The Final Battle is where stakes are at their highest. The Hero must engage the villainous Big Bad in an epic teeth-clenching fight. And what better way to highlight the incredible resolve of the protagonist, in addition to giving him some visual flare during this battle than giving them a bit of Clothing Damage, specifically on the upper body.
This trope occurs when the protagonist is fighting a tough battle and ends up losing his shirt due to it being torn apart, most likely by their opponent's attacks. This usually happens during the climax, although it can happen in non-final battles if they still have an above-average degree of intensity. The reason that this is done can be to show the effects of the villain's attacks on the hero without giving the hero any major wounds. In addition to this, bearing the hero's chest is a way of showing off their well-toned physique and/or battle scars. This can also happen to emphasize the hero's pureness and how they've ascended past all expectations and grown up since the beginning. When the villain is defeated, the scene usually ends with the supporting cast congratulating him on his victory, keeping him on his feet, or just staring in awe at the still bare-chested hero.
This trope happens very often in martial arts movies, as well as in Shonen genre anime, where the hero will most likely have at least one in-fight Shirtless Scene. However, this is primarily an Always Male trope, due to women having more...regions in need of censorship. Though you will occasionally see female characters reduced to a tank top, which is reminiscent of this trope.
Related to Clothing Damage, which refers to the general loss of clothes which doesn't have to be due to fighting. When a character loses all their clothes for a battle, it's Full-Frontal Assault. Also see, Walking Shirtless Scene and Mr. Fanservice. Compare, The Coats Are Off. Not to be confused with Battle Strip, where a character willingly removes their top.
- Dragon Ball: Goku is practically the poster boy for this trope. He ends us shirtless during his fights with Piccolo, Raditz, Vegeta, and Frieza. In the movies, it would be faster to list the ones where it doesn't happen. A compilation of the examples from the Z and GT era can be seen here. Still happening in Dragon Ball Super during his climactic battle with Jiren-who, as a hero in his own right, also loses his shirt for their final clash.
- Happens all the time with Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star when fighting everyone from slightly stronger mooks to important foes like Jagi, Souther, Raoh, and others, typically as a result of Kenshiro’s Battle Aura flaring to life and burning off his waistcoat and shirt. It happens in almost every episode in the anime, regardless of how important the foe is.
- This happens a few times with the title character of Inuyasha. Most notable is early on when, after his sword Tetsusaiga breaks, he takes a heavy beating that leads to him unlocking his Superpowered Evil Side.
- In the finale of My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, Midoriya's shirt gets torn off by a combination of his own use of One For All and the constant punishment he takes from Wolfram.
- A similar occurrence happens in the My Hero Academia series proper during his fight with Muscular, and again during his true final fight with Shigaraki.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin's shirt is ripped into shreds during his final duel against Shishio Mskoto.
- YuYu Hakusho: Starting from the Dark Tournament onward, Yusuke would have his shirt blown off during every consecutive arc finale. It sometimes even happened to him during less important fights such as his one with Sniper.
- Superman loses almost all of his shirt throughout his battle with Doomsday in The Death of Superman.
- Invincible: Both Mark's and Thragg's shirts are burnt because they're fighting in the sun's atmosphere. Then, they dive into the sun's corona where their clothes and skin were burnt as they continue to pummel each other to death.
- Bruce Lee tends not to have a shirt for the final battle. Although it's usually by his own choice.
- Handled in a very goofy way in the final fight scene from Future War, when the hero's shirt is fully buttoned and tucked in and then easily slips off him in the very next shot.
Tom Servo: "My shirt was knocked off! It was knocked off, I swear!"
- The Incredible Hulk: Hulk tore off what was left of his shirt before facing the Abomination.
- The Last Dragon Leeroy gets his shirt torn off by Sho-Nuff during their fight.
- Hanzo disrobes so he can make a last stand against the Predator with a katana.
- Royce likewise takes his shirt off before his final battle with the Predator.
- Royal Kill has Adam taking off his shirt as he prepares for a climactic duel with Nadia. As it turns out that there is no Nadia at all, it would appear he's invoking this trope for gratuity's sake.
- Van Helsing's final battle is between Dracula and the title character turning into a werewolf - so of course his clothes are destroyed during the transformation. He's played by Hugh Jackman who plays Wolverine listed above.
- X-Men: The Last Stand: While Phoenix is disintegrating Wolverine's body, he keeps re-healing but of course his shirt doesn't. His pants are unaffected.
- Villain example in Angel: when he's having a fight with Lindsey in "You're Welcome". Lindsey's shirt gets ripped open and he tosses it away for the remainder of the fight. There is a mild plot reason for this - Lindsey has a set of tribal tattoos that enhance his powers and during the battle, they vanish, showing Angel that he has been Brought Down to Normal and is easier to beat.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike's set of trials to have his soul restored in the Season 6 finale. By the last one, he's lost his shirt.
- Star Trek: Captain Kirk had this happen enough that it was parodied in Galaxy Quest.
- In the Season 4 final of Cobra Kai, Robbie and Hawk are in their final match, the top of Robbie's gi gets torn, so he takes it off. Hawk looks questioningly at the referee, who just shrugs, so Hawk takes his shirt off as well.
- In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, it is ironically inverted when it comes to the hero/villain dynamic. While you can certainly choose to play it straight by removing your shirt/armor before the final battle, the villain in the final battle of the game and each expansion is shirtless. Dagoth Ur (main game) and Hircine (Bloodmoon) are both completely shirtless, while Almalexia (Tribunal) wears only a bra with pauldrons.
- Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake wakes up with his shirt off right before his final battle on top of Metal Gear Rex.
- In Tekken 4, Jin Kazama will be reduced to wearing a shirtless version of his first outfit for his final two Story fights against Kazuya Mishima and Heihachi Mishima, no matter what outfit you chose for him earlier.note Similarly, for his final fight against Jin, Kazuya will don his shirtless first outfit even if you chose the fully-clothed second outfit beforehand.
- Tekken 8: In the final battle Jin and Kazuya both lose their shirts after transforming into Angel Jin and True Devil Kazuya and subsequently falling to the ground after their forms give out.
- A staple for the Like a Dragon series. In any dramatic battle near the finale, the heroes and villains will usually take off their shirts and jackets to show off their yakuza tattoos before beating each other up.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang's shirt is burned and blasted off during the long-awaited battle with Fire Lord Ozai.
- Samurai Jack: Happens way too many times to count. So of course, this trope occurred during the season 5 finale.
- Wakfu: Yugo's Battle Aura tore off what was left of his top and his shoes at the tail end of the third to last episode of Season 2, so he spends the final two episodes shirtless and shoeless.