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When Tobi uses his selective teleportation power that causes objects to pass through him, does he have to think about it when he does it, or is it automatic? I'm trying to find out if he is vulnerable to a sneak attack.

I know he is able to teleport at will, but I'm wondering more about his "ghost" ability that causes objects to pass through him.

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I'm thinking that it is voluntary, since

he uses his Magekyou to do it, and it is the same technique as Kakashi's.

Also because he is able to quickly change between using (to dodge an attack) and not using it (to attack someone). Furthermore, (spoiler if you still do not know Tobi's identity)

Naruto headbutted him and he did not dodge it.

Later, Naruto hits him with a rasengan, breaking his mask and revealing his identity as Obito. Although he was 'trapped' (because of the Bijuu-dama) on the other dimension, if it were automatic, I'm guessing he wouldn't have been able to not dodge it, being fried by the Bijuu-dama 'back here'.

Although I say voluntary, it may be seen as semi-automatic (or even automatic, for that matter), in the sense that he does not actually think about it, but rather acts instinctively. However, I think it is triggered by his will, and not entirely automatic.

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That's not how I remember it. Naruto headbutting him didn't break his mask. – Madara Uchiha Dec 12 '12 at 20:31
Was it a rasengan? – JNat Dec 12 '12 at 20:35
It was, and it happened on the other side, which is why he couldn't evade. – Madara Uchiha Dec 12 '12 at 20:37
couldn't he have evaded back here? Also, despite not breaking his mask then, he buttheaded him here. – JNat Dec 12 '12 at 20:39
No, because "back here" was surrounded by a nuclear explosion by bijuudama :) – Madara Uchiha Dec 12 '12 at 20:39

I think it's somewhat semi-automatic.

When he wanted to touch Rin, he forgot to undo his jutsu, and went through her. This tells us he doesn't necessarily consciously control which parts of himself he is sending to the other dimension.

He can however activate and deactivate it on will, like a master switch.

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However, that was his first use of it. He still didn't fully control it. – JNat Dec 12 '12 at 20:36
@JNat: That only tells me it can be automatic, like "switch it on, and from now on body parts teleport automatically". I don't think he consciously pays attention to the parts he needs to transport. – Madara Uchiha Dec 12 '12 at 20:37
I'm guessing that at some point he has to force himself not to 'auto-transport' parts of his body, but that would be because he is used to doing it instinctively, rather than automatically. Also, if he can force himself not to do it, I think it is safe to assume that he also has to 'force himself' to do it (although that may come easier with practice) – JNat Dec 12 '12 at 20:44

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