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"The difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a little longer."
The character hasn't just beaten the odds once. He's survived several Suicide Missions
. The Uriah Gambit
failed. He won the Last Stand
. In short, the hero has repeatedly accomplished so-called Impossible Tasks
. And his superiors or the world at large have taken notice... and unfortunately for the poor hero, he or she is now the go-to person
for missions that are thought impossible for anyone else.
Characters like this can get this reputation a number of ways.
- Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: The hero or heroes survive their superiors trying to kill them so many times deliberately in less important missions that when a crucial task that seems impossible actually does come up, they are the go-to group.
- The character really is that badass. They've overcome so many situations that others would have died in that they have accidentally built up a reputation for surviving anything. Nothing deliberate on the superiors part, but the odds came up and they beat them.
- Training from Hell: The characters might not have actually beaten anything yet, but they were put through training that by all rights shouldn't be too much easier than the supposed impossible mission.
- It's entirely undeserved or grossly blown out of proportion. Rumor and exaggeration may turn a simple feat into an epic accomplishment, or make them up wholecloth. This may or may not be because The Powers That Be enjoy seeing the character win and/or suffer.
One possible deconstruction of this trope is that the Big Good
, Big Bad
, or some other powerful or manipulative
figure has been arranging things such that the characters always succeed, or at least have even odds. Once this aid is exposed, they have to face real
Subtrope is Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder
. One of the reasons It's Up To
the Player Character
, One-Man Army
, and One Riot, One Ranger
. In Video Games
, Save Scumming
probably helps. Compare Impossible Thief
, who does (usually even more blatantly) impossible things in a different context.
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Anime and Manga
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann gives us Kamina and his motto: "Go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb!" That's not a metaphor. He advocates doing things that are flat out impossible. The trick: in a universe that runs on Hot-Blooded-ness, it works. It is contagious, as Simon and the whole team Dai-Gurren demonstrate, thus getting categorized as this kind of badass.
- This is essentially the overall main plot of Irresponsible Captain Tylor, both the titular character and the crew of the Soyokaze are either Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder or just that badass, or some combination of both (the series doesn't make it clear which).
- From Legend of Galactic Heroes, Yang Wen-Li: nicknamed "The Magician" for his ability to emerge victorious against ridiculous odds: the first time he captured Iselhorn fortress, it was in fact a Suicide Mission given by superiors who wanted to get rid of him: he emerged successful from said suicide mission with insulting ease. Eventually he gets so good at winning against impossible odds or getting draws out of otherwise unsalvagable situations that his entire national government ends up nearly begging him in one particular situation to solve yet another crisis for the Republic.
- Code Geass has two versions of this.
- First we have Zero, who takes a rag tag group of terrorists and reforms them into a military organization to fight The Britannian Empire, which rules over 1/3 of world.
- Second we have Colonel Kyoshiro Tohdoh (known as Tohdoh The Miracle Worker). He fought for Japan when Britannia invaded, and was the only person to win a battle against Britannia's Knightmare Frames, which became known as the Miracle of Itsukushima. People revere him for this despite the fact that he's not as good as people say. He even admits this. When he's put in charge of a battle in season one, he gets everyone captured.
- Shirou Emiya in Fate/stay night survives battles against Servants where other Servants have failed. This is due to his training from hell since it's revealed that his magical self-training is physically demanding to the point of life-threatening, and has conditioned him to be more powerful and durable than Rin's more traditional study.
- His father, Kiritsugu Emiya, in Fate/Zero is hired for his reputation as an effective assassin against even the most powerful mages, mostly for fighting dirty.
- Vash the Stampede is, despite refusing to kill, is just that badass.
- Mu La Flaga in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED uses "I am a man who can make the impossible possible," as his Catch Phrase. He lives up to it with a combination of Ace Pilot skill, ingenuity, a healthy dose of common sense born of previous experience, and a bit of pure luck, to the point that in the penultimate episode he blocks an antimatter cannon with his Humongous Mecha and succeeds in shielding the ship behind him even though by all rights the positron beam should have gone right through his mobile suit and taken the ship out anyhow. And then the sequel reveals that he lived through it.
- Issei Hyodou, the protagonist of High School D×D, can be considered as this. Seriously, who can pull off crashing an engagement party and declare that Rias' virginity belongs to him, take his rival's power and infuse it with him even though said rival's power is the total opposite of his, and summon the freaking god of breasts that makes even gods from other mythologies go "wtf".
- Damage Control does this for construction.
The City of New York tried to fix the George Washington bridge for 7 months. Then they called us.
We fixed it in one day. Before lunch.
- A heroic version, this basically sums up The Wreckers from the Transformers mythos. They tend to get called in when the job is incredibly dangerous and the chance of death is high.
Lost cause? Of course it's a lost cause! That's why we're here.
- Reed Richards invoked this trope in the Fantastic Four arc "True Story":
"In order to deal with this phenomenon I will have to literally create an entirely new field of scientific study. Give me forty-eight hours."
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a subversion. He's got a rep for being the great and powerful wizard who can solve any problem, but he's really a fake.
- Rogue Squadron of the X-Wing Series, and its commander Wedge Antilles in particular. One of the Rogues' mottoes is "Impossible is our stock in trade, and success is what we deliver." No matter how many Rogues die in combat, Wedge always survives, and the squadron always rebuilds.
- Ciaphas Cain's stock-in-trade, much to his annoyance. A mixture of types 4 and 2, odd as that is. He typically gets sent in to do something "merely" difficult, tries to take the easy way out, finds out things are much worse than they seem, and ends up doing the impossible anyway, only further enhancing his reputation.
- Just one example: In Death or Glory, he's shot down onto a strange planet in the middle of a continent controlled by Orkish invaders. His plan: get the frak out of there as soon as possible. The result: becoming a rallying point for a growing army of survivors, destroying thousands of Orks, and personally dueling the Ork Warboss to (the Ork's) death, effecting the liberation of the planet almost personally.
- Vorkosigan Saga: The Vorkosigan Family. As Cordelia remarks; "The difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a little longer."
- James Bond. Even more so in the films.
- Some Discworld characters. Lu Tze is just that badass as well as a fake ultimate hero simultaneously. Granny Weatherwax is a total badass.
- Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Lan, Thom Merril, even Jain Farstrider from Wheel of Time have this quality and Lan, Mat and Perrin have all unwittingly received followers for it. Granted, Mat IS that lucky and Perrin can talk with wolves, but hey...
- Near the end of The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya and Fezzik face a seemingly impossible task and feel lost without Vizzini, who was the brain of the outfit. They decide that the one they need to help them is the Man in Black — because he already climbed the Cliffs of Insanity without a rope, and beat the world's greatest fencer Inigo in a swordfight, the world's strongest giant Fezzik in wrestling and the, uh, kind of smart Vizzini in a game of wits.
- At one point the Man in Black deems a task impossible, until they had a wheelbarrow and Holocaust cloak, and then suddenly he has a plan that works perfectly with only these two items.
- The Brave Little Tailor, in The Brothers Grimm story, is a fake ultimate hero. Having killed seven flies, he embroiders a belt with the Badass Boast "Seven In One Blow" and then has to use his wits to fulfill challenges from people who think it was seven men.
- Gaunt's Ghosts would fall under the first category.
- David Gunn's Sven goes from living with barbarian aliens that wiped out his command to killing armies across the galaxy.
- The Starfleet Corps of Engineers have rebooted ancient computers, solved planetary plagues, explored starships that can crash-dive into suns, made planets disappear, installed and booted up a warp core while being crushed inside a gas giant, and built devices that can alter the laws of probability. In fact their motto is practically "If we can't do it, it can't be done."
Live Action TV
- Savoyard march song Gironfla, where the King of Savoy musters himself an army of 80 halberd-armed peasants, 4 cast iron guns and baggage train of 20 donkeys, puts a twenty-year old Ensign Newbie Cristopho de Carignan to lead it - and wins the French army sent against it. The song is based on Real Life historical events.
- The Fellowship of The Questport Chronicles. Especially after Year Four, when they accomplish a task that is explicitly stated to be impossible.
- Mickey Mouse in "Brave Little Tailor" whose boast that he "killed seven [flies] in one blow!" was taken out of context and he was tasked with taking out a nearby problem giant.
- Kim Possible. "I can do anything" is her tagline. She's even got a song about it.
- Lampshaded in a flashback from The Movie "A Sitch In Time"
Kim: Okay, type in "KimPossible.com."
Ron: Loading... Loading... "Kim Possible. She can do anything." Yeah, you know, it sounds a little braggy.
Kim: It's like a commercial, Ron. It's supposed to be braggy.
- Heck, her name alludes to this ability, which comes up as a semi-regular Phrase Catcher; Sometimes she'll do something remarkable or say she's planning to do so, and another character will say "It's impossible!". Ron's responds "Check the name." (About the only time the punny names are noticed in-universe.)
- Phineas and Ferb, to the point that they just sort of assume it.
- In one episode of Rocket Power, Sam's skateboard simulation computer program stumbles upon a move that it has deemed physically impossible. Otto doesn't believe it, so he tries to pull it off and at one point does...with a little assistance from a tennis ball shot out of the Stimpletons' lawn mower.