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Shaping Your Attacks

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"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 of Choice 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, one of Hiei's most powerful techniques is the Dragon of Darkness Flame.
  • The Bao Zakeruga from Zatch Bell!.
  • 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.
  • 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 Bleach the Sokyoku is a gargantuan halberd used for capital punishments. When activated it turns in a colossal Phoenix made of energy which proceed to annihilate the victim with the raw power of a million of zanpakuto.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • 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).
  • In Pokémon, the move Dragon Rush is rendered as a blue energy dragon surrounds the mon using it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern, being equipped with, well, a Green Lantern Ring, use this superpower. On one occasion he used the ring to manifest sumo wrestlers and sic them at some mooks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Nightshade has the ability to make solid or semi-solid objects out of shadows.
  • 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 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • Kung Fu Hustle features a pair of Musical Assassins who shape their music into blades and eventually a army of Chinese ghost warriors!

  • 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).
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • In Devil May Cry Dante with the Sparda Devil Trigger can toss a dragon made of crimson energy at his foes. Vergil and Nero both have Summoned Swords but with different designs - Vergil's Summoned Swords is shaped like Force Edge, whereas Nero's is more along the lines of a two-sided shuriken.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Wizard 101, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Ghost units in Wesnoth can send "wails" in the form of purple face-shaped attacks.
  • An attack similar to the above-mentioned wail happens in Splatterhouse 2 with one boss.
  • 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.
  • Viewtiful Joe has several dragon-shaped attacks, including the "Red Hot Dragon Kick" (Red Hot Kick when Zoomed in).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).

  • 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.

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


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