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Fading Away

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His fear's almost as transparent as his skin.

Marty: His head's gone! It's like it's been erased.
Doc: Erased from existence.
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A character slowly begins to fade away, often as a form of non-violent onscreen death. This differs from Everything Fades and Disappears into Light, as the character is always alive and fully conscious throughout the process, and that the fading is explicitly the cause of their death/disappearance. That said, the fading is not always fatal if the character can find a way to stop it in time.

On some occasions, the fading can be relatively quick and sudden, with the stricken character swiftly dwindling and disappearing. Other times, the process will take some time to complete, causing the a character to gradually become more and more transparent and ghostlike, gradually losing the ability to interact with the physical world around them until they eventually vanish completely.

Characters who are likely to suffer this fate include ghosts and spirits, beings trapped in a world that is not their own, "imaginary" creatures that are dependent on belief to exist, other beings who have somehow lost the "cause" for their existence, and even the odd Intangible Man with Power Incontinence. This can also be caused by a Delayed Ripple Effect when Time Travel is involved, in which case this trope will likely overlap with Ret Gone as the fading person is removed from history.

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Compare with Reduced to Dust, where characters (or objects) turn into dust, ashes or the like, instead of fading away completely without a trace.

This is a Death Trope. Beware of unmarked spoilers!


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the final episode of The Big O, the Big Venus marches straight into Alex Rosewater and his Big Fau mecha, causing him to fade away, horrifically. It keeps going, fulfilling its role as the Reality Reset Button of Paradigm City.
  • In a breather arc in Dragon Ball Super, Vegeta gets cloned by evil alien water. When it happens, Vegeta is told that if the clone isn't defeated within 5 minutes, he will fade away, which does start to happen. (Although, in true Dragon Ball tradition, it takes a lot longer than 5 minutes.) During this time, he seems to be something of a ghost, not being able to touch anything. In true Vegeta fashion, he views it as more of an annoyance than a actual threat, and actually yells at his clone for not fighting against Goku well enough, despite the fact that Goku is fighting for Vegeta's life.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: In the third OVA, Mayo notices that she has no reflection when she looks into a hand mirror. She then notices that she's disappearing, and assumes that it's because she took Miaka's fetus through supernatural means, mistreated her attendants and Seishi, spread vicious rumors about Miaka, and prayed for the destruction of the Universe of the Four Gods just so she could be with Tamahome. However, it's then revealed that all the other Seishi are experiencing the same thing, and Mayo goes off to a Metaphysical Place with Miaka to summon Suzaku. The other Seishi reappear once she does.
  • In Sword Art Online.
    • When Yui disobeys her programming and starts gets deleted by Cardinal, she begins fading away, giving her enough time to share a hug and some encouraging last words to her parents, Asuna and Kirito.
    • When most players die they get an instant death animation where they explode into blue glowing shards. However the deaths of Asuna and Kirito are played more dramatically by having them slowly fade from existence first. Asuna is able to use this to say her last words to Kirito and Go Out with a Smile, while Kirito is able to use his Heroic Willpower to delay his own fading away and use it to stab Heathcliff in a Taking You with Me moment.
    • In Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, after all the bosses are destroyed, Yuna starts getting deleted as her data was connected to said monsters. Although she seems to be able to choose when she leaves, giving a very long speech of gratitude to the heroes before departing on her own terms.
  • Chihiro from Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away starts to fade away after she and her parents mistakenly enter the spirit realm. Arguably her eventual fate may have been worse than what had just happened to her parents, if Haku had not found her in time to stop her disappearing completely.
  • In one episode of Space Dandy, Ukulele Man, a mysterious alien, tries to drag a past-version of Dandy out of The Sea of Time in order to steal his body, which begins to cause the present-version of Dandy to slowly fade away. Luckily, Dandy manages to stop him just in time.

    Comic Books 
  • What If? v2 #89 was a story where the Fantastic Four weren't able to control their powers properly, and this is what happened to the Invisible Woman.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Coco:
    • Miguel starts turning into a skeleton the longer he stays in the spirit world, his skin and flesh turning transparent and fading away. The scene where he looks at his fading hand is a clear Shout-Out to Marty in Back to the Future.
    • Spirits disappear when no one living is left to remember them. This happens to Hector's old friend Chicharron early in the film, and later starts to happen to Hector himself because his daughter (now a very old woman) is forgetting him.
  • Inside Out: After being stranded in the Memory Dump, Bing Bong dies by slowly fading out of existence.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future: This happens to Marty when he's in danger of nullifying his own existence through a time paradox when his parents might not get together.
  • The Dark Crystal: When a Skeksis dies, the corresponding Mystic (as the two species were formed from an older race being split in half, meaning that in a sense paired Skeksis and Mystics are two halves of the same being) fades away and leaves Empty Piles of Clothing.
  • Star Wars: In Return of the Jedi, this is how Yoda dies. Having grown increasingly weak in his old age and knowing that he is dying, he calls Luke to his home to impart some dramatic Final Words, closes his eyes, and vanishes.
  • Teen Beach Movie: This is the fate that Brady and Mack are afraid of when they get trapped in the movie, thanks to objects they brought with them (such as their modern bathing suits) disappearing as they get assimilated into the movie world. In the sequel, the same thing threatens Tanner and Leila, along with all of their friends from the film, when they get trapped in the real world. In the end, Tanner and Leila are the only ones left to return to the movie world, thus restoring their friends and preventing themselves from disappearing by ensuring the movie's existence.
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again: This is the fate of Inspector Dreyfus after he goes insane. He and his entire castle are destroyed by his own malfunctioning disintegration ray and he slowly fades away from the feet up. Despite this apparent demise, he returns in the next movie with no explanation.

    Literature 
  • Thursday Next: In First Among Sequels, Thursday's Uncle Mycroft, following his death, appears as a ghost three times. Each time he appears as more faint and incorporeal than the last, and the end of the third he fades away permanently. Spike Stoker, an expert on the various forms of death, is able to reassure Thursday that she won't miss Mycroft's appearances, and that he knows the duration and degree of fading for each of them, so that she will be able to ask him what caused him to come back before his final fading away.
  • Warrior Cats: Cats in the afterlife — no matter whether they're in the good one or the evil one — gradually fade away over time as they are forgotten by living cats. The founders of the Clans and the most recently deceased cats, for instance, are somewhat faint but still mostly there, but some deceased cats have grown so faint that they don't even seem to notice anyone else around anymore.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show: A character who discovers he was a ghost all along fades out when informed of that fact.
  • Hannah Montana: This slowly starts happening to Jackson when he and Miley are taken back to the day their parents met and need to convince them to talk. It's Played for Laughs, as it's rather arbitrary which parts of his body start fading; and the inconsistent nature of his fate, as well as the fact that Miley's unaffected by it, are some of the hints that the plot was All Just a Dream brought on by Miley being struck by lightning beforehand.
  • Chris nearly had this happen to him in Charmed. Piper and Leo hadn't conceived him yet, so he started fading out of existence.
  • I Dream of Jeannie: In one episode, Jeannie and Tony had to journey to Mecca to reaffirm Jeannie's connection to her master. Tony put it off, and Jeannie began to disappear from the feet up, leaving her pink pantaloons hanging empty above the ankles, and going upward until they solved the problem.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "It's a Good Life", a five-year-old boy has the power to send people and things "to the cornfield". One of the characters who disappears is seen fading away after being turned into a jack-in-the-box.
    • In "A World of His Own", a playwright has the ability to create people by recording their description on an audio tape. When the tape is burned, the created person fades into non-existence.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In Who Mourns for Adonais? Apollo "spreads himself on the wind" at the end, fading away slowly.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Big Goodbye" (the first Holodeck Malfunction episode) a couple of holodeck characters, not believing that they aren't real, step out of the holodeck onto an Enterprise corridor. They congratulate themselves, then start fading away.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "Time's Orphan", Molly O'Brien disappears into a portal that sends her 3000 years into the past. The crew tries to get her back, but they get a version that is 18 years old; 10 years older than the Molly who went through the portal. The 18 year old Molly wants to go back, and when they send her back, the 18 year old Molly finds the 8 year old Molly. The 18 year old Molly sends the 8 year old Molly back to her parents and then disappears.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: This is the end fate of Celica in the fourth game. She's actually a soul pulled from the past and put in a new body that isn't going to last long, and the game's events forced her to use the last of her energy to save her companions. Around the middle of the game, her body slowly fades and she later disappears, but not before waving final goodbyes to the main characters.
  • Mega Man Zero: Cyber Elves die this way when they've used all of their power. This includes X (Zero's friend, now a Cyber Elf) in the end of the third game, after he's running thin on power after protecting the good guys. He gave one last request of protecting the world to Zero before he fades away.
  • Persona 5: After the Holy Grail beats the Phantom Thieves and throws them out of the subway, the heroes fade out of existence. Fortunately, they are able to survive by rebelling REALLY hard.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): At the end of Silver's story, Blaze rises to the sky and fades away while sealing Iblis into another dimension.
  • In the final day of The World Ends with You, Beat has, because of his earlier poor performance as a reaper, run out of time and begins to fade away until "he pulls himself together".
  • Final Fantasy X: This happens at the end to Tidus and all the other aeons. It also happens to Unsent people when a summoner performs a Sending.
  • Lost Sphear has this as a major part of the plot. Once something is completely forgotten, it vanishes from existence and fades into mist.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive: In comic number 1004, the Fox illusion does this, but with a cloudy effect. It was intended to be less disturbing than it was.
  • IDGet: In this very early strip, Kevin is approached by his "memory", who slowly begins to fade away, saying Kevin needs to "refresh" him, though Kevin says he's not in the mood for metaphors.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation's SCP-1467 is a man with No Ontological Inertia, who starts to fade away whenever he's not constantly reaffirming his own existence. Rather than growing ghostlike and immaterial, though, he becomes harder and harder to perceive in any way — first it becomes impossible to identify him as an individual, then to work out what he's doing or looks like, then to perceive anything but the presence of someone in the room, and so on until he's completely gone. The fading can be reversed, but the overall rate of degradation is increasing...

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Quest: This happened to Warlic during one of the quests. Due to something that occurred in the past, the resultant ripple effect affected his existence in the present.
  • Droids (a Star Wars tie-in cartoon starring C-3PO and R2-D2) had this happen to the villain of one episode due to a disease he'd meant to inflict on others. It was an unusually final and chilling fate for a Saturday morning cartoon of that vintage.
  • Family Guy:
    • This happens to Peter in "Fresh Heir" when he rips up his birth certificate.
      Peter: There is no light! There's only fire!
    • At the end of "3 Acts of God", Peter mentions that he asked God to perform another favor to him. Cue Meg fading away.
  • Justice League Unlimited: In "The Once and Future Thing: Weird Western Tales", Chronos keeps tampering with the space-time continuum until the universe itself starts to collapse. Among the symptoms of this is Wonder Woman fading away, possibly having never left the island of Themyscira (or never being born).
  • Kim Possible: In "Blush", Drakken sprays Kim with pollen that takes her desire to disappear when embarrassed literally. Ron has to Find the Cure! before she gets embarrassed out of existence.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Discordant Harmony", this is the result of Discord, the Reality Warper spirit of chaos, attempting to make himself orderly to make his friend Fluttershy more comfortable in his home. In the later half of the episode, Discord begins to become more and more transparent and his behavior more and more bland and robotic, until he fades to the point that his hands pass directly through objects when he tries to touch them and he is no longer capable of performing magic. Fluttershy eventually figures out that, since Discord is a creature of pure chaos, being orderly is quite literally destroying him. She is able to reverse the fading by acting in chaotic, random ways until Discord regains enough physical presence to create chaos on his own again.
  • South Park: In "The Tooth Fairy's Tats 2000", Kyle fades away after questioning his existence for too long. Then reality gets warped, scaring away the adults trying to take the kids away, after which Kyle fades back into existence.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures:
    • In "Fields of Honey", Babs learns from a video in the ACME Looniversity Library that laughter keeps cartoon characters young and immortal, and when a cartoon character is forgotten, it begins to age and fade from existence. Such was the case with Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid and his girlfriend Honey in the 1960's, when they were unable to regain the popularity they achieved in 1933. Babs showing Honey cartoons to the public and having them laugh at them brings Bosko and Honey back and restores them to their prime.
    • In "Sawdust and Toonsil", it is revealed that when Gogo Dodo is away from Wackyland for long periods of time, he loses his wackiness and begins to fade from existence. He begins to suffer this fate when he tries to rescue his captive friends from Wackyland from Silas Wonder, a wicked circus owner, but thankfully, he and his friends are rescued by Buster, Babs, and Plucky.

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