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Jellyfish Eyes by Takashi Murakami
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The eyes are the window to the soul, or so we're often told. It's probably not surprising, then, that eyes are one of the most common Body Motifs. When eyes turn up in a symbolic role, they are normally linked to themes of perception, vigilance, and, occasionally, psychic powers. On a more ominous level, eyes can be linked to deception, illusion, secret societies holding forbidden eye-opening knowledge, and/or being under constant surveillance. They are also linked to appearances — both the superficial and the ability to see something's true nature.

As with all motifs, the motif can take the form of an actual eye, or simply a symbol of one: for example, a tattoo, a piece of jewellery or other MacGuffin, or a sign on a wall. It's also worth remembering that eyes are extremely vulnerable, so the motif might be the absence of an eye. In such circumstances, the theme may become blindness (both literal and metaphorical) and compromised perception.

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Compare Third Eye, where an extra eye gives supernatural powers due to symbolism (and thus, motif) regarding the eyes.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Each Millennium Item except for the Millennium Key in Yu-Gi-Oh! has an eye on it somewhere.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion and Rebuild features several including: SEELE's logo, Asuka's Eye Scream of EoE (and it's reference to it in Rebuild), Sahaquiel and several more if one looks for them.
  • In Soul Eater Asura the Kishin has a symbol which consists of three eyes turned on their sides. Pretty relevant since his "thing" is madness (distorted perception) born from paranoia (hence the extra eye). People who're going insane frequently hallucinate faces (their own and others) being replaced with one with the symbol in place of its eyes.
  • Pride in Fullmetal Alchemist. Most of his attacks involve shadows, which are depicted as covered in eyes.
    • In addition every alchemist who had performed human transmutation must give up a part of their body symbolic of their motivations.
      • Roy, who always looked towards the future, lost his eyesight.
  • The Jagan Eye in YuYu Hakusho is one of Hiei's major themes - it gives him several mental powers, as well as glowing when he uses Dark Flame techniques.
  • Serial Experiments Lain uses the size of the characters pupils to indicate there varying states of mind as The Wired becomes more and more connected to the real world.
  • Hellsing uses several Eye Motifs.
    • Alucard is able to summon a black mass with thousands eyes in it. As stated later each eye represents a life (human or non-human) that Alucard absorbed at some point in his unlife. It is later implied, that he is no longer himself by adapting parts of the others personalities. After Alucard absorbs Schrödinger's life, he has to perceive himself in order to exist, which is no longer possible since his life is one of three million in himself. Right before Alucard stops existing the eyes close.
    • Whenever Seras uses her vampire powers her eyes turn from blue to red. After accepting her vampire-self and sucking Pip Bernadotte's blood, her eyes turn red permanently. However this can also be a case of Red Eyes, Take Warning.
    • Every vampire has a Third Eye that can aim perfectly over several miles though darkness and see through any kind of illusion.
  • The mysterious entity in Shamanic Princess known as the Throne of Yord can take the form of anything it wants, but if it has a true form, it would be an eye. There are numerous stylized eye images used represent it, from a giant, multi-colored, eye-shaped stained glass window to a primitive stone carving.
  • Eyes in Noragami are heavily focused on. Corrupted shinki develop eyes over their bodies and it is the symbol of the masked phantoms controlled by Yato's father. In the anime opening, eyes are one of the few things given color; the rest are mostly monochrome.
  • In the anime version of Sengoku Basara, Kojuro is frequently referred to as the "Dragon's Right Eye", since he is The Lancer to Masamune and helps the half-blind Masamune "see" beyond the fighting and battles.
  • Attack on Titan places a lot of emphasis on eyes. It's subtle, but it's there.
  • CLAMP loves making characters lose an eye, to the extent that it has become something of a running joke in the fandom. So far, the count goes: Seishiro Sakurazuka in Tokyo Babylon, Subaru Sumeragi in X1999, Fay D. Flourite and Xiaolang in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- Kimihiro Watanuki and Shizuka Doumeki in XXX Holic, and Koukuyo in Wish.
  • Basilisk has a clear obsession with eyes. Three characters have magical powers based in their eyes much like the mythical basilisk. Four characters are blind, at least temporarily, and in every case the blindness is central to the story.
  • Letter Bee has an eye motif going on: One of Lag's eyes was replaced by a piece of amber when he was a baby; Ninche and her sister both have cat-like eyes; Dr. Thunderstone and one other survivor of the airship crash are missing one eye each; the twin gate keepers are missing both eyes.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: There are creepy yellow eye symbols everywhere you look when it comes to Neo Atlantis.
  • Naruto:
    • Eyes are its most obvious body theme.
      • Dojutsu (literally "Eye Techniques") are a recurring ability within the story with the Sharingan, Byakugan and Rinnegan being chief among them.
      • Characters with Animal Motifs tend to have irises which signify these traits. Naruto himself gains fox-like eyes and irises when his Superpowered Evil Side takes over, and Toad Sages like Jiraiya gain frog eyes and eye shadow (Naruto later combines both this and the fox eyes to create an all new look), and both Orochimaru and Kabuto gain snake eyes as they gain power.
      • Some one-off characters (such as Priestess Shion in the first Shippuden movie) have special eyes or irises that signify their unique powers or status.
      • Even without that, you have several instances where characters are able to learn a lot about someone else by looking directly into their eyes. A good example is during Gaara and Sasuke's first meeting.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman, eye injury as a common motif has been commented on by the creator. The Corinthian, Fiddler's Green and the Ravens, the first murder of Abel we see, even Despair's constant picking at her face all count.
    • There's also the fate of one of the students in the boy's school full of... former students, in Season of Mists. He died choking on his own vomit, as he informs us, and we see his eyeball hanging out of its socket down his cheek. Fun stuff.
      • It's played for laughs, though— his eye doesn't pop out until he's smacked on the back of a head by a grumpy former headmaster.
    • And the girl in Preludes and Nocturnes who stabbed herself in the eyeballs with some sort of skewery things while being mind-controlled.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Coraline, there is a lot of focus on the eyes, as they're replaced by buttons in the Other World and represent a Deal with the Devil, ans just as much focus goes to hand imagery and spoken allusions to hands, as a hand is the villain's very last resort.
  • Eyes figure prominently throughout Kubo and the Two Strings. Kubo had his eye taken from him by his grandfather, his mother gains a long scar across her left eye that is duplicated on Monkey's right as a clue to her identity, one of the armor pieces is kept in the sea among eye yokai, and the Moon King becomes a human with one working eye after the climax of the film, having been blind (both literally and figuratively) beforehand.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade Runner:
    • The use of a "shining eyes" technique is deliberately used by the film directors to denote replicants (Androids) and man-made animals giving the aesthetics view of a lens' flare.
    • The film opens with the futuristic landscape reflected in the close-up of an eye. When the Tyrell building comes into view, it evokes the image of the pyramid with the all-seeing eye above it. Replicants can be recognized by an eye exam. Photographs (the eye of the camera) are important to Replicants. Pris' makeup is all white, except for a strip of red across her eyes. The Replicants locate Tyrell via the man who made their eyes. When Batty finally meets Tyrell, he gouges his eyes out. When Batty dies, he tells Decker of the wonders his eyes have seen.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL communicates via the red eye of its camera, and we see the lightshow of the stargate reflected in Bowman's eye.
  • Eyes are a motif in Minority Report. Among them:
    • The pre-cogs "see" crimes before they happen in their mind's eye.
    • People's eyes are constantly scanned at checkpoints for identity verification.
    • Anderton has his eyes replaced to hide his identity from scanners and the spiders.
    • In the opening sequence, the "pre-criminal" Howard Marks returns home for his glasses ("You know how blind I am without them"), only to find his wife in bed with another man.
      • Earlier his son plunges a pair of scissors through the eyes of a cardboard picture of Abraham Lincoln, the same instrument Howard later attempts to drive into his unfaithful wife's eyes.
    • The drug dealer who sells Anderton his narcotics has no eyes so he cannot be identified.
    • Agatha asks Anderton several times throughout the film, "Can you see?", a physical as well as metaphysical question.
    • "The eyes of the nation are upon us," Director Burgess tells Anderton in warning him about the upcoming vote on the Pre-Crime Unit.
    • Whenever the cops see Anderton (or any other pre-criminal), they say, "We have eyes on him."
  • In Red Eye, the camera has an appropriate fixation with Rachel McAdams' eyes, which are gradually turning all red and veiny as she stays up all night. The camera also likes Cillian Murphy's eyes, which remain icy-blue.

    Literature 
  • In The Outsiders, all of the Greasers have descriptions early on in the book. This book also likens the colors green and gold. Ponyboy, Darry, and Cherry all have green(ish) eyes and are therefore "gold"
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the symbol for VFD is "VFD" written in a font that makes it look like an eye.
  • The Eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Sauron probably isn't a literal giant, flaming eyeball as in the film adaptations, but the red eye is nonetheless the symbol his Mooks use.
  • The Top God on the Discworld is Blind Io, who has no eyes in his own head but has hundreds of disembodied ones which float about at his will, gathering information throughout the world. As such, his symbol is an eye or flock of eyes.
  • In Illuminatus!, the eye in the pyramid is the symbol of the Illuminati.
  • Eyes appear as a motif in The Great Gatsby, especially those of a billboard.
  • In Harry Potter, the titular character has his mother's green eyes. This probably reflects his "deepest nature" being more like his mother than his father, despite his outward appearance mostly resembling James.
  • In The Bluest Eye, the main character longs to have blue eyes. Eyes also appear symbolically in the story in the form of a flashlight and film projector.
  • Eyes have become a symbol of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
  • In Dune, a side effect of using the drug Melange is that your eyes turn blue.
  • In Horus Heresy, the Eye of Horus becomes the symbol of Luna Wolves upon their renaming into Sons of Horus, is worn by namy SoH officers upon their breastplates even before renaming, and is Sigil Spammed into everything connected to Horus. On a more meta note, it's also the official symbol of the series.
  • In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the Secret Police of The Republic of Gilead are named The Eyes of God.
  • In the 2013 Sci-Fi novel The Impairment, eyes are the recurring theme with the concept of "perception" and how we "see or view" people to be something of an ideal that college professor Norman Oswald goes out of his way to even humiliated two of his own students, two nasty and judgmental students that is, to drive his point how Kyle Griffin's peers are wrong to jump to conclusions of his guilt in the matter of his position as suspect in the murder of his roommate Zack Oliver, of whom we know was killed by an extra-terrestrial. A lot of attention is also drawn to many character's eyes for which we see the true emotions their faces may not be showing and of course, it's through Kyle's eyes we see extra-terrestrials which are linked to the one he saw kill his roommate. The flask that Kyle is given even has an engraved in it for which is rather mesmerizing to say the least.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hera, the queen of the gods, appears as a pair of floating eyes, which are also peacock feathers.
  • The 2017 Netflix adaption of A Series of Unfortunate Events features the VFD Eye with a much greater presence than the books.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
  • Lost devotes a lot of attention to eyes, such as episodes beginning with an eye opening, Locke's comment of having "looked into the eye of this island," and a tendency for Dies Wide Open moments. There's also a motif of lost limbs: Montand's arm, Martha Toomey's leg, Pierre Chang's arm, Ray's arm, etc. Then there's Mikhail's eye, which fits both motifs.

    Music 
  • One of the recurring motifs in Ronnie James Dio's music is eyes.
  • K-Pop Girl Group LOONA has a subunit called ODD EYE CIRCLE - no guesses as to what visual motif keeps popping up in their music videos. What makes the eye "odd" is the glowing halo rimmed around their pupil.
  • Shizen no Teki-P (Jin)'s Kagerou Project centers around eyes.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Argus Panoptes from Greek mythology; the giant with many eyes (different account give him from 4 to 100 eyes), who was the watcher of Io.
  • The Eye of Providence is an eye symbol usually combined with a pyramid or triangle, which was originally used by the Horus cult of ancient Egypt. It was adopted by gnostic Christianity, and has since become representative of The Illuminati and later Freemasonry. It is part of the Great Seal of the United States of America. The idea of the eye as symbolic of omniscience or mystical intelligence probably originates from this.
  • The ancient Egyptian Eye of Horus was a symbol of protection. It morphed into the physician's "Rx" logo, at least according to some theories.

    Theater 
  • Eyes are arguably the most prominent motif in Oedipus the King and, to a lesser extent, the whole trilogy. The most famous example of this is Oedipus ripping his own eyes out of his head.
  • In the 2013 musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka's songs and dialogue are rife with references to sight and eyes, reflecting his gift for imagining amazing things and making them manifest in the real world (that is to say, he's a visionary). This motif is most prominent in his first song, the Act One closer "It Must Be Believed to Be Seen".
  • Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is full of references to eyes, sight and blindness; echoing Oedipus' fate.

    Video Games 
  • The Reaverbots of Mega Man Legends are usually associated with their round red eye, with Reaverbot bosses having the eye shown in their health bars. Eden at the end of the first game also has a large eye symbol on its underside.
    • These Reaverbot eyes also show up in Hyleg Ourobockle's and Burble Hekelot's stages in Mega Man Zero 2.
  • In The Legend of Zelda series, Ganondorf, Agahnim, and the Sheikah Tribe tend to have a recurring eye motif. Vaati, however, takes the cake, with most of his One-Winged Angel forms being based around an eye. In The Minish Cap, when he takes over Hyrule Castle, he even decorates the place with eye markings.
  • Many Kirby enemies and bosses have prominent eye motifs; ex. Kracko, Waddle Doo, Wheelie, etc. They are especially prominent in a number of final boss One-Winged Angel forms; ex. Drawcia Soul, Magolor Soul, Zero, and Dark Nebula.
  • In the Diablo franchise, the seal of the Horadrim order includes what could be a pair of very stylised eyes, dripping, within a triangle.
  • In The Talos Principle, the Milton Library Assistant, a "helpful" computer program, takes the form of an ASCII representation of an eye when it has something to say.
  • Throughout Environmental Station Alpha, the design of various characters, their attacks, and the environment itself have a reccuring single eye motif.
  • Bloodborne: Blood, obviously, but also eyes. The former is where most of the Hunter's standard abilities come from (heal yourself with blood, make bullets out of blood, level up with "Blood Echoes", ect.), and it's implied that both the Hunters and the Beast Plague were created from expirements with the blood of an Eldritch Abomination. Most Yharnamites you meet will never shut up about it. The latter, on the other hand, is used as a symbol of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, with a number of characters trying to gain cosmic knowledge like the Great Ones, with the term "eyes on the inside" coming up a lot.
  • There are a lot of characters missing eyes in Metal Gear. The series is heavy on symbolism, so it's probably meant to mean something, but what that something is is left for fans to bicker over.
  • R-Type makes a lot of eyes, such as Bydo ships firing disembodied eyeballs (complete with optic nerves, which makes some people think they're spermatozons), and the eye is a weak point for several bosses.

    Web Comics 
  • In Drowtales, the Val'Kyorl'solenurn clan's symbol is the eye of an aware. It's embroidered onto the front lower panel of clothing and battle flags, as well as tattooed onto the forehead.
    • The symbol of the imperial family is nine gemstones shaped like eyes.
  • In Charby the Vampirate King Roderick and his retinue wear cloaks with clasps that look like red eyes with slit pupils.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court places a lot of emphasis on the eyes: Reynardine possesses people through their eyes, it's been hinted that the fact that Annie wears eye shadow is significant, the local Green Lantern Rings are called "Blinker Stones," the forest is populated by "glass-eyed men," and several characters obscure their eyes—most notably Zimmy with her Hidden Eyes, but Mr. and Mrs. Donlan count too, with thick eyeglasses and Eyes Always Shut respectively. A supernatural Freak Out gives Jack apparently permanent insomniac eyes. Could be connected with the themes of illusion, searching and "not seeing things clearly," which are big of the plot.
    • Regarding Annie's eye shadow: kohl (used, especially in ancient times, as eyeshadow), is also known as surma, and it is often prepared using the mineral antimonite.
    • Coyote can be identified merely by his eyes. They have a very, very distinctive pattern. His grin is also very distinctive and usually seen along with the eyes, but his eyes are enough to know it's him. He also takes great joy in using his eyes in weird ways... like juggling them.
    • Jeanne's green eyes match the green eyes of most of the robots, presumably due to Diego's obsession with her.
    • When Jones was with Coyote, he repeatedly called them "wandering eye".
    • Recent additions to the cast have also put emphasis on the arms and hands. People in this comic who say they would "give their arm" for something are speaking literally. Anthony willingly amputates his own right arm — destroying his career as a surgeon and throwing away any future plans as a doctor in the process — in a vain attempt to contact his wife and retrieve the past. Later, Ysengrin calmly sacrifices his left arm to Annie's flames of rage in order to reconnect her with her anger and fire-powers.
  • The Order of the Stick: Redcloak had a brother known as Righteye (no prizes for guessing why), whom he killed during the prequel book Start of Darkness. Redcloak has now lost an eye himself, although the extent to which this will affect him is as yet unclear.
  • Likewise, Supernormal Step uses an eye motif. The Nameless, an anti-Henderson Security group, is represented by a stylized eye. This eye appears all over the place, including on background characters (for example, Akela, a minor character, is almost guaranteed to get more development because she wears The Nameless's eye). Cecilia, the most important character so far, wears more detailed eye imagery on occasion. One can theorize that this represents how the resistance has eyes everywhere.

    Western Animation 
  • Western Animation/Gravity Falls: Throughout the series there are eye motifs and drawings all over the place. Later, the main antagonist is revealed to be basically a triangle with only one huge eye in its face. Turns out its an all-seeing dream demon that is probably watching you right now.
    • The way to tell if someone is possessed by said demon is too look into their eyes, as their color changes to a faint yellow and the pupils turn to slits.
    • The Society of the Blind Eye has this not only in its name but its symbol is that of a crossed-out eye.

    Real Life 
  • CBS's corporate logo is a simplified eye. Sometimes played with in CBS Sports CGI, where the outer circle becomes a basketball, the cornea a football, and the iris a baseball or soccer ball.
  • The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the first private detective agency in America, used an all-seeing eye as its logo.

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