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Shapeshifters are very common in fiction due to their flexibility. They can turn into a wolf, a giant, a tree, a whale, or sometimes only transform into another person.

How much a humanshifter can change varies. It could be just the face or it could be the whole body. The latter can lead to Gender Bender tropes. While Humanshifters don't have the versatility of being able to shift into another animal, they have their advantages. They are usually a Master of Disguise, able to replace their subject, and wreak havoc by many ways. Done rightly, they could bring down entire kingdoms without having to personally use a weapon.

See Doppelgänger. Compare Shapeshifter and Master of Disguise. Contrast Wig, Dress, Accent. For nonhumans that become humans, then that's Humanity Ensues. If someone is involuntarily shifted then see Clone by Conversion. Sexshifter and Dual Age Modes are subtropes where shapeshifting is even more restricted, only changing sex and age, respectively.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bakugan, Zenet Surrow can transform into other people.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Oingo's Stand, Khnum, allows him to reshape himself into anyone else he wishes, right down to scent (so even animals, like Iggy, are fooled). That being said, Oingo seems cursed with rotten luck, as he repeatedly finds himself in situations where his shapeshifting won't do him much good (such as being forced to swallow lit cigarettes).
    • Toshikazu Hazamada's Stand, Surface, is a life-size manikin that can change its form to any specific person Hazamada wants, with the bonus in that if Surface meets up with the person it copies and they engage in eye contact, that person is forced to mimic Surface's actions like a mirror image.
  • Liar's Mask, Due's Inherent Skill in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers, allows her to assume the appearance of any humanoid (though apparently only female of approximately the same height and build as herself).
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Albireo Imma's Artifact allows him to assume the appearance, personality, memories, and abilities of anyone he desires, so perfect an imitation that he might as well be transforming into that person themselves. There is a catch that keeps this from being ridiculously overpowered: if he uses it to assume the form of someone more powerful than himself, It Only Works Once, and only for a few minutes. People less powerful than himself he can transform into with impunity.
  • In One Piece, this is Mr. 2 Bon Clay's power from the Clone-Clone Fruit. By touching the face of a person, he is able to impersonate the face, voice, and body of that person, as he proved with Nami. There's a reason why he's ranked Number 2. It is also a hindrance, since to use his Martial Ballet Arts he has to use his real body, or something as strong.
  • Beautiful Playboy Bunny Melona in Queen's Blade has this ability. Often using it for disguise, battle, or to sow confusion.
  • Mirror Man, an agent of the British Library in R.O.D the TV.
  • In Tiger & Bunny this seems to have originally been the extent of Ivan/Origami Cyclone's power, though after the Time Skip he's able to take on a wider variety of forms.
  • An assassin in The Vision of Escaflowne steals the appearance of several people (as part of the Kill and Replace routine).
  • Minor character Suetsumu in Zettai Karen Children, using telepathic hypnosis. An unusually benevolent example, since she uses it primarily to comfort terminally ill patients in her role as a nurse, and she doesn't even lie about who she really is while using it.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Inception, this is Eames' job as a Forger, but he can only do it in dreams.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X is a Terminator with an endoskeleton covered by liquid metal. It can't shapeshift to the same extent as the T-1000, but it is more stable, is able to carry on-board weapons, and is still able to disguise itself as other people.

    Gamebooks 
  • In the Lone Wolf setting, the Helghast are Undead with the power to change into a human form. This makes them the perfect spies and infiltrators for the Darklords.

    Literature 
  • In Arrivals from the Dark, the Exile's Voluntary Shapeshifting species can turn into any other race at will. However, he had a rare condition that locks him into the first form he turns into, allowing only minor variations after (no Gender Bender due to major internal changes that would require). He chooses to go to Earth and turn into a human, arriving in the 13th century. In the first book alone, he has four named identities with well-established credentials: a Chinese astronomer, a Zulu representative to the UN, a European reporter, and an American soldier. In later novels, he mimics a Human Alien and a "pseudo-humanoid" with four fingers, although those changes are largely cosmetic (i.e. still human inside). He also appears to be able to remove and regrow limbs at will, as he spends decades as a soldier with a prosthetic arm.
  • Water nymphs can do this in Below. They're already humanoid but for a stinging tail to render victims unconscious and rob them. Their memetic camouflage lets them hide the tail and adopt whatever features they like. They also use mind reading to perfect their disguise.
  • Codex Alera: This is an ability that can be possessed by watercrafters. Even if you have only a limited watercrafting talent, you can change your appearance, though it takes longer to complete the process. Taking a form of a different size or shape from your own can be uncomfortable at best, though.
  • In the Dora Wilk Series, one of the magical powers of vampire lord Roman is ability to give himself, or any other person, the shape of any other humanoid, complete with scent. It's implied to be less of a biological change and more an extremely detailed, touch-proof illusion.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, Nikita's Hulking Out abilities can be applied to let her alter her face and figure to some extent, so while she can't look like a man, she can, for example, change her apparent ethnicity.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Metamorphmagi like Nymphadora Tonks and her son Teddy Lupin have the ability to alter their appearance at will, but must presumably retain a human shape. This is in contrast to Animagi, who can perform Animorphism into one specific animal.
    • There is also Polyjuice Potion, which can turn you into a specific person for an hour, after you add a bit of said person into it (such as a hair, nail, etc.) It messes up if you add a non-human component, even if that person is a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • This is Tessa Gray's unique power in The The Infernal Devices. Her whole schtick is that she can change her appearance into any humanoid, dead or alive, as long as she has touched an object that belonged to them. She's turned into both males and females.
  • In Max Fraj's Labyrinths of Echo most sufficiently powerful mages can alter their appearance. There are also some mages proficient in changing the appearance of others. Their field of work is best compared with cosmetic surgeons, therefore the LSIF (the settings police for magic-involving cases) keeps tabs on them. The most notable user of this magic is Sir Kofa Yokh, the LSIF's Master Listener. While an elder gentleman in his default appearance, Kofa Yokh will easily assume any shape at will to do his work - going unnoticed all around Echo and gathering all relevant information or altering the appearances of his fellow Secret Investigators when needed.
  • In Seraphina dragons can only transform into their own human form, called a saarantras (saarantrai for plural, saar for short).
  • Star Wars Legends: As a Shi'ido, Borborygmus Gog of Galaxy of Fear should be able to transform into any creature he wants to, but in the series he stays almost exclusively to humanoid forms while the protagonists are watching. Partly this is because he uses his power to infiltrate, but even cornered, he prefers tools like blasters and Tykebombs. Pretty much the only exception is just before and during his Shapeshifter Swan Song, and he keeps flickering back into his default form during that.
  • The Returned in Warbreaker have this power. Most modern Returned don't know they have it, and so simply take on whatever build and appearance society thinks of as the ideal. The Royal House of Idris, who are descended from a Returned, can alter the color and length of their hair at will (including facial hair for male Royals).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The First Evil in Buffy the Vampire Slayer can only transform into real dead (or ex-dead or undead) people. You do see occasional glimpses of a demonic face that presumably represents its "true form", however.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Faceless Ones", the aliens are "chameleons" — faceless aliens who can transform into duplicates of specific humans through technology.
    • Time Lord regeneration could be considered a limited variant of this, only accessible after sustaining serious injury under normal circumstances, and always resulting in a humanoid form (Romana trying out several different bodies in "Destiny of the Daleks" notwithstanding).
  • Victoria in No Ordinary Family had the ability to shapeshift into anyone else, even including their personality and superpowers. After she was killed, Stephanie was able to exploit this by temporarily impersonating her.
  • In True Blood, shapeshifters gain the ability to do this after killing at least one of their parents, even if it was an accident or not their fault (like during childbirth). But it takes a serious toll on their bodies, and if they do it just a few times they'll most likely die.
  • The Twilight Zone episode "The Four of Us Are Dying" features a con man with the ability to shapeshift into anyone he chooses. His downfall comes when he appears as a crazy old man's son. The guy really doesn't like his son.
  • The X-Files:
    • Episode "Small Potatoes", Eddie Van Blundht has an extra layer of muscle that he can control to perfectly impersonate other humans. Moreover, although the episode doesn't specifically mention the limitation, we only see him in the forms of other male humans.
    • The Alien Bounty Hunter can assume the appearance of any human he has met, e.g. Fox Mulder's.
    • In the episode "Gender Bender", the villain shapeshifts from male to female and back, though s/he only seems to have a single appearance for each gender.

    Music 
  • "Seen and Not Seen", a song from Talking Heads' Remain in Light is about a man who believes that he and others can gradually change their faces through force of will. He's worried, though, that he might have chosen features that don't suit him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Changeling race in the Eberron setting has this as its signature power, being able to take on the appearance (and only the appearance, not the other innate powers of) other humanoids. They can also change sex (or mix sexes, or become asexual) at will.
    • By extension, the Doppelgänger race (which the Changelings are descended from) has this same power too. Of course, by the way D&D defines "humanoid", they could also become creatures such as harpies.
    • The alter self spell lets you transform into another creature of your type. Since most spellcasters are humanoids, this means humans, elves, dwarves, etc. (Although a dragon casting alter self could only turn into a different dragon.) The humanoid shape invocation for Dragonfire Adepts lets them transform into any (non-templated) humanoid shape (it's not quite as powerful as alter self for humanoid adepts — it misses out on a few bonuses the new form might have — but on the other hand it lasts for much longer than a standard alter self spell).
  • Games Workshop games:
    • In Warhammer 40,000, the Callidus Temple of the Officio Assassinorum are experts in the use of the aptly named drug polymorphine. This rare substance allows a trained operative to change their appearance into that of another person so that they can disguise themselves, and occasionally to Kill and Replace their targets. With the addition of special surgical implants that react with the polymorphine, the Callidus Assassin is even able to masquerade as aliens or mutants.
    • The Kairic Acolytes of the Arcanite Cults from Warhammer: Age of Sigmar possess some limited form of shapeshifting ability, being able to change their form and features so that they can appear as anyone from an emaciated scholar to a wealthy merchant. The Acolytes use this ability to disguise their true allegiances and enact their master’s plans in secrecy.

    Video Games 
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 has the ability to impersonate members of the opposing team (and his own team) in order to infiltrate their base.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • False Face from Batman Beyond had the ability to change his facial features and hair to impersonate others, but was never shown to even appear as another gender or body type.
  • A villain from Kim Possible named Camille Leon can shapeshift into people after an experimental cosmetic surgery; however, she always retains the same basic body shape.
  • Zee from The Zeta Project is a humanoid android who can disguise himself with holograms. He has been known to appear as a (humanoid) statue and a broken version of his robot form, otherwise it's strictly people.


Alternative Title(s): Humanshifter

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