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"The fiercest hunters in the Tangle don't seek out the mantises. They are the mantises."

"Cave Johnson here. The mantis men have officially taken over the building! If you can get out, get out now! OH GOD, THEY'RE BREAKING THROUGH THE BARRICADES!!"
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In fiction, mantises occupy an unusual position relative to their fellow arthropods. They can't match the universal positive connotations of Pretty Butterflies, but they're not necessarily frightening like spiders, centipedes, or moths, and certainly not disgusting and annoying like cockroaches or flies.

Rather, mantises are often portrayed as the badasses of the insect kingdom. With their distinctive combat-ready stance and stock-still poise, they can easily be made to evoke martial artists — in fact, there's more than one kung fu style themed on the mantis, as mentioned in the Real Life section below. Naturally, in a world of Talking Insects, expect the mantis to fill the role of an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy or a Master Swordsman or such, if not a full race of proud warriors. On the more negative side, the mantis might also be rendered as an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight due to the murderous spiky appearance of its raptorial forelegs. And, of course, female mantises may draw on the expected stereotype of devouring their partners after mating (this doesn't occur every time in real life, but it's been observed among nearly all predatory mantis species because mantises simply tend to catch and eat anything smaller than them when hungry - and the male is typically smaller than the female). This provides an alternative way for a writer to use the Black Widow trope while leaving spiders or spider-motif characters free for other purposes.

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All of these uses of the mantis can get extra personality mileage out of its upright posture and expressive "arms", making it one of the easiest insects to anthropomorphize. That's not to say you won't find some Big Creepy-Crawlies takes on the mantis as well, since it makes for a great dinosaur-like predator in a story with fifty-foot insects running around.

No matter which kind of mantis you're encountering, if it strays in the least from strict realism, expect its forelegs to be depicted as having scythe-like blades in fulfillment of the Rule of Cool; having such blades would actually make the forelegs useless for a real mantis, as the purpose of their raptorial design is to grasp prey, not slice it to pieces (which in itself is a feat requiring Absurdly Sharp Blades).note 

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As mentioned above, mantises also make a great substitute for spiders. After all, Spiders Are Scary, but they're also pretty cliche, and not as malicious as usually portrayed. Thus, a mantis can be used to make a somewhat more unique killer bug villain.

Often a case of Lean and Mean, if the mantis is a villain. Green and Mean is also common, although they do come in different colors.

Not to be confused with The Deadly Mantis, though that film obviously stars a Slaying Mantis, specifically of the Big Creepy-Crawlies variety.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • InuYasha: There's a nightmarish mantis yokai that feeds on women's innards and then wears their skins. She's offed by Miroku, but manages to cut his Kazaana open, putting him in danger.
  • In One Piece there are giant mantises with very sharp claws on Jaya island. Later. a similar mantis with blades instead of legs is seen among the monsters in Impel Down. Last but not least, the Tenth Movie has Don Kamakiriri, a foul-tempered mantis capable of taking down a gargantuan octopus with ease.
  • Yaiba: The Mantis Man appears as one of Onimaru's minions. Subverted later when he's revealed to be a goofy Punch-Clock Villain.
  • Bleach: Nnoitra Gilga is an insane, misogynistic Blood Knight who can turn into a multi-armed, shell-covered One-Winged Angel form based off a mantis equipped with multiple scythes. His release phase is even "Pray, Santa Teresa [Praying Mantis]!"
  • Slayers: A bunch of mantis-like bugmen appear in season 1, among Rezo's beastmen. Little characterization is given beyond "big creepy crawlies".
  • Berserk: Rosine's minions are all some kind of Big Creepy-Crawlies. Guts slaughters them by the dozen, but almost finds his match when facing Rosine's two Elite Mooks. One of them is a huge rhinoceros beetle and the other one a lightning fast praying mantis. They are also considerably skillful fighters due to the fact that (at least according to the mantis) they used to be knights, whereas the insect mooks were mooks even before they transformed into monsters. He deals with them by shooting one with his Arm Cannon and using the momentum to smash his sword into the other.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Powerful, dangerous mantises and mantis-like creatures have appeared at several points in the game:
    • Averted by the Nantuko of the Odyssey block. They are mostly benevolent druids who lived a life of strong respect for nature and protected the Krosan Forest.
    • The Jeskai of Tarkir have mantis riders who take a big risk every time they ride their insectoid mounts.
      Mantis riders know their mounts owe them no allegiance. Even a mantis ridden for years would consume a rider who loses focus for only a moment.
      —Mantis Rider Flavor Text
    • Way back in the Fallen Empires expansion there was the Thelonite Monk, a green Cleric creature that can sacrifice a fellow Green-aligned creature to turn a land into a forest and which, for some reason, was a giant mantis in a red robe. None of the other Thelonite cards in the game were giant mantises, as "Thelonite" was apparently the name of an order, not a race.
    • The Tangle, a trackless forest of copper-leaved plants found on the bio-metallic world Mirrodin, is home to a lot of dangerous predators, but the giant mantises that live there are noted to be the fiercest of them all.
    • The joke set Unstable introduced a card called Slaying Mantis, which must be thrown into play by its controller. While the art does show it as an anthropomorphic insect, its aesthetic is decidedly different from typical examples.

    Films — Animation 
  • One member of the Furious Five in Kung Fu Panda is a mantis who's pretty powerful despite being the size of, well, a mantis.
  • Subverted with Manny from A Bug's Life, a Large Ham Stage Magician who's not threatening in the least.
  • Double subverted in Coraline. The Other Father rides around on a giant clockwork mantis a couple of times, and far from being threatening, it's treated as pretty and whimsical. Unfortunately, since the Other World is actually a trap set by the Other Mother to ensnare Coraline and eat her soul, she's quick to turn this against Coraline and the Other Father (who is essentially her slave) once Coraline realizes what's really happening. The result is the poor Other Father being strapped to the mantis and forced to chase after Coraline so that he can kill her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Deadly Mantis, which features a giant, prehistoric mantis.
  • The Acklay from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is a deadly alien creature that looks like a cross between a crab and a mantis, with some reptilian features thrown in, that is used by the alien Geonosians to execute prisoners in their arena.
  • Son of Godzilla introduces Kamacuras (also known as Gimantis in a bad English dub) into the Godzilla franchise. Already giant prehistoric preying mantises they get mutated by radiation to grow even larger. However, while they do pose a serious threat to the humans and even Minya, Godzilla manages to take them out very easily. Kamacuras appears in Godzilla: Final Wars where it now has a chameleon like camouflage ability and puts up a better fight but is still killed by Godzilla without much effort.
  • The Mist features at least one giant mantis-esque creature among all of the other monsters. It kills people by snatching them with a claw and snapping them in half.
  • Goosebumps features the giant mantis from A Shocker On Shock Street. Unlike its book counterpart, however, this mantis is much more deadly: it's fifty feet tall, looks more like a real mantis, is not a robot, and can fly! It still retains its spitting ability, however.

    Gamebooks 
  • At the end of the first World of Lone Wolf book, Grey Star the Wizard, the title protagonist has to escape from a whole nest of man-sized, agressive, acid-spitting mantises.
  • In the second Sorcery! gamebook, Kharé — Cityport of Traps, depending on your route through the city you can end up facing off against a Mantis Man, a humanoid with mantis style arms. While not particularly skilled in combat, it had around a 28% chance of instantly killing you every combat round by catching you with its arms and tearing your throat out with its jaws. As this fight would, even with the best possible results and rolls, last a minimum of two combat rounds this encounter was often lethal. It could however be circumvented with the correct spell.

    Literature 
  • K'Kriq in The Prism Pentad is a thri-keen, a four-armed mantis man, who can resist mind attacks and even magical fireballs. Unlike other examples, he hasn't got "scythe-like arms".
  • In the sf novel "Chess with a Dragon" by David Gerrold, there's a not-nice mantis-like species who are hermaphroditic sadomasochist cannibals.
  • Piers Anthony's novel On a Pale Horse: Zane is confronted by a "preying" mantis — a demon in the shape of a praying mantis. It's a Living Motion Detector as well as a deadly killer.
  • Discworld: The Assassins' Guild School has gone co-educational and now teaches young ladies how to inhume with style and grace. One of the all-female houses of study, supervised by Miss Alice Band, is variably described as Tump House and as Mantis House depending which side of the continuity error you're on. It evokes The Vamp stereotype above.
  • Subverted with the thranx from Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series; they look like giant mantids, but turn out to be the most peaceful, ethical, and community-minded race in the books. One prominent thranx character actually learned his martial arts techniques from humans.
  • In Perdido Street Station, the reMade rebel/terrorist Jack Half-A-Prayer was an escaped criminal whose arm had been replaced with a giant mantis claw. A militia spy he kills is found with the claw's pincer-marks on both sides of her neck.
  • In the Spellsinger series, the Plated Folk are ruled by a preying-mantis queen. She routinely eats courtiers who offend her, fail her, or simply can't get out of her way fast enough when she gets upset.
  • The Dresden Files: One of the Denarians, Tessa, has a mantis-like alternate form. She's up for whatever causes the maximum amount of chaos and suffering for humanity.
  • R. L. Stine seems fond of this trope:
  • Gerald Durrell, in his autobiographic book My Family and Other Animals, tells of a huge(over four inches long) specimen of mantis he names Chervil, and keeps her in a box because he wants to see her give birth...sadly this does not happen, as Chervil escapes and meets Geronimo, a large gecko that hunts for bugs in Gerard's room, and in the ensuing epic battle, Geronimo loses his tail but bites Chervil in half, killing her on the spot.
  • The Alan Dean Foster short story "The Empire of T'ang Lang" plays the standard mantis tropes to the hilt: T'Ang Lang is an actual normal-sized mantis ("t'ang lang" being Chinese for "mantis") in a world where insects apparently can all to some extent think; T'ang Lang is a deadly killer whose every movement is done in a ritualistic fashion ("The Rite of Clean Knives followed"; "Then he assumed the Ben-na, the position of contemplation"), and who spends his time between kills contemplating the mysteries of existence.
  • Godzilla: The novel Godzilla 2000 (no relation to the film of the same name) includes an entire swarm of Kamacuras, the mantis-based kaiju, created (in this case) when a normal mantis was exposed to a parasitic alien DNA and the infection spread to other mantises after the original attracted a mate. The swarm proceeds to devour everything and anyone in their path; fortunately, they're comparatively weak to conventional planes and tanks, even after growing wings, but their numbers make up for it. And then a second swarm appears in South America. A year later, the original swarm's depredations on the fields of Kansas are still having an effect on the economy and food supply.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The She-Mantis in Buffy the Vampire Slayer' episode "Teacher's Pet". It wants to lay its eggs on Xander and another boy with the indication the babies will probably eat them after hatching.
  • Babylon 5's first season had the crime boss N'Grath in Downbelow, who is an Insectoid Alien resembling a praying mantis.
  • Mantids are commonly seen, and often victorious, on Monster Bug Wars.
  • Criminal Minds two-part episode "The Inspiration" used mantids quite creepily. The killer began hallucinating that the girl who rejected him "ate" him, and developed an obsession with mantises because of their alleged sexual cannibalism; one of his delusions is actually of the girl speaking (though she was the first person he killed and he was forcing his other victims to eat parts of her head and mantises coming out of her mouth. He also keeps a pet one and tries to feed a baby snake to it.
  • Want more proof R. L. Stine loves this trope? Look no further than Swarmin' Norman which features a normal-sized mantis named "Manny", who can actually hiss, as the Big Bad. He commands an army of insects, and at first is on good terms with the titular protagonist. However, when Norman goes back on his word about not hurting bugs, Manny turns on him and successfully engulfs Norman in a swarm of cockroaches. The final scene is Manny lashing his claws out at the audience, as the narrator explains how easily insects could overpower humans if they so desired.
  • Any mantis-themed Kamen Rider or monster fall under this. The most notable examples are KamenRiderChalice, and by extension the Mantis Undead, and Kamen Rider OOO himself, whenever he uses the Kamakiri Body Medal, which grants him a pair of Reverse Grip Sinister Scythe. Chalice himself gets twin scythes in his Super Mode, also mantis-themed.
  • Power Rangers: Both the original Super Sentai versions and the adaptation have featured mantis monsters, who tend to be pretty ferocious. U.S.-only versions include:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Season 1's "Zyu2" footage features a monster simply called "Mantis", who's extremely skilled in Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Trini is forced to learn praying mantis kung fu to defeat him one-on-one.
    • Power Rangers: Beast Morphers: Beast Morphers Gold is infused with mantis DNA (this is an Adaptation Species Change from Beet Buster, who was instead based on a rhinoceros beetle), and proves pretty skilled right off the bat.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tyranids have two variants:
      • The Scything Talons biomorph evokes a mantis.
      • The Lictor is a stealthed Tyranid unit with massive mantis-like claws, whose purpose is to infiltrate enemy territory and spread chaos, death and terror.
    • The Mantis Warriors are a chapter of Space Marines with a curious mutation that gives them supremely enhanced reflexes, but at the cost of irreversible tunnel vision.
  • Mantis spirits in Shadowrun are far from pleasant (although they're not really evil, but just have a really weird mindset), as they share other bug spirits' need to possess human victims in order to perpetuate their kind. The fact they prefer to prey on other kinds of bug spirits makes them occasional allies-of-convenience for Ares and others campaigning against the bugs, however.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The 1st Edition Monster Manual II has the Giant Mantis. It's twelve feet tall and has ten hit dice (ten to eighty Hit Points). It can grab and hold prey helpless, damaging it every combat round until death. It can also camouflage itself in order to perform ambush attacks.
    • The Thri-Kreen ("mantis warriors") are a badass race of social mantis-hoppers living in arid lands, abundant in (but not limited to) Athas, the Dark Sun setting. They have, among other things, a poisonous bite, low water requirements and hard exoskeletons, jump like grasshoppers, throw big shurikens and can wield weapons in each of four hands. They lack the scythe-like arms, though (except when very young, where they look more like typical mantises).
    • Athas also sports the Trin, which are believed to be ancestors of, or at least closely related to, the Thri-Kreen. Not as intelligent as their cousins, but still smarter than mere animals. They hunt in pack and are even faster and stronger than Thri-Kreen, and have the typical scythe-like arms used to crush their prey.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The Hollow Earth has giant mantises the size of a large horse. They will attack any creature up to their own size, lashing out with their forelegs at blinding speed.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Giant mantises are extremely deadly, stealthy and efficient predators — some of the deadliest vermin-class creatures around, in fact — and have gained fearsome in-universe reputations. People who live alongside these giant insects fear them deeply, and believe any number of myths about them — that they can make themselves invisible, that they can smell fear, that they devour the souls of those they eat... And the really big ones (called Deadly Mantises) are able to kill and eat giants and dragons. There are even assassin societies that have taken to worshipping them as gods of sorts and emulate them in their fighting styles.
    • The mantis god Achaekek is the pantheon's resident assassin and the divine patron of all Professional Killers of the setting, particularly of the universally-feared Red Mantis guild that worships him.
  • It Came from the Late, Late Show. The Giant Mantis Monster is 200 feet long and can bite, crush and stomp hapless Cast Members. After being awakened in the Arctic by atomic testing they make their way to civilization to begin rampaging.
  • There's a children's board game called The Ladybug Game that features a character known as "The Mighty Mantis" as the villain.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE:
    • Takadox is mantis-like post-Pit Mutagen change, as his design was based on the mantis shrimp.
    • Krika, one of the most sympathetic villains in the franchise, resembles a giant, skeletal mantis. His appearance distinguishes him from his less-sympathetic cohorts, who are based on an ant and a mosquito.
    • Metru Mantis are giant mantis rahi (the Bionicle term for animals). The good news is that they're one of the few creatures that prey on Visorak, making them one of your few hopes if the Visorak hordes invade your island.

    Video Games 
  • In the Rail Shooter game Let's Go Jungle!, there's a Giant Mantis as a boss at the end of the Temple Level. Unlike many examples its claws aren't very sharp.
  • Some of them are found in Bug. They're shown as psychotic murderers that go into a crazed slashing frenzy as soon as Bug gets near them, making them hard to defeat without taking damage, and they also have a very good amount of health to boot. Thankfully, they're only encountered at the tail end of Insectia Scene 3.
  • The Creeper in The House of the Dead: OVERKILL is a mantis-like mutant, whose scythe-like arms can easily slice steel. The arms are also his Achilles' Heel.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Mantis and King Mantis are two powerful monsters met in Final Fantasy II.
    • Final Fantasy VI has the Greater Mantis/Mantodea. Despite being a regular enemy, it has an incredible amount of attack power, the highest of any mook and more than twice as much as the final boss, being able to kill most characters in one hit unless they're overleveled.
    • The creepy-looking Grand Mantises in Final Fantasy VIII.
    • Final Fantasy XII has several of them, mostly in areas accessible later in the game. One variant eats Chocobos to power itself up. Other variants eat each other instead.
  • The giant mantis monsters in Titan Quest. They just roam into the chinese forests and viciously attack your hero when they sight him/her. You can also wear a special suit of armor (composed of helmet, greaves and cuirass) that makes you look like a mantis-man.
  • Dark Mantis and Deathtanz Mantisk from the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series respectively, they both use a series of quick attacks with their bladed extremities, and both curiously had law related jobs before became mavericks (Dark Mantis was a prison guard, and Deathtanz Mantisk was an executioner, but he isn't exactly thrilled with the job note ), however, by the time you come to face them, they are far from being cooperative.
  • A Boss in Turok Dinosaur Hunter is a giant mantis that can spit acid.
  • The Zerg in StarCraft have scytheish limbs that, along with their aggressive behaviour, chitinous shells and hive-mind makes them similar to mantises.
  • Pokémon:
    • Scyther is a person-sized mantis that also has some dinosaur-like features (mainly the head and feet). It has a reputation of being a savage hunter that slashes its prey to ribbons. In Pokémon Gold and Silver, it gained an evolution which trades its Flying type for the Steel type. Interestingly, its base stats don't get higher but just get shuffled around (turning a Fragile Speedster into a Mighty Glacier).
    • There is also Kabutops, which has scythe-like arms that Scyther has, but isn't really a mantis (it's based on a trilobite instead).
    • Gen VII has given us Lurantis which is based on the Orchid Mantis.
  • Man-sized mantises appears in The Legend of Dragoon as low-level mooks.
  • The Space Pirates of Metroid, depending on the game, tend to look more or less like giant mantises.
  • Members of the Mantis race from FTL: Faster Than Light do bonus damage in hand-to-hand combat. Their in-game description calls them a "vicious warrior race".
  • In World of Warcraft, the Pandarens' main enemy is an insect-like race known as the Mantids, introduced in the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion. While primarily enemies, you do quests for one particular faction of them.
  • Warcraft III: The Crypt Lords evoke this trope: their body has the same limb distribution as a mantis (four legs supporting and two huge claws), but is much thicker and stockier, like a beetle the size of a rhino.
  • The Empusa of God of War has claws for hands. Bonus points for Empusa being an actual genus of mantises.
  • Portal 2: Implied by Cave Johnson's messages over the intercom. The test subjects are told that instead of being injected with praying mantis DNA, they will be battling an army of Mantis Men, presumably the result of said DNA experiment Gone Horribly Wrong (or right, one can never be sure with Aperture Science).
    "Pick up a rifle and follow the yellow line. You'll know when the test starts."
    • The Mantis Men eventually appears in LEGO Dimensions's Portal 2 Adventure World.
  • Lost Planet: one of the primary enemy types is an Akrid that resembles a giant praying mantis full of glowy orange T-Eng. They come in an even larger, deadlier variety that is best fought in a Humongous Mecha. A yet larger variant serves as a Boss Battle.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 has the Dicahda and its larger cousin, the Predicahda. They hit fast and hard, and are capable of doing a Flash Step to instantly reach their targets from virtually any distance, which makes them among the most threatening enemies overall.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has anthropomorphic mantises fill the role of Chinese Vampire enemies.
  • League of Legends: Kha'Zix is a man-sized intelligent interdimensional winged mantis monster with an obsession for hunting prey, consuming it and evolving himself to become more deadly.
  • Freedom Planet features a robotic mantis as a boss, complete with regenerating forelimbs.
  • Giant mantises appear as enemies in Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout: New Vegas. However, they're pretty much the weakest enemies in the game.
  • Fallout 4 Far Harbor has the Fog Crawlers, giant amphibious monsters mutated by the sheer amount of radiation in the oceans that rolls onto the island through the fog. While they resemble mantis they have elements of shrimp, implying that they were mantis shrimp.
  • War of the Monsters has Preytor, a preying mantis Kaiju as one of the fighters.
  • Parodied in MOTHER 3. Praying mantises can be encountered in Sunshine Forest starting from Chapter 4, but since they're completely ordinary praying mantises, they do about as much damage to your party as you'd expect from a bug. Their description in the Battle Memory lampshades this, pointing out that it's a good thing they're not Big Creepy-Crawlies.
  • Hollow Knight has the mantis tribe who, unsurprisingly, have this as their entire theme. They're an isolated tribe of Proud Warrior Race Guys who respect strength above all and will attack The Knight on sight. After The Knight proves itself by defeating their three leaders, the entire tribe will become non-hostile towards The Knight and bow respectfully at its approach. There's also a separate group of Mantises encountered later in the game who were cast out after attempting to rebel against the tribe and subsequently went insane after willingly falling to the plague.

    Web Animation 
  • A particularly bizarre example occurs on Homestar Runner during Strong Bad's reading of That Time Of Year by Leomard Sportsinterviews (found in the Decemberween Short Shorts cartoon.) Instead of reading "Decebmerween is almost here! Get ready," Strong Bad reads, "De giant mantis is almost here. Get ready to be pistol-whipped, snowman!" with illustration to match. The mention of pistol-whipping a snowman in proximity to a giant mantis suggests that this may be a really slight reference to the MST3K version of The Deadly Mantis, in which a similar joke is made.

    Web Comics 
  • Spacetrawler references mantises' reputation as dangerous when Yuri, well on her way to Unhinged-ville, gets her arms replaced with robotic, mantis-like laser-scythes.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television. Mantises are very badass, being able to kill prey many times larger than themselves, such as snakes, rodents, and even birds. One of the only terrestrial arthropods that can overpower and kill a scorpion in a fair fight. Some are even poisonous, that is, dangerous to eat, so even if a predator does get the better of them they're not going to like it. (None are venomous, because they never needed any venom.)
  • Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu (which, incidentally, is the style Toph's earthbending is based on) is a very close-range fighting style. Northern Praying Mantis Style (also known as Seven Star Praying Mantis Style) is a style of unrelated lineage which utilizes much longer range techniques, including whipping, circular blocks, and high kicks, as well as signature "mantis hook" hand techniques which use three fingers (imitative of a mantis's claws) to strike vital points.

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