One to Million to One
A person has just been hit by a laser beam, or a truck. The person doesn't fly off into space, though. Instead, he shatters into hundreds of... animals? Which then flock over in unison to a different spot? Then regroups into that person again, whole and unscathed? Alternatively, the person may not be in imminent danger of being splattered into pieces involuntarily, and merely decide to scatter himself into many many tiny bits which then fly away elsewhere. And even then, the go-elsewhere part is also optional; the person may just scatter into dust lest a truck runs him over. Most of the time, the person in question has a superpower, or may also be supernatural, or may be in fact The Worm That Walks. Unlike in the case of Literally Shattered Lives, those employing this trope don't die from being shattered. See also Pulling Themselves Together, which is similar to the second half of this trope, and generally trauma-induced. For a similar ability, see Super Smoke. Not to be confused with Million-to-One Chance.
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Examples for trauma-induced variants
- This happens with cars in an insurance commercial (Liberty Mutual?) The car would be rear ended, and fly into little pieces, before reforming a short ways away.
Anime & Manga
Films — Live-Action
- Gabriel in The Prophecy series sometimes teleports this way, as when a shot from a gun turns him temporarily into a murder of crows.
- Played in a hilarious fashion in the Disney sequel, Halloweentown: Kalabar's Revenge. Sophie and Dylan realize that Alex, believed to be Carl's father, is in fact a golem created from the villain Kalabar to distract Gwen. The golem (wearing a frog costume) eats a fly Sophie conjures with her magic, breaking the illusion. An angry Gwen then blasts him with magic, turning him back into a pile of frogs.
- In Book 14 of Lone Wolf, one boss is an armored, fire-breathing, demonic monkey. After it is killed, its corpse turns into a swarm of man-eating insects for you to contend with. Notably, the insects are an illusion. At that point, Lone Wolf has achieved a level of mental discipline that allows him to simply ignore them.
- Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:
- In Dresden's debut short story, Harry and Murphy manage to smash a troll, which breaks into dozens of tiny trolls that escape into a storm drain. Harry notes that supernatural predators will catch most of the little ones before they can reach a threatening size again.
- In Small Favor, while the shapeshifted form of Tessa isn't actually made of bugs, she is a giant preying mantis with little praying mantises instead of blood that fly out when she gets shot.
- Madonna's music video Frozen has one scene where she seemingly falls over and shatters into crows which then fly away.
- In 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the crystalline beings known as the Shardmind have an ability that lets them separate into individual pieces and reform a short distance away after being successfully attacked.
- From 3.5's Fiendish Codex I, one of twenty random death effects for a demon is for the defeated infernal to collapse into a horde of inch-high duplicates of itself, which fight each other until one remains, which vanishes in a puff of smoke.
- In Bayonetta, by dodging an attack at the very last second, Bayonetta can shatter into bats upon getting hit, negating the attack and gaining increased amounts of Witch Time in the process. For Jeanne, this is the only way she can get any normally.
- This is an infuriating ability of the "Golden Knight" enemies in Karnov.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has Jalhalla, boss of the Earth Temple. Killing the smaller parts is what actually harms it, as evidenced by its lifebar.
- Boolossus, the third boss of Luigi's Mansion, is defeated by luring him into the horn of a nearby ice unicorn statue, causing him to pop into many smaller Boos, which you can then capture.
- This is how the player character "dies"/or just before they die and regroups themselves in cat planet.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess:
- The mini-boss Deathsword (who, as the name suggests, appears to be a lich wielding a large sword) of Arbiter's Grounds disintegrates into a massive swarm of scarabs after being defeated.
- Armogohma, a truly spectacular and terrifying Giant Spider. After you beat her the first time, she disintegrates into an eye with legs and a swarm of smaller spiders, which you have to fight off while going for the eye.
- In the spinoff Link's Crossbow Training, the Dark Nut miniboss at the end of level 8 breaks apart into a swarm of Keese when his body is damaged.
Examples for at-will variants
Anime & Manga
- In the manga version of Guyver, Aptom converts his own body into Gaster's organic missiles to attack an enemy. After Aptom converts himself completely, the manga cuts to a distant rooftop, where it is revealed that while most of the missiles blew up, some of them flew away and recombined into a diminished Aptom.
- Arachne from Soul Eater hid herself by turning her body into 3000 spiders that spread across the world, and then hid her soul inside a giant Golem.
- Benisato in Ninja Scroll does have a normal body, but she can use a writhing mass of snakes to hide or fight with.
- In One Piece, Gekko Moriah fights by sending his Living Shadow at his enemies. It can appear as a giant made of shadow, but can also split into many small globes of shadow to protect Moriah, and those globes can then sprout wings and fangs to attack as a swarm.
- In Naruto we have Katsuyu, who takes this trope Up to Eleven. Not only can she voluntary split into thousands of tiny versions of herself and reform, those who have signed the Slug contract (including Tsunade and Sakura) always summon portions of her. Whereas the Toad and Snake summons have entire families of differently-sized summons, there is only one slug, and she's at least big enough to be summoned at a size equal to other Great Summons, by both Tsunade and Sakura, at the same time.
Films — Animation
- Corpse Bride has Emily dissolve into butterflies by the film's end.
- Aladdin: The Return of Jafar: The Genie and Abu's picnic is attacked by a swarm of spiders that pile together before turning back into Jafar. The bugs weren't his true form, however — apparently he just wanted to freak them out.
- A example in the Dragon Hunters movie with the "Red Swarm". Constitued of many small red flying creatures (looking like a cross of toad and bat), it can assemble into a large, fire-breathing dragon/ogre. Once, the dragon reconstitutes while the swarm is separated in several places; its head ends up stuck inside a barn, the body outside and one leg farther away, but still mobile and aware of its other body parts.
Films — Live-Action
- The 2010 Clash of the Titans has Hades teleport by having demon imps fuse into him (and he can fission into said imps). He also has a "conventional" Villain Teleportation where he appears from what is essentially a shadowy black hole that has sucked up a platoon of Argosian soldiers.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The vampire Mina Harker can split up into a swarm of bats at will, travel some distance and reform into a human again.
- Snow White & the Huntsman gives this ability to the Evil Queen, who can disperse into crows.
- Little Nicky once turned into a bunch of spiders to escape an angry mob, then reformed in his apartment.
- In Bram Stoker's Dracula, among other transformations, Dracula takes the form of a horde of rats to escape the protagonists.
- After being released from her bonds in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the sea goddess Calypso grows to about 30 feet tall then dissolves in a shower of crabs, to escape into the ocean and set the mood (confusion) for the final battle.
- In the live-action modern version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the villain, Maxim Horvath, first appears as a swarm of cockroaches scurrying out of a matryoshka doll and assembling themselves into a human figure, complete with clothes.
- Upon becoming a vampire, Vlad III, the newly risen Dracula in Dracula Untold, is capable of doing this with bats, and does so very often, both to teleport and in a Flash Step.
- In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, a vampire can only change into a single bat if they've been feeding on human blood, since it takes great magical power to change one's body mass in the setting. Belonging to the teetotaller Black Ribboners, Lance-Constable Sally von Humpeding, the first vampire to join the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in Thud!, turns into a flock of bats. This is theoretically easier than turning into a single bat since you don't have Shapeshifter Baggage problems. What you do have are "keeping track of where they all are" problems.
- In the Wild Cards novels Inside Straight, Busted Flush and Suicide Kings, Jonathan Hive has the power to turn himself into a swarm of wasps and back again.
- Some D'ivers shapeshifters from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen. For example, Gryllen (turns into a huge swarm of rats) and Mogora (turns into lots of spiders).
- In Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett:
- The demon Hastur bursts out of a phone line as a massive wave of maggots and eats a roomful of telemarketers.
- Also, Crowley scared the pants off a guy with a form that basically overloaded his brain. Aziraphale thought the maggots were a bit much, but that's angels for you; never appreciate a good maggot form.
- In Hex and the City, a powerful demon takes the form of a huge swarm of biting flies.
- In The Dresden Files book Skin Game, the Denarian Tessa (see Trauma section) attacks Harry in a secure bank vault by converting her body mass into a swarm of insects that attacks every inch of his exposed skin while trying to burrow into his orifices, while simultaneously whispering demonically into his mind.
- Exalted has the spell Flight of Separation, which turns the caster into a flock of birds.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: The Ananasi, werespiders who, in their animal form, turn into their weight in spiders. Since they can eventually regenerate their entire bodies from even one of those spiders, it makes for a great escape technique.
- In the New World of Darkness, the Changing Breeds can do this with a specific aspect. Werecrows turn into crows, werebats turn into bats, and werecats turn into a horde of small cats or kittens...
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- In 3.5th Edition, the warlock can transform into a cloud of darkness and bats, but given any warlock's extremely limited skillset and how late this comes, nobody ever takes this power.
- What's worse than a druid who can turn into a giant bear and eat you? A druid who can turn into a swarm of 10,000 flesh-eating scarabs and eat you. Plus as a druid with the swarm ability you gain heavy resistance to melee and basic ranged attacks. The flavor art for the 4th edition Primal Swarm druid build depicts one such druid transforming into a bunch of cute, placid frogs, humorously enough.
- Worse, there are some feats and magic items that turn you into a magic, resistant-to-all-damage walking colony of flesh-eating insects.
- BIONICLE has Zaktan, whose body is composed of millions of microscopic organisms called protodites. His power was first triggered involuntarily when he was blasted by Eye Beams that were supposed to disintegrate him—which they did, technically. But since then, he's been able to do it any time he wants.
- A variation is the central ability of the Yellow Devil and its many, many successors throughout the Mega Man franchise.
- This tactic is imitated by the Dragon Devil in I Wanna Be the Guy.
- Dracula occasionally teleports this way. Being the good ol' Drac, he becomes a mass of bats. Curiously, the ability was first seen in an NES-era boss fight with Alucard, who uses Drac's classic pattern from the other games.
- Some games also give this ability to the Phantom Bat. Similarly, Super Castlevania IV gives this ability to the mummy boss, Akmodan II, who teleports as a stream of loose bandages.
- In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dracula can do this with a plague of rats when hiding in shadows, and Alucard can teleport himself with a swarm of bats.
- Nevan from Devil May Cry teleports across her room (read: battle arena) by dissolving into bats.
- Being Western-inspired vampires (as opposed to more conventional Eastern vampires), Touhou's Remilia and Flandre Scarlet are able to turn into and reform from a swarm of bats. Interestingly, Flandre's bats have normal wings, even though she herself has bizarre metal/crystal wings.
- The fire elemental boss from Cadash looks like a big demon standing still in a pit of fire, that shatters in a multitude of fireballs before reforming into another fire pit.
- One of the new Taken in Alan Wake's American Nightmare, the Birdman, turns into a flock of crows at will, but doesn't have the darkness shield of vanilla Taken.
- In Alice: Madness Returns Alice gains the ability to briefly turn into the swarm of butterflies to get back from Bottomless Pit or just Flash Step around.
- This is Kain's favorite method of transportation in Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen and Defiance. Being a vampire he transforms into a flock of bats.
- Vagullion, the Warm-Up Boss from Ys Origin, will sometimes transform into a flock of bats and fly toward the player to attack. After taking enough damage, it splits into two beings, both of which use the swarming attack.
- In The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, Yuki gains the ability to dodge attacks by instantly shredding herself into a full body version of Pink Mist then reforming elsewhere.
- Cackletta and Antasma of the Mario & Luigi series are both capable of splitting into a cloud of bats and rushing the brothers. Notably, in the case of the latter, jumping on and destroying the individual bats will deduct from his HP when he reforms.
- Darkstalkers succubi/incubi make their clothes out of souls, which manifest as bats. They can occasionally turn themselves into bats, as well.
- Beelzebub in La-Mulana alternates between being a swarm of flies, being more-or-less normal humanoid, and being one giant fly.
- The Ultimate form of the Shape Shifter mage subclass in Dragon Age: Origins is a swarm of bees. Taking a master level in Shapeshifter turns them into parasitic insects.
- In Bioshock Infinite, members of the Order of the Raven are able to transform into a murder of crows.
- Vampire Lords in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim can turn into bursts of bats to travel short distances.
- In GastroPhobia, Krphxyzwlps the Neitherbeast is a shapeshifter who can take many forms, but always with the same total mass. This can include several humans, or in one case a swarm of mice to slip through a small hole.