troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Humanshifting

Shapeshifters are very common in fiction due to their flexibility. They can turn into a wolf, a giant, a tree, a whale, or sometimes only transform into another person.

How much a humanshifter can change varies. It could be just the face or it could be the whole body. The latter can lead to Gender Bender tropes. While Humanshifters don't have the versatility of being able to shift into another animal, they have their advantages. They are usually a Master of Disguise, able to replace their subject, and wreak havoc by many ways. Done rightly, they could bring down entire kingdoms without having to personally use a weapon.

See Doppelgänger. Compare Shapeshifter and Master of Disguise. Contrast Wig, Dress, Accent. For nonhumans that become humans, then that's Humanity Ensues. If someone is involuntarily shifted then see Clone by Conversion.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Beautiful Playboy Bunny Melona in Queen's Blade has this ability. Often using it for disguise, battle, or to sow confusion.
  • In One Piece, this is Mr. 2 Bon Clay's power from the Clone-Clone Fruit. By touching the face of a person, he is able to impersonate the face, voice, and body, as he proved with Nami, of that person. There's a reason why he's ranked Number 2. It is also a hindrance, since to use his Martial Ballet Arts he has to use his real body, or something as strong.
  • Liar's Mask, Due's Inherent Skill in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, allows her to assume the appearance of any humanoid (though apparently only female of approximately the same height and build as herself).
  • Mirror Man, an agent of the British Library in ROD the TV.
  • An assassin in The Vision of Escaflowne steals the appearance of several people (as part of the Kill and Replace routine).
  • Minor character Suetsumu in Zettai Karen Children, using telepathic hypnosis. An unusually benevolent example, since she uses it primarily to comfort terminally ill patients in her role as a nurse, and she doesn't even lie about who she really is while using it.
  • In Bakugan, Zenet Surrow can transform into other people.
  • In Tiger & Bunny this seems to have originally been the extent of Ivan/Origami Cyclone's power, though after the Time Skip he's able to take on a wider variety of forms.

    Comic Books 
  • This is sometimes the Chameleon's power in Spider-Man, who is a Super Villain who has impersonated Spider-Man and some of his Rogues Gallery many times. (Depending on the Writer, this may be a shapeshifting superpower, or he may just be a Master of Disguise.)
  • Depending on the Writer, Mystique from the X-Men comics is usually limited to human shapes. Some adaptations have stretched this, though, such as the X-Men Evolution cartoon that had her turning into animals like wolves (and in one memorable case due to Apocalypse boosting her power, she was able to turn into an entire swarm of bats).
  • The second Hate Monger was an android that could take on different racial appearances. He used this ability to infiltrate hate groups and instigate a Hate Plague.
  • This is the power of the villain Everyman in The DCU.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Inception, this is Eames' job as a Forger, but he can only do it in dreams.

    Gamebooks 
  • In the Lone Wolf setting, the Helghast are Undead with the power to change into a human form. This makes them the perfect spies and infiltrators for the Darklords.

    Literature 
  • This is an ability that can be possessed by watercrafters in Codex Alera. Even if you have only a limited watercrafting talent, you can change your appearance, though it takes longer to complete the process. Taking a form of a different size or shape from your own can be uncomfortable at best, though.
  • This is Tessa Gray's unique power in The The Infernal Devices. Her whole schtick is that she can change her appearance into any humanoid, dead or alive, as long as she has touched an object that belonged to them. She's turned into both males and females.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Metamorphmagi like Nymphadora Tonks (or her son Teddy Lupin) have the ability to alter their appearance at will, but must presumably retain a human shape. This is in contrast to Animagi, who can perform Animorphism into one specific animal.
    • There is also Polyjuice Potion, which can turn you into a specific person for an hour, after you add a bit of said person into it (such as a hair, nail, etc.) It messes up if you add a non-human component, even if that person is a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • In Max Fraj's Labyrinths of Echo most sufficiently powerful mages can alter their appearance. There are also some mages proficient in changing the appearance of others. Their field of work is best compared with cosmetic surgeons, therefore the LSIF (the settings police for magic-involving cases) keeps tabs on them. The most notable user of this magic is Sir Kofa Yokh, the LSIF's Master Listener. While an elder gentleman in his default appearance, Kofa Yokh will easily assume any shape at will to do his work - going unnoticed all around Echo and gathering all relevant information or altering the appearances of his fellow Secret Investigators when needed.
  • As a Shi'ido, Borborygmus Gog of Galaxy of Fear should be able to transform into any creature he wants to, but in the series he stays almost exclusively to humanoid forms while the protagonists are watching. Partly this is because he uses his power to infiltrate, but even cornered, he prefers tools like blasters and Tykebombs. Pretty much the only exception is just before and during his Shapeshifter Swan Song, and he keeps flickering back into his default form during that.
  • In Seraphina dragons can only transform into their own human form, called a saarantras (saarantrai for plural, saar for short).
  • The Returned in Warbreaker have this power. Most modern Returned don't know they have it, and so simply take on whatever build and appearance society thinks of as the ideal. The Royal House of Idris, who are descended from a Returned, can alter the color and length of their hair at will (including facial hair for male Royals).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The First Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer can only transform into real dead (or ex-dead or undead) people. You do see occasional glimpses of a demonic face that presumably represents its "true form", however.
  • The X-Files:
    • Episode "Small Potatoes", Eddie Van Blundht has an extra layer of muscle that he can control to perfectly impersonate other humans. Moreover, although the episode doesn't specifically mention the limitation, we only see him in the forms of other male humans.
    • The Alien Bounty Hunter can assume the appearance of any human he has met, e.g. Fox Mulder's.
    • In the episode "Gender Bender", the villain shapeshifts from male to female and back, though s/he only seems to have a single appearance for each gender.
  • Victoria in No Ordinary Family had the ability to shapeshift into anyone else, even including their personality and superpowers. After she was killed, Stephanie was able to exploit this by temporarily impersonating her.
  • The Twilight Zone episode "The Four of Us Are Dying" features a con man with the ability to shapeshift into anyone he chooses. His downfall comes when he appears as a crazy old man's son. The guy really doesn't like his son.
  • In True Blood, shapeshifters gain the ability to do this after killing at least one of their parents, even if it was an accident or not their fault (like during childbirth). But it takes a serious toll on their bodies, and if they do it just a few times they'll most likely die.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Faceless Ones", the aliens are "chameleons" — faceless aliens who can transform into duplicates of specific humans through technology.

    Music 
  • "Seen and Not Seen", a song from Talking Heads' Remain in Light is about a man who believes that he and others can gradually change their faces through force of will. He's worried, though, that he might have chosen features that don't suit him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Changeling race in the Eberron setting has this as its signature power, being able to take on the appearance (and only the appearance, not the other innate powers of) other humanoids. They can also change sex (or mixe sexes, or become asexual) at will.
    • By extension, the Doppelgänger race (which the Changelings are descended from) has this same power too. Of course, by the way D&D defines "humanoid", they could also become creatures such as harpies or centaurs.
    • The alter self spell lets you transform into another creature of your type. Since most spellcasters are humanoids, this means humans, elves, dwarves, etc. (Although a dragon casting alter self could only turn into a different dragon.)
  • In Warhammer 40,000, both the Inquisition and the Officio Assassinorum sometimes issue the aptly named drug polymorphine to their operatives that allows them to change into different people to disguise themselves, and occasionally to Kill and Replace their targets.

    Video Games 
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 has the ability to impersonate members of the opposing team (and his own team) in order to infiltrate their base.

    Web Comics 
  • Elliot in El Goonish Shive can consciously change his appearance, although thanks to a botched magical awakening, most of his available forms are female. (Properly awakened magic in this setting tends towards Personality Powers, so it's been theorized that he won't awaken properly until he finds a female form that in some way represents his true self.) His magically-created Opposite-Sex Clone Ellen has a more refined version of this, allowing her to scan somebody and change her form to match theirs perfectly, which isn't limited to humans.
  • Sabine the succubus from The Order of the Stick. She can do "human", "dwarf", and also turn male. By D&D rules, she can change into any Medium or Small humanoid form.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • A villain from Kim Possible named Camille Leon can shapeshift into people after an experimental cosmetic surgery; however, she always retains the same basic body shape.
  • Zee from The Zeta Project. He has been known to appear as a (humanoid) statue and a broken version of his robot form, otherwise it's strictly people.
  • False Face from Batman Beyond had the ability to change his facial features and hair to impersonate others, but was never shown to even appear as another gender or body type.


'Freaky Friday" FlipDoppelgängerIdentical Grandson
Henshin HeroShapeshiftingInvoluntary Shapeshifter
Hive MindImageSource/Comic BooksI Want My Beloved to Be Happy

alternative title(s): Humanshifter
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
27686
26