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A fork is fine too.

Either by accident or design, a swarm of sharp objects (such as knives, arrows or axes) are hurtling toward the character. They somehow pin the character to the wall without actually cutting the character (one by each side, arm, leg, etc.), with one final object disturbingly close to the head (or crotch, depending on the character's gender and/or show's maturity level). Sometimes, especially in animated versions, the character has to go through increasingly complex contortions to make sure they didn't get hit.

Their clothes may or may not be affected; sometimes they really are pinned in place, and other times they can simply walk away, leaving a noticeably person-shaped silhouette of projectiles on the wall.

Contrast William Telling.

Examples of Knife Outline include:

Anime & Manga

  • The above picture is from the fifth season of Ranma ½.
    • Mousse also does this with knives to a patron flirting with Shampoo in another episode of the anime.
    • And he also does it to Ranma's female form in another episode. Shampoo does it to two Muggles in an early manga story, by deflecting a barrage of knives thrown at her back with her serving plate. And she doesn't move an inch or spill a single bite of the food she's serving.
    • The Musk Dynasty warrior Mint does this to Mousse as an opening move.
    • And in a non-humorous Takahashi example, Kikyou does this to Inuyasha on one occasion when he tries to steal the Shikon Jewel from her soon after they first meet. Rather than being humorously frightened, he would like to know why she doesn't just kill him when she's clearly capable of it. She has no real answer.
  • Variant in Trigun when the Bad Lads surround Vash perfectly with bullet holes.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico: Prince of Darkness, Ryoko gets her mech pinned to the hull of a space station like this.
  • Episode 14 of Kaleido Star sees this happen to Sora twice. Don't worry, squeamish viewers; it's All Part of the Show.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Riza Hawkeye does this to the new dog Black Hayate with bullets as her way of toilet-training.
  • Used for comedic purposes in School Rumble. Tenma decides to admit her feelings to Karasuma via love letters attached to arrows, which she proceeds to shoot at him. Hilarity Ensues. At times, it seems like he's posing for the arrows.
  • Nuriko gets a comedic arrow outline in Fushigi Yuugi.
  • In episode 6 of Pani Poni Dash!, after irritating Becky one too many times with her opening and closing of the door to her private lab without saying anything, Akira Miyata gets this treatment with a bunch of pens, although in her case the pens blow past her and cut a perfect outline on the wall behind her.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena lots of random things happen in the background during the Student Council meetings. One of them involves Touga randomly throwing knives at Miki who doesn't react even though forming of the knife outline depends on him switching positions in the last second. Notably, the outline also keeps shifting as he changes position. It's probably deliberate.
  • In CLAMP School Detectives, during a kidnapping situation, Suoh does this to a mook with some kunai, in order to find out where Nokoru is. His last hit manages to break the mook's glasses in half, without even scratching his face.
  • During one incident in Samurai Deeper Kyo, the villain does this to Kyoshiro, who plays dead. Then his stomach rumbles.
  • Part of Catherine's and Trowa's circus act in Gundam Wing involves this (Trowa is pinned, Catherine throws the knives). In this case it's used to show just how fearless Trowa is, as when Catherine accidentally throws a knife close enough to draw blood, he doesn't flinch in the slightest. Heck, he doesn't even blink.


  • DC Comics Green Arrow & Speedy have been known to catch crooks with arrow outlines.
  • One Charles Addams comic (the man who went on to create The Addams Family) involved a nice couple in a hotel room, noticing (with understandable concern) the tips of knives protruding through their wall in a human shape. The suggestion was that this trope had occurred in the next room.
  • Batman: The Long Halloween had this with bullets leaving an outline around the Riddler. Approximately five times as many bullets as the weapon in question could actually hold. And no explanation of why the Riddler wouldn't run away while the shooter was reloading. (Except the Rule of Cool).
    • ... maybe the shooter had spare pistols on him? Besides, Loeb's Riddler was always a spineless wimp anyhow, so maybe he was just petrified by fear.
  • In the Lucky Luke episode "The Rivals of Painful Gulch", there is a Family Feud between two clans. The fact that all of them are very lousy marksmen is hilariously underlined by a bullet outline which has a form of a typical member of one of these clans.

Films — Animation

  • In the animated version of The King and I, Master Little, the "Big Bad"'s comical henchman/assistant, attempts to let Anna's son have an 'accident' in the royal armory, and (naturally) fails spectacularly. At one point, six flying knives pin him, one by one, to the armory wall. Little hilariously exclaims 'A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y!' as they hit.
  • Modern use, but inspired by classical cartoons, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, this time with crotch near-miss.
  • Appears in Disney's Hercules, when the hero tries throwing knives and nearly hits Phil:

 Phil: [Hero] Rule #96: AIM!


Films — Live Action

  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights: after saving Dave Chapelle's character from the Sheriff's thugs, Robin Hood hears one of them yell, "You haven't seen the last of us!" Robin promptly fires six arrows at once in a similar method to the picture above, causing the thug to concede, "You've seen the last of us."
    • Will Scarlett O'Hara later pins a mook to a door with his knives, and then decks the goon before retrieving them. "Am I good? I'm good!"
  • A character in the Chinese martial-arts comedy The Duel accidentally fires off a knife-launching device; another character is somehow pinned to the nearest wall five feet off the floor, with one knife caught in his teeth.
  • Realistic film example: Not quite an outline, but James Bond ends up pinned to a door thanks to a couple of thrown knives in Octopussy. In fairness though, the guy who did this was a circus knife-thrower.
  • Subverted all to hell and gone in HeroNameless's outline is left in negative on a wall by thousands of arrows from the King of Qin's army, not because he was intentionally outlined, but because his body intercepted all of those arrows..
  • Terrifying live action example in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. "Whoopsy-daisy!"
  • Played straight as an <ahem> arrow in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (at 7:00).
  • Gomez and Fester dance with knives in the first Addams Family movie which ends with Fester getting outlined while upside-down.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, Gonzo pins one of the pirates to the side of the ship using starfish as throwing stars.
  • Not at all played for laughs in Carrie with her mother's knife crucifixion.
  • Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010 film) used a version of this to interrogate a French officer. The first arrow hit next to his head. The second arrow hit him somewhere lower. The third arrow didn't need to be fired.
  • There was a somewhat disturbing scene in Escape from New York where the Duke of New York has the president tied to a wall, and is casually chatting with his fellow prisoners in between shots. We only see him fire two or three times, but the unfortunate President is literally surrounded by bullet holes.

Logic Puzzles

  • There's a brain teaser out there where a successful duet of a circus knife-thrower and his attractive female assistant is put to an end by the death of the latter due to a wardrobe change. The cause of this fatal accident? She bought a new pair of high heels of a different height than the last pair, causing the knife-thrower to miscalculate his aim...
    • And of course her heels obviously added at least a foot in height, or the change would have only resulted in her getting a nicked shoulder.
      • Actually, it only says different height, not increased. Maybe he went for a between the arm shot, and her being shorter made her get the blade.
      • It also doesn't indicate her pose. If he was throwing at her from the side, and her head was tilted back, another inch of height could mean a slit throat. An inch shorter with a between-the-legs throw could be a nicked femoral artery, and even flesh wounds can get infected and lead to death.


  • Literary example: in The Wheel of Time series, Mat asks to play "Maiden's Kiss" with the local Amazon Brigade... and winds up pinned to a wall by spears.
    • Somewhat off-kilter, in a way-they didn't throw the spears, merely pinned him while still holding them and forced him to demonstrate calmness under pressure. If he didn't kiss well enough, they moved the spears a bit.
    • Birgitte does this to Nynaeve as a circus act. With arrows shot from 100 paces.
  • In the Belisarius Series, Ousanas puts three javelins into a wall against which Prince Eon is standing, from a range of about twenty yards. One is two inches from his left ear, one two inches from his right ear, and the third two inches below his crotch.

 Anastasius drew a deep breath. "That's incredible spear work. Amazing!"

"Fuck the spear work," growled Valentinian. "The kid never even blinked! That's amazing. I may never fuck again, just from watching."

  • In Garry Kilworth's The Silver Claw, a knife-thrower is on the list of murder suspects. At the beginning of his act he does a Knife Outline on another suspect's arm. The victim reacts with anger and is booed offstage. The detective hero then observes the knifethrower during his act and sees that, when challenged to hit the centre of a playing card pinned to the wall, he simply outlines it and can't hit the centre, because "he has trained all his life to miss things, not to hit them."
  • In James Barrie's Sherlock Holmes parody "The Adventure of the Two Collaborators," Watson describes how he and Holmes were relaxing one evening in Baker Street, and Holmes was amusing himself with a little revolver practice:

 It was his custom of a summer evening to fire round my head, just shaving my face, until he had made a photograph of me on the opposite wall, and it is a slight proof of his skill that many of these portraits in pistol shots are considered admirable likenesses.


Live Action TV

  • In the Red Dwarf episode Gunmen of the Apocalypse, Lister pins a gangster to the wall with thrown knives in this manner. Just to really rub it in, he grabs an apple and flicks that into the gangster's mouth.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Fifteen Minutes", Carla uses throwing stars to do this to J.D. in one of his fantasies.
  • There's a commercial for Butterfinger involving this trope but with staples. Lightning-fast staples.
  • Garibaldi does this with his PPG to intimidate a thug in a second season episode of Babylon 5.

Newspaper Comics

  • This happened to Dilbert of all people once, when Dogbert's "animal magnetism" reverses. Dilbert gets pinned to the wall by everything in his silverware drawer. (This was before the strip's theme shifted to making fun of business idiosyncrasies.)

Tabletop Games

  • In the superhero Tabletop RPG Mutants and Masterminds, a feat (Ranged Pin) can be taken that allows this trope. Note that it only works on one attack. I'm pretty sure there's some special action you can take to allow an outline, though...
    • Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 has a feat Ranged Pin that allows you to make a grapple attempt with a ranged weapon. The flavor text describes it as pinning the target's clothes to the ground or wall.


  • Subverted in Qi, a German play/elaborate talent show. A member of the audience, probably a plant, is pulled up and attached to a plank. The performers tie ballons nearby and blindfold him. They then pretend to throw knives at him by having the assistant standing next to him pop the ballons. They then tie another between his legs and put a bucket beneath him, just to safe. And then just pop the ballon anyway.

Video Games

  • Variant subversion: In a cut scene of the John Woo game Stranglehold, the main character, Inspector Tequila, ends up in an unexpected shootout with a gangster who takes cover behind an overturned wooden table. Tequila fires a series of shots through the table, creating an outline of the gangster, then pauses... and just as the gangster realizes he wasn't actually hurt and is about to leave, Tequila puts a final bullet into the middle of the outline and through his heart.
  • Subverted in the Sam & Max adventure games from Telltale games. There is a bullet outline of Max in the office wall, except there is a bullet hole right where his brain is. Would explain a few things though.
  • Subverted in Shadow's Cinekill in Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side. The Dark Champion does this with shuriken... but he's aiming for her body. The first four hit her hands and ankles, the fifth one hits her chest, and then he throws one last one. It's a headshot.
  • This happens in The Adventures of Willy Beamish. If you are caught by the chef, they will throw a bunch of knives at you, resulting in this trope.
  • Inadvertently done in Dwarf Fortress. Thrown items will miss any character that the thrower considers "friendly". In adventure mode, if you have a collection of knives you can keep tossing them at somebody and it will just go through, hitting the opposite wall.

Web Animation

Western Animation

  • Early use in the Mickey Mouse short Mickey's Nightmare (1932), complete with head near-miss. Babies are throwing the (huge) knives at Mickey, and the scene was edited out of TV prints for many years.
  • Nearly every Tom and Jerry short ever.
  • Also showed up often in Looney Tunes.
  • This is Mai's specialty on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • The Yuu Yan archers also pin Aang this way. They were ordered to capture him alive and are snipers par excellence in their world. According to General Zhao the archers are "capable of pinning a fly to a tree from 100 yards away, without killing it."
    • Katara and other water-benders pull it off on occasion by bending water into ice-knives. Pakku once did it to Katara with a bunch of icicles, which the DVD Commentary noted was a Shout-Out to a similar scene in House of Flying Daggers involving large stalks of bamboo.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Maggie pins Homer to a wall with a staple gun. She even went as far as to pin his ears.
    • Actually a subversion of this trope, because she pins him to the wall with a Nail Gun. By the palms of his hands, and then both his ears.
  • In the D&D send-up episode of Re Boot, three characters run through a corridor filled with Death Traps. One section involves a hail of arrows, which all miss and leave perfect silhouettes of the running figures.
  • Gosalyn does this to Negaduck in the Darkwing Duck episode "Quiverwing Quack". Negaduck ends up pinned to a wall in his costume with arrows, but somehow escapes when Darkwing isn't looking.
  • Valerie does this to Vlad Plasmius in Danny Phantom with large needles. He phases out of them. Better luck next time.
  • Happens in an episode of Totally Spies!, when the Big Bad pins the girls' outfits to the wall with a nail gun. He must have had very good aim, considering the characters wear skintight catsuits.
  • King of the Hill. Dale Gribble has gone further around the bend this time and has arranged traps to catch a rogue singer (no, really). Hank gets a mess of arrows shot around him, then is pulled to the floor and one final arrow hits where his forehead was a second ago. It turns out later that Dale was completely right.
  • Parodied three time in the Stroker and Hoop episode "Ninja Worrier": first when a female ninja shows off by doing this to Hoop with ninja stars, including one on his crotch which actually nicked his testicle because "that one leans left". When she shows him again and he's luckily wearing a crotch guard. Then he practices it on her, and misses several times, though she thought this was funny.
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum do it to Boog in the episode "Monster in the Mist". Made funnier by that Boog only screams when there's a fork flying towards his crotch.
  • Bugs Bunny has had this happen to him with shotgun blasts.
  • This happened to the titular Pinky and The Brain in "Funny, You Don't Look Rennish". There was no blood, but Pinky did mention they were "piercing our flesh. Poit!"
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode Read It and Weep, Daring Do triggers arrows, which make a pony-shaped pattern on the opposite wall.
  • Happens to Taz when he walks into the bathroom of the Inn of No Return in the Taz-Mania episode "A Midsummer Night's Scream".

Real Life