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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 his or her 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-level 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."

See also:

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


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Arguably the Nations from Axis Powers Hetalia. They 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...
    • Ofcourse the said lack of nipples might also be intended as evidence of body-modification. It's strongly implied that Peppo is a pre-op 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.
  • Several in Mahou Sensei Negima!, some more in-universe than others. Chao takes every opportunity to let the group know she's a "Martian" although she may be a subversion, as it's revealed that the Magical World may be the Mars she was referring to. Setsuna, a half-Tengu, can sprout wings, much to Asuna's delight. Past about two-thirds of the way into the Magic World arc, Mana has been revealed to be a half-demonfolk. The demonfolk girl Poyo has been introduced as the older sister of Zazie, which must account for something to do with the latter's anatomy.
    • Then there are all the residents of the magic world, who are completely 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 still unknown.
  • Gecko Moria from One Piece. It's no secret that One Piece has a lot of Gonks and generally strange-looking people, but he 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. Still not confirmed, though.
    • Word of God has at least stated horns (which Hannyabal also has) are something some people 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. So far, the only thing revealed about her is that she's the daughter of a famous family renowned for their skills as bodyguards 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. Unlike Goku's tail, these are never explained and aren't commented upon anymore than someone with a strange haircut. There is also Krillin who is shorter than even children but is never mentioned to be a little person.
      • Word of God has it that Ancient Astronauts landed on Earth long ago and interbred with early humans. Most humans have a little alien blood, just not enough to be physically apparent. Those with more alien blood than average sometimes manifest alien physical traits. This "explains" Tenshinhan's Third Eye, and presumably some of the other oddities occasionally seen among "human" characters in the world of Dragon Ball.
  • 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 the Big Bad, 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.
  • The story arc "I Am An Alien!" from the Diamond is Unbreakable series of Jojos Bizarre Adventure 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.)

    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.
  • There seems to be no real consensus as to whether the mutants in the various X-Men books 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 (actually 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).
    • Fantastic Racism is a core theme of the X-Men comics, plus there is also a Depending on the Writer situation going on. In light of the fact that 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 rather than a scientific one. However, recently even the X-Men themselves have strongly taken up the claim that they are a separate species, which ultimately just validates the claims of their enemies.
    • Furthermore, recent years have revealed 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.
      • And 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.
  • 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.

    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.
    • Surely the fact that the dwarfs have only four fingers on each hand, while Snow White and other characters are drawn with realistic five-fingered hands, is a strong clue in favor of them being dwarfs in the sense of a nonhuman fey race.
  • The Coachman from Pinocchio. His 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?
  • 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.

    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 Mostly Harmless, Zaphod just flaunts the extra head. At a fancy dress party the second head was inside a covered birdcage pretending to be a parrot. Until he whips off the cover and both heads laugh in unison. In the books and original TV series, Zaphod's heads were side by side, unlike in the movie.
  • 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 and Rowan Atkinson may be hiding something from us.
  • In 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. Then there's Tom Bombadil, who 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.
    • 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. Goldberry seems to be some kind of nature spirit which would point to her being a Maiar, but Bombadil is Epileptic Tree / Wild Mass Guessing fodder par excellence.
  • Randall Flagg, antagonist of several Stephen King stories. His back story implies that he at least was human once, but his later incarnations are a bit less obvious about that fact.
    • Ditto Walter O'Dim aka Marten aka The Man In Black, who 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 millenia) 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?
  • Similar to the above, Melisandre of Asshai in A Song of Ice and Fire. 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, too, 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 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.
  • The Stormlight Archive is made of this, 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) but um...
    • 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 is 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.
  • In The Dresden Files, lots of things like to take the appearance of humans. Some supernatural creatures actually have a humanesque form;
    • 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.
    • There's also 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.
    • Even 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.
    • Also Kincaid, who 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 (and a few are actually just humans, including the royal family). The rescue team sent to find the lost prince were chosen not just for their skills but for their ability to move around London unnoticed. (The team consisted of a wizard, a fey, a young and unusually-humanoid hag and a giant who used invisibility to remain 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 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.
  • 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.

    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 considering her age she's far too old to be any known species.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Doctor Who often gives no indication whatsoever about whether humanoid cultures in "space" stories are Human Aliens or far-future descendants of human colonies.
    • The Doctor himself (and his granddaughter Susan by extension) started off like this, even identifying himself as a human in dialogue - at one point when comparing the Monster of the Week's 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 several times. 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 - and 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'. It was only at the Wham Episode at the very end of the Second Doctor's tenure that he was finally confirmed to truly be an alien, with both the Third and Fourth Doctor's tenures dealing with the ramifications of this - the Third Doctor focusing on the Bizarre Alien Biology and the Fourth Doctor focusing on his race's ridiculous political system.
    • 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 seadwelling Marinusians Dressed All in Rubber, and the Expanded Universe follows suit - the Target novelisation changes the dialogue ambiguities to make them definitely monsters, some books make them definitely human, one comics continuity even Arc Welds them to "The Tenth Planet" by saying the Voord are the Mondasian humans who eventually became the Cybermen. The Marinusians themselves might be Human Aliens or future humans, as noted above.
    • 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 "Bad Wolf/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 even 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 Addams Family all look human (with the exception of Lurch and Itt) and have no explicit supernatural powers, yet are usually treated as monsters by the narrative.

    Video Games 
  • Princess Peach, in the Super Mario Bros. series. Her 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 series also gives us the Shy Guys, a sort of "tribe" of little guys so shy that they never expose a single square inch 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. He's turned away from the screen, so you can't see what's underneath the mask yourself, but poor Luigi can see it perfectly. Luigi immediately falls over, looking like he saw a ghost, trembling in fear as the Shy Guy walks past him. This seems 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. She 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.
  • 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. These two characters, says the manual, used to be magic partners, so they could be members of the same species. A Witch Species, perhaps?
    • This trend is continued in the sequel, with Humba-Wumba. She 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 series is really big on unconventional fantasy races, but for every Goron (rock people), Zora (fish people) and Deku (plant people), there are several others that look almost entirely like normal humans. There are the Hylians, including Link and Zelda, who are only different from humans in that they have longer ears and can learn to perform magic. There are Gerudos, like Ganondorf, who look like dark-skinned humans, but are different in that only one male child is born to them every hundred years. There are the Sheikah, who look no different from "normal". And this doesn't even bring all the races that were "transformed into other forms" into account, like the Garo, Ikana, and Twili.
    • The Hylian/human distinction has long since become irrelevant to the point that pointy ears are merely a visual shorthand for important characters. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, pointy-eared people are referred to as humans too.
    • Hylians, Gerudo and Sheikah are humans. They're races in the Caucasian/Asian usage of the word, not the Human/Wookiee usage. The word human has two meanings in the series; the first refers to a race and the second refers to the species as a whole. It's been that way for Hylians/Humans since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
      • Majora's Mask certainly treats it that way. The Deku Scrub businessmen can only sell to certain races (keeping you from getting certain gear before you reach the point in the game where them makers want you to have it.) "Human" is what they call all of the races that look pretty like humans with pointy ears.
      • Speaking of Majora's Mask, there's the Happy Mask Salesman, who looks like a Hylian, but is also the Uncanny Valley incarnate, to the point of fan theories that he may be something else.
      • Similarly, there are the Moon Children.
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has Rosso the miner, who looks like a Goron even though, going by A Link to the Past, his ancestors were apparently human. Made even more confusing by the presence of Oren, who is also apparently descended from the human Maidens from A Link to the Past yet is unambiguously a Zora.
  • In Touhou most of the non-human beings have some sort of physical feature that marks them as non-human, but not all of them. It's justified for the Witch Species, since some of them were human, but for characters like Yukari Yakumo? She's a Reality Warper and borderline Humanoid Abomination, but looks like a blond haired woman in a fancy dress. But she might have started out as human herself...
    • 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.
    • Sanae's position isn't particularly ambiguous (she's a human that's ascended to godhood while still alive), 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.
    • On the opposite side of things, Hong Meiling is listed as a youkai but not what type of youkai (and there are a lot), unlike nearly all 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.
    • 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 Toyosatomimi no Miko (and Seiga Kaku?), also being a shikaisen, which is essentially human that faked their death in such a way that the Celestial Bureaucracy fell for it, gaining immortality (and other powers? It is unclear) 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 Ibara, is hinted to have been an oni instead.
  • 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.
  • 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. Interestingly, 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.
    • The main Shin Megami Tensei games have Stephen, a crippled 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.
  • 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 Have 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 80sHair however sometimes he had 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.

    Web Comics 
  • The eponymous character of Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name. Despite the title, he 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 also counts, 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 as well. He's 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.
  • In 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. It is explicitly stated, repeatedly, both in comic and by Word of God that she is not a robot, but no other explanation is forthcoming. 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. In fact, even Jones herself has no idea what she is..
  • Sette Frummagem from Unsounded looks mostly human, but there's just enough about her that's not (such as having a mouthful of sharp teeth, an inhuman sense of smell that can detect magic and a long tail that she insists looks like a lion's but usually gets likened to a mule's) that makes people question if she's really her father's daughter.
  • The Senkari look like humans, but...

    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 
  • On CatDog, there's 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, move sinuously, pass through walls and is burned by the sun. 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 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's crush is made of bubblegum!) Finn believes himself to be the Last of His Kind, though whether or not this is true isn't certain, especially considering the Shrug of God towards Susan Strong's species.
    • Further hints have been made that Susan Strong is human, and one other character has been confirmed as ex-human: the Ice King. Marceline may have originally been a Half-Human Hybrid (demon father, unknown mother).
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Quite a few characters from Codename: Kids Next Door. A lot of them (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 Gangreen Gang from The Powerpuff Girls. It's never specified if they're humanoid monsters or weird-looking teenage boys.
  • 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.
  • Like the above example, the Warden of Superjail! 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 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).


    Not Quite HumanAnimal Eyes
Ambiguously GayThis Might Be an IndexAmbiguously Jewish
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