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Japanese ghosts and those they possess are traditionally depicted as surrounded by floating blue flames known as hitodama. The victims of possession traditionally tend to keep their free will, but are plagued with fatal bad luck.

The possession part is rarely played straight in anime. People dressing as a ghost will usually tie burning candles to their heads to simulate the light. Being surrounded by ghost lights are a visual indicator of someone who is already a ghost. (Which raises the odd Fridge Logic; if one Ghostlight is a soul, why are ghosts surrounded by multiple ones?) Some ghosts can use this form as Ball of Light Transformation.

Sometimes, when a character is "possessed" by mortification or depression about something, they will be portrayed as squatting in a (possibly nonexistent) corner, back turned to the main cast, with a black halo and ghost lights.

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Interestingly, hitodama (or kitsunebi or onibi) are created by rotting compounds of a body. Although these lights give a ghostly/comical atmosphere on TV, it's perfectly possible to witness them in real life by this explanation, and who knows what they mean then...

Subtrope to Faux Flame for "flames" that aren't actually fire. See also Spark Fairy (fairies or magical insects depicted as a point of light) and Will-o'-the-Wisp (a light that leads unwary travelers into danger).


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Played for Laughs when Kero dons hitodama and a Creepy Monotone when he is particularly annoyed at Sakura - because she got to eat a delicious cake and he didn't. Then Tomoyo appears behind Sakura and reveals she got him a slice anyway.
  • In an early Detective Conan case, the detective boys think a house is possessed by a ghost when they see a light in the window. (It turns out to just be from a candle.)
  • A blue flame symbolically appears in the background in .hack//SIGN when Bear explains to Mimiru that their enemy is not an entity that can be simply attacked but is both nowhere and everywhere.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler there is a priest who only has lights around him after it is revealed he's actually a ghost.
  • Hell Teacher Nube:
    • Nube-sensei likes to introduce himself to his new class by strapping candles to his head to mimic this effect... and then swinging, Tarzan-like, into the classroom, or try to play-exorcise a doll. The irony is that Nube is such a tremendously powerful spiritualist and exorcist that he can summon the real thing at will, but will only do so when he actually needs to.
    • Of course, a vast number of the Obake he encounters is naturally surrounded by hitodama.
  • Kikyo in Inuyasha is surrounded by the blue spheres of human souls at many times to sustain her resurrected body.
  • Kindaichi Case Files: There was an urban legend of a woman who turned into a demon in a snowstorm who is accompanied by hitodama light. This freaks Hajime out as the cabin owner tells him he saw a hitodama earlier. It's revealed to be a fire caused by the suspect to destroy an improvised ice bridge.
  • Ghost Aisaka Sayo in Mahou Sensei Negima! usually isn't wreathed in hitodama, but can produce them if needed.
  • My Lovely Ghost Kana:
    • The titular Kana naturally sports several balls of flames surrounding them. They are a good indication of her mood, since there are more of them and they make little "pop" sounds when she is especially happy.
    • Also used amusingly when Daikichi finds an old "dead" cellphone and discovers that Kana can use it to keep in touch with him. A stylized hitodama is her chat icon and takes place of the signal meter on her phone.
  • Ranma ½:
    • The ghost girl Kogane Musashi manifests ghost lights when she's trying to be scary and when she arrives/departs.
    • Gosunkugi fakes the hitodama in the traditional way with candles tied to his head.
  • Sgt. Frog:
    • The ghost girl is often accompanied by hitodama.
    • Dororo tends to sulk in the corner with hitodama around him when his "Trauma Switch" turns on.
  • Shaman King has shamans who travel with at least one spirit, who is usually in the form of a wandering ball of fire. They can also force their ghost-pals into weapons, empowering them with their spirit ally, and wreathing the weapons in the flame. In this case, the hitodama have faces, mouths, and usually part of the original spirit's clothes/hair. The stronger the connection, the more of the original spirit can be seen.
  • To Love-Ru: Oshizu has her "pure" ghost form, with floating flames around her, the same purple tint as her ghost body. These lights are not visible while she's in her artificial body.

    Light Novels 

    Literature 
  • Spellsinger: Gneechees are floating flames which appear whenever Jon-Tom's spellsinging is on track and particularly powerful. They aren't the cause of magic, exactly, but their presence facilitates or enhances it. They normally cannot be seen because they actively dodge away whenever you try to look at them directly. When Jon-Tom is in M'nemaxa's plane, he discovers each is actually the soul of a deceased person. Because of this spoiler, gneechees have different interests and affinities, and so Couvier Coulb must summon particular musically-inclined ones when retuning the broken duar in Time of the Transference.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Return of Ultraman has Hitodama Kaiju Femigon, an alien entity made of fire that possesses women (and only women). When possessing humans, they gain pyrokinetic abilities and will transform into a rooster-like monster that feeds on fire.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing:
    • Villagers will have these when they are sad or sick. (With the exception of the American GameCube version, where they sport Personal Raincloud, instead)
    • In the original game, when wandering the town at 3AM you can sometimes be disturbed by an unknown presence whispering, which reveals itself to be a ghost if you stay in one place long enough. He explains his dire situation, where he needs to retrieve 5 hitodama which slowly float around the town. If you don't, his Master (whose name changes every time) will be very displeased. Collecting them for him before Sunrise will have him perform a favor for you, one of which is simultaneously plucking every Weed in town for you. (The Wii version instead requires his missing Lamp or else he is stuck in town for the night.)
  • Corpse Party has souls take on this appearance. They glow blue when friendly, but turn red when becoming aggressive.
  • In the Darkstalkers series, the demonic samurai Bishamon is accompanied by balls of flames; not only do they symbolize his own possession by cursed armor, he can dispatch them as an attack to temporarily "possess" (paralyze) an opponent.
  • The Zombie Possessor in EarthBound inflicts hitodama as a status ailment.
  • The Pyreflies of Final Fantasy X are fragments of souls who haven't been "sent". If they are not sent to the other side by a summoner, they'll turn into one of the monsters you battle.
  • In the Birthright and Conquest routes of Fire Emblem Fates Lilith will appear on the My Castle battle map as a blue flame after her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Ghost Trick, the default form for a ghost is a little blue wisp of flame. After the spirit remembers what they look like (or what they think they look like), they can take on the shape of their original body. When Sissel realizes that he can't hold on to the image of himself as the blond-haired man anymore, he reverts to a blue flame with sunglasses.
  • In Gotcha Force, the demonic samurai borg has two floating skull ghost lights that can be used for attack.
  • Guardian Heroes: Hitodama appear in a single stage where they don't attack, can't be hit, but they also possess killed enemies and reanimate them.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, small balls of bluish-white flames float aimlessly and harmlessly through the underworld. Sora can smash them for money and health. Think about what this means.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • An uncaptured Poe usually looks like your typical sheet-ghost, but from far away or in bottles, they're bluish-white and balls of flame. They can usually be captured in bottles and traded for money, plot coupons or upgrades.
    • Bubbles are directly referred to as hitodama in the Japanese manual of the first game. When Link touches one, he generally loses the ability to draw his sword for a few seconds.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the Ghost Ship has blue flames floating around it.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, when Link enters the Twilight Realm, normal humans become like spirits and appear as floating flames. Their real forms are only visible by using the animal senses of Link's wolf form.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the spirits of the four champions and the King are surrounded by a teal light. In addition, their champion abilities show both the Hitodama and their spectral forms while in use.
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade uses hitodama in two ways:
    • Green ghost lights represent souls that can be gathered for crafting the Demon Blades (or learning skills in DLC chapters). They're found either floating in stages or released by dead enemies.
    • Ghost NPCs usually have a couple lights floating nearby and hostile ones use them as an attack.
  • In Ōkami, You'll see hitodama around some cursed zones and around several ghosts you encounter. When you find the corpse of the real Priestess Rao, there's a single one floating around her too.
  • Pokémon: Introduced in Pokémon Black and White, the Litwick family of Pokémon possess a flame powered by draining the life energy of the creatures around them. Their purplish flames increase as they lead living creatures to the ghost world.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: One chapter is searching for a pirate ghost's treasure. Balls of flame, representing the dead, play a prominent role; attacking the ship at the start and as common enemies throughout the island.
  • Quest for Glory IV hitodama are the souls of dead children and appear as colored lights above the swamp at night.
  • Samurai Shodown: As a restless spirit, Basara can summon a hitodama called "Soul of Nue" that he uses as an attack, as well as transform in and out of a hitodama himself.
  • In the Shining Force series, whenever a playable character is seen while dead, they have a large flame as their sprite until they're revived.
  • In Goemon/Legend of the Mystical Ninja series this occurs frequently, it being a Widget Series even for Japan's standards. A good example is stage 1 on the SNES, where the ghost boss is surrounded by flames.
  • Street Fighter EX: Garuda is surrounded by floating flames in his intro when faced as a boss in EX2 (Plus) because he is a demon dressed in samurai-like armor. His Soukondan super technique allows him to weaponize these flames.
  • Sweet Home: Random hitodama will bounce around and if the player makes contact, they will be randomly teleported.
  • In Super Mario World, the ghost enemy Fishin' Boo dangles a blue flame from a fishing rod.
  • Phantoon, the boss of the Wrecked Ship in Super Metroid, appears surrounded by hitodama, and uses them as weapons against Samus.
  • Tomodachi Life: The sick/sad animations in the Japanese games show the ghostly embers of possession forming next to the character instead of the Personal Raincloud seen in the US and EU versions.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Touhou Youyoumu ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom:
      • Youmu Konpaku has a phantom half always present and independently visible around her. There's an Asian belief that human souls actually have two parts (Kon and Paku, hence her name). There's the immortal "higher" soul (Kon) that either becomes a ghost, like Yuyuko, or enters the cycle of reincarnation, and the transient "lower" soul (Paku) that animates the body and houses the earthly passions and which could, after death, become an unintelligent evil spirit, such as those seen in Subterranean Animism. Youmu's phantom-half is apparently her higher soul, while her lower soul remains in her human body, giving it life.
      • Yuyuko Saigyouji is the princess of a ghost palace (and a ghost herself), and is continuously surrounded by hitodama. She can use them as an Attack Drone in combat.
    • Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism: Rin Kaenbyou is surrounded by what appears to be small balls of flaming skulls — appropriate, since her job is to carry off corpses into the underworld. In some spell cards, she is accompanied by zombie fairies, which look pretty similar (though a later guidebook claims that they're just normal fairies who like to dress up). The Wild and Horned Hermit manga reveals the skulls are "evil spirits", which are what souls carried off by kasha turn into.
  • In World of Warcraft, night elf characters will turn into small glowing blue balls (with, if you zoom in close enough, a face) as they return to their body.
  • In the mobile Rogue Like Yodanji the Hitodama is a "character class" that can become available. Difficult, but Awesome to use since they're One-Hit-Point Wonder outside of a possessed body.

    Web Comics 

    Web Video 
  • Joueur du Grenier: In "JdG answers your questions", when seen through the "specs that reveals souls", JdG has a black shirt and is surrounded by blue flames, as a result of testing the Spirou game.

Alternative Title(s): Hitodama

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