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A Scar to Remember

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[slits cheek with clawed fingernails] I've left my mark on you. I won't forget it. Until I kill you, you're all I'll think about.
Sniper Wolf to Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid

A Sadistic villain of some sort — usually a Psycho for Hire or The Dragon, but occasionally the Big Bad — decides not to kill The Hero or Love Interest when they have the chance. Perhaps the villain needs them stronger; wants to Break the Haughty and/or Make an Example of Them; needs to flee; or just likes to watch them squirm. However, the villain, being a villain, is not about to let their captive go scot-free, and decides to etch a token of the encounter into their flesh.

The villainously hammy rationale given will probably be that the bad guy wants the subjugated to forever remember the humiliation and corruption the latter endured at the former's hands. Or, perhaps, the villain has committed so many atrocities that they can't be bothered to remember each one, and they themselves need a visual mnemonic. If the victim is indeed the Hero, the villain may leave the wound as a mark, confidently assuming they have invoked Death by Disfigurement. If the victim is the Hero's love interest, expect this trope to be narrowly averted, because Beauty Is Never Tarnished — unless they and the Hero are an Official Couple, and it's time for an Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome. (More mature works may later feature a wordless Scar Survey among the couple undergoing or having undergone the syndrome, though at least expect the scar to heal well or still be relatively "beautiful.")

More rarely, an Anti-Hero will dole out the wound as a "self-consolation prize" to an enemy who is wanted or needed alive. When the scar-giver marks their own flesh with memorabilia, they become a Human Notepad.

Sub-Trope of Every Scar Has a Story, though the scar was created deliberately and with a motive: the story behind which we often see play out, whether in the present or in a Flashback. Often a Mark of Shame, but permanent and focused more on sadistic purpose than on the sociological consequences. Related to Battle Trophy, Creepy Souvenir. Usually leads to Scars Are Forever. May overlap with Glasgow Grin; Good Scars, Evil Scars; Rugged Scar; or "X" Marks the Hero. Compare Zorro Mark, when a mark is left on walls or clothes rather than the skin as a Calling Card. If the work began lighthearted but has been growing Darker and Edgier, this trope is a symptom of Cerebus Syndrome.

Not to be confused with Dueling Scar, which is usually the result of a 1-on-1 encounter and is often coincidental rather than intentional.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beastars: Tiger Bill caps off his "Not So Different" Remark to grey wolf Legoshi by clawing deep gashes into his back, to give him "tiger stripes" to match his own.
  • Bleach:
    • Inverted twice by Grimmjow:
      • Though Grimmjow would've unquestionably won their fight if he hadn't been interrupted by Tousen, the wound Ichigo's Getsuga Tenshou left on his chest serves as a reminder that the guy he was happily beating to a pulp had the audacity to challenge the difference in their strength, as if he actually believed that he could still win. This irks Grimmjow to no end, and even after he loses and later has his arm restored by Orihime, he makes sure not to heal the scar on his chest so that he can continue to remember his grudge against Ichigo.
      • Right after Grimmjow's final fight with Ichigo, Nnoitra ambushes him and leaves a massive wound on his collarbone. Two years later Grimmjow still sports the scar, possibly for the same reason.
    • Kenpachi Zaraki and Yachiru Unohana both left scars on each other during their first fight: Kenpachi got the iconic scar across his left eye and Unohana was left with a scar in the middle of her chest, usually concealed by her hair. Both characters remark upon their rematch that their scars ache when they see each other.
  • Monster Rancher: When Tiger of the Wind and his pack first encountered Moo, they fought for their freedom. Most fell, but Moo let Tiger live, leaving him with a scar cutting across his face... and taking his younger brother Gray Wolf with him when he left.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Baratie Arc (an early arc), Zoro - who dreams of defeating the Master Swordsman Mihawk to become one himself - got the (mis)fortune of running into the man himself in the seas, and challenged him to a duel. Mihawk won decisively, but he found Zoro's determination to win interesting, so Mihawk let him live and grow stronger so that he could become a Worthy Opponent - but not before slicing a huge gash on Zoro's chest as a reminder and a "gift" of sorts. Interestingly, while Zoro is justifiably ashamed of his defeat, he specifically turns to face Mihawk before he cuts him down, stating that a wound on his back would be even more shameful; Mihawk agrees with him.
    • Although Kaido is widely acknowledged to be the World's Strongest Creature, said to have never lost a one-on-one fight, he notably bears a massive, cross-shaped scar in his abdomen. Said scar was given to him by Kozuki Oden in Wano Country twenty years ago, and is the only scar across Kaido's entire body. Even after such a long time, Kaido still remembers Oden as one of the strongest warriors he ever faced, and the one who came the closest to killing him. He becomes impressed with Zoro in the present when he puts everything he's got in a single attack and manages to wound Kaido across the chest hard enough that the latter admits Zoro's attack will leave another scar.
  • Invoked in Tokyo Ghoul :re by Kaneki and Touka in a rare case of affectionate scarring; when they decide to marry as per ghouls' tradition of giving each other a bite that will not disappear, even after death.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Boulder in Blood! Rusty AU is a traitor to BloodClan who helped their enemies. When given a choice, he sides with the Forest Cats and decides to run away with them. Scourge lets him leave but claws one of his eyes as a reminder of his error.
  • After Hiccup is given to Alvin as a hostage in Lost Boy, he is ceremoniously branded with an Outcast brand. This brand made him a criminal in the eyes of Berk law, taking what little place he had in the process. This brand is then thoroughly wiped clean by the burns he sustained in the battle against the Red Death, symbolically representing the clean slate the heroic moment granted him in the eyes of the village.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow. Along with his many scars, Oliver Queen has a dragon tattoo matching that worn by his love interest Shado from the island flashbacks. Season 2 reveals that Slade Wilson had it forcibly tattooed onto Oliver because he blamed him for Shado's death. As Oliver is inclined to agree he doesn't have the tattoo removed until the start of Season 4, having made the decision to leave the past behind and marry Felicity Smoak.
  • In the pilot of Beauty and the Beast (1987) Catherine is kidnapped off the street by thugs who have mistaken her for a woman scheduled to testify against their boss in court. They make a number of ugly cuts on Catherine's face, intended to serve as a reminder every time she looks in a mirror for her to keep her mouth shut. Catherine gets expert plastic surgery, but one scar remains below her ear, and when she locates the witness she was mistaken for, she shows her the scar, saying, "I think this was meant for you."
  • CSI: NY: In "Enough," a perp threatens a witness not to tell what she saw him do, then says, "I'll give you something so you don't forget," as he slices her face at least a half dozen times with a large knife. Short of some serious plastic surgery, those Scars Are Forever.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Rare heroic example: The Phantom famously leaves a distinctive scar when he punches criminals with his Skull Ring.

    Video Games 

  • In Goblins, Fantastically Racist Torture Technician Dellyn carves the word "Monster" onto the forehead of the goblin Fumbles, telling Fumbles that if he thinks he can walk into a human city and be treated as an equal by its inhabitants, then he needs a permanent reminder of what he truly is. During the prison break sequence, several of Dellyn's other victims are shown to have words like "Liar," "Thief," and "Coward" carved into their flesh in a similar manner.
  • The Order of the Stick has a rare heroic example in "How The Paladin Got His Scar". At the climax of his breakdown, Gin-Jun attacks an unarmed O-Chul, leaving him with a serious scar. While O-Chul could have had the scar magically removed, he instead asked to keep it so that the members of the Sapphire Guard (including himself) would always be reminded of the depths to which their former leader sank.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Ozai punished his son Zuko with a Rugged Scar of a lifetime for one moment of speaking out of line.
  • The Lion Guard: Scar has Ushari the cobra bite Kion, his great nephew, so that Kion will have a scar like his and in his mind, be easier to pull into being evil. He never turns fully dark though.
  • While Draaga still self-inflicted a Mark of Shame for losing to Superman in Justice League, he burns an "S" onto his chest with a red-hot, bent piece of rebar instead of merely donning a Superman shirt like he did in the comics.


Video Example(s):


A Small Memento Of Mexico

Diego gives Rafael the Zorro Mark on his neck so he'll never forget him.

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Main / AScarToRemember

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