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File:Henshin 5237.jpg

"Henshin A Go-Go"-Hero, that is.

The Henshin Hero is a variation or subtrope of the Superhero in which super-powered characters only have their special powers some of the time. A Henshin Hero has distinct normal and powered "forms," and needs to actively switch between the two. In essence, the character's powers are all turned off while he or she is in his Secret Identity.

Henshin Heroes often have a special item which they use to change into their heroic form. These items are usually activated by a command phrase, triggering a Transformation Sequence.

The transformation is frequently accompanied by a costume change. This gives the trope some overlap with Clothes Make the Superman: many male Henshin Heroes wear power-armor of some kind, and their transformation allows them to don their armor almost instantly. Bonus points if the change of clothing is the only outward difference, but nobody notices.

The name comes from the Japanese term for the trope, henshin (literally meaning "change body" but more practically translated as "transformation" or "metamorphosis" ... and not to be confused with the Shapeshifting or Metamorphosis tropes).

Super-Powered Alter Ego is when this trope meets Split Personality.

Examples of Henshin Hero include:

Anime and Manga

  • Many, many Magical Girl series, including:
  • Essentially any superhero made by Tatsunoko Production.
    • Gatchaman presaged and inspired the Super Sentai genre, using many elements that would become stock sentai material.
    • Hurricane Polimar uses his helmet for transformation as opposed to wrist-worn gadgets or smaller devices. Said hero can also transform into a submarine, tank, etc. but he also runs around yelling and beating the crap out of people with his fighting style - Hariken, or Illusion Destruction Fist.
    • Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman and Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman Blade (the former needs his mobile transport robot named Pegas to transform).
      • Tekkaman Blade II features a twist: Since many people were captured and partially transformed by the Radam at the end of the first series, a large part of the world's population can transform into a "Primary Tekkaman", who are armored, but have few if any powers otherwise: effectively Henshin Civilians.
    • Their Time Bokan series feature this, with each hero using various transformation methods.
      • The Yatterman in particular have their costumes actually be their casual wear only flipped around!
    • Soul Taker, of course.
    • The Karas of Karas require the "Will of the City" to unlock their powers.
  • The "armored warriors" genre of anime. Similar in many respects to Magical Girl programs, they feature male heroes and are targeted at a shonen demographic. Examples of such programs include:
  • Star Driver plays this completely straight with Takuto/Galactic Pretty Boy Tauburn.
  • Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach may qualify as a Henshin Hero, since he only has his shinigami powers when he releases his astral body from his physical one. However, he does not use a henshin call or have a transformation sequence.
    • Bleach actually parodies the trope in one episode. When he's training to regain his powers, Urahara tells him to put on a Hachimaki and say a ridiculous catch phrase to try to unlock it. Sure enough, all Ichigo succeeds in doing is looking like a Butt Monkey. Both Urahara and the audience break down laughing.
    • Bleach also plays this perfectly straight with the many, many transformations that characters have to use to unlock new abilities. The most common of these would be the shikai and bankai of all those Shinigami, both of which unlock new forms and abilities of their weapons and in the later case usually a new outfit as well. Besides Shinigami, nos Arrancar have Resurrection, which is essentially the same thing as the Shinigami, only applied to their bodies instead of their weapons, and therefore playing this trope even straighter.
  • In Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki, Tenchi Maski got a costume change when he manifested his Light Hawk Wings.
    • He actually gets two. He gets a Juraian Battle Uniform when Tsunami unlocks his Juraian powers, and then the Light Hawk Wings trigger a special uniform that looks like a cross between the Battle Uniform and Jurai's holy robes.
  • Pretenders and Headmaster Juniors in Transformers Super God Masterforce are like this.
    • The Pretenders are actually an inversion of the typical Henshin Hero, being robots that mass-shift and wear artificial Human skins to blend in to normal society.
  • Digimon Frontier has the kids transform into Digimon, instead of having Digimon partners like the other series. Supposedly they're bonding with the spirits of legendary Digimon warriors, but until the last three or so episodes, "spirit" was just a fancier name for Transformation Trinket.
  • The Viewtiful Joe anime expanded the henshin capabilities to include a sidekick, Captain Blue Jr. As his weapon was a Yo-yo, his phrase was "Henshin a-yo-yo!"
  • Mega Man NT Warrior, in which the operators can merge with their Navis in a process called Cross Fusion. Exclusive to the anime, this did not appear in Mega Man Battle Network, the video game it was based on, although Starforce does feature a similar form of henshin.
  • In Ratman, the titular hero is one of these, turning from a short middle-schooler to a tall, lean and deadly super. It's unclear if the other heroes fall into this; at least a few have what seems to be Powered Armor instead.
  • Fancy Lala isn't a hero per se, but is basically a henshin Idol Singer.
  • Zetman

Comic Books

  • Captain Marvel, who debuted *decades* before He-Man or the Japanese heroes, making this trope at least Older Than Television.
  • The other Captain Marvel was one for awhile when he was bonded to Rick Jones.
  • Blue Beetle (The first and third.)
  • Iron Man, to an extent. Basically, it depends on the version of the suit. Sometimes it'll form itself around a bodysuit that goes beneath it. And sometimes it has a compact form like the suitcase suit, though he does have to step in or pull it around him while it's partially formed.
    • Iron Man fully qualifies with his latest suit, the "Bleeding Edge" armor, which is stored within Tony Stark's body and called out mentally at need.
  • For a brief period in The Nineties, Superman had both an Electric Superman and Clark Kent form.
  • Recently, Wonder Woman no longer has her powers when not transformed.
  • Ghost Rider counts as this given that Johnny Blaze (and other riders) had a normal human form and a Spirit of Vengeance form.
    • Somewhat amusing if you compare the most likely unintentional similarities to the Kamen Rider series. Both are badass bikers, both are usually lone heroes, both are henshin heroes, and both use the power of evil to fight for good (well, mostly the Showa Riders, in the latter case).
  • Colossus. Also, Iceman frequently ices himself up before going into battle, but he has his powers when not in this form.
  • The Human Torch, when he goes "Flame on!". Same case as Iceman.
  • The Mighty Thor and Dr. Donald Blake are a variation on this - the difference being that Thor is the original and Blake was a mortal form Odin forced upon his son as a test.

Live Action TV

Tabletop Games

  • Appropriately for something that grew out of Champions, the superheroic tabletop game, the HERO system has a Power Limitation called "Only In Heroic Identity." It's not worth many points, but it essentially means that the character has an alternate form and that the power in question only works in his superheroic form, thus opening the possibility that the character be trapped into his normal form and denied access to his superpowers.
  • Legend includes a set of abilities called "Vigilante," which allows the user to summon armor and power buffs with a shouted command (Transformation Is a Free Action for Vigilantes).

Video Games

  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link collects masks which transform him into different forms that each have different abilities.
  • Viewtiful Joe, with wonderful catchphrases to go with it: "Henshin a Go-Go, Baby!" and "Henshin Around!". It just so happens that he only actually needs to say "Henshin". The rest of the catchphrase is just for fun. His Evil Counterpart gets his own, which is the stinger to this page.
  • Red from Saga Frontier is given the power to transform into the superhero Alkaiser by another such hero, Alkarl, in order to save his life.
  • Kouta Asuma from Super Robot Wars has ability to transform into Fighter Roar, he later join by his sister Shoko Azuma as Fighter Emmy.
  • Geo and Sonia from Mega Man Star Force, though they got their powers from aliens.
  • In the Mega Man ZX series, a Mega Man is a person able to use a Biometal to transform in a process called "megamerging".
    • And since some villains also have Biometals, the series also have "Henshin Villains".
    • The original Mega Man did it once, in the Game Boy V. No invocation, he just jumps into the air and transforms from Rock to Mega Man. It doesn't help.
    • A short mini-comic also implies that his helmet can be used as his henshin device.
  • Puyo Puyo 7 has a henshin game mechanic, where the characters turn into their older or younger selves.
  • Sister Leica from Demonbane can transform into white angel Metatron. Unfortunely, this never made into anime adaption.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • The Dimensional Guardians from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes.
  • Linkara turns out to be one of these. He transforms with a classic Mighty Morphin Power Rangers morpher into his jacketed-hatted form, albeit usually just before the show begins.
    • And thanks to the Power Rangers Zeo Zeonizer he can transform into his upgraded White Zeo Ranger Form
    • Better still, he also has a gold Power Morpher with a Dragon coin in. Which lets him become the Green Ranger.
  • The Apollo Z Hack Reviwarverse Saga features the eponymous hero and his nemesis possesing R-Units (which look surprisingly like Kamen Rider Dragon Knight belts) which let them "Rev Up" to transform into Kamen Rider like super powered forms called Revuers.
  • Eric Draven, from Mall Fight. He started off as a Green Ranger, moved onto becoming Kamen Rider Black, and now transforms (actually saying "HENSHIN!") into a fusion between Kamen Rider and Ghost Rider.

Western Animation

Henshin a-bye-bye!