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Sinister Silhouettes

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Where The Faceless meets Chekhov's Gunman. It comes in several different flavors, with a common theme. It is an abstract (i.e. not an actual scene) shot of one or more characters, who will eventually be revealed, with said character(s) shown as silhouettes. The background can be anything from bland to suitably ominous, but either way, the sinister silhouettes will typically be just standing there in a badass manner. The background music will most likely be ominous.

This shot is frequently used to either show that the hidden characters are the kind that you wouldn't want to mess with unless you were The Hero or Too Dumb to Live, or to depict them as Shrouded in Myth. May be subverted in that the silhouetted person turns out to be not as badass as had been implied. Typically a trope associated with villainous characters, though it being of The Rival is not uncommon. May have rare heroic cases.

The delivery can go about in a few ways, but most frequently, Alice could just casually mention the name of the Quirky Miniboss Squad. Bob, however, has never heard of them before, and so Alice goes through the trouble of quickly summarizing what she knows about them. As she does, it cuts to a Team Shot of them as sinister silhouettes. Said silhouettes being in intimidating poses is optional.

Other methods of presentation include it being shown as part of the Title Sequence or ending credits (often removing the shadows in episodes after the character's appearance is known). Maybe even in an On the Next or Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame.

The Silhouette can also be used by a character already introduced. A common visual gag for an angry character is to have them in the background with a sinister silhouette and Glowing Eyes of Doom, with another character's horrified expression in the foreground.

Compare The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, which is a group of sinister silhouettes in an actual, non-abstract scene.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk, after a brief mention of the God Hand in the first chapter as Guts is torturing the Snake Baron, introduces the Big Bads this way after Guts learns that Vargas has a Behelit and lays down just what the thing is to him and the audience.
  • Best Student Council's OP sequence has a part where each special division of the eponymous Absurdly Powerful Student Council are shown together. While Assault Division has its members performing their signature attacks one after the other, the Vice President for Covert and the Covert commander are shown standing between two silhouettes, the other members of Covert Division. Their faces are revealed after the episodes where they are introduced. The entire student council is shown in a sinister silhouettes Team Shot before the opening credits start rolling.
  • In Black Butler: Book of Circus, the Shinigami are shown this way early on, before any of them appear. The image includes the three in the series and the two who were only in the second musical.
  • Every suspect gets one of these in Case Closed if The Teaser decides to show the crime in progress. Hilariously parodied in Gintama where the principal suspect is a sinister silhouettes that is revealed be an alien and the silhouette its true appearance.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Adventure:
      • Myotismon was first introduced like this, and would fully appear in episode 26.
      • The legendary Digidestined from episode 53 is another heroic case, although they don't show up later on.
    • Dragomon from episode 13 of Digimon Adventure 02 shows up at the end as a shadowy figure emerging from the Dark Ocean. This would be his only appearance however.
    • In the first OP for Digimon Tamers, the evolutionary stages of the Tamers' Mons are shown, but their top levels are shown only as silhouettes.
  • When the the Ginyu Force first appears in Dragon Ball Z they appear as black silhouettes, then introduce themselves one at a time. Silhouettes of Vegeta and Nappa in the first opening sequence are shown doing a Team Power Walk with fire and lightning in the background.
  • Fist of the North Star does this with the introduction of Kenshiro's adoptive brothers and then with the six Nanto Stars. The latter is a bit more egregious, since it depicts Shin and Rei alongside four male silhouettes, but one of them later turns out to be a woman.
  • Flame of Recca had the tendency to introduce the next team of opponents this way.
  • Parodied in episode 38 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, with Yoki imagining himself to be the leader of the Scar gang on a quest for revenge against the Elric brothers.
  • The Suzaku Seishi in Fushigi Yuugi (with the exception of Tamahome and Hotohori) are first depicted as silhouettes with their body symbols when Hotohori explains the legend of Suzaku.
  • In Future Diary, the Diary Holders (aside from the main two characters and Third, who dies before the scene takes place) are introduced this way when Deus announces the Survival Game.
  • The Four Kings from Get Backers.
  • The GUN×SWORD Evolving Credits shows sinister silhouettes of major characters of both antagonists and protagonists, before they are introduced.
  • Parodied in episode 2 of Haruhi-chan. After being defeated by Nagato, Asakura proclaims that though she has been defeated, it's not over yet. She goes on to add that above the Radical Big Four are three leaders, also shown as silhouettes. The silhouettes don't look all too sinister, though, being in the shape of Faceless Masses. Kyon proceeds to call her story cheesy.
  • Hellsing: Millennium gets a shot like this in the manga and the OVA.
  • The Netherlands of Hetalia: Axis Powers was first depicted as one, until his design was revealed.
  • The Idolmaster - Subverted. Kuroi's face is never shown, but the first few times he appears is only his silhouette.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure introduces many of its villains this way.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! did this with Nightmare all the way up to near the end of the second-to-last episode.
  • The ending credits for Marvel Anime: Iron Man show all of the enemies as sinister silhouettes with glowing red eyes, up to and including the Big Bad.
  • Naruto:
    • The Five Kages, as one would expect from the name.
    • The Akatsuki also make their first appearance at the end of part 1 as Silhouettes. Pain's appearance, in particular, isn't shown until well after the first 100 chapters of Part 2.
  • One of the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion appears like a large floating sphere covered in irregular black and white patterns. It turns out that the sphere is actually the three-dimensional silhouette of a multi-dimensional creature. To aim at the actual creature in three-dimensional space, one has to aim at the apparently two-dimensional circle of pure blackness on the ground below it.
    • The preview of the third installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion features four shadows that are implied to belong to new Evangelion pilots. Two of them are presumably, but not necessarily Mari and Kaworu, while the other two still remain to be seen.
  • Many characters in One Piece, at least in the manga (Zoro, Arlong, the Shichibukai, the Yonkou, just to name a few).
    • The Shichibukai in their silhouettes look nothing like they really do. Except for Mihawk maybe. They were also shown to be sword wielders, which doesn't help.
      • Those figures were meant to be Yosaku's idealized mental image of the Shichibukai. Since Yosaku had never seen any of them except Mihawk, it makes sense that he wouldn't know their appearances. While it's unclear if Oda had designed all of them yet, at that point he had designed at least two (Mihawk and Crocodile) and he knew they wouldn't all be sword users.
    • More than one of the anime openings show characters who have yet to appear in silhouette, and then in later openings with the picture filled in.
      • Really it's done so many times that it might as well be a Running Gag.
    • A particularly funny shot is when Doflamingo warns Tsuru about the increasing number of pirates who seek to take control of the world in the place of World Government. In the depiction of potential enemies of the world, there is Luffy at the center, wearing his trademark stupid grin. In the shade that all the pirates are in, Luffy's grin ends up making him look like the creepiest one of the lot.
  • Various openings of Pokémon: The Series do this for Gym Leaders or Frontier Brains. Because, you know, the gym leader is totally the one you fight...
  • Pretty Cure franchise is full of this, usually to conceal the bad guys that have not make their debut yet in the Spoiler Opening, but the queen of this trope might be from the ''DX3'' movie. The franchise's movies' Big Bads (at the time) surround themselves with a black Battle Aura, creating this effect pictured above. Before that, just about every completed series' and previous All Stars movies Big Bads are shown in this manner, their faces twisted in Nightmare Face, as a visual presentation of their evil gathered and formed the DX3 Big Bad, Black Hole.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena frequently uses faceless blacked out figures during flashbacks (including the one that opens the narration of every other episode) although their hair and clothes are usually still coloured. This is used for both chilly atmosphere and for presenting it as a fairy tale.

  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Venus got one in her first appearance, as did the two Outer Senshi Uranus and Neptune.
  • Saki show the rival team of Ryuumonbochi in silhouettes every times they're mentioned until they first appear in person in episode 7. Their faces where already known, though, because they appear in the opening unconcealed.
  • Samurai Deeper Kyo is the embodiment of sinister silhouettes.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • The manga does this with Hiei and Kurama (and Gouki, who was unimportant) before we get to know them.
    • The Saint Beasts and Sensui's Seven were depicted in this manner.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda 2.
    • Lord Shen's armada is first shown as the silhouettes of their dragon-shaped cannon sliding across the screen of a shadow puppet play as the audience turn to the window to stare in horror.
    • But Played for Laughs when Shen first meets Po, the legendary panda warrior prophesied to defeat him. Lord Shen is practicing the speech he'll give to Po, who has just been captured. Then a huge shadow appears on the staircase, accompanied by growls and panting. Shen nervously reaches for one of his knives turns out to be one of his gorilla Mooks carrying Po, exhausted from the endless stairs leading up to Shen's throne room.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Daredevil (2003): One of the Kingpin's thugs is beating up a guy in an alley when a huge silhouette of Daredevil looms up on the wall in front of him, with the thug staring in horror at it before fleeing.
  • Friend of the World: Gore is holding a gun in a doorway after he kills a creature thought to be Eva.
  • In the Cut: The man and blow job recipient that Frannie observes in the bar basement is shrouded in shadow, with the only identifying detail being his wrist tattoo. Later, Frannie learns the woman who was giving the blow job was murdered.
  • It! The Terror from Beyond Space. The alien monster is first seen as a scary silhouette as it sneaks on board the atomic rocketship via a hatchway that had been left open. Unfortunately the shadow has a human head that doesn't match its scary monster face.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers our heroes run into a Sinister Silhouette in the forest. It turns out to be Gandalf, though.
  • The three Greeks from Flying Down to Rio are only seen as three shadows on the fall except in one quick scene. They're referred to as "the three shadows" by a minor character.
  • Played with in "Amateur Night" in the horror anthology film VHS. Two college students have an Oh, Crap! moment when a Face-Revealing Turn shows the woman their friend is having sex with has suddenly grown fangs. They flee into the bathroom, but since there's only one door in the hotel room have to go out and confront her. In the dimly lit room she appears in silhouette as a shadowy Eldritch Abomination, but it turns out she's just holding her hands over her head. Then she morphs into a One-Winged Angel and kills them all.
  • King Of The Rocket Men (1949). The sinister Dr. Vulcan is only shown as a shadow on the wall taunting his victims and instructing his mooks via radio, before his real identity is unmasked by the Jet Pack-wearing hero. Unfortunately he lacks an appropriately sinister voice to go with his shadow.
  • The Burning: The raft massacre features Cropsy as a black silhouette against the sky as he lays waste on his victims with his shears. The original poster and the DVD/VHS release feature it prominently on the forefront.
  • In War of the Worlds (2005), when Ray is about to kill Ogilvy, he stands framed in the doorway for several seconds, seen only in shadow.

  • The Proudest Blue: The boys who laugh at Asiyah's hijab are portrayed as bright purple silhouettes with smiles on them.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What?: Evil God D appears as the black silhouette of a teenage girl with an unnaturally large smile. This masks her identity as Wakaba Hiiro.
  • Disciple of the Lich: In the fifth novel, Philia stands backlit after destroying a will with a single thrown sword. She then declares Philia...doesn't really remember when she was called [a god]. But Philia doesn't like it[.]

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Attorney, the profiles of unknown/unintroduced characters are shown as dark silhouettes, with question marks for their age and profession. A larger version is seen in the first case of Ace Attorney Investigations when a mysterious figure catches Edgeworth at gunpoint in his darkened office—and since the dialogue is completely text we don't even know what gender the person is. It turns out to be Detective Badd.
  • ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family:
    • The murderer always appears as one, with only their eyes visible.
    • This also applies to anyone that Minhyuk hasn't identified yet. One scene has him realize as much when he Jump Scares himself by not recognizing his own reflection in a darkened mirror.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2: The Zaibatsu executive in the cinematic.
  • Ishijima Kaigen from the nitro+ Visual Novel Hanachirasu is only mostly silhouetted, but she makes up for it with Glowing Eyes of Doom.
  • Although they aren't silhouettes, Organization XIII from Kingdom Hearts invoke this by wearing a hood that obscures their face, revealing their appearance only when Sora meets the individual members properly.
  • Mega Man X:
    • The X-Hunters are introduced in Mega Man X2 as silhouettes observing a hologram recording of X.
    • Also, arguably invoked in Mega Man X4 by Dr. Wily appearing to his "son" Zero. Invoked as in it's a nightmare the latter was having, yet Dr. Wily looked like he was standing behind a spotlight. And then the "mysterious man" does it again in Mega Man X5, in a montage of Zero's previously unknown past life, just as he was dying.
  • Murder in the Alps: When Anna elaborates at the end of Ladies of the Night on how the deaths of Petrus Krämer and Susi Wiget occurred, the flashbacks show Petrus being captured and beaten up by two completely darkened accomplishes of Oskar Havel, AKA the Dada Killer, the fugitive Serial Killer. The larger figure is likely Dhara Biguá, a smuggler from Exiled Dead who's revealed to have teamed up with Oskar. The other figure is possibly Gerhard Wagner, a smuggling Nazi agent from Atlantic Connection who's later revealed to have joined the Villain Team-Up in Forgotten Memento.
  • In No More Heroes, entering a new level shows the boss's name and their silhouette.
  • In Owl Boy, Molstrom and his mysterious hooded benefactor first appear in shadows.
  • In Paper Mario 64, entering the start of a new area has the chapter intro showing Mario facing against a silhouette of the Villain of the Week.
  • In Rama (1996) the intro shows the silhouettes of menacing aliens and a human astronaut running away.
  • In Shounen Kininden Tsumuji, the Dark Ninjas first appear as silhouettes on a tall tree before attacking Tsumuji's village and turning everyone into stone.
  • The "HellValleySkyTree" figures in Shiverburn Galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
  • The original Super Smash Bros. plays with this for the opening cinematic. It shows off all the normal playable characters, but the four Secret Characters (Luigi, Jigglypuff, Captain Falcon, and Ness) are only shown as silhouettes until you actually unlock them. Despite the silhouettes though, they definitely aren't evil characters by any means.
    • The same technique was used in the first trailer for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, with all of the characters’ silhouettes in front of a giant, burning Smash Ball.
  • Touhou Project: Starting from the sixth installment, Touhou games have an important (typically last boss) character appear silhouetted in the cover of the game. These typically provides speculation fodder about who is the woman and what the game is about.
    • Embodiment of Scarlet Devil: Flandre Scarlet.
    • Perfect Cherry Blossom: Yukari Yakumo. Her silhouette is split between lighter shade and darker shade.
    • Immaterial and Missing Power: Suika Ibuki.
    • Imperishable Night: Kaguya Houraisan. Her rival, Fujiwara no Mokou, appears as a smaller silhouette in a moon under Kaguya's feet.
    • Phantasmagoria of Flower View: Eiki Shiki, Yamaxanadu.
    • Shoot the Bullet: Aya Syameimaru, the main character.
    • Mountain of Faith: Kanako Yasaka.
    • Scarlet Weather Rhapsody: Tenshi Hinanawi.
    • Subterranean Animism: Utsuho Reiuzi.
    • Undefined Fantastic Object: Byakuren Hijiri.
    • Hisoutensoku: Cirno. Unlike the others, this one is a giveaway and complete Moment Killer.
    • Double Spoiler: Hatate Himekaidou, the main character.
    • Fairy Wars: Cirno again, to no one's speculation.
    • Ten Desires: Toyosatomimi-no-Miko.
    • Hopeless Masquerade: Hata no Kokoro.
    • Double Dealing Character: Shinmyoumaru Sukuna.
    • Impossible Spell Card: Seija Kijin, the main character and Villain Protagonist
    • Urban Legend in Limbo: Sumireko Usami; whose appearance, name, and contribution in the overall lore of Touhou is a giant Wham Episode for several reasons.
    • Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom: Junko
    • Antinomy of Common Flowers: Joon Yorigami and Shion Yorigami
    • Hidden Star in Four Seasons: Mai Teireida, Satono Nishida and Okina Matara in her Optional Boss form.
    • Violet Detector: Sumireko Usami again, now as the main character.
    • Wily Beast and Weakest Creature: Saki Kurokoma, Keiki Haniyasushin and Yachie Kicchou, the game's Big Bad Ensemble.
    • Sunken Fossil World: Yuuma Toutetsu.
    • Unconnected Marketeers: Chimata Tenkyuu.
    • Unfinished Dream of All Living Ghost: Son Biten, Enoko Mitsugashira, and Chiyari Tenkajin, The Dragon of the three Animal Realm Yakuza Clans, who are actually The Mole of the real Big Bad.
  • The Guyzoch Space Pirates are introduced this way in The Wonderful 101, with their leaders, Prince Vorkken and Chewgi, shown as silhouettes illuminated only by the red Tron Lines and Glowing Eyes of Doom on their suits. The GEATHJERK Federation's commanders later get the same treatment in the flashback detailing Vorkken's tragic backstory. Notably, it is the only time we get to see Second Officer Heyorgah, who Vorkken kills prior to his boss fight and is left as a grave.
  • Even though it doesn't happen in the context of the game itself, in the manga for The World Ends with You, Kariya and Yoshiro say "Since we appeared in silhouette earlier, you probably thought we were up to something dastardly. We're totally not."
    • Although early in the game, the Reapers do appear, with some slight dark shading over them, so...

  • El Goonish Shive: About half the cast are introduced with silhouettes. The comic seems to have retired the practice, however, in recent years.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: The Creature Counsil meet as a cabal of sinister silhouettes... except the Phoenix representative, who has an open flame on her head and cannot lurk in shadows.
  • The KAMics: Loki likes to appear as a shadowy figure.
  • Harkovast: The Speaker spent the first part of the comic appearing only as a silhouette, while making ominous statements.
  • Blade of Toshubi: The Feline Emperor has only been seen in silhouette.
  • Bob and George: "What do you expect? I'm just a mysterious shadowy villain"
  • Homestuck:
    • Jack Noir often does this. Granted, it's not hard to do, since he has a shiny black carapace. But then he leaps over the Moral Event Horizon. After that, the sight of his shadow flying overhead is enough to elicit a mass Oh, Crap!.
    • This is the most we ever see of the troll Famous Ancestors, the only colored facial features being mouth, face paint, glasses, and occasionally eyes.
    • Some of the giant, powerful underlings seen on occasion, such as a three-eyed, four-armed beast fought by Mom Lalonde and a huge winged humanoid faced by John in [S] Cascade, are seen only as looming, backlit silhouettes the dwarf their more detailed opponents.
    • The Imperial Drone seen in Hivebent is largely a dark silhouette against the night sky, looming ominously over the viewer.
  • Remus: This is how Williams's face is kept hidden once he pulls off his mask. We see eyes, teeth, and knives — that's it.
  • Surprising Octeal: Some silhouetted character stalks the main character while she's practicing with her powers in a pool.
  • Ears for Elves: Early in, a black elf shape is seen (by readers only) sitting in a tree, watching Tanna after Rolan crashes into her. This conceals his identity until much later, after he's become a major and frequent character, when he confesses to chaperoning Rolan at that time.
  • Precocious: Ivy Pingo pulls this off rather formidably at the end of Kaitlyn's birthday party...or so we were led to believe.
  • Awful Hospital: The emergency meeting of doctors and, later, the Revourer.
  • Trevor (2020): Light from the hallway behind Trevor, as he detaches himself from Terry’s body at the doorway to the safe room, casts them both in shadow.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Cauldron attempts to invoke this when they assemble a coalition of the most powerful and influential parahumans in the world, hero and villain alike, to combat the threat of the Endbringers, with each group standing in front of a light-producing panel in a circular pattern. The reasoning behind this is unclear, as everyone at the meeting clearly knows who the others are, and no attempt is made to conceal identities. The protagonist speculates that it's meant to send a message about secrecy.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Chosen of the Absolute

Upon hearing the voice of the Absolute for the first time, the party sees silhouettes of the goddess' Chosen, who lead the sinister Cult of the Absolute.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SinisterSilhouettes

Media sources: