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Stylized for the Viewer

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Usually we're meant to take character designs at face value but this is not the case. In-series characters see each other in a different way from how we see them, even ignoring art styles.

Compare to:

  • Charlie Brown Baldness often occurs when a character appears to have almost no hair but canonically has hair, anything ranging from a buzzcut to a full head of hair.
  • Characters with Black Bead Eyes are often shown to have actual eye colors at one time or another.
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  • Characters with Four-Fingered Hands are often assumed to have five fingers like normal humans.
  • Hair Color Dissonance is when a character's hair looks a different color than it actually is.
  • Suddenly Blonde is for when a video game character's canon hair color doesn't match their sprite or model.
  • Visible Invisibility is where the audience is able to see a character who is supposed to be invisible to others.
  • Characters who are The Noseless or characters who have No Mouth usually do actually have them, however they're drawn without them.
  • Characters who suffer from Animals Lack Attributes or Barbie Doll Anatomy usually are meant to actually have the parts that are missing.
  • Alleged Lookalikes occurs when characters are meant to be similar looking in-series but aren't for the viewer
  • Your Size May Vary and Not Drawn to Scale occur when things are depicted as a different size than intended in canon.
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  • Furry Lens occurs when the characters who are actually humans look like animals to the audience.

Contrast to Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder and Rule of Perception. Using a Fourth-Wall Portrait is a way to draw a more accurate version of the character. May be a sign of a Lazy Artist or Stylistic Suck.


Anime and Manga

  • Shinigami eyes in Death Note are red eyes characters receive when they take a Deadly Upgrade. Word of God is that it's stylistic and In-Universe their eyes don't change color.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Although Koichi Hirose is canonically 157cm (roughly 5'2"), he is always presented to the audience as being comically small, sometimes barely taller than the protagonist's knees.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt uses so many different styles that it's an impossibility to decide which one is the "true" one.
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  • The characters of Free Collars Kingdom are regular stray cats and are treated as such by the humans they interact with, but the art style shows them as catboys/catgirls.
  • Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is a semi-autobiographical manga about employees at a bookstore. To protect their anonymity, the author not only changes all names, but draws himself as a living skeleton and the others as always wearing bizarre masks. No one ever reacts to either, and the series is otherwise entirely mundane.
  • "Kaguya-chan" (simply Kaguya acting very cutely and childish thanks to feeling a strong sense of happiness and escapism plus sleep deprivation) in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is drawn in a Super-Deformed art style, making her look much smaller and child-like. The narrator even lampshades that this trope is in effect and to everyone else she just looks like an absent-minded Kaguya. Taken to a hilarious degree when Shirogane copies her in an attempt to communicate with her. While the readers see two adorable Super-Deformed characters repeating each other's names, Iino sees two young adults behaving in a really creepy manner.
  • The Nakano sisters of The Quintessential Quintuplets have their whole gimmick based on the fact that no one can tell them apart. As such, their having different hair colors is only for the reader's convenience; in-universe it's all the same shade.

Film — Live-Action

  • At points in Blade Runner, the eyes of Replicants (and other artificial life-forms, like the owl) are seen to glow unnaturally. The director has said that this is a stylistic effect and is not visible to the other characters in-universe.


  • Pyramids: The embalmers explain to the apprentice that their clients' representations are always touched up to remove imperfections.
    Certainly they'll notice. But they won't say anything. They expect us to, er, improve matters.
    After all, you don't think they're going to step up and say, "It's all wrong, he had a face like a short-sighted chicken", do you?

Live-Action TV

  • Often on How I Met Your Mother Older Ted confesses that things look different in his flashbacks because that's how it seemed to him at the time. For example, when Robin dated an older man, he is first introduced as being in his late forties, but then Older Ted says that to him and his friends he looked much older, and the boyfriend appears as a senior for the rest of the episode.
  • In an episode of Bones the Victim of the Week, when we finally see her headshot objectively, is superficially similar looking to Brennan. However, Brennan sees her as her exact double and therefor so do we, until the end of the episode. When other characters look at the headshot they don't see any similarity, which confounds Brennan and confuses the viewer - since we see the headshot the way Brennan does.
  • Spoofed on 30 Rock when new high-definition cameras are put in that show the characters in greater detail. Liz and Lutz look old and wrinkly, Kenneth is a Muppet, and Jack looks like a younger Alec Baldwin.

Newspaper Comics

  • Calvin and Hobbes: Hobbes appears as a Funny Animal to Calvin, but a stuffed toy to everyone else. Whether Hobbes only comes to life when he's alone with Calvin, or is always alive and only Calvin can see his non-toy form, is left for the reader to decide, and is one of the reasons given by Bill Watterson for not allowing merchandising or adaptations.
  • Played with in the "Flatter-matic" camera plotline in Angus Og where the camera prints out pictures that look more realistic than the usual caricature art-style. The characters get confused, and the reader is supposed to think it is because of the style switch, but then, it turns out that these pictures are just incredibly flattering.

Video Games


  • Andrew Hussie has stated that the images in Homestuck are merely stylistic representations of the characters that don't accurately portray their actual size, shape, or race. This makes sense regarding the sprites, which are obviously stylised videogame-style images, but this trope apparently holds true even for the 'hero mode' images where the characters are drawn with cartoony, but semi-realistic proportions. As a result, it's very easy to find wildly differing character designs for the characters, sharing only the most basic identifying details.
  • In Nebula, the characters (who are the Anthropomorphic Personifications of various planets) are all depicted to the viewer as having Non Human Heads of what they personify, though they apparently all have regular faces and can read each other's expressions just fine.
  • In-Universe for Scandinavia and the World. We see the Nordic countries as themselves, but America sees four Swedens.
  • It's implied in Drowtales that the glow of of tainted eyes and the white spirals seen in the eyes of certain characters who are tainted in a specific way aren't visible to the other characters are and purely for the reader's benefit. This is most obvious when shapeshifter Ariel pretends to be her crazy half sister Kalki and changes her eye color to red but lacks the glow and spirals but no one except Kiel (who not only has them but has fourth wall knowledge) seems to notice this. For comparison, the red glow seen in the pupils of all drow was originally thought to be this until another character specifically pointed it out in the eyes of Liriel, who looks like a dark elf but has the glow like a drow, meaning it's likely eyeshine.
  • In Ava's Demon, the Hosts don't have strangely-shaped irises in-universe and are only there to indicate to the viewer of their true nature.

Web Original

  • SCP Foundation: It is supposed to be impossible to photograph Dr. Alto Clef's face. His official profile photo shows him with a spider's head, but he apparently appears human in universe.

Western Animation

  • Subverted with The Powerpuff Girls. Multiple jokes and references make it clear they really don't have fingers or noses, and have abnormally large eyes.
  • Original LEGO animated shows such as Ninjago and Nexo Knights typically retain their stylised minifigure appearance as part of the brand. However, due to the fact that the art style doesn't impact the aforementioned shows in any way, it's implied that the characters are actually human in-universe.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward goes anywhere typically pantsless (except on occasion where he may have a different clothing). And his... genitals are never seen note . A few episodes play with this, such as in "Bossyboots", where Squidward, in anger of being a mascot, tears off his costume, only for the police to immediately come to him and put a fine note on his crotch.
  • Gems in Steven Universe cannot shapeshift their gemstones like the rest of the bodies. However, when they fuse together to make much larger individuals, the gemstones appear to grow along with them (for instance, Jasper's gem seems to grow from a few inches to bigger than a watermelon when she forms Malachite). The show's staff have specified they're not literally changing size, it's purely for the sake of visibility.

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