Henshin Hero

"Henshin A Go-Go"-Hero, that is.

The Henshin Hero is a variation or subtrope of the Super Hero in which super-powered characters only have their special powers some of the time. A Henshin Hero has distinct normal and powered "forms," and needs to actively switch between the two. In essence, the character's powers are all turned off while he or she is in their Secret Identity.

Henshin Heroes often have a special item which they use to change into their heroic form. These items are usually activated by a command phrase, triggering a Transformation Sequence.

The transformation is frequently accompanied by a costume change. This gives the trope some overlap with Clothes Make the Superman: many male Henshin Heroes wear power-armor of some kind, and their transformation allows them to don their armor almost instantly. Bonus points if the change of clothing is the only outward difference, but nobody notices.

The name comes from the Japanese term for the trope, henshin (literally meaning "change body" but more practically translated as "transformation" or "metamorphosis" ... and not to be confused with the Shapeshifting or Metamorphosis tropes).

Superpowered Alter Ego is when this trope meets Split Personality.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Shugo Chara!!, again twisting it with minor magics being available otherwise - with a second, minor transformation that changes only the character's personality and physical capabilities, but leaves her or him looking the same.
  • Corrector Yui, whose main character was an Ascended Fangirl of the Magical Girl genre.
  • Mai-Otome, in which the Otomes receive access to their Robes, which protect them and give them access to a powerful weapon, by receiving certification from their master (or in the Five Columns' case, from the Founder system(.
  • Kamichama Karin, though a couple characters are able to use some of their abilities without transforming.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Magical Girls use their Soul Gems to activate and fuel their powers, but it turns out that there's quite a bit more to the gems than they realize at first.
  • Cutey Honey, whose primary power is transforming into different persona, though she has one form for fighting seriously.
  • Kill la Kill technically IS a Magical Girl series, and every major character has a set of clothes that grant them powers through a Transformation Sequence.
  • Any superhero made by Tatsunoko Production.
    • Gatchaman presaged and inspired the Super Sentai genre, using many elements that would become stock sentai material, not the least of which was an Animal Motif.
    • The modern reimagining, Gatchaman Crowds, also falls under this but employs a twist on the previous show's formula. The members of Gatchaman instead use journal-like devices that manifest their soul, called NOTEs, to activate superpowered forms resembling Powered Armor, complete with the prerequisite bird motif.
    • Hurricane Polimar uses his helmet for transformation as opposed to wrist-worn gadgets or smaller devices. Said hero can also transform into a submarine, tank, etc. but he also runs around yelling and beating the crap out of people with his fighting style - Hariken, or Illusion Destruction Fist.
    • Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman and Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman Blade (the former needs his mobile transport robot named Pegas to transform).
    • Tekkaman Blade II features a twist: Since many people were captured and partially transformed by the Radam at the end of the first series, a large part of the world's population can transform into a "Primary Tekkaman", who are armored, but have few if any powers otherwise: effectively Henshin Civilians.
    • Their Time Bokan series feature this, with each hero using various transformation methods.
      • The Yatterman in particular have their costumes actually be their casual wear only flipped around!
  • The Karas of Karas require the "Will of the City" to unlock their powers.
  • The "armored warriors" genre of anime. Similar in many respects to Magical Girl programs, they feature male heroes and are targeted at a shonen demographic. Examples of such programs include:
  • Star Driver plays this completely straight with Takuto/Galactic Pretty Boy Tauburn.
  • Bleach: While a capable fighter regardless, Ichigo can only draw on his powers by expelling his soul from his physical body using Rukia's glove, Urahara's cane, Kon's mod soul pill, or his Substitute Soul Reaper Badge. The latter becomes the conduit for his Fullbring, which once complete manifests as a short sword and white-and-black armor that gives him access to some of his Soul Reaper powers as well as some new ones.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, Tenchi Maski got a costume change when he manifested his Light Hawk Wings.
    • He actually gets two. He gets a Juraian Battle Uniform when Tsunami unlocks his Juraian powers, and then the Light Hawk Wings trigger a special uniform that looks like a cross between the Battle Uniform and Jurai's holy robes.
  • Pretenders and Headmaster Juniors in Transformers: Super-God Masterforce are like this.
    • The Pretenders are actually an inversion of the typical Henshin Hero, being robots that mass-shift and wear artificial Human skins to blend in to normal society.
  • Digimon Frontier has the kids transform into Digimon, instead of having Digimon partners like the other series. Supposedly they're bonding with the spirits of legendary Digimon warriors, but until the last three or so episodes (in which the original warriors speak to the kids), "spirit" was just a fancier name for Transformation Trinket.
  • The Viewtiful Joe anime expanded the henshin capabilities to include a sidekick, Captain Blue Jr. As his weapon was a Yo-yo, his phrase was "Henshin a-yo-yo!"
  • Mega Man NT Warrior, in which the operators can merge with their Navis in a process called Cross Fusion. Exclusive to the anime, this did not appear in Mega Man Battle Network, the video game it was based on, although Starforce does feature a similar form of henshin.
  • In Ratman, the titular hero is one of these, turning from a short middle-schooler to a tall, lean and deadly super. It's unclear if the other heroes fall into this; at least a few have what seems to be Powered Armor instead.
  • Magical Stage Fancy Lala isn't a hero per se, but is basically a henshin Idol Singer.
  • Haiyore! Nyarko-san's title character does this voluntarily, possessing a Kamen Rider-esque combat form with a completely unnecessary Transformation Sequencenote  entirely because she's a Toku fangirl and thinks it looks awesome. It does help that her "Full Force Form" is one of the few forms she has that doesn't run the risk of shattering her love interest's sanity. A short story (later adapted as an OVA) has her briefly becoming a Magical Girl, with all the associated trappings.
  • Great Saiyaman 1 (Gohan) and 2 (Videl) in Dragon Ball Z, whose Transformation Trinket consists of a wristwatch.
    • Although Gohan doesn't need to transform to use his powers. It's just to hide his identity.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Yugi Muto, courtesy of his Super-Powered Alter Ego. Without him, Yugi's basically helpless (at first).
  • Maccha Green from Rolling Girls, who seems to be inspired by the Super Sentai franchise.
  • World Trigger has entire armies of soldiers that can only fight by using items called "Triggers" to transform into "Trion Bodies" made of energy ("Trion" being the energy source that basically powers everything). Trion Bodies are superpowered and only vulnerable to attacks using Trion and also protect the real body from any damage as long as they are active. Though while the bodies look different (often featuring uniforms of their squad), they don't obscure the users identity, because the users mostly work for an official organization anyway (most prominently "Border", which defends Earth from invaders). The anime also features a fitting Transformation Sequence.
  • Kaiju Girls: The girls are only slightly stronger than ordinary humans and most of their powers (such as Super Strength) are only active after transformation.

    Comic Books 
  • Older Than Television: Captain Marvel, who debuted *decades* before He-Man or the Japanese heroes.
  • The other Captain Marvel was one for awhile when he was bonded to Rick Jones.
  • Blue Beetle (The first and third.)
  • Iron Man, to an extent. Basically, it depends on the version of the suit. Sometimes it'll form itself around a bodysuit that goes beneath it. And sometimes it has a compact form like the suitcase suit, though he does have to step in or pull it around him while it's partially formed.
    • Iron Man fully qualifies with his latest suit, the "Bleeding Edge" armor, which is stored within Tony Stark's body and called out mentally at need.
  • For a brief period in The '90s, Superman had both an Electric Superman and Clark Kent form.
    • Prior to that, he went through a period in The '70s when he only had his powers while visualising a lynx. Otherwise they were in the possession of a young boy who was psychically connected to the lynx. No, really.
  • At some point, Wonder Woman no longer had her powers when not transformed.
  • Ghost Rider counts as this given that Johnny Blaze (and other riders) had a normal human form and a Spirit of Vengeance form.
    • Somewhat amusing if you compare the most likely unintentional similarities to the Kamen Rider series. Both are badass bikers, both are usually lone heroes, both are henshin heroes, and both use the power of evil to fight for good (well, mostly the Showa Riders, in the latter case).
      • The motorcycle riding Ghost Rider even debuted around the same time as the Kamen Riders!
  • Colossus.
  • The Mighty Thor and Dr. Donald Blake are a variation on this - the difference being that Thor is the original and Blake was a mortal form Odin forced upon his son as a test. Most other wielders of Mjölnir or passable replicas thereof also fit under this trope more-or-less. Including but not limited to Storm when she got repowered by Loki, Beta Ray Bill (albeit he is also a super soldier), Thunderstrike (both of them), and the new Thor (Jane Foster).
  • Jay Garrick and Alan Scott of Earth 2 gained their powers and costumes via mystical sources. As such, their costumes only appear when they use their powers.
  • Depending on who's writing the DC character The Spectre, he may or may not have some form of this. The older stories treated him as a guy who was returned from death and could, when he wanted, take on a ghostly form with mystical powers. Most later writers treat the Spectre and the human host it's associated with as separate characters, with how much control the host has when in Spectre form being highly variable.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Moonwalker movie and games, Michael Jackson can morph into a sportscar, a robot (aka the Jacksonator), or a space fighter plane, with the power of a Wishing Star.
  • Tony Stark in Iron Man, just like the comics. As he continues to advance the technology, donning it becomes easier every time, going from needing a lot of machinery to assemble and disassemble it around him in the first to having the suitcase suit in the second to each piece flying into place on its own with so long as he wears certain arm devices to summon it in The Avengers to basically doing a henshin pose that it responds to (not quite perfected) in the third. Particularly noticeable in the third film, where the climax involves him alternating between suits in quick succession, each opening, letting him in, and resealing around him as needed even in midair.

  • The titular Behemoth of The Behemoth is Roger's alternate form, a giant figure armored with coagulated blood and adorned with horns.
  • This is the most common superpower (not that one) in Super Powereds. Most Supers are Shifters, requiring them to turn into their alt-form to activate their powers. In rare cases (such as with Hershel/Roy), this crosses with Superpowered Alter Ego. There are a number of Shifter-type Supers at Lander, including one of their gym teachers, who turns into a robot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • There was a Japanese Spider-Man series that turned him into a Henshin Hero (complete with Giant Robot!).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Appropriately for something that grew out of Champions, the superheroic tabletop game, the HERO system has a Power Limitation called "Only In Heroic Identity." It's not worth many points, but it essentially means that the character has an alternate form and that the power in question only works in his superheroic form, thus opening the possibility that the character be trapped into his normal form and denied access to his superpowers.
  • Legend includes a set of abilities called "Vigilante," which allows the user to summon armor and power buffs with a shouted command (Transformation Is a Free Action for Vigilantes).
  • Played with in the various World of Darkness games.
    • Averted in most games. You're, for the most part, always a monster at all times, and can do a variable job hiding it.
    • Downplayed in Werewolf: The Forsaken, where human-form Uratha enjoy slightly increased physical durability and supernatural perception, but most of their power is in their Hybrid forms. Just take care with your rage.
    • Played Straight in the fan game, Princess: The Hopeful, due to its Magical Girl inspirations.
  • Vigilantes in Pathfinder, even the Badass Normal builds, have distinct abilities in their social and vigilante identities. The Magical Child even gets a Transformation Sequence.
    • The Aegis from Dreamscarred Press can be played this way.
  • Future Card Buddyfight has the Transform keyword. It's unique to the Toku-style Superheroes (or their counterparts the Dark Heroes), and is flavored this way. Monsters with this keyword may be equipped as though they were items, effectively turning you into a Henshin Hero.

    Video Games 
  • Viewtiful Joe, with wonderful catchphrases to go with it: "Henshin a Go-Go, Baby!" and "Henshin Around!". It just so happens that he only actually needs to say "Henshin". The rest of the catchphrase is just for fun. His Evil Counterpart gets his own, which is the stinger to this page.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, four of the masks Link collects on his journey through Termina transform him into the being they depict: the pond-hopping, bubble-spitting Deku, the fast-rolling, fire-punching Goron, the fast-swimming, boomerang-launching Zora, and the mighty Fierce Deity.
  • Red from SaGa Frontier is given the power to transform into the superhero Alkaiser by another such hero, Alkarl, in order to save his life.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Eraqus and Xehanort are all Keyblade weilders, and all have special Keyblade Armor that they can use whenever in combat or traveling through space. While it is unknown how Eraqus and Xehanort activate their armor, Terra, Aqua and Ventus transform by smacking the small amount of armor visible on their normal clothes (for Terra and Ventus in particular, it's their singular left shoulder-pads). The main trio can also toss their Keyblades up in the air to turn them into gliders to travel though space on.
    • In what is perhaps the coolest part of the game, since Keyblade Armor protects its wearer from the darkness, Terra activates his in a last ditch attempt to avoid possession by Xehanort (who is essentially a Dark Lord), and while his body is still possessed, his heart trapped within, his mind manages to escape and inhabits the armor, creating the Lingering Will (which originally appeared a secret boss in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix), which you then play as against your possessed self, essentially making it Henshin vs. Henshin User.
  • Kouta Asuma from Super Robot Wars Original Generation has ability to transform into Fighter Roar, he later join by his sister Shoko Azuma as Fighter Emmy.
  • Appears several times in Mega Man.
    • The most straightforward examples are Geo and Sonia from Mega Man Star Force, who become Mega Man and Harp Note by undergoing a Fusion Dance with Energy Beings Omega-Xis and Lyra. In fact, most of the cast undergoes such Henshin, but heroes are in the definite minority. The process actually bears a certain resemblance to Cross Fusion from Mega Man NT Warrior, listed above.
    • In the Mega Man ZX series, a Mega Man is a person able to use a Biometal to transform in a process called "megamerging". Like Star Force, since some villains also have Biometals, the series also has "Henshin Villains".
    • Even the original Mega Man was prone to it, since he had a non-combat form he spent most of his time in; that said, the audience almost never gets to see Rock in his off-hours, so sightings of the change are few and far between. He does it in the fifth Game Boy game, though. No invocation, he just jumps into the air and transforms from Rock to Mega Man. It doesn't help. A short mini-comic also implies that his helmet can be used as his henshin device.
  • Puyo Puyo 7 has a henshin game mechanic, where the characters turn into their older or younger selves.
  • Sister Leica from Demonbane can transform into white angel Metatron. Unfortunely, this never made into anime adaption.
  • The main character in Illusion of Gaia has three forms (including his normal form), all of which have different powers.
  • The Wonderful 101 stars a team of 100 Henshin Heroes that can transform themselves into various weapons like a giant fist, a giant sword or a giant gun that shoots heroes.
  • The Princess Heart Transformation Trinket in Silent Hill 3 turns Heather into a Sailor Moon expy; Transformation Sequence, henshin call and pose included.
  • As of Metroid: Other M, Samus appears to be this as her Power Suit is something that can only be sustained if her focus permits it. However this explanation has been regarded as Fan Discontinuity.
  • The player character in Dragon Fighter for the NES is a gladiator who can turn into a fire-breathing flying dragon once a transformation meter fills up.
  • Dragoons in The Legend of Dragoon can transform between their civilian and powered-up, armored forms, getting access to magic spells, flight, and greater strength and endurance in the process.

    Web Comics 
  • Sheena, in Kid Radd. Complete with a parody of an anime Transformation Sequence: "Magical Maid Robo Sheena!"
  • In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's magic lets him fly and gives him heightened durability and an accelerated healing factor, but only when using a particular spell that also requires him to turn into a woman. He has other superhuman abilities that can be used without transforming, though.
  • Karin-dou 4koma features a Henshin Hero youkai—not a youkai who is a Henshin Hero, mind you, but rather the concept of "Henshin Hero" personified. He only makes two brief appearance with some friends, though, and doesn't appear as anything other than an ordinary schoolboy.

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • Linkara turns out to be one of these. He transforms with a classic Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers morpher into his jacketed-hatted form, albeit usually just before the show begins.
    • And thanks to the Power Rangers Zeo Zeonizer he can transform into his upgraded White Zeo Ranger Form
    • Better still, he also has a gold Power Morpher with a Dragon coin in. Which lets him become the Green Ranger.
  • The Apollo Z. Hack Reviwarverse Saga features the eponymous hero and his nemesis possessing R-Units (which look surprisingly like Kamen Rider Dragon Knight belts) which let them "Rev Up" to transform into Kamen Rider like super powered forms called Revuers.
  • LWAAS uses Jo's Manga: Mecha Girl. The main character Yukasa,Takes off her clothes,just in her Underwearof Power underwear pressing the button In the center of her bra Transformation Trinket and transforms into Mecha Girl! Power Armour.
  • Eric Draven, from Mall Fight. He started off as a Green Ranger, moved onto becoming Kamen Rider Black, and now transforms (actually saying "HENSHIN!") into a fusion between Kamen Rider and Ghost Rider.
  • JewWario used to transform into "The Warion" but has now been upgraded into the Fami-Kamen Rider, a Nintendo/Famicom-themed Kamen Rider with powers based on 8-bit video game sprites (and a Rider Belt that's a portable Famicom unit).
  • Inverted with Oingo in Vaguely Recalling JoJo. His Stand, Khnum, is based off the Rider belt and he uses it for assassinations.

    Western Animation 

Henshin a-bye-bye!

Alternative Title(s): Transformation Hero, Henshin Villain, Transformation Villain