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Backup from Otherworld

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Back from the Dead for one last push.

"Arise, my children. Only the honor of a paladin is unbreakable — even by death itself. Ghost-martyrs of the Sapphire Guard, ATTACK!"
Soon Kim, The Order of the Stick

Sometimes the heroes may go up against near-impossible odds where they think they don't have a ghost of a chance; until their backup turns out to be the real deal.

This trope occurs wherein somebody no longer of this world (often a dead friend or relative) assists a living character, directly. This doesn't refer to mere advice or moral support; this is when the dead character actually has a physical (usually magical) effect on the world of the living. This can include Spirit Advisor, offense, defense, and often healing. See also Not Too Dead to Save the Day. If the backup comes all the way back, it may be a Climactic Battle Resurrection.

Compare Cavalry of the Dead, where this trope is applied to an entire fighting force. See also Guardian Entity.


As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z is the trope namer, almost always being fulfilled by Goku:
    • At the end of the Cell Saga, Goku assists Gohan in delivering a superpowered Kamehameha, albeit with more emphasis on emotional support.
    • As pictured above, Goku gives his aid a second time in Dragon Ball Z: Broly – Second Coming for Goten and an adult Gohan in a rather on-the-nose recreation of the Cell Saga scene.
    • In the Buu Saga, Goku returns to the world of the living for a day, initially for a fun tournament but eventually to take on the various villains of the arc. Later on the same would happen to post-Heroic Sacrifice Vegeta since the situation had gotten THAT desperate, and Goku would return from Other World again via a different loophole!
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound, Goku teleports himself out of the Otherworld for an instant and punches Bojack in the face to save Gohan.
  • The first DBZ example is spoofed/homaged at the end of Excel Saga, when Pedro and his son are helped by the ghosts of every major character who died up to that point, and their combined Kamehame Hadoken blasts That Man into dust, finally rescuing Pedro's wife and the Great Will. The scene is goofy, badass and heartwarming at the same time.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Sakura's mom, Nadeshiko, catches Sakura after an illusion (of Nadeshiko, go figure,) tricks her into walking off a cliff. Nadeshiko reappears at the end of the episode long enough to see Sakura off to school before vanishing again.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Jack Rakan forces himself back into existing by sheer willpower, and snaps Negi out of his Superpowered Evil Side. With his fist.
  • Aerith at the end of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. First, she joins in with the party using a Fastball Special to propel Cloud toward Bahamut SIN; and later, her Level 4 Limit Break heals Cloud's geostigma.
    • In Advent Children Complete, Zack Fair interrupts Cloud's battle with Sephiroth & offers some words of encouragement, even asking if Cloud wants his help. He's ultimately turned down.
  • Appleseed (2004). While Deunan is trying to deactivate the attacking robots at the end of the movie, her dead mother finishes entering the abort code for her and saves the day.
  • Subverted in Higurashi: When They Cry. In Minagoroshi-hen, Rika's True Companions come back to help her right when the Big Bad is about to ritualistically kill her... with moral support. She does die, but she gets better.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has Sara who comes back as a glowing spirit to save Luchia's little pink behind.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho
    • When Kuwabara needed to study for an exam while Yusuke was dead, Yusuke went into his dreams and helped him study.
    • He also possessed a girl for a few minutes to beat on some bullies and a few other minor things before being brought back. This is the anime version; that arc of the manga is significantly longer.
  • How Mato found Yomi when she went to the Otherworld in Black★Rock Shooter; through the help of the eponymous being; if one goes by the "BRS is a spirit" interpretation.
  • In the climax of Zeta Gundam, Kamille uses his Psychic Powers (with a boost from the Zeta's Biosensor) to call for help from the spirits of his slain friends and allies, which shuts down Scirocco's Humongous Mecha and allows Kamille to ram it.
    • Done again at the end of Double Zeta when the spirits of various deceased characters gives Judau's ZZ Gundam a power boost to use against Haman.
  • Shep from Interstella 5555 dies rescuing the band, and comes back to save them from an Eldritch Abomination attacking their ship in the climax.
  • Uchiha Obito from Naruto, in a example which would make Goku proud, dies saving Kakashi, his body turning to ash. He then uses his Kamui ability to teleport out of the Otherworld, without a physical body, to give Kakashi's all of his chakra and abilities, which turns to be essential in Kaguya's defeat.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: Atsuko enters Catarina's mind to awaken her from her magically-induced coma, though she arrived from her reincarnation's subconscious rather than the afterlife.

    Comic Books 
  • In DC Comic's Infinite Crisis while The Flash (Bart Allen iteration) is battling Superboy Prime a rift in the speed force opens up and from it emerge Max Mercury, Johnny Quick and Barry Allen to help him pull Superboy Prime in.
  • Wolverine once had to face several of his foes that had gone to hell, and received help from Colossus. Though since then Colossus has been retconned to have never died in the first place, this is not brought up ever.
  • This is pretty much Deadman's entire shtick, especially in his guest star appearances when he's helping out a more "conventional" superhero. Being able to Body Surf pretty much at will helps a lot when it comes to still interacting with the world of the living.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Growing Affection, the Reaper sends the first four Hokages back to capture Orochimaru for her. Earlier, Orochimaru calls back a bunch of souls to fight Naruto for him. Unfortunately only one of the five actually interested in killing Naruto.
  • A thousand years into the Dark World of the Pony POV Series, the spirits of the Mane Six's loved ones begin appearing to them to help redeem them. Some have more luck than others.
    • Also pops up during the fight with Odyne!Fluttercruel; after her body is destroyed, the spirits of Fluttershy (who died 500 years earlier) and Pinkie Pie (who died recently) show up and prevent her spirit from possessing anyone else long enough to blast her with the Elements of Harmony and banish her from the mortal plane.
    • During the Final Battle with Nightmare Paradox, Discord distracts the Nightmare to give Twilight time to power up the final spell to defeat her once and for all. By calling her on Anarchy's cellphone from the afterlife. And Trolling her until she's so enraged she forgets she's in the middle of a battle.
  • Princess Twilight's 505th Birthday is set centuries in the future, where Twilight and Rarity are immortal, but the rest of the mane six died of old age. During the big climax, Twilight escapes the bad guy by astral projecting into the fabric of magic itself—then returns with her four deceased friends in tow. They stick around just long enough to blast the bad guy with the Elements of Harmony, then zip back off to the Elysian Fields.
  • The Bridge
    • The story repeatedly has mention of a 'hot wind' blowing by at key points during the Climax Boss fight with Grand King Ghidorah and the Nightmare Godzilla incident that preceded it. The fic takes inspiration from Rebirth of Mothra 3 with Grand King Ghidorah devours souls to power himself up. While battling him alongside Xenilla, Junior frees those trapped souls who, with aid from Harmony, allow the presence in that hot wind to take shape: Godzilla Senior, who helps his sons destroy the King of Terror once and for all with a Family Spiral Fire Ray.
    • During the 2019 Halloween Special, Destroyah distracts the kaiju sized Giranbo in her pony form so the Cutie Mark Crusaders can escape her realm, despite fully expecting to die in the process. The Crusaders refuse and attempt to power Destroyah up into her kaiju form to save her as Giranbo is on the verge of killing her, but lack the ability to do so on their own. Their resolution inspires the ghosts of the many adults who Giranbo had murdered during their failed attempts to save her countless child victims to rise from the mass grave she threw them in to lend their power to the trio to give them the needed push while guiding their beam, allowing Destroyah to be empowered into her kaiju form.
    • A second example occurs when Giranbo manages to gain an upperhand by exploiting Destroyah's weakness to ice. The Cutie Mark Crusaders realize Giranbo's oven was containing the souls she was preparing to consume and open it, letting them all rush out in mass to disrupt Giranbo's magic and prevent her from being able to use ice magic.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ghost (1990). Sam Wheat was murdered and became a ghost. At the end of the movie he saves his girlfriend from being killed by his murderer by accidentally causing the villain's death.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King had the heroes recruit help from an army of the dead.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982): Valeria appears just in time to save Conan from being killed by Rexor, Thulsa Doom's lieutenant.
    Valeria: Do you want to live forever?
  • In the remake of House On Haunted Hill, the last two characters are trying to escape from the evil presence, but there is a gate which they can't open. Before they are consumed, a ghost from a character that had entered the house with them under the same pretenses but had died earlier appears and opens the gate for them.
  • The Rise of Skywalker: When Rey proves no match for Palpatine on her own, she manages to call on the Jedi that came before her to even the playing field. What follows is implied to be a battle between not just them, but all the Sith and Jedi who ever lived.
    Emperor Palpatine: You are nothing! A scavenger girl is no match for the power in me! I am all the Sith!
    Rey: And I... am all the Jedi.

  • In Alternate Routes by Tim Powers, the ghost of the protagonist's late wife intervenes to help him a few times during the climactic struggle. Thanks to one of the stranger features of the afterlife featured in the novel, he also gets assistance from the ghost of their daughter who never existed in the first place.
  • A couple of examples by Robert E. Howard:
    • In Queen of the Black Coast, this role was fulfilled by Belit, the title character of the story, as her spirit intervenes to save Conan from a supernatural horror.
    • In the poem The Return of Sir Richard Grenville, the ghost of the eponymous worthy (who was a real life historical figure) appears to fight side-by-side with his comrade-in-life Solomon Kane.
  • Necromancers in Kelley Armstrong's The Otherworld series often get assistance from the dead, usually in the form of advice or spying, although in one book a poltergeist (telekinetic ghost) provided some more direct assistance.
  • In Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the very first novel of Star Wars Legends, it's not actually stated that Obi-Wan Kenobi briefly possessed Luke Skywalker in order to fight off Darth Vader, but considering the sudden dramatic uptick in Luke's dueling skills and the fact that he told the Sith "I am Obi-Wan", this is generally what fans assume happened.
  • It's a pretty minor thing, but in Galaxy of Fear: Ghost of the Jedi, Aidan Bok helps Tash call on the Force to make the Big Bad's aim falter. He then scouts for her as she flees, telling her what is where and how to shut down a machine in a rather more direct, precise kind of advice than most ghosts are known for.
  • The Dresden Files
    • In Book Three, Harry is being hunted by a ghost who vastly overpowers him. So what does he do? He DIES. But he has someone resuscitate him so he can then team up with his ghost. (In the Dresden Files universe, ghosts are spiritual "imprints" of the dead, not the dead themselves.)
    • In Book 13, he is the backup, after having arranged his own death. And then he arranges for more otherworldly backup when he has to storm the castle, in the form of an army made up of hundreds of ghostly murderers and serial killers.
  • In the first Green Rider book, Karigan gets possessed by the ghost of F'ryan Cobblebay (Green Rider and swordmaster in training) while fighting the renegade Weapon Torne. Between the sudden change in skill level and the anti-theft spell on the brooch Torne had stolen from Karigan, F'ryan was able to defeat Torne.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King had the heroes recruit help from an army of the dead. The army is incapable of actually fighting, but their mere presence terrifies the enemy into fleeing.
  • In Aunt Dimity's Death, Dimity helps Lori get rid of an unwelcome visitor (Dr. Evan Fleischer, an obnoxious college classmate) who invites himself to her cottage. She literally slams the door in his face, makes the cottage turn strikingly cold when he enters anyway, fills the living room with smoke from the fireplace, and causes him to break a tooth on one of Lori's oatmeal cookies (which "contained nothing more tooth-threatening than some chewy raisins.")
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the "ghosts" that spring out of Voldemort's wand during the Priori Incantatem effect rush Voldemort when Harry breaks the connection. While they can't actually harm or restrain Voldemort, their ghostly forms obscure his vision for a few seconds, allowing Harry to escape.
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to bring back the ghosts of his parents, Sirius and Lupin to give him moral support when he confronts Voldemort.
  • Nina Tanleven: In books 2 and 3, Nine and Chris are threatened by a gun-toting villain and are saved by a ghost whom they’ve been trying to help - Captain Gray and Cornelius Fletcher, respectively.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): The late Marty Hopkirk comes back to help his detective partner Jeff Randall, who's the only person who can see him except for the odd psychic or drunk. This help includes some limited ability to manipulate objects. In the 2000 version his abilities stretch further, including being able to possess the living for short periods of time.
  • Veronica Mars season one: the late Lilly Kane is a major motivator in the solving of her own murder. Her ghost appears to Veronica and to her brother Duncan, metaphorically. Or is it? She shows up in season two to save V's life.
  • Possibly the end of season two of Being Human (UK) where Annie takes the evil priest through the door.
  • John Winchester appears at the end of Supernatural's second season, having escaped through a hellmouth and proceeds to grab and fight with Azazel. He only manages to struggle with Azazel for a few moments before he breaks free, but that still gives Dean the chance to grab the Colt and use it to finish Azazel off.
  • In Kamen Rider OOO, Ankh performs a Heroic Sacrifice to enable Eiji to use TaJaDor Combo one final time against the Big Bad, giving up the Medal containing his existence in the process. As Eiji fights, Ankh's spirit appears and begins assisting Eiji in the fight, even helping to fire the Finishing Move.
  • In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the Jetman tribute episode involves the dead Gai Yuki/Black Condor, directly coming back from the realm of the dead to assist the Gokaigers getting the Jetman's Greater Power, before going back to the realm of the dead again.
    • During the entire Legend War sequence, all previously deceased Rangersnote  are explicitly shown to have fought in it. As Gai shows, they don't quite lose their powers due to being dead. This was nearly averted in the planning stages, where only the living Rangers would be participating in the scene, before the idea was vetoed to have even the killed-off Rangers resurrected for the big battle, which has the added bonus of showing how badly every hand on deck was needed.
  • Episodes 5 and 6 of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger introduce Ramirez, a Kyoryuger from Europe's Dark Ages, returned from the dead to grant the new team the use of his mecha, Ankydon. He even gets to morph like they do!
    • Later on, in episodes 17 and 18, we're introduced to another Spirit Kyoryuger named Tessai, a martial artist from Ancient China. Like Ramirez, he returns from the dead to support the main Kyoryugers by granting them his mecha Bunpachy, and is also able to morph when needed.
  • In Twin Peaks when Laura Palmer visits Agent Cooper in a dream in the beginning of the second season. She whispers the name of the killer in his ear, except he cannot remember what she said.


    Video Games 
  • The deceased Lirum in Lost Odyssey revives her children Cooke and Mack after a crippling defeat at the hands of Big Bad Gongora so they can in turn heal the rest of your party.
  • Alma from First Encounter Assault Recon, in a twisted way. In the non-canon expansion pack Extraction Point, she often wipes out incoming Replica troops and opens paths for the Point Man, for a good reason. Even better: FEAR 2, the reason being she's in love with the main character, Becket.
  • After her death in Ace Attorney, Mia Fey's job is mostly to lend moral support and helpful advice. However, when Maya is kidnapped she shuttles between possessing Pearl and Maya in order to carry messages between the two parties.
  • The entire point of Ghost Trick. Sissel and later Missile is the supernatural backup for his human allies.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Final Boss Fight of Final Fantasy IV hinges on this trope, with all the ex-party members aiding the party after the Big Bad defeated them.
    • Similarly, Final Fantasy V has the five major characters who died during the game come back and help you out against the Final Boss, though they don't help in battle.
    • Auron of Final Fantasy X does this, and has been doing it the entire game having died 10 years earlier — it's only through sheer force of will that he's not passed on.
    • Technically, Tidus also does this, as it's revealed very late in the game that Tidus & the Zanarkand he hails from are merely the cumulative dreams of a deceased people known as Fayth. It's subverted, however, as he didn't know any of the other party members (Aside from Auron) beforehand.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: During the final battle in the Return to Ivalice raid questline, the player is aided by the spirits of the Zodiac Braves against the Seraph Ultima. As Ultima is poised to overwhelm the players and the Braves, Ramza's spirit appears to even the odds.
    • During the Seat of Sacrifice boss battle in FFXIV 5.3, Elidibus banishes the player's party into the Void. Following a successful Active Time Maneuver, they call upon the aid of Emet-Selch, who was killed at the end of Shadowbringers, who rescues the party from the Void. While he appears as a generic ancient Amaurotine, his Character Tics — his Badass Finger Snap and flippant, dismissive farewell wave — out him as the Big Damn Hero.
  • Kane in the original Shining Force game, summoning a lightning strike to stop the Big Bad from possessing the main character.
  • In the final battle of Persona 3, Shinjiro Aragaki chips in with some healing, giving the Player Character the last bit of HP needed to win the fight.
  • In the final battle of the A path in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Ancel, who you have to sacrifice in the game's opening, shows up to lend a hand.
  • In Shadowverse, Kyle's spirit appears to intercept an attack from Isabelle, directed at Rowen. He calms the enraged Isabelle and gives her the opportunity to reconcile with him, ultimately giving her the courage to move forward and leave her dream world.
  • Star Fox 64: James McCloud, complete with apparent ghostly spaceship, appears at the end to guide his son out of Andross's Taking You with Me attempt.
  • After completing the main quest in Skyrim, you obtain the Call of Valor Shout, which allows you to summon one of the legendary heroes from Sovngarde for a while. And in the Dark Brotherhood questline, you get the Summon Spectral Assassin power, which summons Ensemble Dark Horse Lucien Lachance from Oblivion, who helps out in battle and gives advice on your current contract.
  • King, from Cave Story, returns in ethereal form if the player maxes out the Blade, inflicting heavy damage to whatever happens to be in the way - and around the way.
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons: After losing his older brother, Younger Brother in the final segment finds himself conquering his fear of water and a couple other tasks that he previously could only accomplish with the help of his older brother. The gameplay enforces this as you need to press Older Brother's interact button to make this happen.
  • In the final battle of Eternal Darkness the ghosts of all the characters who died at the hands of the darkness come back one by one to take one last swing at the Big Bad. Except Edward, he instead binds the bigger fish that Alex summoned.
  • During the Darkest Hour in Dreamfall Chapters, Zoë is trapped in Storytime once again, where she meets the spirit of Crow (who has just had his neck snapped by the Prophet) on his way to the afterlife. Crow's ghost lingers long enough to help Zoë put together the puzzle of the Prophet's Evil Plan, then she manages to wake herself up, while he is approached by April's ghost (who somehow lingered in-between for over two years) and the two leave for the afterlife.
  • At the end of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Billie learns that the Outsider's mark is actually his original, human name and returning it to him will strip him of his divinity. Unfortunately for her, only the dead can read said name, but she runs into the lingering spirit of her late mentor Daud in the Void and can persuade him to whisper the Outsider's name to him instead of straight up stabbing the Void deity dead.
  • A terrific example in Kingdom Hearts III; at the Keyblade Graveyard, the Demon Tide grows to absolutely titanic proportions. When Sora goes to dive into it directly, he is greeted... by Ephemer, of all people. Cue the fallen Keyblades scattered around the Graveyard rising up of their own volition, Sora mounting a Starlight in the storm for the ride, and a massive string of Situation Commands named after the players of Unchained χ[chi]/Union χ[cross].
  • MediEvil: The final battle between Zarok and Sir Daniel Fortesque culminates with Fortesque calling forth all the dead spirits of past heroes from the Hall of Heroes, doing battle to liberate Gallowmere from the sorcerer's foul grip and finally grant Sir Dan the rest of the grave.
  • When you confront the Final Boss of Jade Empire, he petrifies you with his new divine powers, boasting how no living soul can break out of that enchantment. Cue the ghost of Sagacious Zu (who died by Heroic Sacrifice earlier in the plot, but his spirit lingered due to the on-going blockage of the path to the afterlife) arriving in the nick of time to break you out and to let you continue the fight.
  • Theia - The Crimson Eclipse: When Mishra impales Seth with a shard of Orihalcon, Seth manages to obtain a One-Winged Angel form with the help of the spirits of his fallen comrades. He then summons their spirits to unleash a Curb-Stomp Battle against Mishra.
  • In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, summoning Daigo Dojima has him appear on the battlefield, along with the spirits of past figures from the Tojo Clan: Souhei Dojima (his father), Futoshi Shimano, Osamu Kashiwage, and Shintaro Kazama. Together, they draw their pieces and unleash hot lead into their enemies.

  • The Order of the Stick: The truth is, those paladins guarding Soon's Gate weren't there to guard the gate alone... they were there as reinforcements.
    Soon Kim: Ghost-martyrs of the Sapphire Guard, ATTACK!
  • The ghost of Squeeky-Bobo from Sluggy Freelance helps out the Dimension of Pain demons now and then.

    Western Animation 
  • Prowl pulling Optimus Prime out of the Allspark field in Transformers Animated.
    • In Transformers Cybertron, recently deceased Vector Prime lets Optimus borrow his sword from beyond. It becomes physical when Optimus takes it, and he finishes the final battle against Galvatron in victory.
    • In the previious season, Transformers Energon, Superion's fallen brother appears to briefly help him in the final battle with Bruticus Maximus.
  • ThunderCats:
    • "The Ghost Warrior": An ancient spirit is menacing the team. It can hurt them (because of its Thundarium Mace), but they can't touch it. The Sword of Omens summons Jaga, the deceased mentor, to wield it in a ghostly battle in the sky.
    • "ThunderCats - Ho! Part V": Jaga needs to obtain a sacred item to help Lion-O. The ancient spirit once again faces him -in space!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Dead Avatars often come to the current Avatar's aid. Sure, to do that, it means possesing his/her body in an Unstoppable Rage, but it does help. (Usually).
    • Avatar Kyoshi does briefly take the helm of Aang's body so she could explain to the people of Chin Village that she didn't actually kill Chin.
    • The season 1 finale also involved Aang getting some direct help from the Ocean Spirit itself when the Fire Nation finds a way to "neutralize" the Moon (and thus all waterbending). Both the Ocean and the Moon spirits crossed over to the physical world ages ago in Avatar, but they were still otherworldly in nature so it counts.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Hamato Yoshi's spirit returns to aid the Turtles during their battle with the Demon Shredder, striking a finishing blow that cleaves the tengu in half.
  • In G.I. Joe Cobra Commander tried using supernatural forces to call upon the restless spirits of three warriors; his first mistake was thinking he could control them. The second was summoning three who were more likely to side with the Joes' interests. (One of them was even an American World War I pilot.) Lady Jay even made light of the situation when the three spirits changed sides, saying, "I never thought we'd be getting backup from the netherworld."
  • In the El Tigre Halloween Episode "The Grave Escape", Manny and Frida end up being punched into the Land of the Dead by a monster Sartana made from the spirits of forgotten ghosts. There, they retrieve help from Manny's ancestors, the Rivera line's various heroes and villains, including the original El Tigre, who return to the living world to fight Sartana.
  • Steven Universe: The emergence of The Cluster when it fights Yellow Diamond's ship invokes this as it's made from the shards of fallen Crystal Gems and it even takes the form of wailing ghostly shapes when it first leaves the ground.
  • In the series finale of Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the past queens of Mewni manifest in assisting Star, Moon and Eclipsa in destroying the realm of magic.


Video Example(s):


Star vs. the Forces of Evil

The past queens of Mewni comes to help.

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