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Involuntary Shapeshifting
aka: Involuntary Shapeshifter

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"In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest to my secretary."
— A letter from Screwtape, The Screwtape Letters

A character possesses some manner of Shapeshifting ability, but not the conscious ability to control when this ability kicks in.

This isn't necessarily as bad as it sounds — explanations are usually one of the following:

In any case, the character is generally aware they have this ability, and it's a recurring aspect of their character; the shapeshifter will generally try to avoid triggering their ability accidentally (e.g. Bruce Banner constantly warning people You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!); alternately, they can expose themselves to the trigger to deliberately invoke their ability when it's convenient (e.g. stimulus + container to hide it = instant Transformation Trinket); the line between voluntary and involuntary can get a little blurry, but unlike the Voluntary Shapeshifter, the involuntary one lives with a risk of transforming at the most inconvenient moments should their trigger hit them unexpectedly. (Even if they don't end up transforming very often, the potential for it is still there.)


Not to be confused with just any 'involuntary shapeshifting' in general, like the Baleful Polymorph (a popular source of many unexpected, involuntary transformations) or a Fisher Kingdom (where the shapeshifting power is a trait of the kingdom itself, not the person).

Frequently overlaps with Animorphism since animals are a popular choice for shapeshifting (both voluntary and otherwise) already. Being a Living Mood Ring often involves doing this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise deals with Kuroe Akaishi, who sees parts of her body transform in freakish ways ranging from a scaly reptilian hand to spikes along her spine whenever she experiences strong emotion. She tries to avoid this by acting as a loner, but her burgeoning feelings for classmate Arata Minami leads to her emotions kicking into overdrive and her sporadically turning into a Kaiju.
  • The title parasite-implanted-within-character from manga and one-shot 1989 OVA Baoh: The Visitor. Less a true shapeshifter than a being with amazing transformative abilities. While the protagonist, Ikurou Hashizawa, certainly won't be winning any points for his looks any time soon (at least in his transformed state; in his Ordinary High-School Student persona, he's not nearly so hideous) he is outfitted with a veritable arsenal of biological weapons and is nigh-indestructible. And perhaps most importantly, he seems to retain most if not all of his awareness and reasoning abilities even when transformed.
  • Urusei Yatsura has Rei, the green-haired space bishonen 99.9% of the female cast lusts after at one point... and his anger (jealousy)/excitement (food)-triggered transformation. Has to be seen to be believed.
  • Jusenkyo-cursed characters in Ranma ½ will change to some specific form (female human, a variety of animals, and a few monsters) when drenched in cold water and change back in hot water. This sometimes borders Voluntary Shapeshifting as hot and cold water are something that can be obtained fairly easily... but are also hard to avoid.
  • Several members of the Sohma clan in Fruits Basket, due to a curse that has twelve of them turn into an animal from the Eastern Zodiac whenever they're hugged by someone of the opposite sex who isn't cursed, or when they're physically weakened. The Sohma who represents the Cat (an animal who would have become part of the Zodiac if the Rat hadn't tricked it) has a second, monstrous form and must wear prayer beads as a Power Limiter to appear human. While they can voluntarily transform by willingly hugging someone who isn't cursed, it's still risky to do so since the curse will be discovered. Most of the time their transformations are unpredictable, so they have to be careful.
  • On Tokyo Mew Mew, Ichigo's cat ears and tail pop out whenever she's frightened or excited. This occurs most often in the presence of her love interest, but also inadvertently led to the discovery of the fourth Mew Mew. This later intensifies as she becomes an actual kitten.
  • In the Revolutionary Girl Utena movie, Utena and Shiori turn into cars, for reasons that only make sense if you read the plot as an allegory. Nanami also turns into a cow (or at least thinks she does) in both the regular series and the movie.
  • Princess Tutu: Princess Kraehe's Transformation Sequence; her Secret Identity tries to deny Kraehe's existence, which only seems to increase her hold on the body. Tutu's own transformation might be considered involuntary, too, as the behind-the-scenes author that "writes fate" at the beginning of the story calls her into being by speaking her name; however, she always agrees to it. What Ahiru doesn't agree to, though, is turning into a duck when she gets excited and having to cart her clothes to the nearest water source.
  • Atsushi in Bungo Stray Dogs used to turn into a white tiger involuntarily whenever he was under the moon. With the help of Fukuzawa he is able to transform by his own will.
  • Young mermaids in My Bride is a Mermaid transform if splashed with water, making a water gun a viable weapon on one occasion. With enough practice and focus, one can (painfully) resist this effect.
  • Dragon Ball character Lunch (Launch in the American dub) changed personalities (and hairstyles) whenever she sneezed. The blue hair represents her Nice Girl form, while her blond-hair gives her a Hair-Trigger Temper (with guns!).
    • The Oozaru, or "great ape" transformation on the full moon is essentially this for all Saiyans. The only way to stop an Oozaru rampage is to chop off the Saiyan's tail or blow up the moon. For Goku and Gohan, it's very much a curse, though other, more bloodthirsty Saiyans (such as pre-Namek Vegeta) use the transformation to their full advantage. Of course, they are able to keep their minds while transformed and direct the brute power. Goku becomes fully animalistic while transformed with no memory of his actions in Oozaru form afterwards, making him unaware that it was he who killed his grandfather, apparently because of infant brain damage from when his spaceship crashed.
  • In Akira Toriyama's manga Doctor Slump, Chinese immigrant Tsun Tsuku-tsun inexplicably turns into a tiger when he comes into contact with a girl, and turns back human when a boy touches him.
  • Kanon has an animal to human one in Makoto. Which gets revisited in CLANNAD with Shima, with all the Tear Jerking drama that comes with it.
  • Ren/Run in To Love Ru. Ren transforms into Run (his female self) and back whenever he sneezes. Each of them has his/her own mind and can communicate with each other, but Run loves Rito and Ren loves Lala. Although Ren usually transforms because of an unexpected sneeze, Run tends to force herself to sneeze when one of her plans (usually to embarrass Lala in front of everyone) fails, making it a not-so-Involuntary Shapeshifting.
  • Negi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi has been in the process of transforming into a demon ever since he started using magia Erebea; this transformation manifests if he loses control of his emotions. Once he found out, he decided that instead of trying to stop it, he should just complete the transformation and get it over with immediately.
  • This is done several times in Pokémon.
    • Castform changes shape depending on the weather.
    • In the Pokémon Adventures manga, Red's Eevee would "Evolve" every time he got near a Thunder, Fire, or Water stone, as a result of some genetic experimentation performed on him by Team Rocket. This stopped when he permanently evolved into an Espeon.
    • Deoxys can change shape depending on what region it's in. In the manga, Team Rocket managed to find a way to emulate other regions so Deoxys could transform voluntarily. However, during a battle in Kanto, the stones that allowed it to transform into its Hoenn forms were destroyed while Deoxys was in its Hoenn form, which hurt Deoxys badly.
  • Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid sees the title character able to use a magic whistle to switch forms between human and mermaid, but she will revert back to a mermaid whenever she gets wet. Cue the villains constantly dumping things on her at the most inopportune moments.
  • Protagonist Kate Menella from Love Is in the Bag turns into a bag whenever she gets excited over something.
  • The five protagonists in Ame Nochi Hare will transform into girls whenever it rains.
  • Yayori from Neko-de Gomen! has little control over when she has cat ears and tail and when she doesn't.
  • The Face Burglar, like all of Junji Ito's works, takes this trope and dives headfirst into a pool of Nightmare Fuel with it. Kamei is a high-school student that, with enough contact with someone, will eventually assume their form. Eventually the students all don Youkai masks and surround her, taunting her while she screams in pain and mutates. The end result is not pretty.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, King, a fairy, sometimes shape shifts into his human form as a form of his expression in any given situation.
  • This also applies to the half-demon Izumo/Gyu-oh to from the anime Inuyasha. During the day he looks like a pure human, but at night he looks like a pure demon.
    • In fact, all hanyou (half-demons) in Inuyasha have a time where they become completely human. Inuyasha himself becomes human on the night of the new moon.
  • Inukai from Flying Witch, after getting drunk and eating some magic chocolates, turns into an anthropomorphic dog during the day against her will. At night, she returns to human form.
  • The second season of Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has Nina, an energetic teenage girl who transforms into a powerful red dragon whenever a handsome man makes her heart race. Leads to both hilarity as Nina struggles to control her emotions in front of men and drama when Nina finds she wants to transform, but can't because of the limitations of her ability.
  • Reincarnated As The Strongest Wand has Reiji, stuck as a wand most of the time. In certain specific situations, he will transform into a human, whether he wants to or not.
  • Ryu Sugiura from the OVA "Call Me Tonight" is a teenager who is infected with a curse that causes him to transform into a different monster every time he is sexually aroused.
  • My Monster Secret: Shiho is half werewolf, meaning she transforms into a wolfman (literally; she turns into a Little Bit Beastly male with his own personality) whenever she sees the moon. Or a photo of the moon. Or even a drawing of the moon.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's Bruce Banner is the poster child (and Trope Namer) for Hulking Out, due to his transformations being involuntarily triggered by anger or stress. At a couple of different points he becomes more stable, either locked into a particular form for a stretch or able to take control over his emotions to the point that he can mostly suppress or evoke the change as desired. Initially his transformation occurred at night, and later he would transform into his Grey Hulk (AKA Mr. Fixit) form at night, as well.
  • Similar to the above, Jennifer Walters initially suffered the same problems turning into the She-Hulk. In fact, she had it worse than Bruce. Bruce had a chance of catching and calming his emotional outburst before the transformation went too far. Jennifer seemed to lack that bit of control, and letting her emotions run too high triggered an unstoppable countdown to her transformation. She later gained the ability to transform at will.
  • Spider-Man is at times forced to battle The Lizard, a scientist and friend who periodically transforms into a lizard-like humanoid by way of the experimental regenerative treatment he tested on himself, usually triggered by extreme stress. In addition, Spidey himself has had trouble with more spider-like mutations.
  • Ghost Rider used to transform at night. After a while, he would transform whenever there was danger nearby, regardless of the time of day. But eventually, he became able able to control it completely.
  • In Batman: Gotham Adventures #58, The Creeper (Jack Ryder, who in the DC Animated Universe was transformed into the Creeper by Joker's laughing gas and toxic waste) is seen involuntarily transforming due to not using the medicine and a bit later mentioning that Creeper has gotten stronger and now only needs a rush of adrenaline to transform even under the medicine. (So he jumps out of the apartment building's window.)
  • The DC universe character Man-Bat suffered from this at first. He is a scientist who admires Batman's efforts to stop crime so much that he tries to give himself bat-like powers so he can emulate Batman. He ends up randomly transforming from human to a half-bat form for much of his career, until he discovers drugs which let him control his transformations.
  • A Donald Duck comic story by Carl Barks once used a variation where Magica De Spell comes up with a concoction that, after having been sprayed onto somebody's face, would change the victim's face to that of anyone they look at. She naturally plans to use it to blackmail Scrooge to get his dime.
  • In Captain Britain Meggan is capable of transforming in a controlled fashion, but her shapeshifting powers are also linked to her empathic powers and can cause her to transform based on how others perceive her. Early in life the fear local villagers had of her caused her to take on a more monstrous form, resulting in them fearing her more, and so on. Her "default" elf-like form is actually based on what her long-term boyfriend finds attractive.

    Comic Strips 
  • Safe Havens:
    • It is established that although mermaids can generally shapeshift freely between mermaid, fish, and human forms, if a mermaid remains in human form for 12 hours they must spend their next 12 hours as a fish (and vice versa) to balance it out. This is a plot point for the mermaid Remora after she joins the (otherwise human) regular cast; in one event her personal Masquerade is nearly discovered when a basketball game runs into overtime and the team has to get her off the court before her transformation kicks in.
    • Samantha's genetics research can cause this in herself and her test subjects if the DNA gets too unstable.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Cat Returns, the Fisher Kingdom effect of the cat's world lingers on protagonist Haru; even after returning home, she still turns into a Cat Girl whenever she's around the Baron.
  • Near the climax of Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation Dark Heart gets a case of the hiccups as he's sleeping, causing him to turn into several different animals. It goes away when the Care Bears accidentally wake him up.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, Shaggy gets transformed into a werewolf, but things get complicated as he also has the hiccups from drinking soda too fast, causing him to turn into a werewolf and back to a human with each hiccup. He's completely oblivious to this.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day suffers this after recovering from being frozen and shattered in the foundry. There's a series of deleted cutscenes showing the cyborg losing control of his colors and changing to match the environment that he's in.
  • Occurs in just about every incarnation of The Shaggy Dog.
  • Madison in Splash turns back into a mermaid whenever her legs get wet (drying them turns them back into legs), as demonstrated in the scene where the mad scientist Walter sprays her with a hose.
  • The Nutty Professor: Quite a lot happens in the '90s remake, especially at the end.
  • In Beyond Sherwood Forest, Alina turns into a dragon whenever sunlight falls on her, then she reverts when it's blocked (even a cloudy overcast is enough to undo the transformation).
  • In The Wolfman (2010), much as he would like to, Lawrence is unable to stop himself from transforming and is completely subject to the phases of the moon.
  • In Zelig, the titular character played by Woody Allen is discovered to have this ability and called "The Human Chameleon". The reason for this is not because of any magic, but due to his psychology that stemmed from not being able to admit he had not read Moby-Dick. This resulted in him being so desperate to fit in that he changes opinions, facial hair, race, but not genders.
  • Howling III: The Marsupials: Do not flash strobe lights in a werewolf's eyesight. They will transform whenever that happens, whether you like it or not.
  • In the TV movie My Pet Monster, Max changes into his monster form whenever he gets hungry.

  • Happens at one point in The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. In a letter to his idiot apprentice Wormwood, the titular bureaucrat devil Screwtape works himself up to so much anger that he accidentally transforms into a giant centipede. He takes pains to explain that such transformations are caused by an excess of "life force", and are certainly not a punishment from the Enemy.
  • In Animorphs, Rachel has an allergic reaction to a crocodile morph, and the book "The Reaction" deals with her uncontrollable changes back and forth. One book has Marco changing into hybrid morphs whenever he is stressed out. At the worst possible times. And some of them, like the Osprey/Lobster, couldn't even breathe.
  • From Terry Pratchett's Discworld series:
    • In Witches Abroad Nanny Ogg's cat, Greebo, is temporarily turned human. As seen in Maskerade, his morphic field remembers the shape and shifts back to it when under stress, much to Greebo's consternation.
    • In The Last Continent, the Librarian catches the flu and, again, because of a weakened morphic field, changes shape every time he sneezes.
    • Werewolves have to transform in the light of the full moon, but beyond that they can change whenever they like. There's a variant in Lupine from Reaper Man, a wolf who transforms into a human at the full moon.
  • In Katie MacAlister's Aisling-Grey-Series, Drake (Aisling's mate and dragon-in-human-form) shapeshifts only when he orgasms, otherwise he isn't able to willingly shapeshift anymore.
  • Sewer Jack of the Wild Cards series turns into a huge alligator under stress. His life has a lot of stress.
  • The Dresden Files features a number of different shapeshifting methods matching to the various kinds of werewolves. Voluntary Shapeshifting can be accomplished with your own magic (as the Alphas do) or Black Magic belts made by someone else (that corrupt your soul). More relevantly to this trope, loup-garous are werewolves that most closely match up to the standard rules. They are cursed to turn into Berserker Super-Wolves during the full moon and can only be hurt by objects made of inherited silver. They CAN be contained with magic, but it takes a great deal of both skill and preparation, and fortunately the person turning into the wolf is generally quite happy to help with their own containment. There's a reason that all Harry has to do to communicate to Murphy in a later book that the police can't help with the problem they're dealing with is to say it's 'worse than the loup-garou'.
  • In Marie de France's lai Bisclavret, Bisclavret must change into a wolf every week, and can not change back without his clothing.
  • In the Chivalric Romance The Swan Children, the children are born (to a swan maiden) with chains about their necks. When these are removed, they turn into swans.
  • In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, involuntary shapeshifting at the full moon is part and parcel of lycanthropy. It cannot be cured, but a Wolfsbane potion can be used to counteract The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body. Boggarts are capable of voluntary shape-shifting (which they use to become something frightening), but the spell used to counter these creatures causes them to involuntarily shape shift into something funny.
  • Played for laughs in Thorne Smith's screwball comedy novel The Stray Lamb (1929): T. Lawrence Lamb meets a little russet man who puts a spell on him that causes him to transform into different animals uncontrollably - first a horse, but also a seagull, a goldfish, a cat, a lion, a dog and a kangaroo.
  • A Torchwood spinoff novel reveals that this has happened to Torchwood employees so often in the past that they provide an informative pamphlet on what to do (last updated 1958). It notes that if you're capable of reading the pamphlet, you've already passed the biggest hurdle by not going utterly mad from the revelation or dying from incompatibility of nervous systems.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, Cedar's werewolfery is this. As opposed to the Baleful Polymorph his brother got.
  • In Sarah A. Hoyt's Draw One in the Dark, both Tom and Kyrie shift under the influence of emotions and the moon. A bond between them.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jack turns into the green man every night.
  • At the end of Awakened, Rephaim is given a human form by Nyx, but he must become a raven again during the day.
  • In Susan Dexter's The True Knight, Savrin, pushed into the river, turns into an otter until a wizard catches her and pulls her out, whereupon she turns back. Later, he pushes her in again to save her, and she turns to an otter again, and nearly drowns in her clothes. When Titch rescues her, she turns to a duck and then a salmon, trying to escape, but remembers nothing after.
  • In The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, the protagonist (who herself has the ability to taste emotions) Rose's brother Joseph disappears into thin air throughout the novel, at one point right before his high school graduation. Near the end of the book it is revealed that he involuntarily turns into pieces of furniture for varying periods of time. At one point, he simply turns into a chair and never turns back.
  • The werewolves from Wolves of Mercy Falls Series. Shifting all depends on the temperature. How cold it needs to be for a werewolf to shift from human to wolf depends.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, Nikita's berserk form is triggered by high adrenaline levels. She has a spinal implant that helps keep them in check, but it's far from a perfect solution.
  • The Crimson Shadow: Greensparrow made a pact with a dragon to share his body in return for magical powers. Most of the time he can control this, but the dragon forces him to transform occasionally.
  • In the Sonja Blue series, people who become vampires experience some moderate involuntary shapeshifting when they first transform. Not a lot, but enough to hide their previous identity. (It conveniently includes fingerprints.) This is why nobody knows that Blue is actually the long-lost heiress Denise Thorne.
  • A Bad Case of Stripes focuses on a girl named Camilla Cream changing shape or colour whenever something is suggested.
  • In Pale this is the nature of Lis, a Wallflower Doppelganger-she automatically changes shape to become an "average" of any group she's in; while she has some leeway in choosing which group she counts as, she has to imitate some group of humans. In some cases this can be beneficial-when she imitates the Kennet Witches, she gains replicas of their magic items, and "refreshes" them by changing between which two of the three she is copying as they pursue her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the first episode of Angel, the title character immediately guesses that Doyle is a demon. He insists that he's not — then sneezes, causing numerous spines to come out of his face. "On my mother's side."
  • Charmed had an episode almost exactly like the Ladyhawke one above, except with an owl instead of a hawk and the genders/animals switched. And of course, it becomes a Running Gag how often one or more of the girls are transformed into a demon/vampire/genie/wood nymph/Fury/Valkyrie/etc.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Time Lords can "regenerate" when dying, an Emergency Transformation that revives their body with a new life (and a new actor). It is unclear whether or not the regeneration process is voluntary or if it happens automatically; in one episode, the Master voluntarily refused to regenerate, choosing to let himself die. Also, regeneration does not seem to be a particularly traumatic experience in Time Lord society, with its members casually congratulating each other on their new appearance. It's only the Doctor who seems to have a particularly tough time of it.
    • "The Lazarus Experiment": After going through his DNA-altering machine, Lazarus switches between his youthful human form and his life-draining monster form whenever he needs to "feed".
    • Saibra from "Time Heist" assumes the appearance of anyone she touches, for as long as they remain touching. She can choose to retain the appearance for as long she likes after they stop touching, but she can't choose not to mimic a person while they're in contact.
  • Galidor: The main character's special ability allows him to exchange his limbs with other beings, an ability which works properly a very small percentage of the time.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water: The mermaid girls change forms when in contact with water.
  • Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde has this as the theme, the main character is a girl who uncontrollably turns into a furry yeti-like thing at inopportune moments.
  • Kaamelott: Merlin, as a druid, can turn into various animals. However, much like the rest of his magic, he doesn't control it much and follows whatever animal spirit governs the week.
  • Lovecraft Country: After the transformation potion wears off, whoever's using it then can't stop themselves from changing back into their original form, and must get out of sight to hide the fact (though they don't always manage it).
  • The Magicians (2016): Kady, Penny, Quentin and Alice turn into geese at the end of their test, flying to Antarctica in that form. Later Quentin and Alice become foxes in Antarctica — they even have sex that way.
  • In one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, "The Undead", a witch named Lydia (who transforms into a bat in the movie), appears on the Satellite of Love. As she tries to deliver a scary speech to Mike and the 'Bots, she starts shapeshifting into all sorts of things, uncontrollably. "I've never been a football before!" She ends the segment stuck as a bottle of drain cleaner. The funniest one is when she very briefly shifts into Pearl Forrester, who looks very confused at her new surroundings.
  • Vrak from Power Rangers Megaforce is a rare unintentional example as a result of meta events. Because the producers had to cram roughly 50 episodes worth of content from Tensou Sentai Goseiger into 20 episodesnote , on top of pursuing a different plotline, one of the plot elements from Goseiger (where Vrak's sentai counterpart, Bladerun, changed sides each time the previous one was defeated, and gained a new form as a result) was dropped, but they never gave an explanation why Vrak changed forms, despite the fact that the 3 factions were merged together (meaning that he should have only 1 form).
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Odo's race, the Changelings, cannot maintain solid forms for extended periods of time, with Odo himself having to occasionally return to his native liquid form, usually once per day. His main piece of furniture? A bucket to sleep in. In one later season, Odo is locked into his humanoid form as a punishment for being the only Changeling to kill another Changeling. He got better. In another he's the victim of a device that prevents him from shapeshifting while it's active, as a form of torture. What happens to him isn't pretty. In "The Alternate" episode, he unconsciously transforms into a monster several times after being exposed to a strange gas on an alien planet.
  • Sam Merlotte from True Blood normally has complete control over his transformations, except during the full moon or in the presence of Maryanne.
  • The British TV show Woof!! is based around the premise of the main character unexpectedly turning into a dog at the most inconvenient moments, with the only warning being a suddenly itchy nose.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Werewolves are usually (but not always) portrayed this way. The emphasis on a full moon and it spreading by bites is Newer Than They Think, however; older stories give a variety of reasons for a person to be cursed, including just randomly being "fated" for it to happen.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock gives us Skenfrith, a one-off Empathic Shapeshifter whose physical appearance changes depending on what other people think about him; it's impressive how upbeat his personality is given this form of being Blessed with Suck. Red and Wembley like him, think he's very cute and friendly... and that he sports goofy pigtails. Ma Gorg does not like him, thinks he's creepy and scary for living in her flooded basement, and wonders if he's actually a giant, fanged, two-headed monster. Guess what happens next. (Skenfrith: "Aw, I hate having to be a monster!")

  • Eric from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues had a superpower that would forcibly transform him into an array of powerful monsters. Once his player dropped out, causing him to disappear, Destiny inherited the power.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Afflicted lycanthropes (those who were bitten, rather than having been born with the condition) do not have perfect control over their shapeshifting, and may involuntarily assume their alternate forms in response to damage or the full moon.
  • The Tau's Kroot minions in Warhammer 40,000 assimilate the properties of whatever they eat, whether they want to or not. This means that all Kroot must eat sentient creatures or devolve into beasts themselves.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Changelings are every creature type at once. This includes anything from squirrels, whales, to Gods. That being said, they are affected by anything targeting a specific kind of creature, be it beneficial or downright fatal. A typical Sliver does not itself possess the ability to shapeshift (except if that is its ability). Their shifty-ness comes from the fact that they tend to share their inherent abilities with other Slivers. If said ability is having, say, an extra arm, a pair of wings, or even a second freakin' HEAD, that ability is passed to any Slivers nearby, be they allies, neutral, or hostile. The shared ability is also lost when the source Sliver either leaves the area or dies. In a single battle one may encounter Slivers spontaneously sprouting and losing all manner of appendages and protrusions. This power is (was) completely beyond their control. Que a bit of Fridge Horror for them when one considers how bad growing pains can be; imagine having an extra limb suddenly pop out from your chest within seconds, complete with the sound of snapping tendons and straining muscle.
  • Werewolf: The Forsaken A werewolf whose Harmony has tilted too far towards his spirit side finds holding a single form difficult. He must make an effort not to transform every few hours even when not stressed, and when he is stressed he will uncontrollably shift into the appropriate form for how he is responding to the stressor (human form if he's trying to hide, wolf form if he is trying to flee or pursue, and killing-form if he is ready to fight).

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Hearts: Due to a Heroic Sacrifice from the first game, when Sora transforms into his "Drive" forms, it may occasionally "malfunction" and turn him into "Anti-Sora" (who looks very similar to a Heartless) instead in Kingdom Hearts II. Riku transforms into Xehanort's Heartless to tap into his power. He regains his normal form because exploding Kingdom Hearts' power 'purified' him of the foreign influence.
  • Vincent Valentine of Final Fantasy VII has this problem thanks to Hojo. He has varying degrees of control over it, although in Dirge of Cerberus, he can't control his Chaos transformation when the Protomateria is pulled out of his body.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan: Goro Okami wolfs out at the sight of round objects (be it a bald head, eggs, a baseball, ear rings and eyes). He fears that this will freak out his date but in the end, she finds out and loves him even more.
  • Cave Story: During the closing credits, Sue and Itoh are returned to their human forms, only to revert back to their Mimiga forms when they sneeze. Whether or not this becomes a recurring problem is never explained.
  • Certain Pokémon in the videogames have the ability to change between various physical forms.
    • The third-generation Pokémon "Castform" changes its shape (and elemental type) depending on the current weather. Castform also has the ability to control the weather.
    • Giratina can only assume its serpentine Origin Forme when within the Distortion World (or when holding the Griseous Orb, an item from that world).
    • Shaymin can only transform into its Sky Forme after exposure to a Gracidea flower.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the Prince acquires a "Dark Self" that takes over his body during times of extreme danger (though the player is still in control of the Prince), and can only change back if he touches water.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In every game starting with Daggerfall, the Player Character can catch one of the diseases which leads to vampirism and then undergo this to become a Vampire. After this happens, you risk damage (or at least weakness) from sunlight and, depending on the specific vampire bloodline, either magically drain health from NPCs or drink blood from sleeping NPCs. In Oblivion and Skyrim, while the transformation itself is still involuntary, it is possible to avert Glamour Failure and maintain the Masquerade by feeding regularly, which allows you to maintain a mortal appearance.
    • This is also true for becoming a werewolf in each game where it is possible, with the exception of Skyrim (as the particular type of lycanthropy there allows for voluntary transformations). In Daggerfall, you transform one a month and must kill a sentient being during that night. In Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion, you transform nightly with the same "kill a sentient being" rule. In either case, failure to kill someone while transformed causes you to awaken the next morning in a severely weakened state.
  • In the Jak and Daxter series (all games but the first), Jak is infected with a substance called Dark Eco and transforms into a hulking, monstrous version of himself when sufficiently angry or distressed. He eventually learns to control it to some degree. The same thing happens to Daxter during The Lost Frontier.
  • Baldur's Gate II contains many examples of shapeshifting, mostly voluntary (class abilities) or offensive (Polymorph Other, aka Baleful Polymorph), but there are several involuntary ones as well. The best example is the Slayer transformation, which can be triggered voluntarily but also happens involuntarily after certain events or dreams. Another example is the description of the Shapeshifter class, which specifies that the Shapeshifter has voluntarily inflicted themselves with the sort of lycanthropy that causes involuntarily shapeshifting into a Werewolf, but then studied for many years to learn to control said transformations to make them voluntary, at the cost of failing to learn any other shapeshifted form.
  • You can become one temporarily in NetHack, by wearing a ring of polymorph, or permanently by eating it. Combining it with a ring of polymorph control does exactly what it sounds like, making you a Voluntary Shapeshifter instead.
  • Moshi Monsters has the two species Little Red Riding Wolves (who are wolves that turn into little girls whenever the moon is full) and Wonky Wizards (wizards who have Power Incontinence and sometimes turn into Pixel-Munching Snafflers, another type of Moshling).
  • The second season of Heroes Rise features a protagonist who wakes up each day as a different animal-human hybrid. This is never painful or debilitating but often really inconvenient. Sometimes the hybrid is great for fighting crime, like getting the toughness of a tardigrade, other times you're going to have to sit there being a half-octopus and commiserate with your sister.

  • In Sluggy Freelance Aylee will occasionally have to wrap herself in a cocoon and emerge in a new form, though usually retaining a green skin tone and vaguely reptile/dragon like features. This was originally done because Aylee's first form was too close to the Xenomorphs from Alien to be copyright-friendly, but has since been used as an important plot point or simply an excuse for a gag.
  • Kieri, an angel in Slightly Damned, was cursed by a guardian and turned into a snow bunny (subsequently nicknamed "Snowy"). The curse is weak enough for her to generally control it, but she does regularly transform ("poing!") into her bunny form at inopportune moments, such as any time she gets excited, suddenly startled, or starts having a sneezing fit. Or if she just needs some puppy dog eyes. Her brother, Kazai, has been afflicted with a similar curse that periodically turns him (or parts of him) into a wolf. He’s considerably less practiced at controlling the curse than his sister.
  • The changes in Jules from The Key to Her Heart are controlled by his/her emotional state, over which he's learned meticulous control; except, of course, when it's funny.
  • In El Goonish Shive, there are multiple examples. Elliot, for example, has shapeshifting Gender Bender powers, but he's at a stage where his body doesn't know its limits, so basically, he needs to transform every day to burn off excess magical energy, or else it'll overload at some inopportune moment, causing him to involuntarily transform with barely any warning.
  • 8-Bit Theater: Red Mage has this happen to him late in the series. He randomly shifts between himself and a flowery...tentacled...thing... that resembled a monster the team had previously encountered.
  • Narbonic (and, later, Skin Horse) features Artie. Normally a (superintelligent) gerbil, Helen decided to send him to break up a fight between her mother and her intern, which necessarily involved giving him an Action Hero human form. After which he discovered that he transformed back into it whenever he hiccuped. Like Jules above, he eventually masters the art of transforming back and forth at will, except when it's funny.
  • Mye of Charby the Vampirate ends up transforming into a very attractive bunny demon every time she sneezes after a potions mishap. It's also a karmic transformation since she was trying to force someone to love her, including using mind numbing love potions on them, when she had the initial mishap.
  • In Splitting Image, the elf warrior Veriesin turns into various animals at random, though they're not always useless.

    Web Original 
  • For whatever reason, Sonic shapeshifts into several Platform Game protagonists during Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition's Metropolis Zone.
  • In the Whateley Universe story The Big Idea, Harlan 'Reach' Sawyer starts out as a stretcher who's missing some of the required secondary powers that make Plastic Man and Reed Richards effective. Thanks to the usual Sky Hijinks, he is remade into a much-improved young woman (stronger, smarter, etc.) It doesn't last. Or does it? A year later, she still occasionally wakes up with outdoor plumbing, which persists for a few days before reverting to the indoor model.

    Western Animation 
  • In Alienators: Evolution Continues, as a result of him volunteering as a human guinea pig for finding a cure against the Genus, Wayne Grey undergoes random mutations (including growing extra limbs, splitting into more copies of himself, or becoming animal-like in appearance) every time there is a high concentration of alien cells in the surroundings. In one particular episode where the aliens grow out of control and briefly take over the whole world, he kicks into overdrive and explodes into a pink goo. In the final episode, the whole team gets sent on the Moon. Makes you wonder what the hell a two-headed spacesuit was doing in a space shuttle.
  • Various Transformers have had occasions where they lose control of their transformations between robot and alternate modes. Most commonly, this happens when they're hit hard enough, or as a reflex when one is startled. Beast Wars is rather fond of the former.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: In one episode Jake begins to shift randomly from human to dragon, sometimes one body part at a time. Application of "liquid plot" does this once, revealing his identity to his worst human enemy.
  • Early in Danny Phantom, Danny has trouble controlling his powers and sometimes goes partially ghost at random. Leads to his pants falling down at one point, memorable for a line that followed later that episode. The beginning of the episode "Identity Crisis" really emphasized this with Danny's shape shifting abilities. Very amusing.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Beast Boy (who is normally a Voluntary Shapeshifter) has had occasional mishaps, such as a series of transformations that occur during a sneezing fit from the common cold. Or the episode where Raven learns how to use her powers to force him to change into another creature against his will.
    • Plasmus is what a very unfortunate man uncontrollably turns into whenever he's awake. He's kept comatose most of the time, and when awoken barely has time to be horrified about what's going to happen before he transforms into a destructive Blob Monster he seemingly has no control over.
  • Beetlejuice, from both cartoon series of the same name, changes constantly based on any wordplay to be found in his dialogue, apparently by force of habit. In "The Neitherworld's Least Wanted", a coalition of bad guys he's faced exploits this by tricking him into saying "I'm coming apart at the seams", and then scattering his body parts when he literally falls apart.
  • Similarly, Bonkers in one episode caught "literalitis", a disease which caused him to take the form of any idiom he heard. In another episode his first partner, Detective Lucky Piquel, caught "toon flu" and turned into this little three-inch high character when he sneezed.
  • The main character of Turbo Teen shapeshifts into a talking car when his body temperature rises, always at inopportune times. Making him cold reverts him to his human form, which also happens at inopportune times.
  • Darkwing Duck gets zapped with an experimental Transformation Ray in one episode, and gains the power to turn into anyone he looks at. Downside is, he can't turn it off. And this is only one of many episodes of Darkwing Duck with this trope as the premise.
  • In the episode "Dexter's Date", Freakazoid! is zapped at a television station and cannot change back into Dexter Douglas, leaving his date waiting — and turning instead into random celebrities. (Fortunately, he turns into a blue Louis Armstrong just in time for his lines in the huge splashy "Hello Dolly" musical number parody. Don't ask.) The weird part is he always has his own voice, except for the Louis Armstrong bit.
    • In the 2-part Origins Episode “The Chip”, Dexter initially had this problem after becoming Freakazoid, frequently switching between the two identities due to his powers being unstable. It isn’t until he yells that he’s “freaking out” during a particularly stressful moment that he masters the transformation.
  • A TV series titled Monster by Mistake! features a main character who is a young boy named Warren. Warren turns into a blue monster whenever he sneezes.
  • The episode of Batman: The Animated Series where Batman manages to guilt Clayface into doing this, by showing him clips of all the roles he's played in the past... and as Clayface remembers each one, he's turned into that character uncontrollably, until it literally turns into a type of torture: Clayface begging Batman to stop, but unable to until he's exhausted and supposedly capturable. It's debatable whether Batman was trying to get this reaction, since he'd already seen Clayface involuntarily start shifting into Batman upon their first meeting. His look of surprise suggests that he may not have expected such a strong reaction. Though, given the way the episode ends, it's equally possible that Hagen was simply playing to his audience: Batman. He was an actor, after all....
  • In Project G.e.e.K.e.R., Geeker is a genetic shape-shifter who can't control his abilities; he sometimes collapses into a puddle when he panics; in one episode, he sleep-walked through the city for several nights — in Kaiju form.
  • Dingo of Sonic Underground had the ability of transforming into virtually any other object or person, though these are invariably orange in color. His transformations are completely under control...of his partner Sleet, that is, not himself.
  • Word of God has it that, in the Transformers metaseries, Primus, Unicron, and the Original 13 Transformers's bodies automatically change to fit the physics of whatever universal stream they enter (similar in effect to a Fisher Kingdom, but caused by themselves, not the universe they enter). Primus and Unicron stop there, but the other 13 change further to fit the specific idiosyncrasies of the local Transformers. For example, when The Fallen is in the G1 universe, he looks blocky, and in the live action movie universe he looks more thin, lithe, and pointy. Also, in G1 he is on fire, while in the movie universe, due to physics, he is merely glowing red-hot.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: During the last two seasons of the first cartoon, this begins happening to the turtles themselves: at inopportune moments, they transform into monstrous, mindless forms. At the same time, the turtles make a new ally in Carter, who also suffers from his own kind of involuntary shapeshifting, albeit one in which he keeps control of his faculties.
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • One episode has Cosmo shapeshifting against his will due to his "Fegiggly Gland" working wrong.
    • In another episode Timmy wishes to be Cosmo and Wanda's godparent. As a fairy, Timmy can never get his transformations right. When he finally transforms into a fish, he doesn't give himself gills.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Chuck Jones' bizarre late-entry "I was a Teenage Thumb" has a wizard with the hiccups who transforms into different random things with each "hic" — a lamppost, a touring car, a hot-air balloon...
    • In the short "Transylvania 6500" Bugs Bunny encounters the vampire Count Bloodcount. Bugs is able to force the Count to transform into a bat by saying "abra cadabra" and back to humanoid form by saying "hocus-pocus" Later in the cartoon Bugs induces bizarre partial transformations by mixing up the words, i.e. "abraca-pocus", "hocus cadabra", "Newport News", and "Walla Walla, Washington".
  • Kaeloo's Mr. Cat is one of these, his transformations into random objects usually brought upon by Kaeloo beating the stuffing out of him.
  • On Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!, Tara Boomdeay gets turned into a tomato when she touches salt. She turns back into a human girl after having pepper sprinkled on her and she sneezes.
  • In the Al Brodax Popeye cartoon "The Wiffle Bird's Revenge," the Wiffle Bird casts a spell on Wimpy, making him turn into a werewolf when he says the word "hamburger."
  • In Aladdin: The Series, Genie comes down with a case of Power Incontinence where his sneezes cause random magical effects to anything nearby, covering his nose when he sneezes instead caused him to transform randomly (and uncomfortably).
  • Most Gargoyles turn to stone during the daytime; Demona turns into a human instead, thanks to a spell cast on her by Puck. She can't induce or repress this transformation; it happens every day when the sun rises, and reverses when the sun sets. Demona hates her human form (like she hates everything human), but that doesn't mean she's not perfectly willing to take advantage of it when it comes in handy for getting what she wants. It also doesn't help that it's a Painful Transformation.
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Penny Fitzgerald turns out to be a shapeshifter whose form underneath her peanut shell is based on her self-image and possibly other emotions, from a rabbit, to a dragon, to a form that looks somewhat similar to how she was with the shell still on. She's rather self-conscious about it, which indirectly leads to her mimicking the way people describe her (or that she thinks they're describing her).
  • Steven Universe is half-Gem, an ageless race with Voluntary Shapeshifting powers that he has yet to master, which has caused him problems on occasion:
    • In "Cat Fingers", his first attempt at shapeshifting goes awry and he gradually turns into a writhing mass of cats.
    • "So Many Birthdays" demonstrates that he's literally as old as he feels; in other words, if he feels old, he is old. He ends up nearly aging himself to death via Power Incontinence.
    • "Steven's Birthday" takes it in the opposite direction; Steven's literally as young as he feels, which leads him to a troubling revelation: physically, he hasn't actually aged in years. He later attempts to shapeshift himself into the "correct" age, which backfires due to the strain it places on his body, reverting him to infancy.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In the penultimate episode, after spending the series having a crisis of identity and dealing with lingering PTSD from everything he's experienced during his childhood, Steven accidentally shatters Jasper (she gets better) and has a breakdown when he intentionally tries to shatter White Diamond in the midst of an episode. Steven becomes so terrified of himself that he views himself as a monster and transforms into a literal one the size of a building. Because he sees himself as a monster, he does not retain sentience and attacks everything in sight, with White Diamond even describing him as "not Steven" and Blue Diamond comparing his state to the Corrupted Gems.
  • While usually a voluntary shapeshifter, albeit frequently not into the form he wanted, the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "The Frogs of War" involves Ben accidentally activating the Omnitrix's randomizer function, which causes him to randomly transform into different aliens.
  • Agent 57 from Danger Mouse discloses his random shapeshifting as having unstable molecules (he ran into a molecular fragmenter with his tea trolley). Whenever he sneezes, his electrolytes become imbalanced and causes him to change forms.

Alternative Title(s): Involuntary Shapeshifter