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A character is seen in the fetal position before or after going through some kind of "rebirth": legs replied against the body, head close to the knees and arms crossed in front of the legs.
This is of course highly symbolic, this position being one of an unborn child. The character will also often be nude (for reasons like Naked on Revival or Out-of-Clothes Experience), and sometimes floating (in a void, in a liquid...) to better deliver the analogy with a baby in the mother's womb.
If the character is indeed naked, the fetal position is also a pragmatic excuse for not showing any naughty bits, especially if filmed from the front.
Here, "rebirth" is taken in a very general sense and can mean many things: ascending to a higher plane of existence, experiencing a great revelation, going through a massive physical transformation, healing after a very serious mangling, waking up after hibernation, etc.
To be clear, this trope doesn't concern every instance of a character curling in a fetal position, most likely after a traumatic event -- the latter being Troubled Fetal Position. Fetal Position Rebirth is used when illustrating a symbolic (re)birth or major upheaval for the personage.
Anime & Manga
- Magical Princess Minky Momo: In the last episode, the heroine is killed by a truck and wishes to be reborn as a normal human being in her former adoptive family. She is seen floating, naked and in a fetal position, while explaining this to her magical parents.
- Chobits: In the picture showing Chii (or rather, Chobit 01) during construction and linked with a myriad of cables, she is unsurprisingly in a fetal position.
- Alicia of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha floats in this position in her People Jars while Precia looks for a way to resurrect her.
- Melfina is introduced like this in Outlaw Star, as seen in the page picture above.
- Rakka in the opening of Haibane Renmei appears like this, floating in some kind of corridor of life to her cocoon. Oddly, in the cocoon itself she doesn't take this position.
- When Kikyo's naked body is resurrected in Inuyasha, she collapses into a fetal position shortly after being revived.
- Yui in Fushigi Yuugi after Miaka uses her first wish to release her from Seiryuu's clutches.
- Lain at the EP of Serial Experiments Lain. Bonus points for the heavy-machinery fetal.
- Yu-Gi-Oh: Yami Yugi goes through one at the end of the Doma/Orichalcos Arc. Too bad America didn't see it.
- Yuna of Earth Maiden Arjuna, when she first goes through her Magical Girl transformation.
- Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei: Itoshiki is seen like this in the highly bizarre Opening.
- When Griffith ascends to the Godhand, he takes this position as his body is reconstructed. Probably the darkest example here.
- Happens again when Griffith is literally reborn into the human world through Guts and Casca's miscarried child, which just so happened to be tainted with evil because he had previously raped Casca while she was pregnant.
- Also, Jill took on a fetal position of rebirth when she almost took up Rosine's offer of becoming one of her demonic elf creatures.
- RahXephon: When Ayato merges with the eponymous giant robot, he is seen in one of these poses in a sea of light.
- The manga adaptation of Breath of Fire IV explicitly has this in its opening pages with Ryu. Justified in that it's a literal birth/reincarnation (yeah, it's complicated)
- In Princess Tutu, when Ahiru undergoes her mahoshoujo henshin sequence, she curls into a fetal position while being enveloped in an egg made by golden feathers before the egg turns to water and she hatches as Tutu. This happens in the span of 10 seconds or so each episode.
- The cover from the Manga Icare by Moebius and Jiro Taniguchi.
- Erza from Fairy Tail does it very briefly in the Tower of Heaven arc.
- The cover from volume 10 of the French comic book series Les Légendaires.
- In Hellboy, a few flashbacks to Abe Sapien being discovered in the water tube show him curled up in a fetal-like position.
- In X-Men, during one of the early appearances of the Brood, Storm commits suicide by blowing up her space capsule when she discovers the baby Brood Queen hatching within her. She gets better because one of the space-whales the Brood Mind Rape with drugs and turn into living ships (the nascent space-whale prophet, in fact) rescues her and psychically merges with her because it's Just a Kid and needs a responsible adult to look after it. She flits around psychically for a while, the reason being her actual body is curled up in the fetal position inside the space-whale to regenerate.
- In the Spider-Man storyline "Kraven's Last Hunt", Peter Parker dreams of himself naked in the fetal position, floating in a white void, while drugged and Buried Alive by Kraven the hunter. Then the drug-induced sleep turns nightmarish, with amongst other niceties Peter "birthing" out of a Giant Spider.
Films -- Live-Action
- A sinister example happens in the movie version of Harry Potter. After Lord Voldemort (in the shape of a horrific homonculus) is leveled in the mixture that will resurrect him fully, the cauldron explodes and his misshapen body is seen in a fetal position while he's growing back to full power.
- Demolition Man: John Spartan as he's unfrozen from cryosleep.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: The title character as he's awoken from cryosleep, as a parody of Demolition Man.
- The end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dave Bowman becomes the Star Child (SPACE FETUS!)... obviously.
- Alice in the first three Resident Evil movies. In the first one, it's where she's knocked out whem fumes come into the shower. In the second film she's being resurrected (or cloned, hard to tell) at the end. In the third one, there's hundreds of clones of her, all in the fetal position in water bubble suspension things. Naturally, she's bare-ass naked in all of these, and while her hands do hide her bits, she always moves them by the time the scene is over.
- In the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu is injured and taken to a human lab for treatment. The scientists cut away the placenta suit he's wearing, revealing a partially developed human form underneath. Once the suit is completely removed, he curls into a fetal position to finish the transformation into Keanu Reeves.
- In The New Daughter, Louisa, on the eve of her transformation into a Creepy Child, is shown in this position in the bathtub, covered in mud from having spent the day digging around in the Indian Burial Mound.
- Stargate SG-1: In the first episode of Season 7, "Fallen", Daniel Jackson is cast out by the Ancients from his ascended state. He reappears on some unknown planet, nude and in a fetal position, with no memory.
- The first episode of Firefly, when River comes out of frozen sleep. In this case, the symbolism of rebirth is River finally escaping from the Academy and returning to something resembling normal life. The scene is complete with clear metaphors for birthing pains, as she starts screaming immediately afterward. In another bit of symbolism, River adopts the same pose at the end of Serenity, as the title ship is taking off into a new day, once she has finally begun to really overcome her own mental illnesses.
- The final shot of the third season of Smallville has Clark floating in a black void, in the nude, doing this with the Superman Shield logo appearing behind him, after he has agreed to accept his inheritage and become Kal-El.
- The pilot of John Doe, when the eponymous unnamed protagonist wakes up on Horseshoe Island.
- Doctor Who has, at the end of "Daleks in Manhattan", the armor of Dalek Sec opens up to reveal the Half-Human Hybrid Sec, dressed in a pinstripe suit, in a fetal position. He then unfolds and gets shakily to his feet.
- Angel: At the end of the first season, when Darla comes Back From the Dead and is in that box, when we first see her, she's curled up in a rather fetal pose.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Angel's own return from Hell in season 3.
- Also Amy, momentarily, in "Something Blue", though she is sitting upright.
- Naomi from Skins, in the S4 finale when having a massive emotional epiphany about Emily. Considering the major themes of the fourth series revolved around death and rebirth (well, Freddie kinda missed out on the rebirth part), it was probably inevitable that there'd be one of these scenes at some point.
- "Crystal Flash", a hidden ability in Super Metroid that restores all of Samus' energy tanks at the expense of her ammunition, does this. When used, Samus goes into a fetal position, gets surrounded by a sphere of energy and her suit temporarily disappears. To be honest, the cool animation is probably the main reason to ever use this ability, as it's not very practical. Although it has its usefulness: as your ammo counter (255 missiles at max) is a lot smaller than your life counter (1699 with max energy tanks), and it'd be faster to reload than it is to have to get back to some places after you die.
- In Other M, the opening cinematic has Samus in a fetal position as a small child. After a few seconds we see Samus being lifted off the ground by the baby metroid.
- Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne: This is how Isamu is fused with his God Noah.
- Speaking of Megaten Games, Sera of Digital Devil Saga spends a good portion of the early parts of the games in the fetal position.
- Chrono Cross: Serge returning to his original form (not body; that one is stolen) from the shape of Lynx: he disintegrates and grows from a baby to his actual age inside of a big bubble of water
- First Encounter Assault Recon: Alma is shown adopting this form in one of the hallucinations during Project Origin. This is probably quite deliberate, considering that childbirth and maternity are major themes in the series.
- This can be seen in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, in which Sonic curls up in the fetal position before going Super Sonic.
- At the start of Princess Maker 2, you get a heavenly child who is being sent to the world of mortals by her guardian deity. She is shown from a front fetal position as she is floating down in the light and to you, seemingly forgetting everything that happened in her ten years of life in Heaven. Since it's not really that kind of game, it's artistically done and you don't actually see anything.
- In the good ending of Final Fantasy X 2, Tidus is shown waking up this way underwater.
- Nu-13's Arcade Mode ending in Blaz Blue: Calamity Trigger has Nu herself in one of these. Given the context of "waking from a dream," it's almost impossible to say what the character is being reborn into, if anything. It's really artful, in that Mind Screwy, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory kind of way. The Yandere mumbling makes it unsettling, though.
- In Tales of Destiny 2 ending, Reala is reborn like that.
- Happens in Silent Hill 4 when Henry enters the "deepest part" of Walter. Rather than symbolizing rebirth, though, it symbolizes regression to a fetal stage (which is what Walter wants).
- Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep: More of a Fetal Position Birth than anything, but when Ventus's darkness is extracted, it takes the form of Vanitas. For a second, he's in this position.
- In Kisetsu o Dakishimete (the 2nd game of the Yarudora series), the "Spirit of the Cherry Trees" storyline has an event where the player character dreams of Mayu floating in the darkness in fetal position, then dissolving into a storm of Cherry Blossoms. Seeing this event is mandatory to get the storyline's Good Ending.
- Each chapter of Broken Saints has a "cover" animation that opens and closes the chapter, and one of them utilizes this.
- Code Lyoko
- Season 1 episode "Code Earth": Aelita is materialized for the first time, and she arrives inside the scanner in a fetal position. Since everybody thought she was an A.I. at the time, this is treated as her birth into the real world.
- Season 3 episode "Final Round": William is seen floating in fetal position above the network after his Evil Costume Switch, being reborn as XANA's Dragon.
- The Venture Brothers, Season 3 Episode "The Doctor Is Sin": After Dr. Killinger makes Dr. Venture work through his daddy issues, Thaddeus is left nude on the floor in the fetal position. Killinger specifically says he's naked because he's been born again. Doc is more skeptical and thinks he slipped him a roofie.
- In Transformers Animated, when Sari is "born" the protoform is curled up into this position and even vaguely resembles a fetus.