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 moving towards or 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.
- The Future GPX Cyber Formula series uses these, especially with the Nitro Boost in the later OVAs and when the cars go fast.
- 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.
- Parodied in Johnny the Homicidal Maniac; one Happy Noodle Boy strip had Noodle Boy running away, only to remark "Shit! Speed lines are chasing me!"
- In Turning Red, this is seen just before Mei rams into her mother during the climax.
- The Viewtiful Joe series, whenever you activate the Mach Speed VFX.
- 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.
- Pokémon: While the move animations vary from game to game, this effect is often used for high-speed attacks like Extreme Speed and Quick Attack.
- The lawyers in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney do this when making particularly forceful arguments. It can become a Bigger Stick if the two lawyers pull these off back and forth in quick succession. One example:
Edgeworth: [speed stripes] Can you prove that? I THINK NOT!
Phoenix: [speed stripes] Oh, yeah? I THINK I CAN! It's simple!
Edgeworth: [speed stripes] WHAAAAAT!?
- 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.
- Parodied during an early page of Trigger Star. When a Mook leaps at Avocado, he gets impaled on his own speed lines.
- Grrl Power: This is exaggerated during a match between martial artists Jabberwokky and Math, in which nearly every action is followed by a trail of heavy speed lines — to the extent that at one point, they form a loop-the-loop in the air. The artist lampshades their overuse:
"I think I overdid it with the speed lines actually."
- Sleepless Domain: The magical girl Starlight Spear using her power of Super Speed is highlighted by the signature trail of cyan and yellow speed lines left in her wake. When she overexerts this power in one last Heroic Second Wind, her speed lines are accompanied by sizeable droplets of blood streaming behind her as she burns out.
- Speed lines sometimes fill Huckleberry panels, when the protagonist uses his Elemental Speed. In one page it's subtle and sky-colored, in another the lines make purple and green stripes.
- A season 4 Reboot episode makes fun of this, while the characters of Bob and Matrix play a game that combines DBZ and Pokémon. Matrix is held in an airborne kick for an extended shot, and it's revealed that he's on wires in front of a speed-striped rolling background.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not only get Speed Stripes, they're coordinated to each Turtle's color.
- Even The Simpsons is guilty of this, while Marge is chasing Snake through the city in The Springfield Connection. The opening credits when shown in full seem to contain an example but when watched frame by frame the quick pan across their lawn is actually filled with people.
- Beast Machines did this in an unusual way, using three-dimensional speed lines. In many cases, the background could be glimpsed in gaps between them.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Lesson Zero", Rainbow Dash has these behind her when she's destroying Applejack's old barn.
- Adventure Time often uses this, usually multiple times in one episode. For example, "It Came from the Nightosphere" had speed stripes when Gunther was thrown, Marceline unleashed the Finn bomb, and her father flicked Finn in the butt without his consent.
- As pictured above, this was done in Justice League Unlimited for the The Flash's Super Speed. The moment in the picture comes from "Divided We Fall" when he's alone, fighting the fusion of Lex Luthor and Brainiac.