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While this trope is most prominent in animanga-influenced works, it's occasionally found in western works. Western expression of this trope can be thumb twiddling, an entirely different gesture, often used in a situation where the character could be jiggling their foot. Thumb twiddling is accomplished by holding the hands together with fingers of both hands loosely woven together, the action is the the twirling of the thumbs in circles around one another.
Anime & Manga
- Usagi from Sailor Moon does this a lot.
- So does Hinata Hyuuga from Naruto. (That's her, pictured at right.)
- Naruto himself does this too from time to time, usually when Sakura or Kakashi is scolding him.
- Jiraiya, also known as Ero-Sennin to Naruto and Sannin to everyone else, did this in the anime, while requesting Naruto to remain in the Oiroke no jutsu state whenever they were together.
- And Yuzu from Asagiri no Miko.
- In the first episode of Azumanga Daioh, Kaorin does this after catching a glimpse of a cat logo somewhere on Sakaki's person as Sakaki is changing into her gym shorts.
Kaorin: I thought I saw something incredibly cute just now...
- In the manga, the logo was on Sakaki's panties, and in the manga, Kaorin doesn't twiddle, she just stares in bemusement, wondering if she really saw that.
- And here I thought the cat was a metaphor...
- Panties with cartoon characters on them are considered cutesy and too childish for a highschooler, not to mention totally at odds with Sakaki's reserved attitude.
- Nozomi in the very first episode of Yes! Precure 5, as she explained her disastrous attempts at joining various clubs.
- Many characters in the Pretty Sammy series do this, but mostly Sasami.
- Shinobu from Ninin ga Shinobuden does this a lot in front of her beloved Kaede.
- Also done by shy characters when speaking to the object of their affection; see Hinata and Aoi for examples.
- This was actually done by one of the Zentradi -- yes, a hulking male giant -- in Super Dimension Fortress Macross, when he was nervous about interrupting his commander's demonstration (to a female Zentradi) that humans did have some customs worth borrowing -- in this case, kissing.
- May/Haruka in Pokemon does this once when her rival of the day confronts her about her feelings for Drew.
- And also when Ash wanted to visit the Petalburg City Gym as shown here.
- Tamaki does this when talking to Haruhi episode four of Ouran High School Host Club
- Ranma Saotome of Ranma ½ often does this when placed in a serious, romantic situation with his fiancée, Akane.
- Ryouga as well.
- Various characters in Rosario to Vampire.
- Celty Sturluson, of all people, does this in Durarara when Shinra's father asks her if she's in love with Shinra.
- Just in case you didn't think she was already cute as a button, Molly from Runaways does this when she discovers she's the only one who came up with a super-hero costume.
- Michikyuu Kanae in Kyon: Big Damn Hero.
- WALL-E does the robotic equivalent. Which does not involve as much twiddling as the human type.
- Boxer Santaros does this a lot in Southland Tales, nervously tapping his fingers together in a somewhat odd manner.
- Oliver Hardy often did this when nervous or embarrassed. That is, when he wasn't fiddling with his necktie.
- Done by Thompson and Thomson in the Tintin story Red Rackham's Treasure.
- In Howl's Moving Castle (original book), you could tell that Sophie's sister Martha was lying when she stopped twiddling her thumbs. While not a plot point per se, this information did let Sophie confirm that Michael was talking about the right sister.
- Micky from Makai Kingdom does this. Being a purple, four-armed demon general that's the upper part of a three-bodied monster who is the overlord of its own netherworld, it is a good sign that Micky isn't, by their standards, very good at being an overlord.
- In Tokimeki Memorial 2, this is Akane Ichimonji's standard sprite pose when she's in Tokimeki State.
- Ruby Rose from RWBY does this during her first meeting with Weiss Schnee.
- Reika from Red String does this occasionally.
- Characters in the webcomic El Goonish Shive do this when nervous or embarrassed.
- Hannelore from Questionable Content does this in a recent strip, while actually asserting herself for once.
- Spamusement brings us an elephant approximation.
- The Medic in this Nerf Now.
- Heather from Spinnerette, usually with her middle pair of arms while she makes other expressive gestures with her upper and lower sets.
- Rumisiel from Misfile is seen doing this here. Missi does the western version here.
- Stinky the sea monster from Wapsi Square demonstrates tentacle twiddling.
- N does this when he's feeling distraught.
- Bumblebee does this in Transformers Animated when Prowl asks him exactly where he was keeping that iPod. Hint: he wasn't in car mode and robots don't have pockets.
- Oneshot character Meng from Avatar: The Last Airbender does this as she admits she's "kind of been stalking" Aang.
- Bolin from The Legend of Korra, who is actually not shy at all, has done this.
- American example: Beast Boy of Teen Titans sometimes does this, usually when he's being reprimanded for something.
- The comic book version supposedly scratches his ear, as referenced in Geoff Johns' Teen Titans; but due to the character being fairly obscure and largely ignored by comic writers/artists, this is shown rarely, if at all. Geoff Johns lampshades in Robin's inner monologue: "don't think many people notice his attributes, I'm trained to see subtleties".
- In American Sign Language, pointing your index fingers at each other is the sign for "hurt".