And Your Reward Is Infancy

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From death to birth.

"Do you know the only reward you get for being Batman?
You get to be Batman.
And—when you're a child—you get a handful of years of real happiness, with your father, with me.
It's more than some people get."

So it's the end of the story. Our hero has fought the good fight, and now it's time for them to go on to something greater. Will they find themself in Fluffy Cloud Heaven? Will they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence? No, it turns out that their ultimate reward is to... stay right here. As a baby. Huh.

Note that this is not the natural end result of someone aging backwards. This is the universe giving a well-deserving character new life, often returning them to the people who loved them in their old life. This can be especially touching when it happens to a character whose life has been full of hardship, fighting, or suffering; now they can return to a time of innocence, being taken care of instead of having to care for everyone else.

This may involve Reincarnation, but not necessarily; other methods for employing this trope can include De-Aging or Body-Swap.

The villainous version is Raise Him Right This Time.

Also, this is an Ending Trope, so Spoilers Ahoy!


Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito ends with Hatsumi being reborn as her lover Hazuki's daughter. Yuri Fans were not happy.
  • The first series of Magical Princess Minky Momo ends with our heroine being run over by a truck—she goes through an afterlife heroquest, and as a result comes back as the biological baby daughter of her Muggle Foster Parents.
  • At the end of Vampire Game, Duzell, who gave a Heroic Sacrifice, is reincarnated as the son of Ishtar, the woman he loved.
  • In Sailor Moon this happens to Hotaru after her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Digimon Adventure, after defeating Devimon, Angemon himself dies with him, and comes back as a Digi-Egg. (Worth noting is that this is what happens to all benevolent Digimon when they die, as explained after the party defeats MetalSeadramon much later on.)
  • Happens to Reira at the end of the Fusion Dimension arc in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V. After joining forces with Ray, they manage to defeat Zarc and seal him within Reira's body. When the dimensions are rebooted and the damage Zarc inflicted has been undone, Reira is seen being turned into a baby. In the post-Cosmic Retcon Pendulum Dimension, Reira is shown to be well-taken care of by his adoptive mother. However, his de-aging is seen as a bad thing, as he's practically catatonic and shows no joy. His family seek Yuya to "bring back Reira's smile" and turn him back.

     Comic Books  

  • Batman in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
  • The New Universe: Star Brand is reborn as a Star Child a la 2001.
  • This happens to the two main characters at the end of the Valerian series.
  • In The Sandman, Dream does this for his former lover Nada. Nada was noble and virtuous, but had been made to suffer so much that, of the options Dream gave her after rescuing her from Hell, she felt this clean break was best.
  • A Marvel issue of Scooby-Doo (1978) had an eccentric old millionaire hiring the gang to help him find the Fountain of Youth, which he claims he's found. It's guarded by the ghost of a Spanish Conquistador. The old coot finds the Fountain and starts drinking greedily from it, and sure enough, he reverts to infancy in no time.

     Film  

  • Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey, as seen above.
  • The protagonist of The Boss Baby, choses to become a true baby, mind and all.
  • The ending of Enter the Void (assuming it wasn't all a Dying Dream).
  • One of the various movies in the Italian comedy series Fantozzi has this trope Played for Laughs at the end when the titular protagonist, Ugo Fantozzinote  dies, crushed under a steamroller (and receiving a flat coffin as a result)... only to be born again, as himself, even coming out of the womb with the very same clothes, indicating his future life is going to be just as sucky as the previous one. His internal monologue, serving as the punchline, put it best:
  • Invoked in the film version of What Dreams May Come, where the hero and his wife choose reincarnation over heaven and hell.

     Literature  

  • In a The Twilight Zone short story, an ambitious man who murders some moving-in-next-door aliens gets this treatment from the one surviving alien when he begs for mercy for his family. The Twilight Zone twist is he's now one of the aliens.
  • One Discworld novel features a guru-abbot from an order of time-traveling monks who's been in a cycle of death and rebirth for hundreds of years. After his most recent death, his spirit hovers over the house of a nice married couple as he waits to be conceived. The real kicker comes after that when he's right back to being a guru, drooling and bonking senior monks with his rattle whilst dispensing wisdom.
  • In Lord of the Rings, the dwarves believe that their greatest king Durin will be born seven times and live seven lives. And, indeed, there already were several dwarves in the line of Durin very similar to the original Durin, believed to be Durin's reincarnations, and there is one more to go, if the belief is right.
  • Happens in The Obsidian Trilogy to Idalia Tavadon after performing a Heroic Sacrifice that ended up saving the entire world. "The entire world" includes Wild Magic, which is extremely grateful to the point where Idalia's reincarnation is an elf, giving her enough longevity to spend life with her true love, once she grows up again. According to elven lore, this is the standard result when you perform a service for Wild Magic that greatly outweighs what Wild Magic has done for you.

    Live Action TV 

  • Doctor Who: In "Boom Town", antagonist Margaret Blaine, real name Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen is de-aged into an egg by the Heart of the TARDIS. The Doctor says they'll take her back to her home planet so she has a chance to have a brand-new, better life.

     Music  

  • The ending of the music video of Moby's Natural Blues.

     Mythology and Religion  

  • In Hinduism, if you did good in this life but have not realized truth in the universe (to attain nirvana), you will likely be reborn as another human. Did bad, you'll become an animal or a minor demon.

     Video Games  
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did this, but didn't exactly play it straight. Link skipped forward seven years a third of the way into the game so his reward at the end is to regain those lost years. Though later games seem to show that this causes a lot of problems with the two timelines later on.
  • In Ghost Trick, after traipsing around the ghost world frantically figuring out the cause of his death, Sissel gets to live forever as a family kitten. He's pretty happy with his fate.
  • In Night Warriors, Hsien-Ko and her sister Mei-Ling are reincarnated as human children after defeating Pyron.
  • One ending of The Talos Principle, which happens when you collect all the sigils and, following the guidance of Elohim, gain "Eternal Life" beyond the gate in temple C, you restart the game at the beginning.

     Web Comics  

  • Teddy Weddy in 1/0, although he technically isn't "staying right here" as the whole cast is now moving to Oregon.


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