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Barefoot Suicide

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In Japan there is a custom for people to take off their shoes before entering their homes, as to not track dirt into their houses. As a result of this line of thinking there is also a custom where people take off their shoes before they enter the afterlife as not to track dirt and such into their ethereal destination.

As a result of this Truth in Television, abandoned pairs of shoes in Japanese media have become symbolic of suicides, and they are also common in non-Japanese media. This is due to a common psychological effect. While most suicides are impulsive, taking off one's shoes does not require much preparations, and thus may be common.

Compare Seppuku, another Japanese form of ritual suicide.


As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed
    • Discussed Trope: Masumi Sera dismisses a death as a suicide despite the dead person's shoes having been found arranged neatly on the nearby roof of a building—it's a convenient visual symbol for fiction, sure, but very few suicides actually do this by the time she's a detective.
    • The Non-Serial Movie Detective Conan Film 06: The Phantom of Baker Street has Hiroki Sawada—who lives in a company's skyscraper—remove his shoes and stand at the ledge of the balcony before cutting away to a scene minutes later when his superiors, who have been trying to get into his room, find his shoes...
  • In the film version of Escaflowne, Hitmoi considers suicide at the start of the movie and takes off her shoes while hanging around the roof of their school (albeit she's in her socks).
  • When Asuka is found naked in a bathtub in Neon Genesis Evangelion after having her mind violated by one of the Angels, one of the indications that she's trying to kill herself (either by possibly slitting her wrists or simply starving herself) is the fact that her shoes are placed on top of her clothes which are folded neatly to the side of the tub.
  • In the first story of Douman Seiman's Nickelodeon, "Heart Food", a girl who suffered a bad breakup with her boyfriend falls asleep at the zoo, then wakes up, and then, with no one to stop her, removes her shoes and socks and prepares to jump into an exhibit full of ravenous dingoes. Thankfully, a tiger she befriended stops her.
  • A humorous subversion happens in One Piece, where Nami takes off her sandals before pretending to jump off a cliff in Weatheria, to trick some old men into letting her stay for two years.
  • Paranoia Agent invokes this trope in the intro, but without any actual suicide. The intro features the cast silently laughing whilst in perilous situations, and it begins with Tsukiko standing on top of a skyscraper holding her shoes in her hands.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, an unnamed woman does this before almost suffering a Psychic-Assisted Suicide.
  • Happens early on in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei when the professor tries to hang himself.
  • In A Silent Voice, Shouko jumps from her apartment balcony while barefoot.
  • Implied in chapter 59 of School-Live!. The girls find shoes next to a neatly-folded lab coat. In the same classroom there's a blackboard with "NO FUTURE!" scribbled on it.
  • At one point in Tokyo Godfathers, Hana notes that if she wanted to kill herself, she'd take her shoes off and jump off a bridge. Behind her, a woman is preparing to do exactly that. Thankfully, she realizes it and stops her.
  • In the first chapter of Zodiac P.I., a student's body is found hung behind the gym. The fact that her shoes are kicked off, helter-skelter, is taken at first as a sign that it she committed suicide, but her classmate Lili remembers that the girl was always very neat and tidy in life, and would doubtless have put her shoes down neatly. She then deduces that the real killer hung her body there, walked away backwards in her own shoes to leave no second trail, and then threw her shoes towards her body.

    Fan Works 
  • In gensoukoumuten's Touhou Project doujin Tiny, Tiny Daiyousei, the story kicks off when a woman on a riverbank during a storm notices Daiyousei struggling in the water and jumps in to rescue her. Sharp-eyed readers noticed that the woman's shoes were on the ground beside her at the start of the story, the implications of which are confirmed later when Keine shows up to check on her former student, who had lost her own daughter three years prior in a similar storm.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Adolescence of Utena it's strongly implied that Anthy is about to jump off the side of the Rose Garden when Utena goes to confront her, with one shot lingering on her bare feet on the edge. This mirrors a scene in the anime series when the same thing happens but with the addition of Anthy being in her nightgown and more explicitly about to jump off the roof of the dorm, and she actually does go over the edge before Utena catches her and pulls her back up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 2018 biodramedy A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the scene that indicates that Doug Kenny killed himself by jumping off the cliff is indicated by his glasses and shoes being neatly placed by the edge of the cliff.
  • In the 1966 Japanese movie The Face of Another, a young woman takes off her shoes before walking into the sea to end her life.
  • Subverted in Forrest Gump: Jenny absentmindedly slips out of one of her shoes while standing by a bridge, asking if she'd fly if she jumped off. Forrest is a little worried to hear her say that. Later on she actually does try to commit suicide, but doesn't take her shoes off and ultimately grows too scared to jump off.
  • Takashi Ishii's Freeze Me has Chihiro remove not just her shoes and socks, but strip down to her birthday suit before stepping onto her apartment terrace, where she disappears in a flash of lightning. It's presumed that she jumped to her doom at that moment. This is done to slough the shame of her past before stepping into the afterlife.
  • In Lenny Abrahamson's Garage, Josie takes off his baseball cap and shoes and neatly arranges them before committing suicide in a river.
  • A half-version in Inception. Mal, trying to get her husband to commit suicide with her, slips off one of her shoes while sitting on the ledge and lets it fall, to demonstrate she's serious about jumping and that The Apple Falls Far.
  • In Lethal Weapon (1987), the prostitute who falls to her death from a building onto the roof of a car is barefoot.
  • The Singaporean film I Not Stupid has a scene where Kwok Pin, after failing his final exam, attempts to throw himself off a building rather than face his grieving parents. He takes off his shoes and is about to climb up a balcony, but then he's interrupted by the police, who happened to bump into him while chasing after a bunch of punks.
  • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Tracy removes her slippers before attempting to drown herself by walking into the sea. James Bond saves her only to be attacked by her father's goons. After fighting them off and watching Tracy flee, Bond is left holding the slippers and musing that this never happened to "the other fellow" (ostensibly Prince Charming, but actually a Leaning on the Fourth Wall gag about Sean Connery).
  • Shin Godzilla opens with the Japanese Coast Guard finding a yacht adrift with only a pair of shoes and some papers onboard. The Coast Guardsmen who board the yacht say the owner must've "fallen overboard" in a way that suggests they've seen this before. The yacht belonged to Goro Maki, a zoologist who'd discovered a larval Godzilla decades ago, but his work was covered up and his wife died of radiation sickness.
  • In Tetsuo II: Body Hammer one of the cultists that kidnapped Tomoo's son taunts him on the rooftop by waving the kid's shoes in the air, tricking him into thinking they forced his child off the roof. Fortunately, the kid is safe. For now.
  • Titanic (1997). Rose takes off her shoes before trying to jump overboard, only to be saved by Jack. The whole thing is played for Not What It Looks Like when some sailors find Jack on top of Rose with her clothes in disarray, but Rose claims she nearly fell overboard while looking over the rail and Jack pulled her to safety. After everything is sorted out, Lovejoy quietly asks Jack how come she took her shoes off just to look over the rail, though it's implied he thinks they were making out after all.
  • Women on the Run does this in the scene where protagonists Su-yin and Mandy meets each other for the first time. Su-yin, after crossing her Despair Event Horizon, contemplates throwing herself off a building. She had removed her shoes and is looking over a balcony, but Mandy interrupts her.

    Literature 
  • In Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon, a detective wonders if he's come across a faked suicide when he finds a woman who took off her shoes and hung herself, but the left and right shoes are beneath the wrong feet. He eventually realises this was simply from the way she took off her shoes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Caprica, when Amanda Greystone is preparing to jump off a bridge, the camera shows a dramatic close-up of her feet gingerly stepping out of her shoes first.
  • Used as a plot point in an episode of The Commish: Tony happens to see a man fall off a bridge into the river in an apparent suicide but Tony realizes that he must have been pushed over because people usually take their shoes off before jumping and this man didn't.
  • The Never Suicide version occurs in Hunter when the Victim of the Week is bodily picked up and thrown from a balcony by the killer. Hunter and DeeDee note that the supposedly suicide still has both her shoes and her handbag.
  • In one episode of Mad Men, Don Draper tries to sell his ad idea for a hotel in Hawaiʻi. The proposal has a tag "The jumping off point" and the scene implies suicide (in several ways) — there are discarded shoes on the beach and footprints in the sand. The clients voice their concern, but Don insists it might be just a personal association. Then the others start discussing a movie with a similar scene (later identified as A Star Is Born). When Don asks later his creative director if that seriously makes him think of suicide, he answers eagerly while munching on a Danish pastry: "Of course! That's what's so great about it!"
  • A variation occurs in one episode of The Mentalist, which starts with the Victim of the Week staged to look like a suicide who jumped off a bridge. But the a rookie detective points out she's wearing one (high heeled) shoe and the other is nowhere to be found. It makes no sense at all that she'd have taken off only one before jumping, or climbed over the bridge railing on her own wearing just one heel. The inconsistency is suspicious enough to start a real investigation and sure enough, she's no suicide.
  • In the opening scene of Orphan Black, Beth Childs takes off her shoes and blazer before walking into the path of a moving train.
  • In Our Flag Means Death, Ed removes his boots prior to sailing into a violent storm.
  • In Squid Game:
    • Player 069 takes off his shoes before hanging himself.
    • Played with during the glass bridge game. The players take off their shoes for better traction, but the act is reminiscent of suicide by jumping.

    Music 
  • The man in Collective Soul's "The World I Know" video takes off his shoes before stepping up to the ledge to jump. For good measure, he takes off his socks too. It's not shown if he puts them back on after he changes his mind.
  • The music video of "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt is of the singer taking off his hoodie, shirt, and shoes, then his watch, and then all of his other belongings in a row by a ledge before he jumps. Overlaps with Snow Means Death.
  • The Vocaloid song "My R" is about a suicidal girl who sees a different person (actually herself) whenever she takes her shoes off to commit suicide.
  • Frank Ocean "Swim Good":
    I'm about to drive in the ocean
    I'ma try to swim from somethin' bigger than me
    Kick off my shoes
    And swim good, and swim good
    Take off this suit
    And swim good, and swim good, good

    Theater 
  • In the 2010 Argentinian production of the musical Spring Awakening, Moritz takes off his shoes and socks before shooting himself.
  • In Speaking in Tongues, this is the implied fate of Neil, as the only trace of him is the brown brogues he left abandoned on a beach.

    Video Games 
  • In drowning, drowning, the fact that Maia leaves her sandals on the beach is just one of the many signs that she is suffering from something serious. At the end of the game, the sandals are no longer there, showing that she is getting better.
  • Fallen London: A high-end Shadowy pair of boots are actually taken from a highly unusual suicide, where a man employed to catch executed criminals in The Ferryman's boat and make completely sure they never came back (a valuable service in a place where Death is Cheap) finally cracked, played one last game of Chess with Death, took off those boots and leapt into the "waters" to unknown but final fate. No one wants to touch them until the Boatman pushes them over to you (stating they "know where the bodies are buried"), and to even inquire about them requires massive clout with the Constables.
  • In Sunless Sea, you can find an uninhabited island surrounded by footwear bobbing in the surf, implying that they pulled this.
  • Yandere Simulator provides an interesting take on this. It's possible to kill other students by shoving them off of the school rooftop. In doing this, you'll automatically tear their shoes off as they fall and place them by the railing to make it look like a suicide. You can even leave a note with a high enough Language skill. This provides an excellent means of disposing of a rival without getting caught. If the body is found, the school will take notice and put up a chain-link fence around the rooftop; if you dispose of the body another way (such as making your rival 'land' in a dumpster and then cover the body with trash to hide it) but leave the shoes, the school officials will dismiss it as a mean-spirited prank.
  • The prologue of Yomawari: Lost in the Dark has the protagonist, Yuzu, being bullied at school by her classmates. It ends with Yuzu going up to the school roof, standing at the edge. The camera pans up to the sky to display the title, before panning back down to her removed shoes at the ledge, suggesting that she threw herself off the roof. This ends the prologue and begins the main plot.
  • In Yume Nikki, some shoes can be found around where Madotsuki jumps off the side of a building, before the credits roll with a blood splatter in the middle of the screen. While she doesn't actively take them off, the shoes being present from the beginning of the game hint that it's been planned for a while, at least before the beginning of the game.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 
  • Near the end of Anders Loves Maria, Tina is seen slipping out of her shoes before jumping in front of a truck.
  • Played With in Mob Psycho 100. In Chapter 100, Reigen removes his shoes and socks before running out to speak with Mob who was producing a massive psychic storm as a result of his powers becoming unrestrained. He never expresses an actual desire to kill himself, but Reigen's action was a clear sign of him accepting that he wouldn't make it out of the storm alive.

    Real Life 
  • When Evelyn McHale jumped off the Empire State Building in 1947 and landed on a limousine, it seems she took her shoes off first. (Image is not super gory. She looks asleep, but she is dead.)
  • It is not uncommon, at least in the West, for suicides to take off not only their shoes but all their clothes before the act. Opinion is divided: it might be a symbolic parting with the last things that bind them to this world before leaving, or an instinctive wish to leave the world in the same state in which they arrived, or a final act of intent that they are going to go through with it. It would be embarrassing to fail in the attempt and to be found with no clothes on, after all...
  • This Japanese language workbook depicts a woman about to jump off a building, her shoes and a note nearby. It illustrates the phrase "Please do not die."


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