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What the Hell Are You?

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Carmine Falcone: [frantically loading his shotgun] What the hell are you?
Batman: [breaks open the limo's sunroof and pulls Falcone out] I'm Batman.

What does it take to kill this guy? He's only human, right? Right?

Assumptions are dangerous. You assume that your foe is mortal and limited, that there are certain things they cannot do or survive. When these assumptions break down, in their panic, many heroes or villains will ask, "What the hell are you?"

This panic can be triggered by the character having an unusual appearance or abilities, stunning the person who assumed they were normal and could be easily beaten. Especially if the character in question comes back from something that should have incapacitated or killed a regular human several times over.

See also Who Are You? and Mugging the Monster. If the character asking this is especially powerful or fearsome, the trope overlaps with Horrifying the Horror.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in The Big O in the first encounter between Alan Gabriel and R. Dorothy Wayneright (in which Gabriel is serving Ms. Waynewright with a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown):
    R. Dorothy Wayneright: What exactly are you? A human? An android just like me? I'm unable to determine what you are.
    Alan Gabriel: I'm the boogeyman!
    • After the above exchange, Dorothy, who is Three Laws-Compliant and couldn't have risked hurting a human, apparently concludes that Gabriel has just admitted to being non-human and ends him.
  • Call of the Night: Azami asks this to Yamori after he activates his half-vampire powers. He asks him again after he punches a hole through every floor in Nazuna's apartment building while fighting Susuki.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Frieza has a moment after he realizes what a Super Saiyan is capable of. Frieza blasts Goku square in the face with one of his beams, sending his head reeling backwards. But Goku just slowly lowers his gaze back to normal like nothing happened. It's at that moment Frieza realizes just what he's dealing with.
      Frieza: are you?!
      Goku: You haven't figured it out yet? I'm the Saiyan who came all the way from Earth for the sole purpose of beating you. I am the warrior you've heard of in legends, pure of heart and awakened by fury. That's what I am. I AM THE SUPER SAIYAN, SON GOKU!
    • Vegeta has a similar moment in his fight with Cell. He's so drunk on his new-found power as an "Ascended Super Saiyan" that he lets Cell reach his Perfect form just so he'll have a worthy opponent. He doesn't realize this is a bad idea until Cell takes a full-power kick to the neck without even flinching.
      Vegeta: What...are you? I put everything I had into that attack. You should be dead!
    • During Future Trunks' and Kogu's fight in Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound:
      Trunks: Whoa! What the hell are you?!
      Kogu: Someone not to be trifled with, boy.
    • In the original series King Piccolo has this reaction after Goku survived a blast that nuked an entire city.
      King Piccolo: This can't be happening! This isn't supposed to happen! There's no way a mere human can stand on equal ground with King Piccolo!
      Goku: I have a tail, you know. Maybe I'm not human, after all.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, after Super Saiyan 4 Goku absorbs Baby’s Death Ball, Baby gets terrified and asks him what he is.
      Baby: You should be dead! What are you?!
      Goku: I am the answer, the answer to all that is evil.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F', Vegeta asks this of Whis when Whis reveals that not only is he far more powerful than the freaking God of Destruction, but he has the ability to reverse time. Whis's response can be summed up as "I am me."
    • Vegeta, Goku and several other characters ask variations of this to Broly in Dragon Ball Super: Broly as even for a Saiyan he’s freakishly powerful and just plain freakish.
      Vegeta: Where the hell did you come from?
  • At the end of the first episode of Durarara!!, the last human trafficker screams this when he runs down Celty, knocks off her helmet, and notices she doesn't have a head.
  • One of Sousuke's more painful moments in Full Metal Panic! is hearing this question from Kaname's best friend, Kyoko Tokiwa, when she winds up in the crossfire of his mercenary double life. Kurama is happy to twist the knife further by volunteering a perfectly true answer.
    Kurama: He's a professional murderer.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society;
    • A mook asks this when Section 9 easily takes down his team of professional cyborg guards. Paz responds with I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You.
    • Motoko asks the Puppeteer this, wanting to know who has both the amoral dedication and cyberskills shown by the Big Bad. She's shocked to find the answer is herself — the Big Bad has been created by her own unconsciousness interacting with the Net.
  • In Ginga Densetsu Weed, Kamikiri and his dogs had nearly beaten Toube to death and leave his body there. But when Toube gets up, Kamikiri has a look of shock on his face, and he says this almost every word-for-word:
    Kamikiri: What the hell is he?!?
  • Said (in the English dub at least) by Luke Valentine to Alucard in Hellsing. Notably, this is coming from another vampire. Alucard's just that terrifying when he decides to get serious.
    Luke Valentine: What are you? WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU?!
  • Said once in Inuyasha, surprisingly enough, to Kagome by Yura of the Hair. Her confusion came from the fact that every time she swung a sword at Kagome, it bounced off of Inuyasha's kimono rather than slicing off her limbs.
    Yura: What are you? Why don't you bleed?
  • Nanoha Takamachi of Lyrical Nanoha has gotten this a couple of times, on account of basically being a human Gundam.
    Dieci: [after getting curb-stomped in a Beam-O-War] Is she really human?
  • Naruto:
    • This is an equivalent of Oh, Crap!, usually uttered when the speaker realizes he has just attacked a Jinchuriki.
    • Naruto himself makes that exclamation of Pain when's he's impaled by his chakra rods. The rods are channelled by Pain's own chakra, which allows him to mobilise his hosts — The Six Paths, and disrupts Naruto's own once he stabs him with it. Ironically, in contrast to the above, Pain is fully aware he's going after a Jinchuriki and refers to Naruto as the demon inside him.
  • The Straw Hats got this a lot early in One Piece, both from whoever they're fighting and whoever happens to be watching.
    • There's a mutual one of these between Franky and Nero during the leadup to Enies Lobby.
    • In the case of Sanji, opponents and other people wondering what the hell he is serves as foreshadowing of the fact that he isn’t completely human after all.
  • Pokémon Adventures: Red's sheer relentless determination even in the face of impossible odds freaks the living daylights out of Deoxsys.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion: Kyubey, friggin' KYUBEY, screams this in regards to Sayaka and Nagisa, who have just revealed themselves to be agents of the Law of Cycles.
  • Rebuild World:
  • In Toriko, after Neo ate a tiny supernova that Don Slime created as a last-ditch effort to kill him along with himself and the rest of the planet, Don suffers a full-blown mental breakdown and asks what the hell he is, while proclaiming that creatures like this simply can't exist.
    • Happens again (although on a smaller scale) in the very next chapter. This time NEWS asks Jiro what he is, not believing that a human (or really any Earth creature besides the Eight Kings) can withstand his attack without injuries. In response to questions about the origin of his powers, Jiro reveals that he was raised by the Wolf King, who would feed him Red Nitros since he was a baby.
      NEWS: That attack rocked the very planet's mantle... and he still stopped it?!Jiro!! What the hell are you?!
  • Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon: A gang of delinquents with a grudge against Towa Higurashi kidnaps her family to goad her into a fight. Towa, who had previously held back in her previous fights, decides to demonstrate her Super-Strength and Super-Speed to make quick work of them. The delinquents are shocked and ask what is she.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, after Bakura defeats Pegasus, he gloats that Pegasus didn't stand a chance against someone who has been playing Shadow Games for centuries. Terrified, Pegasus exclaims, "You've lived for centuries!? What sort of creature are you!?" Bakura replies that he is someone destined to get all seven Millennium Items and rule the world.
    • ''Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds has Yusei ask this of ZONE after the latter is revealed to look like a much older version of himself under his mask.

    Comic Books 
  • Amazing Spider-Man #328 parodies Batman's use of this line:
    Terrorist: What are you?
    Spider-Man: I'm Bat—[ahem] I'm Spider-Man.
  • Darth Maul. This is the reaction of Jedi padawan Eldra when Maul turns up outside her cell, glares at her in silent rage, and then starts slashing at the Forcefield Door with a lightsaber (this is before the Jedi know the Sith have returned).
  • In Supergod #3, Reddin recounts the time when he got very drunk and confronted Morrigan Lugus, asking it "What are you for?" Morrigan Lugus' response was a Breaking Speech about the weakness of humanity and its need for an object of worship, concluding with the answer "I am your stash".
  • In the Alex Ross story Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth, while in China, Wonder Woman saves a girl from being run over by a tank by picking the tank up and throwing it. Having never seen or heard of superheroes before, the girl is terrified of her and asks, "What are you?" Wonder Woman says, "A friend and a woman just like you." The girl screams that she is not like her and runs away, causing Wonder Woman to be sad.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Susan Graham quotes this word-for-word during her calamitous first encounter with Monster X in Chapter 12.
    • A couple non-canon posts by the author also have human versions of Madison Russell reacting this way to meeting monstrous alternate versions of herself from recursive AUs that were made by fans of the fic (a Biollante version and a Ghidorah version of her respectively).
  • Child of the Storm: At one point during the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, Dracula asks this of Harry after smelling the Phoenix in his blood.
    Dracula: What. Are. You?
    Harry: Tell you what, I'll make you a deal: when I figure it out, I'll let you know.
  • Code Prime: Pretty much the entire world has this reaction to the Autobots revealing themselves when Zero frees Suzaku.
  • The Desert Storm series:
    • In Lineage, a member of the Death Watch asks this of Ben after witnessing Ben unleash a storm of lightning through the Force.
    • When Mother Talzin meets Ben in Night, she can sense that there's something deeply wrong about him. This is enough to make her lose her composure and she has this reaction:
      Mother Talzin: What foul harbinger are you?
    • Later on in the same fanfic, Ben asks this when he comes face to face with the Sleeper and sees it take the form of a giant horned Nightsister surrounded by green fire.
    • In Mirage, when Obi-Wan is possessed by the Force entity responsible for Ben's time travel, Ben asks it this after making sure that his Padawan was unharmed.
  • In My Hero Academia: Unchained Predator, this is screamed out by the last Saber Mook before the Slayer blasts him to pieces with his Super Shotgun.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: The Story We Never Told: A shocked BlackWargreymon asks this of Oikawa after his attempt to kill him completely fails.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: Nihilus prompts a couple Remnantian characters who catch glimpses or the full brunt of his sorcerous powers in the Dark Side of the Force (powers which the inhabitants of Remnant are naturally very unfamiliar with) to ask his face (or mask) what the hell he is. A particularly notable case is when Nihilus, after regaining physical form near the climax, utterly defeats Cinder and slaughters her direct minions, prompting a stunned Cinder (who thought Nihilus nothing more than one of her mistress Salem's Grimm gone rogue) to ask this of him.
  • Shen vs. Kai: In a call-back to Kai's Who Are You? in Kung Fu Panda 3, Hei Yinying can only say the following when both Shen and Kai gain a new mastery of chi on par with Po's in canon:
    "WHAT *ARE* YOU?!"
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Vernal doesn't think anything of Jaune when she encounters him in the "fight" at Haven. Then Jaune transforms into his hybrid Grimm form in front of her, and she asks what the hell he is. Jaune's response? "Yang's boyfriend, but that's not important."

  • Ashes of the Past: Mewtwo asks this about Ash when Ash decides to fight him himself, using Blood Magic to generate Ghost-type attacks.
    Mewtwo: What are you?
    Ash: Just a kid trying to fill some very big boots.
  • In the Beetlejuice/Danny Phantom crossover story, Say It Thrice, this is essentially Betelgeuse and Sanduleak's reactions when they first see Danny. Though they end up being more confused than afraid.
  • The Sanctuary Telepath: Ranna, when she realizes the extent of Janine's telepathic powers:
    Ranna: What the hell are you?!
    Janine: Very good question.

  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: Ozpin twice asks Angra Mainyu what he is when he witnesses him use Verg Avesta, which makes him briefly turn into a shadowy wolfman that resembles a Beowulf. The first time, he dodges the question by pointing out Gudako needs medical attention. The second time, he says he's just an Avenger, nothing more.
  • The Red Dragon's Saber: When Artoria Pendragon starts kicking their asses, the Fallen Angels ask this several times. She doesn't answer.

    Film — Animation 
  • Beowulf (2007). After Beowulf gets the better of him, Grendel calls out this (in Old English) and Beowulf responds with a Badass Boast.
    Grendel: What are you?!!!
    Beowulf: I am ripper! Tearer! Slasher! Gouger! I am the teeth in the darkness, the talons in the night. Mine is STRENGTH... and LUST... and POWER! I! AM! BEOWULF! (severs Grendel's arm)
  • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis: A thug asks this when he tries to stab Arthur Curry in the chest, only for his knife to shatter. Arthur, who at this point doesn't know his Atlantean origins, tosses the man into the water and says, "I wish I knew, pal."

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Batman (1989):
    Batman: I'm not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor: I want you to tell all your friends about me.
    Nic: WHAT ARE YOU?!
    Batman: ...I'm Batman.
  • The Birds: After a chaotic, destructive gull attack on the town, Melanie finds a group of people huddled in a cafe. One customer outright accuses her of being responsible for the birds' aggressive hostility, her voice rising in hysteria as she shouts "Who are you? WHAT are you??"
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Wonder Woman (2017): General Ludendorff asks this of Diana after she deflects a bullet back into his gun with her bracelets. She replies "You will soon find out!"; Ludendorff inhales his Super Serum gas and a fight ensues.
    • In Justice League (2017), a terrorist opens fire at full-auto on a group of hostages, only to find that Wonder Woman has blocked or pushed the hostages away from every single round.
      Black Clad Alpha: I don't believe it! What are you?
      Wonder Woman: A believer. [Shockwave Clap]
  • Jack Frost (1997) (the horror film): The title character is a serial killer transformed into a snowman.
    Tommy: What the hell are you?
    Jack Frost: The world's most pissed-off snow cone!
  • Jumper: Mixed in with Who Are You?. Although the latter is Mark's exact words, he's also clearly thinking this after witnessing David's teleportation abilities (and getting arrested for an alleged bank heist for them) when he sees David again.
  • The Last Stand:
    Burrell: Who the hell are you?
    (Burrell draws his gun, but Sheriff Ray Owens shoots him in the head first)
    Ray Owens: I'm the sheriff.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one of the Fantom's Mooks unloads a submachinegun clip into Dorian Gray. Instead of dying, Dorian gives his formerly nice suit an annoyed look and proceeds to remove the Mook's plate armor with his sword. This conversation takes place.
    Mook: [horrified] What are you?
    Dorian Gray: [stabbing him, annoyed] I'm complicated.
  • Leprechaun:
    The Leprechaun: Is that me gold?
    Tory: What the hell are you?
    The Leprechaun: I'm a leprechaun, m'dear.
  • In Live and Let Die, Sheriff J.W. Pepper says to James Bond:
    Sheriff J.W. Pepper: What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!
  • Maniac Cop:
    Mugger 2: [to the title character] What the hell ARE you?
  • Men in Black: Agent J saw the Cephalopoid climb up a wall and has now cornered him at the edge of the roof.
    Cephalopoid: [blinks his eye gills]
    Jay: What the hell are you?
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:
    Kahmunrah: What are you?
    Larry: I'm the night guard. [shoves Kahmunrah into the underworld]
  • In Orca: The Killer Whale, at the end of the movie, when Nolan and the orca are staring each other down, after everything the orca's done throughout the movie to destroy his life, his friends, and his boat, and with a harpoon lodged deep inside its body, all Nolan can do is scream in frustration and fear "What the bloody hell are you?!" at his cetacean nemesis.
  • The Other Guys:
    Terry: When you were a kid growing up, didn't you play Cops and Robbers?
    Allen: I'll tell you what I did as a kid: I went to school, I made my bed, and at age 11, I audited my parents. Now believe me, there were some discrepancies. And I was grounded.
    Terry: What the hell are you?
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Asked when Capitán Salazar first appears.
    Captain Toms: What are you? [is lifted from the throat by Salazar]
    Salazar: Death. [twists the neck of Toms]
  • Predator is arguably the Trope Namer, with Dutch saying it word for word at the end as he inspects the incapacitated alien.
    Dutch: What the hell are you?...
    Predator: Whaaat... the hell... are you?
  • Racing Stripes provides a non-antagonistic example. When a zebra foal finds shelter in an American farmhouse, the other animals are understandably curious.
    Franny: What exactly are you?
    Stripes: I don't know.
    Tucker: Okay, we can rule out "genius".
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Walker asks the Turtles this.
    Walker: What kind of demons are you?
    Leo: We are Turtles, friend!
    Don: Of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety, sleezeball!
  • Venom (2018) has a thug asking this to Eddie Brock. Eddie's response?
    Eddie: We... are Venom.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • In X-Men: First Class, we have the following conversation:
      Former Nazi Officer: [in German] Who—what are you?
      Erik: [in English] Let's just say I'm Frankenstein's Monster, and I'm looking for my creator.
    • The Wolverine: Shingen Yashida attacks Logan with katanas, only to be shocked when his Healing Factor fixes him up.
      Shingen: What kind of monster are you!?
      Logan: The Wolverine. [kills him]
    • Logan: Wolverine asks this of Laura after The Reveal that she's a mutant. As most mutants have died out, the fact that a brand-new mutant has appeared on the scene makes this a very important question, let alone one with the exact same abilities as Wolverine.
      Wolverine: You. Who the hell are you? (Laura doesn't respond) Hey, I asked you a question! Who Are You?
      Xavier: You know who she is, Logan.

  • The Name of the Rose: When having sex with a peasant girl, Adso fears she might be a succubus sent to corrupt him and steal his soul, which they apparently do at the moment of ecstasy when the victim cries out, "Who are you?" She isn't, as it turns out, but as Adso is (was) a virgin and a novice monk, he's no less disturbed.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Shows up multiple times regarding Szeth's Surgebinding, a magic that hasn't been seen for thousands of years.
      Guard: What are you? Spren or man?
      Szeth: What am I? ...I am sorry.
    • Compare to Szeth's answer later in the book, after he's killed thousands of people and just finished off a massive ambush.
      King: What are you?
      Szeth: Death.
  • Shows up in the Sweet Valley High series in book #100 The Evil Twin.
    James: Who are you? What are you?
    Margo: [switch from an angry look to a sweet, innocent one] I'm exactly what I appear to be.
  • Fate/strange Fake: Even though Ayaka Sajyou seems to be a completely ordinary girl with no powers or knowledge of magecraft, she is somehow able to supply Saber with more than enough mana to fight effectively, something even first rate magi struggle with. Hansa Cervantes asks her what is she. She can't answer, then he apologizes.
  • In Dracula, though he doesn't ask the Count directly, Jonathan Harker poses a similar question in his journal after seeing Dracula crawl face-first down a sheer castle wall:
    "What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature in the semblance of a man?"
  • The Murderbot Diaries. Murderbot tends to get this, as few humans can recognise a SecUnit with its armor removed. In one novel it responds, "I'm a Shut Up or Get Your Head Smashed."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Lucio is an Inhuman with a petrifying gaze. He is captured by HYDRA and taken before Hive. Hive orders Lucio's glasses (which block his powers) removed. Lucio paralyzes everyone in the room... and then Hive just continues moving anyway.
    Lucio: What are you?
    Hive: What are we. [infects him with spores]
  • Barry: After a hit goes very wrong, Barry finds himself having to track down a witness in the form of the mark's pre-teen daughter... who knows karate and repeatedly wipes the floor with both him and his handler, until they start questioning if she's even "of this world."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
  • The Crow: Stairway to Heaven episode "Solitude's Revenge":
    Kessler: What the hell are you?
    The Crow: Death without parole.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played for laughs in "The Unicorn and the Wasp". The Doctor is fatally poisoned with cyanide, but survives by scarfing down various ingredients and then giving his system a shock — at which point he exhales the poison as a cloud of smoke. Agatha Christie, who sees the whole thing, is naturally stunned.
      Agatha: Doctor. You are impossible.
      The Doctor: [clicks teeth, runs off]
      Agatha: What are you?!
    • In "Turn Left", Donna Noble is suckered into rewriting part of her life. The ensuing alternate universe is already overkill, but it ends up nearly destroying the whole universe before Donna (with help from Rose) undoes it all. The fortune teller who did it freaks out and uses this trope.
      "You were so strong. What are you? What will you be? What will you be?!"
    • The Doctor meets a woman named Oswin Oswald in a Dalek asylum in the far future, and she dies. Then he meets the same woman (now named Clara) in Victorian London, and she dies. Baffled as to how this could have happened, he seeks her out and encounters another incarnation of her in modern times, and adopts her as his new companion to figure this out. He avoids confronting her directly about this until several adventures in, when it seems they are both going to die. He demands to know just what the hell she actually is, but Clara is just a normal woman and has no idea what he's talking about. It later turns out that this Clara is a normal woman, and the original; she winds up entering the Doctor's personal timeline in order to thwart a villain who had done the same, causing multiple incarnations of her to appear throughout his life.
  • Forever Knight. In a flashback to when Nick Knight woke up on Dr Natalie Lambert's autopsy table, she does the "Who are you/what are you" version. He answers the "what" by grabbing a bag of blood plasma and feeding off it.
    Nicholas: Someone very different from you.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "Is My Very Nature That of a Devil", after Alderman Fenwick discovers that Louis de Pointe du Lac is Immune to Bullets and can slice off his whole ear with just his fingernails, he recognizes that Louis can't possibly be human.
    Fenwick: (terrified) What — what are you?!
    Louis: I'm a vampire.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Claire Temple is trying to treat Luke but finds herself stymied by his Nigh-Invulnerable skin which makes conventional surgery impossible. She asks, "Who Are You?" but then adds that this trope would be more appropriate.
  • Shadow and Bone. This is the first question that General Kirigan asks Alina when she's brought before him after her Traumatic Superpower Awakening. (Alina makes a Call-Back to this in the Season One finale when using her full power as the Sun Summoner for the first time.)
    Kirigan: Well? What are you?
    Alina: Alina Starkov, assistant cartographer, Royal Corp of Surveyors. They're all gone. It's my fault...that's why I'm here isn't it?
    Kirigan: Answer the question. What are you?
  • Smallville is rife with this. Clark gets this all the time, but more commonly "how did you do that?" as he is completely unafraid of using his powers in plain sight of villains. There are at least two examples directed towards other characters:
    • "Arctic": Brainiac thinks Chloe Sullivan is a normal human. When he pierces her head with his finger tendrils, she unleashes her healing powers in defense, weakening him to the point where he had difficultly burning through a fence with his heat vision. One of the very rare, if not the only, instances in which you see him staggering and panting.
      Brainiac: What the hell are you?
    • "Phantom": Bizarro has just been rejuvenated from kryptonite instead of harmed, and knocks Lionel Luthor against a wall.
      Clark Kent: What the hell are you?
      Bizarro: I'm you, only a little more bizarre.
  • Supernatural:
    • When Dean first meets Castiel, he assumes Castiel is a demon. Then the angel shrugs off the demon-killing knife, prompting this exchange:
      Dean: Who are you?
      Castiel: Castiel.
      Dean: Yeah, I figured that much, I mean what are you?
    • In the tenth season episode "Reichenbach", a man named Cole tries to kill Dean to avenge his father who Dean killed ten years earlier (Cole was unaware that his father was a monster). Unfortunately for Cole, Dean is a demon at this point in time and brutally beats Cole in response.
      Dean: You have no idea what you walked into here, do you? None.
      Cole: What are you?
      Dean: I'm a demon. (Dean's eyes turn black)

  • In Peer Gynt, Peer finds an Invisible Monster that blocks his path while refusing to provide a straight answer to the question, "Who are you?" When Peer changes the question from "who" to "what", it replies coherently. In a sense:
    Peer: Stuff that stupid answer, it doesn't make things clearer. What are you?
    Boyg: The Great Boyg.
    Peer: Ah. Until now, the riddle was black, now it seems grey...
  • From Jasper in Deadland, when Agnes meets the supervisor of Lethe's Nightmarish Factory:
    Agnes: What are you?
    Little Lu: I'm Little Lu. And if you can believe it, I was an angel once. That's right, pretty kitty, an angel.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Arkham Asylum, Scarecrow asks this of Batman after he has had ten times the normal dose of fear toxin and is still alive and sane.
    • In Arkham City, terrified mooks will demand this of Batman, Robin, and/or Nightwing after their mook buddies begin dropping like flies during Predator mode.
    • Arkham Origins repeats this trend with Deathstroke. Given that the world's greatest assassin has just had his ass kicked by a previously unknown vigilante dressed like a flying rodent, his shock is more or less validated. Copperhead also has a similar reaction when Batman, despite having been poisoned by her, continues to fight on.
  • Cave Story: After the second fight against Balrog, as Balrog is retreating:
    Balrog: What ARE you?
    Player character: ...
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Junko Enoshima has this reaction after Makoto is able to bring hope to the remaining surviving Ultimate students; she's incensed that he's eventually christened the Ultimate Hope, which is the opposite to Junko's Ultimate Despair title]].
  • Devil May Cry:
  • Dragon Age II:
    • Knight-Commander Meredith has this reaction towards a Mage!Hawke for taking down the Arishok in honourable single-combat, which leads to the rest of the Qunari peacefully leaving and ends the siege of Kirkwall without further incident.
    • Fenris will also act this way towards Flemeth, remarking that he has met abominations, demons, and blood mages before, and Flemeth is none of those things. Anders is similarly perturbed that even Justice doesn't know what she is!
  • Eternal Darkness: A cutscene combines it with Glamour Failure when the "liche" Pius Augustus posing as a warlord confronts a defeated enemy.
    Soldier: Who are you?
    Pius Augustus: I am your lord and conqueror!
    Soldier: What manner of forsaken being are you?
    Pius Augustus: [shifts to his skeletal form] So, you can see me in my true form...
  • In Fallout 4, the Sole Survivor can ask Nick Valentine this after the former rescues him due to his being a synth missing the rubber skin. This is probably because the synths the Sole Survivor may have encountered thus far are Killer Robots unlike the robot-bodied, human-acting Nick.
    Sole Survivor: Just...what are you, Nick?
    Nick: You really don't know? I'm a synth. Synthetic man. All the parts, minus a few red blood cells.
  • The Emperor in Final Fantasy II has this reaction when the heroes defeat him after his return from Hell as a demon.
    The Emperor: "Unbelievable... Defeated by...insects like you...not once, but twice! Ungaahhhh!"
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy: Firion to Sephiroth at the start of a fight.
    Firion: You make me shiver... What are you!?
  • Sephiroth himself actually utters “What the hell are you?” word for word towards Cloud in Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. With good reason, too, as Cloud had no selled getting impaled and lifted Sephiroth up by his own Masamune, which shouldn’t be possible for anyone who isn’t a Super-Soldier, let alone a rookie grunt like Cloud. In the original game and Crisis Core, he just exclaims This Cannot Be!; regardless, it’s one of the very few times we ever see him lose his cool and show fear.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • The final boss of Heavensward asks this of the Warrior of Light. Archbishop Thordan became a primal via using an Artifact of Doom and a millennium of prayers, powered himself up with Nidhogg and Ratatoskr's eyes on top of that, then hit the Warrior with an attack called Ultimate End, which was a "divine reckoning" that used a massive amount of aether from Thordan and all of his Knights Twelve at the same time. And yet, all of that power is only enough to barely scratch the Warrior of Light. Upon seeing the Warrior of Light largely unfazed by what was as much power as he was ever going to muster, Thordan enters into a Villainous Breakdown where he desperately tries to convince himself that the Warrior can't possibly be standing as he flails his sword without any technique, completely ignoring enmity and muttering to himself that he's better than this. After losing here, Thordan looks up at the Warrior, and says "Who... What are you?!" to them before Thordan Disappears into Light, along with his Knights Twelve.
    • The Final Boss of patch 5.3 also asks this of the Warrior Of Darkness just before the fight starts. Not in rage or terror, but with genuine wonder and curiosity, as the WOD just did something so unusual that it amazes even a millennia-old individual like the Boss. It almost gets him to back down, until his desire to destroy anyone in his way reasserts itself.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic V, Nicolai asks this of Agrael when the demon lord resists the power of Nicolai's Amulet that has the power to send demons back to Sheogh. This is the first hint that Agrael isn't actually a demon. He's really a Dark Elf.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories:
    • After Zexion barely escapes from Riku, he screams, "What is he? No-one's ever worn the darkness the way he does. It's impossible!"
    • After Vexen fades away to nothingness upon his death, Sora can only respond with this to the remaining members of the Organization. Not even Axel — the Organization member who killed Vexen — can give him an honest answer.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Ghirahim is outraged that Link actually managed to beat him. This doesn't deter him from taunting Link, though.
  • Mass Effect:
    • After Commander Shepard defeated Sovereign, it's implied that part of the reason the Reapers turned their attention to Humanity is due to desperately trying to understand how an average species with no special mental or physical attributes, somehow managed to produce a single individual who is so incredibly disruptive to their plans.
    • In the Leviathan DLC, even the Leviathan have this reaction to Shepard, referring to them as "An Anomaly" that has never manifested before in any previous Cycle. They too are very curious why Shepard is the first thing that the Reapers have ever shown fear towards.
      Leviathan: None have possessed the strength in previous Cycles. Your own species could be destroyed with a single thought. But you are different. I have witnessed your actions in this Cycle: the destruction of Sovereign; the fall of the Collectors. The Reapers perceive you as a threat. And I must understand why!
  • Mark of the Ninja: When the player character terrorizes the Mook guards, one of things they'll mutter as they stumble backwards is "What is this guy...?"
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance: When Senator Armstrong steps up to the plate and reveals his full power, both Raiden and Jetstream Sam ask him this word-for-word.
  • In Octopath Traveler II, Ageha asks this of Oboro just before Oboro kills him with the Darkblood Blade. Oboro has been eerily calmly going on about his nihilistic ideals and need to douse the Sacred Flames for the Moonshade Order, which require a Darkblood artifact and a human sacrifice. Given everything Oboro had to do to get his hands on the Darkblood Blade, this shows that Oboro was not the simple tactician Ageha thought he was.
  • Persona 4 has Yosuke saying this line after his attempt to unmask Teddie shows there's nothing inside.
  • A humorous, non-villainous example in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky: in the Bonus Episode detailing Wigglytuff's origins, as an Igglybuff, he was taken under the wing of a local recluse and former explorer Armaldo. As the two progress through one particular dungeon, Armaldo points out all the traps in the area, including the concealed pit, spiked walls, and numerous other traps waiting to deter hopeful explorers. Igglybuff ignores all this, and just uses his unknown power to break the door down. This leaves Armaldo wondering:
    Armaldo: What in the world IS this kid?!
  • In Remnant: From the Ashes, one of the bosses that can be fought in Corsus is the Thrall. It has no relation to the Corsus storyline or the Root invading the multiverse, making it a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere. The in-game mission to kill it is called "What The Hell Are You?"
  • In the beginning of RosenkreuzStilette Grollschwert, Grolla has happened to overhear Iris' plans to have RKS fight against the Empire for her own twisted amusement. Immediately afterwards, Iris, followed by an Oh, Crap! moment of hers that she recovers from quickly followed by Grolla's You're Insane! lecture towards her, attacks her with her magic, which critically wounds her and takes her by surprise. Shocked by the fact that Iris had such powerful magic, Grolla, in an injured, shaken tone, asks her just what the hell she is.
    Iris: Oh, what a bother. I suppose I'll have to start the show early and kill you now! (attacks and severely wounds Grolla with her magic)
    Grolla: What in the...!? How did she obtain such powerful magic? Iris, what ARE you!?
    Iris: Heheheh. Why, I am myself, of course. I don't expect a commoner to understand my genius.
  • RuneScape: During the Extinction quest, Kerapac asks the player how they can stand next to the Shadow Breach in Freneskae without suffering any ill effects. For reference, the Shadow Breach leads to Erebus, a dark universe of entropy and death; as such, it constantly leaks shadow anima, a substance incredibly toxic to any and all forms of life, upon the "main" universe. The only thing keeping the player safe is their World Guardian powers, which grant their soul protection from shadow anima. But Kerapac doesn't know any of this, so from his point of view the player is nothing short of an abomination for pulling off this feat.
    Kerapac: What are you, World Guardian? What shadow-souled monstrosity could survive this onslaught? I am bound to the Needle. While it remains whole, I live, but you have no such power. You stand here on the brink of Erebus like it means nothing! Like it's not even touching you! What ARE you?
  • Shadow asks this of Sonic in Sonic Adventure 2 after the eponymous blue hedgehog survives being ejected into space. Though in this case, it's out of genuine curiosity rather than panic.
    Shadow: So, there's more to you than just looking like me. What are you, anyway?
    Sonic: What you see is what you get: just a guy who loves adventure. I'm Sonic the Hedgehog!
  • From StarCraft, Zeratul to Duran: "Who...what are you?" StarCraft II expansion has everyone wondering just what the hell Kerrigan is. She was de-infested at the end of Wings of Liberty, and seems to have little-to-no memory of the time she spent infested, yet still can control the swarm and still has Zerg features about her. Is she really redeemed this time, or is she just trying to pull her Magnificent Bastard act again?
  • In Subnautica, Ryley's first contact with the Sea Emperor Leviathan comes in the form of this question. In this case, it's asked more out of curiosity (perhaps even hope) than fear, though the manner in which it happens is likely to inspire a moment of panic in the player.
  • System Shock: Destroying the first security node prompts a terrified SHODAN to wonder who or what the Hacker is...and she then resolves to step up her game.
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld:
    Lara Croft: Tell me this: what the hell are you?
    Lara's Doppelganger: I am you with the flaws removed!

  • Unsounded:
    • Chapter 4, page 10.
      Lawman: And Elka isn't crazy... you do have a mule's tail! Twin's mercy, and those teeth! What are you?
      Sette: Awesome.
    • In Chapter 5, Ephsephin gets a glimpse of what's under Duane's hood.
      Ephsephin: Gods, you— W-what the fuck are you under this?!
    • In Chapter 17, Elka and Quigley are both shocked when Sette tears ghosts out of the Fist Materials they're possessing with her bare hands, and Duane's non-reaction does not settle them.
      Elka: Man, I knew something was weird about you! Other than everything that's weird about you!
      Quigley: Personally, I've never felt the tail's been adequately addressed.
      Duane:Sette appears to have some influence upon the khert. Is it so strange? Quigley's kind are well known for their natural power and ameliorative natures.
      Quigley: Duane, you will not equate that freak with plats.
      Elka: Plats are plats. Everyone knows what plats are. But there was nothing natural about that!
  • Bam in Tower of God is an Irregular, an Outside-Context Problem practically by definition, with a host of unusual abilities and a fundamental ability to break the rules of the Tower. Thus, he gets this reaction all the time, whether posed as a question or not. The first time is when Lero Ro tests all the Regulars for their ability to withstand Shinsu; he starts off by pushing them back with a wave of Shinsu before they have to push through a wall of it — so the wave pushes back even those who will easily pass through the wall later — but Bam is completely unaffected in the first place. Lero Ro doesn't say anything, but mentally labels him a "monster".

    Web Original 
  • Like the original version, Dragon Ball Z Abridged contains such a moment during the Goku-Frieza fight. Unlike the original, however, Freeza's brain suffers temporary shutdown on glimpsing just how profoundly stupid Goku is.
    Frieza: How do you function?!
  • In the Sonic fan animation Nazo Unleashed, much like the example with Vegeta and Cell (which it draws inspiration from), Shadow quips this to Nazo after his ultimate attack fails to even scratch him.
    Shadow: Just... who are you!?!
    Nazo: I'm the Ultimate Lifeform!
  • In the alternate ending for the Super Power Beat Down with Batman vs. Darth Vader, the former manages to best the latter not through science or by fighting like a Combat Pragmatist, but by planning ahead and using all the tools at his disposal, including Superman, the one he came to rescue in the first place. Even the Sith Lord has to wonder how a seemingly ordinary human managed to overcome his Force advantage.
    Darth Vader: [wheezing] What are you?
    Batman: ...I'm Batman.
  • The DIO vs. Alucard DEATH BATTLE! sees the former ask this after the latter turns into a tidal wave of blood and souls.
  • In RWBY, Volume 9 has this an an important plot point, with many characters of the Ever After asking Team RWBY what they are.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): What Are You