skin, which as noted aren't unusual in Ooo.
    • The episode "Be More" reveals Moe, the original creator of B-MO, who has apparently been alive since before humanity disappeared. When Finn excitedly asks if he's human, he replies "My skin is!" Currently he seems to be a Cyborg; he has several MO units visibly attached to his body that seemingly take the place of vital organs.
    • Susan Strong lives with a tribe of "Hyoomans" who turned out to be Fish People when they removed their hats. Whether she was one too was initially left to The Un-Reveal, though the episode "Dark Purple" reveals that she's some kind of robot/cyborg.
  • There's some debate over whether Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes is human. She and Jimmy are the only two human-shaped citizens of Miseryville, but given that only Jimmy is hinted to be a Fish out of Water, some fans wonder. With her occasionally slithering movements, one Epileptic Tree is that she's a naga (we never see her feet), though it has been shown she has two appendages under her dress.
  • The Manji from the animated Jumanji series were a whole tribe of Ambiguously Human Malevolent Masked Men. One character outright questions if they are people when she first sees them, Alan replies simply that they are 'Manji'. The giant masks that are treated as their faces are big enough that there could or could not be a humanoid head behind them. No one knows.
  • The Pirates of Dark Water took place on "the alien world of Mer" which was populated by many nonhuman humanoid creatures, as well as a more common type of ambiguous human (or Human Aliens?) with distinct slanted eyes. What species the Pirate Lord Bloth belonged to was similarly ambiguous, considering his immense size, blue skin, and unusual facial features. Most of Bloth's pirate crew was similarly humanoid but probably not human, though ambiguous cases like Konk and Mantis did exist.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command takes place in a galaxy full of all sorts of alien-looking races, most of which are identified by name if a significant enough character is a member. Buzz himself, however, is never specifically called "human", his home planet is never identified, and he never removes the purple "cloth" over the back of his head, even in civilian clothes - for all we know, it could actually be part of his head.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Quite a few characters (especially villains) have bizarre appearances and abilities but are never stated to be anything other than human. Then again, the show apparently takes place in a very strange Alternate Universe.
    • The original Grand Finale shows Numbuh 74.239 and Numbuh Infinity were agents for the Galactic Kids Next Door, an extraterrestrial organization, but doesn't specify if they're aliens themselves or one a few human members. Years later, the GKND teaser would show the former at least was a Plant Alien in disguise.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • It's never specified if the Gangreen Gang are humanoid monsters, mutants, or weird-looking teenage boys.
    • Sedusa looks human except for the Prehensile Hair and a nearly invisible nose, though it's never said whether or not she is.
  • Muscle Man from Regular Show. He looks more humanoid than anyone else in the regular cast (possibly except for Eileen, who has been identified as a mole), but he's green. It's also revealed that there are other characters who resemble him.
  • Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus appears to be human, but has strange abilities and is heavily implied to be Older Than They Look. A common joke in the fandom is that she's a Time Lord.
  • Superjail:
    • The Warden most definitely looks human, but has magical powers and, according to the two-parter season 1 finale "Time Police", is Older Than They Look.
    • Lord Stingray may fall under this, too, post-"Stingstress". Although he appears to be a normal human man beneath the costume (the fact he never removes his Expressive Mask aside), Christy Karacas teased fans with the remark: "Who says he's even human?"
  • In Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, most of the cast consists of either spheroid Pac-Man-like characters (called "Pac-Worlders") or ghosts. Ghoulasha the witch, however, looks like a regular human witch.
  • The Federation in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 has fairly human looking members such as General Blanque and Lonae, but the fact Earth is a low technology backwater and not even aware of the Federation is actually a plot point. Maybe the aliens who experimented on Agent Bishop decided to clone up a race of humans from his DNA.
  • A lot of the cast of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack are bizarre-looking, but Captain K'nuckles really looks inhuman: his body is approximately popsicle-shaped and his head is blue-gray except the nose (possibly the rest of his body as well, given the rest of his body parts are either wooden replacements or covered by his clothes).
  • The Simpsons:
    • Krusty the Clown leaves a lot of fans guessing. This ambiguity was evident in the very beginning, in the Tracey Ullman shorts, when Bart insists that Krusty is a "real" clown and not "just a guy in clown makeup." In the episode "Krusty Gets Busted", we see him out of makeup and with normal-sized feet. And in the epsiode that informs us of his Jewish heritage, Krusty has a perfectly human father and is clearly human (if a weird-looking one) as a little boy. So case closed, right? Think again. Subsequent episodes had Krusty pointing to his face and (seriously?) saying: "This ain't makeup!" and referring to his "grotesque appearance." And in the episode that had Krusty faking his death to cheat the IRS, Bart and Lisa find him hiding out as a "normal" man with yellow skin named "Rory B. Bellows"...who in due course leaps into the water and leaves yellow paint behind, revealing his (real?) whitened clown face underneath! On the other hand, Krusty's (biological) daughter Sophie is undeniably human (albeit with clown-like hair), as is Sophie's (single) mother. It's really hard to square all this. Perhaps Krusty was adopted, and his "father" made him up to look like a human boy. And maybe Sophie is some other man's daughter after all.
    • Krusty's rival Gabbo (from the "Krusty Gets Cancelled" episode) is another creature who is hard to categorize. He can move about independently of the ventriloquist he's supposedly a dummy to, and appears to have a personality completely distinct from the ventriloquist as well - even to the point that the ventriloquist can't control what he does. Yes, he has pale, waxy skin and hinge-lines on his jaws - but those could just be makeup. And he is very small - but he could just be a midget. On the other hand, his lips flap up and down in a very inhuman manner and a newspaper announces that he's having a "real-boy operation." Just what is he?
    • Charles Montgomery Burns. It's pretty suspicious that he can take a bullet in the chest from a gun fired by Maggie Simpson and survive, especially considering his age. He also brags about his "strong, sharp teeth" and threatens to "club [people] and eat their bones"...and when, in the episode that had him dating Marge's mother, she told him "You are the Devil himself!", Burns became very angry and defensive ("What?! Who told you - ") before realizing she was speaking metaphorically.
    • In the episode "The Sweetest Apu", Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon considers divorcing her adulterous husband and goes to see a very bizarre lawyer with bug eyes and elf-like facial features. Sure, he looks perfectly human if you're far away or looking at him from the back. But he is so crazy and evil that he makes Manjula ill at ease, and she remarks that he reminds her of legends of demented monkey-men from her native India. As she is leaving his office, the lawyer bellows in a booming voice: "WHEN WILL YOU HUMANS LEARN?!" - but it's a pretty easy voice to fake, so it could be the lawyer is just a very ugly, very psychopathic human.
    • The old, green-skinned Chinese man who sells Homer the cursed Krusty doll in one of the Halloween specials. It's possible he's wearing green makeup, but...why?
    • Homer himself. One Season 1 episode had Homer get mistaken for Bigfoot. He is taken in for scientific examination, and after a series of extensive studies, the conclusion was that he may or may not be human.
  • Members of the Galactic Guardian Group in Sym-Bionic Titan look human and are based in Earth, but have technology much more advanced and aesthetically different than anyone's else from earth. Their technology and one of their high-ranking member's fighting style are revealed to be Gallalunan. At the very least their actual leader, the mysterious figure Solomon talks to, is from Gallaluna (and may be Lance's Disappeared Dad who went into a spacewarp).
  • Steven Universe:
    • The title character is explicitly a Half-Human Hybrid between a human and a gem, but how human or non-human that makes him is uncertain. He mostly seems like a regular flesh and blood human with his mother's gem in his stomach, but he can shapeshift and fuse, and "So Many Birthdays" shows that his physical age is dependent on his state of mind and not his actual chronological age. Sometimes he seems no more physically able than an average human child, other times he displays distinctly non-human levels of strength and endurance. And he can use gem Magitek, which is explicitly impossible for non-gems, but again it isn't certain whether that's him or "just" his mother's gem.
    • Onion acts and looks extremely strange (his skin is yellow for starts), which causes Steven to question if he's human ("There's lots of humans. There's my dad, Connie, Lars and Sadie, the mailman, Onion... I think.") Onion would later prove his humanity to Steven in a rather graphic manner: showing a video of his own birth from his clearly human-looking mother.
  • Uncle Grandpa looks human and is the most humanoid of the main characters, yet frequently demonstrates powers that make no sense for a human to have and which other humans on the show don't have, claims in one episode to be older than Mr. Gus, who has been around since before humans evolved, and "Space Emperor" shows that there is at least one alien who looks identical to him aside from the colour of his moustache. "Christmas Special" confirms that he's the same species as Santa Claus, which doesn't really help.
  • Archer is ostensibly human, but on a show that generally averts or deconstructs Amusing Injuries he's survived being shot 31 times, being in an explosion which Jakov claims no one could survive, getting mangled in a car crash, drinking broken glass, and being in the air vents for 2 days without water while the furnace was turned up to 90, most of which didn't even seem to cause him any pain. He's also almost impossibly strong, in one episode throwing a serving platter with enough force to draw blood and knock a man out and knock Edie Poovey out with one punch, something that even Barry, whose strength is explicitly superhuman, couldn't manage. He also displays the ability to talk to and understand animals, but whether he actually understands them or just jumps to conclusions is unclear. On the other hand, the only clearly nonhuman sentients we've seen on the show are cyborgs. It's unlikely that he is one, given that he's shown in one episode to have a phobia of them, but then again, all the ones we've seen were made by Krieger, for whom it would be perfectly in-character to operate on him without his permission or his knowing.

    Real Life 
  • Circus freaks historically had this proposed about them...until, of course, people realized that they were either genetically deformed humans or "normal" formed humans tricked out with makeup and prosthetics.
  • Tarrare, a 17th century French soldier known for his ability to eat anything, from corks to stones to live animals. His physical description includes an abnormally wide mouth with almost no visible lips, an abdomen that would distend after eating, and skin that was hot to the touch. While it's thought that a thyroid issue may have caused him to be the way he was, there's some speculation as to whether or not he was even human.
  • Jesus of Nazareth. All Christians (except for Arians, of course) take it for granted that he was both fully human and fully divine (sounds like Too Many Halves, but in Christian theology it actually makes sense), while Jews, Moslems, and all others believe he was fully human - period.
  • Throughout much of European colonialism the idea that Indigenous and other "non-white" people were a "lesser" form of human or not even human at all was widespread, to justify many discriminatory and oppressive laws and customs, even outright genocide, and many fields were also devised to measure how close to human someone supposedly was (closer to human in this case meaning closer to white people). While largely discredited this idea still lingers on in many ways; for example it's common in white supremacist circles to espouse the idea that black people are more closely related to other apes than to humans, which is of course nonsense.
  • Hypotheses as to just how "human" various extinct members of genus Homo — neanderthals, "hobbits" from Flores, Denisovans — may have been have gone back and forth repeatedly, as archaeological and genetic studies yield new information about how closely they resembled and/or interbred with better-established human ancestors.