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The Henshin Hero is a variation or subtrope of the Superhero in which super-powered characters only have their special powers some of the time. A Henshin Hero has distinct normal and powered "forms," and needs to actively switch between the two. In essence, the character's powers are all turned off while he or she is in his Secret Identity.
The transformation is frequently accompanied by a costume change. This gives the trope some overlap with Clothes Make the Superman: many male Henshin Heroes wear power-armor of some kind, and their transformation allows them to don their armor almost instantly. Bonus points if the change of clothing is the only outward difference, but nobody notices.
The name comes from the Japanese term for the trope, henshin (literally meaning "change body" but more practically translated as "transformation" or "metamorphosis" ... and not to be confused with the Shapeshifting or Metamorphosis tropes).
Anime and Manga
- Many, many Magical Girl series, including:
- Akazukin Chacha.
- Devil Hunter Yohko.
- Sailor Moon.
- Pretty Sammy. She uses a different henshin call in each program where she makes an appearance.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does something odd with this trope. Although Nanoha has a Transformation Sequence, all it does is summon her Barrier Jacket (combat uniform). She can use her magical powers without transforming. However, we only see her do it on a few occasions, and with relatively minor magic.
- The Pretty Cure series.
- Tokyo Mew Mew.
- Tokyo Black Catgirl, the short manga upon which it was based.
- Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
- Shugo Chara!, again twisting it with minor magics being available otherwise - with a second, minor transformation that changes only the character's personality and physical capabilities, but leaves her or him looking the same.
- Corrector Yui, whose main character was an Ascended Fangirl of the Magical Girl genre.
- Mai-Otome, in which the Otomes receive access to their Robes, which protect them and give them access to a powerful weapon, by receiving certification from their master (or in the Five Columns' case, from the Founder system(.
- Wedding Peach
- Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z with Hyper Blossom, Rolling Bubbles, and Powered Buttercup
- Princess Tutu
- Kamichama Karin, though a couple characters are able to use some of their abilities without transforming.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Magical Girls use their Soul Gems to activate and fuel their powers, but it turns out that there's quite a bit more to the gems than they realize at first.
- Essentially any superhero made by Tatsunoko Production.
- Gatchaman presaged and inspired the Super Sentai genre, using many elements that would become stock sentai material.
- Hurricane Polimar uses his helmet for transformation as opposed to wrist-worn gadgets or smaller devices. Said hero can also transform into a submarine, tank, etc. but he also runs around yelling and beating the crap out of people with his fighting style - Hariken, or Illusion Destruction Fist.
- Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman and Uchuu no Kishi Tekkaman Blade (the former needs his mobile transport robot named Pegas to transform).
- Tekkaman Blade II features a twist: Since many people were captured and partially transformed by the Radam at the end of the first series, a large part of the world's population can transform into a "Primary Tekkaman", who are armored, but have few if any powers otherwise: effectively Henshin Civilians.
- Their Time Bokan series feature this, with each hero using various transformation methods.
- The Yatterman in particular have their costumes actually be their casual wear only flipped around!
- Soul Taker, of course.
- The Karas of Karas require the "Will of the City" to unlock their powers.
- The "armored warriors" genre of anime. Similar in many respects to Magical Girl programs, they feature male heroes and are targeted at a shonen demographic. Examples of such programs include:
- Saint Seiya.
- Heavenly Warrior Shurato.
- Mystical Armor Legend: Samurai Troopers (aka Ronin Warriors).
- Guyver is an interesting example, bordering on Deconstruction: while Sho gets off fairly light, other characters have transformations that cross straight into Body Horror; Aptom and the Zoanoids, for example.
- Star Driver plays this completely straight with Takuto/Galactic Pretty Boy Tauburn.
- Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach may qualify as a Henshin Hero, since he only has his shinigami powers when he releases his astral body from his physical one. However, he does not use a henshin call or have a transformation sequence.
- Bleach actually parodies the trope in one episode. When he's training to regain his powers, Urahara tells him to put on a Hachimaki and say a ridiculous catch phrase to try to unlock it. Sure enough, all Ichigo succeeds in doing is looking like a Butt Monkey. Both Urahara and the audience break down laughing.
- Bleach also plays this perfectly straight with the many, many transformations that characters have to use to unlock new abilities. The most common of these would be the shikai and bankai of all those Shinigami, both of which unlock new forms and abilities of their weapons and in the later case usually a new outfit as well. Besides Shinigami, nos Arrancar have Resurrection, which is essentially the same thing as the Shinigami, only applied to their bodies instead of their weapons, and therefore playing this trope even straighter.
- In Tenchi Muyo! Ryo Ohki, Tenchi Maski got a costume change when he manifested his Light Hawk Wings.
- He actually gets two. He gets a Juraian Battle Uniform when Tsunami unlocks his Juraian powers, and then the Light Hawk Wings trigger a special uniform that looks like a cross between the Battle Uniform and Jurai's holy robes.
- Pretenders and Headmaster Juniors in Transformers Super God Masterforce are like this.
- The Pretenders are actually an inversion of the typical Henshin Hero, being robots that mass-shift and wear artificial Human skins to blend in to normal society.
- Digimon Frontier has the kids transform into Digimon, instead of having Digimon partners like the other series. Supposedly they're bonding with the spirits of legendary Digimon warriors, but until the last three or so episodes, "spirit" was just a fancier name for Transformation Trinket.
- The Viewtiful Joe anime expanded the henshin capabilities to include a sidekick, Captain Blue Jr. As his weapon was a Yo-yo, his phrase was "Henshin a-yo-yo!"
- Mega Man NT Warrior, in which the operators can merge with their Navis in a process called Cross Fusion. Exclusive to the anime, this did not appear in Mega Man Battle Network, the video game it was based on, although Starforce does feature a similar form of henshin.
- In Ratman, the titular hero is one of these, turning from a short middle-schooler to a tall, lean and deadly super. It's unclear if the other heroes fall into this; at least a few have what seems to be Powered Armor instead.
- Fancy Lala isn't a hero per se, but is basically a henshin Idol Singer.
- Captain Marvel, who debuted *decades* before He-Man or the Japanese heroes, making this trope at least Older Than Television.
- The other Captain Marvel was one for awhile when he was bonded to Rick Jones.
- Blue Beetle (The first and third.)
- Iron Man, to an extent. Basically, it depends on the version of the suit. Sometimes it'll form itself around a bodysuit that goes beneath it. And sometimes it has a compact form like the suitcase suit, though he does have to step in or pull it around him while it's partially formed.
- Iron Man fully qualifies with his latest suit, the "Bleeding Edge" armor, which is stored within Tony Stark's body and called out mentally at need.
- For a brief period in The Nineties, Superman had both an Electric Superman and Clark Kent form.
- Recently, Wonder Woman no longer has her powers when not transformed.
- Ghost Rider counts as this given that Johnny Blaze (and other riders) had a normal human form and a Spirit of Vengeance form.
- Colossus. Also, Iceman frequently ices himself up before going into battle, but he has his powers when not in this form.
- The Human Torch, when he goes "Flame on!". Same case as Iceman.
- The Mighty Thor and Dr. Donald Blake are a variation on this - the difference being that Thor is the original and Blake was a mortal form Odin forced upon his son as a test.
Live Action TV
- The Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Metal Heroes, Ultra Series, Chou Sei Shin Series and several other tokusatsu franchises.
- American tokusatsu adaptations: Power Rangers, VR Troopers, Masked Rider, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, Big Bad Beetleborgs and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog was a wholly American henshin hero program, which used no Japanse footage.
- Ema in the Japanese dorama (drama) Sh15uya had a henshin ability, but it was never really explained.
- The Linda Carter Wonder Woman series.
- Warrior of Love Rainbowman has no henshin device; instead he repeatedly chants "Anokutara Sanmyakusanbodai" (Supreme Correct Wisdom) to transform.
- Appropriately for something that grew out of Champions, the superheroic tabletop game, the HERO system has a Power Limitation called "Only In Heroic Identity." It's not worth many points, but it essentially means that the character has an alternate form and that the power in question only works in his superheroic form, thus opening the possibility that the character be trapped into his normal form and denied access to his superpowers.
- Similarly, the "normal identity" drawback in Mutants and Masterminds.
- Legend includes a set of abilities called "Vigilante," which allows the user to summon armor and power buffs with a shouted command (Transformation Is a Free Action for Vigilantes).
- In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Link collects masks which transform him into different forms that each have different abilities.
- Viewtiful Joe, with wonderful catchphrases to go with it: "Henshin a Go-Go, Baby!" and "Henshin Around!". It just so happens that he only actually needs to say "Henshin". The rest of the catchphrase is just for fun. His Evil Counterpart gets his own, which is the stinger to this page.
- Red from Saga Frontier is given the power to transform into the superhero Alkaiser by another such hero, Alkarl, in order to save his life.
- Kouta Asuma from Super Robot Wars has ability to transform into Fighter Roar, he later join by his sister Shoko Azuma as Fighter Emmy.
- Geo and Sonia from Mega Man Star Force, though they got their powers from aliens.
- In the Mega Man ZX series, a Mega Man is a person able to use a Biometal to transform in a process called "megamerging".
- And since some villains also have Biometals, the series also have "Henshin Villains".
- The original Mega Man did it once, in the Game Boy V. No invocation, he just jumps into the air and transforms from Rock to Mega Man. It doesn't help.
- A short mini-comic also implies that his helmet can be used as his henshin device.
- Puyo Puyo 7 has a henshin game mechanic, where the characters turn into their older or younger selves.
- Sister Leica from Demonbane can transform into white angel Metatron. Unfortunely, this never made into anime adaption.
- Sheena, in Kid Radd. Complete with a parody of an anime Transformation Sequence: "Magical Maid Robo Sheena!"
- The Dimensional Guardians from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes.
- Linkara turns out to be one of these. He transforms with a classic Mighty Morphin Power Rangers morpher into his jacketed-hatted form, albeit usually just before the show begins.
- And thanks to the Power Rangers Zeo Zeonizer he can transform into his upgraded White Zeo Ranger Form
- Better still, he also has a gold Power Morpher with a Dragon coin in. Which lets him become the Green Ranger.
- The Apollo Z Hack Reviwarverse Saga features the eponymous hero and his nemesis possesing R-Units (which look surprisingly like Kamen Rider Dragon Knight belts) which let them "Rev Up" to transform into Kamen Rider like super powered forms called Revuers.
- Eric Draven, from Mall Fight. He started off as a Green Ranger, moved onto becoming Kamen Rider Black, and now transforms (actually saying "HENSHIN!") into a fusion between Kamen Rider and Ghost Rider.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
- Its Distaff Counterpart, She Ra Princess of Power.
- Ben 10, and its sequels Ben 10 Alien Force and Ben 10 Ultimate Alien
- Bradley Biggle plays this trope straight to become Mint Berry Crunch in South Park episode Coon vs. Coon and friends. In fact, his transformation sequence gives nods to the Kamen Rider franchise and Sailor Moon, both of which are very prominent Henshin Hero series.
- Danny Phantom qualifies as a Henshin Hero. Even though he has access to his powers while human, they aren't as potent until he transforms. Heck, he even has his own catchphrase.
- Wonder Woman pulls it off in an episode of Justice League Unlimited ("To Another Shore", specifically) as a homage to the aforementioned TV series starring Linda Carter.
- Super Duper Sumos: The sumos go through a Transformation Sequence to become "Sumo-Sized" and become even bigger and more powerful.
- In Sym-Bionic Titan, the two organic heroes summon their Powered Armor with a wrist mounted transformation device.
- In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, instead of a suitcase-suit, teen Tony has it as a backpack. It only requires that the central button be pushed and it forms around him on its own without him having to do anything else, making for the most Toku-like version yet. Now all we need is voice activation.
- The eponymous American Dragon Jake Long. Though some episodes shows that he can be a Badass in human form.
- Gizmoduck of DuckTales and Darkwing Duck. Blatherin' Blatherskite!
- Super Ted transforms into his super-powered state by speaking the phrase "I'll just say my secret magic word..." and then unzipping his fur to reveal a superhero costume underneath.