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Speed Echoes

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Fox McCloud moves faster than the naked eye.

One common way of portraying a character as moving very, very quickly in fiction is to make multiple images (technically speaking, afterimages) of them viewable at once. They appear to be moving so fast that they're in several places at once. For the sake of preventing confusion, usually the "non-static" parts are shaded with less color, so we're sure that a character is moving really fast as opposed to being a monster with eight arms. Indeed, this trope is much easier to show than it is to describe — it's one of those effects that usually has to be pointed out to a casual viewer for them to even realize it's there.

In some fiction, the echoes are more than just a special effect — they're literal. Other characters can see them and be confused by them, making them effective covers for highly elaborate martial arts attacks. In video games, they can be used as an excuse to force the player to use timing to hit the "real" image. For various reasons, using speed echoes for the Doppelgänger Spin doesn't really make a whole heck of a lot of sense, but eh, roll with it.

Note that sometimes this trope can be used somewhat lazily: a character will have speed echoes but aren't really moving all that fast. The echoes are just to make us think they're moving fast.

This is somewhat distinct from Doppelgänger Attack, although technically a work can employ both at once. Related to Speed Stripes and Flash Step, both of which often employ this trope in their basic function. Indeed, you can see examples of speed echoes in action in both of those pages' images. Can also overlap with Colorful Contrails.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Used straight in Ranma ½ to show particularly fast opponents. Memorably subverted in at least one instance: Kodachi appears to do this in the middle of her gymnastics-themed battle with Ranma, but it is quickly revealed that she's actually attacking him with 20 objects at once.
  • In Cyborg 009, one guy who is The Minnesota Fats to the main character can move so fast he does this. Furthermore, the afterimages sticks around for quite a while, effectively being used as a Doppelgänger Spin.
  • Bleach:
    • The first time we see Ichigo use his Bankai, the resulting speed increase is so great that Byakuya, who was previously shown as a speed demon, could only see afterimages (when his eyes didn't fail to keep track of Ichigo altogether). At one point, Ichigo is running so fast relative to Byakuya that he leaves multiple rows of speed echoes...moving in opposite directions. Simultaneously.
    • This is also the main schtick of the Arrancar Zommari Leroux, at least his pre-Ressurecion form.
    • Soi Feng does this when she confronts Aizen during the Arrancar arc.
  • Claymore:
    • Phantom Miria moves so fast, she leaves afterimages of herself behind, greatly confusing her enemies. They think they struck her, then her "body" promptly dissipates and she's already behind them, ready to strike.
    • Hysteria the Elegant uses a similar technique, but it's far more precise; Miria uses phantoms to distract her enemies for the split-second she needs to get behind them, whereas Hysteria uses her speed to immediately attack by charging her opponent, sidestepping at the last possible second, and moving behind them to slash them in the back. In this way, her afterimage appears to moving through her opponent.
  • Several characters of Hunter × Hunter (Killua and Feitan, notably) do this purposely: the multiple images are visible to everybody, and the characters hide among those in order to proceed with a surprise attack.
  • This happens quite a bit in Dragon Ball, to the point where it became a staple of the series's biggest fights; among other instances, one character pulled this trick with a total of eight copies.
  • In Chrono Crusade, speed echoes are used to show how fast Joshua can move. Interestingly, there's also another page in the same chapter for an almost theatrical slow motion effect. (Warning: the second page contains a spoiler.)
  • Used by Signum during her first battle with Fate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. "You have pretty good senses for a mage... but when challenging a Belka-type knight, it's not enough!"
  • This is one of Shinomori Aoshi's special attack in Rurouni Kenshin, Ryusui no Ugoki. Its weakness is while the flow of afterimages itself is seemingly unbreakable, the transition towards an offensive move (as is the case with the Jissen Kenbu combo attack) can be anticipated by a skilled opponent (like Kenshin and Okina).
  • Gundam has this for some suits in various series, often when they activate a Super Mode:
    • One of the most prominent examples of this was the "afterimages with mass" created by the titular mech of Mobile Suit Gundam F91; in the climax Seabook used its ability to ablate molecule-thin layers of its armor (ostensibly to dissipate excess heat) to create a trail of illusory Gundams that distracted the Big Bad, allowing Seabook to go in for the kill. While the F91 is a fast machine, it's capable of shedding those armor layers regardless of how fast it's moving at the moment.
    • In Gundam 00, activating the GN Drive's secret "Trans-Am" protocol causes a Gundam to temporarily shine bright red and triple in speed and power, while leaving a trail of afterimages.
    • In Gundam SEED Destiny, while using the high-speed movement of its "Wings of Light", the Destiny Gundam can leave behind images of itself formed from EM-refracting Mirage Colloid particles in order to confuse enemies.
  • Ryuko from Kill la Kill uses this to confuse Inumuta during their fight, as well as during her fight with Nui.
  • Long before the Gundams could do that, there was Getter-2 from Getter Robo, whose special ability is "Getter Vision", which allows it to create images of itself as it moves fast.
  • Polnareff, in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, at one point uses the Doppelgänger Attack variant.
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Muga's "Dance of the Falling Leaves" creates an afterimage by rapidly accelerating to dodge at the last instant and then slowing back down just out of reach. To his opponent, Muga confusingly appears to be both slow-moving yet completely untouchable. His son Soga ends up managing to use the technique to avoid an awkward conversation with Matsuri.
  • Speed-o-Sound Sonic in One-Punch Man is able to pull this off. As per usual with Sonic, Saitama promptly does the same thing, but to a degree Sonic doesn't come close to mimicking.

    Comic Books 
  • Frequently used in comics to display either superhuman speed or acrobatics. Spider-Man and Nightwing are the undisputed masters of the latter effect. For acrobatic characters, it's done largely to depict a full set of moves in a single panel, since they do enough leaping and twisting that their movements would otherwise confuse the reader.
  • The Flash and his fellow speedsters. This is actually weaponized by a (non-Flash) speedster in Grant Morrison's JLA run: he runs in such a manner that he leaves speed echoes in a strobing pattern, trying to disorient The Flash, who's chasing him at Super-Speed.
  • Numerous early comics of Buffy the Vampire Slayer have panels of the titular hero fighting enemies with after images of her dolling out blows or preforming different maneuvers to show her moving faster than her surroundings. Some of them include her speaking whole sentences that are broken apart and divided amongst each image.
  • In the New 52's Dial H series, the ability to produce speed echoes is the signature power of the villain Centipede.
  • Since her first appearance displaying Wonder Woman's "bullets and bracelets" ability has been done by showing echos and outlines of her arms in multiple positions at once.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): The speed with which Carola skillfully plays the violin is expressed by having her bow arm displayed in multiple positions in a single panel.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Matrix has several examples of this, beginning with the "Hit me. If you can." dojo fight, through the agent in the rooftop firefight dodging bullets, to the "fist bouquet" effect as Smith pummels Neo.
  • Used for the Big Bad in The Chronicles of Riddick, although in his case it's more a matter of slipping through hyperspace (the "underverse") than super-speed.
  • Used to unintentionally hilarious effect in Queen of the Damned. Vampires' unnatural speed is represented by a smeary trail of afterimages... even if the vampire otherwise appears to be moving at the same speed as nearby non-vampires.

  • A rare written example in Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony; a pixie named Doodah Day is talked into helping the protagonists break into a mansion in return for having his meat-smuggling charges dropped. When sent in ahead, he disguises himself as the owners' son and suped-up a miniature car with a Magitek fuel cell. When a security officer realizes he isn't a real kid, Doodah hit the throttle, going from five to fifty thousand in two seconds, and is described as leaving behind a distinct and long lasting after image in his wake.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope coupled with Bullet Time makes the signature style of the Super-Speed scenes of Smallville.
  • In one of the Dune series, this effect was used to show the preternatural speed Paul had earned through his martial training.
  • A variation is found in The Picard Maneuver of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The premise is that making a short warp jump allows a ship to overtake their own image travelling toward the observer and thus appear in two places at once. This maneuver only works on low-tech enemies, who rely on light-speed sensors only; an enemy ship with FTL sensors (i.e. most of the ones Enterprise runs across) can easily distinguish between the echoes and the real thing.
  • Eobard Thawne from The Flash created a nifty illusion of himself doubled and standing side-by-side by traveling back and forth from those spots in super speed.
  • In Heroes, when Hiro stops time, he sees a long Daphne-colored trail leading him to the speedster.
  • This effect was used with Vicki in the Small Wonder episode "My Robot Family".
  • Suggested by Raj as a solution when all four of the main characters showed up for a costume party dressed as The Flash on The Big Bang Theory.
  • Used in Super Gran in scenes where the title character moves at superhuman speed.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition: Dragon #337 proposes a feat for sorcerers, Spell Graft, gaining them some supernatural abilities in exchange for sacrificing spells. Among others, the "After Images" option gives sorcerer who sacrificed the spell mirror images to leave behind frozen images of himself whenever he moves, confusing opponents and making him harder to hit.

    Video Games 
  • Many, many, many 2D Fighting Games have the character summon "afterimages" during Desperation Attacks, high jumps, or even evades.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: Aurora gets red, orange and black echoes of herself when she backdashes at some point, but most assuredly when she's aged up and a full princess.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night used afterimages whenever...well...ANYTHING happened, really.
  • Chrono Trigger: The Epoch leaves afterimages of itself when changing time periods.
  • High-end Dual Pistols attacks in City of Heroes create speed echoes as the character spins to bring their guns to bear on targets.
  • As the fight against Chapter 1's Optional Boss in Deltarune progresses, his dancing begins to leave behind afterimages.
  • In Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, picking up the speed boost power up will cause your mobile suit to leave ghostly echoes of itself for a couple of seconds when it starts to move again after coming to a full stop. Also, the 'escape boost' causes a brief afterimage of your suit to flicker in the place you used to be while, implying that the emergency boost got your suit out of trouble so quickly that enemies are attacking where you seemed to be.
  • In Final Fantasy games, the beneficial status "blink" is presented as the character moving back and forth, leaving blurry afterimages, and therefore making it difficult for the enemy to pin down where they are exactly.
  • Rolento in the Final Fight games creates a trail of bluish clones as he skitters about.
  • The GBA Fire Emblem games do this with many high-speed classes such as Swordmasters and Assassins to illustrate their speed. The Assassin's Silencer ability in particular uses the standard Critical Hit animation, but with motion blurs at the start.
  • Hyper Light Drifter: A dash move leaves afterimages and Colorful Contrails in the Drifter's wake.
  • Iji: In the rematch against him, Assassin Asha creates progressively more afterimages of himself as his health depletes to try and confuse the player to where and what his next attack is going to be.
  • Guess what is the superpower of Afterimage in Legacy Of Heroes?...
  • Mega Man:
    • This appears in the Mega Man X (since Mega Man X4 onwards), Zero and ZX games whenever the player dashes or dash-jumps.
    • Used constantly with Quick Man in Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. While quite understandable in his introduction (where he darts around on the screen like an overcaffeinated superball), he is considerably slower in the course of the battle. Gemini Man also has afterimages on both of his selves, but given the whole premise of his method of combat involves speed and deception, it's fitting.
    • Anything using the Speed Gear in Mega Man 11 tends to leave behind blue afterimages. Dr. Wily gets the same effect when he jumps back and starts yet another begging-for-mercy routine.
  • The Speed Booster power-up from the Metroid games, in the 2D games where it appears, creates a trail of afterimages behind Samus when it's active.
  • Minty Fresh Adventure!: Colgate gets them in the "earliest ones fade out" style when she stops time and moves around.
  • Invoked by characters with "Shadow" moves in the Mortal Kombat series, such as Johnny Cage. Curiously, this is absent in the games following Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, where characters performing said moves are trailed by a green fog effect instead.
  • Peppino from Pizza Tower leaves red and green trails when dashing and white trails when grabbing.
  • The Pokémon move Double Team works this way to raise the user's chances of evading attack.
  • Samurai Western have Gojiro's rapid Flash Step abilities, which he uses to dodge bullets. More often than not they'll leave behind a translucent image of himself.
  • In SD Gundam Capsule Fighter, those same aforementioned Gundam units, usually the high-end S-Ranks, can create speed echoes once they activate a secondary form.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: The Boots allow Shantae to run across the screen at high speed, and she leaves dark blue copies of herself in her wake that fade out.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog and friends show this in the 2D games, mainly the Sonic Advance Trilogy, Sonic Rush, and Sonic Rush Adventure.
  • This happens to Mario or Luigi when you use the Rainbow Star in Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel.
    • The Speed Flower and Slow Flower in Super Paper Mario make whoever uses them leave red and blue copies respectively; the latter is an odd case as it makes them slower than without it. For some reason, shaking the Wii remote after jumping on an enemy also makes you leave afterimages while you're in the air. Count Bleck also leaves these and can slow his opponent to the same effect as the Slow Flower.
  • Super Princess Peach: As shown in the Nintendo Direct trailer, Swordfighter Peach can do an acrobatic jump that leaves blue afterimages of her behind to position herself better and defeat certain enemies.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. games, Fox and Falco's Side B moves leave speed echoes behind as they zip across the screen.
  • Very obvious in Viewtiful Joe. To an outside observer, this could just as easily be a magic spell Joe casts which causes a bazillion Joes to appear on the screen beating the bejeezers out of everyone.
  • Warcraft III':
    • The game's take on the Doppelgänger Spin has the Blademaster vibrate from side (making it look like three of them are trying to stand in the same place) before his mirror clones pop up.
    • The icon for the Evasion ability (which causes enemy attacks to miss occasionally is a Demon Hunter leaving afterimages as he dodges to the side.
  • In Warframe, Mesa's Peacemaker ultimate leaves afterimages every time she changes pose while firing. This was more noticeable in a previous version of the game, where she could target enemies in all directions without changing camera angles; now she has a tendency to repeat the same pose for extended periods until the player aims in a new direction.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Parodied in "The Reddest Radish"; When he loses the stolen radish, Strong Bad shouts "Holy crap!" and he and his posse run after it, leaving behind after-images. Then the after-image of Strong Bad shouts "Holy crap!", and the after-images dash after the originals.
  • RWBY
    • During their fight in Volume 3, Cinder throws a Flechette Storm of glass shards at Ozpin, who reduces every single one of them to dust without moving from the spot he's standing in. While his feet never move, his upper body moves so fast that it leaves echoes of himself all around him.
    • Adam can channel his Semblance to increase his speed. During his Volume 6 fight, he runs so fast that he leaves behind multiple silhouettes of himself that look like shadows.
    • Harriet's speed Semblance allows her to move so fast that she leaves behind an extremely faint echo of herself. It usually manifests when she either starts running from a standing start or when she changes direction in mid-run. Her lightning-themed Colorful Contrails are much more visible and easier to spot.
    • During his fight in Volume 8, Oscar unconsciously begins tapping into his Semblance for the very first time. He strikes Ironwood multiple times, his arm speeding up so much that he leaves behind multiple echoes of it that blur together into short Colorful Contrails. As Ozpin's successor, it's the first sign that he has the same ability that Ozpin used against Cinder in Volume 3.


    Western Animation 
  • Code Lyoko:
    • Ulrich running at Super-Speed leaves a yellow trail behind him. His "Triangulate" power relies on Speed Echoes, combining the Super Sprint with Doppelgänger Attack.
    • In the real world, the XANAfied people and Polymorphic Specters also leave such an after-effect when moving fast.
  • Played for laughs in one episode of The Simpsons when Homer dashes off and a Homer-shaped dust cloud stays in place for several seconds after he's gone.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • A similar situation to the Simpsons example above occurs in an episode: Doofenshmirtz decides to make a quick exit, and a Doofenshmirtz-shaped dust cloud appears along with a *RUN AWAY* sound effect. However, when the smoke clears, a confused Doofenschmirtz is still there, wondering what exactly just happened.
    • Candace does a similar thing at the beginning of "The Flying Fishmonger".
  • The Transformers, Blurr is unsurprisingly animated like this. He also speaks like this — his mouth does not have clear animation frames because they overlap several consecutive animation frames, which causes his mouth shapes to be nothing but a series of afterimages when he says anything.


Video Example(s):


At the Speed of Sandevistan

Even with his body decked out in top-of-the-line chrome, David's Sandesvistan spinal implant remains his bread-and-butter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / SuperSpeed

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