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Single Substance Manipulation

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A Sub-Trope of Mind over Matter; rather than moving any physical object, a character is limited to a specific object or substance they have full control over.

Their level of power often varies based on the availability of their kinetic source. This may prove limiting, if their Kinetic Power is based on something rare or singular; however, control over a commonly found substance may make them near-godlike in power.

Whatevermancy is about how the powers are named. If they share a common suffix, or possibly prefix, like "-mancy", or "-kinetic", then they go there as well.

Compare to Elemental Powers, which are powers that involve the specific substance, but don't need to have manipulation as part of it. Just being able to create it would could as Elemental Powers, but would not be this trope, because they can't move it around.

This overlaps with Single-Power Superheroes if this is, well, the only power that they have. And could overlap with Shaping Your Attacks, if it's used to make attacks have clearly defined shapes, like axes of an element or such. Depending on how narrow/common the specialty is, it may run into the Inverse Law of Complexity to Power.


Examples include:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Part 3, Iggy is a Boston Terrier whose Stand, The Fool, lets him manipulate sand. He can create various things out of sand such as hang-gliders, shields, and even clones of other people. He's brought to Egypt late in the story to join the heroes, since the desert environment means there's no shortage of sand for him to use.
    • Also from Part 3, N'Doul and his Stand Geb can manipulate water. Most of the time, Geb takes the form of a large clawed hand made of water, which is strong enough to rip someone's head off and pull it into a canteen.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Pro Hero Best Jeanist has the quirk "Fiber Control" which allows him to manipulate the threads and fabrics of people's outfits. Denim is easiest to control, so his costume is a jeans bodysuit covering him from head to toe, but "Vigilantes" shows that it's actually a Semantic Superpower, when he uses it on metallic bridge wires, spun by metal-fibers, to support a collapsing building by manipulating them as he does with his clothes.
    • Pro hero Manual has the ability to telekinetically manipulate water. However, he can't produce it himself and must rely on outside sources.
    • Geten is a member of the Meta Liberation Army with the power to manipulate vast quantities of ice. Although he can't produce it by himself, he can simply dump large amounts of ice into a nearby source of water to create more ice for him to use.
  • One Piece: Many Paramecia, some Zoan, and all Logia Devil Fruits have abilities that allow their users to manipulate a specific substance. In addition, the users aren't restricted to the literal effects of the substance in question as they can imbue their substance specific properties the natural substance doesn't have such as bubbles being able to sap strength or cream that can burn people.

    Comic Books 
  • In Apama - The Undiscovered Animal, Lawn Mower Man had the power to manipulate flying rods.
  • Nightwing: Sylph can mentally manipulate an experimental prehensile cloth, but the murder of its creator has made it so that the intended method for normal people controlling it is all but lost.
  • The Spider-Man villain Sandman has very limited telekinetic abilities over sand. He can draw sand from his immediate area towards himself, and then absorb it to increase his mass and strength.
  • One of Spider-Woman's rogues, Gypsy Moth, was a mutant with the ability to manipulate cloths and fabrics.
  • X-Men villain Pyro cannot generate fire, but he can control it once it is generated.

    Film — Animated 
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: At first, Kubo seems like he's just papyrokinetic, able to control paper while playing music with his shamisen. He uses his power to tell stories in his home village, making origami puppets that move on their own. But, at the end, it's shown to expand to paper-like things, such as leaves and cloth.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children has the Adaptational Superpower Change aerokinetic, previously pyrokinetic, Emma Bloom, who can manipulate air (such as making air bubbles to breathe underwater, or blowing powerful wind gusts). A side effect of her power is that her body is lighter than air, so she would float away helplessly without a pair of heavy iron boots to weigh her down.

  • Circleverse: Ambient Mages, a.k.a Mages whose powers center around concepts such as clothing, weather, plants, metal, lightning, glass, stone, and dance. Mainly expressed by physical manipulation of such, except for plants, which allows forced growth, which is still technically "telekinetic plant control", and dance, which is Magic Dance.
  • Firestarter: Due to a government experiment her parents took part in, Charlie McGee is born pyrokinetic, causing spontaneous combustion and manipulating fire. As her father tries to teach her to control her power, a government organization called the Shop is interested in making her a living weapon.
  • Neverwhere: Door and her family have a talent called opening; they can unlock any door or lock by focusing on it (and in an extreme example, Door uses it on an attacker's heart, which gets real bloody real quick).
  • Whateley Universe: There are Single-Power Superheroes mutants whose powers are the telekinetic manipulation of a single material with Elemental Baggage required, possibly with even more limitations on top of that:
    • Water:
      • Frostbite: Using the kinetic energy of the water itself, meaning it freezes once enough energy has been used up, and she can't move it until it heats up again.
      • Tidestriker: Only with water he touches, and the water that that water touches.
      • Riptide, which, in "Toni 1: Enter the Chaka!" was plainly summarized as "powers over water".
    • Ground-type materials: Groundpounder, as said in "Dorms of Our Lives, Season 5 (Part 4)", he can control gravel.
    • Iron: Lodestone / Ironworks, as said in "A Glow in the Darkness (Part 3)":
      ferrokinetic powers
    • Its weaknesses discussed in "Dorms of Our Lives, Season 5 (Part 4)", mentioning Groundpounder, with powers of "Psychokinesis 3, materials manipulation":
      he was still just a kid in a gravel suit, a materials kinetic, so take away the material.
  • Worm: Shatterbird is a telekinetic Serial Killer whose powers can affect an area miles in radius, but she is limited to controlling silicon. This gives her Sand Blaster powers in addition to her main ability, glass control.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel has a unique example in Monster of the Week Ronald Meltzer from "I Fall to Pieces", who is autokinetic: learning to detach his own body parts and manipulate them from a distance, allowing him to stalk a young woman by sending his eyes and hands to her bedroom. During a fight with Angel he attacks the vampire by detaching his own teeth as a flying weapon.
  • The Nestene Consciousness from Doctor Who is able to control plastic, and thus its avatars are made out of animate plastic.
  • Misfits: Brian, also known as "The Milk Guy", has the power to manipulate milk (and only milk) with his mind. He calls his power "lactokinesis".
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look has a sketch about a man with telekinetic powers that only work on biscuits.

    Video Games 


    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, benders are only able to manipulate one specific element. Waterbenders can only control forms of water, earthbenders can only control forms of earth, and so on. However, particularly creative benders are able to manipulate more unusual forms of their element. For instance, earthbenders are able to sense the impurities within metal to bend it. The only person able to bend multiple elements is the Avatar, which grants a fully trained Avatar unparalleled power compared to a normal bender.
  • Parodied in Phineas and Ferb. In a Halloween special, Doofenshmirtz has three wishes which he intends to use to take over the tri-state area. However, he is interrupted in the middle of making a wish and ends up with power over cheese and crackers.
    Doofenshmirtz: All I have to do is be really clear about what I want. Like, my next wish, I'll be really sure to clearly say, "I wish to control..." (Perry struggles to get out of his trap and crashes the bookshelf on Doofenshmirtz's foot) Ow! Cheese and crackers!
  • Steven Universe: Multiple, since Gems have usually narrow power sets:
    • Lapis Lazulis are hydrokinetic, able to control water. The main one often uses it to make wings for flight, and once managed to drain an entire ocean in an attempt to get back to Homeworld.
    • Peridot discovers she can manipulate metal objects telekinetically. Her control over her 'metal powers' strengthens in her subsequent appearances and she is eventually able to levitate a garbage can lid to fly.
  • The Tick: The Ottoman Emperor has the ability to control furniture, a talent she plans to use to take over first The City and then the World.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: El Cucharon can only telekinetically control spoons. It may sound like a joke, but he can launch spoons with the force of bullets, and at full power, he can call every spoon in the city to converge on a single target.
  • Rick and Morty has Cookie Magneto, who as his name states is basically Magneto but for cookies. Morty tries to question him about whether or not he can control cookie ingredients (at which point it'd be a fairly versatile superpower), only for Rick to kill him before he's able to properly answer.