Created By: PapercutChainsaw on October 25, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on August 4, 2014

Fading Away

A character literally fades out of existence

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Trope
A character slowly begins to fade away, often as a form of non-violent onscreen death. This differs from Everything Fades and Disappears into Light, as the character is always alive and fully conscious throughout the process, and that the fading is explicitly the cause of their death/disappearance. That said, the fading is not always fatal if the character can find a way to stop it in time.

The fading usually results in a character becoming transparent and ghostlike, gradually losing the ability to interact with the physical world around them.

Characters who are likely to suffer this fate include ghosts and spirits, beings trapped in a world that is not their own, "imaginary" creatures that are dependent on belief to exist, and even the odd Intangible Man with Power Incontinence. Can also be caused by a Delayed Ripple Effect.

Given that this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In the final episode of The Big O, the Big Venus marches straight into Alex Rosewater and his Big Fau mecha, causing him to fade away, horrifically. It keeps going, fulfilling its role as the Reality Reset Button of Paradigm City.

Comic Books
  • What If? v2 #89 was a story where the Fantastic Four weren't able to control their powers properly, and this is what happened to the Invisible Woman.

Film
  • Happens to Marty in Back to the Future when he's in danger of nullifying his own existence when his parents might not get together.

Live-Action TV
  • The Twilight Zone
    • TOS episode "It's a Good Life". A 5 year old boy has the power to send people and things "to the cornfield". One of the characters who disappears is seen fading away after being turned into a jack-in-the-box.
    • TOS episode "A World of His Own". A playwright has the ability to create people by recording their description on an audio tape. When the tape is burned, the created person fades into non-existence.
  • Chris nearly had this happen to him in Charmed. Piper and Leo hadn't conceived him yet, so he started fading out of existence.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Time's Orphan", Molly O'Brien disappears into a portal that sends her 3000 years into the past. They try to get her back, but they get a version that is 18 years old; 10 years older than the Molly who went through the portal. The 18 year old Molly wants to go back, and when they send her back, the 18 year old Molly finds the 8 year old Molly. The 18 year old Molly sends the 8 year old Molly back to her parents and disappears.

Community Feedback Replies: 49
  • October 25, 2011
    Koveras
  • October 25, 2011
    bulmabriefs144
    It's a subtrope of No Body Left Behind. It describes the process of fading, while still alive. That is, you don't die, then fade away. Fading away is Cause Of Death.
  • October 25, 2011
    isk2837
    I think Chris nearly had this happen to him in Charmed - Piper and Leo hadn't conceived him yet, so he started fading out of existence.
  • October 25, 2011
    Shnakepup
    • Happens to Marty in Back To The Future when he's in danger of nullifying his own existence when his parents might not get together.

  • October 25, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I'm confused: do ghosts count or not? After all, ghosts, or at least the people they once were, are dead of something else already.

    If they do count, add Thursday Next's Uncle Mycroft, who appears as a ghost three times, each one more faint than the last, in First Among Sequels. Spike Stoker, SO-17 expert on the various forms of death, is able to reassure Thursday that she won't miss Mycroft's appearances and knows the duration and degree of fading for each of them.
  • October 25, 2011
    PapercutChainsaw
    Yes, ghosts qualify, because if they fade away they are still ceasing to exist, even if they are already technically dead.
  • October 25, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    In the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode, Time's Orphan, Molly O Brien disspears into a portal that sends her 3000 years into the past. They try to get her back, but they get a version that is 18 years old; 10 years older than the Molly who went through the portal. The 18 year old Molly wants to go back, and when they send her back, the 18 year old Molly finds the 8 year old Molly. The 18 year old Molly sends the 8 year old Molly back to her parents and dissapears.
  • October 25, 2011
    PaulA
    • What If v2 #89 was a story where the Fantastic Four weren't able to control their powers properly, and this is what happened to the Invisible Woman.
  • October 26, 2011
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "A World of His Own". A playwright has the ability to create people by recording their description on an audio tape. When the tape is burned, the created person fades into non-existence.
  • October 26, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    • Of course, who can forget the Twilight Zone episode, "It's a Good Life". A 5 year old boy has the power to send people and things "to the cornfield"
  • October 26, 2011
    hevendor717
    In the final episode of The Big O, the Big Venus marches straight into Alex Rosewater and his Big Fau mecha, causing him to fade away, horrifically. It keeps going, fulfilling its role as the Reality Reset Button of Paradigm City.
  • October 27, 2011
    Arivne
    ^^ Specifically, the character who faded away and was sent to the cornfield was Dan Hollis, after Anthony turned him into a jack-in-the-box.
  • July 28, 2012
    CapFox
    In the final day of The World Ends With You Beat has, because of his earlier poor performance as a reaper, run out of time and begins to fade away until "he pulls himself together"
  • July 28, 2012
    randomsurfer
    IIRC in Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency when ghosts are dispelled (or whatever) they fade away.

    Huh, rereading that I suspect it's not a very helpful reply.
  • July 29, 2012
    triassicranger
    The Sarah Jane Adventures has this happen to Luke, Clyde and Sarah Jane after Rani wishes they'd leave her alone and an alien ship grants her wish.
  • July 31, 2012
    MrRuano
    Asuras Wrath. After slaying Chakravartin, this is the way Asura goes.
    "My wrath is finally...gone."
  • July 31, 2012
    judasmartel
    Compare/Contrast Cessation Of Existence.
  • July 31, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Star Trek TOS: In "Who Mourns for Adonis", Apollo "spreads himself on the wind" at the end, fading away slowly.
  • June 4, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • June 4, 2014
    DAN004
    • In Kungfu Panda, Master Oogway, knowing his time is up, starts to fade away, but not before telling his protege Master Shifu to train the Dragon Warrior. Then he scatters away like cherry blossom leaves.
  • June 4, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    Western Animation
    • In the Justice League Unlimited episode, "The Once and Future Thing", Chronos keeps tampering with the space-time continuum until the universe itself starts to collapse. Among the symptoms of this is Wonder Woman fading away, possibly having never left the island of Themyscira (or never being born).
  • June 4, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • The Benny Hill Show: A character who discovers he was a ghost all along fades out when informed of that fact.
  • June 4, 2014
    SKJAM
    The Star Wars tie-in cartoon show Droids (starring C=3PO and R2-D2) had this happen to the villain of one episode due to a disease he'd meant to inflict on others. It was an unusually final and chilling fate for a Saturday morning cartoon of that vintage.
  • June 4, 2014
    Madrugada
    In The Dark Crystal when a Skeksis dies, the corresponding Mystic fades away and leaves Empty Piles Of Clothing
  • June 4, 2014
    Dawnwing
    Literature:

    • In the Warrior Cats series, cats in the afterlife - no matter whether they're in the good one or the evil one - gradually fade away over time as they are forgotten by living cats. The founders of the Clans, for instance, are somewhat faint, but some of the faintest cats don't even seem to notice anyone else around anymore.
  • June 4, 2014
    Snicka
    Does the way Yoda dies in Return Of The Jedi count? He says some dramatic Final Words, closes his eyes, and then vanishes.
  • June 5, 2014
    Arivne
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Examples section formatting
      • Media section title(s): Changed to our standard style and Blue Linked.
      • Added a space between *'s and the first word following them.
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
    • Corrected spelling (disspears, O Brien).
  • June 5, 2014
    HellKillUsAll
    Western Animation
    • Family Guy
      • Similar to the Back to the Future example above, this occurred in several time-travel episodes like "Christmas Guy" and "Chap Stewie".
      • This happens to Peter in "Fresh Heir" when he rips up his birth certificate.
      Peter: There is no light! There's only fire!
      • At the end of "3 Acts of God", Peter mentions that he asked God to perform another favor to him. Cue Meg fading away.
  • June 5, 2014
    bitemytail
    In Final Fantasy X, Tidus does this at the end of the game.
  • June 5, 2014
    Paradisesnake
  • June 5, 2014
    JoeG
    This could be the page quote, from The Hunting Of The Snark:
    In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
    In the midst of his laughter and glee,
    He had softly and suddenly vanished away —
    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see
  • June 8, 2014
    captainsandwich
    See also Ret Gone ?
  • July 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    ^ Isn't that one form of this?
  • July 2, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ not always.
  • July 2, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Star Trek The Next Generation: In "The Big Goodbye" (the first Holodeck Malfunction episode) a couple of holodeck characters, not believing that they aren't real, step out of the holodeck onto an Enterprise corridor. They congratulate themselves, then start fading away.
  • July 2, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    ^^ Not always, but sometimes, given that you have a Back To The Future example.
  • July 2, 2014
    SneakySquirrel
  • July 31, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Five hats. Is the sponsor still there?
  • July 31, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • July 31, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Kim Possible: In "Blush", Drakken sprays Kim with pollen that takes her desire to disappear when embarrassed literally. Ron has to Find The Cure before she gets embarrassed out of existence.
  • August 1, 2014
    Arivne
    ^^^ The OP Papercut Chainsaw last edited a work or trope page on March 24th 2014, so I'd say they're no longer around.

    They also haven't posted here since 2011, so they lost interest in this proposal long ago anyway.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
    So the OP has faded away? :P
  • August 1, 2014
    NESBoy
    • "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000" from South Park had Kyle fade away after questioning his existence for too long. Then reality gets warped, scaring way the adults trying to take the kids away, after which Kyle fades back into existence.
  • August 1, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    ^^ Yeah.
  • August 1, 2014
    DAN004
    Who wanna grab this? :D
  • August 3, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • August 4, 2014
    Skylite
    • I Dream Of Jeannie had an episode like this where she and Tony had to journey to Mecca to reaffirm Jeannie's connection to her master. Tony put it off, and Jeannie began to disappear from the feet up, leaving her pink pantaloons hanging empty above the ankles, and going upward until they solved the problem.
  • August 4, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    ^ Didn't that also happen regarding Tony and Roger trying to find out her birthday?

    Webcomics
    • IDGet. In this very early strip, Kevin is approached by his "memory" who slowly begins to fade away, saying Kevin needs to "refresh" him, though Kevin says he's not in the mood for metaphors.
  • August 4, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In The Pink Panther Strikes Again Inspector Dreyfus has gone insane and is threatening the world with a disintegratior ray. In the film's climax he gets hit with the ray himself and slowly fades away from the feet up.
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