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"These are all imitations. As you say, these are all trifling swords. But there is no rule that says an imitation cannot defeat the original."
Shirou Emiya, Fate/stay night

Imitations of original products are a problem in the business culture. It results in lawsuits both by the companies of the original product and those who bought the fakes in the first place. Perhaps they were used with cheaper or low-quality materials or have functions and apps excluded from the original.

But just because something is an imitation doesn't mean it can't be just as good. In fact, it may be just as effective if not better in some areas. The main advantage mainly focuses on mass-production since they can be produced more cheaply or with materials on-hand. Even if they're not 100% as effective, the fact they're 75% or even half as effective is still better than current technology, which can be why customers wouldn't mind in the first place.

Contrast the Shoddy Knockoff Product, which is expected to be defective imitations nowhere near as good.

See also Variant Power Copying, which is an imperfect copy of someone else's ability, but may turn out to be as good (or even better) than the original. For Real Life examples of this trope, see Not-So-Cheap Imitation.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bakemonogatari: In the Nisemonogatari subplot, the Central Theme that surrounds the story is whether or not a "fake" can be more real than the real thing. Examples of this include Tsukihi, who turns out to be not blood-related to Koyomi, but who is still his precious sister in his eyes and Kaiki Deishuu, a conman pretending to be a Blue-Collar Warlock, who actually manages to solve a supernatural case using his guile.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, the Starter Villain Father Cornello is given a fake Philosopher's Stone to attract mindless followers into his religious order. However, it follows the same effects such as the apparent violation of Equivalent Exchange that it fools the Elric brothers into mistaking it for the real thing. In fact, in the manga and 2009 anime, the stone is real after all, the protagonists merely assume it isn't due to its disintegration.
  • The GN Tau Drives in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, respectively named "pseudo-reactors" by the original creators, are only slightly less effective than the actual solar reactors. Yet, they can be mass-produced and allow Earth's nations to compete against the Gundams. The manuals explain that the Tau Drives have everything except the TD Blankets, which can be only made with materials from Jupiter and is part of a production process that takes up to a full year to make. In practical terms this has two effects: The first is the GN particles have unfortunate side-effects in high concentrations, complicating medical treatments of survivors of near misses. This is fixed by the second season (shown by the change in color of the GN particles from red to orange). The second is that the Tau drives only have a finite amount of power and need periodic recharges while the originals act as a form of Perpetual Motion Machine. This generally isn't an issue until A-Laws and the Earth Alliance start attempting to replicate Trans-Am Mode which drains the power completely.
  • In A Certain Magical Index magic pretty much runs on this trope. By using something called Idol Theory, magicians copy the tools, weapons, abilities, and feats of gods and legendary figures. The result is always inferior to the original, but can still be literally world-shaking, with the most powerful magicians crossing into Variant Power Copying.
  • In One Piece Momonosuke ate an artificial copy of the Fish-Fish Fruit; Model: Dragon. The Devil fruit was introduced being discarded as a failure and unlike Kaido, the original user of the fruit, Momonosuke's transformation manifests as a tiny eel-like dragon with no fighting capabilities rather than an invincible giant serpent capable of destroying entire towns. However, it is eventually revealed that this is due to Momonosuke being only 8 years old and inexperienced as when he is aged up, he possesses the same giant size and deadly strength as Kaido, albeit still lacking control due to inexperience. It is eventually revealed that the reason that the fruit was labeled as a failure was due to it being the wrong color.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie, Hyper Metal Sonic is a robotic clone of Sonic's who, thanks partially to Internal Deconstruction, hands Sonic his ass in their first fight, and more than holds his own in their second battle; Sonic only gains the upper hand when Tails uses a computer watch he was given by Robotnik to hack into Hyper Metal Sonic's processor and scramble his programming.

    Comic Books 
  • Kaine, initially a mysterious character first appearing in the infamous Spider-Man Clone Saga, turns out to be a clone of Spider-Man whose powers are all enhanced versions of the original. The disfiguring mark he leaves on victims' faces is due to using his wall-sticking powers on them, precognition is Spider-Sense, etc. As for his strength, he could hold his own against the original Spidey and two other Spider-clones AT ONCE, and once shrugged off a massive explosion with little ill effect.
  • The Simpsons irregularly featured issues of Radioactive Man, Bart's favourite superhero. In one, Radioactive Man's arch nemesis Doctor Crab created a set of clones and one of them returned as a '90s Anti-Hero i.e an over-the-top mockery of a Rob Liefeld designed character, right down with to the bulging muscles, pouches and feet that are always blocked by the scenery. Radioactive Man commented that the clone was stronger, faster and more popular with both kids and marketing executives than him, alluding to the fact these kind of character were all the rage back then (the comic was actually published during the The '90s). Then he decided the best way to deal with his phony was by summoning his lawyer who proceeded to sue the ripoff to oblivion for numerous copyright infringements.
  • Wonder Woman Volume 5 introduces Peng Delian, a friend to Diana of Themyscira who imitates her as "Wonder-Woman" with her own versions of Diana's sufficiently advanced, Forged by the Gods and divinely blessed equipment. While she hasn't figured out how to duplicate everything, the shield blade and lasso Peng does field prove to be mostly on par when Lex Luthor and The Dark Fates help Cheetah steal Wonder Woman's stuff and Diana borrows Peng's versions to it all back. It's revealed is in fact the green snake from Legend Of White Snake, at the point where the two snakes had elevated themselves to heavenly status, and Peng might be underachieving.
  • In Matt Fraction's Iron Man story "The Five Nightmares of Tony Stark," this is one of Stark's titular nightmares: not someone making a bigger, badder, more powerful Iron Man, but making a cheaper Iron Man that could be mass-produced. Naturally, Ezekiel Stane does just this, buying discarded pieces of Iron Man armor and turning them into implants for suicide bombers.

    Fan Works 
  • In Incarnation of Legends, Bell's self-made Dragon Fang spell is a magical but inferior imitation of Kojiro's Tsubame Gaeshi, creating a phantom blade that mirrors Bell's own sword swing to strike from two directions at once compared to Kojiro's inescapable three direction attack. While it's not as sublime or skill-intensive as Kojiro's signature move, it's still an extremely rare super short chant magic and a step toward Bell catching up to and potentially surpassing Kojiro, which the latter encourages him to do.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In early versions of the script for Alien: Covenant, which was kept for the novelization, David's created Xenomorphs were this, being based on the work of the Engineer. While Ridley Scott changed his mind and attempt to state that David was indeed the creator, Fox seems to have overruled this as Alien: The Roleplaying Game called David's creations "Praetomorphs" and went with the intended explanation that David was merely basing his work off of the Engineers'.
  • In the climax of Godzilla vs. Kong, Mechagodzilla, a robotic copy of Godzilla designed to be a Titan killer, proves to be more than a match for the real Godzilla, coming closer than any previous Mechagodzilla incarnation to defeating the King of the Monsters. It takes teaming up with King Kong and getting some timely intervention from some humans in Mechagodzilla's control room for Godzilla to stand a chance against the mech.
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction combines this with Gone Horribly Right. The human-built Transformer Galvatron was built to be exactly like Megatron. And... he is exactly like Megatron.

  • The Dresden Files: Death Masks features the Shroud of Turin as a central MacGuffin with potent healing powers. Much later in Skin Game it's revealed that Jesus's actual burial shroud is somewhere else, and that the Shroud of Turin is a forgery that ended up developing the same powers as the original because so many people believed in it.
  • Part of The Reveal in The Fifth Elephant is that the Dwarf relic, the Scone of Stone was not stolen, but destroyed and that the supposed thieves are holding a replica instead. This trope comes into play when it's revealed that the Scone has been destroyed and replaced with multiple replicas already, as Dwarf bread doesn't last forever. The one recovered from the supposed thieves proves a suitably accurate replacement.
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: The guards of the Lunar Authority have laser guns. Chinese engineers are tasked with creating knockoffs of their laser weapons to arm members of the revolutionary forces. When the Rebellion begins, the copied laser weapons are used against the Lunar Authority's forces.
  • In The Tamuli the protagonists are given quarters in a replica of a castle - the empire in the book houses visiting diplomats in replicas of buildings from their own cultures architecture as a way of making them feel at home. As one character notes, the slavish way in which the replica was constructed meant they'd included many of the castles defensive features without even realizing they were there. This comes in handy later on when an armed rebellion against the empire kicks off.

    Live Action TV 
  • Kamen Rider Build is a man-made knockoff of an alien superweapon, made in an effort to kill the original. While the knockoff Build Driver never approaches the raw power of the original Evol Driver, the fact that it is a knockoff means that Build is able to take advantage of how all of his own design flaws also apply to Evolt. The imitation is also close enough that Build can interface with some of Evolt's alien technology, enabling the plan that ultimately lets the knockoff bring about the original's defeat.
  • The Psycho Rangers can vary in effectiveness depending on how the current villain is imitating the real Power Rangers. Sometimes the Mooks in Ranger suits go down as easily as they do when not wearing Ranger suits, sometimes they tap into some real power. Examples of them working as advertised are:
    • The Mutant Rangers were objectively stronger than the original gang, requiring the use of upgraded (but identical) weapons to take down.
    • The Trope Namers downloaded the memories of their opponents in their debut, being as strong as Rangers and knowing exactly what they're going to do, making any one-on-one battle between a Space Ranger and their corresponding Psycho Ranger a Curb-Stomp Battle in the Psycho Ranger's favor every time. They were defeated one by one over several episodes, always when the Rangers could gang up on them, and the final survivors going down in a battle involving multiple Megazords.
    • The knockoff Time Force Rangers were seen in a pocket dimension - as the monster who created them boasted, they knew all the originals' moves but the originals didn't know any of theirs. They were never actually beaten in battle, instead disappearing when Wes and Jen succeeded in shutting down the pocket dimension (meaning while they executed their plan, the others were now trying to stay alive while now outnumbered by enemies they never once gained the upper hand against when they'd been fighting one-on-one) and bringing everyone home.
    • The fake Beast Morphers Rangers were every bit as tough as the originals. However, they were created by a monster who was created from a video game, and they turned out to suffer from a flaw in the original game's programming (freezing up if you used a certain sequence of moves.)
  • The Mighty Boosh: In "The Power of Crimping", when Lance Dior and Harold Noom steal Vince Noir and Howard Moon's style and music, they become more popular and successful than Vince and Howard ever were, threatening to completely displace them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech's military production history is full of models of warmachine (mainly the iconic Battlemechs) that are In-Universe examples of having been heavily based on an earlier model, creating near-identical products who vary from 'almost as good as the original' to 'improved on the original'. Examples of the latter include the WHM-6R Warhammer (based on the earlier Battleaxe with some inspiration from the Hammerhands), the STG-3R Stinger (whose creators were served with a lawsuit by the makers of the Wasp, the machine it was a knockoff of), and the MLN-1A Merlin (based on the Vindicator, which itself is an example of this by being a knockoff of the earlier Griffin).
  • Warhammer 40,000. Ork technology is either looted from enemies or built in vague imitation of their weapons (especially bolters). It annoys and horrifies the Adeptus Mechanicus to no end that such arms built with no respect for the techno-theological rules can often surpass their own wargear.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Origins has the "Imitation Siwan sword", a Cursed with Awesome sword that does triple damage as well as multiplying your critical hit chances but also caps your maximum health to one-third of your normal maximum. Your protagonist immediately spots it for the unconvincing fake it is and puts on a show of being duped by it... because the little girl whose mother sells it to you is... adorable?
  • The Excalipoor in Final Fantasy V is a crappy knockoff of the Excalibur, and a Joke Item that only does 1 damage for regular attacks. But if you throw the knockoff onto an enemy or use it for the Goblin Punch special ability, it can carry a whopping amount of damage. Additionally, its basic attack is an Always Accurate Attack, which can be exploited by using the Spell Blade ability to imbue it with status effects, even instant death.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Tails creates a fake Chaos Emerald. He plans to have Sonic give it to Dr. Eggman, after which it would destroy the Eclipse Cannon after he used it in place of the real one. Eggman catches on because he notices two energy readings of Chaos Emeralds, but it turns out that because it's such a good copy, Sonic can use the Chaos Control ability with it just as if it were the real thing.
  • Xenosaga: A Cosmic Keystone, known as the (original) Zohar, is a source of practically unlimited power. There are also several artificial constructs known as imitation Zohars, and while none of them even come close to the frightening omnipotence of the original, each one of them is a MacGuffin that grants great amounts of power to its wielder.
  • Mega Man Zero: Zero himself is revealed to be a "knockoff" of Omega, the Final Boss. Despite that, Zero cares little about it and just proceeds to defeat Omega (when no other people have done before). The more impressive thing is that Omega's body was once Zero's; Zero is simply badass enough to defeat his own (more powerful, not to mention boosted) body.
  • Warcraft III: Abilities come in three varieties: hero (get stronger with level but only used by heroes), normal (single-level abilities used by regular units) and items (which are mostly the same as the normal spells, but cast by using the item).
    • Item versions of spells are weaker than the heroic versions, but are by no means ineffective, since the spell's effect rather than its area of effect, damage or duration is the important aspect. Additionally, they usually cost no mana to cast.
    • Normal spells cost mana to use, but in some cases are more effective than the faction-unique version. For example, every faction's caster has three spells, requiring two levels of training, themselves only available after upgrading the main base twice, but some mercenaries have the ability available as soon as they're hired, leaving only the question of whether the caster or the merc is the more cost-effective unit.
  • BlazBlue: Iron Tager's cyborg enhancement is described as "Artificial Causality Phenomenon Weapon", and Lambda-11's (and later Ragna's) Idea Engine is its improved version. Despite being powered by advanced (but still traditional) mechanics instead of souls, its capabilities rival that of proper Causality Phenomenon Weapons, i.e Nox Nyctores. There's also Celica's Ex Machina: Minerva, an automaton guardian made by Prof. Kokonoe (who's behind Tager's and Lambda's enhancements) as an imitation to Nox Nyctores Deus Machina: Nirvana (owned by Carl) and manages to be crazier (gameplay wise) than Nirvana does.
  • Path of Exile has Replica unique items. These are essentially versions of already existing unique items with several key differences in their stats. For example, the Abyssus helmet substantially increases the amount of physical damage dealt and taken by the wearer. The replica Abyssus replaces physical damage with fire, cold, and lightning elemental damage instead, making it beneficial for builds utilizing all three elements. The lore suggests that these items were products of research by an unknown cabal of scientists. Despite going through hundreds of prototypes and perhaps thousands of test subjects, their attempts have only came very close to the original objects, but never exactly the same.
  • Dark Souls II has the Bluemoon Greatsword. It's the weapon used by Benhart of Jugo, and he believes it to be the legendary Moonlight Greatsword, which appeared in various games preceding Dark Souls II. In reality, it's merely a prop, and you can obtain the real sword later in the game. However, the Bluemoon Greatsword is still a powerful weapon in its own right, despite its damage not increasing with the player's stats.
  • Ghostrunner: The Architect dismisses Hel as a shoddy and crude knockoff of the Ghostrunner and there is a grain of truth to his words - Hel's electronic camouflage is much less sophisticated than the Ghostrunner's to the point where it effectively defeats its purpose, plus where the Ghostrunner looks like a sleek Cyber Ninja, Hel is more comparable to a Robotic Undead. However, Hel can still keep up with the Ghostrunner in a fight and she can do things he cannot - where he needs access to a specific Cybervoid node to perform his In a Single Bound leap she can seemingly do it at will, and where the Ghostrunner needs to build up energy from multiple kills to fire off a single Sword Beam Hel can outright spam her own beams.
  • River City Girls: To access Hibari's room, which requires something gold, Misako and Kyoko purchase a fake cat statue that looks to be gold, at $10 instead of $999,995, and it works.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: The monks at Senpou Temple were trying to recreate the Dragon's Heritage in their twisted experiments. The end result (and Sole Survivor) was the Divine Child of Rejuvenation. Despite being a human-made recreation of the real Dragon's Heritage, the Divine Child is able to do more or less everything that Kuro can do. While the monks were sadistic bastards, they managed to at least get one thing right.
  • M.E.R.C (More Economical Recruiting Center) from Jagged Alliance is a budget amateurish competitor to A.I.M, the series' central mercenary group. Unlike its more established rival, which offers proven killers with military/police backgrounds or seasoned support personnel, MERC's meager selection consists solely of gun hobbyists, wannabe tough guys, and some random thugs. To even attract customers, MERC has to oversell and lie through the teeth on their goons' resumes, even faking testimony from a deceased legend. Nearly everyone in the trade knows how bad of an idea it is to go against A.I.M, and A.I.M itself wishes nothing but luck to its wannabe rival. Despite this, it's made rather clear that MERC's shoddiness is more due to lack of funds and bad reputation rather than incompetence, and if the player sticks with them through their turbulent startup period, MERC's goons will eventually prove themselves nearly half as good as A.I.M's while being several times cheaper (and don't even have to be paid upfront because MERC is that desperate for business).

    Visual Novels 
  • Nasuverse
    • Fate/stay night
      • The Unlimited Blade Works is all about creating an unlimited arsenal of Noble Phantasms that are knockoffs. Shirou states that they can not defeat the original Noble Phantasms, but are still able to imitate their abilities to a close second. Gilgamesh is defeated by this Noble Phantasm because even though he has all the originals, he merely uses them as throwing objects, never utilizing them to their full potential. That, and being copies, they can be Broken, turning them into a single use version with a rank boost that bumps the power up to the same as the original. Since it's a copy you can always just make another one after breaking the first. And many abilities can't be effectively reduced at all, so a copy of say, Rule Breaker, is just as effective as the original because its ability is absolute and not dependent on rank at all.
      • In a sense, the Big Bad of the novel qualifies. Anria Maniiu is essentially a corrupted Heroic Spirit that is on the verge of becoming an artificial God of Evil because of the Grail's power, but his powers and skills are what amount to knockoff versions of the actual gods of evil of the wider verse, the Seven Beasts. For instance, the corruptive ooze that plays a major role in all three routes is essentially a more fallible version of Tiamat's Sea Of Life, which leaves no wiggle room for resistance or an "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight. Because a somewhat weaker version of a powerful dark god is still a powerful dark god, the civilization of the world at large will still be screwed if it actually fully manifests (which doesn't really happen, though it gets progressively closer in every route).
    • False Caster from Fate/strange Fake creates false Noble Phantasms that work even better than the originals. Personally, he advocates for this trope, demanding his boss hire some mage he's heard about who can create dozens of imitation Noble Phantasms at once.
      • In the same work, Saber's Noble Phantasm is Excalibur, the Sword of Eternally Distant Victory, an imitation of the real Excalibur. It's definitely weaker than the original... but Saber can forcefully treat anything from a butterknife to a tree branch to an actual blade as Excalibur and fire off the Phantasm, making it next to impossible to effectively disarm him.

    Web Comics 
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Schlock starts requisitioning knockoff BH-209 Plasguns from the ship's fabber after Strohl Munitions discontinues the model. They're about as prone to exploding as the original. Supplemental notes make mention that this is a serious problem for manufacturers since anyone with a sufficiently high-grade fabber can replicate anything they make once they have the plans. Schlock is also a fan of "imitation Ovalquik", which he might prefer to the original.

    Web Video 
  • Critical Role: During Campaign 3, Bell's Hells take a job to break into Evon Hydroga's Twilight Mirror Museum, to prove whether his supposedly impenetrable security was as effective as his claims. The museum has a number of impressive exhibits, but the team breaks into his office and his desk and finds paperwork showing that several prominent artifacts are, in fact, forgeries.

    Western Animation 
  • The main cast of Archer once sold a large mass of drugs for what turned out to be Counterfeit Cash. However, Cyril points out they're pretty good counterfeit bills, which even a knowing buyer would pay around twenty cents on the dollar for, partially recouping their losses.
  • Volpina from Miraculous Ladybug is an Evil Knockoff of user of the Fox Miraculous created by Hawk Moth using the power of the Butterfly Miraculous. She has all of the same powers that the Fox Miraculous bestows, but she's able to create as many illusions as she wants. This is in contrast to Rena Rouge, the real owner of the Fox Miraculous, whose special power "Mirage" allows her to create one illusion before needing to recharge. At the end of season 2, it is revealed that the assumed limitations on the heroes' powers are due to inexperience rather than a hard limit, suggesting that Volpina's apparent superior ability is owed to Hawk Moth's greater experience with his Miraculous, and that Rena Rouge could match or even surpass her with enough practice.
    • Also, though they did have the heroes' weaknesses, Antibug and Copycat's powers were at least equal to those of Ladybug and Chat Noir. In a Bad Future, Hawk Moth turned Chat Noir into Chat Blanc, with the "unlimited power of destruction," making him able to literally destroy the universe, or at least an area that makes the Milky Way Galaxy seem quite tiny, in one shot he so chose, though it's not clear if that's an entirely new power set or boosting the Chat Noir powers.
  • In Mega Man (Ruby-Spears), for some reason Mega Man's stolen abilities are usually far more effective and useful on him than on the robots they were originally designed for. The most egregious instance being Cut Man's Rolling Cutter, as showcased in "Cutman is Incompetent"; used by Cut Man himself, it's a kind of pathetic weapon that can never seem to hit its target and gets blocked by just about anything, but used by Mega Man, it becomes an incredible Absurdly Sharp Blade / Precision-Guided Boomerang that chases down Cut Man, wrecks a stone wall, and destroys a plane that Cut Man tried to escape with. It's not clear whether Mega Man is just that much more intelligent than his foes at using their own weapons or if there's another reason for this discrepancy.