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Feather Motif
Who needs actual wings, anyway?

If a motif is a recurring element with symbolic significance, then obviously a feather motif is any time feathers appear recurringly in a story. They can be tied to a specific character or they may span an entire work as a whole.

Feathers have certain connotations depending on their use and color. White or glowing feathers often represent the divine because of their connection to angels. Black feathers usually represent death or even evil, not only because they are the "opposite" of white but also since they are associated with Creepy Crows, which are scavengers that feed on the dead. Peacock feathers can represent vanity or, more rarely, flamboyance. Feathers of any color may represent flight or freedom due to their association with birds. Like anything symbolic, this can also be a case of Faux Symbolism or merely there because someone thought it looked really cool.

When the motif is associated with a character that character may have wings or feathers (both real or represented) on their clothing or accessories. In Anime and Video Games, it is not uncommon for a character with a Feather Motif to have powers that are accompanied by feathers or even have fully feathered wings, although it should be noted that feathered wings alone do not make a Feather Motif.

Characters with a Feather Motif may display Perpetual Molt.

Compare Cherry Blossoms, Petal Power, Fluffy Fashion Feathers, Good Wings, Evil Wings.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Sailor Moon has this frequently in the anime. First off, her transformation sequence in Sailor Moon R, in which glowing feathers and wings were just part of the transformation sequence, then later in her Eternal Sailor Moon henshin, in which real wings and feathers are part of the sequence until the wings turn to fake wings. Her first and second attacks in that series involve what can only be described as hurricanes of feathers. In the manga, Eternal Sailor Moon bears real feathered wings, as does Sailor Cosmos, who also has the feather wing motif on parts of her costume and staff.
  • CLAMP:
    • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, the whole series is largely about the search for Sakura's memories which take the form of white feathers.In addition, the very last chapter reveals that Sakura and Syaoran's true names are both Tsubasa, the Japanese word for wings. It's a symbol of both their connection to each other (since wings always come in pairs) and the vast journey that they've undertaken.
    • The feather motif also briefly shows up in Tsubasa Chronicle's sister series, Xxxholic. After receiving a visit from Syaoran and company, Watanuki is inspired to take on a wing symbol as his magical signature. The symbol is also exactly the same as the Tsubasa Chronicle logo.
    • Very prevalent in X1999. Feathers are shown falling mostly during visions of the end of the world, especially in the manga and are largely associated with Kotori, the resident Purity Personified heroine which name means "Little Bird".
    • CLAMP series have also featured heroines named Kohane ("little feather") and Kobato ("little dove").
    • Kujaku from RG Veda was accompanied by black feathers wherever he went, due to his being a Winged Humanoid.
  • Both Miu and Shou Kanou from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Miu's movements and fighting style often get compared to bird's movements, and her name (美羽) means "beautiful wings" or "beautiful feathers". Kanou particularly recognizes this in Miu and for that reason falls in love with her. He himself loves birds, has a spread wings motif on the back of his leather jacket, and wears a birdcage-shaped earring. Both of them are sometimes drawn accompanied by symbolic ethereal feathers.
  • In Clover, Suu has a feather motif going on (as do the rest of the Clovers, to a lesser extent) as part of a "caged bird" metaphor.
  • Naruto: Konan, who is an angel with paper feathers. This is significant in that Konan was one of the only Akatsuki to join for entirely non-selfish or anarchistic purposes - in a way, one of the few 'good guy' Akatsuki. Her motivations were primarily to protect Nagato and to rid the world of the pain she knew from her childhood.
  • Black Butler: Angela and Sebastian in their true forms. Especially Angela, since her dress looks like it's made out of feathers, or is at least designed to appear so. Oddly, Sebastian doesn't show any wings, but that doesn't stop his Perpetual Molt.
  • In Bloody Cross, whenever Fallen Angel Satsuki shows up, there is a rain of black feathers.
  • InuYasha: Kagura is represented by a white feather. She is a wind-youkai and her power of flight manifests through her feathered hairpins. The feather becomes her symbol of her desire to be as free as the wind. When she dies, her soul finally finding the freedom to become one with the wind is symbolised by a feather floating away from her dissolved body and soaring off into the sky on the wind.
  • Subverted in +Anima. The main character, Cooru, has crow powers, but is actually not as grim and dour as the people believe upon seeing his black feathers; he is a hopelessly optimistic, sunny and cheerful Idiot Hero.
  • White feathers and even wings are prevalent in both the Manga and Anime versions of Full Moon o Sagashite, mostly in regards to the main character Mitsuki. It empathizes her sweet, kind nature and can be seen as foreshadowing her Screw Destiny act in the end, when she defies her fate of dying within a year.

     Film - Animated 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the villain Lord Shen is an albino peacock. Peacock feathers symbolizing vain/glory is especially appropriate here. However, the white feathers in this case do not hint at the divine, but rather the Eastern symbolism for madness and death.

     Film - Live-Action 
  • Used in Forrest Gump. A single feather floating in the wind is used as a transition through the movie.

     Literature 
  • Modern Tales of Faerie, the love interest Roiben wears armour made of black leather sculpted into the shape of feathers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tensou Sentai Goseiger used an angel theme, with the team of that series known as the "Gosei Angels". The OP makes heavy use of swirling feathers around each team member, and their transformation sequences include wings and feathers bursting out of the backs of their uniforms.

    Music 
  • The Distant Worlds Final Fantasy albums both have a feather on the cover - a black feather against a white background for I, and a white feather against a black background for II.
  • Each of the members of Led Zeppelin chose one particular symbol to represent him. Robert Plant chose a feather in a circle.

     Tabeltop Games 
  • The symbol of The Fairest Seeming from Changeling: The Lost is a peacock feather. Note that in this case, the feather represents neither freedom nor divinity. It represents beauty and vainglory.

    Video Games 
  • chaos of Xenosaga has attacks that are accompanied by glowing feather-shapes. This is because he was literally the Man Behind the Man to Jesus, making him a divine figure.
  • The Final Fantasy series is somewhat fond of this trope.
    • The Final Fantasy VII Compilation makes use of this trope.
    • Rinoa of Final Fantasy VIII has a feather motif to a degree - her Infinity Plus One Blaster Edge is made up of feathered wings and her Limit Break Angel Wing begins with her growing glowing angel wings which shed glowing feathers. She also turns a flower petal into a feather in the opening sequence.
      • Wings seem to be a symbol associated with sorceresses in general. Edea has a black feather motif, Ultimecia has black wings, and Adel has a strange winglike structure on her back. Angelic white wings seem to be specific to Rinoa, however.
      • This theme was carried over into Dissidia: Final Fantasy, with Squall's feather MacGuffin and with Ultimecia's black feather motif taken up a notch.
      • It was also carried over to the Fan Film Dead Fantasy, where Rinoa is given permanent angel wings and a gunblade shaped like and decorated with a feather.
    • Although there was only a single use of feathers in Final Fantasy X on Yuna's wedding dress, it's worth mentioning because it's a double whammy for symbolism. The obvious symbolism is the connection to the divine, since Yuna is very much a Messianic Archetype. The second is a symbol of freedom and flight. This is especially appropriate since immediately after the ceremony she repudiates the marriage, tells the party she can fly, jumps off the roof, and flies away on Valefor.
      • Also note that the 'Life' spells all feature feathers in their animation.
    • Lightning in Final Fantasy XIII-2 appears to have developed this motif - her armor has a half-skirt made of feathers and feathers appear when she summons her gunblade. This replaces her flower petal motif from the first game. Word of God has confirmed that this indicates a connection to the divine.
      • Caius' revive animation (the result of his permanent Auto-Revive status) also features white feathers (note: he also wears purple feathers in his hair), like Lightning, this is indicative of a link to the divine (specifically, Etro).
  • Balmung of .hack sports a feather motif on his armor. This may have to do with his self-appointed name of "Balmung of the Azure Sky".
  • In Devil May Cry 3, small white feathers can be seen floating around Vergil briefly, as well as a type of demon with deceptively angelic form, complete with luminous white wings and a face on its stomach.
  • Alphonse Michel from Pop N Music has this during his Fever animation. (As his hair turns blond from taking off his glasses, the white, glowing feathers appear while the book in hand opens and starts turning pages..)
  • Kilik's Critical Finish in Soulcalibur IV has him leap up into the air as the cry of a phoenix resounds in the distance. He is briefly surrounded by golden feathers as he slams his bo down upon their heads for the final blow.
  • Yukiko and to a greater extent her shadow from Persona 4 have heavy wing symbolism, with her Shadow being a bird with her face and her Persona's wing-like shawl-chain-thing. Shadow Yukiko desires freedom from her oppressive, pre-determined life and Yukiko is one of the most fragile team members in the game.
  • Fuuma Kotaro from Sengoku Basara is surrounded by black feathers almost everywhere he goes. This is interesting as he's sometimes depicted with wings, and is rumored to be Not Quite Human.
  • At least two or three characters from BlazBlue use a Feather Motif in an unusual way. For the N.O.L's elite Zero Squadron-member Tsubaki Yayoi, a Perpetual Molt accompanies many of her powers (and is directly invoked for her Astral Finish). Tellingly, her Feather Motif turns black by the end of Continuum Shift. For Nu and Lambda, the fact that their "feathers" are eight swords floating behind their backs should tell the player most of what they need to know about the mecha-angels.
  • Balder from Bayonetta wears a dead white peacock stole over his shoulder, with the tail feathers prominently displayed. When he goes One-Winged Angel for his Boss Battle, the peacock itself disappears but the feathers become a part of Balder himself, acting as enormous wings, along with other assorted feathers attached to the rest of his outfit. Also, at one point during the fight, he pulls out a feather to comb back his hair.
  • The conflict between Oda Nobunaga and Akechi Mitsuhide is represented with these in Samurai Warriors. Black feathers for Nobunaga, and white feathers for Mitsuhide.
  • In Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, the Valkyrie's feather is dropped on every body whose soul she takes to Valhalla. The Valkyrie feather in Wylfred's possession was stained with sin to give whoever it is invoked on immense power for a while, then lets them die after a battle is fought.
    • The Valkyries themselves use this prominently. When they switch between a simple dress to walk among mortals to their armor, they do it in a cloud of glowing feathers. The feathers are also used when they fuse with Alicia to recreate the true Valkyrie.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Four Archangels all have this, befitting their station. Lilith also has them, though in her case her wings are blasted to char, her hands have been reduced to talons, and her feathers are moulting.


Feather FlechettesWinged TropesGood Wings, Evil Wings
Elemental RivalryMotifsFour-Temperament Ensemble
Feather FlechettesFine Feathered TropesFluffy Fashion Feathers
Fallen AngelAngelic TropesFemale Angel, Male Demon
Death of a Thousand CutsImageSource/Video GamesHP to One

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