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A permanent, one-way case of Shapeshifting, in which the character completely changes form. As such, it's generally taken a lot more seriously by the subject, and less likely to actually happen. Voluntary metamorphosis is generally only agreed to after much thought; involuntary metamorphosis provokes much angst and anger at the responsible party.

Malicious examples can be inflicted as a form of Cool and Unusual Punishment. Benign examples can allow a character to return to nature or Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. May overlap with Karmic Transformation, Become a Real Boy, Power-Upgrading Deformation or Emergency Transformation.

Compare with Shapeshifter Mode Lock, First Law of Gender Bending and There Is No Cure. Often a Slow Transformation. See also Metamorphosis Monster. Not to be confused with the usual Transformation Sequence, despite both Tokyo Mew Mew and Yes! Pretty Cure 5 using "Metamorphose!" as their trigger phrase, and "morph" being a key word in Power Rangers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Although the use of "Metamorphose" is unrelated, Yes! Pretty Cure 5 did this with most of the Quirky Miniboss Squad in their final appearances, turning them (usually against their wills) into giant superpowered versions of themselves at the cost of apparently all their higher brain functions. The Big Bad and The Dragon were similar, but dodged that last part.
  • Hideshi Hino's The Bug Boy is the story of a kid who is reborn as a giant bug. He suffers pretty much the same fate as Kafka's (below) protagonist.
  • Franken Fran regularly features plots like this, although the protagonist's super-surgery, the transformations usually to turn out to be reversible (and into something much worse...)
  • Metamorphosis is a recurring theme in This Ugly Yet Beautiful World. The first half of the series is all about Fanservice and Slice of Life meets supernatural weirdness. Then Cerebus Syndrome and rampant butterfly symbolism kick in. The mysterious Magical Girlfriend is essentially the Anthropomorphic Personification of an extinction event, although there's more to it than that.
  • Eureka Seven: Eureka manifests glowing green growths on her arm after arriving on Earth. These eventually spread and become a set of butterfly's wings on her back and cover her left arm, and she becomes fully covered in it just before becoming the new control cluster.
  • In the world of Kanojo ni Naru Hi and Kanojo Ni Naru Hi Another some boys metamorphose into girls via a natural process called "emergence" when the gender ratios get too skewed. It usually happens to young boys. Teens have a much higher mortality rate and it's invariably fatal for adults. Naturally, the younger it happens the easier it is for everyone to adjust; the kid who emerges halfway through third grade is going to have an easier time of it than a high school senior.
  • Tensei Shoujo Zukan uses metamorphosis as a blunt metaphor for puberty, with humans metamorphosing and moulting like insects.
  • In Naruto, the Infinite Tsukuyomi is a jutsu that traps people in cocoons while they're stuck in dreams based off of their greatest desires. Over time, the humans trapped in the genjutsu eventually transform into White Zetsu.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Comet the Super-Horse, from pre-Crisis DC, was originally a centaur called Biron who wanted to be fully human. Unfortunately Circe made a mistake and made him fully horse instead. Because the spell couldn't be reversed, Circe gave him superpowers to try and make up for it.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are all up in this trope. Aside from the turtles and Splinter themselves, there's Leatherhead, Bebop and Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman (in the first cartoon), the Mighty Mutanimals in the Archie comics, etc.
  • In Megalex, Zerain's hump bursts and a pair of wings sprout from his back when he and Ram win the battle of the twelve chiefs. This is a sign that he's The Chosen One.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky aka the Abomination is a Gamma mutate similar to the Hulk. There are some key differences: the Abomination looks more monstrous and he's stronger than Hulk's baseline strength (though Hulk has the advantage of getting stronger as he gets madder). More importantly, the transformation is permanent. Even if Blonsky wanted to become human again, he can't.
  • In Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm is the only member of the Four who is stuck in his powered form, a rock monster. The others can turn their powers on and off at will. Ben, barring the use of phlebotinum that usually doesn't last longer than a single story arc, can't.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas: After being Eaten Alive by Ichi, Vivienne Graham undergoes a metamorphosis inside San's decapitated head, transforming her body into a human-Ghidorah "chimera" Titan, while San's mind becomes her second head and "brother" via Brain Uploading. Later, San and Vivienne experience a shorter, milder metamorphosis into their second form, which is externally instigated by Mothra.
  • Children of an Elder God: Chapter 16 reveals that Ritsuko is in the process of turning into a Deep One (an humanoid fish race from the Cthulhu Mythos). By the end of the fic, the transformation is complete.
  • A Diplomatic Visit:
    • Discussed in chapter 9, when Swift-Pad tells Spike about the Molt he'll eventually undergo, growing wings in the process.
    • Thorax undergoes the first stage of one in chapter 25, thanks to Twilight giving him the energy he needs, and assumes a sparkle-winged form akin to what he was in at the start of "To Where and Back Again, Part 1".
    • In chapter 1 of the sequel, Diplomat at Large, Princess Cadance helps Thorax complete his change into a full-grown changeling King via sharing love energy, since he hasn’t yet gathered enough on his own. In the process, he sends it out to his brother and the others of his hive present, and as they all share it with one another, they’re each enveloped by a radiant chrysalis and shortly emerge as colorful and elegant hybrids of pony and beetle with full-bodied crystalline wings. The other Queens present, after some talk, decide to give sharing a try and undergo the same change.
  • In Justice Society of Japan after gaining superpowers, Kallen's eyes permanently turn bright red. Milly also seems to be changing in some way. But while everyone can see what's happening to Kallen, only Kallen and Milly herself can see what's happening to her.
  • Fan stories for The Lord of the Rings have girls falling into Middle-earth. In some stories, the girl suddenly becomes an Elf or a Hobbit. This usually sets up a Fantastic Romance with another character of the same race, and is a frequent plot in Self-Insert Fic.
    • Among The Eorlingas transforms Veronica into a horse. She is an especially strong and fast mare, but dislikes being stuck in horse form, and would like to undo this transformation. The people of Rohan think that Veronica is one of the Mearas. Théodred gives her the name Lyfgast.
    • In The Awkward Adventures of Meghan Whimblesby, as Meghan enters Middle-earth, she becomes an elf. In a sequence of surprises, Meghan discovers her new long hair, her gown, her knee-high boots (a "miraculous and somewhat thrilling discovery"), and finally, her Pointy Ears.
    • In The Games of the Gods, Rachel and Kari become elves. Rachel also becomes taller, and her black hair becomes blonde.
    • Troubled Waters is in a different category. The immortal spirit of Henneth Annûn sacrifices herself to save another life, and in result, Henneth becomes a mortal woman.
  • Pokéumans: The transformation into a Pokeuman is permanent, but don't worry because a Replacement Goldfish clone will take care of your old life while you're away. Hope you got a species of Pokemon you like.
  • John is permanently changed into a Winged Humanoid (with various attendant perks and problems) in With Strings Attached. It's done to save his life by the Fans.
  • Zim the Warlord: Irken Reversion: By the time the story starts, Zim looks and feels ill. This is because he's unknowingly at the start of a process called Reversion, which is causing his body to change back to what Irkens were like before they were genetically engineered into their modern form. When the process really kicks in, he goes into a coma that lasts six months; during this time, his squeedlyspooch breaks apart into multiple organs, he grows extra arms, his legs grow and reform to be triple-jointed, he gains genitals (which Irkens usually lack), and it's implied that other, so far unknown changes also take place.
  • Coyote Loon wrote a series of My Life as a Teenage Robot fanfics involving a teenager who is permanently transformed into a shape-shifting android after being exposed to several Cluster nano-probes and fights crime alongside Jenny.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's version of Aladdin, Jafar is transformed into a genie. On the other hand, being an all-powerful genie, in the sequel he gets to appear as human as he ever was whenever he feels like it.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Adventures of Pinocchio: The eponymous protagonist is a wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy. Eventually he gets his wish.
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, the witches plan to dispose of all children by turning them into mice.
  • In Franz Kafka's appropriately named story The Metamorphosis, the protagonist Gregor Samsa finds himself turned into a giant cockroach insect at the very beginning.
  • Evil Magician Trent from Xanth has the power to turn any living creature into any other. He sometimes uses it on people who annoy him, like Cynthia Centaur who was formerly Cynthia Human.
  • In the little-known 1980's SF/Horror novel Transformation by Edmund Plante the pregnant heroine is horrified to discover that an alien virus is transforming her into a psychic slug-and-lizard hybrid... at least until she she decides that a pregnant psychic alien slug/lizard is actually a pretty cool thing to be.
  • In Jack Chalker's better-known 1970's novel The Web of The Chozen a human hero is transformed by an alien virus into an alien creature. One attempt at getting help from his superiors is enough to convince him to abandon humanity in favor of his new species.
  • The twist behind The Soddit is that the Gandalf Expy is transforming into a dragon - as part of his natural life cycle: dragons begin life as dwarfs, grow into wizards, and finally become dragons.
  • Some Children Wander By Mistake by John Connolly features a child being permanently transformed into a monstrous clown, having been chosen as a fresh recruit by the other clowns several months before he was born.
  • The Ray Bradbury short story "Chrysalis" details the metamorphosis of a man exposed to radiation. Other characters include a co-worker of his and a couple scientists studying him as he transforms. The entire story takes place while he is in the cocoon (or chrysalis), and everyone wonders what to do with him, if he's dead, etc. Things are further complicated when it's revealed his co-worker is showing similar symptoms and likely the same will happen to him. In the end, the man emerges from his chrysalis... and is perfectly normal. Except not. The last paragraph has him fly off into outer space. It's implied his body and mind have very much transformed, but never said exactly how.
  • The premise for Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot is that all the creatures on the island are evolving from one species to another as they move inland and northward.
  • Lilith's Brood: The human-Oankali hybrid children shift into a final form upon reaching adulthood, which generally makes them look less like their birth mother's species. Akin is annoyed when he shifts from looking almost entirely human to entirely Oankali, since it will make his diplomatic work among alien-phobic humans harder.
  • Planet of the Damned, by Harry Harrison. The protagonist is from a world with a long winter and short summer, so humans have evolved to change from one to the other as necessary. When he has to travel to a desert planet, he collapses from the heat and does an Emergency Transformation to his summer form.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Does a Bee Care?": This story includes an alien life-cycle, where an ovum is deposited on a planet, which hatches into a figure similar to the dominant intelligent life. During this larval stage, it waits until space travel is invented, where they stow away and once in space, they transform into their adult form; a Space Whale.
  • In Dr. Franklin's Island, the titular Mad Scientist takes advantage of a recent plane crash stranding some teens on his beach to move on from animal trials to human ones, which the unfortunate teens take deadly seriously and are terrified by. The Slow Transformation is painful and leaves them as creatures more animal than human, locked in the same Menagerie of Misery as the animals. When another character broaches for the first time the idea that it might not be irreversible, they're angry at what they perceive as false hope. There's a way to become recognizably human-shaped again, but Not Quite Back to Normal - there's no way back to being fully human, and it's very possible that they'll turn again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a witch's rat-transformation spell turns out to be permanent when she uses it on herself — or at least, she can't undo it while transformed.
  • In Babylon 5 Delenn enters a cocoon in order to turn herself into a human/Minbari hybrid. Sinclair goes through the same process in reverse to become Valen.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Odo was turned into a solid (i.e. a non-shapeshifter) as a punishment for killing another shapeshifter — a first for the species.
  • The Round the Twist episode "Nails" is about a boy turning into a merman.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Numerous Greek myths involved permanent transformations. Ovid's Metamorphoses (the Trope Namer) featured a number of such stories.
    • The nymph Scylla was desired by the merman Glaucus (although she brushed off his advances). The sorceress Circe also loved Glaucus, and in jealousy poisoned Scylla, transforming her into a twelve-footed, six-headed monstrosity. Scylla adjusted well to the change: she moved to a rock on the strait opposite Charybdis (also a transformed nymph) and took to devouring sailors from every ship that passed beneath her.
    • Arachne and the goddess Athena had a weaving duel. There are many versions of this myth, and the only detail they can agree on is that the duel ends with Athena turning Arachne into a spider.
    • Actaeon, prince of Thebes and renowned hunter, was transformed into a stag by Artemis and killed by his own hounds. Depending on the version, this was either punishment for spying on Artemis bathing, or for boasting that he was a better hunter than Artemis.
    • Similarly, when Siprotes saw the goddess bathing, he got changed into a woman instead. The difference, though, was that Actaeon had gazed at Artemis, while Siprotes tried to avoid eye contact as soon as he saw her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Medeans in New Horizon are humans who voluntarily splice their genes with native fauna and transform into unique hybrid forms. The process can be reversed, but only with great difficulty and expense.
  • The Elans of Dungeons & Dragons are humans who have undergone a secret, voluntary transformation that leaves them looking exactly the same, but they are effectively immortal, being able to live purely on psychic energy. They also give up on their previous lives and pick new identities in the process. There is just something off-putting about them that makes the normals uncomfortable, though: by game rules, they have become Aberrations like a rust monster or a mind flayer.
  • In Pathfinder:
    • Changelings are the Half Human daughters of Hags and human males. For them, puberty comes with a subtle urge to seek out their mothers, which can lead them to transform into Hags themselves. Fortunately for them, they can opt to Defy the Call.
    • The Cthulhumanoid Deep One Hybrids are doomed to undergo an agonizing transformation into full Deep Ones within a year of their 60th birthday. Their feelings about becoming ageless, compulsively cultish monstrosities with free run of the deep sea are... mixed.
  • Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000: This is the fate of those cursed by the Chaos Gods, a hideous assemblage of flesh and random mutations, claws and tentacles. It's also the fate of those blessed by the Chaos Gods, as receiving too many mutations and gifts from them can utterly destroy the minds of a human whose will is not strong enough to resist it.

  • In BIONICLE, some Av-Matoran undergo metamorphosis into Bohrok as a natural part of their life cycle.

    Video Games 
  • Mons in the Pokémon franchise permanently change to new forms at distinct points, usually from factors (like experience) that correlate to aging. Though called "evolution", in the modern usages of both words, "metamorphosis" would be a much more accurate term.
  • The latter character from platforming series Jak and Daxter after coming into contact with dark eco.
  • Happens to Morph Moth in Mega Man X2. He starts out as a small chrysalis, but once he grows large enough or his health gets to half, it retreats, splits open, and then you fight the actual moth reploid. His Japanese name is even "Metamor Mothmeanos".
  • In StarCraft this is the primary means that the Zerg race produce their units and buildings by "morphing" larva into a unit or a drone into a building. During morphing stage the larva transforms into a chrysalis/cocoon for some time. Some units have a second stage of which makes them even more effective or change their role entirely (Mutalisks go from fast short-ranged flyers to either slow long-ranged ground attack or air attack flyers).
  • Heart of the Swarm: In addition to the previous Zerg metamorphoses (and a few new ones, like Zerglings into Banelings), the campaign gives several units a Divergent Character Evolution via the evolution missions, where they can gain different traits: Zerglings can become faster more aggressive and jump over obstacles or spawn three at a time, Banelings can split into smaller banelings or jump over obstacles, Ultralisks can become radioactive or return to life after being killed, etc.
  • Warcraft III features this twice with the Night Elves. Wisps building Ancients are consumed in the process à la Starcraft (non-Ancient building like moon wells don't use them up), while the Demon Hunter's ultimate spell is called metamorphosis, temporarily turning him into a demon with several upgrades and stat boosts. The transformation is permanent in Illidan's case, however.
  • The Inklings of Splatoon have metamorphosis as part of their life cycle. They are born as baby squids made of ink, and as they grow they slowly become more humanoid until they take their familiar almost human-looking form when they hit their teenage years. This metamorphosis also marks the development of their ability to freely swing between squid and humanoid form. The same has been (mostly) implied to be the case for Octolings, their octopus sister species.
  • In Battleborn, Orendi's species the Varimorph are capable of this. The race has the unique ability to intentionally (albeit slowly) adapt their bodies at a genetic level to suit their needs and liking. This also includes being able to develop biological analogues of technological constructs they find. As such no two varimorph are the same in shape or form. It has been observed however that they have a few similar traits that could be considered common among them. These traits are alternating dark and light colored splotches on the skin; wiry, dark hair; and an utter lack of respect for any form of order or authority. In Orendi's case, she had adapted her form to assimilate the internal working of A1.Minion lasers into her hands thus allowing her to control and channel energies more efficiently than the finely crafted weapons of Minion Robotics.
  • Dawn of War: In later expansions, a Chaos Lord can ascend into a Daemon Prince, a much larger and tougher melee unit. If it dies, the Chaos Lord has to be retrained. Bloodthirsters are summoned into a sacrificed unit, but the effect is the same.
  • Drunk on Nectar allows you to experience metamorphosis as a playable arthropod.

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, metamorphosis accompanies immigration and emigration to and from Gillitie Wood. Regional Fairies and other forest-folk become humans in order to leave Gillitie and enroll at the Court, and a family of humans transform into birds before moving into the Wood.
  • In Exiern dragons are born looking human and don't metamorphose into their true form until they reach adulthood. Adult dragons destroy human settlements and plant their young among the survivors to be raised by humans like cuckoos. The heroine's pretty sure her romantic interest is a dragon (she barely survived an encounter with his half-transformed sister) but hasn't figured out how to tell him.
  • Tony of Skin Deep turns into some kind of bird creature after a spell keeping him human breaks (we think) It turns out to have been some sort of karmic or cosmic backlash to the spell that turned his harpy mother into a human.
  • This Lightning Made of Owls strip parodies the Kafka work by having one of the characters transform into Kafka himself.
  • In Homestuck, trolls start life as grubs and, through a not-entirely-clear process, grow up to become the horned humanoids we all know and love.

    Web Original 
  • In Receiver of Many Demeter tries to transform her daughter Persephone permanently into a tree. It's stated that for this process to work the target needs to be a virgin.
  • Taerel Setting: The kin'toni (vampire) transformation is a one-way, permanent thing that cannot be reversed.

    Western Animation 
  • In Milo Murphy's Law, various friends of Milo, Phineas and Ferb have been forcefully transformed into evil Pistachions as part of an elaborate plan by Derek the Pistachion (following his dead father's footsteps) to turn every human into a Pistachion and eradicate humanity. but thanks to time travel from a Future Doofenshmirtz, the whole crisis has been averted and everyone is back to normal... with the exception of Bradley's right arm, which remains a wooden tendril for the rest of the series so far without even an attempt to get it changed back to a human hand.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • At the end of the third season, Twilight Sparkle is transformed into an alicorn princess. Evidently, the transformation can't be reversed, but all that's really changed about her is that she now has wings, a longer horn, got a little taller and is a bit more powerful, sharing now traits of pegasus and earth pony along with unicorn.
    • In the fourth season, we have a non-living example with the Keys of Harmony; they're inanimate objects that transform into Cool Keys upon making contact with the box they're supposed to open. They do not appear to be able to change back, although we may never know, seeing as they along with the box are now embedded into the Earth and have sprouted a new home for Twilight after her old one was destroyed.
    • "To Where and Back Again – Part 2": That is the fate of Thorax, and then of all changeling drones as they follow his example, when they choose to share love with others instead of hoarding it. They get surrounded with a radiant chrysalis and emerge as colorful, elegant hybrids of pony and stag beetle, quite distinct from their previous black, withered forms. The change is clearly permanent, and also takes care of the perpetual hunger they were plagued with. They do retain their Voluntary Shapeshifting powers, though, which are entirely independent from this.
    • Played straight in the ninth season's finale, where Princess Twilight Sparkle has grown to match Princess Celestia's height in the years following her coronation as ruler of Equestria. Apparently this transformation is also irreversible.

    Real Life 
  • Metamorphosis is a natural process for various species of animals, where their juvenile forms look little (or nothing) like the adult. The transformation of tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies are two of the best-known examples, with butterfly metamorphosis transcending to the point of metaphor.
  • Less well-known but more extreme than the above are tunicates. They're chordates (as are all vertebrates). The juveniles resemble tadpoles. The adults sorta look like sea sponges.