Protagonist Power-Up Privileges

The Five-Man Band has just found the Sword of Plot Advancement, a mythical blade said to bestow great power for justice on one who is deemed worthy. So who will claim it? The Leader, of course! New story arc, the team is in search of five ancient crystals that can give them magical powers. Who do you think will find one first?

In works of media where the focus otherwise is on some sort of team, of any number of people, there will inevitably still be a tighter focus on The Hero, and thus the Hero will be the first to receive a special power or new weapon, and will usually end up having more powers or weapons than the rest of the group including a few they don't have equivalent versions of.

The Rival (sometimes overlapping either The Lancer or the Sixth Ranger) may get to share an otherwise exclusive power with the Hero that the other members of the group won't get. This way the two can stay on an relative equal level of power.

Examples

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     Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon, almost every season the Hero and the Lancer get to evolve further than the rest of the cast. It is also universally common (though not always the case, very often so) for the protagonist's partner Digimon to reach the next stage of evolution first, then perhaps the Lancer, and the rest of the team afterward.
    • In Digimon Adventure, Tai and Matt and their partners Agumon and Gabumon, are the only ones to reach Mega level, while everyone else stops at Ultimate. This makes Agumon and Gabumon the ones who do most of the work against the Mega-level Dark Masters, although Patamon's Ultimate-level form is treated as also being on their level and defeats the final Dark Master before the Final Boss. A subsequent movie gave Tai and Matt the ability to fuse their partners into Omegamon, cementing them as two levels above everyone else. Followup video games, and over fifteen years later the anime itself in the form of Digimon Adventure tri., would close the gap a little by giving everyone else access to Mega level versions of their partners, though they still have nothing to match Omegamon.
    • In Digimon Adventure 02, V-Mon gets a third Armor form where everyone else only gets either one or two. Said form, Magnamon, is outrageously powerful compared to all of the others but disappears after its one usage. V-Mon and Wormmon get the first DNA Digivolution form, which everyone else eventually matches, but they're the only ones to evolve this composite form into a Mega-level form, once more leaving everyone else stuck at Ultimate.
      • In the film, Hikari and Takeru's partners do reach their Mega stages. ...Again, for the sole purpose of enabling The Hero and the movie's exclusive character to reach their then-strongest stages (the above mentioned golden mode) to do all the work.
    • Zig-zagged in Digimon Tamers where the Power Trio and Sixth Ranger all go Mega (Kenta and his partner MarineAngemon as well, by different means). Protagonist/partner Takato/Guilmon's Mega level does not show until he's beaten to the stage by Impmon (now Beelzebumon), though they still reach this stage, and every stage except Champion, before the rest of the team. They are also the only ones to get a further mode (Crimson Mode), with the aid of their "trusty steed".
    • Worst in Digimon Frontier. Everyone but The Hero and The Lancer stop getting power a quarter of the way through the series (reaching the equivalent of Ultimate in other series), while those two get mode after mode after mode (surpassing Mega level). Their strongest forms are powered by borrowing the powers of the rest of the team, so everyone not named Takuya and Koji sees his or her role reduced to "transfer your powers to them and go hide behind something."
    • In Digimon Xros Wars, Shoutmon is the base form of all the Digixros, being the consciousness in charge even when he Digixrosses with a more powerful Digimon. He and Greymon are also the only ones that can Digivolve, and when Shoutmon Digixrosses with Zeekgreymon he's the one in charge instead of sharing consciousness.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Judai creates Neos Fusion Monsters out of nowhere, unlocks his hidden power of the Supreme King, and he fuses with Yubel. Everybody else get their new cards in more traditional ways.
    • Jaden's rivals also end up getting one or two boss monsters with evolutions/alternate forms (Chazz has Armed Dragon Lv 7 and Lv 10, and VWXYZ; Zane has Cyber End Dragon and Cyberdark Dragon, Aster has D-Hero Dogma and Plasma, and Jesse has Crystal Beast Rainbow Pegasus/Rainbow Dragon) while the rest of his supporting cast only has one boss monster or don't have one at all.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Yusei and Jack have no less than three alternate forms of their Signer Dragons, while only one other signer (Rua/Leo) has one, and then only one. Yusei eventually uses the other five Signer Dragons to (Limit Over Accel) Synchro Summon "Shooting Quasar Dragon", an evolution of his own Signer Dragon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has Yuya being the only one able to create Pendulum-hybrids with other monsters types, with The Rival Akaba Reiji only using his own Pendulum-hybrids in the last 2 episodes of the series. His Superpowered Evil Side Zarc is also the only one that was able to create a Pendulum-Synchro-Fusion-Xyz hybrid.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku is usually the first to train at a new training ground. The rest of the heroes make it there next season, but by then Goku has moved on to another one already. In sequence the Kame House first, then Korin's Tower, Kami's Lookout, King Kai's Planet, Gravity Chamber. The final two training grounds (Hyberbolic Time Chamber, and Beerus' Planet) Vegeta actually went in first, but Goku followed a little later in the same season, so essentially at the same time. He's the first to reach Super Saiyan and Super Saiyan 3 transformations, and he was also the one chosen to ascend to Super Saiyan God in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods which Vegeta called him out on. In the follow up movie, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Goku's Super Saiyan form is blue as a result of the god power up. Vegeta also has this same form, finally putting them on the same level of power.
    • During his son Gohan's stint as protagonist, Gohan is the first one to achieve Super Saiyan 2 and is the only one to receive a power-up from Old Kai, which brought his latent abilities to the surface and made him stronger than the first three Super Saiyan forms.
    • Dragon Ball Super finally throws Vegeta a bone. While Goku is the first to ascend to Super Saiyan God status, he had to go through a ritual involving borrowing others' power to do so. Vegeta somehow manages to ascend to the same form entirely under his own power, something which Goku was frustrated that he was unable to do.
  • Sailor Moon is the first to receive new Special Attacks and Super Modes. In the anime she is also the only one to reach the Eternal Form.
  • Ryo was the only one who got a powered up armor in Ronin Warriors, doing so by taking the powers of four of the eight remaining armors, usually meaning his friends.
  • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, Van is the only heroic character to ever fuse with an organoid, giving him unfair stat boosts from day 1. He could only be matched by Raven who also had an organoid. By time of season 2 he had mad a point of training without the organoid so he could be legitimately powerful, but still fused to face other organoid owners.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Domon's Shining Gundam is the only one to have a hypermode for the first half of the series. When the other Shuffle Alliance members unlock theirs Domon gets the entirely new God (Burning) Gundam, and then proceeds to eliminate his teammates one by one during the Tournament Arc with relative ease.
  • Naruto: Naruto and Sasuke always unlock new levels of power around the same time. This was intentional on the creators part so neither would outdo the other. After the first arc in Shippudden however the rest of the cast got mostly shafted. Except for the Jonins who are still relevant by showing off more of their true powers even though they are consistently outdone by Naruto.
  • In the Pretty Cure movies, all pink Cures since Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO! (with the exception of HeartCatch Pretty Cure!) will get exclusive Super Modes. However, the respective series finals will give all teammates the same Super Modes, with some exceptions.

     Comic Books 
  • Inverted in Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War. Not only do none of the rings choose Kirk (instead going to Chekov (blue), Bones (indigo), Uhura (violet), General Chang (yellow), Decius (orange) and a Gorn (red), with green already being taken by Hal Jordan), he doesn't even use one of Scotty's knock-off versions like Sulu, and it's Spock who's essential to the All Your Colours Combined scene at the climax. The final pages even give the oft-killed Security personnel ring-based phasers and personal force-fields, whilst the concept of Kirk as a ring-bearer never gets any further than idle speculation as to which one might have chosen him.

    Films 
  • Kung Fu Panda has Po learn the basics of Kung Fu in the first movie, being enough to keep up with the Furious Five, but in the next two he gains more powers with each film (first Inner Peace, then mastering his Chi), putting him far ahead of them in power.

     Live-Action TV 
  • This trope is incredibly common in Tokusatsu shows. If such a show has more than one superhero character, you can expect The Hero to get at least one more Power Up compared to the other superhero(es).
  • Power Rangers / Super Sentai: Usually, the red ranger gains access to the more impressive weapons, mecha and/or power ups that the rest of the team won't get. If the red ranger gains an extra mecha, there is a high chance it can transform into a robot on its own without any other components and fights just as good, if not better than the team's initial combined mecha.

    Power Rangers takes it a step further, as the Red Ranger usually has a "Battlizer" or some equivalent power-up that gives him armor and new abilities, and usually the other rangers will not get a similar power. Some Super Sentai series also follow this practice, giving only the red ranger a power up, but this is not as regular as in Power Rangers.

    This trend seemingly started in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. Just before the Sixth Ranger died, he transferred his powers and ownership over his mecha Dragon Ceasar over to the red ranger, enabling him to don golden chest armor and use the Sixth Ranger's weapon. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers did the same, except the Sixth Ranger didn't die.
  • Kamen Riders starting with Agito follow this trend as well. The main Rider will often get access to a number of starting forms specializing in different aspects, at which point one or more secondary Riders will be introduced whose powers are typically better than all of these initial forms.
    If the main Rider only has one main form, or the multiple forms are shared between multiple starting Riders, they'll usually be the Jack-of-All-Stats. Regardless of the setup, the main Rider will proceed to get the majority of the powerups and associated toys, with most secondary Riders only getting one enhanced form that puts them somewhere between the main Rider's penultimate and final forms. In particularly severe cases the secondary Rider can end up stranded with no powerups at all.
    • One of the biggest offenders in Kamen Rider is Kamen Rider OOO. The titular rider is able to separately transform his head, torso and legs, allowing him to mix and match his transformations. This system would theocratically allow him to take on 128 transformations. Second Rider Birth on the other hand, doesn't have any transformations apart from his initial one, unless you count the Birthday form, which is him activating all of his weapons at the same time.
    • An unintentionally mean example appears in Kamen Rider Drive. Second Rider Mach does receive a Super Mode, but it is a hand me down from the titular Kamen Rider Drive after he received an even better Super Mode.
    • The titular Kamen Rider Ghost has more than ten transformations, three of which are Super Modes. The other two Riders don't even reach five and Kamen Rider Necrom doesn't even have a Super Mode.
  • Taken to ridiculous extents in Madan Senki Ryukendo, where the titular Ryukendo receives three transformations based on fire, water and lightning respectively, a Mid-Season Upgrade, improved versions of the aforementioned elemental transformations to go along with the Mid-Season Upgrade and, near the end of the show, a Golden Super Mode. The other warriors, Ryugunoh and Ryujinoh get no such luck, with only Ryugunoh receiving a single Mid-Season Upgrade, while both of them temporarily get a Golden Super Mode after Ryukendo shares some of his powers with them.
  • In both Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire The Hero receives a Super Mode the rest of the team has no access to. The latter even gets his own humanoid Humongous Mecha.

     Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VIII, Squall has more weapons than any other party member, and his Infinity +1 Sword can be acquired earliest.
  • Final Fantasy XII, Ashe is the one to receive the two Swords of Plot Advancement, and in the manga Belias, the first Esper, chooses her as its master. Vaan, usually considered a Decoy Protagonist, has since been associated with one of the mentioned Swords of Plot Advancement while Ashe uses the other, the two wielding them such a way in an end-game cutscene.
  • Played with in Legacy of Kain. Kain is the hero of the first game Blood Omen, and in the introduction to the second game Soul Reaver, it's mentioned Kain is always the first among him and his lieutenants to evolve a new ability. During said intro, Raziel, the protagonist of this game, becomes the first to beat him to it by growing wings, stealing the spotlight from Kain in a fourth-wall sort of way.
  • A staple in BioWare RPGs:
    • In Baldur's Gate, it's the Bhaalspawn who gets all the nifty Bhaal-induced powers, whereas NPC party members (including other children of Bhaal) are stuck with the standard abilities (though the other child of Bhaal that still is a Bhaalspawn when she's part of the party actually was supposed to get nifty Bhaal-induced powers, two-and-a-half games after you got them. It just that the coding for the delay between triggering events is a bit iffy). Then again, some of the NPC party members start out with their own unique non-standard abilities — for example, Minsc is a Ranger that can berserk, Mazzy is a Fighter with a couple of Paladin-like abilities (thus sidestepping the fact that in 2E, only humans can be Paladins).
    • In the Mass Effect series, it's Commander Shepard who gets all the cutting-edge upgrades, weapons, and technologies while his/her squad is mostly restricted to perfecting their confined areas of expertise.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, if upgrades (such as attribute bonuses) can only be picked up by a certain character, it's always the Warden.
    • Likewise, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor seems to be the person who gets all the special quest rewards, although this is offset a bit by the Amulets of Power, one-time boosts that give an extra skill point when equipped—but only to specific companions. There is only one Amulet of Power restricted to the Inquisitor in the entire game (plus, a certain Inquisition perk gives them an extra ability point).
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, only Cipher can purchase better planes (including superfighters) for himself, while his two wingmen are stuck with their starting planes for the entire game. This is in contrast to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, where you could equip wingmen with the same planes as yourself.
  • Inverted and then played straight in Fortune Summoners. The main character, Arche, can't use magic (because she hasn't learned any, her parents can't afford the Magitek needed to cast spells and because her weapon makes casting spells harder). In the final level you unlock the elemental stone you recover in the prologue and she gains a Super Mode.
  • In the Golden Sun series, only the protagonists and Lancers gain access the massively strong Ninja and Samurai classlines.
  • In Pokémon X and Y, the protagonist is the only one of the Five-Man Band aside from the Big Bad, the Final Boss, and the person who discovered it, to get the power to use Mega Evolution, even dueling The Rival to get it to boot. Justified since it is emphasized Mega Research has just been discovered and using it needs special technology that isn't in mass-production. Your rival does get to use it in the post-game story, however.
  • Originally averted in Sonic the Hedgehog, where all of the main characters at the timenote  had a Super Mode that you could unlock after collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds from the special stages(Although Sonic's was the only one that was golden). The games then start to play it straight from Sonic Adventure onwards when Tails and Knuckles` super forms are retconned out of the series. Afterward, the only additional characters to get super forms were Shadow, Blaze,note  and Silver. Despite that however, the latter three show up very infrequently and Sonic is the one who uses this power more than anyone else.
  • In Super Paper Mario, Mario's ability to flip between 3D and 2D is the most useful and prominent of the playable characters' secondary abilities. The ability is so useful that it was used as one of the game's main selling points despite being a character specific ability.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, the Infinity +1 Sword, the Monado III, is something only the game's main protagonist Shulk can wield, especially within the New Game+ where it becomes readily available for use outside of the final boss fight.
    • In its direct sequel, Rex is the only playable character to be able to bond with any blade, along with having exclusive access to Pyra/Mythra and Nia's blade form.
  • In Legend of Dragoon, Dart obtains the Divine Dragoon form, meanwhile Rose obtains the Dragon Buster, just in time for the showdown with Big Bad Final Boss Melbu Frahma
  • The Dragonborn, the Player Character in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the only character in the game able to almost instantly learn to use the Dragon language, which is a Language of Magic that allows the user to warp the reality around them. Regular people have to spend years to master even a single word of said language. This results in the Player Character gaining all kinds of fancy new abilities over time, while characters the player works with tend to stay the same in terms of fighting ability.
  • For MMORP Gs, the Main Tank in Guild Raids tend to get first pick of the loot dropped by the boss, or at least at a significant discount compared to other members. And for good reason: the better geared the Main Tank is, the less likely he is to die. And if the Main Tank dies, it doesn't matter how much dps you can put out, as usually the boss will inflict a Total Party Kill shortly after.

     Western Animation 
  • In both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra the Avatar is the only person able to learn controlling all four elements, as well as using spiritual powers, while other non-Muggle characters are limited to only one element. This results in the titular characters learning new powers and techniques at least once a season.

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