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Knife Outline

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Either by accident or design, a swarm of sharp objects (such as knives, arrows or axes) are hurtling toward the character. They somehow pin the character to the wall without actually cutting the character (one by each side, arm, leg, etc.). One final object — and it's always the final one — may land disturbingly close to the head or, in comedic cases, the crotch. Sometimes, especially in animated versions, the character has to go through increasingly complex contortions to make sure they don't get hit.

This trope is frequently used in animated media meant for younger viewers to show the target has been incapacitated without injuring or killing them.

Their clothes may or may not be affected; sometimes they really are pinned in place, and other times they can simply walk away, leaving a noticeably person-shaped silhouette of projectiles on the wall.

Contrast William Telling. See also Pinned to the Wall. Related to the Inverse Law of Sharpness and Accuracy and, if the target is pinned, an inversion of the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality. If intentional, usually requires Improbable Aiming Skills. Usually the end result of a Knife-Throwing Act.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½:
    • The above picture is from the fifth season of the anime, where Ukyō ends up pinned to a tree by Shampoo throwing forks.
    • Mousse also does this with knives to a patron flirting with Shampoo in another episode of the anime. And he also does it to Ranma's female form in another episode.
    • Shampoo does it to two Muggles in an early manga story, by deflecting a barrage of knives thrown at her back with her serving plate. And she doesn't move an inch or spill a single bite of the food she's serving.
    • The Musk Dynasty warrior Mint does this to Mousse as an opening move.
    • The Dojo Destroyer can do this by throwing the wooden signs of the dojos he has conquered.
  • In a non-humorous Takahashi example from Inuyasha, Kikyou does this to Inuyasha on at least one occasion when he tries to steal the Shikon Jewel from her soon after they first meet. Rather than being humorously frightened, he would like to know why she doesn't just kill him when she's clearly capable of it. She has no real answer.
  • Variant in Trigun when the Bad Lads surround Vash perfectly with bullet holes.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico: Prince of Darkness, Ryoko gets her mech pinned to the hull of a space station like this.
  • Saruhiko to Douhan in the end of K: Missing Kings, to stop her from walking through a wall. (Specifically, he used the knives to create points, then used his Blue Aura to create a barrier between those points that stops her Green... not-quite-Aura-powers that allowed her to walk through walls.)
  • Episode 14 of Kaleido Star sees this happen to Sora twice. Don't worry, squeamish viewers; it's All Part of the Show.
  • Mio of MM! managed to pull this off in the very first episode with baseballs, leaving behind an outline in the concrete wall behind Taro.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Riza Hawkeye does this to her new dog Black Hayate with bullets as her way of toilet-training.
  • Practically Kuroko Shirai's whole fighting style in A Certain Scientific Railgun, being a teleporter rather than throw her razor sharp weapons she instead teleports them into positions that would incapacitate opponents.
  • Used for comedic purposes in School Rumble. Tenma decides to admit her feelings to Karasuma via love letters attached to arrows, which she proceeds to shoot at him. Hilarity Ensues. At times, it seems like he's posing for the arrows.
  • Nuriko gets a comedic arrow outline in Fushigi Yuugi.
  • In episode 6 of Pani Poni Dash!, after irritating Becky one too many times with her opening and closing of the door to her private lab without saying anything, Akira Miyata gets this treatment with a bunch of pens, although in her case the pens blow past her and cut a perfect outline on the wall behind her.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena lots of random things happen in the background during the Student Council meetings. One of them involves Touga randomly throwing knives at Miki who doesn't react even though forming of the knife outline depends on him switching positions in the last second. Notably, the outline also keeps shifting as he changes position. It's probably deliberate.
  • In CLAMP School Detectives, during a kidnapping situation, Suoh does this to a mook with some kunai, in order to find out where Nokoru is. His last hit manages to break the mook's glasses in half, without even scratching his face.
  • During one incident in Samurai Deeper Kyo, the villain does this to Kyoshiro, who plays dead. Then his stomach rumbles.
  • Part of Catherine's and Trowa's circus act in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing involves this (Trowa is pinned, Catherine throws the knives). In this case it's used to show just how fearless Trowa is, as when Catherine accidentally throws a knife close enough to draw blood, he doesn't flinch in the slightest. He doesn't even blink.
  • Mahiro from Nyaruko: Crawling with Love! is good enough with forks that he does this to Nyarko once when she gets overly amorous. In an earlier episode, we see that one of her attempts to..."make their love take form" ended with her pinned to a table by both forks and a bedsheet.
  • In Sailor Moon, certain members of the Dead Moon Circus performed this attack to pin one of the heroes. In the anime, Tiger's Eye pinned down Mamoru. In the manga, the twins, Xenotime and Zeolite, pinned down Minako.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics Green Arrow & Speedy have been known to catch crooks with arrow outlines.
  • Batman: The Long Halloween had this with bullets leaving an outline around the Riddler. Approximately five times as many bullets as the weapon in question could actually hold. And no explanation of why the Riddler wouldn't run away while the shooter was reloading. (Except the Rule of Cool).
    • ... maybe the shooter had spare pistols on him? Besides, Loeb's Riddler was always a spineless wimp anyhow, so maybe he was just petrified by fear.
  • In the Lucky Luke episode "The Rivals of Painful Gulch", there is a feud between two clans. The fact that all of them are very lousy marksmen is hilariously underlined by a bullet outline which has a form of a typical member of one of these clans.
    Mayor: They shot at him for 15 minutes, and they missed.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): In the Huntress feature "Into Darkness Once More" Helena pins the fence Sidney to the wall to question him by firing about ten arrows into his sleeves while not hitting his arms.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Charles Addams comic (the man whose work inspired The Addams Family) involved a nice couple in a hotel room, noticing (with understandable concern) the tips of knives protruding through their wall in a human shape. The suggestion was that this trope had occurred in the next room.
  • This happened to Dilbert of all people once, when Dogbert's "animal magnetism" reverses. Dilbert gets pinned to the wall by everything in his silverware drawer. (This was before the strip's theme shifted to making fun of business idiosyncrasies.)

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Ponies and Throwing Knives, Applejack does this to Rainbow Dash as part of a knife-throwing competition.
  • In Fate/Parallel Fantasia, Gilgamesh ends up accidentally doing this to False Caster with legendary weapons from his Gate of Babylon. He really was aiming for her, but overdramatically fired off a large volley of weapons rather than a single properly-aimed one, and he misjudged the size of his target due to her billowing cape.
  • Sakuya does this on several occasions in FREAKIN GENSOKYO, with enough knives to immobilise even Byakuren.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The King and I, Master Little, the Kralahome's comical henchman/assistant, attempts to let Lewis Leonowens have an "accident" in the royal armory, and (naturally) fails spectacularly. At one point, six flying knives pin him, one by one, to the armory wall. Little hilariously exclaims "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y!" as they hit.
    Little: What? You never seen man pinned to wall with six knives before?
    Lewis: No. Cool.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this happens in the Show Within a Show “Somethin’s Cookin’”. Baby Huey accidentally sends every knife in the kitchen flying just as Roger pops out of an ironing board, and the knives pin Roger to the wall. A pairing knife parts his hair and a large meat cleaver hits the wall in between his legs, barely missing his crotch. Roger gulps loudly at the Groin Attack near miss.
  • Appears in Disney's Hercules, when the hero tries throwing knives and nearly hits Phil:
    Phil: [Hero] Rule #96: AIM!
  • In The Rescuers Down Under, one of McLeach's attempts to break Cody is to deliberately make one of these around him.
  • Sort of half-humorous example in Hayao Miyazaki's The Cat Returns. The darts cut the cat's "bra" straps (even though most other cats wear no clothing at all) and the guy throwing them gets defenestrated.
  • The original promotional poster for Ratatouille.
  • During the final battle in Aladdin, shortly before he turns into a giant snake, Jafar actually sends a barrage of swords he created from his own magic at Aladdin while mocking him, "Get the point?!"
  • In Frozen, Elsa pins a guard to the wall with icicles.
  • 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure: Cruella throws knives around Lars when he refuses to paint on a canvas that Cruella planned to make from Dalmatian skin, resulting in this trope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights: after saving Dave Chapelle's character from the Sheriff's thugs, Robin Hood hears one of them yell, "You haven't seen the last of us!" Robin promptly fires six arrows at once in a similar method to the picture above, causing the thug to concede, "You've seen the last of us."
    • Will Scarlett O'Hara later pins a mook to a door with his knives, and then decks the goon before retrieving them. "Am I good? I'm good!"
  • The Taiwanese martial arts movie, Duel With The Devils, have the protagonist fighting a rival knife expert who uses a whole bunch of flung knives on the hero. Who proceeds to turn the tide of battle and pin his enemy to the wall behind him with his own knives.
  • A character in the Chinese martial-arts comedy The Duel accidentally fires off a knife-launching device; another character is somehow pinned to the nearest wall five feet off the floor, with one knife caught in his teeth.
  • Realistic film example: Not quite an outline, but James Bond ends up pinned to a door thanks to a couple of thrown knives in Octopussy. In fairness though, the guy who did this was a circus knife-thrower. However the trope backfires when Bond pulls one of the knives free (seeing as it's handily stuck in the door next to him) and uses it to kill the knife-thrower.
  • Subverted in Hero (2002)Nameless's outline is left in negative on a wall by thousands of arrows from the King of Qin's army, not because he was intentionally outlined, but because his body intercepted all of those arrows..
  • Terrifying live action example in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. "Whoopsy-daisy!"
  • Played straight as an <ahem> arrow in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (at 7:00).
  • Addams Family Values: When Gomez and Fester go to hug each other, Gomez grabs Fester and flings him towards a nearby wall before throwing a series of knives at him. The end result is Fester pinned to the wall upside down surrounded by a knife outline.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, Gonzo pins one of the pirates to the side of the ship using starfish as throwing stars. The gag gets revisited later in the same fight scene, as various other pirates get their swords knocked out of their hands, and each time the sword flies towards the pinned pirate, landing disturbingly close to his crotch.
  • Not at all played for laughs in Carrie with her mother's knife crucifixion.
  • The martial arts film The Sword of Swords have the hero being ambushed by several enemy archers, and against a wall, avoids their shots while twenty or so missed arrows forms an outline around him.
  • Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010) used a version of this to interrogate a French officer. The first arrow hit next to his head. The second arrow hit him somewhere lower. The third arrow didn't need to be fired.
  • There was a somewhat disturbing scene in Escape from New York where the Duke of New York has the president tied to a wall, and is casually chatting with his fellow prisoners in between shots. We only see him fire two or three times, but the unfortunate President is surrounded by bullet holes.
  • Mario, the circus knife thrower, creates as a knife outline around the killer when his identity is exposed in the climax of Circus of Fear.
  • Alonzo creates one around Nanon during the Knife-Throwing Act at the opening of The Unknown.
  • Against All Flags: When his sailing master is accused of stealing booty, Roc interrogates him by throwing knives around him so they just miss.

  • There's a brain teaser out there where a successful duet of a circus knife-thrower and his attractive female assistant is put to an end by the death of the latter due to a wardrobe change. The cause of this fatal accident? She bought a new pair of high heels of a different height than the last pair, causing the knife-thrower to miscalculate his aim...

  • Literary example: in The Wheel of Time series, Mat asks to play "Maiden's Kiss" with the local Amazon Brigade... and winds up pinned to a wall by spears.
    • Somewhat off-kilter, in a way—they didn't throw the spears, merely pinned him while still holding them and forced him to demonstrate calmness under pressure. If he didn't kiss well enough, they moved the spears a bit.
    • Birgitte does this to Nynaeve as a circus act. With arrows shot from 100 paces.
  • In the Belisarius Series, Ousanas puts three javelins into a wall against which Prince Eon is standing, from a range of about twenty yards. One is two inches from his left ear, one two inches from his right ear, and the third two inches below his crotch.
    Anastasius drew a deep breath. "That's incredible spear work. Amazing!"
    "Fuck the spear work," growled Valentinian. "The kid never even blinked! That's amazing. I may never fuck again, just from watching."
  • In Garry Kilworth's The Silver Claw, a knife-thrower is on the list of murder suspects. At the beginning of his act he does a Knife Outline on another suspect's arm. The victim reacts with anger and is booed offstage. The detective hero then observes the knifethrower during his act and sees that, when challenged to hit the centre of a playing card pinned to the wall, he simply outlines it and can't hit the centre, because "he has trained all his life to miss things, not to hit them."
  • In James Barrie's Sherlock Holmes parody "The Adventure of the Two Collaborators," Watson describes how he and Holmes were relaxing one evening in Baker Street, and Holmes was amusing himself with a little revolver practice:
    It was his custom of a summer evening to fire round my head, just shaving my face, until he had made a photograph of me on the opposite wall, and it is a slight proof of his skill that many of these portraits in pistol shots are considered admirable likenesses.
  • In Starlight and Shadows, when Liriel learns that the sea elf Xzorsh has formed a positive opinion of the drow based on his interactions with her, she creates a close outline around him with throwing knives to demonstrate how the typical drow would behave towards a sea elf.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Red Dwarf episode Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Lister pins a gangster to the wall with thrown knives in this manner. Just to really rub it in, he grabs an apple and flicks that into the gangster's mouth.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Fifteen Minutes", Carla uses throwing stars to do this to J.D. in one of his fantasies.
  • There's a commercial for Butterfinger involving this trope but with staples. Lightning-fast staples.
  • Garibaldi does this with his PPG to intimidate a thug in a second season episode of Babylon 5.
  • Invoked in one episode of I Love Lucy, where Lucy ends up auditioning as the assistant to a professional knife-thrower. In a twist, it's quickly revealed that the knife-throwing is an illusion; the knife-thrower palms the knives and false handles are pushed through the back of the wall.
  • Doctor Who. In "Hell Bent", Rassilon orders the Doctor's immediate execution by Firing Squad. But some of the soldiers are Fire-Forged Friends of the Doctor, and to the rest he's The Dreaded, so they fire around the Doctor instead, leaving an outline of scorch marks on the wall behind him.
    Rassilon: You missed. All of you, every single one of you; how is that possible? What is it? IS THE FIRING SQUAD AFRAID OF THE UNARMED MAN?

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the superhero Tabletop RPG Mutants & Masterminds, a feat (Ranged Pin) can be taken that allows this trope. It only works on one attack. There's some special action you can take to allow an outline, though...
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 has the "Ranged Pin" feat that allows you to make a grapple attempt with a ranged weapon. The flavor text describes it as pinning the target's clothes to the ground or wall.

  • Subverted in Qi, a German play/elaborate talent show. A member of the audience, probably a plant, is pulled up and attached to a plank. The performers tie balloons nearby and blindfold him. They then pretend to throw knives at him by having the assistant standing next to him pop the balloons. They then tie another between his legs and put a bucket beneath him, just to safe. And then just pop the balloon anyway.

    Video Games 
  • Variant subversion: In a cutscene of the John Woo game Stranglehold, the main character, Inspector Tequila, ends up in an unexpected shootout in a teahouse with a band of vicious gangsters, one of whom takes cover behind an overturned wooden table. Tequila fires a series of shots through the table, creating an outline of the gangster, then pauses... and just as the gangster realizes he wasn't actually hurt and is about to leave, Tequila puts a final bullet into the middle of the outline and through his heart.
  • Subverted in the Sam and Max adventure games from Telltale games. There is a bullet outline of Max in the office wall, except there is a bullet hole right where his brain is. Would explain a few things though.
  • Subverted in Shadow's Cinekill in Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side. The Dark Champion does this with shuriken... but he's aiming for her body. The first four hit her hands and ankles, the fifth one hits her chest, and then he throws one last one. It's a headshot.
  • This happens in The Adventures of Willy Beamish. If you are caught by the chef, they will throw a bunch of knives at you, resulting in this trope.
  • Inadvertently done in Dwarf Fortress. Thrown items will miss any character that the thrower considers "friendly". In adventure mode, if you have a collection of knives you can keep tossing them at somebody and it will just go through, hitting the opposite wall.

    Web Animation 
  • Inverted in Kouka And Bibi, when all six mouse gangsters get the drop on the raccoon. She runs away, just before the mice riddle the space she'd been standing with bullet holes, filling in her exact silhouette (rather than just the outline).
  • Tex's introduction in Red vs. Blue. She is seen using Caboose as target practice, and bullet holes outline his body.

    Western Animation 
  • M.A.S.K.: The Stiletto Mask used by the villain Sly Rax has the ability to fire small darts. Whenever Rax uses his Mask on people, this is the only thing that ever happens.
  • Early use in the Mickey Mouse short Mickey's Nightmare (1932), complete with head near-miss. Babies are throwing the (huge) knives at Mickey, and the scene was edited out of TV prints for many years.
  • Nearly every Tom and Jerry short ever.
  • Also showed up often in Looney Tunes.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Mai's specialty is pinning people's clothes to the wall with throwing knives. The creators stated it's entirely deliberate on her part, both to avoid killing and also for the challenge.
    • The Yu Yan archers also pin Aang this way. They were ordered to capture him alive and are snipers par excellence in their world. According to General Zhao the archers are "capable of pinning a fly to a tree from 100 yards away, without killing it."
    • Katara and other water-benders pull it off on occasion by bending water into ice-knives. Pakku once did it to Katara with a bunch of icicles, which the DVD Commentary noted was a Shout-Out to a similar scene in House of Flying Daggers involving large stalks of bamboo.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Maggie pins Homer to a wall with a nail gun. She even went as far as to pin his ears and the palms of both hands.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons (1983) send-up episode of ReBoot, three characters run through a corridor filled with Death Traps. One section involves a hail of arrows, which all miss and leave perfect silhouettes of the running figures.
  • Gosalyn does this to Negaduck in the Darkwing Duck episode "Darkwing Duck S 1 E 59 The Quiverwing Quack". Negaduck ends up pinned to a wall in his costume with arrows, but somehow escapes when Darkwing isn't looking. Because he did the obvious thing to do when only the costume is pinned.
  • Valerie does this to Vlad Plasmius in Danny Phantom with large needles. He phases out of them. Better luck next time.
  • Happens in an episode of Totally Spies!, when the Big Bad pins the girls' outfits to the wall with a nail gun. He must have had very good aim, considering the characters wear skintight catsuits.
  • King of the Hill. Dale Gribble has gone further around the bend this time and has arranged traps to catch a rogue singer (no, really). Hank gets a mess of arrows shot around him, then is pulled to the floor and one final arrow hits where his forehead was a second ago. It turns out later that Dale was completely right.
  • Parodied three time in the Stroker and Hoop episode "Ninja Worrier": first when a female ninja shows off by doing this to Hoop with ninja stars, including one on his crotch which actually nicked his testicle because "that one leans left". When she shows him again and he's luckily wearing a crotch guard. Then he practices it on her, and misses several times, though she thought this was funny.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum do it to Boog in the episode "Monster in the Mist". Made funnier by that Boog only screams when there's a fork flying towards his crotch.
  • Bugs Bunny has had this happen to him with shotgun blasts.
  • This happened to the titular Pinky and the Brain in "Funny, You Don't Look Rennish". There was no blood, but Pinky did mention they were "piercing our flesh. Poit!"
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Read It and Weep", Indiana Jones Expy Daring Do triggers an arrow-barrage deathtrap inside a temple, which make a pony-shaped pattern on the opposite wall.
  • Happens to Taz when he walks into the bathroom of the Inn of No Return in the Taz-Mania episode "A Midsummer Night's Scream".
  • The Popeye short "The Organ Grinder's Swing" has Bluto throwing knives at Popeye, but he shield's himself with a wooden board. He fires the knives back at Bluto, which give him a Close-Call Haircut.
  • When Roger from Cordell Barker's short cartoon Strange Invaders falls down the stairs, some sharp objects left over from Peanut's cannibalizing everything tumble with him, and penetrate the floor around Roger's supine form, leaving him battered but uncut. Then comes the bowling ball. Crunch.
  • Done with porcupine quills in the lion episode of Wild Kratts. To remove a bunch of quills from Martin quickly, Chris wraps him in rope and then activates the rope's power winch. The rope yanks the quills out and sends them flying everywhere, including at Chris, whose shape is left outlined in quills on a ridge behind him.

    Real Life