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Sprouting Ears

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A symptom of a Super-Deformed Art Shift, where occasionally a character will sprout Unusual Ears or other animal features (paws, tails, etc.) during certain moments to accentuate certain aspects of their personality. What ears symbolize what varies from culture to culture, but generally they break down into three groups:

  • Cats: Genkiness, excitability, occasionally irritation. Usually accompanied by a Cat Smile.
  • Dogs: Hyperness, clumsiness, affection. Generally done to a character who is loving, but not all there in the head.
  • Foxes: Mischief, wisdom, slyness. May be either friendly or malevolent.

Other variants usually depend on the character and whatever is associated with them. If the character can actually transform into said animal it can sometimes be a clue of their true nature, though usually this is played for comedy and not meant to be taken seriously.

See also Cat Girl, Unusual Ears and Little Bit Beastly.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the manhwa Chocolat, Kum-Ji's aunt sprouts fox ears and a tail during her apology after a member of their rival favorite band overhears her trash-talking them.
  • Mimi and Kuro have been known to sprout bunny and cat ears, respectively, in Kodomo No Jikan. With Kuro, it can be hard to tell if it's a case of Hyperspace Ears or not, since she does occasionally wear a cat ear accessory.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Megumi's Noblewoman's Laugh is occasionally accompanied by growing fox ears. Her nickname on the show itself is "Kitsune-onna" (literally "Fox Woman") or "Vixen" in the English version.
  • The cursed characters in Fruits Basket sometimes take on characteristics of their animal selves in comedic situations:
    • Kyo the Cat will often sprout cat ears and a tail up when angered during comedic moments, or be depicted with flattened cat ears when embarrassed.
    • Kisa the Tiger pops out her ears and tail occasionally, like when she perked up at hearing Tohru (who she views as an older sister figure) come back from the bathroom.
    • Momiji the Rabbit will occasionally sprout rabbit ears when he's being cute and/or energetic.
  • Hayama in Kodocha occasionally sprouts leopard ears and tail when acting especially cool.
    • And once, after Sana outright asks him to kiss her, he sprouts mouse ears, a mouse nose, and whiskers. Sana remarks in amazement that she didn't know "you could do mouse, too! I thought you only did leopard."
  • Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club (who's basically a Genki Girl in a Bishōnen's body) does this with puppy ears once in a while, or a wagging dog's tail when he's especially excited.
  • Happens a few times with Hazuki in the first part of Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase, before she gets into the habit of wearing a Cat Eared Headband. This was initially intended to be only an occasional gimmick, sometimes done with headbands and other times with this trope, until the Anime made it a central aspect of the entire design, and then went on to add cat ears to everything, with absolutely no exceptions.
  • In the Descendants of Darkness anime series, Tsuzuki gets dog ears and a tail a few times when acting especially keetish. This has apparently lead some fans to think he can actually turn into a dog if they don't get the visual metaphor.
  • Ichigo literally has her kitty features (ears and occasionally a tail) pop up when she gets excited or nervous in Tokyo Mew Mew. Later on, it accelerates to actually becoming an adorable kitten. Unlike others, this is actually canon, and a plot point, and also leads to a lot of awkward scenes of her having to stick her head in bushes or suddenly having to find a quick way to hide them.
  • Yuzuriha in X/1999 (especially when trying to cheer Kamui up) has pointy dog ears because her spirit animal is a dog.
    • And in one of CLAMP's earlier works, Magic Knight Rayearth, Hikaru would sometimes get cat ears. Her figma even came with cat ear parts!
    • You know what, CLAMP in general. Suki has the main character sprout dog ears and tail almost every chapter.
  • Shuuichi from Gravitation occasionally sprouts them, and at one point turns totally into a cat for comedic effect.
  • Yuriko Oozura from Mao-chan. In the manga, she also has a Sprouting Tail.
  • Ai Yori Aoshi: Aoi sprouts a cat's ears and tail when she's rolling around in Kaoru's bed.
  • Hidamari Sketch: As a one-time thing, Sae sprouts cat ears and tail purely out of surprise/confusion when Yuno's dad angrily points at her and shouts "It's YOU!" as she walks in. (He mistook her as Yuno's boyfriend based on a stray hair he found in Yuno's room.)
  • Hayate of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha had tanuki ears (and sometimes tail) pop up every so often during the StrikerS manga when she's feeling mischievous.
  • All the Hounds in Petit-Hound have this, and no, it's not for comedic purpose.
  • Liza Wildman of Princess Resurrection, is half werewolf. Besides her transforming forearms, her only wolf-like feature are her wolf ears that only pop up when she is embarrassed/annoyed, or listening intently.
  • Ikeda Kana from Saki sprouts two cat ears whenever she has intimate interaction with Mihoko, complete with purring.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, when burgers are mentioned around Machina, he sprouts what are likely dog ears and tail.
    • When his master praises him or he's contemplating something trickstery, he gains fox/tanuki ears and a tail. And his alternate form is that of a giant snake.
    • Hayate was trying to conceal an involuntary change in his appearance, and told Izumi that he had nothing to hide. (Probably) fox ears popped up and she began trying to pull away the cloak he was wearing.
  • Nana has Nana K sprouting dog ears with some regularity. It's part of the origin behind her nickname Hachi.
  • This occurs to a large amount of various characters in Gakuen Alice. It's more prevalent in the manga than in the anime.
  • Reborn! (2004): Whenever Gokudera's really happy (usually because of praise from Tsuna) he grows doggy ears and a tail.
  • In Hunter Hunter Killua does this at least twice in the anime.
  • Hiroki Komachi from Chu-Bra!! grows cat ears and tail whenever he's nervous, which is the result from being surrounded by girls who deal with underwear on daily basis.
  • Tsubasa Hanekawa of Bakemonogatari develops feline characteristics after being possessed by a 'meddlesome cat' who would take control after an accumulation of severe stress.
  • Maron/Jeanne does this several times in the Phantom Thief Jeanne manga. Usually when thinking of Kaitou Sinbad.
  • Kyoko from March Comes in Like a Lion sprouts cat ears to show her excitability and affection toward Gotou.
  • In Kotoura-san, from Haruka's point of view at least, Manabe's entire head often goes into werewolf-mode when he's feeling lustful.
  • It occasionally happens to Yurine in Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl, especially when she is with the girl she loves, Ayaka.
  • Played with in Nabari no Ou; when he's feeling mischievous, protagonist Miharu Rokujou frequently sprouts little devil wings and a tail. No ears, though.
  • An actual plot point in one episode of FLCL, where Naota grows a pair of cat ears he's trying to hide. They turn out to be the nascent legs of an alien robot sprouting from the N.O. portal in his head, and due to accidentally transferring his N.O. to Ninamori earlier in the episode the ears suddenly transfer to her briefly before the robot emerges and takes over her body.
  • Komi Can't Communicate:
    • The anime and manga make a Running Gag out of Komi Shouko sprouting cat ears when she gets excited about something. Since Komi suffers from social anxiety, she thus cannot emote well, so her facial expressions are exaggerated to make her mood as clear to the audience as it is to her friends.
      • This is even lampshaded in one chapter by her; when she's up late at night worrying about things she might have done to embarrass herself, and one of her "anxiety points" is "Why do I sometimes grow cat ears?"
      • Komi's own cousin, Akira, also sometimes grows cat ears when excited.
    • Agari Himiko, one of Komi's friends, sometimes sprouts dog ears when talking to Komi. This denotes her clumsiness and loyalty... said loyalty being not just Komi's friend, but her dog.
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: When Miyabi and Onizuka visit, Tomoko briefly sprouts cat ears when Miyabi says she'll stay the night.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Mei will sometimes sprout panda ears and/or a tail instead of fully transforming into a panda when her emotions are heightened.

    Video Games 
  • Though it doesn't happen in the finished game, the storyboards for Final Fantasy VII Crisis Core show Zack sprouting dog ears and a tail to fit his nickname of "Puppy".

    Visual Novels 
  • From Kagetsu Tohya, Len — the Really 700 Years Old Elegant Gothic Lolita semi-succubus — is half cat, and thus would occasionally add Cat Girl to the list when surprised enough to pop out her fuzzy ears.
  • In Little Busters!, Rin's angry sprite includes cat ears, while Kud's upset/hurt/flustered sprite has her with dog's ears and a tail.
  • In Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! Kazuko often sprouts dog ears when happy or depressed.
  • A purely text-based example happens in the Ciconia: When They Cry Data Fragment "Siblings Day" when Miyao thinks his best friend Jayden is planning or has already committed suicide due to turning off his notifications for new messages, which is supposedly done mostly by people about to kill themselves, but in this case was to free up memory for chat filters (since potentially offensive speech is illegal in the AOU, especially when talking to people of lower socioeconomic status, some of which Jayden was meeting up with). When Miyao finally gets a reply message from Jayden, the narration mentions that if Miyao had ears on top of his head, they'd have perked up (which, unlike other visual novel examples, is not represented on his sprite).

  • Morgan McKnight, from Aoi House, tends to grow cat ears, as befitting her Genki Girl personality.
  • El Goonish Shive: Catalina does this after being given catgirl magic during the Escape from the Mall NP arc. It takes her a little while to notice.
  • In Yokoka's Quest, Mao's curse makes him a catboy for the first 8 chapters, but after some work towards undoing that curse, he now only has his cat ears and tail pop out when he gets emotional.
  • My Deepest Secret: During his more comedic and/or teasing chibi moments, Yohan tends to develop cat ears alongside a Cat Smile.

    Western Animation 
  • In a 1930s Popeye cartoon, a Mae West expy is brazenly flirting with Popeye and smacking around Olive Oyl, who finally downs a can of spinach and momentarily sprouts cat ears while yowling and hissing!
  • In the Bugs Bunny short "The Hare-Brained Hypnotist", after Elmer learns to perform a Hypnotic Gaze and tries it on Bugs, Bugs reverses the hypnosis and mind-controls Elmer into acting like a rabbit. Elmer's ears briefly grow into rabbit-like ears to set up a role-reversal scene.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward grows a human ear in shock when he hears SpongeBob swearing over the Krusty Krab's PA in the episode "Sailor Mouth".
  • Birch from My Life Me tends to sprout a fox's ears and tail whenever she's being sly, as part of the overall Animesque nature of the show.

Alternative Title(s): Hyperspace Ears, Sprouting Tail, Sprouting Ears And Tail