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Shaping Your Attacks

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Throwing your axe made of lightning always works.

"One strike becomes three! A swift jab becomes two dolphins!"
Francisco Guerra, Paranatural

Ki Manipulation and Elemental Powers are cool, but what if you want something more appealing than the usual Kamehame Hadoken wave or Fireballs, Energy Balls or lightning? The answer is to give your attack a special form.

It can be anything, including weapons, objects, and animals. Usually it's strictly done for Rule of Cool or for characterize the user of said powers; for example, a bird-related character will make avian-shaped attacks. Dragons tend to be a popular choice too. It may overlap with Weapon Specialization in some cases of weapon-shaped attacks. This goes double if you're an Art Attacker that shapes things into beautiful pieces of art to be used as weapons, or at least if you have a side job as an artist.

Occasionally, the shape may serve some practical purpose. Shaping an attack into a sword or other sharp object may allow the user to cut things, for example. Other times, it may serve simply to cue the audience in on what the attack is trying to do. If for example the hero is up against a Heavily Armored Mook and needs to use a special Armor-Piercing Attack, the fact that the attack is in fact armor-piercing is much better communicated if the compositional energies take the form of a drill rather than an amorphous blob.

Don't confuse with Energy Weapon, which is usually perpetual while the "Shaped Attack" is only temporary. When used to create a weapon it becomes a form of Spontaneous Weapon Creation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Clover is all about this. Mages get access to a particular elemental magic (though they need not be a classical element, with characters having powers themed on the likes of ash, fungi, or wool). Upon finding out what that element is, there is seemingly no restriction on what form the powers have to take, as long as they have the mana (magic energy) needed for it. As a result, most mages love to shape their magic attacks into whatever they like, such as Magna incorporating his flame magic into baseball-themed moves, whereas Fana, who also uses flame magic, prefers to assemble her fire into animal shapes.
  • Bleach:
  • Blood Lad: The Blood siblings have a Battle Aura that come in their own unique shape that they each can use to attack. Liz's comes in the form of 2 giant purple axes, Braz's forms 5 blue crosses, and Staz's takes the shape of a golden claw.
  • In Digimon, there's Fist of the Beast King, which fires a lion head energy projection, and is usually used by Leomon (a lion humanoid), or by someone who has killed Leomon and absorbed his power (which happens more often than you'd expect).
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku's Dragon Fist attack.
    • When he pierced King Piccolo's chest, he used a technique that took the form of a Great Ape.
    • Several characters over the course of the franchise demonstrate the ability to shape their ki into weapons. Salza from Cooler's Revenge, Goku Black, Zamasu, Kahseral, and Saonel from Dragon Ball Super have all used simple ki-Blade Below the Shoulder, but Goku Black took it a step further by beefing up his blade into a Sinister Scimitar and later a Sinister Scythe.
  • In Fairy Tail Gajeel shape his metal Dragon Slayer in form of several weapons. Of course both Gray and Lyon can do the same with Ice Make magic, justified as maker magic is expressly explained as the ability to create objects out of a specific element. Laxus tries to kill Natsu with a pike made of lightning.
    • Natsu sometimes turns his flame attacks into draconic limbs like wings or claws.
  • Played for Laughs in How to Treat a Lady Knight Right where Irmgard subconsciously reshapes an energy ball attack into a giant heart when a human adventurer confesses his feelings for her, revealing that she feels the same way in spite of her claims to the contrary. She promptly flies off in embarrassment when it's pointed out.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, The Patriarch assassin Xeno Zaoldyecks can make a literal Dragon out of his Nen. Chrollo's Ghost fish attack may count too.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • Naruto's Rasenshuriken and many elemental jutsu, starting with the "Water Dragon Jutsu". Furthermore, outside elemental releases, we have Nagato (a huge soul-devouring dragon), Hinata (a Lion-shaped attack), and Gai (a punch that shapes air into a tiger head). Kisame, in particular, shapes all of his water projectiles into the shape of sharks, upon which he is occasionally called out on for both wasting chakra energy in shaping them and wasting time in doing so, as most other characters with water attacks don't really shape them into anything.
  • A lot of elemental attacks (especially lightning-based) in Negima! Magister Negi Magi take the form of spears. Kotarou's shadow hounds may count too.
  • Used a lot in One Piece, especially with Logia users. Eneru was a big offender and all the Admirals have at least one attack modeled after their animal theme.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, the move Dragon Rush is rendered as a blue energy dragon surrounds the mon using it.
  • In Saint Seiya the Silver Saint Sagitta can shape his cosmo into deadly golden arrows.
    • Dragon Shiryu and Libra Dohko are prime offenders, propelling literal dragons made of pure energy at their enemies.
    • Phoenix Ikki also pulls this by throwing around firestorms shaped like the mythical fire bird.
  • In Samurai Deeper Kyo, powerful attacks usually combines this with Battle Aura, though some interactions seems to imply that the giant being is part of the attack, as seen with Kyo's Mumyoi Jinpuu Ryuu Satsujinken attacks and Oda Nobunaga making use of a giant, demonic Shinigami. Shinrei and his master Fubuki can send attacks in the shape of water wyrms to wreck their enemies/try to wreck their enemies.
  • Tales of Wedding Rings: Saphir normally attacks by blasting enemies with streams of water, but in one late chapter she shapes a nearby mass of water into a huge draconic claw, which she uses to pick up a monster and crush it.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, one of Hiei's most powerful techniques is the Dragon of Darkness Flame.
  • The Bao Zakeruga from Zatch Bell!.

    Comic Books 
  • Aquaman:
    • First we have Mera, Aquaman's wife, who can make "hard water" objects as part of her power to control and manipulate water.
    • Koryak, Aquaman's son from a different woman, also had the ability to make weapons out of water in his vicinity.
    • Jackson Hyde, the second Aqualad, has the ability to shape water into weapons, usually swords.
  • Captain Atom: Nightshade has the ability to make solid or semi-solid objects out of shadows.
  • The Human Torch can do this. His most well-known application being the Fantastic Four signal flare. His sister, the Invisible Woman, can also do this with the energy constructs she creates.
  • Green Lantern, being equipped with, well, a Green Lantern Ring, uses this superpower. On one occasion he used the ring to manifest sumo wrestlers and sic them at some mooks.
  • Teen Titans: Argent can generate silver plasma which she can either project as energy blasts or mold into complex shapes like daggers, shields, and whips.
  • In X-Men, Jean Grey can unleash her "Phoenix Force" in the form of a phoenix made of fire and psychic energy. Another mutant, Psylocke, can create a literal psychic knife. And the young Jean Grey from an alternate past gains the ability to create a psychic hammer.
  • Sleepwalker's main offensive ability is his "warp vision", Eye Beams that he can use to reshape physical matter. He can use it to do everything from create protective barriers and restraints that entangle criminals to change the direction of spraying water to create slides that catch falling people to dig his way out of a deathtrap.

  • In Pony POV Series, Dark World Traitor Dash figured out how to use the red lightning she can generate to create a scythe made out of lightning among other things.
  • Much like the canon version, the title character of Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams uses his matter-reshaping Eye Beams to create everything from protective barriers to battering rams to melee weapons to cages to stop fleeing or rampaging criminals.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The kung-fu fantasy film, Buddha's Palm does this all the time, with the chi powers of kung-fu masters (and later in the film, the hero) taking the shape of daggers, lightning bolts, shurikens, hands, energy rings, etc.
  • Kung Fu Hustle features a pair of Musical Assassins who shape their music into blades and eventually a army of Chinese ghost warriors!
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the Balrog seemingly made his sword and whip out of pure fire. In the book they're simply described as fiery weapons.
  • The physical manifestations of the music in the band battle between Sex Bob-omb and the Katayanagi Twins in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

  • Justified in Codex Alera. There are lots of animal-shaped attacks because Elemental Powers come from furies, and the most powerful ones typically have a preferred shape (for instance, Bernard's earth fury is a dog, Amara's wind fury is a horse, and Gram's fire fury is a hummingbird).
  • Cradle Series: Lindon and Lil Blue eventually figure out how to project the Empty Palm technique instead of having to make direct contact, to the effect of a giant blue ghostly hand appearing to smack seven bells out of the target.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Expecto Patronum spell goes from a silvery mist to a shapeless mass of light but to, when mastered, the form of the character's animal spirit.
    • Fiendfyre is also described as taking the shape of raging animals — dragons, lions, serpents, anything dangerous. It does this in the film as well, and takes Voldemort's form when a horcrux is consumed.
  • In The Wheel of Time:
    • The Amyrlin Seat demonstrates that it's possible to shape a sword out of Air, which is even fairly strong, but says it's less practical than just pushing things around.
    • Rand has a habit of creating swords of Fire in early books when he's more comfortable with a blade than the One Power. Once he grows into his abilities, he can create hundreds of filaments of long-range, high-energy Razor Floss, or just scour the battlefield in fire and lightning when finesse isn't necessary.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Some later installment of the Ultra Series tends to have the initials of the Ultra incorporated in their beam attacks.
    • Ultraman Victory is the first Ultra to have an unusually-shaped energy blast, namely his Finishing Move, the Victorium Shoot, being projected in the shape of a capital "V".
    • The next Ultra-hero, Ultraman X, pulls a similar move with his Finishing Move, the Xanadium Beam, being in the shape of a capital "X".
    • Ultraman Fuma from Ultraman Taiga, befitting his ninja theme, often creates shurikens (in various shapes and sizes) from his energy to be used as projectiles as various Finishing Move(s).
    • Ultraman Z: The titular Ultra tends to shape his beams and attacks like the Z letter. In the series finale, he is able to make his strongest Zestium Beam into a giant Z to overpower Destrudos' own attack.
    • That isn't to say this trope is exclusive to newer Ultras. From the older series, there is Ultraman Ace, who tends to shape his energy attacks into blades and knives. Notably, Ace's Flechette Storm which is shaped like a dozen flying knives, used to slice Unitang into cubes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons the player character is actually suggested to give his spells a distinctive form, like using a star-shaped fireball, but the spell has its limits. There's also the "animate breath" spell which can make a temporary mook out of a breath weapon.
    • In the Dragonlance setting there's a spell that can create spears of lightning.
    • Elevated to actual mechanical relevance by the "shape spell" feat, which gives your spell's shape actual practical relevance instead of just a shiny new visual. In the star-shaped fireball example, you could make it a star oriented so that your allies fell between the points and weren't burned.
  • As suggested by the page image (Lightning Axe), Magic: The Gathering has its fair share of these sorts of spells. They often show up in red or black, the two colors most likely to produce a direct magical attack.
    • Lava Axe
    • Flame Javelin
    • Flame Fusillade
    • Tendrils of Corruption
    • Demonfire
    • In Red, this actually makes a degree of sense, as Red has an artistic and creative side.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ork weirdboyz have the "Foot of Gork" ability, where they send a wave of psychic force manifesting as their god's Giant Foot of Stomping.

    Video Games 
  • The Ghost units in Wesnoth can send "wails" in the form of purple face-shaped attacks.
  • The last boss of Beard Blade in his One-Winged Angel form can create energy projectiles shaped like scissors as an attack.
  • Borderlands:
    • In the first game, the Vladof Hammer shotgun fires its spread in the shape of a hammer, and the S&S Crux shotgun did the same in the shape of a cross.
    • In Borderlands 2, the Vladof Infinity machine pistol, in addition to having infinite ammo, traces out an infinity symbol as it fires. The Dahl Sand Hawk submachine gun fires a spread of bullets in the shape of a bird, which somehow flaps its wings as it flies through the air.
  • In Bravely Second, there is the Spellcraft ability, which allows you to change magic according to certain parameters (such as hitting all enemies of a particular type, taking effect over consecutive turns, or being set up as a counterattack). One of those is turning it into a hammer that deals physical damage rather than magical damage.
  • Almost every offensive ability in Destiny is this, being varying flavors of melee weapon/ordinance/gun summoned by a Guardian's Light. The only possible exceptions are a Hunter's knives which look totally normal (but still explode with a certain perk and regenerate on their own) and some grenades (which look more like standard frags but enhanced with the Light).
  • Devil May Cry:
    • In the first game, Dante with the Sparda Devil Trigger can toss a dragon made of crimson energy at Mundus.
    • In the second game, one of Arius's attacks allow him to summon spires made out of darkness.
    • Vergil and Nero both have Summoned Swords but with different designs — Vergil's Summoned Swords are shaped like smaller copies of the Force Edge, whereas Nero's are more along the lines of a two-sided shuriken (in Devil May Cry 4) or a kukri blade (in Devil May Cry 5).
  • In Dragon Quest VIII there are Megagash and Gigagash, which consist in huge sword-shaped energy streams. The hero can also learn a Dragon-shaped energy attack similar to the Ryuuken attack.
  • Dread Templar have the Hell Knight summoning sword-shaped beams as projectiles in his rematch, while the fiery demon Annorbysis can throw a battleaxe made of lava as an attack.
  • The Epic Battle Fantasy series has Seiken and Light Blade, a pair of holy-elemental spells which hit a single foe with a sword-shaped blast. Both spells are exclusive to Matt.
  • The majority of magic in Final Fantasy Type-0 is used in this way. Casting Fire SHG (Shotgun) will produce a short-but-wide-range wave of flames, while Fire BOM (Bomb) transforms the flames into an omnidirectional wave and Fire RF (Rifle) gives you a long-range fireball.
  • Kawashima from The Legend of Tian-ding, the third boss, can summon energy projectiles shaped like butterflies to home in on your titular hero. Which explodes on contact.
  • In The Legend of Dragoon Greham has an attack that makes spears of energy, while the White Silver Dragoon can make arrows out of light.
  • Shang Tsung of Mortal Kombat throws fireballs with skulls inside them. They might actually be souls, considering the character, but he definitely does it for the intimidation factor. Quan Chi also throws skulls but his are made of green energy and can bite his opponent. And there are also Liu Kang's dragon-shaped fireballs.
  • In Overwatch, Hanzo's Ultimate ability "Dragonstrike" launches an arrow that transforms into a pair of blue spectral dragons that do massive damage to any enemies that get in their way. "Ryuu ga waga teki wo kurau!"
    • His brother Genji's Ultimate "Dragonblade" summons a green spectral dragon which moves in sync with the swing of his blade doing large amounts of damage with each slash. "Ryuujin no ken o kurae!!"
  • Path of Exile has purchasable cosmetics that can modify certain attacks to make them look different. A good example of this trope is allowing the standard low-level amorphous firebolt to turn into a pretty awesome-looking dragon. Or turn a bolt of chaotic energy into celestial cats.
  • Burn in Psychic Force can shape his flames to form pentagrams and fowls.
  • In the first title of Samurai Shodown, Amakusa can fire some ghost-shaped fireballs, Ukyo can send a swallow-shaped blast from his sword and the Warrior Monk Gaira can smash and stun his enemies summoning a shining Asura demon made of energy.
  • Kenshin Uesugi from Samurai Warriors can summon phoenixes and wolves made of energy, and in late games even a temporary, huge copy of himself made of transparent light.
  • Oichi from Sengoku Basara 3 can shape her darkness in the form of two or more huge black arms. However in this case is unknown who controls who.
  • An attack similar to the above-mentioned wail happens in Splatterhouse 2 with one boss.
  • Masou Kishin bots in Super Robot Wars can use ultimate attacks that take energy and shape it into animal-like forms, like Cybuster's Akashic Buster.
  • Super Smash Bros. gives Captain Falcon the Falcon Punch, a powerful punch attack surrounded by a falcon-shaped flame.
  • As a general rule, any spell in the Tales series with "blade", "lance", or "sword" in the name will look like Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Certain melee attacks also qualify, and there are even a few shaped healing spells.
  • Viewtiful Joe has several dragon-shaped attacks, including the "Red Hot Dragon Kick" (Red Hot Kick when Zoomed in).
  • The Wind Road grants you a Kamehame Hadoken attack near the end after your first return from the spirit world. And when upgraded even further, you can turn your Hadoken into a gigantic golden Chinese Dragon.
  • In Wizard101, every school of magic has its own unique symbol, and when your character casts a spell using a wand or certain swords, they'll draw the symbol of the spell's school in the air as it's being cast.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Paladins have had their Judgment spell take the form of a hammer made of holy energy for a long time: from The Burning Crusade up until Warlords of Draenor, it was a hammer that simply appeared above enemies and dropped onto them, but from Legion onwards, it was a thrown projectile. Hammer of Wrath counts, as well, though it at least looks more solid than Judgment.
    • Warlocks' Shadow Bolt spell projectile looks like a skull made of dark energy. So do Death Knights' Death Coil spell projectiles, for that matter.
  • Yokai Hunter Shintaro: The Tengu boss in his second fight can create massive fists made of flames and send them on you as an attack.

  • Paranatural: Most of the point of Francisco Guerra's fighting style, the Spectral Fist, which teaches how to shape the spectral energy spectrals naturally exude and use it for attack or defense. He doesn't bother to explain how shaping an attack into two dolphins would be helpful.
  • unOrdinary:
    • Lennon's ability, "Conjure: Disks" lets him create and control floating disks made of energy which he can use to block attacks, or slice up other people.
    • The superhero that rescues Blyke has the ability "Conjure: Blades", and can conjure an energy sword to wield or energy daggers to use as projectiles.

    Web Original 
  • Dreamscape: Aseir can create slashes of dark energy in a variety of shapes.
  • In Phaeton we have:
    • Trayen's boomerang-shaped "windblades" and rapid-fire bubble "wavebeam".
    • Trayen's elemental orbs.
    • Jodie's psychic weapons.

    Western Animation