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Mina: "Why is it bat wings? Aren't bird wings more efficient?"
In fiction, any feathered creature, from a sparrow or crow to gryphon or winged angel, always seem to be molting loose feathers, such that whenever one takes flight, it leaves behind a trail (or shower) of loose feathers.
Molting is a natural process in real life birds -- those iconic flight feathers do occasionally need to be shed and regrown, but it only happens in seasonal intervals, and large birds only shed one or two feathers at a time (much like people and other mammals shed a few hairs here and there, but not continually)! Only extreme stress causes a bird or mammal to shed rapidly. Some species of smaller birds and waterfowl (ducks, say) who do shed all of their flight feathers at once are in fact left unable to fly until their new ones grow back in. If a bird were to shed the same quantity of feathers as depicted in fiction, it would probably be a sign of parasites or disease, and either way the bird would be grounded.
As such, this trope occurs mainly for its value as a visual spectacle (and, in video games, to show off the system's particle effects). See also Feather Motif for when feathers are used as a recurring metaphor or symbol in a work.
Also compare Feather Flechettes, which is what occurs if one weaponizes all those loose feathers.
Anime & Manga
- The angels in Ah! My Goddess, as well as the goddesses themselves when depicted with wings, practically leave a trail of shining magical feathers. The opening credits of the 2005 TV series version shows a veritable rain of feathers around the winged goddesses.
- In AIR, Kanna is literally in ethereal Perpetual Molt, and Ryuuya's descendants are perpetually chasing after her with her feathers as clues. Kanna's feathers are dangerous, every single one of them.
- Angel Sanctuary
- The Bride of the Water God: The Emperor sheds more or less continuously when he is wearing his miniature black wings.
- CLAMP's X 1999.
- Both Dark and Krad from D.N.Angel shed feathers like crazy.
- An extreme example is the Wing Gundam Zero Custom in Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. This mecha features large angel-like wings which are composed of individual feather-like sections. Although the feathers are supposed to be made of metal, in several scenes the Wing Zero appears with drifting feathers filling the air around it. This has been explained away as an optical illusion caused by sunlight striking the wings, but nobody is really convinced by that.
- Gundam Seed Destiny does this with the Destiny Gundam... who has non-feathered wings made of Pure Energy.
- The Haibane of Haibane Renmei manage to subvert this trope. There are places with giant piles of Haibane feathers at times, but it's always indicative of something serious problems when more than a single feather falls out.
- Egregious example in Macross Zero: as Shin's damaged VF-0 rises from the ocean, held aloft by the power of the Bird Man, it sheds a monumental trail of feathers before being whisked away in a beam of light. Where the feathers came from is anyone's guess, as the VF-0 is a Transforming Mecha that closely resembles an F-14 Tomcat and the Bird Man is a Protoculture construct covered in shell-like armor. It comes from tribal magic, Gaia spirit and pure force of symbolsim.
- Hayate's magical form in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha.
- As per the Rule of Cool, Setsuna Sakurazaki of Mahou Sensei Negima always leaves a dramatic shower of feathers behind whenever she spreads her angel-like wings (they're actually white "tengu" wings).
- A plot point in the Pure arc of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. Lucia must collect the fragments of Seira's heart, which have attached themselves to Michel's angel feathers. This means she has to run into him when his Quirky Miniboss Squad attacks the town. Why he wouldn't just stay in his own dimension is beyond me, especially with his health condition...
- The elder Sakamoto-sama in Princess Princess is shown emitting a Perpetual Molt, even though he doesn't have wings or feathers.
- The titular mecha from RahXephon does this in the show's intro, and near the end of the series.
- The pigeon named "John Woo" in Read or Die the TV Series.
- Suigintou in Rozen Maiden. This trope was the trigger of a two-episode Story Arc: one of Suigintou's feathers got stuck on Shinku's body, causing her and Hinaichigo to temporarily become inert dolls. Indeed, Suigintou's Perpetual Molt is weaponized. She keeps shooting those feathers as projectiles at her enemies.
- The trope is so pervasive that the cover to the soundtrack album to Simoun shows Aaeru and Neviril reclining on a helical motor wheel with the feathers from a Perpetual Molt flying in the air around them, even though neither of them have wings or feathers, and no bird or angel is visible anywhere nearby.
- The Oni-Eating Tengu Haruka in Tactics always takes off in a shower of falling plumes. In especially dramatic scenes it's practically a downpour of them.
- The villain Dr. Muraki in Yami no Matsuei was occasionally surrounded by white feathers falling from the sky, usually in highly allegorical circumstances. When protagonist Tsuzuki was possessed by a demon, he grew large black bird's wings that shed feathers, too.
- Ash/Angela from the anime Black Butler. Interestingly, Sebastian loses black feathers when he gets menacing, even though he has no wings.
- Vicious' cormorant in Cowboy Bebop.
Films -- Animation
- In Happy Feet, this trope is subverted. The main character, Mumble, is an adult Emperor Penguin. Yet he didn't ever finish shedding his down feathers in the movie. He's the only adult penguin that has this occur. It was later explained that the editors wanted him to have a unique look throughout the movie. This permanent molt makes it look like he is wearing a tuxedo, appropriate for tapdancing.
- Played straight in the storybooks, however.
Iago: I'm so ticked off, I'm molting!
- Averted in Watership Down, in which Kehaar is seen to lose only one flight feather. That one was probably justified, as he was recovering from a cat attack and the lost feather might've been shed because it was damaged, not because he was molting out-of-season.
- This becomes a Chekhov's Gun in Kung Fu Panda when Shifu's messenger Zeng visits the prison Tai Lung was locked in on Shifu's orders. Zeng was earlier shown to lose a few feathers. Tai Lung would later use one of his feathers to escape.
Films -- Live-Action
- While the eponymous archangel in Michael doesn't fly, the number of feathers he drops from his wings throughout the movie seem to be an indicator of how much longer he can stay on Earth. After bringing a dog back to life, he loses many feathers all at once, and is greatly weakened.
- Parodied in 3rd Rock from the Sun as the death of a chicken is punctuated by a "snowfall" of feathers -- in 3D, no less!
- Explained in an episode of CSI, when a pile of feathers is found at a crime scene. When they were taken to a pet store to attempt to identify the type of bird, the owner explains that birds only shed one or two at the most. For the amount found, "Someone yanked. Hard."
- Sieg from Kamen Rider Den-O. This and his Leitmotif are always a sign that he has arrived.
- In Spelljammer, ships of the Aarakocra (bird folk) are made faster than normal, but there's a-Achhoo! good reason why the rest of Wildspace races don't form a-Achhoo! line to buy them at three times the stated price... or even seek passage more than once. What with feathered sails and the atmosphere perpetually contaminated with down feathers.
- In Ace Online, one of the Randomly Drops armor is the Exorcist Binder, a jet fighter the shape of a bird. One of the weapons associated with this armor is Charisma of Emperor, which is a set of missiles that leaves a trail of burning feathers. Supposedly, Exorcist Binder itself is supposed to leave a trail of feathers from its jet engine wake. Not that fanmade mods hasn't fixed it yet.
- The Legend of Zelda
- The Helmaroc King in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask pulled this earlier, by including a Perpetual Molt Stock Footage scene during usage of the owl-themed Warp Whistle.
- As well, Link's owl guide once took advantage of his molting to create a track across a set of invisible platforms for the boy to follow.
- And even before that, in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Cuckoos constantly molt while you hold them (as parodied in this Awkward Zombie strip).
- When wings, including bird-like angel-wings, were introduced to the MMO City of Heroes, they were originally planned to be in Perpetual Molt... this was, however, scrapped before they "went live", due to the demands this would've put on the physics engine.
- With the release of issue 20.5, a "feather" aura which produces this exact effect is now available for Incarnate characters to purchase.
- By far, the greatest use of this trope may be Off-Road Velociraptor Safari!
- While not being a bird, Alita Tiala's brooch lets a flock of feathers into the air every time she is distressed in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
- While Tekken character Jin Kazama does not usually leave a trail of feathers wherever he goes in his Devil Jin form, he is not excempt from this trope: in his Tekken 4 ending, Devil Jin escapes Honmaru through the roof, leaving behind a rain of black feathers (among them a single white one, symbolizing the good in him). The same scene is used as the very first visual of the Tekken 5 opening.
- The One-Winged Angel(s) from Final Fantasy VII. Not just Sephiroth, Angeal and Genesis too had a single wing that, well, always give rains of feather. Heck Zack's death is symbolized by a rain of feathers as Angeal picks his arm to go to the Lifestream. It seems that everyone with a wing has infinite feathers... Arguably justified, as the characters are decaying due to needing a cure.
- In Kingdom Hearts, The optional battles Sephiroth also feature him warping around the stage, leaving a shower of feathers whenever he does so, and also the occasional falling when he attacks with his sword.
- This is also carried over into Dissidia. Play with the extended battle openings on, and both Sephiroth and Ultimecia will enter with falling black feathers fluttering around them. Ultimecia actually takes this a step further by molting constantly all throughout any battle with her. If you don't know what's going on, the first time you see it you may be prompted to think your PSP is developing dead pixels.
- In Baten Kaitos, Kalas, post-Face Heel Turn molts when he first gets his pretty glowy white wings.
- Shanoa's magical wings in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
- Tales of Symphonia
- This happens to the angels every single time they bring out their wings, also done by Remiel every time he vanishes at a seal.
- In fact, later in the game, Colette gets a spell that grants a status boost. How is this portrayed? By making your entire party molt pink feathers constantly.
- Somewhat justified in the case of angels other than Remiel, since they have energy wings instead of the kind with bird feathers.
- Super Smash Bros Brawl subjects Pit to this trope. Every time he flies, he seems to lose a ton of feathers. But he's using a magic one (the move was based off a powerup from Kid Icarus) so that's okay.
- In Samurai Warriors, Oda Nobunaga and his White Knight counterpart Mitsuhide Akechi manage to do this without any visible wings.
- In Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, when you hatch an Elder, they always hatch out with a burst of feathers. Interestingly, one of the hatchable powerups (a double-jump, aptly named 'Wings') will also let loose a flurry of feathers, every time you use it.
- Some of the main characters being angels with giant wings, this is common in Riviera the Promised Land.
- Pokémon has the Feather Dance move, which coats the enemy in feathers, reducing their attack... somehow.
- Kirby Super Star
- Wing Kirby, who does this whenever he flies -- only when he flies, too. Wing Kirby also has an attack that involves shooting his feathers as projectiles.
- And in the remake, there is a new angel-winged boss called Galacta Knight who sheds feathers in some animations, most notably when he first appears and zooms to the top of the screen.
- Banjo-Kazooie turns this trope into a gameplay mechanic: Red Feathers must be used continuously to keep Kazooie in flight.
- If anyone plays The Tag Force Series, in the fourth and fifth installations, Crow's Ace monsters (or the ones with cutscene animations) have this problem. Their summon and attack animations all have an absurd amount of Black Feathers in them, the worst offender is Black Feather-Arms Wing, who uses the feathers as bullets.
- The obscure fighting game Gundam: Battle Assault 2 brings Wing Gundam Zero Custom into the roster. Despite its feathers being decorative armored plates, Wing Zero still somehow molts feathers when using certain special attacks.
- In one of the more unusual examples of this trope, Vincent's pillow in Catherine.
- In an interesting case, the powers of the psychic Zap in, well, Zap often manifest as glowing wing-like shapes. During an epic showdown, a carnival case full of stuffed animals is destroyed, filling the air with golden feathers. When Zap's power manifests, the feathers in the air make it look like this trope is happening.
- Parodied here in Tsunami Channel.
- Also parodied in this Awkward Zombie comic.
- In X-Men: Evolution, Angel is spotted by Cyclops and Rogue, who don't know his civilian identity yet, by the trail feathers he leaves. As a rule, though, he doesn't leave a shower of feathers behind in any version.
- Philomena in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, justified as she's reaching the rebirth part of her phoenix life cycle and so actually is molting.