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Empty Eyes

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"Ever look into his eyes? There's nothing there."
Angel, "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been"

Lack of pupils, and customary light reflection; iris shading goes from the usual radial to gradient; eyelids drop. Yep, this character is suffering from the "Empty Eyes" trope, a condition denoting that the character is dying, dead, distracted, shocked, traumatized, mind-controlled, broken, in a state of Tranquil Fury, completely insane, or some combination of the above.

When used comically, it usually denotes the character is either airheaded, lost in thought, or simply in a blissful state. This variation is most often seen in anime and manga, though it's also been used in Western Animation.

Due to the condition of shock causing the eyes to dilate, realistic live action will never have this unless the producers don't know better. Could be way to show someone is so shocked they haven't blinked for a while, because the tears that accumulate would make the eyes more reflective and the pupils harder to see. Pushed for effect in Break the Cutie scenarios.


Sister trope of Prophet Eyes, and the two may coincide as repeated trauma could give someone a Disability Superpower.

Subtrope of Reflectionless Useless Eyes. Compare Dull Eyes of Unhappiness, Thousand-Yard Stare, Mind-Control Eyes, Heroic BSoD and Angst Coma.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • After the climax of Sailor Moon S, Usagi emerges from her battle against Pharaoh 90 with blank, horrified eyes.
  • Azumanga Daioh: Sometimes invoked by Sakaki, particularly when she's either daydreaming, or when she's suffering from Cuteness Overload.
  • In Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger, Hols' Super Mode has blank, angry eyes, indicating that after seeing red, no amount of looking at anything else can stop him.
  • In Assassination Classroom Karma alone in class E lacks eyeshine in his design. Coupled with them being drawn a bit wider, it makes him look a little unhinged compared to the others. Given that a lot of his attitude is from being let down horribly by a teacher he once respected, there's definitely a sign of being broken there.
    • This may also be due to his psychopathic and manipulative behaviour, since his eyes apparently have always lacked the shine.
    • Both Asanos have this as well.
  • Happens to Takiko in Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, after Genbu devours her soul.
  • In Heat Guy J, this is how Clair is first introduced at his dad's funeral, before he throws a grenade at his father's grave. It happens to him later in the series, when he goes into an Angst Coma, and when he comes out of the coma to rescue his bodyguard/friend Giovanni from the titular J.
  • Death Note: Happens with Kiyomi Takada and Naomi Misora under the influence of the Death Note; arguably a case of Mind-Control Eyes, as well.
  • Kishou Arima from Tokyo Ghoul, which combined with his Scary Shiny Glasses, makes him look quite intimidating. This detail turns out to be significant, as it hints towards him being partially Blind and a Death Seeker.
  • In Kemono Friends, empty eyes are used to represent Friends born from endangered or extinct animal species like Crested Ibis or
  • Hinata from Naruto, as well as the entire Hyuuga clan.
  • In Skip Beat!, Kyoko gets these more and more as the message of her mother mentioning on TV that she has no children settles in.
  • Shimoneta: Exhibited by Oboro in chapter 10. Tanukichi mistakes Oboro for a member of Gathered Fabric and wrestles him to the floor, which is when Tanukichi realizes something is "off" and uses his foot to confirm his suspicions. The inspection causes Oboro to silently arch his back as he experiences his first orgasm. After which, he's seen smiling with a faint blush.
  • In Fate/Zero, both the protagonist Kiritsugu Emiya, and the antagonist Kirei Kotomine, constantly have empty eyes.

    Comic Books 
  • Note that empty eyes can also merely mean that the artist was too lazy. A prominent example (got even a Take That! on that behalf in a satiric comic) is Little Orphan Annie.
  • Used to imply mind control in Heart of Empire.
  • Lady Shiva stops Robin from going after Clyde Rawlins when he goes to what Tim knows it the man's certain death by pointing out that a look in his eyes should tell Tim that regardless of physical health Rawlins died with his family and there's no way to stop him going after their murderer even if he has no chance at avenging them or survival.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): When Artemis dies her jade green eyes go flat, losing all highlights and shading, to indicate she is really gone.

    Fan Works 
  • Italy temporarily gained the traumatized type in Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità. After Germany pulled out a Browning Hi Power on Japan and Japan pulled out his katana on Germany, Italy had had enough of their cock fight.
    It only took one look at the utterly devastated form of their precious beloved, one look at normally limpid brown eyes dead with misery and grief to do all three to those two nations. Simultaneously. And then some.
  • The Sacred and the Profane: The eyes of the Fallen Angel Zirah, aka Mr. Rah, are as bright, blue, and depthlessly empty as the sky. He's the sort of being who honestly does not understand why one shouldn't kill a baby simply because it's the most expedient way to stop it from crying.
    You couldn't have eyes like Mr. Rah's and not have something lurking underneath the surface. It wasn't that there was anger or hatred or suppressed violence in their blue depths. That was the point. There wasn't anything in Mr. Rah's eyes.
    It was creepy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the original 1975 version of The Stepford Wives, Joanna's robot double has these when she's first seen.
  • Jaws had Quint's memorable quote about how a shark's eyes look like a doll's eyes - cold and empty.
  • Halloween (1978) had Dr. Loomis describe Michael as having "the blackest eyes. The Devil's eyes." This was back when he was a little boy having just murdered his sister, and he would only get worse from there.


  • Evanescence's song, "Exodus", mentions in the last verse "so much more dismay in empty eyes".
  • The track "Riding Tigers" on Desperate Straights by Slapp Happy goes "An empty gaze/Sitting like that for days."

  • Karzahni and Tren Krom were described as having these in certain BIONICLE media, though the former was illustrated with bright yellow eyes and later released as a toy with red eyes, and the latter was also given glowing eyes because of the writer misremembering.
  • "Beast Changer" (Savage/Noble) from the Beast Machines line had literally empty eyes in his Noble mode. Some think that this was a deliberate decision,note  others say that the toy was simply released incomplete — at any rate, Noble had normal eyes in the TV series.

    Video Games 
  • Gadget Trial: The titular trial is pitting two families of E-Series cyborg girl soldiers against each other to see which is better. Contrasting the protagonist White family, are the E-Series Black who are programmed for perfect obedience, lack of character and minimal self-awareness. Gleamless eyes and stiff expressions come with it.
  • Dark Arle in Puyo Puyo 7 has these, when under control of Ecolo.
  • Touhou:
    • Giving Koishi Komeiji these was common in fanart even before it became official as of Hopeless Masquerade. The reason why is a very odd combination of the potential uses of this trope - yes, she's air-headed, but more significantly Koishi is a former mind-reader who, after being reviled for her powers, sealed away her own ability. As a side effect she lost the ability to read her own mind, so she's more or less an Empty Shell with a complete Lack of Empathy, wandering around and acting on her unconscious impulses. She's either insane or close to enlightenment, depending on who you ask.
    • Junko was depicted like this in the spin-off manga Visionary Fairies in Shrine, with dull irises, tiny pupils and an empty smile. In her case it's justified because she's less a person and more a vengeful spirit, the purified embodiment of a woman's grudge against those who killed her son.
    • The fan-made anime Fantasy Kaleidoscope gives this to Yuyuko, who falls under the "dead" distinction by virtue of being a Cute Ghost Girl.
  • Yandere Simulator: One of the signs that Ayano has become "visibly insane" is that her eyes go blank. This is fitting, because her true nature is that she's close to emotionless, with what emotions she does have reserved for love for her Senpai and hatred for her rivals. Word of God says that being visibly insane is less her actually going crazy (since she already is), but more her insanity becoming more apparent to onlookers. So, it's only fitting that her eyes go blank when this happens.
    • Ayano can also torture someone into becoming an Empty Shell. Once the process is over, they'll have these.
    • Shiromi also has these. In her case, it's to show how odd she is, and not linked to craziness.
  • The Elder Scrolls

    Visual Novels 
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Clair Vaux Bernard always has these eyes, representative of her status as merely Yasu's storyteller, unable to interfere with anything that actually occurs within the story she tells.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry
    • Used when Rika is found dead by the others.
    • Given to Rena at the height of her insanity during the Atonement Arc, same with Shion during hers, it comes and goes.
    • Satoko gets these at any time when her Evil Uncle is around and subjecting her to abuse. It's a sign that she's found the courage to stand up to him when her pupils and highlights come back.
  • The Fruit of Grisaia: In her bad ending Michiru gets these, after her attempted suicide leaves her with permanent brain damage, all but dead inside.

    Web Comics 
  • The page image is Michael Kappel of Collar 6, deep in the midst of a Heroic BSoD after his parents were killed by Unfriendly Fire.
  • Characters in Homestuck who are dead gain completely blank eyes if they are seen in Dream Bubbles afterward. It doesn't affect their personality or eyesight, though. Andrew Hussie's Author Avatar also had empty eyes even before his in-comic death. Whether that is significant or not remains to be seen.
  • In Genocide Man, all of the Genocide Men have cold, dead stares (represented in the art by blank white eyes) due to the lifetime of horrors they've each seen and committed. One character actually thought the eyes were cybernetic, because she didn't believe that human eyes could look like that.
  • In Questionable Content, Hannelore's eyes go flat when she is avoiding engaging with a police officer.
  • Ava's Demon: Implied regarding Odin's sociopathic brother Olai. He's drawn with ordinary pupils, but...
    Odin: Olai... d-doesn't care about anyone but himself. M-my mother once s-said... he's missing the window to his soul. Wh-when you look into his eyes, it's like he's looking r-right through you... like you're n-not really there.

    Web Original 
  • Dino Attack RPG:
    • Most Mutant Dinos and Quasifigus Hybrids have blank white eyes.
    • After being attacked by a Mutant Raptor, Greybeard's scarred eye appears washed-out in color in comparison to his other eye. He was also nearly blind in that eye.
    • When Rex's body was possessed by Baron Typhonus, his eyes turned blank white.
  • In Alice Isn't Dead, the eyes of the Narrator's soon-to-be stalker The Thistle Man are described as "...flat. Like a bad painting of a face," shortly before he deliberately reveals himself as a Humanoid Abomination.

     Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe: In "Mirror Gem", Steven frees Lapis Lazuli from her imprisonment in a mirror, but the gem on her back is still cracked and her eyes have no irises. In the next episode, Steven heals her gem and she regains both her irises and her ability to create water-based wings for herself.


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