Created By: SapphireFlame on December 14, 2009
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Four Element Ensemble

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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.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • December 8, 2009
    Yin
    I have no examples for you, but I'd just like to say: HOW DID YOU READ MY MIND.
  • December 8, 2009
    fzzr_miller
    As per the snowclone title, more than likely to be a Four Temperament Ensemble as well.
  • December 8, 2009
    binaroid
    The Ghost Rider movie used this to justify villain Blackheart's Quirky Miniboss Squad's theming of Air, Water, and Earth -- with the Rider himself handling Fire.
  • December 8, 2009
    Everzwijn
    • 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.
  • December 8, 2009
    FreezairForALimitedTime
    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.
  • December 8, 2009
    Nate the Great
    Mystic Knights Of Tir Na Nog, anybody? "Fire within me! Earth beneath me! Air above me! Water around me!"
  • December 8, 2009
    CotFI2
    I always wondered about Captain Planet... if the other rings granted "powers" over their "element" allowing the wearer to move great whopping chunks of the respective material around, why wasn't "heart" pulling the ol' Mola Rom trick? Can you imagine how... effective... that would be?
  • December 8, 2009
    Frodo Goofball CoTV
  • December 8, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Avatar The Last Airbender's Five Man Band has this along with Sokka as the Badass Normal.
  • December 8, 2009
    Pata Hikari
    Actually, for the Final Fantasy V example, there is one way the elemental affinity effects gameplay. The Gladiator Class from the Updated Rerelease for the GBA has the "Finisher" skill, which does a critical hit that's the element of that character {IE Bartz is wind, Lenna is water, etc) if the enemy is weak to that element it will always do 9999 damage
  • December 9, 2009
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • 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 And Dragons had the Elemental Princes of Evil: Cryonax (cold), Imix (fire), Ogremoch (earth), Olhydra (water) and Yan-C-Bin (air).
  • December 9, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Batman And The Outsiders villain team The Masters of Disaster featured characters with water, earth, air, heat and cold powers.
  • December 9, 2009
    Kinkajou
    A slight correction for the Finisher ability in FFV: It either does an elemental attack featuring the user's element and dealing 9999 damage (So against an enemy which absorbs that element...), or a critical hit. However it can do nothing at times.
  • December 9, 2009
    Cidolfas
    Of course, bad guy versions in the four Fiends from Final Fantasy I and the four Emperors in Final Fantasy IV.
  • December 9, 2009
    SevenOfDiamonds
    This also tends to correspond with the Four Temperament Ensemble. Traditionally meloncholic= earth, choleric= fire, phlegmatic= water, and sanguine= air, though there are other interpretations.

    • Hellboy 2 has this if you really think about it. Abe is water, Liz is fire, Krauss is air, and Red is earth. It also featured the other elements with the elves being wood and the Golden Army being metal.
  • December 10, 2009
    SapphireFlame
    All right, I have something I want to bring up. When I originally created the trope, I was specifically thinking about ensembles with four people, each with an element. Yet, most of the examples people have suggested are "four elements plus one". Now, there are a few ways we could deal with it:

    • Remove all the examples that have more than four people
    • Accept the Trope Decay, and make allowances for "four elements plus someone else", but make a few restrictions.
    • Go even further and allow any team that has a "each team member controls a specific element, except for one or two", while making a name change.
    • Split all the examples into "Four elements", "Four elements plus one", "Other elemental make-ups" and "Non-literal examples". If the page gets too big, it could be split.

    Maybe I could re-work this page and make it "Elemental Ensemble". I'm just worried this might make the trope pre-decayed just so that it would get more examples. What do you guys think?
  • December 10, 2009
    FreezairForALimitedTime
    I say go for the last one. Elemental Ensembles in general do exist, and I think it's a good, if broad, trope.
  • December 10, 2009
    halfmillennium
    • The second Spyro The Dragon continuity has the elemental Elders. It could also be argued that the stages of the first game are based on elements as well.
  • December 10, 2009
    Unknown Troper
  • December 10, 2009
    LarryD
    The classical Western set was: earth, air, fire, and water. But philosophers in ancient Greece added aether (since the heavens were not observed to change, they couldn't be made of the earthly four). Similar systems were developed independently elsewhere, almost always with the classical four, but often with a fifth one variously identified as space, heaven, spirit, void, aether, etc.
  • October 3, 2010
    Prfnoff
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=c08o144yi3756zp9s6w6let4