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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, shapeshifters 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. Much like Voices Are Mental, some examples may be visible to other characters, others are merely Stylized for the Viewer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • You can tell when someone is possessed in Dream Eater Merry by their eyes. Since people out of the loop react more to their friends' bizarre behaviour than anything else, it's probably for the audience's benefit.
  • Doraemon: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi has the gang being tricked by a shapeshifting robot, Yamitem, who captured and imprisoned Doraemon and attempts to lead the gang into a deathtrap, until the real Doraemon breaks free of his bonds and tries warning the others. While Yamitem tries manipulating the gang into attacking Doraemon, Nobita however managed to identify the Doraemon leading them is an imposter by looking into their eyes.
  • One Piece:
    • When Trafalgar Law switches people's minds around, their eyes change as well. Except for Nami.
    • Den Den Mushi gets 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 colour on the iris changes (instead of a darker colour 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 Fusion: 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.
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: Whenever Kuroe Akaishi transforms into Harugon, her eyes retain the same pink colour and heart-shaped pupils she has as a human.
  • Queen's Blade: Melona can shapeshift and mimic other almost perfectly except for the fact she retains her trademark plus-shaped pupils.

    Comic Books 
  • The Girl from the Sea: In human form Keltie has enormous pupils matching those of her other form, a seal. People note that Keltie's eyes are very weird so it seems that selkies can't change the seal eyes they're born with. Earl, Keltie's predecessor as the Bay's Selkie has the same issue, and his own solution.
  • Issue 21 of the Invader Zim (Oni) comic books features a double bodyswap, featuring Zim switching with Gaz, and GIR switching with Dib. All of them kept their own eyes, except Gaz, who kept a tuft of her hair (though her eyes stay shut as is normally the case for her, so it's unclear if Zim's body now has her eyes or not).
  • Played for Horror in Rise of the Third Army when converted over into a member of the eponymous Third Army their eyes remain unchanged . The Heart is ejected in the transformation but the eyes remain the same. However any life or recognition is robbed from those eyes, showing nothing is left inside.
  • In The Sandman (1989) we occasionally view Dream of the Endless through the eyes of other creatures, who see him as a member of their own race or species, (whether their perception differs or he shapeshifts based on their expectations is never made clear). One way the reader always knows it's him is his eyes, which are black and seem to contain stars no matter what the rest of him looks like.
  • 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 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this MonsterVerse fanfiction, across all of Monster X's forms from when the Two Beings, One Body Titan is originally formed, one thing that remains consistent is that both halves' respective eye colours (San's red eyes and Vivienne Graham's hazel eyes) are retained.
  • Child of the Storm plays with this in the sequel - Harry's picked out by Coulson when he changes almost all of his appearance by his eye colour alone because he couldn't change it (though the fact that he changed his hair colour to the striking deep red of his mother and Grey cousins was also a hint). However, this is suggested to be more due to limits on his skills at self-transfiguration, as he didn't want to risk blinding himself.
  • Cutie Mark Crusaders 10k: No matter what form Applejack assumes, her eyes always remain their usual bright green.
  • 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 resemblance between Kiku's and Nihon's eyes. It's because they are 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.
  • The Sacred and the Profane: Caphriel wears sunglasses because anyone who sees his eyes immediately realizes he's an angel incarnate — they look thousands of years older than the rest of their body and make viewers devastatingly aware that he can see into their souls, down to the darkest and most intimate parts of them, and loves them anyway.
  • In the same vein, Teatime's eyes in Resurrection Men are a fanfic example of eyes showing true nature.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek 2: Combines this with nose resonance when Shrek takes the Happily Ever After potion; his nose shape and eye colour, if not the size, resonate in his new human form.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast has very human blue eyes even in his monstrous form. When he turns back into a prince at the end, Belle seems confused if he really is the same person, until she looks into said eyes and sees that they're the same.
  • Brave: Queen Elinor retains her original eyes in her bear form — except when she's going feral and her human mind is subsumed due to the curse's effects, at which point her eyes turn all-black and animal-like.
  • In Megamind, if you pay close attention, this is a tell for the title character's shapeshifting watch, as he still has his green eyes whenever he uses it to disguise himself as someone else, despite that someone else never having green eyes. It is used to shapeshift into someone who already has green eyes once, but in this case, it's the brown-eyed Minion disguised as Megamind while Megamind himself uses another watch with the same tell to disguise himself as Metro Man.
  • In Turning Red, when Mei and her female relatives turn into giant red pandas, their eyes look the same instead of having large irises and small sclera like real red pandas.
  • In Wolfwalkers, a Wolfwalker's eyes will always look the same regardless of whether they're a human or a wolf. This is especially notable with Robyn, since unlike Mebh and Moll she doesn't keep any of her other physical traits as a wolf aside from her blue eyes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu: The Ditto can't change its Black Bead Eyes when it shapeshifts into other Pokemon or humans. Overlaps with Red Right Hand when it impersonates Roger Clifford, necessitating some Sinister Shades to hide them. Tim is extremely creeped out by the effect when the Ditto turns into his love interest.
  • Scanners: After their psychic Wizard Duel, Darryl Revok's eyes change colour to match Cameron Vale's, signifying that the latter has survived his apparent death by pulling a Grand Theft Me on the former. Doubles with Voices Are Mental.
  • 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.

  • Animorphs: Inverted in #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.
  • Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast: In the first book of this series, Robin McKinley writes that the most unsettling thing about the Beast's appearance is that while the rest of him is completely monstrous, his eyes are human.
  • Discworld: This trope became a major rule in this series by Terry Pratchett.
    • 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.
    • 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 in I Shall Wear Midnight has no eyes, just tunnels that let you see through his head. This is a very, very bad sign.
  • The First Law: Although never explicitly stated, the mage Yoru Sulfur is a shapechanger with one blue eye and one green eye. No matter what he looks like, his mismatched eye colours always stay the same. This is invariably the way the reader is alerted to the fact that a particular character is actually Yoru in disguise.
  • In Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, angels and demons can more or less choose their size and shape, but there's a reason Crowley the serpent-demon doesn't like to take his sunglasses off.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry is disguised through a Polyjuice Potion and looks nothing like himself. Luna Lovegood promptly greets him by his actual name, not realising that he is disguised for a good reason. When Harry wonders how she could tell, Luna just shrugs and says it was something about his eyes.
  • The Hunger Games: At the end of the first book the monsters have the same eyes as the dead tributes, and their fur is the same colour as the corresponding tribute's hair.
  • The master in Krabat has the 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.)
  • Patternist: Anyanwu is a skilled, ancient Biomancer, but her eyes betray a hint of her true nature no matter what form she takes:
    People said her eyes were like babies' eyes — the whites too white, the browns too deep and clear. No adult, and certainly no old woman should have such eyes, they said.
  • In Summer in Orcus, Summer meets a dragon trapped in a human body, who has reptilian eyes. Later, Summer meets the human trapped in the dragon's body and realizes who she is because she has human eyes.
  • In the Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, several characters mention that the wolves around town have eyes that are indescribably human-looking, and some claim to be able to recognize them as certain humans from regular life.

    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.
    • This gets a Call-Back in "Who Are You?" When rogue slayer Faith does a Grand Theft Me with Buffy, Buffy-in-Faith's-body asks Giles why he can't just look into her eyes and instinctively realize it's her. Later when Tara says she worked out what happened just by looking at her, Buffy casts a snippy look at Giles, who looks embarrassed.
  • 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 flashes 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 
  • At the start of the second act of Dragon Quest XI, the mermaids of Nautica make the Luminary undergo an Emergency Transformation into a fish. One of the main indicators that said fish is him (besides wearing the same bag around his waist) is that his blue eyes are the same.
  • 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.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
    • Link retains his blue eyes and a similar-looking gaze while in wolf form.
    • The Hero's Shade has glowing red eyes as a wolf and a skeleton.
  • In Super Mario Odyssey, anything Mario captures will have his blue eyes along with his hat and moustache(assuming the captured thing has eyes, of course).
  • In the Pokémon franchise, Ditto can transform into any Pokémon or human they see. Unfortunately, many ditto struggle with changing their beady eyes, making it easy to identify a Ditto imposter amongst a large group of Pokémon.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.)
  • Ben 10:
    • When Ghostfreak became a separate evil entity in Ben 10, people who were possessed by him would have his eyes instead of theirs.
    • In Ben 10: Omniverse, Bullfrag has to conceal his eyes to not give away he's really Ben, due to all his alien forms having his green eyes in this series.
  • Variation in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: when Buzz and Mira get mutated into a single eye-stalked Blob Monster in one episode, the eye on Mira's side of the body is the same yellow-with-a-black-pupil as Buzz's (instead of her usual big blue Puppy-Dog Eyes), but still has her pointy doe-eye lashes.
  • 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.
  • In Danny Phantom, Danny has glowing green eyes in his ghost form, and anyone whom he overshadows gets them until he leaves.
  • A one-off villain from Darkwing Duck called Camille the Chameleon can turn into practically anything, but her unusual yellow sclera remains unchanged. Oddly enough, the characters never mention this and are only able to tell who she is by the hiss in her voice.
    • Earlier on, in the episode "Trading Faces", an accident switches minds between Darkwing and Gosalyn and between Launchpad and Honker. They not only switch their voices, but also their eyes (Darkwing gets Gosalyn's green eyes, Gosalyn gets Darkwing's Black Dot Pupils and Honker's near-sightedness moves to Launchpad)
  • 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. (Though the rest of Bill is yellow.) 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, a Bill-possessed Blendin wears goggles to hide them.
    • 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.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Get Out of My Head!", whenever one of the characters possesses someone else, the one they’re possessing gets their eyes as a result. For example, when Grim possesses Billy’s cat Milkshakes as a demonstration, she has Grim’s eye sockets, and when Billy possesses Mandy, she gets his Black Bead Eyes.
  • The Owl House: In "Once Upon a Swap," Eda, Luz, and King swap bodies with one another, but are still distinguishable by their voices and their eyes — Eda's body has Luz's big brown eyes, King's body has Eda's yellow eyes with winged eyeliner, and Luz has King's yellow sclera and purple pupils (as well as a single fang tooth).