I've noticed that, in a number of different anime, photographs of people who have died appear with the face whited out, generally by reflections of light. Is there a tradition behind this? Is there a cultural reason for this, or is it just laziness to keep from having to animate a character who would only be drawn once?



  • Which episode of FMA or Brotherhood is the first one from?
    – Cattua
    Jun 1, 2013 at 2:35
  • It's from the opening speech that Al did every time in the beginning of FMA. The second picture (in case anyone was wondering) is from episode 9 of Pretear.
    – kuwaly
    Jun 1, 2013 at 2:38
  • @kuwaly: Well, Hoenheim wasn't exactly dead at the time. Jun 1, 2013 at 13:37
  • @MadaraUchiha True. Wasn't he assumed to be by Ed and Al (and the viewer), though? I can find a different picture if you want.
    – kuwaly
    Jun 1, 2013 at 17:27
  • I believe the idea is borrowed from kuro-mesen and intends to convey the tragic events that happened to the characters who have their faces whited out, but said characters do not necessarily have to be all dead as the anime 86 - Eighty Six demonstrated in episode 11: Lena sees the photo of the Spearhead Squadron members for the first time.
    – Gao
    May 22, 2022 at 12:53

1 Answer 1


I exclude the laziness hypothesis. This is a deliberate omission of a relevant information by the narrator. This is the case of an unreliable narrator that was keeping herself a key fact for narration purposes. These lines about to Agatha Christie's novels from the cited Wikipedia article can apply to this type of trope too:

the narrator hides essential truths in the text (mainly through evasion, omission, and obfuscation) without ever overtly lying [...] even a first-person narrator might hide essential information and deliberately mislead the reader in order to preserve the surprise ending

The first image you've cited from Fullmetal Alchemist actually doesn't hide all faces. The mother, dead too, is clearly visible in the photo, only the father's face is obfuscated. So the criteria to hide a particular face is not related to the fact that a person is dead but to the role the obfuscated character has in the story.

I.e. in Bakuman the Mashiro's uncle's face is clearly visible at the funeral, because the narrator has interest to inform the reader about why Mashiro is reluctant about being mangaka and, later, to motivate him in front of the reader. In Another, on the contrary, a certain character's face at the funeral is not showed until the author discloses who is dead.

  • I guess I can see that for Hohenheim, but what about the other picture?
    – kuwaly
    Jun 2, 2013 at 15:20
  • In the other picture, the narrator is hiding an essential truth to the reader. Watching Pretear you'll discover what role havethe obfuscated character, or if this is simply a misleading omission.
    – chirale
    Jun 3, 2013 at 9:22
  • There isn't any sort of obfuscation involved. The picture is shown while she is describing her father.
    – kuwaly
    Jun 3, 2013 at 14:22
  • I mean obfuscation = character face is not visible due to a reflection covering his face.
    – chirale
    Jun 3, 2013 at 14:38

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