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Speed Stripes

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"Man, I wish I had swishy lines behind me when I did stuff."
Narrator, a Cartoon Network Teen Titans spot

In animated shows, characters moving at high speed often appear in front of a set of moving colored lines — usually blue background with yellow stripes, although depending on the impact, any color combination may be used. This is usually done because drawing a proper background moving behind the character would require drawing a large background from a camera angle which would only be seen for a split-second. The direction of the lines indicates the direction; if the lines seem to be coming from a central point, then it is because the character is moving toward or away from the screen.

A variation of this is the Moving Punchout, where two characters are fighting and obviously moving (usually in the same direction, although sometimes towards each other), with speed stripes as the background.


This is a Manga Effect, and is indicative of a stylistic difference between the West and Japan in the depiction of movement. Whereas speed lines in the West are traditionally drawn on the character and leave the background in focus, the Japanese artist traditionally speed-lines the background, leaving the character in focus. In the Western version, the observer is a stationary bystander being passed or approached by the character, but in the Japanese version the reader is moving with the character.

Incidentally, it's useful for reducing the budget by avoiding having to draw a background, so you can reuse the footage to your heart's content. Because of this, speed lines are often used in Stock Footage with a bit of an animation bump, such as transformations in Transformers Armada or Ash catching a Pokémon/giving orders in Pokémon.


A slight variation which can appear in both Western and Japanese works is the practice of using Speed Echoes and/or Colorful Contrails in the same way.

Not to be confused with racing stripes or motion blur.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z is infamous for this, with characters flying in every direction.
    • Super Mario Bros. Z, being based on Dragon Ball Z, also uses this trope heavily when characters are launched and often when they are fighting in midair.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! occasionally uses speed lines when a major character is playing a card.
  • The Future GPX Cyber Formula series uses these, especially with the Nitro Boost in the later OVAs and when the cars go fast.
  • Even Hikaru no Go (an anime about, well, people playing Go) gets in the act.
  • Expect this nearly every time a Pokémon trainer says something or a Pokemon does something in the anime. (During battles, obviously.) They're used only rarely in Origins and the XY seasons, though.
    • It's also used on the games in the animations for moves like ExtremeSpeed, Hydro Pump, and Focus Blast.
  • Sailor Moon, every time one of the senshi uses a special attack.
  • Used in Speed Racer. And the 2008 live-action film actually replicated this effect.
  • In the later episodes of the first season of Weiß Kreuz, the animation budget was so low that sometimes even fast camera pans would make everything devolve into speed stripes for a second. As an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, it actually looked pretty awesome.
  • The Warrior Cats manga illustrated by James Barry tend to do this: for instance, when cats chase prey, run from danger, or leap into battle.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Animation 

    Video Games 
  • The Viewtiful Joe series, whenever you activate the Mach Speed VFX.
  • Used in the Castlevania series by Alucard and Soma Cruz.
  • Persona 5: White lines appear around the edges of the screen when your main character uses the dash command or launches at high speeds past an environmental hazard.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Speed Lines


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