cover a rock, but nobody kids themselves that a sheet of paper is going to be useful in a real fight. Even the dreaded Paper Fan of Doom has much more bang than bite. Sounds like a pretty lame power, right? Not quite. There are actually a fair number of characters in fiction that use paper in battle very effectively. These characters have near-Elemental Powers to control or even transform into paper, and usually can create a vast number of weapons only limited by their imagination and paper folding skills. Often when this happens, the paper itself seems to take on the qualities of said weapon (i.e. a paper spear piercing someone like a normal spear would, instead of crumpling up). These characters are often weak to water and fire (or anything that will soak or burn their paper), but not always, especially when the writer wants to show just how powerful they are. A piece of paper in their hands can block bullets fired almost point blank without a scratch, or a dome made out of paper can protect one from a falling jet plane. Be very careful, dear reader, when confronting these characters in offices, libraries, bookstores, newspaper printers, banknote mints, or paper mills. Popular in anime as origami (the art of paper folding) is a big tradition in Japan. In a sense, this trope is Older Than Steam at the least: according to legend, a true master of origami can unlock the secrets of creation. Also, in the Chinese and Japanese culture, talismans supposed with supernatural powers from the user is also quite commonly seen. Japanese Onmyōji uses Shikigami, where gami(kami) meant god, but as a homophone of paper(with a different kanji), are often shown to be little automated paper man/creature following orders of the Onmyōji. See also the Death Dealer, who favors laminated rectangular paper. Compare Feather Flechettes and Paper People. Closely related to Paper Talisman. Not to be confused with Paper Cutting or Black Belt in Origami.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Read or Die and Rod The TV, the trope-namer and the source of the picture above: Yomiko Readman and the Paper Sisters, are examples of what apparently is the most common type of superhero in their universe. In the manga, Yomiko, remembering her dead master(and lover)'s words, can control her paper to be immune to fire. In the novel, Ziggy Stardust of the Science division made various paper for her to use, like black paper with explosives that can explode at her will and highly water resistant paper that can lessen her weakness against water(and also stand on top of water with pieces of paper).
- Saicho of Flame of Recca, a fighter who can manipulate papers to act like weapons much like the Read or Die characters that he predates by a few years. For example, he can make a paper sword that's harder than steel.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Kalluto, the youngest sibling of lead character Killua. He uses a paper fan as a bladed weapon, administers the Death of a Thousand Cuts with confetti, and eavesdrops on people using paper dolls of them once they've got a bit of his paper on them. And he's a lethal assassin.
- One of abilities of Nen is the ability to strengthen objects, including paper. At one point Wing tears a page out of a book, strengthens it with Nen, and hurls it at a wall, neatly slicing a metal soda can that was in the way. Also, at various points in the anime, Hisoka tends to do the same with playing cards.
- In InuYasha, Byakuya uses an origami crane as his mode of flight transport. He also uses origami lotus flowers as a focus for his illusions. These illusions are so good they can fight on his behalf. However, if they receive what would be a killing blow, they revert back to an origami lotus flower thereby revealing the illusion and also the real location of the real Byakuya.
- Onmyodo, via Shikigami or Ofuda, is very powerful in the Mahou Sensei Negima! universe. Setsuna is a notable heroic user.
- Konan from Naruto, the lone female member of Akatsuki. She's made it into such things as wings, fake tree camouflage from papier-mache, and is capable of both turning into paper and making a copy of herself out of paper which she can control from a remote location (though she/it can apparently be prevented from moving if something sticks to it, like oil). This also includes the paper explosives that are a mainstay of the series. Her ultimate attack involves controlling 600 billion of those paper explosives to create 10 minutes of nonstop explosions.
- Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon uses an Asian Rune Chant and ofuda-throwing with "Akuryō Taisan!" (literally Evil Spirits, Begone!") to kill monsters. This is taken Up to Eleven in Sailor Moon R: The Movie, with an enormous spiral of ofuda used as a weapon (which, concidentally, is what the same attack does in the live-action version).
- Keisei in Corpse Princess has displayed the ability to turn a scroll of Buddhist scripture into a magical staff.
- Aono in Sola can control paper.
- Curren Huckebein of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has this as her Weapon of Choice. She introduces herself by having the tome she carries create a paper storm that slices up and critically injures Vita and Erio.
- In Natsume's Book of Friends, the Natori's often commonly uses them for his exorcism as the Natori clan specializes in this.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 8 Jojolion has recently revealed that Tsurugi Higashikata has a Stand that uses origami in the delivery of its power to completely steal his victim's ability to discern different faces, giving everyone, even mannequins the same distorted face, and words, turning all signage and labeling into whatever they originally were planning to look for. He also seems to be able to control the origami creations to an extent, sending them off flying at other people, and can turn non-paper objects into origami creations, if only temporarily.
- In A Certain Scientific Accelerator, Naru wields weapons and wears clothing made of paper. She can make paper soft as silk, harder than steel, or explode like a bomb at will.
- In Ninja Slayer, Yamoto Koki uses origami to fight.
- Stalker with a Crush Paperdoll: compressed the bodies of those she envelops and administers lethal papercuts strong enough to slice through Spider-Man's webbing.
- Marvel Comics' Thin Man has the ability to flatten himself razor thin, in addition to Rubber Man powers. Again, razor thin. And he's a sadistic, bitter old man. And a good guy.
- Gambit's real power is his ability to force small objects to explode by "charging" them, converting their potential energy into kinetic energy. His favorite tool is playing cards and the impossible things he can do with them sometimes evoke this trope
- Burka Avenger is a good example, since the eponymous heroin use books and pencils as weapons in her martial arts.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Cast a Deadly Spell. Tugwell uses a spell to slice a man to death with a whirlwind of cut-up pieces of newspaper.
- The main character of the appropriately titled book Paper Mage is...well...a paper mage; a young Chinese woman who has the ability to summon guardians by using origami.
- In one of the books of "The Adventures of Samurai Cat," Tomokato (the eponymous samurai cat) faces off against another cat named "Origami Ito" (a pun on the name of the protagonist of "Lone Wolf and Cub.") Origami Ito has a huge roll of paper which he can fold into weapons, walls, soldiers, and tanks, which come to life to attack his enemy.
- In Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces book series, the main character uses a spell to create a "ghost knife" which is basically a laminated piece of notebook paper with some magical symbols written on it in marker. It is supposed to be able to cut "ghosts, magic, and dead things," but the definition of "dead things" is broad enough to include any inanimate object, and in this universe, every living thing has a soul or spirit that qualifies as a kind of ghost. Add in the ability of the ghost knife to respond to its owner's will by flying wherever the creator mentally directs it, and you have a weapon that cuts through doors and bullets, leaves any living opponent exhausted and weak by injuring its soul, and destroys your enemies' magic, giving you a perfect all-purpose (mostly)nonlethal weapon that fits in your pocket. Even when someone else grabs it, the creator can will it to fly through the opponent's hand and back to the creator, leaving the enemy soul-drained in the process. The protagonist can even use it to slice up meat, and it's safe to rinse, as it's laminated.
- Lazy Dragon, a character from the Wild Cards universe, can create and then "possess" animals. He needs some kind of symbolic image of the animal to do it, and usually finds it most practical to make little origami tigers or snakes or birds or whatever, since he has easy access to paper and origami needs no tools.
- Though not strictly a version of this trope Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee is worth mentioning here, set in an interstellar empire with strong Asiatic influences. The protagonist steals a mercenary 'kite' spacecraft, a Drone Deployer whose drones take the form of origami shapes that unfold into the required weaponry.
- The main character from Robin Mc Kinley's Shadows is into origami and discovers she can use it to perform magic.
- The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg takes place in a world where mages can bond to man-made substances and perform magic with them. The main character, as one might guess, is apprenticed to a magician bonded to paper, and over the course of the series learns paper magic (known as Folding) herself.
- There was a villain of sorts in The Adventures of Pete & Pete appropriately named "Paper Cut".
- The MythBusters made working crossbows out of newspaper. DEADLY crossbows. They were only good for 1, maybe 2 shots before being worthless, though. Their first attempt at using it hit the ballistic gel dummy right in the jugular vein.
- Tsuruhime (the White Ranger) in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. One of her attacks is a storm of paper cranes. This attack is occasionally replicated at a larger scale by the first Humongous Mecha of the series, Muteki Shogun (Invincible General).
- Runescape has Lexicus Runewright, who summons magical books that attack with all three types of combat, and summons books that explode for incredibly heavy damage (enough to oneshot people under 500HP).
- In Exalted, the Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style has a technique that allows you to turn paper fans into sharp and deadly weapons.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Kitsune werefoxes have a set of Gifts that utilize Ju-fu, or paper magic, using a combination of origami and calligraphy to make single-use magical items out of (preferably) natural paper.
- In RuneScape, Lexicus Runewright shoots magical pages out of his Spell Book to attack players.
- Shin Megami Tensei games have two actual mythological examples: Shikigami and Shiki-Ouji, demons conjured into paper slips.
- Sketch Turner, the comic book artist sucked into his own creation in Comix Zone, can tear a chunk out of the comic page he's fighting on and turn it into a lethal projectile by folding it into a paper airplane. His pet rat, Roadkill, scratches at panel borders to reveal weapons and power-ups. The villain of Sketch's comic, Mortus, draws monsters to attack him.
- One Piece had a video game where the villain ate a Logia-type Devil Fruit that granted him power over paper and fabric.
- In Paper Mario, the characters are absolutely flat, and as a result almost every power-up Mario gets includes origami-ing himself.
- Melody, one of the Portrait Ghosts from Luigi's Mansion, attacks with sheet music.
- Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has Phoenix Wright. Most of his attacks involve paper and documents. His "Break the Witness" attack (an upgraded version of "Press the Witness" and only available in Turnabout Mode), where he walks forward while emphatically smacking some papers, can do insane amounts of damage, and if used as an assist it becomes an Invulnerable Attack.
- In the Super Smash Bros. series, the paper fan is one of the most dangerous items because it can be used rapid-fire on the opponent without giving them a chance to break away, along with having a shield-breaking attack and absurd effectiveness when thrown.
- inFAMOUS: Second Son has Celia Penderghast, a conduit who has the power to control paper and is the driving force behind the paper trail DLC. She can transform into paper, use it as a weapon, and create deceptively strong armor by using mechanical compound force.
- Adventurers had Karn be one of these as a one-time gag, leading to a shot of Karn standing on a flaming pile of monster corpses, holding a rolled up newspaper. Which still does more damage than Ardam.
- Archipelago: The Listing of Names is a book. It has nothing but pages at its disposal. Lots of pages. And unless you are its designated reader, it is unsafe to approach the book without a flamethrower.
- Penny Arcade: Gabe's alter ego, the Cardboard Tube Samurai, wields (guess what?) a cardboard tube.
- Paranatural: Isabel fights by manipulating paper.
- Dino, from 5 Elementos.
- From Youtube Poop, the most unusual thief, the infamous Paper Doll Man.
- Global Guardians PBEM Universe:
- Mister Origami, a Golden Age villain, was an expert origami artist, and could mentaly transform his folded creations into giant examples of the real thing that would attack his enemies. (For example, he would make an origami bear, then animate it into a fifteen foot tall angry bear that would attack at his command).
- Hallmark is a mutant criminal with telekinetic control over paper. For the most part he was considered a joke in the supervillain community of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, until he took down half the Global Guardians team singlehandedly using the contents of an office supply store.
- Origami from Jackie Chan Adventures, a shape-shifting thief who could fold his body like paper.
- The sole shtick of Paul the Samurai villain Papercut.
- In an episode of Phineas and Ferb, Doofenshmirtz's latest -inator is one that takes paper and compacts it into extremely sharp and durable bullets and shoot it at people and give them... PAPERCUTS!
- One Justice Friends short featured The Joker-esque Disgruntled Postman, who wielded razor sharp letters.
Major Glory (after having his face cut) "Ah! Bills!
- The Wood Forgers of the new ThunderCats (2011). One made monsters, one made weapons, and the leader made a very weird variety of things from wings to a Macross Missile Massacre.
- The Millwall brick, a club made out of newspaper.
- Discovery Channel had a convict mentioning the combat potential of newspapers folded and/or rolled up tightly enough... Spears... Hammers... keep in mind that paper used to be wood, and only its thinness and flexibility separates it from that mechanically. High density cardboard (which tightly enough rolled newspaper could approximate) doesn't hold a candle to steel for ability to apply bludgeoning force, but it is a lot better than bare hands for reach.
- Policemen have been been caught using phone books to beat confessions out of suspects. Not only is it seriously painful, but it's also likely to not cause injury or leave marks which makes it difficult to prove.
- The History Channel had an episode of Ancient Discoveries that tested the validity of paper armor from ancient China. The paper armor they created was able to completely stop a crossbow bolt from 20 meters.
- MythBusters found that pykrete made from newspaper pulp actually performed significantly better than the "classic" recipe made from sawdust. There was also an episode examining prison weaponry where a newspaper crossbow was made — not much penetrating power, but could be fired accurately enough to kill anyway.
- If you work in a paper mill, paper cuts can get serious. A ten metre square of freshly cut card has both a serious cutting edge, and enough weight behind it, to take of somebody's arm if it drops edge-on.