Tragic Bromance

This trope refers to a specific plot that is Older Than Dirt. In it, two heroes are intensely close friends. Unfortunately, one of them (usually the one who's not the main character) dies during the course of the story. The death has a profound effect on the remaining hero, and changes them forever.

It's important to note that
  1. The two cannot just be friends or acquaintances. They have to be REALLY close, and
  2. The character's death needs to be a huge turning point in the story.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes has two of these, both of epic proportions:
    • Reinhard and Kircheis. They were childhood friends, and Kircheis became Reinhard's first follower, his closest (only, in fact) friend, trusted confidant and right hand man (being quite brilliant on his own right), providing good advice and overall having a tempering effect on Reinhard. His murder that takes place in front of Reinhard's eyes (as Kircheis is shielding him from an attack) is such a blow to Reinhard that he never completely gets over it, and Kircheis' loss is felt keenly through the rest of the story. To hammer the point home, Kircheis' first name is "Siegfried", and Reinhard is associated with "Brunhild" (the name of his flagship that he always uses to travel).
    • Reuenthal and Mittermeier. They were unlikely friends who nevertheless became very close, and very loyal and attached to each other; eventually their friendship and military prowess earned them the nickname "The Twin Stars of the Empire". As the years went by and Reuenthal's already dark psyche became even darker and more conflicted, Mittermeier became the only one anchoring him and keeping him in line as much as possible. In the end due to circumstances and Reuenthal's darker thoughts getting the better of him, he betrays Reinhard, and in a cruel twist Mittermeier is ordered to subdue him, breaking his heart. To further twist the knife, Reuenthal was always associated with Tristan (the name of his flagship), and his death has Tristan and Isolde parallels as he's clinging on to life hoping to see Mittermeier one last time. Their Tragic Bromance ends on a bittersweet note: Mittermeier adopts Reuenthal's orphaned infant son, giving him the loving family that his friend never had.)
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Gender Flipped with Homura and Madoka in the original timeline. Madoka dying prompts Homura to contract, wishing to be able to go back and protect her. This has the unintended side-effect of making Madoka increasingly important to causality, making Kyubey try even harder to contract her and setting off the entire plot of the series.
  • Code Geass: They put each other through absolute hell first, but Lelouch and Suzaku's reconciliation at the end implies they've come to an understanding of eachother. Lelouch's sacrifice at the end of the series changes the course of Suzaku's life forever (and, ironically, gives him a reason to keep living)as well as the world.
  • 7 Seeds has Aramaki Takahiro and Saejima Fubuki. Both are part of Team Winter and, before being drafted for the project, they were on different baseball teams but knew of each other and really wanted to meet each other. When they finally do, they immediately strike up a friendship and become as close as brothers. Unfortunately, Fubuki dies shortly after they become friends and Aramaki named one of the two puppies that accompany him after Fubuki.
  • Death Note features a bizarre example: Light and L are, on many levels, the only people capable of understanding one another, and spend several months literally attached to each other twenty-four/seven; ultimately, though, Light kills L for the sake of his 'new world'. This is a definite turning point of the story; from that point onward, Light's mental instability reaches a whole new level of horrific.
  • In Heat Guy J, Clair's Elite Mook and friend Ian is killed after a fact-finding mission gone wrong, and just hours later Mitchal blows himself up (ostensibly to allow Giovanni and Clair to make a getaway from their enemies, though part of it may have been so he and Ian could be Together in Death). All Clair has left of them are Mitchal's "lucky" dice and Ian's Phi Beta Kappa ring. This (coupled with losing his Vampire status and his home, plus the Daddy Issues he had from the start) sends him into an Angst Coma.
  • In Seven Ghost, Mikage is the only friend that Teito has. Mikage likewise is very attached to Teito and fiercely protective of him. After a few plot events, Ayanami hijacks Mikage's body and irrepairably destroys his soul. Frau is forced to kill him to save Teito's life. It's worse, in that Mikage dies smiling in Teito's arms before dissolving into feathers. It's made better/worse, depending on the viewer, when Mikage's soul is reincarnated into the cutest bunny-dragon you ever did see.
  • Attack on Titan has Jean and Marco, who become close friends during their three years in training together. Both dream of joining the Military Police Brigade, but for very different reasons and are opposites in terms of demeanor. However, Marco recognizes and encourages Jean's potential as The Leader, seeing in him someone capable of much more than he's willing to believe. During the gruesome cleanup of Trost in the aftermath of the battle there, Jean discovers what remains of Marco. The meaningless and lonely death of his best friend prompts Jean to abandon his selfish ideals, and enlist in the Survey Corps where he quickly establishes himself as a capable young leader. When the others joke wondering what happened to the Jean they all knew, he states his intention to not disappoint those charred bones he saw.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: The third installment is a big Trauma Conga Line for Shinji, but what finally breaks him is the death of Kaworu, the only person in the film who was genuinely nice to him.
    • Their relationship counts in the original anime and its manga adaptation as well. The details differ in each continuity, but all three incarnations involve an intense relationship between the two which ends in Kaworu's death, driving Shinji deeper into despair.
  • Waver and his Servant Rider from Fate/Zero, despite only knowing each other for a few weeks, forge an intense friendship which culminates in Waver pledging his Undying Loyalty to Rider shortly before the latter is killed by Gilgamesh (whose own tragic bromance with Enkidu is alluded to afterwards). Waver undergoes tremendous Character Development due to his friendship with Rider and is deeply influenced by his Servant's ideals for the rest of his life. Considering Rider is the Alexander the Great, this isn't surprising.
  • Gundam really loves this, mostly to show that War Is Hell.
    • Played a lot in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. The series mainly revolves around Childhood Friends Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala having to reluctantly fight each other due to ending at two warring factions. Then came the time when Kira kills a close friend and comrade of Athrun in combat, who in turn becomes furious and retaliates by killing one of Kira's True Companions. Said killings resulted with the two former friends having a battle to the death which Athrun won, but said victory is more like a Pyrrhic Victory as he becomes emotionally damaged as a result. However, Kira survives their encounter. Not only that, but Athrun's fiancee also helped him steal one of their faction's top mobile suits. Once he learns this, he was ordered to reclaim or destroy the stolen unit by piloting another one of those top MS. By this time, Athrun has become very aware that War Is Hell and pulls a Heel-Face Turn and reunites and reconciled with his friend and join/create a third faction to stop it.
      • The original planned ending of the series had Kira dying, with Athrun losing an arm and being emotionally damaged.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, the series' second protagonist (it's a Generational Saga) Asemu Asuno eventually have to fight his bestfriend Zeheart Galette, who is The Mole of the other faction. Obviously, both guys have a hard time dealing with having to fight each other, especially Asemu. Ultimately, Asemu ended up having to kill Zeheart, but not long before having a final heartfelt conversation. Their friendship is much more emphasized in the show's Special Edition.
  • Project K has Mikoto and Tatara. The two became good friends in their teenage years, and after Mikoto became the Red King Tatara was one of the few people who was able to keep just as close to him as before and helped him deal with his nearly uncontrollable powers. Tatara is later murdered and it very obviously effects Mikoto's psychological state as he becomes a Death Seeker whose only goal is fiery, violent revenge on his killer, despite the fact that his own powers are going haywire. In the end he let's himself get killed after finally achieving revenge.

    Comic Books 
  • Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle, though in some continuities, the new Beetle serves as Replacement Goldfish. Beetle's death makes Booster go from an egotistical, fame-seeking buffoon to wanting to genuinely be a heroic hero who contributes something.
  • Though He Got Better, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's death in the Blackest Night story arc caused his close friend and colleague, Guy Gardner, to break down in tears for a moment before entirely giving in to his maddened rage and becoming a Red Lantern.

    Film 
  • In Forrest Gump, Forrest and Bubba. After Bubba's death, Forrest fulfills his friend's lifelong dream by buying a shrimping boat.
  • An epic womance: the two female scientists from Volcano. The remaining scientist (Anne Heche) is that much more determined to convince FEMA that there's really a volcano starting in Los Angeles because her best friend died to prove it.
  • Similarly, the death of her close friend and fellow CIA agent in the line of duty causes the main character of Zero Dark Thirty to adopt an It's Personal stance on the search for Bin Laden.
  • Dead Poets Society has Neil and Todd who are roomates and best friends at 'Hellton'. Throughout the movie they support each other's fight against their controlling parents. Eventually Neil is cowed by his father and committs suicide, leaving Todd openly distraught and heartbroken.
  • A variation of this happens in X-Men: First Class; Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier form a close friendship, but ultimately part because of a major difference in ideals. Notably, neither is killed, although Professor X does sustain a permanent injury that leads to Magneto cradling his cripple.
  • In Top Gun the death of Maverick's co-pilot and volleyball partner Goose is a major turning point in the characters life.
  • In the Watchmen movie, Nite Owl II sees Rorschach's death and it visibly crushed him, which ultimately caused him to lash out at the person directly responsible for it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Supernatural: The two leads Sam and Dean Winchester manage to do this to one another multiple times. Dean is the ruling champion, but if it weren't for Sam's first major death the whole plot from the beginning of season three onward would not exist in any recognizable form.
    • Getting him out of it caused Dean to die at the end of season three, which caused Sam to have a major character shift in the four months between then and when Dean got better again at the start of season four; and the combination of what the two of them did while Dean was dead set up the need for Sam to die at the end of season five. Dean followed Sam's "last request" to try and live a normal life, but was pissed when Sam shows up again and reveals he's been back for a while without telling him. Then it turned out Sam's soul was still stuck in Hell...
    • Dean's 101 deaths during one season three episode hit Sam pretty hard, too, especially the one that last six months before the bastard undid it. And hence the title of reigning champion. Also the fact that he stayed dead the longest.
    • Dean and Castiel over the course of seasons six and seven. After Cas's power-trip and ensuing "sacrifice", Dean spends half a season going through the motions like season-six-Buffy, unable to really care about himself or the state of the world, and only starting to recover after Castiel reappears.
    "You know, I used to be able to just shake this stuff off. You know, whatever it was. It might take me some time, but... I always could. What Cas did... I just can't I don't know why."
    • Dean really can't catch a break from this trope. If it isn't Sam, it's Cas. If it isn't Cas, it's Benny.
  • Although Buffy gets better by the end of Season 6, Buffy and Willow between the season 5 finale and the season 6 premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer totally fits this trope. Buffy's death causes Willow to go into a spiral of desperation and bargaining that eventually leads her into extremely morally ambiguous territory in her effort to resurrect her best friend, leads to her sliding into Drunk with Power, and emotionally sets her up for a Despair Event Horizon after her unrelated romantic tragedy one season later. By the time of season 8, Willow is trying to keep Kennedy isolated from Buffy because she believes that, had she not resurrected Buffy, Tara would still be alive. However, during the Angel & Faith arc "Family Reunion," Willow tells Angel that, despite all of the pain and angst that the Scoobies went through as a result, she has never regretted bringing Buffy back to life for a second.
  • Shut Up Flower Boy Band has one of the members of the titular band die in a tragic fashion. Being teenagers, the rest of the band doesn't take his death too well.
  • Horatio and Archie's friendship in the Horatio Hornblower miniseries was extremely deep. They were together in purgatory (Horatio's first ship Justinian where they both got bullied and tormented by a sadistic midshipman), got separated and met again in hell, a Spanish prison when they both got tortured in a Punishment Box and Archie tried to starve himself. Horatio saved Archie's life when he nursed him back into health, and Archie saved Horatio's when he dragged him from an exploding bridge during a doomed mission in France. In "Retribution", Horatio is shattered by Archie's slow and painful death and his Heroic Sacrifice. However, the emotional fallout after Archie's death isn't explored overtly in the subsequent series, but Hornblower is obviously a man who is bitter and surly, without a pal who could make him show his more cheerful and pleasant side. note 
  • Merlin ends with Arthur dying in Merlin's arms and Merlin believing that he's failed in his destiny to protect him. Scant comfort is derived from his very close friendship with Guinevere Arthur's widow and the sole ruler of Camelot and the Great Dragon's promise that one day Arthur will return in the time of Britain's greatest need. A Flash Forward shows Merlin as a hobo in modern times, still waiting for Arthur's return.
  • This seems to be a thing that happens towards the finale of many a Heisei-era Kamen Rider show between the protagonist and the deuteragonist.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki: In the second to last episode, Shinji/Ryuki is dealt a fatal wound by a group of Monsters and his death prompts Ren/Knight to attempt to become the Final Rider.
      • In the 13 Riders special, the roles are reversed.
    • Kamen Rider Blade: Kenzaki/Blade sacrifices his humanity to become a Joker Undead in the finale, but as a result, must separate himself from Hajime/Chalice.
      • In The Movie, the roles are reversed with Hajime sacrificing himself in place of Kenzaki.
    • Kamen Rider Double: Philip disappears at the conclusion of the second to last episode, leaving Shotaro to protect Futo as Kamen Rider Joker. Fortunately, Philip is revived in the final episode.
    • Kamen Rider OOO: Ankh's Core Medal is cracked by Maki, but decides to help Eiji/OOO defeat the latter. After defeating Maki, Ankh dies, although his spirit is seen to follow Eiji.
  • Smash: Kyle is the only person Jimmy seems to genuinely love, but he's a jerk to him too. Then Kyle is killed in a hit-and-run, and Jimmy cleans up his act, dedicates himself to their musical, sobs when Kyle wins a posthumous Tony, and fesses up to a past crime and does time so he can start fresh.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Opie's death, which was a combination of Suicide by Prison Gang and Heroic Sacrifice was the final straw for Jax Teller. After four seasons of contemplating leaving the club, he throws himself full on into the dirty dealings, and onto the Protagonist Journey to Villain path.
  • The Walking Dead: Due to Shane being Spared by the Adaptation, his Love Triangle with his bestfriend Rick and the latter's wife Lori is fully utilized. Rick and Shane are the best of friends since high school up until the day they became cops. On one mission, Rick is shot and was put in coma. During this time, the Zombie Apocalypse happened and Shane had to take care of Lori and her and Rick's son Carl. Thinking that Rick is dead, Shane and Lori began a relationship. Once Rick returns to the scene, Lori obviously abandons Shane. Shane, while initially happy to see Rick alive, gradually becomes resentful towards him and comes to believe that he is a better husband and father than him. The second season shows the dissolution of their friendship, with Rick ultimately having to kill Shane because he has gone to the deep end by that point. Having to kill Shane made a huge impact on Rick's Character Development in later seasons.

    Literature 
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward has to kill Oreg, whom he loves like a brother, in order to enable an Heroic Sacrifice. When he feels Oreg's last breath on his cheek, he thinks that it feels warm, but he will never feel warmth again, ever.
  • Harry Potter gives us James Potter and Sirius Black. They were a part of a four-person group of friends at Hogwarts called the Marauders, but they were described as being the Fred and George Weasley of their time. When James dies at the hands of Voldemort, Sirius was ready to relinquish his rebellious lifestyle to look after James' son Harry, but when Hagrid mentioned that Dumbledore already had a plan in place, Sirius unsuccessfully went after the man responsible for allowing Voldemort to kill his friend, which got him wrongly imprisoned. Ever after both James' death and his imprisonment in Azkaban, he isn't nearly as cheerful or light-hearted as he is presented in flashbacks or in a little side-story, though he does briefly revert to his old self when he comes into possession of his old house.
  • Landen Parke-Laine and Anton Next in the Thursday Next series. Especially tragic because Landon's (truthful) testimony in the investigation of the events that killed Anton turned Anton's name to mud for all history.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson, when Holmes apparently dies in The Final Problem. Luckily, he was just hiding.
  • The Silmarillion: Turin and Beleg, immortalized in-universe by the "Song of the Great Bow." The tragedy is made even worse by the fact that Turin was the cause of Beleg's death!
  • Dragon Lance: Raistlin's ascension to the tower of high sorcery leaves Caramon a drunken wreck for years. Without his brother, he felt completely unneeded. It is only after Raistlin actually dies that he is able to move on with his life.
  • While Robert is no longer a main character by the third book in The Emigrants suite him and Arvid still fit this trope. Arvid's death on their way to California has a deep impact on Robert and he never recovers.
  • Lord Jon Connington and the late Prince Rhaegar in A Song of Ice and Fire: A Dance with Dragons. Connington is particularly ashamed of losing a crucial battle against Robert Baratheon, who would go on to kill Rhaegar, take the throne, and exile Connington.
    • Jenny of Oldstones and the Ghost of High Heart are a rare female version. They were best friends back during the reign of King Aegon V, and Jenny even brought the Ghost to royal court with her when she married Prince Duncan the Small. Its unknown how or when Jenny died, but the Ghost long outlived her and is still very torn up about it. In exchange for telling people about her prophetic visions, the Ghost demands to be sung the song that was written about Jenny.

    Manhwa 

    Mythology 
  • Greek Mythology
    • Achilles and Patroclus. It's Patroclus' death that motivates Achilles to get out of his tent and kick some Trojan ass.
    • Also Apollo and Hyacinth, who was an even bigger Pretty Boy than Apollo. Zeus was jealous that someone so beautiful was spending all his time with someone other than him, so he made the discus that Apollo had thrown slam into his head and kill him.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh is one such tale. The whole story after the first act is about Gilgamesh's quest for immortality, to which he is driven by the death of his close friend and comrade Enkidu.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Something of an inversion in the game in which it is most important, Crisis Core, as Zack is the main character. The rest of the series plays this straight, of course.
  • In Mass Effect Garrus seems to take Shepard's death this way, especially if you influenced him to be more Renegade in the first game. Following the destruction of the Normandy, he heads back to the Citadel, either to rejoin C-Sec or try to become a Spectre. Either way, after seeing the Council bury evidence of the Reapers and discredit everything Shepard did he decides he's finally had enough of the Citadel's bureaucracy and heads to the galaxy's Wretched Hive to try and fight crime at its source. This is especially sad if you take him back to Omega after you've recruited him and he notes that despite everything he did, he never actually make a difference.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Revan and Malak were best friends before their fall the dark-side, leading Malak to eventually betray his oldest friend. When confronted with an amnesiac Revan who has returned to the light-side, he only regrets betraying them from afar and mourns the loss of the "real" Revan.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Fire Lord Sozin and Avatar Roku. It's a twisted version since Sozin intentionally left Roku to die, although he regrets doing so by the time of his death.

    Real Life 
  • Alexander the Great and Hephaestion, who actually compared themselves to Achilles and Patroclus on more than one occasion, even laying wreaths on their respective graves at Troy.
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam dealt with his emotions surrounding the death of his best friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly of cerebral hemorrhaging at the age of 22 (and was, in fact, engaged to Tennyson's sister Emilia).