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In many series, something or someone is first introduced as special
- new, awe-inspiring, mysterious, utterly unique, unparalleled, or some combination of those things. Sometimes, either later in the series or in related works in shared universes, that specialness seems to fade without much explanation or get outright retconned away
. The unique example becomes just one of many, the mystery somehow gets thoroughly documented, the new arrival turns out to have a long history in the area, the unparalleled turns out to be a footnote, and the awe becomes...ehn
This is a form of Continuity Drift
, perhaps sometimes due to They Just Didn't Care
or careless research on Long Runners
. But Tropes Are Not Bad
, it can be justified if enough time passes and the once unique aspect is spread due to analysis/teaching/reverse engineering. In a way it adds fuel to the fandom who like making their own Sailor Earth
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Anime and Manga
- The titular magical orbs of Dragon Ball start out as the awesome Holy Grail of all mystical artifacts and an arc-long quest. By Dragon Ball Z, the cast usually collects them all over the course of a single episode when they need to. Dragon Ball GT actually had consequences for this in the last arc.
- In the first season of Code Geass the Hadron Cannon was an experimental weapon capable of destroying a small army, and only the Knightmare Frame Gawain had it; at the same time, it was one of only three Knightmares with the ability to fly. By the second season there had been a one year Time Skip, however, and suddenly a bunch of Knightmares had Hadron Cannons equipped, and by the end there were barely any Knightmares that couldn't fly.
- Takes a turn for the bizarre in the finale, when one of the Knightmares flying around is clearly a Portman (a dedicated Knightmare submarine).
- Stands in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure started as the psychic manifestation of a very strong willed person, but when the Bow and Arrow are introduced, everyone and their mother, no matter how pitiful a person, could have one, though people without sufficient mental strength would die from this method, still keeping it limited how many that could actually use it.
- Gurren Lagann: You stole a giant robot, making you the most dangerous humans on the planet? Good idea; now we've all done the same in imitation! What, now you've learned to combine them and wield superhuman power? We'll all start doing that too!
- In Digimon Adventure, the 8 Chosen Children were the only people with Digivices and Digimon partners. It appears now that, in Digimon Adventure 02, there are hundreds, or maybe thousands of chosen children all over the world, each with a Digivice and a Digimon partner. Of course, in the end, everyone in the world has a Digimon partner.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the show starts with only five* GN Drives in the whole world; later on, three new Gundams pop-up with imperfect Drives, and later still each of the three global superpowers is handed 10 such Drives. After a four-year Time Skip, The Federation is mass-producing the imperfect Drives, while the heroes still have the five they started with and any support machines have to piggy-back off of them by using particle storage tanks. At the end of The Movie, we see that 50 years later, mankind will be able to produce the true GN Drives.
- Bankai in Bleach. Initially it's described as an incredible power that barely pops up once a generation even among the Shinigami nobility. It doesn't take long for it to become considerably less powerful and somewhat more common.
- Superman was supposed to be the last of his kind, and kryptonite, the radioactive fragments of a planet that blew up lightyears away that didn't burn up in our atmosphere, was a rare commodity almost nobody had heard of. Throughout the Silver Age, a veritable rainbow of different sorts of kryptonite showed up, as did first Supergirl, then other survivors of Krypton. After the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, Superman was once again the last Kryptonian and kryptonite one troublesome and very rare material. ...And then, after a few years, the other Kryptonians started showing up again, along with the wacky varieties of kryptonite.
- Matt Murdock's radar sense was original a super power, the freak result of the accident that blinded him. Later, Frank Miller introduced a mentor character and revealed that anyone could learn to "see" without their eyes the way that Matt does.
- In the original run, the Green Lantern Ring was a big deal. Just having it made an Earthling one of the most powerful beings in-continuity. Then Continuity Drift happened, and there were hundreds of Green Lanterns, and calling the human who had one "The Green Lantern" seemed rather silly. Then, there were several humans who had one, at the same time, in direct conflict with the established distribution method. Then we found out that there were other Lantern Corps of various colors. Slowly, the Green Lantern Ring was necessary to be even marginally effective in related conflicts, and some characters who have them still can't hold their own.
- Iron Man 2 averts this. At Tony Stark's tribunal, video clips are shown of hostile competitors attempting to develop their own power suits. They fail hilariously.
- In the same film, Justin Hammer commissions a few hundred of these from Ivan Vanko to sell to the military, and they work great, at least until Vanko hijacks them and starts to blow stuff up. Even so, Vanko is the only one capable of replicating Tony's work (because Vanko's father helped Tony's build the arc reactor.)
- Star Wars:
- The rancor beast from Return of the Jedi was originally described in the novelization as a mysterious, possibly mutated creature: "The size of an elephant, it was somehow reptilian, somehow as unformed as a nightmare. Its huge screeching mouth was asymmetrical in its head, its fangs and claws set all out of proportion. It was clearly a mutant, and wild as all unreason." Nevertheless, due to rancors being awesome, they quickly proliferated through the Expanded Universe. Later the novel 1994 novel The Courtship of Princess Leia introduced the previously undiscovered planet of Dathomir, to which the rancors are native. Dathomir itself then propagated in the EU, to the point that the 2004 novel Ruins of Dantooine included Dathomirian beasts, a common biologist with detailed knowledge of Dathomir's ecosystem, and other characters who'd apparently been to the planet ... 8 in-universe years before the planet became known beyond a small circle of individuals.
- Grand Admiral Thrawn was initially presented as a member of an unknown species, established after 8 years OOU and 10 IU timeline years as the heretofore reclusive Chiss species from the Unknown Regions. After this, of course, Chiss proliferated in the EU, most recently and egregiously in the novel Darth Bane: Path of Destruction a full 1000 years before the species was supposed to have been known to the galaxy at large.
- The most recent and even more egregious example now is The Old Republic, where The Chiss are now running around over 3,500 years before they're officially supposed to be known. Both this and the previous example can be brushed off by them not being hugely known and keeping largely out of the popular mind, and the galaxy being kinda large, but the trope is still there.
- Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda were intended to be the last surviving Jedi from the old Jedi Order, period. Of course, it didn't take long for the Expanded Universe authors to start creating their own survivors who went into hiding or were mysteriously overlooked. Not to mention the hundreds of Sith all over the place.
- Throughout the third Harry Potter book, Harry is told the difficulty of performing the Patronus Charm and it is implied only powerful/very skilled wizards can use the advanced spirit animal form. Yet many characters are shown with them, and by the end of the fifth book Harry has taught it to a bunch of his classmates.
- In The Wheel of Time, Rand is the only character on the side of good who can Travel (create gateways to travel to other places instantly) during the fifth book. After he explains it to Egwene in the sixth book, she discovers the female version and teaches the Aes Sedai at Salidar. He also shows it to Mazrim Taim, who teaches the weave to the Asha'man.
Live Action TV
- The Borg's first appearance was on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a mysterious, frighteningly advanced and implacable species from beyond known space. Then Voyager's premise is to travel through said quadrant to return home, frequently defeating them and even allowing an individualised one onto the USS Voyager's ranks.
- In the early years of Doctor Who, we knew almost nothing about his people - it was six years before we learned the name "Time Lords". From the Tom Baker serial The Deadly Assassin onwards, we began to learn more and actually visited Gallifrey. Over the next decade or so, more stories featuring the corrupt, self-interested and machiavellian Time Lords were made, to the point where many fans complained that too much was being explained and the mystery had gone. One of the objectives of the so-called "Cartmell Master-plan" was to Retcon some of this and reintroduce the mysterynote .
- The new series managed to bring this back a bit, by having them all supposedly killed off. This means that for modern fans, any slight suggestion that there might be another one out there is incredibly exciting.
- Supernatural used this with the introduction of the Devil's Trap at the end of Season One. Apparently Sam and Dean, two of the most experienced hunters out there, not to mention their father, didn't know about a magic chalk circle which could trap demons. As soon as Bobby uses it, suddenly everyone with even basic awareness of demons can make one, and it starts appearing everywhere as a primary security measure.
- This also happened with demon-killing weapons. In the first couple seasons, the only thing known to be able to kill a demon was an enchanted Colt Revolver made by Samuel Colt under very special circumstances (it's mentioned that, among other things, it was crafted during the battle of the Alamo, and while Halley's Comet was overhead). It had only 13 bullets, 8 of which had already been used by the time the heroes got their hands on it, and once all the bullets were used the gun would be worthless. However, in season 3 the heroes figured out a way to make new bullets for the Colt, and also came into possession of a demon-killing knife. Then season 4 introduced angels, who can kill most demons just by touching them, as well as allowing Sam to kill them with his Psychic Powers. By season 8, it had been revealed the blades carried by angels could also kill demons, even when wielded by non-angelic beings. Cue just about every major character obtaining an angel blade offscreen.
- The Stargate is a wondrous piece of technology on which the fate of humanity rests when it is first found, only to become increasingly trivial as time goes on; by the end of SG-1, Earth has had at least 3 stargates.
- Stargate is full of this trope. Amazing and unique devices that wowed and shocked us three episodes ago are now commonplace. One of a kind cloaking devices? Now comes standard on every model. Fast hyperspace travel? Every little podunk space ship has got one. The list could go on. This is mostly justified in universe as Humans Are Special, or more specifically, the Tau'ri are special and every other culture is static, and that the whole point of the SG teams going out into the universe is to acquire tech, which, sort of somehow ends up in the hands of everyone... This is good in the sense that Earth develops technologically over time, becoming something of a superpower, thereby avoiding the Reset Button plaguing many science fiction universes. On the other hand, it leads to massive power creep.
- Stargate Universe has its own little odd twist: the Icarus base required the power of a planet with a ultra-super rare one of a kind naquadria core. They've found at least 2 more compatible planets already.
- Ra was introduced in the movie as the Last of His Kind. Stargate SG-1 put the lie to this in the first episode.
- Early on in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, there was only one thing that could kill a god; the blood of the Golden Hind. By the time both series ended, there seemed to be a new way to kill a god every week.
- One of them was an axe to the back thrown by a mortal woman.
- In Volume 3 of Heroes, there was a Bad Future where a Super Serum had been industrialized and everyone has superpowers... even the terrorists
- Technical abilities displayed by musicians have gotten increasingly advanced in recent years, making formerly advanced musicians less impressive by comparison. The technical skills of Jimi Hendrix are within the expected reach of intermediate-advanced guitarists compared to modern guitarists like Tosin Abasi or Muhammed Suicmez. Similarly, previously high-speed drummers from a few decades ago are dwarfed by modern players, with extreme metal drummers like George Kolias or Jon Rice frequently utilizing eighths and sixteenths in excess of 240bpm.
- In Greek Mythology, Zeus tried to prevent this by keeping the secret of fire exclusive to the gods. Prometheus stole it and spread the gift of fire to the entire human race.
- High-level magic in most Tabletop RPGs could qualify. By the time your D&D character learns Power Word Kill, (s)he's already fighting enemies who are powerful enough to know it too.
- Every high-level Magic: The Gathering constructed tournament has approximately three decks (anything else is generally looked upon as a "rogue" deck):
- The deck with the super-powerful card of the moment;
- The deck designed to combat the super-powerful card of the moment; and
- the deck designed to beat that deck, banking on the numbers game to try and avoid deck 1.
- Almost always, said super-powerful card of the moment will be a four of in all the decks that have it, despite costing a lot of money to procure one of them (either ripping open packs, or buying them on the secondary market).
- This appears frequently BIONICLE, often overlapping heavily with the Doing in the Wizard tendencies it develops near the storyline's end. Almost every detail has to have a subversive explanation behind it. As the writer described to the fans, tease all the plot threads you want, but you have to deliver the explanations sometime.
- The original six Toa were introduced as borderline-mythical, ultra-powerful warriors. The Toa. When the Seventh Toa appeared, it was some truly major thing that heavily affected the plot. Then came the revelation at the beginning of the Metru Nui saga: "You are not the first Toa!" During that arc, one scene had a total of 300 Toa appearing at once. Since then, Toa have became as "standard" as the Jedi in their respective universe, and the original six had to be re-branded as Toa Mata.
- Likewise, the Makuta, nowadays known as Teridax. The most mysterious and powerful, nearly untouchable evil might, the Master of Shadows and the ultimate foe the Toa have to face. Subversion: no, he's just one of the original 100 Makuta. Double Subversion: Makuta in general and Teridax in specific is still a tough bastard to beat, and what he lost in novelty, he makes up for with his schemes. But Makuta, as a species, are nothing special now.
- Silver colored pieces. To a lesser degree, also gold. When the Toa upgraded into Toa Nuva, they received silver armor and weapons to reflect that they're "more" than mere Toa. The Bohrok-Kal came along, sporting silver as their secondary color to showcase their eliteness compared to regular Bohrok. After these, silver parts became a standard for absolutely every character, and colored weapons became such a rarity in fact, that when the 2009 first wave sets re-introduced element-specific colorings, there was much happiness... that lasted 'till the second wave, which went back to giving silver weapons to about half its sets.
Gold went through an easier course. While beginning from 2004, many sets had it as their secondary or tertiary color, there were always figures (often special edition ones) that gave it some uniqueness. And in 2010, a former gold-wearing character had to be recolored silver just to make that year's "Golden Bionicle" promotion all the more special. But this didn't make all the other, non-special golden characters nonexistent.
- The Chaos emeralds from Sonic the Hedgehog are an inversion. Their original purpose was just to unlock the Good ending, but from the second game onwards became Plot Coupons that unlocked the titular character's Super Mode.
- In Pokémon games, each generation is released with new legendary Pokemon, which are meant to be one-of-a-kind and incredibly rare. At last count, there are 48 of them, with fourteen of them being released in Gen IV alone.
- This will also lead to a meta-example: Every single player knows where every legendary is, knows it's a Game Breaker, and (ab)uses it. So it's entirely possible to have a four-player Mewtwo and Mewtwo vs. Mewtwo and Mewtwo match.
- Kingdom Hearts introduced the Key Blade, a weapon that can open or close the heart of worlds, can't be stolen from the wielder, and can appear from Hammer Space. Only The Chosen One can wield it, but it turns out there were two chosen ones, and Riku giving into the darkness became a major dilemma since Sora had to fight his better and opposite. Then it turns out King Mickey is also a chosen one. Also Kairi. By the time of Birth By Sleep, it turns out there was a whole slew of them, at once!
- For the first two Metroid Prime games, phazon is a rare and mysterious substance, and the space pirates go to great lengths to secure sources of it; but in Corruption, phazon is everywhere. It's reasonably justified in many cases in that phazon has been weaponized and thus heavily adopted by both the space pirates and the Galactic Federation as part of the interstellar arms race, and that phazon is found in the environments because the pirates are deliberately trying to spread it everywhere and it's pretty good at spreading itself anyway. However, it stretches disbelief a bit that every other random indigenous alien space monster now runs on phazon (according to the scan data), when they've only been exposed to it for a few weeks.
- The night elves of World of Warcraft. In their introduction in Warcraft III they were ancient, immortal protectors of the world that had existed for 16,000 years at the bare minimum. As of Mists of Pandaria, it's easier to list the races that aren't at least as old as the night elves, with even the formerly-described "young race" of the humans revealed to have existed for 15,000 years, and the draenei have for a whopping twenty-five thousand. The elves were also close allies of the dragons, but since Wrath of the Lich King the dragons have been popping up helping people everywhere.
- Harry Potter might as well not appear in the Free Play part of "Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7":
In Years 1-4, he had four rare or unique abilities: Expecto Patronem, perfect broomstick control, Invisibility Cloak, and Parseltongue. The first was an essential combat spell in some stages, and all four were used in a lot of puzzles.
By the time Free Play is worth attempting in Years 5-7, any magical can use a broomstick perfectly*, a lot of magicals have Expecto Patronem, and cauldrons with Invisibility Potion litter the place*. Ron and Hermione have been gifted with one truly unique ability each, which are used in practically every stage, and* Ron now has the ability to crack any Parseltongue code, not just the one required by the plot. Harry just takes up space in your roster.
- Justified in Schlock Mercenary with the teraport. Kevyn invents the technology and before too long everyone has it... because they spammed half the galaxy with the specs to prevent the idea being suppressed. Also unusual in that the consequences of the sudden proliferation of this new technology are also explored.
- Zigzagged in Darths and Droids with lightsabers, which everyone refers to as "laser swords". At first they're assumed to be some cheap, low-level trash that the protagonists apparently bought in a bar. Then Jim gets the idea to use them to deflect blaster attacks, which allows him and Ben to curbstomp a squad of droids they were supposed to have no chance against. This trope then gets inverted when it's said that only Jedi carry lightsabers, only to be played straight later when Darth Maul, a simple private detective in this universe is shown to be carrying one as well with no explanation.
- In The Legend Of Korra, the rare and unique Elemental Powers or abilities of Avatar The Last Airbender have become commonplace. Lightningbending, which was emphasized as being dangerous and masterable by only a select few, is so common people who need low-paying second jobs can do it to run a power plant. Similarly, metalbending (previously exclusive to the original series' Toph) has an entire police squad of practitioners (though this is not an example of Continuity Drift, as all known metalbenders were either trained by Toph or by someone trained by Toph). Finally, the Equalists use Ty Lee's Pressure Point-based chi-blocking techniques to fight against benders. Tarrlok, his brother Amon, and their father Yakone are even revealed to be bloodbenders, powerful enough to use bloodbending without a full moon.
- A popular saying runs, "God made man, but Sam Colt made men equal." Prior to the revolver, handguns were expensive, inefficient, and inaccurate, but Colt managed to develop the relatively inexpensive revolver. The result was personal firearms becoming much more common.
- Nuclear armaments fit into this. During WWII, only a few countries were trying to split the atom. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the capability of nuclear weaponry became realized, more and more nations scrambled to get their own nukes ready. Now, there are five nations that openly are accepted to have nuclear weapons*, three nations that not-so-secretly have them*, two more that are making strides to get them* and one that might have been attempting to start a weapons program in the recent past*. And all that's not even getting into the dozens of nations that theoretically could get them at any time if they were willing to put up with the international pressure that would be put on them and the various nations that did have nuclear weapons or a weapons program at some point in the past. Combine that with the constantly decreasing difficulty of building more powerful missiles means that more than a few could have weapons capable of vaporizing cities and those weapons could be fired at targets thousands of kilometers away. Unsurprisingly this means that a lot of nations get very uneasy whenever two or more nuclear-armed nations get into a standoff.
- Really this applies to nearly any technology that people want. Computers, weapons, cars, cell phones... as the cost of making something decreases and the knowledge of the makers increase every technology eventually will lose its rare availability.
- The color purple. Once used as a color for royalty, now a color for just about everyone thanks to cheaper synthetic dyes.