One common way of portraying a character as moving very, very quickly in fiction is to make multiple images of them viewable at once. They appear to be moving so fast that they're in several places at once. For the sake of preventing confusion, usually the "non-static" parts are shaded with less color, so we're sure that a character is moving really fast as opposed to being a monster with eight arms. Indeed, this trope is much easier to show than it is to describe — it's one of those effects that usually has to be pointed out to a casual viewer for them to even realize it's there.
In some fiction, the echoes are more than just a special effect — they're literal. Other characters can see them and be confused by them, making them effective covers for highly elaborate martial arts attacks. In video games, they can be used as an excuse to force the player to use timing to hit the "real" image. For various reasons, using Speed Echoes
for the Doppelgänger Spin
doesn't really make a whole heck of a lot of sense
, but eh, roll with it
Note that sometimes this trope can be used somewhat lazily: a character will have Speed Echoes
but aren't really moving all that fast. The echoes are just to make us think
they're moving fast.
This is somewhat distinct from Doppelgänger Attack
, although technically a work can employ both at once. Related to Speed Stripes
and Flash Step
, both of which often employ this trope in their basic function. Indeed, you can see examples of Speed Echoes
in action in both of those pages' images.
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Anime & Manga
- Used straight in Ranma ½ to show particularly fast opponents.
- Memorably subverted in at least one instance. Kodachi appears to do this in the middle of her gymnastics-themed battle with Ranma, but it is quickly revealed that she's actually attacking him with 20 objects at once.
- In Cyborg009, one guy who was The Minnesota Fats to the main character could move so fast he did this. Furthermore, the afterimages stuck around for quite a while, effectively being used as a Doppelgänger Spin.
- The first time we see Ichigo from Bleach use his Bankai, the resulting speed increase is so great that Byakuya, who was previously shown as a speed demon, could only see afterimages (when his eyes didn't fail to keep track of Ichigo altogether).
- This is also the main schtick of the Arrancar Zommari Leroux, at least his pre-Ressurecion form
- Phantom Miria from Claymore moves so fast, she leaves afterimages of herself behind, greatly confusing her enemies. They think they struck her, then her "body" promptly dissipates and she's already behind them, ready to strike.
- Hysteria the Elegant uses a similar technique, but it's far more precise; Miria uses phantoms to distract her enemies for the split-second she needs to get behind them, whereas Hysteria uses her speed to immediately attack by charging her opponent, sidestepping at the last possible second, and moving behind them to slash them in the back. In this way, her afterimage appears to moving through her opponent.
- Several characters of Hunter × Hunter (Kirua and Feitan, notably) do this purposely: the multiple images are visible to everybody, and the characters hide among those in order to proceed with a surprise attack.
- One of the Tournament Arcs of Dragon Ball Z had a character pull this trick with a total of eight copies.
- In Chrono Crusade, Speed Echoes are used to show how fast Joshua can move. Interestingly, there's also another page in the same chapter for an almost theatrical slow motion effect. (Warning: the second page contains a spoiler.)
- Used by Signum during her first battle with Fate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. "You have pretty good senses for a mage... but when challenging a Belka-type knight, it's not enough!"
- This is one of Shinomori Aoshi's special attack in Rurouni Kenshin, Ryusui no Ugoki. Its weakness is while the flow of afterimages itself is seemingly unbreakable, the transition towards an offensive move (as is the case with the Jissen Kenbu combo attack) can be anticipated by a skilled opponent (like Kenshin and Okina).
- Gundam has this for some suits in various series. Often occurs when the Gundam enables a Super Mode.
- One of the most prominent examples of this was the titular mech in Mobile Suit Gundam F91; in the climax Seabook used its ability to ablate molecule-thin layers of its armor (ostensibly to dissipate excess heat) to create a trail of illusory Gundams that distracted the Big Bad, allowing Seabook to go in for the kill.
- Ryuko from Kill la Kill uses this to confuse Inumuta during their fight, as well as during her fight with Nui.
- Frequently used in comics to display either superhuman speed or acrobatics. Spider-Man and Nightwing are the undisputed masters of the latter effect.
- The Flash and his fellow speedsters.
- This was actually weaponized by a (non-Flash) speedster in Grant Morrison's JLA run: he runs in such a manner that he leaves speed echoes in a strobing pattern, trying to disorient The Flash, who's chasing him at Super Speed.
- In the New 52's Dial H series, the ability to produce speed echoes is the signature power of the villain Centipede.
Live Action TV
- This trope coupled with Bullet Time makes the signature style of the Super Speed scenes of Smallville.
- In one of the Dune series, this effect was used to show the preternatural speed Paul had earned through his martial training.
- A variation is found in The Picard Maneuver of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The premise is that making a short warp jump allows a ship to overtake their own image traveling toward the observer and thus appear in two places at once. This maneuver only works on low-tech enemies, who rely on light-speed sensors only; an enemy ship with FTL sensors (i.e. most of the ones Enterprise runs across) can easily distinguish between the echoes and the real thing.
- In Heroes, when Hiro stops time, he sees a long Daphne-colored trail leading him to the speedster.
- This effect was used with Vicki in the Small Wonder episode "My Robot Family".
- Suggested by Raj as a solution when all four of the main characters showed up for a costume party dressed as The Flash on The Big Bang Theory.
- The Matrix has several examples of this, beginning with the "Hit me. If you can." dojo fight, through the agent in the rooftop firefight dodging bullets, to the "fist bouquet" effect as Smith pummels Neo.
- Used for the Big Bad in The Chronicles of Riddick, although in his case it's more a matter of slipping through hyperspace (the "underverse") than super-speed.
- Used to unintentionally hilarious effect in Queen of the Damned. Vampires' unnatural speed is represented by a smeary trail of afterimages... even if the vampire otherwise appears to be moving at the same speed as nearby non-vampires.
- Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children does this with Cloud's Omnislash version 5. Loz too.
- A rare written example in Artemis Fowl The Lost Colony; a pixie named Doodah Day is talked into helping the protagonists break into a mansion in return for having his meat smuggling charges dropped. When sent in ahead, he disguises himself as the owners' son and suped up a miniature car with a Magitek fuel cell. When a security officer realizes he isn't a real kid, Doodah hit the throttle, going from five to fifty thousand in two seconds, and is described as leaving behind a distinct and long lasting after image in his wake.
- Very obvious in Viewtiful Joe. To an outside observer, this could just as easily be a magic spell Joe casts which causes a bazillion Joes to appear on the screen beating the bejeezers out of everyone.
- Many, many, many 2D Fighting Games have the character summon "afterimages" during Desperation Attacks, high jumps, or even evades.
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night used afterimages whenever...well...ANYTHING happened, really.
- This is how the Speed Booster power-up is animated in the 2D Metroid games where it appears.
- This appears in the Mega Man X, Zero and ZX games whenever the player dashes or dash-jumps.
- This happens to Mario or Luigi when you use the Rainbow Star in Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel.
- The Speed Flower and Slow Flower in Super Paper Mario make whoever uses them leave red and blue copies respectively; the latter is an odd case as it makes them slower than without it. For some reason, shaking the Wii remote after jumping on an enemy also makes you leave afterimages while you're in the air. Count Bleck also leaves these and can slow his opponent to the same effect as the Slow Flower.
- Sonic the Hedgehog and friends show this in the 2D games, mainly the Sonic Advance Trilogy and Sonic Rush Series.
- Employed by Hotsuma in the PS2 version of Sega's Shinobi
- In the Super Smash Bros. games, Fox and Falco's Side B moves leave Speed Echoes behind as they zip across the screen.
- High-end Dual Pistols attacks in City of Heroes create Speed Echoes as the character spins to bring their guns to bear on targets.
- Guess what is the superpower of Afterimage in Legacy Of Heroes ?
- In SD Gundam Capsule Fighter, those same aforementioned Gundam units, usually the high-end S-Ranks, can create Speed Echoes once they activate a secondary form.
- Used constantly with Quick Man in Mega Man (Classic) Boss Rush Gaiden Game The Power Fighters. While quite understandable in his introduction (where he darts around on the screen like an overcaffeinated superball), he is considerably slower in the course of the battle. Gemini Man also has afterimages on both of his selves, but given the whole premise of his method of combat involves speed and deception, it's fitting.
- In Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, picking up the speed boost power up will cause your mobile suit to leave ghostly echoes of itself for a couple of seconds when it starts to move again after coming to a full stop. Also, the 'escape boost' causes a brief afterimage of your suit to flicker in the place you used to be while, implying that the emergency boost got your suit out of trouble so quickly that enemies are attacking where you seemed to be.
- In Final Fantasy games, the beneficial status "blink" is presented as the character moving back and forth, leaving blurry afterimages, and therefore making it difficult for the enemy to pin down where they are exactly.
- Invoked by characters with "Shadow" moves in the Mortal Kombat series, such as Johnny Cage. Curiously, this is absent in the games following Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, where characters performing said moves are trailed by a green fog effect instead.
- In Code Lyoko, Ulrich running at Super Speed leaves a yellow trail behind him. His "Triangulate" power relies on Speed Echoes, combining the Super Sprint with Doppelgänger Attack. In the real world, the XANAfied people and Polymorphic Specters also leave such an after-effect when moving fast.
- Played for laughs in one episode of The Simpsons when Homer dashes off and a Homer-shaped dust cloud stays in place for several seconds after he's gone.
- A similar situation to the Simpsons example above occurs in an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Doofenshmirtz decides to make a quick exit, and a Doofenshmirtz-shaped dust cloud appears along with a *RUN AWAY* sound effect. However, when the smoke clears, a confused Doofenschmirtz is still there, wondering what exactly just happened.
- Transformers Generation One, Blurr is unsurprisingly animated like this. He also speaks like this—his mouth does not have clear animation frames because they overlap several consecutive animation frames, which causes his mouth shapes to be nothing but a series of afterimages when he says anything.