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Fake Special Attack

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Narrator: Final Dark Sunshine — Though the spell looks stylish, it's actually a recovery spell.
Nike: Oh yeah! That was lucky!
Kukuri: That was nice.
Raid: Oh, damn it! I was so concerned about how stylish the spell was that I didn't bother to ask about the effects.

So the big Fight Scene is kicking off, and Bob is going to use a seemingly powerful Special Attack. It often has an ominous name, and sometimes a Combat Commentator chimes in with an "Oh, Crap!".

When the attack is actually used... it's far less than impressive. The alleged Finger Poke of Doom really is just a poke. The "ultimate" transformation is just a bikini form. The BFG shoots Red Boxing Gloves or is an oversized water gun. The supposed Death Ray is just The Nudifier. Part or all of the attack is an illusion. All Bob's power is in his huge Battle Aura and he's bluffing. The lightshow is just a distraction from something else, like a Villain: Exit, Stage Left. The... no, I'm done. In any case, the attack has a humorous non-effect.

Contrast The Worf Barrage, which does do something big... which is then laughed off. Joke Item and Joke Character are the item/character versions. A Clipped-Wing Angel is a similarly subverted transformation, but is not always humorous. If all your fighting skill is like this, then What the Fu Are You Doing?. Brandishment Bluff is when a character threatens someone with an ability or weapon that isn't actually real. Heart Is an Awesome Power is when a power - that would become this if used to attack directly - is put to creative and effective use. Can be Subverted with You Are Already Dead, where the attack seems to do nothing, but its serious effects are about to be felt.

Because many of these attacks are played up as serious until The Reveal, expect minor spoilers.


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     Anime & Manga  

  • One Piece:
    • Usopp abused the hell out of this trope early part in the story. Yelling out a rubber band attack that made opponents flinch was used as an escape tool. His 10 ton hammer is just a balloon with two frying pans attached at the ends. Post time skip, however, his arsenal has become a legitimate threat.
    • While Usopp and Zoro were cuffed to each other, Zoro had to use Usopp as a "sword". Zoro eventually declared he had created a special attack called "Allure" for the situation, which consisted of holding Usopp out the side and waggling him at the enemy until they attacked. Usopp was not pleased to learn the attack was actually "A Lure".
  • Naruto:
    • The Thousand Years of Death looks like you're about to use a powerful Jutsu but is really just a full-force Kancho.
    • Naruto's Sexy Jutsu is similar. In this case, it is an actual Jutsu... but all it does is transform the user into a Shameless Fanservice Girl.
    • Tobi's Hidden Jutsu: Frilled Neck Lizard, in which he hangs upside down from a tree branch, lets his cloak obey gravity, and poses like a raptor. Very effective at making Teams 7 and 8 look like fools for retreating from it.
    • Subverted when Naruto fights Kiba in the Chunin Exams. Naruto plans to use a powerful attack to defeat Kiba, but ends up farting in his face, which is made to look like the big "attack" Naruto was planning. The fart actually causes Kiba difficulty because of his heightened sense of smell... which then allows Naruto to use his true plan, the Uzumaki Barrage.
    • Subverted again with later abuse of the Thousand Years Of Death; Naruto uses the attack in an until-that-point deadly serious fight. All pause momentarily... and then it's revealed he used not his fingers, but an explosive-loaded knife. Ouch.
    • Subverted again with the Sexy Jutsu, of all things. It comes out of nowhere and manages to distract Kaguya Otsusuki, the Greater-Scope Villain of the series, long enough for the heroes to land a very decisive blow on them.
  • Most of Genma's Anything-Goes Techniques, as well many other Ranma ½ moves.
    • The Saotome School Ultimate Attack/Finishing Move consists of distracting the opponent by pretending to use an ultimate technique, then running away to think of something better.
    • Crouch of the Wild Tiger, which is just bowing down and begging for mercy.
    • Howl of the Demon Dog, which is taunting your opponent from a safe distance.
    • Cradle of Hell, which is an embarrassing, loving embrace.
    • Both of the attacks used by Lin Lin and Lun Lun, which supposedly defeat powerful fighters offscreen, but are really just bad mechanical constructs.
    • In an anime filler, Happosai and Genma turn themselves giant to engage each other in an Behemoth Battle. But both used up all their energy growing, so they had none left to fight with.
    • In another filler, Happosai fights another master, both of whom have invisibility techniques. Neither can attack while staying hidden, causing a stalemate.
    • The Happo Fire Burst zigzags this. For most of its introductory episode, it's played up as a horrifically powerful Ki Manipulation. Eventually, Happosai uses it. Genma and Soun panic. Ranma calls it out as mere fireworks. However, in later episodes it becomes Happosai's signature move and is rather effective (for the genre, anyway); the technique is implied to be conjuring these bombs from Ki energy, which would make it a legitimately powerful technique, since it can bring a bomb to a fistfight.
  • Tiger & Bunny: The eponymous duo have a special feature built into their Powered Armor called "Good Luck Mode". Not only does it look cool, but it does absolutely nothing else.
  • Bleach
    • Don Kanonji's "Kanonji-Style Final Super Attack: Kanonball" is a tiny ball of energy that creates a surprisingly powerful explosion on impact. However, it moves about as fast as a snail, making it almost impossible to hit enemies with, and Kanonji isn't strong enough to threaten anything after the first arc.
    • Charlotte Chuhlhourne shouts the name of several attacks beginning with the preface "Ultimate Attack, Beautiful Charlotte Chuhlhourne's" followed by around ten adjectives (such as Sexy, Glamorous, and Athletic) and the actual attack. These "ultimate attacks" are an overhead slash, horizontal slash, and a bog-standard cero. While the attacks are powerful due to Charlotte being an Arrancar, they are nowhere near deserving of a special name.
  • Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta's Bluff Kamehameha from Dragon Ball GT. Clones himself, charges up to full power, threatens to disintegrate every cell in Omega Shenron's body, and theeeeen... poof. Confetti. He could afford to have a little fun.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has the Joestar Family Secret Technique...which is just running away.
  • Magical Circle Guru-Guru
  • Played with in one scene of Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart. As the Cures are chased by Uraganos, they pretend to use the Marble Screw, which causes Uraganos to stop chasing them and move back, only to see the untransformed Cures escaping. At least the Zakenna with him finds it funny.


  • "The Ex-Wife" bunker buster installed on the War Machine suit in Iron Man 2. After all the hype (and a brief launch sequence with massive backblast) it just bounces off. With a farting noise, no less!
    Iron Man: Hammer tech?
    War Machine: [dejectedly] Yeah.
  • In Hot Rod, Rod's "Ultimate Punch" is actually a badly telegraphed kick where he extends both arms towards his opponent while doing it. Frank parries it with no difficulty.

     Live-Action TV  

     Video Games 

  • In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, Susie (whose natural magic leans heavily towards offense) asks Ralsei to teach her healing magic after he uses it to heal her from a fall that severely hurt her leg. When they return to the party later she's extremely hyped to show off her new attack, "UltimateHeal", which has her charge up a Kamehame Hadoken... to shoot a piddly little energy ball that heals about 2 or 3 HP in a game where the characters' max is between 100-150, and most attacks deal around 30-40 damage. In combat, UltimateHeal is about as effective as it is in its introduction, but also costs 100% of the party's TP gauge (which could be better used on literally anything else, especially Ralsei's heal which is cheaper and heals 60+ HP) and only heals one party member, making it an amazingly bad waste of time and effort.
  • In Super Lesbian Animal RPG the Trash King will spend one of his turns "charging up for a powerful spell". As it turns out, he doesn't know any spells.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Monstar in the first Paper Mario game charges up a huge aura attack with plenty of light effects while taunting Mario. The attack only does a single point of damage. Monstar is an illusion created by star children to scare intruders away. The attack is weak because they're kids.
    • Super Paper Mario
      • One of O'Chunks' attacks involves grabbing the player character, spinning them around and tossing them away to watch them bounce all over the screen like a pinball. It only does one damage in your first encounter with him, but O'Chunks does a series of elaborate taunts and victory poses after he pulls it off as if it was an extremely strong attack. It gets stronger once you encounter him again, but it's really no stronger than his other attacks.
      • Dimentio's initial master stroke to take out Mario is to bring him to a dimension where he's allegedly 255 times stronger than normal... except it turns out that this (also allegedly) makes everyone in it stronger, so his supposed power increase is completely negated. The game doesn't even try to re-enforce the joke, as the damage output both parties take is completely unchanged.
    • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, upon meeting the Elite Trio in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, they show off their latest move to the Mario Bros.: Lethal Retreat.
  • Disgaea 2: The Prism Rangers gain the ability to launch into a long, drawn out attack that unites all of the rangers into one, huge beam attack. It does absolutely pitiful damage, and can only be used two or three times before they run out of MP for it.
  • Street Fighter Alpha 2: Dan Hibiki's Chohatsu Densetsu (literally, "Legendary Taunt") is a Super Combo that's true to its name; all he does is a series of taunts that not only wastes your super meter, it also leaves you open to attack. It's especially worthless in Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium, where taunting will cause your opponent's super meter to charge, so all you're doing by using the move is making your opponent more dangerous.
    • In Street Fighter Alpha 3, he also gets the Chohatsu Shinwa ("Mythical Taunt"), which is a level 3 super attack (i.e., requiring a full super meter and draining it all) that does nothing but replace all Dan's normal attacks with zero-damage taunts for a while or until Dan gets hit.
    • Subverted in Street Fighter 4, as you can very quickly cancel out of the Chohatsu Densetsu into an actual Ultra Combo. It's very likely to catch your opponent off least the first time they see it.
      • This is translated to interesting effect in the Street Fighter 4 expansion to the Exceed Fighting System card game. Dan's Legendary Taunt gets its own card in the deck, and is the only move in the game that spends super gauge without striking the opponent...but in return, it allows you to move towards your opponent, and then immediately play another move, potentially another Ultra if you have enough meter. This is notable in that it allows you to break the usual initiative rules for playing a card normally, allowing you to land slow but powerful hits you normally shouldn't be able to.
    • Ryu and Ken in Alpha 2 and 3 also have fake variations of their Hadouken and Dodge Roll, respectively.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Gilgamesh in Final Fantasy V will claim to possess the Excalibur, a legendary sword that should by all rights do lots of damage. Then he attacks your party with it, and it does...1 damage. Turns out it's a cheap knockoff called the Excalipoor.
    • The prologue of Final Fantasy IX takes place on and around a stage putting on a play. During fights that take place on stage, the player characters gain access to a selection of impressive-looking and -sounding spells to use in combat, that all do zero damage; they're just special effects meant to be used during the play, and naturally do nothing at all in a real fight.
  • Yoshio from Tokimeki Memorial 1 has a Limit Break in his repertoire during the excursion trip battle phase, the "Great Yoshio Kick". He tries to make it sound and look cool, but it not only does zero damage on the opponent, it also breaks Yoshio's leg and put him out of the remainder of the fight.
  • Richer's Item Crash attack in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is based on what sub-weapon is currently equipped. The key occupies the sub-weapon slot, but is only used to open doors. If you hit the Item Crash button with the key equipped, Richter starts his normal, Power Floats power-up animation, but then falls back to the ground with a big ? floating over his head. This still has some use as an invincible dodge and the key actually does four times the damage of the whip, but with such little range it is easy to dismiss it as worthless.
  • In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alucard can combine his personal shield with the Shield Rod to perform a spell that makes him invincible and able to drain HP from touching enemies. If you try that with the Alucart Shield, however, nothing happens and that same ? pops over Alucard's head.
  • In Undertale:
    • The skeleton brothers both have one: Papyrus' special attack gets stolen by a dog (though the "absolutely normal attack" he does after is one of the hardest patterns to not take damage on in the entire game on a pacifist run) and Sans' special attack is literally nothing. Subverted in that doing nothing actually proves to be pretty darn effective in a game with Turn-Based Combat.
    • Mad Dummy's ultimate attack is throwing knives... or rather, a knife, singular.
  • In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution, several Joke Characters (of varying lethalities) have these, usually as Ultimate Jutsus. They still do full damage, but... how can the below attacks not have a place here?
  • Persona 5 has Shadow Madarame's ultimate move, "Madara-Megido". Most people who have played the Shin Megami Tensei series would be worried to see a Megido attack that hits everyone, especially this early in the game... except that this particular variant does pitiful damage when it hits. Turns out that this plagiarising artist's own art really does suck.
  • If you ask Remilia Scarlet from Touhou Project what she won in the Super Power Lottery, she'll boastfully tell you that she won the ability to Manipulate Fate. If you ask her little sister, Flandre, she'll tell you that Remilia won the ability to invoke I Meant to Do That whenever she wants to look cooler than she really is. Canon doesn't bother to explicitly state if Flandre is telling the truth or not, but it would be in-character for Remi to hype herself up to levels even she cannot reasonably live up to, what with her being a chuuni vampire and all.
  • Octopath Traveler: The Injured Scout near Wellspring can be Allured/Guided after his quest is completed, though he is still wounded. In battle his special attack is "Too wounded to move..." which, when activated, creates a brilliant blue effect... and nothing happens. He also can only block a pitiful amount of damage before retreating.