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If a character has long hair tied in a ponytail there is a chance that the hair will become undone during a fight or action scene. The probability of this to happen increases with the intensity of the situation and the challenge the opponent poses. Of course, this isn't restricted to ponytails alone. Braids, twintails, hair loopies, and other hairstyles just begging to get undone while in the heat of battle also count.
It serves to give the character an instantly rougher, more primal and Badass look that can underscore the seriousness or desperation of the situation. On the other hand, unbound hair can also create a vulnerable look. In classical Japanese paintings defeated Samurai were often shown with messy or disheveled hair, so naturally many Anime characters end up looking like this when things are getting rough. Sometimes it is used to make a character that much hotter while fighting, especially in combination with Clothing Damage.
Compare Close-Call Haircut. When the character undoes the hair willingly on camera see Shaking Her Hair Loose. If the ponytail gets severed completely, it easily becomes a Traumatic Haircut and possibly an Important Haircut.
Anime and Manga
- Happened to Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha during her final battle with Zest. This may have been a Mythology Gag to Miyuki's Close-Call Haircut during the Triangle Heart 3 ～sweet songs forever～ OVA.
- Samurai Champloo with Jin in one of the obviously female-aimed Fan Service moments.
- Such as Jin being onscreen?
- Tomoe's ponytail loosens in Rurouni Kenshin right before her Heroic Sacrifice by throwing herself between Kenshin and his enemy.
- Likewise, this happens to Kenshin himself in his first battle with Saito, though in this case it's played as unsettling rather than hot as Kenshin's Battousai mode is coming out simultaneously.
- Also happened to Kenshin in the second prototype story. The girl he rescued tied his hair up with her ribbon afterward, and he apparently had no clue that ribbons were for women, thereby making it an opportunity for 'Kenshin is hot and scary' followed by 'Kenshin is adorable and clueless.'
- Also happens to Yumi during the Kenshin/Shishio fight in the anime. When Shishio runs through her with his sword, her headgear breaks and her hair is loose as she falls into Shishio's embrace.
- Happens to Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki in Bleach. Also to Kenpachi, though Your Mileage May Vary on whether it makes him more attractive.
- Is part of the transformation of D'eon into his sister Lia, when he needs to fight in Le Chevalier d'Eon.
- When Ranma's pigtail comes undone, his hair won't stop growing — fast. Yet another curse for the boy, this time because he ate a bowl of ramen with dragon's whisker on it; his ponytail holder is another dragon's whisker, which can stop the curse. Oh, and his hair doesn't grow when he's a girl. But once the men of the series know about it, they all want the dragon's whisker to solve their own problems with baldness - all of them, including his dad. Despite what common Fanon will tell you the hair growing ended in the same issue where it was introduced. Untying the ponytail does absolutely nothing now, and he just keeps it for the sake of Limited Wardrobe.
- From Beyblade: You know Rei is about to get seriously injured when an errant Beyblade severs his headband, releasing his long hair. Happens thrice throughout the series.
- Inverted in Azumanga Daioh. When Sakaki gets upset during the third sports fest, she responds by removing a headband, letting her hair flow a little more freely than it had before, but then ties it back for the only time in the series.
- Variation: Souichi's ponytail always comes loose or undone by Morinaga during foreplay in The Tyrant Falls in Love. Since he's normally domineering and bad-tempered, this is designed to make him look more feminine and consequently more ukeish and controllable when Morinaga gets to dominate him in bed.
- Done in virtually every fight scene involving Kumiko in the 3 seasons of the J-drama version of Gokusen. Oddly enough, this transformation also involves losing her geeky glasses, possibly showing her to be Beautiful All Along.
- This happens to Fakir in Princess Tutu during the first season finale.
- D.Gray-man does this to Kanda in a grand showdown.
- Played with and subverted in Mahou Sensei Negima. Setsuna and Kaede's hair fell rather undramatically only because Chao used a time stop with her Cassiopeia to take their hairbands from them within a single instant. This wasn't for a show in badass-edness or to show that they'll win the fight. This was used to show how utterly screwed they are. Played straighter with her final battle against Negi at the end of the School Festival when her hair buns loosened. Tsukuyomi also has a way of loosening her elaborate hair-styles during combat (why anyone would wear extravagant, victorian-stylized clothes to sword fights... who knows).
- Happens frequently to Abel Nightroad in Trinity Blood, though somewhat subverted. When his usually neatly tied up ponytail comes undone, you've just succeeded in really ticking him off. When he deliberately takes it down, it's time to run. Justified (sorta) in that his Transformation Sequence involves his hair becoming prehensile and flailing around before appearing to blow straight upward. I kept waiting for him to strangle someone with it.
- Asuka loses her trademark pigtails for her Crowning Moment of Awesome in End of Evangelion. This is NOT fanservice, at least, not by the end of the fight.
- Neji from Naruto gets his headband (and hairband) knocked loose in his fight against Kidomaru, and then it's used to save his life once everything is over.
- This trope is more or less ubiquitous for ninja who wear a headband. When that is knocked off (leaving their hair loose) its a sign that they are in big trouble.
- Parodied in Aoi House, where every female character goes into a trance when Alex's ponytail comes undone and become completely subservient to him.
- Happens to Rossiu from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. By someone punching him. In the face. Whether he looks better afterwards is debatable, if only because it doesn't last very long.
- In Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran, Ran gets into a fight with a near-identical swords-woman, ending with both of them in the same pose. Ran's ponytail comes undone as her enemy crumples to the ground.
- Happens to Onizuka in Sket Dance - her long hair makes her more recognisable as the 'Onihime', a legendary fighter.
- In Blood+, Hagi's hair sometimes comes loose from its ponytail when he's taking a beating.
- In Dragonball Z, for a time Future Trunks had long hair, which he kept in a ponytail (though he left the hair that framed his face loose, sort of defeating the point). When he went Super Saiyan, the ponytail stayed bound, letting the front bits spike up. When he went to his most powerful form, however, the band broke and the result was a large golden starfish for a haircut. Seriously.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Lucky Star - it's 'Ponytail Day' and three of the girls redo their signature hairstyles into ponytails. Kagami suddenly gets annoyed at this and rips her ribbon clean off, to which Konata squees "You looked so manly with it, like a samurai!"
- In Chapter 94 of Fullmetal Alchemist Riza Hawkeye gets this treatment during her battle with Envy. It doesn't make her any less badass seeing as she pumps several guns' worth of ammo into him at once.
- Akitsu and Yaichi from House of Five Leaves are seen once or twice with their topknots down.
- During the final arc of the Inuyasha manga, Sango's hair falls down when her hair tie is eaten away by Naraku's miasma.
- Happens to Elsee during a fight in ch. 26 of The World God Only Knows.
- In the climax of the last episode of Ojamajo Doremi #, Doremi's Odango come loose when she's hit by Majotourbillion's curse and her magic crystal shatters. This finally reveals her hair to be waist-length, since it was the first time in the franchise she "let" it down. It seems to be symbolic for Doremi's Character Development into a more mature girl, since neither Onpu nor Hazuki (both already rather mature to begin with) lose their ponytails upon shattering their crystals.
- In the Saga of Darren Shan manga, this happens to Kurda at the end of vol. 5, right at the moment where he stabs Gavner Purl.
- Happens a number of times in Heartcatch Precure to Tsubomi/Cure Blossom. Whenever Tsubomi is knocked into the transition stage between normal and Precure, it differs if the animators want to keep her hair down or put them back in the usual twintails. It comes undone during The Movie (while still transformed!) when Cure Marine does it to her to snap a villain back to normal, though it gets fixed a short time later once she goes Super Silhouette.
- In Cynthia the Mission, the title character's hair comes out of her ox horns during a couple of dramatic fights.
- It happens partially to Sasami in the 3rd Tenchi Muyo! OVA. When confronted with a high-ranking member of the Galaxy Police whose insistent in taking her and the rest of the gang in, she ends up grabbing one of her hairbraids and pulling it off, converting it into a staff. She spends the battle with one pigtail up and one pigtail down, but once it's over, she's back to two pigtails.
- When Dr. Yoshiko from The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird attempts to prove her theories about Katori's Magic Music by exposing the enemy to a recorded version of his ocarina song, Shura slaps her so hard that her Prim and Proper Bun comes undone.
- Antonio Banderas from Desperado during the Tarasco Bar shootout and various other fights.
- Belle from Beauty and the Beast loses her (easily animated) ponytail only when things get dramatic, such as when she gets attacked by wolves during her escape from the Beast's castle.
- Less dramatically, a single lock of Belle's hair frequently comes loose and falls over her eyes. She occasionally smooths it back up, but she ends up spending more time with hair in her face than not.
- The same thing happens with Gaston during his final fight with the Beast, starting out in a ponytail and ending up loose. The reverse happens to the Beast over the course of the film, as his hair goes from disheveled to trimmed and tied back. The exchange is both intentional and symbolic of the Beast becoming more civilized while Gaston reveals his evil heart.
- Happens to Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean a lot.
- Elizabeth Swann, too, a couple of times.
- In Curse of the Golden Flower, the Empress' hair comes undone while fighting with her stepson over a robe she wants him to wear. They're also apparently carrying on an illicit affair, and things almost get intimate before he runs off.
- The Emperor also gets one of these later in the film, as he takes off his belt to beat his youngest son, Yu, who had just murdered his older half-brother both because of the aforementioned affair and Yu's own status as The Unfavorite.
- Since Alexander Dane, the extremely regretful classically-trained actor who played Galaxy Quest's Spock-analogue, is abducted in full costume including his prosthetic head covering, we don't actually see any of his hair for most of the film, except near the end, when the latex finally gives out sometime during his off-screen Roaring Rampage of Revenge and splits in one part, letting an incongruous lock slip out, adding to his overall wild-eyed "I can't believe I'm not dead" demeanor at the time.
- It happens to Kayley in Quest for Camelot as she ends up escaping into a forest, a branch snagging her hairtie.
- In Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, the story revolves around a zero-gee dance company (in space, of course.) This trope comes into play in an unexpected way when one of he dancers auditioning insists on wearing his long, thick hair in a ponytail "held by one hairband" despite having been warned of the dangers. The band does break during a rehearsal, his spacesuit helmet fills with hair, and he suffocates on it before he can be gotten to a pressurized area.
- In Dark Heavens, both the Xuan Wu (and later the protagonist, Emma) have this issue. They stop to tie their hair back roughly once a chapter - Xuan Wu because his body naturally tries to return to the state it was in when he became Immortal (IE: At the end of a battle. He tends to lose his shoes as well!) and Emma... presumably because she's an active girl doing insane things in Hong Kong, which is humid at the best of times. Oh, and because she's 'Rapidly turning into a smaller version of the Xuan Wu'
Live Action TV
- Subverted in the Firefly episode "Jaynestown"; when Book lets down his hair, it is not sexy, but (hilariously) terrifying, to the point of freaking River out and sending her running for cover. The sight is enough to give even Zoe pause.
- Although not quite fanservice, Capt. Janeway's hair was apparently psychically linked to the well-being of Voyager itself. Every time a battle started going badly, Janeway's hair started escaping its pins. It looks very dramatic, until some smart-aleck starts going "Hairstyle at 86% integrity" "That last shot took out the braid, bobby pins are failing"
- On the other hand, it was definitely fanservice whenever Seven of Nine's hairdo started coming apart--it implied that she was defrosting a little, if only from sheer stress.
- In the Deep Space Nine episode "Crossfire", there's a scene where Odo (distraught over his Unrequited Love for Kira) is seen in his quarters with a single strand of 'hair' falling across his face. This was an improvisation by actor Rene Auberjonois, based on a Japanese print he'd seen of a warrior in defeat. Some of the producers weren't happy (because Odo doesn't actually have hair as he's a shapeshifter) but eventually rationalised it as a symbol that Odo is going to pieces, in that he's no longer controlling all of his body.
- You'd have thought that creating individual strands of hair would take more control than a single textured "hair" shape. The guy had problems duplicating lips and ears, for goodness' sake!
- The standard Cardassian hairstyle is very severely slicked back and shiny, to compliment their reptilian features and sleek metallic uniforms. Whenever Garak, or Dukat, or any other Cardassian gets their hair out of order, it is a sign something very, very serious is going on. It makes Garak look positively insane when he is pulling his 'wide eyes for emphasis' thing.
- In Highlander the Series, Duncan MacLeod generally had his hair securely tied back during duels. Only during very difficult battles would it loosen. And only the most dangerous fights with the most skilled foes would cause it to come completely loose.
- The titular character in Jekyll and Hyde wears his hair in a ponytail while the good doctor is in control, but has it loose when Hyde comes out. It takes a bit of creative positioning and lighting to make it still appear that way when the two sides of his personality are arguing with each other.
- A shuriken does this for Kasumi during her ending in Dead or Alive 3.
- The newcomer in Arcana Heart 2, Zenia Valov. If you beat her with certain attacks (ones that would make Kira's blob get torn off, for example), she will fall down with her hair tie (which makes her hair look rather short) torn off, revealing waist-length hair.
- Aerith's ponytail comes undone in Final Fantasy VII when Sephiroth runs her through.
- The PS 1 fighting game Evil Zone has two characters whose ponytails come undone after taking enough damage: Keiya (male) and Erel (female).
- In Tales of the Abyss, this happens in the second half of the final battle with Van Grants. Considering how he managed to pull off the same effect that most final Tales bosses have to transform into large, grotesque creatures in order to achieve just by taking off his shirt and letting his hair down, the battle ended up being that much more badass for it.
- In Battle Moon Wars, Haruna's hair is let loose whenever her Power Limiter is removed. It's unclear exactly how Natsuki kissing her makes her hairstyle come undone.
- The Touhou protagonist Reimu pulls off her hair tie in the outlandishly exaggerated fangame Touhou Soccer as part of her ultimate technique, Dream Heaven. Naturally, it blows through almost anything.
- The defeat portrait of PC-98 exclusive Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream's final boss, Yumemi Okazaki, includes her braid coming undone.
- Yo-Jin-Bo's Muneshige has his hair come undone during the final battle in his Good ending. He later takes it down again at Sayori's request.
- Maya Fey from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney ends up wearing her hair completely open for the first time in the series when the evil spirit of Dahlia Hawthorne is finally exorcised out of her body. She collapses out of exhaustion seconds after this.
- There is also Kristoph in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney after his breakdown. By the time it ends he is barely recognizable.
- Happens to Haley in this Order of the Stick strip.
- There are several occasions of this happening to Miho in Megatokyo. To be fair, the creator notes in the margins of the bound collection that he's been told that Miho's hairstyle is one that's very difficult to maintain.
- Keychain of Creation features this on at least two occasions. A little unusually, rather than making the victim look more badass, it actually makes them look silly- it's a symbolic loss in a contest of skill and control.
- Sarah does this in "Bad Decision?", Chapter 2 of ~LG15: the resistance~, when she takes her hair out of her "Research Nerd" bun.
- Samurai Jack does this so very often, along with losing his shirt. ("And he's got his sword in his teeth!" Shing!)
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this happens to Katara a couple times, the first and most notable being her Crowning Moment of Awesome fight with Master Pakku.
- The page image is of Azula of the same series.
- Happens during Jessica's dramatic ballad "My World is Beginning Today" in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.