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Eyes Are Mental

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Giles: How did you know it was me?
Buffy: Your eyes. You're the only person in the world that can look that annoyed with me.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "A New Man"

It seems that by some law of Shapeshifting, Shape Shifters are unable to change their eyes, no matter how skilled they are at changing form. Showing the eye changing or corrupting into that of a different species is an effective way of showing mental takeover or transformation-induced humanity loss thanks to this. See Glamour Failure for a similar trope and Voices Are Mental for the vocal version of this trope.


A specific type of Morphic Resonance.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rave Master used this straight. When they were in the Demon Lord's aircraft, they split from Musica, who was believed to have died by everyone but Haru. They then encountered a werewolf who was then turned back to Musica, by a magical Elixir.
  • You can tell when someone is possessed in Yumekui Merry by their eyes. Or the audience can. It's never made clear if the characters can tell. Since people out of the loop react more to their friends' bizarre behavior than anything else, it's probably for the audience's benefit. Like in Code Geass when Lelouch Geasses someone.
  • One Piece:
    • When Trafalgar Law switches people's minds around, their eyes change as well. Except for Nami.
    • Den Den Mushi get not only the voices, but also the eyes of the person on the other side. When Doflamingo is the speaker, the snail imitates his sunglasses.
  • The dragons in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid all keep their reptilian pupils when they take on human form, though the distribution of color on the iris changes (instead of a darker color outlining the pupil it becomes a gradient from top to bottom). Lucoa is an exception to the rule, though that's probably because she was originally a goddess.
  • Digimon Xros Wars: Shoutmon normally averts this, as the Combining Mecha-esque nature of DigiXros means that most of his advanced forms have entirely new heads. It's played straight in the Grand Finale as a demonstration of just how strong Shoutmon's Heroic Spirit has become (and how much his people believe in him to lead them), with his normal blue eyes staying unchanged and continuing to stare down the Big Bad even as the rest of his body morphs into his ultimate combined form.

    Comic Books 
  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm cheers up Ben Grimm by commenting that his eyes never changed. This is something that's always been a part of the Thing, it's why Ben is "the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing." The dialogue goes something like this:
    Johnny: Your eyes never changed, you know.
    Ben: Huh?
    Johnny: Your eyes never changed. I mean, yeah, the rest of you is a freak, but your eyes are still the same.
    Ben: You noticed my eyes?
    Johnny: I notice stuff. I'm not smart like Reed or Sue, but I notice stuff.

    Fan Works 
  • Hakkōna: Feliciano was able to tell that the leopard who nearly attacked him was Kiku because of familiar black eyes.
    Forcing open one brown eye, he saw the reason why; the beast had frozen over, piercing ebon orbs wide. Wait—piercing ebon orbs?! Those orbs belonged to only one person and one person only...
  • Kaitō Kokoro: Feliciano noticed a strong resemblence between Kiku's and Nihon's eyes. It's because they are one in the same.
    A jovial laugh rang out. "Well, I highly doubt there are any other Clouded Leopards that are black all over and have bodies five feet long." Piercing ebon orbs widened as his cheeks were cupped, brought close to hazel. "But his most memorable feature is his black eyes...which look so much like yours." Realization dawned on him. "They look exactly like yours! I wonder why?"
    "M-Maybe it's just a coincidence?!" This is not good! Not good at all!
  • From the RWBY fanfic Happily Ever After: After Pyrrha and Amber destroy Cinder's soul and Pyrrha takes over her body permanently, the eyes on the body change from Cinder's yellow to Pyrrha's green. It's left unclear if the eyes changed earlier when Pyrrha temporarily took over, since the scene was from Cinder's point-of-view, and she (obviously) cannot see her own eyes.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • A non-monster example in Heaven Can Wait (1978). At the end of the movie, when Betty looks into Jarrett's eyes she recognizes that he's actually Joe in Jarrett's body.
  • One of the ways the audience can tell who the prawn shown at the end of District 9 is, is by its eyes. It has one blue eye and one yellow one, just as Wikus did around the 72nd hour of his transformation into a prawn.
  • Borderline example in Hook. In this case the "monster" is just a grown up, but a lost boy recognizes him as The Pan after looking into his eyes.
  • Mystique from the X-Men Film Series movies usually has a perfect disguise, but her reptilian-like eyes will occasionally flash while in another form. That's mostly just to show the audience that it's her, though.
  • In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) it's not revealed to the audience that the Cheshire cat has transformed into the Mad Hatter until he looks up and we see his cat eyes.

  • Discworld:
    • Interesting Times: "Gods can take any form, but the one aspect of themselves they cannot change is their eyes, which show their nature." The Lady and Fate are mentioned as specific examples.
    • In the same vein, Teatime's eyes in Resurrection Men are a fanfic example.
    • This applies to everyone in the Discworld universe. Nothing magical can change the appearance of a creature's eyes, even though you can potentially change every other part of their body.
    • The Cunning Man has no eyes, just tunnels that let you see through his head. This is a very, very bad sign.
  • The master in Krabat has magic to take on a different appearance, but he'll always be missing the one eye he lacks in real life. Also applies to animals he creates. (When Krabat tries to run away, he repeatedly meets black animals with one eye — it's not sure whether they're the shapeshifted master, or created by him.)
  • Inverted in Animorphs #6 The Capture. After the group has realized that Jake is being controlled by a Yeerk, one of them looks in his eyes and comments that "all {they} can see is Jake". However, it was the brief look of intense hatred in his eyes that tipped off Ax in the first place.
  • In Robin McKinley's first Beauty and the Beast book, Beauty, the most unsettling thing about the Beast's appearance is that while the rest of him is completely monstrous, his eyes are human.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "A New Man" Giles is transformed into a Fyarl demon. None of the Scoobies realize this, and instead want to know what the demon has done with Giles. Buffy recognizes Giles when she looks into his eyes (while she has him pinned down and is beating the shit out of him), because apparently there is no one else in the world who can look that annoyed with her.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Kawalsky is revealed to be possessed by a Goa'uld when he looks at the screen (but not the rest of the cast) with the Glowing Eyes of Doom that the Goa'uld usually flash for dramatic effect.

    Myths & Religion 
  • This is Older Than Feudalism. Slavic oral tradition dictates that werewolves have human-y eyes while in wolf form.

    Video Games 
  • In King's Quest VI, the genie is a shapeshifter who always has golden glinting eyes, even in nonhuman form. Noticing this allows you to avoid getting tricked or killed by him.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link retains his blue eyes and a similar-looking gaze while in wolf form.
  • In Super Mario Odyssey, anything Mario captures will have his blue eyes along with his hat and mustache (assuming the captured thing has eyes, of course).

    Web Comics 
  • In Last Res0rt, Alice Quinn cannot change her dead eyes. Jigsaw, after absorbing her shapeshifting, can.
  • In S.S.D.D, when a copy of the Oracle possesses Central his avatar has the Old Man's blue triangle eyes.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle is not fully convinced that the transformed prince is in fact the Beast, until she takes a good look at his eyes.
  • A one-off villain from Darkwing Duck called the Chameleon can turn into practically anything, but her eyes remained unchanged. Oddly enough, the characters never mention this and are only able to tell who she is by the hiss in her voice.
  • In Around the World with Willy Fog, Master of Disguise Transfer looks and sounds exactly like whoever he's impersonating, but he has a characteristic evil glint in his eye to tip the viewer off. (As in the Darkwing Duck example, the characters never notice this.)
  • In Code Lyoko, when XANA possesses someone, the only visual clue is their eyes flickering and switching between normal and XANA's eye-like symbol. The same goes for polymorphic clones as well.
  • When Ghostfreak became a separate evil entity in Ben 10, people who were possessed by him would have his eyes instead of theirs.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • An odd example: when Bill Cipher possesses someone, their pupils become slits like Bill's, but their eyes also become yellow, even though Bill's eye is white. Ford is apparently aware of this, since he checked Stan's eyes to make sure he wasn't possessed in one episode, and took off his Scary Shiny Glasses to prove he himself wasn't possessed in another. A few episodes after that, Mabel is tricked into giving the time-travelling Blendin the remains of a dimensional rift, which he breaks before taking off his goggles and revealing the eyes that show he was actually possessed by Bill.
    • Also, in the episode "Carpet Diem", whenever someone switches bodies with Waddles the pig, who has dots for eyes, they keep their regular eyes, but the person whose body is taken over by Waddles doesn't have Waddles' eyes. Also, Dipper still has his Exhausted Eye Bags no matter whose body he is in.