Traumatic Superpower Awakening

Tattletale: It’s called the trigger event. Researchers theorize that for every person with powers out there, there’s one to five people with the potential for powers, who haven’t met the conditions necessary for a trigger event. You need to be pushed to the edge. Fight or flight responses pushed to their limits, further than the limits, even. Then your powers start to emerge.
Regent: Basically, for your powers to manifest, you’re going to have to have something really shitty happen to you.

When a character has latent powers or potential, there are three standard ways to unlock it: hit puberty, find a mentor to train them, or just have something really, really bad happen to them. Any form of trauma, physical or mental, can do the trick, but emotional blows are the most prevalent. The death of a loved one is especially common.

Severe trauma tends to release inhibitions that keep hidden potential in check. Strong emotions, most especially rage, work best. As such, the form of the awakening tends to be violent, even, in extreme cases, explosive.

With superpowers, once the bottle is opened, it can't be sealed again. The awakened one will typically need to seek training to control their new powers, so that their every emotional outburst won't trigger a new disaster. A period of How Do I Shot Web? will follow, and learning to control one's emotions or face inner demons is typical.

This tends to coincide with Puberty Superpowers. Puberty is the most likely general time for powers to show themselves, but the specific incidence of the awakening will tend to be a traumatic one. There might be several minor uses of power, resulting from less serious emotional events, before the big push comes that makes the character fully aware of their potential.

Not to be confused with Die or Fly or Defense Mechanism Superpower. Die or Fly occurs when superpowers awaken in response to a life-threatening situation, which isn't exactly the same as trauma (in the cases of purely emotional trauma and seeing others in danger, for example). Defense Mechanism Superpower is when, regardless of when the powers were discovered or attained, they can only be used in dangerous situations (which might not always be life-threatening). See also Angst Nuke and Came Back Strong, which are very extreme variations on this. If the superpowers attained are related to the cause of the trauma, it's an Adaptive Ability.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto first gained access to the Kyuubi's chakra after seeing the (apparent) death of his best friend.
    • From the same story arc, Haku discovered the full extent of his powers when his father tried to kill him.
    • This is typical for the Sharingan. While the first form may also activate in Die or Fly situations, the advanced "Mangekyou" version requires severe trauma; So severe in fact, that the most reliable way to awaken was considered to be murdering your best friend. One notable aversion is Sarada, whose Sharingan awoke from the joy of finally getting to meet her father.
      • The Second Hokage explains that when an Uchiha feels strong emotions, usually grief or rage, it causes their brain to generate a unique type of chakra. This chakra mutates the eyes into Sharingan.
    • Nagato got his Rinnegan when he saw his parents die when they tried to defend themselves against soldiers who were just looking for supplies. There might be more to it than that, as Tobi (a known liar) says he gave Nagato his Rinnegan. Whether this means he at least partly engineered the situation, implanted the eyes themselves, or if it is just another lie, is still unknown.
      • It was revealed that Madara Uchiha had awoken the Rinnegan, but due to extreme old age was in no position to use it. While Nagato was still a kid, Madara transplanted his Rinnegan into him without Nagato's knowledge. Later, Tobi made Nagato think that the Rinnegan marked him as the reincarnation of the Sage of the Six Paths while engineering his Start of Darkness. Whether this is all true (or even fits the established timeline of certain key events) is also still up for debate.
    • Naruto and Hinata's youngest daughter, Himawari, awakened her Byakugan when her favorite stuffed toy was accidentally torn apart by her older brother, Boruto.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Goku was able to break the Super Saiyan barrier after his friend Krillin was blown up in sadistic fashion by Frieza, who then proceeded to threaten his son. Also, Gohan and Trunks from an alternate future obtained Super Saiyan this way (Gohan when the androids killed Piccolo, Trunks when they killed Gohan, as illustrated above). While his initial transformation was not quite this trope, Gohan's powerup into Super Saiyan 2 was triggered by Android #16 getting destroyed by Cell as he made a Rousing Speech to Gohan (made more tragic that, as a fully mechanical creature, 16 couldn't be revived). Vegeta would eventually become a Super Saiyan due to pure rage and despair at his own wounded pride when he realized he would never be as powerful as Goku, which for him, was as bad as the distress other Super Saiyans went through. And Bardock went Super Saiyan this way after Berry took the bullet for him. Which, incidentally, started the Super Saiyan legend in the first place.
    • Dragon Ball Super pulled a Decon-Recon Switch with this trope. After Vegeta teaches Cabba, a Universe 6 Saiyan, how to go Super, Cabba teaches two other Saiyans, Caulifla and Kale. However, he's pinpointed a better way to do so without inflicting trauma. However, it proves to be imperfect as both Cabba and Caulifla are unable to go past Super Saiyan 1 and Kale goes all Broly on everyone. It isn't until they fight in the Tournament of Power that the trio end up using the original method to break those barriers.
  • Elfen Lied: Lucy was bullied by children and when they killed her dog, she killed them all with her unseen (until then) power of invisible vector arms.
  • In InuYasha Kagome unwittingly uses the power of the magic Jewel of Four Souls which is inside her body to blast a demon which attacks her. Ultimately subverted, since the Jewel is released from her body almost immediately afterwards, meaning she no longer has that power. (Though this sequence of events does lead to her discovering and being trained in other latent powers.)
  • In Fairy Tail, a flashback shows Erza first using magic after seeing a friend die.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Lunatic's power manifested when he tried to stop his father from beating his mother.
  • Shiki in Tsukihime gains his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception as a result of his near death experience as a child.
  • In Sasami: Magical Girls Club, a hidden power within Sasami activates for the first time after their club advisor Washu decides to quit. Everyone, including the witches, are dumbfounded at how she was able to manifest such powers, as even they were unable to do it. It shows up again throughout the show, and later her True Companions are able to use the same ability due to The Power of Friendship with Sasami.
  • In Omamori Himari, Yuuto's secret power, Light Ferry, which turns anything he wields, such as a small wooden branch, into an incredibly powerful weapon on par with the best swords out there, is activated when he attempts to quell Himari's Unstoppable Rage after the latter witnessed him getting mortally wounded by Ageha. He is unable to activate it later when he has a practice match with Shizuku, who had no intentions of truly hurting him, and she even points this out to him.
  • Newtype and other similar power in Gundam multiverse are usually triggered the moments the users are put in tight situations or suffering from traumatic experiences. For example, Gundam X's villains at one time intentionally leave their pre-awaken Newtype subordinate behind to fight the heroes alone, knowing that doing so will allow him to reach his inner-power.
  • Rosario + Vampire:
    • A variation occurs during Ruby's introductory arc in the anime; when Ruby critically injures Tsukune, Moka is so enraged and grief-stricken at this that Inner Moka actually bypasses the rosary's seal without Tsukune removing the rosary beforehand. Afterwards, together with an equally furious Mizore and Kurumu, she proceeds to kick Ruby's ass. This doesn't happen in the manga at all, and it is established during the whole manga that Inner Moka cannot be released while wearing the rosary, except via Lilith's Mirror.
    • In the manga, when Moka saw the apparent murder of her mother Akasha by the hands of her eldest sister Akua, Moka's Shinso blood was unleashed.
  • Attack on Titan
    • The first time Eren Jäger utilizes his Titan Shifting ability is after losing two of his limbs and being swallowed by a Titan.
    • This is how Mikasa Ackerman awakened her superhuman abilities when Eren was about to be killed by her kidnapper and is revealed to be the activation process for the members of the Ackerman clan, of whom Mikasa and Levi are the only surviving members.
  • In Unlimited Fafnir, several characters go through these right before learning to control their powers, or being able to summon something even more powerful to defeat the Monster of the Week.
  • Usagi in Sailor Moon awakens as Princess Serenity when Tuxedo Mask takes a near-fatal blow for her. In the 90s anime she even unlocks the power of the Silver Crystal and uses it against Zoisite.
    • In the manga and Crystal, Chibiusa's power as Sailor Chibi Moon awakens (and breaks the brainwashing Wiseman inflicted on her) when she sees Sailor Pluto die after breaking the final taboo and stopping time. This does not happen in the 90s anime since Pluto wasn't there, so her parents do the job insteed.
  • Blue Exorcist ultimately kicks off thanks to this happening to the lead Okumura Rin. Rin gets threatened to be carved up (burned by a hot pipe in the anime) by a demon-possessed delinquent he previously "fought" (aka knocked back with one punch) and thus pulling out his Blue Flames in response, due to realizing he really was going to kill him. It then goes on to top it as Rin ends up deliberately breaking the seal that keeps him from being a true half-demon in response to being tossed into a Gehenna Gate by his "father" who possessed his foster father (and ultimately killed him in the process).
  • In One Piece, this is one of the methods of attaining Haki. Coby awakened Kenbunshoku Haki this way.
  • This is the main premise of +Anima, where people (usually children) receive animal-based powers when subjected to extremely harsh conditions, intense fear, and life-threatening dangers.
  • Invoked in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's when the Liese Twins disguise themselves as Nanoha and Fate, tell Hayate that her illness is incurable and fatal, and slaughter Vita, Shamal and Signum in front of her on Christmas Eve; all so she'd unlock the power of the Book of Darkness.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, Yuya experiences a Heroic B.S.O.D. when Kachidoki gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Further torment immediately leads to him becoming Awakened for the first time.

     Comic Books 
  • This is common, though not universal, in X-Men. Puberty Superpower is more widely applied.
    • Jean Grey first used her powers when her friend got hit by a car and died in her arms.
    • Rogue accidentally first used her powers when she kissed a boy she liked, draining him of his memories and energy and leaving him in a coma.
    • A variant with Mercury whose abilities just started one ordinary morning. Meaning a high-school cheerleader dissolved into a metallic goop on her bathroom floor out of nowhere.
    • Magma was thrown in a volcano.
    • The ultimate example was featured in a issue of Ultimate X-Men, where a poor kid woke up one day to find himself apparently totally alone in his house. He wanders around town looking for anybody but it all seems deserted. It turns out that he had gained the ability to uncontrollably dissolve any living matter within several hundred yards of himself - starting with his parents, ending with his entire town. Wolverine (protected by his Healing Factor) finds him terrified and hiding in a cave, then does what he can for him.
  • In the DC Elseworld story Superman: Speeding Bullets, where Kal-El is adopted by Thomas and Martha Wayne, young Kal-El/Bruce Wayne's first manifestation of his superpowers is using his heat vision to kill the mugger who killed his adoptive parents.
  • Adam Warren's run as writer of Gen13 introduced Leslie, a.k.a. "Trauma Queen", a member of another Secret Project Refugee Family who had a variation of this trope: she was able to use her memories of traumatic experiences to activate a wide variety of superpowers. In Warren's last issue, Leslie invoked the memory of when one of the secret project's scientists proposed inflicting more intense trauma on her to make her more powerfulnote .
  • Deliberately subverted in Ms. Marvel (2014), where Kamala Khan gains her powers through a peaceful communion with the terrigen mists and it's treated as an almost religious experience. G. Willow Wilson wanted to dispel the notion that all superhero origins have to be tragic or horrifying.

    Fan Works 

  • Happens twice to Will in Sky High (2005), once when he's defending his friends from Warren and again when Royal Pain throws him off the side of the school.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: First Class: Erik Lehnsherr is originally only able to use his powers when extremely angry. The first two times, it involves maternal separation.
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: James Howlett's awakening occurs when he stabs his father's killer to death.
    • Deadpool: Invoked by Ajax. His Super Soldier factory works by grabbing people, pumping them full of a mutant gene kickstarting serum, and then torturing them until the trauma gives them superpowers (or they die, whichever comes first). Deadpool's powers get activated when he is deprived oxygen for an entire night.
  • In the film version of Matilda, Matilda's telekinesis first displays itself when her father rips up her library books and tries to force her to watch TV with the rest of the family.
  • This happens to the main character in Kung Fu Hustle: after he is beaten to within an inch of his life, his chi flows are unblocked, and his potential to become the Greatest Kung Fu Master the World has Ever Known is suddenly realized.

  • Garion of the Belgariad comes into his power this way. Though he is sensitive to sorcery for a while, and his first (unconscious) use of it was to heal a brain-addled man, he first deliberately uses his power was against a man who has just slapped his Aunt Pol, and kills him when he learns the same man killed his parents. In the same way.
    • Aldur invoked this for Belgarath by telling him to move a large boulder. When Belgarath became so frustrated that he shouted at the boulder to move, it did. Upon meeting another sorcerer in the Malloreon who gained his powers similarly, the main characters suppose this is the typical way for it to happen, and that it also explains why there are fewer and fewer sorcerers around, as the will of the universe prevents objects from being unmade: if someone, in a fit of anger, tries to unmake something, he will be himself unmade.
  • In Dragon Bones Ward has some weak magical ability, but lost most of it when his abusive father almost killed him. He regains it when a supernatural entity attacks his sister, and won't let go. This makes him angry, which unlocks his magic.
  • In one of the short stories in The Witcher book The Last Wish, a queen hires Geralt to kill a monster (actually a cursed prince) to stop him from marrying her daughter. When she nearly succeeds, it turns out that the princess is really in love and is an untrained source - and so everyone must forget their differences and fight together to get her powers under control.
  • Harry Potter initially used his unfocused, underage magic in times of distress. This seems to be a common way for magic to appear in the setting, but not universal: contrast Voldemort, whose powers manifested as ways to manipulate and hurt people.
  • In The Wheel of Time, those who have the "spark", the more powerful manifestation of the ability to "channel", and who haven't been trained in channeling by someone who already can, will typically begin channeling unconsciously in their mid-to-late teens, and it will usually manifest itself during either a traumatic situation or when they wish to do something suitable for one who is angsty in general. For many, this takes the form of an eavesdropping weave or something similar. For one of the main characters, Nynaeve, it is an extreme sickness of a friend that leads to her unconsciously forming a healing weave.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Labyrinth of Reflections, Divers most commonly acquire their rare gift under extremely stressful circumstances, such as when your friend is dying in Real Life and you have to exit Cyber Space right now without using any common devices.
    • The short-story Transparent Stained Glass Windows reveals that the Russian government is working on a secret project aimed at creating Divers using a virtual prison as a cover. Their goal is to induce traumatic experiences in the inmates which mirror the reason for their imprisonment. The project is a failure, though.
  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Mistborn:
      • allomantic powers only manifest themselves following an intense trauma, which is usually a near-death experience (not always, though, as Kelsier, one of the main characters, came into his powers after watching his wife get beaten to death). Noble houses often severely beat their children to try and force "snapping".
      • In later books, Snapping is caused automatically by "mist-sickness", which by design only affects unSnapped Allomancers, and just badly enough to Snap them.
      • Word of God is that the primary reason that Vin learns Allomancy so quickly is because she Snapped at birth. Even though she didn't know what she was doing, she was using Allomancy before she could walk.
    • The Stormlight Archive: It is explicitly stated that only those who are "broken" can form a Nahel bond and become a Surgebinder. However, this process is usually far slower and less obvious than in Mistborn. What happens is that spren find people with broken souls and slip into the cracks, shoring up their soul and granting them Surgebinding in the process. While Surgebinders will use their powers instinctively, it usually starts as healing oddly quickly or having arrows always hit their shield instead of them. It takes something big for them to draw enough power to realize what is happening.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar:
    • In the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, the protagonist, Vanyel, has his Gifts triggered when his lover/soulmate commits suicide, after using him to help power a Cool Gate spell. The backlash of Tylendel's power, released by his death, burns open all of Vanyel's mental channels at once.
    • In Brightly Burning, Lavan's Firestarting Gift was starting to come through as a normal Puberty Superpower, but being tortured by older students at a Boarding School of Horrors forces it to full power prematurely.
  • In the original novel of Matilda her telekinesis first appears when she grows uncontrollably angry over being (loudly and violently) accused of something she did not do.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: This is how Benji activates his dragokin powers at the very end of the story when he leaps to his mom's defense.
  • Dune: A ghola's memories can be restored by inflicting psychological trauma.
    • In Heretics of Dune, Miles Teg gets Spider-Sense and Super Speed after being tortured.
    • In the prequels, Norma Cenva's latent Mind over Matter powers are awakened while she's being tortured by the Cymeks. The resulting mental blast is several orders more powerful than that utilized by the other Sorceresses of Rossak and literally disintegrates her body. Fortunately, she uses her new powers to create a better body for herself atom-by-atom.
    • Technically, any Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother becomes this way by ingesting poison and hoping that her body will metabolize it into a substance that will transform her.
      • They DO train for many years, practicing an intricate form of body control, learning to speed up and and slow down their own metabolism and adjust it as needed, before taking that particular test.
  • In StarCraft: Ghost: Nova, the titular character is unaware of her enormous Psychic Power potential, and her wealthy father goes to great lengths to keep it a secret, lest his daughter be taken away to the Ghost Academy. She knows that she is somehow able to sense what other people are feeling but can't explain it. However, when a group of rebels infiltrates her parents' penthouse mansion and kills them in front of her, her Mind over Matter powers manifest in a rather spectacular manner. The transparent dome over the penthouse is completely shattered by her mental blast that also kills anyone in the vicinity but her. That dome is, apparently, rated to withstand a direct nuclear strike. However, she never uses her power to that extent again. It's heavily implied that Nova is much more powerful than even Kerrigan, at least until Kerrigan becomes the Queen of Blades.
  • In the Wearing the Cape series, physical trauma is the standard way of getting powers.
  • While a rather softer version then most, The Boy who was as hard as Stone has Joe undergoing this after taking a beating from bullies.
  • The second time Henry's time travel ability manifested in The Time Traveler's Wife was when he was involved in a car accident. If he hadn't time traveled, he would have been killed.
  • In The Girl from the Miracles District, berserkerism is unnoticeable until the person carrying the gene goes through major physical or emotional trauma, whereupon it manifests and becomes a perpetual problem to keep in check. It doesn't necessarily show up right away - Nikita mentions that she only turned berserk a day after she'd been rescued from her father, when she had nightmares about what'd happened.
  • Most capes in the superhero web serial Worm acquired their powers in traumatic situations. As a result, cape demographics are skewed toward females and people from bad parts of town/the world. However, it gets easier for second-generation capes to gain their powers; whereas a first-generation cape needs to experience a life-or-death situation, i.e. their entire village being wiped out by soldiers who then use the children for mine-clearing, second-generation capes can get their powers by, say, getting fouled while playing basketball.
    • This is a major reason for there being far more villains than heroes. Superpowers may sometimes fix the immediate problem of the trigger event but they won't fix the underlying problems that led to it. A person who feels that society has failed them is far more likely to use their powers selfishly than heroically.
    • Additionally, those who already have powers can experience a second awakening that improves them or removes some of their limitations. These require far worse trauma of a similar nature to the first trigger, and usually leave the person in question a complete wreck.
    • It turns out that there's a completely justified reason for this, depending on who you ask. The Entities need data on each superpower-granting shard they release, and the best way to get that data is in combat. The shards are thus engineered to only activate when the host is in extreme danger, increasing the chances that they'll end up in situations where the host will be fighting or will be psychologically-damaged enough to go out and cause trouble and thus start fighting.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Angel, "Untouched". Bethany, the girl with telekinesis, had it awakened when she was abused physically and sexually by her father. It also flared up when someone threatened her in an alley early in the ep.
  • On The Finder, Walter's powers of deduction are purportedly because of a few bumps to the head that occurred during military service.
  • Haven: "Troubles" usually emerge after traumatic events.

     Tabletop Games 
  • In the lore of Magic: The Gathering, one in every million sentient beings in the Multiverse is born with a "Spark", or the potential to become a Planeswalker. Igniting that Spark and actually becoming a Planeswalker is sometimes the result of an epiphany after years of meditation and preparation, but is more likely to occur as the result of physical, emotional, or psychic trauma.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Gaiden Game Dark Heresy, this is the result of choosing the "Nascent Psyker" background package. The player has psychic powers building up, locked away in the back of their brain, waiting to spill out in an uncontrolled fashion in a moment of high stress. Given that this is 40k, this tends to be a Bad Thing.

     Video Games 
  • Psycho Mantis of Metal Gear Solid had his powers fully awaken after he accidentally read his father's mind and learned just what he thought of the young Mantis (his father hated him, blaming him for his mother dying while giving birth to him), bringing Mantis to believe his father was going to kill him. He doesn't remember much of what happened after that mind-reading, but whatever happened resulted in the destruction of his entire village.
  • Ryu in Breath of Fire IV gains the ability to transform into a dragon early on in the game, but for the first half of the game he only has access to his weakest form, Aura. He unlocks several more shapeshifting powers, including a breath attack for Aura and a much more powerful Kaiser transformation, during a scene which involves Captain Rasso massacring a village of innocents and being forced into a Seemingly Hopeless Boss Fight with a monster that beats him and his friends to within an inch of their lives.
  • Rydia in Final Fantasy IV is an inversion; she has an innate talent for magic, but the trauma of watching her village being burned to the ground makes it difficult for her to use fire spells.
  • In the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series, there are usually two ways to awakening to one's Persona: either naturally or unnaturally. Naturally obtaining your Persona involves accepting your Shadow Archetype as part of you, which only a handful of humans ever did (i.e. pretty much the entire Persona 4 cast and Futaba Sakura from Persona 5), with all other Awakenings being unnatural. A Persona is awakened whenever the person in question experiences an extreme physical, mental or emotional reaction, which happened in Persona and Persona 2. In Persona 3, a Persona is summoned via an Evoker, an item that's designed to invoke a fear of death to temporarily summon your Persona, while in Persona 5, the heroes barring Futaba Sakura each awaken to their Persona after experiencing an extreme emotional reaction, a Call-Back to the earlier Persona games.
  • Lang in Legaia II: Duel Saga only awakens his origin, Galea, after being beaten to the point of near-death by a monster living at the top of Mt. Gabel
  • In Dragon Age: Origins it seems mages can awaken their power if they are faced with strong emotions. For example, Wynne set one of her bullies on fire.
  • Kevin from Seiken Densetsu 3 unlocks the ability to shapeshift into a werewolf when he's attacked by his pet wolf cub, Karl, and he's forced to kill him in self-defence.
  • In Devil May Cry 3, Dante unlocks the Devil Trigger ability after losing a fight with his brother Vergil, who then steals the amulet that Dante keeps as an heirloom of their dead mother and impales Dante on his own sword.
    • Devil May Cry 4's Nero has two such awakenings. Nero's first awakening happened when a demon attack had Kyrie in grave danger, and resulted in awakening his Devil Bringer hand. The other awakening happens in game, when Nero is very nearly killed by Agnus and his Angelo and Gladius demons, resulting in the resurrection of Yamato and the unlocking of Nero's own Devil Trigger, a Fighting Spirit that is very reminiscent of Vergil.
  • Imu from Senran Kagura in the Hebijo story mode of Shinovi Versus only manages to activate her Root of Calamity when she sees her sister take a bullet for her, getting beat up by the culprit and realising that the culprit is going after her best friend Miyabi next.
  • In Undertale, you trigger one on the Genocide Route. When you split Undyne in half with a single strike, she gains enough determination to protect her friends that she transforms into Undyne the Undying.
  • Life is Strange: Max's ability to rewind time is triggered when she sees her best friend Chloe (although she doesn't know who it is at the time) get shot. In Episode 2, she manages to freeze time entirely for several minutes in response to seeing Kate jump off the dormitory roof.
  • inFAMOUS: Second Son Eugene does this to ward off some bullies in high school after one of them pushes it too far and knocks his laptop out of his hands.
  • Fire Emblem Fates:
    • The death of the Avatar's mother in a Heroic Sacrifice causes the Avatar enough anguish to transform into a dragon and stays like this until the end of the chapter, when their best friend Azura manages to get to them at great risk to herself.
    • In the Avatar's child Kana's Paralogue, Kana (barely a pre-teen) is so terrified when his/her living place is invaded that s/he also transforms into a dragon. S/he doesn't recover until the end of the chapter either and cannot remember what happened, so s/he is shocked when the Avatar explains what took place.
    • In the Heirs of Fates DLC stage, a male Kana also transforms into a dragon after not only is his home completely destroyed, but his family is murdered and he and other children are thrown in a sort-of Deadly Game. Again, he remains a Dragon for the whole chapter and cannot recall anything when he recovers.
  • BlazBlue has this with Ragna. Terumi locked his Azure Grimoire from activating, and it was mostly a one sided fight for Terumi. Just as he was about to finish Ragna off, Lambda/Nu jumped in the way and took the blow. She then gives her powers to Ragna, resulting in him getting the "Idea Engine" merging with his Azure Grimoire which makes it's powers closer to complete. He then proceeds to wipe the floor with Terumi.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Princess Zelda's powers awaken for the first time after Calamity Ganon's return, which killed her father and the Champions and destroyed the entire kingdom and when Link was at death's door and was about to be killed right in front of her by a Guardian.

  • In El Goonish Shive this is known as an Angst-Induced Awakening, or, less seriously, an angst-splosion.
  • In Girl Genius this is typically how Sparks awaken. Most Sparks end up killed by their own breakthrough devices or burned on stake as witches by angry mob. Many simply go mad and destroy everything in their nearest vicinity. It's also suggested that a breakthrough can be triggered by stong emotions, like being upset over death of a loved one. Gil notes that Agatha’s breakthrough was very peaceful compared to other Sparks.
  • Becka in Shadowgirls.
  • In FreakAngels it turns out that "near-death" experiences amplify the Freak Angels' powers and unlock new ones. For example, Arkady is capable of teleporting because of that drug overdose in her teens. Turns out that actually dying will do the trick as well, and this may in fact have been what happened to Arkady. It definitely happens to three other main characters before it occurs to them to try and find a less traumatic method.
  • In The Order of the Stick Prequel, Start of Darkness, Xykon's talent for sorcery first manifests itself when, as a four-year-old child, he finds the corpse of his dog, Barky. His grief causes him to accidentally cast an animate dead spell, which resurrects Barky as a zombie, much to his delight.
  • Narbonic: Mad Scientists tend to awaken to their full potential due to a variety of factors. Danger is a big one, as is the laughter of fools (typically "those fools at the Institute"), but almost anything can be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Helen herself snapped at an Italian bistro and caused more destruction than two other examples who snapped in a college chemistry lab and a hospital. ("That was simply a killer pesto, wasn't it Narbon?")
    Helen: Many mad scientists also credit Mom for their awakening.
    Dave: Mommy issues are that common?
    Helen: No, my Mom, specifically. She gets around.
  • In Autumn Bay, as part of his awakening to magic, Ghoul catches a glimpse of everything (due to a sorcerer's natural connection to the Akashic Records). This traps him on his own memories and puts him in a short coma.

     Web Original 
  • This is the case in Brennus, mixed with Puberty Superpower. Manifestation is in response to a traumatic event, and often manifestation itself is just as if not more traumatic than the triggering event.
    • Interestingly enough, the Brennus Files article on the subject noted that, while exceptionally rare, an overwhelmingly positive experience can cause a Manifestation just as easily as a negative one. One of the most powerful Metahumans, Elysium, manifested while dancing with the love of her life.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged uses the aforementioned examples from its source material for Goku, Future Gohan and Future Trunks, but throws in some twists for others:
    • Gohan's first transformation into a Super Saiyan occurs while he's training with his father, and Goku exploits Gohan's inability to dodge by firing an attack directly at him. Realizing he's all alone and no one will save him leads to Gohan transforming out of desperation to deflect the blast.
    • Played for laughs in Episode of Bardock Abridged. It's not a Heroic Sacrifice that triggers Bardock going Super Saiyan, but the realization that his story's plot involves Time Travel.
      Bardock: Of all the STUPID! (wham!) ASININE!! (wham!) Shark-jumping BULLSHIT!!!
  • Void Domain: After Eva loses her eyes, she gains an alternate method of sight.
  • RWBY:
    • Ruby's silver eyes are hinted to be special when Headmaster Ozpin remarks upon them before accepting her to Beacon Academy. In the Volume 3 finale, Ruby witnesses her friend Pyrrha being murdered by Cinder, resulting in a blast of silver power from Ruby's eyes that absolutely no one was expecting, and left Ruby unconscious for days. Afterward it's revealed that this sort of extremely rare eye color is associated with incredibly powerful warriors, and Ruby's outburst not only managed to freeze a Grimm Dragon in place for months, but also left Cinder badly scarred and at least partially crippled.
    • Volume 4 reveals that Lie Ren first used his Semblance, the ability to calm the negative emotions that attract Grimm, during a panic attack while Grimm were destroying his hometown. This allowed Ren to hide himself and a young Nora even while Ren's family was killed.
    • Played for laughs when Taiyang mentions that his daughter Yang's Semblance was discovered when they first tried to give her a haircut.
  • Worm: Everyone who has powers and didn't get their powers from Cauldron. Part of the reason why more capes manifest in bad parts of the world.

     Western Animation 
  • Parodied on South Park, when Cartman wakes up from coma due to a head injury, he fakes psychic powers in "Cartman's Incredible Gift".
    • Played with at the end of the episode. Kyle tries to convince the police that Cartman's psychic predictions are inaccurate, but the police refuse to listen to him, so Kyle gives himself a similar head injury, then after waking up in the hospital, pretends to have psychic powers now so the police will listen to what he's figured out with actual detective work. Afterward, Kyle can't convince the police he was faking it, then gets fed up with all the other fake psychics in the room and screams for them to stop... causing a light bulb to explode.
  • A fairly mild example occurs in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Young Twilight Sparkle has to take an entrance examination to get into the School for Gifted Unicorns. She repeatedly fails the magic test which has been set up for her, leading her to become increasingly nervous, tense, and embarrassed. Then a large explosion occurs in the distance. Getting startled by the sudden noise when she is already strung tight as a wire triggers an enormous burst of random magic to burst from her horn.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Aang is forced into the Avatar State when he is either in mortal danger or experiencing emotional trauma. A major focus of the story is him learning to control that power and to only use it when he wants to.
    • In Legend of Korra Korra only manages to unlock her airbending after being captured and de-bended by Amon.
  • Downplayed in Young Justice, when a now-adult Black Canary mentions that her first Canary Cry nearly deafened her entire first-grade class. She spent a period after that trying to never talk again.