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
Superpowered Alter Ego
is when this trope meets Split Personality
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Anime and Manga
- Many, many Magical Girl series, including:
- Akazukin Chacha.
- Devil Hunter Yohko.
- Sailor Moon.
- Pretty Sammy. She uses a different henshin call in each program where she makes an appearance.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does something odd with this trope. Although Nanoha has a Transformation Sequence, all it does is summon her Barrier Jacket (combat uniform). She can use her magical powers without transforming. However, we only see her do it on a few occasions, and with relatively minor magic.
- The Pretty Cure series.
- Tokyo Mew Mew.
- Tokyo Black Catgirl, the short manga upon which it was based.
- Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
- 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(.
- Wedding Peach
- Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z with Hyper Blossom, Rolling Bubbles, and Powered Buttercup
- Princess Tutu
- 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.
- Essentially 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 NOT Es, 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 SoulTaker, of course.
- 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.
- Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach may qualify as a Henshin Hero, since he only has his shinigami powers when he releases his astral body from his physical one. However, he does not use a henshin call or have a transformation sequence.
- Bleach actually parodies the trope in one episode. When he's training to regain his powers, Urahara tells him to put on a hachimaki and say a ridiculous catch phrase to try to unlock it. Sure enough, all Ichigo succeeds in doing is looking like a Butt Monkey. Both Urahara and the audience break down laughing.
- Bleach also plays this perfectly straight with the many, many transformations that characters have to use to unlock new abilities. The most common of these would be the shikai and bankai of all those Shinigami, both of which unlock new forms and abilities of their weapons and in the later case usually a new outfit as well. Besides Shinigami, the Arrancar have Resurrección, which is essentially the same thing as the Shinigami, only applied to their bodies instead of their weapons, and therefore playing this trope even straighter.
- 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.
- 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 Transformation Sequence and Kamen Rider-esque combat form entirely because she's a Toku fangirl and thinks it looks awesome. It does help that her combat form is one of the few forms she has that doesn't run the risk of shattering her love interest's sanity.
- Great Saiyaman 1 (Gohan) and 2 (Videl) in Dragon Ball Z, whose Transformation Trinket consists of a wristwatch.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Yugi Muto, courtesy of his Super-Powered Alter Ego. Without him, Yugi's basically helpless (at first).
- 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 Nineties, Superman had both an Electric Superman and Clark Kent form.
- Prior to that, he went through a period in The Seventies when he only had his powers while visualising a lynx. Otherwise they were in the posession 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. Also, Iceman frequently ices himself up before going into battle, but he has his powers when not in this form.
- The Human Torch, when he goes "Flame on!". Same case as Iceman.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Live Action TV
- The Kamen Rider (Trope Namer, Trope Codifier), Super Sentai, Metal Heroes, Ultra Series (Ur Example), Chou Sei Shin Series and several other tokusatsu franchises. Most Kamen Riders have "Henshin!" as the changing command.
- There was even a Japanese Spider-Man series that turned him into a Henshin Hero (complete with Giant Robot!).
- American tokusatsu adaptations: Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Masked Rider, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Big Bad Beetleborgs and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nóg was a wholly American henshin hero program, which used no Japanse footage (albeit borrowing a few Beetleborgs costumes, which were, in turn, borrowed Juukou B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto costumes.)
- Ema in the Japanese drama Sh15uya had a henshin ability, but it was never really explained.
- The Linda Carter Wonder Woman series.
- Warrior of Love Rainbowman has no henshin device; instead he repeatedly chants "Anokutara Sanmyakusanbodai" (Supreme Correct Wisdom) to transform.
- National Kid, a series Toei made in 1960 that was fairly famous in Brazil.
- BIMA Satria Garuda has Ray, who with the red Power Stone and the changing command "Berubah!" (change) transforms into the eponymous hero.
- 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).
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link collects masks which transform him into different forms that each have different abilities.
- 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.
- 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.
- Geo and Sonia from Mega Man Star Force, though they got their powers from aliens.
- Also, in the preceding games, Mega Man Battle Network, there is a form of this. As said in anime, there is no cross fusion, but the form of this appears comes from the battle system. Put simply: plain megaman is fairly weak at the start of the game, and using chips is the only real way to get through it with your sanity intact. His normal form has only a weak buster that has no special ability. With the right use of customization, a character can have megaman's normal form be his most deadly, but usually that's only late game. All the game's gimmick powerup, form in 2 and 3, souls in 4 5 and 6, are basically this, giving him a more powerful buster and abilities that allow megaman to fight better without chips.
- In the Mega Man ZX series, a Mega Man is a person able to use a Biometal to transform in a process called "megamerging".
- And since some villains also have Biometals, the series also have "Henshin Villains".
- The original Mega Man did it once, in the Game Boy V. 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.
- 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.
- In Nemu-Nemu, you have Henshin Rider.
- The Dimensional Guardians from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Jew Wario 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.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983).
- Its Distaff Counterpart, She-Ra: Princess of Power.
- Ben 10, and its sequels Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, and Ben 10: Omniverse.
- Bradley Biggle plays this trope straight to become Mint Berry Crunch in South Park episode Coon vs. Coon and friends. In fact, his transformation sequence gives nods to the Kamen Rider franchise and Sailor Moon, both of which are very prominent Henshin Hero series.
- Danny Phantom qualifies as a Henshin Hero. Even though he has access to his powers while human, they aren't as potent until he transforms. He even has his own catchphrase.
- Wonder Woman pulls it off in an episode of Justice League Unlimited ("To Another Shore", specifically) as a homage to the aforementioned TV series starring Linda Carter.
- Super Duper Sumos: The sumos go through a Transformation Sequence to become "Sumo-Sized" and become even bigger and more powerful.
- In Sym-Bionic Titan, the two organic heroes summon their Powered Armor with a wrist mounted transformation device.
- In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, instead of a suitcase-suit, teen Tony has it as a backpack. It only requires that the central button be pushed and it forms around him on its own without him having to do anything else, making for the most Toku-like version yet. Now all we need is voice activation.
- The eponymous American Dragon Jake Long. Though some episodes shows that he can be a badass in human form.
- Gizmoduck of DuckTales and Darkwing Duck. Blatherin' Blatherskite!
- SuperTed transforms into his super-powered state by speaking the phrase "I'll just say my secret magic word..." and then unzipping his fur to reveal a superhero costume underneath.
- The Skysurfer Strike Force
- W.I.T.C.H., though the main heroines can only transform with their leader around, who has the Transformation Trinket.
- Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja, Randy does this by putting on the Ninja mask (Even got its own transformation sequence.)
- King Arthur & the Knights of Justice, which may have been inspired by the armored warriors anime genre.
- Near the end of My Little Pony Equestria Girls, the Humane Six gain pony-eared and pegasus-winged Magical Girl forms via Twilight's Element of Magic. In the Rainbow Rocks animated shorts, the characters' musical instruments act as Transformation Trinkets.
- The version of the Thing from Fred and Barney Meet the Thing could transform from Benjy Grimm to rock-creature form at will. (Unlike his comicbook counterpart, who's stuck like that.)