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Assimilation Backfire
The Assimilator is terrifying because of its virus-like ability to absorb people body and mind into itself, creating a threat that can spread faster than a Zombie Apocalypse. However, The Assimilator's voracious and indiscriminate appetite may lead to it eating someone who proves Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth. To keep the food metaphor, this person may well cause severe indigestion as they fight from the inside and take control back from the Assimilator, even to the point of usurping the title of Hive Queen.

Alternately, if You Are Who You Eat lets the Power Parasite steal another's powers (or even just regular Mega Manning or cloning), then their theft may go horribly right when their Weaksauce Weakness is also stolen and allows enemies an easy way to defeat it. To make matters worse, the Assimilator probably has no idea it inherited the weakness or how to minimize it or stop it being exploited.

Both types aren't limited to just beings. Certain inanimate objects, such as glass, can be absorbed to still apply for this trope.

Compare No Sell, where the attempted assimilation just plain fails, and Feed It a Bomb, where a bomb is absorbed. A kind of Phlebotinum Rebel. This could also be said to be what happens when you fail to hijack Cthulhu.

Spoilers ahead!


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Rensa is a cyborg who can copy esper powers, including those of the Level 5's. When she encounters Touma, she realizes that his right arm has a power (Imagine Breaker) that she doesn't, so after analyzing it, she tries to use it herself. Her arm explodes.
  • Subverted in Bleach, the Vandenreich develops a method to steal Bankais. But Urahara develops a method to temporarily hollowfy Shinigami souls, so the Quincies get poisoned and the Bankais come back to their owners. Unfortunately, the Bankais were Power Limiters to the Quincies, preventing them to activate Quincy Vollständing. Now the stolen Bankais are back, the Sternenritters can fight the Shinigamis with their full power.
  • In Devil Man, any human who retains his/her reason can reverse Demonic Possession, granting them access to the demon's powers. The main character pulled this off on Amon, one of Hell's most powerful residents.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Buu tries to absorb Vegetto, but the absorption fails and Vegetto (now split into Vegeta and Goku) releases all the victims Buu had absorbed previously.
    • While Buu absorbing the Supreme Kais actually made him more powerful, turning him from Kid Buu into Buff Buu and finally Fat Buu, it also made him less dangerous because he was something other than pure evil, thus he doesn't immediately kill as many people as possible and pulls a Heel-Face Turn before his evil half takes back over.
    • The evil Buu's absorption of the good Buu comes back to bite him several times, as the good Buu's memories of his friendship with Mr. Satan prevent Buu from killing his former friend, and he is convinced to wait for Goten and Trunks to prepare for their fight with him when asked to do so by Mr. Satan's daughter Videl.
      • Two examples from the Budokai video game series; in the first Budokai game, there's a What-If scenario where Cell accidentally absorbs Krillin instead of Android 18, leading to a severely weakened Cell being defeated by Yamcha and Tien. In the second Budokai game, Buu's absorption move randomly selects a character to absorb out of Gohan, Gotenks, Vegeta, Cell, Frieza, or Yamcha and Tien together. While the other absorptions make Buu stronger, the last one makes him weaker.
    • Contemplated in the fight against Buu, where Goku wondered if he should fuse with Mr. Satan. He decides it would probably make him weaker.
  • Implied at the end of Fooly Cooly. After Naota and Canti are assimilated into the Medica Mechanica device to iron out the planet, they soon break out again.... taking Atomsk with them, then promptly wreck the weapon.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Towards the end of Brotherhood, the Big Bad Father absorbs his Anti-Hero homunculus Greed, and his Ultimate Shield power with it. Having been previously defeated by Edward Elric, who figured out his extreme defensive abilities are merely carbon-based, Greed decides to turn his powers the other direction and turn Father's body into pathetic frail graphite...allowing the heroes to K.O. Father for good.
    • Previously, after Pride absorbs Kimblee, he is finally defeated by Ed Elric due to Kimblee weakening him from the inside.
  • Naruto: When Orochimaru tried to steal Sasuke's body, Sasuke reversed the process and absorbed him instead.
    • Also, there's always the threat that the Tailed Beasts can take control of their hosts and go on a rampage. But a strong enough host can instead summon their power at will, and an even better host can make friends with their beast.
  • In InuYasha, this is how Moryomaru and the Infant are defeated by Naraku. Generally speaking, doing this to Naraku's never a good idea.
  • The antagonists of Part II of Jojos Bizarre Adventure, the Pillarmen, are vampiric superhumans who feed by absorbing others. The first Pillarman Santana tries this on Joseph Joestar after he thinks he knocked the latter unconscious (rendering his Ripple useless). Joseph wasn't unconscious and immediately let off a Ripple inside Santana's body, tearing him in half.
  • Occurs in a weird way in Rebuild of Evangelion, as Zeruel eats Rei's EVA (with Rei still inside it) to assimilate it and get around the self-destruct mechanism NERV set up in case an angel got to Central Dogma. This turns out to be the last mistake Zeruel makes, not because Rei breaks out herself, but because Shinji tears it into tiny pieces to get her back.
  • Rosario + Vampire: When Doppelgänger copies a person, he gets all their powers... and their weaknesses. He's defeated when he copies Moka, only for Tsukune to slap the rosary on him, weakening him enough for them to defeat.
  • After obtaining hir final power-up from Medusa and going completely off-board, Soul Eater's Crona attempts to devour Asura, the Kishin. It appears to work until Maka manages to knock Crona mentally off-balance, at which point Asura turns the tables on Crona and assimilates hir from the inside, morphing Crona's body back into his own shape in front of Maka's eyes. Even later on though, this back-backfires on Asura, because Crona being inside let hir reach BREW and the Book of Eibon, which Asura also swallowed, and used them to seal Asura away again.
  • YuYu Hakusho: When Sensui Seven member Gourmet eats Elder Toguro to get his powers, Elder Toguro ends up taking over his body later.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel universe, being able to assimilate the properties of whatever he touches is both the strength and a weakness of Absorbing Man. For example, he can absorb steel to become nigh invulnerable. On the other hand, he has to be careful. For example in one issue of The Hulk he was falling to his death while fighting the eponymous character and a building collapsed. To save himself he grabbed the first thing that he could... which happened to be a piece of glass.
  • A heroic example happens in Gloom Cookie, when Chrys devours the monster under Sebastian's bed, to protect him. The monster continues to live on inside of her, driving her to bring men home and eat them (as it had done to all the girls Sebastian brought home), until she figured out what was going on and vomited it back up.
  • Carnage, unlike his father Venom, has total control of his symbiote, using "I" instead of "we".
  • Superman villain Parasite is a power thief who also gains the victim's weaknesses. This means whenever he steals Superman's powerset, Superman can actually beat him by using kryptonite.
    • Meanwhile, in one time where Superman had to fight Dracula, he was bitten... only for Dracula to immediately turn to ash, as Superman is a walking solar battery.
  • Even though Rogue of the X-Men is not an assimilator proper, her absorption power has often enough resulted in assimilation backfire, e. g. absorbing a particularly strong personality may result in her control of her own body to the persona she absorbed. This happened with Spiral, for instance. She also sometimes had to struggle for control of her own body with some other personalities she absorbed, especially with that of Ms. Marvel. Some powers, such as Cyclops' Eye Beams, are also harder to control than others.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the main villains include Cy-bugs, which take on the features of whatever they eat.
    • A Cybug eats King Candy, who is assimilated a little too well and becomes said Cy-bug's primary consciousness. Which later goes less well for King Candy, as he also inherited the cy-bug's weakness: an unstoppable need to fly towards anything that looks like the game-over beacon from their home game, in this case, a volcanic eruption.
    • The Cy-bugs from Hero's Duty are metallic from eating the metal environment around them. When they were in Sugar Rush, they ate and became the candy from the game, making it easier for Ralph to simply smash them. Except for one Cy-Bug who became Nigh Invulnerable by eating a jaw-breaker.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the climax of Forbidden World, the crew attempt to defeat the alien invader by feeding it the cancer that another crew member was dying from.
  • In Ghost Rider, Blackheart No Sells Blaze's Penance Stare power the first time it's used on him since he doesn't have a soul. When he draws the trapped souls of San Venganza into his body in a bid to increase his power, Blaze realizes that he's made himself vulnerable to the stare and uses it to destroy him.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, Agent Smith assimilates The Oracle, which appears to backfire in some way (since she knew he was coming). It backfires because, as she explained to Neo, "We can't see past the choices we don't understand." Smith could see that Neo would die, but not the reason he sacrificed himself. At the end, Neo's assimilation gives Smith a direct link back to the machines, allowing them to purge the rogue AI.
  • This is how Freddy Krueger dies in the fifth installment of A Nightmare on Elm Street. He's absorbed the souls of three of Alice's friends, and a vision of his mother spurs them on to tear him apart from the inside.
  • A delayed version in Star Trek: First Contact. Picard was assimilated and then later freed from the Borg Collective during the TV Series. This initially benefited the Borg, as they now have in-depth knowledge of Starfleet's tactics and technology, making an already formidable force stronger. However, in the movie, it is shown that Captain Picard also retained his in-depth knowledge of the Borg's behavior, tactics, technology, and weaknesses, and uses it to soundly defeat them several times. It didn't help them that the horrifying experience of assimilation made it personal for him and drove him to seek their destruction at all costs.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In a Star Trek/Doctor Who/My Little Pony crossover fanfic titled "My Little Enterprise", the Doctor resolved the whole plot by going back in time to the destruction of his homeworld and impersonating the leader, tricking the Borg Celestia into having him assimilated, which allowed him to disrupt her during the final confrontation.
  • During the Final Battle of the Pony POV Series Chaos Verse, Nightmare Phobia absorbs Discord and Fluttercruel in order to feed off their Chaos energy. However, this allows them to attack her from the inside, severely weakening her.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs: By morphing a Howler, a race of Psychopathic Manchildren with a species-wide Hive Mind (anything one sees, all of them know), Jake manages to implant the memory of his and Cassie's First Kiss. Because of the Howlers' Blue and Orange Morality, the concept of love is completely alien to them, and now that they've been exposed to it, they don't want to fight the protagonists. The Elllimist tells him that the next time they're deployed, they'll try this novel tactic, which will ensure that they will never be used as shock troops again.
  • In the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum, the Magpyrs suck Granny Weatherwax's blood and attempt to turn her. She survives the experience without becoming a vampire; the Magpyrs aren't so lucky, however, as feeding on Granny Weatherwax has allowed her to turn them. By the end, they're craving tea instead of blood and even talking like her.
  • In The Dresden Files, when the Red Court took Susan into their midst, it proved to be an interesting setback in "Changes", when Harry causes a powerful death spell meant for him to genocide the entire Red Court, by backfiring the spell using Susan as a willing conduit.
    • Less by design, but the Corpsetaker gets burned by this in Ghost Story. She was in the middle of performing a Grand Theft Me, and the victim was fighting back. Then Morty the ectomancer shows up with a horde of wraiths. If the Corpsetaker had taken anyone else, she would have won. But it was her victim's ability to hold onto her that allowed Morty to give her the bum rush to Hell.
    • In Cold Days, we find when Harry became the Winter Knight, his power is now directly linked to Queen Mab. Butters comments this grants that person a unique vulnerability to Harry, although the events of the book heavily imply that was precisely the desired goal, for Harry to act as an independent check and failsafe.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, The Krikkiters find Marvin the depressed robot on Sqornshellous Zeta, and capture him, thinking that his massive intellect will be an asset to them. They plug him into their war computer, allowing him to plan their entire military strategy. But any AI that comes in contact with Marvin's mind becomes as depressed as he is (he had previously driven a spaceship and a bridge to suicide), and the Krikkit-bots wind up doing nothing but sulking.
  • Star Trek: Destiny reveals that this is why The Borg Collective is evil. They assimilated something they shouldn't have and became slaves to a mindless all-consuming hunger as a result.
  • In Madeline Ashby's vN the protagonist, a self-replicating android who discovers that her series can absorb core programming from other androids by eating them, ends up on the assimilating side of this when she eats her Ax-Crazy grandmother and has to share her head with psycho-granny's personality. In the end, she gets eaten by a tentacled monster that developed from a Hive Mind of networked androids that got stuck on the sea floor, and takes control of it.
  • In the Sabina Kane series a vampire who feeds on a drug addict can end up with the same addiction. Although Sabina considers the occasional pothead a fun snack.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the Christmas special "The Next Doctor", the Cybermen attempt to upgrade Miss Hartigan, but she's so strong-willed that she not only survives the process with her mind intact but manages to rewrite the Cybermen's programming.
    • In the "Daleks In Manhattan" two-parter, in an experiment designed to save the Daleks from extinction, Dalek Sec absorbs human DNA and mutates itself into a human/Dalek hybrid. The new hybrid-Sec finds himself developing human values and emotions, which eventually causes the other Daleks to execute him in disgust.
    • In "Smith and Jones", an alien drinks human blood so the Judoon would think she is a human when bio-scanned. The Doctor tricks her into drinking his blood, so she still looks like an alien through the bio-scanner.
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks", Oswin Oswald is physically converted into a Dalek, but fights off the associated mental conditioning. It ends up with the Daleks losing all knowledge of the Doctor.
  • Zigzagged in Lexx episode "The Giga Shadow", where the cleric Yottskry, in an attempt to halt the Divine Shadow's rebirth, is instead possessed by the Divine Shadow and assimilated into the Divine Shadow's ultimate vessel, the Giga Shadow. When the Divine Shadow attempts to be reborn, it is Yottskry who musters the mental strength to stave off the Divine Shadow's attacks against Kai (who is crawling around inside the Giga Shadow) and help direct him to the central brain so he could put the Divine Shadow to rest. Ultimately, Yottskry is overpowered by the Divine Shadow and assimilated completely, and Kai is ejected from the Giga Shadow. All turns out well, however, when Squish, a baby cluster lizard, navigates to and consumes the Giga Shadow's brains, its favorite delicacy.
  • In the Hyperdrive episode "Harvest", the Brilliant, but Lazy Jeffers is temporarily assimilated by the Red, Shiny Robots of Vortis. After the crew escape and sabotage the robot ship, none of the robots can be bothered to repair it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • The series eventually lampshaded the Kazons' Too Dumb to Live tendencies by having Seven of Nine remark that assimilating them would weaken the Borg Collective.
    • In the series finale, "Endgame", Admiral Janeway infects herself with a bioweapon before meeting the Borg Queen. When the Queen assimilates her, it infects that entire collective.
  • Castiel absorbed all the souls of Purgatory in the season 6 finale of Supernatural. Unfortunately, included in those souls were not just human souls, but those of Leviathans.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE:
    • Vakama and Onewa managed to defeat a Tunneler, a Rahi which had the ability to take on the form of any force directed at it, by combining their Elemental Powers to transform it into brittle glass.
    • In the Kingdom Alternate Dimension, Teridax is killed after he absorbs Matoro, who fights back successfully due to Teridax's weakened will due to his plan's failure in that dimension.

    Video Games 
  • Implied to the be the fate of all Blue Mages in Final Fantasy XI. The Blue Mage absorbs the powers of their victims, but gradually the absorbed beings take over, and turn them into a monster. This never happens to the player character, of course.
  • In the Mass Effect setting the quarians' immune systems evolved to assimilate microbes rather than fight them, since Rannoch had none that were harmful. This is the main reason they wear those suits all the time, as foreign microbes don't share Rannochian microbes' friendliness.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, if One of Many is in your party when you meet the dead god Myrkul, they'll ask you if they can eat Myrkul. Given that unlike the Knight-Captain's Spirit-Eater curse, One of Many adds consumed souls to its collective, Myrkul will take over, resulting in a Bonus Boss.
  • In Osmos the assimilation of other cells is the goal, but it is governed by the laws of osmosis (or at least some version of it). As such, an attempt to consume a cell even slightly bigger than your own will backfire and result in your cell absorbed.
  • In Resident Evil 6 Derek Simmons's final giant insect form is practically immortal: whenever a limb is blown off, it will simply grab a nearby zombie, dismantle and absorb it and rebuild the limb. However, when attempting to heal its head, it grabs a zombie impaled on a lightning rod, which gets embedded in its eye and causes Simmons to get struck by lightning.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, a mysterious entity known only as "the Shadow" appears in the Heaven's Feel route and displays the ability to absorb Servants. When it tries this on Gilgamesh, though, Gil is so powerful and "pure" that the Shadow is unable to subsume him, and is almost destroyed itself. It settles for eating him instead.

    Web Original 
  • In the SF Debris review of "Unimatrix Zero", the Borg Queen begins to blow up her own ships, in an insanely ineffective way to stop Janeway. Chuck is of the opinion that Janeway, who he interprets as a sociopath, is taking over the Borg.
    Borg Queen: "Destroying my own people to further my own ends? I have no idea where this thought came from."
    Janeway: "Your mistake was assimilating me!"
  • Jade in "Tennyo Goes to Hell" of the Whateley Universe. She's already a shapeshifter (sort of) who has the power to integrate her own memories (it's complicated), so when she gets attacked by an unstoppable Eldritch Abomination, she ends up with the power set of a shoggoth, making her the most terrifying thing in their reality.

    Webcomics 
  • The Borg Expy in an early Sluggy Freelance strip run into this problem after assimilating Riff and Torg. "Since you have come among us, all we have done is drink fermented hops beverages and ogle scantily clad females. This has seriously jeopardized our goal of the all-collective. We've never had to do this before... We are kicking you out."
    • Done again with Dr. Crabtree, the Nanite Queen, who can assimilate people's knowledge by eating their brains...but gets infected with Sam Sein's stupidity when she tries it on him, and when she eats Christmas Elves' brains she starts unconsciously frolicking everywhere while singing "lolly la!"
  • In Bad Machinery's "The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor", an Eldritch Abomination that eats hope makes the (fatal) mistake of consuming the ghost of Todd Baxter, the most miserable rock star in history. (As a bonus, Baxter finally gets to feel happiness, and cross over.)

    Western Animation 
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Absorbing Man takes on the properties of Mjolnir. Too bad one of those properties is being subject to the mental control of Thor.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: In "Showdown Part 2", Malware manages to absorb Ben as Waybig into himself. Inside, Ben has a flashback and finally forgives himself for losing Feedback, resulting in him reobtaining and transforming into Feedback to escape from Malware from the inside. Malware was doubly surprised for Ben escaping and doing it as Feedback, the alien he had destroyed in the past.
    • Malware's past attempt to absorb the Omnitrix backfired when the angry Ben released the Omnitrix's vast power inside Malware, causing him to explode.
  • Happened to a brain-eating alien on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, when it was dumb enough to consume Mandy's brain.
  • During Amazo's first appearance on Justice League, he copies the powers of all the League's members while fighting them. Superman turns out to be a subversion; Amazo does inherit his weakness to kryptonite, much like Parasite above, but surpasses it shortly afterward. Played straight when the Martian Manhunter submits at the end, as Amazo gains his telepathy, uses it to discover that Lex Luthor has been deceiving him, and basically calls off the conflict.
  • Samurai Jack saw Jack pitted against Demongo, a high-ranking minion of Aku who had absorbed the souls of every warrior he defeated; when Jack defeated one, it retreated as a wisp into Demongo's vest of skulls, where he could re-summon it immediately. Just before he was overpowered, Jack had the bright idea of hitching a ride on one of the souls, where he freed them all from Demongo's spell and left the now-powerless demon to be curbstomped by his vengeful enemies.
  • In the last episode of The Secret Saturdays, V.V. Argost has assimilated the Kur powers from Zak's Evil Twin from an anti-matter Mirror Universe, and then does the same to Zak himself to become even more powerful. But what Argost didn't realize (but Zak did) was what happens when matter and anti-matter combine, and Argost obliterates himself instead.
  • One episode of South Park has Cartman's super high-tech Trapper Keeper begin assimilating all technology (beginning with a calculator, then a computer, then a lamp, then Cartman). "Trapper Keeper ready to ensorb." Eventually it goes on a rampage and heads for Cheyenne Mountain to ensorb the NORAD command center there, but on the way it eats Rosie O'Donnell, weakening it enough for Kyle to turn it off.
  • In the 'Neogenic Nightmare' arc of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spider-Man is attacked by the Vulture, a villain who uses advanced technology to steal vitality from others. Unfortunately for the Vulture, the mutation that gives Spider-Man his powers is particularly unstable at the time of the attack, and he absorbs some of Spider-Man's DNA, causing him to mutate into a monstrous man/spider hybrid.
  • Static Shock: The metahuman Power Parasite Leech was defeated with water after he absorbed Static's powers.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Parasite agrees to help authorities find a bomb left by another villain by using his powers to access the other guy's memories. Instead, the other guy somehow manages to take temporary control of Parasite. In his previous appearance, the Parasite was defeated when he grabbed a chunk of raw Kryptonite while Superman wore his Kryptonite-Proof Suit for the first time.
  • Young Justice had an appearance of Parasite, who was defeated when he stole Miss Martian's powers without realizing they came with a weakness to fire, which the heroes exploit.

    One with the IndexAssimilation Plot
Analogy BackfireIndex BackfireAssurance Backfire
Artifact of DoomPower at a PriceBare-Fisted Monk
Ascended Fridge HorrorSpoilered RottenAwful Truth

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