Too Powerful to Live
A villain who is just too powerful to exist for more than an episode or two. If they aren't killed now, their presence will dominate the entire story forever. If the writers try re-using them, the result is almost always Villain Decay. One noted tendency of these characters is establishing their power by laying the smack down on the incumbent main villain, emphasizing just how dire a threat they are. Less commonly, rather than a new villain come to town it can be the main villain who gets a power boost, which if not explicitly temporary is then quickly destroyed or discarded before they can truly exploit it. A villainous version of Deus Exit Machina. The heroic version of this trope is Too Cool to Live. See also How to Stop the Deus ex Machina. Compare Too Happy to Live and Too Cool to Live.
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Anime & Manga
- Pretty much every Saiyan based fusion character in Dragon Ball is both Too Powerful To Live and Too Cool To Live. Hell, it's pretty much a rule in Dragon Ball that the stronger the characters are that take in part in the Fusion Dance the less the fusion remains. Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta was so insanely strong that he could stayed fused for 10 minutes.
- Vegetto nearly subverted this trope as he was fused character that could stay fused forever but once exposed himself to foul and unknown atmosphere with Majin Buu's body after being absorbed by him, something he let happen as a part of his to save his friends and family, the fusion abruptly ended as Vegettom instantly defuses. Vegeta then crushes his Potara earring, refusing to refuse with Goku and Vegetto was never seen or mentioned again.
- Nagato from Naruto.
- Shabranigdo from The Slayers.
- Naomi Misora from Death Note died quickly because the Oba realized had they lived, Light wouldn't have been such a threat, she would have discovered him too quickly.
- Shakugan no Shana Sabrac zigzags this trope. He shows up for a single epic battle in the second season before disappearing again. He has no interest in the final battle after accomplishing his task. In Season 3 he fully participates in final war, but by that time almost everyone is aware of how exactly to defeat him, thanks to Yuji Sakai. Then he chooses a battleground that prevents the protagonists from using their previous method of defeating him. Additionally, Sabrac serves Yuji in Season 3, who had become a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Ultimately, Sabrac holds his own against three of the most skilled and powerful Flame Haze in the series, only being defeated due to a moment of distraction. Even then, he could have saved himself had he not chosen to die.
- Max Kaien from The Five Star Stories, while isn't actually a villain, is definitely too overpowered to let him roam freely. So after being allowed a run as a Game Breaker in his home world, he was rather quickly Put on a Bus and shipped into the Alternate Universe, where's he's came out as somewhat more balanced.
- Mariko in Elfen Lied is by far the strongest character in the story when she's introduced, that's why she has bombs implanted everywhere in her body, that will detonate if a code is not transmitted every thirty minutes. And that's why she dies when facing Lucy after an Heel-Face Turn. She'd have simply won, and that would have ended the story.
- Lucy herself in the manga's finale, when her vectors become large enough to cover entire continents. Naturally, using so much power essentially rots her body and kills her within a few minutes.
- Nanami Yasuri from Katanagatari is literally this. She dies in episode 7 during her battle with Shichika when her frail body can no longer withstand her full power.
- Reinforce/The Darkness of the Book of Darkness from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, an Eldritch Abomination Omnicidal Maniac capable of destroying worlds and in the form of Reinforce, easily the most powerful mage that ever appeared in the franchise. Naturally, once it appeared, it quickly became the only main villain in the series who is made Deader Than Dead with no chance of survival, which sadly includes poor Reinforce, despite her Heel-Face Turn. In universe, this is because the Defense Program of the Book of Darkness couldn't be stopped permanently unless she died, but from a meta perspective it's because she had massive Story-Breaker Power and she would have curb stomped all the other villains, had she ever started being on the good side.
- And Precia. She's one of only two SS rank mages in the entire series, capable of casting spells powerful enough to disable a spaceship from another dimension. So, naturally, she falls into an extra-dimensional void of her own making. Although she was already dying by that point anyway.
- The Huckebein from Force are also this, what with their absurd Anti-Magic and utterly ludicrous Healing Factor, but they haven't been killed off, and they're taking over the plot because of it.
- Sara from Samurai Champloo. She's easily the second strongest character in the series, giving both Mugen and Jin a run for their money. Letting Mugen kill her in their second fight was the first time he regretted killing someone.
- The Chimera Ant King Meryem from Hunter × Hunter, along with his Royal Guard. They were easily the most powerful beings in the world, and none of the human Hunters sent against them could beat them in a fair fight. So they don't fight fair. Gon kills Neferpitou with a Deus ex Machina Deadly Upgrade (and still loses an arm to him), and Netero kills the rest with a suicidal (and poisonous!) bomb.
- Cars from the second arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure obtains Complete Immortality and Adaptive Ability combined with Voluntary Shapeshifting cranked Up to Eleven at the climax, achieving the status of Ultimate Lifeform. He also obtained the hero's power of The Ripple, only hundreds of times more powerful, making him both immune to it and capable of using it on a much greater scale. He's only defeated when Joseph uses the mother of all Indy Ploys in to blast him into space shortly afterwards, as well as making it look like he planned the whole thing (He didn't but he would say anything to troll Cars.). Unable to change his course, Cars now floats inert through the cosmos. Begging for death but unable to die, his higher brain functions shut down.
- Doomsday was pretty much the original example: his entire purpose was pretty much to kill Superman, so the writers could spend several plot arcs dealing with a post-Superman world.
- The Authority encounters this type of villain fairly frequently. Their usual response is to kill said villain after a huge epic battle, since if they were allowed to live they'd endanger millions.
- Composite Superman/Batman had the combined powers of the Legion of Superheroes, over 20 powers in addition to those similar to Superman, including invisibility, telepathy, matter transmutation, and others. If not for his powers losing their charge, he would be ruling the universe.
- This is why the Big Bads of most comic Crisis Crossovers die by the end of the story. If they do reappear as dead characters are wont to do in comics, they usually show up years later and rarely at that. The villains of DCU "Crisis" crossovers are especially notorious examples and suffer pretty spectacular deaths:
- The Anti Monitor, the Big Bad of Crisis on Infinite Earths. A cosmic superbeing who used his powers over antimatter to destroy the Multiverse. In the end he was blasted with positive matter, Darkseid's Omega Beams, and was punched into a sun by Superman. He didn't return until decades later in real time, when the Multiverse was reconstructed. And at the end of that crossover, an entire planet blew up in his face and he got punched by Superboy Prime halfway across the galaxy.
- Alexander Luthor Jr., the Big Bad of Infinite Crisis. He was essentially a superpowered Lex Luthor (okay he was technically the son of an alternate universe Lex Luthor). After a year of flawlessly manipulating the heroes and villains of the DCU (getting rather close to Villain Sue status at times), he nearly destroyed the current universe to create his own "perfect" Earth. In the end he was completely defeated and was brutally murdered in a filthy alley by the Joker.
- After years of sitting on his throne and slowly decaying, Darkseid finally crossed this threshold in Final Crisis. The Anti-Life Equation granted Darkseid absolute control over all. And his very existence destabilized the fabric of space/time; essentially dragging all reality with him to his inevitable death. In the end he got shot with an anti New God bullet (By Batman, one of the staunchest defenders of the One Rule), had his soul taken away by the New Gods' psychopomp the Black Racer, and had his consciousness shattered by Superman's singing.
- The other big villain of Final Crisis, Mandrakk the Dark Monitor, didn't survive the end of the story either.
- The Sun-Eater in Final Night. It's not a villain so much as a force of nature.
- Phoenix from X-Men, especially once they decided it was not a separate entity from Jean Grey.
- Vulcan aka Gabriel Summers, the Big Bad of Deadly Genesis and War of Kings. He's an Omega-level energy manipulator, which basically means he's a Physical God. In one story, he was powerful enough to destroy seven galaxies.
- One-shot villains in Doctor Strange stories tend to be beings so absurdly powerful that Strange can't even fight them, let alone defeat them. The best he can do is bluff them into leaving this world alone, convince them Earth isn't worth the bother, strike some sort of bargain, or distract them somehow. Try not to think about how frighteningly impermanent that solution is, nor what would happen if two or three of them decided to try again...
Films — Animated
- Unicron from Transformers: The Movie. He appears without any explanation, shakes up the status quo with a great deal of damage and destruction, and is finally polite enough to go boom at the end of the movie. One of the film's highlights comes when he asserts his authority over an already-dying Megatron:
Megatron: Nobody summons Megatron...Unicron: Then it pleases me to be the first.
- However, his floating head was apparently still alive as a new moon for Cybertron, and it tried to get Starscream's ghost to resurrect its body.
- Jafar in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar as an evil genie. After Genie explains that the only way to get rid of a genie for good is to destroy their lamp, Aladdin decides that they have to destroy Jafar once and for all. Jasmine even mentions beforehand that "He's so powerful!".
Films — Live-Action
- Possibly the reason why most of the villains of the 1989 Batman film franchise like the Joker and Penguin were killed off; having them live might have undermined Batman's effectiveness in defeating them.
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Gandalf invokes this when asked to explain his support of the dwarven expedition. While Smaug is content to sleep on a mountain of gold, Gandalf is worried that Sauron may be returning, and an alliance between the two is too big a threat for him to ignore.
- Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is a good example of this. It's implied that Holmes has been fighting him for years, but he and Holmes kill each other at the end of the story that introduces him. Were it not for the fan outcry that would have been the last Sherlock Holmes story. Moriarty is only referred to in two later stories.
- Sourcery: Coin the sourcerer goes through a Heel-Face Turn, and realizes he is literally too powerful to exist in the universe without breaking it. So he makes his own, and goes to live there.
- The Chairman from Walker, Texas Ranger may qualify. He is the head villain - played by Michael Ironside, no less - for a full four-episode Story Arc, puts Walker and his loved ones through the ordeal of their lives, then dies and is never heard from again.
- Species 8472 does this in Star Trek: Voyager, starting things off with a spectacular use of The Worf Effect on the Borg (see below) and forcing the Collective into an Enemy Mine with the heroes.
- The Borg in their original appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation, up to the end of "The Best of Both Worlds." After that, the inevitable Villain Decay got them.
- Plenty of examples appear over the course of Doctor Who's extremely long run, the list of virtually unstoppable Physical Gods the Doctor has defeated and then never mentioned again including Sutekh, Fenric and The Beast.
- Arthur Petrelli on Heroes. After gaining godlike powers, he's killed by Sylar, but not before convincing Nathan to go along with his plan
- Surprisingly averted by Sylar himself, despite his Villain Sue status as the most powerful living superhuman, as the writers have wisely avoided giving him any outright Game Breaker powers like Matt's mind-control or Hiro's space-time manipulation. He mostly relies on telekinesis, regeneration, lightning blasts, and shapeshifting (with flight recently thrown in) which makes him tough, but not quite a walking automatic I Win button. Indeed while he's proven to be a very skilled fighter many of his powers are geared more towards Super Dickery rather than straight up combat, in keeping with his Wild Card status.
- There is also a character in one episode who could produce black holes, and while he wasn't ridiculously overpowered, it's made clear that he could kill Sylar in an instant. Bennett tries to get him to do this, but he just sucks himself into a hole instead.
- Averted with Peter Petrelli. By the third season, Peter (who could mimic and retain powers just by being near others) was the most powerful cast member, with a bunch of Game Breaker powers even Sylar didn't have. Then Arthur Petrelli showed up and took all those powers away, leaving Peter depowered for the remainder of Volume 3 and most of Volume 4. At the end of Volume 4, he took some of the Super Serum, and gained a much weaker version of his old ability - he could copy any one power through contact, but only one at a time.
- Babylon 5:
- In the one-off Made-for-TV Movie Thirdspace, the Thirdspace Aliens. Much of their shtick involved influencing the minds of anyone who spent too much time near their Artifact of Doom. Destroying it reversed the effects.
- And invoked in-universe by Sheridan during the season itself, concerning the war with the Shadows and the Vorlons; he knew even if they won (by picking a side, which is what both elder races wanted), it'd start up all over again a thousand years later unless they found a way to get rid of both Precursors permanently this time around.
- Ironheart, the telepath who could manipulate energy.
- The Judge in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An unkillable demon who could fry alive anyone with a trace of humanity in them? Yep, by the end of the episode he's been dismembered by rocket launcher.
- In the season 6 finale of Supernatural, Castiel rose a few power levels too many by absorbing all the souls in Purgatory. He quickly declares himself a god in his supermode, and blows up an Archangel with a finger snap. He loses his powers barely an episode later to be replaced by another set of less powerful baddies, and the Winchesters actually have to involve the cosmic Grim Reaper to offer any meaningful opposition to the villain.
- A less lethal example: in Association Football, and especially the World Cup, a common method of dealing with any player considered "the world's best" is to kick the crap out of them and hope something breaks. The most infamous example was the treatment of Pelé during the 1962 and 1966 World Cups. In '62 he was injured in the group stages, but Brazil went on to defend their title anyway; in '66 the same thing happened, but this time Brazil crashed out in the group stages and Pelé was so upset about being constantly roughed up that he refused to play in a World Cup ever again (he later reversed his decision and won a record third title with Brazil in 1970).
- In 2014, Neymar was considered The Ace of the host Brazilian team, and one of the world's best players. In the quarter-final against Colombia, he endured several tough tackles before finally succumbing to injury and having to be stretchered off. In the semi-final, without their star player, Brazil promptly suffered one of the most humiliating defeats in World Cup history.
- This is pretty much the reason those Primarchs who survived the Horus Heresy are all gone missing in Warhammer 40K. The universe isn't quite so crapsacky if there are several fifteen-feet-tall Nigh Invulnerable gods of war running around destroying entire armies by themselves. Chaos has a similar issue: Of their surviving Primarchs, only one averts Orcus on His Throne, and he serves a god who rewards losing your own troops as much as killing the enemy's (and other Chaos troops are fair game), so Status Quo Is God remains firmly in place.
- The God Emperor of Mankind, as his name indicates, is the most powerful human psyker in humanity's existence. Even reduced to a corpse, his spirit continues to act as a psychic lighthouse that allows FTL travel, bind psykers so that their heads don't always explode when they use their powers, and generally keep the human race from completely falling apart. When he was alive and well, humanity was the dominating force in the galaxy.
- The Statesman Task Force in City of Heroes is about his nemesis Lord Recluse doing this to himself. When you finally get to confront him, he uses a machine that taps into most of the superheroes in the world (except for your team, conveniently) and becomes way, way stronger than normal. The tricky part is surviving his assault while taking out the machines so he can be brought back down to normal and defeated.
- Lancer in Fate/stay night. Gaebolg gives him a low-cost, instant-kill, guaranteed-hit ultimate attack, and also inflicts wounds that don't heal as long as his lance still exists. He's also extremely fast, and Irish. You don't mess with the Irish, especially when they're wearing blue spandex. After he shows up, he's immediately put on a bus until 90% of the first two routes, and then Heavens Feel drops a bridge on him. The two times he did get to use the attack, his targets pulled out hax of their own to just narrowly avoid a fatality anyway. He was under explicit orders to not fight any battles to the death, and it's generally held that, if he had his original master, they would have easily won the war.
- There are many examples in Fate, but rather than use Too Powerful to Live, the author prefers "Too Powerful To Ever Use Their Full Potential (Until It's Too Late)." Word of God states that Gilgamesh is easily the strongest Servant, but he never pulls out his full strength until it's too late. If he fought seriously from the start, even Lancer and Bazette would have been helpless before him.
- A heroic example occurs with Metroplex in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Being a robot that transforms into a city, it's natural that incredibly few things could ever hope to bring him down in a straight fight. However, his very presence strains both sides, as the Autobots are forced to use a lot of energon to keep him running. He eventually gives his own energy up to help fuel the Ark so that the Autobots could fly off-planet and hopefully lure Megatron with them to give Cybertron time to recover.
- Azrael (aka The Genocider, The Mad Dog, and The King of Atrocity) from BlazBlue Chronophantasma is easily one of the strongest members of the cast, if not the single strongest. By his own admission, he's barely using an eighth of his true power; even then, he easily either decimates strong characters like Valkenhayn or forces incredibly powerful characters like Hakumen to flee. Were it not for Kokonoe trapping him into the space between dimensions, there wouldn't be much of a plot to salvage after he's had his "fill".
- Metal Gear Solid 3's The Boss was feared by the CIA for having too much charisma and powerful connections across all superpowers, so they spent billions of dollars and concocted a scheme that killed thousands of America and Russia's elite just to assassinate 'em and make it look like an international mess-up. The official story is that The Boss defected and had to be killed by the one person who could take 'em down clean and efficiently: Snake. The real story is that she was supposed to recover Volgin's super-inheritance, a 100 billion dollar cache of untraceable, non-controllable funds that could easily resurrect the Philosophers from the grave, but Volgin went insane and nuked a science facility, which instantly pointed fingers at The Boss, who had just recently defected to Volgin, making her necessary to take out to clean the nuclear incident. The simple truth is that The Boss was planning on forcing the United States and Russia to form a permanent alliance and create one world order. The CIA and KGB freaked out and had 'em executed in the most degrading, lasting punishment they could imagine.
- Tabuu from The Subspace Emissary. He wipes out the entire roster in one second before Sonic The Hedgehog destroys his wings to weaken him.
- Murko fills this role on Birdman, invoking The Worf Effect on Pentagon security, F.E.A.R., and finally Falcon Seven before facing Birdman in battle. Suffice to say, he lives up to the hype, coming as close as the series ever got to Nightmare Fuel.
- The various The Virus plus Reality Warper combos from Codename: Kids Next Door, like Madam Margaret and Grandfather.
- Mumm-Ra in ThunderCats (1985) once discovered an Artifact of Doom that quadrupled his powers. He was laying the smackdown on the Thundercats with it, but when he needed to return to his pyramid to rest the Ancient Spirits Of Evil denied him entrance. They were jealous and fearful that with the orb, Mumm-Ra would forsake them, so they forced him to ditch it. And they still complain that he loses to Lion-O.
- Ben 10's arch-enemy Vilgax was the Big Bad of the show's first season. To stop him from dominating the remaining three seasons, he was conveniently Sent To Another Dimension at the end of each of his subsequent appearances (usually 1 per season) so the characters won't have to worry about him.
- There is also the Giant Space Tick From Nowhere in the episode that introduced Cannonbolt. Within a few hours, it came close to causing The End of the World as We Know It, with nothing Ben had being unable to even scratch its exoskeleton. He crashes into it with Cannonbolt, status quo returns, and it is never heard from again. Oddly, it's never really addressed that this is the only time Ben has killed one of his enemies, though whether the Giant Space Tick was actually sentient is unclear.
- Pariah Dark does this in the first Danny Phantom movie, "Reign Storm," stomping Vlad Plasmius and darn near conquering Earth before he is put back in his box. The same applies to Evil Counterpart Dark Danny.
- The Nameless One (no, not that one), Dungeons & Dragons- apparently The Man Behind the Man to Venger, but this does not stop him giving everyone's favorite one-horned force of evil a good working-over. Unusually, he does not die at the end after his episode of terror. Instead, he winds up leaving the characters (and the audience) in suspense over his probable return, and proceeds to never appear again.
- Gigabyte in ReBoot was only around for one episode. He was a fusion of Megabyte and Hexadecimal (or the original form if you count the Retcon). He had Megabyte's strength, would have had Hexadecimal's powers if she hadn't been drained of energy at the time of fusion, and could Absorb Energy, which gradually unlocked Hexadecimal's powers. The only way to stop him for good was to re-separate him back into Megabyte and Hexadecimal, which is why he never appeared again outside of flashbacks.
- Trigon the Terrible on Teen Titans invades earth and turns it into a literal hell before he's banished (and possibly killed) and his magic undone by his daughter, Raven. The series would have concluded with his defeat — but they got extended for another season.
- Tigerhawk of Beast Wars. His first appearance had him destroy the Predacon base and blow away the Preds themselves effortlessly. The next episode he was killed taking on a powerful warship buying time for the Maximals.
- Unicron's little brother, Tornedron in the Transformers cartoon is also a good example. He drains both Cybertron and the Earth of their energy, plows through a small army of powerful Decepticons and Autobots with little effort, and finally rebels against his creator before Grimlock randomly presses a button, ending the threat and the episode.
- Amazo in Justice League. His initial motivation is killed when he aquires telepathy from Martian Manhunter and realizes he's being manipulated by Lex Luthor. He realizes all this is beneath him and goes out into the universe in search of meaning. He returns in the Unlimited series showing himself to be even more this trope plowing through battalions of superheroes but leaves again searching for meaning. It turns out that there's only so much you can do with a character who's evolved to the point of omnipotence.
- Less thought is Dr. Destiny. He attacks people in their dreams, during which they can't wake, and the nightmares he puts them through will cause their heart-rate to accelerate until it works too hard gives out. He can do this from anywhere. So at the end of his first appearance, his fight with Batman leaves him catatonic, because if he's still around he do the same trick all over again from prison.
- Nightmare Moon, Discord and Queen Chrysalis from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. All three effectively win with their mere appearance (Chrysalis imprison Celestia with ease, while Discord instantly negates the one thing that can defeat him), meaning they had to be dealt with immediately lest the series end on a downer.
- King Sombra even more so than the others. He's the villain that doesn't screw around, would kill his enemies if given the chance, and enslaved an entire empire, using fear on them. While it's left ambiguous as to whether Chrysalis or the evil of Nightmare Moon survived to return in the show (and do in the comics), and Discord is imprisoned, released, and reformed, King Sombra is the first major antagonist to be Killed Off for Real.
- Tirek and Lavan of G1 qualify as well. Tirek was an extremely powerful demon who can corrupt anypony with the Rainbow of Darkness, and Lavan transformed into a powerful crystal form that unbalanced Pony Land. They are the two villains of G1 to die in the end, making My Little Pony one of the few TV cartoons in the 1980s to kill characters off.
- One episode of Mega Man has Vile and Spark Mandrill from Mega Man X join forces with Wily. They and X himself are from the future and are immune to everything Mega Man can throw at them. Luckily X himself shows up to even the odds but they are still outnumbered.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002) featured Snake Face among the Snake Men who served as the primary villains of the final season. Snake Face can turn people to stone by looking at them. The writers noted in the DVD commentary that there was no way to keep Snake Face without his threat overshadowing that of Big Bad King Hiss, so he was killed off in his second appearance.
- Makeshift from Transformers Prime. His power to transform into any Cybertronian was deemed too powerful, so they got rid of him in his debut episode. The writers openly admitted that introducing someone with Makeshift's powers so early was a mistake, and he would have limited the variety of stories that could be told if he'd survived.
- Much like his G1 counterpart, Unicron would have killed off the cast and ended the show by simply waking up if Optimus had not used the Matrix to kill/subdue him after just three episodes.
- As it turns out, only his physical body was defeated. His dark essence remained and possessed Megatron's corpse for the series finale. He comes within inches of destroying Cybertron before being defeated once again.
- Implied to be the reason Predaking is currently frozen somewhere in the Arctic. Then he broke free.
- Much like his G1 counterpart, Unicron would have killed off the cast and ended the show by simply waking up if Optimus had not used the Matrix to kill/subdue him after just three episodes.
- In Xiaolin Showdown, the one time Wuya is at full power she takes over reality within minutes. Every appearance after that has her brought down dramatically.
- May partially be the reason why Eva never got much screen time in Total Drama Island.