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Alertness Blink

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Two examples right there.
An audio-visual trope found primarily in cartoons, the Alertness Blink is a short chirping sound played when a character becomes aware of something. Usually associated with a flash near their head as a visual cue. Commonly comedic in nature. This trope originated in Western Animation before the advent of dialogue as a visual indicator of shock or surprise. It would often be accompanied by a sharp note.

More often than not, associated with the realization of something that leads to Cross-Popping Veins, Luminescent Blush, Blank White Eyes, Color Failure, or the like. Beam of Enlightenment is a similar idea, but it's used differently. Idea Bulb is also similar. Compare Visibility Meter.

One common variation (often found in video games) is an ! rather than a random flash of light. There's also the "little crown" variation, most seen in anime. Compare Confused Question Mark.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In A Channel, for example when Run tells the other girls that Tooru is actually an honors student.
  • Case Closed Sometimes, when Conan figures out the crime, the background goes black and a lightning-esque thing flashes behind him.
  • A Certain Magical Index 2 has two in a row from Mikoto in the very first episode.
  • The original Dragon Ball manga is big on this, using it one, twice every page for when a character reacts to most anything.
  • Gundam has a franchise-specific version of this representing psychic powers and/or telepathic communication. It's called the "Newtype Flash" by fans.
  • Excel♡Saga features a Newtype Flash in the episode parodying Gundam.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In certain scenes when a character comes into an encounter with something unprecedented, a large ! will pop up besides their Oh, Crap! expression.
  • Mitsudomoe uses it occasionally when Yabe-sensei notices some new hilarity ensuing or in general use.
  • The second Minami-ke season has the "!" version.
  • Ōkami-san to Shichinin no Nakamatachi has an example in the first episode.
  • Often happens in One Piece, particularly in earlier arcs. A hilarious use of this example comes during their entry into the Grand Line, during a freak snowstorm. Usopp has made a snow sculpture, and when Luffy knocks off the head, Usopp has a Delayed Reaction for a bit, until the blink shows up, and then comically falls to the ground before he finally does a Wild Take at his ruined snow sculpture.
  • Nuku Nuku TV, episode 9, as seen above, right before Sweat Drops and Amusing Injuries ensue.
  • Squid Girl features it in the OP and occasionally in episodes.
  • The Triskelion in the Deserted City of Tokyo: An illustration showing Kasuga Koyama and Tokiko Yodoyabashi has the former display an exclamation mark behind his head when Setsuna Karasuma grabs them both from behind ala conga line.
  • In the Warrior Cats manga Shattered Peace, the dogs have a "!" appear above their heads when they realize that the stake holding their chains has been dug up, leaving them free to escape the fire.
  • The World God Only Knows, standard use (such as the main character realizing he just swore to find an invisible girl in less than an hour).
  • A couple in the opening of the Yozakura Quartet OVA, as well as a few in the first episode proper.

    Comic Books 
  • Artist Stuart Immonen uses this (with simple short lines radiating from the head) in Nextwave. Good examples include the H.A.T.E recruit in this image and Tabby in this image.
  • Spider-Man does this all the time when his Spider-Sense activates. It's most frequently depicted as jagged bolts around his head, with half of his mask symbolically appearing if he's not in costume.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Frozen, the Trolls blink twice during the song "Fixer Upper" when Kristoff loudly informs them that Anna, whom they have spent the whole song trying to hook up with him, is engaged to someone else.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (1978), starring Nicholas Hammond, actually managed to pull off a live-action version of this trope to indicate when Spider-Man's spider sense went off. They'd intercut photo-negative images with the color-corrected images for a few seconds, creating the same effect as a standard Alertness Blink.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney uses the musical note, "!", and screen flashing variations.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Occasionally, some characters with have '!' pop up overhead when facing something that takes them by surprise.
  • In Breath of Fire III, you can try to learn some monster's powers; if the skill is learned, you get a ! over the character's head; if you get a ? instead it means the skill can't be learned. In the game's Overworld Not to Scale if you get a ! over your head it means you found a random combat area; a ? indicates a secret location.
  • Genshin Impact: A "!" will appear on enemies if you get close enough to them, if you're spotted by them from a distance, or if you attack them from far away.
  • Honkai Impact 3rd has multiple ways in which enemies' alertness of your presence influences gameplay:
    • In the Sakura Samsara quest in Open World mode, while you're in stealth mode you can sneak up on enemies and perform a One-Hit Kill on them. However, this requires you to get into a round zone directly behind the enemy, and if you get too close from anywhere else, the enemy will react to your presence with a red exclamation point over its head. This cancels stealth mode and the enemy will attack you.
    • Certain stages are populated with enemies that you either have to evade entirely or sneak up on to kill, and cannot be completed unless they're all either evaded or dispatched, respectively. These enemies have a red awareness zone in front of them representing their field of vision, and if you get into this zone, a red gauge will fill showing the enemy becoming more aware of you. If it fills all the way, you're considered to have been seen and will be reset to either the beginning of the stage or the last checkpoint in the stage.
    • Post-Honkai Odyssey features a combination of these. Several enemies have an awareness zone and will attack you if you spend too long in this zone. Also, while there's no stealth mode, you can sneak up to some enemies and perform a One-Hit Kill on them, but it requires avoiding their awareness zone.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the old man on Windfall Island who asks you to look for his daughter makes the sound and flashes the symbol every time you get in range for him to ask you again. Since he stands right outside the entrance to the main part of the island, you'll have to tap through his dialogue if he gets close enough to you. Fortunately, he stops doing it when his daughter is rescued.
  • The ! in Metal Gear is a variation.
  • Nippon Ichi games tend to give their character sprites such a chirp.
  • In Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Championship Edition 2, sleeping ghosts go ! with chirping sound when Pac-Man goes past them to notify they're alerted.
  • In Pâquerette Down the Bunburrows, the bunnies make chirp sound with ! overhead when they spot the player and can escape.
  • Both guards and civilians in PAYDAY 2 do this with a "!" symbol over their heads during stealth mode, to indicate that they've spotted something that has alerted them (dead bodies, loot bags, a player). Players only get a sound effect for it if they're the one who caused the alert state. They will also show a "?" over their heads if something is within their field of view but has not yet alerted them.
  • PAYDAY 3 expands on this somewhat - a yellow "?" indicates something's in a civilian/guard's FOV which hasn't alerted them, a red "!" indicates they're alerted, a yellow "⚠️" indicates a guard's moving to investigate a noise, a "man running" sign indicates a guard's escorting someone out, and handcuffs indicate a guard's moving to arrest someone. Like PAYDAY 2, the sound effect is reserved for whoever's been detected.
  • The shadows in Persona 3 and Persona 4 get a ! above them when they spot the main character's party. Many of the characters themselves get these in drama scenes outside of combat.
  • The Pokémon games use the ! version on opposing trainers when they see the player and engage them in battle. Pokémon Colosseum and XD instead use a yellow flash.
  • Used throughout the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series (both blink and chirp).
  • Professor Layton also uses ! whenever you click on a puzzle location. If you're just talking to someone, or examining an object that's important enough to get more than just the usual comment boxes but doesn't have a puzzle, it just results in a "\|/" series of lines.
  • In Shovel Knight, an exclamation mark accompanied by a chime appears over Shovel Knight's head when he manages to catch something from a pit with a fishing rod.
  • Stealth Bastard have enemies going ! when fully alerted.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Happens in the Mario & Luigi series with yet another !.
    • Paper Mario games give the ! in a small speech bubble over enemies upon them spotting you and characters also get this during cutscenes and special events. From Color Splash onward, the ! has a different appearance, appearing more jagged and having a pinkish coloration and it doesn't play in cutscenes unless it involves an enemy spotting Mario.
  • In the Super Robot Wars series, the "Alert" skill (which allows the user to dodge without fail the next enemy attack) uses the visual and auditory effect used for "Newtype sensations" (see above), even in the Original Generation games, which do not feature any Gundam characters or mecha.
  • Thwaite has the ! over houses about to be destroyed, with an 8-bit version of the Scare Chord from Metal Gear.
  • Undertale and Deltarune share the same ! sprite and sound effect. In Undertale, it plays over the Player Character whenever you're about to enter a Random Encounter. In Deltarune it plays over the enemies when they've spotted you. Some cutscenes in both games use the alert, but in the latter, only the ! is used without the sound in the majority of the cutscenes with few exceptions.
  • Coming into close proximity of an enemy tribe causes an exclamation mark to appear above each minion about to be involved in the ensuing fight.
  • Sleeping gooballs in World of Goo chirp and get an ! over their heads when they're woken up.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • TierZoo: True to the channel's style of applying video game tropes and lingo to nature documentaries, the ! effect from Metal Gear will sometimes be used whenever a predator relying on stealth to hunt is noticed by its prey.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Siege of the North part 1" Aang is surprised by a soldier, causing two white flashes next to him and a clear blinking sound.
  • Oddly enough, this appears at one point in the non-cartoony Batman: The Animated Series. The alertness lines are thin and almost unnoticeable, which may suggest that that episode's animators misinterpreted their appearance on the storyboard.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), this occurs frequently right when a Titan notices they're about to be attacked by a villain.
  • One of Chuck Jones' Tom and Jerry shorts plays with the "!" form of this, when Jerry runs off the edge of a building. After realizing there's nothing under his feet, he makes a "?" with surprise, then grabs onto it as the dot part falls away. When he falls, the question mark hooks onto a flagpole, saving him in the nick of time. When Tom runs off the same ledge, he makes an "!" in shock and grabs it, then falls past the flagpole. After noticing it, he bends the "!" into a hook shape, much too late for it to be any help.
  • In Totally Spies!, this occurs when the spies are about to be hit by a villain or when they spot a hot guy.

Alternative Title(s): Alertness Chirp, Shock Blink