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By on January 17, 2012, with 29 Comments

A shuriken, our word of the day, is a traditional Japanese concealed weapon that was generally used for throwing, and sometimes stabbing or slashing. They are sharpened hand-held blades made from a variety of everyday items such as nails, knives, washers, and other flat plates of metal. When translated from Japanese, it literally means “sword hidden in the hand”. Here in the west it’s most commonly known as “throwing star”, “ninja star” or inaccurately as “Chinese stars”, though they took many different shapes and designs during the time they were used.

So what does all of this have to do with our latest optical illusion, you ask? Not much except visual similarity, I guess. I just thought it would be cool to mention ninjas and shurikens in the paragraph above. Ok, now let me explain how the illusion works – If you concentrate on the central dot in the animation below, after seeing the first frame consisting of two overlapped colored objects, you get the impression next two frames are showcasing isolated objects filled with appropriate fluorescent color! In reality, all frames except first lack color, and what you perceive as color afterwards is just an afterimage burnt in your retina! Don’t worry though, it only lasts couple of seconds…

Ninjas Colorful Shuriken Illusion

Concentrate on the black central dot, and see the colors magically appear!


29 Responses
  1. EngrDude says:

    Interesting, I am actually seeing the colors reversed from the initial image in the following frames.

  2. Chris says:

    Another interesting feature is as the star turns on it’s side, it appears to shrink, with the “larger” start moving from one side to the other.

  3. Care Bear says:

    I’ve seen enough to know that I’ve seen too much.

  4. David says:

    Hi, just a passing comment – I have the site as part of my google desktop – and whenever you put up an animated gif it drives me nuts – maybe you could consider putting up an “unanimated” image of the illusion and use a caption to let people know it is animated on the MOI site?
    I love the effort you put into the website and appreciate your work!

  5. Matjl says:

    neat, not too colorful, but cool to look at, i really like this sight, and sometimes get lost in all the illusions i want to see

  6. me123987645 says:


  7. Jenny says:

    I really like your random spiel on shurikens at the beginning, but like always I wish you would cite your sources. I am happy with just Wikipedia too, you know. But the main focus of this post is the illusion so let me re-focus.

    I am very amused that our brains are so silly. Seeing the burned afterimages of the shurikens is a given and understandable since that is purely a biological mechanism of our eyes. But to go as far as to filling the gray area with color too? Haha, our brains really do overwork themselves.

  8. eric says:

    simple but awesome
    - you got the monster hallway perspective Chris mentions
    and the negative after image
    - not sure exactly how but the cones if your eye (colour detecting cells) are also affected by visual field perceptions (i.e. linear directions or movement) diagonal (to the right )being associated with red, diagonal (to the left) associated with green and vertical with blue, horizontal with yellow… something like that

  9. Brian says:

    I’m just not seeing anything at all. I don’t get it.

  10. Steve says:

    I see the two blank start appear with colour in them left one is pink while the right is blue and then they alternate colours.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t really get it.
    Like the story about ninjas though.

  12. Menno Manheim says:

    That is interesting. You would expect the reversed colors, but not that they are selected by the shape. Very interesting.

  13. Ribber says:

    The color afterimage is no new thing, but the fact that the afterimage colors shift as the outline shifts is really quite amazing.

  14. sm1234 says:

    What is interesting here is that although the centeral overlap of the two seperate shapes share the same colour, your brain (well,mine at least)tells you that it has the same colour as the corresponding outer part. And it knows to switch them!

  15. mycaricature says:

    It’s subtle, but nice one!

  16. Ice says:

    It is really cool, but doesn’t this only happen when there are REALLY bright colors? Like maybe staring down the sun? (Don’t stare down the sun…i don’t want to be responsble for your blindness!!) lol

  17. nikhil twar says:

    There is second interesting illusion in above picture without animation (in 1st frame/pic of animation).
    If u stare the dot ninja plates starts to disappear..

  18. Illusion man says:

    It took me awhile because my eyes dont stay still. .

    *Hee-hee* colors. :)

  19. Ktee says:

    Sweeeeet!!!! i just wanna stair @ it for hours

  20. micheal says:

    its like blue in right side and pink in left side and then they spin and get reversed wow interesting

  21. Hannah says:

    boring show me other stuff anyone agree?

  22. Berenise says:

    Nice colours for a ninja!

  23. stretch says:

    don’t get it… colors magically appear?
    if this is magical i’m harry houdini…..

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