Four Element Ensemble


(permanent link) added: 2009-12-14 05:18:58 sponsor: SapphireFlame (last reply: 2010-10-03 18:47:00)

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Despite the idea of the "four elements" being obsolete, writers love to play with the idea in fiction. Sometimes, a writer will merely use the idea of the "four elements" for an Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors system. Other times, however, writers will base not a character, but an entire ensemble based on the classical elements.

This can sometimes be used literally by giving each member of the ensemble power over the particular element. Other times, however, it can be used on a more symbolic level, by giving each person personalities associated with the element in question or by using Theme Naming to assign each person an element.

Note that while basing characters off of the four European elements of fire, water, air and earth is the most common, a few writers will use a slightly different elemental system, such as the Chinese five element system of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal.

Another common variation is a "four elements plus one" system, with the fifth being the Standardized Leader, Sixth Ranger, Badass Normal, or some other role.

Note that this is not to be confused with Four-Temperament Ensemble.


Literal Examples:

  • The Xiaolin Monks of Xiaolin showdown each control one of the four elements.
  • Each of the Warriors of Virtue has a talisman representing one of the five eastern elements, Or So I Heard
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers, of course. The fifth member has heart.
  • Near the beginning of Final Fantasy V, each of the four protagonists is associated with one of the four elemental crystals along with a personality trait associated with said element. Bartz gets wind and quest, Lenna gets water and kindness, Galuf gets earth and hope, and Faris gets fire and courage. This has no effect of gameplay though.
  • Breath of Fire IV kind of does this. Nina uses wind, Cray uses earth, Scias uses water, and Ursula uses fire. There are, however, two more characters in the party, with Ershin getting the most powerful spells of all elements but too little mana to use them regularly, and Ryu's dragon forms focusing on fire but also having access to wind and earth.
  • Golden Sun: In both games, each of your party members maps to a specific element, and they characters of each element in the original and the sequel even look alike. But when you get access to the first game's characters in the sequel, you can put together parties of whatever you like.
  • Mystic Knights Of Tir Na Nog, anybody? "Fire within me! Earth beneath me! Air above me! Water around me!"
  • Champions adventure "The Coriolis Effect". Donnah Hannah and three anonymous NPC's are transformed into elemental themed villains (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) by the Black Enchantress.
  • Dungeons & Dragons had the Elemental Princes of Evil: Cryonax (cold), Imix (fire), Ogremoch (earth), Olhydra (water) and Yan-C-Bin (air).

Metaphorical / Theme Naming Examples:

  • The names of the four generals of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a portamanteau of one of the four components of DNA and a mythological creature associated with an element.
  • According to some theories, the Fantastic Four, with Reed Richards as water, Sue Storm as air, The Thing as earth, and Johnny Storm as the obvious.
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