"Man, I wish I had swishy lines behind me when I did stuff."
In animated shows, characters moving at high speed often appear in front of a set of moving colored lines — usually blue background with yellow stripes, although depending on the impact, any color combination may be used. This is usually done because drawing a proper background moving behind the character would require drawing a large background from a camera angle which would only be seen for a split-second. The direction of the lines indicates the direction; if the lines seem to be coming from a central point, then it is because the character is moving toward or away from the screen.
A variation of this is the Moving Punchout, where two characters are fighting and obviously moving (usually in the same direction, although sometimes towards each other), with speed stripes as the background.
This is an effect from Manga, and is indicative of a stylistic difference between the west and Japan in the depiction of movement. While speed lines in the west are traditionally drawn on the character and leave the background in focus, the Japanese artist traditionally speed-lines the background, leaving the character in focus. In the western version, the observer is a stationary bystander being passed or approached by the character, but in the Japanese version the reader is moving with
the character (incidentally, it's useful for reducing the budget by avoiding having to draw a background, so you can reuse the footage to your heart's content).
A slight variation which can appear in both Western and Japanese works is the practice of using Speed Echoes
in the same way.
- Dragon Ball Z is infamous for this, with characters flying in every direction.
- Super Mario Bros. Z, being based on Dragon Ball Z, also uses this trope heavily when characters are launched and often when they are fighting in midair.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! occasionally uses speed lines when a major character is playing a card.
- Even Hikaru no Go (an anime about, well, people playing Go) gets in the act.
- A season 4 Reboot episode makes fun of this, while the characters of Bob and Matrix play a game that combines DBZ and Pokémon. Matrix is held in an airborne kick for an extended shot, and it's revealed that he's on wires in front of a speed-striped rolling background.
- The lawyers in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney do this when making particularly forceful arguments. It can become a Bigger Stick if the two lawyers pull these off back and forth in quick succession. One example:
- For a Western CGI example, see Kung Fu Panda.
- Expect this nearly every time a Pokémon trainer says something or a Pokemon does something in the anime. (During battles, obviously.) They're used only rarely in Origins and the XY seasons, though.
- It's also used on the games in the animations for moves like ExtremeSpeed, Hydro Pump, and Focus Blast.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not only get Speed Stripes, they're coordinated to each Turtle's color.
- Sailor Moon, every time one of the senshi uses a special attack.
- Referenced in this Questionable Content strip "Speed Lines Equal INTENSITY".
- Used in Speed Racer. And the 2008 live-action film actually replicated this effect.
- Gargoyles would use this on occasion.
- Even The Simpsons is guilty of this, while Marge is chasing Snake through the city in The Springfield Connection.
- The opening credits when shown in full seem to contain an example but when watched frame by frame the quick pan across their lawn is actually filled with people.
- Beast Machines did this in an unusual way, using three-dimensional speed lines. In many cases, the background could be glimpsed in gaps between them.
- The Powerpuff Girls Intro, and occasionally during action sequences in-show.
- The Future GPX Cyber Formula series uses these, especially with the Nitro Boost in the later OVAs and when the cars go fast.
- The Viewtiful Joe series, whenever you activate the Mach Speed VFX.
- In Impure Blood, Dara to the rescue.
- In the later episodes of the first season of Weiß Kreuz, the animation budget was so low that sometimes even fast camera pans would make everything devolve into speed stripes for a second. As an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, it actually looked pretty awesome.
- In the third episode of season two of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash has these behind her when she's destroying Applejack's old barn.
- Adventure Time often uses this, usually multiple times in one episode. For example, "It Came from the Nightosphere" had speed stripes when Gunther was thrown, Marceline unleashed the Finn bomb, and her father flicked Finn in the butt without his consent.
- Parodied during an early page of Trigger Star. When a Mook leaps at Avocado, he gets impaled on his own speed lines.
- In Rusty and Co., the weapon hurtling toward Madeline's head.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace moving Jeremy is shown using this.
- In Reds Planet, the final stages of the flight from the bobalux -- down hill -- show these.
- In moprhE there are animated speed stripes during action scenes.
- As pictured above, this was done in Justice League Unlimited for the The Flash's Super Speed. The moment in the picture comes from "Divided We Fall" when he's alone, fighting the fusion of Lex Luthor and Brainiac.
- Also, as mentioned in the page quote, Speed Stripes were also employed frequently in Teen Titans.