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Becoming The Mask / Anime & Manga

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People Becoming the Mask in anime and manga.


  • In the manhwa Aflame Inferno, creatures called Tedlars can only interact with the human world by taking over a human's body, subsequently killing the human doing so. As the Tedlars usually have to live the same life the possessed humans do to avoid detection (not to mention they have access to all the humans' memories), it's quite possible that they become the human they took over themselves. However, usually Tedlars don't stay too long in one body and return to their plane of existence to 'cast off' the fake identity, avoiding this.
    • It's a plot point that the Tedlar called Inferno refused to return, thereby retaining her memories as the human Jeanne de'Arc, and more importantly, the experience of becoming a mother.
  • In Aquarion Evol, Jin's infiltration of Earth is cut short when he actually meets the gender he is supposed to kidnap and realizes that they are people just like him and he doesn't really feel like betraying his new... fake? ...friends.
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  • Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan, in an absolutely heartbreaking deconstruction. His guilt over his crimes as The Mole, and growing attachment to his human comrades, results in him suffering dissociative episodes. He essentially Mind Raped himself into having episodes where he genuinely believes his cover is real, since that's who he would rather be. Two a little more minor cases also occur with Annie Leonhart and Bertolt Hoover, his partners. During a rampage, Annie spares her former classmates... which eventually leads to her being exposed. And Bertolt eventually admits that not everything was a lie and he did care about his comrades during his Villainous Breakdown.
  • In Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders, Ren was sent by the Gundalians to get the Battle Brawlers to join them in the guise that they were the innocent party in their war. However, after experiencing their friendship and eventually realizing that the king he served didn't care about him, he did a Heel–Face Turn and joined the Brawlers in the battle against his own kind.
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  • In Battle Spirits Shonen Toppa Bashin, this happens with Number Eight/Masako Inogashira, who was ordered to become a teacher and spy on Bashin and the others. She legitimately comes to enjoy this, and stays this way. In fact, this also occurred per the backstory of Number Five/Card Sensei. Apparently, Number Nine didn't learn his lesson.
  • In episode 18 of A Certain Magical Index, the guy who was hitting on Mikoto turns out to be a shapeshifting assassin assigned to kill her. He fell in love with her for real, so he decided to protect her from his colleagues, but murder Touma and get rid of his potential romantic rival. After Touma defeats him and a steel girder falls on him, he begs Touma to protect her as well.
  • Subverted, deconstructed and played with in Code Geass.
    • Never one to be content with mediocrity, Lelouch vi Britannia wore and became not one, but two different masks through the series' run, one being Zero and the other being Lelouch Lamperouge.
      • Between the two seasons, Lelouch is brainwashed into becoming Lelouch Lamperouge, the ordinary if highly intelligent high school student. Except that he's still disaffected with society and only superficially apathetic to the dreary, distasteful reality of Britannian domination.
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    • Rolo, with each passing day, grows more comfortable in his role, until finally he dies for his “brother's” sake.
    • While Villetta Nu only masqueraded as Ohgi's lover shortly before shooting him (thanks to Identity Amnesia), their past relationship was used to blackmail Villetta into siding with the Black Knights in R2 in order to counter the latter, now a Baroness from keeping the then supposedly amnesiac Lelouch from continuing on as Zero, until Ohgi shielded her from one of Sayoko's kunais.
  • Contractor Shihoko from Darker Than Black started up a relationship with Huang sometime in the past as part of a Syndicate mission. While she didn't let any feelings get in the way of the original plan, they did spark some uncharacteristic pity that lead her to pull some strings and give Huang the opportunity to join the Syndicate himself as an alternative to memory erasure.
    • Also the cult leader Alma in the same episode. She started out as a typically ruthless Contractor and started the Friends of the Gate as a way of hiding from Contractor-hunting humans and keeping abreast of information about the Gate. Over time, because of the faithful worshipers, she began to believe in peaceful coexistence and genuinely became the spiritual leader she pretended to be. Totally against Contractor stereotype, she was happy to bear the terrible price of using her powers (rapid aging and debilitating health) so that she could appear young before her followers, and also considered it a way to atone for her past actions.
  • In Detective School Q, Ryu was supposed to be The Mole and infiltrate the DDS, but as time passed he discovered what friendship really was and grew fond of his partners for real.
  • Souichi Negishi is a soft-hearted nice guy. His stage persona in Detroit Metal City, Krauser II, is a violent, foul-mouthed, vulgar Gene Simmons lookalike. Quite a few gags in the series revolve around Negishi accidentally lapsing into his Krauser II persona when he's out of costume, offending and confusing everyone around him.
  • In D.Gray-Man, Lavi is a successor to the Bookman lineage, who only joined the Black Order to record the war. However, as the years passed, he got more and more into the role of an exorcist, and is visibly angry when Bookman tells him he's not really a part of the Order, and that he's only there because it's convenient. His issues with Becoming The Mask are actually what Little Miss Badass Road Kamelot uses to "destroy his heart".
  • Dragon Ball has a number of examples of this trope;
    • Piccolo, after years of being an evil villain during Dragon Ball because he was literally born into the role, becomes a steadily softer and even more noble character due to his exposure to the heroes, but this whole transformation began with him being forced to play hero with his nemesis for his own gain in the beginning of Dragon Ball Z.
    • Vegeta begins as an apparently irredeemable villain but is forced to fight on the side of the heroes in Z for a number of battles for the sake of practicality. He himself will later admit that the heroes rubbed off on him by the time he is doing good for its own sake.
    • This list wouldn't be complete without Mr Satan. He begins as a shameless blowhard who is playing the hero for glory. When he finally gets the chance to do it for real, by getting Android 16 where he needs to be in order to help Gohan find his drive, he could have backed out like a coward. He doesn't. He will later go the distance again when he convinces the people of Earth to help Goku save the universe with their energy.
  • Sena Kobayakawa of Eyeshield 21 undergoes this, taking on such a title and becoming the "Hero of Notre Dame." The more the series progresses, the more he realizes how important that name really is and how people's dreams are relying on his lightspeed runs. And of course, this leads to problems when he meets the real Eyeshield 21...s and has to fight for his title.
    • Ironically his ultimate opponent is not someone who is vying for the title, but someone whom already surpassed everyone whom has taken up that title.
  • Ninamori of FLCL wanted for this to happen with her family. She thought if her parents would come to the play and watch it together, and they could all act like a happy family, it would become real. That was why she loved Puss In Boots so much: It represented a lie becoming a happy truth.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has this with some of the homunculi. For instance, Pride is, as true to his name, totally bereft of compassion for any human being in the world... except for his foster mother, Mrs. Bradley, who tended dearly to him after he was hit by a car (not knowing he was a homunculus, nor about the near-immortality that comes with the territory). Doesn't mean he has any hesitation to sacrificing her along with the rest of the entire country in Father's plans, of course, but at the end of it all, he's the only homunculus left - having his Philosopher's Stone eradicated, but spared from death, by Edward Elric - and he gets grow up from scratch under her care. Wrath also shows compassion for the same woman given that she's his wife, but he doesn't have to put forth quite as much of an act as Pride does.
  • Yukki and Yuno in Future Diary. Both of them were faking their love and using each other. Yukki used Yuno for protection and Yuno used Yukki for an emotional crutch. But over time the fake aspect became less and less fake and more like genuine love.
  • Goddess Creation System
    • First, despite starting out the story hating the Wang Pu brothers, Xiaxi is actually fairly sad when she leaves them behind because while she certainly doesn't love them, she has grown fond of them and finds it difficult to stomach having tricked them into falling in love with her only to leave them behind.
    • Second, she feels that being a Manipulative Bitch may be starting to supplant her true personality, so she occasionally goes out of her way to act on what she feels is her better nature even when it's contrary to her own needs or at least more difficult.
  • Gundam:
    • Michelle from Mobile Suit Gundam is sent to spy on the White Base. She falls for a guy in the crew, Kai, and tries to help him instead. And then, she dies.
    • Katejina Loos in Victory Gundam is effectively kidnapped by the Zanscare early on. At that point, she comes up with the idea of getting close to them and becoming a spy for the League Militaire. Whether or not that would have been possible ends up being beside the point, as she slowly (or maybe a little too suddenly) becomes an actual enemy pilot and a total zealot by the end.
    • Flay Alster in Gundam SEED. She pretended to love Kira because she wanted to have revenge against him for her dad's death, which he caused indirectly, but ended up loving him for real.
    • Gundam 00.
      • Lyle Dylandy. He joins Celestial Being mostly as a Kataron Double Agent, but in the end, he becomes a full-fledged Gundam Meister like his deceased twin brother, Neil.
      • Also Anew Returner. She's The Mole, but falls in love with Lyle. In the end, she attempts to return to him and Celestial Being, but is controlled by Ribbons into attacking Lyle, forcing Setsuna to kill her.
    • Zeheart Gallette of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE enrolls in a Federation high school as part of his cover (he's a Vagan spy, but is young enough to be in high school). He does this only to maintain his cover, but finds himself forming real friendships among his classmates, most especially with Asemu Asuno and Romary Stone, which continue to affect his judgement long after he rejoins the Vagan military.
  • Used quite positively in Haibane Renmei. Reki originally acted nice and supporting towards everybody solely to earn a quick salvation for her troubles, but as time went by and no Day of Flight came, it slowly became her true identity, as she finally realized in the final episode, allowing her to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • The eighth Haruhi Suzumiya light novel:
  • In Rokujyouma no Shinryakusha!?, Koutaro ends up acting out the role of a legendary knight in a play written by Alien Princess Theiamillis. After a battle with Theia's rival ends up catapulting them two thousand years ago on Theia's homeworld, he ends up actually becoming the knight of legend. Fortunately for him, Theia was big on Showing Her Work, and actually trained him in ancient Forthorthian sword techniques, and his Knight costume was actually a suit of high-tech Powered Armor.
  • Played with in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Tylor finds out Harumi is a Raalgon spy early on, but makes the decision to keep it between them and trust her despite her inevitable betrayal — something that completely confuses her. It's explicitly because of this response that Harumi begins having second thoughts that leads her to an official Heel–Face Turn.
  • Invoked in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Shirogane admits during the Rap arc that his persona as The Ace is false, but he constantly pushes himself to make it a reality since that's the only way he feels that he could be good enough for Kaguya.
  • Kare Kano: Yukino Miyazawa. Her public mask which she created soon after she started school, was designed to elicit praise from those people around her. Playing the role of the perfect girl was so stressful that she had to unwind by turning into a slob at home. When Arima discovered her secret and blackmailed her, keeping her mask on became so uncomfortable that when she and Arima fell in love, she decided to throw her mask away, only to slowly discover that she acted perfect for so long that a lot of her mask persona became part of her true nature.
    • Arima also wore a mask of perfection but unlike Yukino, he never took his off, because he feared that his true nature was so awful that everyone would reject him if he took it off.
  • In Katanagatari, Togame really did fall in love with Shichika but due to Revenge Before Reason (at least according to them), they would have killed the latter in the end regardless.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Initially, Chao Lingshen only travelled back in time and entered Mahora to change the past and expose magic to the world, but when Negi asks her whether the time she spent with her classmates was just part of her disguise, she admits that the bonds she created and the happy and fun time she spent with her friends weren't part of her plan.
    • Happens to the fake Asuna, Shiori. While her Signum Bioregens supposedly makes her more-or-less a sleeper agent (which is in and of itself a subversion of this trope) with added control (she can apparently switch at will), Shiori's disguise will fall apart if she falls in love while disguised. This isn't helped by the story very strongly implying that Asuna is already in love with Negi herself which confuses Shiori's emotions. Infiltrating a group held together by a Chick Magnet might not have been the best of ideas...
    • Also appears to have happened to Governor-General Kurt Gödel, who was unambiguously heroic 20 years ago. In the meantime, he infiltrated the corrupt senate, to find out more about and stop their villainy. He has since taken on many more villainous characteristics, such as being a Smug Snake and exhibiting Fantastic Racism to an incredible degree.
  • Mashin Hero Wataru Series: Kurama took on the job as an agent for Doakudar for one, being forced, and two, solely for his own benefit to turn back human without considering his fellow townsmen. As he befriends Team Wataru and slowly understood their genuine friendship with him, he became intensely remorseful; eventually learns to put his benefits behind and aid Team Wataru to atone for his misdeeds.
  • Mazinger Z: Erika. She was an android built by Dr. Hell. However, she suffered from amnesia and had forgotten her origins. She genuinely believed she was a normal girl, and when she was told her true nature, she rejected it. In the end she helped The Hero Kouji and she died because of it.
  • Parodied at Muteki Kanban Musume, a deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs: Just after his Tomato in the Mirror moment, when he realizes he is not an Star Ranger, but merely a Shopkeeper who Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality, Akihiko decides that even if he is not a Star Ranger, he will be a hero and see that a little boy is not harmed by an Angry Guard Dog.
  • In Naruto:
    • Sai was trained as an emotionless assassin and then sent to join Team 7. Originally ordered to assassinate Sasuke and observe Naruto, he eventually became a true member of the team.
    • In a darker variant, this is Kabuto's backstory. An orphan who was all but conscripted into duty as a spy, he spent most of his childhood under numerous names in different villages. By the end of it, he's not really sure who he is. When he breaks down, the village stops trusting him, he loses his only purpose in life, and ends up believing Orochimaru's insane logic. And when Orochimaru dies, he doubles down on it and decides to become the most powerful being on the planet in an attempt to give himself worth.
    • Tobi has a decidedly literal take on this trope, in that he has become his literal mask, ie no one, in order to try and bury his past and internal conflicts. After The Reveal that he is really Obito Uchiha, he just says That Man Is Dead and the heroes can call him whatever they want. As it turns out, the mask isn't nearly as perfect as he'd like it to be, and ultimately he reclaims his identity as Obito with his Heel–Face Turn.
  • In the second season of Ojamajo Doremi, a young wizard by the name of Akatsuki was sent by his fellow wizards to help Oyajide kidnap Hana. To do this, he adopted a friendly facade and pretended to be Doremi's friend. But after spending a lot of time with and getting to know her, he began having doubts. When The Reveal came along and exposed his duplicity, Doremi's pain at being betrayed was one of the things that helped him and his allies, Tooru, Fujio, and Leon, make a Heel–Face Turn and save Hana from the other wizards.
  • In Ojojojo, Haru's condescending attitude was originally just a way to hide from the pain of her original friends leaving her do to her social status, but over time it became so ingrained in her personality that she can't stop acting that way, even if she wants to. Most of her Character Development is devoted to undoing all of that.
  • One Piece:
    • This series actually has a running theme of declaring oneself to be something and then using that as a source of strength to follow through. Sogeking, Luffy, Don Krieg, etc.
    • The motivation of Captain Kuro, who wanted to give up the life of piracy to become a normal (albeit rich) man. Not so much a Face–Heel Turn considering how he wanted to do it, though... turns into a cruel subversion when he seems to consciously invoke this trope in a confrontation with the girl he intends to kill to make her drop her weapon.
    • Nami as well. She had only intended to use Luffy for all he was worth before leaving. But the longer she stayed with them, the more she grew to like being part of the Straw Hats (especially compared to her experiences with Arlong). Eventually, she betrayed them and cheerfully took off with Going Merry, but once she was on her own, she broke down and cried. When the Straw Hats eventually follow her, she is visibly upset while trying to keep them out of a fight she thought they couldn't win. Luffy continues to think of Nami as part of his crew and confronts Arlong for her sake. The final nail in this was when Luffy told Nami to watch his signature straw hat, simultaneously a sign of his trust in her and a sign he was about to kick some serious butt. By this time she is too shaken with emotion to even move, ultimately coming to the realization she wants to be a Straw Hat, leading to her ultimate decision to leave with them after Luffy defeats Arlong.
    • Sogeking. This is a literal case of becoming the mask for Usopp, who undergoes a heavy personality shift when he dons the Sogeking mask. This leads to a funny exchange where the Usopp and Sogeking parts of his personality have an argument while he's trying to think of a plan.
    • Nico Robin had originally planned to use the Straw Hats as a shield until they deemed her too dangerous to protect any longer, as she had with all of the groups she joined. However, after being accepted and loved by them as one of their own, she chose to give up her life for the sake of her crew by giving herself into the government that she had been running away from her whole life. Of course, this didn't stop the Straw Hats from trying to save her despite her claiming she wanted to die; however, after the Straw Hats immediately declared war on said government she realized that they would stick by her no matter what, upon which she claimed that she wanted to stay in their crew forever and sail the seas with them.
  • In Pikaia, Morris was a mole working under Frazer. However, he decided he actually liked working with the time divers.
  • Pretty Cure loves this trope. Kiriya, the Kiryuu twins, Setsuna, Siren, and Ruru each pretended to be ordinary schoolkids in order to get close to the respective series' heroines and undermine their efforts. Inevitably, their interactions with the Cures expose them to The Power of Friendship and lead to a Heel–Face Turn by the end.
  • In Ranma ½, Ryoga initially allowed Akane to cuddle and sleep with his cursed animal form, as a way to piss off her fiance Ranma. It backfired massively when Ryoga actually fell in love with Akane since she was so kind to his animal form, but had already doomed his chances by sleeping in her bed without her knowing it. Ouch.
  • In Ravages of Time, Sima Yi's plan for revenge after Cao Cao has his family purged involves his assassin Liaoyuan Huo joining "a worthy lord" and using Sima Yi's money to build him up as a rival to Sima Yi's lord Cao Caonote  so that Sima Yi can work his way up Cao Cao's ranks. However, Sima Yi already admits his recognition that Liaoyuan Huo has been "want(ing) to leave this dark maze" (as Zhao Yun realized during his rescue of Zhang Lei and Sima Lang during the purge of the Sima clan residencenote ) and years later, in chapters 386 and 387 Huo turns on his teacher as an assassin after the teacher and his men take Liu Bei's wives and son hostage during the Battle of Changban, having by now internalized the name that Liu Bei gave him: Zhao Yun, styled Zilong.
  • Rurouni Kenshin has this as part of Kenshin's backstory: Kenshin/Battosai's first love Yukishiro Tomoe was sent to Battosai to become close to him as part of a plan to discover his weaknesses, something she was participating in because one of the samurai Battosai killed was her fiancé. However, her influence on him caused Battosai to show his kinder side to her, which resulted in her falling for him for real.
  • In Shugo Chara!, Mr. Nikaidou is a spy for Easter who infiltrates the school. While he has no compunctions with backstabbing the heroes whatsoever, he is eventually defeated, and following the ensuing Defeat Means Friendship he immediately goes back to the school, performing the role he was using as his guise with no-one the wiser.
  • Mami in Sister Princess is a spy charged with disrupting the reunion of Wataru and his sisters, pretending to be another sister; at the climax of the series, she is the one who takes the action necessary to keep the family together, rejecting her own real brother — the mastermind of the scheme — to beg Wataru to come back home.
  • Stewart of Sonic X was a government agent assigned to investigate Sonic and the other animals. As it turned out, while he shows himself capable as an agent, he's really good at, and really likes, being a teacher. And occasionally a Badass Teacher.
  • Possible example in Shinigami from Soul Eater. He tells Asura that he took on his current silly appearance and demeanour to avoid scaring the children he wanted to recruit to his school, but that he 'got used' to it. The odd flashbacks depict him as far more ruthless and direct in his dealings with his enemies.
  • Played with in Special A. Megumi tries to distract Yahiro (the closest thing the early chapters have to a Big Bad) so that he won't interfere with Akira and Tadashi's burgeoning relationship. She does so by pretending to like him. Yahiro sees right through the mask, but goes along with it just to screw with her. In the process they end up actually falling for each other.
  • In Superior, the Big Bad female lead feigns hopelessness to gain the hero's trust and kill him. A few days later she realises she has a huge crush on him.
  • Hinted at in Tokyo Ghoul, where Tsukiyama Shuu joins the protagonist Kaneki's Five-Man Band with the intention of eventually eating him, but begins to show instances of genuine kindness toward him. By the end of the manga, Tsukiyama is the only one who tries to stop Kaneki's Suicide Mission, and following Kaneki's death seems to fall into an Angst Coma - though this may be because he still wishes he got to eat him.
    • A more abstract example is Kaneki himself, who starts out the story looking far more frightening than he really is - due to a particularly terrifying leather mask that Uta made for him. By the end, however, he suits the personality reflected by his mask much better.
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, it is revealed that Fai has secretly been working as a mole for Fei Wong in an attempt to resurrect his twin brother and has been misleading the group the entire time. However, he eventually develops a genuine affection for his comrades and undergoes a Heel–Face Turn just prior to the reveal.
  • Kurama of Yu Yu Hakusho was a kitsune before he died and inhabited the body of an unborn human child. He planned to run away from his human "mother" Shiori Minamino when his demonic powers returned, but realized that he loved her too much to leave.


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