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Invisible to Adults

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"Duh! Why do you think I'm called 'Youngblood'? Only the young can see me. Only kids!"
Youngblood, Danny Phantom

When in a story someone or something can only be seen by a select group of people, in an overwhelming amount of cases those people will be the children. Why? Possibly because Children Are Innocent, and they do not automatically disregard the unusual as impossible. This can lead to an Adults Are Useless scenario, where the child can lead their parents straight to the creature and even talk with it, but the adult simply cannot tell that the creature is there.

There is also the idea, closely related with the concept of the Masquerade, that all the fantasies one had as a child were in fact real, but people started denying them to be as they grew older. This is usually seen as a natural process that all people are subject to, although some are more seriously affected than others. Imaginary Friends and Santa Claus are typically presented as this. There is An Aesop about losing an important part of yourself with losing your inner child in stories that feature this idea. Occasionally you get a rare adult who is exempt from under the effect of this, usually because they have kept their childish demeanour and might be viewed as somewhat strange by normal society. Another grown-up who is affected by this but is still able to acknowledge the existence of the (to him) unseen world (out of faith or from second-hand experience) is also very common. Some coming of age stories present this as a tragic but inevitable process as the character is fully aware that this is happening to them, gradually losing their memory about how things used to be.

Where live-action tv and films are concerned, this trope becomes extremely convenient for young child and animal actors. Adults and older kids can be told that an actor is supposed to be invisible and to pretend he's not there, but a toddler or animal won't grasp all that and will interact with him regardless.

Subtrope to By the Eyes of the Blind. Sister trope to Invisible to Normals. Compare Adults Are Useless, Here There Were Dragons, and Children Are Special.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • My Neighbor Totoro: Only the kids have successfully seen the title character and the other fantastic creatures in the film (the soot gremlins, the cat-bus). At first, it's implied that they hide and cover up their tracks when the kids take adults to see them. Later, the cat-bus runs past two adults who don't bat an eye.
  • Elves and other creatures of the Spirit World in Berserk can only be seen by those who haven't yet been taught by the Holy See to not believe in their existence. This means children are usually the only ones that can see them, though adults who either follow pagan cults or simply don't believe in any religion (such as the protagonist Guts) may be able to see them as well, making this a zigzagged instance of this trope.
  • Element Hunters: The entire world "Nega Earth" is 'unavailable to adults in due to needing a particular portion of the brain which decays once they reach a certain age, and only shows up in a select few children. The adults are still far from useless though, as they're the ones sending children there in the first place.
  • Shugo Chara!: Only young children, such as Amu's sister, or those who have Guardian Characters themselves seem able to see the Charas. The only adults shown to be able to see Charas are those who had Shugo Charas themselves, such as Nikaidou and possibly Tsukasa. Yukari explains the reason she can see them as "Since I knew [Shugo Charas] existed, even I could see them".
  • When Taiki, Akari, Zenjiro and Shoutmon return to the human world midway through Digimon Fusion, only the trio are capable of seeing Shoutmon's flickering miniature manifestation; Taiki's mother can't, even when Shoutmon is trying to talk to her. When Tactimon turns up and Shoutmon becomes capable of existing properly in the real world to fight him, though, people are able to see them.
  • My Lovely Ghost Kana: Animals, children and in one case, an old lady, are the only members of the general public able to notice Kana. Otherwise, only her lover, Daikichi, girl friend, Utako, and to some extent her friend, shopkeeper Goro, are able to interact with her, due to their love for her and vice-versa.
  • Tamamo-chanís a Fox! is about a mystical inari fox, Tamamo, who takes on human form to attend high school. However, the human form she takes is shown to only ever fool adults. Her schoolmates see Tamamo's true nature quickly, and pretend not to notice for her benefit. There are exceptions on both sides. The girl from the Public Morals Committee sees Tamamo as a human while Reiko, the resident Sensei-chan, sees the fox.
  • In Yo-kai Watch it seems that only children can have Yo-kai Watches and interact with youkai (with few exceptions). The initially 10-year old Nate loses his ability to see yo-kai as an adult, but his 13 year old daughter can see them in Yo-kai Watch: Shadowside.
  • In Bakugan: Battle Planet, adults can't activate (and, as a result, see) Bakugan. To them, they just look like toys.
  • Spirited Away might fall under this, although it's difficult to say for certain since the only human adults around are completely oblivious at first and later under a spell.
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Ayakashi are generally Invisible to Normals, but some people are able to see them as children, then lose that ability as they build more relationships with other humans.

    Comic Books 
  • PS238: The angels and demons, as confirmed here.
  • In Archie Comics, only adults can't see Santa's helpers, like Jingles the elf and Sugar Plum the fairy. In one story when Jingles stands in for Reggie at an Archies concert (He wears a costume so people can see him), he invites his fellow elves, leaving the adult portion of the audience wondering why the first few rows are empty.
  • In Locke & Key, adults are generally incapable of perceiving magical things. It's later revealed that this is invoked on any adult that crosses the threshold of the Key house that's the focus setting of the series, instated by a previous owner to prevent adults from abusing the power of the magical keys. This is somewhat deconstructed because it doesn't prevent evil children from retaining access to the keys, and adults being out of the loop forces children to fend for themselves.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): "Gremlin" cloaking technology keeps adults from noticing them but human children can see straight through it. The "gremlin" that ends up left behind when they aid Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman while the rest of their people are leaving earth to go back to wandering space gets the nickname "Glitch" from complaining about said glitch.

    Comic Strips 
  • Baby Blues: Played with. Since the series is told from a couples' point of view, no one can see their imagination or their childrens' (usually Zoe) unusual forms. In some comics, adults are rarely seen to see the families' imagination. Some examples can be seen here and here.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A common trope, appearing in Andrew Lang's "The Witch In The Stone Boat" (link), "The Wonderful Birch" (link), and many other tales, is that shortly after the heroine gives birth, the villain transforms, kills, or abducts her, and substitutes her own daughter. No matter how good the illusion, it never fools the baby, who grows fretful.
    The witch changed her into a reindeer, and smuggled her own daughter into her place as the prince's wife. But now the child grew restless and cried, because it missed its mother's care. They took it to the court, and tried to pacify it in every conceivable way, but its crying never ceased.

    Fan Works 
  • No Charm Equal: The only mortal who can properly see the cupid Harry other than Eggsy is Eggsy's little sister, Daisy. Daisy is able to see Harry because she is a child.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Polar Express: The bell from Santa's sleigh can only be heard to ring by people (mostly little kids) who sincerely believe in Santa.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Elliott first tries to convince Gertie that this is the reason she shouldn't tell their mom about the title alien hiding out in his room, but she's already too smart to fall for that. Heartwarming in Hindsight, though, that he doesn't want his five-year-old sister to find out the real reason he doesn't want adults finding out about E.T.
  • In Jumanji, the Jumanji drums luring people to uncover the game can only be heard by kids. When Alan is a boy, he can hear them at a construction site but none of the workers seem to do. Aunt Nora doesn't hear anything when Peter and Judy hear the game's drums coming from the attic. The game's effects, however, are visible to everyone. And it doesn't matter how old you get during the course of the game: "Do not start unless you plan to finish," no matter how long it takes.
  • Lost Creek: According to Maggie, no adults will see the monster or ghost children like her because only kids have the imagination for them.
  • In the Kirstie Alley tooth fairy movie Toothless, the tooth fairy can only be seen by children who have not yet lost all their baby teeth.

    Jokes 
  • This spooky-yet-darkly-funny story, that borders on Black Comedy: A man accidentally killed his wife after an argument, and hastily had her corpse disposed off. His next course of action is contemplating how to break out the news to their young son, but decide to keep it quiet for the moment until the boy asks questions.
    Several days passed, but strangely their son never commented a thing about the mother's absence.
    Eventually, the man decides to speak up: "Junior, have you ever wondered where mommy is?"
    The son's response? "No dad, of course not, I'm actually wondering why were you carrying mommy on your back since last week?"

    Literature 
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem "The Erl-King": Unlike his father, the child can feel the Erl-King coming to claim his soul.
  • In Peter Pan, only kids can make it to Neverland.
  • In Mary Poppins, it's mentioned that very small children can see magical creatures, talk with animals, etc. They lose the ability around the same time their first teeth appear.
  • "Aladdin's lamp", a poem by James Russel Lowell.
  • Discworld:
    • Death can only be seen by those whose minds haven't been socially programmed to edit him out. This mostly includes children, who see him as the skeleton he is instead of a really thin man. And cats.
    • The same applies to the titular Wintersmith. Only children could hear him since adults "knew" that invisible creatures don't talk from out of thin air. The only other humans who could are the ones with pointy hats, who have trained themselves to see what's really there.
  • Only children can see the halfling creatures in Clifford Simak's "No World Of Their Own". That is, until someone invents corrective lenses. The difference was not innocence, but brain configuration.
  • In Ollie's Odyssey, only children can see toys and various other inanimate objects as alive. To adults, they're just inanimate objects.
  • In Les Voyageurs Sans Souci: Children can understand and talk with animals, but they lose this ability when they grow up.
  • This becomes a minor plot point in the later part of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling. Little Josie, who is three and sees all kinds of things, says she saw and talked with the ghost mother Annabelle of the burnt-out Big Fancy House, who gave her a bunch of dried flowers. Ivy and Martha didn't see her, although both had clearly visioned Imaginary Friends when they were seven.
  • In Stephen King's IT, only children can deal with "It" because they have not lost the power of belief.
  • In Pact, bogeymen can only be seen by children and mystic practitioners.
  • The Demon Road trilogy has a Penny-wise from It expy called Buddy. Not only can he not be seen or felt by anyone over the age of 18, his victims corpses will look horribly mangled when viewed by a teenager but to adults they seem to have died peacefully in their sleep.
  • The protagonist of The Curator's Friend by E. M. Forster meets a Faun who can only be seen by certain people. He says that for years he only talked to children but they stop seeing him when they grow up.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Any and all monsters in the Tabletop Game Little Fears.
  • Something similar applies to boogeymen from Dark Tales & Disturbing Legends, a Ravenloft supplement.
  • This trope is a major component of Changeling: The Dreaming. Childling characters have the most glamour, and therefore can easily perceive and interact with the chimera and other fantastical creatures around them. As a character ages, they slowly lose touch with their glamour, becoming trapped in the banality of the real world.

    Video Games 
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, the Minish/Picori people can only be seen by good children.
  • Another Code/Trace Memory plays this strait with ghosts, complete with the "some adults can see them" variant at the end of the first game with the kindly boatman who decided to stick around to make sure they got off the island safely. Then again Bill was also implied to be able to see D just before falling to his Disney Villain Death.
  • The Domovoi in Quest for Glory IV are small, hairy, imp-like creatures that live in the town buildings and bring good luck to the occupants. They can only be seen by children or special people, and with the latter it's only when they need help with something. The Domovoi you speak to specifically mention that you're obviously special somehow.
  • Fairies in Dragon Quest V are invisible to adults when they travel to the human world. Within their own world, adult humans can see them just fine, but that's rather difficult because adults can't see the entrance either. As a child, the hero is recruited by a fairy to go to the fairy realm and help her fight a monster. Decades later, the hero needs the fairies' help but can only be lead to their realm by his young son and daughter.

    Webcomics 
  • In the webcomic Weesh, only children can see the title character.
  • In this instance of Optipess, it's probably a good thing the father can't see it.

    Web Original 
  • The original stories surrounding Slender Man had him being only visible to the children he would eventually kidnap.
  • The imaginary friends from the Court of the Lost in Mirrorfall can't be seen parents, thanks to the ability to be selectively visible.
  • Creepypasta Candle Cove tells the story of a TV show that adults only see as static.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: Episode 23 of "TRUE Scary Stories" is about a little girl who acts as if she's seeing things her family can't.

    Western Animation 
  • Gazoo in The Flintstones can only really be seen by children, as well as Fred and Barney because they found him (although it's suggested that they have child-like intelligence).
  • Youngblood in Danny Phantom can only be seen by children.This seems to be at least partly psychological—after tormenting Danny for a whole episode without the rest of his family able to see him, Danny makes him visible to Jazz by annoying her enough to break through her maturity, leading her to realize that while she thought she was an adult for so long, she is still only 16 years old in reality, and thus still a kid.
  • A flashback episode of the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon featured a skeletal demon who was able to do this thanks to an amulet he wore.
  • Fairies from The Fairly OddParents! can be viewed by babies without triggering the need to go away forever, since babies' brains are so tiny and underdeveloped, they won't remember seeing them anyway.
  • Subverted in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends - the friends remain visible to the whole world no matter what age.
  • Played with in Teen Titans. One of the baby heroes in the final season had a companion who may or may not have been an Imaginary Friend. It didn't become visible until Raven admitted she believed in it and it was no longer afraid of Raven. The eight foot tall nightmarish monster bear was shy.
  • In Winx Club when the fairies travel to Earth in one episode and take their pixies along, we learn that on Earth, only children and animals can see pixies.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door apparently has this in an extremely powerful 80 percent or such Masquerade. Adults are either useless idiots locked in a crazy fantastic illusion or villains almost all the time. Seriously, one time the candy pirate Sticky Beard was driving his ship on land and instead of using freaking wheels, causes a deep crack in the ground by plowing through the street, causing houses to be crushed to pieces and the road broken. Imagine what kind of technology or magic can censor reality to that degree so people view a minor earthquake in precisely that matter.
  • Hormone Monsters from Big Mouth can only be seen by pre-teens and the odd childlike adult like Coach Steve. The same applies to other Human Resources monsters like the Shame Wizard and Love Bugs.
    • An episode set in the future has an adult Andrew watch his son talk to a hormone monster that neither he nor the viewer can see.
    • The Human Resources spin-off has the various creatures only visible to their human clients.

    Real Life 
  • There is an audio range that is primarily only heard by young people. You can read an article about it here. Even if you have the hearing range to pick it up, sounds this high-pitched are still easy to overlook unless they're especially loud, because it sounds pretty much the same as tinnitus.
  • In an experiment put on by the Washington Post, on Jan. 12, 2007, Joshua Bell (if not the top living violinist certainly in the top five) took his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius down to a Metro substation in Washington D.C. and played classical music as a busker. It was captured on film by hidden camera. Of the thousands of people who passed him by, only seven adults sufficiently recognized that they were listening to something special and stopped to listen to him play (and only one recognized him). But on the film, you can see almost every child who heard him brightened up, looked around, and tugged desperately at their parents who — having places to go and things to do — relentlessly dragged them along. (He made $32 over about two hours, not counting $20 from the man who recognized him.)
  • People with the kinds of brains that make them hypersensitive (Autism spectrum, Asperger's, AD/HD or Sensory/Auditory Processing Disorder Highly Sensitive People) often notice things others can't. Imagine being a kid and being fully aware of the blink and buzz of fluorescent lights, or the itchiness of certain kinds of fabric, or that almost inaudible whine from electronics (which itself falls into the range of high-pitched sounds that can usually only be heard by young people), and being driven slowly insane by something no-one else, least of all adults, seems to notice. People without hypersensitivity may be able to perceive some of these things, but generally don't notice them, whereas the hypersensitive have great difficulty ignoring them, or are unable to ignore them. Some people even have this problem well into adulthood. This is why Irlen filters (the strangely colored "sunglasses") help people with these conditions; they're customized to block out whichever light frequencies disturb that person's brain.
  • Children are reportedly more likely to have ESP abilities and see ghosts. As for whether this means that children are more psychically attuned, or that they have good imaginations...
  • Some cultures believe that fairies or ghosts can only be seen by children.

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