Follow TV Tropes


Attack Backfire

Go To
Note: Some enemies may be Immune to Fire.

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:

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.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • Durarara!!:
    • Exploited by Kujiragi, who 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.
  • Zig-zagged in Fullmetal Alchemist when Lust breaks a waterpipe to soak Mustang's gloves, rendering his fire alchemy useless. His array still works, however, so he simply breaks the water down into hydrogen and oxygen, and now has even more material to work with than before. Then he borrows Havoc's lighter. Unfortunately, the lighter is damaged in the following explosion, and they still don't realize just how potent Lust's Healing Factor is, so she's able to surprise them while they're looking for her body. At that point, the element of surprise and the loss of the gloves gives her enough of an edge to stab both Mustang and Havoc.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma kicks Tarō into a rock. Rock shatters revealing a water spring. Oh, Crap! moment. Pissed flying minotaur.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • In the seventh issue of The Sandman (1989), Doctor Destiny (John Dee) tries to kill Dream by destroying Dream's ruby. But instead of destroying Dream, this attack restored Dream's health by freeing Dream's power from the ruby.

    Films — Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy Movie 2: BoBoiBoy Solar unleashes a powerful blast on Retak'ka, which initially forces him against the wall, but to everyone's shock, he starts laughing instead of screaming, and empowers himself from the blast, since his original power, Gamma, is equivalent to Solar's power. BoBoiBoy Quake yells for Solar to stop, but Retak'ka bounds forward against the blast before Solar can respond and grabs him by the neck.
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs! A pterosaur screeches at Crash and Eddie but that backfires!
  • 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 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.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: While fighting Bowser's minions, Peach lights King Bob-Omb's fuse. The explosion ends up hitting her and taking away her power-up.
  • 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 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 
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.

  • 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...
  • Fighting Fantasy:
    • 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 Forced Transformation but makes his Archlycanthrope form even more formidable.
  • 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.
  • La Saga du Prêtre Jean:
    • In The Mines of King Solomon, 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.
    • In Mysteries of Babylon, you can encounter a gelatinous cube with a magical skull inside. Trying to use the same Eye of Horus on the monster proves fatal, since the ray of energy is diffracted by the cube and then focused on the skull, which fires back the deadly energy through its eye sockets.

  • 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 Dresden Files at one point Harry Dresden is being chased and drops a bag of marbles on the ground to trip up his assailant. This has zero effect on the monster pursuing him which simply crushes them underfoot and instead results in his ally Murphy twisting her ankle and calling him an idiot who watches too many cartoons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: After Fairplay ignores the literal warning sign and sends Boary into his mini-boss mode by setting him on fire, they then attempt to weaken him by surrounding him in an airtight bubble. At first it appears to work, smothering his flames and exposing his flesh, but as soon as they drop the bubble so they can attack, the inrush of air causes a large cloud of mushroom spores to fly off him. And then he re-ignites, sending the whole cloud up in an explosion that rattles the entire floor.
    The soot-covered men fell off the wall, leaving clean imprints of their form behind as Geytan stumbled to his feet, eyes wide in terror.

    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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition:
    • A few spells work by retaliating against attacks upon the caster:
      • The karmic aura, karmic backlash and karmic retribution spells (from Complete Mage) can cause any opponent that hurt the caster to get fatigued, exhausted or stunned, respectively. Those three spells also synergize between them, meaning it's harder to resist the effects if a caster has more than one activated.
      • The electric vengeance spell (from Player's Handbook II) can only be cast after receiving damage in melee, and creates an arc of lightning striking back the attacker.
      • The spell fire in the blood (from Heroes of Horror) causes any piercing or slashing attack to draw a spray of corrosive blood that unerringly hits the one causing it.
    • From Tome of Battle – Book of Nine Swords, the Desert Wind discipline includes two such maneuvers:
      • "Fire Riposte" activates when the martial adept is hit in combat, causing fire damage to the attacker.
      • "Leaping Flame" is a teleportation effect sending the martial adept adjacent to whoever attacked him, even if the attack was dodged or blocked. Of relative value in melee (unless the opponent has reach, meaning this can avoid attacks of opportunity), but this also works against ranged attacks up to 100 feet away, even if the maneuver's user has no idea where the attack is coming from, ruining the day of any well-hidden sniper.

    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.
  • One that's actually in the player's favor: in the Brigand Cannon boss fight in Darkest Dungeon, if the Matchman survives a full turn, he'll light the cannon. Most of the time, the Cannon follows this up with the massively-damaging "BOOOOOM!" attack, which is quite likely to knock the entire party to Death's Door. However, there's a roughly 1-in-4 chance that the attack is instead "MISFIRE!". This gives the entire party a Stress heal due to the relief of being spared and wastes the Cannon's turn.
  • 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 Optional Bosses.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Delibird’s signature attack Present has a chance of doing this and healing the opponent rather than damaging it.
    • Can happen when using Earthquake or Surf in double battles, not to the user but its partner. The move hits everyone on the field.
    • Multihit moves can do more damage to the attacker than the receiver if the receiver has either a Rocky Helmet or an ability like Rough Skin or Iron Barbs, which deal proportional damage in return. The most well-known and spectacular case is Maushold using its infamous Population Bomb multihit (which can hit up to ten times) on a tanky mon with Rocky Helmet and utterly self-destructing in the process.
  • 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 enemies can make physical attacks backfire.
  • In Street Fighter IV, Zangief gets a victory quote against Blanka informing him that his electric blasts helped relieve his back pain.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • 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.
  • In RWBY, Hazel attempts to electrocute Nora... whose semblance allows her to convert electricity into physical strength. She then proceeds to throw him off her and deal a solid hit with her hammer.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • 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!
  • 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!".
  • 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 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


A Big Mistake

Upon being cornered by Skulker and a bunch of specters, Danny is bombarded by a massive onslaught of ecto-energy. However, this ends up triggering Danny's latent ghost DNA and restores his powers, allowing him to become Danny Phantom again.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / HesBack

Media sources: