Follow TV Tropes


Arc Symbol

Go To
"There was a signal... like pictures, flashing pictures. They just appeared on every TV, every computer, anything with a screen."

The symbolic equivalent of Arc Words or an Arc Number. A picture or symbol appears multiple times and places over the course of a Story Arc. No explanation is given for the symbol until well after the eagle-eyed fans have noticed it and started debating its meaning. These often either serve as Foreshadowing, or tie into the theme of the story.

Note that this is distinct from Sigil Spam, which is about organizations who put their symbol on everything they possibly can. But it is possible for the two tropes to overlap: If a symbol that has been appearing everywhere since the first episode is revealed in the season finale to be the symbol of the Ancient Conspiracy that secretly rules the world, then it's an Arc Symbol and Sigil Spam.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom has the crescent moon on Koro-sensei's tie. It's often used as a reminder of just how powerful Koro-sensei is.
  • Bleach: The cross is associated mostly with Quincies. While their five-pointed cross is an example of Sigil Spam, the Latin cross can often be found inserted in some subtle, or not so subtle way, in any chapter that contains anything relevant to Quincies. One of the author's favourite tactics is to have cross-shaped window frames, especially in the hospital scenes featuring Quincy-in-denial Ryuuken Ishida, where he'll often be shadowed by or beside a cross-shaped window (he also possesses ties that contain little Latin cross patterns on them). It can even be found as far back as Chapter 1, as the blanket pattern on Ichigo's bed. The fandom joked for years that the bedspread meant Ichigo was secretly a Quincy... then the final arc revealed Ichigo really is half-Quincy, after all.
  • Boarding School Juliet has three:
    • Walls symbolize Dahlia Academy's divide between the two warring countries, Towa and the West, and their respective school dormitories, the Black Dogs and White Cats. Walls are also used by the Official Couple as a scale they compare the obstacles in their goals to.
    • As expected of having Romeo and Juliet as a loose inspiration, important developments for Romio and Juliet happen in the vicinty of balconies (or something similar, like a lighthouse's viewing deck).
    • Crosses are prominent early in the series, whether as an object (rosaries exchanged between Romio and Juliet) or the image in general. This culminates in one of the first climaxes of the story where Romio and Juliet have to duel with real swords in order to maintain their image of being rivals while keeping their relationship secret, and invoking Pocket Protector with the aforementioned rosaries in order to fake a mortal blow.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has the Laughing Man Symbol.
  • Kill la Kill: Four-pointed stars are everywhere. They are used as rank symbols on Goku uniforms, sparkle in the air when Life Fiber powers are activated, appear as scars on Kiryuin Ragyo's back...
  • Turtles in K-On!.
  • In Last Exile, a vaguely peanut-like shape starts to appear more and more in various places over the course of the series. Then comes the last episode...
  • Sparkles in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is not just there so the titular mechas will literally be flashy. They're eventually revealed to be an important tool for the humans to evolve and to interact with different celestial bodies.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • SEELE's logo is a mix of Sigil Spam and this trope. It turns out that their logo is the face of Lilith, the Second Angel.
    • Dolls are a recurring symbol/motif for Asuka. She calls Shinji & Rei "dolls" who make no decisions of their own. Asuka's mother was clutching a doll when she killed herself.
    • Shinji's Walkman is cycling constantly between tracks 25 and 26. Episodes 25 and 26 are the last two episodes of the anime, which make up the Gainax Ending, in which the plot fades away into a psychological exploration of the characters. (Or alternatively, episodes 25’ and 26’ make up The End of Evangelion.)
  • The seemingly omnipresent penguin-head logo in Penguindrum, which appears on several objects such as a Kanba's backpack, the back of a skunk, and the memory-erasing slingshots that Masako uses.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Spirals.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, random shots of Creepy Centipedes begin to appear in the series during the Aogiri Arc. Then Yamori sticks one in Kaneki's ear while torturing him, which remains there until his eventual escape. After the Time Skip, Kaneki has started wearing an Eyepatch of Power decorated with a centipede pattern and his incomplete Kakuja form resembles one, causing CCG to assign him the alias "Centipede".
  • Uzumaki has spirals in a way entirely dissimilar to the above.
  • The Eye of Wdjat symbol (not quite the Eye of Horus) on Yu-Gi-Oh!. Appears on all the Millenium Items except the Key, and on people's foreheads when they are wielding or being controlled by the Items' magic. It also crops up on artifacts that are connected to the secret of the Pharaoh's past. It is defictionalized in a couple of the cards, where it is finally named.
  • The symbol of Infinity in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's for the Yliaster arc. It's the very first shot in that arc's first episode (which is revealed to have been made by a monument and its reflection in the water), it appears whenever the Three Emperors summon one of their ace cards, and the circuit they need to complete to summon the Ark Cradle is in the shape of that symbol.
  • Episode 26 of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL introduces new main antagonists known as the Tron Family who possess "crests" on parts of their bodies. Thirty episodes later, we still don't know what the heck their symbols mean!

    Comic Books 
  • In 52, the number 52 itself is used constantly as references to the main plot. It's an Arc Number, but also symbols and concepts associated with 52 (such as card decks) are used.
  • Black Science has a circle and nesting crescents symbolizing the onionlike nature of the eververse. It shows up constantly across multiple realities.
  • Luther Arkwright: The five-armed spiral in Heart of Empire.
  • Doors in The Multiversity. Among other things, comic book pages are called "doors" and turning a page is compared to opening a door.
  • The Sigil in CrossGen comics' Myth Arc.
  • The Pyramid Deliveries logo and doomsday clock in Watchmen.
    • Initially used as a reference to the doomsday clock, the Comedian’s smiley face becomes it’s own independent recurring symbol in the latter parts of the story.
  • A square with X on it in White Sand, marking the influence of new warrior-priests.
  • A gnarled tree keeps showing up during Greg Rucka's clever run on Wonder Woman (Rebirth).
  • The X symbol for the X-Men.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Fire and light in The Croods
  • Rocks in The Good Dinosaur.
  • Frozen (2013):
    • Doors, both open and closed:
      • After the accident when the princesses were children, the castle doors were ordered closed, and a closed door constantly divided Anna and Elsa. Anna is overjoyed that the doors to the castle will be open for Elsa's coronation, while Elsa wishes she could keep them closed to protect her secret. After all is well at the end, Elsa decrees that the doors will never be closed again, denoting that she no longer feels she must conceal her nature.
      • Elsa's "I Am Becoming" Song "Let It Go" has the lyric "Turn away and slam the door" and concludes with her doing just that. The theme of slamming doors shut is brought up again in reprise of "For the First Time in Forever", in which Anna begs Elsa to not shut her out from her life again.
      • The duet between Anna and Hans is called "Love Is an Open Door". Hans locks Anna in the drawing room once his duplicity is revealed. Also, when they were on the balcony discussing their trouble connecting with their siblings, Anna closes the door to separate them from the rest of the party (including her sister).
    • Elsa's signature snowflake, as it symbolizes the beauty and danger of Elsa's power. They Sigil Spam her dress and her ice castle. They also appear as pock-like marks on Anna's skin after she is cursed with a frozen heart.
    • Gloves are associated with hiding one's true self. The king gives Elsa a pair as she begins to conceal her powers, and she temporarily removes them for her coronation ceremony, for which she also opens up the gates and lets herself be somewhat vulnerable for the day. When she and Anna fight, one comes off and her powers come out, and she throws the other one away in "Let It Go," when she's decided to embrace her magic. Hans also wears gloves throughout the film, only removing them for The Reveal scene, which is the only time he shows his true self. He puts them back on when he declares he will be "the hero" of the story and puts his mask back on to meet with the dignitaries.
    • Hands in general. Hans offers his gloved hands to Anna repeatedly, pretending to open up to her while really concealing himself, and Elsa attempts to both cover hers and keep them away from people, not touching anyone or, in contrast to Hans, even giving the appearance of connecting with people. She looks at them in horror when she's terrified by her power, and in amazement when she realizes she can create life, and often uses them to make gestures as she casts magic, although her Power Incontinence makes it clear that they're unnecessary for it to work.
    • Boats are associated with hope. The girls lose their parents when their ship is overtaken by a storm, Anna looks longingly at the ships coming into the harbor during the excitement of "For the First Time in Forever" and is knocked into an unsteady boat when she meets Hans, their Falling-in-Love Montage includes a shot of their shadows on the sail of a boat as the two dance in a lighthouse, a ship nearly falls onto Kristoff and Sven as they race to rescue Anna, and when Elsa thaws the Endless Winter and the fjord melts, they are all find themselves standing on the deck of one.
    • Light is also associated with hope. The girls' joyful play in the beginning of the movie is spurred by the presence of Northern Lights, but after the accident the lights are no longer visible in the sky. The lighting grows progressively darker during "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and completely fades at the end, after the parents' ship sinks at night. The light returns after a Time Skip for Coronation Day, when Anna sings "they'll be light" again "for the first time in forever." Anna and Hans dance on a lighthouse during their Falling-in-Love Montage, Elsa concludes "Let It Go" and rediscovering the beauty in her powers at the break of dawn, wolves attack Anna and Kristoff at night and challenge their resolve, and they meet Olaf note  in the daytime. Elsa reveals she doesn't know how to thaw the Endless Winter and accidentally freezes Anna's heart at sundown, the trolls give hope for a cure at dawn. Hans extinguishes all light sources at The Reveal of his Evil Plan to kill the sisters and take over the kingdom, and sentences Elsa to death at night with one of the lights in the chandelier out. Elsa then breaks out of her cell and Kristoff makes choice to return in day. When Olaf finds Anna, he relights the fire as he brings back hope of her surviving the curse, and the film's last shot in the epilogue is of light glinting off a snowflake at the top of the Arendellian castle.
    • The crocus is a symbol of spring and rebirth and is part of the official crest of Arendelle and is seen adorning various props and official regalia, including the scepter and orb Elsa takes as part of her coronation ceremony, her gloves, and her coronation dress and cape, as Sigil Spam, but also contains thematic significance. Elsa throws away her gloves and cape and replaces her dress with an ice dress when she flees Arendelle, signaling her leaving behind both the responsibilities that tied her down and her home and much of her hope, but the symbol still appears embedded within the walls of the ice palace she constructs, indicating they are still a part of her.
  • Lord Shen's stylized sun symbol that haunts Po, as well as the yin-yang symbol that haunts Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2.
    • As expected for a martial arts movie, the yin and yang symbol when referring to Po's status as the Dragon Warrior. As a panda he's black and white, and at the end of the third film his Golden Super Mode as a master of chi manifests as a golden dragon that briefly formed the shape of the yin and yang.
  • Hands are frequently shown and discussed in The LEGO Movie which coincides with its themes such as "you can build anything if you believe you can" and "coexisting makes the world around you a better place".
  • Reflections in Mulan.
  • The kingdom's sun insignia in Tangled. Finding it hidden in her artwork is what leads Rapunzel to realize she's really the long-lost princess.
  • Medals in Wreck-It Ralph. It reflects/represents the titular protagonist's desires and Character Development. The Hero's Duty medal he achieved through game-jumping represents his need to be loved and respected, while the one given to him by Vanellope as an appreciation for helping her build a car represents his selfless devotion to his friend(s).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The color blue in (500) Days of Summer represents the titular woman The Hero is pining for. Throughout the film, The Hero sees and ignores many objects with this color which serves as a Foreshadowing that they are not meant to be.
  • In Beyond the Black Rainbow, eyes figure prominently throughout the movie. The title sequence features a close-up of a dilating pupil and is set to the song "Forever Dilating Eye" by Sinoia Caves. Underneath his contacts, Barry has black eyes. Barry kills Rosemary by crushing her eyes. Barry claims to have seen the "eye of God" during his 1966 psychedelic experience. In the 1966 flashback scene, Barry has drawn a third eye on his forehead in preparation for his psychedelic experience in the black liquid. The scene later gives viewers an overhead view of the pool of black liquid, which looks like a dilated pupil when viewed from above.
  • Cloud Atlas: The comet-shaped Birthmark of Destiny that all the main characters have (although all in different places.)
  • The standard of two snake heads facing each other in The Movie of Conan the Barbarian.
  • The eye of the jungle Amy draws in Congo.
  • The spiral in Dark City.
  • In the DC Extended Universe:
    • The Kryptonian "S" in Man of Steel.
    • In SHAZAM! (2019), Billy has his compass from the fair, while Doctor Sivana has his magic eight ball. Both of them feel they can't turn to adults for help and instead seek guidance from their trinkets.
      • The stuffed tiger at the fair. Besides being a Mythology Gag to Talky Tawny from the comics, it signifies Billy's journey, when he first asks his mother to get him the tiger as a boy. Later on, after he realizes that his mother deliberately abandoned him at the fair, during his fight with Sivana at that very same fair, he finds an identical tiger toy and gives it to a scared little girl to comfort her.
  • The rainbow in Eyes Wide Shut. The girls at the party tell Bill that they are going "where the rainbow ends", there are images of rainbows throughout the movie, including a costume shop with that name, and in the early versions of the script, the password was to be "Fidelio Rainbow". It symbolizes Bill's desire to chase after an impossible dream "at the end of the rainbow".
  • The silhouette of a tree in Gone with the Wind.
  • Clocks are also a recurring motif in High Noon as it counts down to the final showdown.
  • The Hunger Games: Fire is strongly associated with Katniss Everdeen throughout the story. Of course, fire usually represents revolutions, even in real life, so it fits. The mockingjay symbol also frequently pops up as early as the first film. It eventually becomes the rebellion's sigil.
  • The film Im Juli revolves around a Sun symbol.
  • Joe Versus the Volcano features a distinctive jagged line that appears several times during the movie. His company's logo, the entrance to the factory, a crack in a wall, a lightning bolt, and a path up the volcano from the title.
  • Balconies in Letters to Juliet
  • Books in Liberal Arts.
  • Being a film about a man who only has one day to live, clocks and time are frequently shown and discussed in The Living Wake.
  • The Natural has lightning. It splits the tree open at the beginning of the film, is carved into the bat "Wonderboy," strikes before Roy knocks the cover off the ball in his first at bat, appears on a patch that the Knights wear, and again strikes before Roy hits a pennant-winning home run
  • The New Daughter: Ants, which are creeping mound-dwellers like the story's antagonists. Sam gets an ant farm from school and tells his dad what he learned about them, namely that there's only one female ant and the hive can't last without her. This turns out to explain the reason the mound-walkers want Louisa.
  • The X-Men Film Series features many instances of X symbols.

  • Brave Story boasts a star-shaped sigil which is found on various locations all over the world of Vision — which, when used in harmony with a certain magical mirror, creates a portal between Vision and the real world.
  • Blood in Carrie represents power as well as violence and death.
  • Clear Light of Day, by Anita Desai, has hands EVERYWHERE.
  • The Trystero post horn in The Crying of Lot 49.
  • Deltora Quest has the Resistance logo (a V with short diagonal lines extending down from the tips, forming a partial M). On a more sinister note, there's the Shadow Lord's Brand (a black handprint inside a circle with a hole in the palm), which he is fond of spamming.
  • Harry Potter: The line-in-a-circle-in-a-triangle symbol recurs in the last book, as it symbolizes the Deathly Hallows. Harry briefly saw it in the previous book in a flashback about Voldemort's family but didn't really pay it any mind.
  • 'hours...': the symbol drawn next to the first Finn's name keeps cropping up in odd places.
  • The Hunger Games has Katniss' mockingjay pin, which becomes a symbol of La Résistance and serves as the cover for the first book.
  • Mark S. Geston's Lords of the Starship has frequent mentions (though no depictions) of a mailed fist and pegasus insignia worn by various enigmatic characters (actually the same immortal man in different guises) who drive the plot over the course of a century and a half.
  • Keith Roberts' Pavane stories, later assembled into a novel, are all linked by a symbol (designed, of course, by Roberts, who was an artist as well as an author). The symbol depicts two pairs of arrows, one converging and one diverging, within a circle.
  • The Reader (2016) has a circle with one line curving down and three curving across, resembling a book on its side. Main character Sefia is able to tell who might have information on The Conspiracy based on the presence of the symbol.
  • Red Moon Rising (Moore): A stylized black wolf head in a red moon, the tag all wulves are tattooed with at infancy that proves their species.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The eye tattoo on Count Olaf's ankle. The eye turns out to be the official insignia of the secret organization V.F.D., with every member of the organization up to a certain point sporting the same tattoo on their left ankle.
  • Shaman Blues has the spiral, which always accompanies the Mysterious Mist and somehow ties in with ghosts going power-crazy and putting Jacob Marley Apparel on.
  • The dwarf rune of The Summoning Dark in Thud!.
  • The Wheel of Time series has a lot, including the Dragon's Fang and the Flame of Tar Valon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien glyphs in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: they first appear in Episode 4, "Eye Spy", written on a blackboard in a guarded room in the Todorov building, long before Garrett (and Coulson) starts scrawling them as a symptom of GH-325 induced hypergraphia.
  • The Eye of Rambaldi in Alias.
  • America Unearthed: The appearance of the Hooked X, Cross of Lorraine or Freemason square and compass.
  • Arrested Development: During Season 4, an ostrich shows up a lot. It symbolizes the family members learning to be self sufficient.
  • Arrow:
    • In Season 1, the strange symbol of Tempest turned out to be a map of the Glades.
    • Drugs frequently pop up as early as Season 1, Foreshadowing the arrival of the Mirakuru as an important Plot Device for Season 2.
    • While masks have been there since the first season, the third shows an increase number of them, referencing the season's Central Theme of identity.
  • Black Mirror: The mysterious signal in "White Bear" that appeared on every screen across the world and transformed people into "Observers"; people who stand by and watch everything while those not affected run rampant. Turns out it's a replica of the lead's boyfriend's tattoo.
  • Doctor Who: In Series 5, the cracks in the universe appear at least Once an Episode. Notably, they have the exact same shape every time they appear. As is usually the case with the show, the most recognisable feature of the season again acts as foreshadowing.
  • The Blue Sun logo in Firefly was going to be this until the series was so rudely interrupted.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • The first season has two:
      • Circles or/and round objects frequently pops up. S.T.A.R. Labs itself has a torus design, same goes for its Particle Accelerator and the Pipeline in it. A lot of focus is also given on the wheels of Dr. Harrison Wells' wheelchair. Several characters (including the titular hero's) have circle shaped Chest Insignias. Going back in time to is also a Central Theme. They are all connected after The Reveal that "Dr. Wells" is not actually real Dr. Wells. He's actually The Hero's Arch-Enemy from the future who traveled back in time to kill the former as a child but failed so he killed his mother instead. In doing so he lost his powers, so he looks for the real Dr. Wells (who will be responsible for giving The Hero his Super Speed in the future since the speed is necessary for Time Travel), killed and replaced him, build S.T.A.R. Labs himself then construct the Particle Accelerator so The Flash will become The Flash much earlier. he then starts Obfuscating Disability so he can recharge his powers. In short, he literally had everyone running around for him. Oh, and the ultimate threat in the Season Finale is a wormhole connecting to The Multiverse.
      • Cages also frequently pops up. It's mainly because The Hero puts his enemies to a special cage in the accelerator's Pipeline and his main goal is to give justice to his father who was Mistaken for Murderer. At the same time, it also signifies how he still hasn't moved on since the fateful night his mother was killed. When he finally accepted what happened to his mother at the Season 1 finale and his father finally being freed in Season 2, he returns to the same prison his father was put into to visit a Worthy Opponent and shows him how he's finally free from the past.
    • After his tenure as Barrier Maiden in the Speed Force during the Time Skip between Seasons 3 and 4, Barry has gone slightly crazy and start writing strange symbols on any surface he could touch. Hinted halfway through Season 4 and revealed over the course of Season 5 via his Kid from the Future Nora to be a futuristic cypher.
  • In Hannibal the Ravenstag — a deer with feathers instead of fur — shows up a lot in Will Grahams visions and hallucinations. A statue of one also appears in Hannibal Lecter's office. As becomes apparent over the course of the series the Ravenstag is Will's subconscious suspicion of Hannibal's true nature. As Will becomes more aware the Ravenstag turns into a humanoid figure with stag antlers referred to by Bryan Fuller as the Wendigo, which he finally sees standing in Hannibal's place, showing he's realized the truth.
  • Heroes has the eclipse, everything from a real one to an illustration by Isaac. Another is the RNA symbol, a single helix with half of some base pairs coming off of it. This is also used as the symbol for Takezo Kensei, as it is stated to be the characters for "god send".
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • The yellow umbrella is a subversion — we already know that the umbrella signifies the mother, but Ted doesn't.
    • The blue French horn signifies Ted and Robin's relationship.
  • Allusions to the Round Table turn up repeatedly throughout Merlin, (usually people gathering in a circle around Arthur, or Arthur making a speech on equality, or heck, even Uther's rectangular dinner table makes the round one conspicuous by its absence) though four series in and it still hasn't shown up for real.
    • It finally does show up in Series 5, highlighting Arthur's reign.
  • The Dharma logo in Lost.
  • Butterfly motifs and the stylized Zetrov "Z" in Nikita.
  • Orphan Black
    • Mirrors and windows appear frequently in the cinematography. By their very nature, mirrors reflect one's own image and windows provide glimpses into the truth. Fitting for a show about identity and secrets.
      • Sarah looks into or is reflected by mirrors three times in the premier, each of which has to deal with her taking on a new persona: in the restroom after she steals Beth's purse, during her transformation into Beth, and in the precinct bathroom when she realizes being Beth will take a lot more commitment than she expected.
      • When Katja is murdered, the bullet shatters the car windshield, representing how Sarah's "normal" life had been irreversibly changed.
      • Rachel is often shown in front of windows and she is the only clone that was raised self-aware and knew (part of) the truth about her origins from the start.
      • When The Reveal regarding the Castor clones is made, Rudy is introduced to the audience as Sarah watches him at the other side of a containment room. The final shot has them staring down at each with the window between, reflecting how the Castors are Spear Counterparts to the Ledas.
    • The winged fish appears throughout. It is the symbol of the Proletheans, and it appears on characters aligned with them. So far, it has been seen on Helena (carved onto her knife), Tomas (engraved on his ring), Maggie Chen (branded onto the back of her neck), and Mark (on his belt buckle). One of their communes also bears it on a signpost.
  • The three dots in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Discussed/lampshaded/subverted: the symbol is so simple that some characters question whether it's actually a symbol, or whether Sarah's obsession with it is a sign of Sanity Slippage. The fact that it was first found in a Room Full of Crazy doesn't help.
  • True Detective: Spirals and naked women with horns are recurring symbols in a series of murders.
  • The tattoos in Twin Peaks.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • Season 1 puts a lot of emphasis on roads, signifying characters' dilemma on where will they go now/next as the world is no longer safe.
    • Blood for Season 2. The season emphasize how the group is becoming a family. At the same time, this is the first season to feature several major Character Deaths.
    • Walls and gates/doors for Season 3. The season tackles The Hero having to open up and let people in after shutting himself and the group from strangers. There is also a lot of emphasis on how manipulative the current Big Bad is to the people he meets and lets in to his group.
    • Crosses (both crucifixes and x-marks) and fire for the first half of Season 5, "W"'s for the second half. The first half mainly takes place in both a church and a hospital. A priest also joins the group. The Arc Villains starting the second half is a group called Wolves.
    • Starting Season 5, baseball bats begin to frequently appear everytime Glenn is around. Speaking of which, an engraving of Lucille, Negan's trademark bat wrapped in barbed wire, ultimately serves as this for Season 6. Glenn is brutally murdered by Negan using that weapon in the Season 7 premiere.
  • The runic symbol of the Coven of the eight in Season 7 of Once Upon a Time.

    Music Videos 
  • The rotating red circles in Escape of the Witch, Salmhofer, representing Hansel and Gretel, the "red fruits".
  • The music video of Katy Perry's "Chained To The Rhythm" puts a lot of emphasis on circles, from several circle-shaped objects appearing left and right (specifically; spheres, loops, saucer rides, balloons, astronaut helmets, and most importantly the giant hamster wheel) throughout the music video, to the dance choreography mostly having a circular motion. In addition, the music video takes place in a fictional amusement park named Oblivia. The song's lyrics depict a world of repetition and ignorance, where technology renders us oblivious to people's real problems, and the aforementioned giant hamster wheel is intended to compare people's tendency to do those things to a hamster using a wheel: doing nothing productive and going nowhere. Further, the previous lyric video shows a hamster eating round shaped foods such as burgers and cakes served in miniature cup plates.
  • Holland wears the same shirt in "I'm not Afraid" and "I'm so Afraid". The lady dancing through the streets in I'm so Afraid also wears it.
  • Hearts are a common motif in Clover, the Electro Swing conceptual album by OR3O. Kel and the three ghosts have visible hearts, with Kel's heart being broken. As seen on the thumbnails for the characters' theme songs (and whenever there's a Follow the Bouncing Ball segment during a music video, as seen in the end of George's "100 Years"), the individual characters are represented by hearts that, with the exception of Kel's heart, are rotated. George by a heart rotated 90 degrees clockwise, Brenda by an upside-down heart, and Dave by a heart rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise. The symbol of the project itself is four hearts rotated and arranged to resemble a four-leaf clover.



  • The Three Virtues of BIONICLE
    • Eventually revealed to be a map of the remains of Sphereus Magna - Bara Magna and its two moons Bota Magna and Aqua Magna.

    Video Games 
  • Albion has the Eye of the Goddess symbol that turns out on rock faces in different places on different continents. No-one knows what it is until you meet the Enlightened Ones and they reveal it marks their secret teleporter caves, which Harriet can open for you.
  • In Assassin's Creed, the Assassins' insignia, resembling a stylized letter A as well as the opening of their hoods, and to a lesser extent the Templar cross.
  • In The Beginner's Guide, Coda's games features plenty of lampposts and three dots arranged in triangles. Coda's friend Davey suggests that the lampposts represent the completion of a project, but is unsure about the dots. The end reveals that Davey put the lampposts there himself, and has him begging Coda to explain the dots.
  • Chains in BioShock. Andrew Ryan's objectivism is professed as "the great chain," and there are many decorative chains in the architecture of Rapture as well as tattooed on the protagonist's wrists.
    • Bioshock Infinite gave us the bird or the cage to represent Elizabeth
    • Burial At Sea gave us the Ace of Spades to represent Jack Ryan.
  • The crest of the Azure in BlazBlue. It's visible in the logos for the first and last entries in the series Calamity Trigger and Central Fiction. Ragna and Nu's crests are each incomplete versions of it. The full thing shows up when Ragna activates his azure grimoire in Calamity Trigger's true ending. In Chronophantasma it appears on each of the coffins in the "Grave Marker of Bases" stage. (Nu's stage), and finally on the exterior of the Amaterasu unit when it is revealed late in Chronophantasma.
  • Bloodborne:
  • Borderlands 1: Multiple:
    • The symbol of the Vault.
    • Each gun, shield, and grenade brand has its own symbol, but Hyperion's italicized H is the most important to the plot.
  • Darkest Dungeon has the stress symbol, a three quarter circle with five lines extending out. Although the most obvious appearance is whenever a character is stressed or fails a test, it also appears on several monster designs and locations, and even resources - it's on the family crest, for example. It's implied to be the symbol of whatever monstrous creature the Ancestor summoned. It even shows up on entities not directly related to That Which Came From The Portal; Bandit Vvulf has it on his shield.
    • The Necromancer's collar
    • The Cultists' headgear
    • The Hag's crown of antlers
    • The silhouette of the Prophet, with the five swords in his back making the lines
    • The cursed anchor of the sunken crew
    • The Pigmen neck grabbers
    • The gates of the Weald
  • Dark Souls has the Darksign, a ring of fire surrounding the dark. It symbolises the Age of Dark kept in check by Gwyn's age of fire. Also the inherent darkness of humanity kept in check by Gwyn's branding them with the darksign itself, which caused them to reject their true dark nature and be drawn to Gwyn's fire.
  • The reversed peace sign in Deadly Premonition. It's actually the sign of the Red Tree.
  • The Blood Dragon in Dragon Age: Origins, as seen everywhere from the game box to the game over screen.
  • Chains also figure heavily in Dragon Age II in keeping with some of the themes of the game (the meaning of slavery and freedom; certainty versus free will) and Kirkwall's long history as a center of the slave trade. As Fenris reminds Anders, "No one is truly free."
  • The stone knife in Fallen London, particularly in the "What the Thunder Said" storyline. Also candles and mirrors.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the player can find images of the American flag painted in red, white or blue colors in many areas across the first three DLC packs. It is hinted, and confirmed in the fourth DLC, that the flag is the image of Ulysses, the Greater-Scope Villain waiting for you in The Divide, and the flag and its colors denote where he's been and what he found there.
  • In Far Cry 3, the Chinese Knife. Every time you see it something weird is going to happen.
    • The tatau. They not only symbolize the extra skills that Jason unlocks, but as the tatau grows, the more Jason becomes like the Rakyat in mindset.
  • Spheres in Final Fantasy X. The name of the world is Spira, people use physical spheres to make video recordings (and a major Sidequest involves an Apocalyptic Log using them), the biggest pastime is Blitzball (an underwater football-rugby hybrid in a floating spherical arena), and the very imagery of spheres may evoke the game's theme of Vicious Cycle.
  • Hysteria Project has the mysterious H-emblazoned maze tattooed on the protagonist's arm.
  • The X symbol in Kingdom Hearts. It's been all over the series from the very beginning, but Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance reveals just what it means: it is known as the Recusant's Sigil, and Xehanort uses it to mark vessels for his Grand Theft Me plan.
    • There is also the blue eye symbol that ordains many Dark aligned Keyblades. Blank Points explains it represents the Master of Master's Gazing Eye letting him see into the future.
  • Lakeview Cabin Collection has a red eye show up throughout the episodes inscribed on walls, when the player isn't looking.
  • The Silent Princess flower in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is a rare breed that may be dying out. The flower represents both Zelda (in her frustration over the position she's been forced into in life) and the hope of Hyrule to flourish after disaster. The final shot of the Golden Ending is of a cliffside covered in these flowers, symbolic of Hyrule finally undergoing a rebirth after the defeat of Ganon.
  • In Mass Effect, the Citadel's council chambers and the Serpent Nebula, where the Citadel is located, are shaped like Reapers. Look at the map of the council chambers to see its resemblance.
  • White petals in Metal Gear, from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater onward. They're primarily associated with The Boss, but the motif also represents death and the loss of innocence (when the petals turn red).
  • The Artifact symbol in the first Metroid Prime game, symbolizing the twelve artifacts that must be found to access the Impact Crater, though also appearing prominently throughout the rest of the game.
  • The bulldog logo crops up very often in Mirror's Edge, until Faith discovers that it belongs to the private security company Pirandello Kruger, one of the conspirators in Project Icarus.
  • No Man's Sky has a mysterious, floating, rhomboid object with an even more mysterious, pulsating red orb in its center. All that's known about it is that it's called "The Atlas".
  • The Symbol of Torment in Planescape: Torment, tattooed on the nameless hero's left scapula.
  • Potatoes in Portal 2, as well as the moon.
  • An X shape on a yellow background is prominent in Puyo Puyo Tetris, such as on the packaging of physical copies and the loading screens. This is Ex's symbol. It's visible on his hair and is used in his strongest attack.
  • Resident Evil 4 has the Los Illuminados crest, which is shaped like the Las Plagas parasites.
  • RiME has spirals and keyholes, both emblematic of the game's central tower. And, in turn, of the father's difficulty in entering his dead son's room.
  • Silent Hill has the Seal of Metatron, which Dahlia falsely claims is the "Mark of Samael", inscribed by Alessa in key Otherworld locations in an attempt to Mercy Kill herself and prevent the birth of the Order's god. Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room feature the Halo of the Sun, which is used as a Save Point in the former, and marks the portals to and from the latter's Otherworlds as wells as the doors to the staircase connecting them.
  • In The Spectrum Retreat, the double circle logo of the game is everywhere in-universe, from windows to floor patterns, to even the design of the robot staff. As it turns out, it's because it's the symbol of Spectrum, the company that designed the hotel.
  • Each 3D Mario game since Sunshine has a certain symbol associated with it.
    • The sun is the symbol of Super Mario Sunshine. The game's stand-in for Power Stars are the Shine Sprites, and one of the main goals of the game is to restore sunlight to Delfino Plaza by gathering the Shine Sprites.
    • Stars are the symbol of Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel. They represent the game's theme of exploring space, Power Stars return to being the main collectible, and Mario is assisted by baby stars known as Lumas.
    • The Tanooki tail is the symbol of Super Mario 3D Land. It is found on the logo, it is the "mascot powerup" of the game through the Tanooki suit, and many of Bowser's minions are equipped with a Tanooki tail.
    • The Cat tail is the symbol of Super Mario 3D World. Much like the Tanooki tail in its predecessor, it is found on the logo, is essentially the "mascot powerup" of the game, and several enemies are equipped with Cat abilities including Bowser himself in the final battle.
    • Super Mario Odyssey:
      • Hats. The new mechanic introduced in this game involves using a sentient hat named Cappy to capture and possess creatures, the titular Odyssey is an airship shaped like a hat, the Cap Kingdom has sentient hat ghosts, and buildings and coins shaped like hats, and plenty of inhabitants in other worlds wear them too.
      • The Moon. Mario has to collect Power Moons, the moon itself if visible in every kingdom, a moon design is in the New Donk City plaza, the Insert Song mentions moons and the final three kingdoms all take place on the moon: Honeylune Ridge (aka the Moon Kingdom, natch), the Dark Side of the Moon, and the Darker Side of the Moon.
  • They Bleed Pixels has one that looks like the claw that your hands transform into. It can be found pretty much everywhere; in the background scenery, on some platforms, those gates that can open and close are shaped like it, the knife the headmaster is always seen with is shaped like it, and on the front cover of the book of claws.
  • Among several unidentified glyphs appearing in Thief: The Dark Project, one in particular, resembling an eye inside a semi-circle, reappears numerous times throughout the game, including several cutscenes and in Constantine's mansion, with no explanation given until the last third of the game, when it is revealed to represent the Trickster.
    • There are actually lots of other eyes in the series as well. The Eye is an artifact Garrett is trying to steal through much of the first game, and it also requires an actual human eye to be made to work. Garrett loses an eye which gets replaced by a mechanical eye. In the second game, you can throw little eye-shaped cammeras to look around corners and on high roofs. There are also lots of security cammeras in the form of brass heads with a single large glowing eye, and one of the curses used by some guards in the game is "curse your eyes". And in Victoria's realm, there are large flowers with huge eyeballs for blossoms. Which always stare at you as you keep moving through them.
  • Touhou Project: A red and white yin-yang, both representing the Hakurei, most prominently the main character, Reimu Hakurei, as well as the balance and philosophy that Gensoukyou is founded upon: Humans and Youkai being able to live in (relative) peace by having made the Conflict Ball between them something that's Inherent in the System.
  • Undertale:
    • Flowers. They're often associated with wishes or desires (some of the echo flowers in the marsh repeat the wishes people made on the ceiling crystals), and golden flowers are especially important. The game begins when the Player Character lands on a bed of golden flowers and later survives a second fall when it's broken by a similar bed in an improbable location. They're also used as decoration in Toriel's house and the final area. However, Undertale does not use the usual association of "innocence", as Flowey demonstrates. Eventually you learn that the golden flowers are buttercups, and were the Fallen Child's favorite; they also used them in an attempted Thanatos Gambit as buttercups are toxic when eaten fresh.
    • A rune consisting of three triangles, a circle, and wings repeatedly appears, first on Toriel's dress but also in various shops. It's called a "Delta Rune" and symbolizes the "angel" in The Prophecy who has seen the surface, and will either free monsterkind from the Underground or destroy them all. In the Pacifist Ending, Asriel—who did visit the surface—takes on an angelic form and, after the Player Character defeats and saves him, breaks the barrier to free everyone... In the Genocide Ending, the Fallen Child, who originally was from the surface, and becomes an Abstract Apotheosis of Level Grinding in this route, kills everyone until there's literally no-one left, and then erases the world itself.
    • Eyes, especially the left eye. In the Genocide route, Mettaton's right eye is missing, and both Undyne and Sans' left eye (or eye socket, in Sans' case) glow brightly during their boss fights. The player's attack field (which is eye-shaped) is also selected from the left side of the screen.
    • The ' :) ' shaped smiley face is associated with determination gone bad and/or wrong, appearing mostly in the Genocide route (it will eventually replace the '!' that appears on a random encounter) but also in the Final Dungeon of the Pacifist route and, of course, as Flowey's default expression.
    • Hearts represent many things in the game and appear several times on many characters and buildings, but most importantly they represent souls. The playable character's heart is red, which is implied to be the colour of Determination, while monster's are upside-down and white. Towards the end of the game, it's also revealed that there were seven other human children who fell down into the Underground, and their hearts are Orange, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Purple, which are implied to be the colours of Bravery, Justice, Kindness, Patience, Integrity and Perserverence respectively. Different coloured hearts also reflect different characters throughout the game, such as the heart of the Child turning blue against Papyrus, purple against Muffet and yellow against Mettaton.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney, the magatama is used to signify anything and everything spiritual and/or related to the Fey clan.
  • The Yatagarasu logo in Ace Attorney Investigations.
  • The Borromean knot from Remember 11, which even appears in the game's logo and as a placeholder for the "end of message arrow" in the text. It represents Lacan's real-imaginary-symbolic triad. It's also the first clue that the Arc Number for this game is 3, not 11.
  • The One-winged Eagle in Umineko: When They Cry.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, images of lion heads eating a sun are all over the place, and written on one of the warehouse walls is "Memento Mori if the nineth lion ate the sun."

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints has the red cat eye.
  • Dork Souls 3 has a spoon, based on the joke that replaces the First Flame with the Pudding of the Lords.
  • Dusk's Dawn: The Evil Twin's cutie mark, as well as the De Noir family crest, is the Invisible Pink Unicorn logo. What this has to do with anything relevant to the story is anyone's guess.
  • The trailers for RWBY place great emphasis upon Remnant's shattered moon- each of the protagonists is shown in the air with the moon (or other circular white object clearly representing the moon) behind them, and as each protagonist finishes their respective battle, the camera silhouettes them against it. The same image is repeated at the end of the series' theme song.
  • The yellow sign with the (/) symbol over a heart with a cat and bunny in There she is!!.
  • YouTube Poop Music Videos (YTPMV) tend to associate Jack Black with an octagon due to his appearance on Sesame Street being a popular source for those videos.

  • The yeti symbol in Alice And Kev.
  • Creative Release contains tons of apples and their precise meaning changes depending on the context.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has a sigil of an eye with a line through it. It shows up on the walls of containment cells, on spirit-binding magic, and on a necklace worn by a character's mother. It's eventually revealed that the spirit-binding magic was actually a union of magic and computing, and the other occurrences of the symbol are remote interfaces for accessing the magic computer. Also alchemical symbols — Antimony for, well, Antimony Carver, Mercury for Renard the Fox (or rather, for his body-snatching ability — both it and the symbol were associated with Coyote in the backstory), Lead for the Court's Protector and the great Sigil Spam of Bismuth for the Court itself.
  • Bequerel's face in Homestuck.
    • Homestuck has been getting full of these, but increasingly common is the "broken record" symbol, symbolizing The Scratch, as well as various other themes related to breaking and repeating things. Homestuck walks a fine line between Arc Symbols and Sigil Spam.
    • Some of these symbols include: The logos on the the Sburb house logo, Kids' shirts, Zodiac symbols, playing card Suits, the Aspect symbols, the Skaia Spirograph, the triangular fractal, the Carapacian barcode tatoos, Pool balls, the Incipisphere diagram, and more.
  • Superego has the circle and all its variations, representing each of ten protagonists and their Personality Disorders.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Order of the White Lotus secret society inconspicuously integrates their symbol into their surroundings, to denote a friendly place.
    • Images of lion-turtles also appear in several places before a real lion-turtle provides Aang with information about the Deus ex Machina ability he uses in the finale.
  • BoJack Horseman has a combination of the Griffith Observatory and the night sky as a recurring symbol. The observatory apparently represents idealism and what someone truly wants. It was there that Herb and BoJack first planned Horsin' Around years ago, and where the latter returns once he gets what he thought he most wanted in life, but without Herb as planned; Sarah Lynn ends up there to confess to BoJack all she ever really wanted before dying, and it appeared behind her in her videos; it even appears as part of the stage set during the game show Mr. Peanutbutter hosts in part to distract himself from Diane separating from him. The night sky is prevalent through some big moments, and probably represents existential insignificance, regret, and the people Bojack lose through the course of the series. Bojack helps Penny and her friends release balloons with glow sticks in them into the sky instead of going to the dance the night he makes one of the very worst decisions of his life. Sara Lynn dies under it in the observatory as mentioned above. It shows up in the intro of the final season as Bojack reflects on the mistakes he's made. And then the very last scene of the series sees Bojack and Diane sitting under it in uncomfortable and sad silence, unsure of what to say to each other and knowing their friendship has run its course.
    • Exclusive to Season 5, there's the big Philbert balloon shaped like Bojack. It's used to represent Bojack's loosening connection to reality and himself as his painkiller addiction increases. When he finally loses it after strangling Gina, he goes up the stairs he keeps seeing in his dreams to find nothing but the balloon there.
  • Gravity Falls has this all over the place.
    • The most notable example is the Eye of Providence which shows up everywhere; often, it is anthropormophized with arms, legs, and a top hat. Eventually it turns out that this symbol is actually a character, Bill Cipher, the Big Bad of the series.
    • An image from the opening credits and a few other places depicts the Cipher Wheel/Zodiac, with the aforementioned Bill Cipher surrounded by symbols for various characters: the pine tree from Dipper's hat, the shooting star and llama from two of Mabel's sweaters, the question mark from Soos' shirt, the fish from Stan's fez, the pentagram with an eye from Gideon's tent, the six-fingered hand from the Journals (i.e., the Author/Ford's), the stitched heart from Robbie's hoodie, an ice bag reminiscent of "Time Traveler's Pig" and a pair of glasses. Fans debated whom some of these might refer to. While originally intended as just a cool image, it became Ascended Fanon as a way to defeat Bill, with each person standing in for their symbol. The ice bag represented Wendy for being "cool," the glasses Fiddleford for his intellect, and the llama Pacifica, who had borrowed that sweater from Mabel earlier in the finale.
    • Eventually a recurring image of an eyeball X'ed out shows up. It refers to the Society of the Blind Eye, a Well-Intentioned Extremist group who erase people's memories of the supernatural.
  • In episodes of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic where the Mane Six receive their Plot Coupons that will become keys to open the box at the Tree of Harmony, the audience can see flashes of "rainbows" made up of their six coat colors. These are usually quite obvious at the ending of the episode and when their eyes flash showing they've learned a valuable lesson about The Power of Friendship, but subtle hints can be seen by Act 2 of each episode that advances this arc.
  • Phineas and Ferb has the members of the cast being represented by shapes.
    • Phineas' triangles is the most obvious. There's the obvious ones, such as Phineas' head, and then there's the ones that are snuck in the background to show texture in literally every episode, usually in foliage and rooftops.
    • Ferb is represented by rectangles. His body is shaped like one if you don't count his nose, and rectangles appear in the background almost as often as triangles.
    • Isabella and Candace are both represented by semicircles. Their heads are shaped like semicircles, with Candace's semicircle having the flat side be on the back of her head, and Isabella's flat side being on top.
    • Baljeet is represented by circles and Buford is also represented by rectangles, but this doesn't pop up as often as the others, appearing only in the credits of "Tip of the Day".
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, eyes figure prominently in Season 4. Several times, a character is revealed to be Double Trouble in disguise when their eyes turn yellow and reptilian. Octavia explains that Catra clawed out her right eye as a child. Grox is missing an eye. On Beast Island, when the signal induces despair in Bow, Micah, Entrapta, and Swift Wind, their eyes turn dull. Scorpia's eyes glow red when she connects with the Black Garnet. When Hordak learns that Catra exiled Entrapta to Beast Island, viewers receive a close-up of his eyes filling with tears. Bow fires an exploding arrow that ignites in Hordak's face, causing Hordak to fall to his knees and cover his eyes with his hands. Horde Prime has multiple eyes on the right side of his face which he harvested from his clones, according to character designer Rae Geiger. Horde Prime's clones have green eyes, and Hordak's eyes change from red to green when Horde Prime overrides his mind. After Etheria is pulled out of Despondos, Entrapta's irises change from red to green.
  • Steven Universe gives us the four-diamond symbol, hinting at the existence of The Great Diamond Authority, the enigmatic rulers of Homeworld and the Gem Empire. More modern pieces of Gem architecture and machinery showcase a three-triangle symbol, hinting that the death of Pink Diamond was part of the rebellion 5,750 years ago.)

    Real Life 
  • According to conspiracy theorists, every instance of an eye, triangle, circle, swastika and comma (which looks like an inverted six) is a reference to the Illuminati. The secret society allegedly controlling the world apparently has nothing better to do than to plant secret hints to their existence for people to notice.
  • The Super S, which has appeared in various places all over the world since the 50s at least. Its origins are heavily disputed, but almost everyone under a certain age seems to recognise it.
  • The crosshair-like symbol the Zodiac killer used to sign his letters with.


Video Example(s):


The Zodiac

The symbols on that mysterious Bill Cipher wheel are revealed to be a prophecy: if ten people associated with those symbol join together, they create a circuit that could destroy Bill Cipher forever.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArcSymbol

Media sources:

Main / ArcSymbol