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Open the Iris

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Normally, the eye filters light by widening or closing the hole in the center of the iris, called the pupil. Emotional reactions can achieve this as well: shock might narrow the pupil, while relaxing could widen it considerably. However, in animated fare or Comic Books, this can be very hard if not impossible to show, since a typical human pupil, at its widest, is 3-4 millimeters.note  This trope is a way to sidestep that difficulty. Instead of just changing the size of the pupil, you change the size of the iris (the colored ring surrounding the pupil) as well.

Your iris is no more capable of growing than your bones are of stretching like Gumby, but since they are by far the largest feature of an eye other than the whites, it's easy for artists to "expand" them to get the desired emotional reaction across.

Emotions this is meant to convey usually include love, (pleasant) surprise, desire, or awe. Animated characters experiencing the Mushroom Samba almost always get a close-up of their eyes showing this, just before reality goes sideways for them. Those effected by a Glamour, Love Potion, or Love Is in the Air effect may also get this, though those may be indicated with Mind-Control Eyes instead.

The opposite, when the irises are drawn in a shrunken state to indicate fear, pain, shock, or anger is Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises. Compare Expressive Mask. Not to be confused with Iris Out.

When the pupils are drawn abnormally large, the eyes generally appear pleading or wistful. That trope is Puppy-Dog Eyes.

Opening the iris in Stargate SG-1 has nothing to do with this trope. See Dilating Door for doors like that. It also has nothing to do with the Eldritch Abomination of a planet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The animation style of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha usually shows an all-black pupil/iris with the anime-standard lens flare and a crescent of color near the bottom of the eye. When a character is shocked, scared, or incredibly pissed off, you can see the iris all the way around. Their eyes kind of shrink, too.
  • Since just about every main character in Peacemaker Kurogane spends a lot of time indulging in Angst over past and/or current traumatic events this happens often. (The most notable characters who do this are Tetsunosuke and Suzu.)
  • Done in many Reaction Shots in Serial Experiments Lain.
  • In a particularly extreme example, in Magikano, the iris opens, then the iris and pupil shrink, and the sclera fractures.
  • This is used along with Hellish Pupils in Higurashi: When They Cry - probably because any character with this effect is usually in the grip of some serious paranoia.
  • Train from Black Cat does this a LOT. Though, even for anime standards, his irises were already not normal, looking a lot more like a cat's. Creed also does this sometimes.
  • It happens occasionally to Sousuke from Full Metal Panic!, though not too often, considering how normally unphasable he is. He's shown doing this more often during TSR, and it's noticeable in the Sigma manga as well.
  • People in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED who enter SEED Mode have much larger irises, though their emotional range typically doesn't change much.
  • In Naruto, this is what the 9-Tailed Fox looks like when it's being controlled by someone with the Sharingan.
  • Baby Steps: This technique is used to reflect Eiichirou's shock when Kageyama suggests he knows the reason E-chan got into tennis.
    Kageyama: ... you like Takasaki-san, don't you!?
    Eiichirou: '[his irises shrinking to tiny dots]'' EEEEEEEHHHHHH!?!?!
    Kageyama: What's with that reaction?
  • Chi's Sweet Home: Chi's irises got HUGE when she saw a shopping bag filled with kitty toys. Of course, she went straight for the bag.

    Comic Books 
  • Concrete can actually do this with his eyes, dilating them until there's nothing but the black of the pupils visible in order to see in the dark. According to Under the Desert Stars his eyes "dilate enormously, adding light-gathering power to their high resolution". However, in a later story Maureen described his night-vision as being similar to that of a cat or dog (which doesn't explain at all why they turn black), so the original explanation of how they work may or may not have been retconned.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens a lot in horror movies, when a person who's a vampire/possessed/under a spell goes from looking normal human to looking like they're a vampire/possessed/under a spell.
  • Tweaked in 2004's Dawn of the Dead (2004). When the anonymous woman reanimated, we got a closeup shot of her eye turning from normal human green to that freaky occluded color.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In the pilot of Sense8, when Riley inhales from the drug pipe, we get a close-up on her iris widening.

    Music Videos 

    Theme Parks 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Licking a toad

Those who lick the toad end up having hallucinations. The Gray One is the only one in Shel's bachelor party who does not lick the toad due to being rightly suspicious of Raccoon.

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