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Sinister Stingrays

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Sharks are usually the go-to creatures when writers want to include a threatening sea animal in their stories. Sometimes, however, writers can get tired of them, and might want another, more unique underwater threat. The creatures commonly known as rays (and scientifically known as Batoidea), which includes both the stingrays and the manta rays, are a popular choice. While not as outwardly dangerous as sharks (to which they are distantly related), their bizarre appearance has captured the imagination of many storytellers.

It's easy to see why these fish are often portrayed as creepy and menacing. Their winglike fins call to mind a black cloak and make them look like the underwater version of a bat. As such, they tick a lot of the boxes that traditionally mark animals as "scary". Even when they aren't actually shown as threatening, stingrays and manta rays are popular Animal Motifs for underwater-themed villains, likely because of their aforementioned resemblance to a Black Cloak or Ominous Opera Cape. Doesn't help stingrays have venomous spines, also a hallmark of scariness in pop culture, and bury themselves in the seafloor to leave only their eyes and tail visible.

It's also fairly common for manta rays and related species in particular to be portrayed as not simply creepy, but as downright demonic. The funnels on either side of their mouths recall the horns of the Devil, and indeed an alternative name for them is "devil ray". This, combined with the fact that they are the largest of all rays and are often coloured black, has led to many depictions of them as demons.

Compare both Threatening Shark for their close cousins and Bat Out of Hell for a flying animal with many of the same connotations.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: An early antagonist in the series is Kuroobi, a martial artist ray-fishman, who serves as a member of the Arlong Pirates who took over Nami's home village, terrorizing and extorting the villagers.
  • The☆Ultraman has a Monster of the Week called Zanba, an alien manta ray monster with powerful Razor Wings which it used to destroy planes and buildings, and proves to be one of Ultraman Joneus' tougher opponents due to its Lightning Bruiser abilities.

    Comic Books 
  • The Aquaman villain and modern-day pirate in a high-tech suit Black Manta. He even got turned into a hybrid of a manta by fellow villain Neron for a bit.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Like his comic book counterpart, Black Manta in Aquaman has a menacing appearance and is one of the key antagonists Arthur has to fight, complete with a black suit and manta-shaped mask.
  • Captain Nemo And The Underwater City has a once-peaceful, if abnormally large, stingray under the seas, which mutates into kaiju proportions after being exposed to radiation leakage from an underwater nuclear power plant.
  • In the second Detective Dee movie, Rise of the Sea Dragon which is set on the oceans, Dee and his crew are assaulted by a giant stingray monster that destroys several ships and devours a few of his crew. Dee eventually drive the monster away via an arrow through the eye.
  • The 1930 film The Sea Bat has an aggressive manta ray as its monster as it menaces Mexican sponge divers.
  • Inverted in Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet, which has a race of benevolent, friendly manta ray-based kaiju named Reija which are the allies of the Alien Gyasshis. The Reija usually serve as steeds to their masters and assists Ultraman Cosmos and humanity in the film's final battle against the Horde of Alien Locusts known as the Scorpiss.

  • Manta rays were regularly portrayed as evil in Polynesian mythology. Legends described them using their cloak-like bodies to drown pearl divers or even kidnapping children.
  • The Kongamato is a monster from Congolese folklore whose name translates to "one who overturns boats". Because it is described as having a long tail and bat-like "wings", it is often interpreted by cryptozoologists as a pterosaur, but it is most likely an aggressive freshwater stingray.
  • El Cuero ("the leathery one"), from Patagonia, is another legendary monster believed to be based on a stingray, being a crawling cowhide that floats on bodies of water and ensnares anything that goes in it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Denji Sentai Megaranger: The very first Monster of the Week is a humanoid stingray called Stingray Nezire.
  • Doctor Who: The Monster of the Week in "Planet of the Dead" is a gigantic swarm of part-metal, part-organic alien Giant Flyers which look like truly demonic stingrays. They travel from world to world, devouring anything that moves and turning said worlds into lifeless deserts.
  • River Monsters: Jeremy's tackled two giant species of stingray which caused attacks with their barbed tails: the Giant freshwater stingray of southeast Asia in one episode and the Short-tailed river stingray of Argentina in the other. Though like most other animals on the show, Jeremy does treat the animals with respect and dignity and the show does the same, showing them as animals living their lives rather than monsters. The Giant Freshwater episode even has the one Jeremy catches give birth.
  • Ultra Q has a Monster of the Week named Bostang, a stingray kaiju that terrorized the seas, destroying ships and causing widespread destruction. It was finally taken down after a lengthy sea battle by the combined forces of the Japanese air force and navy.

  • Circe: Exaggerated with Madeleine Miller's addition to Greek mythology in the Animalistic Abomination Trygonnote . Vastly stronger and older than any God or Titan in the story with a poison barb tail that would be instant death and unending lifelong pain to mortal and immortal respectively. The only reason he hasn't tried to rule is that he doesn't care for anything outside his abyssal ocean home. Played With in that he turns out to be a nice reasonable creature who is one of the only characters to help Circe purely out of the goodness of his heart and respect for her courage and willpower.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Ixitxachitl are a race of monstrous, vampiric stingrays or manta rays that serve Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. Rather than being mere vicious animals, they are sentient and actively malicious and even practice slavery.
    • The lurker above is a Living Gasbag that looks like a large (20-foot wingspread) manta ray. It hovers near the ceiling of caves and falls onto its victims. It does 1-6 Hit Points of constriction damage per combat round and will smother opponents to death within 2-5 combat rounds unless they can escape.
    • The mantari is a flying monster that bears a strong resemblance to a manta ray and has an 85% chance to attack other creatures. Its long tail has a stinger that can do significant damage each time it hits and does quadruple damage each time it hits an opponent in successive rounds of combat.
    • Wererays, a kind of therianthrope with the ability to change from a humanoid into a giant predatory stingray or a humanoid stingray, are amongst the many minor werebeasts of D&D. They're largely associated with Ravenloft.
  • Deadlands has Devil Rays; a mutant species of carnivorous manta ray created by the demonic influence of the Reckoning. Imbued with the ability to leap out of the water and glide for short distances like a flying fish, they attack unwary sailors by attempting to tackle them overboard and into the water, where they can be Eaten Alive.

  • LEGO did this several times.
    • The Atlantis line includes villainous Manta Warriors.
    • Alpha Team had a "Mutant Ray" that was controlled by the villain Evil Ogel.
    • Mantax from BIONICLE, one of the six Barraki warlords, resembles a humanoid manta ray as a result of being mutated by the corrupting waters of The Pit. He is noted for his secretive nature and great distrust for the other Barraki (due to his knowledge that one of them betrayed the rest). Like real rays, he also has a tendency to hide in the seabed to ambush his enemies and has venomous spines (albeit on his head rather than his tail).

    Video Games 
  • Bayonetta 2: Insidious is one of the demons of Inferno, and takes the appearance of a gigantic manta ray, complete with skull markings on its back and eyes on its wings. Insidious swallows Bayonetta and Loki alive at one point, forcing them to battle it from within, and they have to use extremely powerful magic weaponry to kill it.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The levels set on Planet Flamar has Buzz pursuing Gravitina (and later, Warp) through a gorge infested by all kinds of alien monsters, the most common being a gliding airborne manta ray-esque enemy that takes potshots gnawing away Buzz's health.
  • Darius: Death Wings is a gigantic Animal Mecha based on a manta ray.
  • Demon's Souls: In the Shrine of Storms stage, the sky is populated by manta ray-esque Storm Beasts, which glide through the air and fire crystal barbs at players. The final boss of the area is the Storm King, the massive progenitor of these monsters that is large enough to have easily a dozen Storm Beasts clinging to its back and underside.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest: Flotsam is a stingray who serves as an enemy in the game's underwater levels. He swims back and forth, harming Dixie and Diddy if the Kongs swim into him, but he can be destroyed by Enguarde the Swordfish.
  • Mega Man X4: One of the Repliforce members is the Reploid Jet Stingray. While most of the Maverick bosses are merely told to be occupying a location, he is stated to have destroyed an entire city during the military coup and is now hiding in the ocean.
  • The underwater area of Monster Eye has fast-moving manta rays as enemies which swoops at the players every now and then.
  • Mystic Riders throws schools of stingrays as enemies in underwater levels.
  • The last stage of the mecha-themed FPS, Shadow Master, have a section containing three flying stingray-like robot enemies. They somehow don't appear anywhere else in the game.
  • Shin Megami Tensei has Forneus, which is designed to resemble a manta ray. Word of God says that this is because manta rays on occasion are referred to as "devil fish".
  • Super Mario Sunshine: Phantamanta is a mysterious being that resembles the silhouette of a giant manta ray. It spreads terror on Sirena Beach by appearing out of nowhere and covering the area with electric goop.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League: During the final season, a Black Manta Expy known as Devil Ray was included among the ranks of the Legion of Doom (a result of Aquaman and his characters being tied up in a series that never get off the ground). A cold and ruthless villain, his arsenal includes poisoned barbs, and he freely admits to having killed many people.
  • The most recurring villain in The Little Mermaid (1992) is The Evil Manta, a demonic manta ray merman.
  • Rainbow Fish: Stingo the stingray is one of the local bullies along with his buddy Chomper the shark. Though it's downplayed in that their bullying is mostly restricted to teasing.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has Man Ray as a recurring villain... though it's subverted in that he's mostly an ineffective if not harmless one, especially in later seasons.
  • Lord Stingray from Superjail! is both egotistical and bad-tempered and has an "evil stingray" motif.
  • Mantaman in Street Sharks is a zigzagged example of the trope. A former human transformed by injecting himself with a mutagenic cocktail loaded with a mixture of manta ray and alien DNA, he looks like a terrifying monster, like any of the other genetically engineered creatures of the series, and has a number of monstrous powers, including flight, Super Strength and the ability to survive in the vacuum of space. However, he's a good guy who heroically sacrificed his humanity to gain the power to stop an alien monster that was wreaking havoc on a research space station. He does have a stint of being Brainwashed and Crazy in one of his subsequent appearances, though.


Video Example(s):


Darkmess Manta

A dark manta that attacks Peach's Castle and the heroes, setting the plot in motion.

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