So I was re-reading the Fullmetal Alchemist series recently. I noticed this scene below with the man presumably on the verge of death with I presume to be his "soul" coming out of his mouth. I was wondering what the origin of this trope is, since I have often seen this in other mangas and animes.

Full Metal Alchemist Pg. 151  Vol. 1


This is a sample of the Giving Up the Ghost tropes The term itself actually originates from the King James Version of the Bible

when Jesus was on the cross, His last words were "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last." (New International Version) The King James Version of 1611, however, gave it the contemporary wording "... and having said thus, he gave up the ghost." source

The trope is a spinoff version of the western version Winged Soul Flies Off At Death. The western version got first used in 1948 in a western animation

The 1948 short "Back Alley Oproar" with Sylvester and Elmer Fudd. Sylvester insists on singing when Fudd wants to sleep, and Sylvester eventually ends up on a cloud, complete with halo and wings.

as for the giving up the Ghost trope I am not certain when it first occured.

  • This is fine as far as explaining the purpose/function of the trope, generically, but it does nothing to explain why this particular representation of it (soul leaking out mouth) occurs.
    – senshin
    Jan 17 '14 at 2:03
  • @senshin I did not directly quote it but the first link directly provides the answer to this " ...This is a comedy trope found in anime and manga. Sometimes, a character may feel like they could die at any moment due to some form of sudden external stimulation or just plain exhaustion. It could be getting knocked out with a sudden blow to the head...."
    – Dimitri mx
    Jan 17 '14 at 11:10

According to chinese traditional medicine, when a person dies, the soul escapes the body from one of its orifices (any). These beliefs passed to the other asian cultures. So, the soul leaving the body from the mouth is a familiar image that would need no explanation for asian people.

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