Marked Change

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Those glowing lines mean that someone is about to die very soon.

A classic shorthand for indicating that somebody has activated their Super Mode, tapped into their True Potential, or otherwise just got a lot more powerful: Basically, a Badass-looking pattern appears on their skin, often glowing. Is related to Glowing Eyes of Doom, and the two are often seen together. This is not necessarily an indication of heroism or villainy. The trope has appearances about even on either side. Sometimes, it's a case of a character being pushed too far.

The tattoos will usually just be either nifty/badass black pattern, or a glowing red one. Can overlap with Tron Lines and Instant Runes. Compare and contrast with Mark of the Beast, for when the patterns forming are an indication of evil and Power Tattoo, the more compact version. Compare Powerup Full-Color Change.

Examples of Marked Change include:


  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Akito gets a weird, glowing pattern all over his body when he activates his mysterious Boson Jump ability. Later, others who demonstrate the ability gets similar patterns, and when a character who lacks the potential attempts to perform one, a glitchy, broken version of the marks fade in and out.
  • Shiryu in Saint Seiya had a Dragon tattoo appear in his back when powered up.
    • His Old Master, Dohko, had a Tiger tattoo exhibiting the exact same comportment
  • Bleach anime episode 55. When Captain Yamamoto powers up before fighting, glowing scars appear on his body.
  • Post-Time Skip Nia from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
  • Takeru when he goes into his ED form in This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.
  • Jo from Burst Angel gets an awesome tattoo on her arm every time she's about to kick some damn serious ass.
  • A variation occurs in Mahou Sensei Negima, when the Big Bad of the Mahora Festival arc activates her forced magic circuits. They're mostly masked by her hair and clothing, but we're shown Negi's magic-sense POV of the patterns of glyphs glowing on her body.
  • In New Getter Robo, glowing green lines crawl up the Getter pilots' bodies and into their eyes when Ryoma goes berserk and starts absorbing Getter Rays like mad.
  • Dio's Guild mark in Last Exile appears on his forehead as his 17th birthday looms closer. After he undergoes The Rite of the Covenant and the Trial of Agoon, it changes color and shape.
  • When the Medicine Seller of Mononoke releases his sword his markings change, along with other things.
  • Black Star and Tsubaki in Soul Eater. When activated, the Demon Blade mode Tsubaki acquired through absorbing her brother's soul covers the Weapon and her Tech in curving, black tattoo-like lines.
    • In a similar vein, Death the Kid's Sanzu Lines- those white marks on his hair- connect into one or more full circles around his head to herald a Super Mode. The exact method by which this is achieved varies between the anime and manga.
  • The markings of Ranmaru's arm in Tokko grow as his symbiote-granted abilities do.
  • Tsunade, Medical Ninja and Tsundere extraordinaire, has a small diamond marking on her forehead where she keeps an insane amount of chakra carefully stored. When she releases the seal, it expands into a spiraling pattern, and foreshadows the can of whoopass that she is about to open. Also, the fox-whisker-markings on Naruto's face get bigger and turn red when he starts to access his Nine-Tails Chakra.
    • Naruto's controlled Jinchuuriki form manifests symbols on his chakra shroud.
  • Orochimaru's tactical team in Naruto, the Sound Four, and later Sasuke. All of them power-up by activating their cursed seals, gaining snaky tattoos all over.
  • The PROCEED girls in Solty Rei get red glowing Facial Markings when they access their special abilities.
  • Hakkai in Saiyuki when he removes his power limiters and goes full demon. Has a vinelike pattern that glows red (of course).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (the Anime version), Alphonse gets some black markings and lines on his armor after becoming the Philosopher's Stone. Quite interesting on a suit of armor.
  • Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho gets these when his demon blood starts to act up. Blue tattoos appear all over his body and he takes on a slightly fiercer demeanor.
  • In Pokémon, the patterns on Groudon and Kyogre start glowing when they get pissed off. On top of that, when Groudon possesses Pikachu, our adorable little mouse gets the glowing pattern too. And it's scary as hell. Aqua Admin Archie gets some too on his chest, but it's quite less 'awesome' than the others.
    • These lines are a trait of those who are being corrupted by the Red and Blue Orbs, actually. The deeper the corruption, the more elaborate the pattern. Examples include Pikachu and Archie (both mentioned above), Maxie, Ruby and Sapphire.
  • Tohma of Magical War Chronicle Lyrical Nanoha Force has a tendency to gain these whenever he uses the Divider. It's implied that they may be signs of the Eclipse infection.
  • Invisible unless you look at it up close but in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, if you perchance happen to fight a Gundam that goes trans-am, the GN particle channels light up briefly before the entire unit is flooded with GN particles and it lays the smackdown on you.
  • Even worse, in Gundam Unicorn, once it activates the NT-D system, you KNOW it is about to kill you.
  • Tsunayoshi Sawada from Katekyo Hitman Reborn can tap into Dying Will Mode if shot in the head by a Dying Will Bullet or if he swallows a Dying Will Pill. When he does go into that mode, his usually round brown eyes turn into an angular orange, and an orange flame lights up on his forehead. From the Hyper Dying Will Mode, Tsuna gains a good sense of combat and an ability used by his ancestors called Hyper Intuition, which allows him to predict human movements and gain an upper hand in battle.
    • When Tsuna's Shadow Archetype/Evil Counterpart (does he still count as the latter since he stopped being an active antagonist?) Xanxus's body gets covered in old scars when he goes all out/anyone mentions Tsuna. And his flames start to glow around his as well
  • Wielders of the original and copies alike in Witchblade has various colored lines on the skin when transformed.
  • Slightly different effect-wise, but when Natsu of Fairy Tail powers up by eating the Etherion, he gets a scaly draconic pattern around his eyes and arms.
    • Mirajane gets the non-glowing version when she uses her Take Over transformations.

Comic Books

  • The Cross Gen comics company produced a series of titles set in what was informally dubbed "the Sigilverse", where those gifted with great cosmic power were marked by a glowing tattoo known as "the Sigil".
  • Marvel Comics' X-Men character Rachel Summers had tattoos put on her face when she was forced to work as a Hound—a hunter of other mutants. She telekinetically hides them most of the time, but when she's angry or stressed, she gets distracted and they show up again. Making her look more than a little intimidating. Which is appropriate given the level of destruction she's capable of.
  • The madder incarnation of Shade the Changing Man would have swirls and concentric circles appear on his face and hands when activating his madness powers.


  • Carrie 2: the Rage: Rachael has a perfectly ordinary tattoo of a thorny rose. When she goes for the big rage scene, the tattoo spreads itself all over her body from head to toe, leaving her with the image of a thorny vine curling around her body.
  • In The Return of Hanuman, Maruti's mouth and cheeks occasionally turn pink to resemble Hanuman to mark that he becomes more powerful.
  • In Nightbreed, as Boone metamorphoses, various swirling patterns form blackened grooves in his skin.


  • Used in Alfred Bester's novel The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!), with some justifying done. Gully Foyle has a tiger pattern tattooed on his face. After he has this removed, it reappears as red marks from the rush of blood whenever he gets angry.
    • Possibly Truth in Television, depending on the removal procedure used. All procedures will leave behind some kind of scarring, and superficial/not-usually-visible scars will often flush redder than surrounding skin.
  • The Dresden Files. The members of the Fellowship of St. Giles are all people who've been infected by Red Court vampires, but who haven't given in to their hungers and killed someone, so they're stuck in the state between human and icky demon thing wearing human flesh. To keep their hungers in check, they're tattooed with control sigils; when they draw upon their inherently vampiric powers (superstrength, great speed, resiliency), the tattoos become visible and start turning deeper shades of red to reflect how much self-control they have left.
  • Susan Sto Helit, of Discworld, has a birthmark on her face from where her father was slapped by the skeletal incarnation of Death. The thin red marks, as of bony fingers, become visible when she is angry, embarrassed or otherwise flushed, so they aren't precisely marks of Bad Assitude—but she's a Fragile Flower in a Pratchett novel (within the larger category of the British comic fantasy), so rendering her moderately upset is pretty much the same thing; she's about to win.
    • It could also be taken, as Narrative Causality is a force on the Disc, as a literal manifestation of the expression "I'm going to hit you so hard your children will feel it."
  • Slightly subverted with Zoey Redbird in the House of Night series, who gets new magical tattoos after she does something heroic.
  • In the Wild Cards novels, Jack "Golden Boy" Braun earns his nickname because every time he uses his Super Strength or Nigh Invulnerability, he gains a golden nimbus that is bright enough to read by in the dark.

Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer's example is when Willow has her Superpower Meltdown after Tara is killed. She absorbs knowledge from several books, and the arcane symbols all ink themselves onto her skin like tattoos.
    • More subtly done previously in the series, where Willow's eyes simply become huge and black. Done big again at the end of the series when Willow makes all the potentials into Slayers, her hair goes all white and there's a white glowing light.

Tabletop Games

  • In the White Wolf Game Exalted, the Lunar Exalted are marked by moonsilver tattoos over their entire bodies. While they can learn to hide these, drawing too deeply upon their powers causes them to shine through disguise and clothing alike. Most Exalted manifest some small markings along with their Anima Banner, but these are usually only seen on their foreheads.
    • Malfeas has a charm that creates this effect, coating the user in emerald fire lines spelling out how awesome they are in an ancient language. It augments the user's ability to take damage considerably.
  • Bright Wizards (the college of fire) in Warhammer Fantasy Battle tattoo their spells onto their bodies. They're said to light up when the wizard gets into serious spellcasting.
  • This happens every time a werewolf enters the Shadow in Werewolf: The Forsaken; they gain glowing silvers tattoos all over their bodies, called "Spirit Brands" which detail particularly heroic deeds that the werewolf has performed.

Video Games

  • The third time you complete The Bouncer, the Big Bad Dauragon C. Mikado gets up again after his normally-final form is defeated. He now has an unexplained dragon-tattoo and a LOT more power.
  • The characters in in the PS 2 Digital Devil Saga games have a circuitlike pattern spread over their skin before they enter their demon forms.
    • Another SMT example comes from Nocturne, whose Demi-Fiend sports some mean blue marks after the Conception.
  • Taboo Minamimoto from The World Ends With You.
  • In Dragon Age 2, Fenris' lyrium tattoos start to glow blue when he's drawing on their power.
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the hero's Dragonform resembles less a dragon, and more a black-skinned version of himself with glowing red tattoos.
  • Darkspine Sonic from Sonic and the Secret Rings gets white stripes running up his head, and around his wrists and ankles.
  • All Eight Epitaph users from the .hack//G.U. series do this when calling their Avatar. Each character has a different pattern, likely mimicking patterns or appearances of their Avatar.
  • In Fable, the more proficient you become with magic, the more mystical glowing runes appear on your body.
    • In Fable 3, when charging for a flourish attack, different glowing patterns (depending on the clothing worn) appear. This is additional to tattoos which begin to glow in different colours as you decide upon your moral alignment
  • The more colossi you kill in Shadow of the Colossus, the more black marks appear on Wander's body. This is not good.
  • Amaterasu. While she does have red body markings almost at all times, they become twice as elaborate when she reaches full power via Combined Energy Attack.
  • Fate/stay night: Ilya's Magic Crest covers most of her body. Most of the time it's invisible, but sometimes it shines through her clothes, such as when she's casting spells. Dark Sakura also has this, combined with White-Haired Pretty Girl.
  • The protagonist of Shadow Man gains additional tattoos as he gains powers.
  • In Lux Pain this happens when Atsuki uses sigma.
  • In Mega Man X8, the red lines on Axl's body pulse when he's preparing to shapeshift.
  • Liu-Shen of Suikoden Tierkreis, signifying that he is the new Elder Scribe.
  • Almalexia in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind got her cool black tattoos when she ascended to divinity.
  • In Solatorobo, it's difficult or even nigh-impossible to see in the game itself, but this spoilerific piece of concept art reveals that Red's Dahak-fused Trance form has Tron Lines, whereas his unfused Trance form and normal, basic form do not.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, the Demi-Fiend's demon markings glow whenever he performs an attack unique to him (usually among the more powerful attacks in the game). For added contrast, his body becomes entirely shrouded in shadow, so all you can see of him are his outline, the outlines of his markings, and his eyes.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • When she activates her powers, Rosetta of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe is surrounded by a mystical aura that looks like glowing green rings of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics floating around her head and hands.

Western Animation

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang has ordinary tattoos, but they glow blue along with his eyes when he goes into the Avatar State.
  • When Ben 10 goes Upgrade, he gets glowing Tron Lines along his body.
  • In the fifth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), the turtles would sport these when accessing their Ninja Tribunal-granted powers.
  • In Teen Titans, as Raven is getting close to fulfilling her destiny of bringing her demon father into the world, she begins to break out in glowing body markings.

Real Life

  • The tiny (but deadly) blue-ringed octopus' normally-dull rings covering its body will glow bright blue when it's about to attack.
    • Many octopuses will intensify in color when they are mad or about to attack, eg the Giant Pacific Octopus Turns Red.
  • Same with Pfeffer's Flamboyant Cuttlefish