Follow TV Tropes


Bootstrapped Leitmotif

Go To

A Bootstrapped Leitmotif is born when a piece of Background Music becomes tied to a character, place, or other specific part of the story that it was not originally intended to represent.

This is often because the song in question is played during scenes that focus heavily on a specific character. In video games, this commonly occurs with music for stages or levels strongly associated with a certain character, or the character's Boss Battle music. Sometimes a character may already have a Leitmotif, but a different song that is more readily identified by the audience usurps it and becomes more widely accepted and recognized.


A Sister Trope of Bootstrapped Theme, where a leitmotif or other piece of music comes to stand for the series as a whole.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Legend of Galactic Heroes the use of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, first movement has become associated in the minds of fans with character Oskar von Reuenthal.
  • Dragon Ball Z applies for the original and English versions:
    • Original version: Majin Buu's theme. It's actually the Super Saiyan theme variation for the Majin Buu saga (both the Frieza and Cell sagas have each its own variation of the theme), but it appears so many times during the Majin Buu saga as a Battle Theme Music that it ended up associated with him instead of with the good guys. It's difficult to find anyone who doesn't think of Majin Buu when hearing it.
      • To a lesser extent, Frieza and Cell's themes also apply. These are better in the sense that, at least, they're exclusive to that saga, but still fit here because they're not exclusive to Frieza and Cell respectively as they both originate from movies. The former being a battle rendition of Garlic Jr.'s leitmotif from Movie 01 and the latter originating as a battle cue from Movie 06.
      • The Saiyans' theme ended up being Vegeta's theme, because he's by far the most important of the (evil) Saiyans, and the only one who survives. Although it appears whenever one of the evil Saiyans is on screen (it first appears with Raditz), after Raditz and Nappa die it can only appear with Vegeta on screen. It doesn't help that it's used much after than even the Namek saga.
      • Pretty much all the Dragon Ball Z characters' leitmotifs (except Gohan and Piccolo, who have an official leitmotif) fall into this trope.
    • English dub: Gohan's Super Saiyan theme. It's actually the Hyperbolic Time Chamber theme, as the first comment says, but everyone knows it either as "Gohan's Super Saiyan theme" or "Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 theme", because of the 5 seconds or so that can be heard when Gohan transforms to SSJ2 for the first time. It doesn't help the fact that Gohan doesn't have an official Super Saiyan theme.
    • English dub again: Inverted with Ginyu Transformation. Introduced for Captain Ginyu's body-switching ability, it ended up being used for generally "epic" moments (Super Perfect Cell's death, Kid Buu blowing up Earth) long after Ginyu's death - all without changing its name.
  • Franky in One Piece got this with the third part of a soundtrack tune called "Serious Games." The only other previous use in the series had been for one of Usopp's Crowning Moments of Awesome. It is now heard regularly when Franky does anything and on his eyecatches.
  • Susumu Hirasawa's "Forces," due both to its use during Guts' first battle with the Hawks and its use in the "next episode" trailers, has come to be considered the main theme of Berserk.
  • Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru is this for the title character of Rurouni Kenshin, given that his official theme (the aptly-titled "Himura Kenshin Theme") is far less remembered and the former is usually the first thing people hear when they think of the character and the show itself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jason's theme from the Friday the 13th movies (you know the one - ki-ki-ki-ki/ma-ma-ma-ma) was originally his mother's theme from the original movie, in which Jason didn't even appear. It was derived from her Jason personality telling her to kill Alice ("Kill her, Mommy!") It only became his theme in the next movie.
  • Godzilla has two main themes: the slow, dark "horror" theme from the original movie when he rampages through Tokyo, and also from the original movie, the up-tempo Self Defense Forces march, which become so associated with the monster that even the composer began calling it Godzilla's Theme. Nowadays, both are used relatively equally, depending on what kind of mood is being called for.
  • "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" from Animal Crackers became Groucho Marx's theme song in this manner (most explicitly as the theme to You Bet Your Life).
  • This is more of an in-development bootstrap, but in The Lord of the Rings you first get glimpses of the Gondor and Minas Tirith themes in The Fellowship of the Ring, but once it comes their time to shine in The Return of the King, they've changed meaning: since there isn't that much of a distinction between Gondor and Minas Tirith, the Gondor theme is used for both, while the Minas Tirith theme seems to be used for Isildur's heritage (the line of kings and, most prominently, the sword Andúril).
  • Star Wars: The "Imperial March", as the name implies, was originally intended to represent the Empire as a whole; however, it famously came to be associated primarily with only Darth Vader.
    • Duel of the Fates had become the leitmotif for the Prequel trilogy as a whole, even though it was primarly scored for The Phantom Menace. In Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the score was used, respectively, the scene in which Anakin goes to rescue his mother from the Tusken Raiders and for segments of the Final Battle between Yoda and Palpatine. Although Maul actually has a separate motif in The Phantom Menace, "Duel of the Fates" has since become his leitmotif particularly with its use in Solo despite it originally serving as a battle theme.
    • In The Force Awakens, the Rebellion fanfare from the original trilogy is essentially used as a theme for the Millennium Falcon. The score for Solo uses it similarly (apparently as John Powell learned that John Williams had originally intended for it to serve as the Falcon's theme), while in The Last Jedi it's used for the Resistance heroes.
    • The track "Reminiscence Therapy" from Solo uses the Death Star motif from the first movie when the Star Destroyer appears in The Maw.
    • "The Force" theme is used whenever a force-sensitive good-guy character does something important that's related to the Force. It is very calming to hear, and usually will get Star Wars fans pumped-up. Examples include the passing (death) of important Jedi or a Jedi's first time meditating. See here for more info.
  • Terminator: The Terminator leitmotif (Dum-Dum-Dut-Dum-Dum) was first created in the second film. In the first film, a similar but different leitmotif is heard during key scenes (opening credits, police shootout, closing credits). Further, in the first two films, the Terminator actually had an entirely different leitmotif when it appeared in most scenes. It wasn't until the third film (headed by an entirely different production crew) that the leitmotif was attached to the character himself, but it has remained that way ever since.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Arrested Development, the "Oscar is Buster's real father" theme became the general theme for Oscar and I'm Oscar Dot Com.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: The episode "Amok Time" had a leitmotif for the Vulcan traditions driving the episode, including the ritual fight between Kirk and an enraged Spock. The fight scene version was reused out of context during fight scenes in several other episodes that had nothing to do with the planet Vulcan, and the "Star Trek fight music" became one of the most-remembered (and most-parodied) aspects of the series as a whole.
  • On NCIS, Tony and Ziva are a rare television couple with two themes. One written specifically for them, and a tidbit from a piece of score entitled "Aliyah," from the episode of the same name. The scene in which it originally plays does not involve the two of them, it's primarily a Ziva and Gibbs scene. And while the bit that was lifted plays over Tony looking disappointed that Ziva decided to stay in Israel, it's unclear how or why it was decided this particular piece would be their leitmotif for the rest of the series.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Linda McMahon's entrance theme began life as the theme for WrestleManias X to XIV.
    • On a related note, Vince McMahon's theme, "No Chance in Hell", originally began as the theme to the 1999 Royal Rumble.
  • Diabolic Khaos's theme, Dimmu Borgir's Hybrid Stigmata- The Apostasy, became the theme of Delirious with the team getting a new theme song and every other member getting their own individual theme (Well MsChif already had her own that was also sometimes used for all of them but also got a new one).
  • Jim Jones's "We Fly High", used to be the theme for the YRR stable in Full Impact Pro but the group got a new theme and "We Fly High" became the theme of Claudio Castagnoli.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Link was never given a Leitmotif in the first games, despite almost every other character getting one. However, ever since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the series' main theme became Link's motif as well, eventually being canonized within the lore of the games as "Song of the Hero".
    • The song most commonly known as Zelda's Lullaby originated in A Link to the Past as the song plays when rescuing one of the Maidens. It returned as Zelda's Leitmotif in Ocarina of Time and has being associated with her ever since. (However, the full version of the song only plays in A Link to the Past once: when you meet Zelda at the beginning of the game. Every time thereafter is an alternate version that leaves a movement out.)
    • Saria's Song is an interesting case in that it is specifically her leitmotif even though it was also used in other contexts in Ocarina of Time. However, while she didn't appear in any later games in the series, the song continued to appear in forested areas... and due to both an Ocarina sidequest and his connection to creepy forests, it has spent more games representing the Skull Kid (in Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess) than its originally intended character. It was also used as a unique victory theme for Darunia in Hyrule Warriors, referring to a scene from Ocarina of Time in which the song is played for him.
    • The Hyrule Castle theme from A Link to the Past has steadily become the theme for the King of Hyrule (in games where he actually appears). It started with King Daphnes in The Wind Waker, and continued with King Rhoam in Breath of the Wild.
  • The stage music themes in Street Fighter II. They ended up being the themes of the characters who uses it as their home stage.
    • Interestingly inverted in the first two Street Fighter Alpha games. In the first Alpha title, the stages are not 100% unique as several of them are one stage with certain elements changed for each character (such as Ken and Charlie sharing a stage but with an audience present in Charlie's version) so technically the themes used were more for the character than the stage. By the time Alpha 2 rolled around, every character had an entirely unique stage catered for them so the music then became attached to the stage itself.
  • Star Fox defines this trope, as the theme that is known to represent his character in both the Super Smash Bros. titles and the later games in the Star Fox series was originally taken from the opening cutscene in Star Fox 64.
    • After this theme appeared in Super Smash Bros. as his stage theme, it was immediately adopted as the new leitmotif for Fox and his games starting with Star Fox Adventures, ignoring any previously established motifs in Star Fox (SNES) and Star Fox 64.
    • While Star Fox Command was a bit of a departure from the main series, it couldn't help but include the 64 theme on its main menu (here).
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee continued the trend with Venom's Stage theme. Even though Venom had an entirely different theme in all previous titles (one of which, ironically, was used for Corneria, the other Star Fox stage in the same game), the theme has become so synonymous with the Star Fox series that it couldn't be helped.
    • The original Star Fox Corneria theme is also very popular, though it took Super Smash Bros. three games to finally implement the theme into Brawl's soundtrack.
    • It is usually attributed to Fox that Area 6 in Star Fox 64 is his theme, as it was used in Star Fox Command.
    • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Fox gets "Space Armada" from Star Fox as his leitmotif in the Subspace Emissary, and "Main Theme (Star Fox)" as his Classic Mode credits music. "Area 6" is in the game, but is instead used as Falco's unlocking battle theme. Likewise, "Main Theme (Star Fox 64)" is used for Falco's Classic Mode credits theme.
  • A slowed down version of the Pollyanna theme was used as Ness' house music in EarthBound. Not entirely recognizable at first, though. While not his official leitmotif, it's frequently associated with him.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy V, this happens within the game itself to Gilgamesh. The first time you fight him, it plays the regular boss music. The second time you fight him it is during the Big Bridge segment, throughout which the appropriately named "Battle at the Big Bridge" plays. However, it becomes Gilgamesh's own theme as it plays during battles with him later in the game which do not even take place on the Big Bridge. The theme has even followed him into other games in which he appears.
    • Final Fantasy VII "Those Chosen by the Planet" is Sephiroth's leitmotif. However, his Final Battle theme, "One Winged Angel" (which, in fairness, is partially a remix of "Those Chosen by the Planet"), has mutated into his theme song in the minds of the fandom and, as a consequence, the compilation. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate goes even further in cementing it by using "One Winged Angel" in his reveal trailer.
    • While it happened a little more slowly for the main villain of Final Fantasy VI, Kefka is now more associated with "Dancing Mad," the song played during his Final Boss fight, than "Kefka," the leitmotif used for him in all of his other appearances in the game (though the third movement of "Dancing Mad" heavily incorporates his original theme).
    • Final Fantasy XIV: Blackbosom's theme song is based off of 'My Soul to Keep', which was originally for Lady Amandine in Haukke Manor. It was reused for Tam-Tara (Hard) in which Blackbosom makes an appearance and has been associated with her since.
      • Later on, Zenos yae Galvus often appears in cutscenes to "Meteor" which was oringally used as Nael van Darnus's theme.
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn got the theme "Eternal Bond" as the Greil Mercenaries' charging theme, but in Super Smash Bros. Brawl it was renamed "Ike's Theme", and now is remembered as such. To be fair, it was also used in a character Leitmotif fashion in several scenes.
  • The song called "Theme of Samus Aran: Galactic Warrior" in Super Metroid originally, is now probably better known as the music for Upper Crateria. Instead, the main theme of Super Metroid itself has since mutated into Samus' own character theme. This video gives a good background on the history of the song.
    • The Lower Crateria theme had a similar fate. The first time it cues in the game is when Samus returns from her brief visit to Brinstar and is suddenly faced with Space Pirates that weren't there before. Thanks to this, as well as remixes in Zero Mission and Corruption, the theme is now associated with Space Pirate bases in general.
    • Super Metroid used three different songs for its various boss fights. The one that played during both escape sequences, as well as the fights with Ridley, Draygon, and the Torizo, has come to be almost exclusively associated with Ridley and has been remixed for every appearance he has made in the series since. Even Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros. Brawl refer to it as "Vs. Ridley".
    • The second boss theme, played during the Kraid, Crocomire, and Phantoon fights, has essentially become Kraid's theme, though this is more an unintentional example, since Kraid was the only one of the three to ever show up in another game until Phantoon's Bonus Boss appearance in Metroid: Other M - and even then, he just reuses the Metroid Queen's boss music.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, while there are close to 250 distinct stage themes available, each character has one specific stage theme that always plays over the credits after beating Classic Mode. Each unlockable character also has a specific theme that plays during the fight to unlock them. Sometimes these are the same (Luigi gets "Luigi's Mansion Theme" for both), and sometimes they are different (Ganondorf gets "Gerudo Valley" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for his credits music and "Hidden Mountain & Forest" from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for his unlocking match). In most cases, however, these tracks are more relevant to the games the characters came from than the characters themselves.
    • Many characters acquire other Bootstrapped Leitmotifs in the cutscenes of the Subspace Emissary, the platformer-style adventure mode of the game.
    • R.O.B. doesn't even get this justification: While his credits music is the theme from a R.O.B.-compatible game, Gyromite, his unlock music is bizarrely the theme from Mario Bros., likely the most egregious example of this trope from Brawl.
    • Bowser is a unique example: his credits music is the "Giga Bowser" theme from Super Smash Bros. Melee, which had never been applied to the standard form of the character before. Arguable since Giga Bowser is playable in this game as Bowser's Final Smash.
    • Averted with the handful of characters that have proper leitmotifs that predate this game, like King Dedede ("King Dedede's Theme") and Wolf ("Star Wolf"). They keep those pre-existing leitmotifs. Those characters with Bootstrapped Leitmotifs from other games keep them in some situations, but not all. (For example, Samus keeps it in the Subspace Emissary, but not in the credits.)
    • As of the 4th installment, You Will Know Our Names, the Boss in Mook Clothing battle theme from Xenoblade Chronicles, has become this for Shulk, seeing as it's now his victory theme.
  • The composers of the Halo soundtracks said that they didn't intend to apply leitmotifs, but many music pieces can be bootstrapped to characters or locations:
    • Characters: "Enough Dead Heroes" = Cortana, "Shadows" and "Devils...Monsters" = The Flood, "The Last Spartan" = Master Chief, "Weight of Failure" = The Arbiter (and later his followers), "Destroyer's Invocation" = Tartarus, "High Charity" = The Prophets, "Under Cover of Night" = Sgt. Johnson (his death scene uses a Dark Reprise of it), "In Amber Clad" = Cmdr. Keyes, "Orbital Drop Shock Trooper" = ODST squad Alpha-Nine, "Noble Mission" = Noble Team, "Lone Wolf"/"Noble Six" = Noble Six, "Follow Our Brothers" = Elite Separatists, "Make It Count" = Jorge, "Rain"/"The Rookie" = The Rookie, etc.
    • Locations: "Penance" = Delta Halo, "Farthest Outpost" = The Ark, "Finish the Fight" = The Portal, "Sword Control" = Sword Base, etc.
    • Other: "Earth City" = The Scarab, "The Battle Begins" = The Fall of Reach, "Ashes" = Kat/New Alexandria, etc.
  • Several songs in the Castlevania series have become recurring themes for the characters that starred in the games where they debuted. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood has "Bloodlines" (the first stage theme) and "Slash" (the theme of one of the alternate stages), which have become respectively associated with Richter and Maria. "An Empty Tome" from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the song that plays when you first enter the castle, is repeatedly used as Shanoa's theme. "Iron Blue Intention" from Castlevania: Bloodlines has apparently been assigned as the theme for the Lecarde Family; the extended portion added for Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin starts playing in the ending credits when Stella and Loretta's portraits appear on screen, and the original portion of the theme was used remixed for Eric's theme in Judgment.
    • Both an Empty Tome mentioned above, and "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" may have been intentional. "An Empty Tome" is used in the intro and in the castle's first area, yet the title describes Shanoa. "Tragic Prince/Pitiful Scion" also accurately describe Alucard, however, instead of being the first area/opening's theme, it's used in the Clock Tower, the one area that recurs in every game and to people that played the previous games can result in Soundtrack Dissonance. The fact that the first area becomes a Bootstrapped Leitmotif is probably Lampshaded by both Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. In the former, the first area is explicitly stated to be the protagonist Juste's theme in the sound test, and in the latter's extra mode where you play as Julius, the theme of the game's first area is replaced by his theme (which can also be considered this trope as it was two songs from previous games repurposed and popularized as his theme.)
    • Alucard also has Dracula's Castle, as it was the opening area.
    • Thanks to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Julius Belmont has made off with two earlier songs from the series. The Haunted Castle song "Don't Wait Until Night" (which plays as Simon crosses the bridge to the final encounter) and the original game's "Heart of Fire" (which plays in the fifth stage leading up to Death) were combined into a medley under the second song's name for the boss fight against Julius, and it has become his leitmotif in later games as well.
  • In the Ys series, "Theme of Adol" and its variations is implied to be the titular hero's leitmotif, although it never seems to be directly connected with him in-game.
  • An inversion of this trope occurs in the Fire Emblem Akaneia. In Shadow Dragon, the track entitled "The Proud Commander" was the Leitmotif for Camus and Michalis. In New Mystery, it's used as background music for pretty much any boss or character of vaguely high status.
  • Modern Warfare 2 has: "Contingency" = TF141, "Code of Conduct" = Shadow Company, "Siege"/"Infiltration" = Washington DC, and plenty of others.
  • Gears of War 2 has "March of the Locust" = Locust Horde, "Hope Runs Deep" = COG, "With Sympathy" = Maria, "Rolling Thunder" = Delta Squad(YMMV for this) and so on.
  • The Tomb Raider title theme and its variations = Lara's theme.
  • In the Touhou, a character's Leitmotif usually ends up being the music from their boss fight, but this trope happens a few times. Hong Meiling, Alice Margatroid and Youmu Konpaku all get their stage themes as Leitmotifs (along with their boss themes); Suika Ibuki gets her pre-battle theme (again, along with her boss theme). Also, midbosses (Daiyousei, Koakuma, Lily White etc.) usually don't have their own leitmotifs, so they tend to get associated with the theme of the stage they appear in.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • "Destiny's Force" is the theme for numerous major boss battles in Kingdom Hearts, of which the Recurring Boss Darkside happens to be one. 358/2 Days, coded and 0.2 all use it exclusively for Darksides (and the Palette Swap Dark Follower in the former).
    • "Rowdy Rumble" played during different mini-boss fights in Kingdom Hearts II, including most fights with Pete. The one time you fight Pete in Days also has this song, and in Dream Drop Distance, encounters with Pete are the only time this song plays. The Beagle Boys also get in on it in the latter game, but they're Pete's personal lackeys and are later fought alongside him.
    • "Working Together" is the battle theme for Twilight Town as Sora. In II, Yen Sid's Mysterious Tower is part of that world, so it naturally plays there. The Tower later appears as a standalone world in Birth by Sleep, with the same battle theme.
  • Psychic Energy was originally a Map BGM in Shin Super Robot Wars. It became associated with Aya Kobayashi in later SRW games.
  • Shin Megami Tensei
    • In the Maniax edition of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Dante was given some leitmotifs reminiscent of his own series, and when he was booted off and replaced with Raidou Kuzunoha the XIV in the Chronicle edition, said music remained the same for Raidou.
    • When the Demi-Fiend from Nocturne appears as a Bonus Boss in Digital Devil Saga, he's accompanied by the basic battle theme from that game. It doubles as a subtle Take That Player moment as well, implying that the Demi-Fiend sees the party as nothing more than another random encounter to walk all over.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the theme of the final dungeon is a remix of the Major Boss theme from Shin Megami Tensei II, most likely due to the fact that a sizable amount of people exclusively associate that song with YHVH, the final boss of II, and the dungeon is an entire universe ruled and controlled by YHVH, who is fought at the end of it.
    • Persona 3 FES' The Answer epilogue stars deuteragonist Aigis in the playable role. "Heartful Cry", the boss theme for the fights against the rest of the party, has become associated with her since, with remixes serving as her character theme in Persona 4: Arena and one of her dance routines in Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight.
    • In Persona 4: Arena, Yu gets a remix of "Reach Out to the Truth", the normal battle theme from Persona 4, as his character theme.
  • Undertale:
    • Sans has his own Leitmotif named after himself, and has a remix of the song named "Song That Might Play When You Fight Sans". (It does not actually play when you fight Sans.) However, the song most people associate him with is his actual boss theme, "MEGALOVANIA".
    • Similarly, Chara, the first fallen human (and whose actual role in the plot beyond their Plot-Triggering Death is ambiguous, at best) is most prominently associated with both the aforementioned "MEGALOVANIA" and the game's opening tune, "Once Upon a Time."
    • The melody of "Ghost Fight" is actually more associated with perennial Ensemble Dark Horse Muffet than any of the actual ghost characters.note 
  • Rogue Squadron: In the Sound Test, a track from The Empire Strikes Back is labeled "Snowspeeder Theme", as it was heard when the snowspeeders are searching for Luke and Han in the movie. Oddly enough, the track wasn't meant for that scene - it's an edited version of "Hyperspace" that replaced the original cue.
  • Kirby:
  • Metal Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog has had a number of leitmotifs over the years, but more often than not he's associated with the Stardust Speedway Bad Future track from the Japanese and European soundtracks of Sonic the Hedgehog CD, which wasn't even a boss-exclusive track. Sonic Generations, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 2, and Sonic Mania all use variants of it in their Metal Sonic fights, while Sonic Forces uses a variant of the American track.
  • While Olympus Mons in the Pokémon series have had their own unique leitmotifs since Pokémon Crystal, the ones hailing from Pokémon Red and Blue (Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Mewtwo, and Mew) shared the same battle music as all other wild Pokémon, resulting in them getting remixes of the track in later games.
  • While a few Overwatch characters have new music composed for them in Heroes of the Storm, others are given bootstrapped leitmotifs. For example, Ana's theme is a remix of the Temple of Anubis map's background music, and Tracer's theme is remixed from the main Overwatch theme.
  • Red Dead Redemption's "The Shootist" was originally just one of several possible "combat" pieces that can play in a shootout. Red Dead Redemption 2 uses it as John Marston's theme, inserting its iconic riff at points where he's prominently featured and using dramatic remixes of it in some of his missions during the epilogue.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas:
    • The "Rubble of the Forgotten/Out of Business" motif is most heavily associated with Doc Mitchell, though it also plays at the 188 Trading Post and a couple other locations.
    • "Radiation Storm", recycled from the original Fallout, became this for Mr. House, since it plays both in the Lucky 38 Penthouse where he resides and the Fort Bunker where you activate his Securitron army.
    • "The Vault of The Future", another recycled tune, is the bootstrapped theme of Vault 22.
  • DuckTales brings with it an odd example. Thanks to the source material's 2017 reboot, the Moon level's theme is now associated with Della Duck, a character who didn't even appear in the video game.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Ku's leitmotif, heard in "We Named Her Ku", "Ku's First Flight", etc. was derived from the main melody of the Inkwater Marsh BGM, "Separated By The Storm", which Gareth Coker composed well before he had a dedicated theme in mind for the character. The original non-specific Prologue music cues were subsequently discarded and replaced with variations of her theme, including the aforementioned two.
  • Several examples from Puyo Puyo.
    • "Theme of Puyo Puyo", or the Stage 1-8 theme, has gone from being something of a misnomer to serving as Arle's theme as of 15th Anniversary as well as the series's answer to Tetris's "Korobeiniki" in Puyo Puyo Tetris.
    • "Area A" from Puyo Puyo Tsu became Carbuncle's theme as of Puyo Puyo Fever.
    • "Area C", also from Puyo Puyo Tsu, has become Witch's theme as of 20th Anniversary.
    • The 2-Player versus theme of Puyo Puyo Sun became Draco's theme as of 20th Anniversary, despite there being a different song in the game serving as her theme.
  • Shining Force: The "Circus Battle/Battle 3" theme originally played for several mayor bosses but it became so associate with Michaela's Marionette boss that basically became its theme. Tellingly, in the GBA port, the theme only plays in the battles against the Perverse Puppet and Michaela.
  • Shantae:
    • Shantae herself is usually associated with the "Burning Town" theme.
    • Scuttle Town had background music of its own in the Game Boy Color game, but uses a remix of the "minigame room" theme from Risky's Revenge onward. Bolo ended up using the original song as his own theme starting with Pirate's Curse... which is odd, because Bolo is never anywhere near Scuttle Town in the first game.
    • Likewise, Water Town's background music ended up becoming Sky's character theme in Pirate's Curse and Half-Genie Hero.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The second game, Justice For All, has a track called "Investigation - In the Midst 2002". While not technically considered a character theme, every instance of the song is connected to the defendant of the case it appears in, Matt Engarde, so is is any wonder that it is generally considered to be his theme? Its Dark Reprise, "Investigation - Core 2002", is first played when he shows his true colors, so it again gets this treatment and is considered the "Evil Matt Engarde Theme" Oddly enough, the same track ends up inverting this trope in the following game. While it was practically a Leitmotif in JFA, it becomes a general 'dark secret' theme in Trials and Tribulations.
    • Across the board, many fans associate the "Pursuit" themes with the protagonists rather than the intended "Objection!" themes, as the main thrust of the game is catching witnesses in lies so when the "Pursuit" music starts up, that means the main character has the witness dead to rights and it's time for a Theme Song Power Up.
      • "Pursuit - Cornered!" from the original game is the one many consider Phoenix's theme, while other people consider it as both his AND Edgeworth's theme. He has a theme proper in "Objection! 2001" but Cornered appears in a flashback with both Phoenix and Edgeworth and was also used in the final moment of Phoenix's trilogy, while "Objection! 2001" only appeared in the first and fourth games. It got to the point that upon his appearance in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 he is the only character with TWO themes, his proper theme and "Pursuit - Corner the Culprit" for his Turnabout Mode. The fans aren't complaining, though.
      • Apollo Justice has a proper theme used for his Objections (titled "A New Chapter of Trials!"), but many people associate him with "Pursuit - Overtaken"note 
    • As of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Phoenix seems to have appropriated the main riff of "Objection! 2004" as his personal theme music, which was remixed again for the sequel. Fittingly for the trope, as Phoenix was really intended to be associated more with the first game's music (hence the reuse of Ace Attorney 1 themes in Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney), "Objection! 2004" was really more Mia Fey's theme music.
    • In the first Ace Attorney, "Blissful People" was associated with, well, any happy witness. Lotta Hart was only one of these, but it becomes associated solely with her from Justice For All onward.
  • A peculiar example in Fate/stay night: in Expanded Universe material, Archer usually gets a Theme Music Power-Up that is a remix of "Emiya", the theme used exclusively for Shirou in the original Visual Novel. This example is strange because of the spoileriffic reason that Archer is a future version of Shirou, meaning that the song originally represented him in a way.

    Web Comics 
  • Happens all the time in Homestuck. This webomic has its own music team who typically compose themes based on their own visions, but which will often get used in the comic in a completely different context than they imagined. A specific example is "Crystamanthequins", a song originally supposed to be music for Dave. It was later used in this flash and became associated with Vriska and Terezi instead; lately it has been showing up as a Recurring Riff in that context.
    • One of John's themes, "Doctor" ended up becoming a theme for ascension to God Tiers. One of its remixes, "Savior of the Waking World", has a decent claim to being the theme for the webcomic as a whole.
    • The drum beat from "Upward Movement" (first plays as Dave walks up some stairs) eventually become included in many different songs in Homestuck, such as "Even in Death", "Descend", and "Terezi Owns" (though the third makes sense as it is basically a mirror to the above-mentioned Upward Movement).

    Web Videos 
  • The SiIvaGunner music channel does this for many characters featured in their Massive Multiplayer Crossover story-based videos. Said characters are chosen to represent songs frequently referenced in the non-story videos, for example "We Are Number One" from LazyTown has been remixed several times, with Robbie Rotten being the representing character. In that case the character choice makes sense as he sung that song, but some cases can be stranger, like "Snow halation" from Love Live! which is represented by the character Nozomi even though Love Live! canonically associates it with Honoka. The oddest one is probably "Rhythm Code"note  from Kirby: Planet Robobot being represented by Felix the Cat due to an infamous rip mixing the song with music from a Felix bootleg game that Joel played.
  • Tommy Innit often plays the Able Sisters theme during his streams, to the point where they become his leitmotif.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob's theme. His theme is the title music for Cape Fear, since the episode it was first used in was a parody of that film. It wasn't meant to represent Bob, but since he was the bad guy, it naturally played only when he was onscreen. The producers ran with it and now it's quite explicitly his theme, always playing when he first appears in an episode (just in time for Bart and Lisa to shout in unison: "AAAAAAH! SIDESHOW BOB!").
  • Due to being one of his most iconic cartoons, Mickey Mouse has been increasingly associated with the Steamboat Willie theme. The theme song to his fan club also started referring to him over time once it fell out of the public eye.
  • Æon Flux's theme tune was originally just a Suspiciously Similar version of the theme from Indiana Jones, as her debut short was a deconstruction of action movies. It was later remixed from a goofy, mock-triumphant, pseudo-orchestral sound into something more exotic and techno-ish for the later short Gravity; this version then became her leitmotif in the TV series. The "Breen National Anthem", leitmotif of Aeon's main antagonists, has a similar story: it was originally created as the theme for a single Breen character, Vaarsche Lockney, meant to sound like a Richard Wagner piece due to the character's Germanic looks...but it fit Bregna's authoritarian bent so well that the tune managed to outlast Lockney himself, who was spitted by an enemy swordsman half a minute into his first and only appearance.
  • Among the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, various character songs took on this role.note  Rainbow Dash's verse of "At the Gala" is an noteworthy example, however, as it eventually became Ascended Fanon via the song "Awesome As I Want to Be" from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks.
  • The triumphant theme of Takua and the titular mask from BIONICLE: Mask of Light is reused at the end of the prequel film Legends of Metru Nui when the first movie's characters show up, focusing mainly on Jaller rather than Takua, with no Mask of Light in sight. The theme is seamlessly combined with the fallen hero Lhikan's personal motif as Jaller inherits Lhikan's mask to signal the progression of generations, so fans tend to associate the music with the first film and its timeline in general, rather than with just Takua and the mask.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: