The Magic Poker Equation: Justin, down to 1 life and with no hand, wins his Magickal Gatherings duel with Tensaided by drawing Unstompable Stompede, allowing him to do enough damage to take Tensaided from 20 life down to zero in one turn. Lampshaded.
Tensaided: Well, it just goes to show that no matter how powerful and awesome one's deck is, there is always an element of luck with card games.
Magitek: Tedd's research is starting to skirt the line into this with the increasing focus on magic in the story.
Knowing that Adrian Raven is half-human and half-immortal, Abraham managed to draw only one conclusion, and mostly wrong one. The prospect of facing said immortal's reaction after he'd beaten her child within a hair's breadth of death somehow escaped his attention in all this haste… Isn't it surprising — where all those heavy boots flying toward his butt came from? And it's still not enough for her.
Man-Shaped Hole: Damien and Adrian Raven both made big holes part in the window and part in the wall by being blasted through. Both survived this and flying one story down to the ground after, both being tougher than normal humans.
The Unmasqued World: More or less, done. Pandorais now hellbent on causing this. Also, it will let her son Adrian participate fully in society. Whatever form it's going to take after this, anyway. However, A.J. Arthur says that the real secret hasn't been broken, yet — it's no longer about the existence of magic, but rather its accessibility (the point being that the existence of magic things might actually be widely known, but that ordinary humans can learn to use magic is not) that needs to remain hidden.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Not used in its traditional sense (everything here is magic, from the boobs to the clothes), but rather with regards to the existence of a capital-g God. Nanase's angel-looking 'Guardian Form' MAY be a gift from God, or it may just be another example of the way her magical potential is expressed by her personality. Of particular note if the fact that an ENTIRE COMIC consisted of nothing but Ellen silently praying for divine approval as she tried to use her Clone Beam to duplicate Nanase's Guardian Form. Was it necessary? Would she have been able to duplicate it anyway? There's no way of telling.
Justin is very much into geek media. His last name, Tolkiberry, is a portmanteau of Tolkien and Roddenberry.
Nanase's last name is Kitsune and she ends up calling her magical clone Fox.
Also, Grace's last name, Sciuridae, is the scientific name for various species of squirrel. In addition, her codename is "Shade Tail," a rough translation of "Sciuridae."
A few minor characters, such as Susan's geeky boss Mr. Tensaided (ten-sided) and Ellen/Grace's math teacher Mr. Alephnull.
Tedd's last name, "Verres," is French for "glasses" and translates into Uryuom as "Bolloc" which is appropriate to his father's cover-up jobs.
Mega Meal Challenge: During the "Hammerchlorians - 1" segment, Grace orders the "Pancake Mount Doom" breakfast, and gets her picture on the Wall of Fame after finishing it (making her only the fourth person ever to win).
The Men in Black: Until the end of the "Sister II" arc, Mr. Verres was the head of the Paranormal division of the FBI. Now he is the "Director of Paranormal Diplomacy" a position that was created just for him when Kicked Upstairs because his extensive paranormal connections prevented him from being fired.
About halfway. Gender Bendersface the consequences of the new hormonal status and reactions on pheromones, whether they are comfortable with this or not. But Shapeshifting does not turn the subject mentally in a cat, guinea or squirrel. On the other hand, both innate and artificial Shapeshifting have some safeguards.
This trope is explored more seriously in the "Grace's Birthday Party" arc, when Susan allows herself to be gender-bent specifically to find out whether being male really does make people act like Jerkasses. (Answer: nope. Evidently her dad had no excuse for his jerkiness.)
Seems played straight but later averted with the transformation gun and sexuality. The gun is programmed to make straight people bisexual when transformed, because it was made to aid any species suffering a severe sex imbalance that risked species survival (or so Tedd speculates). Altered sexuality helps one adjust to such a necessity. Gay and bi people remain attracted to who they always were. Given the rules as set out, one could presumably program the gun to cause no such mental changes in straight people - which Tedd probably has no interest in doing, because (to him) it's a lot less sexy that way.
Mind Screw: Lots of it. When done intentionally, usually involves attempts to project the normal family tree onto Ellen's case in several equally disturbing ways.
Ellen: I'm sorry, did I interrupt some drama there?
Mooks: The not-really-flaming fire summons. They are so harmless to Greg and Grace that they use them as training dummies to teach Grace a sleeper hold.
Morality Pet: Lord Tedd looks almost normal and even rather nice when he looks for Nioi, as opposed to most other scenes with him, while Nioi is convinced he's not that bad and it's all only the corrupting influence of General Shade Tail.
Motionless Makeover: Justin likes doing this to Nanase when her body's unconscious during the use of her Fairy Doll spell. He limits himself to the hairdo, however.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Abraham and his great idea to make the Dewitchery Diamond. What he needed was to remove or suppress the lycanthropy of one guy. What he did is create a Booby Trap for unaware shapeshifters and users of cosmetic magic, with side effects that in turn suffer several other side effects in such a way that whatever problem caused its activation spreads. And it's nigh indestructible, so all this fun never ends. Oh, and on top of that, good ole' Abe thinks it might be intelligent!
No Bisexuals: The strip has a rather unusual take on sexual attraction and gender identity, which led to vast, multi-site flamewars on whether it was doing the GLBT contingent, and bisexuals especially, a disservice. In this comic, being subject to a Gender Bender causes one to gain heterosexual tendencies appropriate to the gender being changed into (basically, straight people become bisexual while homosexuals see no real change in which gender they're attracted to), so El Goonish Shive is an aversion of this, as much of the cast have been bi, albeit only temporarily. Ellen (a magical duplicate of Elliot permanently turned into a girl) is also bisexual but has decided that she isn't able to deal with dating men, largely because she realizes her attraction to guys is a purely artificial construct forced onto her by Sufficiently Advanced Technology.
Zigzagged with Grace. She doesn't identify as a bisexual, as she's physically attracted to the opposite of whatever gender she's in at the moment. However, between that and the fact that as a chimera, her attraction is based more on mental concepts, regardless of gender, whether she is or is not bisexual is a matter of semantics.
Not Helping Your Case: When Mr. Verres has given permission for Grace to have a birthday party while he's away, on the condition that Elliot supervise (instead of Ellen):
Mr. Verres: The clincher, however, was that crazed look you got on your face when I first suggested the party. Ellen: That crazed look could have meant any number of things. Mr. Verres: That doesn't help your case.
Not Using the Z Word: Averted — Dan decided to concede and call his not-exactly-a-vampire thing a "vampire" because he knew the readers would accuse him of trying to pawn a vampire off as something else. Translated, in-universe, to Susan giving in and (grudgingly) calls it a vampire when she realises Grace and Sarah will keep calling it one regardless of anything she says to the contrary.
"Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Early in the "Squirrel Prophet" arc, Grace is getting chewed out by an old-fashioned teacher for using the Internet in her research assignment. The teacher then points out she forgot to get dressed, at which point her clothes disappear. Ridicule ensues.
This is Tedd'sreaction to the thought of Nanase, his cousin, involved with anyone.
In the 'Hammerchlorians' arc, it looks like Sarah may need to settle occasional feelings in this area regarding Elliot's less manly times, too.
Justin is less than thrilled with Elliot's less manly times as well.
Elliot and Tedd at Grace's saying she wouldn't mind Elliot turning into her if he wants to experiment with making his 'turn into a girl' magic sexy.
Grace: This is one of those things I'm apathetic about that everyone else finds creepy, isn't it?
Oblivious to Love: Done thrice, played with and played straight, with the same character. In an early storyline, Elliot pretended to be unaware that Sarah was in love with him, in a complicated (and failed) attempt to spare her feelings when she found out he had a girlfriend. They work it out. He also seems to be genuinely unaware that Justin has feelings for him. And after breaking up with her, Elliot finally acknowledges both his growing attraction to Susan and that he thinks of Sarah as a sister. The latter realizationbreaks his brain, but he's unaware Susan is attracted to him as well.
Odd Friendship: Susan and Tedd. One is the result of a Straw Feminist upbringing. The other is an enormous pervert who openly objectifies women. To say they got off to a rocky start would be an understatement, but once they found common ground (Parental Abandonment and Star Trek), they actually get along okay.
Official Couple: Tedd and Grace. The other couples, Sarah/Elliot and Nanase/Ellen, seem slightly less stable, though at least one is getting better. And now Sarah/Elliot has apparently run aground on the rocks of the Westermarck effect.
Elliot/Heidi, realizing that he just kissed his girlfriend's sister when in an alternate identity. After calling her sexy. On TV. Yes, it was just a goodbye peck on the cheek, and he could blame it on his magical disguise messing with his head, but there's still reason to be concerned, as Elliot's girlfriend is very insecure when compared to her older sister.
The first one ever came in this comic. Of course, it's more of Elliot saying it in sympathy to Tedd.
Tom gets a couple when Susan realizes that he was trying to manipulate her.
Older Than They Look: Raven looks 40-50, but he's old enough to have taught Nanase's mother. Thesecomics make it clear he's also arguably Younger Than They Look, since he evidently uses an illusion spell to look older (being half-immortal basically means eternal youth).
Greg: For alas it is my greatest of shames as an anime martial arts master that I am not an old man or a pervert!!!
One-Gender Race: While some Uryuoms living on Earth adopt gender roles, they really are ambisexual; any two Uryuoms can form an egg together, which can then be 'fertilized' with any available DNA sources.
Open-Minded Parent: The Dunkels, whose idea of punishing Elliot involves deciding he can only have one brownie with dinner, then forgetting that decision when the time comes and letting him have as many as he wants. There's also a Running Gag where something utterly bizarre happens (like Elliot turning into a girl for the first time) and they respond with indifference, amusement, or immediate acceptance, usually after everyone else has made a much bigger deal of it.
Our Elves Are Better: Elves are what you get when you breed humans and immortals (read: small-g gods) together, with all the power that implies. Raven happens to be one, which explains how he's been teaching since Nanase's mother was in high school. Subverted though, since elves are bound to similar rules as immortals, being disallowed from directly interfering with mortals except when magic is involved and/or innocent lives are in peril. Raven's mother is trying to break The Masquerade partially to get rid of these limitations. She claims she's doing it for him, but it seems like she might just be doing it out of boredom.
Parental Abandonment: Mr. Verres is often away from home on government business, and the former Mrs. Verres is in Europe somewhere and won't even visit for Christmas. Meanwhile, Mr. Pompoms has only been seen in Susan's memories, and significantly, his face is always obscured. Finally, all of Grace's parents are dead; her human gene-mother actually having died before she was conceived, her Uryuom father being murdered by Damien, and her other two parents being non-sentient lab animals which presumably would not have survived.)
Mr. Verres to Grace, due to promising her biological grandfather he'd look after her.
Diane to Rhoda. She helps her with teachers, protects her from creepy reporters, and is absolutely murderous when Rhoda is hurt by the boar ("It should burn. I'm having pork for lunch"). On top of that, Rhoda is specifically keeping the fact that she's a lesbian a secret, exactly like you'd hide that kind of thing from a parent. For the record, her actual parents wouldn't care.
Partial Transformation: Grace can transform to any stage between full squirrel and full human, can selectively morph away her furry antennae, as well as routinely pull off various Shape Shifter Mashups with any or all of her continually growing number of humanoid forms.
Poor Communication Kills: Averted by Justin when confronted with an angry, incomprehensible fire monster; his first response is to try and work out a way to communicate, rather than go straight to beating the tar out of it. It attacks anyway, but it's the thought that counts. Later his sensei Greg tries to talk as far as possible too.
The Identity arc features this (and more broadly the nuances of people communicating) as a recurring theme, as the commentary makes clear — though mostly in aversion. It has the aftermath of Elliot and Sarah's surprisingly clean and angst-free breakup, Ashley and Elliot cutting short a lot of drama by simply admitting that they like each other right there and then and Susan managing to trip up an attempt to manipulate her simply by being honest about her feelings and intents (on the non-aversion side, it also features a nearly-disastrous attempt by Catalina to counter helping spread a (false, though she believed it at first) rumour about Elliot and Tom's deceitful manipulations backfiring on him, destroying any chance of a friendship with Susan).
Porn Stash: Implied; Diane is warned by her sister to stay out of a folder on the computer called "Gender Studies" before she is legally an adult.
Post-Historical Trauma: Done self-consciously for Grace's first day at school. Subverted when it turns out to be not about World War II as such, but related personal experience.
Mostly subverted. The glow is optional and only used to indicate that said person is using his/her powers. This is the case with Nanase's fairy doll, and by Word of God, with Elliot's and Nanase's martial art skills.
The reason or meaning of occasionally glowing Tedd when he thinks of Grace is (as yet) unknown. As is his glowing during a Eureka! moment and a personal revelation. Apparently it's a real glow and not artistic convention, as Grace can see it too.
In fact, Tedd nearly blinds someone who was looking for auras. And who was looking at a guy near him.
Mr. Verres: Elliot, your concerns are based on incomplete and false information. We have been addressing the Lord Tedd situation, and I can assure you, it wouldn't make sense for him to be behind it. Elliot:You have?! Mr. Verres: Of course I have! Did you honestly think my strategy after hearing that someone from another universe was allegedly out to kill my son was to ignore it and hope for the best?! Elliot: That… seemed like what we were doing… Mr. Verres: Well, it wasn't. But that's not important right now. This is all complicated enough as it is with-out dragging Lord Tedd into it.
Dr. Germahn. Also lampshaded/hand-waived by the man himself here.
Elliot during Grace's Birthday Party. Susan has this naturally and it was lampshaded quite rudely.
Nanase ends up with this as a side effect of being burnt out of magic, and Tedd's subsequent efforts to determine the cause accidentally make it worse. The trope was gleefully invoked by Nanase's little sister Akiko, who is eight years old and addicted to Tangled.
And it turns out that Dex wasn't the BigBad, either. He was being possessed.
Relationship Reboot: Towards the end of the Sister arc, Ellen and Nanase do this, though Nanase doesn't get it at first. Ellen then goes on to reintroduce herself to the entire cast, with Nanase threatening to bitch slap anyone who laughs.
Relax-o-Vision: Used in-universe and weaponized by Jerry. Causes both calming and illusory fluffy animals to cuddle.
Replacement Goldfish: Grace; Dr Sciuridae replaced the original gene sample that was to be used for Shade Tail with one from his daughter, after she was killed in a car accident.
The #5 setting on the TF gun causing bisexuality and a supercharged libido was eventually declared a misunderstanding by it's operator. Word of God is that Shive hadn't really though through the Unfortunate Implications.
The history for Grace and her siblings changed shortly into the comic.
Romance-Inducing Smudge: Subverted when Ellen goes to wipe a smudge off Nanase's face and she freaks out because she was having trouble admitting her attraction to Ellen, and moments like that only made it more awkward.
Rousseau Was Right: After Tedd calls out half the school for making fun of Susan when she's the only one trying to change the uniforms, most of them are quick to apologize, with one saying that "we aren't a Borg Hive Mind." Earlier, when Grace runs out of class (due to not having heard of WWII) and is very embarrassed upon coming back, the other students are quick to offer their condolences over her leading such a sheltered life, and are angry at the people who subjected her to that rather than her. In fact, this comic demonstrates in many places that, with a few exceptions, high school students aren't the bastards that most media would have us believe. They're just normal people, with basically good natures.
Rule of Cute: The only problem with Art Evolution is that Dan is almost incapable of designing a female character without making her dangerously adorable one way or another.
Cuddle Bug: Grace and Ellen occasionally fall into this — they hug someone all the time, while The Glomp was performed not by one of them only twice: by Nanase (to Ellen) and Catalina (to Tedd). In the Second Life it was said to be fairly typical for a greater chimera. As to Ellen, at least Justin thinks it's pretty normal for girls. Or she's just that uninhibited.
Meganekko: Chika, the newly introduced colleague and sane partner of Amanda. Or at least looks like one most of the time.
Much to his chagrin, Tedd gets this at times when he's wearing his glasses.
Dan commented that he's been doing this more and more lately with random female background characters.
Rule of Drama: It's been stated explicitly that magic is "overly dramatic," such as when all dark blue dye from Susan's hair ran out of her hair and into her clothes, followed by the magic making dark blue her natural hair color. Just because.
Grace: But why did her hair grow? Jerry: See "over the top emphasis."
Rule of Fun: The author's stated reason for just why transforming is ridiculously, absurdly safe.
According to the author's commentary here, "that grin can now be considered a, um… well, the gag's certainly not running… A glacial drift gag?"
Attempts to build a genealogy tree for Ellen in several diferent, but equally ripe with Mind Screw ways. She's an Opposite-Sex Clone created by a magical artifact in conjunction with Gender BenderMagitek, but those around her keep trying to describe her parentage with traditional mother/father roles. For example, Ellen could be considered the daughter of Elliot and Tedd. Elliot's the mom because Ellen came from him and Tedd's the dad because he made it happen. Or she's a daughter of Elliot and Dewitchery Diamond, so one can discuss which is her "mom" and which "dad", etc. Turned serious with this strip.
Noah's will hit the floor whenever he recieves shocking information. Even if he's sitting down.
Running Gagged: The Hammers, Demonic Duck, and for a while Ted's Androgyny were killed for a short while. Ted's Androgny is back with a vengence, however. (And, was replaced by Ted being Ka-Girled often).