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Feather Motif

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Who needs actual wings, anyway?

"White feathers for innocence...
Black feathers for darkest sin!"
Tsubaki Yayoi, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

If a motif is a recurring element with symbolic significance, then obviously a feather motif is any time feathers appear recurringly in a story. They can be tied to a specific character or they may span an entire work as a whole.

Feathers have certain connotations depending on their use and color. White or glowing feathers often represent the divine because of their connection to angels. Black feathers usually represent death or even evil, not only because they are the "opposite" of white but also since they are associated with Creepy Crows, which are scavengers that feed on the dead. Peacock feathers can represent vanity or, more rarely, flamboyance. Feathers of any color may represent flight or freedom due to their association with birds. Like anything symbolic, this can also be a case of Faux Symbolism or merely there because someone thought it looked really cool.

When the motif is associated with a character, that character may have wings or feathers (both real or represented) on their clothing or accessories. In Anime and Video Games, it is not uncommon for a character with a Feather Motif to have powers that are accompanied by feathers, or using feathers as weapons, or even have fully feathered wings, although it should be noted that feathered wings alone do not make a Feather Motif.

Characters with a Feather Motif may display Perpetual Molt.

Compare Cherry Blossoms, Petal Power, Symbolic Wings, Fluffy Fashion Feathers, Good Wings, Evil Wings.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in +Anima. The main character, Cooru, has crow powers, but is actually not as grim and dour as the people believe upon seeing his black feathers; he is a hopelessly optimistic, sunny and cheerful Idiot Hero.
  • In Aruosumente, Oracles wear cloaks with angel wings on the backs, representing their ability to hear God's voice in their dreams.
  • Black Butler (2008): Angela and Sebastian are accompanied by feathers in their true forms. Especially Angela, since her dress looks like it's made out of feathers, or is at least designed to appear so. Oddly, Sebastian doesn't show any wings, but that doesn't stop his Perpetual Molt.
  • Noelle from Black Clover. Her white blazer ends in frills resembling feathers, like the clothing worn by her siblings in the Silver Eagles, and on the cover of Volume 19 she's surrounded by feathers and a wing. She gradually frees herself from her family's abuse in the past and gains more confidence. When she obtains her Valkyrie Armor, which features featherlike ear ornaments, Noelle states that she feels like she's been freed from her cage.
  • In Black Lagoon, these appear in a recurring flashback to Revy's younger years as she's standing over a body. We find out eventually that it's because she used a pillow as an impromptu silencer when she killed her own father.
  • In Bloody Cross, whenever Fallen Angel Satsuki shows up, there is a rain of black feathers.
  • CLAMP:
    • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, the whole series is largely about the search for Sakura's memories which take the form of white feathers.In addition, the very last chapter reveals that Sakura and Syaoran's true names are both Tsubasa, the Japanese word for wings. It's a symbol of both their connection to each other (since wings always come in pairs) and the vast journey that they've undertaken.
    • The feather motif also briefly shows up in Tsubasa's sister series, ×××HOLiC. After receiving a visit from Syaoran and company, Watanuki is inspired to take on a wing symbol as his magical signature. The symbol is also exactly the same as the Tsubasa logo.
    • Very prevalent in X1999. Feathers are shown falling mostly during visions of the end of the world, especially in the manga and are largely associated with Kotori, the resident Purity Personified heroine which name means "Little Bird".
    • CLAMP series have also featured heroines named Kohane ("little feather") and Kobato ("little dove").
    • Kujaku from RG Veda was accompanied by black feathers wherever he went, due to his being a Winged Humanoid.
    • In Clover, Suu has a feather motif going on (as do the rest of the Clovers, to a lesser extent) as part of a "caged bird" metaphor.
  • White feathers and even wings are prevalent in both the Manga and Anime versions of Full Moon, mostly in regards to the main character Mitsuki. It empathizes her sweet, kind nature and can be seen as foreshadowing her Screw Destiny act in the end, when she defies her fate of dying within a year.
  • Haibane Renmei splits the difference with the Haibane having grey feathers.
  • Inuyasha: Kagura is represented by a white feather. She is a wind-youkai and her power of flight manifests through her feathered hairpins. The feather becomes her symbol of her desire to be as free as the wind. When she dies, her soul finally finding the freedom to become one with the wind is symbolised by a feather floating away from her dissolved body and soaring off into the sky on the wind.
  • Both Miu and Shou Kanou from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Miu's movements and fighting style often get compared to bird's movements, and her name (美羽) means "beautiful wings" or "beautiful feathers". Kanou particularly recognizes this in Miu and for that reason falls in love with her. He himself loves birds, has a spread wings motif on the back of his leather jacket, and wears a birdcage-shaped earring. Both of them are sometimes drawn accompanied by symbolic ethereal feathers.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Despite her fan reputation as a devil, Nanoha is often portrayed with pink glowing feathers, an attribute to her All-Loving Hero nature. They always appear in her Transformation Sequences and whenever she flies. The feather motif is one of her most defining attributes, similar to Fate's lightning motif.
  • Naruto: Konan, who is an angel with paper feathers. This is significant in that Konan was one of the only Akatsuki to join for entirely non-selfish or anarchistic purposes - in a way, one of the few 'good guy' Akatsuki. Her motivations were primarily to protect Nagato and to rid the world of the pain she knew from her childhood.
  • When Homura becomes a demon in the movie for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, she gains a outfit with black feathers, reflecting her sinning nature.
  • Sailor Moon has this frequently in the anime. First off, her transformation sequence in Sailor Moon R, in which glowing feathers and wings were just part of the transformation sequence, then later in her Eternal Sailor Moon henshin, in which real wings and feathers are part of the sequence until the wings turn to fake wings. Her first and second attacks in that series involve what can only be described as hurricanes of feathers. In the manga, Eternal Sailor Moon bears real feathered wings, as does Sailor Cosmos, who also has the feather wing motif on parts of her costume and staff.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, the villain Lord Shen is an albino peacock. Peacock feathers symbolizing vain/glory is especially appropriate here. However, the white feathers in this case do not hint at the divine, but rather the Eastern symbolism for madness and death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the kung fu movie Flag of Iron, the members of the 14 Eagles Clan wear tall, plumed feathers in their hair as sign of allegiance to their clan. The leaders notably have feathers as tall as their heads.
  • Used in Forrest Gump. A single feather floating in the wind is used as a transition throughout the movie. The film starts with a shot of said feather dropping through the air, panning through various objects in Forrest's suitcase, before being picked up by Forrest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tensou Sentai Goseiger used an angel theme, with the team of that series known as the "Gosei Angels". The OP makes heavy use of swirling feathers around each team member, and their transformation sequences include wings and feathers bursting out of the backs of their uniforms.

  • Each of the members of Led Zeppelin chose one particular symbol to represent him. Robert Plant chose a feather in a circle. They also have a lyric touching this in "All of My Love":
    To chase a feather in the wind
    Within the glow that weaves a cloak of delight

    Music Videos 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Balmung of .hack sports a feather motif on his armor. This may have to do with his self-appointed name of "Balmung of the Azure Sky".
  • In Assassin's Creed Altair confirms each kill by wetting a white feather with blood. Ezio has a sidequest in the second game of collecting white feathers, and the Assassins continue to use this symbol into the present day.
  • Balder from Bayonetta wears a dead white peacock stole over his shoulder, with the tail feathers prominently displayed. When he goes One-Winged Angel for his Boss Battle, the peacock itself disappears but the feathers become a part of Balder himself, acting as enormous wings, along with other assorted feathers attached to the rest of his outfit. Also, at one point during the fight, he pulls out a feather to comb back his hair.
  • At least two or three characters from BlazBlue use a Feather Motif in an unusual way. For the N.O.L's elite Zero Squadron-member Tsubaki Yayoi, a Perpetual Molt accompanies many of her powers (and is directly invoked for her Astral Finish). Tellingly, her Feather Motif turns black by the end of Continuum Shift. For Nu and Lambda, the fact that their "feathers" are eight swords floating behind their backs should tell the player most of what they need to know about the mecha-angels.
  • Dance Central: Oblio wears feathers as a part of all his outfits, and in VR, feathers will fall off of him during routines. This is symbolic of his continuous flight from Dr. Tan and overall free spirit personality.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, small white feathers can be seen floating around Vergil briefly, as well as a type of demon with deceptively angelic form, complete with luminous white wings and a face on its stomach.
  • Feathers are a recurring element in Eternal Fighter Zero: When a character uses a Level 3 Super or a Final Memory, white glowing feathers accompany the activation effect; a particular example is Ayu Tsukimiya, who fights with her winged backpack, and her Final Memory has her summoning feathers that zap her opponent; Or Misuzu Kamio, who can grow wings to block and air-dash, and for some attacks, and can store energy feathers that allow her to call Yukito; Or Kanna, who is a Winged Humanoid, and one of her Supers is a variant of Ayu's Final Memory.
  • The Final Fantasy series is somewhat fond of this trope.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth is given a black feather motif in his appearances in Kingdom Hearts. This was carried over to Dissidia Final Fantasy and even the compilation itself. Angeal and Genesis from Crisis Core also have feather motifs.
    • Final Fantasy VIII:
      • Rinoa has a feather motif to a degree - her Infinity Plus One Blaster Edge is made up of feathered wings and her Limit Break Angel Wing begins with her growing glowing angel wings which shed glowing feathers. She also turns a flower petal into a feather in the opening sequence. This theme was carried over into Dissidia Final Fantasy, with Squall's feather MacGuffin and with Ultimecia's black feather motif taken up a notch. It was also carried over to the Fan Film Dead Fantasy, where Rinoa is given permanent angel wings and a gunblade shaped like and decorated with a feather.
      • Wings seem to be a symbol associated with sorceresses in general. Edea has a black feather motif, Ultimecia has black wings, and Adel has a strange winglike structure on her back. Angelic white wings seem to be specific to Rinoa, however.
    • Final Fantasy X: Yuna's wedding dress have feathers. The symbolism is the connection to the divine, since Yuna is very much a Messianic Archetype. The second is a symbol of freedom and flight. This is especially appropriate since immediately after the ceremony she repudiates the marriage, tells the party she can fly, jumps off the roof, and flies away on Valefor. The 'Life' spells all feature feathers in their animation.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2:
      • Lightning's armor has a half-skirt made of feathers and feathers appear when she summons her gunblade. This replaces her flower petal motif from the first game. Word of God has confirmed that this indicates a connection to the divine.
      • Caius' revive animation (the result of his permanent Auto-Revive status) also features white feathers (note: he also wears purple feathers in his hair), like Lightning, this is indicative of a link to the divine (specifically, Etro).
  • Yukiko and to a greater extent her shadow from Persona 4 have heavy wing symbolism, with her Shadow being a bird with her face and her Persona's wing-like shawl-chain-thing. Shadow Yukiko desires freedom from her oppressive, pre-determined life and Yukiko is one of the most fragile team members in the game.
  • Alphonse Michel from pop'n music has this during his Fever animation. (As his hair turns blond from taking off his glasses, the white, glowing feathers appear while the book in hand opens and starts turning pages..)
  • In Resident Evil Village, it's revealed that the umbrella insigna made up of four white triangles and four red triangles that serves as the emblem of the Umbrella Corporation is actually its namesake, as the company founder Oswell Spencer saw said insigna in a Romanian village, thought it looked like an umbrella, and named his company after it. However, the original symbol actually represents crows' feathers, with four of them symbolically pointing to the village's lords (Dimitrescu, Beneviento, Moreau, and Heisenberg). Mother Miranda, who rules over the four lords, frequently uses her infection with the Mold to manifest crows' wings, especially during the final boss battle.
  • The conflict between Oda Nobunaga and Akechi Mitsuhide is represented with these in Samurai Warriors. Black feathers for Nobunaga, and white feathers for Mitsuhide.
  • Fuma Kotaro from Sengoku Basara is surrounded by black feathers almost everywhere he goes. This is interesting as he's sometimes depicted with wings, and is rumored to be Not Quite Human.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Four Archangels all have this, befitting their station. Lilith also has them, though in her case her wings are blasted to char, her hands have been reduced to talons, and her feathers are moulting.
  • Kilik's Critical Finish in Soulcalibur IV has him leap up into the air as the cry of a phoenix resounds in the distance. He is briefly surrounded by golden feathers as he slams his bo down upon their heads for the final blow.
  • Tales of Symphonia: Angels are associated with glowing white feathers. These feathers appear in their casting animations, as opposed to the series' standard Instant Runes. Notably, this motif is more prominent for higher-ranking angels, who have wings of Hard Light instead of bird-like ones, that normal angels have.
  • Valkyrie Profile: The Valkyries themselves use this prominently. When they switch between a simple dress to walk among mortals to their armor, they do it in a cloud of glowing feathers. In the second game, feathers are also used when they fuse with Alicia to recreate the true Valkyrie.
  • Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume: The Valkyrie's feather is dropped on every body whose soul she takes to Valhalla. The Valkyrie feather in Wylfred's possession was stained with sin to give whoever it is invoked on immense power for a while, then lets them die after a battle is fought.
  • Xenosaga: chaos' normal attacks are accompanied by glowing feather-shapes. This is because he was literally The Man Behind the Man to Jesus, making him a divine figure.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Ever After High:
    • The Rebel faction, who want to be free from the Legacy system's oppression, is symbolized both in-universe and out by a feather-winged heart.
    • The character Raven, founder of the Rebel faction, constantly wears a mantle of grey feathers. In the opening theme she is associated with a drifting feather.
    • The trope is also used to show how different Ever After is, thematically speaking, than New Salem. When Cupid steps from the latter world into the former, her fleshless bony wings become feathered and angelic.