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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, particularly the Chick, 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 


    Western Animation 


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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