aka: Partial Shapeshifting
One of the understated traits of shapeshifters
is their versatility, not just in having multiple forms they can assume, or people they can impersonate, but by using the stages in between. When a shapeshifter uses a Partial Transformation they can selectively shapeshift a part of their body (often an arm or limb) into their alternate form. This has a lot of potential uses
: For example, a shapeshifter needing to open a safe underwater
doesn't have to transform into a full
fish or shark, but can instead choose just
the gills (and perhaps a few fins) to breathe and maneuver underwater, while retaining their human hands to manipulate the safe itself; a vampire
thrown off a building could swap out her arms for a pair of bat wings
to slow her fall; and a sniper without any surveillance gear could transform his eyes into that of an owl's,
cat's, or anything else with enhanced vision
This can also be used for offense and defense, using their alternate form's natural weapons (claws or whatever) as a type of Shapeshifter Weapon
while remaining in human form.
A second variant of partial transformation occurs when the character "stops" their usual Transformation Sequence
"half way" between their forms. For example, a character who can transform between a human and a wolf shape (and we don't necessarily
mean a werewolf
) may opt to transform into a Wolf Man
instead of a "full wolf", combining the advantages of both
, like the sharp claws and fangs of their wolf shape while retaining the bipedal mobility of their human form. It goes without saying that these "middle" forms typically look like anthropomorphized animals
One interesting thing about the Partial Transformation is it's usually a "high level" technique that can be mastered only by the best shapeshifters. A character who has recently acquired Voluntary Shapeshifting
must first learn how to shapeshift between their "basic" forms before they have any
hope of mixing and matching the elements between them; attempting to selectively invoke this without sufficient experience can result in some ... messy consequences
can also trigger this accidentally, and put the character in great danger; not only by revealing their powers
to unaware Muggles
, but because the broken transformation can also leave the character "stuck
" between forms, possibly in a lot of pain
at the same time.
Also be warned that attempting to utilize several partial transformations simultaneously may result in a Shape Shifter Mashup
, a special case of the shapeshifting Gone Horribly Wrong
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Anime and Manga
- Eve from Black Cat can transform different parts of her body (usually her arms) into swords, hammers, and shields. Her hair can be turned into fists and sharp spikes. At one point, she even gave herself angel wings that she saw a picture of in a book. Her expy, Yami the 'Golden Darkness' in To Love-Ru has the same ability.
- Naraku of InuYasha will occasionally transform his hand into one or multiple Combat Tentacles whiler otherwise retaining his default appearance. On other occasions, he has turned into a mess of tentacles while leaving his upper body in a mostly humanoid shape.
- This happens in Naruto with Gaara when sand from his gourd envelops his body and forms an incomplete Shukaku.
- Naruto's is more complex. After forming the 6th tail, an incomplete skeleton forms and attaches to the V2 cloak. The 7th tail results in a complete skeleton and a full-sized fox-shaped aura. The 8th tail results in said aura being replaced with organic tissue (muscle, organs, eyes), though skin, fur, and tails have yet to be formed.
- Also fellow jinchuuriki Killer Bee can do this by forming any part of the Hachibi at will.
- Sasuke also manages it with his cursed seal form, sprouting one of its wings to block an attack. Jugo, the source of the cursed seal transformations, comments that this means Sasuke has complete mastery over its powers (Jugo can do this as well).
- Members of the Akimichi Clan can shrink and expand their bodies. An advanced application of this seen late into the series is the expansion and contraction of select body parts to perform what's needed with minimal energy expended.
- Another non-werecreature example is in Soul Eater, since some of the Equippable Ally characters can shift parts of themselves into weapons (this tends to be a sign that they're more powerful, with weaker ones partnering up with meisters). The most notable examples being Giriko (who only fully transformed for the first half of his first fight and otherwise just manifested his chain on his limbs) and Justin Law (who's never been seen to fully transform into his Guillotine form). Death Scythes in particular seem to not only be able to turn part of their body into weapons but also make multiple copies of their weapons spring from their body at will.
- In Soul Eater Not!, it's shown that untrained weapons may not be able to transform fully: before the first chapter Tsugumi didn't even know what her full weapon form was (a halberd) and another student could turn into a sword except the hilt was still shaped like his head. They can even end up doing a partial transformation entirely by accident, suddenly having bits of weapon pop out of their chests. As the first scene of the anime show, this is often how they find out they're Weapons in the first place.
- In Claymore, Clare manages to Awaken only her limbs to save her Cool Big Sis-figure Miria during the battle of Pieta. She later masters this technique, partially turning into an Awakened Being at will. As a much later chapter shows, this may have something to do with her inability to Awaken completely. Riful is also fond of this.
- Mr 2 Bon Clay from One Piece is capable of it and can make arbitrary Shape Shifter Mashups.
- On a more general note, all characters with Zoan-type Devil Fruit powers can take on their animal form, original form and a hybrid of the two. Most skilled users can transform only part of their bodies into the animal form and even change the proportions of their animal's and hybrid's forms.
- Elfman and Lisanna (the latter pictured above) can do this in Fairy Tail with their Take Over abilities. Presumably their older sister Mirajane can do it too, but she prefers the Full Body version, which in this world is supposed to be more difficult. However, it should be noted that both Elfman and Lisanna can do the Full Body Take Over as well.
- In the beginning, Elfman, while capable of Full Body Take Overs, tended to only avail of this trope, due to the fact that the last time he tried, he lost control of himself, and ended up killing Lisanna... Or so it seemed.
- Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist might count, it's more armor forming that actual shapeshifting, but he tends to only shift up to his elbows because he thinks he looks ugly when he covers himself entirely.
- In the film adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle, sometimes Howl seems to transform partially into the bird-creature, and sometimes he's more birdlike and less human.
- Marvel Universe.
- Rahne Sinclair could change into a wolf or a transitional state between human and wolf. While still a member of the New Mutants, she was captured and taken to Genosha, where she was turned into a "mutate" slave with no free will of her own. When she was rescued, she found that using her powers restored her free will, but reverting to full-human form put her back in the "mutate" state, so she spent pretty much her entire run as a member of X-Factor in the transitional state, until the Genoshans' damage could be undone.
- The Super-Skrull is all about this. He's got the usual Skrull shapeshifting and the powers of the Fantastic Four on top of that, which means that if he wanted to he could copy any one of them perfectly. But why do that when he can copy parts of all four at once? Other Skrulls will sometimes produce wings to glide down from a great height.
- Sandman's most common form of offense is to shift his arms into sand weapons in a style similar to the T-1000 (although Sandman was already doing this in the comics 2-3 decades before the Terminator films were made). It is also not uncommon for him to assume a giant humanoid sand monster form during battle.
- The DCU
- No matter what form Beast Boy takes, he always seems to have a greenish color to it.
- Dreamscape. Tommy Ray was able to become a snakeman to terrify Alex. When Alex turned the tables on him, he changed into a half-man half-snakeman form.
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-1000 frequently transforms its arms into metal stabby things while keeping the rest of its body human.
- John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) could change any part of its body into any living material it had previously absorbed. It loved spider legs. Combine this with the mechanic that "every part is a whole new animal" and you get situations where you cut one's head off, they both keep fighting, and the head grows spider legs to crawl away.
- Harvesters in The Deaths of Ian Stone apparently have precise control over how far their transformations go. Their use of this varies—the most heroic of the lot stays slightly human as a rejection of his heritage, whereas the Dark Action Girl seems to use it as a means of taunting him.
- This trope is mostly averted in the Animorphs books, because the unpredictable nature of morphing makes it impossible to guarantee a usable mashup of body parts.
- One time Rachel goes partly into her elephant morph to scare off a mugger. She succeeded in changing her face, but she also ended up bursting her shoes when her feet also changed. On another occasion Jake partially morphs wolf to disguise his voice.
- Cassie has a talent for morphing, which she has used to hold a centaur- or angel-like form (by morphing horse and bird, respectively). Also, her ability to morph into the second animal while demorphing from the first saved the day once. The Andalite spirit that shared her mind with in said episode has to comment that her morphing talent would've made her a hero if she had been born an Andalite.
- Marco once had Power Incontinence due to stress, causing him to uncontrollably morph into weird chimeras.
- Andalites know a technique called a Frolis Maneuver, which allowed Ax and Elfangor to create new human morphs by mixing the DNA of multiple individuals. It is unknown if one can use this to mix different species, however.
- Discworld werewolves can do this when it's near the full moon (although the in between forms are apparently unpleasant to look at and they have to assume full wolf form when the full moon is out). Most notably when Angua fights her brother at the end of The Fifth Elephant.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viktor Krum uses a partial transformation into a shark for the underwater task.
- In The Burning Realm, a werewolf needs to convince some pirates that she's a powerful sorceress, and does so by transforming her hands and features just enough to make herself look bestial and terrifying. She then reverses the effect (with difficulty), because if she turns all the way into a wolf, she'll be in a recognizable shape and thus less frightening.
- Daine from The Immortals can partially or fully change into any animal as part of her powers. Notably, when she's pregnant, she's forced to constantly shift the shape of her lower body, so that the fetus, which has inherited the powers, doesn't rip though it somehow.
- The Dresden Files: Inverted. In one of the short stories, Will reveals he can use his shapeshifter powers as a makeshift Healing Factor. He describes it as being very similar to transforming into his human form. It means he scars more than he otherwise would, though.
Live Action TV
- In the two-part episode "Prometheus" of The Incredible Hulk, Banner stopped halfway through his transformation. He had some of Banner's personality but much less knowledge, and he was stronger than Banner but not as strong as Hulk. He had his green eyes, but not green skin. It wasn't voluntary, however; it was caused by a nearby meteor emitting a high concentration of gamma rays, and not letting him revert fully to normal.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fear Itself", everyone is celebrating Halloween inside a Haunted House when they are forced to live out their worst fears. Oz, a werewolf, inexplicably starts to change and gets stuck halfway between man and wolf. He ends up huddled in a bathtub, scared out of his mind and muttering a hopeless Survival Mantra that he's not going to change.
- In the first episode of Being Human series 4 George manages to trick his body into thinking it's full moon in order to rescue his daughter from vampires. He changes to somewhere between human and wolf, which greatly enhances his strength, but also allows him to remain somewhat in control. There is one drawback, though: while a complete transformation heals what it damages, a partial transformation does not. It's fatal. George dies of heart, kidney and liver failure just minutes later.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 1st-2nd Edition
- Wererats could change into human, rat or human-sized ratman form. Judging from their illustrations werewolves and wereboars could change into half-human half-animal forms as well.
- The wolfwere (a wolf that could take human shape) and greater wolfwere could half-change, thus gaining human arms and legs but keeping their wolf head.
- In the original Oriental Adventures supplement (1985), hengeyokai could change into a transitional bipedal form with arms and hands and the rest of the body in animal form. While in this form the hengeyokai could speak normally, use weapons, armor and equipment, and had infravision.
- The "Basic" D&D supplement Night Howlers covered rules for player character lycanthropes for that version of the game. Newly infected characters would start as "cubs" and have to work their way up to "normal monster" level (splitting experience between human and animal form) to actually get all the standard powers of their were-type, and the ability to take the transitional "beast-man" form came most typically only upon reaching 9th level as a were after that.
- Edition 3.0 and 3.5
- All werecreatures (AKA lycanthropes) have human, animal and hybrid forms, though it's harder to enter hybrid form than animal form.
- Shapeshifters in 3.5 can also enter the warshaper Prestige Class, who can use this ability to sprout claws, enhance his strength, heal his injuries, and shift his vital organs around.
- The Aranea was a giant spellcasting spider which could change to either a normal humanoid, or a humanoid with concealed fangs and spinnerets.
- Wild feats allow a druid to expend a use of their Wild Shape ability to gain a bonus themed after a particular animal (such as the speed of a cheetah), accompanied by a minor physical transformation. It's possible to use wild feats while Wild Shaping, even while Wild Shaping into the animal the feat is based on.
- The strength of the true form spell allows the caster to use some of their original strength while shapeshifted into a weaker form, its intended users being dragons disguised as humans.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse. In addition to human and wolf forms the Garou could turn into Crinos (traditional wolf-man) form. With effort, they can even transform just part of their bodies (although they may lack Required Secondary Powers— using Crinos arms to lift a heavy object might snap one's human spine).
- Vampires with the Protean discipline (which allows shapeshifting into wolf and bat forms) could learn the Partial Transformation merit, which allowed them to change one feature into that of their animal form for dice bonuses or attacks.
- One Vampire bloodline in Shadows Of Mexico the Dead Wolves, could actually shapeshift into a werewolf Crinos form thanks to an ancestral connection.
- Call of Cthulhu
- The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Asylum". Proto-shoggoths can change any given part of their bodies to any form of living material (organs, skin, etc.).
- Masks of Nyarlathotep chapter 2 "London", adventure "The Derbyshire Monster". Eloise Vane is a werewolf. On nights with a full moon she changes into a half-human, half-wolf monster.
- GURPS 3E sourcebook Bestiary Second Edition. Were-Creatures could have a "Beast-Man" form, an anthropomorphic blend of human and animal.
- Michael Stackpole's Shadowrun Wolf and Raven short story "If As Beast You Don't Succeed" in Ka•Ge magazine Volume 1 Issue 12. Wolfgang Kies can turn into a half-man half-wolf form.
- Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters adventure "Where Wolf?" A character affected by the werewolf curse can change into human, half wolf, or wolf form. They are strong and fast in all of the shapes, and all have the human form's knowledge and intelligence.
- In Prototype, Alex Mercer's de facto form of attack is to shapeshift parts of his body into weapons, such as claws, the whipfist, hammerfists, a shield, or a BFS.
- Cornell the werewolf from Castlevania is depicted with inhumanely long fingernails in most of his human form's original artwork, besides being used in combat without fully changing, they allow him to shoot laser beams from his hands... for some reason.
- The J'avo from Resident Evil 6 make good use of this. Blow off an arm, and they'll sprout some Squicktastic insect appendage to replace it. Since the transformations stack, you can accidentally make enemies stronger if your aim is crappy.
- Berserk Mode in Digital Devil Saga 2. Is a double-edged sword, really - your power attack greatly increases and critical hit become all but assured, but you can't use items and it's a lot easier to miss. In-game, it's represented by the characters partially shifting into their demon forms.
- It's been established that Timmain from ElfQuest can do the wolf-man... er, wolf-elfwoman thing, both with tail and without. Mostly seen in flashbacks to her early days though. In later comics she's usually either one or the other.
- Grace from El Goonish Shive can transform to any stage between full squirrel and full human, can selectively morph away her furry antennae, as well as routinely pull off various ShapeShifterMashups with any or all of her continually growing number of forms though all of them are humanoid.
- Qwerty and his family from the webcomic One Small Step can all partially shapeshift, but rather than were-bodies, they can turn their appendages into tools.
- Sphinxes in Wapsi Square have shown the ability to take forms between full human and full sphinx. This includes revealing fangs and talons in human form, combining the size of the sphinx form with a human shape, and a few other combinations.
- Adrestia in morphE transforms her arm into that of a grizzly bear to attack a training dummy. No one was allowed to joke about destroying it with her "bear hands".