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Bob is revealed to be someone else entirely, an impostor who replaced the real Bob a long time ago! This means the real Bob is someone we barely know, and most or all of what we do know about him is known solely through the actions of his impersonator.

This trope applies to any instance when all the information about a character is revealed by the actions of their impostor and the ways the other characters interact with the impostor. If the real character is shown, it's very briefly. If the original person returns in later installments, it does not discredit that this trope was the case originally; such cases can overlap with The Real Remington Steele if the impersonator is an established character and if the disguise is subsequently retconned as a real person instead of an Invented Individual.

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Often a result of Kill and Replace, Actually a Doombot, and Dead Person Impersonation; and a subtrope of Dead All Along, Posthumous Character, and often The Ghost. Contrast You Will Be Beethoven, in which the original person may have never even existed.

Being a reveal trope, unmarked spoilers lie ahead.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the manga adaptation of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, Edgeworth meets renowned art scholar Amadeus Seal when investigating the possibility that a group of gentleman art thieves will rob the Seselagi Museum. After solving the murder of a security guard, which the owner committed to cover up his selling the painting "Officers," Seal says goodbye to Edgeworth. Later, Edgeworth sees the real Seal in a newspaper article, notices that he's nothing like the one he met, and realizes that "Seal" had been one of the thieves in disguise.
  • Death Note: L, the greatest detective in the world, is also the second and third greatest detectives in the world: Eraldo Coil and Deneuve. This comes in handy for L when people try to catch him; they usually end up hiring Coil or Deneuve. Another Note reveals that Eraldo Coil (and presumably Deneuve, too,) were actually real detectives before L took their names in "detective wars".
  • In the first Devilman TV series, the real Akira Fudo and his father were killed by three demons in the first episode after they accidentally step inside their lair while mountain climbing in the Himalayas... and Amon kills the other two and then uses Akira's corpse as a disguise to pass as a human and start kicking the Demon Army's plan of global conquest on gear. For the rest of the show, Akira is just a disguise that Amon wears, and not even Akira's girlfriend Miki (whom Amon falls for and protects) knows the secret.
  • In Future Diary, the current timeline's version of Yuno turns out to have been Dead All Along. After being unable to revive Yukiteru when she wins the Survival Game, she travels back in time and kills and replaces that version of herself so she can be with Yukiteru.
  • Hunter × Hunter: The true Supreme Leader of East Gorteau was not revolutionary leader Diego Masadoru/Ming Jol-ik, but a body double. Unlike other examples, the real Diego/Ming is still alive, having retired to live peacefully and anonymously shortly after the revolution, and gets a single short scene towards the end of the Chimera Ant arc.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • Given the title character's fondness for the Mugged for Disguise trope, this happens quite a bit in Lupin III. A few examples include:
    • Lupin spends a good chunk of "Operation Missile-Jack" disguised as the chief of a research facility. The real chief appears in exactly one scene before being taken out by Lupin offscreen, and the only other times he's seen are in brief comedic moments where he has no intelligible dialogue due to being tied up with his mouth taped shut.
    • In another Part 2 story, Lupin clashes with Patra Lawrence, the supposed daughter of T. E. Lawrence. At the very end of the episode, Lupin says that the real Patra was born in 1918, meaning the woman seated next to him is far too young to be who she claims. To nobody's surprise, it turns out "Patra" was Fujiko Mine in a mask and veil.
    • In the fourth episode of Part 6, Lupin and Jigen stop at a diner that has a redheaded waitress with a fondness for foreign films and the works of Ernest Hemingway. At the end of the second act, they find the real ginger waitress Bound and Gagged in the kitchen, and realize the "waitress" they'd been talking to for most of the episode was actually Fujiko in disguise.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: Andrew Sixson, the British Interpol agent send to aid in the investigation of the murders committed by Phantom Thief Sai/X, is revealed to have been captured by the New Bloodline even before he ever arrived to Japan. After being tortured to reveal every last detail about himself, Sicks murdered the investigator, peeled his face to use it as a mask and took his identity to infiltrate the police task force and capture X.

    Comic Books 
  • The Captain N: The Game Master Nintendo Comics System story "Breakout" has the character Judge Racklas. He briefly appears in one panel while completely bound with rope and does not have any dialogue, while the rest of the comic features Ridley impersonating him. Therefore, most of what we know about Racklas comes from the Galactic Federation, Princess Lana, and Mother Brain discussing the disguised Ridley.
  • In Marvel's Shogun Warriors series, alien antagonist the Primal One is really their old enemy Maur-Kon, the recurring Big Bad of the series. He assembles an alien army via the treaties the real Primal Ones negotiated with other races, but the real Primal Ones never appear in the series, or in the wider Marvel Universe.
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    Film — Animated 
  • Megamind: Megamind takes the form of the museum worker Bernard using a version of Capture and Replicate, and he uses this form for a large portion of the film to get closer to Roxanne. The real Bernard is much lower-energy than Megamind portrays him, and he only appears in the scene before Megamind takes his form and in The Stinger.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Bravados, Mr. Simms—the hangman brought in from Silver City—turns out to be an imposter who helps the outlaws escape. When the Posse goes in pusuit of the outlaws, the find the body of the real Simms on the trail.
  • Diamonds Are Forever has several "Blofelds" due to the real Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Charles Gray) turning henchmen of his into 'clones' of himself via plastic surgery. Each time James Bond kills one of them he bumps into another. They all seem to have the same mannerisms. It's not even sure if the last Blofeld to be killed in the film was the real article and it fed fan theories for decades.
  • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it's revealed in the climax that the head of the American Auror office, Percival Graves, is really Gellert Grindelwald in disguise as Graves. Nothing about the real Graves is known other than the fact that he comes from a storied wizarding family in America and that he was a very powerful wizard since his skills don't surprise anyone. It's unclear how long the impersonation had been going on, if Graves is/was still alive, or if Grindelwald or Graves was the person who first met Credence so it's hard to gauge what he really was like.
  • In Inception, Robert Fischer's godfather and Maurice Fischer's longtime friend and legal counsel Peter Browning (Tom Berenger) appears in one single scene. He's impersonated by Eames (still played by Berenger) in the dream the rest of the time, in order to convince Robert to dismantle the company he just inherited.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain Marvel (2019):
      • We only see Fury's boss, Director Keller, once, as SHIELD arrives at the Blockbuster that Carol crashed into when she arrived on Earth. The rest of his appearances in the movie, Talos is impersonating him.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: The post-credits stinger reveals that the Nick Fury and Maria Hill who've been aiding Peter for the entire movie are in fact actually Talos and Soren, with the real Fury being in space on another mission.
  • Orphan: First Kill: This film reveals that Leena Klammer's "Esther" persona was taken from a missing child she physically resembled, and she used it to flee to the United States by "reuniting" with Esther's family, whereupon Esther's identity is only explored through Leena's attempts to take her place. Leena learns she's been doing a Dead Person Impersonation later on, with the mother and son having covered up Esther's sororicide with a missing-persons story.
  • The Ritual: Gayle, Dom's wife, only appears briefly toward the end of the film in Dom's vision induced by the creature.
  • Scooby-Doo: Emile Mondavarious, the Big Bad, turns out to actually be Scrappy-Doo in a robotic disguise. The real Mondavarious is found trapped under a manhole at the very end of the film, after Scrappy has been defeated and taken away, and is given just enough screentime to explain how Scrappy came to impersonate him in the first place.
  • Source Code: Jake Gyllenhaal plays soldier Colter Stevens, who is tasked with repeatedly living the last eight minutes of the life of a man named Shawn Fentress who died when a train exploded. Nothing is known about Fentress besides what other people say about him, and with Gyllenhaal portraying both versions of his character, Fentress's real appearance is only seen through reflections and photos of him. Unusually for this trope, not only does the reveal occur about ten minutes in, but the film ends with Stevens surviving beyond the eight minutes and (presumably) living out the rest of his life as Fentress, with nobody in the alternate reality any the wiser.
  • Tower of Terror: The real actress Buzzy hired is scared away by the ghosts offscreen, and Claire/Carolyn assumes her identity.
  • Vertigo: It turns out that the Madeleine Elster who is a major character in the first half of the movie is really an imposter; the only time that we see her for real during the entire film is as a dead body whose neck has been broken.
  • We're No Angels (1989): Renowned theologians Fr.'s Brown and Riley never arrive for the ceremony, for unexplained reasons, allowing Ned and Jimmy to impersonate them for the whole film.

    Literature 
  • Agatha Christie was fond of the trope. From the Hercule Poirot novels:
    • In After the Funeral, Cora Lansquenet is never seen alive. None of the family having seen the real Cora in over twenty years, the "Cora" who appears at the titular funeral of her brother Richard is revealed to actually have been her lady-in-waiting Miss Gilchrist, who then went on to murder her mistress the following day. Gilchrist drugged the real Cora the morning of the funeral and attended in her place; that evening she murdered Cora in her bed, making sure to disfigure her face beyond recognition. Her impersonation was almost perfect, deliberately seeding doubt about whether Richard did in fact die of natural causes and even mimicking Cora's painting style to cover over the one painting Cora owned that was actually worth anything. Making off with the painting proves to be the motive behind the entire plot. Miss Gilchrist's three mistakes: practicing Cora's trademark Quizzical Tilt in a mirror causes it to appear reversed, so that her relatives knew something was off but not quite what; remarking on a vase of wax flowers which she could only have seen on the day of the funeral, as the vase was later broken; and painting her forgery from a postcard, when the real Cora always painted from life.
    • In Cat Among the Pigeons, it is discovered that Princess Shaista was kidnapped in Switzerland before she could arrive at Meadowbank School, and the character believed to be her throughout the book is an actress specializing in Dawson Casting parts. The reader never gets to know the real Shaista at all.
    • In The Clocks, the weak hypochondriac Mrs. Valerie Bland is revealed to be Mrs. Hilda Bland, her husband's second wife, posing as the first one to get her inheritance. The only things we therefore know about the real Valerie was that she came from a rich Canadian family and had really poor judgment of men, considering her choice of husband.
    • In Hercule Poirot's Christmas, two coincidental, unrelated cases: among the guests who come to visit elderly Simeon Lee for the holidays are Stephen Farr, son of Lee's old business partner in South Africa whom he betrayed; and Pilar Estravados, Lee's Spanish-born granddaughter, on her first visit to England as civil war breaks out in Spain. Simeon is murdered, but both impostors end up being Red Herrings. A telegraph reveals that the real Stephen Farr is dead — Stephen's real name is Stephen Grant, a friend of the real Farr but also, as he explains, the illegitimate son of Lee himself, who came to England intending to confront his father not only for what he did to the Grants but for his own abandonment. Pilar, meanwhile, is actually Conchita Lopez, the real Pilar's friend, traveling with Pilar through wartorn Spain when the latter was killed by a bomb. Conchita seized on the opportunity to masquerade as Pilar, enjoying a brief respite in a wealthy home far from the war — only to find herself trapped by her own deceit, unable to reveal the truth without making herself even more of a suspect in the murder. In the end, both are cleared of suspicion, and Stephen asks Conchita to come back with him to South Africa so that the two of them can be married.
    • In Murder In Mesopotamia, we really never learn anything about Eric Leidner, besides that he was a Swedish archeologist. That's because it's revealed he died decades ago in a train crash, and his identity was stolen by German spy Frederick Bosner. Likewise, we never find out what sort of person Father Lavigny is. All the time in the book, he has been impersonated by a jewel thief, as the real Father Lavigny fell sick and was unable to accompany the expedition at all.
    • In A Murder Is Announced, two characters turn out to be imposters, with the real articles never actually appearing in the story: Emma Stamfordis pretends to be Julia Simmons who is really abroad, while Charlotte Blacklock pretends to be her deceased sister Letitia in order to inherit the money that the latter was in line for.
  • Tom is a constant presence throughout Animorphs, but the only time he's seen without a Puppeteer Parasite controlling him is at the climax of the first book. Most of his characterisation comes from Jake comparing his Yeerks' impersonations to the real Tom he knew.
  • Jason Bourne, the protagonist of The Bourne Series. The Bourne that we follow is actually a CIA operative named David Webb, who assumed the identity of an assassin called Jason Bourne in order to go undercover. The real Bourne was executed by Webb years ago and never appears in the series.
  • Gaelle in The Codex Alera; at first she seems to be an ordinary student at the Academy, but she is eventually revealed to be Rook, one of High Lord Kalarus's top spies who Killed And Replaced the real Gaelle some time before the character first appears.
  • In the Cthulhu Mythos:
  • The climax of The Grimrose Girls reveals that, prior to the start of the book, Penelope was killed and replaced in accordance with her assigned fairy tale. The replacement is the main villain of the first novel.
  • Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody is this through most of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We get to know him extensively throughout the book, but at the end, he turns out to have been an impostor using a humanshifting potion. The real guy is found alive at the end of the book and shows up from time to time in subsequent installments, but none of his mannerisms come off as surprising, given how good the impersonation was. In the final book, the main trio quote Moody's catchphrase ("Constant vigilance!"), even though we only ever encountered the impostor actually saying that.
  • Heaven Official’s Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu: It's revealed in book three that the real Ming Yi is dead. The man who's pretending to be him is really He Xuan, one of the Four Calamities, who infiltrated the heavens partly to be a spy for Hua Cheng and mostly to get revenge on Shi Wudu.
  • In Heretical Edge, several characters have been possessed by Seosten since before their first introduction, including Pace (the insane behavior previously seen from Pace was entirely that of her possessor). Subverted by Jophiel and Elisabet; in the same chapter where it is discovered that Jophiel has been possessing Elisabet for centuries, it is revealed that Elisabet has been a Willing Channeler the entire time.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries: The woman Jaine knows as Daisy Kincaid in Death of a Gigolo is a somewhat dotty, but kind older woman who is very generous to her staff until Tommy weasels his way into her life. Now, Emma Shimmel, the woman who killed her and took over her identity, called the real one "a sour old fossil of a boss" who made her life miserable, so it appears the image Emma puts on is in contrast to the real one's personality. Of course, given that Emma is, y'know, a murderer, you could probably take this description with a grain of salt.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Let's Get Together": One of the characters, Breckenridge, was replaced with a robot duplicate before the events of the story. They use Breckenridge's position to drive the events of the story, trying to eliminate "Our" experts.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon the Ninth: It's revealed late in the book that the Seventh House's Sword and Sorcerer duo were murdered soon before the start of the plot by the rogue Lyctor Cytherea, who took Dulcinea's identity and necromantically puppeted Protesilaus' corpse. The ruse only works because none of the other characters had met them in person beforehand, and when Harrowhark meets the real people's spirits in Harrow the Ninth, she notes that the impersonation was insultingly bad.
    Dulcinea: She asked me so many questions. Who I had talked to, if I had ever left the House before. I knew she was going to kill me. I fed her a load of bullshit. I had hoped someone might figure her out. No such luck.
  • In the Lord Darcy novel Ten Little Wizards, the first scene is of the person being impersonated being murdered, but the reader does not find out their identity (and, thus, the identity that the impostor is hiding under) until the climax.
  • In the Miss Marple novel A Murder Is Announced, also by Christie, it's revealed, close to the end, that Miss Blacklock's niece Julia Simmons is really Emma Stamfordis, one of the prime suspects in the case. After that, Patrick Simmons does talk a bit about the character of his real sister, but the latter never makes an appearance.
  • Moonraker: Hugo Drax is actually a Nazi saboteur who masquerades as a war hero for the past several years after he was "rescued" in his British military disguise, stole the identity of a missing soldier, and faked amnesia to justify not remembering his pre-WWII life. By sheer coincidence, the "Hugo Drax" name he adopted happens to be surprisingly close to his real one (Graf Hugo von der Drache). The only things known about the real Hugo Drax was that he was an orphan with no close friends or relatives, and was MIA during World War II. Drax/Drache remains a dedicated Nazi, bent on revenge against Britain for the wartime defeat of his Fatherland and the social slights he received as a youth growing up in an English boarding school before the war.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, Sebastian Verlac is revealed to actually be Jonathan Morganstern, the son of Valentine, who killed the real Sebastian and stole his identity. In later books, other characters continue to refer to him as Sebastian even though they know that's not his real name.
  • Tom Swift: In "The Space Hotel", a scientist invited to the eponymous location is kidnapped and replaced by an Eco-Terrorist. While the real scientist is rescued, this happens off-screen, and he never meets Tom.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • The Flash (2014):
      • Episode 17 reveals that Harrison Wells is really another person entirely (the time-traveling Eobard Thawne) who stole Wells's appearance, killing him and his wife in the process. Despite being a very important figure (along with his wife Tess Morgan) in the original timeline Thawne came from, almost nothing besides this is known (other than he used to be warmer and more open with people "before the accident"). The real Wells only appears in three scenes: the first is an Establishing Character Moment which shows us he is passionate about science and his brilliant wife, and the second two where he is killed and has his identity stolen by Thawne. This is the case until he's resurrected at the beginning of season 7.
      • A more minor example is with Randolf Morgan, whose appearance is used via holographic device as a disguise for various reasons, first by H.R. Wells (Harrison Wells's doppelgänger) and later by Barry Allen. Nothing is really known besides what he looks like and what H.R (his former business partner) says about him.
  • The Blacklist has a major example that becomes a significant part of the Myth Arc. The man we've been following as Raymond Reddington may not actually be the original Raymond Reddington, finding out exactly who he is and why he has this identity takes up a lot of Elizabeth's focus in the later seasons. Eventually taken to absurd extremes as possible identities are raised for his origin only for them to turn out to also be borrowed from other people, making him a sort of nesting doll of impersonation. Maybe.
  • Cold Case: Noah Pool died in Auschwitz 60 years ago. The man using his name in "The Hen House" is a Nazi collaborator.
  • Kamen Rider Revice: Yujiro Wakabayashi, commander of Fenix, was revealed to have been murdered by the Chameleon Deadman in the first episode of the series. The Monster of the Week went on to impersonate him until his cover was blown in episode 14. The real Yujiro's only appearance is also his death scene.
  • An episode of Law & Order called "Nowhere Man" starts with the investigation of the murder of ADA Dan Tenofsky, only for the police and the DA to discover "Dan Tenofsky" was an imposter named Jacob Dieter. The real Dan Tenofskie was a law school dropout, whose identity the imposter stole and fabricated his entire career off of. At the end of the episode, Serena asks Jack what they should do with "Dan's" personal effects and Jack says "What personal effects? Those were more like props."
  • In Once Upon a Time season 2, Emma and Snow White are transported to the Enchanted Forest and receive help from "Sir Lancelot"; they find out eventually that they've been dealing with Cora in disguise all along, and the original Sir Lancelot has died. He does appear in flashbacks, but plays no part in the present-day storyline.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of" our heroes are searching for the scientist Roger Korby. The Korby that they encounter is actually an android that's been imprinted with the real Korby's memories and personality. Over the course of the episode it's made clear that the duplication wasn't perfect (certain personality traits have been warped and twisted), so we don't have a complete picture of what the real one was like.
  • A number of examples in Star Trek: Discovery:
    • The Ash Tyler we know eventually turns out to be the original Ash Tyler's personality grafted onto a Klingon sleeper agent. The only time we see the original Tyler is in a photograph, after L'Rell has been forced to purge Voq's personality from this Tyler, leaving Tyler in control, to stop an awakened Voq from tearing himself apart.
    • Captain Lorca turns out to be his Mirror Universe counterpart. The only time Prime!Lorca is alluded to after The Reveal is a devastated Admiral Cornwell coming to the conclusion that, given the Terran Empire's barbarism, he's likely been dead long before she suggested he command Discovery.
    • The Admiral Patar we see on screen turns out to be a holographic construct created by Control after it went Skynet and wiped out Section 31's leadership.

    Video Games 
  • In the first A Certain Scientific Railgun PSP game, one segment sees the girls working with an elite Judgement member named Atatsu Chiyo to protect a researcher from a terrorist known as Grim Reaper Kakiko. It isn't until the end of the chapter that the girls learn that the real Chiyo has been found tied up, and that the "Chiyo" who'd been communicating with them the entire time was actually Kakiko (real name Aizono Mio) in disguise.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Shifted Spires, Intrepid, Catie's mysterious hooded ally and the head of the /c/ council, does not actually appear in the game. The Intrepid we meet is actually Rcoastee, having killed him and taking on his form, while the real Intrepid never appears physically, only being described by Rcoastee.
  • In the second Chzo Mythos installment, 7 Days a Skeptic, the protagonist, Dr. John Somerset, is actually Dr. Somerset's son who killed his father and stole his identity.
  • Disgaea 2: The heroes set off on a quest to defeat Overlord Zenon. But later in the game, we find out that he is actually a usurper who has taken over Overlord Zenon's palace, identity, and reputation. The real Overlord Zenon has long since reincarnated, with his memories repressed, and is now known as Rozalin.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • We never meet the real Warden-Constable Gordon Blackwall, who has been dead for years by the time the game begins. The person claiming to be "Blackwall" is a fugitive war criminal named Thom Rainier, a former Orlesian army captain who took gold to assassinate a prominent nobleman and ended up killing his wife, children, and entourage along with him. The real Blackwall did recruit Rainier into the Grey Wardens, but was killed by darkspawn before he could fully induct him into the order. Rainier wanted to continue to Val Chevin to be inducted, but believed that he had no proof of conscription and was afraid that the Wardens would accuse him of killing Blackwall, so he instead decided to assume his identity and roam the land as a Knight Errant, trying to make up for his crime. The only direct words from the real Blackwall that are encountered in the game come from a transcript of a speech he gave ten years prior (around the events of the first game), and the speech pokes a lot of holes in "Blackwall's" story.
    • In Josephine Montilyet's personal quest, she and the Inquisitor receive an invitation to meet with a noble named Comte Boivert, who claims to have information as to why Josephine's couriers delivering an important message were murdered. They meet the comte, who turns out to be very knowledgeable — too knowledgeable, as Josephine deduces. The "comte" is actually an impersonator from the assassins' guild hired to kill the couriers; the situation is so unusual the guild felt Josephine was owed a direct explanation. The real comte turns out to be locked in a closet, and we never see him on screen.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has the Scion Yda Hext, who is revealed to have died about a year prior to the events of Legacy. The character that players knew as "Yda" is revealed to have been her younger sister, Lyse. While a fair amount of information concerning the real Yda's personality and achievements is known, she is never featured in any content where she is still alive. There is the Legate of the VIIth Imperial Legion Nael van Darnus who died before the events of the game, the Nael van Darnus you meet is his sister Eula Darnus.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses the missing student Monica von Ochs, the Monastery's librarian Tomas, Edelgard's uncle Volkhard von Arundel, and Faerghus' court magician Cornelia Arnimnote  are all revealed to be impostors from Those Who Slither In The Dark. The characters themselves are never seen and implied to have been killed before the game's events. Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, however, introduces the real Monica as the game is an Alternate Timeline where she is rescued before being killed and impersonated.
  • The King of Fighters 2000: Ling has not only one, but two impersonators, both a regular clone of himself and Zero, both introduced before the real Ling. Practically all that's known about him is that he was the man Vanessa and Seth were working under and that he had a nice mustache.
  • Magic: The Gathering – Battlegrounds: According to Word Of God the Mishra faced in this game wasn't actually the real Mishra, but rather a rogue sleeper agent. Since the real Mishra is nowhere to be found, the Mishra in the game is this.
  • Mega Man X: Command Mission: At the very end of the game, it's revealed that Spider, the suave bounty hunter that joined X's crew, is actually Colonel Redips, the leader of the Far East HQ and main antagonist of the game. Given that Spider was already well-known in Gigacity Island and Wild Jango implied he had already ran into the bounty hunter in the past, it seems that the original Spider was victim of a Kill and Replace scheme orchestrated by the military villain prior to the events of the game.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Master Miller in Metal Gear Solid plays with the concept, in that the real Miller had already been introduced in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (and would show up again in prequels), but his much more well-known appearance in MGS1 turns out to have been Liquid Snake in disguise, with Liquid having killed the real Miller shortly before the game began.
    • The DARPA Chief that Snake meets at the beginning of the game is a more traditional example, as he's actually the enemy spy Decoy Octopus in disguise (the real chief has been literally rotting in a cell the whole time), and while the real Chief also appears in a prequel, that's set well before he even joined DARPA, so we never get to see what he was really like in that role.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain retcons in another instance similar to Master Miller, with the reveal that the Big Boss who was the Big Bad of the original game was an impersonator, Venom Snake. Like Miller, though, it's downplayed in that Metal Gear 2 showed the real Big Boss in the same role before the impersonation was revealed.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: In Season 2, when Jesse and the gang visit a Sea Temple that Jack lost two of his friends in years ago, they discover that one of them, Vos, is somehow still alive after all these years. The ending of Episode 2 reveals that "Vos" was actually The Admin in disguise and that the real Vos really did die in the Sea Temple years ago.
  • In Monster Sanctuary, it turns out that "Eric" was Marduk all along, being the victim of a Kill and Replace.
  • Live A Live: In the Distant Future chapter, Captain Hor was killed by OD-10, the main computer of the Cogito Ergo Sum. Then OD-10 went to impersonate the captain for the rest of the chapter via pre-recorded messages. The only appearance of the real Hor is his first metting with the crew at the very begining.
  • Ōkami has Rao, a priestess who turns out to have been dead long before Amaterasu and Issun got to Ryoshima Coast. All we see of the real Rao is a vision of her being chased down and cornered by Ninetails, her ghost guiding the two to a secret passage, and her corpse within said passage. Indeed, the Rao they know for the whole game turns out to actually be Ninetails copying her body for their own nefarious ends.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has minor character Zip Toad, who turns out to have been chapter 4's boss Doopliss in disguise all along. The original Zip T. does not actually feature in the game besides a written e-mail from him.
  • In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, it turns out that Professor Sada/Turo were Dead All Along, so we only get to meet their AI duplicates.
  • In RosenkreuzStilette Freudenstachel, the Pope of the Orthodox Church who serves as the Big Bad is actually a homunculus copy controlled by previous villain Iris Zeppelin, who killed the real Pope before the game began. Though it is played with as we never see even the imposter Pope, let alone the real one, though he is repeatedly mentioned by other characters.
  • Soul Hackers 2: The Iron Mask we meet in the game is actually Raven, Arrow's suposedly retired mentor, who killed the original half a year prior to the events of the game. The real Iron Mask, a man called Paul Taylor, was romantically involved with Milady and what we know about him comes entirely of the soul summoner's memories of her former lover.
  • Toonstruck: King Hugh is kidnapped and locked away by Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun before the events of the game. Fluffy dresses up as King Hugh and somehow replicates his voice to fool all of Hugh's subjects, along with the protagonist, Drew.
  • Weird and Unfortunate Things Are Happening has two of the Inner Evocation hosts:
    • We only see Mayor Bryan Trautman as himself in the intro doing the Inner Evocation summoning ritual and in a flashback that Miriam has of him firing her. Every other time we see "him", it's Chagora the Enraged possessing his body and speaking through him.
    • Unlike Trautman, who at least got two scenes as himself, Sadie Walters is only encountered while being possessed by Phritotch the Unknowable, so everything we know about her comes from Phritotch herself.
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    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2: President Di-Jun Huang of Zheng Fa was assassinated 12 years before the events of the game, being replaced by his body double- the body double is the one we actually meet during the first case of the game and the one who becomes the Asshole Victim of the final case, while the real one remains unseen.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: Detective Bobby Fulbright was being impersonated by an international spy called "the phantom" for the entire game, having been dead since before the game began. Though the phantom is supposedly a master of impersonation, the audience knows next to nothing about the real Fulbright.
  • Boyfriend To Death: The second game introduces as one of the potential "boyfriends" Vincent Metzger, who doesn't remember a lot about his past. As it turns out according to a tie-in story, Vincent has been dead for years - the "Vincent" you interact with is actually side character Akira Kojima from the first game. Little is known about him except his profession (soldier) and his murderer (a werewolf).
  • CLANNAD: In Misae's backstory, she formed a relationship with a boy named Katsuki Shima. At one point, her friends visit Shima's house, and are confused when his mother tells them he is dead. The truth that eventually emerges is that Shima's dying wish was to grant a wish for Misae, and because of this, his cat was able to take on his form for a while. We never get to meet the real Shima.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has an odd example with the Ultimate Impostor, who spends his time on the island impersonating Byakuya Togami. The audience knows the real Byakuya quite well from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, but the characters don't have that context (and the protagonists only find out that "Byakuya" was an impostor late in the game), so to them it's this trope as they never get to know the real deal.
  • Evelyn Fischer is a variation on this trope in Heart of the Woods. While no one is impersonating her, per se, it is eventually revealed that a fairy known as The Moonsick One is possessing her body, and that since the Moonsick One forced Evelyn's soul out of her body and destroyed itnote , the real Evelyn has been dead since long before the start of the story.
  • In Your Turn to Die Chapter 3-1A, the remaining survivors meet Ridiculously Human Robot versions of the candidates who didn't make it to the first trial. When one of them, Hinako, dies in a coffin that was supposed to be occupied by a human, the survivors realize that she was an imposter for the real Hinako, who died in the First Trial as a result of Alice leaving during it. Because there was technically a connection between the two (as the only candidates to be made into Dummies are the ones who had no previous connection to any of the others), she was not made into a Dummy, and we never meet her.

    Web Animation 
  • In the second episode of gen:LOCK, Robert Sinclair, one the six gen:LOCK recruits, is revealed to be a Union spy. Dr. Weller, guessing correctly that the spy isn't actually Sinclair and therefore isn't gen:LOCK compatible, allows the spy to use the gen:LOCK technology, resulting in his horrible death. The real Sinclair is presumed to have been killed by his impersonator, but his whereabouts are discovered in the post-credits scene of the first season finale.

    Webcomics 
  • Early on in Dominic Deegan, Jacob infiltrates a group of Chosen members by killing their mentor Vilrath and disguising himself as him. Vilrath is never spoken of or seen again aside from a brief cameo in a vision a few arcs later.
  • The Order of the Stick: Malack is revealed to be a vampire, which in this universe is a spirit that takes over a body and represses the previous owner's consciousness until they cease to exist. The real Malack died centuries before the story begins (and according to the vampire, wasn't named Malack).

    Web Original 
  • I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC: In the Meanwhile series, The Question makes his debut to help the heroes restore the timeline. After they succeed in fixing it, The Question reveals he lied about who he is. He isn't actually Vic Sage, but Walter Kovacs, the version of Rorschach from the past who changed the timeline in the first place. He took on The Question's identity to help Deadpool and the others fix the mess he caused by changing the timeline, because he knew they wouldn't trust him as Rorschach.
  • Oxventure: In the episode "Out of Order", Corazón infiltrates Egbert's former paladin headquarters by disguising himself as Egbert's old friend, a squeaky-voiced young paladin named Chauncey. Even though the heroes never meet Chauncey in person, Corazón's impression of him has the paladins fooled.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: The majority of the many alien species whose DNA is stored within the Omnitrix are only seen through Ben, a young human being, morphing into them. As a result, it's unknown how most of these aliens typically behave, since Ben usually retains his own personality in alien form, save for special circumstances. Justified in the case of Cannonbolt, since it's mentioned in his debut episode that his species' home planet was destroyed.
  • Love, Death & Robots: "Beyond the Aquila Rift": With the reveal that everything's a simulation, the only things we know about the real Greta are what she looked like and what Thom and fake Greta said about her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Viva Las Pegasus", Fluttershy, Applejack and the Flim-Flam Brothers try to trick the resort owner Gladmane into revealing his shady dealings through a ruse involving Fluttershy impersonating a businesswoman named Impossibly Rich. The Riches are an established family in the show, and Gladmane and the resort-goers all react to her as if she were someone real and well-known, but the real Impossibly Rich is never seen.
    • The series' Grand Finale villain Grogarnote  ultimately turns out to have been Discord in disguise all along; the real one did exist some millennia ago, and his signature weapon is dangerous as ever, but whether he ever recovered from his defeat is not known.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • Possibly the case with Double Trouble's "Flutterina" disguise. It's somewhat ambiguous if the first time we meet Flutterina she is already Double Trouble's latest disguise or herself, but shortly thereafter it's clearly Double Trouble from then on. It's also unclear if Flutterina was a real person and if that was even her real name.
    • Season 5 has Peekablue, who we know is a peacock-themed prince with the power of far sight. Despite being said to be something of a recluse (though Adora had mentioned him and his girlfriend Sweet Bee when talking about the Princess Prom) Mermista heard a rumor he had been frequenting a shady bar scene recently so the princesses would need to go "undercover" to try and meet with him. Needless to say, the character we see using Peekablue's name and bragging about his abilities as part of a flashy show isn't the real one, but Double Trouble again, milking Peekablue's "brand" for all it's worth.

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