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Empty Shell

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"All I felt... was emptiness."

"A sad shell possessed by the limitless power of the Master Crown, no more than a manifestation of the crown itself."
English description of the True Final Boss, Kirby's Return to Dream Land

This character is... barely a character. For many reasons, they've gone past the Extreme Doormat and Stepford Smiler and become nothing. They aren't a pushover or empty of real personality, they are completely dead inside. They are this side of a Convenient Coma because there is still something there — they move, talk, eat, sleep — but they have no drive, ambition, or capacity for emotion. Basically, the body is an active biochemical machine, but the part that made them alive and human is gone.

In Real Life, the closest term is probably "catatonic". However, catatonia is as likely to result from the inability to initiate a movement as it is from lack of consciousness; the individual could be anything from fully conscious to nearly comatose, and you could never tell. More functional examples can usually be explained as a lack of a sense of self; they cannot form meaningful emotional connections to anything within their lives and often imprint on others, which often makes them appear as if their personality was cobbled together from scraps. True examples of this phenomenon (that are on-going) may be hard to find as those struggling with this typically develop a personality or commit suicide.

How did this happen? Here are a few ways: regular old Crapsack World-induced trauma, psychological torture, Mind Control, Mind Rape, Lobotomy, and/or high-end uses of an Agony Beam. It can be done metaphysically by being drained of all their Liquid Assets or Life Energy or having their Soul or part of their Soul Anatomy stolen. Then again, sufficiently radical body alterations can do this too, like being "upgraded" into a machine body, the aftermath of Literal Split Personality transformation to the original body or a less-than-successful attempt at resurrection.

Sometimes, it's curable — other times, it's a permanent Fate Worse than Death. Expect these characters to be the preferred People Puppets for telepaths and demons for being not so much Weak-Willed as having no will at all. Contrast The Soulless, who are like Empty Shells filled with drive and ambition, and lacking all moral restraint. Compare this to Soulless Shell, someone who died and was brought back without their soul. See also Too Broken to Break.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Casca is reduced to a barely conscious, childlike state after the Eclipse. It takes her a number of years and the efforts of Schierke, Farnese and the Flowerstorm King in Elfhelm to restore her to sanity, but she still has lingering PTSD from the horrors she and her comrades suffered during that nightmare.
  • Darker than Black: "Dolls" are assumed to be this by nearly everyone (not only does the Yakuza have no qualms trafficking Dolls for Sexbot use, but efforts to save one were viewed as misaimed and pointless by those who knew what she is). Like with Contractors having no emotions, it was disproven, but they still are at worst comatose and at best submissive and so passive that people working with them all the time are surprised if they use their medium abilities without being told to, or show they care for someone. One was even successfully able to pretend that he was a corpse.
  • Death Note: Sayu Yagami, after she's rescued from a kidnapping by her father. It's implied that the sheer shock and fear that she went through while hostage caused her to fall into an unresponsive state, as she refuses to speak to her parents or move, to the point where her mother has to push her around in a wheelchair. Her last appearance in the manga (which wasn't included in the anime) is a brief cameo at a coming-of-age holiday ceremony in Japan — she's depicted as being able to stand again and smiling, though her eyes and overall expression still have an eerie vacancy.
  • Death Parade: This happens to Chiyuki in her backstory. She was at one point a successful figure skater, but a serious injury made it so that she would never walk again. After this, she isn't ever shown smiling again. She mostly just sits around with a Thousand-Yard Stare until she commits suicide. When she describes this to Decim, she explicitly tells him that she became empty and felt like she was "nothing".
  • Delicious in Dungeon:
    • This is Mithrun's backstory; he was part of a dungeon-delving expedition where he was lured into a Lotus-Eater Machine by a demon, which consumed all his desires, save for a burning murderous hatred of demons. Now he only lives to find and kill demons, but needs a caretaker to ensure he sleeps, eats, and goes to the bathroom, because he no longer feels any bodily urges, and would otherwise just keep on going until he collapsed from exhaustion in pursuit of this single-minded goal.
    • Thistle eventually meets the same fate, but in his case the demon ate all his desires, leaving him essentially comatose. The only reason he can't be called dead is fact that he's still breathing.
  • Flame of Recca: The clone Aoi does this to the local healer Yanagi by erasing her memories and pushing back her thoughts, removing her consciousness so that the satanic monster resulting from the fusion of two villains, Tendo Jigoku, can absorb her soul without being repelled by healing powers. It takes the timely arrival of her lover Recca to bring her back to her senses.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The league of failed potential rulers of Amestris who became the puppet soldiers of the golden-toothed doctor after being regarded as useless spares once Bradley accepted the Philosopher's Stone is very much implied to be this. They attack the groups with single-minded efficiency, demonstrate no outward emotions other than wide-eyed stern blankness, and sacrificed themselves under a transmutation circle just so that Edward will be transported into the center of Father's country-wide one without a second thought.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (2003):
    • Shou Tucker ends up creating one of these when he uses a Philosopher's Stone to recreate Nina's body. It's breathing and technically 'alive', but it has no mind and it has no soul. Unfortunately, Tucker's mind is so far gone at this point, he doesn't realize it.
    • There's also what happened to Ed's friend Rosé Thomas as the show gradually slid away from the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale. She's left mute and pregnant after some soldiers who invaded her hometown gang-raped her, ending up so empty that she was used first as a figurehead of a Religion of Evil, and then just as an unresisting body for the Big Bad to possess. She snapped out of it with Ed's help, and seems to have improved dramatically judging by her brief appearance in the epilogue.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Takiko Okuda was mentioned to have returned from the book to the "real" world as this after summoning Genbu and being consumed by him...causing her own father to mercy-kill her. Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden reveals that there was a bit more to the story than that, however...
  • Inside Mari: Following the recollection of memories she had forgotten or been repressing, Mari quickly developed a fever. Once she woke up, she was completely nonresponsive to anyone. She would not speak, move, or even eat unless fed. Her friend Yori refers to her as "empty" while she's in this state.
  • Kurobara Alice:
    • This happens to Agnieszka. As the corollary to her horrifying Break the Cutie process, the poor girl stabs herself to almost death; a vampire named Maximilian, however, stabs her almost lifeless body with a magical blade, and renders her soul-less body like this. The only way to "revive" poor Agnieszka is to implant someone else's soul in her. Decades later, a young woman Azusa willingly gives her soul in exchange for her boyfriend/student Kouya's life and is transferred to Agnieszka's magically preserved body, creating the titular "Alice", the female protagonist of the manga.
    • Metaphorically speaking, Kouya himself becomes this after the leader of the vampires and male protagonist of the series, Dimitri, fulfills his promise to Alice and saves his life. When Alice finds him again, she sees that he has crossed the Despair Event Horizon as a consequence of what happened and now is pretty much a pale shadow of the Ordinary High-School Student he used to be.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth: This is what happens to Alcyone in the second season, after she's captured and Debonair's Mind Control weakens. From then on and almost until her death, the poor woman is seen as vacant and despondent to almost anything; Lantis is the only one who can make her react, and that's just because she thinks he is Zagato, the man she loved.
  • Maria no Danzai: Mari Nagare has been completely destroyed by her son's death and swore revenge on the monsters that caused his death in a prank gone wrong. She threw her life away, divorced her husband, changed her name to her maiden name, Maria Akeboshi, cut off contact with her friends, got plastic surgery, and two years later, she's a nurse at the bullies' school to kill them off secretly. She puts on a façade of a kind and caring nurse that the students can go to for advice and emotional support with a kind smile on her face. While her kindness to the students is genuine, especially to bully victims, Maria is emotionally dead behind her polite smile. Maria doesn't even get any satisfaction from her killings apart from knowing that her son's bullies are being punished. While Maria gets genuine happiness from helping the victims of her son's killers, she knows that it will not last because it implies she is already prepared for the consequences after everything is over.
  • Mazinger Z: The Iron Masks and Iron Cross are cyborgs fabricated by Big Bad Dr. Hell with corpses, mechanizing their brains (their helmets are a replacement for their skulls) and programming them to obey him loyally and without question. They have no name, no identity, no personality (and they barely have half a face left under their helmets) and no family. They don't feel hesitate or fear and they don't fear death... and they don't mind.
  • Nabari no Ou: Miharu, the main character, starts like this. He is indifferent to everyone and everything around him. The only thing he makes an effort at is being apathetic. He changes with time, though.
  • Naruto: This is the final fate of those trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi and bound to the God Tree. They are drained of their chakra, personalities, and defining features, reducing them to shells of their former selves before they are formed into White Zetsu soldiers in Kaguya Otsutsuki's army.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Rei Ayanami, who starts out as one of many identical empty clone shells in the Rei-quarium, with a new one taken out and uploaded with her personality as each successive one is killed. Of course, considering Rei's default personality, it is unclear whether there is a significant difference.
  • Princess Tutu: Mytho begins the series as one, having literally shattered his own heart in order to seal away the Raven. As a result, he can't bring himself to do anything, not even think, unless someone tells him to.
  • Return to Labyrinth: While not completely empty-shell, Sarah has no real drive, desires, or ambition, and a large portion of her soul has been removed.
  • Rozen Maiden: Dolls who lose their Rosa Mystica lose consciousness and become ordinary dolls (albeit with their eyes closed). It is implied though that their souls live somewhere else, particularly in the manga.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Whenever someone has either their Pure Heart Crystal (S) or Dream Mirror (SuperS) taken away, they almost automatically become this. They're seen in a lethargic state, with Mind-Control Eyes, and almost unable to do/say anything. It's also stated that if they don't have them returned soon, they'll simply wither and die.
    • In the anime, a similar effect happens in the first part of Stars when someone gets a shard of Nehelenia's broken Magic Mirror stuck in their eye. At first, the victim will act normal if languid and obsessed with their mirrors (a girl screams and claims she's got almost no reason to live when Makoto knocks her handmirror off her hands), then they'll simply languish away until they die.
  • Sensei no Susume: The 'baby' that the angels are given to raise for a year into a creature that's as close as possible to being human. They have absolutely no memories, thoughts, or emotions of their own. Everything needs to be taught to them.
  • Texhnolyze: This is revealed to be the fate of all those living outside the underground city of Lux. Basically, the will to live has been drained out of them, leaving "ghosts" of their former selves. Lux was created to preserve what little will was left.
  • Vampire Princess Miyu:
    • Those who either willingly exchange blood with Miyu or are bitten by her have their minds placed in a sort-of endless dream while they act like eternally smiling and "happy" empty shells. A good example is Miyahito from the first OAV, a boy who exchanges blood with Miyu after his beloved girlfriend Ryouko is the first victim of the Monster of the Week. Himiko talks to him after he's bitten by Miyu, but the boy happily ignores her worries and sits down on a swing... and later, he's seen there again, not paying attention to anything.
    • The fourth OAV shows us Miyu's dad, a human who exchanged blood with his wife/Miyu's mother aka the Shinma woman who was the Guardian before Miyu. When Miyu's mother explains this to her daughter, she says she deeply regrets having transformed the man she loved into a shell — by that time, the man is so indifferent to everything that when the Shinma come to claim Miyu and both she and her mom run away, he simply stays there and allows himself to be captured.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Millennium Eye has the power to remove people's souls, leaving their bodies like this. Luckily for Grandpa, Kaiba, and Mokuba, this is reversible. Strings is another example of this whenever Marik isn't controlling him. The manga explains that Strings went into a catatonic state after he murdered his parents.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: Pre-Character Development Reira was adopted by Himika Akaba because they were an empty shell. Reira was from a war-torn country, and lost any sense of individuality, will, or feeling as a survival mechanism. Himika wanted to exploit this to make them a Child Soldier to fight Academia. This is also reflected in their deck: their cards are based on cameras and film and copy whatever the opponent uses to fight.

  • Sistine Chapel: If you look up at "The Creation of Adam", you might notice that Adam is pretty uninterested in his own creation from the completely blank look on his face. Not to mention how he reclines like nothing's going on while a being of infinite power is flying around two feet away from him. This unusual lack of expression from Adam gives reason to believe that the moment depicted in the fresco is not exactly when Adam was created, but the moment just before God breathed life into Adam and gave him his immortal, rational soul, allowing him to experience emotion, reason, and awe as an image of God.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Victims of the Anti-Life Equation are turned into this, forever and ever — and all it takes is to hear the Equation once. Fortunately, the Life Equation can counter it.
    • Superman: Doomsday is nothing but pure animalistic rage and bloodlust. Psychics such as Dubbliex and the Martian Manhunter have tried reading his mind and picked up nothing but that and it's so powerful that Brainiac noted it was hard to keep a Grand Theft Me going with him.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Queen Atomia's victims were once human and have been reforged into her robotic seeming minions which loyally follow her every order. Whomever they once were is functionally dead and while they have enough grey matter left to be susceptible to a Jedi Mind Trick, not even Amazonian medical technology or magic can do anything to help them or give them true emotions, motivations, or personal volition.
  • ElfQuest devotes a plot point to an elf so tortured and mutilated by his captors that he has no arms, no legs, and no mind. He's got rockshaping powers, though, and can be prodded into using them in whatever direction they want him to, just to avoid worse pain.
  • Sykes in The Intimates is essentially a walking vegetable. He doesn't talk and his face never changes expression; while he seems to be capable of going to school and taking tests and the like, his pals Duke and Punchy more or less treat him as their Companion Cube. Apparently, his (lack of) behavior is due to the side effects of his psi-shield, which he needs in order to keep his psychic powers under control.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • The Emplate body from Generation X. Created to be a vessel for another character's personality, it becomes bestial and mindless when not 'occupied'.
    • The Breaker-Apart of the Bad Future seen in Immortal Hulk issue #25, which is the Hulk, completely hollowed out by the One Below All long ago, leaving only the body as its puppet to destroy everything, everywhere, a Hulk in the truest sense of the word.
    • Man-Thing exists more or less in a mindless state, unable to hold onto any moments of temporary lucidity and motivated only by empathy.
    • In her one-shot comic, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23 says that she was effectively this during the time she spent as a prostitute. Earlier, the Facility actively attempted to make her this, by depriving her of emotional connections and subjecting her to horrific physical and emotional abuse to strip her of her humanity, and her thoughts in her crossover with Daken reveal that she had so little sense of self during her captivity that she truly didn't realize the things they did to her were even wrong. Her mother even believed they succeeded until Laura revealed that Rice sent her to kill Martin Sutter and his family, and that she chose to spare her son, proving that however severe the damage, she still holds on to part of her humanity.

    Comic Strips 
  • Except for Asok, everyone in Dilbert has been reduced to this by the mindlessness of the workplace.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amenaza, Konohaji is granted immortality and locked in a Room 101, trapping her in a state of I Cannot Self-Terminate for decades. She is in this state when she is found by Ichigo.
  • In Antiphony, the suffering Laila goes through drives her insane and eventually turns her into an empty shell.
  • In Being Dead Ain't Easy, after the battle with Yami Bakura, Seto remains in the Soul Room, leaving his body empty.
  • In Blood That Flows, Unison Devices get turned into empty shells once they are hooked up to Megahs, and are only able to regain a form of personality if they Unison with someone for a long time.
  • In The Changeling of the Guard, this is what happens to anypony who is fed on by a Changeling for too long. Idol does this by accident to Topaz simply by feeding on her interest in him too often, turning her into a husk that can barely walk, talk, or eat. He also mentions that this happens on occasion to the parents of hatchlings in The Hive who are fed too much love...
  • Child of the Storm: In Ghosts of the Past, the Red Room tries to turn Harry into this with the aid of Maddie after their attempts at brainwashing him fail, intending to erase everything that makes him who he is and program what is explicitly described as an empty shell. It succeeds, leaving only muscle memory and a few vague memory fragments behind. It is later revealed that Maddie removed Harry's mind and hid it in a MacGuffin, planning to restore his mind as soon as she got a spare moment. This didn't go quite as planned.
  • Code Geass: Colorless Memories:
    • The speech by Rai to Suzaku in chapter 31 describes the trope:
      And even though he was the only one who walked out of that town alive, inside he still felt like he died that day. There was nothing inside of him anymore; happiness, sadness, anger... he felt none of those emotions. Instead, only his corpse dragged him on.
    • It's subtly implied throughout the story that aside from being amnesic, Rai barely has any personality, thoughts, or trouble with feeling other people's thoughts and emotions due to implications of an event in his past if E.E is to be believed that destroyed whatever he was before that event happened a la Shirou from Fate/stay night. The fic's main arc is in many ways Rai regaining a sense of self and connection to those around him. The above quote was Rai talking about himself.
  • Dæmorphing:
    • Morphs have no consciousness of their own and are controlled by the morpher's brain in Z-space, which is why human morphs don't have daemons.
    • Defied in Prometheus in Chains. Temrash 114 claims that there's "nothing left" of Tom and his daemon Delareyne, but Merlyse points out that Del settled around the same time that Temrash claims Tom was "broken", which wouldn't have happened if he had no personality to show.
  • Immediately after Twilight first casts Starswirl's incomplete spell in Divided Rainbow, all her Element Bearer friends temporarily enter a vacuous sleepwalker-like state, as they're compelled to physically switch places with each other geographically. Rarity has to endure this the longest because at the moment the swap took place, Rainbow was in the middle of a dangerous forest, many miles away, trying to save Lero's life. This state wears off over time, and by the time she actually reaches Lero, she's mostly back to normal.
  • In Drakonophobia, Petra becomes this after she's raped by Mercer. Her narration then goes in between subtle and Suddenly Shouting and describes that her mind has gone blank.
  • In Duel Nature, Luna's Badass Boast mentions having torn the souls from her enemies, leaving them as lifeless shells.
  • Eleutherophobia:
    • In the prequel City of Lost Children, Tom recalls hosts who never move or react to anything while their Yeerks are out of them.
    • Defied in Ghost in the Shell when Tom sees footage of Essa-in-his-body giving Jake a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown; he remembers Essa saying that he thought there was "nothing left" of Tom until he just started screaming internally. Later, it's played straight with The Reveal that the Yeerks discovered that hosts who were infested from a young age would never develop a consciousness, and tried to "breed" humans for this purpose.
    • In How I Live Now, the Yeerk in Rachel claims that she stopped fighting back within two months. It's a lie, of course, evident by how quickly Rachel kills the Yeerk as soon as it exits her body. This trope is discussed when Tom pretends that he's Essa, and claims he lobotomised his host by shoving a letter opener up his nose until he stopped screaming internally.
  • Boo from Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons is a benign version of this trope, having been 'born' from a cloning machine in a laboratory and having no goals or interests other than sleeping, eating, and excreting, and is surprisingly good at sneaking around and finding prewar snack food.
  • In Fate/megami atelier, Hikawa tries to restore harmony and peace to torn dimensions... by removing everyone's emotions.
  • A Future of Friendship, a History of Hate: Ruinate tries to reduce the Mane Six to this by destroying their souls in order to permanently neutralize the Elements of Harmony. He succeeds in doing so to Twilight, leaving her a vegetable, before Amity is able to restore her through her bonds to her friends.
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry becomes empty for a few paragraphs due to prolonged exposure to a Dementor. He still acts and reacts, but his internal monologue is utterly mechanistic.
  • I Always Loved Fireworks: The Cyclops Killer Saito Sejima is described this way. They say they've never felt anything for their whole childhood and struggled to feel something so they could be like everyone else. Once they discover the dopamine rush they get from killing, they continue to kill to keep that emptiness at bay since it is the only time they feel anything.
  • For a couple of days after a traumatic challenge accident in The Legend of Total Drama Island, Lindsay is only dimly aware of her surroundings. She doesn't even have enough self-awareness to eat or use the toilet without assistance.
  • In Lost And Found (here), Paige Matthews is basically reduced to this when she is the only one of the Halliwell family (including Coop, Leo, and Henry) to survive Thanos's Snap. A few months after the Snap, she is shown living in a dirty apartment, working a pointless job at a fast food restaurant, barely able to show concern when someone grabs her ass at work or when she sees a mugging happening down the street on her way home, and the closest thing she shows to a genuine emotional reaction is when she has a panic attack after hearing someone mention "the Decimation" on the news.
  • In My Stupid Reality, this seems to be the effect of L's training program. If they aren't instantly rejected, and if they don't kill themselves, they are returned to their parents as empty shells.
  • In The New Man: An Adam Smasher SI, the title character is a high-functioning sociopath who is highly adapted to his violent lifestyle and not in danger of cyberpsychosis causing him to breakdown, but that does not mean that his way of life has had no deleterious effects at all. For most of his life, he has been so consumed by his job and so dissociated from human experiences that he had absolutely no relationships or even hobbies of any kind. His apartments were empty of any furniture except for a bench to sit on, his only downtime activity was to review clips of past battles or watch the plaza from his balcony, and he never spoke to anyone except his direct handler and repairmen. Many commentators and omake-writers joke that past Adam comes off somewhere between severe depression and the aftermath of a Soulkiller test. Fusing with Uriel and taking in David and his friends have alleviated this massively.
  • In the Pony POV Series, anyone erased from existence leaves behind a Shadow of Existence that is this, as their Light of Existence returns to Fauna Luster to be reborn. Shadows can emulate emotions and have the memories of their previous selves, but can't feel anything themselves. It's for this reason that they desire to steal the Light of Existence from someone who already exists so badly. However, another cure for this is fusing with someone who already exists, adding their traits and abilities to them. However, if the two aren't compatible, the Shadow will overwhelm the person and end badly. Especially if the Shadow came from a God, at which point only one hundred present compatible hosts will work. The best-case scenario seems to be a Shadow fusing with the reincarnation of their Light, which is normally a perfect match and in a sense recreates the original person, only with the combined abilities of both. At present, this has happened to Applebloom (whose Light came from G3 Toola Roola), AK Yearling (who has G3 Puzzlemint's shadow and their fusion brought a real-world Daring Do into being), and Lovestruck (who was G3 Always and Forever, the G3 incarnation of Cupid, and fused with Cupid's Shadow of Existence to recreate his Concept).
  • In Queen of Blood (SirWill), Bakuda ends up like this after being left to the tender mercies of the succubi with only orders to keep her alive. The demons fed on her energy and, when she attempted suicide, crippled her so she couldn't harm herself. The stress became too much so they took to wiping her mind whenever she would fall apart; by the time Taylor finds out, Bakuda is a mewling, mindless wreck that behaves more like an abused animal than a human.
  • In the Starlight Series, Lilo becomes essentially an empty shell after her ordeal, due to the things the Borg forced her to do under their control.
  • The Stars Will Aid Their Escape: The Cutie Mark Crusaders are left like this, in a catatonic state, after Herald rips their souls out.

    Films — Animation 
  • When the title character of WALL•E nearly goes offline, it appears he's still lost any self-awareness and reverted to being a regular machine. He gets better after EVE says her "final" goodbye.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Richardson threatens to do this to David in The Adjustment Bureau, obliterating his mind so completely that there would, in essence, be nothing left of him.
  • All Cheerleaders Die: All that's left of the men the cheerleaders feed on are lifeless husks.
  • Podling who have their essence drained in The Dark Crystal become this, turning gray and empty-eyed, shuffling from place to place. Happily, it's cured when the Dark Crystal is healed.
  • In The Empty Man, anyone compelled by the Empty Man becomes this. The Empty Man's original host also became this and, years later, is practically comatose. It's unclear, however, if Lasombra ends up this way when he becomes the new host.
  • The Godfather: Michael totally becomes this at the end of Part III, having lost everything that was dear to him (including his daughter and friends), and we last see him sitting in his secluded Sicilian state, his face frozen into a Thousand-Yard Stare before he finally dies.
  • The only thing human about Michael Myers in the Halloween series is what he looks like. Everything else... just isn't there.
    Dr. Sam Loomis: I met him 15 years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no, uh, conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this... six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil.
  • In Ikiru, Kanji Wanatabe worked as a petty bureaucrat for decades without taking a day off, accomplishing nothing in the process. The narrator describes him as someone who is not really alive. It takes news of his cancer to ignite emotion back into him.
  • In Juice, Bishop's father was traumatized by Prison Rape and is reduced to a catatonic shell who mindlessly watches cartoons all day.
  • In Kairo, ghosts drain the "will to live" from people, turning them into Empty Shells that just want to die.
  • In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Max is described as a "burned-out shell" by the narrator. This is made even more apparent in Mad Max: Fury Road where he barely seems to remember his own name, or even care.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • The Big Bad of The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter is Xayide, the humanoid avatar of a force known as the Emptiness, and the personification of dying imagination. She's effectively a stoic sorceress version of the Nothing from the first movie and is similarly able to inflict "emptiness" in the world by robbing Bastian of his wishes and memories.
  • Possibly the case with the lead couple of Night And Fog 2009, who manage a superficial appearance of normality in their civilian guise but have something obviously and very fundamentally wrong with them if you pay attention to the details, which add up to them imitating human behavior while not actually understanding it. Readers have described them as a pair of living Chinese Rooms and how much capacity for independent thought they actually have is unclear. Given their shared backstory, at best they're mentally broken extreme Stepford Smilers, at worst they're this trope.
  • Sol Nazerman in The Pawnbroker was so traumatized by his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp and his Survivor Guilt that he's completely unable to connect with other people socially or emotionally.
  • This is the state of the Sloth victim in Se7en. After a year of torture, there's nothing left of his mind. He has just enough willpower to gasp for air, but the doctor who examines him concludes that even if he hadn't eaten his own tongue, he would be completely incapable of speech.
  • In Serenity (2005), the chemical Pax caused most of the population of Miranda to sit or lie down wherever they were and do nothing until they died. The remainder had the exact opposite reaction, becoming the psychopathically violent once-human monsters known as the Reavers.
  • Star Wars:
    • He may be one of the most iconic characters in history, but believe it or not, Darth Vader is nothing more than an emotionless empty shell at the end of the day. After being burned alive, confined to a limiting and outdated life support suit, and manipulated by Emperor Palpatine for years, the man who was once Anakin Skywalker is ultimately just the Emperor's most obedient slave. In Return of the Jedi, his son Luke helps him recover at least a part of who he once was, enabling him to turn on his master and die with some measure of his former identity.
    • According to the lore, this is also one side effect of The Dark Side. Those fallen to it are said to lose whatever identity/personality they previously had. Maul himself was a particularly interesting example. Though he retained his anger and thirst for vengeance, he was devoid of any characterization besides them. In the end, he was just a very spite-filled Empty Shell.
  • Both Dr. Lamb and Dr. Salt become this at the end of Stonehearst Asylum — Salt due to brain damage due to repeated electric shock administered by Lamb, while Lamb later becomes catatonic by the trauma of recalling the events that put him in the asylum in the first place. In the closing scene they're sitting together at the same table as patients in the psychiatric hospital, though they now have enough of their wits about them to play chess.
  • In The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Grandpa Sawyer is shown to be completely near dead, only able to move slightly when tasting blood, but other than that, completely confined to his wheelchair.

  • Ai no Kusabi: This happened to Kirie by forcefully being Brainwashed to be a Pet (i.e., Sex Slave). For him, it was a Fate Worse than Death.
  • American Psycho: Discussed with Patrick Bateman. Although he presents himself and acts like a regular human being like the other yuppies on Wall Street, Bateman himself says that he's empty and dead on the inside behind the mask he has on.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Ellimist's backstory involves him being captured by Father, a huge sea creature that absorbs/enslaves the minds of others. Eventually, the Ellimist learns to absorb those dead minds from Father into himself. In the end, it seems that Father had no real mind of his own, just a Hive Mind from everyone he had absorbed.
    • Possibly the Isk, created by the Yoorts and together making up the Iskoort species.
    • This also seems to be the fate of anyone who's been a host for too long. In an early book, the Ellimist shows the Animorphs a Bad Future where the Yeerks won and their human slaves have lost the will to do anything; and near the end of the series, the real Tom is described as an "empty husk" and "mindless puppet".
  • Battle Royale demonstrates why this can also be a bad thing for those around the Empty Shell. Kazuo Kiriyama was brain-damaged at birth, and his emotional responses are extremely limited. With no feeling of reward for accomplishment, he's been drifting through life, and with no sense of guilt, he has difficulty resolving moral dilemmas. When forced to kill his classmates to survive, he can't tell whether it would be better to fight it and potentially get himself killed too, or go along and ensure his own survival if nothing else. A coin flip resolves things in favor of going along, so he calmly, emotionlessly kills as many students as he can as fast as he can. In the manga, there's even a chapter that calls him a Devil of Nothingness. At one point, there's a flashback to when a group of kids became Kazuo's friends; he flipped a coin and decided to go with them. In the modern-day, they're present when he flips another coin, and once it lands, he starts killing them. One of them realizes, as he's dying, that the only reason he didn't kill them when they met was because the coin landed in their favor.
  • The Belgariad: In The Malloreon, it's revealed that 'Zakath — who made a cameo in the first series, is civilized and courteous, but also (as is quickly revealed) devoid of more or less anything beyond an obsession with vengeance, a lust for power, and a genuine affection for his pet cat. He's a perfectly pleasant, if somewhat disturbing, conversationalist, advising Ce'Nedra that if Garion, her betrothed, survives the events of the first series, he'll eventually end up just like him. In the sequel series, it's revealed that he wasn't always like this — when he was 19, he was kind, friendly, and wise, with all the makings of a truly great Emperor, and madly in love. His lover was uncovered as the mastermind behind a plot on his life, arranged by Taur Urgas, King of the Murgos. Given the weight of evidence against her, he had no choice but to sentence her to death. After her death, he discovered that while some of her family were in on it, she had been completely innocent. His reaction consisted of him locking himself in his room for a month. What came out was, essentially, the world's politest genocidal maniac, an empty shell determined to wipe every Murgo off the face of the planet, starting with Taur Urgas — or more immediately, his relatives in Mallorea, who 'Zakath periodically sent bits of in jars with highly insulting notes attached). The Mrin Codex, which is often blunt to the point of insensitivity, calls him "The Empty One". 'Zakath is cured through The Power of Friendship by Garion, and then the cure is completed by The Power of Love by no less than Cyradis herself.
  • Khayon's Rubrics from Black Legion are this trope literally, being the ashes of non-psyker Thousand Sons trapped in their armor. They have combat awareness and follow Khayon's every order, but that about seals it. By the end of the book, one of them manages to regain his consciousness just in time for a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • This is implied to be the titular compliance in Amoridere's poem Compliance, which cuts to the subject being this after getting after being "fixed". Can't really be "defiant" if you're a "catatonic and unaware" shell of what you used to be. This trope appears again in Catatonic Bliss, where the subject prefers to be lobotomized and, as a result, this trope, than to deal with the mental toll of her situation.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Light Fantastic, Trymon becomes one after his mind becomes a door into the "Dungeon Dimensions", whence strange, horrible creatures try to escape into reality.
    • In (the quite dark) Night Watch, the Cable Street Irregulars' torture has reduced several people to this. Probably the most controversial thing in the series is the sentence, "Vimes took his dagger, and... gave what help he could".
  • In Dragonriders of Pern, this can happen to those whose dragons die. Some snap out of it, but others never do. Even those who snap out of it (like Lytol) never feel completely whole again.
  • East of Eden: Cathy Ames's only definable trait is being a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing for personal gain, but other than that, she has no love or empathy for others and has no personal hobbies or desires. When she runs away from home as a teenager, her parents note that her room looked like it was empty for a while. The narrator characterizes her as a "psychic monster" with a "malformed soul" whose eyes are cold and emotionless while supporting character Samuel Hamilton notes that her eyes "had no message, no communication... they were not human eyes." In her adulthood, she eventually comes to realize that there's something she doesn't have that others have, but still isn't able to understand what it is and ends up killing herself.
  • Fablehaven: This is the fate of victims of the revenant (most notably Warren Burgess) — they're trapped in the deepest recesses of their mind, with almost no signs of life on the outside, and no ability to speak. For some weird reason, the revenant also turns the victim into an albino. Everyone gets better after Seth, in a nearly impossible display of courage, removes the wooden nail (the only thing keeping the revenant alive) from its neck.
  • The killer in Five Little Pigs is described as this in the end, having felt nothing ever since killing the love of her life after realizing that she was just another fling to him and he'd never leave his wife for her. Even getting the wife accused of the crime didn't bring the killer any satisfaction — Caroline was screening her sister, who she thought was the murderer, and so was able to Face Death with Dignity.
    She and Amyas both escaped — they went somewhere where I couldn't get at them. But they didn't die. I died.
  • Within the Gentleman Bastard series, this is the result of inhaling the smoke of wraithstone. It's commonly used on animals to "gentle" them, effectively removing all desire other than a mild desire to eat, sleep, and follow commands. It works on humans too, although even the infamously cruel and decadent Therin Throne rejected the practice as simply too awful.
  • In Harmony (2008), Harmony is supposed to be a program that controls human will via Nanomachines to make human decisions perfectly logical and beneficial for society, but in the process, it turns people into this (since the main conceit of the book is that consciousness is formed from the brain weighing up the benefits of various actions, and since Harmony does this task for people, humans stop being conscious). Somewhat averted, though, because Empty Shells under the influence of Harmony are perfectly functional human beings and experience pure, total bliss, compared to Heaven on Earth — they just have no inner voice.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a Dementor's Kiss devours the victim's soul but leaves the empty body behind. For example, this almost happened to Sirius Black and is what ultimately took Bartemius "Barty" Crouch Jr. out of the picture at the end of Goblet of Fire.
    • In later books, we also see that Neville's parents, Alice and Frank, became empty shells after prolonged torture at the hands of the aforementioned Barty Crouch Jr., Bellatrix Lestrange, and others. They're permanently catatonic and barely respond to seeing their son.
  • In His Dark Materials, there are creatures known as Spectres that feed off of adults, turning them into Empty Shells. This is also usually the fate of those who have their daemons severed.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: Mindwiping is a more typical punishment for extreme crimes than execution. While public information sources all insist that convicts who receive this sentence merely have their criminal tendencies removed, one villain from The Deluge Drivers opted to die rather than be caught and mindwiped, because he doesn't believe the official sources and thinks this trope is what it really invokes.
  • In The Hunger Games, this happens to Katniss's mother after Mr. Everdeen dies in the mines. Then Katniss goes through it twice: first after Peeta is captured by the Capitol at the end of Catching Fire, then after Prim is killed in Mockingjay. It's actual depression/catatonia rather than anything supernatural.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, Ward's mother is an Extreme Doormat to her horrifically abusive husband, having spent years using drugs and escapism to dull the pain. When Ward eventually examines her with magic, he realizes that there's no her there anymore, just a superficial veneer of a personality.
  • At the end of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, this seemingly happens to the self-aware supercomputer Mike. For reasons unknown, after the final battle, he loses his personality (or becomes catatonic) and reverts back to being "just" a computer. He's not physically damaged, and he continues to function perfectly as a machine... but he is no longer anything but a machine.
  • In Mostly Harmless, Arthur Dent spends some time on a planet that seems a lot like Earth but where no one has any motivation or hopes at all, and apparently doesn't even care enough to avoid dying of thirst when their plumbing breaks.
  • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation: The Rewind Miko experienced a "Groundhog Day" Loop due to Orsted's curse of repeating the same two centuries. In each loop, she died at a young age, usually in a painful and horrific manner. By the hundredth loop, the mental trauma of remembering so many deaths became so severe she was virtually catatonic.
  • Colonel Armitage in Neuromancer. The mercenaries he's hired suspect that he does nothing but sit and stare at the wall when he's not on the job.
  • The ultimate fate of Winston and Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Ministry of Love mass-manufactures such people.
  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, patients who are lobotomized become this.
  • Scott Tyler from The Power of Five is one of these at the end of Nightrise. Probably understandable, considering he spent most of the book being tortured, both physically and mentally.
  • In Robert Silverberg's novel Recalled To Life, a process is invented that can restore recently dead (i.e. within a day or so) people to life. (It doesn't actually heal whatever killed them, so it's mostly useful for drownings and the like.) One catch: there's about a one-in-six chance of restoring a mindless shell.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Itsuki becomes this after a series of betrayals, brainwashing, and a devastating defeat. At first, he only echoes what is said to him, answers everything with complete honesty, and has no opinion or emotions. He gradually recovers over time.
  • Some of the robots in the Robot Series become like this if they get stuck in a really bad infinite loop — e.g., by running into a Three Laws conflict that can't be resolved without hurting at least one human. The smarter ones find a solution that minimizes human injury; simpler models just go insane.
  • Bob Arctor is left as essentially this at the end of A Scanner Darkly thanks to his heavy drug abuse. However, it is implied that he does retain enough of himself to identify the source of Substance-D and bring it to his friends, one of whom is an undercover narcotics agent. It is extremely unlikely that that he will ever be functional again, though.
  • Star Trek Novel 'Verse:
    • The Borg are this, according to Star Trek: Destiny. The guiding intelligence of the Borg was once an alien cybernetic organism called a Caeliar — a bit paranoid and xenophobic, but basically okay. But after being stranded in the past with nothing to sustain her, Sedin degraded into a mindless hunger.
    • In the Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch novels, one of the risks of humans going at it with Deltans is this. The Exeter's first contact party dismissed the early reports of the Horizon as typical Space Boomer hoarding, and then... the ship's first officer becomes nigh-dissociative from the experience, but the other officer is rendered a complete vegetable. It's not a pleasant experience for the Deltan who accidentally did this, either, since they felt it happening to him.
  • In Tales of the Jokka, this is the inevitable fate of female Jokka. All Jokka risk "Mind Death" if they become overheated or stressed, losing all ability to reason. Males and neuters can avoid this by taking care to avoid pushing themselves, but females can't avoid the stress of childbirth, however. Every birth runs an increasing risk of inducing further senility for the mother until their mind is completely gone.
  • In the Towers Trilogy, the zombie-like night walkers are the result of a person's ghost being pulled out of their still-living body.
  • In Twig, Sylvester reaches this point with the help of the Wyvern drug, becoming a more or less blank slate directed by hallucinatory versions of his friends.
  • In Uprooted, Agnieszka eventually figures out that this is what happened to Queen Hanna as a result of twenty years' imprisonment and torment in one of the Wood's heart-trees. The reason Hanna never showed corruption is that there was nothing left to be corrupted and b. the body is being used as a host for the sentience of the Wood itself, rather than the malice it "infects" other victims with.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • People whose souls are eaten by the Black Wind or by a draghkar's "kiss" are left in a vegetative state where their bodies will do simple tasks like eating if directed to do so, but no sense of self remains.
    • Grey Men are known in-universe as The Soulless because they have surrendered their souls directly to the Dark One. This leaves them as little more than automatons, albeit ones who can handle complex tasks and have a Perception Filter that makes them all but unnoticeable.
    • When Mesaana loses a mental duel to Egwene in the World of Dreams, the final blow shatters her mind and leaves her physical body in a vegetative state.
    • Magical Compulsion usually only forces the victim to comply with a specific set of instructions. However, the Living Doll Collector Graendal conditions her victims with a variant that replaces their minds piece-by-piece, leaving them capable of fawning devotion and little else. When one victim has the Compulsion spell removed, he simply stops breathing. In a bit of Laser-Guided Karma, Graendal's final Compulsion spell rebounds on her in a Magic Misfire.
  • Zig-zagged in When Rabbit Howls. Truddi Chase's head is far from empty — she has, if anything, a lot more going on in there than most people thanks to severe Dissociative Identity Disorder. But her default personality, referred to as "the woman" in the text, is so dissociated and underdeveloped from her nightmarishly abusive childhood that "the woman" has almost no independent emotional capacity and receives most of her feelings and motivation second-hand from the other members of her Split-Personality Team. "For you, there isn't any more."
  • Wilder Girls: The Tox is an infectious disease that usually leads to Viral Transformation, but sometimes it hollows out the person and leaves them in this state, turning them fetal or barely aware enough to commit suicide. After removing the parasite causing her symptoms, Byatt is left like this.
  • Worm:
    • Labyrinth becomes less responsive to external stimuli the more she uses her power until she hits this point.
    • Oni Lee, a teleporter capable of temporary Self-Duplication, also suffers from this, apparently as a result of overusing his power. He's described as "a robot waiting for orders." A robot, to be clear, that can turn himself into a teleporting repeat suicide bomber.
    • Teacher's power to bestow intellectual talents turns people into thralls with no free will. Eventually, his victims get to the point where even empathic abilities don't register them as human.
  • X-Wing Series: In Wraith Squadron, this happens to Lieutenant Donos after his astromech Shiner (the last survivor of his ill-fated command, Talon Squadon, aside from himself) is destroyed. Fortunately, his friends and comrades manage to snap him out of it before anything permanent comes of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): There are several of these for each Cylon model, waiting on the Resurrection Ships to allow dead Cylons to be reborn through Brain Uploading.
  • Buffyverse:
    • In Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy sees herself as being this trope, stating multiple times that she can't feel anything since she was traumatized by being brought Back from the Dead. This also constitutes the theme of most of her songs in the musical episode. She isn't really an empty shell though and gets better by the end of the season.
    • Played with in the Angel episode "Soul Purpose". Angel is coma-dreaming about Fred doing surgery on him and she tells him "There's nothing left, just a shell", alluding to what Wolfram and Hart are doing to him. It's also ironic since she becomes a literal shell for Illyria, at least until they start sharing a body.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Satan Pit", when the Doctor comes face-to-face with the Beast, he deduces that he's only dealing with the body and that its mind has escaped elsewhere... specifically, the Beast is possessing Toby Zed in order to escape its prison. There is still clearly a connection, however, as when Toby's escape seems certain, the Beast's body laughs maniacally.
    • Ood who are lobotomized and separated from their Hive Mind become Extreme Doormats who find Happiness in Slavery and have no personality of their own.
  • In Dollhouse, the Actives are supposedly like this between missions, although evidence suggests that this may not be as complete as the characters believe. The characters know it, too. To wit: Topher's aversion to the Actives "grouping", or making basic friendships that endure through wipes. The same processes that create the "grouping" effect can cause the chance of a "composite event", or the Active gaining access to all their previous personas at once because it penetrates through the wipe.
  • The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Damaged" features a teenage girl who was severely physically and sexually abused as a child. She was eventually saved and placed with good, loving adoptive parents, but by then, she was so damaged by the abuse that even years of therapy couldn't help — the girl is essentially unable to feel any real emotion, let alone form actual connections with other people. She even self-identifies as this at the end of the episode, telling detectives, "You can't kill me. I'm already dead."
  • In an episode of Married... with Children, a rich relative of Al's leaves a large amount of money to whichever of his relatives is the first to have a child. Al wants the money, but the very lustful Peg doesn't want another child. She stays on her birth control pills but takes the opportunity to sex the life out of Al. After a Time Skip, we show Al, wheelchair-bound, emaciated (by virtue of oversized clothes) and barely able to speak over a whisper. When someone shows up to tell them they didn't win and asks for Al Bundy, he whispers "I was Al Bundy."
  • The Asgard in Stargate SG-1 are a clone race. Their bodies are all genetically identical and are grown as empty shells, only taking on an identity and personality when the saved consciousness of a particular Asgard is downloaded into it. We once see an empty Asgard when a human who didn't know what he had sequenced and grew an Asgard body (using Asgard DNA given by the SGC in their efforts to help with the Asgard's clone degradation problem) in order to force the government to come forward with the truth.
  • Star Trek:
    • Happens to Uhura briefly in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Changeling", after the probe Nomad erases her "knowledge banks" (i.e., memories). They're able to bring her back to normal through a combination of the ship's technology and conventional tutoring to re-educate her at high-speed; in The Stinger, McCoy says she'll be back to normal in a week.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Life Support", Vedek Bareil is severely injured in an accident and spends some time clinically dead before being resuscitated but suffers such severe brain damage that positronic implants (the same stuff Data's brain is made of) have to take over for several major brain functions. He is able to function, but he is very different, almost emotionless, and describes his sensations as vague shadows of what he remembers. Eventually, when the rest of his brain starts to fail, Doctor Bashir allows him to die naturally rather than replacing his entire brain with artificial implants because if he resorted to that then there'd be nothing left of Bareil's true self afterwards. Also an example of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, with quite a bit of philosophical discussion about how much of a person's brain anatomy can be damaged or deliberately modified before they cease to be the same person.
  • In Supernatural, acting as an archangel's vessel leaves you like this when said archangel leaves. Or it can at least. Michael takes the time to heal John Winchester's body so this doesn't happen, but that requires the angel care enough to do so.
  • Taken: In "Maintenance", Jesse Keys enters a catatonic state after a lifetime of living in fear of the aliens and the UFO project. However, the aliens dislodging the implant in his brain may have been partially responsible for his condition as it seemingly caused brain damage.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Dream Me a Life", Laurel Kincaid has been in a catatonic state since the death of her husband ten years earlier. Her husband's spirit contacts Roger Simpson Leeds, who is mourning his wife Rachel, so that he can help Laurel accept his death and get on with her life. After Roger does so in Laurel's dream, she speaks for the first time in a decade.
    • In "Our Selena is Dying", Diane Brockman, whose youth and identity have been stolen by her mother Martha, was traumatized by the experience and spends all of her time staring out the window. Dr. Burrell is able to bring her out of it when he tells her that he is aware of what has happened to her.

  • The Saves the Day song "Cars and Calories" references this trope explicitly when discussing the impact of an eating disorder on a young girl:
    And it took bites out of her insides
    'Til she was just a hollow shell

    Tabletop Games 
  • There is Ventue`s bloodline - Melissidae. They can wipe minds of mortals and create some form of hive-mind. Those drones or puppets have no real personality or consciousness; they are empty. Vampire can control them, possess them, or even create new personality, memories and consciousness.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This is one way to describe that happens when a character loses all their charisma to stat damage. Losing all Wisdom — a measure of a character's mental balance, the base stat for Willpower — causes you to "fall into a nightmare-filled sleep". Losing all your points in any vital stat generally means you can't act at all and automatically fail checks based on that stat until you recover at least one point in it — the exception is Constitution, which measures your health, and if that falls to 0, you simply die.
    • This is what happens to people who stay too long in Hades, the lowest plane of the lower planes in the default cosmology. The idea presented is that pure evil is not torture or manipulation; it's the complete loss of hope. It has a mirror opposite in the upper plane of Elysium's "entrapping" trait, using nearly identical mechanics but operating from contentment rather than despair.
    • In the Ravenloft campaign setting, people who see horrible things have a chance of becoming "Lost Ones", who are essentially catatonics who cannot take care of themselves.
    • In the third-party D&D 3.x setting Diomin, Hollow Ones are not alive, not dead, and not undead. They are removed from "the web of life" and concerned only with eating and stealing, and they go berserk when "bloodied".
  • Exalted:
    • This is commonly caused by Raksha depredations.
    • She Who Lives In Her Name's Charms can do this too. Oddly enough, she also has one which can refill the dream-eaten left behind by the raksha, although they'll never be who they used to be.
    • This is the theme of The Ebon Dragon (other than being a cosmic dick). He is so empty inside that he doesn't have a Motivation, a state that is normally impossible for something that exists. His Charm that enables this abnormality? Ego Shell Ascendancy. And that's not even the worst of him: it's implied that back then he wasn't merely empty, he used to be not existing and was only able to affect the world by being an empty mockery of someone else.
  • In In Nomine, this is what happens to angels and demons who lose all of their Celestial Forces but still have Corporeal Forces and a physical Vessel; They become Remnants, wandering the Earth in whatever body they last used before they were killed, without the perception to remember what they were or the will to do much of anything. Angels and demons alike tend to consider them both sad and creepy.
  • Whether created by magic or bleeding-edge technology, clones in Pathfinder are this. Using the mid-level Clone spell requires an alchemical laboratory to grow another, soulless body for a creature; in the event of their death, the creature wakes up in the inert body. Technological artifacts, on the other hand, are capable of completely rebuilding a body From a Single Cell, but if the creature being rebuilt is, for whatever reason, still alive, a soulless shell is the end result and dies within hours of being created.
  • Servants of Nurgle in both Warhammer franchises. As he is the god of (among other things) Despair, his followers simply do not care anymore, least of all about their own lives.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Servitors are deliberately made like this. Basically, because AI is forbidden in the Imperium, the Adeptus Mechanicus turn humans into soulless robots with almost no sense of self-awareness or free-will. Though typically reserved for criminals or failed initiates to some Imperial organization or another, the Mechanicus is not above "forcibly recruiting" civilians into the job. Thankfully, most Servitors are vat-grown lobotomized clones, which still fit this trope as they are empty shells that were never filled in the first place.
    • The Rubrics of the Thousand Sons are basically dusted remains of warriors trapped in their suits of Powered Armor. They follow their commanders' every order but have no personality, no needs, and no will on their own.
    • Low-tier Necrons are this, being converted from fully sentient beings to mindless warriors due to being so overwhelmed by obedience during the conversion into robots that there's little room for independent thought or personality. Even the nobility were effected to some extent — in The Infinite and the Divine, Trazyn remarks that the process left the Necrons with an eternally stagnant culture, as they are incapable of creating or appreciating art and anything else that doesn't have an immediate pragmatic function.

    Video Games 
  • Alice: Madness Returns has Dr. Bumby turning the children of the Asylum into this so that he can pimp them out.
  • This is Specter's plan in two of the Ape Escape games. In Ape Escape 2, he and White Monkey develop a device called the "Lethargy Laser" which, when fired at the Earth, will cause all of its people to become so lazy and unmotivated that they won't care at all if Specter tries to take over the world. In Ape Escape 3, he instead takes over a major television studio and starts using his monkeys to create programming so inane that anyone who watches it becomes a mindless couch potato, unable to do anything but veg out and stare at the screen.
  • In Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Imoen becomes temporarily like this after having her soul mostly drained, with an additional aggressive streak. She gets better after having her soul returned.
  • The Horned Girl from Baroque is an Empty Shell who, lacking any thoughts of her own, instead repeats aloud the thoughts of those who try to speak to her.
  • BlazBlue:
    • BlazBlue Setting Material Collection establishes Nu-13 as one of these. The personality seen in-game is contained entirely in the Murakumo Unit, her armor.
    • Noel Vermilion, a.k.a Mu-12, was created as an Empty Shell. Her Murakumo unit "tempering" was interrupted, allowing her to develop a personality, albeit a very weak and passive one. What followed was lots of misfortune.
    • An odd case is Lambda-11, an uncompleted Murakumo that was fixed up by Kokonoe (though kinda downgraded) and mind-wiped so she could be powered by the soul of Nu. There's a brief flashback before the mindwipe that shows her having some awareness and personality, and even after it, she still develops a very small amount of a personality in the story, especially in her gag reel. Despite not being a true Murakumo unit, Nu's personality and memory flashes through sometimes, most notably when Lambda takes an attack meant for Ragna in the true ending. She returns in Chronophantasma, regains what little individuality she grew and builds upon it even more thanks to Noel's help.
  • Bloodborne has Rom, the Vacuous Spider. Formerly a human woman turned into a Great One, her mind didn't survive the transition, hence the Vacuous title (which is actually the English version being polite — her original Japanese title is 'hakuchi', which is an insult that roughly translates to 'stupid'). She responds to nothing save being attacked, and even then most of the hard work in her boss fight is done by her spider minions.
  • Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain features a minor villain known as Elzevir the Dollmaker who has stolen the soul of a local king's daughter and reduced her to this state. Kain must reclaim her soul and restore her in order to win the king's favor.
  • You take control of one in Cruelty Squad. A depressed and traumatized loser who kills people for a living in a world where anyone can pay $500 to reconstitute their body, wearing a solemn expression that can only be described as a man who's a former shell of himself, and things only go downhill from there. His Acquisition entry in Brigador is a third-hand account of how disturbed he is by how utterly dead-on-the-inside he looks. Even his name in the game, MT Foxtrot, is a play on his Fan Nickname: Empty Fuck.
  • In Dark Souls, Undead that have lost all their humanity turn into mindless hollows, which usually come in two flavors; Ax-Crazy or huddled in a corner crying. This is also the fate of Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight after a thousand years of burning alive in the Kiln of the First Flame. Having a clear goal or aspiration in mind appears to stave off the process for a time, but once that source of purpose is fulfilled or removed it will simply resume.
  • Miyuki in Digimon Survive is an Emotionless Girl who struggles to simply form sentences, with her younger brother Haru taking care of her. The reason for this is that she's a Barrier Maiden who had half her soul stolen by the Big Bad, and had been trapped in the Digital World for the past 50 years as a result.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Tranquil from Dragon Age: Origins. If mage apprentices are too afraid to go through the Harrowing, the final test to see if they are worthy of becoming full-fledged Circle mages, they can instead choose to have their connection to the Fade severed by use of a lyrium brand. Tranquility is also sometimes used as a severe punishment. This removes their ability to perform magic and along with it any threat they might pose due to uncontrolled magic. Since the Fade is the realm of dreams and spirit the process also robs the Tranquil of their ability to feel. They can't even feel fear when the Circle is overrun by Abominations; though one does mention that he would prefer not to die. That's the closest thing to an emotion that any Tranquil expresses in the game. If you speak with Owain during the mage origin, however, he argues (well, states) that Tranquil are closer really to The Spock. In his own words, he does not currently believe that being incapable of emotion lessens his worth as a human being, and even though he has no drives or ambition any more he isn't incapable of acting on his own.
    • On the other hand, Dragon Age II shows what happens when a Tranquil mage briefly regains emotion — he begs you to Mercy Kill him before it wears off. The qunari have a substance called "qamek" that produces similar results. If a prisoner refuses to convert to the Qun no matter what, it converts them into a mindless laborer.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition goes into more detail on the history of the Rite of Tranquility. It originated as the initiation ritual for the Seekers of Truth. Seeker initiates are made Tranquil, and then immediately cured by having a Spirit of Faith touch the initiate's mind. If the initiate's faith is not strong enough to attract a spirit, they have failed the initiation and permanent Tranquility is the price. The Rite, sans cure, only began seeing use in the Circles of Magi after a mage tried and failed to join the Seekers in order to gain their immunity to possession and mind control. Before then, no one knew that Tranquil mages are stripped of their magic and become nearly invisible to demons.
    • Abuse of the Rite of Tranquility as a punishment by the Templars is one of the casus belli that caused the Mage/Templar War (that and the Right of Annulment). Cullen used to work under a particularly egregious offender, Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard. One particular case pertinent to the plot was "Corrupting the moral integrity of a Templar"...or passing love notes between a mage and his templar paramour. The mage was made Tranquil, and the messenger was ejected from the Templar order. And Cullen says that wasn't the worst Disproportionate Retribution he saw Meredith perpetrate using the Brand. And that was before Meredith went crazy from an Artifact of Doom.
  • In Elden Ring, many of the people in the Lands Between have become this over centuries of unending war between the demigods. Since most of the people living there cannot stay dead when they die, and there's no food or much in the way of industry or civilization, the people who remain are left wandering mindlessly on the roads or digging in the ruins for whatever scraps they can find. Even the military units just mindlessly stick to their orders and maintain patrols and guard posts and attack anyone they see.
  • Fallout:
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, the Warrior of Light (the very first Final Fantasy protagonist) was like this when he first appeared in the cycles of war. He could walk and talk (barely) under his own power, but that was about it. When he was first discovered by Prishe, it was assumed that this was merely a side effect of being summoned. It turns out that he's actually a clone, and the reason he started out as a walking vegetable is a side effect of the cloning process.
    • Final Fantasy XIV gives us the Qalyana Ananta tribe. The Garleans captured the daughter of their leader in search of someone called "The Butcher". The Qalyana attempted to rescue her, but in the process the daughter is killed in the scuffle. In grief, the leader summoned the Primal Lakshmi to resurrect her, but while her body is active, her soul couldn't be put back, leaving her a shell of her former self. When the leader is killed later in the story, the Qalyana elect the girl to be their leader as they are all under Lakshmi's thrall, meaning it will be a while before the Qalyana can do anything.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, this is what happens to Hardin after the events of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light. He becomes this after learning Nyna doesn't actually love him; he refuses to speak to anyone and locks himself in his room for an entire week. However, Gharnef's soul appears and gives him the Darksphere. As it's far easier for one to be possessed or corrupted when they are an empty shell, Gharnef subverts Hardin's morality and turns him into a cruel and tyrannical emperor.
    • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade:
      • Canas's brothers apparently became this due to incidents with dark magic.
        Canas: ...Unfortunately, the darkness took my brothers... they live... and breathe... their eyes open and close... but... they do not move. And they do not speak.
      • Bramimond takes this just about as far, but no in the same way. He basically gave up his soul for the power to fight dragons and now he simply reflects the soul of whoever is in front of him. While dark may not be evil it most certainly is not a toy.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has two tragic instances of this. Emperor Vigarde of Grado died and was revived via dark magic, as was the wife of the traitor to the good guys, Orson, who defected after it was promised his dear Monica would be revived. Sadly, Emperor Vigarde is a husk that barely resembles the persona of the man he once was, and Orson basically gets a zombie version of Monica who can only say the word "Darling...", and she apparently has started to decay so much by the time you slay said traitor that the good guys give her a Mercy Kill. As a further tragic note, even after "getting Monica back", Orson realized on some level his wife was actually still dead, and trying to maintain the illusion her zombified shell was the original drove him completely insane.
    • This happens to Takumi in Fire Emblem Fates Conquest after Anankos fully takes over his body.
  • In Gears of War 2, the payoff for Dom's tireless 10-year-long search for his missing wife Maria is that he finds her as one of these, the result of years of starvation and torture by the Locust. For reference, Tai Kaliso, an Implacable Man able to shrug off pretty much anything with a smile and a Warrior Poet one-liner, was captured and tortured by the Locust for only a couple of hours, and it broke him so badly he committed suicide immediately after being rescued. Dom is left with no choice but to Mercy Kill his wife.
  • Ghost Trick: After he's struck by the Temsik meteorite fragment, Yomiel's body becomes trapped in stasis at the moment right before his death. Wounds heal instantly, hair doesn't grow, and he's neither truly alive nor truly dead. Even after he's reunited with his body, he feels a crushing sense of isolation from the rest of humanity that eventually drives him to seek mindless revenge on everyone involved with his death, up to and including the little girl he took hostage just before getting hit by the Temsik fragment.
  • In Hollow Knight, your character is one and is in fact only the latest in a long line of artificially made Empty Shells made to try and contain The Corruption threatening the land. The full story is a little more complex, but it's also a complete spoiler. The protagonist, along with two bosses, were children of the Pale King, who used Void to turn them into hollow 'vessels' to contain the infection, which worked by corrupting dreams. The idea was that a true version of this trope, with no mind to dream with or will to subvert, could contain the infection without succumbing to it, and thus serve as a perfect can. This process failed quite often, with your character being a failure that managed to survive, and the titular Hollow Knight being the perfected pure vessel. It's also played with, in that it's likely that none of these Vessels were truly hollow; the Broken Vessel has succumbed to the infection, the Hollow Knight had an "idea instilled" (resulting in it being a Leaking Can of Evil), and depending on player choice, the protagonist Knight could quite often show a will of its own (which one NPC, Steel Soul Jinn, will lampshade).
  • In The Jedi Masters, the D'arth Syyth tried to possess many people it captured. Most of these people became Screamers, who Revan describes to be this trope; they are only kept functioning by the D'arth Syyth and The Dark Side.
  • The Nobodies in Kingdom Hearts; the body of someone who has had their "heart" stolen by The Heartless. In most cases, the shell is transformed into a shapeless monster. They have no emotions of any kind, as they have no heart, but the Nobodies of people with particularly strong hearts retain their memories and human appearance. They know what it means to feel, but will never do so again, (sometimes) through no fault of their own. They want Sora to kill as many Heartless as possible so that they can build a Kingdom Hearts that can restore their lost hearts. We later find out in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] that they aren't actually quite as empty as they were told, and were only told that they were so that the tiny bit they had inside wouldn't develop enough to protect them from being possessed by the Big Bad.
  • Kirby:
    • Magolor in Kirby's Return to Dream Land seems to degrade into this when he's destroyed in his first form, only to be brought back to life by the Master Crown as a shadow of his former self to serve as its body.
    • Soul of Sectonia in Kirby: Triple Deluxe is similarly described as a pitiful husk that's lost all sight of what it used to be, existing only as a mindless destroyer that needs to be put out of its misery.
    • Marx Soul is an Optional Boss added to Kirby Super Star Ultra whose only motive is revenge against Kirby. Sensing a pattern here?
    • In fact, ever since Kirby: Canvas Curse, it seems that all final bosses end up becoming this, either by completely being overwhelmed by their own madness or single-minded desires and sacrificing everything about their being just to gain the power to destroy everything around them.
    • Kirby Star Allies reaches the logical extreme by inverting the trend: Void Termina is initially described as a mindless being that only knows destruction. However, by the time Kirby reaches his heart, his description says that "he has awakened from a state of mere existence to that of true sentience".
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: The entire crew of Darth Nihilus' flagship, the Ravager, are like this from having their life energy, willpower and sense of self drained by Nihilus' presence. They are incapable of individual thought, speech or anything outside of their task on board the ship, which they perform like lifeless mechanical drones. On board the ship, your character encounters Colonel Tobin, the Smug Snake who shot down your freighter earlier in the game, this time as an eerie, zombie-like man at the edge of his sanity, just from being on Nihilus' ship for a few days. Nihilus himself seems to be a literal empty shell.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Reapers control their victims through a process called indoctrination. Prolonged exposure to Reapers or certain Reaper artifacts Mind Rapes you, eroding your brain until you are a perfect servant of the Reapers, incapable of doing anything the Reapers haven't told you to do. Victims are used as sleeper agents or turned into Husks. Ultimately, they are abandoned to starve when the Reapers return to dark space or repurposed as a slave race. The Collectors are Protheans turned into a slave race.
    • In the Mass Effect 3 DLC Leviathan, the eponymous species has a similar technique known as "enthrallment" which was the basis for indoctrination, as the first Reaper was created from the essence of the Leviathan. Active long-term thralls have a tendency to move mechanically and speak awkwardly if at all. However, thralls can act more naturally to facilitate infiltration operations. Fortunately, unlike indoctrination, enthrallment is not permanent and operates only while the Leviathan or one of its artifacts is in the proximity of the victim.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has Tretij Rebenok, the creepy psychic child. According to research Ocelot does into his psychic powers, he learns that because of the experiments that were performed on him because of his powers had left him psychologically empty. Instead, he telepathically latched onto the extreme negative emotions, anger and hatred in particular, of others around him. This was demonstrated with the "Man on Fire" — the comatose and severely burned Colonel Volgen — who became a flame-wreathed revenant. It was also demonstrated with Skull Face when he used his psychic powers, guided by Skull Face's resentment over losing his native language and his hatred of Big Boss and Cyher, to psychically control Sahalanthropus. When he encounters Eli, he then begins to use his powers to aid him in hijacking Sahalanthropus.
  • Metroid: Other M: Supplementary materials reveal the Zebesian clones created by the Galactic Federation to have been unintelligent and designed without a sense of independence so as to be better used as pawns. Because of this, they are considered to be even less of a threat to galactic civilization than regular Zebesians, even less so when they aren't controlled by a leader.
  • In the Papers, Please-esque game Mind Scanners, curing various mental illnesses takes a toll on the patient's personality. Each time a curing device is used, a piece of the personality is lost. If there is some personality left, you can use certain devices (if you have created them) to rebuild what was lost. If none is left, the patient will be an empty shell, devoid of personality. Often, that can lead to the patient losing employment or you being dealt a rather harsh (and possibly deadly) What the Hell, Hero? from the patient's loved ones.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2:
    • The epic spell Entropic Husk expansion annihilates the target's soul, leaving nothing but a body that randomly attacks whatever comes near it.
    • Akachi from the same game is nothing but an empty shell of hunger. Myrkul, his former god, had his soul destroyed to the point where there was nothing left of him but a sense of emptiness.
  • NieR:
    • The Twins are claimed to be soulless automatons, though given their rather emotional final moments, it's probably not true.
    • The Replicants were originally supposed to be this, but things got complicated when they started growing personalities.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 4, Mitsuo Kubo's Inner Shadow is a Nietzsche Wannabe Empty Shell. Since his Shadow is as much a "true self" as the shadows of your other party members were their own "true selves", it implies that Mitsuo is driven by the subconscious fear that he is insignificant and will never amount to anything. As a first for the game, Mitsuo is unable to see through his own delusions of grandeur and own up to his own insecurities, unlike your party members, and his Shadow simply dies as a result of his ego becoming so corrupted it was indistinguishable from a Shadow Archetype.
    • In Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, Hikari is a perfect recipient for this trope. When first encountered by the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, she barely talks and only uses Nagi as a medium, instead of staying still most of the time, either staring towards the Phantom Thieves or lowering her head in a downtrodden fashion. The reason is made clear in the fourth labyrinth; she was emotionally abused and manipulated throughout her entire childhood because she was different from other people, which fuels her depression to the point that she considers depersonalization as the only way out. She then closed herself off in her room and became an empty shell devoid of any personality. To rub salt into the wound, her father expressed genuine concern over her collapsing mental status by asking her "Why do you have to be like that?", which is actually her Trauma Button because every one of her tormentors asked her that question when she attempted to exert herself. Of course, this invoked a series of traumatic flashbacks that broke her down, since her father is also her Living Emotional Crutch. Unable to cope with the pain of life, her soul ended up in one of Nagi/Enlil's theaters where she had her watch movies made out of pure negativity in an attempt to relieve her pain. Obviously, this doesn't do anything other than draining away whatever that was left inside her. Thankfully, this was averted thanks to the Persona users drawn in by Doe so she can rehabilitate, and she makes a full recovery after facing her self at the fourth labyrinth.
    • In Persona 5, it's shown that if a person's Shadow is killed it has drastic repercussions on their physical body, leaving them catatonic or suicidal if not simply killing them outright.
    • In Persona 5 Royal, Joker becomes this in one Non-Standard Game Over as a result of Maruki giving him Freedom from Choice in the form of removing his motivation to do anything other than sleep. When the protagonist wakes up, his phone's battery is long dead, and his room is riddled with cobwebs. He has no more will or motivation to get out of bed, and just goes back to sleep. Lavenza tries to reach him but can't, as Maruki also cost Joker his rebellious spirit.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, children born without souls (known as Hollowborn) are this. Initially a group of soul-manipulating magicians (known as animancers) came up with the solution of implanting animal souls (using humanoid souls would result in the subject remembering their past life, so that was out) into them in the hopes of treating their condition. Results were initially promising... until the first subjects reached puberty.
  • Pokémon:
    • Shedinja is literally an empty shell with nothing inside, the discarded remains of an evolved Nincada's exoskeleton. In fact, the Pokémon trading card game has cards for Shedinja with the special ability "Empty Shell".
      "Shedinja's hard body doesn't move — not even a twitch. In fact, its body appears to be merely a hollow shell."
    • According to legend, Azelf can cause humans to lose all will inside of them, making them completely immobile. Uxie can wipe your memories as a human, and Mesprit can strip your emotions clean. All three of these are likely to do this if you really piss them off. They are, at least, respectable in that they don't use these powers when trainers play with them in Pokémon battles.
    • Shadow Pokémon, which themselves have their emotions wiped clean in some of the worst implied (human-inflicted) Mind Rape the series will ever know. All of this because those in charge of Cipher want military power for their campaign of global conquest.
  • Oichi in the third game of the Sengoku Basara series verges between this and Extreme Doormat. Her mind appears to be mostly gone as she speaks entirely in Ironic Nursery Tunes and Word Salad which makes her sound like she's asleep, she has no opinions or drives any more apart from what she picks up from others, and she seems mostly unaware of her surroundings. If it hadn't been for the demonic hands dragging her body along like a puppet, she probably wouldn't even be mobile.
  • In the bad ending of Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Yuri ends up like this as a result of the Mistletoe curse finally devouring his soul and his memories. He is taken under Roger's care after that.
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, this is what happens to humans who fall victim to Zelenin's hymn, becoming unable to do anything but praise God mindlessly. In the Law route, this is the fate of all of mankind (or, at least, those who aren't destroyed by the Schwarzwelt wave for not being "worthy" enough): singing God's praises in perfect harmony for all time to come, at the expense of their free will and individuality.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, this happens en masse right after rejecting the Law and Chaos endings, during a party to celebrate Merkabah's and Lucifer's defeats, after Shesha's power grows to the point where it can reap souls without having to devour the bodies they host. The bodies of victims fall into catatonia and remain so unless you pursue the Bonds/Peace route and have Dagda bring the captured souls back to their respective bodies.
  • StarCraft: The victims of the Terran Dominion's neural resocialization, a brainwashing process to create new soldiers, would be considered this, or at the least Extreme Doormats. According to the wiki, the minds of a resocialized person are described by telepaths as being "fuzzy" and lacking the depth of personality found in ordinary humans, possess little to no initiative, and will shift loyalties if their commander does so as well.
  • String Tyrant: A likely fate for the player, being turned into a doll makes the player into one of these. Something similar happens if their mind leaves their body.
  • The end result of being a Zuul captive in Sword of the Stars. The Zuul systematically Mind Rape their victims with their Psychic Powers, ripping their knowledge, memories, thoughts, and eventually their very identities from the victims' minds and leaving them catatonic husks. Even partial exposure is often enough to cause either this trope or simply turning into a gibbering wreck with all of their memories and knowledge jumbled up and full of holes.
  • Tales Series:
    • Tales of Symphonia:
      • You see the normally sweet Friend to All Living Things Chosen One Colette become this when her heart and memories are sacrificed as the last part of the World Regeneration. This doesn't last long thanks to her Love Interest being a Determinator.
      • Furthermore, the Big Bad's plan to end discrimination involves killing half of the world's population and turning the other have into "Lifeless Beings" (i.e., this trope).
    • This happens fairly rapidly to Kohak Hearts in Tales of Hearts. The first half of the game is getting her emotions back. After that... other things happen. She doesn't even fight in battle until you get back her courage.
    • Tales of Xillia 2: This is Cronos' plan if humans cannot complete Origin's Trial. Their souls will stop being reincarnated and humans will become unthinking, unfeeling creatures farmed by spirits as a source of mana.
  • From the Touhou Project series, we have Koishi Komeiji, a member of the mind-reading satori species. Having grown tired of the resentment people felt towards her because of her power to read their thoughts, Koishi closed her mind-reading third eye, which had the unintended side-effect of sealing away her own conscious mind and heart. Completely devoid of thought or emotion, she now spends her time Walking the Earth in a trance-like stupor, acting on whatever unconscious impulse happens to strike her at the time.
  • Yandere Simulator:
    • You can turn people into this through extended psychological torture after you kidnap them and tie them up in your Torture Cellar. Empty Shellhood occurs when your victim's Sanity reaches zero, at which point you can take them to school and sic them on your rival in Murder-Suicide fashion.
    • Yan-chan herself was this before the start of the game. The intro reveals that for her entire life, she had never experienced emotions until she met her beloved Senpai. Before that, she was simply going through life not feeling any huge desires or ambitions. In fact, Word of God says the closest thing she ever had to an actual hobby was "pretending to be a normal girl." What will she do now with her newfound love and hatred? Well, that's up for the player to decide.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa Another has Utsuro, who like Izuru Kamukura below had little emotion or motivation as a result of his talent making life too easy for him, which allowed him to be easily groomed by Ultimate Despair.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Izuru Kamakura was designed to be the Ultimate Life Form by removing his original personality, memories, and emotions, so that they would not interfere with a being of pure talent. As a result, he has no emotions that allow him to actually enjoy his skills and feels nothing but complete and utter boredom 24/7. As such, he has absolutely no motivation to do anything unless it has a chance of lessening his boredom, which is how Junko could easily manipulate him into kicking off The Tragedy. He makes an appearance in the Alternate Universe bonus mode of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, in which it's shown that he has no sense of identity, lamenting that he has no purpose and stating that he's called Izuru rather than it being who he is. However, after spending three years with everyone else he does show signs of improvement near the end, as he joins the Christmas Party with the others out of his own free will and hesitates to call his time at the Academy "boring" like he usually does.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Shirou Emiya is revealed to be a borderline case in the Unlimited Blade Works scenario, due to losing his self-perception in a childhood trauma. Even his dream of "saving everyone" is not his own, as he simply chose to imitate the man who rescued him (Kiritsugu) because he admired how happy the man had looked. He also uses this lack of self as both the concept and fuel for his Reality Marble, an empty field surrounded by flames, with only himself and an infinite number of weapons.
    • In Heaven's Feel, he's even more broken after receiving Archer's arm. Simply having it slowly destroys his body and mind, to the point that in the Normal ending his entire mind is destroyed except for the instinct to protect Sakura, which drives him on even after his body and soul have both died.
    • Shirou passes fully into this territory in one bad ending where he fails to protect Sakura after abandoning his dream for her, losing the only things that gave his existence purpose.
    • Kotomine is a similar example, lacking the ability to feel any positive emotion save pleasure in the suffering of others. He tried to fill his life with good acts to counter his aberrant nature but has ultimately concluded the only thing he truly desires is to unleash Angra Mainyu so he can learn why he was born such a broken being.
  • Yukitsuki Asaka of Fragment's Note sincerely believes she is a hollow shell with no personality and looks for her purpose in life through others as a result. Any of Yukiha's three possible love interests can convince her otherwise.
  • Grisaia Series:
    • On her bad ending in Fruit, Michiru becomes this after her attempted suicide leaves her with permanent brain damage, that emptiness is also reflected in her eyes.
    • During the bus crash flashback in The Fruit of Grisaia a combination of trauma and starvation left Ibuki barely responsive and only doing the bare minimum required to survive. However, in the second part of the flashback in The Eden of Grisaia when Sakashita stabbed Sakuma to death she came out of her stupor long enough to start stabbing her repeatedly with a pair of scissors, inflicting dozens of small wounds until she was struck in the head with a rock, which eventually killed her.
    • In The Labyrinth of Grisaia, following the death of his parents, Yuuji slipped into an empty state where he was treated as a dress-up doll by the terrorist Heath Oslo. He snapped out of it when one of Oslo's associates reminded him of his father, causing him to snap and kill the man with his bare hands. Impressed, Oslo began training him.
  • Junpei in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors becomes this in Submarine ending after Akane's death breaks him completely. The narration even refers to him as "empty shell".
  • The Phantom in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies considers themself to be this, as they've spent so long taking on other people's identities that they no longer have one of their own. Their assertion seems to be backed up by their first Mood Matrix session, where they show no emotion at all, even as they're hamming it up in the guise of Bobby Fulbright. However, this trope is arguably subverted by their second session, as it's revealed that they do in fact feel one emotion — fear.
  • This happens to Yoh Tsukuba in Saya no Uta after she is mutated into whatever terrible sort of thing Saya actually is. The process is apparently enormously painful, and involves her body rotting while she is still alive for roughly twenty hours, with her describing in a phone call with another character the sensation of her ears falling off and the discovery that her hands have turned to something deeply wrong. The lights are (unfortunately) still on, but no one's home.
  • This is what happens to Beatrice as a result of the end of Episode 4 in Umineko: When They Cry. It isn't until the beginning of Episode 5 that we actually see the effects, though. Basically, she is incapable of doing anything by herself and sits there with a lifeless expression on her face for a good chunk of the game. Massive Ship Teasing with Battler ensued.

  • Everyone who gets their soul removed in Archipelago — the body just sits there or trudges mindlessly after whoever is taking care of them (they will eat if fed, but not reach for food), while the soul (whether locked up somewhere or running free) retains consciousness, emotions and drive, if not necessarily the ability to speak.
  • In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures, if a fae actually biologically has a child with any non-fae, the result is an empty husk that dies on their 21st birthday. This is because there can only be a certain number of fae at any one time, and to make a new fae an old one must decide to die.
  • Evelyn Samael in Errant Story was a notably horrific example of the Came Back Wrong subclass of this, because the mage who resurrected her — her younger brother — had loved her dearly in life. (Not to mention the fact that he became a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds when he realized what he'd done.)
  • Horuss Zahhak of Homestuck believed he was this until he listened to the Void inside of him. Then he pretty much went batshit insane.

    Web Originals 
  • The Creepypasta The Living Murdered (the final part of the trilogy The Angel in the Computer) states that the things the angel is working for forcibly separate sapient creatures from their souls and devour them. What is left of a person this happens to becomes a psychopath. They do this to entire worlds, by the way.
  • The Nostalgia Critic's Heroic BSODs are frequently going into this territory more and more as time goes on. He always manages to crawl his way out of it so he can continue life, but the implications are nasty considering how Hot-Blooded he usually is.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Such is the fate of anyone who touches and then releases SCP-963. (Hanging onto the amulet just turns you into Dr. Bright.)
    • Hidden information in the SCP-5000 page implies that this is the default state of humanity. In an alternate timeline, the SCP Foundation conducted Project PNEUMA, an attempt to map out the human brain the same way the Human Genome Project mapped out DNA... and discovered that humans don't naturally feel emotions. All human emotions are the result of an Eldritch Abomination invading human consciousness for reasons unknown.
  • The children in Shell become "empty little eggshells" when they see the Eldritch Abomination.
  • Within the Wires: In "Cassette #5: Focus, Nose", the Second-Person Narration warns of the fate of an intractably violent patient at a research hospital, eventually sent to the Extensive Studies Lab to undergo "carpentry".
    Narrator: No one smelled sawdust. As I record this cassette I am looking at that patient, right now. Looking. Right. At. It.

    Western Animation 
  • Dr. Viktor's body is said to be this in the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Viktor: The Spoils", prior to its possession by the consciousness of King Xarion.
  • The Bojack Horseman episode "The Old Sugarman Place" shows that Beatrice's mother, Honey, was basically reduced to such after her lobotomy, with emotional and cognitive abilities vastly reduced. It's telling that in "Time's Arrow", the elderly Beatrice only remembers her mother as a literal shadow who never speaks.
  • In Drawn Together, Spanky Ham justifies his and his housemates' killing of the staff of Entertainment Weekly by stating that working in cubicles has made them already "dead inside".
  • Zombunny from Dr. Zitbag's Transylvania Pet Shop is a zombified rabbit who never seems to move. None the less, this has never stopped Dr. Zitbag from using Zombunny to mind the pet shop, babysit, or perform other tasks he's clearly incapable of performing. The running gag is that Zombunny always manages to succeed through the power of doing nothing.
  • Justice League:
    • This is what apparently happens to Gorilla Grodd in "The Brave and the Bold" after Flash "crosses a few wires" in his mind-control helmet and tricks him into using it. This fries his brain and turns him into a brain-dead vegetable. However, Grodd not only recovers from this, but no longer needs the helmet to control minds.
    • Dr. Destiny also ends up like this through a combination of overdosing on sleeping medicine and overexposure to the dream machine in "Only a Dream". In his last appearance in the show, he is lying in Blackgate's hospital, comatose with his eyes open and humming "Frere Jaques".
    • The alternate universe of the Justice Lords in "A Better World" has Lord Superman using his heat vision to perform crude lobotomies on Batman's most dangerous criminals and, now with them being barely above mindless zombies, placing them in Arkham Asylum. It's truly disconcerting when the group meet the lobotomized Joker in an abnormally calm and docile state, but heartbreaking when the Flash happens to encounter the lobotomized version of Poison Ivy, who now has no signs of her former ambitions and no longer cares what happens to the world and its plants. Even though they were villains, the ruthless lengths Lord Superman was willing to go through to maintain order places him squarely in Moral Event Horizon territory (if he hadn't already crossed it in his first appearance already). Interestingly, when Doomsday attacks, Lord Superman performs this same trick and takes him out. However, when Doomsday returns in "The Doomsday Sanction", he has fully recovered and even become immune to such tricks when the real Superman tries it.
    • In "Wake the Dead", Solomon Grundy is re-animated as a mindless berserker by chaos magic.
  • The Phineas and Ferb episode "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted!" has this happen to the boys themselves. Don't worry, they snap out of it.
  • In the South Park episode "Best Friends Forever", Kenny is killed and sent to Heaven to command the heavenly host against an invasion from Hell. Halfway through the episode, Kenny disappears from Heaven, as his body had been resuscitated on Earth, but in a persistent vegetative state. The doctors say that Kenny has the capacity to exist in this state for years.
    Doctor: Brain cells cannot be repaired once dead. But his soul is still in here. Almost... trapped in here, if you will.


Video Example(s):


Stolen Dark Emblems

At the end of Chapter 10, Veyle, in her evil split personality, steals the Emblem Rings that were collected by Alear up to that point, and Sombron then invokes them into becoming Dark Emblems, who possess no ability to think or communicate.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / MentalShutdown

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