MacGuffin Girl

The plot where the object that everyone is looking for turns out to have been transformed into a girl (with the occasional variation of being a Robot Girl). It's usually (but not always) a girl, and is usually associated with several of the following tropes or plot elements:

  • The girl (again, it usually is a girl) initially has no memory or knowledge of what she really is.
  • This leads to the Tomato in the Mirror trope.
  • The hero gets to know her as a person first before discovering what she really is.
  • There is conflict among the good guys over whether to keep the girl or return her to her natural state as a MacGuffin. Some see it as killing her; others don't.
    • Alternately, the good guys all agree to keep her human, but the decision is out of their hands; so they angst over the girl not being able to keep her brief life.
  • The story ends with either a self sacrifice (if the object is vitally important) or with the girl staying a girl (if the object only needs to be used once or is only wanted by the villains).

Compare Spaceship Girl, which could lead to similar stories, but in practice almost never does, and Barrier Maiden/Apocalypse Maiden who is often just as objectified while being wholly human. Likewise, characters who are being sought after merely because they are a lost princess, or an escaped lab experiment, etc., are generally not treated this way, but as The President's Daughter. Though the princess may be, if her Royal Blood has magical properties.

See Save This Person, Save the World for when the character isn't anything particuarly special, you just have to ensure that they don't die. A Living MacGuffin is someone not in danger, but still desirable - like the beautiful princess you want to impress and marry. See also Phlebotinum Girl.

Please do not include characters who are titled like objects (light, key, hope, etc.) but are not objects.

Listing examples for this trope is inherently full of spoilers. Be warned.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Meifon Li, the main character of Angel Links, turns out to be an android superweapon.
  • Eve from Black Cat is an escaped lab experiment in the manga but gets upgraded to MacGuffin Girl in the anime.
  • Bleach:
    • Senna in the first anime movie is the "Memory Rosary."
    • Nozomi Kujo is the first Mod Soul ever.
    • Rukia had the Hougyoku embedded in her gigai by Urahara, who put it in right after the first chapter of the manga/episode of the anime. Aizen later removes it during the Wham Episode, but Rukia lives to tell.
    • Orihime. Aizen desires her for ability to reverse time and restore the Hougyoku. Subverted, it was a lie.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: The Mysterious Waif, whose kidnapping the Knight Sabers are investigating in Tinsel City, is a boomer containing the master control for Japan's network of Kill Sats camouflaged as an innocent little girl.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Kazakiri Hyouka is an Artificial Angel in Academy City, formed from the AIM fields of several thousands of psychics residing in the city. She is fundamental in Aleister Crowley's plan to artificially replicate Heaven by using her FUZE=Kazakiri form and the MISAKA Network worldwide.
    • Perhaps even more appropriate is Index herself. She allegedly have every book and tome of spells inside her head, something that many people would love to get their hands on. They tell her that she herself cannot use these spells but that is a lie, they just didn't want a mage who has access to every spell in existence as a potential enemy. Given that the title of the series is named after her, this plot point is bound to be even more important later on.
  • The second season of Darker Than Black uses this quite a bit. "Izanami" and "Izanagi" (Yin and Shion) are somehow centrally related to the Gate, and several different groups wind up trying to find them for their own reasons. However, thanks to a Gainax Ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion-like proportions, exactly what this means isn't clear even after the Grand Finale.
  • Al-Azif is the grimoire in Demonbane. Doesn't follow most of the standard plotlines, though I've only seen a little of the series.
  • Reverie Metherlence in Elemental Gelade is the MacGuffin Girl sought after by many as the key to something. Unfortunately, the show was so derivative nobody can remember what it was all about. In the manga, she was an Eden/Edil Raid from a particularly powerful line, making her a valuable weapon.
  • Lily of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force is revealed to be the fourth of the Strosek series, Eclipse Reactors created in humanoid form that are rare and sought after by organizations related to the Eclipse infectees.
  • Maken-ki!: Himegami is the daughter of Yamato no Orochi. Therefore, her blood lineage makes her the key to breaking the seal atop Amanohara, which is why Ouken Yamato seeks to capture her.
  • Tima, the Robot Girl from Metropolis meets almost every one of the requirements at some point in the plot.
  • Noein has Haruka, who manages to be this and the main character, despite this normally being impossible. Haruka is the Dragon Torque, a kind of god-like quantum manipulation program/artifact that can be used to alter reality, and which is thus essential to both Shangri-La's plan of Instrumentality and to La'Cryma's plan to render themselves impervious to Shangri-La's attacks. In fact, from La'Cryma's point of view, Haruka's whole world is simply data in a computer, an elaborate construct of programming, and thusly they have no problem with seeking to "reconfigure" Haruka into something they can use in their own quantum manipulating computers, even though this will, from Haruka's point of view, kill her. Ultimately, she manages to use her nature as the Dragon Torque to manipulate reality so as to defeat Noein and then remove the power from herself, rendering the Dragon Torque back into a theoretical concept and herself into an ordinary human girl.
  • Melfina, the Robot Girl of Outlaw Star (from which Angel Links is a Spin-Off). Differs from the usual plot as her purpose — a navigation system for the title ship — is known from early on, and she's still sought by the bad guys. What's not revealed until later is why they built such a device as a girl in the first place; their in-story reason actually makes sense in light of the Magitek at work in the series.
  • In the movie Pokemon Heroes, everyone is in pursuit of Latias, who disguises as a girl named Bianca.
  • Pretty Cure:
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In the anime only, Chibi-Chibi is Galaxia's star seed. Oddly, this uses almost none of the usual MacGuffin Girl plot.
    • In the manga, she's an extra shrunk down version of Sailor Moon from the far future (we're talking farther than Crystal Tokyo, here). * It must be clarifed that the fandom is divided on what exactly this means. Is her true form (Sailor Cosmos) future Usagi? Future Chibi-Usa? Chibi-Usa's granddaughter (daughter and sister are ruled out in dialogue) or just some future incarnation all together.
  • In Serial Experiments Lain, the title character Lain is the container for Protocol 7, which is sought after by several competing groups.
  • In Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy, Anveena is the Sunwell, made into human form. She also falls in love with Kalecgos, a shapeshifted blue dragon. See the video game entry below for more details.
  • The girl in Wolf's Rain, Cheza, is actually a flower from the moon. The wolves already knew or were told what she was from her scent.
  • Kisara of Yu-Gi-Oh! fame is one of these, as her soul becomes manifested as the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragon when she's unconscious (can do it intentionally in the anime).
  • Zetsuen no Tempest is of the very rare Posthumous Character: variant. The two main characters affections for Aika (one being her revenge-driven big brother, the other being her secret boyfriend and said Knight Templar Big Brother's best friend) are their main motivations and wind up having a massive effect on their choices and, subsequently, the fate of the world itself. Hakaze, the sorceress who speaks to them through her enchanted doll, lampshades this trope once she becomes aware of it.
    Hakaze: How much of an influence did this Aika girl have on these two boys?

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The main conflict in The Happy Cricket revolves around Linda the Night Star, who spends most of the movie as an inanimate stone.
  • In the animated Disney film Tangled, Mother Gothel kidnapped baby Rapunzel because Rapunzel's mother (the Queen) drank a potion made from a magic flower while she was still pregnant; the flower was formerly the only thing keeping Mother Gothel alive — now Rapunzel's hair is.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The protagonist's love interest in D-War is the key to helping the good dragon attain his full powers. She sacrifices herself to give him his powers and let him beat the evil dragon.
  • Aversion: Leeloo in The Fifth Element may sound a bit like this since we associate elements with objects, but she's never called an object or shown as one (and is in fact the perfect being). There's no confusion or angst over not being human or having to end her existence, and while she does need to be used in a ritual, it is, shall we say, nondamaging.
  • Men In Black II has a similar aversion. Laura Vasquez is "the Light of Zartha", which sounds like an object, but there's no sign that she actually is one. It was probably just figurative. She does seem to be the heir.
  • The female lead in Stardust, Yvaine, is actually a star in human form, sought by several people for various reasons. Since stars in Fairyland are people and stars in the mortal world are just dust, if she crosses the border she will turn into stardust and die.

  • Adventure Hunters: Regina is sought after because her ancestor turned all of his descendents into human-shaped instruction manuals for building war golems. She is also the "ignition key", so to speak, because she needs to step into the Lampda Driver to activate the golems.
  • Played straight in Archon by Sabrina Benulis, where Sophia is eventually revealed to be the Book of Raziel, the keystone to triggering the apocalypse. In a slight deviation, in this case, the girl in question is fully aware of her MacGuffin Girl status, even if she isn't completely thrilled about it.
  • Sophie Neveu in The Da Vinci Code is the Holy Grail; she carries the holy blood line. Alternately, the Grail is the remains of Mary Magdalene, now kept at the Louvre.
  • Taking this trope to weird extremes, the female dog Waif in House of Many Ways is actually the Elfgift, the magical protection given by the elves to the Royal Family.
  • In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, the eponymous unicorn is transformed into a human girl, somewhat by accident, about midway through the book. Plot-wise she's very much a MacGuffin, but averts most of the subtropes: for instance, she remembers her origins at first, and only later begins to forget.
  • Shannara:
    • A variation occurs in Terry Brooks' novel The Elfstones of Shannara, where everyone knows that The Chosen One, Amberle, is the MacGuffin, but they (and specifically the protagonist) don't know that she will turn into the Ellcrys tree, satisfying the rest of the trope along the way.
    • This is reused in The Druid of Shannara with Quickening, who is a Magical Girlfriend to boot. Although she knows that she'll be killed by the assassin Pe Ell and her death will cause a release of positive, happy energies in the surrounding lands, it comes as a bit of a shock to everyone else, including Pe Ell, who seems to be broken by the fact that he killed someone who wanted it.
  • In Small Favor, Dresden realizes at the last minute that Ivy (the Archive) is one of these for the Denarians.
  • Yvaine from Stardust is the fallen star that the potential heirs to the throne, the witch trio, and the protagonist all need to retrieve. Of course, we know she's a star right from her introduction, and so does everybody else. The hero was a little slow on the uptake.
  • Sword of Truth
    • Confessors are very powerful magical artifacts sustained by their bloodline. Richard learns who Kahlan is before he learns what she is, and she comments that he's her only friend as a result. It makes her affection more than a little weird.
    • Female Rahls also qualify, as all Rahls are shaped by spells imbued in their family 3000 years ago.
  • An unusual twist on the trope appears in Meredith Ann Pierce's Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood. The MacGuffin (a living cutting, taken by the antagonist, from the Wise Tree who turns out to be the Big Good of the story) is Hannah, the protagonist. In this case, being functionally near-human is unexpected, irreversible, and works in her favor.
  • Inverted in the Xanth novel The Source of Magic, which featured a hunt for Millie the Ghost's body, or more accurately, the object into which it had been transformed. It was found, but the reason for the transformation wasn't explained until the next book, Castle Roogna, in which another character (who wasn't present for the original search) travels back in time (sort of). He even ends up unknowingly transporting the object to its final resting place.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Batman TV series: A meta example, this blog explains that the first few episodes (like "Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin's a Jinx") were lifted directly from the comics. Those episode’s story was taken from a February 1965 Penguin comic. The only marked difference was that Penguin attempts to steal the giant jeweled meteorite that is only mentioned in the show. Dawn Robbins does not appear in the comic story. It was easier and cheaper to kidnap the girl than create a meteorite for television, so the writers introduced Dawn Robbins.
  • Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who is actually the transformed Key.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Princess Astra in the story "The Armageddon Factor" is the sixth segment of the Key to Time. The similarity was widely commented on when the aforementioned Buffy episode came out.
    • "The Doctor's Wife", in series 6 of the new series, turns the TARDIS into the MacGuffin Girl. The episode follows the trope's usual pattern to a tee, with the only divergence being that she knows who she is from the start; she just doesn't explain it right away. Though it wasn't for lack of trying; she just didn't have the language yet.
  • In Kamen Rider Wizard, Koyomi eventually turns out to be the Philosopher's Stone that everyone is after.

    Video Games 
  • In Beyond Good & Evil, it is eventually revealed that the protagonist Jade is a living vessel for the Life Energy of the evil alien race, which their leader has been chasing across the galaxy for centuries. It doesn't makes sense in context, but hopefully that will be explained in the sequel!
  • In BlazBlue we have Dimensional Boundary Contact Medium number 12 (μ-12 for short). You may know her better as Noel Vermillion. She spends many of her endings struggling and failing to retain her human memories and personality, before finally succeeding in the true ending. Then the sequel happened...wherein she's turned all the way into a Murakumo unit brainwashed by Hazama and is saved by Ragna sacrificing his arm (he's then saved by her "sister" unit Lambda-11, who replaces it. The other Murakumo units probably count too.
  • Evolution Series/Evolution Worlds:
    • Linear Cannon (yes, that's her name) is a Robot Girl who is Really 700 Years Old, and she's the superweapon that everyone is after, Evolutia, the ultimate Cyframe. As it turns out, she can become something of the trueform of the item at her own will. And she does so to resurrect Mag Launcher, after he's killed by the first Big Bad, Eugene Leopold.
    • There's another Evolutia, and he's a guy called Yurka, who happens to be the Big Bad of the second game/second half of the composite game on the GameCube.His whole point is to turn himself and her into the true form of the superweapon, the Ulticannon. His plan is foiled when Linear's sheer love for the hero causes her to escape the body of the Ulticannon just in time, leaving you to deal with Yurka's Painful Transformation and That One Boss.
  • Pandora in God of War 3.
  • Halo
    • Cortana, the A.I. hologram-woman in Halo: Combat Evolved. Master Chief has to protect her because of all the information she has, though she functions more like a partner than a plot device. She's mostly like Mission Control, except that she happens to live in his head.
    • In Halo 3, her MacGuffin Girl role is expanded upon, as she is kidnapped by the Gravemind
  • This trope is played with in the form of Fiona Belli from Haunting Ground. Being a game that explores human sexuality and rape in the most horrific way possible, Fiona is only wanted because of her Azoth, symbolising her purity, that is constantly being hunted down by a villian for some reason. The first villian, Debilitas, is a huge, hulking monster man with the mind of an excitable 5 year old, and he doesn't realise his actions are hurting both Fiona and himself. This is especially ramped up in the second and third villians, Daniella and Riccardo. Daniella wants Fiona's Azoth because she is jealous of her ability to taste, to feel pain, and of course, to make love, and she is driven to the conclusion that tearing Fiona's womb apart will give her the Azoth she needs, by Riccardo, who in turn wants Fiona's Azoth to reincarnate himself. And Fiona, being a scared witless girl fresh from a car crash that took her parents' lives, doesn't want to hand it over. It has a lot of overlap with So Beautiful It's A Curse, and it's used rather intelligently.
  • Kingdom Hearts has an example which skirts the line between this and Living MacGuffin: the seven Princesses of Heart, whose hearts are the seven pieces of pure light from the x-blade. Making them clash against thirteen darknesses is another way to forge the blade again; which is exactly what the Big Bad wants.
    • Subverted in that, while the Princesses of Heart were born from the X-blade, they're not necessary to recreate it, as are the (so far unseen) thirteen shards of pure darkness. Master Xehanort gathered the thirteen darknesses by turning several Organization XIII members into clones of him, and later gathering versions of himself via Time Travel, the X-blade can also be formed if the thirteen darknesses clash against seven Guardians of Light, and in Birth By Sleep, Ventus and Vanitas were able to forge the X-blade (granted, it was incomplete).
    • In the original game, the Princesses of Heart were needed to open the doorway into the Realm of Darkness in order to access Kingdom Hearts itself.
  • Variation: In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny, the Examia crystal that Kyrie is looking for so that she could revive her dying planet turns out to be an important component of the Unbreakable Darkness that she needs to exist. Not that you could remove it from her even if you try. After Lord Dearche re-establishes her role as the Power Limiter of the Unbreakable Darkness and helps the latter remember her former identity as Yuri, Yuri decides to follow Kyrie back to her homeworld so that she could use her now controllable powers to restore her planet.
  • Mega Man Battle Network has its own MacGuffin Girl in the sixth game, where it turns out that Iris is really a Navi, whose special ability is controlling electronics. She's hunted by WWW so that she can control the Cybeasts.
  • Poker Night 2 drops a doozy: Wendy is actually "The Word Made Flesh", which is basically the holy version of the Necronomicon. That's great for Ash! He finally gets a breather! And he also has to kill her to get the superweapon. Getting badass really sucks on Ash's social life.
  • Girl Stinky in Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space is revealed in the final episode to actually be the Cake of the Damned. Season Three shows the cake thing was just an illusion she and Sal used to trick Grandpa Stinky. According to Flint Paper, she's actually a Mermaid!
  • In Star Ocean The Last Hope, Sarah serves as this for the bad guys in the Roak story arc. The local cult are trying to summon a demon, and they need her as a Virgin Sacrifice.
  • Luvbi in Super Paper Mario is a Pure Heart who has been transformed into a Nimbi princess.
  • Sophie in Tales of Graces is an Energy Being and the only one who can completely destroy the Big Bad, though she would be destroyed as well. Naturally, the Evil Genius only sees her as a means to get rid of the Big Bad, but the heroes see her as a human being.
  • All the sisters from Turgor are this. Especially after Aya reveals that they are not souls of people, they are souls of an era of mankind, and who you choose to ascend will directly affect the entirety of the surface world.
  • Played with to a great extent in the Interactive Fiction game Wishbringer: The title stone turns out to be the cat you're supposed to rescue, Chaos. Besides not being human, the "girl" is already in MacGuffin form and you have to make the choice to restore her to life. Also somewhat inverted, as according to the backstory, the wishbringer stone is the heart of princess, turned to stone from being denied love.
  • Anveena from World of Warcraft is the Sunwell in human form, a font of magical power strong enough to sustain the elven people's magic addiction. She falls in love with Kalecgos in the Sunwell Trilogy manga (see above), but in the Glory of the Sunwell content patch, she sacrifices herself to weaken Kil'jaeden enough for him to be banished from the Sunwell. However, his defeat allows the Sunwell to be restored.
  • MOMO of Xenosaga is an interesting variation. She's immediately introduced as a MacGuffin Girl, everyone already knows she is and always was a girl, she's already aware of her importance on some level, and the player's interaction with her is inverted: she's a party member right off the bat, and the protagonists want to protect her from those who seek her. Not to mention that whether her entire race are people is a hotly debated topic and a major subplot.

    Web Comics 
  • Bottle Women in Order of Tales (for, although only one appears in the comic, there have been several before her) fit the trope right from the start. They're made, not born, and the one featured in the story is the Last of Her Kind because her creator, who is now dead, was the last person alive who knew the secret of making them; the story kicks off with the need to keep the Big Bad from getting his hands on her. It's because the thing that gives him his power is an unbreakable sword, and the liquid inside the Bottle Woman that gives her life is the only substance that can break it; if he has her, she can't be used against him.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series has Annie, an amnesiac whom Robin falls for. It's revealed that she is merely a portion of Clayface, who later "murders" her by re-absorbing her. Tim is barely able to restrain himself from returning the favor.
  • Code Lyoko has probably the best example of this, as the Ridiculously Human A.I. Aelita is a MacGuffin to the bad guy, and a girl to the good guys. Of course, she's not really an A.I. Which, in the end, makes it an Inverted Trope: Aelita was a real girl transformed into a MacGuffin by her first virtualization.
  • Mighty Orbots has a variation. OhNo, who is normally a little girl-sized Fem Bot, wants to become human. A conniving alien grants her wish, knowing that her robot form is necessary for the other 'bots to unite into the title Super Robot. She gets changed back to normal in time to save the day. A bit of a subversion, in that her robot form is perfectly sentient, but isn't human and has an electronic key built into her.
  • In the pilot episode of Rainbow Brite, Wisp is looking for the sphere of light. Turns out it's the baby.
  • Raven of the Teen Titans TV series is later shown to be the living embodiment of a dimensional gateway called the "Gem" through which her father, the evil Trigan, can pass through to escape imprisonment and resume his Evil Plan to take over all of the known universe. Once learning this, the other Titans go to great lengths to protect her and prevent this from happening, but Raven herself ultimately performs the ritual to become the portal, thinking her friends would all die because of her otherwise. Naturally, she comes back and blasts her dad back into his can.


    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The comic book version of W.I.T.C.H. features Caleb, the hero who is actually a Murmurer/Whisperer made human. The Big Bad punishes him by reverting him to a flower. Series Caleb is human, though.

  • The Marvelous Land of Oz has a truly weird example: the MacGuffin, Ozma, was a girl to begin with, and she was transformed into the boy Tip.
  • Sword of Truth:
    • Richard himself is a War Wizard, destined Seeker of Truth, and several other things, all assured by magics brought in and out of their world during the wizards' war.
    • All males Rahls are this, due to spells laid on their bloodline to ensure that there would always be wizards in the line, something that's likely but not otherwise guaranteed.
    • Dream Walkers are actually weaponized descendants of Dream Casters, a naturally-occurring macguffin tribe in the New World, making Jagang one of these.
    • The Mriswith are either a self-perpetuating or immortal variant of this. Seriously, the last of them were corralled three thousand years ago, just so Richard would find them. They've been killing anyone who wasn't Richard ever since.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Emperor Gothon makes it clear early on that his reason for conquering Daniar's kingdom was to capture Ben. He thinks its because Ben's soul can save his dying wife, but it's actually because Kazebar wants the boy's latent power to travel between worlds.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who story "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood", the Doctor turns himself into a human MacGuffin Guy, complete with false memories, to avoid a group of aliens who want to capture a Time Lord. When the aliens find him anyway and attack, Martha tries to persuade the reluctant human version to turn back into a Time Lord with the know-how to save the villagers. He does, but he continues to pretend to be human until he has set up the aliens' destruction.
  • Strangely, in Power Rangers, this person is Always Male. We've had three Humongous Mecha boys and one embodiment-of-nature boy. Longevity varied — oddly for a Never Say "Die" show. Although having them offed in their true forms kind of averted "death". At least, as far as the censors are concerned. In one of the mecha cases, Animus reverts to human child form to give a Final Speech and then dissolve. All onscreen and unambiguous. How did they get away with that one?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons module CM3 Sabre River. The adventure begins when a boy named Erbas asks the PCs for help in stopping a magical curse. Erbas accompanies the PCs throughout the adventure, during which they discover that the only way to stop the curse is to use a magical sabre. Guess who the sabre eventually turns out to be?

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue, both Alpha and Epsilon, the two AI incarnates of Private Church, are being pursued by people for various reasons. Wash wants Epsilon's memories as proof of the Director's treachery. The Meta wants Alpha to amplify his powers, but after being Brought Down to Normal, he wants Epsilon just to restore them. Carolina apparently needs Alpha's help to kill the Director, but she finds Epsilon instead, mistaking him for the true Alpha.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • While not technically male, autobot Smokescreen from the series Transformers Prime is apparently one of the relics that is key to reviving the currently dead planet Cybertron. Turns out that he was simply a container for the actual MacGuffin. And Autobots in this series do have gender, so he is a male example. He's just a nonhuman male example.

Alternative Title(s):

Lady Mac Guffin, Macguffin Boy, Mac Guffin Guy