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"On at least one occasion, he leveraged a clearly preternatural ability to escape detection by disappearing completely — leaving a log in his place. Does he decide what is left behind, or is the log is an inextricable result of the process? I will see if he can leave a cheese plate instead."
If you watch anime you must have seen it at least once. A Ninja character is attacked and apparently fatally shot. But when the dust clears — surprise! Instead of a mangled body, the villains find some object. It may be a straw dummy, a heavy vase picked up from an adjacent room or even the ninja's empty clothes; in less serious settings the object will turn out to be a large wooden log. Since no ninja is ever seen carrying one, the question of where exactly they come from is a common source of jokes among anime fandom.
The trope comes from ninja legends and has probably originated from ninja using various objects to check the area for ambushes, pretty similar to how some western characters use a helmet on a stick to trick enemy snipers. A less pleasant version of the trope involves disguising a captured mook to look roughly like the hero and pushing him into the room where ambush is expected.
Anime & Manga
- Ninja Scroll The Series: In one of the episodes an experienced ninja uses a stray cat in this manner. In another, the geezer Dakuon uses a log that happens to be stuffed full of lit dynamite.
- Bleach: Both Yoruichi and Byakuya use this trick on occasion, leaving behind their jackets. Note that the former is a ninja, and the later happens to be gifted at using Flash Steps. He even laments the fact that he had to use something she taught him when he uses it.
- Naruto is one of the more well-known examples. It overuses the "substitution jutsu" left and right, often showing a character's death in slow-mo, when it's painfully obvious they aren't going to die so easily. This could be justified since most of the main characters live in what translates to "The Village Hidden In The Leaves". Trees are everywhere. Most ninja travel faster leaping through trees than they do running. Although rare, characters are occasionally seen using other things as well, like mud, shadow clones, and on one occasion, a giant plush frog.
- Played with a couple episodes in, when Naruto makes a bunch of Shadow Clones to fight Kakashi, and when one is about to attack him Kakashi substitutes one of the other clones for himself.
- Played with again later, where Sakura runs into this fight using only the "Log Substitution" technique (and making it painfully obvious via hand signs that she's using it). After three or four times getting attacked and swapping herself for a log, she doesn't use the technique, but still does the hand signs for it, taking two kunai to the arms in the process. Her opponent, assuming she's swapped again, turns away, and doesn't realize she didn't swap out until he has a kunai in one arm and Sakura's teeth in the other.
- Berserk of all places, even though ninja haven't shown up, Guts uses this tactic despite being one of the tallest human characters. At one point actually attaching his armor to a log and throwing it at Wyald. Wyald of course falls for it, since immediately before this he's distracted by what he believes to be Guts hiding behind a tree, it's really just a body Guts hung up there for that reason.
- Trafalgar Law in One Piece has this as one of the many uses of his switching power.
- Recca from Flame of Recca is a ninja, and so, of course, masters the Substitution Jutsu. He usually uses a doll that looks like himself, or just his uniform, for it, and a surprising number of powerful foes falls for it — probably because they focus so much on his spectacular ability to conjure fire, that they forget his Ninja Training.
- Actually spoofed in the very first volume of the manga. When saving Yanagi from several punks, Recca immediately spreads a sheet that looks like a tree log to look like he vanished and replaced with log. It doesn't work, obviously.
- An odd use of it occurred in Busou Renkin — Papillon uses this to distract and evade Tokiko when he steals a Renkin from a foe she just killed. He uses his own uniform for this, leaving him in just speedos, but since when has that bothered him?
- Edward and Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist frequently create decoy versions of themselves, usually complete with stuck-out tongues to taunt their enemies after tricking them. The decoys are usually created with alchemical transmutation of dirt, walls, or other bits of the surrounding environment. Sometimes Ed even adds his trademark red jacket.
- In the hentai series La Blue Girl, Miko uses this trick by replacing herself with random rubble. It's one of her few jutsus that aren't totally perverted.
- Used in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, of all places, when Crow attempts to tie up Jaeger, who he mistakes for a Dark Signer. A second later, the rope is tied around a pile of steel poles that weren't there before.
- Ataru Moroboshi from Urusei Yatsura uses these all the time, mostly to evade Mendô. He's also fond of exclaiming "Ninja vanish!" and zipping all over the place with unprecedented speed and agility.
- Corvo from Monster Collection manga, being the setting's equivalent to ninja, does it with a chair and some of his clothes.
- Used recursively in the anime of Samurai Deeper Kyo. One ninja stabs another in the back, only to have him turn into a log. The ninja who was stabbed then ambushes the first ninja, only to have him turn into a pile of dry leaves. This goes on for a while.
- G-On Riders: Yuuki does this once in a later episode. Since it's a slightly Ecchi series, she leaves her clothes behind.
- Ranma ½: Used repeatedly by Ranma, though usually not with a log (but he did use a log at least once).
- Used, oddly enough, in Rurouni Kenshin by Han'nya after grabbing his fellow ninja Beshimi. Since the story doesn't have any mystical elements, he had to have carried the giant log through the air just so he could replace it with Beshimi.
- In an episode of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the resident German Ninja, Schwarz Bruder is pitted in a fight against Viking Gundam. Just when everyone thinks Schwarz's gundam had been pierced by a volley of oars, a double take reveals that the boat Viking Gundam had been riding in not a second before was in Schwarz's place instead.
- Slight variance of this trope in Asu no Yoichi. Tsubasa uses teddy bears instead of a log, but otherwise plays this trope straight. The lady she uses this on, Angela, is always surprised when this happens.
- Lupin the Third has done this, normally leaving behind a dummy dressed in his clothes and with a goofy expression on its face. The entire gang pulls this off in the television intro to the second series, leaving Zenigata in a car filled with dummies (which promptly crashes).
- In episode 118 of Fairy Tail, Lisanna tries to attack Kain Hikaru. Kain quickly uses a property of his Voodoo Doll to teleport away and teleport Elfman in his place, leaving Elfman to take the hit instead.
- Yamato of Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has one he puts in his bed on occasion. It shows up the first time in episode 2.
Comic — Books
- The Punisher: Frank Castle favours the least pleasant version, often spray-painting his trademark skull on the chest of the unfortunate mook.
- The Joker does this during Batman No Mans Land to get rid of a rogue group of survivalist ex-cops. Send out prisoners painted to look like him and the admittedly-crazy leader shot them all.
- In V for Vendetta, V pulls this trick at one point, dressing one of a television station's employees up as himself, and leaving him to be shot while making his escape.
- Used at least once by the Neko Ninja Chizu in Usagi Yojimbo.
- In the Marvel vs DC crossover event, Robin (Tim Drake) uses this method to defeat Jubilee, showing his experience and skills over her raw mutant power.
- In Naruto Abridged, the log is an actual character, serving as Sasuke's nemesis.
- The Naruto fanfic Yet again, with a little extra help makes a Running Gag out of this trope by having Leaf ninjas hold cult-like reverence for the Log, who sacrifices itself on their behalf. Other ninjas think they're all crazy. The Log may actually be controlling them ever since Hashirama's time.
- Ki Tamaida of Dark Heart High uses this a few times. Most frequently, to avoid getting in trouble for cutting class to meet someone.
- One of the funnier moments from the Dream Tournament fanfic series involved this. In a crossover between different fighting games, Andy Bogard unleashes his best move against one of the Samurai Shodown ninjas, with this as the unfortunate result. "I Choretsudan'ed a LOG?"
Films — Live-Action
- The film adaptation of V for Vendetta has V dressing up a large number of employees at Evey's television station in copies of his costume. Thus, when the police burst into the room where he was broadcasting, they find a crowd of apparent Vs.
- The film adaptation of Ninja Hattori Kun, a more plausible trick is used on two occasions, with a character leaving their clothes behind as a decoy.
- In the 2005 Sy Fy b-movie Alien Siege, the hero puts his jacket on a dead mook and props him up. The villain falls for this, allowing a sneak attack.
- Saigo in Eric Lustbader's novel The Ninja uses this trick.
- In the Discworld series, commander Vimes uses the "helmet on a stick" variant, with a twist, since he realises that the assassin taking potshots at him would be fully aware that he might be using it. Specifically, he uses a long stick to hold his helmet up above a parapet about three metres across from where he is. His assailant proceeds to shoot under the helmet, where he would be if he was holding it up on a normal stick.
- In On a Pale Horse, Zane uses his cloak to distract a giant preying mantis so that he can jump it.
- Power Rangers Ninja Storm: They leave their uniforms behind. These are probably spares as they are never left naked.
- The Ninja Sentai Kakuranger did this eight years earlier, but it (mostly) didn't show up in Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers adaptation because Saban dropped the ninja element. The regular Earth rangers did do it fairly often in their Ninja Ranger forms, though.
- Both versions pop up in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger when the team uses the Kakuranger and Hurricanger powers. In the Kakuranger tribute, Ninjaman pulls the trick twice against the Monster of the Week, once on foot and once when enlarged (though he uses a straw dummy instead of a log).
- Lee Van Cleef from failed 80's series The Master (a.k.a. Master Ninja) does this in one episode, putting his ninja headwear over a doodad attached to an electrical transformer during a fight. Because it happens at night, his opponent doesn't notice, and nijitsus his way to electrocution.
- Mutants and Masterminds: The "Mecha and Manga" supplement offers the Substitution power to allow anime-based superheros to perform this trick.
- In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, one Warlock invocation, fittingly named "Flee the Scene", is a short-range teleport that leaves a major image illusion of the caster in their place.
- Samurai Shodown: Hattori Hanzo and Galford use the classic log to avoid the enemy attack and counter from unexpected directions. Also Kazuki can avoid an attack by explosive teleport, leaving his burning pants behind.
- Last Blade: Zantetsu uses the log version.
- Bloody Roar: Bakuryu the weremole ninja uses the log version.
- Kohryu the Iron Mole in later games also plays with this version of the trope, using a steel construction girder instead of a log to fit his metal theme
- In Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World, Sheena uses this to keep Richter from killing Marta. It remains convincing for a surprisingly long time.
- In Tales of Phantasia, one of the kinds of monsters are ninjas who are rather fond of doing that, making them quite a pain to hurt with a sword.
- The Ninjates from Castle Crashers uses this too — while fighting them, they will sometimes vanish in a puff of smoke, leaving behind a log wearing their pirate-gear, and then appear with a flying kick behind you. It's quite dangerous, actually.
- In Beat Blades Haruka, if Narika has to abort an infiltration attempt, she teleports out and leaves a log behind. Neither Haruka nor Subaru do this, however.
- The Ninjis in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam will disappear and summon an log in their place if you keep attacking them with the same basic attack.
- Shadow Man can do this in Mega Man: The Power Fighters. In the Mega Man Battle Network series, one of the battlechips makes a puff of smoke, an injured dummy falls to the ground, and MegaMan.exe jumps in the air and throws ninja stars at the opponent. From the third game of the series onward, MegaMan could use a Navi Customizer Program to perform this trick at any time. Like his robotic counterpart, ShadowMan.exe can also use this ability, and MegaMan can copy the trick while using ShadowMan's DoubleSoul.
- The opening of Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes has Sasuke using this technique to diguise a rock as his master Shingen, which gets attacked by rival ninja Kasuga and her clones.
- Yukimaru of Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories has variation on this where she replaces herself with a Snowman before appearing on the square behind her opponent and attack with her weapon. Justified due to her clan being the "Snow Clan" and coming from an icy area. The move is also ice element despite the snowman not touching the opponent. The generic Ninjas play this trope straight.
- Pokémon has the move Substitute, which replaces the user with a doll when the enemy 'mon attacks. The anime and manga interpretations of this move have been inconsistent, but it has occasionally been used in the style of Ninja Log.
- Halo: Reach has the hologram armor ability, designed to invoke this trope.
- Specifically, the hologram looks exactly like the player, right down to the weapon they're holding, and it possesses a motion tracker signature. Upon activation, the hologram runs in a straight line towards a spot directed by the player. Even with both the player and the hologram visible, the distraction can provide just enough time for a killing shot.
- In the Tenchu series, fittingly enough, such logs are used as One Up items. When the player character is "killed" their body is replaced by one of these and they respawn nearby. Doesn't work with Bottomless Pits though.
- In World of Warcraft, the (Night Elf) Talrendis Scouts in Azshara have Forest Step, which is exactly this.
- One level of Ape Escape features ninja enemies that turn into these upon being defeated.
- Used in a strange way in Trio the Punch: each time Kamakura the ninja (one of the player characters) takes a hit, he briefly turns into a log, but this is only a visual effect that doesn't actually prevent the damage from the hit. (Unless maybe it's supposed to be a visual representation of Mercy Invincibility?)
- At least once in the Kirby series Ninja Kirby has been able to swap himself with a log. Though normally he opts to swap out and dissapear with an explosion.
- The ninja Benikage from Rumble Roses does this. Several of her counters and special moves involve her disappearing in a puff of smoke and leaving behind a wooden log that falls on the opponent's head or rolls under their feet. Since there is really nowhere for her to hide it makes it look like she is actually transforming into a log and back again rather than substituting it somehow.
- Penny Arcade parodies this by having Gabe switch himself with a log to escape awkward social encounters.
- Order of the Stick
- Belkar pulls this out it first, during his fight with Miko Miyazaki.
- Haley does it in this strip , prompting the response "Damn it! I was hoping to kill her and here she had to go and turn herself into a dummy made of flour sacks!"
- Blackwing, V's raven familiar, also performs this by sacrificing a feather.
- In A Modest Destiny, the "Escape Dummy", as he calls it, is Maxim's trademark trick.
- Violetta from Girl Genius specializes in misdirection and sleight of hand. If that doesn't sound that impressive, well, think again. She also swapped the opponents' weapons — twice, for a dead plant and a broom. Which looked even more embarrassing to the victims.
- In the series opening arc for Disney's Gargoyles, Elisa Maza uses her jacket on a branch to bait an enemy stalking her; this is a form of an actual ninja tactic.
- Rocky and Bullwinkle: Boris Badenov regularly carries around a cardboard cutout of himself, just in case the moon men wanted to schrooch him. The heroes don't attack it, though, and actually stand guard the twelve hours it takes to unfreeze somebody once scrooched, not wanting him to get away.
- Zuko does this in one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. A Dai Li agent is out on his evening patrol, when suddenly Zuko runs past him, shoving him out of the way before disappearing down an alley. The agent follows him, and turns the corner to see him just... standing there. Confident that his opponent is too terrified of him to put up a fight, he hurls his gloves (made of stone) at the figure, and it falls to the ground. Then the real Zuko puts a blade to his throat.
- Batman: The Animated Series
- A panther lunges at Batman, and somehow it gets tangled in an empty cape.
- In Mask Of The Phantasm, the police open fire on Batman, only it's just his cape draped over a road barricade.
- Used rather ridiculously in Mortal Kombat Defenders of the Realm. Jax, without his cyborg arms, is hiding from Reptile. Reptile sees him crouched nearby and spits acid at him, only to find out it was a pile of rocks Jax set up. A pile of rocks exactly the same size, shape, and color as him. Right down to his purple pants.
- In Static Shock, Static uses an electrified pile of money to distract Rubber Band Man, and actually explains the tactic! "Kawarimi- ancient ninja art of misdirection. All you need is a get up some idiot can mistake you for, and some idiot."
- This was actually taken from the second issue of the Static comic book, in which Static fashions a decoy of himself out of some debris, his coat, and trash can lid hoverboard. He uses this to bait a villain named Tarmac, and the dialogue is almost word-for-word.
- Phineas and Ferb's Dr. Doofenshmirtz catches Perry The Platypus in a trap, rants for a bit and is then attacked by Perry. He looks over at the trap, where there's a wooden decoy of Perry, and complains that this makes no sense.