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Can't Stay Normal
I wanted power. Always. Always. The power to protect... all sorts of people. I remembered that... when I lost my powers.
Ichigo Kurosaki experiencing the first version, Bleach

Are you special? Did you willingly accept The Call only to find your life full of monsters, aliens, or magic? Is it all too much to handle? Maybe The Call Knows Where You Live and you wish you had refused the Call? Do you just want to be normal again?

Well, thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime chance, you can be! Humanity Ensues! You're a normal human again! Frequently, Laser-Guided Amnesia is included, absolutely free!

Now, you know this can't last.

From this point, there are two variations:
  • Once you are human (or may have always been), you realize this bland, boring life isn't as exciting as the horrible, yet amazing, life you once led. The action, intensity, romance, it's gone. Now you want it back. (Frequently, in looking for the old aspects of your life, you upset the balance of everything else.)
  • Alternately, you love being human and that normalcy you missed is so relieving, but then something happens. Drama ensues. And, dangit! Those powers, skills, or magical abilities you had before are exactly what is needed to fix what's going wrong. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time! So, you are forced to reverse the change, and become that which, ultimately, you are destined to be.

Thus, you Cant Stay Normal. Often a one-shot episode which makes use of a Reset Button to get things back to status quo. Sometimes Anvilicious in making a character accept their strengths and limitations.

Compare: Send Me Back, Always Need What You Gave Up, I'm Not A Hero; I'm ____, and What Have I Become?. If you realize you need your powers now before actually becoming normal, and miss the chance to do so as a result, it's a Friend or Idol Decision instead. Contrast Undeath Always Ends.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • This happens to Berserker Orson in the Record of Lodoss War TV series. Naturally, he has to become a berserker again in order to save his partner Sheris.
  • Asuna of Mahou Sensei Negima! has an odd case of this. Long story short, she's a princess from a magical world who became a normal schoolgirl at great effort, and is in the process of losing that normality because she hadn't factored in her own behavior post Laser-Guided Amnesia, and is therefore running headlong into what she ran from ten years before.
    • Chisame is a more reluctant example, having been metaphorically dragged down to paranormal kicking and screaming before leaping out to gasp for air, only to discover that air is now too easy and boring, and therefore ending up in a combination of being dragged down again and saying "the hell with it".
  • The main characters of Sailor Moon actually get two cracks at this, both times because they died in the past. Queen Serenity revives them as completely different people in the future with no memories of their past lives, and the power of the Silver Crystal that also killed Usagi brings back her friends and lover along with herself right after killing Super Beryl. Once again, they have no memories of their past lives or even their time spent as friends. Luna and Artemis even take a crack at killing a monster in the first episode of Sailor Moon R just so Usagi and the others won't have to be forced to fight and lose their lives again. After Usagi gets her powers back, she attempts to kill another monster on her own for the same reason. Obviously, everybody has to get their powers back or there wouldn't be a show, but Usagi approaches Heroic BSOD before the end of the first story arc as this trope weighs down on her.
    • Later in the series, this also affect Hotaru, who had been reverted to a powerless infant at the end of Sailor Moon S so she and her father could have a second chance at life (or just herself in the manga, since her dad died at the end of the plot in the manga). Both the anime and the manga show circumstances requiring her to age up and regain her powers as Saturn. Unlike Usagi, she doesn't seem particularly bothered by it.
  • Happens to Kyon in Haruhi Suzumiya, when he is warped into an Alternate Universe that is completely normal. Though extremely terrified by being transferred into an Alternate Universe (who wouldn't be), he does asks himself if this could actually be good. At the end, he questions himself in a monologue directly if he enjoys the "crazy world". He does. However, one might interpret that it's more about the persons (who are a bit different, especially Nagato), that he wants back.
  • At the start of the second season of Code Geass, Lelouch has lost his memories of his mother and sister, and of having been the terrorist leader Zero (all thanks to the Emperor's memory-altering Geass) and is back at Ashford, acting much like he did at the start of the series. Even though the choice is pretty much taken out of his hands by C.C. restoring his memories, it's shown that he's still dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and apparently only lacked the motivation to return to his old life.
    • C.C. goes through one of these, as she temporarily loses her immortality and memories (she bleeds, right?) as part of her Angst against the world. She gets better.
  • In Gantz, leaving the "game" (and losing all you memories of it) is one of the choices in the 100 points menu. Two people who had chosen this had this happen to them. First Izumi Shion, who did it before the series' start, gets back in after recruiting (killing) a bunch of people and getting Kurono Kei to kill him. Kurono also went though this (and forgot about his girlfriend who was unrelated to the game but got while he was in it), he figured it out after a reporter who saw him on TV because the they lost the Invisible to Normals property last mission. Then he was killed by vampires, he was revived (for 100 points and back in the game) after the next mission.
  • Bleach:
    • Uryuu sacrificed his power to defeat a captain during the Soul Society arc and stoically resigned himself to being a Badass Normal for the rest of his life. However, when his father told him there was a way to restore his power at a price, Uryuu accepted the price to regain his power. He then found a loophole in the caveat he was given to rejoin his True Companions in their next quest.
    • Ichigo mirrored Uryuu's experience, except that he started the story feeling I Just Want to Be Normal, whereas Uryuu didn't. Ichigo sacrificed his power to defeat Aizen and stoically resigned himself to being a Badass Normal for the rest of his life. He constantly reassured himself and others that he was happy having his normal life back, but he jumped at the first opportunity to regain his spiritual powers because, deep down, he had always desired power so he could protect other people.
    • Kon learns early in the manga that Isshin sacrificed his powers twenty years ago. As soon as Isshin regains his power, he kills the Grand Fisher, the hollow that killed his wife. Isshin had given all his Shinigami powers to his wife in order to save her life after she was infected by a Hollow. The Hollow and Isshin's powers were passed on to Ichigo after her death; they only returned to him after Ichigo's own Hollow manifested while fighting Byakuya.

    Comic Books 
  • Wally West's ex-girlfriend, Frances Kane, who had magnetic powers, wanted to be normal and decided not to use her powers ever again. Cue a bomb being activated and her powers being the only that could save everyone. Unfortunately, since using her powers also causes her to revert to a psychotically evil mentality (which, come to think of it, explains wanting to be normal), this was also a case of Chronic Villainy.
  • This is basically the Thing's gig all over, as he tends to only revert to being human at the absolutely worst times, forcing him each time to go back to being 'a monster', though by the current point in continuity, his being a monster isn't bad, since he's the ever-loving, blue-eyed idol o' millions.
    • It happens in the movie, too.
  • In the last big Pre Crisis Story Arc for Green Lantern, Hal Jordan decided that being GL had ruined his life, and resigned. For about a year, John Stewart wore the ring, but Hal's journey to Find Himself got as much panel time as John's costumed adventures. Ultimately, Hal realized that he was a directionless, unmotivated loser without the twin crutches of the Ring and the Corps being Green Lantern was his one, true destiny.
    • And then someone blew up his city and he went batshit insane got infected by giant yellow space bug that fed on fear and turned him into a mass-murdering hyperpowered psychopath. He just couldn't catch a break.
  • Spider-Man has a rep for deciding I Just Want to Be Normal and hanging up the tights. He only did it twice, once in a classic Bronze Age story (which was homaged in the below-mentioned Spider-Man 2) and once at the end of the much-maligned The Clone Saga (and that was with the double rationales of not being the "real" Peter Parker and having a pregnant wife).
    • Toward the end of the Hobgoblin Saga, he had decided to hang up his webs as soon as he could locate Flash Thompson, who was a fugitive from the law after Hobgoblin framed him for his crimes. The murder of Ned Leeds in Germany (in the Spider-Man / Wolverine one-shot) further convinced him to hang up the tights. By the end of the arc, however, after saving Thompson's life and clearing his name, Peter decided that he couldn't give up the good fight and chose not to retire. The very next issue, he proposed to MJ.
  • Woody from Quantum and Woody suffers from this; even after losing his energy-blasting powers and a breakup with his partner and best friend, Woody is shocked when he answers police calls unbidden and realizes he's got Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • Bruce Banner has been "permanently cured of being the Hulk" on several occasions, only to have to reHulkify himself to solve some crisis. Why they don't use the same deHulkifier on him again after the crisis is resolved is rarely if ever explained.
    • In the current series, the Red Hulk depowered the Hulk by absorbing all his gamma radiation, saying that Bruce Banner would never become the Hulk again. Banner was Genre Savvy enough to know that eventually he'd reHulkify and spent his time preparing for that day.
  • Tony Stark is "forced" to give up being Iron Man for various reasons, usually either relating to his heart, alcohol, or to dying. It never lasts.
  • At the start of the New Power saga of W.I.T.C.H. the titular heroines are Depowered to make space for the titular power up, and Cornelia, not knowing what's happening, is really happy of having the chance at a normal life. She is downright furious when she gets the power up, and only stays because she's responsible enough to use her powers for good now that she has them again.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The second Superman movie. Superpowered criminals proceed to take over the world right after Clark gives up his own superpowers.
  • After being "flashed" and dropped back into his old life at the end of Men In Black, Agent K is reactivated at the start of the sequel. His reaction showed a remarkable lack of "WTF, guys!"
    • His civilian life didn't turn out so great; he'd been placed with his high school sweetheart, but she eventually left him.
  • At the beginning of the second American film, Guyver: Dark Hero, the hero finds he can't stop fighting or run away due to the Guyver urging him from within and taking over his body.
  • The "prisoner wants back in" notion listed under Real Life is addressed in The Shawshank Redemption, during the "Brooks Was Here" portion, when Brooks contemplates killing the manager at the grocery store he's working in as much for the sake of going back to jail as for wanting to kill the guy.

    Literature 
  • The fourth Animorphs Megamorphs book does this. The leader of the titular group makes a Deal With The Devil Crayak and it results in everyone not knowing about the Yeerk invasion, etc. Returns to the Status Quo near the end (no really?) when Cassie almost literally breaks reality, thus everyone realizing it was a fake life they were living.
    • Cassie is actually an anomaly, truly grounded in the real timeline so she causes the fake to collapse. She really can't stay normal.
  • Richard, at the end of Neverwhere, has found his way back to London Above...only to realize how dull and empty his life there now seems. He quickly returns to London Below.
  • In the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the land of Oz is decidedly real, as opposed to the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and despite being overjoyed to return to her family farm in Kansas at the end, Dorothy would frequently return to Oz in subsequent novels. In book 6, The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy convinced her family to move to Oz permanently when they couldn't pay the mortgage on their farm. Ozma ended up naming Dorothy Princess of Oz and a life-long companion.
  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Human Nature (by Paul Cornell), the Seventh Doctor transforms himself into a human and allows his mind to be wiped temporarily. He prepares a list of emergency protocols — but it doesn't occur to him that he may fall in love, get engaged, and would never want to leave again. Also made into an episode for the TV show Doctor Who (see below).
  • At the end of Ringworld's Children, Luis Wu is once again rendered a normal human being after spending the last six chapters or so as a Protector-Stage human (a being evolved for war with superhuman intelligence, strength, and speed) by a nanite-equipped autodoc. One of his first thoughts was "Thinking had became a chore again", comparing his original high IQ to the godlike intelligence he enjoyed as a Protector.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Angel, a first-season episode with Buffy guesting where a demon's blood has the side-effect of turning him human. Unfortunately, he still tries to fight demons, and loses, badly - just after hearing a rather straightforward prophecy that if he stops fighting demons, Buffy will end up dead because of it.
    • Angel's son ends up fitting this trope snugly. To make a very long story slightly shorter, Connor was prophesied to slay a demon, so the demon altered the prophesy to help him dispatch Connor as infant, which led to Connor being raised in a hell-dimension as a Tykebomb, which eventually drives him insane, and leads Angel to make a Deal with the Devil to brainwash Connor so he could have a happy life. But the demon had gone undefeated, and his nemesis Cyvus Vail was also the sorcerer who gave Connor his new memories, so Connor was blackmailed into coming out of retirement to finally slay the demon. Vail got Angel to agree by threatening to give Connor his old memories back by shattering the Orlon Window. Wesley, who suspected Angel of involvement in Fred's death, shattered the window and restored Connor's memories. However, with the strong happy memories of his fake life, Connor is much less insane now.
  • There's also the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard, through the meddling of Q, never got stabbed as a cadet, and thus never became aware of his own mortality, and so experienced a re-write of his life on the Enterprise, except as a lowly blue shirt. Attempts to re-assert his old life of command wind up getting him gently rebuffed due to his "lack of initiative" and not "attempting to stand out".
  • On Smallville, when Clark gets his powers transferred to a would-be hero, he thinks it's great. Until the "super boy" lets it go to his head and acts irresponsibly, Clark has to reluctantly get his powers back just as we all knew he would.
    • Clark gives up his powers in another episode to be with Lana, but has to get them back to stop a nuclear missile from hitting the town.
  • In Forever Knight, Nick's former love interest Janette gets his dream of becoming human again, and he has to make her back into a vampire to save her.
  • Happened to the Hulk in the TV series. And in the comics a few (Dozen? Hundred?) times. And the new movie. And the 90's cartoon. Twice.
    • The comic eventually established that every time Bruce gets cured, the Hulk personality remains in his subconscious, prodding him to find some excuse to restore his powers/curse so it can re-emerge. So Bruce always ends up sabotaging himself.
    • A fairly Anvilicious example in the 1980s cartoon: Bruce cures himself and then a computer tells him that the Hulk is the only thing that could possibly deal with the Monster of the Week. And of course, he can't cure himself again afterwards.
  • The ending in Neverwhere.
  • The season four finale of Charmed had the sisters do this, as well, and learn that they'd much rather be saving the innocent and having to deal with the Big Bad than being normal. The fact that there seemed to be fewer innocents and more magical fairies as the seasons wore on ruins this somewhat.
  • Supernatural, "What Is And What Should Never Be": Dean gets a chance at a normal life where his mother is alive and he and Sam aren't hunters. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a Lotus-Eater Machine; Dean kills the creature that created it and returns to the real world, though not without regrets.
    • Happens again in an Angel-related arc. The two wake up as regular Joes, working for a normal company, which gives the first impression that something wiped their memories just to kill them slowly. It is discovered that the culprit is a plain ghost, and behind their forgetting was an Angel. This is used to prove that, even if they seem normal, They Can't Beat Fate, but it is subverted as a mind game, because they have kept subconscious knowledge of what they used to do, and most likely act on it. They don't realize that though and almost succumb to a Breaking Speech.
    • This is the basis of Dean's arc in Season 6. After a year of attempting to live an 'apple-pie' life with Lisa, he ends up returning to hunting when Sam returns, and comes to the conclusion that while a normal life is what he thought he wanted, he's only really satisfied when he's hunting.
  • The second season finale of Chuck fits the second variation. Chuck got the Intersect out of his head, he quit the Buy More so he could move on with his life, and he was planning to pursue a relationship with Sarah. Then, for various plot-twisty reasons, he ends up having to destroy the last remaining version of the Intersect. It's too valuable to lose, so he downloads it again.
  • Also seen in some form in a 6th season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where our heroine is poisoned by a demon. This makes her have flashes about being in a mental institution with no powers. Completely "normal". She has to choose between the Buffyverse where more and more problems are coming along and the normalverse... which she, of course, has to kill friends and family to live in.
    • Back in season 3's "Helpless" she's Genre Savvy enough to realise that, much as she'd like a normal life, there's be serious downsides to it:
    Buffy: I've seen too much. I know what goes bump in the night. Not being able to fight it... What if I just hide under my bed, all scared and helpless? Or what if I just become pathetic? Hanging out at the old Slayer's home, talking people's ears off about my glory days, showing them Mr. Pointy, the stake I had bronzed.
  • In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Hercules gives up his demi-godhood so he'll be allowed to marry Serena the Golden Hind. She also loses her Hind powers and becomes a mortal woman. When Strife kills Serena and frames Hercules for the murder, the deal starts to look more than a little sour. Zeus gives Hercules his powers back so he can kick Strife's ass.
  • Red Dwarf episode "DNA" featured a DNA modifier that made Kryten human. However, his difficulty in dealing with his new form, plus the feeling of wretchedness from being rude to his spare heads prompts him to change back.
  • Tommy from Power Rangers doesn't so much have the call on speed dial as it has him on speed dial. He has tried to retire several times now and got dragged back to the spandex every time. Even in the seven years in-between suits he got dragged out of the normal zone at least once, as his first job after getting his doctorate in paleontology was mad scientist building dinosaur cyborgs.
    • Well, really, what did he expect? He should have seen enough Zords by then to realize building some of his own would bring the spandex back...
    • At the end of Dino Thunder, he states his intent to live the quiet life for real this time. We'll have to wait for his cameo in Megaforce to see if it worked (more than ten veterans are showing up, so at least it won't just be him).
  • In the Doctor Who double episode "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood" (by Paul Cornell), the Tenth Doctor transforms himself into a human (which involves a lot of hideous pain and screaming in absolute agony) and allows his mind to be wiped temporarily. He prepares a list of emergency protocols — but it doesn't occur to him that he may fall in love and never want to leave again. Becoming his old self again is, for all intents and purposes, suicide. Adapted from a Doctor Who New Adventures novel that used the Seventh Doctor (see above).
    • In the new series, the Doctor's companions can't adjust to mundane life when their adventures are over, and most of them become paranormal investigators, either in a freelance capacity or with an organization such as UNIT or Torchwood.

    Video Games 
  • The Dark Forces Saga provides an unusual variation. Kyle Katarn, the mercenary-turned-Rebel agent, becomes a Jedi in Jedi Knight, only to renounce his powers after a brush with the Dark Side in Mysteries of the Sith and return to a life as an agent. The events of Jedi Outcast, however, drive him to reclaim his Jedi powers. Consequently, Kyle Katarn is one of the few people on this list who can't stay Badass Normal...
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time, Sly, despite his happy retired life as a fake amnesiac with Carmelita, finds he is unable to resist the urge to steal again and actually begins planning a solo job before Bentley shows up.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • This is precisely how Sailor Nothing starts. Himei's status as Sailor Salvation has been officially revoked, but it doesn't eliminate any of the powers of her or her Animal Guardian Dusty. The only change is, she refuses to be Sailor Salvation any longer, so she isn't. And she's still fully aware of when a Yamiko is created, so it's not like she can live in blissful ignorance...
  • In Return of the Cartoon Man, Roy is transformed back into his normal self, and attempts to go back to his old life. But he is soon forced to become the Cartoon Man again when Simon returns with a sinister new plan.

    Western Animation 
  • In Gargoyles: the Goliath Chronicles, Goliath gets thrust into an alternate reality where he's human and married to Elisa. The rest of the gargoyles never knew him, and basically everything falls apart in the human life as he tries to connect to his old one.
  • Something similar happens in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon: The party finally manages to escape the D&D world into the "normal" world - only to have the villain follow them. Problem is, their magical items are no longer working in the human world, while the villain's powers work as usual.
  • Danny manages to turn himself back to normal in Danny Phantom during the Grand Finale, choosing to do so to protect his loved ones (and because another team of Ghost Hunters are doing his job better then he is). At first, he enjoys having his normal life back and not have to worry about the pressures he was under as a hero until Sam got on him for giving up the rare opportunity to do good (also she secretly misses Danny's ghost identity), which makes him start regretting his choice and eventually realizes he doesn't like the normal route. That plus a giant asteroid heads to Earth, capable of destroying it. With the aid of his enemies, Danny gets his powers back and saves the day.
  • In Ben 10: Alien Force, after losing control of his powers and becoming a mutant, Kevin manages to become human, but willingly takes them back to save his friends.

    Real Life 
  • This can apply to real life as far as military life goes. Many soldiers can attest that the discipline and stress that the military puts them through forces them into a state of mind where civilian life is nowhere near as exciting as combat and the tradition found in command or they simply can't psychologically adapt themselves back into a civilian lifestyle. This can often end in tragedy but for some the military lifestyle can be fulfilling.
  • This can also happen to people who are in prison for a long time, particularly if they spend a long time in solitary confinement. People can become institutionalized and comfortable with the strict routine and always being told what to do, and be unable to handle life in the normal world. Some criminals, when released, deliberately commit petty crimes just so they can go back to the life they are used to.


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