Something's starting to happen to one of our characters — maybe he's been infected with some virus... Maybe he's going crazy... Maybe he's just gaining weight. Whatever it is, it's usually not directly explained, and we don't see him changing on-screen...
It's just that one day, he looks a little bit... off.
A Super-Trope to Virus Victim Symptoms, Evil Makeover, and Madness Makeover and a Sister Trope of Transformation at the Speed of Plot. Contrast Oblivious Transformation, where a character isn't even aware of the charges to their body.
May also overlap with Metamorphosis, which is often a gradual process.
And Then John Was a Zombie is sometimes the end result.
See Fisher Kingdom (more specifically the second variant) for when simply being in a certain place can have this effect.
- In The Cat Returns, the protagonist becomes more catlike the longer she remains Trapped in Another World.
- In Simoun everyone is born female and upon turning seventeen go to a mystical spring where they choose to either remain female or become male. For those who choose to become male the process is a Slow Transformation. For example head mechanic Wapōrif went to the spring and became male two years before the series but still has the biggest bust in the series.
- Happens to the snail people in Uzumaki, who develop a spiral pattern on their backs, then start developing other, more horrific traits over the course of several days.
- In general, this seems to be a favorite trope for Junji Ito. Possibly the most horrific example occurs in a six page short titled "Hell O'Dollies", in which a child contracts Early Onset Doll's Disease. She transforms first into something like a living doll, then into something that hopefully hasn't been a living anything for a long time.
- In Naruto, the process of turning humans trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi into White Zetsu takes several years.
- Pokéumans: The transformation into a Pokeuman takes a whole week. And is irreversible.
- The Project Dark Jade fanfic Webwork has Jade change into a Jorōgumo over the course of 8 years.
- The Golds: It is casually mentioned that nonhuman curse-victims and magical creatures in Storybrooke like Katja and Ruby started exhibiting their pre-Storybrooke traits slowly after the curse was broken.
- The page image charts the progression of Seth Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum) horrific transformation in The Fly (1986), the result of a Teleporter Accident fusing him genetically with a housefly. In the first few days strange hairs start growing out of healing wounds on his back and his face becomes progressively blotchier, but because he is also becoming Drunk with Power over the amazing physical stamina and strength he now has (which he credits to his teleporter "purifying" him) he doesn't begin to worry until his fingernails start coming off, revealing that the fingers are oozing pus, whereupon he consults the computer record of his teleportation and learns what's actually happening to him. A month later, his skin is completely disfigured and the human body parts his final form will have no need of begin falling off, starting with his ears. The Body Horror climaxes with what remains of his decaying human skin being wrenched apart as his true mutant fly form emerges. The film may well be the Trope Codifier for media aside from literature.
- In a Played for Laughs example, the protagonist of The Santa Clause slowly changes to fit the part of Santa (gaining weight, becoming unable to shave) over the course of a year.
- The werewolves of the Ginger Snaps films transform slowly into wolflike creatures, over the course of days or weeks.
- Wikus's transformation into a Prawn in District 9, to the point where by the very end, he's become one entirely.
- In Lost in Space Dr Smith receives a spider bite — two decades later he's transformed into a huge spider creature.
- Honeymoon: Bea's strange behavior and physical degradation over the course of her honeymoon is the result of being taken over by an alien puppeteer parasite. It gains more and more control over her mind and slowly transforms her into a host body. She's aware of the process the whole time and is unable to do anything about it.
- In Beauty and the Beast (2017), the Enchanted Objects were quickly transformed from their human selves into Animate Inanimate Objects when the Enchantress cursed them, but what little remains of those original selves slowly begins to be subsumed as the Death's Hourglass of the enchanted rose withers. Plumette (a maid turned feather duster) notes that she's growing more feathers in her tail, for instance. Should the curse go unbroken, they will become inanimate objects altogether. In the denouement, this happens as the Beast dies, and they lose all of their humanoid features — but it's just a mass Disney Death and they are instantly restored to human forms after the Beast is himself restored. See also Theatre below for how the prior stage adaptation used this trope (and was likely an inspiration for its use here).
- People turning into donkeys in The Adventures of Pinocchio. In the original story, it takes several days for the first part of the change (the ears) to occur.
- In H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the inhabitants of Innsmouth are born as humans, but slowly turn into fishmen over the course of their lives.
- When Tash is infected in Galaxy of Fear she starts off with a rash that, through that story, swells and spreads, sends off Tainted Veins, and she sweats and is unusually irritable. Then the rash starts oozing... then the ooze proves to be tendrils of the Blob Monster that she's turning into and moving about as the transformation speeds up. This is in a day or so.
- After Saladin Chamcha miraculously survives a plane crash in The Devil'sVerses , he starts turning into a goat man, growing horns and cloven hoofs. In the course of several weeks, he becomes increasingly devil-like, eventually turning into an eight-foot tall devil with glowing eyes and smoke coming from his nostrils, before turning back to normal. During a stay in the hospital, he also encounters patients who are slowly turning into animals and inanimate objects.
- Stock in trade of the Evilutionary Biologists in The Moreau Factor. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that their victims are mostly other scientists deliberately chosen because they would find the research opportunities presented by their transformations (if not the actual transformations themselves) intriguing.
- In Seraphina Dragon's muscles are soft, and their wings incapable of flight for the first few minutes after transformation.
- In Lord of the Rings, Gollum's transformation from hobbit to.... thing was centuries-long. It is implied that the Nazgul's transformation from humans to dark holes in reality was one, too.
- In Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, having sex causes the women of McDonaldland to start transforming into wolves. This happens anytime they have sex, and it is irreversible.
- Dracula. Due to Dracula nightly visits to feed on Lucy, she becomes weaker over time and observes that her senses have suddenly become keener but she continues to have nightmares of dark beings. By the third visit, she's lost so much of her blood that her bite wounds eventually close up on their own, she gains fangs and her demeanor is uncharacteristically more seductive, signifying to Helsing it's too late to save her from becoming a vampire. Mina's transformation is slightly different due to Dracula feeding her his blood, cursing her to turn regardless if she stays alive or dies as long as he's alive. Indeed, she starts showing signs due to losing appetite for food, her canines slowly turning into fangs, sharing a psychic connection to Dracula and being unable to stay awake during the day but being much more lively at night.
- Though most of it happens off-screen, Francis Leicester Arthur Machen's Novel of the White Powder undergoes one of these after he starts taking regular doses of the titular powder in the belief that it's his prescribed antidepressant. It starts with his appearance provoking a vague Uncanny Valley response in his sister, Helen. It ends with a formless puddle of black protoplasmic ooze, seeping through the floor of his bedroom and into the room below, and yet still very much alive.
- In one of the more positive versions of the trope, the Magical Nanny title character of the Nurse Matilda novels and the Nanny McPhee film adaptations thereof always starts off as a hideous crone but as her invariably naughty charges learn to behave her ugliness diminishes feature by feature. Once they're fully reformed she qualifies as beautiful, but that's also when she has to move on to another family.
- This was the plot of some Goosebumps books:
- Chicken Chicken: The main character and her brother are cursed by a witch to gradually transform into chickens after they're rude to her. It starts with the main character's lips becoming hard like a beak and her brother beginning to grow feathers; by the time they figure out how to get the witch to remove the curse, they've become fully transformed and need to peck at a typewriter to communicate with her.
- My Hairiest Adventure: The main character, after trying out a strange lotion, starts growing dark fur on his hands that keeps coming back and spreading to the rest of his body no matter how often he shaves it off. While this is happening, he also spots several alarming signs that his friends are being transformed into dogs. It turns out that the lotion had nothing to do with his transformation; the real cause of it is that he and his friends were dogs who were transformed into humans for childless families to adopt and that transformation is slowly wearing off now.
- The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "Birthright", a U.S. Senator escapes from his security detail after his own men try to kill him, and gradually gets weird warts and such. It turns out that a race of reptiloid aliens had sent spies to study humans and the spies are turning back after the disguise wears off. The horror factor is the spies themselves didn't know they were aliens.
- God!Castiel in Supernatural
- The Round the Twist episode "Nails" starts with a distressed boy showing the protagonist he now has three rows of nails, and telling her he's turning into a monster. By the end of the episode, he has become a merman.
- The Halloween episode of That's So Raven has Raven and Chelsea slowly turning into cows over the course of the episode. While their physique is human, they get cow ears, tails, snouts, hooves, tongues, and also start eating and mooing like them. At the end of the episode they are completely transformed, but it is revealed that it was actually one of Raven's visions that she manages to prevent from happening.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The "artifact transformations" — some artifacts gradually transform their users into "the proper owner" image — physically, mentally or both.
- WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. The Kaftan of Ogrishness slowly turns its wearer into an ogre over a period of three days.
- D3 Vault of the Drow. Anyone possessing the idol of Lolth will, over 66 days, slowly turn into a giant spider.
- Some 3.5th Edition Prestige Classes can transform gradually their adepts into another creature type, usually over 10 levels (which can take years of adventuring). Of course, in this case the transformation is entirely voluntary, and aim at providing more power.
- Dragon Disciples are slowly turning into a half-dragon with every level. The epic variant of the class can further the process into a full dragon!
- Green Star Adepts gradually become living constructs made of a green starmetal. The advantages are numerous, and although the final form carry some drawbacks, most importantly it allows the characters to become fully immortal.
- The "artifact transformations" — some artifacts gradually transform their users into "the proper owner" image — physically, mentally or both.
- Call of Cthulhu. As Deep One hybrids are growing up they appear to be human. When they reach the appropriate age, they slowly change into Deep Ones and go off to join their fellows.
- Space Adventures, adventure "Rebirth". A genetic virus called Proteus can slowly change a human being into an alien.
- Fantasy Folk. A Fishmen artifact can slowly change its user into a Fishman.
- Dark Conspiracy. The Darktek supplement had Empathic Viral Mutators, a virus that could change the victim into another creature over a period of 48 hours.
- Atmosfear: The third and fourth Nightmare games are hosted by female historical figures who start out as beautiful young women and slowly morph into hideous monsters the longer the game goes on; a warty witch in the third game's case, and a bat-human hybrid in the fourth game's case.
- Played for drama in the stage adaption of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of being transformed instantly like in the Disney movie, the inhabitants of the castle slowly change into objects — until they can no longer move, speak or even see. This change was made primarily to allow full-sized actors to play them.
- In BIONICLE, after the Piraka bathe in mutagenic water for a short while, thanks to falling into a trap, they don't notice it, but they start developing aquatic capabilities. When we next meet them a couple of books later, we find that their whole bodies have diminished, reducing them to eel-like spines with their heads at the end.
- In Guild Wars Nightfall, Varesh transforms into a Margonite-like appearance (and eventually a full margonite form) over the course of several missions. This involves getting 2 extra pairs of eyes (first appearing as bumps, then fully appearing) and become a lot paler.
- The Wanderer over several cutscenes in Diablo 2 gradually looks more and more evil, until in a final cutscene morphing fully into a Diablo form.
- In Eternal Darkness one of the characters you play as is inflicted with a curse in their chapter, meaning he gradually rots and turns into an undead creature (this happens at set points in the level) while he tries to to warn Charlemagne before he meets the same fate. He fails and ends up trapped in a room in the church as an undead monster until another character finally puts him out of his misery in a boss battle a few hundred years later.
- The Haunted Ruins: The general shopkeeper slowly transforms from a seemingly innocent girl into an evil witch the deeper you venture into the dungeon. At first it looks like she just put on makeup, but then she gets Pointy Ears, her cashier uniform becomes a skimpy dress, and a tiara and pointy nose begin to gradually form on her. This transformation is mostly amusing to watch because of how she keeps on insisting that her changing appearance is all in your head and how you simply MUST show the fabled "Dark Orb" to her as soon as you find it, mmkay?
- The protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus gradually becomes battle-worn as he kills the Colossi. There is, eventually, an explanation for this.
- The monsters and face blocks from Eversion undergo this as you gradually evert from World X-1 to World X-8.
- In Skullgirls, this happens to Filia during her ending: Upon finding the Skull Heart, she wishes for Painwheel to return to normal, a seemingly pure wish that should be granted without problem by the Skull Heart note . However, the Skull Heart finds that her motivations are not entirely selfless: Filia's wish is partially motivated by her desire to atone for her actions during her life as a member of Medici family. As a result, poor Filia is next in line for the title of Skullgirl, but since the wish was not entirely selfish, the transformation is not instant, allowing her to at least enjoy life with her childhood friend for a while.
- A similar thing happens in Parasoul's ending. In order to save her sister, Umbrella, from becoming the next Skullgirl, she wishes that Umbrella will never become the Skullgirl. The Skull Heart grants the wish by Making Parasoul take her place. The transformation is slow enough for her to train Umbrella to defeat her when she finally turns.
- In Exiern Dragons are born looking like humans and gradually transform into their true forms after they mature. The protagonist's sidekick/like interest (she can't admit to more than that) Denver is a larval dragon, though he doesn't know it. His sister was well along in her transformation when she was last seen.
- In Goblins, Complains is targeted by a magical effect that tries to turn him into a demon. It's quickly dispelled, but every time he's badly injured, he heals with more demonic features: black blood, a demon arm, Glowing Eyes of Doom, horns, and so on.
- Dracula: Ruler of the Night: As in the novel, Lucy goes through gaining fangs and having sharper senses. But here Helsing notices her ears are likewise becoming more misshapen to add to the symptoms. By the time she turns, they're completely pointed. When Mina is bitten, she likewise gains this as an added symptom as well as her normally short hair starting to grow out down her shoulders as a surprisingly increasing rate.
- The Alchemist's transformation into Skeleton King from Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! falls under this category. Fortunately, it gave him just enough time to turn his pet monkeys into the Hyperforce. What wasn't shown until "Golden Age" though, was that he was slowly aging. These were his last chilling words as he became Skeleton King:
Alchemist: Now, the Dark Ones... [as Skeleton King] take my soul!
- Downplayed in the Aladdin: The Series episode "Eye of the Beholder", which unfolds over a few days at most. Jasmine is tricked by the disguised Mirage — who is trying to prove to Blind Seer Fasir that Aladdin would not love Jasmine if she were not beautiful — into using a lotion that, overnight, begins turning her into a naga — when she wakes, her lower body has become that of a snake. As Aladdin and his friends escort Jasmine to the faraway Tree of Renewal, the fruit of which is the only cure for her condition, she progressively becomes more serpent-like and even legitimately, though unintentionally, dangerous once she sprouts poisoned barbs (Aladdin is accidentally pricked by them and has a Nightmare Sequence while unconscious). When Mirage withers the tree as a last resort, Jasmine tries to send Aladdin away with I Am a Monster, but when he uses the lotion on himself so he can stay with her forever Fasir sees this as definitive proof that Mirage is wrong and magically restores the tree so the lovers can be happy as humans again.
- In Adventure Time, the Ice King used to be a human named Simon Petrikov who found a magical crown that gave him immortality and great ice powers but slowly turned his skin blue, his hair white, and caused him to go mad and lose all memories of his human life. The truly tragic part is that Simon was aware of what was happening to him in the early stages of his transformation but couldn't stop wearing the crown without dying.