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"They made you human. But you are not like them. You are mine, Shauni... and I am going to kill the human part of you!"
"some hellish macguffin has turned you into an undead killing machine and I was created to stop you."
—Peacock to Marie Skullgirls
The plot where the object that everyone is looking for turns out to have been transformed into a girl (with the occasional variation of being a Robot Girl). It's usually (but not always) a girl, and is usually associated with several of the following tropes or plot elements:
- The girl (again, it usually is a girl) initially has no memory or knowledge of what she really is.
- This leads to the Tomato in the Mirror trope.
- The hero gets to know her as a person first before discovering what she really is.
- There is conflict among the good guys over whether to keep the girl or return her to her natural state as a MacGuffin. Some see it as killing her; others don't.
- Alternately, the good guys all agree to keep her human, but the decision is out of their hands; so they angst over the girl not being able to keep her brief life.
- The story ends with either a self sacrifice (if the object is vitally important) or with the girl staying a girl (if the object only needs to be used once or is only wanted by the villains).
Compare Spaceship Girl, which could lead to similar stories, but in practice almost never does, and Barrier Maiden / Apocalypse Maiden who is often just as objectified while being wholly human. Likewise, characters who are being sought after merely because they are a lost princess, or an escaped lab experiment, etc., are generally not treated this way, but as The President's Daughter. Though the princess may be, if her Royal Blood has magical properties.
See Save This Person Save the World for when the character isn't anything particuarly special, you just have to ensure that they don't die. A Living MacGuffin is someone not in danger, but still desirable — like the beautiful princess you want to impress and marry. See also Phlebotinum Girl.
Please do not include characters who are titled like objects (light, key, hope, etc.) but are not objects.
Listing examples for this trope is inherently full of spoilers. Be warned.
Anime & Manga
- In Sailor Moon (first anime only), Chibi-Chibi is Galaxia's star seed. Oddly, this uses almost none of the usual MacGuffin Girl plot.
- In the manga, she's an extra shrunk down version of Sailor Moon from the far future (we're talking farther than Crystal Tokyo, here.)
- Senna in the first Bleach anime movie is the "Memory Rosary".
- And Nozomi Kujo, who is the first Mod Soul ever.
- Let us not forget Rukia, who had the Hougyoko embedded in her by Aizen, which basically no one knew about.
- Orihime. Aizen desires her for ability to reverse time and restore the Hougyoko. No, he was lying. Orihime is a Barrier Maiden due to her powers, but does NOT double as MGG.
- And Nozomi Kujo, who is the first Mod Soul ever.
- Kisara of Yu-Gi-Oh!! fame is one of these, as her soul becomes manifested as the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragon when she's unconscious (can do it intentionally in the anime).
- The girl being protected by the Knight Sabers in the first Bubblegum Crisis OAV turns out to be a satellite control system. Slightly different because the show is sci-fi, so the device was built as a Robot Girl for no obvious reason, rather than transformed into a girl.
- The girl in Wolf's Rain, Cheza, is actually a flower from the moon. The wolves already knew or were told what she was from her scent.
- Meifon Li, the main character of Angel Links, turns out to be an android superweapon.
- Melfina, the Robot Girl of Outlaw Star (from which Angel Links is a Spin-Off). Differs from the usual plot as her purpose — a navigation system for the title ship — is known from early on, and she's still sought by the bad guys. What's not revealed until later is why they built such a device as a girl in the first place; their in-story reason actually makes sense in light of the Magitek at work in the series.
- In the World of Warcraft-based Sunwell Trilogy manga, Anveena is the Sunwell, made into human form. She also falls in love with Kalecgos, a shapeshifted blue dragon. See the video game entry below for more details.
- Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart has the odd case of MacGuffin Girl Hikari's true form being another girl — specifically, she's one of the pieces of the super-powerful (and super-huge) Queen. Eventually, she goes the Heroic Sacrifice route... then abruptly turns up just fine at the end, with no idea why everything worked out this way.
- Done again in Fresh Pretty Cure — in episode 34, Chiffon turns out to be Infinity.
- Reverie Metherlence in Elemental Gelade is the MacGuffin Girl sought after by many as the key to something. Unfortunately, the show was so derivative nobody can remember what it was all about.
- In the manga, she was an Eden/Edil Raid from a particularly powerful line, making her a valuable weapon.
- Noein has Haruka, who manages to be this and the main character, despite this normally being impossible. Haruka is the Dragon Torque, a kind of god-like quantum manipulation program/artifact that can be used to alter reality, and which is thus essential to both Shangri-La's plan of Instrumentality and to La'Cryma's plan to render themselves impervious to Shangri-La's attacks. In fact, from La'Cryma's point of view, Haruka's whole world is simply data in a computer, an elaborate construct of programming, and thusly they have no problem with seeking to "reconfigure" Haruka into something they can use in their own quantum manipulating computers, even though this will, from Haruka's point of view, kill her. Ultimately, she manages to use her nature as the Dragon Torque to manipulate reality so as to defeat Noein and then remove the power from herself, rendering the Dragon Torque back into a theoretical concept and herself into an ordinary human girl.
- The second season of Darker Than Black uses this quite a bit. "Izanami" and "Izanagi" (Yin and Shion) are somehow centrally related to the Gate, and several different groups wind up trying to find them for their own reasons. However, thanks to a Gainax Ending of Neon Genesis Evangelion-like proportions, exactly what this means isn't clear even after the Grand Finale.
- Eve from Black Cat is an escaped lab experiment in the manga but gets upgraded to MacGuffin Girl in the anime.
- Al-Azif is the grimoire in Demonbane. Doesn't follow most of the standard plotlines, though I've only seen a little of the series.
- In Serial Experiments Lain, the titular character Lain is the container for Protocol 7, which is sought after by several competing groups.
- In Kyo Kara Maoh!, the keys to opening the Sealed Evil in a Can are Conrad's right arm, Gwendal's left eye, Wolfram's heart, and Yuuri's soul. With the exception of the last, using them as keys stops them working (which is a big problem for Wolfram).
- In To Aru Majutsu no Index, Kazakiri Hyouka is an Artificial Angel in Academy City, formed from the AIM fields of several thousands of psychics residing in the city. She is fundamental in Aleister Crowley's plan to artificially replicate Heaven by using her FUZE=Kazakiri form and the MISAKA Network worldwide.
- Perhaps even more appropriate is Index herself. She allegedly have every book and tome of spells inside her head, something that many people would love to get their hands on. They tell her that she herself cannot use these spells but that is a lie, they just didn't want a mage who has access to every spell in existence as a potential enemy. Given that the title of the series is named after her, this plot point is bound to be even more important later on.
- Tima, the Robot Girl from Metropolis meets almost every one of the requirements at some point in the plot.
- Lala-Ru from Now and Then, Here and There, the only one who can unlock a pendant's powers to bring back water to the world. She's very aware of how much it sucks to be one, and it's made her quite bitter.
Films — Live-Action
- Aversion: Leeloo in The Fifth Element may sound a bit like this since we associate elements with objects, but she's never called an object or shown as one (and is in fact the perfect being). There's no confusion or angst over not being human or having to end her existence, and while she does need to be used in a ritual, it is, shall we say, nondamaging.
- Men in Black 2 has a similar aversion. Laura Vasquez is "the Light of Zartha", which sounds like an object, but there's no sign that she actually is one. It was probably just figurative. She does seem to be the heir.
- The female lead in Stardust, Yvaine, is actually a star in human form, sought by several people for various reasons. If she crosses the border between the magical world and the mundane world, she will turn into stardust and die.
- The protagonist's love interest in Dragon Wars is actually the key to helping the good dragon attain his full powers. She sacrifices herself to give him his powers and let him beat the evil dragon. And no, she doesn't get better. Either a downer ending or a bittersweet one, YMMV.
- Yvaine from Stardust is the fallen star that the potential heirs to the throne, the witch trio, and the protagonist all need to retrieve. Of course, we know she's a star right from her introduction, and so does everybody else. The hero was a little slow on the uptake.
- A variation occurs in Terry Brooks' novel The Elfstones of Shannara, where everyone knows that The Chosen One, Amberle, is the MacGuffin, but they (and specifically the protagonist) don't know that she will turn into the Ellcrys tree, satisfying the rest of the trope along the way.
- This is reused in The Druid of Shannara with Quickening, who is a Magical Girlfriend to boot. Although she knows that she'll be killed by the assassin Pe Ell and her death will cause a release of positive, happy energies in the surrounding lands, it comes as a bit of a shock to everyone else, including Pe Ell, who seems to be broken by the fact that he killed someone who wanted it.
- Taking this trope to weird extremes, the female dog Waif in House of Many Ways is actually the Elfgift, the magical protection given by the elves to the Royal Family.
- In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, the eponymous unicorn is transformed into a human female early in the book. This creates some romance/angst/Heroic Sacrifice for one of the protagonists.
- In Small Favor, Dresden realizes at the last minute that Ivy (the Archive) is one of these for the Denarians.
- An unsual twist on the trope appears in Meredith Ann Pierce's Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood—the MacGuffin (a living cutting, taken by the antagonist, from the Wise Tree who turns out to be the Big Good of the story) is Hannah, the protagonist. In this case, being functionally near-human is unexpected, irreversible, and works in her favor.
- Inverted in the Xanth novel A Crewel Lye, which featured a hunt for Millie the Ghost's body, or more accurately, the object into which it had been transformed.
- Played straight in Archon by Sabrina Benulis, where Sophia is eventually revealed to be the Book of Raziel, the keystone to triggering the apocalypse. In a slight deviation, in this case, the girl in question is fully aware of her MacGuffin Girl status, even if she isn't completely thrilled about it.
- Buffy Summers's "younger sister" Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who is actually the transformed Key.
- Princess Astra in the Doctor Who story "The Armageddon Factor" is the sixth segment of the Key to Time. The similarity was widely commented on when the Buffy episode came out. "The Doctor's Wife," in series 6 of the new series, turns The Tardis into the macguffin girl. The episode follows the trope's usual pattern to a tee, with the only divergence being that she knows who she is from the start; she just doesn't explain it right away.
- Batman TV series: A meta example, this blog explains that the first few episodes (like "Fine Feathered Finks/The Penguin's a Jinx") were lifted directly from the comics. Those episode’s story was taken from a February 1965 Penguin comic. The only marked difference was that Penguin attempts to steal the giant jeweled meteorite that is only mentioned in the show. Dawn Robbins does not appear in the comic story. It was easier and cheaper to kidnap the girl than create a meteorite for television, so the writers introduced Dawn Robbins.
- Luvbi in Super Paper Mario is a Pure Heart who has been transformed into a Nimbi princess.
- In Beyond Good and Evil, it is eventually revealed that the protagonist Jade is a living vessel for the Life Energy of the evil alien race, which their leader has been chasing across the galaxy for centuries. It Makes Sense in Context.
- No, it really doesn't. But hopefully that will be explained in the sequel!
- Linear Cannon (yes, that's her name) from the Evolution Series/Evolution Worlds is a Robot Girl who is Really Seven Hundred Years Old, and she's the superweapon that everyone is after, Evolutia, the ultimate Cyframe. As it turns out, she can become something of the trueform of the item at her own will. And she does so to resurrect Mag Launcher, after he's killed by the first Big Bad, Eugene Leopold.
- There's another Evolutia, and he's a guy called Yurka, who happens to be the Big Bad of the second game/second half of the composite game on the GameCube. His whole point is to turn himself and her into the true form of the superweapon, the Ulticannon. His plan is foiled when Linear's sheer love for the hero causes her to escape the body of the Ulticannon just in time, leaving you to deal with Yurka's Painful Transformation and That One Boss.
- Mega Man Battle Network has its own MacGuffin Girl in the sixth game, where it turns out that Iris is really a Navi, whose special ability is controlling electronics. She's hunted by WWW so that she can control the Cybeasts.
- Anveena from World of Warcraft is the Sunwell in human form, a font of magical power strong enough to sustain the elven people's magic addiction. She falls in love with Kalecgos in the Sunwell Trilogy manga (see above), but in the Glory of the Sunwell content patch, she sacrifices herself to weaken Kil'jaeden enough for him to be banished from the Sunwell. However, his defeat allows the Sunwell to be restored.
- In Blaz Blue we have Dimensional Boundary Contact Medium number 12 (μ-12 for short). You may know her better as Noel Vermillion. She spends many of her endings struggling and failing to retain her human memories and personality, before finally succeeding in the true ending. Then the sequel happened...wherein she's turned all the way into a Murakumo unit brainwashed by Hazama and is saved by Ragna sacrificing his arm (he's then saved by her "sister" unit Lambda-11, who replaces it. The other Murakumo units probably count too.
- Played with to a great extent in the Interactive Fiction game Wishbringer: The title stone turns out to be the cat you're supposed to rescue, Chaos. Besides not being human, the "girl" is already in MacGuffin form and you have to make the choice to restore her to life. Also somewhat inverted, as according to the backstory, the wishbringer stone is the heart of princess, turned to stone from being denied love.
- Sophie in Tales of Graces is an Energy Being and the only one who can completely destroy the Big Bad, though she would be destroyed as well. Naturally, the Evil Genius only sees her as a means to get rid of the Big Bad, but the heroes see her as a human being.
- Pandora in God of War 3.
- Cortana, the AI hologram-woman in Halo. Master Chief has to protect her because of all the information she has, though she functions more like a partner than a plot device. She's mostly like Mission Control, except that she happens to live in his head.
- In Halo 3, her MacGuffin Girl role is expanded upon, as she is kidnapped by the Gravemind
- Girl Stinky in Sam And Max Beyond Time and Space is revealed in the final episode to actually be the Cake of the Damned.
- All the sisters from Turgor are this. Especially after Aya reveals that they are not souls of people, they are souls of an era of mankind, and who you choose to ascend will directly affect the entirety of the surface world.
- Bottle Women in Order of Tales (for, although only one appears in the comic, there have been several before her) fit the trope right from the start. They're made, not born, and the one featured in the story is the Last of Her Kind because her creator, who is now dead, was the last person alive who knew the secret of making them; the story kicks off with the need to keep the Big Bad from getting his hands on her. It's because the thing that gives him his power is an unbreakable sword, and the liquid inside the Bottle Woman that gives her life is the only substance that can break it; if he has her, she can't be used against him.
- Batman: The Animated Series has Annie, an amnesiac whom Robin falls for. It's revealed that she is merely a portion of Clayface, who later "murders" her by re-absorbing her.
- Code Lyoko has probably the best example of this, as the Ridiculously Human A.I. Aelita is a MacGuffin to the bad guy, and a girl to the good guys. Of course, she's not really an A.I. Which, in the end, makes it an Inverted Trope: Aelita was a real girl transformed into a MacGuffin by her first virtualization.
- Raven of the Teen Titans TV series is later shown to be the living embodiment of a dimensional gateway called the "Gem" through which her father, the evil Trigan, can pass through to escape imprisonment and resume his plan to take over all of the known universe. Once learning this, the other Titans go to great lengths to protect her and prevent this from happening, but Raven herself ultimately performs the ritual to become the portal, thinking her friends would all die because of her otherwise. Naturally, she got better.
- In the animated Disney film Tangled, Mother Gothel kidnapped baby Rapunzel because Rapunzel's mother (the Queen) drank a potion made from a magic flower while she was still pregnant; the flower was formerly the only thing keeping Mother Gothel alive--now Rapunzel's hair is.
- In the pilot episode of Rainbow Brite Wisp is looking for the sphere of light. Turns out it's the baby.
Anime & Manga
- Digimon Tamers features the male Calumon, the embodiment of digivolution hidden in the form of a Digimon to hide it from the program-turned-Eldritch Abomination that is the embodiment of the Reset Button.
- Ayashi no Ceres, of course. Aya's boyfriend Tooya is the mana in human form. (A good thing, too, or the full clip of bullets Aki (or better said, Shiso) shot into his head might have killed him.
- Clear from Final Fantasy Unlimited turned out to be the heart of the monster Omega.
- Yuji Sakai from Shakugan no Shana.
- Kaworu Nagisa in Neon Genesis Evangelion. He is essentially required to unite humanity in the way SEELE wants. Out of love for Shinji, he chooses not to.
- The comic book version of W.I.T.C.H. features Caleb, the hero who is actually a Murmurer/Whisperer made human. The Big Bad punishes him by reverting him to a flower. Series Caleb is human, though.
- The Marvelous Land of Oz has a truly weird example: the MacGuffin, Ozma, was a girl to begin with, and she was transformed into the boy Tip.
- Strangely, in Power Rangers, this person is Always Male. We've had three Humongous Mecha boys and one embodiment-of-nature boy. Longevity varied — oddly for a Never Say "Die" show.
- Super Robot Wars twisted this entire issue on its head in Original Generation 2 with Helios Olympus also known as Gilliam Yeager. The Shadow Mirrors need Helios to serve as the core for their transporter device, but never succeed in capturing him nor coming close. Even when he attacks their base of operations with only Sanger and Ratsel backing him up.
- Saying "only Sanger and Ratsel" is like saying "only a nuclear bomb".
- Ventus from Kingdom Hearts is literally a Mac Guffin Guy. He and Vanitas are two halves of the same person that, when put back together, form the deadly X-Blade that the villain of the game has been looking for. Naturally, the villain knew who Ven was, and had plotted all this from the start.
- In Red vs. Blue, both Alpha and Epsilon, the two AI incarnates of Private Church, are being pursued by people for various reasons. Wash wants Epsilon's memories as proof of the Director's treachery. The Meta wants Alpha to amplify his powers, but after being Brought Down to Normal, he wants Epsilon just to restore them. Carolina apparently needs Alpha's help to kill the Director, but she finds Epsilon instead, mistaking him for the true Alpha.
- In book 10 of the Avalon Web of Magic children's book series, the true form of shapeshifting creature Indi is a power crystal known as the Heart of Avalon.
- In Hexwood by Dyan Wynne Jones the much sought after Bannus turns out to be the robot Yam
- Toa Ignika from Bionicle.