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Anime and Manga
- Samurai Champloo: Fuu is searching for a samurai who "smells of sunflowers".
- In the first episode of Lupin III (Red Jacket), Lupin is able to figure out that a love letter sent to him, supposedly written by Fujiko, was fake because, among other reasons, the letter didn't have the faintest hint of Chanel #5 perfume.
- The title character in InuYasha identifies people by scent because he is half dog demon. Early on he mistakes Kagome for Kikyo because their scents are so similar, though he quickly learns to distinguish them.
- Downplayed in episode 98 of the Sailor Moon anime. Early on, Usagi and Haruka are hiding together, and Usagi notices the scent of Haruka's cologne. Later, as Sailor Moon and Sailor Uranus, they're handcuffed together by the Monster of the Day, and when they once again hide, Moon notices the same scent on Uranus. This is Moon's first clue to Uranus's identity, since at this point Uranus and Neptune have been working their own agenda separate from the other Sailor Senshi.
- Bacterian from Dragon Ball has a recognizably foul stench.
- In Fruits Basket, the cat's true form smells like "something dead and rotting" and is generally vomit-inducing.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji reports smelling "the scent of Ayanami" during a synchronization test (Asuka calls him a pervert for this). Later, Rei says that Shinji's plug unit has his scent.
- In Rebuild of Evangelion, Mari is obsessed with the scent of LCL and likes to get inappropriately close to Shinji once she sniffs it on him.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Yukishiro Tomoe smells of plum blossoms.
- Recurring Spider-Man villain Demogoblin is noted to leave a stench like sulfur thanks to the brimstone and hellfire he carries about. (He is an actual demon, after all)
- Sin City:
- In The Hard Goodbye, Marv's monologue referring to Goldie states "She smells like angels ought to smell, the perfect woman... the Goddess". This smell is later on brought up again when he meets Goldie's twin sister.
- The Yellow Bastard reeks rather nasty, Hartigan pointing out the horrible smell multiple times when the Bastard is near.
- In the X-Men comics, Nightcrawler's teleportation ability produces a sulfuric cloud that characters routinely complain about. It is apparently a somewhat unique smell, because he's rarely if ever confused for anyone else.
- Sabretooth describes the scent of Cable as that of gunpowder and Old Spice.
- In Tremors, Graboids stink, smelling like sewage or rotten meat according to characters. This is a plot point in the first two films which occasionally clues characters in to the presence of a Graboid.
- In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Ulysses exclusively uses Dapper Dan hair pomade, and he cites its unique scent as the reason for his brand loyalty. This smell is so associated with Ulysses that the sheriff chasing him just makes his bloodhounds follow the Dapper Dan.
- In 1944's The Uninvited, the manifestation of the benevolent ghost is always accompanied by the scent of mimosa blossoms. This serves as both a red-herring and a plot point when it comes to determining the ghost's identity, since one character's dead mother always wore mimosa-scented perfume.
- In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the distinctive aroma of "Sex Panther" cologne, variously described as a used diaper filled with Indian food, a turd covered in burnt hair, and Bigfoot's dick.
- In The Parent Trap Susan (posing as Sharon) smells her grandfather:
Charles: What are you doing?Susan: Making a memory.Charles: Making a memory?Susan: All my life, when I'm quite grown-up I will always remember my grandfather and how he smelled of tobacco and peppermint.Charles: Tobacco and peppermint. Well, I'll tell you what. I take the peppermint for my indigestion and as for the tobacco...to make your grandmother mad.
- Comes up in Discworld:
- Captain Carrot constantly smells of armor polish and soap, to highlight his pureness.
- Corporal Nobbs on the other hand, has a very strange bouquet described as a mix of cigarettes, skin cream, and old cabbage, that is instanly unforgettable to anyone who encounters it.
- Beggar Foul Ole Ron has a smell that is so strange it's developed its own separate identity and sometime goes to parties on its own.
- Mr. Groat from the Post Office — a devout believer in such odd "home remedies" as putting sulfur in his socks and using a goose-grease poultice — smells vaguely chemical, with the eye-stinging aroma of throat medicine and a hint of old potatoes.
- Ahmed chews on cloves while in Ankh-Morpork, giving him a signature scent.
- In the second book of the Aubrey-Maturin series, Stephen makes the mistake of purchasing a distinctive bottle of perfume for Diana, which scent never fails to remind him of her. Even when it shows up on his best friend.
- On Gor each Priest-King - the Physical Gods of the world who look like giant locusts - has an individual scent, which is used as their name (they communicate via scent).
- The Others in A Song of Ice and Fire are said to smell like cold. Often enough, somebody points out that cold is not a smell—but only until they have encountered an Other themselves.
- Lupus of The Roman Mysteries series lost his mother as a child. He remembers that she wore lemon perfume, and always carries a handkerchief scented with lemon to remember her. When he meets up with her again at last, she wears a different perfume and he finds it jarring.
- All angels and demons in Books of Pandemonium have their own, powerful signature scent, and if the PCs know what that scent is, they can use it to identify their opponents, even without superhuman ability to distinct scents.
- In the Aunt Dimity series:
- Dimity is associated with white lilacs, and when Francesca first comes to the cottage to be the nanny for Lori and Bill's twins, Dimity causes the cottage to smell of the flowers as a sign of welcome.
- The Pym sisters are associated with the scent of lavender water. Among the various meanings associated with lavender in the language of flowers are serenity, grace, calmness, devotion and distrust.
- The Belgariad: Garion refers to Ce'Nedra's flower-like scent on a few occasions, and tracks her down (using his wolf form) by it once.
- President Snow of The Hunger Games keeps a rose on him at all times in order to mask his peculiar breath, caused by his terminal illness. The main character thinks that he smells like "blood and roses" on every occasion she meets him.
- In Harry Potter the love potion amortentia smells differently to each person based on what they're attracted to, including a scent they associate with a specific person.
- Bella Swan is stated to smell like freesia.
- Edward Cullen is said to smell like honey, lilac and sunshine.
- In The Swan Kingdom, a smell of poisonous, rotting flesh is a plot point as it helps the main character draw a connection between the monster that attacked her mother and the beautiful young woman who shows up at the palace only a little while later.
- Ciaphas Cain's aide Ferik Jurgen has a very persistent and unique case of BO (he's an iceworlder, so balmy temperatures make him sweat, but even in the cold he stinks) exacerbated by various skin diseases that allows Cain to know he's there even with his back turned. It's also hinted that part of this "smell" is of psychic nature, a sense of unease due to him being The Soulless that people rationalize as bad odor.
- In A Companion To Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, each wolf's true name is a unique scent.
- In the novels Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon, the Egyptian sorcerer Kheperu smells uniquely-horrible: a blend of body odor, alchemical residues, and rancid unguents. It's actually intentional, as there's a price on his head in his native Egypt and he doesn't want people getting close enough to recognize him.
- In The Wheel of Time, Perrin often dwells on his wife's scent, particularly the herbal soap she uses.
- Of course, Perrin also literally has a wolf's sense of smell, so it makes sense that scents would make a bigger impression on him than on most people.
- The third Julie of the Wolves book is from the point of view of the wolves. They always recognize Julie because her scent reminds them of willows. It also mentions that before Julie came up with her own names for the wolves, they had given each other "names" in their own minds to identify them, and they had thought of Silver as "Saxifrage" for the scented plants she liked to roll in.
- In Heinlein's book Have Spacesuit Will Travel, the protagonist makes a point of mentioning the distinctive smell of the "worm-face" alien. The alien is so terrifying that the smell becomes indelibly implanted in the young man's memory, in spite of the smell not being particularly "bad".
- Percy Jackson, half-blood son of Poseidon, is described at one point as always smelling of the sea.
- Snistroms from The Divide series reportedly smell so bad that people around them want to throw up.
- In The Talisman, the Sinister Minister Sunlight Gardner smells like something rotten covered up with too much cologne.
- October Daye makes a point of mentioning the distinctive scent of the user's magic at least every other time a spell is cast.
- Characters' auras in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel have distinctive smells, including cinnamon. Or a snake.
- In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, individual Doctors apparently have pleasant if rather odd natural scents which are part of the reason why people instinctively trust them. The Eighth Doctor is said to naturally smell like honey. The Fourth Doctor smells of petrichor and icing sugar.
- Kymerans in Nancy A. Collins's Urban Fantasy series Golgotham each have a very distinct individual scent. Good or neutral Kymerans tend to have herbal or floral scents (although Supreme Chef Lafo instead smells like Bananas Foster and corn dogs); evil Kymerans tend more towards sulfur, fish oil, scorched metal, and other similarly delightful things. Additionally, a change in scent can be a warning flag: Erys—who later turns out to be Nina's comatose body hijacked by an astral-projecting Esau—has an "unnatural" mix of molasses and dill; Dori's scent goes from bergamot and orchids (when she's a garden-variety bigoted yandere annoyance) to ashes and black pepper (when she starts committing assault and being an accessory to worse crimes); and even Hexe's usual chypre/citrus/leather sours and picks up a hint of mold when he's being corupted against his will by an Artifact of Doom and is on the verge of irreparably alienating his pregnant consort.
Live Action TV
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Oz comes back to town he realizes that his former girlfriend Willow has been with Tara because "I can smell her on you." In "Chosen" Angel realises Buffy is now involved with Spike the same way.
- In Warehouse 13, "I smell fudge" means something weird, usually bad, is about to happen. If it's weird and good, you may smell apples.
- In an episode of Elementary a faint smell of nutmeg is detected at a number of crime scenes, leading an FBI profiler to insist it's the "olfactory signature" of a Serial Killer. Sherlock takes one look at the file, says the crimes have too little in common to be a serial killer and the agent in question is letting his desperation to be a hero cloud his judgement. There is a connection between the crime scenes, but the scent is left by the criminal who makes a living cleaning up crime scenes using a strong chemical that smells faintly of nutmeg, rather than by the perpetrators of the original crime.
- One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a serial rapist described by all his victims as smelling like an ashtray. It's not admissible in court, of course, but when the investigation leads them to a heavy smoker they know they're on the right track.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: In the episode "Obsession", the monster has a distinct "sickly sweet" odor that Kirk recognizes it by. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that fog machines generate a sweet odor.
- Marvin is famous for the smell of his dirty diapers.
- In the musical 1776 John Adams writes to his wife Abigail about how much he misses her and asks, "Do you still smell of vanilla and spring air?"
- Temple of Apshai. Giant rats have a distinctive musty smell.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link in wolf form uses his heightened sense of smell to track down the next goal at hand several times throughout the game. The nature of these scents is not described, but each has a distinct colour. To wit, the four captured kids' have a yellow scent, while Ilia, Link's potential romance, has a pink scent.
- Zexion of Kingdom Hearts has the odd ability of smelling darkness, although what said odor is like is never described. In Chain of Memories, he briefly mistakes Riku's scent when he appears in the basement of Castle Oblivion for that of the Superior of Organization XIII. This is important because within Riku's darkness lies the lingering presence of "Ansem, Seeker of Darkness", the first game's Big Bad and the Heartless of Xehanort. The leader of Organization XIII Zexion alludes to is Xemnas, Xehanort's Nobody, which explains the momentary confusion.
- In Grandia II, the villain Melfice is tracked by the beastman Mareg who tends to mutter (before attacking whatever he detected it on) "This SMELL... MELFICE!!" Melfice is revealed early on to be the main character's brother. This is a problem (understatement) when they first meet Mareg, because they apparently smell alike.
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Mad Bomber Fatman uses a signature cologne and puts a bit of it in every bomb he makes, which Stillman is easily able to use to detect them. However, they all turn out to be a decoy for two massive scentless bombs placed in critical points of the structure.
- Occasionally, the stats for some characters in Undertale describes them as having specific scents. As a few examples: Papyrus smells like bones, Undyne smells like angry sushi, and Mettaton smells like Mettaton.
- In the Geneforge series, the presence of spawners in an area is usually preceded by a smell of vinegar. Rothgroths, a type of creation that secretes acid, are usually accompanied by the smell of decay as the acid sloughs and rots their skin.
- In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Geralt's search for Yennefer makes repeated mention of her distinctive scent of lilac and gooseberries. Witchers (who have superhuman senses,) can tell a letter was written by her because of it, and even normal humans are able to detect it if they meet her in person. Since it's mentioned in a ballad about her, she's apparently quite well known for it.
- The protagonist of Persona 5 lives in a cafe, and his teammates will occasionally note that he always smells like coffee.
- Girl Genius
- The heroine has a pleasant scent which is used as the subject of a running gag by most of the characters, to the point that she considers using lab chemicals to alter it and avoid the "nice smell" comments. Her smell is also typical of the Heterodyne bloodline, allowing Jägermonsters to identify her.
- Agatha has her body chemistry tangled up when the author of a Grand Theft Me keeps herself awake with stimulants... lots of them. This is detected by Krosp (Emperor of cats), who points out that her scent is messed up.
- The Weasels, or the Wasp Eaters, detect wasps via smell (even though they are animal constructs, they are trained to react to it). The Weasels react to Tarvek's smell too — they love it, which leads to a lot of Weasels hugging him.
- When Agatha's body chemistry is altered again, this time in a Poison-and-Cure Gambit, Krosp is also the first to notice it.
- Lotso of Toy Story 3 is pointed out to smell like strawberries.
- "The school's resident weird girl," Marcie Fleach, on Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is nicknamed Hot Dog Water by her peers because that's what she smells like. In her first appearance, Freddie explains the smell as resulting from a chemical reaction involving sweat and gingham; later, we find out that her father owns an amusement park and reuses the hot dog water for bathing. In Season 2 it becomes a plot point when Velma recognizes the smell and identifies a disguised Marcie.
- In Don Bluth's Anastasia, Dowager Empress Marie dabs peppermint oil on her opera gloves. The scent triggers a memory in orphan Anya of spilling peppermint oil on the palace carpet. No matter how much servants scrubbed that spot, it continued to smell of peppermint. This statement convinces Empress Marie that Anya is, in fact, her long-lost granddaughter Princess Anastasia.
- Looney Tunes character Pepe Le Pew, of course. Ordinarily skunks don't stink except when they're actually spraying, which means that even for a skunk, Pepe really stinks.
- In one 6teen episode called "Baby, You Stink," the boys of the main six decide to have a contest to see who of them smells the best after a week of not bathing of any kind, with the girls acting as the judges. It got way out of hand, with the boys stinking so bad that Jen said, "At this point it's not about who smells the best anymore—it's about who smells the least horrible." When the day of the actual judging came, the rules that the girls laid out were that whichever guy made it closest to them without being yelled at to stop would be declared the winner. In the order the boys went, the results were:
- Wyatt — Made it about two-thirds of the way towards the girls, which Wyatt was happy about, because he was worried that he'd end up smelling the worst—he almost dropped out of the contest, but ultimately stayed after his then-girlfriend, Marlowe, assured him that she was fine with it and even pointed out how many of the world's top musicians and celebrities don't bathe frequently.
- Jonesy — Being who he is, Jonesy was very confident that he'd smell the best after a week a not bathing—but he actually ended smelling the worst out of the three boys. In fact, he didn't even make it more than two steps towards the girls and Nikki was so nauseated that she actually vomited on the food court floor of the mall. On top of all that, he also got fired from his latest job at a florist shop because his rank BO killed all the flowers at the shop.
- Jude — He didn't smell any differently than he normally does—Nikki explains, "Jude never bathed much to begin—he's always a faint, lingering odor." Jude managed to get all the way to the table the girls were sitting without them really noticing how he smelled—as a result, he's declared the winner.
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: In "Footburn", K'nuckles tells Flapjack of a childhood flame he describes as smelling like fish guts and aftershave. At the end of the episode, Flapjack says he smells those things, revealing that the trolley conductor they met was her all grown up.
- This is Truth in Television—with the exception of identical twins (who share one), everybody has their own unique scent.
- Generally, people who share a diet will find those of different diets to have a weird odor.
- There is a characteristic odor that hangs around alcoholics—it's the result of the breakdown of ethanol by the liver into aldehydes that are then excreted through the sweat. It doesn't smell like alcohol; it's the characteristic odor of someone who drinks all the time.
- Diabetics' sweat can take on a fruity aroma when their blood sugar is too high, as does their urine.