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Shapeshifter Accident
Transforming in confined spaces can lead to nasty injuries
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(permanent link) added: 2012-07-30 04:16:00 sponsor: PapercutChainsaw edited by: morenohijazo (last reply: 2013-09-23 12:28:20)

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If a shapeshifting character experiences a significant change in size during their transformation, they would need to be careful of their surrounding environment, keeping out of the way of sharp objects, confined spaces, and overly restrictive clothing or armour. Failure to take these precautions can potentially have some nasty consequences. Sometimes, even something as simple as an ear piercing, pacemaker or set of contact lenses can be problematic. This is something like a deconstruction of Shapeshifter Baggage (not always Played for Drama).

This also applies to sizeshifters, or the Intangible Man becoming tangible at the wrong moment. Even in cases where the shapeshifter is simply capable of destroying everything that gets in the way during a transformation, they can still wind up inflicting injuries on friends and bystanders who were standing nearby.

Many works, especially those aimed at children, will not feature an explicit accident onscreen, but will instead invoke the trope as a means of deterring a character from transforming.

Compare: Teleporter Accident, Tele-Frag, Clipped Wing Angel, Shape Shifter Swan Song. If shapeshifting hurts even without objects getting in the way, that's Painful Transformation.

Note: Simply transforming into a large form and being unable to get out the door as a result is not this trope. The accident must happen during a transformation in order to qualify.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In the first Digimon series, in one episode Izzy and Mimi are cornered by Centaurmon in a pyramid labyrinth; their partners transform into the (much larger) Kabuterimon and Togemon, but this nearly squishes Izzy and Mimi against the walls in the process.
  • The unpleasant fate of Kaori in AKIRA, who got caught up in the eruption of Body Horror when Tetsuo's power reached its peak.

Film
  • It is revealed in Underworld Rise Of The Lycans that the vampires kept their lycan slaves stuck in human form using collars studded with inward-facing silver spikes that would stick them in the neck should they try to transform.

Literature
  • Not seen on-screen in Harry Potter, but semi-invoked by Hermione when she traps Beetle!Rita Skeeter in a jar. The jar has an Unbreakable spell on it, so this trope would presumably ensue if she tried to break out.
  • In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace transforms into a dragon while asleep. The gold bracelet he had been wearing starts painfully cutting into his flesh as a result.
  • Invoked in Elvenblood, when two shapeshifted dragons are captured by the Iron People. They can't shift to escape because the collars locked around their (human) necks won't change size, and won't break in time to keep the dragons from strangling.
  • In Alice in Wonderland, she gets trapped in a house when she unexpectedly grows in size.
  • Xanth novel The Source of Magic. Bink's companion Crombie has been shrunk down and trapped inside a magical bottle, from which he can be released by opening it. Then Bink causes all of the magic to leave Xanth. Bink decides not to open the bottle because without magic, Crombie might be squashed to death inside the bottle instead of being released.

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Game
  • Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Dragon magazine #14 (May 1978) article "Lycanthropy - The Progress of the Disease". In order to avoid damage, when a lycanthrope (e.g. a werewolf) changes from human to animal shape they must shed any armor they're wearing.
    • Dragon magazine #28 (April 1979) "Another Look at Lycanthropy". Lycanthropes get an odd sensation long enough before an involuntary change to take off any armor they're wearing and avoid damage.
    • Gary Gygax anticipated that some players would try to "squeeze someone to death in their armor" by casting an Enlarge spell on them, so he specifically said in the Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) that the armor would automatically split off and fall away if this occurred.

Video Games
  • Dr Muto: You played as a mad scientist who could turn into different animals, and you could end up killing yourself by changing into something too big and being crushed by the ceiling.
  • In Mega Man Zero 3, after being defeated by Zero, Copy X Mk.II attempts to go One-Winged Angel again like in the first game... and then it malfunctions, and he exploded to death instead. It's then revealed that Dr. Weil (the one who resurrected him) planted a booby trap which will be triggered should he transform.
  • There is a variation of this used in the Duke Nukem 3D game. It's possible to shrink yourself with a ray gun using a mirror, then run through small tunnels to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, but the ray wears off after a fixed amount of time and if you're still in a small tunnel when that happens - SPLAT! Not exactly shape-shifting, but the same principle applies.

Webcomics

Western Animation
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