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Fake Special Attack
So the big Fight Scene is kicking off, and Bob is going to use a seemingly powerful Special Attack. It often has an ominous name, and sometimes a Combat Commentator says “Oh, Crap”.

When the attack is actually used… it’s far less than impressive. The alleged Finger Poke of Doom really is just a poke. The "ultimate" transformation is just a bikini-clad girl. The BFG shoots Red Boxing Gloves or is an oversized water gun. The supposed Death Ray is just The Nudifier. Part or all of the attack is an illusion. All Bob's power is in his huge Battle Aura and he's bluffing. The lightshow is just a distraction from something else, like a Villain Exit Stage Left. The... no, I'm done. In any case, the attack has a humorous non-effect.

Contrast The Worf Barrage, which does do something big… which is then laughed off. Joke Item and Joke Character are the item/character versions. A Clipped Wing Angel is a similarly subverted transformation, but is not always humorous. If all your fighting skill is like this, then What the Fu Are You Doing?. Heart Is an Awesome Power is when a power - that would become this if used to attack directly - is put to creative and effective use. Can be Subverted with You Are Already Dead, where the attack seems to do nothing, but its serious effects are about to be felt.

Because many of these attacks are played up as serious until The Reveal, expect minor spoilers.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Usopp from OnePiece abused the hell out of this trope early part in the story. Yelling out a rubber band attack that made opponents flinch was used as an escape tool. His 10 ton hammer is just a balloon with two frying pans attached at the ends. Post time skip, however, his arsenal has become a legitimate threat.
  • The Thousand Years of Death, from Naruto, looks like you're about to use a powerful Jutsu but is really just Kancho.
    • Naruto’s Sexy Jutsu is similar. In this case, it is an actual Jutsu... but all it does is transform the user into a Shameless Fanservice Girl.
    • Subverted when Naruto fights Kiba in the Chunin Exams. Naruto plans to use a powerful attack to defeat Kiba, but ends up farting in his face, which is made to look like the big "attack" Naruto was planning. The fart actually causes Kiba difficulty because of his heightened sense of smell... which then allows Naruto to use his true plan, the Uzumaki Barrage.
    • Subverted again with later abuse of the Thousand Years Of Death; Naruto uses the attack in an until-that-point deadly serious fight. Beat... and then it's revealed he used not his fingers, but an explosive-loaded knife. Ouch.
  • Most of Genma’s Anything-Goes Techniques, as well many other Ranma ½ moves.
    • The Bakusai Tenketsu (Breaking Point), a Finger Poke of Doom capable of shattering the target. It is only effective on rocks and dirt.
    • The Saotome School Ultimate Attack/Finishing Move consists of distracting the opponent by pretending to use an ultimate technique, then running away to think of something better.
    • Crouch of the Wild Tiger, which is just bowing down and begging for mercy.
    • Howl of the Demon Dog, which is taunting your opponent from a safe distance.
    • Cradle of Hell, which is an embarrassing, loving embrace.
    • Both of the attacks used by Lin Lin and Lun Lun, which supposedly defeat powerful fighters offscreen, but are really just bad mechanical constructs.
    • In an anime filler, Happosai and Genma use up all their power growing to giant size, subverting what seemed like a show-down.
    • In another filler, Happosai fights another master, both of whom have invisibility techniques. Neither can attack while staying hidden. Stalemate ensues, subverting another would-be showdown.
    • The Happo Fire Burst zigzags this. For most of its introductory episode, it’s played up as a horrifically powerful Ki Attack. Eventually, Happosai uses it. Genma and Soun panic. Ranma calls it out as mere fireworks. However, in later episodes it becomes Happosai's signature move and is rather effective (for the genre, anyway); the technique is implied to be conjuring these bombs from Ki energy, which would make it a legitimately powerful technique, since it can bring a bomb to a fistfight.
  • Tiger & Bunny: The eponymous duo have a special feature built into their Powered Armor called "Good Luck Mode". It does nothing but looks cool.
  • In Bleach, Don Kanonji's "Kanonji-Style Final Super Attack: Kanonball" is a tiny ball of energy that creates a surprisingly powerful explosion on impact. However, it moves about as fast as a snail, making it almost impossible to hit enemies with, and Kanonji isn't strong enough to threaten anything after the first arc.
  • Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta's Bluff Kamehameha from Dragon Ball GT. Clones himself, charges up to full power,threatens to disintegrate every cell in Omega Shenron's body, and theeeeen... poof. Confetti. He could afford to have a little fun.

Film
  • "The Ex-Wife" bunker buster installed on the War Machine suit in Iron Man 2. After all the hype (and a brief launch sequence with massive backblast) it just bounces off.
    Iron Man: Hammer tech?
    War Machine: (dejectedly) Yeah.

Live-Action TV

Literature
  • In the Discworld novel Sourcery, Nigel and Rincewind confront some very angry harem guards. Nigel then goes to demonstrate an impressive piece of swordplay "A triple orc thrust with a backflip". At first it looks impressive, right until the sword embeds itself in the ceiling.

Videogame
  • Monstar in the first Paper Mario game charges up a huge aura attack with plenty of light effects while taunting Mario. The attack only does a single point of damage.
  • Disgaea 2: The Prism Rangers gain the ability to launch into a long, drawn out attack that unites all of the rangers into one, huge beam attack. It does absolutely pitiful damage, and can only be used two or three times before they run out of MP for it.
  • Street Fighter Alpha 2: Dan Hibiki's Chohatsu Densetsu (literally, "Legendary Taunt") is a Super Combo that's true to its name; all he does is a series of taunts that not only wastes your super meter, it also leaves you open to attack.
    • In Street Fighter Alpha 3, he also gets the Chohatsu Shinwa ("Mythical Taunt"), which is a level 3 super attack (i.e., requiring a full super meter and draining it all) that does nothing but replace all Dan's normal attacks with zero-damage taunts for a while or until Dan gets hit.
    • Subverted in Street Fighter 4, as you can very quickly cancel out of the Chohatsu Densetsu into an actual Ultra Combo. It's very likely to catch your opponent off guard...at least the first time they see it.
  • Gilgamesh in the Final Fantasy games will often claim to possess the Excalibur, a legendary sword that should by all rights do lots of damage. Then he attacks your party with it, and it does...1 damage. Turns out it's a cheap knockoff called the Excalipoor.
  • Yoshio from Tokimeki Memorial 1 has a Limit Break in his repertoire during the excursion trip battle phase, the "Great Yoshio Kick". He tries to make it sound and look cool, but it not only does zero damage on the opponent, it also breaks Yoshio's leg and put him out of the remainder of the fight.

Webcomics


Eye BeamsSpecial AttackGrapple Move
Face Palm of DoomCombat TropesFantastic Fighting Style

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