Missing Protagonist YKTTW Discussion

Missing Protagonist
The protagonist of the previous title mysteriously disappears in between installments.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-02-08 12:55:48 sponsor: Koveras (last reply: 2015-08-22 00:54:18)

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When The Hero of the previous installment goes missing before the start of the next one, and his disappearance becomes a Plot Point: e.g. the new protagonists have to search for him (or are just wondering where the heck he went) or the evil he defeated is encouraged to return by his absence, etc. The duration of said absence can vary from brief (he is found by the new cast or just comes around on his own and joins them at some point) to indefinite (where he is never found or heard from again).

Out-of-universe, writers often do this because the previous protagonist has grown so powerful on his adventure, that his involvement in a new conflict would either end it too quickly or drive the stakes too high. Instead, he is removed from picture to let the less experienced new hero sweat and bleed in the new conflict.

Subtrope of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and Put on a Bus, and often leads to Changing of the Guard. Compare Series Minus Series Core and It's a Wonderful Plot. Not to be confused with Rogue Protagonist or Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome, where the old hero turns proactively evil. Contrast also Previous Player-Character Cameo.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the sequel movie to Martian Successor Nadesico, Prince of Darkness, both Akito and Yurika have mysteriously vanished since The Original Series, so Ruri has to take the helm of Nadesico and go searching for them.
  • The protagonist of Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro Ray, is nowhere to be found in the beginning of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. When the new leads track him down and try to recruit him, he reveals to be still suffering from the trauma of the previous war and refuses to return to piloting mecha, leaving the new guard and the returning old cast to fend for themselves. He does return to the field in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, however.
  • Downplayed in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: pretty much the entire main cast of the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED who aren't Athrun is still present in the series but refuses to take any part in the new conflict until about half-way into the season, believing they would do more harm than good by involving themselves again.
  • Subverted in Kiddy GiRL-AND. In the opening shots, Eclair and Lumiere, the heroines of Kiddy Grade, are apparently killed and the exact nature of their predicament seems like it would become relevant to the plot later... but it's simply never brought up again.

    Literature 
  • One of the Super Mysteries in the new version of the Nancy Drew series is centered on this. The title is ''Where's Nancy?"
  • Percy Jackson, eponymous character and hero of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, disappears during the months-long timeskip between that and its sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus. He is absent during the first book (aptly titled "The Lost Hero"), during which searches for him are going on in the background; however this is used as an opportunity to introduce three of the new heroes for the sequel series. He reappears in the second book, but has lost his Curse of Achilles, and the stakes are even higher this time.

    Video Games 
  • In the Ace Combat series:
    • The Ghosts of Razgriz of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War purposefully disappeared after the war, because a) they have been officially dead for several months before the war ended and b) revealing them to the public would inevitably uncover the sheer amount of incompetence and corruption in both Osean and Yuktobanian governments. As the title suggests, their involvement in the later stages of war is classified by the Osean government.
    • Cipher from Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War disappears at the end of the game. The whole Framing Device is basically a particularly obstinate Intrepid Reporter trying to uncover the truth of who he was ten years later.
  • The protagonist of Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Revan, is inexplicably absent from the second game, and its own protagonist eventually goes off to search for him... and also disappears. Star Wars: The Old Republic reveals that their sacrifice postponed the Sith Empire's attack on the Old Republic by 300 years.
  • A repeated pattern in the Dragon Age setting, with both the Warden(-Commander) of Origins and Awakening and Hawke of Dragon Age II mysteriously disappearing soon after their arcs are over. It is strongly implied that their disappearance is tied to the on-going Myth Arc of the series, although Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals this as a Red Herring: the Warden has actually gone on a solo quest far to the West, while Hawke left Kirkwall in hopes of preventing an Exalted March against the city and shows up again to help the Inquisition to defeat the Elder One. Still, their disappearance is a major plot point, since by the epilogue of DA2, the Chantry is frantically searching all over for one of them to lead the restored Inquisition... which is why an utter nobody ends up in charge of it in the next game.
  • King Of Fighters '99 had recurring protagonist from prior games, Kyo Kusanagi, go missing without a trace. Instead, the main protagonist was K', a man who happens to have the genes of Kyo thanks to experimentation. It's revealed that Kyo was being used for a clone experiment, whose results include playable characters Kyo-1 and Kyo-2, in order to take over the world. He eventually breaks out, and can even be fought against as a Bonus Boss if you score high enough.
  • In the Donkey Kong Country series, Donkey Kong himself was only playable in the first title, despite being the title character. In the second game, Donkey went missing and his sidekick Diddy had to look for him with his girlfriend Dixie. In the third game, both Donkey and Diddy go missing, so Dixie and her cousin Kiddy have to find both of them.
  • In Pikmin 3, the player controls a new trio of space explorers on their own quest to the Pikmin planet. But once there, they discover secret messages left behind by a mysterious Captain Olimar, the protagonist of the first two games and their fates become intertwined. By the end of the game, they have to rescue both Olimar and Louie, the two heroes from Pikmin 2.
  • In Tales of Xillia 2 one of the protagonists of the first game, Milla, has gone missing. Though you do find an alternate reality version of her early on, she's not the real Milla.


Examples that need more context to qualify:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Ghost in the Shell movie duology, Motoko Kusanagi is the star of the first movie but goes missing before Innocence, where Batou is instead paired with another agent. Motoko makes a brief appearance towards the end of the second movie.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • xXx: State of the Union: Vin Diesel's character from the original movie disappears and the designation xxx goes to another agent.
  • Speed 2: Cruise Control: Jack, the hero from Speed, is missing but the girl he resuced is back.
  • U.S. Marshals, practically a remake of The Fugitive, has Tommy Lee Jones return as an Inspector Javert with a new person to hunt instead of Richard Kimble.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the beginning of the second season of Babylon 5, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair is abruptly transferred to the post of Ambassador to Minbar and replaced with John Sheridan, who proves better suited to handle the events of the new season. Sinclair makes a few more guest appearances in later seasons, but never returns as a regular again.

    Video Games 
  • A staple in The Elder Scrolls series.
  • In Chrono Cross, Crono and Marle, the co-protagonists of Chrono Trigger, have both disappeared, and we hear that their kingdom, Guardia, has been destroyed. Only a few vague hints and references gives you any clue as to what happened. This is extremely upsetting for many fans because it's only been twenty years since the previous game. Although the DS release of Chrono Trigger pretty much tells you that they were killed off by a relatively minor villain from the first game.
  • Zigzagged in X3: Terran Conflict. X3: Reunion's Player Character Julian Brennan is nowhere to be found for the first two-thirds of the game. During the Aldrin Expansion plot he turns up in Terran Unknown Sector 3, but after that he's never heard from again.
  • Done in the Mother series. In Earthbound, Ninten, the protagonist of the previous game is completely absent and is never mentioned whatsoever, but in Mother 3, the protagonist of Earthbound, Ness, is mentioned a few times and shown on a film playing in a theater, however he does not appear physically.
  • In most of the Pokémon franchise, the hero of the last generation's games is never seen.
    • Played with in Gold and Silver, the hero is often referenced but their whereabouts are unknown. Eventually, in a now discredited spoiler, they're revealed as the True Final Boss atop Mt. Silver.
    • Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 is a direct sequel to Pokémon Black and White but the (now famous) previous protagonist is nowhere to be seen. Everyone else from the previous game, even your True Companions and mother, but the protagonist is nowhere to be seen. There were rumors early on that Hilbert appeared if you played as Rosa, and Hilda if you were Nate, but those were shot down... However in-game data shows both characters were Dummied Out from the World Tournament and unlike Red they weren't Heroic Mime's.
  • In Mega Man ZX Advent (the second game of the series), the story starts with Grey/Ashe and the Hunters guild, without any mention of the Vent/Aile and the Guardians of the previous game. Vent/Aile do appear, though, 2/3 into the game.

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