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Attack Backfire

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Note: Some enemies may be immune to fire damage.

Calvin: Pack snowballs! Maybe we can knock him out!
[Calvin and Hobbes throw snowballs at the snowman creature]
Hobbes: The snowballs just stuck to him!
Calvin: Look, it's given him an idea!
Hobbes: He's packing more snow onto himself!
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This is for when something that is used against a particular character is either beneficial and/or pleasant to that character or at least perceived by that character as such.

Subtropes include:

  • Adaptive Ability: Attacking them/putting them in bad situations will make them adapt to it.
  • Adaptive Armor: The same thing done with a clothing/armor/other wearable item.
  • Attack Reflector: Directly reflect an incoming attack back at the attacker.
  • Catch and Return: When the target catches a projectile and hurls it back at you.
  • Counter-Attack: You attack them, they attack you right after.
  • Energy Absorption: When Pure Energy attacks can be absorbed by the target, granting them more power.
  • Feed It with Fire: They will become stronger through being attacked.
  • Infernal Retaliation: When setting the enemy on fire allows it to burn you with it.
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  • Insult Backfire: At least when there are pragmatic intents behind said insult.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Kicking up a fuss over controversial works tends to play right into their authors' hands.
  • Power Copying: When an enemy can copy any special attacks used against them.
  • Streisand Effect: Trying to suppress something leads to it being even more widely publicized.
  • Threat Backfire: Threatening something that X wants anyway.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: When torture is what one intends to do to character X, who ends up enjoying it anyway.
  • Unishment: When what is used to punish X happens to be what X wanted anyway.

See also Shooting Superman, where rather than backfire it does what the audience expects: nothing. Not to be confused with Self-Damaging Attack Backfire, which is when an attack hurts the attacker.

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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Ranma kicks Tarō into a rock. Rock shatters revealing a water spring. Oh, Crap! moment. Pissed flying minotaur.
  • Exploited by Kujiragi in Durarara!!. She goes into Celty and Shinra's room while the couple are in there and purposely kisses Shinra in front Celty directly before stabbing him with Saika. This monumentally pisses off Celty, who is so horrified she transforms into a ball of shadows to attack Kujiragi, which was exactly what she had planned for and uses it to capture Celty.
    • When Mikado finally goes off the deep end and gets a gun, Masaomi attacks him in order to literally knock some sense into him. While he does get the gun away and lands a few hits, it turns out Mikado had a second gun on him that only goes off on contact- and promptly shoots Masaomi in the leg.
    • Haruna slices Anri with her knife after Anri explained her backstory to her, believing she had an opening to attack. However, Anri was only letting her do that to make it even between them when she uses her own Saika on Haruna, who probably would have avoided it if she had just backed down.
    • Karma finally comes for Izaya when they try to kill off Shizuo. His plan was to suffocate Shizuo on a building undergoing construction and then blow him up. Unfortunately for him, Celty intervened, leaving Shizuo in an area filled with large, metal poles and an even stronger need to murder the informant.
  • In Fairy Tail, Dragon/God/Devil Slayer Magic also let the user replenish his health and magic by eating the same element as their own. This is first seen in Natsu's battle against Starter Villain Bora, with the latter engulfing Natsu in purple flames, only for the former to literally devour the fire, commenting on its terrible taste.
  • Toriko, Dark Action Girl and sole female member of the Gourmet Corps Limon has a special technique tied to her role as "Sommelier" of the group: when a group of Gourmet Yakuza mooks riddle her with a volley of bullets (even headshots) she seemingly absorbs them inside her body, make them "mature" and then shoots them back at her attackers, healing her wounds and taking them all out. Since the author seemingly forgot about her, this technique remains unexplained.
  • In 3×3 Eyes:
    • During the battle on the Moon, Yakumo tries to seal Benares with the Genma Hoshin (Demon-Revealing Divine Seal), a spell which forces a creature to assume its true form and seal it in the earth, bound by the local energy... but since the Moon is a "dead world", it has no Qi to restrain Benares, who's stuck in his monstrous dragon-god form and proceeds to go on a rampage, nearly killing everyone.
    • In the beginning of the Amara arc, Yakumo accidentally activates a magic trap which summons a bunch of monstrous-looking ogres who try to restrain him. He decides to use Ku Yong to remove the magic and neutralize the trap... only to find out that the "monsters" were attractive nude girls who still want to restrain him. Being too embarassed to fight back, Yakumo is promptly dogpiled and subdued.
    • Amara himself can use the "Binding Flame" to turn any Juuma against his user.
  • Invoked in Seven Deadly Sins: the Demon King's magic allows him turn harmful attacks into healing effects which would make him invulnerable if it weren't for the fact that, to compensate, turns healing effects into damage.

    Comic Strips 

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Dazzler when she is blackmailed into being a research subject at Project: Pegasus, the villain Klaw who is also a prisoner there (as the project studied supervillains with energy-related powers) thinks he'll use Dazzler due to her naivete to escape, not realizing her power is to absorb an infinite amount of sound and store it to convert into light. Being a creature of pure sound energy, all his attack do is push her power into overdrive, resulting in his being completely consumed by her.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Surf's Up, the main protagonist, Cody, tries to beat up a bully named Tank, but his punches are so weak that he takes it as a massage.
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is at the mercy of a killer robot after throwing out his back celebrating an apparent victory. The robot elects to try to pull him in two, inadvertently fixing his back in the process which gives him a Heroic Second Wind.
  • In The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, one of the tasks is beating Cilindric the German, a tiny man with a blackbelt. He easily throws Obelix around while explaining to a curious Asterix that he uses the weight and speed of Obelix against him. The more Obelix tries to hurt Cilindric, the more easily does the guy defeat him and the duo only beat him by Asterix provoking a lesson in the fighting technique to use it against the man himself.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, when Tai Lung realizes that Po's chubby physiology immunizes him from his nerve attack, he just tries to straight-up punch him, only for Po to absorb the attack and the inertia causes Po to punch him straight through a wall.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Fifth Element, the big dark planet of evil is attacked by a fleet with several salvos of multimegaton yield missiles, which only cause it to grow larger.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies gives us Mr. Stamper, whose insides are rewired so that any intended painful action he receives (such as stabbing with a knife) gives him pleasure. Conversely, any intended pleasuring action he receives (such as tickling) gives him pain.
  • The Avengers (2012):
    • Thor blasts Iron Man with a bolt of lightning. The effect on Tony's suit?
      Jarvis: Power at 400% capacity.
      Tony: How bout that?
    • About a minute later, Thor tries using Mjölnir on Captain America's shield. Instead of hurting the Captain, Thor himself is knocked back about thirty feet, and levels the forest around them for about half a mile.
      Captain America: [impatiently] Are we done here?
  • In the second Crank movie, Chelios is given an artificial heart that requires regular jolts of electricity to function. When he runs into cops and they're beating him with clubs, nothing happens. When they bust out the Tasers, however...
  • Hulk. Glenn Talbot fires a Grenade Launcher only for the round to ricochet off the Hulk's impenetrable hide and embed itself in the wall behind Talbot, who barely has time for an Oh, Crap! reaction before being blown up.
  • A variation occurs in Red Dawn (1984). After summary executions after summary execution of unarmed civilians only seems to increase attacks by, and support for, the Wolverines and foster more anger at the occupying Soviets, the leader of a Spetsnaz unit brought in to hunt down the Wolverines declares an immediate halt to the civilian executions on the grounds that it shows they, the Soviets, have no idea as to how to control the situation, and furthers sows anger towards the occupying force.
    Spetsnaz Commander: If a fox raids your chicken coop, do you slaughter a pig simply because he saw everything?

    Gamebooks 
  • In a gamebook from the GrailQuest saga, there's a sort of humanoid insect that you can fight. However, despite having only 25 life points, each of your attacks will give him more health. However, he'll let you go if you give him enough life points.
  • In one of the Blood Sword gamebooks, you could try dealing with a huge Djinni by blasting it with the Orb of Fire. He finds it refreshing and it doesn't end well for the character attempting it...
  • In La Saga du Prêtre Jean, you can encounter two Magma Men. If you try to attack them and use the Eye of Horus (a magical amulet that shoots a One-Hit Kill surge of red energy) the blast won't harm them, but will turn them into Diamond Men, making them even more dangerous than before.
  • Zigzagged in Revenge of the Vampire: when faced by the Big Bad's last line of defense, a.k.a. a huge, armor-plated, acid-drooling Mega Ghoul, you're given the option to use a flask of, essentially, incendiary stuff to burn him: while it does greatly damage him, it also makes him mad and makes his few attacks against you hit much harder since he's now an Incendiary Exponent with overheated metal claws.
  • In Howl of the Werewolf, inside Varcolac's castle you can obtain a "transformation spell" from a magic book inside a hag's room. Using the spell on Varcolac doesn't result in Baleful Polymorph but makes his Archlycanthrope form even more formidable.

    Literature 
  • Defied and successfully averted in The Andromeda Strain. The eponymous disease's original massacre site is about to be blown up by atomic bomb when the researchers realize that the disease can directly feed off of radiation. The bomb isn't dropped.
  • The Atrocity Archive has Bob and the OCCULUS team following the threat through to a frozen world where the Nazis summoned a Great Old One to win WWII... and it didn't end well for them. The plan is to retrieve the hostage, then leave a nuke to blow the site, and the threat, sky high. At least, until Bob realizes that the threat feeds off of energy and entropy, meaning blowing up a nuke would give it enough strength to force its way through to our world.
  • In The Sword of Truth, a wizard attacking a Mord Sith with his magic will result in the Mord Sith being able to capture that magic, effectively making the wizard her slave.
  • Once Edward's secret engagement is revealed in Sense and Sensibility, his older brother Robert is sent to convince Lucy Steele (who is not the elegant heiress Ed's mother had in mind) to break it off, since Edward won't. A few chapters later, we are informed that Lucy is now Mrs. Ferrars... Mrs. Robert Ferrars.

    Live-Action TV 

    Pinball 
  • In Williams Electronics' Joust pinball machine, the middle of the playfield had two spinners, each of which gave points to a specific player, and invoking this trope whenever you hit your opponent's spinner.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Trigger, as with the Final Fantasy II example below, using the wrong elemental spell on certain monsters or ones with changing elemental barriers can heal them. Conversely, if party members are wearing one of the four elemental mails/plates (depending on the version) and is hit with the corresponding magic, they will be healed by the attack.
  • In Final Fantasy II, attacking enemies with the wrong spell (e.g. Ice monsters with Ice magic, Undead with Drain and Osmose or Blob Monster with Poison) will actually heal the monster. In case of Drain or the Blood Swords, results will be ugly. In fact, all Final Fantasy games after the first one have a system of elemental absorb. At some point, they extended this to the Undead such that hitting one with a One-Hit Kill no only always hits it, but it actually causes it to regenerate. And then there is a Reflect spell which bounces most of spells right at their user.
  • Final Fantasy XII has an aptly named Reverse status that causes healing to hurt and attacks to heal afflicted target. Abusing it is one of more common strategies of dealing with resident bonus bosses.
  • In the Super Smash Bros. games, Ness' and Lucas' PSI Magnets absorb energy projectiles (i.e. Mario's fireballs, Samus' charge shot) and heal by the amount of damage the attack would have caused.
  • In Street Fighter IV, Zangief gets a victory quote against Blanka informing him that his electric blasts helped relieve his back pain.
  • Pokémon
    • The abilities Volt Absorb and Water Absorb not only make Pokémon with these abilities immune to Electric- or Water-type attacks respectively, but also heal them by one-quarter of their maximum HP each time they are hit by attacks of the corresponding type.
    • Likewise, the ability Flash Fire makes the Pokémon with that ability immue to Fire-type moves, but doesn't heal any damage. Instead it powers up any Fire-type moves on the Pokémon with that ability.
    • Another such ability is Sap Sipper; grass type moves inflict no damage, instead increasing the Pokémon's attack stat by one level.
    • And then there is Lightning Rod which, from Generation V onward, negates any Electric typed moves and raises Special Attack by one stage if Pokemon with this ability is hit by them.
    • Magic Bounce does this not with attacks, but with any status moves. It's quite a backfire to have Toxic do nothing to that Espeon and poisoning your mon or your stealth rock ending up affecting your side of the field.
    • There's also ability Contrary, which reverses effect of stat buffs and debuffs. Tried to reduce opponent's Defense to quickly defeat him? Too bad, you just made him more tanky.
    • A bunch of moves also work like this. If the opponent is trying to buff itself up against the Pokemon who just used Snatch, all the buffs would go right to the snatcher. Magic Coat works just like Magic Bounce, but just once. Vivillon's signature move Powder sprays flammable pollen, so if its opponent ever tries to burn Vivillon (who is vulnerable to fire), it will only damage itself with the resulting explosion.
    • One more variation of backfiring is Me First, when the opponent (who needs to be faster than you to use this move) suddenly hits you with the attack you've been preparing to smack him with, and with even more power.
  • This trope is pretty much what makes Shin Megami Tensei games earn their reputation as fiendishly hard. There are too many monsters that have the ability to absorb one or more elements that yours character can use, and there are too few attacks that are guaranteed deal meaningful damage all the time. On top of it, some games have a system that gleefully punishes you for using the elements the monsters absorb. And note, sometimes, the element list includes "none at all": as in some enemmies can make physical attacks backfire.
  • In Minecraft, throwing a Splash Potion of Instant Damage at a zombie or skeleton will heal them. Likewise, throwing a Splash Potion of Instant Health will hurt them.
    • Also, many mod makers supply weapons that use lightning to hurt enemies which many new players spam frequently at any mob that comes near. Not a problem usually until the first creeper is hit, gets powered up and decides to return the favor by blowing up with twice as much power as before.
  • In Grim Dawn, the Occultist's deadly spell "Bloody Pox" (essentially a body-horror plague which makes enemies bleed to death and is actually contagious) can obtain an optional power up which deals even more damage in a short time, but with the tradeoff of boosting the speed and strength of monsters as well. While they do die faster, if you're not careful you may end up being attacked by a much deadlier foe who may even kill you in some cases, turning a deadly spell into a gamble.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • On Flander's Company, it happens a lot against Sadoman, since his abilities are powered by pain. Any attack that hurts him but fails to kill or incapacitate him will just supercharge his energy reserves and result in a fierce, and often lethal counterattack.
  • In Death Battle, this happens in Goro vs. Machamp. Specifically, Goro burns Machamp with his Dragon's Breath. This turns out to be a very bad idea, as it triggers Machamp's Guts ability, boosting its power.

    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "The Deepening", the citizens' attempts to stop the rampaging mechanical shark making its way down Ocean Avenue (with a spike strip, an oil slick, and a crane) only make it more dangerous.
    Bob: Okay, we gave the shark spikes... Okay, we made the shark faster... okay, NOW THE SHARK IS ELECTRIFIED!
  • In the Finale of Danny Phantom a key part of the conflict comes after Danny gave up his powers due to Vlad's efforts to make him feel obsolete. When he then needs to recruit a large number of ghosts in an attempt to save the world, only for them instead to try and attack him, eventually all firing ectoplasmic beams at him. Unfortunately for them all this achives is flooding Danny's body with ectoplasmic energy, restoring his powers. Cue Mass "Oh, Crap!".
  • On The Simpsons, one episode was a series of stories from The Bible. When Moses (Milhouse) sends a plague of frogs to vex the Pharaoh (Principal Skinner), the Egyptians enjoy a banquet of frog legs, which the Pharaoh comments must be a reward from Ra for punishing the slaves.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Mermaid Man mistakes SpongeBob for evil and attacks with his trademark Water Balls. SpongeBob isn't affected by it, because as a sponge, he absorbs it. Then he and Barnacle Boy use their Raging Whirlpool, SpongeBob and Patrick only enjoy the ride because it is just plain weak.
  • One episode of Godzilla: The Series has a Hispanic army use a biological weapon against the Monster of the Week, but it turns out to strengthen it. Then they try it again.
  • In ReBoot, enemies referred to as "Class-5" such as Gigabyte and the Web Virus cannot be attacked with energy weapons because they will just feed on the energy and grow stronger.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Secret of My Excess", Spike turns into a monstrous version of himself out of greed and confronts Pinkie Pie when he tries to steal her cakes. She defends herself by throwing cakes at Spike, but this only causes him to grow even bigger.
  • In Wakfu the Shushu Rubilax has this as his power: normally he's a bulky but small demon, but each physical blow he'll receive will cause him to grow bigger and stronger. The more he's hit, the bigger he becomes. This is turned against him twice. In Season 2 there's the greater Shushu Anathar, who can perfectly replicate all kind of magic used against him, including Rubilax's own power. At one point he even makes himself larger by hitting himself with Rubilax.

 
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Video Example(s):

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Kung Fu Panda

Ta Lung tries punching Po.

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Main / AttackBackfire

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