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Identity Concealment Disposal

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Writers sometimes like to build intrigue in a character by keeping their face and identity initially hidden from the audience - perhaps by giving them a face-concealing mask, or only showing them communicating via telephone, or teasing the viewer with Unreveal Angles so that they can never quite catch a glimpse of them.

Then one day, the character's face is finally revealed, and at last the mystery is over! why does the character never wear their mask again after that?

This trope is when a plot device previously used to conceal a character's face is abruptly dropped as soon as the character's face has been revealed to the audience, for no apparent reason. Note that this trope does not apply if the character does actually have a good in-universe reason for permanently abandoning their disguise - for example if they unmasked themself and no longer have a reason to hide. This is when a character's disguise only exists to hide their identity from the audience.

Sub-trope of The Reveal. See also The Faceless, Evil Is Not Well-Lit, Emerging from the Shadows, Undercover When Alone and The Unmasking. Contrast Artifact Alias.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Captain Sajin Komamura of Bleach wore a face-concealing helmet in his earliest appearances. He is eventually revealed to have the head of a wolf, after which he stops wearing the helmet. Rangiku remarks that she approves of the change.
  • In Durarara!!: The Slasher is shown in all initial appearances as a being with red eyes cloaked in shadow; after Haruna first reveals herself, this effect is dropped entirely for her and everyone else infected with The Virus; it's used only once more for Anri Sonohara after her Reveal, though in that case it made more sense than when she was in clear view, as she was wearing all-black clothes with her face concealed while in the rain outside on a dark night and riding a horse.
  • Mystogan from Fairy Tail may fall in the downplayed version of the trope : he doesn't drop his mask after his identity is revealed, since Erza is the only one to see it besides Laxus, who'd already known his identity, (he only actually stops wearing it when he's back in Edolas, which makes sense in context), but his hair starts sticking out and his face is more visible than before it was known.
  • In Naruto, members of the Standard Evil Organization Squad Akatsuki are introduced wearing bamboo hats concealing their faces (to a degree, anyway), which are phased out as the series moves on. Akatsuki members work in pairs, so Itachi and Kisame were the first pair introduced first, followed by Sasori and Deidara, all four of whom dispose of their hats as part of The Reveal of their identity. After that, no other member of the team is seen wearing them (though loner Zetsu, introduced before Sasori and Deidara, never wore one in the first place).
  • One Piece:
    • Garp, Franky and Sakazuki's faces were hidden by a dog mask, a festival mask and a cap respectively. Franky and Garp's masks are never seen again after their respective reveals, but Sakazuki subverts the trope as he still wears his cap even after a promotion and a timeskip.
    • Played With in Usopp's case. After leaving the Straw Hats during Water 7, he rejoins under the alias Sogeking, with only a mask and cape to conceal his identity (no one besides Luffy and Chopper are fooled), since he's too ashamed to face his former crewmates and is worried about getting a bounty on his head when attacking Enies Lobby. He takes off the Sogeking mask and reveals himself when he tells Luffy not to give up against Lucci, but puts the mask back on while returning to Water Seven, and wears it during the victory celebration. He briefly puts on the Sogeking mask during his fight with Perona, but has never used it since. This is different from the other examples since the disguise is an attempt to fool other characters, while it's immediately clear to the audience that it's Usopp.
    • Also from Water 7, the four CP9 agents who infiltrated Water Seven ditch their disguises- animal-themed masks and cloaks- after revealing their identities to Iceberg, and even wear their usual black clothes rather than the outfits they wore during their infiltration. Lucci, however, briefly wears a small mask over his face when questioning some Franky Family members over Franky's whereabouts.

    Films — Animated 
  • Lord Ruber, the Big Bad of Quest for Camelot, sports a face-concealing, horned helmet for one scene, apparently for the sole purpose of making a dramatic reveal to Juliana. He then tosses it away to one of his minions and never puts it on again, not even in situations where more protection might actually be called for, like when battling a dragon or invading Camelot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the early James Bond films, Spectre No. 1 AKA Ernst Stavro Blofeld, was shown from the neck down with a white persian cat, even to his own cohorts. As soon as he was revealed to Bond in You Only Live Twice, he apparently dropped the aversion to revealing his face- up until his intended final appearance in For Your Eyes Only, where, due to a copyright dispute, Blofeld was killed off in the opening, and his face was unviewable for practically the entirety of his scenes.
  • Throughout Sherlock Holmes (2009), Moriarty appears with his face in the shadows. In the sequel he appears this way only in the film's introduction, during which he reveals himself and stays revealed for the rest of the film.
  • In his first scene in TRON: Legacy, CLU is wearing a helmet that hides his face completely. Apparently, he was wearing it for the sole purpose of making a dramatic reveal to Sam, since he never puts it on again for the rest of the film (except when piloting a plane, where he has a more pragmatic reason for wearing it). Quorra similarly wears a helmet during her first scenes that she almost never puts on again after having unmasked herself.

  • In Harry Potter, everyone refers to the "Azkaban guards", until it's revealed that they're horrifying monsters called dementors, after which the phrase "Azkaban guard" is never uttered again.
  • Dan Brown likes this trope. Possibly the biggest example occurs in Inferno, where characters who know the identity of the Big Bad never use his name, even in internal monologues. But once his identity is revealed to the reader, suddenly everyone is talking about him freely.
  • In Monster Hunter International, the helicopter pilot (nicknamed "Skippy") is rather pointedly covered by jumpsuit, goggles, and black balaclava for most of the novel. His wife is shown wearing a burqa-like garment. In the final quarter of the novel, it's revealed that Skippy and his tribe are Orcs that MHI rescued from their native Kazakhstan a few years back, who've been kept around because of their unique skills.
  • Tricky Business: One character uses the Conrad Conch costume to sneak onto the Extravaganza of the Seas incognito. They promptly shed it upon meeting up with their accomplices, revealing themselves to be Bobby Kemp, who runs the chain Conrad represents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds does this for almost every criminal of the week who doesn't wear a disguise, most of the time only revealing their face at the end of the episode when caught.
  • In the new Doctor Who both the Judoon and the Sontarans have leaders who take off their helmets for The Reveal, and then leave them off the rest of the time. Their Judoon/Sontaran mooks leave their helmets on.
  • Heroes basically did a Name Concealment Disposal variation with the Haitian. Once his name was revealed to the audience, no one ever referred to him as "the Haitian" again.
  • Prison Break did this twice.
    • In the first few episodes of season 1, The Dragon took orders from a mysterious woman billed as "Garlic Chopper" in the credits, as we only saw the bottom half of her face as she was chopping vegetables on a board. She was eventually revealed to be the Vice President of the United States, aka the sister of the energy company executive that The Conspiracy has faked the death of. After The Reveal, we see her interacting with other characters, and never chopping garlic.
    • Season 2 did this with The Man Behind the Man, an old bald guy who gave orders to Bill Kim via notepad, only speaking on one occasion where he explains that the meeting location has been picked so that bugging would be ineffective. In the next two seasons, he doesn't seem concerned about his voice being recorded at all, and constantly meets people who he definitely doesn't trust as much as he did Kim.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: Awakening, a masked individual who goes by the alias Marth helps Chrom and the Player Character out in the early game. When "Marth" arrives to stop an assassination attempt on Chrom's older sister Emmeryn, "Marth's" mask breaks during a fight, revealing her to be a young woman named Lucina. Lucina stops wearing the mask and lets her long hair down.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses:
      • The villain for the first half of the game is a masked individual calling themselves the Flame Emperor. Once they are unmasked at the end of Chapter 11, they spend the ensuing boss fight in Chapter 12 unmasked. It's played completely straight in the Silver Snow and Verdant Wind routes, but justified in the Azure Moon route when Dimitri destroys the mask (although the fact that they also ditch the still-functional helmet might raise a few eyebrows). In the Black Eagles route, however, Edelgard shows up without her Flame Emperor disguise, voluntarily reveals her identity before the battle, and again foregoes the helmet in the ensuing boss fight.
      • Should the player join forces with the Flame Emperor (a.k.a. Edelgard), this also applies to the Flame Emperor's right-hand, the Death Knight. On that story route (and only that route), he, as Jeritza, spends all of Part II unmasked, even ditching the white mask he once wore as a staff member of the Church of Seiros (which, admittedly, didn't hide his identity; in fact, it ended up giving Manuela a clue that pointed to Jeriza being Flayn's kidnapper).
  • Golden Sun:
    • At the very beginning of the first game, Saturos and Menardi try to break into Sol Sanctum, causing the deaths of Isaac's father, and Jenna's parents and brother. Three years later, Isaac, Jenna and Garet go into Sol Sanctum, followed by Saturos, Menardi and a masked man. The mask lasts less than five minutes before he's identified as Felix, and it's never put on again (given that he's the protagonist in the second game, it makes sense).
    • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: The second game ends with the blue-clothed Smug Snake Alex being left to die under the nascent Golden Sun. Dark Dawn features a blue-clothed Smug Snake named Arcanus wearing a mask. Despite the Paper-Thin Disguise, it's the audience who can recognize him, not the original protagonist's kids (Kraden does, but he never directly encounters him until the endgame).
  • The Kingdom Hearts series does this a lot:
    • Ansem initially appears as a cloaked figure in the original game, but after The Reveal has always appeared since in full view.
    • The Disney Villains initially appear as Sinister Silhouettes hidden in the shadows in scenes where they're conversing (including Hades, who, given his flaming hairstyle, should be very difficult to hide in shadows), but as the plot stops requiring the viewer not to know who they are, the lighting on selective members improves and the darkness stops concealing them.
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, all the members of Organization XIII initially wear face-concealing hoods as part of their uniform and reveal themselves one by one throughout the game. None of them ever puts the hood back on after having taken it off once.
    • Similar to the Organization, the Unknown of Birth By Sleep wears a black robe with the hood up, since the developers didn't want to show his face. When he returned as the main antagonist of Dream Drop Distance, the hood is down and never goes up.
  • The beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty introduces Raiden with a face-covering diver's mask; Raiden's voice actors also imitate Solid Snake's intonation for the opening scene. The illusion is not particularly convincing in either version, as Raiden has a very different build, but works somewhat better in Japanese, where Snake and Raiden have similarly deep voices, than in the English version, where Raiden's voice is high-pitched and youthful and Snake has a low, raspy voice. Raiden ditches his mask when receiving his codename on the elevator from the Dock into the Roof of Strut A, as well as dropping the voice, which there is no in-universe explanation for.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Neku wears a black hoodie with a face mask over his nose and mouth, and appears to have dyed his hair blond. After it turns out that it's Beat, not Neku, he no longer wears the mask and wears the hoodie with the hood down.

    Visual Novels 
  • 428: Shibuya Scramble: One of the protagonists is introduced to the player as "Tama", which is actually the name of the Goofy Suit cat mascot character she's wearing. Eventually, their true identity is revealed, at which point they shed the suit, with their name changing accordingly in the game's menu.

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Tarquin, given his obsession with narrative tropes, zig-zags this depending on the situation. He initially plays it straight by discarding his helmet after revealing himself to be Elan's father because it's not needed after doing The Reveal. He then puts it back on just for a visit to the gladiatorial arena, apparently just so he can do The Unmasking in front of other members of the main cast. Later, Tarquin puts on another helmet while disguising himself, despite the heroes quickly guessing his identity, solely because he has another mask underneath it should someone else take the helmet off.
    • Tarquin realizes that the reader, and thus the Order, know about Malack's vampirism when his underlings start talking about it openly.

    Western Animation 
  • In the first two seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender Fire Lord Ozai's face was always hidden by shadows, regardless of the lighting (even to the extent that his face was shadowed when there was a wall of flames in front of him). This was dropped after his face was revealed at the beginning of season three.
  • Miraculous Ladybug pulls a two-for-one with the big reveal in the second season premiere regarding the identity of the Big Bad: Not only is it confirmed that Hawk Moth/Papillion is Adrien's father, but his assistant Nathalie is not only aware of this but actively helping him. Unusually, this is only revealed to the audience; the episode revolves around Hawk Moth resorting to drastic action to prevent the heroes from finding out. There wouldn't be a Season 2 if it hadn't worked.
  • The Owl House loves this trope:
    • The Big Bad from the series, Emperor Belos, was originally seen always wearing a golden bird-like mask that hid his true from the audience, with the only thing visible underneath it being his glowing blue eyes. This finally changed after the episode "Eclipse Lake" where Belos is finally seen maskless and it is revealed that he actually looks fairly normal, albeit with a long green-goo scar running across his face, and in the episode "Follies at the Coven Day Parade" where he reveals his face In-Universe, since then dropping the use of his mask entirely.
    • The Dragon for Belos, The Golden Guard, was also originally seen always wearing a golden owl-like mask, but in the episode "Hunting Palismen", we get to see how he really looks like underneath it and we get revealed that he is just a teenager named Hunter. Since then, he was only seen using his mask on a few more occasions.
    • Raine Whispers, The Mole in Charge and leader of La RĂ©sistance against Belos, was seen during their first appearance with their face mostly covered by a white hood, however this was dropped rapidly during their second appearance on the episode "Eda's Requiem", where we get to see how they really look like.
    • Steve, one of the Mooks serving the Emperor's Coven, was always seen using his uniform and mask, even in special ocassions like Lilith's party, however this was finally dropped when we got to see Steve's true look after he finally decided to defect from the coven.
  • In the first season of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Mr. E uses various convoluted methods to contact the other characters. In the second season, once his face has been revealed, he usually just shows up in person (often in very unexpected places).
  • In the first season of Star Wars Rebels, Fulcrum is only seen as a hooded figure via holocall and their voice is edited to be initially unrecognizable. After their identity is revealed at the end of the season, they appear in person from then on.
  • In their initial appearances in Young Justice, the members of The Light communicate with each other through computer screens that make each member appear as a glowing, faceless silhouette. However, after their identities are revealed (to the audience, not to the protagonists) in the episode Revelations, every scene with the Light instead has them communicating via screens that leave their faces completely visible.