The Mirror Shows Your True Self

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/lichs_mirror.jpg
The Lich's Mirror shows not what you are but what you were.

Engywook: Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreju has to face his true self.
Falkor: So what? That won't be too hard for him.
Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!

This is a trope for all the times a character's reflection in a mirror is different from what others (viewer included) see with the naked eye. In fiction, mirrors are treated as able to cause Glamour Failure in supernatural creatures, reveal Mind Control, and if the mirror is magical, reveal a character's true nature. The most common uses are revealing the true form of a Shapeshifter or soulless, and if a character is under Mind Control.

In the first case, the mirror is acting the same way for the viewer as for the characters. We're being shown the monster's true form. In Mind Control cases (specifically the Freaky Friday, Sharing a Body, Demonic Possession and Split Personality) we're being shown what the characters are seeing that we aren't. The mirror shows the physical body of the character, while the camera shows the character controlling the body. The characters in the show will see the mirror image, i.e. the controlled person all the time. Directors can use this to create a sense of tension by showing only the viewer a monster's reflection, and keeping the other characters in the dark.

Another common variation is for the mirror to show an aspect of a person's personality. The nasty, spiteful, cruel, but beautiful girl becomes a hag in the magic mirror. Conversely, it can reveal the Reluctant Monster or balefully polymorphed character to be noble and good.

A subtrope of Magic Mirror, Glamour Failure and Lie to the Beholder. Compare The Shadow Knows. Contrast Missing Reflection, where the mirror shows nothing at all.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Read or Die: The Mirror Man, an agent of the British Library, has the ability to appear as someone else, but a mirror reveals his true form.
  • Daisuke Niiwa from D.N.Angel can see Dark Mousy in his mirror reflection either standing beside him or in the corner of the reflection. They regularly have conversations this way. In one of the late chapters of the manga, a magical mirror enables Dark's reflection to be seen by other people.
  • In the Dragon Half manga, Rufa is given a magic mirror that reveals her true nature. She quickly breaks it accidentally-on-purpose.
  • The Jyarei Monsters in Eto Rangers are revealed by Bakumaru's Revealing Mirror. The mirror does not show the monsters' reflections, however; the mirror works by shining a brilliant light forward in a wide area, and if a monster looks at the light, it reveals its true form.
  • Rosario + Vampire: The Lilith Mirror does this, and even reverts the viewer back into his/her/its original form. Though in Moka's case, the Rosario still affects Inner Moka and keeps her powers locked up.
  • Ulysses 31 has the main characters encounter a Sphinx who is in possession of a mirror showing the true personality of people reflected in it. He is Genre Savvy enough to keep his Spoiled Brat of a daughter away from it.
  • In Death Note, as Light Yagami is walking through a hall of mirrors supposedly mourning L, who he was responsible for killing, his reflection shows him smirking evilly with glowing red eyes, indicating his inner glee at L's death. This doesn't actually seem to have anything supernatural behind it, but is a good way of showing Light's inner Kira while he is acting the part of mourner/friend/son whatever.
  • In The World God Only Knows, having an independent reflection who can talk is the first revealing stage of possession by a goddess.
  • In Inuyasha, Sesshomaru uses a youkai known as The Nothing Woman (Unmother in the English translation) to trick Inuyasha into thinking he's kidnapped his mother's spirit. It works, but Kagome notices in the nearby lake's reflection that she doesn't have a face.
  • In the prologue of Vamp!, a shape-shifter's reflection in a window is used to deduce his true form.
  • In Codename: Sailor V, among Sailor V's arsenal of weapons is an enchanted compact mirror designed to reflect people's true forms which helps her see through the disguises of antagonists and youma.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion, Sayaka Miki's witch form, Oktavia von Seckendorff, briefly replaces her reflection in a puddle.
  • Hybrid X Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia: Aine has a strange dream where she's wearing nothing but a tiara and a completely transparent dress, but her reflection depicts her in her combat suit.
  • Fate/Apocrypha: During the OP, when Ruler is in her civilian outfit, her reflection is in her armor. This doesn't happen in the actual anime.

    Arts 

    Comic Books 
  • The way The Hood found out the source of his powers was Dread Dormammu was when the demon suddenly replaced his reflection in the mirror. Later Dormammu's preferred way of communication with Parker was to replace half of his reflection in the mirror, as a metaphor of their connection.
  • When he first showed up, Dodge from Locke & Key showed up as a corpse in mirrors. This doesn't seem to be a problem once he's out of the well, though.
  • In a Disney Adventures comic of TaleSpin, the heroes discover a mirror that apparently reveals their souls. Readers do not get to see this, which may be just as well when Don Karnage peeks at it and freaks out.
  • On the cover of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Henry Jekyll's reflection is Edward Hyde.
  • Inverted in Justice League of America's Vibe. Vibe's powers also make him appear as a blur in any photographs or recordings of him, concealing his identity from cameras.
  • Done in the 2013 annual of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. Celestia took Sunset Shimmer to a magic mirror in hopes it would show her humility. But all Sunset sees a vague image of her becoming an alicorn though if anyone saw Equestria Girls, it was more then likely showing the darkness of her true self and just amplifies her desire over it.
  • In the first volume of the comic book adaption of Saya no Uta, the last panel shows Say and Josh (Fuminori) having sex in the mirror, showing that Saya is not a human at all, but some sort of multi-limbed abomination.
  • The Quantum Leap version is used in the IDW Star Trek Expanded Universe story "Connections" when characters from Star Trek (2009) start bodyswapping with their Star Trek: The Original Series counterparts. We see Chris-Pine-in-William-Shatner's-body as Pine, the reflection shows the Shat.
  • Caballistics, Inc.: The demon possessing Miss Simmons is visible in a reflection.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In All of Me, Steve Martin's character sees Lily Tomlin's character, with whom he is Sharing a Body, any time he looks into a reflective surface.
  • Inception:
    • Within a dream, Eamesnote  can copy other people's appearances. When he looked at himself in several mirrors, some reflections showed his true face, others reflected his disguise, and which mirrors did which changed (almost certainly deliberately) between cuts.
    • Supposedly, when Ariadne did the double-mirror thing in her test dreams, only Cobb's reflection appeared.
      • When Ariadne is setting up the double-mirror, both her reflection and Cobb's appear, but once the infinite reflection is set up, the scene is shot such that Ariadne's reflections beyond the first are hidden behind Cobb's.
    • This is actually Truth In Television, according to lucid dreamers. One of the distinguishing features of lucid dreams is that inside them, mirrors don't work 'correctly' (i.e., they don't reflect, or reflect something else, or are distorted).
  • Sleepwalkers: Despite having human forms, the cat creatures' true forms are shown if they're in view of a mirror.
  • Source Code: The viewer see Coulter running around trying to save the day, the reflection in the window and presumably everyone on the train sees Sean Fentress.
  • Used at the very end of 2011's Thor to show that Dr. Selvig is being controlled by Loki.
  • The 10th Kingdom used an inversion. The Queen used a hypnotic mirror which showed her merely standing behind Virginia, when in fact she was strangling her. It wasn't until Virginia glanced to the side and saw the truth in another mirror that she was able to break free.
  • Subverted in a Richard Creena movie where he's playing a cop who brings the female suspect a large rectangular-wrapped parcel which he says is her 'true self'. She just laughs and says he's obviously got a mirror. He removes the wrapping and she's shocked to see a rather uncomplimentary painting of her by a former friend.
  • In Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Jason's true hockey-masked self shows in reflective surfaces when he is possessing someone else. Cue a Quizzical Tilt when he finds this out himself.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Jekyll talks to Hyde, whom he alone can see looking back at him from a mirror.
    • It later shows the inverse when Hyde saves the Nautilus; Jekyll congratulates Hyde from the mirror.
  • In Samson vs. the Vampire Women, lady vampires actually cast reflections, but the mirror shows them as ancient crones with a bad skin condition.
  • Haunter: When Lisa possesses Olivia's body in the world of the living, the mirror shows her actual face, but only to herself and the audience.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, when Chloe looks into mirrors the models at Danique's place are preparing themselves in, she notes that all the "supermodels" look like old crones.
  • Hypocrites is about a supernatural being called "The Naked Truth" (played by a nude actress) who shows the hypocrisies of the local townspeople with a Magic Mirror. A politician who campaigns on "honesty" is shown accepting bribes. A man and woman getting engaged are shown to be a cheater and a Gold Digger, respectively. The young people at the beach recoil in horror at the sight of the Naked Truth, but her mirror reveals them partying at the beach in skimpy (for 1915) bathing suits. The woman who followed the pastor up the mountain is revealed by the mirror to be in love with him.
  • Beauty and the Beast (1946): The magic mirror shows, when Belle's sisters look into it, an ugly old lady and a monkey respectively. Furthermore, Belle's beautiful necklace turns into a hideous rope when in their hands, reflecting the ugliness of their hearts once again.

    Gamebooks 

    Literature 
  • In The Castle in the Attic, one of the primary weapons of the evil wizard Alastor is a Magic Mirror with this power. It eventually gets turned around on the villain himself, with fairly satisfying results. When turned on The Hero, all he sees in the mirror is himself.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Played with. The mirror of Erised shows the viewer's fondest desire at that moment and definitely NOT anything objectively true.
  • Used by Nathaniel Hawthorne in at least two short stories, Dr. Heidigger's Experiment and Feathertop. In the former, a number of rejuvenated old people are seen in their wrinkly true selves in the mirror; in the latter, a handsome young cavalier is seen in the mirror in his true form of a dilapidated scarecrow.
  • This is Played With in Brothers in Arms: Miles is on a subway transport, and sees his reflection in the glass. He's currently wearing his mercenary uniform, but the Miles in the mirror has on his ImpSec uniform, reflecting his inner turmoil about his split personalities diverging. Turns out it wasn't Miles — it was his clone, and they were going to attempt a switch; they just had the wrong uniform. Miles passes it off as being a hallucination while on heavy medication.
  • Subverted in Discworld: Witches are well aware that mirrors don't show your true self. They can show your opposite a billion times, which can be problematic when there's only one soul to go around. Instead, on Discworld it is your eyes that reveal your true self, and no amount of magic or power can disguise eyes as part of a broader transformation.
  • In L. Frank Baum's Queen Zixi of Ix, the title queen can only make herself look beautiful to others because of this trope.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's The Black Swan (a retelling of Swan Lake), the sorceress Odile tells Odette that Baron von Rothbart won't have any mirrors in his house because "mirrors show the truth." When he asks Queen Clothilde to cover or hide all the mirrors in her ballroom, you know something's up.
  • The Neverending Story. Played with; Bastian and Atreyu aren't the same person, but they do see each other in the magic mirror and Atreyu is in many ways Bastian's Avatar inside Fantastica. Atreyu is merely confused by it, but when Bastian reads it he freaks the hell out.
  • In the Spellsinger novel "Time of the Transference," the group finds this kind of mirror. Mudge is shown as an old otter whose body and mind have succumbed to hedonistic excesses, to the alarm of everyone else, but he says that he doesn't mind because he already saw himself that way (and he is in the process of changing his lifestyle due to Weegee's influence). Weegee appears as a regal princess. Cautious simply appears as himself. Jon-Tom has no reflection at all because of his indecision over who he is (spellsinger, law student, rock musician) and where he belongs (in his old world or in the world with the others).
    Cautious: I am what you see. Worse things to be.
  • In Pact, the protagonist Blake Thorburn lacks a reflection of his own—in its place is Rose Thorburn, his magically-generated Distaff Counterpart, who is trapped in a mirror world, only able to go where there are corresponding reflections in Blake's world. Rose is not just Blake born as a girl, but an Other created by their grandmother—when Blake dies, his death will allow Rose to step into the real world in his place, taking the mantle of heir to the Thorburn family and all the enemies that come with it.
  • In Barry Hughart's The Story of the Stone, The Mirror of Souls is a large crystal mirror in the Chinese underworld that can see and show all of your past incarnations. It can speak and display scenes from the past and a spirit level that shows how good or evil you were.
  • The Alan Dean Foster series Journeys of the Catechist features the main character, Ehomba, using a mirror to scare away some creatures that had been bombarding the party with giant pine cones. Afterward, each character looks into the mirror in turn. The normally jovial and exuberant Simna appears much more somber and depressed. The enormous cat Ahlitah appears as the height of feline majesty, and the recovering drunkard Knucker sees himself as he is when drinking. When Ehomba first looks into the mirror, the other three are momentarily blinded by the sun's reflection when they try to look. Looking again, the mirror is showing Ehomba exactly as he is. Only Ahlitah notices that the sun was in front of Ehomba, not behind him, and so couldn't have been the source of the light that the others saw in the mirror.
  • In chapter eight of Broken Gate, this is inverted, as the mirror doesn't really show Nezumi's true self, actually, as Nezumi's reflection is the opposite of what she is, right down to being more emotive. The reason for this because said reflection is a manifestation of her madness, the which she talks to.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, any mirror Cheris looks at shows her Shuos Jedao, who's attached to her soul, instead of her own reflecton.
  • In the teen horror novel "Mirror, Mirror" (a reimagining of The Picture of Dorian Gray), the beautiful Alpha Bitch protagonist receives a mirror as a gift from a mysterious new friend. As her personality gets more and more ruthless and nasty, her reflection in this mirror gets increasingly horrific. She also becomes increasingly unbalanced, as she will react with fright, look into another mirror in which she looks normal, then look back into the jinxed mirror, where she also now looks normal, leading her to wonder if she's hallucinating and going crazy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Smallville episode "Tomb", Chloe is possessed by a vengeful ghost. Her reflection becomes that of the ghost.
  • 30 Rock:
    • The show had an HD camera in one episode which shows the real you. Liz Lemon shows up as an old hag, Pete shows up as an old man, Kenneth the page shows up as a Muppet, and Jack Donaghy looks 20 years younger.
    • Kenneth once mentioned that he sees only a white haze when he looks into a mirror.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • Inverted. On-screen, Sam appears as himself. But mirrors and reflective surfaces show the true appearance of whomever he's leaped into. This startles him in the series finale, when he sees himself in the mirror with gray hair.
  • Stargate Universe:
    • Most common in the latest branch of the franchise, it's also been used elsewhere. Ancient tech allows two people to switch minds. The controller is the one whom we see. The controlled person is visible to the other characters, and in mirrors, TV feeds, photographs, etc.
    • That tech originated in Stargate SG-1, with Daniel and Vala looking into a mirror and discovering that they've been transported into other people's bodies.
  • The X-Files:
    • The episode "Dreamland" is a "Freaky Friday" Flip in which Mulder switches places with Man In Black Morris Fletcher. As in the Quantum Leap example, the audience continues to see Mulder as Mulder, but his reflection reveals that everyone else sees him as Fletcher, and vice versa.
    • In "Chimera", every mirror at the crime scenes was shattered so the killer would not see her true self. She suppressed this side of her personality and honestly was not aware that she was responsible for the murders.
    • Edpisode "The Unnatural" is about an alien who falls in love with baseball, taking on the form of a Negro player in 1947 Roswell. At one stage while he's asleep another character sees his true Grey alien face reflected in the window of the bus they're traveling on. The image disappears when he wakes up.
  • Best Friends Whenever: When Cyd and Shelby travel to a specific time, their appearances (in their and the viewers' point of view) don't change. But when they look in the mirror (and in the way everyone else sees them), they are in the bodies of their past/future selves. A Running Gag is that they always take a selfie in every timeline they are in that shows what they look like then. Cue to them jumping to the 70s in which their appearance don't change even their selfies, due to the fact that they jumped to a timeline where they don't even exist.
  • The true face of several monsters in Supernatural that can pass for humans (like wraiths, changelings and sirens) are revealed by mirrors. In "Sam Interrupted", Dean is watching a mirror dome for a wraith he knows is in the building. However, the wraith has already infected him with a hallucinogen, so Dean ends up attacking the wrong man.
  • An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation starts with LaForge walking around. He then looks at a reflective surface, and we are shown a cylinder hovering in the reflection instead of the engineer. It turns out Geordi was using a telepresence system to move as if he was the drone. In this case, the mirror reveal is for the audience.
  • Twin Peaks has two scenes where BOB showed up in the reflection of the person he was possessing. Said mirrors tend to be damaged. In The Return, it turns out BOB was not controlling Cooper's body, just passively inhabiting the body of Cooper's Evil Twin, but a look in the mirror briefly shows a fragment of his real face, confirming BOB is still there after all those years.
  • Played with in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. General Xaviax approaches potential Riders disguised as a human, but when he glances at his reflection, his true form is revealed.
  • The Latinoamerican Telenovela La Mujer En El Espejo (The Woman in the Mirror) has an interesting variation: a magic mirror that "contains" the image of a beautiful woman. It can be used by women to take on her looks, but regular mirrors will still reflect their true appearance.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • The episode "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", the antagonist is an old witch/beauty shop owner who uses illusions to maintain the appearance of youth, but mirrors reveal her true age. When the protagonist investigates the witch's house after her friends who work at the shop go missing, she realizes something is wrong when she can't find any mirrors in the house. Clearly taken from the folklore surrounding Transylvanian (Romanian) Countess Erzebet (Elizabeth) Bathory.
    • In "The Tale of the Captured Souls", Peter avoids mirrors or getting his picture taken by a camera. Danny (the heroine) soon finds out through the mirror monitors in his secret laboratory that he is really 100 years old and that he has killed off visitors by Rapid Aging using the laboratory's Vampiric Draining mechanism. Partly inspired by Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, or possibly by the concept that pictures steal bits of the soul.
  • In Dead Like Me, similar to Quantum Leap, the camera sees the main characters (who are all grim reapers who died in an accident or a murder) as they were in life; mirrors show how they look to the other characters. This change in appearance is to keep anyone who knew them in life from catching on.
  • Babylon 5: As John Sheridan prepares to leave for Z'ha'dum, there's an odd scene where he recalls in flashback (or is it a flashback?) the words of Kosh, who warned him against going. As the words are heard again, Kosh appears in the mirror over Sheridan's shoulder. Of course, had already been established that Sheriden had been Touched by Vorlons.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the serial "The Power of the Daleks", Patrick Troughton's Doctor looks into a mirror and sees William Hartnell; a reassurance to an audience who've never seen a regeneration before that he is the same man.
    • The Doctor also has a mirror that can identify various species, a gift from his godmother that has been sitting in the TARDIS junk-drawer for over a millennium. He quickly tests it on himself to see if it still works, leading it to bring up the First and Second Doctor before he puts it down satisfied with this field-test.
    • At the end of "Amy's Choice", the Doctor sees the Dream Lord, really the Doctor's dark side reflected in the glass of the TARDIS console.
  • In the series premiere of Merlin (2008), Mary Collins' true form (evil old hag) is revealed in mirrors. It later shown to happen with every magical disguise. The reflection shows the true form. Though for some reason very rarely characters are exposed via reflection. Usually it is only shown to clue the viewers in.
  • On MythQuest, whenever Alex or Cleo go into a myth they see themselves and each other as they are, but the rest of the world and anything reflective show them as the characters within the myth that they replace.
  • In the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Protean Challenge", the shape-shifter Proteus is revealed in mirrors.
  • Salem: Mary's reflection is that of an old hag, one she claims represents the state of her soul.
  • The episode "Mirror of Truth" has this in Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. A vain woman goes to a make-up specialist, only to find the job done not to her expectations, insulting the owner and leaving without paying. The owner swiftly curses her to look as ugly as she is inside. Soon, her fiance calls off the marriage, she tries to fix her face with creams and finally asks a professional surgeon for plastic surgery. The viewer never once sees her face ever since she left the shop, leading to wild expectations about how she looks. She still is very beautiful, but when she looks in the mirror, she sees a disgustingly disfigured face staring back at her.
  • Played with in Lucifer where a Glamour Failure is often shown via a reflective surface, but doesn't happen every time there's a mirror.

    Music 
  • Quadrophenia: The album cover has each of the mirrors on Jimmy's scooter showing a different face (one of each member of The Who, each representing one of his personalities).
  • Mirror of Souls by Christian progressive-power metal band Theocracy zig-zags this. The protagonist goes through a hall of mirrors that create flattering reflections of his good qualities. Later he encounters the titular Mirror of Souls, the very eyes of God, which reveals his true nature: a corpse ravaged by sin. After he pleads for salvation, the Mirror reflects Christ in his place.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • According to Japanese mythology, this is usually how you can figure out if someone you know is a Kitsune as while they look normal to you, a mirror shows what they really are. However, according to some, the mirror has to be an old one.
  • Likewise, the same works for vampires, that is, because, they don't have souls, they don't have reflections, unless the mirror doesn't have a silver backing.

    Pinball 
  • The Who's Tommy shows the adult Tommy looking into a mirror, and seeing his innocent childhood self reflected inside.
  • The backglass for Data East Pinball's Tales from the Crypt shows a woman standing before a mirror, where the reflection reveals her to be a zombie.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dragon Magazine #50 had the magical artifact Barlithian's Mirror. Anyone who looked into it saw his or her true self, regardless of any illusions, creature powers (such as a vampire's invisibility to mirrors) or shapechanged form. In addition, a lycanthrope would see its alter ego (e.g., a werewolf in wolf form would see a human and one in human form would see a wolf).
    • The supplement Open Grave uses this trope in one picture - a beautiful noblewoman's reflection reveals her true form as a lich.
    • The Ravenloft character Gabrielle Aderre appears to be in her mid-twenties, but she sees her true age (mid-fifties) in mirrors. Despite still being very attractive, she considers her true appearance hideous.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, silver dispels the glamour of Innistrad's vampires. This means that mirrors (silvered glass) show vampires as they were when they were still human. Since Innistrad vampires regard themselves as a Master Race, this is supremely disturbing to them.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • The Obfuscate Discipline (which either makes the user invisible or appear to be someone else) is generally ineffective against cameras or other mechanical sensors.
    • The Lasombra either don't leave images on cameras and mirrors, or they have a weird abnormality which means their reflection is that of what they would really look like if they weren't turned into vampires: usually a rotting corpse or a walking skeleton.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in one of the possible quests in the video/PC game Darkstone. A witch has cursed the women of a local village to turn to stone if they ever become more beautiful than she is. Since she looks to be about three million years old, all the women are statuary. Your character must visit the local dungeon and find a perfectly normal-looking man who is convinced that he's ugly as sin, so has come down to find the Fountain of Youth in order to hopefully fix the problem. Turns out that his real problem is that he's been using something called the Mirror of Lies, which makes beautiful people appear ugly and vice-versa. After getting it from him in exchange for a normal mirror, your character gives the Mirror of Lies to the witch, fooling her into believing that she's young and gorgeous again, so she releases the spell on the village.
  • Dragon Quest games:
    • The Mirror of Ra appears in several games. Whenever it appears, it's always used to reveal something's true form.
    • In Dragon Quest II, it's used to break a Baleful Polymorph by revealing that the dog who follows you around in one village is actually the cursed Princess of Moonbrooke.
    • In Dragon Quest III, it reveals the true identity of the Orochi and exposes a Fake King plot.
    • In Dragon Quest V, it's used to Spot the Imposter after the Queen Dowager confronts her doppelganger.
    • In Dragon Quest VI, Ashlynn seeks the Mirror of Ra because she hopes it can break whatever's causing her invisibility. Unlike other examples in the series, this doesn't immediately cause the mirror to break, because it's later used against the evil dream king to reveal his true identity, and the real evil king to prevent him from launching you into the dream world again.
  • A glitch causes this to happen in Jak II: Renegade. When looking in the mirror behind the bar in the Hip Hog Heaven Saloon, Jak's reflection has the horns of his dark form. They flicker in and out as he moves.
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, there is a mirror with this quality; depending on which path you take, it can be used in one of two different ways. The basic good ending has Alexander using it to Spot the Imposter by forcing a genie to resume his true form. The best ending has him use it against Death himself, forcing him to witness the horror of his own existence, causing him to shed a single tear and lose his wager against Alexander.
    • King's Quest (2015) Chapter 3 introduces a magic canvas that functions the same way. King Graham, for example, is still the fresh-faced young man he was back in Chapter 1, while Hagatha is revealed to be a beautiful princess. It comes back in Chapter 4, where it reveals that the Sphinx is Manannan.
  • At one point in Lunar: The Silver Star, your party comes across an item called Althena's Mirror, and uses it soon afterward to expose Xenobia, who had been posing as Lemia, head of the Vane Magic Guild (the real one was captured and imprisoned).
  • In Persona 3, you have to break the mirrors that don't show your reflection in order to get to the Lovers boss chamber.
  • In Quest for Glory II, the Enchantress Aziza uses water magic to reflect the true image of the Hero of Spielburg's pack animal, to reveal that it is actually the missing Emir of Raseir.
  • In Rule of Rose a bathroom mirror on the Airship shows, not the protagonist's "true" form, but the environment's; it shows the orphanage that is the Airship's true face.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, you have to find Mot before you can engage in his battle. He disguises himself as a statue and hides among the other statues. The trick to finding him is that the floor that the statues are on is a reflective surface. Mot is the statue that isn't reflected in the floor.
  • ...and in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, you have to use a magical mirror to unmask Amaterasu, break her out of the illusion she's trapped in, and allow her to return home. (There's some Genius Bonus here for those familiar with Shinto mythology: A mirror was a key item in the Gods' ploy to draw Amaterasu out of the cave she was hiding in and get her to return to the heavens.)
  • In Tales of Phantasia, any character possessed by Dhaos has a Grim Reaper figure floating above their mirror reflection. Early on, Cress exploits this when Rhea and Demitel confront each other to find out who is responsible for destroying Harmel village.
  • BlazBlue:
    • The Ammit Cryas is a truth grimoire in the form of a mirror - its power is to show the true self of its current wielder, but if held too long the wielder may be drawn into it. Three characters are known to have held it. In order:
    • Makoto was completely unaltered in the reflection of the mirror. Presumably, tumultuous origins notwithstanding, she has nothing to hide.
    • Kajun Faycott, one of two Remix Heart characters, is reflected in a lab coat standing alongside Professor Kokonoe, denoting her allegiance to Sector Seven.
    • Mai Natsume, the other Remix Heart character, is reflected as a male shadow - she loses her hold on the mirror before the full truth could be revealed.
    • When Relius uses his Astral Heat on Terumi, we see a mirror standing behind him showing his true ghost form.
  • In Lollipop Chainsaw, Mariska possesses Rosalyn to lure Juliet and Nick into a trap. Mariska appears when "Rosalyn" is in front of their bus' rear-view mirror. This is only for the audience's benefit, because Juliet and Nick don't notice before Mariska gets the drop on them.
  • There's a magic mirror in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals which shows the truth about anyone who looks into it. People use it to find out if their spouses have been faithful to them. When Iris looks into the mirror, she (and the player) sees her true form as Erim.
  • Final Fantasy IV plays with this a bit. The player's character, Cecil travels to Mt. Hobs in order to become a paladin. Upon reaching the summit, he enters a mirrored chamber where he is removed of his dark armor and becomes a paladin. However his reflection in the mirror does not change and he must defeat his Dark Knight self in battle as his trial... Or rather, let his Dark Knight self defeat himself through self-harming attacks.
    • This turns out to be a bad idea. Rejecting a part of who you truly are, no matter how wrong it is and how well you seal it away, can result in some serious mental damage due to suppressing who you are. In the sequel, an alternate personality starts attacking people until Cecil comes to terms with the fact that he is both a Paladin AND a Dark Knight.
  • During Nimdok's scenario in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, he comes across project PERFECT IMAGE, a Nazi project which shows you yourself with utter objectivity. Not only does it show Nimdok the truth of his Jewish heritage, but it's also implied to be the true reason Hitler committed suicide.
  • Though it's often forgotten about, Eiki Shiki from Touhou possesses a mirror that reflects the viewer's past deeds. She can also use it to pit the viewer against a copy of herself.
  • In the second-to-last level of Monument Valley, the main character walks past a mirror in which she is reflected as a white bird. At the end of the last level, she transforms back into one as a reward for returning all the Sacred Geometries she stole.
  • Dummied Out in Undertale. There's a set of sprites for this, showing the Fallen Child's reflection instead of Frisk's, but the flag that causes this to occur can only be set through Debug Mode, and even then only works in a single room. Presumably it was intended to be used after completing a Kill 'em All run and selling your SOUL, but given that it was scrapped, it's impossible to say for certain.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain under the right lighting conditions, Venom Snake's reflection on the chopper window will flash the image of the character created at the start of the game, foreshadowing that Venom is not the real Big Boss but rather the Medic, whose previous appearance is said character.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, this is implied (and in the seventh arc stated) to be the reason why Beatrice is repelled by mirrors. Sayo Yasuda, Beatrice's true identity, hates mirrors because mirrors do not acknowledge their make-believe appearance and remind Sayo that they're not the powerful witch they pretend to be. Thus, in the story, the camera will always show which personality is being depicted. Sayo's actual image is never seen in the visual novel.
  • In Shall We Date?: Wizardess Heart, the Persona Mirror is a Magic Mirror enchanted to reflect a person's true self. When Elias looks into it, it reveals his insecurities and his frustration about having to live up to his family's legacy. When the protagonist looks into it, however, it shows that her outward self and her inner self are exactly the same.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Mirrors reveal that Sweet Synn, a supervillain from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is actually a demonic succubus, regardless of the form she's currently wearing (and she usually looks like whatever you find most attractive in a woman).
  • In the dream "True Identity" on the Nightmare Project, a mirror shows the dreamer a hideous demonic visage.
  • One scene in Mystery Skulls Animated: Ghost shows the trio pass by a set of mirrors. Vivi's reflection has no eyes, Arthur's doesn't show his (prosthetic) left arm, and Mystery's mirror shatters.

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series: Al has to find a mirror like this in a room full of magic mirrors which all show something different. He finds it when he notices that his reflection is wearing his "street rat" clothes instead of the princely robes he has on. Then Iago sets off the trap because he thinks the mirror which depicts himself covered in jewelery must be the one.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures Season 2: whenever Shendu possesses someone, his host can see his face in the mirror.
  • In the Justice League episode "Paradise Lost", when Wonder Woman and Superman find an ancient artifact, they start seeing each other as monsters and fighting, thinking that the "monster" had done something to their friend. Superman is the first to catch on upon seeing Wonder Woman's reflection in a fountain, and stops fighting altogether, allowing Diana, still seeing him as the monster, to mercilessly pummel him. It's not until the "monster" points to a mirror that she looks and sees she was fighting Supes all along.
  • In The Scarecrow, Count Grisham ends up exposing Feathertop as a scarecrow while using mirrors in an attempt to force Feathertop to look at him.
  • In an episode of The Pirates of Dark Water Bloth used a magical artifact to swap bodies with Ren, as well as having Konk swap bodies with Niddler. However, while in the other person's body, their reflection still shows who they really are.
  • In the "Baby Doll" Episode of Batman: The Animated Series, the main antagonist suffers from a condition that kept her from aging. Despite being well over 30, she physically looks younger than a pre-teen. When the Dark Knight chases her into a house of mirrors, she stumbles across one that reflects what would look like under "normal" circumstances.
  • In Thunder Cats, this is true of the shape-shifter Mumm-Ra.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Soos and the Real Girl", Giffany's avatar shows up on the screens of arcade games after she possesses an animatronic beaver.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and Swamp Monster", Aku disguises himself as a hermit so Jack can lead him to the gems and armour of Cronos which he will use to destroy Jack. As they're rafting down the river Aku looks into the water and sees his normal form reflected in the water, so he summons a giant hovering alligator as their transport so Jack won't see it. It didn't matter anyway, because Aku's Paper-Thin Disguise never fooled Jack in the first place.
  • In Steven Universe Steven enters Rose's Room and wants to see his mother, who appears. Eventually he takes out his phone to take a picture of them together, but it shows him standing alone in empty blackness, reminding him that she and everything else there is simply a construct drawn from his own mind.
  • In "Brick Like Me" from The Simpsons, LEGO Homer starts seeing the real Homer in reflective surfaces after having a vision of his reality, where he was bonding with Lisa over LEGO construction sets. At one point, he yells at his reflection on the front window of the LEGO world's Kwik-E-Mart, causing him to be Mistaken for Racist by LEGO Apu.

    Real Life 
  • This trope can quite well illustrate how human brain works in normal situations. A mirror works like this: Some light source sends light in all directions, some of it falls on an object, the object reflects a certain part of the spectrum, that light falls on the mirror and reflects to your eyes. This means that the mirror reflects exactly what´s around you. However, a human brain ignores this process and sees a mirror as something magical, even when you know how mirrors work. Brains take shortcuts, leading to many, many tropes impossible in the real world.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMirrorShowsYourTrueSelf