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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!

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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Ranma kicks Tarō into a rock. Rock shatters revealing a water spring. Oh, Crap! moment. Pissed flying minotaur.

    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.

    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?

  • 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.

  • 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 

  • 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 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.

    Web Comics 

    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.

    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!
  • 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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