Paper Master

Paper doesn't seem like it would make too great a weapon. Yeah, a paper cut might sting for a while, and a rolled-up newspaper could possibly slay seven flies with one blow, and it could certainly 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).

Be very careful, dear reader, when confronting these characters in offices, libraries, bookstores, newspaper printers, or banknote mints.

Popular in anime as origami (the art of paper folding) is a big tradition in Japan.

See also The Gambler, who is basically a Death Dealer, only his paper has plastic laminated on it. Compare Feather Flechettes and Paper People. Closely related to Paper Talisman. Not to be confused with Paper Cutting or Black Belt in Origami.


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    Anime and 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.
  • 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 Yuujinchou, 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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

  • Cast a Deadly Spell. Tugwell uses a spell to slice a man to death with a whirlwind of cut-up pieces of newspaper.
  • In Spirited Away, Haku the dragon is attacked and hurt by what appear to be enchanted paper people.
  • At one point in We Are the Night, Charlotte slices a man's throat with a page torn from a book.

  • 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.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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).

    Tabletop RPG 
  • 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.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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.