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Hand Behind Head

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The face of a man who's about to get involved in Courtroom Antics for the nine billionth time.

When nervous, embarrassed, or uncertain — or lying — a character will sometimes rub the back of their head/neck with one hand, often with a patently fake grin or laugh accompanying the gesture. It appears a lot in manga and anime as a simple way to show off someone's character or how they are feeling. It's often (but not always) accompanied by a Sweat Drop.

Related to Face Palm and "Silly Me" Gesture.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh: While Tomo does this more (in the anime) than all the rest of the main and supporting cast combined, the following have also done it: Kagura (the distant second), Chiyo (twice), Yomi, Chihiro, Yukari, and Minamo (once each).
  • Bleach: Ichigo scratches the nape of his neck whenever he's feeling awkward.
  • Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense.: Maple demonstrates a bit of her new Machine God transformation by equipping it only on her left arm. She then blushes while getting compliments and tries to scratch her head with it. There's a loud metalic bonk, and she reflexively says ow. But thank's to her high defense stats she's unhurt and unfazed.
  • Case Closed: Conan does this occasionally. Kogoro does it a few times too because he's the Clueless Detective and he's receiving the credit for Conan's cases. Exhibit A here.
  • The Nohara males in Crayon Shin-chan.
  • Death Note: Matsuda does this several times, being the bumbling Butt-Monkey.
  • Inspector Takayama does this early on in the Domu: A Child's Dream, embarrassingly asking about supernatural phenomena to a shaman who can tell he's skeptical.
  • Most Son males from Dragon Ball Z.
  • Dr. STONE: One of Senku's Character Tics is rubbing the back of his neck while irritated. This turns out to be surprisingly important. He rubs his neck while in the presence of Tsukasa so that when Tsukasa inevitably betrays him, he'll unconsciously choose "shatter Senku's neck" as the best way of giving him a quick death. This is because the back of Senku's neck is still petrified, and he's seen the de-petrification formula restore even cracked statues to healthy flesh.
  • Neko in K: Missing Kings, after she loses a fight with a parrot.
  • In Mahoraba, it appears Shiratori's hand is glued back there.
  • Manabi Straight!: The eponymous Manabi does this during the reflection meeting in the last episode.
  • Hitoshi Shinso from My Hero Academia does it a lot too.
  • Mai in My-HiME, after Chie asks her about the "crop circle" she created when she arrived at school.
  • Naruto:
    • Kakashi did this many times when trying to brush aside the reasons he was late for practice, or during any other display of Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • Naruto does this too, presumably as a homage to Dragon Ball. His mother, Kushina, also does it, which is probably where he got it from
    • Iruka does it too, especially as a child.
  • Negi in Negima! Magister Negi Magi. As well as most of the Baka Rangers, sometimes together.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome does this very frequently.
  • Sailor Moon: It's common for many of the characters to do this, but specifically:
    • Usagi will do it if she's made a silly mistake or if she's embarrassed herself. Particularly, she usually does it to a loud, awkward cackle.
    • Makoto does this the most, whether she's talking to a boy she's smitten with, or if she's trying to lie convincingly.
  • Slayers: Both Gourry and Xellos do this rather frequently, though with Xellos it's probably for more worrisome reasons.
  • Tenchi Muyo!:
    • Tenchi Masaki is quite fond of doing this.
    • Sasami in the Pretty Sammy series does this fairly frequently when she thinks people have figured out her identity.
  • Ja Wangnan from Tower of God, especially when drunk and praised.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 15 of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons, Paddi awkwardly places his hand behind his head after he embarrasses the other goats by asking his toy robot if it could get him something to eat at a solemn funeral for all the sentient toys Wolffy destroyed.

    Comic Books 
  • The Phantom Affair, an arc of the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics drawn by Biukovic, Wedge Antilles does this at at least two points.
  • After making what he realizes is a poor suggestion to Dick and Barbara Tim puts his hand behind his head as he realizes the impracticality of what he's just said.
    Robin: Why not tell him the truth?
    Nightwing: Such as?
    Robin: Well, we fought gangster zombies and their leader was consumed Hellfire.
    *unimpressed stares from Dick and Babs*
    Robin: *with hand behind head* Good point. Gosh I'm tired. I think I'll just get some sleep.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): When Atalanta asks Diana if she's ever been in love with a man Diana slides a hand behind her head and blushes a bit as she thinks of Steve.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): When Steve Trevor literally runs into Diana and is recognized from the papers by Etta he sheepishly puts his hand on the back of his neck while trying to explain why he doesn't deserve nor want the fame he's gotten and apologize for running into them while still hoping to escape from the reporters hounding him.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney heroes, most notably Aladdin and Hercules, tend to do this when confronted with attractive and aggressive women. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast does it when he's ashamed of himself or frustrated.
  • Sunset Shimmer starts doing this in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, showing her insecurities. She notably puts a hand behind her head while admitting that she dated Flash Sentry just to get more popular, and again in Celestia's office later. It's still a frequent habit of hers in Friendship Games.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • James Bond, of all people, does this in GoldenEye, after Valentin Zukovsky calls him a "charming, sophisticated secret agent."
  • It takes a while to notice, but note how many times George Bailey does this in Itsa Wonderful Life, it almost gets to the point of a nervous tic for George.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House: This seems to be a registered trademark of Dr. James Wilson.
  • Sheriff Jack Carter, from Eureka.
  • The Third and Tenth Doctors in Doctor Who tend to do this when acting bashful or embarrassed.
  • Shane from The Walking Dead, to memetic levels.
  • Daredevil (2015): Karen Page tends to do this when she's nervous.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect:
    • Commander Shepard has a tendency to do this when modestly acknowledging his/her deeds when admired. Other characters occasionally do it as well.
    • In one side-mission in Mass Effect, it is specifically mentioned as a Character Tic one very minor character does when stressed. Since you are being asked to keep him distracted for a while, you are advised to press the subject when he starts doing this.
  • It's a frequent Character Tic for Commander Cullen in Dragon Age: Inquisition, although it's rarely seen outside of his romance arc. BioWare enjoys this trope.
  • Spider-Man does this in the Marvel vs. Capcom series and spiritual predecessors.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Sora does this a lot — often around Kairi or Naminé but basically whenever he's thinking about anything. Also, when Goofy scolds him for getting a little too aggressive, his apology involves this gesture.
    • Axel / Lea also has a tendency to do this when uncomfortable.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, this was an idle animation that every NPC would eventually play if you waited long enough. (Considering the context, this was surprisingly appropriate.)
  • Crisis Core: Zack does this frequently enough for it to be an identifying mannerism. Cloud of Final Fantasy VII probably picked it up from him. Along with everything else.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Pit, Hades, and Viridi are all guilty of this.
  • In F-Zero, John Tanaka's signature pose is this, and he does this excessively in his interviews.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link will occasionally do this, such as when a Great Fairy blows him a kiss.
  • Dr Roman from Fate/Grand Order does this in every pose on his expression sheet. Since his reaction to most things is sheepish laughter, it's generally appropriate. On the other hand, maybe it's just glued there.
  • In one of the Pikmin shorts titled “Treasure in a Bottle”, after the Red Pikmin trapped in a bottle falls back into the bottle after the Yellow Pikmin’s bomb goes off, the three Pikmin trying to help the Red Pikmin find it dazed, and when the other Red Pikmin shrugs at the Yellow Pikmin, the Yellow Pikmin responds by doing this.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice often do this in the court scenes if they make a mistake. They also do it if they are unsure about something; like, for example, when bringing up a piece of evidence without knowing exactly what's going on, they'll do this while explaining their usually shaky logic.
    • Dick Gumshoe does this pretty often too.
    • Phoenix Wright does this as his victory pose in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
  • Ever17: Kuranari Takeshi's right hand is rarely (if ever) seen. It seems to be permanently fused with the back of his head.

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: Mackenzie does this in Episode 70 when she admits that she DID send a bunch of Mercenary Cheerleaders in attempt to stop Brittnay.

  • Tarvek makes a frequent habit of this in Girl Genius; Gil does this occasionally as well.
    • When Agatha orders Higgs to dress up as a Jagermonster along with a troop of actors to facilitate him dancing with Zeetha without breaking cover he starts second guessing himself and embarrassedly puts a hand behind his head while claiming it was a stupid idea, only for Zeetha to throw herself into his arms.
  • Used plenty of times in Suppression mostly by Cerene and Kirk.
  • Lavender in El Goonish Shive when a tongue-slip reveals how she feels about her boss.
  • It’s everywhere in Rain. Not only repeatedly used by almost everyone in the main cast, but once even the supporting character Rand M. Guy got frozen in it by a Death Glare.
  • Homestuck: Discussed when Dirk plans to confess his feelings for Jake and successfully Defied when their Relationship Upgrade happens. Ironically, after they break up, spend some time apart, and finally have a proper (if awkward) face-to-face talk, Dirk plays the trope straight, suggesting that he's moving past the emotional opacity and Control Freak tendencies that undermined their relationship the first time around.
    Dirk: I will not hold one tentative hand behind my head like a flustered asshole from an Asian cartoon, nor will an oversized bead of sweat overlap ludicrously with my visage.

    Western Animation 
  • Jérémie from Code Lyoko pulls this on a couple of occasions. Most notability, after Jim caught him spray painting a picture of Jim with a big head, messed up eyes, bunny ears, tiny hands, and an insane look on his face (not counting the eyes) on one of the walls of Kadic in the middle of the night...
  • In Gravity Falls, Dipper does this when around Wendy. It's known as a "nervous around girls gesture" as Stanford, the family member Dipper takes after the most, did this too.
  • Happens a lot in Kaeloo, an animesque show, with the titular character being the most prone to it.
  • Kappa Mikey, naturally, in a parody of anime. Guano, Lily and Mitsuki do this on occasion, but the real offender is Gonard!
  • Hank Hill from King of the Hill does this all the time. It usually happens when Hank has to try to express emotions, which is very difficult for him. It got so common that there was eventually an executive order for him not to do it anymore.
  • Molly of Denali: In "The Qyah Ice Classic," Oscar is making a model tripod. Vera accidentally sneezes on it. The two have a good laugh about it while Oscar puts his hand behind his head.
  • South Park: In "Chinpokomon" when the boys watch the Chinpokomon anime, the Ash Ketchum parody character does this at one point.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "Superman's Pal", Jimmy Olsen does one, of the uncomfortable variety, when Angela Chen is pumping him for information about his relationship with Superman.
  • Total Drama: Once Heather returns Eva's MP3-player in "The Big Sleep" with the story that she found it at the campfire site, Eva has to admit to the Killer Bass that no one stole her cherished possession after all and that her violent freakout and maltreatment of their possessions was unwarranted. She turns to them, puts her arm behind her head and apologizes for what she, after a moment of consideration, calls a misunderstanding.