Created By: Psi001 on January 7, 2013 Last Edited By: Psi001 on January 27, 2013
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A Taste Of Defeat

A usually infallible competitor suffers a rare humiliating loss.

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You have a character. They may be The Hero or The Rival, or maybe just a competitor for a mundane sport you've just heard of. Either way though, they are very good at what they do, so much that they pretty much never fail, or are even remotely challenged by it. They can in most simplistic terms be considered a "winner".

Except today. Maybe it's just Not Their Lucky Day or they've done something antagonistic to cost them their Karmic Protection, but for once in their usually glimmering life they've ended up the loser of the situation.

How they take their humbling can vary greatly. Some have been on the winning end so long that a single loss is completely alien to them. They may breakdown, throw a tantrum or just accept the humility and learn from their mistake. Whoever put them off their high horse will likely also be in their eye for quite a while, either as a respected rival or a despised sabotager of their legacy.

If a heroic case it sometimes happens because The Bad Guy Wins or Team Rocket Wins, though not always (one side doesn't neccessarily have to win for another to lose). In some of such cases, it may be a sign the villain means business.

Very often connected to Defeating the Undefeatable if their winning streak is lampshaded in universe.

See also Not So Invincible After All. Compare with The Worf Effect where a supposedly strong character has more defeats than victory, or Throw the Dog a Bone and Team Rocket Wins when a usually luckless or incompetent character finally gets a victorious moment.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Ash Ketchum of Pokémon has a very good winning streak in battles and is the saviour of almost every crisis, especially in later seasons. Every now and then however, he suffers a crippling loss, screws up a mission or even suffers a rare beatdown by Team Rocket.
    • Inverted in the first season, where Ash was a rookie (and a Butt Monkey on top of it) so actually tasted defeat on a regular basis anyway.
  • Any time Chad loses in Megaman EXE. May be combined with The Worf Effect.
  • The Lady of War Signum from the Lyrical Nanoha series goes through this in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. Having never been defeated in the two seasons since her introduction, she suffers a devastating defeat at the hands of the new villainess, Cypha of Huckebein, spending ten chapters in ICU. She takes the occasion to take a more cautious approach in the future and rely more on technological advantages rather than pure skill.
  • A plot point exclusive to the Animated Adaptation of Cardcaptor Sakura. While Sakura always succeeded in capturing the Clow Cards in the original manga, a stipulation is added in the anime where Syaoran Li can earn the cards himself if he put the most effort into weakening them. Granted this becomes less significant as Sakura has increasing difficulty resenting Syaoran as a rival, at some later points even happily giving him a card as a token of friendship or gratitude for an earlier act.
  • In the fourth season of Yu-Gi-Oh, Yami Yugi loses to one of the mid-bosses after a philosophical debate about the merits of attempting to win at any cost.
    • Yugi's first defeat in Yu-Gi-Oh! was against Kaiba (albeit because Kaiba threatened to commit suicide if Yugi beat him). Yu Gi Oh Abridged had fun with this.
    Yugi: I lost a children's card game! I no longer have a reason to live!
    • The show starts off with Yugi beating Kaiba in a duel (having remained undefeated beforehand), leading to an epic Villainous Breakdown and Yugi wiping the darkness from his mind, greatly effecting his attitude.
  • In Death Note this happens to Light Yagami quite a few times and especially at the end. Normally, even while being arrogant Light can come out on top, but there are quite a few times that he loses and proceeds to freak out.
  • In Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru, Imai Yuuto, a practitioner of an MMA karate style most likely inspired by Daido Juku, is an undefeated prodigy at the age of sixteen, with over 200 victories in competitive fights. He uses mind games and a liberal interpretation of the rules, along with his prodigious reach and considerable skills, to overcome more experienced opponents. However, he suffers a humiliating defeat by ippon (effectively a knockout) to Minoru in the Kaburagi Ryu championships, when Minoru is only a green belt with less than a year of training in karate.
  • In One Piece, after a long string of victories, the last two of which were a man manipulating a country and a self-proclaimed god, Monkey D. Luffy gets the tar beaten out of him by Admiral Aokiji, along with his entire crew, and realizes he still has no chance of overcoming any of the higher-ups in the Marines. He later gets another string of victories, and when he gathers up enough strength and courage for another go against the admirals, Admiral Akainu kills Luffy's brother in front of his eyes, whom Luffy was trying to save for the past hundred chapters or so. This total defeat was enough to shut down Luffy's normally peppy and optimistic demeanor for the first time in the series.
  • Very common in the Metal Fight Beyblade anime series. The most intense example would be the defeat of the pompous prodigy Julian Konzern by main character Gingka. It gets much worse for Julian, suffering an even more pathetic loss, and defecting to the bad guys with little success, before things get better.

Comic Book

  • Anytime Donald Duck finally one ups Lucky Bastard Gladstone Gander. This was also the plot point of a DuckTales episode, where Magica De Spell uses magic to invert his good luck. Word of God even noted the importance of this trope and keeping it rare, knowing there's only so many times they can do the "lucky guy runs out of luck" plot to proper effect.
  • Issue #175 of Sonic the Hedgehog has Eggman invade Knothole and blast it to smithereens and capture all the Freedom Fighters. What's more, due to creating a mech (the Egg Beater) built to resist Sonic's speed, he delivers a most sound verbal and physical beatdown to the hedgehog, with Sonic only able to make a small dent at his full power. Granted the victory is short lived and next to everything is reversed back (if not bettered) for the heroes by all of one issue, but still Eggman made his mark on Sonic.

Film

  • In The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, Terry Sugury is finally defeated in combat by the corrupt district attorney, Takera Kunigami. Keep in mind that Sugury had not been defeated in the first two films in the series.

Literature

  • In Piers Anthony's Proton/Phaze series, the serf Stile is fighting for his life in the Games, for which the prize is to rise from Serf to Citizen status. He has everything to play for. He comes up against a ten-year old boy who is playing for the hell of it. The game Computer generates a game of pure chance and sudden death; Stile loses one of his two "lives" on a sudden random chance.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig", the noble scion Atherton Wing challenges Malcolm Reynolds to a duel after Reynolds punches him (for making a disrespectful remark about Inara), and Wing is considered a master swordsman with many kills under his belt. He is rather arrogant about it in the way he toys with Malcolm initially in the duel, but is quite humbled when Malcolm (who has never fought with swords before) exploits a distraction and gains the upper hand--and moreso when Malcolm refuses to "finish him off" as is customary.
  • In an episode of Happy Days Fonzie takes on an undefeated internationaly famous fencer and beats him.

Video Games

  • You inflict this on Nitrus Oxide by beating him in Adventure Mode in Crash Team Racing.
    Oxide: AGGHHH!!! I can't believe you beat me! Impossible! I never lose! How embarrassing. I'll be the laughing stock of the entire Gasmoxian race.
  • In Sonic Riders' Story Mode, Sonic fails to capture Jet when he first meets him stealing an Emerald and later loses to him (albeit by cheating) in the World Grand Prix Final. With excess gloating added to the mix, Jet becomes one of the very few of Sonic's foes to not only outsmart him in their goal, but actually get under his skin.
  • At the start of the first Paper Mario Bowser (once again) attacks Peach's castle. The Princess sets Mario on him, boasting he has always kicked Bowser's ass. Cue Bowser pulling out his newly stolen Star Rod and finally defeating Mario in a Hopeless Boss Fight.
    • Technically Mario was given a canonical defeat long before in Donkey Kong Junior, where he acted as the villain.

Western Animation

  • Bugs Bunny could be considered Western Animation's most iconic Comically Invincible Hero. Though the odd spaced out short ends up with him the Butt Monkey due to his own ego getting the better of him. He never won against Cecil Turtle in any three of their bouts.
    • Similarly Speedy Gonzales, who was even more infallible than Bugs. At least three cartoons ended on a particularly sour note for him however (Mucho Locos, Chilli Con Corny and Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island).
  • The latter half of Tom and Jerry usually ended each short outwitting Tom. On occasion however, Jerry's luck run out. At least a dozen shorts ended with Tom getting the last laugh while many others ended in a bitter stalemate. These almost always happened when Jerry initiated the feud or got too spiteful in his retaliation.
  • This happened to Vince in Recess after one of the Ashleys outclassed him in kickball. Losing all his self confidence, things only worsen to the point he can't even make a basic kick anymore, until his friends coax him into kicking a (supposedly) modified ball to bring back his self esteem and competence.
    • Deliberately initiated in another episode. After Vince becomes conceited about his victory streak in sports games, the rest of the gang dare him to lose. He does so, and acts even more smug about it.
  • Rainbow Dash is completely dumbfounded by Applejack beating her in a sport in the "Fall Weather Friends" episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The taste of defeat is also pretty bitter.
    Rainbow Dash: I hate losing.
    • It worsens as both competitors go to increasingly desperate measures to avoid this trope. This cultimates in them taking part in the Running of the Leaves race, where they become so distracted trying to obstruct the other they actually both come in last.
    • Arguably the rare instances Twilight Sparkle is bested in terms of magical power, which is often implied to be among the most powerful in Equestria and usually only suffers the occasional failure due to her Power Incontinence. Her Curbstomp Battle against Trixie in "Magic Duel" possibly being the best example.
  • Arguably any instance Zordrak and the Urpneys succeed in giving nightmares to the usually well protected Noops in The Dreamstone. "The Dream Beam Invasion" however is the only episode to outright end with the Noops being humiliated by the Urpneys in a face off (even if the latter are also robbed of the last laugh after falling into a lake during the closing gag).
  • Played with in Spongebob Squarepants episode "Employee Of The Month", where Spongebob becomes increasingly paranoid and downbeat just by the mere possibility of this happening, with Squidward potentially winning the employee of the month award and ruining his 26 month long reign. Whether the trope actually occurs is never seen, since both competitors reach such insane extremes to win they outright destroy the Krusty Krab in the process.
    • This actually happens in the later episode "A Breath Of Fresh Squidward" after an electric shock affects Squidward's brain and makes him even kinder and hard working than Spongebob. Given how much he dreaded it the previous episode, the reaction is expected.
  • In the 1960 King Features Popeye short After The Ball Went Over, Popeye actually lost at the end- possibly because he had dared to make Genre Savvy remarks about the inevitability of his winning.
  • Played with in the Hey Arnold! episode "Steely Phil" when Granpa goes up against an arrogant Chinese Checkers champion. He finally makes a move that ends the match on a stalemate. The way the (now co-) champion reacts however, you'd think he truly had lost.
    • This actually happens a lot in the show. Usually whenever one of the characters competes in a game, they will be confronted by a near abnormal undefeated rival Shrouded in Myth. They pretty much always get beaten gloriously by the main characters.
  • An episode of American Dad! involves Steve being rejected from a football team after Stan becomes coach. For revenge, he and Roger try to cause his team to lose. After they succeed, Stan attempts suicide in humiliation, being completely unused to the concept of losing a basic sport.

Real Life

  • The Red Baron was eventually shot down after an extended fight despite his famous winning streak. He died from injuries sustained in the crash.
Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • January 7, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Needs a better name that doesn't cater to a specific Trope Namer.
  • January 7, 2013
    Psi001
    "The Ace Loses" "Tainted Winning Streak"

    Any other suggestions?

    Come to think of it, the latter may have more versatility as a trope than just a general hero one.
  • January 7, 2013
    MrRuano
    "A Taste Of Defeat" works for me. Generally can work on anyone encountering their first defeat or something along the line.
  • January 7, 2013
    dvorak
    How about Rare And Humiliating Loss? this title has Trope Namer Syndrome and is a Snow Clone (for Team Rocket Wins, if anyone cares)
  • January 7, 2013
    immortalfrieza
    I second "Tainted Winning Streak", since it's not just the heroes that can be the ones winning all the time only to occasionally suffer a crushing defeat, sometimes it's a guy who isn't the hero, but an undefeated champion of something, or the Villain Protagonist.
  • January 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    How is this different from Team Rocket Wins?
  • January 7, 2013
    immortalfrieza
    @randomsurfer Not really, if I understand Psi001's intended meaning correctly, Team Rocket Wins is when a normally very incompetent villain manages to triumph over the good guys, while Ash Ketchem Loses is when someone that pretty much always wins loses. Whoever that is doesn't necessarily have to lose to a villain, that would be either The Bad Guy Wins or Team Rocket Wins it can be a hero losing to a rival, a Villain Protagonist losing to a Hero Antagonist, or The Undefeated finally being beaten.
  • January 7, 2013
    Thecommander236
    This is the unbeatable being beaten in general. Team Rocket Wins is a sub-trope of this. Plus, you have Greyand Gray Morality and Whiteand Grey Morality.

    Examples:

    Real Life:

    • The Red Baron was eventually shot down after an extended fight despite his famous winning streak. He died from injuries sustained in the crash.

    This works for EVERY warrior and pilot both fiction and real life. Hell, you could include destroyed Super Carriers and Super Destroyers. The Japanese Battle Ship Yamato (which is what the Yamato Cannon from Starcraft is named after) comes to mind.

    Anime/Manga:

    Due to the nature of this trope, this combines with the Worf Effect and Darker And Edgier.

  • January 8, 2013
    Psi001
    A Taste Of Defeat pretty much hits the mark for me. Okay I'll expand the subject a little more.
  • January 9, 2013
    AgProv
    Literature: in Piers Anthony's Proton/Phaze series, the serf Stile is fighting for his life in the Games, for which the prize is to rise from Serf to Citizen status. He has everything to play for. He comes up against a ten-year old boy who is playing for the hell of it. The game Computer generates a game of pure chance and sudden death; Stile loses one of his two "lives" on a sudden random chance.
  • January 10, 2013
    Koveras
    • The Lady Of War Signum from the Lyrical Nanoha series goes through this in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. Having never been defeated in the two seasons since her introduction, she suffers a devastating defeat at the hands of the new villainess, Cypha of Huckebein, spending ten chapters in ICU. She takes the occasion to take a more cautious approach in the future and rely more on technological advantages rather than pure skill.
  • January 14, 2013
    Thecommander236
    So since Psi001 isn't asking. What does s/he have to do to get this more hats
  • January 14, 2013
    Psi001
    Click the 'add a hat' button below I guess.
  • January 14, 2013
    VelvetAndroid
    Is it worth adding a mention of The Worf Effect somewhere? I thought at first this was actually the same trope, but I think it's broader in fairness. Still merits a point of comparison in the description, though...?
  • January 14, 2013
    Thecommander236
    Yes. "Compare with Worf Effect where a supposedly strong character has more defeats than victory."
  • January 14, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    In the 1960 King Features Popeye short After The Ball Went Over, Popeye actually lost at the end- possibly because he had dared to make Genre Savvy remarks about the inevitability of his winning.
  • January 14, 2013
    Psi001
    Similarly happens in the first Paper Mario, Peach gloating to Bowser that he always loses to Mario only seconds before a Hopeless Boss Fight.

    A lot of these examples seem to play into the winner character Tempting Fate by being exceptionally smug or unsportsmanlike.
  • January 14, 2013
    Thecommander236
    In the Popeye example make it "[ [Tempting Fate inevitability of his winning] ]". You know where to remove the spaces.
  • January 14, 2013
    yukimura2
    In the fourth season of Yu-Gi-Oh (anime only) Yami Yugi loses to one of the mid-bosses after a philosophical debate about the merits of attempting to win at any cost.
  • January 16, 2013
    sgamer82
    There's an instance that's right on the tip of my mind, something I could swear I saw recently, but can not for the life of me remember. Gonna put what I do remember in case someone here can fill in the blank. I think it was a manga, the character who lost to the protagonist may have been a samurai but regardless it's noted, by his own father, no less, that "the only thing [his son] lacked was defeat." and had been relying on his family name / family style too much. So that this defeat would be a lesson for him.

    Also, compare A Lesson In Defeat, when this sort of situation is arranged deliberately.
  • January 16, 2013
    MokonaZero
    Usually happens to someone that is Too Clever By Half.

    Happens very often in Death Note Light Yagami usually freaks out once his plans go wrong. Justified since he's not used to it.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chabal2
    Yugi's first defeat in Yu Gi Oh was against Kaiba (because Kaiba threatened to commit suicide if Yugi beat him). Yu Gi Oh Abridged had fun with this.
    Yugi: I lost a children's card game! I no longer have a reason to live!
  • January 21, 2013
    Thecommander236
    We alive? We doing okay here?
  • January 22, 2013
    marcoasalazarm
    AFAIK, yeah. May need more examples, though.
  • January 22, 2013
    Desertopa
    • In Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru, Imai Yuuto, a practitioner of an MMA karate style most likely inspired by Daido Juku, is an undefeated prodigy at the age of sixteen, with over 200 victories in competitive fights. He uses mind games and a liberal interpretation of the rules, along with his prodigious reach and considerable skills, to overcome more experienced opponents. However, he suffers a humiliating defeat by ippon (effectively a knockout) to Minoru in the Kaburagi Ryu championships, when Minoru is only a green belt with less than a year of training in karate.
  • January 22, 2013
    Cassis
    "But there is no joy in Mudville--mighty Casey has struck out."

    (I'd even suggest "Casey at the Bat" as page quote.)
  • January 22, 2013
    GoldenDarkness
  • January 22, 2013
    Desertopa
    I think the description needs work, since it focuses too heavily on protagonists. Plenty of the examples focus on rivals or opponents of the protagonists, who're generally not "mundane competitors" since they have to be pretty exceptional for the experience of defeat to be so out of the ordinary for them.

    Should probably also contain a reference to Defeating The Undefeatable, which is often a prelude to this.
  • January 22, 2013
    MokonaZero
    See also Break The Haughty.

    In Death Note this happens to Light Yagami quite a few times and especially at the end. Normally, even while being arrogant Light can come out on top, but there are quite a few times that he loses and proceeds to freak out.
  • January 22, 2013
    Psi001
    I've tried to put a variation of examples, but I guess heroes/protagonists are easier to think of since they are pretty much the one character least expectant of losing.
  • January 23, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    In the Firefly episode "Shindig", the noble scion Atherton Wing challenges Malcolm Reynolds to a duel after Reynolds punches him (for making a disrespectful remark about Inara), and Wing is considered a master swordsman with many kills under his belt. He is rather arrogant about it in the way he toys with Malcolm initially in the duel, but is quite humbled when Malcolm (who has never fought with swords before) exploits a distraction and gains the upper hand--and moreso when Malcolm refuses to "finish him off" as is customary.
  • January 24, 2013
    TrueShadow1
    If this happens in a Video Game, compare Hopeless Boss Fight
  • January 24, 2013
    dotchan
    Very common in Shonen comics for the usually Boring Invincible Hero to lose in a Curbstomp Battle to the next season villains in order to show that, holy shit, things have amped up to a whole new level if even the main character can't win! Cue Training From Hell... (this is so ubiquitous it's probably more informative to list subversions, parodies, and aversions)
  • January 24, 2013
    dotchan
    Very common in Shonen comics for the usually Boring Invincible Hero to lose in a Curbstomp Battle to the next season villains in order to show that, holy shit, things have amped up to a whole new level if even the main character can't win! Cue Training From Hell... (this is so ubiquitous it's probably more informative to list subversions, parodies, and aversions)
  • January 24, 2013
    hevendor717
    Very common in the Metal Fight Beyblade anime series. The most intense example would be the defeat of the pompous prodigy Julian Konzern by main character Gingka. It gets much worse for Julian, suffering an even more pathetic loss, and defecting to the bad guys with little success, before things get better.
  • January 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of Happy Days Fonzie takes on an undefeated internationaly famous fencer and beats him.
  • January 26, 2013
    ZombieAladdin
    In One Piece, after a long string of victories, the last two of which were a man manipulating a country and a self-proclaimed god, Monkey D. Luffy gets the tar beaten out of him by Admiral Aokiji, along with his entire crew, and realizes he still has no chance of overcoming any of the higher-ups in the Marines. He later gets another string of victories, and when he gathers up enough strength and courage for another go against the admirals, Admiral Akainu kills Luffy's brother in front of his eyes, whom Luffy was trying to save for the past hundred chapters or so. This total defeat was enough to shut down Luffy's normally peppy and optimistic demeanor for the first time in the series.
  • January 26, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    In The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, Terry Sugury is finally defeated in combat by the corrupt district attorney, Takera Kunigami. Keep in mind that Sugury had not been defeated in the first two films in the series.
  • January 26, 2013
    gallium
    Real Life
    • Just about every war fought by Great Britain from the Act of Union in 1707 to the present day has resulted in British victory or, at worst, a draw--except for The American Revolution, when Britain's thirteen rebellious American colonies, with a lot of help from the French, succeeded in winning their independence.
  • January 26, 2013
    Desertopa
    I was doubtful that that would really could as an example, since I didn't think that the 69 year gap between the Act of Union and the Declaration of Independence would include enough wars to constitute a meaningful winning streak.

    On the one hand, I was wrong, Britain was involved in fourteen wars over the interval. On the other hand, they apparently lost the First Anglo-Mysore War only several years prior.
  • January 27, 2013
    azul120
    • Kaiba suffering defeat from Yugi is also an example. He was unbeaten prior to that.
  • January 27, 2013
    gallium
    @Desertopa, I guess I was thinking more in terms of Britain's history from then to now--the Revolution is pretty much the only L they have taken in 300 years. Maybe you are right in the sense that they didn't have enough of a winning streak built up for the Revolution to qualify for this trope. Looks like England took a couple of Ls in the 17th century before the Union.
  • January 27, 2013
    Psi001
    Should I or should I not include the Britain example? If not, I think we're about ready to publish.
  • January 27, 2013
    Desertopa
    I'd leave it off. One iffy Real Life example is an invitation to more.
  • January 27, 2013
    Psi001
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