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During a fight, a person can have a lot on their mind. They're trying to defeat their opponent, while avoiding injury themselves. They may be trying to protect Innocent Bystanders
, or avoid unnecessary collateral damage. Perhaps they're laboring under self-imposed restrictions
or they're just holding back for fun
. For whatever reason, they're not giving things their all.
Until the gloves come off.
When a character is pushed hard enough, they can reach the point where defeating the enemy in front of them is their one and only goal. Everything else, even their own survival, becomes secondary. The reason for this varies. Perhaps their enemy has sent them into an Unstoppable Rage
. Maybe they've realized that the won't be able to defeat their opponent unless they focus on winning to the exclusion of all else, or they've reached the Godzilla Threshold
and now they have nothing to lose by going all out. Whatever the cause, the character will cast off anything holding them back, heedless of what it may cost them later.
This is when the character uses their Cover-Blowing Superpower
, removes their Power Limiter
, or unleashes their Superpowered Evil Side
. They may cast off beliefs that were holding them back
, or resort to underhanded tactics
or repugnant acts
they would have shunned before. You can expect to see the Deadly Upgrade
and Dangerous Forbidden Technique
make appearances. However they accomplish it, part of the gloves coming off involves the character suddenly becoming much
more effective in combat.
However, there will be consequences, regardless of who actually wins the fight. They may make a Heroic Sacrifice
to take their enemy with them
, undergo a Heroic BSOD
when they realize My God, What Have I Done?
, or suffer from a Heroic RROD
from overstressing their bodies. They may have acted Just Like Their Enemy
, or they may become He Who Fights Monsters
and be left wondering Was It Really Worth It?
. On the other hand, the trauma may be just what they need to Earn Their Happy Ending
, so it's not always a bad thing.
May be preceded by a "World of Cardboard" Speech
. If their enemy can't match their new-found power, it will often result in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
. If the enemy can
match their strength and determination, the fight will probably continue to the point of Combat Breakdown
. When the gloves come off, it's usually during a Wham Episode
. Not to be confused with literally
taking one's gloves off — see The Coats Are Off
or Battle Strip
for removing clothing before a fight.
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Anime and Manga
- In Bleach the process by which captain-level shinigami have their Power Limiters removed is the subject of a brief arc. Several more straightforward examples of this trope:
- Played literally when Ishida, going against a warning from his grandfather, removes his Sanrei Glove. This has exactly the effect he was told: he becomes powerful enough to one shot a captain's Bankai but loses his quincy powers (until the next arc, anyway).
- Ichigo does this twice.
- First after the Huendo Meundo arc when he unwillingly Turns Red after being "killed" and turns into an extremely powerful hollow until he's snapped out of it.
- In his fight with Aizen, Ichigo convinces his zanpakuto to let him use a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that will permanently remove his powers.
- Kyoraku's fight against Starrk. Awkward and dangerous zanpakuto, won't fight unless he has to and goes to some lengths to avoid a 'serious' fight. When pushed, he's a fairly ruthless Combat Pragmatist who doesn't let a silly notion like 'honour' get in the way of protecting his subordinates and friends. After Ukitake was hit and Starrk tried to kill Love and Rose, his already underhand tactics got more so. Starrk's original tactics and reaction to the death of Barragan and Harribel also falls under this, perhaps more so because it's backed up by his internal monologue, whereas we only have Kyoraku's rather dubious word for it.
- In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta reaches this point during the Buu saga, allowing himself to be controlled by Babidi for the power boost that that entails.
- Kira and Athrun take the gloves off during the Wham Episode of Gundam SEED. Until then, they'd been holding back due to being each other's Forgotten Childhood Friend and Kira's Reluctant Warrior tendencies. But when they manage to each kill a friend of the other in self-defense, they throw themselves into genuine battle to the death for the first time.
- In Soul Eater, you can tell Mifune is getting serious when he spits out the toothpick he's constantly chewing on.
- In The 08th MS Team, this happens twice. First, when Norris Packard fights the eponymous 08th Team in order to buy time for a hospital ship to escape, knowing he'll be left behind. Second, when Shiro makes an exception to his Technical Pacifism for Ginias in the Apsalus. With permission from Ginias' sister, no less.
- Vash the Stampede reaches this point near the end of Trigun, when he kills Legato Bluesummers in order to save Millie and Meyrl. Oddly for this trope, the act itself is rather understated, rather than being an epic fight scene.
- An earlier example comes during the fight with Monev the Gale. Vash had been running from Monev, trying to take the fight outside town where no one else could get hurt. Monev, however, got tired of chasing him and proceed to level an entire block with his weapons, killing a lot of innocent people in the process. Vash snapped. By the time he was finished with Monev, the hulking, Ax-Crazy, Psycho for Hire had been reduced to a sobbing wreck begging for his life; Vash came pretty close to pulling the trigger too.
- In Ultimate Teacher, Ganpachi literally takes his gloves (and shoes and socks) off when he's ready to start fighting while using his non-human abilities.
- During the final part of Knightfall, Harvey Bullock notes that Batman "took off the kid gloves" during the final confrontation with Bane when he sees his new costume, not realizing the man under the mask isn't the usual Batman. When AzBats decides to spare Bane, Bullock changes his mind and decided that they're still on.
- In You Obey, when the interrogator loses patience and starts using the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique.
- The RWBY fic Massages shows this with Jaune. After many students get the wrong impression that Jaune is sleeping with a majority of the female students (he's not: he just gives really good massages), Cardin starts tormenting Jaune with the various ways he's going to get back at him. When he finally lists of Pyrrha... Jaune goes primal.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
- Whenever Dark removes his headphones and MP3 player, it's a sign that he's about to get serious.
- In Act III chapters 41 and 42, the gang (minus Tsukune) is doing relatively well against Kuyou at first, but only because, as Moka points out, Kuyou hasn't even really been trying. Sure enough, Kuyou goes One-Winged Angel soon after Moka says this and makes short work of everyone... until Tsukune reenters the fray and annihilates him.
- A good way to set Luke Skywalker into this mode is to threaten Leia. Vader made that mistake in Return of the Jedi and so did C'Baoth in The Last Command in the EU.
- In The Dresden Files, there are a rare few moments where Harry Dresden just completely cuts loose on his opponents, usually using a spell called pyrofuego note . The first time happens in Grave Peril, and the second happens in Small Favor. Then there's the book Changes. And by the book, we mean all of it.
- In Cold Days whenever Harry taps into the mantle of the Winter Knight it becomes this.
- In the Wraith Squadron arc of the X-Wing Series, the protagonists are caught in a Death Trap that involves dropping them into an industrial incinerator. They manage to escape the incinerator, but are still wounded and desperate, caught in the center of an enemy stronghold that's been specifically designed to lure them in and kill them. Despite the original mission being reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, the squad leader issues new orders: get the hell out of there, and kill everything that tries to stop them. He also notes that his team, while appearing calm, collected, and professional, are so pissed off that they wouldn't have accepted any other order.
Live Action Television
- In the 2013 revival of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, special guest Kyle Richards (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) pulls a perfect split, already giving everyone a shock, before kicking her shoes off symbolically in response to Wayne's 'challenge'.
- Aja Kong's response after her American counterpart kicked out of everything up to and including her dreaded uraken. An barehanded blow finally put the foreign Kong down.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, the Mage Warden has lived for most of their life in the Circle Tower, keeping their magic limited under the restrictions of the Templars. After becoming a Grey Warden however, they are finally permitted to cut loose and demonstrate how truly powerful they actually are, as the Wardens allow any advantage to be used against the Darkspawn horde.
- In Borderlands 2, when you meet Mordecai (one of the Player Characters from the first game) he sends you off on a quest to recover Bloodwing (his pet Hawk-like creature, which served as his action skill in the previous game) while he covers you with a rifle which deals slag damage (increasing the damage you deal to enemies but not doing much to them). Jack reveals that he's slagged her, then proceeds to blow her head off with an Explosive Leash when you subdue her. This angers him so much that he switches to an explosive rifle and completely annihilates a group of enemies you meet on the way out of the area.
- Sonic And The Secret Rings: The titular hero pulls this on the Big Bad after he kills Sonic's Exposition Fairy. Covered in flames? Check. Extreme Melee Revenge? Check. No gloves? Check.
- In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius reaches this point when unleashing a Superpowered Evil Side by making a literal Deal with the Devil(s). As expected for this trope, the results are not exactly what anyone hoped for, and leads to some solid Character Development for all involved parties.
- Xykon gives us a villainous example as a result of the above. While he survives the attack with relative ease, in the process he loses his phylactery, which prompts him to stop screwing around and get back to work. Sort of an odd example in that the cost causes the boost in effectiveness, rather than being a result of it.
- In Spinnerette, Marilyn Seong aka "Mecha-Maid", orders her AI helper to unload all the less-lethal armament on her Powered Armor and load it for bear... or more accurately, load it for Colonel Glass. She even might intend to take him down with her in a blaze of thermite.
- Girl Genius: Almost every Spark who's a major character, especially Agatha. Enraged by the death of an unlucky potential love interest, she commandeers a pipe organ battle-clank to attack the Baron's forces with.
- Gil decides to keep Commander Vole around because of his regular attempts to capture/kill him gives him someone to demonstrate his gloves-off ability with.
- Zola, when she stops playing the Damsel Scrappy to get serious about taking the Heterodyne inheritance. She goes through several magnitudes of this up to the chapter titled 'Zola Goes Up to Eleven' — Movit #11, that is.