He was very tall and as skinny as a beanpole—so alarmingly thin, in fact, that it looked as if his bones were about to break through his skin.A character is shown as exaggeratedly skinny, usually for any of the following reasons:
— Jacob about Sergei Andropov, Hollow City
- A character hasn't eaten anything in a long time (or a short time) and it's just a joke to exaggerate how long they've been starving or how hungry they are.
- A character is about to be eaten by a monster or predatory animal and they make themselves look this way so the creature won't want to eat them.
- Supermodels and people stranded on Deserted Islands are often depicted this way.
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- An ad for awareness of Anorexia Nervosa showed a sadly undoctored picture of an emaciated Isabella Caro.
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- Soichiro of Kare Kano had a horribly abusive childhood, receiving constant abuse and neglect at the hands of his mother, never once even getting any amount of affection from her. He was constantly starving and desperate for food, not helped by his mother leaving him locked in their home alone for days at a time, with barely anything to eat. By the time Soichiro is rescued from his mother, he is so emaciated he can barely even walk, his mother having decided to leave him to die at that point.
- Nagato, a villain of Naruto, is horribly skinny because of a Dangerous Forbidden Technique of his, which drained his energy. His legs were burned useless just before that. And overall, he uses nothing but techniques that consume huge amounts of Chakra. Here is the result.◊
- "Flighted" Henya, a villain from Rurouni Kenshin, has starved himself down to almost nothing in order to be able to glide freely in the air.
- Brook from One Piece is of course this, since he is literally only a (living) skeleton, but even when he was an actual human with flesh and blood, he was just as skinny as he is currently.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Alphonse's body has become this, becoming gaunt with emaciation and barely strong enough to stand.
- When Al is given the chance to get it back (but unable to fight in the final battle as a consequence) he says this line verbatim.
- Tokyo Ghoul:Re uses this trope with two different characters, to very different effect. The Serial Killer Torso is incredibly skinny, likely as a result of killing to satisfy urges other than his Horror Hunger. In contrast, Shuu Tsukiyama is revealed to have wasted away due to three years of grief-induced starvation. Once he begins to emotionally recover, his physical health improves rapidly and he returns to a normal weight.
- In Se7en one of the serial killer's victims has been reduced to this after a year spent strapped to a bed. The worst part? He's still alive! Morgan Freeman's character speculates that the poor bastard ate his own tongue to sustain himself.
- The Machinist: Trevor Reznik has become a walking corpse over the years due to repressed guilt slowly driving him insane..
- In Dragon Bones, the heroes look like this after traveling in a country where they are so disliked that no one will give them food, and fighting bandits on top of it. Not played for drama, as they get something to eat in time, but no one finds it funny, either.
- In the German novel Gottes Bodenpersonal: Eine unwahrscheinliche Liebesgeschichte (God's Ground Personnel: An unlikely lovestory), this is played for drama; one of the characters steps out of the shower in nothing but a towel, and is described as very, very skinny. His lover is concerned about his health, as he's been neglecting self-care in general.
- In The Quest for Saint Camber, Nigel is described as wasted and frail some two weeks after Conall attacked him with magic and left him in a coma. Since Nigel got no solid food for that period, it's entirely plot justified and not pretty. Morgan and Duncan leave Rhemuth to search for Kelson and Dhugal partly to avoid watching Nigel starve to death.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Theon was a tall, good-looking youth of a healthy weight. After spending a little vacation time in the Dreadfort, he comes out some 3 stone (that's 42 pounds or 19 kilograms) lighter both due to muscle atrophy and starvation.
- Skulduggery Pleasant: Carol describes Crystal as this. It's Played for Drama.
- Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, who is dying of an unspecified illness, is described this way.
"I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving."
- A serious example: By the time the Golden Ticket tour day arrives in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and his family have been subsisting on so little food for weeks on end that the boy is described as this in the narration and other characters notice—including Grandpa Joe, who along with the other grandparents was this at the start of the story ("They were as shriveled as prunes, and as bony as skeletons"). Another character who notices is Willy Wonka; during the trip down the chocolate river in the Cool Boat, he gives each of them a mugful of the melted chocolate precisely because they "looked starved to death!" This trope is dropped in adaptations, probably because it's hard to visualize with live actors (especially child actors).
- Gaunt's Ghosts: Gaunt notices that Curth looks emaciated after her return from the Gereon mission, where she had suffered many hardships while fighting the Chaos occupational forces. He still finds her attractive, though.
- In The Goblin Emperor, Maia frequently refers to himself as skinny, with the implication that this makes him ugly. It is not clear whether he is just a rapidly growing teenager, or whether his abusive guardian has been starving him.
- Played seriously and for laughs in Loyal Enemies with Veres, who becomes nothing but skin and bones after being beaten almost to death and taking weeks to recuperate enough to even be able to eat on his own. Additionally, he uses a long-time healing spell on himself that accelerates his metabolism, turning him into a Big Eater and creating a Running Gag where Veres eats all the party's food without ever looking any better. The spell wears off towards the end of the book, culminating in Shelena's assessment that he ain't all that skinny anymore.
- Seen on Intervention either because the person has been consuming mostly drugs and little food, or has an eating disorder.
- Subverted in an episode of The Drew Carey Show. Drew is on a hunger strike and when Mr. Wick comes to see him at home, Wick finds Drew lying on the couch due to lack of energy and is now extremely skinny. But it turns out that Drew knew Wick was coming over and he got an assist from a pizza delivery man who is naturally extremely skinny. The pizza guy is willing to help because Drew on a hunger strike is costing him business. They lay on the couch together, covered by a blanket, arranged in a way that it looks like Drew's head is on the other guy's body. Wick is initially suspicious that Drew's head is still as fat as always, which is brushed off by explaining head fat is the last thing you lose, which he falls for.
- A short sequence of some early Dilbert strips observed Dilbert's date with a supermodel, who was drawn as a literal skeleton, and did not eat on their dinner date but instead simply sniffed the mints.
- In Peanuts, Snoopy's desert-dwelling brother Spike was like this initially. In the first strip where he appeared, he woke up after traveling a long time, and Snoopy announced, "Eggs benedict for my brother Spike!" To which Lucy replied, "Better make that ten pounds of buffalo steak" before he was actually seen. (In later stories, Spike was simply thin.)
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Splat book The Book of Vile Darkness, there are several Willing Deformity Feats that the evilest of characters can take, including Gaunt, which makes the character disturbingly thin (and actually grants a few benefits, but a few liabilities too).
- In the Forgotten Realms setting, Chosen Ones are humans transformed into humanoid monsters by the Red Wizards of Thay. They are downright morbidly thin◊, to the point where basically look like flesh-colored skeletons.
- In the Scarred Lands campaign setting, worshippers of Gaurak the Glutton become fatling, obese abominations reflecting the titan's appearance. However, fatlings who prove failures turn into gauntlings, which are even more hideous, tall, impossibly thin and gaunt, nearly mindless beings who more successful fatlings use as slaves.
- In American McGee's Alice, several characters, including the Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit, look horribly gaunt and malnourished, due to The Corruption that has blighted all of Wonderland.
- Fans were a bit surprised when a trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake showed Cloud, who's normally depicted as being fairly well-built, had been redesigned to look unsettlingly thin, sinewy and sickly. Some of the fanbase were not happy with the change, while others thought it was a perfect fit for his characterization at that point. for those not in the know, prior to the start of the game Cloud had spent years locked in a jar as a lab specimen.
- The Sheikah Shrine Monks in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, who have spent 10,000 years meditating in their chambers to give Link their Spirit Orbs, are portrayed this way. What with Sheikah culture having a fantasy Japan inspiration, they are meant to be a reference to real life Sokushinbutsu monks who starved themselves to death while meditating and underwent self-mummification.
- Issue 8 of Flying Suit Reiko has Reiko getting her overweight friend Potchari to take a fitness test for her so she can take diet pills she's inelligible for and throughout the story she gets skinnier and skinnier.
- Sinjal/Crippled from Wurr is very, very skinny. While not underfed per se (not anymore than, say, Morri) he has severe disgestion problems.
- Slimy Thief: Absorbing water can cause Aisha to swell up but losing water, especially a lot of it, can cause her to shrivel to emaciated state. After a some adventuring and drinking Aisha comes in her fat form but after an extremely long bathroom break, she walks out of the toilet just skin and bones much to Camilia's horror since she is unaware of Aisha's power.
- In one Quick Draw McGraw cartoon, a wild mountain lion (an early version of Snagglepuss) steals one of Quick-Draw's biggest, fattest sheep, then shears it down to prepare it for dinner. It is then that he discovers that the sheep is rail thin underneath its wool.
- In Adventure Time, The Ice King is actually very skinny under his robe. Though sometimes he's very fat, depending on what's funnier or more pathetic.
- In a rare serious example of the trope, "All Your Fault" features two frighteningly gaunt, starving Lemongrabs. *shudder*
- In an episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, the duo are starving and Ren opens his skin to show there's literally no fat, just bone. Then Stimpy opens his skin to show he's nothing but skin and fat.
- In the Brandy & Mr. Whiskers episode "Wolfie: Prince of the Jungle" Brandy has a bunch of fashion magazines on the floor. One of them has a literal skeleton on it.
- Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck have been known to show skinnier frames under their skins to try to deter those who wish to eat them.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Hearts and Hooves Day", the Cutie Mark Crusaders have an Imagine Spot where a famine strikes Ponyville and when background pony Lily Valley momentarily stands up right in front of the "camera" she suddenly has protruding ribs and a concave stomach◊.
- In American Dad! Stan once became overly neurotic about his weight and went on an extreme diet and exercise regime. At first glance it doesn't seem to be working because Stan is getting progressively fatter, and it might be due to his family sabotaging his diet as payback for mocking Steve's chubby girlfriend. But it turns out Stan had become anorexic and was suffering from hunger-based delusions. Up until that point the episode was seen Through the Eyes of Madness, and Stan had actually been wasting away to nothing.
- Happens to Cartman, of all people, in an episode of South Park. To elaborate: the kids were setting up a play on the Passion of the Christ, and Cartman insisted on playing Jesus. Since it's Passion of the Christ, crucifixion is customary, and eventually Cartman gets crucified, but Stan and Kyle end up forgetting him there for days. When Cartman manages to get down from the cross and his friends see him again, he's looking pretty malnourished, even by normal standards.
- The victims of Nazi Germany and other notorious nations throughout history have been found in this condition. Systematic starvation is a common tool employed against people targeted by such regimes.
- Tuberculosis wasn't known as Consumption for nothing.
- A very unfortunate case of Truth in Television, victims of prolonged starvation or illness (e.g. cancer, AIDS) will really wither away down to a flap of skin over a malnourished skeleton. This is also the case of people with anorexia.