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Bootstrapped Leitmotif
A Bootstrapped Leitmotif is born when a piece of Background Music becomes tied to a character, place, or other specific part of the story that it was not originally intended to represent.

This is often because the song in question is played during scenes that focus heavily on a specific character. In video games, this commonly occurs with music for stages or levels strongly associated with a certain character, or the character's Boss Battle music. Sometimes a character may already have a Leitmotif, but a different song that is more readily identified by the audience usurps it and becomes more widely accepted and recognized.

A Sister Trope of Bootstrapped Theme, where a leitmotif or other piece of music comes to stand for the series as a whole.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes the use of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, first movement has become associated in the minds of fans with character Oskar von Reuenthal.
  • Dragon Ball Z applies for the original and English versions:
    • Original version: Majin Buu's theme. It's actually the Super Saiyan theme variation for the Majin Buu saga (both the Freezer and Cell sagas have each its own variation of the theme), but it appears so many times during the Majin Buu saga as a Battle Theme Music that it ended up associated with him instead of with the good guys. It's difficult to find anyone who doesn't think of Majin Buu when hearing it.
      • To a lesser extent, Freezer and Cell's themes also apply. These are better in the sense that, at least, they're exclusive to that saga, but still fit here because they're not exclusive to Freezer and Cell respectively.
      • The Saiyans' theme ended up being Vegeta's theme, because he's by far the most important of the (evil) Saiyans, and the only one who survives. Although it appears whenever one of the evil Saiyans is on screen (it first appears with Raditz), after Raditz and Nappa die it can only appear with Vegeta on screen. It doesn't help that it's used much after than even the Namek saga (this tropes remembers hearing it during at least during the Androids saga, when Vegeta appears to save Goku from Android 19).
      • Pretty much all the Dragon Ball Z characters' leitmotifs (except Gohan and Piccolo, who have an official leitmotif) fall into this trope. Broly and Cooler also have an unofficial leitmotif.
    • English dub: Gohan's Super Saiyan theme. It's actually the Hyperbolic Time Chamber theme, as the first comment says, but everyone knows it either as "Gohan's Super Saiyan theme" or "Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 theme", because of the 5 seconds or so that can be heard when Gohan transforms to SSJ2 for the first time. It doesn't help the fact that Gohan doesn't have an official Super Saiyan theme.
    • English dub again: Inverted with Ginyu Transformation. Introduced for Captain Ginyu's body-switching ability, it ended up being used for generally "epic" moments (Super Perfect Cell's death, Kid Buu blowing up Earth) long after Ginyu's death - all without changing its name.
  • Franky in One Piece got this with the third part of a soundtrack tune called "Serious Games." The only other previous use in the series had been for one of Usopp's Crowning Moments of Awesome. It is now heard regularly when Franky does anything and on his eyecatches.
  • Susumu Hirasawa's "Forces," due both to its use during Guts' first battle with the Hawks and its use in the "next episode" trailers, has come to be considered the main theme of Berserk.
  • Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru is this for the title character of Rurouni Kenshin, given that his official theme (the aptly-titled "Himura Kenshin Theme") is far less remembered and the former is usually the first thing people hear when they think of the character and the show itself.

    Film 
  • Jason's theme from the Friday the 13th movies (you know the one - ki-ki-ki-ki/ma-ma-ma-ma) was originally his mother's theme from the original movie, in which Jason didn't even appear. It was derived from her Jason personality telling her to kill Alice ("Kill her, Mommy!") It only became his theme in the next movie.
  • Godzilla has two main themes: the slow, dark "horror" theme from the original movie when he rampages through Tokyo, and also from the original movie, the up-tempo Self Defense Forces march, which become so associated with the monster that even the composer began calling it Godzilla's Theme. Nowadays, both are used relatively equally, depending on what kind of mood is being called for.
  • "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" from Animal Crackers became Groucho Marx's theme song in this manner (most explicitly as the theme to You Bet Your Life).
  • This is more of an in-development bootstrap, but in The Lord of the Rings you first get glimpses of the Gondor and Minas Tirith themes in The Fellowship of the Ring, but once it comes their time to shine in Return of the King, they've changed meaning: since there isn't that much of a distinction between Gondor and Minas Tirith, the Gondor theme is used for both, while the Minas Tirith theme seems to be used for Isildur's heritage (the line of kings and, most prominently, the sword Andúril).

    Live Action TV 
  • On Arrested Development, the "Oscar is Buster's real father" theme became the general theme for Oscar and I'm Oscar Dot Com.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: The episode "Amok Time" had a leitmotif for the Vulcan traditions driving the episode, including the ritual fight between Kirk and an enraged Spock. The fight scene version was reused out of context during fight scenes in several other episodes that had nothing to do with the planet Vulcan, and the "Star Trek fight music" became one of the most-remembered (and most-parodied) aspects of the series as a whole.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Linda McMahon's entrance theme began life as the theme for WrestleManias X to XIV.
    • On a related note, Vince McMahon's theme, "No Chance in Hell", originally began as the theme to the 1999 Royal Rumble.
  • Diabolic Khaos's theme, Dimmu Borgir's Hybrid Stigmata- The Apostasy, became the theme of Delirious with the team getting a new theme song and every other member getting their own individual theme.

    Video Games 
  • Arguably the most famous case in the medium is Link. Link was never given a Leitmotif in the first games, despite almost every other character getting one. However, ever since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the original game's title/overworld theme appears to have become Link's motif as well, being a case of BOTH a Bootstrapped Theme (as the Main Theme of the series) AND a Bootstrapped Leitmotif.
    • It shows up again as the "Song of the Hero", practically canon-izing its status as this trope.
    • In another case, The Wind Waker uses the Hyrule Castle theme from A Link to the Past as Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule's leitmotif.
    • The theme most commonly known as Zelda's Lullaby originated in A Link to the Past as the song played when rescuing one of the Maidens. It returned as Zelda's Leitmotif in Ocarina of Time & has being associated with her ever since.
  • The stage music themes in Street Fighter II. They ended up being the themes of the characters who uses it as their home stage.
  • Funny that Fox McCloud never got his own theme, yet his rival Wolf has a personal theme. It is usually attributed to Fox that Area 6 in Star Fox 64 is his theme, as it was used in Star Fox Command.
    • It could be argued that Sector Z serves as the most iconic music for Fox - it was even used throughout Starfox Adventures when Fox was due to appear on screen.
    • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Fox gets "Space Armada" from Star Fox as his leitmotif in the Subspace Emissary, and "Main Theme (Star Fox)" as his Classic Mode credits music. "Area 6" is in the game, but is instead used as Falco's unlocking battle theme. Likewise, "Main Theme (Star Fox 64)" (i.e. the Sector Z theme) is used for Falco's Classic Mode credits theme.
    • The original Star Fox Corneria theme is also very popular, though it took Super Smash Bros. three games to finally implement the theme into Brawl's soundtrack.
  • A slowed down version of the Pollyanna theme was used as Ness' house music in EarthBound. Not entirely recognizable at first, though. While not his official leitmotif, it's frequently associated with him.
  • In Final Fantasy V, this happens within the game itself to Gilgamesh. The first time you fight him, it plays the regular boss music. The second time you fight him it is during the Big Bridge segment, throughout which the appropriately named "Battle at the Big Bridge" plays. However, it becomes Gilgamesh's own theme as it plays during battles with him later in the game which do not even take place on the Big Bridge. The theme has even followed him into other games in which he appears.
  • In Final Fantasy VII "Those Chosen By the Planet" is Sephiroth's leitmotif. However, his battle tune, "One Winged Angel", has mutated into his tune in the minds of the fandom and, as a consequence, in the compilation.
    • "One-Winged Angel" does incorporate "Those Chosen By the Planet" though, so it's not so much a completely different Leitmotif as it is a Boss Remix that became more popular than the original song it remixed.
    • Also, Cloud was never attributed a specific theme, so he appropriated the game's Overworld theme and Main Theme as his own. It roughly follows his character growth throughout the game, variations of it are used during moments of powerful emotion for Cloud, and it coincidentally disappears from the Overworld at the same time Cloud leaves the party, to be replaced with the Meteor theme. It's no coincidence that it plays again in the Compilation over the credits of Crisis Core, to indicate that Zack's torch has been passed to Cloud.
  • Fire Emblem Tellius got the theme "Eternal Bond" as the Greil Mercenaries' charging theme, but in Super Smash Bros. Brawl it was renamed "Ike's Theme", and now is remembered as such. To be fair, Fire Emblem Tellius did use it in a character Leitmotif fashion in several scenes.
  • The song called "Theme of Samus Aran: Galactic Warrior" in Super Metroid originally, is now probably better known as the music for Upper Crateria. Instead, the main theme of Super Metroid itself has since mutated into Samus' own character theme. This video gives a good background on the history of the song.
    • The Lower Crateria theme had a similar fate. The first time it cues in the game is when Samus returns from her brief visit to Brinstar and is suddenly faced with Space Pirates that weren't there before. Thanks to this, as well as remixes in Zero Mission and Corruption, the theme is now associated with Space Pirate bases in general.
    • Super Metroid used three different songs for its various boss fights. The one that played during both escape sequences, as well as the fights with Ridley, Draygon, and the Torizo, has come to be almost exclusively associated with Ridley and has been remixed for every appearance he has made in the series since. Even Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros. Brawl refer to it as "Vs. Ridley".
    • The second boss theme, played during the Kraid, Crocomire, and Phantoon fights, has essentially become Kraid's theme, though this is more an unintentional example, since Kraid was the only one of the three to ever show up in another game until Phantoon's Bonus Boss appearance in Metroid: Other M - and even then, he just reuses the Metroid Queen's boss music.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, while there are close to 250 distinct stage themes available, each character has one specific stage theme that always plays over the credits after beating Classic Mode. Each unlockable character also has a specific theme that plays during the fight to unlock them. Sometimes these are the same (Luigi gets "Luigi's Mansion Theme" for both), and sometimes they are different (Ganondorf gets "Gerudo Valley" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for his credits music and "Hidden Mountain & Forest" from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for his unlocking match). In most cases, however, these tracks are more relevant to the games the characters came from than the characters themselves.
    • Many characters acquire other Bootstrapped Leitmotifs in the cutscenes of the Subspace Emissary, the platformer-style adventure mode of the game.
    • R.O.B. doesn't even get this justification: While his credits music is the theme from a R.O.B.-compatible game, Gyromite, his unlock music is bizarrely the theme from Mario Bros., likely the most egregious example of this trope from Brawl.
    • Bowser is a unique example: his credits music is the "Giga Bowser" theme from Super Smash Bros. Melee, which had never been applied to the standard form of the character before. Arguable since Giga Bowser is playable in this game as Bowser's Final Smash.
    • Averted with the handful of characters that have proper leitmotifs that predate this game, like King Dedede ("King Dedede's Theme") and Wolf ("Star Wolf"). They keep those pre-existing leitmotifs. Those characters with Bootstrapped Leitmotifs from other games keep them in some situations, but not all. (For example, Samus and Ike keep theirs in the Subspace Emissary, but not in the credits.)
  • The composers of the Halo soundtracks said that they didn't intend to apply leitmotifs, but many music pieces can be bootstrapped to characters or locations, eg "Enough Dead Heroes" = Cortana, "Shadows" and "Devils...Monsters" = the Flood, "The Last Spartan" = Master Chief, "Weight of Failure" = the Arbiter (and later the Separatists), "Destroyer's Invocation" = Tartarus, "High Charity" = the Prophets, "Penance" = Delta Halo, "Earth City" = the Scarab, "Under Cover of Night" = Sgt. Johnson(his death scene uses a Dark Reprise of it), "In Amber Clad" = Cmdr. Keyes, "Farthest Outpost" = the Ark.
    • "Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" = the ODST team, "The Battle Begins" = Battle for Reach, "Noble Mission" = Noble Team, "Lone Wolf"/"Noble Six" = Noble Six, "Follow Our Brothers" = Elite Seperatists, "Ashes" = Kat/New Alexandria, "Make It Count" = Jorge, "Finish the Fight" = the Portal, "Sword Control" = Sword Base, "Rain"/"The Rookie" = The Rookie, etc.
  • Several songs in the Castlevania series have become recurring themes for the characters that starred in the games where they debuted. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood has "Bloodlines" (the first stage theme) and "Slash" (the theme of one of the alternate stages), which have become respectively associated with Richter and Maria. "An Empty Tome" from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the song that plays when you first enter the castle, is repeatedly used as Shanoa's theme. "Iron Blue Intention" from Castlevania: Bloodlines has apparently been assigned as the theme for the Lecarde Family; the extended portion added for Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin starts playing in the ending credits when Stella and Loretta's portraits appear on screen, and the original portion of the theme was used remixed for Eric's theme in Judgment.
    • Both an Empty Tome mentioned above, and "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" may have been intentional. "An Empty Tome" is used in the intro and in the castle's first area, yet the title describes Shanoa. "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" also accurately describe Alucard, however, instead of being the first area/opening's theme, it's used in the Clock Tower, the one area that recurs in every game and to people that played the previous games can result in Soundtrack Dissonance. The fact that the first area becomes a Bootstrapped Leitmotif is probably Lampshaded by both Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. In the former, the first area is explicitly stated to be the protagonist Juste's theme in the sound test, and in the latter's extra mode where you play as Julius, the theme of the game's first area is replaced by his theme (which can also be considered this trope as it was two songs from previous games repurposed and popularized as his theme.)
    • Alucard also has Dracula's Castle, as it was the opening area.
  • In the Ys series, "Theme of Adol" and its variations is implied to be the titular hero's leitmotif, although it never seems to be directly connected with him in-game.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The second game, Justice For All, has a track called "Search - In the Midst 2002". While not technically considered a character theme, every instance of the song is connected to the defendant of the case it appears in, Matt Engarde, so is is any wonder that it is generally considered to be his theme?
    • The Dark Reprise, "Search - Core 2002", is first played when he shows his true colors, so it again gets this treatment and is considered the "Evil!Matt Engarde Theme" Oddly enough, the same track ends up inverting this trope in the following game. While it was practically a Leitmotif in JFA, it becomes a general 'dark secret' theme in Trials and Tribulations.
    • In the same case, when Miles Edgeworth finally returns, the theme "Great Revival" plays many of the times he is on screen, along with other non-Edgeworth-y events, such as Franziska von Karma arriving with evidence. Jump ahead 7 years, and Great Revival is remixed into numerous themes of Edgeworth's spinoff game, including the Objection theme and end credits, essentially cementing itself as Edgeworth's Leitmotif. It gets remixed again in the second Edgeworth game.
    • There's also Pursuit — Cornered! which many consider Phoenix's theme, while other people consider as both his AND Edgeworth's theme. He has a theme proper in Objection! 2001 but Cornered appears in a flashback with both Phoenix and Edgeworth and was also used in the final moment of Phoenix' trilogy, while Objection! 2001 only appeared in the first game. It got to the point that upon his appearance in Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 he is the only character with TWO themes, his proper theme and Pursuit - Cornered! for his Game Breaker Turnabout mode. The fans aren't complaining, though.
    • The same happens for Apollo Justice. He has a proper theme used for his Objections, but many people also associate him with Investigation - Cornered!
  • Another inversion of this trope occurs in the Fire Emblem Akaneia. In Shadow Dragon, the track entitled "The Proud Commanded" was the Leitmotif for Camus and Michalis. In New Mystery, it's used as background music for any vaguely-intimidating boss, and even a few recruitable characters!
  • Modern Warfare 2 has: "Contingency" = TF141, "Code of Conduct" = Shadow Company, "Siege"/"Infiltration" = Washington DC, and plenty of others.
  • Gears of War 2 has "March of the Locust" = Locust Horde, "Hope Runs Deep" = COG, "With Sympathy" = Maria, "Rolling Thunder" = Delta Squad(YMMV for this) and so on.
  • The Tomb Raider title theme and its variations = Lara's theme.
  • In the Touhou, a character's Leitmotif usually ends up being the music from their boss fight, but this trope happens a few times. Hong Meiling, Alice Margatroid and Youmu Konpaku all get their stage themes as Leitmotifs (along with their boss themes); Suika Ibuki gets her pre-battle theme (again, along with her boss theme). Also, midbosses (Daiyousei, Koakuma, Lily White etc.) usually don't have their own leitmotifs, so they tend to get associated with the theme of the stage they appear in.
  • The song, Rowdy Rumble played during different mini-boss fights in Kingdom Hearts II, including most fights with Pete. The one time you fight Pete in Days also has this song, and in Dream Drop Distance, encounters with Pete are the only time this song plays, period. The Beagle Boys also get in on this song in the latter game, but they're Pete's personal lackeys and are later fought alongside him.
  • Psychic Energy was originally a Map BGM in Shin Super Robot Wars. It became associated with Aya Kobayashi in later SRW games.
  • In the Maniax edition of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Dante was given some leitmotifs reminiscent of his own series, and when he was booted off and replaced with Raidou Kuzunoha the XIV in the Chronicle edition, said music remained the same for Raidou.

    Visual Novels 
  • A peculiar example in Fate/stay night: in Expanded Universe material, Archer usually gets a Theme Music Power-Up that is a remix of "Emiya", the theme used exclusively for Shirou in the original Visual Novel. This example is strange because of the spoileriffic reason that Archer is a future version of Shirou, meaning that the song originally represented him in a way.

    Webcomics 
  • Happens all the time in Homestuck. This webomic has its own music team who typically compose themes based on their own visions, but which will often get used in the comic in a completely different context than they imagined. A specific example is "Crystamanthequins", a song originally supposed to be music for Dave. It was later used in this flash and became associated with Vriska and Terezi instead; lately it has been showing up as a Recurring Riff in that context.
    • One of John's themes, "Doctor" ended up becoming a theme for ascension to God Tiers. One of its remixes, "Savior of the Waking World", has a decent claim to being the theme for the webcomic as a whole.
    • The drum beat from Upward Movement (first plays as Dave walks up some stairs) eventually become included in many different songs in Homestuck, such as Even in Death, Descend, and Terezi Owns (though the third makes sense as it is basically a mirror to the above-mentioned Upward Movement).

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob's theme. His theme is the title music for Cape Fear, since the episode it was first used in was a parody of Cape Fear. It wasn't meant to represent Bob, but since he was the bad guy, it naturally played only when he was onscreen. The producers ran with it and now it's quite explicitly his theme, always playing when he first appears in an episode (just in time for Bart and Lisa to shout in unison: "AAAAAAH! SIDESHOW BOB!").
  • Due to being one of his most iconic cartoons, Mickey Mouse has been increasingly associated with the Steamboat Willie theme.
  • Æon Flux's theme tune was originally just a Suspiciously Similar version of the theme from Indiana Jones, as her debut short was a deconstruction of action movies. It was later remixed from a goofy, mock-triumphant, pseudo-orchestral sound into something more exotic and techno-ish for the later short Gravity; this version then became her leitmotif in the TV series. The "Breen National Anthem", leitmotif of Aeon's main antagonists, has a similar story: it was originally created as the theme for a single Breen character, Vaarsche Lockney, meant to sound like a Richard Wagner piece due to the character's Germanic looks...but it fit Bregna's authoritarian bent so well that the tune managed to outlast Lockney himself, who was spitted by an enemy swordsman half a minute into his first and only appearance.
  • Among the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, Rainbow Dash's verse of "At the Gala" tends to be considered her Leitmotif and often shows up as a Recurring Riff in fan-remixes based around her. It helps that it's very different from the other characters' verses, making it stand out more. Acoustic Brony's theme for her combines it with the verse of "Winter Wrap-Up", which has a similar motif.
    • What was originally just BGM for a Hard Work Montage involving the Cutie Mark Crusaders eventually became their Leitmotif in general.
    • Twilight Sparkle: MLP Main Theme
    • Pinkie Pie: "Smile Smile Smile"
    • Rarity: "Becoming Popular"
    • Fluttershy: "So Many Wonders"
    • Applejack: "Raise This Barn"


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