"There's one solution to that problem. Go to Boot Hill and wake the Saint of Killers."
who, as the trope's title suggests, is locked and sealed away from the world, indefinitely (or at least until such a time when their abilities become needed).
This can happen for a variety of reasons: Maybe the Badass's society is peaceful and doesn't need a killing machine (or a Boisterous Bruiser
) around between missions. Sometimes it is voluntary imprisonment, if the Badass knows his powers are too dangerous
for the world at large; other times the Badass has no choice in the matter, and is merely stuffed away until his or her handlers decide it's time to let him out again. Sometimes they're just in the can so they'll keep
; the future needs them young and fit.
Sealed Evil in a Duel
is a special case, where the Badass's imprisonment is a Heroic Sacrifice
used to personally
ensure that the Sealed Evil in a Can remains
sealed in its can; alternately, the defeated Eldritch Abomination
could have declared he's taking the badass with him
In any case, when the time is right, this character adds whole new meaning to the phrase "opening up a can of whoopass."
A neutral variant of Sealed Evil in a Can
and Sealed Good in a Can
. If female, it's often a Girl in a Box
. Occasionally involves a Human Popsicle
or Superpowered Alter Ego
. If (that is to say, "when"
) the can in question gets opened, it may be a textbook example of Awakening the Sleeping Giant
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Anime and Manga
- Alucard from Hellsing's anime, locked away by the Hellsing family before he is released by Integra.
- In Macross II, we are given a glimpse of the cargo bay of an alien ship, where an army of Proud Warrior Race giant slave-soldiers are preserved waiting to be revived and sent into space.
- Twenty-fifth Baam from Tower of God in his cave until Rachel found him. It took a while till he got that awesome , but he definitely counts as the administrators realize early on that he has monstrous talent.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has Evangeline, an uber-powerful goth-loli vampire who was placed under a curse by Negi's father which trapped her on Mahora campus and severely limited her power. At one point when the protagonists are outclassed by an enemy demon (by far the most powerful being the series at that point), they just temporarily release Eva and let her deal with it. She then tops it by forcing the series' Big Bad to retreat just by being there. She's still quite Bad Ass even with the Power Limiter, but when it's removed, she's practically Too Powerful to Live (Well, not that the latter trope would apply because... she's immortal). Which is why the seal is there in the first place.
- While the rest of the tailed beasts in Naruto are more Sealed Evil in a Can, being at the best feral and often even outright malevolent, the 8-Tailed Giant Ox seems to be far more neutral and talks quite openly with its host. The 8-Tails wasn't always that way, and has been changed for the better because his host befriended/tamed him instead of merely using him as a power source. A while after Naruto is able to rework his seal, so he can take the Nine-Tails chakra by force without fear of it breaking out, Naruto states that he may some day try it himself.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Yui is pretty much Sealed Mama Bear In A Humongous Mecha. Bottom line: you try to off her son - you're dead, period. She definitely fits this trope - she's not evil because she only kills what she's supposed to kill yet she's not good either because when she grabs the wheel... Gorn Ensues.
- Yami Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh! is totally badass. Bonus points for being sealed in an Amulet of Concentrated Awesome.
- In The Legend of Maian, Felicia Rand Philistine is this. Originally portrayed as Sealed Evil in a Can, recent events have suggested she had noble intentions. She is by no means good though. Interestingly enough, Fenix Maian is the actual can, while Felicia is the badass. Well, the sealed on. Fenix is leveling up at the moment.
- Inner Moka from Rosario + Vampire is badass enough to curb stomp all but the best monsters out there. She spends the bulk of her time sealed in a rosary while Outer Moka takes care of daily life. Interestingly, Inner Moka is the original personality and Outer Moka is artificial, so she's actually sealed in her own body!
- The title character of InuYasha, who was sealed to a tree by Kikyo for 50 years and released because he was the only one in the immediate vicinity who could kill a powered up Mistress Centipede.
- Yugi at the end of "Tenchi in Tokyo" series, seals herself in a cave because she realizes that she isn't mature enough to handle her own power.
- Warren Ellis' Stormwatch had Rose Tattoo, the Spirit of Murder, who, in between missions, was kept in a maximum security cell under armed guard on Stormwatch's satellite base.
- And Bullseye when he was with the Thunderbolts... and written by Warren Ellis. They kept him in line with electroshock nanobots. Science Marches On and all that...
- Preacher: The Saint of Killers, until he's de-sealed near the beginning of the story. He goes back to sleep at the end... After he kills God.
- 2000 ADs' Red Razors had Agent X, defrosted only in the direst emergency. Turns out to be (a clone of ?) Judge Dredd.
- In The Sandman series, Dream is captured and magically restrained for many years. He is neither good nor evil, but is very powerful.
- Wildfire of the Legion of Super-Heroes has always been a humanoid named Drake Burroughs changed into a being of living energy (or anti-energy, depending on the writers) who gets around in a human-shaped containment suit to prevent him from dissipating. In the Threeboot version of the series, after the accident that made him this way, the energy that made up his body was collected and stored in an iron-lung-shaped tank by his brother, who told him that the containment suit was only safe for an hour or so at a time in order to keep Wildfire dependent on him and hire him out as a superpowered mercenary. When the Legion encountered him, Brainiac 5 was quick to reveal that the tank was completely unnecessary- Drake's brother had just been using the lie to keep him under control.
- This is how the Soviet government used the Winter Soldier in Captain America. After his brainwashing, he was mostly kept in cryonic storage to avoid the possibility of his memory returning, and therefore only aged a few years between World War II and present day. The work he did outside the Can earned him a reputation as an almost mythical spy and assassin.
- Les Légendaires: Razzia got Amy that way: she had been trapt for years inside Skroa's lab and agreed to join force with Razzia in exchange for his promise to kill Skroa.
Films — Animated
- In Aladdin, the genie, who has been stuck in an itty-bitty living space for the 10 000 years preceding the film, and returns there until called upon during the film.
Films — Live-Action
- In Demolition Man criminals are locked in cryo-storage, and the world gradually gets more clean, neat and pacifistic. Then Wesley Snipes breaks out of cryostorage and starts killing people, and nobody knows how to stop him! Fortunately, they cryo-preserved Sylvester 'The Itallian Stallion' Stallone too, so they thaw him out to counter Snipes...
- Note that prisoners in cryo also endured "Rehabilitation" (read: brainwashing). Stallone's receives a matrix-like lesson in sewing. Snipes... gets a crash course in being the deadliest mothaf***a on the planet. Foolish, foolish Corrupt Corporate Executive, why did you pick the CRAZIEST GUY to try and turn into The Dragon?
- The Beast in Kung Fu Hustle willingly checked himself into an insane asylum due to a lack of challenging opponents to fight.
- In the Alien 'verse, cryogenic freezing is necessary for space travel. So at the end of the first film Ripley becomes a Sealed Badass in a Can, and again at the end of Aliens, along with Hicks, Newt, and Bishop. And that is where the series ends, with those hardcore survivors sleeping as they journey home.
- Austin Powers qualifies, having willingly frozen himself to continue the fight with Dr Evil, when he re-emerged from his own frozen sleep in the depths of space.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the sea goddess Calypso. Basically a case of Sealed Force of Nature in a Can.
- Nightbreed. Early in Boon's introduction to the Breed, he finds that the hall to Baphomet's chamber is lined on either side by locked cells containing Berserkers: Breed who are mindless and deformed (even for monsters), but who's strength is unparalleled. During the climax of the movie, Mideon is falling apart, fires are raging through the cemetery, and the Breed are being slaughtered by gun-toting humans. Lylsburg uses his last moments alive to unlock ALL the doors, in his Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Il Duce is treated like this in The Boondock Saints; when the McManus brothers' swath of anti-mob violence spreads too far, Il Duce is released from prison and tasked with finding and killing the brothers (and Rocco). Of course, Il Duce also turns out to be the brothers' long-lost father, but that's beyond the scope of this trope.
- Godzilla himself is kept in a frozen prison during Godzilla Final Wars... At least, until he's released and goes to fight against several monsters.
- Star Wars: After Han Solo is frozen in carbonite at the end of episode V, the beginning of Return of the Jedi focuses on freeing him so that he can help the rebellion.
- There is a Christopher Anvil short story. THE INTERSTELLAR PATROL: The Claw And The Clock depicting a peaceful, pacifistic planetary society. An evil, violent armada of aliens think the planet is ripe for harvest, but soon learn otherwise. It turns out that if any of the people develop violent tendencies, they are put through intense, thorough training in various types of warfare and strategy, and then are put into suspended animation until needed.
- In fact, at the end of the story we learn that the entire planet is a literal World of Badass. All its inhabitants are Badasses, and have chosen to live a live of peace because that's more of a challenge than conquering the universe. The ones who get sealed away in a can are the ones who have failed to conquer their own violent tendencies. Before you highlight this spoiler, read the story here: the publisher, Baen Books, has released it for free as part of the "sample chapters" for its book.
- In Alan Dean Foster's story ''With Friends Like These..." the Badass who is sealed in a can is the human race.
- Alan Dean Foster likes this trope: his The Damned trilogy is based on it as well. More than once, other characters thank fate that it was them, and not the bad guys, who unsealed that particular can first.
- Mazer Rackham, the hero who saved humanity from the alien fleet during the Second Invasion in the backstory of Ender's Game, was put in a can (in this case a nearly-as-fast-as-light spaceship on a roundtrip to nowhere) so he would survive until it came time for the Third Invasion decades later. In this case, he was too old to take a direct role in the war after being unsealed, instead playing the role of Old Master to the much younger best-and-last-hope-of-humanity Ender Wiggin. Unfortunately for Ender, Rackham's mentoring style involves using all his badass martial and psychological skills to torment his protege and hone him into a weapon.
- On the rare occasions when The Culture goes to war they don't do half measures, but this leads to Minds created during wartime having an unfortunate tendency to find a peacetime life boring. Most of them therefore choose to shut themselves down until things pick up again, leading to the Culture being dotted with massive hollowed out asteroids holding thousands of Idiran War veteran ROUs in long term storage.
- The Sleeper Service which managed build and then deploy in a time of need 512 Type One Offensive Units (roughly equivalent to Abominator class prototype), 2048 Type Two Offensive Units (equivalent to Torturer class), 2048 Type Three Offensive Units (equivalent to Inquisitor class prototype, upgraded), 12,288 Type Four Offensive Units (roughly equivalent to velocity-improved Killer class), 24,576 Type Five Offensive Units (based on Thug class upgrade design study), and 49,152 Type Six Offensive Units (based on militarised Scree class LCU, various types) all while pretending to be a harmless eccentric.
- Among the numerous sealed cans dotting the Malazan Book of the Fallen universe a good portion appear to be Sealed Evil in a Can but there has been more than one of this too. Given the large number of cans involved, this is not at all surprising.
- In the Star Trek spin-off novel The Final Reflection, by John M. Ford, the Klingons have a super-soldier with an enhanced metabolism that makes him practically unbeatable, at the cost of a dramatically reduced lifespan. To get the most possible use out of him, his handlers keep him in cryogenic suspension between missions.
- Bob, who whenever released for combat purposes makes everyone extremely thankful that it's Harry (now Butters) that owns him.
- Charles Sheffield's novel "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" features Drake, who cryo-freezes himself and his wife to await a cure for her fatal illness. While he's nowhere near badass by our standards, an ultra-advanced future society which has forgotten the whole concept of "war" has a different perspective.
- Time Scout: Partly how Jack the Ripper operates.
- Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, was trapped under a mountain by the Buddha for five hundred years because it was the only way to stop him. He might have stayed down there forever if he wasn't needed for a Journey to the West.
Live Action TV
- There was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where some Klingons who had been in deep sleep since before the Klingons and Federation made peace were about to wake up in their battle cruiser. They were supposed to attack the first Federation ship they encountered.
- In the episode "The Hunted", the crew of the Enterprise are sent to oversee the induction of pacifistic Angosia III into the Federation when a criminal escapes from a lunar prison. The Enterprise transports the criminal on board, but he quickly escapes and starts wreaking merry havoc on the ship. After he's captured again, it's discovered that he and the other "criminals" in the prison are actually Super Soldiers who, due to their psychological and biochemical conditioning, were considered unsuitable for civilian life and were sealed away after the last war ended.
- Merrick/Zen-Aku in Power Rangers Wild Force. Inside the can is a sealed evil, who is actually a Brainwashed and Crazy badass hero who took a powerup with a Grand Theft Me side-effect. As soon as they remove that powerup, he's back to badass hero.
- Kamen Rider Blade had an interesting inversion. The 52 Undead are collectively Sealed Evil in a Can, Sealed Good in a Can, and this trope, as each Undead has their own motivations, some evil, some good, and some just want to beat the stuffing out of one another.
- Andromeda features both Dylan Hunt and the AI controlling the titular ship. They're averted from being Sealed Good in a Can mainly because of Hunt's tendency toward self-justification.
- Torchwood has Captain Jack Harkness buried alive for nearly 2000 years before being dug out in the early 20th century and asked to be frozen until the early 21st century in order to avoid meeting his past self. Being incapable of staying dead (but dying still sucks), it's a wonder he hasn't gotten insane from constantly suffocating and coming back to life.
Myth And Legend
- This tends to pop up a lot in mythology or religion with the King in the Mountain legend. Jesus Christ will show up on Judgment Day with an impact that will split a mountain before he starts slaughtering the unbelievers. King Arthur is slumbering in Avalon until England needs him most, Charlemagne will someday return to help Europe, Frederick Barbarossa's beard is wrapping around some table somewhere counting the days till he saves Germany, Denmark has Holger Danske sleeping in the catacombs under Kronborg (Elsinore), and America has Walt Disney on ice. There is also the Filipino-Spanish mixup of Bernardo del Carpio.
- According to a famous Chinese legend, Son Goku (no, not the one from Dragon Ball Z or the anime/manga Saiyuki, but rather the guy that those guys are based off of) was a legendarily badass monkey king with incredible powers. He was so badass that he raided the home of the gods, then proceeded to kick the ass of everyone there, up until Buddha himself finally came and put a stop to it, sealing Son Goku with a powerful charm that could only be removed by a priest, and when released, Son Goku would be bound to serve that monk for the rest of his life.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- For the Imperium:
- Eversor assassins are kept in stasis pods when not on a mission, as their bodies are pumped full of stimulants that turn them Ax-Crazy and significantly shorten their lifespan (not to mention cause them to literally explode upon death). To further fit the trope, they often have their mission details provided to them via unconscious conditioning...then their pods are shot at the target's location from orbit.
- Space Marine Dreadnoughts are also kept asleep until they are needed. The main difference between a Dreadnought and most other examples is that most Badasses don't ride the can they're sealed in into battle, while a Dreadnought serves as a life support system for the mortally wounded Space Marine interred within.
- For Chaos:
- Chaos Dreadnoughts work the same way as Imperial Dreadnoughts, but unlike their loyalist counterparts, they see their entombment as torture, and are kept in constant pain. Thus when they are released on the battlefield they strike like a torrent of rage, for the promise of death.
- This also counts for Chaos Defilers, with the slight difference of the pilot, which is a very angry Daemon.
- For the Eldar:
- As a race, the Eldar use a weird variant of this trope by sealing the badass inside their own head. The Eldar travel different "Paths" of life at a time, focusing on one skill to the exclusion of all others, mastering it, and moving on. So an Eldar who trains to become a specialized Aspect Warrior on the battlefield will set aside those skills and even the whole warrior persona when they're finished, until the time for war is nigh. They effectively cultivate multiple personality disorder to help control the bloodlust the Eldar race lives in constant denial of.
- Wraithguards and Wraithlords are similar to Space Marine Dreadnoughts but are instead piloted by ghosts of dead Eldar, who are awakened as a last resort.
- The Traveller classic adventure Twilight's Peak. The Ancient base has a number of warriors still held in stasis from the War 300,000 years earlier. They were automatically released when any violence occurred inside the base.
- This is the central premise of playing a Solar Exalted. After two thousand years of being sealed away in the Jade Prison, the former Princes of the Earth are once again being reincarnated into the world in its darkest hour. But there's no way of knowing whether they will build a new age of glory, or whether they will succumb to the madness of their predecessors and bring even greater ruin...
- Shadow the Hedgehog, the world's Ultimate Life Form, was unleashed by Eggman in Sonic Adventure 2, in a long line of things being released from cans in that series. As soon as Shadow is released, he defeats a giant mecha by himself.
- Shadow seems to have a tendency to get himself canned- this happened again at the beginning of Sonic Heroes, and again with a large robot, only that time the robot was smaller and ended up becoming his ally in breaking things. For bonus points, he got canned by the same person who let him out in the first game, and it was probably done to save his life/help him heal from orbital reentry.
- In StarCraft, this is what happens to the Terran Marines between missions: cryogenic storage. Not surprising, since they're mostly a bunch of "rehabilitated" criminals.
- Except for marauder infantry. Only 23% of them have been accused of murder, and 47% of them have never even been incarcerated.
- Firebats on the other hand is an entirely different story... Every single one of them is an unrepentant pyromaniac welded to two heavy-duty flamethrowers and let loose on the battlefield, the result is predictably... crispy.
- Don't forget the Reapers, who are all.. well, batshit insane.
- For the Protoss, there's the Dragoons, Stalkers, and Immortals, which are piloted by Protoss who crippled in combat.
- Illidan Stormrage was this in WarCraft III, having been imprisoned underground in the Barrow Dens for 10,000 years for crimes committed in the Backstory. Tyrande broke him out in order to put his badassery as a Demon Hunter to use against the Burning Legion, though his perpetual use of the Heel-Face Revolving Door prevents him from being squarely in the Good or Evil variations of the trope.
- Between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman is put away in stasis somewhere for two decades by the G-Man, until the right man is needed in the wrong place.
- Happens at the end of Halo 3.
- The start of the first game features the Chief being unsealed from his can.
- The Halo 4 trailer has him punching his way out of his can.
- Mega Man X spent decades undergoing ethics testing in a sealed capsule, to ensure that the world's most powerful android didn't turn evil.
- Between Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero, Zero seals himself in order to purge The Virus from his body, and so he couldn't harm the people he cared for anymore. The latter series begins with him being "unsealed", because the world needs him again, badly.
- Tangentially, in inFAMOUS, a friendly NSA agent you get into contact to warns you that the CIA will do this to you if you give 'em half a chance - lock you away somewhere in an insulated room, and only release you when they want some shit blown up.
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops reveals that Frank Jager, AKA Grey Fox, started his 'career' in black-ops as a project codenamed 'NULL'. He was kept in a sensory deprivation tank, without memories or any sense of self, and only pulled woken up when the government needed someone killed.
- In Touhou: Unidentified Fantastic Object, the ancient magic the Youkai were trying to unseal is a Buddhist nun who barely even qualifies as neutral, let alone evil. You still fight her, but the heroines aren't entirely happy about it.
- Beyond The Grave, the absurdly Badass gunslinger from the Gungrave games is a prime example, since he has to remain sealed in his can for long periods of time before being released or else his body will collapse, to his young ward's sadness. Mainly due to Grave requiring a large blood supply and regular transfusions to sustain his undead body. Supposedly his blood type is rare and as Juji in the second game explains, Mika and Grave can't exactly walk into a blood bank and request to give a transfusion to a corpse.
- Kirby Super Star: Galacta Knight, the Final Boss of Meta Knight's game mode and the answer to Meta Knight's wish of fighting the most powerful warrior in the universe. What makes him even more badass is the fact that he was sealed away simply because he was too strong, and that he transcends space and time just for the sake of fulfilling Meta Knight's wish.
- Melvin from Dragon Quest VII, sealed in a small stone by God immediately prior to God's climactic battle with the Demon Lord on the off chance that the Demon Lord survived, since God was planning on retiring and letting humanity deal with things after that battle.
- How Arcueid Brunestud was treated by the True Ancestors, and then by herself in Tsukihime. She'd wake up, destroy a target, then erase most of her memories and go back to sleep. Despite being born a thousand years ago, she only has about 1 year of living experience.
- The Final Fantasy series:
- Final Fantasy III:
- Desch, who's actually an Ancient has amnesia and knows very little.
- Unei, sealed in the world of dream until you wake her using Noah's Lute.
- Some of the strongest weapons in the game are sealed in Eureka.
- All the non-instantly-buyable summons. Odin is notable, as he sealed himself.
- In the remake, the inhabitants of the secret dungeon.
- Final Fantasy V: After the war against Enuo in the backstory, mankind sealed its 12 legendary weapons, its strongest spells, and its servants Bahamut and Leviathan.
- Final Fantasy VII has Vincent Valentine who is sealed in a coffin at the bottom of Shinra Mansion. Notable in that he seems to stay sealed of his own volition.
- Final Fantasy XII has the Espers, ridiculously powerful entities sealed by the Occuria. One of them, Zodiark, is a threat to the world simply by existing.
- Then there's Basch fon Ronsenburg the disgraced captain dubbed the Kingslayer, who was locked away in his own little private hell by his brother and the Archadian Empire. Seriously, that guy kicks some major ass, even when he's half-starved and not in the best condition.
- In Mass Effect 2, you have Grunt, whom you essentially birth from his can since he's a designer baby who learned all he knew from neural imprints whilst being grown inside his tank.
- In Mass Effect 3, you awaken Javik, the last Prothean and their equivalent of Commander Shepard.
- Invoked as Gallows Humour by Joker, who suggests that if it ever looks like they're going to lose the Reaper War, they could simply freeze Shepard for 50,000 years, since Javik has proven that this option can work!
- She had to level up a few times, but in Mass Effect you first encounter Liara when she's trapped inside a stasis field in some ruins and you have to free her. Shepard has a habit of finding these people, it's just not as obvious because, well, s/he's Shepard.
- The Human race might also be considered this, since it's heavily implied that the Protheans were responsible for sealing the Charon Relay in ice, cutting Earth off from the rest of the network and allowing humanity to progress without outside interference, in addition to masking their existence from the Reapers. While the Asari were their intended successors meant to defeat the Reapers, it's implied they were keeping a few aces in the hole, just in case.
- In Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, the Player Character is "killed" by Mephistopheles and sent to the Eighth Circle of Hell. Act III is consumed with getting back out.
- In Fallout and Fallout 3, the Vault Dweller and Lone Wanderer, who's badass quotient only increases after leaving the safety of their respective Vaults.
- Makai Kingdom:The protagonist, Zetta, is a demon lord who is sealed in a sacred book. He is more known for his cameo roles in the Disgaea Franchise where he is inevitably identified as "Badass Overlord."
- SCP-076 is the very embodiment of this trope.
- Whateley Universe example: the side of Tennyo that isn't Billie Wilson. Before it was sealed away about five thousand years ago, it started wars, conquered star systems, and kicked ass.
- The pilot of The Powerpuff Girls originally had the girls unleashed by a can of "Whoop-Ass Stew". This was changed, obviously, when the show aired.
- The show gave us Sealed King Arthur in a Glass Coffin. Yes, that King Arthur, and yes, he's incredibly badass.
- The Gargoyles themselves have a bizarre biology that causes this to happen to them daily, being frozen in stone-sleep until the sun sets. A curse took advantage of this trait by making the transformation permanent, forcing them to spend over a millennia trapped in stone before the curse was finally broken at the beginning of the series.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender features a 12-year-old boy who can bend the elements to his will who was trapped in an iceberg for the last 100 years.
- In Generator Rex there was a man known simply as "One", who not only was considered the most dangerous man on the planet, but was mentor to "The Six", a Badass Crew of mercenaries who are also considered themselves to be the most dangerous men in the world, including former member and stoick Badass Normal Six. When he turned into an E.V.O., he was strong enough to suppress his monstrous instincts through intense meditation and ordered a cell around himself in the center of a volcano in a remote island to protect his students and innocent people from his destruction. In addition, his cell contained a safety protocol where if he didn't enter the safety code every 41 minutes, the whole room would collapse into the volcano killing him inside.
- This is why France exiled Napoleon to Elba and then to St. Helena, rather than just killing him outright. They wanted the option to open the can in case a foreign power posed a threat to France in the future.