Otaku Culture

A Look At: Character Transformations

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Ever wonder about the transformation of a character? And yes we are talking about Sailor Moon but not just the magical girls. Believe it or not even the guys of Dragon Ball Z are transforming. But have you ever wondered what they’re meant to represent? We are going to take a brief look at what character transformations really mean.

But first let’s take a step back and see how it all starts. In most cases, the character is younger and or coming of age in one way or another. It is the moments leading up to the transformation that has us glued to the screen.

They usually have to have a crisis or a dramatic shift in their life which catapults them into invoking their secret powers. These transformations, as many of us know, tend to happen with a change in costume and appearance, a physical manifestation of the change in character and possibly the maturation of the character.

The manga and anime variation of of this can be categorized into the following subsets.

The magical girl: For the magical girl, her transformation is usually a physical manifestation of what she represents. She gestures at the camera and usually holds a device when transforming. She initiates her transformation with a phrase, like Sailor Moon with “Moon Prism Power!”

Her body is floating in the air as the backdrop behind her becomes colorful and abstract. Her clothes disappear and the costume she’ll transform into comes into existence with glowing streamers.

In recent years, we have seen a growing trend in magical boys as well, specifically the awesome parody Cute High Earth Defense Club. For guys, most of the time, the clothing is less flamboyant, except for when you count Cute High Earth Defense Club.

The “henshin” hero: These heroes tend to have a less showy transformation then their magical girl counterparts. The weapon that they hold is what tends to make them powerful and they use it to call out for their transformation.

But this stereotypical transformation isn’t always seen with a weapon. One of the big things that we’ve seen with Dragon Ball Z is that their weapons are their fists, aka their bodies. Their transformations are swifter but still involves a lot of glowing and screaming.

The interesting thing to mention between the two is that they usually don’t just transform once. They go into secondary modes. These are usually events that happen after someone or something dramatic happens. A death of someone they love. The world has just been destroyed. The hero is presumed death. The enemy has defeated the team. Or even the hero is the last one standing.

These transformations are usually the story’s dues ex machina, or the intervention of gods or an otherworldly source coming in. While some people will see them as cheap ways to create a way out for the characters and their situation, we consider it to be more of a traditional way of showing the growth of the characters.

Usually these transformations are categorized with the other people around the hero saying that they are different.

Looking different can be read as more mature, more worldly, and above all wiser.

Dragon Ball Z