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Morphic Resonance

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It could be worse; at least they're bright and punctual.
"The chieftain had been turned into a pumpkin although, in accordance with the rules of universal humour, he still had his hat on."

In fiction, when people turn into things, often times, the things will... look like themselves. Characters will often retain specific traits between physical forms. In some cases, this is as easy as hair and eye color, which makes sense to a degree. Things get a little confusing, though, when characters end up keeping a color scheme or markings based on, say, the clothes they were wearing.

It's done, of course, so the viewer/audience/reader can tell them apart from other animals or other people wearing the same outfit, if they're infiltrating and pretending to be someone else. It can also extend to the shapeshifter's voice, retaining their identifying vocal range, regional accent, and personal inflections regardless of whether their current body should be able to speak in that manner or not (sort of a non-malicious version of Voices Are Mental).


If these identifying cues become relevant to the plot, it will probably become a Glamour Failure.

Named after a not-so-popular hypothesis by biologist Rupert Sheldrake, in which the forms of organisms are imprinted upon "morphic fields", which in turn influence the forms of subsequent organisms (at least, before the term was hijacked by science-fiction authors to name this trope's concept), and for that see Lamarck Was Right. May be brought upon by being subject to a Forced Transformation. If the retained traits are indicative of an evil nature, see also Red Right Hand. See also Shapeshifter Default Form, and Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing. Contrast Fisher Kingdom.


Examples with Sub-Pages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Kung Fu Wa When Tee Yang transforms into Kung-Fu Girl, she gains Kung Fu Sock's physical traits from when he had a body, which includes flowing hair, and although her hair is pink instead of his hair color (mint green), one of her socks is mint green.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Wolffy retains his Ear Notch and Rugged Scar when he turns into a dog in Mighty Little Defenders.

    Card Games 
  • (Almost) every Magic: The Gathering creature card with the Morph ability from Onslaught block has a "morph spider", either the creature itself or in the form of a subtler object, hidden in its artwork. It was only occasionally heeded to when it returned in the Time Spiral block, but was largely ignored. When Morph returned in Khans of Tarkir, though, a new clue in some artworks was shown: a yellow ball of energy with a bunch of swirling "tails" that kind of look like dragon tails. For the second block in the set, Fate Reforged, a similar mechanic, Manifest, had a similar signifier: blueish-white versions of these energy balls.
  • One of the Pokémon TCG expansions included cards of Ditto mimicking various Pokémon: they all have in common Ditto's wide mouth and dotty eyes.

    Comic Books 
  • In One Disney's Aladdin comic, the genie switches Aladdin and Jasmine's bodies to teach them a lesson, and their clothes change colors to reflect their normal colors. (Aladdin as Jasmine's top and pants are purple and white, and Jasmine as Aladdin's vest and pants are blue.)
  • Snowbird from Alpha Flight is always albino.
  • In Astro City, the Spirit of Counterculture has taken many forms over the years, every one of them being some stripe of Fad Super (Bouncing Beatnik, Jazzbaby, Mr. Cakewalk, Halcyon Hippie, Glamorax, Zootsuit), and frequently changing in age, gender, and ethnicity. However, all of them have black hair and gold skin, their outfit is always some mix of black, white, gold, and red, and many of the ones we see have a prominent diamond shape in their design.
  • In Avengers: The Initiative, secret Skrull spy Crusader has a flashback to a combat training exercise on his homeworld where his opponent K'rtem gave him a scar. Crusader vowed to keep the scar no matter what form he took in tribute to K'rtem's might.
  • The Impossible Man character in the Marvel Universe and all the other Popuppians. He can shapechange into different forms but always keeps his green and purple coloration. This is, in fact, how he lost a Shapeshifter Showdown once. After trying to impress each other with a wide variety of assumed shapes for the entire issue, his opponent Warlock (with a little help from his teammates, who felt the whole thing was getting out of hand) hit upon the idea of changing color, which he could do and Impy couldn't.
  • As is Virginia Dare in Marvel 1602 (which is loosely based on the legend that she could turn into a white deer).
  • Warlock at one time was only able to shapeshift into black things with yellow circuitry. But he got better at shapeshifting and that quality went away.
  • Obscure but awesome Marvel character Dirtnap's forms always kept the smiley-face (classic yellow-circle smiley thing) on the stomach.
  • Plastic Man could become almost anything, but kept his colors. Whether or not he has to keep his goggles and other facial features depends on the writer and/or medium. His power is actually being semi-fluid and he is therefore able to stretch/contort into the shape of anything. He does not actually turn into the thing. There is a JLA comic where Plastic Man turned into an aeroplane that could actually fly. And, with tremendous effort, he once turned the tip of his nose blue. Of course, this particular trait has gotten him caught out a few times, such as when he disguised himself as a dress to be worn by Big Barda. Averted during Grant Morrison's run on JLA when Plastic Man managed to successfully disguise himself as the Joker, turning his skin white, his hair green and his costume purple.
  • Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen (2019): Due to a mix-up with a DNA injection, Jimmy gets turned into a human-sized turtle. Despite losing all other human characteristics, he keeps his red hair.
  • Changeling (a.k.a. Beast Boy) from the Teen Titans is always green in his various animal forms. New 52 made him always red instead (as they'd tied him into The Red, the metaphysical manifestation of the Animal Kingdom which Animal Man draws power from, and the animal equivalent to Swamp Thing's The Green), though it only lasted a couple years.
  • In X-Nation 2099, the mutant Willow always has a particular marking around her left eye, even though her shapeshifting powers are otherwise so precise that she can duplicate another person's form right down to their DNA.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, the Two Beings, One Body Monster X has some of this after each Metamorphosis. From Vivienne Graham, Monster X retains her hands' distinct shape from when she was human and her facial lines (initially), and from San, Monster X retains an overall draconic look and head-shape (particularly in the second form, where San's head outright looks like a scale-less and recolored Ghidorah head). In Monster X's single-headed final form with differently colored eyes, the eye that retains San's eye color is the left eye, just like how San was originally the left head of Ghidorah.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, the Bakugou of Earth-2018.688 modified the Venom costume to suit his tastes, retaining his spiky hair and having the features of the Hero costume he wanted to wear if he managed to attend U.A.
  • In Breath of the Wild, a fanmade novelization of the namesake videogame, Link has recurring dreams of the Hero's Shade, who is accompanied by different wolves in a Spirit World. They're all different Heroes of Hyrule, and each one has unique features that reference different Links in different games. Here are the four described, two of which Link gives a nickname.
    • The Crimson Wolf has a white face with a body of deep red fur and a collar of bright red feathers. This is the Hero of the Skies.
    • The Dark Wolf has black fur with a grey face and grey streaks down the body, with blue earrings, blue human eyes, and a shackle on the left foreleg. This is the Hero of Twilight.
    • One wolf carries a strange baton in its mouth. This is the Hero of Winds.
    • One wolf has a hat with a beak on it. This is the Hero of Men.
  • Hakkōna: No matter what form Kiku takes on, his eyes retain their piercing ebon color. Feliciano figured out he was the Last Obake due to this.
  • Kaitō Kokoro: Feliciano noticed a strong resemblence between Kiku's and Nihon's eyes. It's because they are one in the same.
    A jovial laugh rang out. "Well, I highly doubt there are any other Clouded Leopards that are black all over and have bodies five feet long." Piercing ebon orbs widened as his cheeks were cupped, brought close to hazel. "But his most memorable feature is his black eyes...which look so much like yours." Realization dawned on him. "They look exactly like yours! I wonder why?"
    "M-Maybe it's just a coincidence?!" This is not good! Not good at all!
  • The kaiju upon entering the Equestrian realms in The Bridge retain some of their original traits such as coloration and key features. For example in the human subrealm from the Equestria Girls movies, Monster X comes out wearing a long scarf that hangs down and resembles his true form's twin tails.
  • This gets inverted in some World of Warcraft stories such as Crossroads to Ravines where spending too much time in animal form causes Druids to resemble said animal. Shamar a.k.a. Fuzzik spent months as a Hunter's pet and even afterwards, bares a distinct resemblance to a bear.
  • The Scaly Raptor has this for both humans and dinosaurs when in their alternate forms. Owen and Claire's dinosaur forms have markings resembling their facial hair and hair respectively while Blue's human form has tattoos resembling her markings.
  • A number of Supernatural fics involve the characters being turned into some kind of animals, usually via witch or some other magic. Dogs are popular, although cats and other animals occur, too. Eyes are often emphasized as identifying characteristics, particularly Castiel's if he's involved. One fic had Castiel turn into a horse, and not only were his eyes notable, but the horse was the color of his trench coat!
  • The Heart Trilogy:
    • The great dragon Smaug is in his human form seven feet tall and toned like a warrior, and he retains his eye color of golden fire as well as the scar inflicted on his chest by Bard's Black Arrow. Kathryn is also able to notice in his face subtle resemblances to his draconic face, such as the distorted nostrils and slightly sharp-looking teeth.
    • When Kathryn transforms into a dragon, she retains her purple eye color, and she has some ruby red scales just behind her horns as a substitute for her red hair.
  • FAITH is a comic where Misty is turned into a Pikachu. She keeps her eyes and hairstyle, but Ash still doesn't notice the resemblance (unlike Gary).
  • Inverted for the Triptych Continuum iteration of Fluttershy. She theorizes that her talent works in part by causing animals to see her as a somewhat-oddly-shaped-and-behaving member of their species... which unfortunately means that they have a tendency to treat her as a member of their species.
    • Sizzler, an original character from the same series who reappears in other works by Estee, has the once-a-generation talent of being an intuitive master chef in the art of preparing and cooking meat, with a secondary power that means meat never spoils in his presence. His fur is a deep, black-tinted crimson hue with an unusual glossiness that reminds the viewer of raw, bloody meat, which is contrasted by his bleached bone-white mane and tail, and he also has a personal scent that is reminiscent of blood. It's noted that this plunges him into the Uncanny Valley for ponies.
  • In misakiyu's illustrations of SilfofinaDragon's Sengoku Basara fanfics, Date Masamune and Katakura Kojuro change into a horse and a panther respectively from potions brewed by Kyogoku Maria, they retain some of their human features (such as their eyebrows) with Masamune's hairstyle as a mane and Kojuro keeping his scar.
  • Spouxls G. Kaardton from No Hidden Contracts, Taxes, or Fees has both of his components' hair colors, Rouxls's blue skin, Spamton's eyes, glasses, and Blush Stickers, and an outfit, nose, and hair style that combine traits of both characters.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio, near the end, Pinocchio (now a real boy) tricks Volpe and Felinet (two humans) into drinking a water charm to win many gold coins, and as a result Volpe and Felinet become a Fox and a Cat.
  • In Cinderella, the animals the Fairy Godmother transforms into humans all retain some animal-like attributes (green skin and pointy teeth on the lizards, for example), with their clothing also reflecting said animal's colors.
  • Gellert Grindelwald from the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a distinctive undercut (a hairstyle later appropriated by the Nazis and other fascists) that he shares with Percival Graves, foreshadowing his later reveal.
  • In Godzilla 2000, the Millennian spacecraft has a distinct beetle-like shape and an laser cannon on its left-front side. When the Millennians absorb some of Godzilla's DNA, they turn into the Kaiju Orga, whose upper half has the same rough shape as the spacecraft as well as a similar laser cannon in its shoulder.
  • In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the Jumanji board game shapeshifts into a video game console in order to get people to keep playing it, because board games were becoming passe. Just as the original board game had an old-fashioned appearance in contrast to more modern games of its type, being a wooden box that opened up to reveal the game inside, the console it takes the form of resembles a second-generation machine, a la the Atari 2600 or the Intellivision, with wood paneling and cartridges in contrast to the contemporary PlayStation machines of both 1996 and 2017.
  • The Lobster: People who can't find a romantic partner are turned into an animal of their choice. Nosebleed Woman's best friend is proud of her long blond hair. She doesn't say what she wants to become, but when we see a pony with a long blond mane, it's probably her.
  • In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, Howard's Ditto retains its black beady eyes, so it wears Sinister Shades to hide them when in human forms.
  • In 7 Zwerge -- Der Wald ist nicht genug, Rumplestilkin retains his prominent facial mole while shapeshifting. Strangely, no-one is able to recognize him while shapeshifted, despite it being the Distinguishing Mark of his normal form.
  • Sky High (2005): Magenta has black hair and wears purple clothing in human form. Her guinea pig form is black with purple streaks, and a high, squeaky voice.
  • In the live-action Perspective Flip film of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, her pet raven Diaval is usually changed into a normal-looking human (albeit later wearing black clothes resembling his feathers). Other times, he becomes a wolf, a horse and a dragon, all retaining some raven-like features.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the shapeshifting Martia has the same eye color and the same voice, whether she looks like an attractive woman or a hulking apeman. However when she disguises herself as Kirk the appearance is much more perfect, including perfectly mimicking their voice.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the actors all used a specific mannerism, looking upward at the camera in a sinister fashion, to indicate it was the T-1000 using its mimetic abilities.
  • In the X-Men Film Series, Mystique's eyes occasionally flash yellow when she's shapeshifted into someone else as an indication it's her. She also keeps the scars Wolverine gave her in the first movie no matter what form she takes.

  • In The Belgariad, Polgara the Sorceress keeps her skunk stripe in any animal form she assumes. Justified in that the mark is supernatural and she can't remove or dye it as a human either.
  • In Castle Hangnail, Molly finds a spell for turning a cow into a dragon for one minute, and tries it out on several other animals, resulting in a donkey dragon that's grey with long ears, a bat dragon that's small and agile, and a goldfish dragon that's a foot long golden sea serpent. It may be that the transformations are incomplete because she's not using the spell for its intended purpose, in which case a cow would be completely transformed, but there aren't any cows around so she never gets to find out.
  • Discworld:
    • On the Discworld in general, nothing, not even a god, can change the nature of his or her (or its) eyes. Pterry even refers to "morphic resonance" several times in the series, implying it's a real phenomenon on the Disc. It's probably quantum.
    • In The Last Continent, the Librarian gets a magical illness that makes him turn into all kinds of things, all of which have shaggy red fur. This includes a book, various pieces of furniture, and a dolphin. For added hilarity, his orangutan form isn't even his original shape (he was once human). Apparently he's been an orangutan for so long that it's permanently imprinted on his morphic resonance field. Paul Kidby's drawings of the Librarian in his original Horace Worblehat form, and the TV adaption of The Colour of Magic, apply this trope in reverse, giving him prominent cheeks and thick auburn hair. He really does look like he's waiting to turn into an orangutan (and indeed, it's repeatedly stated he's much happier that way).
    • And Angua, a werewolf with long blond hair, turns into a wolf with long blond fur.
  • Transformations in Feline Therapy have the animal's fur match their original hair, with grey-haired Izzy becoming a grey kitty. Their friend Sasha, who has a streak of green dyed hair, is shown with green tufts on their head and tail.
  • The Animagi in Harry Potter, particularly McGonagall and Rita Skeeter. Their animal forms both have their "glasses", in that the characters "wear" glasses-like patterns on their animal faces. This is at first hinted to be deliberate, as Animagi have to register and have distinguishing marks, but then Rita's an unregistered Animagus and she has such markings, so it's apparently intrinsic to the process. This even extends into their personality in some cases (though it's a "chicken-and-egg" question as to whether their animal transformation affects their personality or the other way around). Sirius is often described as having "a bark-like laugh" and shaggy black hair. He transforms into a large, shaggy black dog.
  • Dragons in The Heartstrikers almost always have the same color eyes in both human and draconic form.
  • Heckedy Peg, a children's picture book by Audrey and Don Wood, features a unique take on this that's critical to the plot: A witch turns seven children into seven different inanimate food items, and their mother has to guess which child is which in order to rescue them. While each child's food form is otherwise indiscernible from real food, it turns out that they had each turned into a type of food that matched the present they had asked their mother to buy for them earlier in the story (the child who turned into bread had asked for butter, the child who turned into cheese had asked for crackers, etc.).
  • Journey to the West: Sun Wukong, the Stone Monkey, can use Taoist arts to perfectly change into many different animals — but if he tries to become a human, he can only change his head and must conceal everything else.
  • In the German novel Krabat, the Master, the Evil Sorcerer can turn into different Animals, but they will always have only a left eye. The same counts for his students, whose Animal forms always mirror their appearances as humans.
  • The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul: The eagle which harasses the characters throughout the book has concentric rings faintly visible on its wings — a reminder of its origin as a RAF military plane.
  • In Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales, faeries keep a trait when they transform. The troll Ravus, for example, turns into a human with golden eyes.
  • Old Kingdom: In Lirael, when Lirael is exploring the Great Library, she uses various shapeshifting spells to turn into animals. For one of her later explorations, she's using an otter-form and notices that the fur seems darker than normal. As otters are colourblind, it's not until her friend, the Disreputable Dog, tells her that "otters shouldn't have red bellies" that Lirael realises that she has subconsciously changed the fur to match her promotion within the Library to a red waistcoat.
  • In Pact, faerie glamour has this as an explicit requirement — something of the original creature must remain constant in spite of the change in appearance and shape. When Blake Thorburn gains the ability to use glamour that he won in battle against a fae swordswoman, his tattoos of birds and branches remain constant no matter what form he takes.
  • In Holly Webb's Rose series, when Mr. Fountain's familiar Gus turns into a human, he will have white hair, one yellow eye and one blue, and a thin tongue, and his clothes will be white and fur-lined.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Whenever a Fused takes a new body, it imposes its own marbling patterns on the body.
  • The Witches of Eileanan: People transformed by Maya's Baleful Polymorphism occasionally retain some of their physical traits: Lachlan kept his hereditary skunk stripe as a blackbird, and Khan'gharad still had his red hair as a horse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Beastmaster, King Zadd is turned into a donkey with the same tattoos. Although one character finds them familiar, it doesn't become Glamour Failure in time to be meaningful.
  • Doctor Who: It's implied that the Krillitanes' skin colors in their human disguises and true forms correspond — their disguises are mostly white plus one black teacher, with the latter once the Krillitane transform having a dark gray true forms compared to the others' peach-skinned true forms.
  • In Good Omens (2019), when the demon Crowley transforms from a snake into human form, he still has slitted pupils and his red hair and black clothes mirror his snake form's red and black coloring.
  • Since Kamen Rider Decade, who has the power to transform into his predecessors, needs to access the DecaDriver to use his own abilities, the Driver appears on all his forms.
  • The titular character of the kids' game show Raven can shapeshift between human and bird form as seen in the title sequence and some episodes of the 3 spinoff shows. As a human, he has some feathers on his cloak and in his hair and a talon over one finger on his right hand as a reminder of his other form.
  • Supernatural: The familiars' animal forms resemble their human ones.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven and Chelsea are turned into cows on the Halloween episode, but to distinguish them, they still have their hair.

    Myths & Religion 
  • According to tradition, Satan can transform into any creature, every part of him — other than his feet (either cloven hooves or chicken feet). Fridge Brilliance: This must be why he prefers snakes. Nothing would give him away in that form.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Older Than Print: Odin can also turn into various animals (his favorites are Ravens and Wolves), but like him, they would always have only one eye.
    • Loki has the same limitation: his transformations would always have scarred lips (from having his mouth once sewn shut by an angry dwarf).
  • The alp, a nightmare-inducing, blood (and breast milk)-sucking creature from German folklore, derives its shapeshifting abilities from its magic hat, which it always wears, and which is always visible in some form no matter what it shapeshifts into.
  • In Japanese Mythology, kitsune (fox spirits) can shapeshift but will retain their tails and sometimes their ears and/or paws (like the examples from Inuyasha and Dungeons & Dragons). Therefore, they must cover up their tails in a more conventional manner to hide their true nature. The Korean kumiho works similarly, with some interpretations of the fox demon being unable to transform without retaining at least some visual characteristics of their natural form, be it body parts, shapes, or having a general foxlike appearance.
  • In Brazilian Folklore, the Boto cor-de-rosa (the amazon river dolphin in portuguese) from the North region of the country is said to be an enchanted being capable of turning into a handsome man at night so he can go to parties and seduce women. However, he will always retain his blowhole at the top of his head, so he must cover it with a hat he wears all the time.

  • In Interstitial Actual Play, after morphing into RPM Series Black, Edith's gun changes to look like... herself. It's a shotgun shaped like her unmorphed body where the bullets fire from her mouth. It's terrifying!

    Puppet Shows 
  • Kingdom Adventure: Dagger has two forms: a flying cartoon vulture form, and a live-action puppet humanoid form. In his humanoid form, his nose is long and hooked, like a vulture's beak. He also has a small helmet in both forms.
  • On the Roger Miller episode of The Muppet Show, an outbreak of cluckitis, a disease which nearly-instantaneously turns the afflicted into chickens after they sneeze, sweeps the cast. The Swedish Chef retains his mustache and eye-covering eyebrows. Lew Zealand, Rowlf, Miss Piggy, and Janice keep their respective eyes; Kermit does, as well, and even has his pointy collar. Only the main cast retains Morphic Resonance, however, and some don't even get that: extras and even some of the main cast turn into indistinguishable chickens. Maybe they'll have a hat or necklace, which they keep.

  • Fauna of DC Nation maintains her blonde hair, bipedal form, and cannot change her height.
  • We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • Some of the Trainers tend to retain some physical traits when they transform into Pokémon. DS, for example, keeps her glasses as an Eevee, then her green eyes when evolves into an Espeon. Tagg keeps a mole under his left gill when he turns into a Mudkip (later Swampert).
    • Similarly, Diane — who had spent most of her life as a Staraptor — retains qualities such as her black-and-red hair resembling a Staraptor's crest.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pookah from Changeling: The Dreaming tend to resemble the animals they change into in their human forms, both in their Fae Kith and human Seemings.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The hengeyokai race in the 1st Edition supplement Oriental Adventures. When they shapechange into human form, they always have a distinctive feature from their animal form, such as a sparrow hengeyokai with a long nose like a bird's beak.
    • Dungeon Magazine #21, adventure "The Chest of the Aloeids". The goddess Athena is noted as always having grey eyes, no matter what form she assumes.
    • Steel dragons use their polymorph ability to live in humanoid cities in the guise of a wealthy intellectual or wizard. But they'll always have a tell-tale feature hinting at their true nature, whether steel-gray eyes, hair or fingernails, or a steel ring or other worn ornament.
  • Lunars in Exalted each have a unique body feature called a Tell, which is retained regardless of what they transform into. Their magic makes their Tell difficult for normal people to notice, but once you do, you'll always be able to identify that Lunar at a glance, regardless of form.
  • One of the sample archetypes in Mutants & Masterminds is an Indian woman with a blue costume and a bindi dot on her forehead. She transforms into blue animals with little red dots on their foreheads.
  • When Chaos Lords and Sorcerers of Warhammer 40,000 transform into Daemon Princes, there's a good chance that they'll still be clad in the remnants of their old power armor. That being said, not much else is recognizable...

    Theme Parks 

  • BIONICLE: Word of God says that Kanohi Masks generally retain their basic shape if their wearers willingly shapeshift, but there's not much in the merchandise and media to suggest this.

    Visual Novels 
  • When the dragon in Dra+Koi takes human form, her eyes stay slitted and reptilian and she keeps her fangs, though mostly in cute form.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
    • When Maya or Pearl channels someone in the games, they change their size and faces to the channeled, but they retain their hair style, color, and their clothes. This is arguably because hair and clothes are "dead" and can't be affected by living tissue. Their full bodies change completely into the channeled person.
    • A strange, non-supernatural example: when de Killer testifies in court in the second game, the transceiver he's using to communicate with the court has a button resembling his monocle.

    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Shapeshifter Visual Cue, Shapeshifter Identification



While in her many animal forms, primarily the wolf one, Aisling's white fur and green eyes are carried over, as to show that it's her.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / MorphicResonance

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