A Taste Of Defeat
A usually infallible competitor suffers a rare humiliating loss.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-01-07 21:09:38 sponsor: Psi001 (last reply: 2013-01-27 20:54:18)

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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.
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