"On at least one occasion, he leveraged a clearly preternatural ability to escape detection by disappearing completely — leaving a log in his place. Does he decide what is left behind, or is the log is an inextricable result of the process? I will see if he can leave a cheese plate instead."
character is attacked and apparently fatally shot. But when the dust clears
— surprise! Instead of a mangled body, the villains find some object. It may be a straw dummy, a heavy vase picked up from an adjacent room or even the ninja's empty clothes; in less serious settings the object will turn out to be a large wooden log. Since no ninja is ever seen carrying one, the question of where exactly they come from is a common source of jokes among anime fandom.
The trope comes from ninja legends and has probably originated from ninja using various objects to check the area for ambushes, pretty similar to how some western characters use a helmet on a stick
to trick enemy snipers. A less pleasant version of the trope involves disguising a captured mook to look roughly like the hero and pushing him into the room where ambush is expected.
In Japan, this is known as kawarimi
. Exactly where
the log came from and how
the ninja switched it in falls under Fridge Logic
— perhaps they were hewn out of Epileptic Trees
Compare: Actually a Doombot
, Decoy Getaway
, Disguised Hostage Gambit
, Escape Battle Technique
, Flash Step
, Sleeping Dummy
, Smoke Out
, and Switch Out Move
. Note that this is not a log
kept by a ninja captain
. Also not to be confused with a Ninja Post
or Ninja Prop
. For what's sometimes called ninja logging
in online games, see Rage Quit
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Anime & Manga
- Ninja Scroll The Series: In one of the episodes an experienced ninja uses a stray cat in this manner. In another, the geezer Dakuon uses a log that happens to be stuffed full of lit dynamite.
- Bleach: Both Yoruichi and Byakuya use this trick on occasion, leaving behind their jackets. Note that the former is a ninja, and the later happens to be gifted at using Flash Steps. He even laments the fact that he had to use something she taught him when he uses it.
- Naruto is one of the more well-known examples. It overuses the "substitution jutsu" left and right, often showing a character's death in slow-mo, when it's painfully obvious they aren't going to die so easily. This could be justified since most of the main characters live in what translates to "The Village Hidden in the Leaves". Trees are everywhere. Most ninja travel faster leaping through trees than they do running. Although rare, characters are occasionally seen using other things as well, like mud, shadow clones, and on one occasion, a giant plush frog.
- Played with a couple episodes in, when Naruto makes a bunch of Shadow Clones to fight Kakashi, and when one is about to attack him Kakashi substitutes one of the other clones for himself.
- Played with again later, where Sakura runs into this fight using only the "Log Substitution" technique (and making it painfully obvious via hand signs that she's using it). After three or four times getting attacked and swapping herself for a log, she doesn't use the technique, but still does the hand signs for it, taking two kunai to the arms in the process. Her opponent, assuming she's swapped again, turns away, and doesn't realize she didn't swap out until he has a kunai in one arm and Sakura's teeth in the other.
- After the first couple story arcs though, the technique pretty much ceases use entirely. This is most likely because the author realized the extreme vagueness of when it can or cannot be used sort of killed the drama and logic behind a lot of action scenes.
- Berserk of all places, although not by a ninja. Guts uses this tactic despite being one of the tallest human characters. At one point actually attaching his armor to a log and throwing it at Wyald. Wyald of course falls for it, since immediately before this he's distracted by what he believes to be Guts hiding behind a tree; it's really just a body Guts hung up there for that reason.
- Trafalgar Law in One Piece has this as one of the many uses of his switching power. He even uses a literal log in one instance.
- Recca from Flame of Recca is a ninja, and so, of course, masters the Substitution Jutsu. He usually uses a doll that looks like himself, or just his uniform, for it, and a surprising number of powerful foes falls for it — probably because they focus so much on his spectacular ability to conjure fire, that they forget his Ninja Training. Actually spoofed in the very first volume of the manga. When saving Yanagi from several punks, Recca immediately spreads a sheet that looks like a tree log to look like he vanished and replaced with log. It doesn't work, obviously.
- An odd use of it occurred in Busou Renkin — Papillon uses this to distract and evade Tokiko when he steals a Renkin from a foe she just killed. He uses his own uniform for this, leaving him in just speedos, but since when has that bothered him?
- Edward and Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist frequently create decoy versions of themselves, usually complete with stuck-out tongues to taunt their enemies after tricking them. The decoys are usually created with alchemical transmutation of dirt, walls, or other bits of the surrounding environment. Sometimes Ed even adds his trademark red jacket.
- In the hentai series La Blue Girl, Miko uses this trick by replacing herself with random rubble. It's one of her few jutsus that aren't totally perverted.
- Used in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, of all places, when Crow attempts to tie up Jaeger, who he mistakes for a Dark Signer. A second later, the rope is tied around a pile of steel poles that weren't there before.
- Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura uses these all the time, mostly to evade Mendô. He's also fond of exclaiming "Ninja vanish!" and zipping all over the place with unprecedented speed and agility.
- Corvo from the Monster Collection manga, being the setting's equivalent to ninja, does it with a chair and some of his clothes.
- Used recursively in the anime of Samurai Deeper Kyo. One ninja stabs another in the back, only to have him turn into a log. The ninja who was stabbed then ambushes the first ninja, only to have him turn into a pile of dry leaves. This goes on for a while.
- G-On Riders: Yuuki does this once in a later episode. Since it's a slightly Ecchi series, she leaves her clothes behind.
- Ranma ˝: Used repeatedly by Ranma throughout the series.
- The log trick is used against Prince(ss) Herb at the hot springs in the manga. Note that Herb is more bothered by the fact Female!Ranma is no longer wearing a kimono afterward than by being tricked.
- Used, oddly enough, in Rurouni Kenshin by Han'nya after grabbing his fellow ninja Beshimi. Since the story doesn't have any mystical elements, he had to have carried the giant log through the air just so he could replace it with Beshimi.
- In an episode of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the resident German Ninja, Schwarz Bruder is pitted in a fight against Viking Gundam. Just when everyone thinks Schwarz's gundam had been pierced by a volley of oars, a double take reveals that the boat Viking Gundam had been riding in not a second before was in Schwarz's place instead.
- Slight variance of this trope in Asu no Yoichi!. Tsubasa uses teddy bears instead of a log, but otherwise plays this trope straight. The lady she uses this on, Angela, is always surprised when this happens.
- Lupin III: The titular thief loves to do this, normally leaving behind a dummy dressed in his clothes and with a goofy expression on its face.
- The entire gang pulls this off in the first season television intro to Lupin III (Red Jacket), leaving Zenigata in a car filled with dummies (which promptly crashes).
- Lupin III Stolen Lupin has subverted the trick: Zenigata is chasing Lupin onto a truck, when he realizes the Lupin he's chased was a dummy, then caught Lupin ready to dangle down from an overhead sign, to discover that was the dummy, and the dummy on the truck was Lupin in a Dummy-Lupin disguise!
- In episode 118 of Fairy Tail, Lisanna tries to attack Kain Hikaru. Kain quickly uses a property of his Voodoo Doll to teleport away and teleport Elfman in his place, leaving Elfman to take the hit instead.
- Yamato of Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has one he puts in his bed on occasion. It shows up the first time in episode 2.
- Near the end of Mahou Sensei Negima!, Yue Ayase tries to attack Paio II, but ends up hitting her empty costume. Paio II, who had Flash Stepped out of the costume and and is now completely naked, attacks her from behind.
- Real Bout High School: A member of the all-girls Shinsengumi is a ninja-obsessed otaku who never did any ninja trick before. Her first one is literally the Ninja Log. While she does manage to replace herself with a log, she unwittingly knocks her head somewhere.
- Pokémon: in Y & X Series, Ash's first Pokémon Froakie can do it with its bubble foam. It uses it successfully to trap a Fletchling.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Shiage Hamazura creates a makeshift smokescreen. Shizuri Mugino laughs and attacks his silhouette, only to find it was a stack of cardboard boxes. She incredulously asks if he's a ninja.
- YuYu Hakusho: The fight between Hiei and Makintaro starts with Hiei cutting off one of his opponent's arms. Makintaro regrows his arm into an ax and charges at Hiei. He slices through Hiei's robe only to find no one there. Hiei appears on his shoulder, notes his foe's bad luck, and impales him with his sword.
- The Punisher: Frank Castle favours the least pleasant version, often spray-painting his trademark skull on the chest of the unfortunate mook.
- The Joker does this during Batman: No Man's Land to get rid of a rogue group of survivalist ex-cops. Send out prisoners painted to look like him and the admittedly-crazy leader shot them all.
- In V for Vendetta, V pulls this trick at one point, dressing one of a television station's employees up as himself, and leaving him to be shot while making his escape.
- Used at least once by the Neko Ninja Chizu in Usagi Yojimbo.
- In the Marvel vs. DC crossover event, Robin (Tim Drake) uses this method to defeat Jubilee, showing his experience and skills over her raw mutant power.
- In the second issue of the Static comic book, Static fashions a decoy of himself out of some debris, his coat, and trash can lid hoverboard. He uses this to bait a villain named Tarmac; the dialogue is reused almost word-for-word in the Animated Adaptation.
- In Naruto The Abridged Series, the log is an actual character, serving as Sasuke's nemesis.
- The Naruto fanfic Yet Again, with a Little Extra Help makes a Running Gag out of this trope by having Leaf ninjas hold cult-like reverence for the Log, who sacrifices itself on their behalf. Other ninjas think they're all crazy. The Log may have actually been controlling them ever since Hashirama's time, and is aiming to take the entire world in its name, having already brainwashed the Shodai, Nidaime, and Sandaime Hokages. ...Yeah. It's that kind of fanfic.
- Ki Tamaida of Dark Heart High uses this a few times. Most frequently, to avoid getting in trouble for cutting class to meet someone.
- One of the funnier moments from the Dream Tournament fanfic series involved this. In a crossover between different fighting games, Andy Bogard unleashes his best move against one of the Samurai Shodown ninjas, with this as the unfortunate result. "I Choretsudan'ed a LOG?"
- Rinnosuke (as Santa Rinnosuke) tries this in the Touhou fancomic Life of Maid. It works, initially, but the use of his clothes as a decoy later comes back to bite him in the ass.
Films — Animation
- Kung Fu Panda 2: Po and the Furious Five are captured and chained together, and Lord Shen is about to fire his cannon at them when the fuse keeps getting blown out. The culprit is Master Mantis; the mantis the guards caged up is really one of Po's action figures. If you pause the DVD just before Mantis is put in the cage and advance frame-by-frame, you can SEE Po swapping Mantis out with his action figure. It also doubles as a Chekhov's Gun, as in the first movie Po pointed out that Mantis was about the same size as his action figure.
- A more blatant example occurs earlier. In the scene where Po and the Five are sneaking around the city in a dragon costume, they get surrounded by wolves who immediately thrust their swords into the costume. They then pull it away to reveal...a pile of vegetable crates.
Films — Live-Action
- V for Vendetta has V dressing up a large number of employees at Evey's television station in copies of his costume. Thus, when the police burst into the room where he was broadcasting, they find a crowd of apparent Vs.
- In the film adaptation of Ninja Hattori-kun, a more plausible trick is used on two occasions, with a character leaving their clothes behind as a decoy.
- In the 2005 SyFy b-movie Alien Siege, the hero puts his jacket on a dead mook and props him up. The villain falls for this, allowing a sneak attack. The hero comments that he's glad the villain doesn't watch a lot of action movies.
- In the original Total Recall, when Quaid is being shot at near an alien reactor, he is wearing a holographic projector watch, which several times fools Mooks into shooting it (or in one case, each other).
- The climatic shootout in For a Few Dollars More has one of El Indio's henchmen barge into a house and encounters what he thinks is Manco, his hat poking out behind some furniture. After the henchman shoots the hat, Manco quickly turns around in a swivel chair and kills the henchman.
- Saigo in Eric Lustbader's novel The Ninja uses this trick.
- In the Discworld series, commander Vimes uses the "helmet on a stick" variant, with a twist, since he realises that the assassin taking potshots at him would be fully aware that he might be using it. Specifically, he uses a long stick to hold his helmet up above a parapet about three metres across from where he is. His assailant proceeds to shoot under the helmet, where he would be if he was holding it up on a normal stick.
- In On a Pale Horse, Zane uses his cloak to distract a giant preying mantis so that he can jump it.
- Power Rangers
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm: They leave their uniforms behind. These are probably spares as they are never left naked.
- The Ninja Sentai Kakuranger did this eight years earlier, but it (mostly) didn't show up in Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers adaptation because Saban dropped the ninja element. The regular Earth rangers did do it fairly often in their Ninja Ranger forms, though.
- Both versions pop up in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger when the team uses the Kakuranger and Hurricanger powers. In the Kakuranger tribute, Ninjaman pulls the trick twice against the Monster of the Week, once on foot and once when enlarged (though he uses a straw dummy instead of a log).
- Lee Van Cleef from failed 80's series The Master (a.k.a. Master Ninja) does this in one episode, putting his ninja headwear over a doodad attached to an electrical transformer during a fight. Because it happens at night, his opponent doesn't notice, and nijitsus his way to electrocution.
- Mutants & Masterminds: The "Mecha and Manga" supplement offers the Substitution power to allow anime-based superheroes to perform this trick.
- In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, one Warlock invocation, fittingly named "Flee the Scene", is a short-range teleport that leaves a major image illusion of the caster in their place.
- Samurai Shodown: Hattori Hanzo and Galford use the classic log to avoid the enemy attack and counter from unexpected directions. Also Kazuki can avoid an attack by explosive teleport, leaving his burning pants behind.
- The Last Blade: Zantetsu uses the log version.
- Bloody Roar
- Bakuryu the weremole ninja uses the log version.
- Kohryu the Iron Mole in later games also plays with this version of the trope, using a steel construction girder instead of a log to fit his metal theme.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Sheena uses this to keep Richter from killing Marta. It remains convincing for a surprisingly long time.
- In Tales of Phantasia, one of the kinds of monsters are ninjas who are rather fond of doing that, making them quite a pain to hurt with a sword.
- The Ninjates from Castle Crashers uses this too — while fighting them, they will sometimes vanish in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a log wearing their pirate-gear, and then appear with a flying kick behind you. It's quite dangerous, actually.
- In Beat Blades Haruka, if Narika has to abort an infiltration attempt, she teleports out and leaves a log behind. Neither Haruka nor Subaru do this, however.
- Shadow Man can do this in Mega Man: The Power Fighters. In the Mega Man Battle Network series, one of the battlechips makes a puff of smoke, an injured dummy falls to the ground, and MegaMan.exe jumps in the air and throws ninja stars at the opponent. From the third game of the series onward, MegaMan could use a Navi Customizer Program to perform this trick at any time. Like his robotic counterpart, ShadowMan.exe can also use this ability, and MegaMan can copy the trick while using ShadowMan's DoubleSoul.
- The opening of Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes has Sasuke using this technique to diguise a rock as his master Shingen, which gets attacked by rival ninja Kasuga and her clones.
- Yukimaru of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories has variation on this where she replaces herself with a Snowman before appearing on the square behind her opponent and attack with her weapon. Justified due to her clan being the "Snow Clan" and coming from an icy area. The move is also ice element despite the snowman not touching the opponent. The generic Ninjas play this trope straight.
- Pokémon has the move Substitute, which replaces the user with a doll when the enemy Mon attacks. The anime and manga interpretations of this move have been inconsistent, but it has occasionally been used in the style of the trope.
- Super Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS has Greninja using the aforementioned Substitute attack in this fashion, vanishing and leaving only the doll behind if he's attacked, and then counterattacking.
- Halo: Reach has the hologram armor ability, designed to invoke this trope. Specifically, the hologram looks exactly like the player, right down to the weapon they're holding, and it possesses a motion tracker signature. Upon activation, the hologram runs in a straight line towards a spot directed by the player. Even with both the player and the hologram visible, the distraction can provide just enough time for a killing shot.
- In the Tenchu series, fittingly enough, such logs are used as 1-Up items. When the player character is "killed" their body is replaced by one of these and they respawn nearby. Doesn't work with Bottomless Pits though.
- In World of Warcraft, the (Night Elf) Talrendis Scouts in Azshara have Forest Step, which is exactly this.
- One level of Ape Escape features ninja enemies that turn into these upon taking hits.
- Used in a strange way in Trio the Punch: each time Kamakura the ninja (one of the player characters) takes a hit, he briefly turns into a log, but this is only a visual effect that doesn't actually prevent the damage from the hit. (Unless maybe it's supposed to be a visual representation of Mercy Invincibility?)
- At least once in the Kirby series, Ninja Kirby has been able to swap himself with a log. Though normally he opts to swap out and disappear with an explosion.
- The ninja Benikage from Rumble Roses does this. Several of her counters and special moves involve her disappearing in a puff of smoke and leaving behind a wooden log that falls on the opponent's head or rolls under their feet. Since there is really nowhere for her to hide it makes it look like she is actually transforming into a log and back again rather than substituting it somehow.
- This is Stealth Elf's chief ability in Skylanders. If you take the Straw Pook Savant upgrade path, you can make them spinning blades that explode on destruction, killing most enemies in moments.
- Sengoku 3 has this as each character's desperation move.
- A game mechanic in Naruto: Clash of Ninja: Using a Substitution will let you break out of a combo and get a free hit on your opponent, but costs three-fourths of your chakra. The Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series does this as well, taking either a portion of your chakra or a unit from a substitution gauge, depending on game.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, the fourth boss Roxy, a half-ninja, has this as one of her attacks. After faking the player out with the log, she attacks from all four corners of the screen, centered on the decoy.
- Valentine of Skullgirls (who is a ninja nurse) does this with a bag of medical supplies for her ukemi.
- Zuko does this in one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. A Dai Li agent is out on his evening patrol, when suddenly Zuko runs past him, shoving him out of the way before disappearing down an alley. The agent follows him, and turns the corner to see him just... standing there. Confident that his opponent is too terrified of him to put up a fight, he hurls his gloves (made of stone) at the figure, and it falls to the ground. Then the real Zuko puts a blade to his throat.
- Batman: The Animated Series
- A panther lunges at Batman, and somehow it gets tangled in an empty cape.
- In Mask of the Phantasm, the police open fire on Batman, only it's just his cape draped over a road barricade.
- In the series opening arc for Disney's Gargoyles, Elisa Maza uses her jacket on a branch to bait an enemy stalking her; this is a form of an actual ninja tactic.
- Looney Tunes
- In Ain't That Ducky, Daffy Duck makes a cardboard cutout of himself and puts it in the middle of the road for a hunter to knock over. Daffy then pretends to be his own son mourning his "dead" father, to make the hunter feel even guiltier.
- In Wet Hare, Bugs Bunny is taking a Waterfall Shower while singing when the villain comes and shoots at the waterfall. Bugs, who is tending his garden, goes over and finds his record player shot to bits. "Of course you know, This Means War!."
- In The Hare-Brained Hypnotist, Elmer reaches into Bugs' burrow and graps what he thinks is Bugs, only it's a balloon with rabbit ears that sends him floating into the stratosphere.
- In Duck, Rabbit, Duck!, Bugs makes a snowman of himself while Elmer and Daffy are conferring, after which Elmer shoots the snowman and feels guilty about it.
- Used rather ridiculously in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm. Jax, without his cyborg arms, is hiding from Komodai. Komodai sees him crouched nearby and spits acid at him, only to find out it was a pile of rocks Jax set up. A pile of rocks exactly the same size, shape, and color as him. Right down to his purple pants.
- Phineas and Ferb's Dr. Doofenshmirtz catches Perry the Platypus in a trap, rants for a bit and is then attacked by Perry. He looks over at the trap, where there's a wooden decoy of Perry, and complains that this makes no sense.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle: Boris Badenov regularly carries around a cardboard cutout of himself, just in case the moon men wanted to schrooch him. The heroes don't attack it, though, and actually stand guard the twelve hours it takes to unfreeze somebody once scrooched, not wanting him to get away.
- Played for laughs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Chaperone". Mr. Krabs asks SpongeBob to take Pearl to her prom, but then the real SpongeBob appears and shows him the exact replica of himself he made, which is whom Krabs was talking to. In the end, it is implied that the dummy SpongeBob is the one who went with Pearl.
- In Static Shock, Static uses an electrified pile of money to distract Rubber Band Man, and actually explains the tactic! "Kawarimi — ancient ninja art of misdirection. All you need is a get up some idiot can mistake you for, and some idiot."