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aka: De Powered
So, your characters aren't just Pals with Jesus
... they are Jesus
(or a non-denomination reasonable facsimile thereof
). Okay. How the heck do you write
for this character? Short answer: not easily or not well. There are genres where such powerful characters
are normal, but outside of those the character is at risk of becoming a Boring Invincible Hero
or a Mary Sue
. To solve this conundrum, authors have two main options: A), fill the setting with equally powerful foes
, or B) De Power the character, stripping them of some or all their powers in order to reintroduce them to the plot.
This isn't just a case of Brought Down to Normal
which inevitably ends, but a much longer lasting if not permanent reduction in strength. This is often done as a long term Drama-Preserving Handicap
on the character in order to keep them in the cast without having to write them off
or use really convoluted Green Rocks
and Kryptonite Factor
plots. (This may be accomplished by a Power Nullifier
It's unlikely the character will be pleased by this turn of events, and if they're power hungry or evil they'll fight tooth and nail to find a way to get it back. Heroes who just want to be normal
will be happy, even if it means they can no longer use their finger-snapping problem solving powers.
This trope mostly applies to characters who are already gods, godlike
, or mortals who through the story gain powers to rival the gods. The result is usually a God in Human Form
. Expect them to learn that Power Loss Makes You Strong
This isn't just a simple Failure Is the Only Option
or Status Quo Is God
, where a character who gains godlike powers has them gone in the same episode, but the writers trying jump out of the corner they've painted themselves in
by depowering the character who by all indications should/could have kept all their powers throughout the show.
If this happened because the character was transported to another dimension, it's because Your Magic's No Good Here
. Subtrope of Brought Down to Normal
. See also How to Stop the Deus ex Machina
and Field Power Effect
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Japan Tengu Party Illustrated La Résistance discovers why the powerful tengu (supernatural crows and transformed humans) hate and fear a certain professor: he's discovered a real tengu, a large, seemingly flightless bird (think Kevin) and if the supernatural tengu, who use their uniqueness to define their very existence see the bird they become permanently depowered into ordinary humans and crows. Strangely enough, the tengu had no clue about the bird (it's as elusive as bigfoot) and were only going on the fact that the professor was snooping on them and thus a serious threat.
- Happened to Havoc in the backstory of Darker Than Black. However, she really doesn't want her powers to come back, since that would also mean that she'd lose her feelings and morals again, and she drank children's blood when she was a Contractor. In season 2, Hei loses his Shock and Awe powers, making him less of a One-Man Army, although he's still a formidable opponent.
- Uryuu Ishida broke the Quincy limits in the Soul Society arc when Letzt Stil turned him into a Walking Wasteland to worlds that are built of reishi (Soul Society and Hueco Mundo). He was able to one-shot both a captain and his bankai at the same time at the cost of losing his power forever. Parent Ex Machina restored his power, revealing that Uryuu's power was under-developed and immature. The final arc revisits this by finally allowing him to begin developing the true power his father indicated he was capable of more than 200 chapters previously.
- Ichigo went through a de-power at the end of the Arrancar Arc after fighting Aizen. The Lost Agent Arc was about the process of him finding a way to gain power to replace the power he's lost and during which time he became a Badass in Distress, requiring the shinigami to step in at the very last minute to save him by restoring his shinigami powers. It was further confirmed his power to date had been controlled and surpressed by his Quincy heritage so it takes the final arc before he's allowed to begin developing his power properly.
- Yhwach possesses the ability to perform a ritual that de-powers any Quincy that is selected for it. He used it nine years before the final arc to steal the power of all Quincies he classified as "impure", including Ichigo and Uryuu's mothers (Masaki and Kanae). Masaki was de-powered just as she entered battle with the Grand Fisher, leaving her defenceless against a hollow she should have curbstomped. At the same moment, Kanae collapsed into a coma that lasted three months before she finally died; de-powering her literally destroyed her very life.
- Saint Seiya Next Dimension had this since the last saga had all six of the main characters in God Cloths.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and Brotherhood,: Protagonist Edward Elric gave up his alchemy for his brother Al's body in the end of the series.
- In Tiger & Bunny, there's a very rare phenomenon where NEXT will slowly lose their powers over a period of time. This starts happening to Kotetsu in the second half of the series, and Kotetsu learns in the 16th episode that his own hero, Mr. Legend, had the same thing happen to him — and really didn't take it well.
- Alexiel in Angel Sanctuary. Her true powers were unsealed with the destruction of Eden.
- Marvel's Secret Wars II has the Beyonder become a human to see what it's like.
- Galactus at one point depowered himself in Mark Waid's run on the FF in order to hide from planetary forces that wished to kill him for his actions.
- The original Ghost Rider, John Blaze eventually had the demon exorcised from himself, making him a normal human, and he enjoyed it. He later became a sort of mentor to a new Ghost Rider.
- Eventually, Johnny Blaze became the Ghost Rider again, and fought his way out of hell.
- The Silver Age DCU had characters so powerful that they basically had to destroy the universe in order to Depower all of them.
- In the Pre Crisis era, Kryptonians could permanently lose their powers through exposure to Gold Kryptonite. Post-Crisis Superman once had to use this to defeat a group of Pre Crisis kryptonians (as they were far more powerful) fortunately, Krytonite only works on Kryptonians from the same universe.
- This was also used in Superman & Batman: Generations a storyline based on Silver Age Superman and Batman. Superman's first child, Joel, was exposed to Gold Kryptonite in the womb, his sister wasn't, but she wore a red sun pendant in early childhood until she was ready for her powers. This eventually lead to a bitter adult Joel being manipulated by Lex Luthor into using temporary powers to kill his sister.
- Wonder Woman was depowered for a while in the 70s. DC wanted to cash in on Action Girls and was aiming for Power Loss Makes You Strong, but feminists picked up on some Unfortunate Implications...
- In All Fall Down, this happens to every superhero and villain in the world. Permanently.
Films — Animated
- The Disney version of Hercules has him lose all of his godly powers except super strength as a baby, get them back full force towards the end, and chooses to be Brought Down to Normal (er, normal for him, so he's still super strong) so he can be with his beloved Meg.
Films — Live-Action
- In Superman II, Clark gave up his powers to be with Lois Lane... of course, this turned out to be a spectacularly bad idea. Or at least, spectacularly badly timed considering Zod and his cronies broke out of the Phantom Zone soon after.
- In Wim Wender's movies Wings of Desire and Faraway, so Close, the protagonists are angels who renounce their status as spiritual creatures in order to experience mortal life as human beings. It's hinted that Peter Falk, of all people, is himself a former angel.
- The Discworld novel Small Gods centers around Brutha, the reluctant chosen one of the Great God Om, who has incarnated in the form of a turtle. Not his fault, mind you; he had planned to incarnate as a giant raging bull, but the Omnian religion has become a Corrupt Church ruled by fear of the Exquisition rather than any genuine faith, and in a world where Gods Need Prayer Badly and belief can change the very nature of reality, this means bad news for any deity.
- The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf, Saruman, and the other Wizards are angelical powers in the form of old men sent by the Valar to assist the people of Middle Earth. Morgoth and Sauron also were both eventually trapped in the material form that they have assumed, as a consequence of their corruption.
- In The Wheel of Time books, aside from various measures to temporarily remove Channelers from the Source, such Mat's amulet, a stedding, or being shielded by another channeler, there are two means by which a Channeler can permanently lose their power: accidentally, by trying to draw too much (this can also cause death in extreme cases), or by deliberate severing by another Channeler. This is called gentling for men and stilling for women. A cure is found about halfway through the series, but if one is cured by the same sex, their power will be restored to only a fraction of its original state.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Anyanka was a powerful vengeance demon who lost her powers to manipulate the past, thus changing the future. She got her powers back but then this happened to her again.
- This happens to Willow with the destruction of the Seed of Wonder.
- This also happened to Amy with the destruction of the Seed of Wonder.
- Season Four of Angel: Cordelia, after becoming a minor The Powers That Be: "Oh god, I'm so bored."
- Season Five as well: hellgod Illyria is brought down several orders of magnitude when she takes over Fred's physical body.
- And even then she had massive Story-Breaker Power and in all her fights she effortlessly curb stomped everyone else. She had to be depowered further before any of the other characters could touch her.
- Angel becomes human for a day in Season One.
- Volume 4 of Heroes has done this with its two Game Breaker heroes, Peter Petrelli (mass-Power Copying) and Hiro Nakamura (teleportation, time freeze, and time travel), whose powers were stolen by Big Bad Arthur Petrelli in Volume 3. Both have since regained much weaker versions of their original abilities: Peter can only copy one power at a time (losing the previous power whenever he takes on a new one), and he now needs to copy powers by touch; while Hiro was limited to stopping time, but it turns out that this was actually his powers becoming a bit unpredicatable: they're killing him and he accelerates a brain tumor every time he uses his powers. He has his full range back, but his powers still misfire sometimes.
- Similarly, Sylar lost all of his powers prior to Volume 2, got his two main ones (telekinesis and understanding how things work) back at the end, and has been expanding his collection ever since.
- Stargate SG-1's Daniel Jackson spends a season as an ascended being and a frequent guest star before rejoining the mortal plane and the main cast in the following season.
- Leo from Charmed. He ascends thrice, the last time being part of a cabal of reality-warping godlike beings, before finally becoming mortal again.
- Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger kicked off the plot by having all the Super Sentai teams sacrificing their powers for a Combined Energy Attack that annihilates the Zangyack fleet invading Earth. At the end of the series, the Gokaigers, who have inherited that power, returned them to their rightful owners.
- In order to keep them in check, one of the choices given to human telepaths in Babylon 5, alongside conscription into the MRA (Metasensory Regulation Authority) or prison, is a weekly sleeper injection to nullify their psychic abilities. It's not without its side-effects, however, namely disassociation and depression.
- PainkillerJane The "chip" the agency tags neuros with prevents them from using their ability, letting them be taken in safely.
- In Grimm, the Hexenbiester/Zauberbiester are a Witch Species, different from the other Wesen, as they are able to do things bordering on magic. However, their powers can be taken away if they ingest a Grimm's blood, which is what Nick forces Adelind to do (by forcibly kissing her, causing her to bite his lip). It's possible for a de-powered Hexenbiest to regain her powers, but it requires undergoing an extremely complex (and gross) ritual as well as the sacrifice of another Hexenbiest. Adelind does this and pays Nick back by de-powering him. Not only is he unable to see Wesen anymore, but his enhanced strength, speed, and senses are also gone.
- Amaterasu in Ōkami has been severely weakened after being Sealed Good in a Can for hundred years. This means even lowly imps can pose a challenge, and by the end of the game you're strong enough to challenge Yami, god of the Void and Darkness.
- Jade Curtiss from Tales of the Abyss is a major Crutch Character. When you meet him, he's level 45 and awesome enough to wipe the floor with anything your party might encounter, but he soon gets almost all of his powers sealed away, and has to spend the majority of the game unsealing them. (ie: Leveling up again)
- In The World Ends with You, Joshua, the Composer seals much of his powers away so he can play the "game" he has going fairly.
- In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories Etna is depowered by 999 levels to level 1.
- In Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten Valvatorez was depowered from at least level 4000 (as revealed in a flashback DLC) to level 1 after he decided to honor his deal with Artina to not drink human blood until he could scare her even after her death. This also lowers his natural aptitudes so even if you level him back to 4000 he is still weaker than his past self.
- Mantorok, an Eldritch Abomination from Eternal Darkness, is sealed within his own temple by Pious Augustus. This prevents him from being able to fuel any Summon Magic the player character tries to cast using his rune (meaning no Mantorok Trappers, Zombies or Horrors). For extra irony, Pious used a spell fueled with Mantorok's own supreme element to seal it.
- This is basically the player character in both of the Knights of the Old Republic games. They used to be very powerful, but lost their memory and/or powers just before the start of the game, and you have to gain it back slowly.
- Happens to two of the three Sacred Treasure bearers by the time The King of Fighters XIII rolls around because of Ash Crimson. Chizuru Kagura is unfortunately depowered to the point she can't even fight anymore but Iori Yagami doesn't let this handicap stop him and enters the tournament anyway (his family's fighting style also incorporates slashing attacks, which is what makes up the bulk of his moves without flame powers). By the end he regains his power, despite the fact having it can turn him into a bloodthirsty monster if he's exposed to the Orochi's power.
- In God of War II, Kratos is Brought Down to Badass and slain by Zeus at the start, allowing the player to reacquire his powers as the story progresses.
- In The Gamers Alliance, Leon loses his half-god powers when he is resurrected as a mortal. All mortals lose their innate magical abilities after the Cataclysm which was caused by the Godslayer.
- Fine Structure starts with the Big Good sealing himself and the Big Bad in our universe (where they both, at least temporarily, end up as a God in Human Form). Also, a side effect of one character's spectacular You Shall Not Pass moment is the depowering of every Flying Brick super hero in the setting.
- In Worm, Cauldron apparently has a method of removing parahuman powers. Contessa uses it on Taylor at the end of the story.
- In 8-Bit Theater the Light Warriors are all reduced to a fraction of their abilities by Sarda. Thief also has his class change stolen. By Thief.
- In Dominic Deegan Gregory loses his White Magic when the Infernomancer rips them out of his chest. In the comic's final arc Dominic loses his Third Sight to the Beast, and his Second Sight returns to the Heart of Magic forever.
- In the finale of Action Man, the villains Tempest and Quake lose their powers permanently.
- In the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender instead of killing the Fire Lord, Aang opts to use this trope on him instead.
- In the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, this is what Amon does to benders he believes are oppressing non-benders. And he believes all benders oppress non-benders.
- An adult Aang does this in a flashback in Korra to the bloodbending mobster Yakone.
- As of the season finale, Korra is at least capable of doing this, having inherited Aang's energy/spirit bending, though so far we've technically only seen her re-power Lin.
- In the Grand Finale of Static Shock, most of the Bang Babies lose their powers permanently.
- Shining Armor finds himself with black crystals embedded in his horn which seal off his magic after holding off King Sombra long enough so the others can escape in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
- Both Bumblebee and Starscream lose their transformation cogs over the course of season 2 of Transformers Prime. This leads to both Mode Lock and the inability to use their built-in weapons leaving both bots at a severe disadvantage against other Cybertronians.