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Adaptational Badass

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Guess the people behind Namco × Capcom didn't dig the original.

"I'm not really into this fighting stuff unless it's in a courtroom. ...Oh, and with words!"
Phoenix Wright, playable fighter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 note 

There are characters in the media who are known, simply put, for being less-than-dangerous. They might simply be the last competent fighter. They might be a Non-Action Guy or a Damsel in Distress. Worst case scenario, they're The Load. When danger rears its head, the character generally beats feet and lets their tougher friends deal with the problem.

But then, when the work is being adapted or rebooted, the character is made a bona fide badass. The reasons for this are myriad. In some cases (especially video games) this is the result of someone who's a non-combatant in their own series appearing in a setting where fighting skill of some kind is required, overlapping with Power Creep, Power Seep. These types of characters are the kind most likely to use tropes such as I Know Madden Kombat, Martial Arts and Crafts, and Fighting Clown.


Another possibility is that characters who were reasonably competent and skilled in their original incarnations had their capabilities and accomplishments elevated in their next depiction, sometimes to an Invincible Hero or Invincible Villain level. This is related to the Big Budget Beef-Up or Serial Escalation, the character is changed to match the intensity of the action.

In some genres, particularly Anime, the use of Filler story arcs or Non-Serial Movies can help in building up characters in a television or cinematic format that they didn't get in the source material. Both major and minor characters whose abilities were varying degrees of being relatively good, okay, or just plain subpar can receive the chance to shine more in anime-exclusive arcs, added filler scenes for padding, or movies, particularly if they were underused in the source material and didn't get much of a chance to show what they were really made of.


Regardless of the whys, there are two things to consider with such a change:

At its core this causes a significant dissonance with those familiar with the original character. It is not about a change in personality (Martial Pacifist to Blood Knight), method of fighting (defensive Simple Staff to offensive BFS) or battlefield intelligence (Dumb Muscle to Genius Bruiser), but in terms of how relevant they are in a fight. The key is how they are able to navigate through the story. Consider as a result of Power Creep, Power Seep that Superman himself has varied from simply "above human" in strength to near godlike, but he has always been Superman.

As the name suggests, this is based on different interpretations between adaptations. Took a Level in Badass is the same concept except treated as Character Development in the same continuity.

When this is done to a real-life person, then it's Historical Badass Upgrade. For a sister trope specializing in female characters, see Xenafication. The inverse of this trope is Adaptational Wimp. Often overlaps with Adaptational Skill.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Angels of Music revolves around a team of female Action Girl detectives recruited from works of 19th-century literature. Most of them were not action girls in the original works — we're talking people like Christine Daaé, Trilby O'Ferrall, Liza Doolittle, and Gigi — let alone the Waif-Fu masters these versions are trained to be.
  • When Gaunt's Ghosts was first released, the Imperial Guard in Warhammer 40,000 were a puny Red Shirt Army led by idiots and maniacs that died in droves against every foe of the Imperium. After Ghosts depicted them as a terrifyingly competent Badass Army filled with Badass Normals and led by Four Star Badasses (with the odd idiot and maniac thrown in for variety), this portrayal proved so popular that Games Workshop near-completely changed their image to match it.
  • This is widespread throughout the Nyctophobia books, but the most obvious case is Erik Garnier. In Leroux's original work, the Phantom/Erik is just a deformed man haunting a concert hall. In the series, he is half-demon, more accurately half-incubus, and his iconically beautiful voice can either be compelling or it can shatter glass.
  • Oliver Twisted: In both the original story, Oliver Twist, and this alternate version of it, Oliver asks for more gruel from the cook and gets locked up. For the latter version, however, that doesn't happen until after Oliver dodges a ladle, grabs it to spoon gruel into his bowl and successfully avoid the staff while announcing to the other starving orphans to get their share of additional gruel.
  • Nor the mighty Bennett Sisters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  • You don't want to mess with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in The Princess Series, as they have magical powers to attack you.
  • Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner makes a number of people far more badass than they were in Digital Devil Saga:
    • In the game Cielo was either The Load or the Lethal Joke Character, depending on how you played him. In the novels he is The Big Guy, as powerful as everyone else in combat in both physical and magic terms, with his only drawback being that as a flying demon he cannot fight all that well indoors. in fact, at the very end it is him who manages to break out of Sera's control instead of Heat.
    • Jinana/Ushas originally merely had a few physical attacks and a Light 'em Up Signature Move that she needed help to execute. Here, she has Prehensile Hair and can create several different types of unblockable Frickin' Laser Beams and an actual Laser Blade.
    • The random encounter Atavaka is a unique High Atma depicted as powerful as some of the bosses.
    • Harley Q was a pathetic Warm-Up Boss. Now, he is a Nigh-Invulnerable Blob Monster that takes the heroes' combined efforts to take down. After that not only is he still alive, but he eventually turns into an Eldritch Abomination that devours everyone and everything in the Junkyard.
  • In Upright Magic, a 1998 book based on a 1975 film of the same name, several characters fall under the trope.
    • Clear Trickle in the film is just a Nice Girl who doesn’t do much plot-relevant. The one time she fights with the Fire, he is victorious and she is extremely weakened, only recovering thanks to the main heroine’s efforts. In the book, she is a Plucky Girl who isn’t afraid to eavesdrop on the villains and manages to escape when found out, and who is an equally-strong opponent of the Fire and takes him down almost singlehandedly in their final confrontation.
    • The Fire as well. In the film, he looks menacing all right, but the only time he actually harms anyone is when he defeats Clear Trickle. When he attacks Glue Country, the locals rather easily defend themselves with extinguishers, and he is put out in a pretty anticlimactic fashion. In the book, he is the most dangerous of the villains, dries up the entire Glue Country with its residents almost dying out because of that, nearly kills the heroine by heating the rock she is climbing, and is only defeated because he is too stunned to see Clear Trickle alive (he was sure he had killed her earlier), allowing the latter to outsmart him.
    • The ogre in the film is a human-looking idiot who apparently thinks that a pretty silly Villain Song is enough to scare the heroine and runs away screaming merely because she says she isn’t scared. In the book, he is a frightening giant with some (if occasional) sparks of cleverness, and it takes quite some time for the heroine to escape from him.
    • The Fairy of Antique Miracles in the film is just another dog to kick for the Wicked Witch. In the book, while not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she knows enough magic and is smart enough to play subtle tricks on the witch.
  • In 2007, the CGSociety (for Creative Digital Artists) held a contest to create images and pieces using Greg Bear's The Way Series novel Eon as a reference point. The winning trailer was titled "Worlds Within Worlds". In it, the frant breaks a soldier's neck. In the book, frants are actually rather peaceful (they're useful due to their Hive Mind), and there's no danger at the moment in the book that the trailer portrays.

  • Within Temptation has a song called "A Gothic Christmas" which uses this for laughs. Santa starts wearing black and slays dragons while Rudolph changes his name to "Ragnagord" and becomes an Evil Overlord.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Ares from Greek Mythology. Originally, he was portrayed as a bully who could only win against unaided mortals, got his butt kicked by anything supernatural, and was casually dismissed by fellow gods Zeus and Athena. Then the Romans came around and identified him with their god Mars, making him the patron god of Rome, second in importance only to Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus), an ideal soldier, and an all-around badass. This might make him the Ur-Example. In many modern adaptations, Ares is usually portrayed more in the style of Rome's Mars in order to make him an imposing and threatening character. And since those modern adaptations often have Athena retain Greek role as Always Someone Better to Ares, she has to become even more badass than in the source material in order to keep pace.
  • Satan, in most Abrahamic scriptures where he appears, is a fallen angel whose defeat is a given from day one and whose antics on earth are basically a bully picking on the teacher's pets and who can be foiled by any yokel with faith or some brains. Starting in the Middle Ages, demonologists began writing interpretations of him that expand on details that the Bible left vague. As of today, Satan is viewed by Christian theologians as a nigh-omnipotent force of evil second only to God himself in terms of raw power, and is only kept from creating Hell on Earth by the forces of light remaining ever vigilant. Likewise, he even has a good chance at obtaining ultimate victory at the end of days.
  • Heather Dale's version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The song that was originally about Gawain's failure became a story of how perfect he was.


  • In A Christmas Carol and most adaptations, Scrooge is terrified at Jacob Marley's appearance and warning. In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, after his initial shock, he's unfazed by his theatrics, gives a speech dressing him down, and kicks him out of his room with his words alone.

    Theme Parks 
  • Godzilla vs. Evangelion: The Real 4-D: Who's the one to turn the tide in the battle against King Ghiodrah after Godzilla is drained? Shinji Ikari, who drives a katana into King Ghidorah. He's also the only one who accomplishes anything against Godzilla — and it's the Godzilla of Shin Godzilla he, Rei, and Asuka are up against.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising:
    • Rage, a one-off cutesy jellyfish from a Beast Wars Neo manga, is reinvented as a warlord who seized control of a city. During the Grand Finale, she fights alongside her own troops.
    • The Vehicons. In Beast Machines, they were brainless mooks who exploded if they were so much as sneezed on, their main strength being sheer numbers. Here, they're The Virus, capable of directly turning other Cybertronians into more Vehicons, destroying their Sparks in the process. Not for nothing is their rampage labelled the Vehicon Apocalypse.

    Web Animation 



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Alternative Title(s): Badass By Adaptation, Took A Level In Badass By Adaptation


Princess Toadstool

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