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Paper Master

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You're about to get reamed.

"My paper soldiers form a wall, five paces thick and twice as tall."
Ciocie Cioelle, Kill Six Billion Demons

Paper doesn't seem like it would make too great a weapon. Yeah, a paper cut might sting for a while, and a rolled-up newspaper could possibly slay seven flies with one blow, and it could certainly cover a rock, but nobody kids themselves that a sheet of paper is going to be useful in a real fight. Even the dreaded Paper Fan of Doom has much more bang than bite.

Sounds like a pretty lame power, right? Not quite.

There are actually a fair number of characters in fiction that use paper in battle very effectively. These characters have near-Elemental Powers to control or even transform into paper, and usually can create a vast number of weapons only limited by their imagination and paper folding skills. Often when this happens, the paper itself seems to take on the qualities of said weapon (i.e. a paper spear piercing someone like a spear made of steel, instead of crumpling up). These characters are often weak to water and fire (or anything that will soak or burn their paper), but not always, especially when the writer wants to show just how powerful they are. A piece of paper in the hands of a paper master can block bullets fired almost point blank without a scratch, a dome made out of their paper can protect one from a falling jet aircraft, and a paper card thrown by one often spells death.

Can be a subset of Green Thumb (as paper is mainly made from wood), although more often than not, this power stands by its own.

Be very careful, dear reader, when confronting these characters in offices, libraries, bookstores, newspaper stands, banknote mints, or paper mills. And heavens help you if one such opponent is also a Badass Bureaucrat.

Popular in anime as origami (the art of paper folding) is a big tradition in Japan. In a sense, this trope is Older Than Steam at the least: according to legend, a true master of origami can unlock the secrets of creation.

Also, in the Chinese and Japanese culture, paper talismans with supernatural powers are common. In Onmyōdō, an Onmyōji uses Shikigami, which are often depicted as little paper men/creatures following orders of the Onmyōji. Also "gami" can mean god 「神」, but is a homophone of paper 「紙」.

Sub-Trope of Art Attacker and Single Substance Manipulation. Overlaps with Death Dealer, someone who favors laminated rectangular paper, aka playing cards.

Compare Feather Flechettes and Paper People. Not to be confused with Paper Cutting or Black Belt in Origami.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Read or Die and R.O.D the TV, the trope-namer and the source of the picture above: Yomiko Readman and the Paper Sisters, are examples of what apparently is the most common type of superhero in their universe. In the manga, Yomiko, remembering her dead master(and lover)'s words, can control her paper to be immune to fire. In the novel, Ziggy Stardust of the Science division made various paper for her to use, like black paper with explosives that can explode at her will and highly water resistant paper that can lessen her weakness against water(and also stand on top of water with pieces of paper). Overlaps with Personality Powers, in that being a Paper Master goes hand in hand with being a bibliophile... which also brings Blessed with Suck into the mix, in that this bibliophilia often extends to life-wrecking extremes.
  • Saicho of Flame of Recca, a fighter who can manipulate papers to act like weapons much like the Read or Die characters that he predates by a few years. For example, he can make a paper sword that's harder than steel.
  • Hunter × Hunter:
    • Kalluto, the youngest sibling of lead character Killua. He uses a paper fan as a bladed weapon, administers the Death of a Thousand Cuts with confetti, and eavesdrops on people using paper dolls of them once they've got a bit of his paper on them. And he's a lethal assassin.
    • One of abilities of Nen is the ability to strengthen objects, including paper. At one point Wing tears a page out of a book, strengthens it with Nen, and hurls it at a wall, neatly slicing a metal soda can that was in the way. Also, at various points in the anime, Hisoka tends to do the same with playing cards.
  • In Inuyasha, Byakuya uses an origami crane as his mode of flight transport. He also uses origami lotus flowers as a focus for his illusions. These illusions are so good they can fight on his behalf. However, if they receive what would be a killing blow, they revert back to an origami lotus flower thereby revealing the illusion and also the real location of the real Byakuya.
  • Onmyōdō, via Shikigami or Ofuda, is very powerful in the Negima! Magister Negi Magi universe. Setsuna is a notable heroic user.
  • Konan from Naruto, the lone female member of Akatsuki. She's made it into such things as wings, fake tree camouflage from papier-mache, and is capable of both turning into paper and making a copy of herself out of paper which she can control from a remote location (though she/it can apparently be prevented from moving if something sticks to it, like oil). This also includes the paper explosives that are a mainstay of the series. Her ultimate attack involves controlling 600 billion of those paper explosives to create 10 minutes of nonstop explosions.
  • Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon uses an Asian Rune Chant and ofuda-throwing with "Akuryō Taisan!" (literally Evil Spirits, Begone!") to kill monsters. In Sailor Moon R: The Movie, an enormous spiral of ofuda used as a weapon (which, concidentally, is what the same attack does in the live-action version).
  • Keisei in Corpse Princess has displayed the ability to turn a scroll of Buddhist scripture into a magical staff.
  • Aono in Sola can control paper.
  • Curren Huckebein of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force has this as her weapon of choice. She introduces herself by having the tome she carries create a paper storm that slices up and critically injures Vita and Erio.
  • In Natsume's Book of Friends, the Natori's often commonly uses them for his exorcism as the Natori clan specializes in this.
  • Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable has Terunosuke Miyamoto, who's Stand, Enigma, allows him to turn people into paper, as long as they first perform a Character Tic they perform when they're afraid. He can also turn objects into paper, storing them for a later use, such as food, a gun, a taxi, scorpions, pure electricity, and a paper shedder.
    • Tsurugi Higashikata from JoJolion has the Stand Paper Moon King, which gives him power over origami creations. It imbues Tsurugi's origami with their "real world" counterparts abilities: a fortune teller reads minds and tells the future, a frog hops, a cicada flies, a car drives around, bananas make someone slip and fall. Paper Moon King even allows Tsurugi to turn things like cellphones into origami creations. However, the Stand's true power is to steal the target's ability to recognize people and objects for what they really are, particularly if they're looking for someone or something in particular. Tsurugi has used the Stand to make two people see every other person as having the same distorted face, make all signs and labels say the same name, make a pile of leaves all look like origami frogs, and make every city bus look like his own father to a man chasing him down.
    • Later in JoJolion we're introduced to Tamaki Damo, who tortures people with folded up banknotes. However, this isn't a Stand power. It's just his preferred method after his Stand Vitamin C melts his victims' bodies into puddles of human-shaped goo. The relatively sharp edge of the folded paper slices through their already soft bodies like a hot knife through butter, severing limbs and injuring internal organs. Oh, and they still feel pain.
  • In A Certain Scientific Accelerator, Naru wields weapons and wears clothing made of paper. She can make paper soft as silk, harder than steel, or explode like a bomb at will.
  • In Ninja Slayer, Yamoto Koki uses origami to fight.
  • In Spirited Away, Haku the dragon is attacked and hurt by what appear to be enchanted paper people.
  • Kaede of Lapis Re:LiGHTs uses enchanted paper dolls as her primary forms of attack against Magical Monsters. She can also enlarge them so she can ride on them though it requires constant concentration.

    Comic Books 
  • Stalker with a Crush Paperdoll: compressed the bodies of those she envelops and administers lethal papercuts strong enough to slice through Spider-Man's webbing.
  • Marvel Comics' Thin Man has the ability to flatten himself razor-thin, in addition to Rubber Man powers. Again, razor thin. And he's a sadistic, bitter old man. And a good guy.
  • Gambit's real power is his ability to force small objects to explode by "charging" them, converting their potential energy into kinetic energy. His favorite tool is playing cards and the impossible things he can do with them sometimes evoke this trope
  • The Flash: Villain Papercut's power is to control paper, though his actual power is controlling wood. It's just easier for him to manipulate paper. He primarily uses his power to make razor-sharp paper shurikens.
  • Batman and The Creeper once battled a foe called the Origami Man who controlled paper: killing people by blasting rolled paper through the victim like a hurricane blasts straw through a plank.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Burka Avenger is a good example, since the eponymous heroine uses books and pencils as weapons in her martial arts.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles:
    • While scolding Bolt for his bad behavior in "The Coffee Shop," Penny threatens to spank the dog with a rolled-up newspaper if he continues to misbehave. It's an empty threat, as it's stated that she has never hit Bolt — but it has kept him in line in the past.
    • In "The Party," Leonard the poodle dashes for the bedroom to avoid what he expects will be a spanking with a rolled up newspaper from his owner when he is caught playing loud music.
      Leonard: Hide, hide, hide, hide, hide! I gotta hide before he catches me and whacks me with a newspaper! Outta my way, cat!
  • In The MLP Loops, Ivory Scroll becomes this after a run in the Naruto universe, as befits her nature as a Badass Bureaucrat. She also takes the time to learn explosive runes.
  • Teri inTerix Gumball In Between Worlds [1] she can manipulate paper by simply touching it.She is able to make a living paper Hawk,Scorpion,Lion,F-18 etc.
  • Lexi in Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail is a book who can deattach his pages to create a humanoid figure. He can then use those papers to move around to dodge attacks or folds them to form weapons like blades and whips. He's even capable of shapeshifting into creatures like a gryphon and transform the papers to form suitable clothes and hair if need be.
  • In ⫚ - His Daughters, The Miracles of the family, Elizabeth's gift is the ability to bring paper creations to life.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, Kubo's main use of his Magic Music is using origami paper to tell stories to his village, but later creating things like a boat while on his quest. Uniquely, the power works on dead leaves and wood, implicitly because that's essentially what paper is after all.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cast a Deadly Spell. Tugwell uses a spell to slice a man to death with a whirlwind of cut-up pieces of newspaper.
  • At one point in We Are the Night, Charlotte slices a man's throat with a page torn from a book.
  • Some wuxia movies have villains that masters the art of using literally anything as weapons... including paper. In The Imperial Swordsman and The Magic Blade, the final battle have the main villain (or at least an Elite Mook lackey) attempting to rough up the heroes using pages from books, which can embed into wood and slice through flesh.

  • The main character of the appropriately titled book Paper Mage is...well...a paper mage; a young Chinese woman who has the ability to summon guardians by using origami.
  • In one of the books of "The Adventures of Samurai Cat," Tomokato (the eponymous samurai cat) faces off against another cat named "Origami Ito" (a pun on the name of the protagonist of "Lone Wolf and Cub.") Origami Ito has a huge roll of paper which he can fold into weapons, walls, soldiers, and tanks, which come to life to attack his enemy.
  • In Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces book series, the main character uses a spell to create a "ghost knife" which is basically a laminated piece of notebook paper with some magical symbols written on it in marker. It is supposed to be able to cut "ghosts, magic, and dead things," but the definition of "dead things" is broad enough to include any inanimate object, and in this universe, every living thing has a soul or spirit that qualifies as a kind of ghost. Add in the ability of the ghost knife to respond to its owner's will by flying wherever the creator mentally directs it, and you have a weapon that cuts through doors and bullets, leaves any living opponent exhausted and weak by injuring its soul, and destroys your enemies' magic, giving you a perfect all-purpose (mostly)nonlethal weapon that fits in your pocket. Even when someone else grabs it, the creator can will it to fly through the opponent's hand and back to the creator, leaving the enemy soul-drained in the process. The protagonist can even use it to slice up meat, and it's safe to rinse, as it's laminated.
  • Lazy Dragon, a character from the Wild Cards universe, can create and then "possess" animals. He needs some kind of symbolic image of the animal to do it, and usually finds it most practical to make little origami tigers or snakes or birds or whatever, since he has easy access to paper and origami needs no tools.
  • Though not strictly a version of this trope Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee is worth mentioning here, set in an interstellar empire with strong Asiatic influences. The protagonist steals a mercenary 'kite' spacecraft, a Drone Deployer whose drones take the form of origami shapes that unfold into the required weaponry.
  • The main character from Robin McKinley's Shadows is into origami and discovers she can use it to perform magic.
  • The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg takes place in a world where mages can bond to man-made substances and perform magic with them. The main character, as one might guess, is apprenticed to a magician bonded to paper, and over the course of the series learns paper magic (known as Folding) herself.
  • The madwoman of The Girl Who Drank the Moon learns to transmute materials during her confinement. She uses this power to manufacture paper and then fold into various origami birds, which then become animate. The flock are dangerous attackers and coordinate to fly the madwoman out of prison.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Pete & Pete: "Farewell, My Little Viking" featured the appropriately named bully "Paper Cut", who was a master of making dangerous origami figures and threatened to use them on anyone who dared throw scissors against him in a game of Rock–Paper–Scissors.
  • Tsuruhime (the White Ranger) in Ninja Sentai Kakuranger. One of her attacks is a storm of paper cranes. This attack is occasionally replicated at a larger scale by the first Humongous Mecha of the series, Muteki Shogun (Invincible General).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style has a technique that allows you to turn paper fans into sharp and deadly weapons.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Kitsune werefoxes have a set of Gifts that utilize Ju-fu, or paper magic, using a combination of origami and calligraphy to make single-use magical items out of (preferably) natural paper.
  • In Pathfinder, the Scroll Master wizard archetype lets you turn a magic scroll into a slashing weapon or a shield; the Living Grimoire inquisitor archetype lets you turn a holy book into a bludgeoning weapon; and the Tome Eater occultist archetype lets you regain power from eating written text.

    Video Games 
  • Action Taimanin: Mai Nanase specializes in the Paper Spirit ninja art, allowing her to put particles into pieces of paper and make use of them as the situation demands, such as snaring enemies, transforming them into blades or explosives or create sentient origamis.
  • Runescape has Lexicus Runewright, who summons magical books that attack with all three types of combat, shoot magical pages out of his Spell Book to attack players, and summons books that explode for incredibly heavy damage (enough to oneshot people under 500HP).
  • The Shin Megami Tensei games have two actual mythological examples: Shikigami and Shiki-Ouji, demons conjured into paper slips.
  • Sketch Turner, the comic book artist sucked into his own creation in Comix Zone, can tear a chunk out of the comic page he's fighting on and turn it into a lethal projectile by folding it into a paper airplane. His pet rat, Roadkill, scratches at panel borders to reveal weapons and power-ups. The villain of Sketch's comic, Mortus, draws monsters to attack him.
  • One Piece - Great Hidden Treasure of the Nanatsu Islands has a villain who ate a Logia-type Devil Fruit, called the Pasa-Pasa no Mi or the Rustle-Rustle Fruit, that granted him power over paper. Simon used this ability in various ways such as flight, cutting attacks, elemental attacks such as electricity and poison, and the power to heal himself. Given how Devil Fruits are only limited by the strength, skill, and creativity of the user, it's no wonder why Oda relegated such a versatile power to non-canon status.
  • Kōmokuten from Namu Amida Butsu! -UTENA- fights with an open scroll.
  • In Paper Mario, the characters are absolutely flat, and as a result almost every power-up Mario gets includes origami-ing himself.
  • Melody, one of the Portrait Ghosts from Luigi's Mansion, attacks with sheet music.
  • Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 has Phoenix Wright. Most of his attacks involve paper and documents. His "Break the Witness" attack (an upgraded version of "Press the Witness" and only available in Turnabout Mode), where he walks forward while emphatically smacking some papers, can do insane amounts of damage, and if used as an assist it becomes an Invulnerable Attack.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. series, the paper fan is one of the most dangerous items because it can be used rapid-fire on the opponent without giving them a chance to break away, along with having a shield-breaking attack and absurd effectiveness when thrown.
  • In Famous Second Son has Celia Penderghast, a conduit who has the power to control paper and is the driving force behind the Paper Trail DLC. She can transform into paper, use it as a weapon, and create deceptively strong armor by using mechanical compound force.
  • Lailah from Tales of Zestiria uses paper as her weapon. She fights by scattering the sheets around her and then lighting them on fire.
  • Minagi Tohno from Eternal Fighter Zero fights with rice tickets, whether by throwing them like shurikens, or striking directly; referencing how she likes carrying dozens of rice tickets with her in AIR.
  • In the later games of the Azada series, Titus appears in a cloud of paper scraps when he teleports into a realm.
  • So Sorry of Undertale throws balled up pieces of drawing paper at you, causing damage unintentionally.
  • The v2 update of Epic Battle Fantasy 5 introduces Origami Wraith and Origami Dragon, which have actual paper-based (though actually non-elemental) attacks even called Paper Storm and Paper Blade respectively. The former is even accessible to the player as a follow-up to a specific weapon's basic attack. Then there is a new Limit Break for girls only consisting of them being drawn and having dancing sketch on a paper, which somehow raises some of stats of entire party. Finally, there is an entire boss rush drawn on a page of paper, and all their attacks are drawn on that list as well ... except for pencil that comes down at you randomly and does some damage to you. Yeah.
  • Deckard Cain in Heroes of the Storm, as a Mythology Gag to an April Fool's video for Diablo 3, has the "Lorenado" as one of his ultimate abilities, creating a whirlwind of tome pages.
  • The Tactician class from Xenoblade Chronicles 3 utilises origami called Mondo as Attack Drones. Taion, who is the original character with this class, gains an Ouroboros form that allows him to use his Mondo to create illusions and use them as explosives.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Millwall brick, a club made out of newspaper.
  • Discovery Channel had a convict mentioning the combat potential of newspapers folded and/or rolled up tightly enough... Spears... Hammers... keep in mind that paper used to be wood, and only its thinness and flexibility separates it from that mechanically. High density cardboard (which tightly enough rolled newspaper could approximate) doesn't hold a candle to steel for ability to apply bludgeoning force, but it is a lot better than bare hands for reach.
  • Policemen have been been caught using phone books to beat confessions out of suspects. Not only is it seriously painful, but it's also likely to not cause injury or leave marks which makes it difficult to prove.
  • The History Channel had an episode of Ancient Discoveries that tested the validity of paper armor from ancient China. The paper armor they created was able to completely stop a crossbow bolt from 20 meters.
  • MythBusters found that pykrete made from newspaper pulp actually performed significantly better than the "classic" recipe made from sawdust. There was also an episode examining prison weaponry where a newspaper crossbow was made — not much penetrating power, but could be fired accurately enough to kill anyway.
  • If you work in a paper mill, paper cuts can get serious. A ten metre square of freshly cut card has both a serious cutting edge, and enough weight behind it, to take of somebody's arm if it drops edge-on.
    • Paper is often shipped from the mill in rolls that can weigh several tons each. If one of these gets rolling they can crush anyone and anything in their path.
  • In general, there is a reason why papercuts are painful. They may look like nothing, but they are often deeper than you would think.


Video Example(s):


The General's Paper Magic

The General makes use of magic paper and Origami soldiers in combat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / PaperMaster

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