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During an important part of the story, our hero, or just the character in focus, kills someone or something. This death could be popping his murder cherry, or it could just be one of the first kills he thinks is wrong. Even if it was self-defense and completely justified, he still feels guilt-ridden. He looks down in a My God, What Have I Done? moment, shocked at his hands because they just became accomplices in taking a life.
"These hands have killed! I've got blood on my hands, and I'll never be the same again..."
Could be followed by Out, Damned Spot!, but it doesn't have to be. This has nothing to do with washing one's hands of blood, metaphorically or literally -- only with acknowledging the shedding.
This is a Sub-Trope to My God, What Have I Done? -- the character in question experiences that guilt while staring horrified at his hands -- and Blood on These Hands. If this trope is in a character's backstory, it's Sympathetic Murder Backstory. If a character is contemplating his or hands for an entirely different reason, usually drug-related, then see Contemplating Your Hands.
Anime and Manga
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed tells Winry not to kill Scar, so that they don't have to go through this.
Ed: You delivered a baby. You game me an arm and a leg. These hands...were not made for killing.
- In Sailor Moon, Haruka/Sailor Uranus looks at her hands as she ponders what she's done. She hasn't killed anyone innocent, but only because Sailor Moon and friends stopped her.
- Subverted in Code Geass, where when Lelouch first uses his geass to kill the Britannian soldiers, he is stunned for a few seconds afterwards.....before showing his evil grin for the first time, hinting at his Magnificent Bastard status.
- Later on, he does indeed talk about "These hands of mine"... All while wearing a malevolent smile and as a prelude to a maniacal laugh.
- In the Code Geass manga, Lelouch actually says this shortly after having a flash back to when he murdered Clovis. (In the same scene in the anime, he just throws up.)
- One possible intrepretation of the consistent staring of one's Hand by Shinji Ikari is that he has committed a Sin in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Those Sins range from almost killing a Friend, willingly killing his Best New Friend, and the infamous hospital scene.
- In Gundam Wing, Zechs Merquise ( aka Milliardo Peacecraft) liberated the Sanc Kingdom, but refuses to become the new ruler on the grounds that "his hands are stained with too much blood".
- Rurouni Kenshin says something close to the trope phrase in the opening to his super-long flashback arc about his wife Tomoe, whom he had inadvertently killed some thirteen years previous as the climax of his career as an assassin.
- In the Death Note manga, after Takuo Shibuimaru gets hit by a truck as a result Light Yagami writing his name in the titular notebook, Light does this in a back alley. At first.
- In the Tokyo Revelations arc of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Sakura is tasked with finding and retrieving some jewel to pay Yuuko back with. Along the way, she gets ambushed by a giant acid rain mutant monster. Pinned down and unable to run, she busts out her trusty revolver and unloads into the monster, after which her hands tremble violently and her breathing stagnates. This is especially traumatic considering not only that Sakura had previously been played up as a Friend to All Living Things, but this is the most violent thing that any rendition of Sakura had ever done, or ever would do again (barring the rest of the chapter / OVA).
- Also Clone!Syaoran when he realized that he had just killed Clone!Sakura.
- In Digimon Adventure 02 after Ken's Heel Face Turn he looks at his hands and says this as he's wallowing in self-pity about the things he did as the Digimon Emperor.
- Leetah in this scene from Elf Quest. She's struck by the enormity of her hands, which have hitherto only brought healing, being able to kill, even in self-defense. Also, she does this so much that the warrior Elves she and the Wolfriders are bunking with tell her to stop admiring her hands and get to practical matters.
- Julia Ecklar turned this moment into a song entitled Healer's Hands. Mp3s of it can be found in various collections.
- Cassandra Cain (Batgirl) has had at least one flashback to doing this after ripping a man's throat out with her bare hands. It did not help that she was around eight at the time. What makes it worse is her super ability to read body language. Turns out the body language of a dying person is pretty unpleasant.
- Josh's reaction to killing a mugger in No Hero.
- "This is the skin of a KILLER!" in the Twilight movie.
- In Equilibrium after John Preston stops taking his medicine he pulls this trope when he catches a dying resistance fighter in his arms that his partner shot, almost transfixed by the blood on his gloves and gun.
- Total Recall. Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
- In The Neverending Story, the Rock Biter is unable to keep his friends from being pulled away into the Nothing. He sits, staring down at his massive stone limbs, and says slowly, "They look like big, strong hands, don't they?"
- Subverted in John Woo's Broken Arrow. After the main villain crushes his benefactor's windpipe, he reflects that it's the first time he's directly killed anyone. While he's killed before, it was only in the Air Force, not seeing death up close. He scoffs "I don't see what the big deal is."
- Lenina Huxley in Demolition Man, though she deals with it okay after Spartan points out it was self-defense.
- In Return of the Jedi, Luke has an instant of this, though it's because he cut through Darth Vader's prosthetic arm in anger, has his own Artificial Arm, and grasps what he's doing.
- In Grey Lensman, hero Kimball Kinnison indulges in this when trying to make Clarissa MacDougal understand what marrying him could entail. She basically tells him to can the dramatics; she knows perfectly well what his job entails.
- Darren cries after killing his first vampaneze in The Saga of Darren Shan.
- In Casino Royale, after everything seems to be settled, Bond looks down at his bandaged hands as he goes over his whole double-O career to date and gets to talking about, in all sincerity, the nature of evil and how sure he can really be about carrying on like this.
Live Action TV
- Not quite the first time, but Faith has one of these when she kills for the first time (in self-defence) after deciding to attempt her Heel Face Turn in the "Sanctuary" episode of Angel.
- And in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Enemies" after Faith stabs a demon to death in a frenzy she later shows Angel her bloody hands.
- Kamen Rider Ryuki's Ren agonizes over this after he kills Kamen Rider Odin in self-defense.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle has this reaction after she kills the priestess of a dark god while trying to save someone. It's made even worse by the fact that the man she saves is also a follower of the dark god, and that Gabrielle was being duped.
- In an episode of Doctors, Brian Blessed played a character who exclaimed "I killed a man... with THESE!".
- In the 4th season of Babylon 5, instead of Londo, it is innocent and unlikely hero Vir who kills the insane Emperor Cartagia. He is shocked and later tormented by the memory of what he's done, and tries drinking to forget it.
- In The Megas album Get Equipped, the song Lamentations of a War Machine/End Song, taking place after Mega Man defeats Wily in his fortress, has these lyrics:
If I've a heart made of steel
Then does that mean I cannot feel?
Remorse for everything I've done
My hand's a smoking gun!
- Tosca: Cavaradossi and Tosca sing a whole duet about it.
- During his psychotic Heel run in the 90s, Bob Backlund would do this after procuring the dreaded Crossface Chickenwing on someone.
- Booker T also used to stare at his hand obsessively - but it was a subversion, as he did it for pretty much no reason.
- "These hands have killed men" is said twice in the Promethean's speech on the back cover of the Promethean: The Created core book. However, the speech is written such that it could be read in a resigned tone - she's long since inured herself to that fact.
- Tomb Raider: Anniversary (pictured): Lara has exactly this reaction after killing Larsen.
- In Mega Man 2 The Powers Fighters this happens to Mega Man after Dr. Wily convincing him that he's as bad as him for destroying his evil robots. It takes all of about 10 seconds for Dr. Light to snap him out of it.
- This is used to explain why Regal keeps himself handcuffed in Tales of Symphonia. He switched to killing things with his legs.
- Kiryu's "victory" animation in Godzilla: Unleashed has him look at his hands, then pull them down his face screaming.
- In Silent Hill 2, James' reaction to killing Eddie in self defense is like this, but it's ironic because he's already killed his wife, although he's blocked it out of his mind.
- In Final Fantasy 7, Barret tries to make peace with his old friend, Dyne, by mentioning the man's daughter (whom Barret had rescued and adopted after their town was destroyed). Dyne refuses, noting that not only would she not remember him, but that his hands are too stained to carry her any more. Then he jumps off a cliff, leaving Barret to admit that his hands aren't any cleaner.
- Inverted in Eve Online chronicle Hands of a Killer, where the owner of said hands gleefully admits that while he has never committed physical violence, he is nevertheless responsible of deaths of countless people, including his own crew. It's all a part of his recruiting speech.
- In the ending of PlayStation 3 Updated Rerelease of Eternal Sonata, Frederic Chopin does this when he wakes up following his defeat in battle and sees that Polka is gone and that the world around him hasn't changed. He blames himself for not being able to do anything to stop her sacrifice. "Why? The dream was at an end. Oh no. It can't be. Not Polka."
- Dust of Bunny Kill 5 does this after snapping out of his Brainwashed and Crazy state and realizing that he's just killed his friend Snowball while under the influence of the Psycho Serum.
- In El Goonish Shive, even though she hasn't actually killed, Grace looks at her bloodied hand after savagely attacking Damien which reminds her that Damien's hands looked like that after he killed. This causes her to stop attacking and actually apologize to Damien.
- "Staring at your hands the way people do in movies when they've just killed their first person" was one of the emotions portrayed at Eric Conveys An Emotion.
- Hal Jordan has this in the Justice League:The New Frontier movie, in his segment of the setup for the actual plot. He got through what seems to have been the Korean War doing the closest thing to a pacifist run a fighter pilot has ever pulled off, and then he goes down some ten minutes after the war is officially over and can't make the Korean he lands near understand that he doesn't want to fight now, it's over, they're not at war...so he winds up shooting him in the face at incredibly close range. Blood everywhere. Seriously screws him up.
- This is not a cartoon movie for kids, by the way. Wonder Woman also freed and armed a bunch of kidnapped comfort women and let them go wild on their rapists, and told Superman to go screw himself when he got shocked at the aftermath.