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One of the understated traits of Shape Shifters is their versatility, not just in having multiple forms they can assume, or people they can impersonate, but by using the stages in between. When a shapeshifter uses a Partial Transformation they can selectively shapeshift a part of their body (often an arm or limb) into their alternate form. This has a lot of potential uses: For example, a shapeshifter needing to open a safe underwater doesn't have to transform into a full fish or shark, but can instead choose just the gills (and perhaps a few fins) to breathe and maneuver underwater, while retaining their human hands to manipulate the safe itself; a vampire thrown off a building could swap out her arms for a pair of bat wings to slow her fall; and a sniper without any surveillance gear could transform his eyes into that of an owl's, cat's, or anything else with enhanced vision.
This can also be used for offense and defense, using their alternate form's natural weapons (claws or whatever) as a type of Shapeshifter Weapon while remaining in human form.
A second variant of partial transformation occurs when the character "stops" their usual Transformation Sequence "half way" between their forms. For example, a character who can transform between a human and a wolf shape (and we don't necessarily mean a werewolf) may opt to transform into a Wolf Man instead of a "full wolf", combining the advantages of both, like the sharp claws and fangs of their wolf shape while retaining the bipedal mobility of their human form. It goes without saying that these "middle" forms typically look like anthropomorphized animals.
One interesting thing about the Partial Transformation is it's usually a "high level" technique that can be mastered only by the best shapeshifters. A character who has recently acquired Voluntary Shapeshifting must first learn how to shapeshift between their "basic" forms before they have any hope of mixing and matching the elements between them; attempting to selectively invoke a Partial Transformation without sufficient experience can result in some ... messy consequences.
Phlebotinum Breakdown can also trigger this accidentally, and put the character in great danger; not only by revealing their powers to unaware Muggles, but because the broken transformation can also leave the character "stuck" between forms, possibly in a lot of pain at the same time.
Anime and Manga
- Eve from Black Cat can transform different parts of her body (usually her arms) into swords, hammers, and shields. Her hair can be turned into fists and sharp spikes. At one point, she even gave herself angel wings that she saw a picture of in a book.
- Her expy, Yami the 'Golden Darkness' in To Love Ru has the same ability.
- Naraku of Inuyasha will occassionally transform his hand into one or multiple Combat Tentacles whiler otherwise retaining his default appearance. On other occasions, he has turned into a mess of tentacles while leaving his upper body in a mostly humanoid shape.
- This happens in Naruto with Gaara.
- Sasuke also manages it with his cursed seal form, sprouting one of its wings to block an attack. The source of the cursed seal transformations comments that this means Sasuke has complete mastery over its powers (said character can also do this).
- Also fellow jinchuuriki Killer Bee can do this.
- Members of the Akimichi Clan can shrink and expand their bodies. An advanced application of this seen late into the series is the expansion and contraction of select body parts to perform what's needed with minimal energy expended.
- Another non-werecreature example is in Soul Eater, since some of the Equippable Ally characters can shift parts of themselves into weapons (this tends to be a sign that they're more powerful, with weaker ones partnering up with meisters). The most notable examples being Giriko (who tends to just manifest his chain) and Justin Law (who's never been seen to fully transform into his Guillotine form).
- In Claymore, Clare manages to Awaken only her limbs to save her Cool Big Sis-figure Miria during the battle of Pieta. She later masters this technique, partially turning into an Awakened Being at will. As a much later chapter shows, this may have something to do with her inability to Awaken completely. Riful is also fond of this.
- Mr 2 Bon Clay from One Piece is capable of it and can make arbitrary Shape Shifter Mashups.
- On a more general note, all characters with Zoan-type Devil Fruit powers can take on their animal form, original form and a hybrid of the two. Most skilled users can transform only part of their bodies into the animal form and even change the proportions of their animal's and hybrid's forms.
- Elfman and Lisanna (on the picture above) can do this in Fairy Tail with their Take Over abilities. Presumably their older sister Mirajane can do it too, but she prefers the Full Body version, which in this world is supposed to be more difficult. However, it should be noted that both Elfman and Lisanna can do the Full Body Take Over as well.
- Though the Elfman in the beginning could only do this , due to fear of lost control.
- Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist might count, it's more armor forming that actual shapeshifting, but he tends to only shift up to his elbows because he thinks he looks ugly when he covers himself entirely.
- In the film adaptation of Howls Moving Castle, sometimes Howl seems to transform partially into the bird-creature, and sometimes he's more birdlike and less human.
- Marvel Universe. Rahne Sinclair could change into a wolf or a transitional state between human and wolf.
- Dreamscape. Tommy Ray was able to become a snakeman to terrify Alex. When Alex turned the tables on him, he changed into a half-man half-snakeman form.
- In Terminator 2, the T-1000 frequently transforms its arms into metal stabby things while keeping the rest of its body human.
- John Carpenter's The Thing could change any part of its body into any living material it had previously absorbed. It loved spider legs.
- Combine this with the mechanic that "every part is a whole new animal" and you get situations where you cut one's head off, they both keep fighting, and the head grows spider legs to crawl away.
- Harvesters in The Deaths of Ian Stone apparently have precise control over how far their transformations go. Their use of this varies--the most heroic of the lot stays slightly human as a rejection of his heritage, whereas the Dark Action Girl seems to use it as a means of taunting him.
- This trope is mostly averted in the Animorphs books, because the unpredictable nature of morphing makes it impossible to guarantee a usable mashup of body parts.
- One time Rachel goes partly into her elephant morph to scare off a mugger. She succeeded in changing her face, but she also ended up bursting her shoes when her feet also changed.
- Cassie is frequently noted to have a talent for morphing, and so is usually the exception to the rule. During one of her first attemps she managed to hold her horse morph at a centaur-like stage, and another time she retained bird wings until the end of a demorph (causing her to look like an angel). Ax has mentioned that his people have an 'art' of graceful morphing. Also, her ability to morph into the second animal while demorphing from the first is basically what saves the day in one episode. The Andalite spirit that shared her mind with in said episode has to comment that her morphing talent can make her a hero if she was born an Andalite.
- Discworld werewolves can do this when it's near the full moon (although the in between forms are apparently unpleasant to look at and they have to assume full wolf form when the full moon is out). Most notably when Angua fights her brother at the end of The Fifth Elephant.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viktor Krum uses a partial transformation into a shark for the underwater task.
- In The Burning Realm, a werewolf needs to convince some pirates that she's a powerful sorceress, and does so by transforming her hands and features just enough to make herself look bestial and terrifying. She then reverses the effect (with difficulty), because if she turns all the way into a wolf, she'll be in a recognizable shape and thus less frightening.
- Daine from The Immortals can partially or fully change into any animal as part of her powers. Notably, when she's pregnant, she's forced to constantly shift the shape of her lower body, so that the fetus, which has inherited the powers, doesn't rip though it somehow.
Live Action TV
- In one episode of The Incredible Hulk Banner stopped halfway through his transformation. He had some of Banner's personality but much less knowledge, like it was hard for him to think, and he was stronger than Banner but not as strong as Hulk. He had his green eyes, but not green skin. It wasn't voluntary though.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Fear Itself", everyone celebrating Halloween inside a Haunted House is forced to live out their worst fear. Oz, a werewolf, inexplicably starts to change and gets stuck halfway between man and wolf. He ends up huddled in a bathtub, scared out of his mind and muttering a hopeless Survival Mantra that he's not going to change.
- In the first episode of Being Human series 4 George manages to trick his body into thinking it's full moon in order to rescue his daughter from vampires. He changes to somewhere between human and wolf, which greatly enhances his strength, but also allows him to remain somewhat in control. There is one drawback, though: while a complete transformation heals what it damages, a partial transformation does not. It's fatal. George dies of heart, kidney and liver failure just minutes later.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- 1st-2nd Edition
- Wererats could change into human, rat or human-sized ratman form. Judging from their illustrations werewolves and wereboars could change into half-human half-animal forms as well.
- The wolfwere (a wolf that could take human shape) and greater wolfwere could half-change, thus gaining human arms and legs but keeping their wolf head.
- In the original Oriental Adventures supplement (1985), hengeyokai shapeshifters could change into a transitional bipedal form with arms and hands and the rest of the body in animal form. While in this form the hengeyokai could speak normally and use weaposn, armor and equipment and had infravision.
- Edition 3.0 and 3.5
- All werecreatures (AKA lycanthropes) have human, animal and hybrid forms, though it's harder to enter hybrid form than animal form.
- Shapeshifters in 3.5 can also enter the warshaper Prestige Class, who can use this ability to sprout claws, enhance his strength, or shift his vital organs around.
- The Aranea was a giant spellcasting spider. It could change to either a humanoid form or a half-spider/half-humanoid shape. Oddly enough it was not a werecreature/lycanthrope.
- 1st-2nd Edition
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse. In addition to human and wolf forms the Garou could turn into Crinos (traditional wolf-man) form. With effort, they can even transform just part of their bodies (although they may lack Required Secondary Powers-- using Crinos arms to lift a heavy object might snap one's human spine).
- Vampires with the Protean discipline (which allows shapeshifting into wolf and bat forms) could learn the Partial Transformation merit, which allowed them to change one feature into that of their animal form for dice bonuses or attacks.
- One Vampire bloodline in Shadows Of Mexico the Dead Wolves, could actually shapeshift into a werewolf Crinos form thanks to an ancestral connection.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Asylum". Proto-shoggoths can change any given part of their bodies to anything else of living material (organs, skin, etc.).
- GURPS 3E sourcebook Bestiary Second Edition. Were-Creatures could have a "Beast-Man" form, an anthropomorphic blend of human and animal.
- Michael Stackpole's Shadowrun Wolf and Raven short story "If As Beast You Don't Succeed" in Ka•Ge magazine Volume 1 Issue 12. Wolfgang Kies can turn into a half-man half-wolf form.
- In Prototype, Alex Mercer's de facto form of attack is to shapeshift parts of his body into weapons, such as claws, the whipfist, hammerfists, a shield, or a BFS.
- Cornell the werewolf from Castlevania is depicted with inhumanely long fingernails in most of his human form's original artwork, besides being used in combat without fully changing, they allow him to shoot laser beams from his hands... for some reason.
- It's been established that Timmain from Elf Quest can do the wolf-man... er, wolf-elfwoman thing, both with tail and without. Mostly seen in flashbacks to her early days though. In later comics she's usually either one or the other.
- Grace from El Goonish Shive can transform to any stage between full squirrel and full human, can selectively morph away her furry antennae, as well as routinely pull off various ShapeShifterMashups with any or all of her continually growing number of forms though all of them are humanoid.
- Qwerty and his family from the webcomic One Small Step can all partially shapeshift, but rather than were-bodies, they can turn their appendages into tools.
- Sphinxes in Wapsi Square have shown the ability to take forms between full human and full sphinx. This includes revealing fangs and talons in human form, combining the size of the sphinx form with a human shape, and a few other combinations.
- In American Dragon Jake Long, Jake can transform parts of his body for when he needs to use his dragon powers on the sly.
- In one episode of Care Bears, Mr. Beastly accidentally breaks Lord No-Heart's amulet and tries to use it himself to capture the Care Bears. He discovers that the damaged amulet can only perform partial transformations, and that these transformations stack, resulting him in eventually becoming a comical Shapeshifter Mashup. He succeeds in capturing Braveheart Lion and Tenderheart Bear, but discovers he can't change back...unless he admits how much he really cares. (Tenderheart then blackmails Mr. Beastly into letting them go with a tape recording of him shouting "I care!" over and over.)