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Out of Focus

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Gil Wulfenbach's lament during the Sturmhalten arc.

"Hello, my name is Tedd. You may remember me; I used to be in the story comics all the time. Weren't those the days?"
Tedd, El Goonish Shive

The spotlight highlights and shines brightly on one particular character, or on a select group of a particularly large cast getting the most screen time. They take center stage, right wrongs, find stuff out, do a bit of rescuing and learn all about themselves in the process.

Which is all well and good for those characters and their fans... but what about everyone else? Come to think of it, we haven't seen Bert in three months. Where did he go?

Out of Focus is the flip side of Character Focus. When they show less and less of a character, seen in the background flying under the radar in obscurity with extremely little screen time, living in the shadows of other prominent standouts. While someone's hogging the limelight with a lot of screen time in abundance, other members of the cast fly under the radar with a serious decrease in screen time. Particularly luckless characters may vanish for extended periods of time without any particular explanation, only to be brought back as if nothing's happened. A consequence of Creator's Pet. Webcomics are particularly prone to this. It's easy to see why — when you've got a cast of twenty characters and only four panels available, it's obvious that someone's going to lose out. If a character isn't central to the plot, with such limited space (and usually, time) available, it's probably a waste of time putting said character in at all. Webcomic readers usually understand this, but even the most tolerant and faithful of readers may get a little dissatisfied if a character, who was formerly one of the main cast, has been sighted less frequently than the Loch Ness Monster.

Sometimes Out of Focus is a necessary evil for the medium, as in webcomics. Sometimes, however, it's creator favoritism—they've got a brand new shiny character they want to flesh out, and everyone else is put on hold until they do so, or the comic has just changed writers and they prefer characters X, Y and Z to characters A, B and C. Occasionally though, it's just forgetfulness—the writer gets wrapped up in a Story Arc, and forgets that just because they know when someone is due to reappear, their readers don't.

Deciding if a character is Out of Focus tends to be relative to the media in which they appear. In a daily webcomic, for example, two weeks may be a long time for an absence. In a three-days-a-week webcomic, it may be over a month before it's noticed that someone's missing. In television, however, a member of the main cast who goes vanishes without explanation for a single episode had better have a damn good reason for their vacation when they get back, unless the show has a huge cast.

Likewise, audience acceptance is proportional as well. Webcomics are free, and therefore fans are generally more accepting if their favourite hero disappears for a bit. Too long, though, and the creator risks alienating a particular protagonist's fans. When someone has to hand over money to follow a story, however, as with comic books, they may get a little annoyed when fan favourite Mr. Terrific doesn't even make a cameo appearance for twenty issues.

Another good example for when this is a necessary evil is for Strategy games, in which Anyone Can Die and usually they're gone for good depending on the game. A good way to keep special characters in focus is to more or less program and write a lot of event data into the game, in the event that the player recruited the character and then still has them. But sometimes, the player may just dismiss them or let them die and they wind up Deader than Dead, so in order to save time, the games are programmed under the assumption that they could be dead and that the only non-player characters that are still around are plot-crucial ones. A Real-Time Strategy game would often avert this by making it crucial (They die, you fail the mission and Game Over) or they die but are resurrectable. It's also possible to get around this where if they die in battle, they're merely knocked out and come back if needed.

If a character is absent for too long, that character risks suffering from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, dropping off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again. Alternatively, these characters may be Put on a Bus or Killed Off for Real when the creator decides (s)he has no further use for them. If they return after the nature of the story has changed in their absence — for example, the plot has come down with a nasty case of Cerebus Syndrome — and they don't seem to fit in with the tone any more, they may become The Artifact. Out of Focus can be averted, or compensated for, by using Rotating Arcs or by the creator reassuring the fans that Captain Superhero hasn't died and will be back as soon as he's relevant to the story.

This also often happens for optional characters, but as you'll notice, they're...well, optional, so the events are written without them.

When a sequel or adaptation shoves characters out of focus and removes their plot importance, it's Demoted to Extra. If a major character is out of focus from the start, then you got an Advertised Extra. Contrast Character Focus, Spotlight-Stealing Squad.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Bud Bowl IV isn't about Budweiser and Bud Light bottles playing football as usual, it's about a guy discovering his Bud Bowl ticket had accidentally been thrown out and ends up chasing a pigeon to get it back, with suspiciously apropos commentary from the Bud Bowl's commentator. The bottles themselves only appear twice — once when the guy runs by a wall of TVs during the chase, and again when the final scores are announced.
  • MetLife: During the mid-2000s "For all the 'if's in life" campaign, Snoopy was the only Peanuts character who regularly appeared in advertising, with the others rarely appearing in ads. The 2010s featured the other characters more often, but characters that weren't Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy appeared less often than they did in the early days of the campaign.

    Asian Animation 
  • Of the Borys in Noonbory and the Super 7, Totobory is given the least amount of focus episodes despite being one of the main heroes. He gets an even further-reduced role in the second season, Tooba Tooba Noonbory, and rarely appears there at all.

    Comic Books 
  • A common fate of many Avengers in general. Anyone seen Rage lately (outside his 2016 appearances in Captain America: Sam Wilson)? Black Knight (who had an All-New, All-Different Marvel series that has since been cancelled)? Silverclaw? Lionheart? Stingray (who is a supporting character in " Deadpool & the Mercs for Money")? Does anyone know who half those characters are?
  • Detective Comics (Rebirth): For the first two arcs, Cass is basically there to punch people every now and then, and has a relatively minor role compared to the rest of the cast, and even less focus than guest characters.
  • In Earth 2, the new "trinity", Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Kendra Saunders, were all put out of focus when new writer Tom Taylor came on board. He instead focused on the original trinity and their supporting cast.
  • In Volume 5 of Empowered, Littlest Cancer Patient turned Supervillain Manny is conspicuous by his absence after a role in volume 4 that seemed to set him up as a recurring character.
  • Doom Patrol established the Brain as the team's most prominent adversary in the original series, but had his presence downplayed in subsequent series. He is a no-show in Paul Kupperberg, Rachel Pollack and Gerard Way's runs, he has only a handful of appearances in Grant Morrison's run, is only featured in John Arcudi's run for a minor two-part story, only appears briefly in an altered timeline during John Byrne's run (which notoriously ignored previous continuity before everything was reconciled as canon in Infinite Crisis) and is only featured in a flashback cameo for Keith Giffen's run.
  • The Flash, since his return during Final Crisis, has a tendency to focus on Barry Allen above other characters.
    • Jay Garrick, Barry's predecessor, was originally not hit too hard by this because he was a regular in the Justice Society of America ongoing. However, after Flashpoint rebooted the DCU in 2011, Jay was relegated to the alternate universe-based Earth 2 where he was in-focus for about 15 issues before getting this treatment again. DC Rebirth had him as part of the long-running Myth Arc but he did very little aside from two guest appearances and only fully returned in the last month of the 2010s as a decade.
    • Wally West, Barry's successor, fell increasingly out of focus to the point that, after The Flash: Rebirth, he barely appeared at all before being rebooted out of existence by Flashpoint. He didn't even exist until 2014, which introduced a new iteration of him, who himself fell out of focus after negative reception. The original Wally would return as part of DC Rebirth in 2016, and would be given some focus in Titans (Rebirth), before mishandling there led him to returning to the pages of The Flash and getting a large amount of focus, and then being central to a crossover and getting his own miniseries.
    • Bart, Wally's successor and Barry's grandson, returned to his role of Kid Flash when Barry returned, and was spared this initially, being given some appearances in The Flash and Teen Titans. Then Flashpoint rebooted everything and he was starring in Teen Titans exclusively, bar one guest appearance in The Flash, and got one arc focusing on him. He was Put on a Bus after that arc and briefly returned before disappearing again. Bart only properly returned during the "Flash War" storyline, and would go on to appear in Young Justice (2019).
  • Many, many characters at any given time in Gold Digger. At least once, a year once went by with the main character, Gina, only appearing in occasional cameos.
  • Any non-human Green Lantern not named Kilowog will be hit by this. Every time a Green Lantern needs some supporting Lanterns, writers tend to pick the one or two they like, and make up some new ones. The ones who get the most focus are Kilowog, Arisia and Soranik Natu.
  • The Inhumans tend to fall into this trope in regards to their leader Black Bolt. The writers usually focus their attention on him since, not only is he their king, but he's much more powerful than the others and just looks really cool. The others usually stand in the background and look concerned. Even then, the Inhumans as a whole, including Black Bolt, are generally not used outside of a few miniseries every few years and as supporting characters. They were in the spotlight in the early and mid 2010's, but the family disappeared again later.
  • While it's not rare for individual members of the Legion of Super-Heroes to be out of focus for stretches, this was actually the fate of the entire team during the five-years-later-era Terra Mosaic arc. With the focus squarely on Earth and the war against the invading Dominators—which included, among its many major players, a teenaged version of the team—the actual adult Legion spent most of its time on its home base offworld doing little of note. Even the adult legionnaires sent to Earth to help with the effort do very little, compared to characters like the former Legion of Substitute Heroes or Universo.
  • The premise behind The Marvel Saga: The Official History of the Marvel Universe is to take excerpts of the various unrelated stories of the Marvel Universe and put them roughly in chronological order (though certain character backgrounds and origins are generally saved for when the character in question is first introduced in the "main" narrative). For most of its 25-issue run, the focus was broad, shifting between the various superheroes. When the editors changed from Danny Fingeroth to Adam Blaustein on Issue 22 (a special issue looking back on the relationship between Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson in honor of their wedding), however, the focus changed entirely to the Fantastic Four's adventures, detailing Reed and Sue's weddingnote , their inaugural encounters with The Inhumansnote , and the coming of Galactus and the Silver Surfernote , with the rest of the Marvel Universe reduced to a general overview in a four-page epilogue.
  • Shazam!:
    • Captain Marvel/Shazam got a lot of this treatment, having slipped into something of a Dork Age in the 2000s, and has received very little attention from DC. His nemesis, Black Adam, was been given much more attention, including major parts in various Crisis Crossovers and acclaimed, lengthy series. The reason given for Marvel's shoddy appearances in The DCU, according to Dan Didio, is "He doesn't fit in." This might be because DC was pushing Darker and Edgier, and Captain Marvel has always been associated with Lighter and Softer. Captain Marvel underwent a reboot in the 2011 Justice League series, but very little was done with him afterwards. He'd eventually, finally get a proper ongoing in 2018, but the problem there is that the series is perpetually late and is very isolated from the rest of the DCU, though it is still an improvement.
    • Mary Marvel, in the reboot. Despite the fact that she's been around since the 1940s and used to be a superheroine in her own right, she's given no more attention or importance than newcomers Darla, Eugene, and Pedro. This is in stark contrast to Freddy, who quickly becomes Billy's best friend and Morality Pet, and is treated as a more significant character than the rest of the foster siblings.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Rotor Walrus gets hit with this during the early points of Ian Flynn's run. The Cosmic Retcon fixed this, though.
    • Quite a few characters were hit with this during the Penders/Bollers era, most notably the Freedom Fighters themselves - the team disbanded and reunited at least three times between Endgame and Ian Flynn's first issue and when they were together, they barely did much.
  • Superman:
    • During The Golden Age of Comic Books of the late Thirties to the early Fifties, Superman's Rogues Gallery consisted of the Ultra-Humanite, Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyztplk, J. Wilbur Wolfingham, the Prankster and Toy Man. Of all of them, only Luthor has remained consistently prominent; Ultra (who appeared earliest) is Put on a Bus for decades and, when he eventually returns, is given a Rogues' Gallery Transplant; Mister Mxyztplk's popularity came and went in cycles (and went through a spelling mistake that changed his name to Mister Mxyzptlk); J. Wilbur Wolfingham dropped into complete obscurity; and the Prankster and Toy Man were Demoted to Extra in the Fifties just before the start of The Silver Age of Comic Books and only intermittently came back, never really returning to their early prominence. The Prankster in particular was for a long stretch in the Forties Superman's single most frequently appearing foe, but was so severely demoted that he only appeared once in the Sixties.
    • During the Silver Age, Supergirl was a mainstay of the Superman comics, having her own backup monthly strip and making frequent appearances in all books of the line. During the 70's, though, she was gradually phased out, and by the 80's she seldom appeared out of her own book (even so, some creatives still insisted that her presence was harming the sales of the entire line), eventually being killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths and remaining dead for eighteen years. When she returned in The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), though, she came back with a vengeance, becoming an important player in The DCU for ten years. During the DC Rebirth relaunch, though, she began losing focus and importance again.
  • Despite being the title villain, Ultron himself doesn't appear in Age of Ultron outside of the past, only using avatars instead.
  • X-Men:
    • Of the original five X-Men, Iceman gets the least focus and character development. Cyclops, being the leader and all, is one of the more focused characters. Jean, when she's alive, gets a lot of focus. Beast is very focused on as the team's main scientist, and later as a member of the Avengers and Illuminati, and Angel has the whole Superpowered Evil Side Archangel stuff going for him. Iceman is... Comic relief... Which the X-Men have in abundance... Hell, he's not even the MAIN comic relief X-character. Though this has changed in recent times with his 2 solo series.
    • The overwhelming majority of X-kids will have this happen to them. They will usually be created to have newer teen characters occupy that space as younger X-Men, and allow the regular cast to serve as mentors. However, once they've been around for about a decade, expect to see a handful at best get anything to do or even have their name said, while the rest of their classmates become background characters or C-List Fodder. It's easier to note the exceptions to this, who get largely consistent use, which are Kitty Pryde, Magik, Jubilee (sometimes) and X-23.
  • Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo, fell victim to this in Brian Michael Bendis' first run on New Avengers. Lampshaded in Bendis' Moon Knight, where Ms. Marvel is unable to remember Maya's name and Spider-Man flat out forgets she ever left the team in the first place. Also lampshaded in New Avengers itself: during a Terrible Interviewees Montage for the position of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's daughter's babysitter, one of the applicants is Echo who states "You know, I used to be on this f***ing team!"

    Comic Strips 
  • Milo Bloom, the eponymous star of Bloom County, gradually disappeared from the comic after Opus the penguin came to dominate.
  • Jazmine didn't appear in The Boondocks comic for two years when the focus shifted more politically after 9/11. Then she shows up, revealing that she had been in hiding all that time, and chews Huey out for not noticing (Yes, for two whole years. Yes, they were both still ten years old.)
  • For Better or for Worse:
    • John Patterson was initially the most prominent supporting character, with many strips showing his daily life as a dentist. However, as the kids grew older and gained Character Development and the creator divorced her husband and John’s model, he faded into the background much of the time.
    • Anne Nichols was one of Elly’s best friends, constantly babysitting the kids and even having a couple of story arcs. Her son Christopher also began developing a Childhood Friendship Romance with Elly’s daughter Elizabeth. But she and her family were Put on a Bus due to her cheating storyline feeling too close to home. She made some brief cameos but her husband and children never returned.
  • After FoxTrot went to Sunday Strip-only in 2006, pretty much every cast member except the Fox Family was pushed to the side, with only background or minor roles.
  • Garfield:
    • Odie, despite being one of the three main characters, is frequently absent in scenes where you'd expect him to be there, such as the household watching television or going on vacation. Jon takes his cat everywhere he goes, but seems to forget he also has a dog.
    • Nermal was missing for three years until he reappeared.
    • Jon's roommate Lyman is a major example. He is introduced in August of 1978 as a regular character (and the original owner of Odie), gradually is phased out, and hasn't appeared at all since 1983 (with the exception of a few cameos) with absolutely no explanation!
    • In fact, a lot of side characters have gradually disappeared over the years (especially since Jon and Liz became a couple), to the point that they are barely seen anymore. These include Jon's parents and brother, the mailman, and Jon's neighbors Hubert and Reba.
  • Bob Shirt used to be the star of On the Fastrack. Now he appears only in ensembles, because he is too boring, by Word of God. Moat Monster, the company's security guard, also was majorly downsized and eventually written out.
  • Of the original cast of Peanuts, only Charlie Brown (first strip) and Snoopy (third strip) last until the end. Schroeder almost qualifies in both directions (he first appears about seven months in, and last appears about five months before the end). There are even some indications in very early strips that Shermy (first strip) may have been intended as the main character. Remember Shermy? Exactly. The other character in the first strip, Patty (not Peppermint Patty, who is a different character), hung on much longer than Shermy, but her last appearance is a couple of years before the strip ended.
  • Snuffy Smith originally centered around a character named Barney Google, and the strip's full official title is still Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, but the Google character hasn't been seen regularly since the 1950s.
  • Zits:
    • Chad, the older brother of main character Jeremy, has almost never appeared again since going off to college. Possibly, this was lampshaded — in one strip, Jeremy's mother Connie says, "Wasn't it nice seeing your brother again for a whole week?", but Jeremy simply hadn't noticed he was there; in another, Connie laments Chad's lack of communication.
    • Lately, Zits has nearly completely taken on the perspective of the parents, in order to make more jokes about teenage behavior, and many of Jeremy's friends have been sidelined (or have disappeared completely) from the comic as a result.

    Fan Works 
  • In Aeon Natum Engel after the initial offensive of Operation CATO, The EVA pilots go out of the spotlight until the summoning of Moloch.
  • Earth and Sky: Once the Pegalathon starts up, attention stays on the Harmony Aeronautics team and the villains trying to sabotage them, with all other characters pushed to the sidelines (though Applejack shows up for a few chapters in the middle of it). Pinkie Pie mentions this during her and Fluttershy's cameo in chapter 37.
  • In Fairy Without Wings a Code Geass/Fairy Tail most fans see Lelouch as the main character given the author's previous work who, after the events of chapter 76, gets Put on a Bus and doesn't return until chapter 111 where he's only in the plot until chapter 114 before the ensemble cast gets more screen time in order for proper world building to be done.
  • Gory Toons:
    • Ever since his major role in "And It Just Fixs!, Kirby is hardly given enough screentime for any proper development. In most cases, he is quickly killed off or doesn't show up for several episodes, which couldn't be said for SpongeBob (who is normally the protagonist) or Cuddles (the character who usually starts the plot because of his mischief).
    • Some regulars like Stan Marsh, Craig Tucker, Tweek Tweak, Butters Stotch, Flaky, Mime, and The Mole are given very little prominence. Compared to other supporting cast members, their relevance veer at living props and several of them have yet to become a major character in an episode.
    • SpongeBob himself started getting a few minor roles after "All For Ski"; he only has one short cameo in "Road Rage" as the episode focused mostly on Linda Stotch, and was entirely absent in the episode "Blind Mistake".
    • SpongeBob also has inexplicable absences in "Splendid What Mondon't" and "Zombodie Told Me", with both episodes strangely featuring Cuddles and Kirby, however.
  • Leave for Mendeleiev: Adrien's Skewed Priorities and sick sense of entitlement to Ladybug and all of her secrets naturally causes no end of trouble for his far more responsible partner. Then comes Chapter 15, where he discovers the limits of his Karma Houdini Warranty. Having lost the Ring in his failed blackmail attempt, he slips completely out of focus while the story focuses more on Marinette and Master Fu creating a stronger and more reliable Miraculous Team.
  • Since Willow is based on the author's real life friend, it wouldn't be much a surprise that she dies in My Immortal when the two have a falling out. But even when the two reconcile, Willow's role as Ebony's best friend is shifted towards B'loody Mary. A lot of characters drift out of focus as the Love Triangle between Ebony, Draco and Vampire develops.
  • In Total Drama fanfic series Monster Chronicles Characters like Heather, Alejandro, and Sierra get significantly less focus than they did in the canon World Tour.
  • The characters in Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, pretty much guarantee this happens as chapters tend to focus on certain characters before rotating around again.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, there are a few examples.
    • Mary, the main character's wife, who is introduced in the first chapter, stops appearing regularly after halfway through "The Evil Gods part 1", despite having a fairly good amount of screentime for a female character forced to Stay in the Kitchen until then.
    • Percy Jackson appears for much of the early part of "Threat of Satanic Commonism" before returning to the present day midway through, but returning for "The Evil Gods part 2".
  • Hana from Pretty Cure Full Color, once it turned out that she's just a Red Herring and the real Cure Spring is Sakura.
  • Early on in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, Cheerilee and Corona the Tyrant Sun both went severely underused by the shared universe's many authors. The latter is particularly egregious considering that she is supposed to be the Big Bad of the story, but ended up getting displaced by the Night Court. Later stories have since worked to rectify this.
  • Rick and The Loud House: Rita and Lynn Sr. play the role of Jerry and Beth respectively in this setting. However, whereas Jerry and Beth were prominent characters, Rita and Lynn Sr. are heavily sidelined in favor of focusing on the Loud siblings.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Both Pocahontas and Mulan, despite being marketed as official Disney Princesses, actually do not appear in most of their merchandise unlike the six core princesses (and to a much lesser extent, later additions Tiana and Rapunzel) let alone several group artworks. This may have to do with controversy over using a real person's life as a fairytale in the former's case, and the fact that Mulan is not actually a princess (for that matter, neither is Pocahontas, but Disney felt that since she is the chieftain's daughter, that's close enough). Both Jasmine and especially Snow White, probably for the better, are also starting to suffer from this, in order to make room for Tiana and Rapunzel.
    • Disney's Peter Pan also qualifies. Tinker Bell gets her own spin off series, and Captain Hook and his crew appear in Jake and the Never Land Pirates, while Peter has only a few appearances there. In fact, Tink appears more often in the media than Peter. Although this is probably due to the fact that no matter what Disney might claim, Peter Pan is (mostly) a Public Domain Character.
    • Lilo Pelekai has been this in the franchise that bears her name since its first television series ended in 2006. Not only does the more marketable Stitch get most of The Merch and promotion, but Lilo's even been removed as a main character since then with two different TV series—a Japanese anime and a Chinese animated series—separating her from Stitch and making him best friends with human girls on the countries where those shows are produced. The Chinese show is even partly made by the producers of the first series, and they've expressed a disinterest in returning the franchise to her and Hawaii. 2020 even saw the publication of a manga spin-off set in Feudal Japan, which naturally meant no appearances from Lilo at all. Most recently, at the beginning of The New '20s, Disney has been quietly rebranding the franchise as simply Stitch even in the franchise's home country of the United States, removing Lilo's name from the franchise's logo even if the marketing involves her anyway. So much for "nobody gets left behind or forgotten" now...
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Multiple supporting characters, specifically the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the Apple Family, Trixie, and newcomer Starlight Glimmer, are regulated to minor non-speaking cameos.
  • Most of Tom and Jerry: The Movie isn't actually about Tom and Jerry and more likely shining the spotlight on the lost girl Robyn Starling. Because of this, along with them being Suddenly Speaking, the movie really didn't go well with Tom and Jerry fans.
  • Ice Age:
  • Watching A Goofy Movie out of context, you probably would not be able to guess that PJ is a main character of Goof Troop, since he's only in about a third of the scenes in the movie and has very few lines and little screentime in most of those. His screentime improves significantly in the sequel, but considering what he spends the screentime on, it's still a bit low. Pete suffers a similar fate in the first movie, but in his case it only got worse.
  • Master Shifu is a major character in Kung Fu Panda, but gets Demoted to Extra for the sequels. This is justified, since his character arc from the first film had ended and someone has to guard the Jade Palace while the heroes are away.
  • In The Peanuts Movie, Linus has surprisingly little screentime compared to most Peanuts specials. This is probably because of Snoopy being an Adaptational Nice Guy and thus usurping Linus' role as Charlie Brown's best friend and confidant.
  • Phantasma from Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School has less screentime than the rest of the Ghouls. Averted in the OK KO episode, Monster Party.
  • Pearl Krabs in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. Even though she had only one line in the first movie and appeared in the credits scene of the second movie, she didn't appear at all in this one.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie:
    • Despite being one half of a famous duo who gets as much focus as his brother in the games, Luigi is largely sidelined with his role as a Distressed Dude, leaving most of the focus on Mario and his new friends. He does, however, play a pivotal role in the climax by using a manhole to save Mario from getting singed by Bowser's fire breath and using the Super Star with his brother to defeat Bowser and his army.
    • Goombas don't get much attention, with the role of The Goomba going to the Koopas instead.
  • The Bergens from Trolls. After having major roles in the first film and Trolls Holiday, they are completely absent from most of Trolls: The Beat Goes On! and Trolls World Tour, save for the former's first season and the latter's Stinger with Gristle and Bridget.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade in Blade: Trinity, thanks to The Nightstalkers. According to Word of God, this is a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. Wesley Snipes spent most of the production smoking weed in his trailer and would only come out of his trailer to film close ups. Most of the scenes with Blade were done with his stand in. He also tried to strangle the director, who responded by paying a biker gang to act as his security. After that, Snipes would only communicate with the crew via Post-It Notes signed "From Blade".
  • Broken Trail: Novice cowhand Heck is doing some chores offscreen for quite a bit of the three-hour miniseries and probably has less than ten minutes' worth of dialogue (although he makes the most of a lot of the scenes he does have).
  • A common criticism of Michael Bay's Transformers films is that the Transformers themselves are out of focus in favor of the human and army characters. This is an issue of practicality in the first film though, as the cost of the CGI limited how much screen time the Transformers could actually have. They show up a lot more in the sequels.
  • Almost Famous arguably has an in-universe example. In the middle of the movie, Stillwater receives a new batch of t-shirts from the record label - which are quickly discovered to have Russell front and center, with the rest of the band in the back, out of focus. This sets off an argument between Russell and Jeff Bebe on the way Russell has increasingly become the public face of the band, with everyone else fading away. At one point, Jeff Bebe even shouts, "I'm just one of the out of focus guys!"
  • Asterix at the Olympic Games, the third Asterix live-action movie, gives more screentime to Lovesix and his Romantic Plot Tumor than to Asterix and Obelix, the protagonists of the series.
  • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, this happened to Augustus Gloop. He barely speaks at all during the movie, disappears after the first room, and when they do the "let's meet the Golden Ticket winners" interviews, his parents did most of the speaking for him. This is mostly because his actor didn't speak English and had to learn all of his lines phonetically, but just notice how very little you see of him.
  • The two older children - Dana and Robbie Freeling - in Poltergeist are mostly sidelined after the first acts and replaced by the paranormal investigation team. Carol Ann is missing for a more plot-centric reason. Sadly, Dana is missing from the sequels, for well-known reasons.
  • Jar Jar Binks has a very prominent (some fans would say too prominent) role in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two short but significant cameos in Attack of the Clones, and only brief appearances in three crowd scenes in Revenge of the Sith.
  • Commissioner Gordon goes from having almost a major role in the 1989 Batman film to making only token appearances. He then does have a slightly more prominent role in Batman & Robin, but it's one that makes him look incompetent.
  • Robin the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, and Bobo the Bear have very little screentime in Muppets Most Wanted: Rizzo and Robin show up for a brief scene before they're absent for the rest of the movie, and Bobo has a smaller role here in contrast to his larger role he had in The Muppets (2011); he's only present during the wedding of Kermit and Miss Piggy and is nowhere to be seen after that.
  • Jack & Diane: Diane's sister and aunt only appear in a couple scenes, while neither gets developed. Jack's friends are more characterized than either of them.
  • Jason's Lyric: As the titular character, Lyric was supposed to have much more background history and character development. However, Jason's brother, Joshua, steals her spotlight.
  • Following the disappointing response to both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, both Batman and Superman took a backseat in the DC Extended Universenote . Superman wouldn't appear onscreen again (not counting Zack Snyder's Justice League and the Fake Shemp cameos in SHAZAM! and Peacemaker) until Black Adam in 2022, while Batman wouldn't return until 2023's The Flash. Both at least fared better than Cyborg, who was unceremoniously dropped from the franchise due to actor Ray Fisher's feud with then-head of DC Films Walter Hamada.
  • In Return of the Jedi, Han Solo is much less important to the overall narrative than in the previous two films, and has no real arc other than being rescued.
  • Doctor in Trouble has the least screen time for Sir Lancelot Spratt out of all the films in the Doctor... Series, as he stays behind at the hospital while Dr. Burke goes off on the Golden Horn. James Robertson Justice was originally supposed to be Acting for Two as both Sir Lancelot and Captain Hogg to give him more to do, but after a nasty stroke, he was no longer well enough to play both parts and only barely had enough strength to film the few scenes he was in.

  • Dejah Thoris in the Barsoom series is the Deuteragonist for the very first book, A Princess of Mars which is named after her. While her character mostly drives the plot in the first trilogy, her number of appearances decreases considerably afterwards. The second book is about her husband John Carter trying to reunite with her, but she only appears at the very end. After the third book, both she and Carter fade into the background completely.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • While Touma was originally the only protagonist, Accelerator and Shiage are later introduced as the second and third protagonists. The latter two have a decent number of appearances for the rest of the first series and the first part of the second series. With the Magic God Othinus arc, however, Touma more or less becomes the sole protagonist again - the other two don't have any impact on the plot of the arc's first two volumes, and only Accelerator has any role in the third.
    • In the second series, many of the magic side characters introduced in the first series end up becoming this. For example, Stiyl and Kaori used to be recurring characters, but they now have few appearances and minimal impact on the plot.
  • Roald Dahl characters:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul: Everybody save for Greg, his immediate family and the Beardos is out of focus in this book. Rowley only turns up in a flashback illustration and no other recurring characters appear. However, Rowley is in the film adaptation, as he gets to come along with the Heffleys to a restaurant.
  • A few characters who were quite prominent in the earlier Discworld novels have slipped into this. Magrat and Verence might make a cameo once in a blue moon and Rincewind (who is the original protagonist of the novels) was Demoted to Extra as part of the Wizards ensemble. Then there is Carrot, who slowly faded away in the Watch books when he was originally the second most important character (he was originally going to be the main character, until Pratchett decided that Vimes was more interesting). Of the witches, Agnes originally seemed set up to become the new 'maiden' of the coven but then vanished, and both Nanny and Granny became supporting characters to Tiffany Aching. (The final book reveals that at some point Agnes returned to her singing career and moved to Quirm.) The Golem Dorfl is also mostly kept in the background after Feet of Clay because of his Story-Breaker Power as The Juggernaut.
  • The Divine Comedy: The two woman introduced at the top of Purgatory represent the opposing lifestyles of activity and contemplation. Matilda is feminine as Aphrodite, quietly peaceful, and concerned with tending her earthly garden; Beatrice is masculine as an admiral, loudly judgmental, and concerned with the contemplation of heavenly truths.
  • Goldmoon and Riverwind are very important characters in the first Dragonlance novel, but after that their story arc is basically finished and they largely recede into the background for the rest of the Chronicles.
  • Edilio from the GONE series often falls victim to this, in spite of a overwhelming amount of support from the fanbase. This is discussed/justified in FEAR, the latest GONE novel, where Edilio points out he does have lots of things happening to him, it's just people don't know about it because he doesn't make everything about himself.
  • Harry Potter:
    • After having a big role in the plot of the second book, Ginny Weasley fades into the background during books three and four before being back with a vengeance in book five.
    • Dumbledore's Army is a big part of book five, with the core members even fighting alongside Harry in the final confrontation (which no one but Ron and Hermione had done before). In the next book Harry decides not to bring it back, so it doesn't appear at all - until they spontaneously reunite for the climatic Battle at the end.
    • Since the vast majority of characters in the series are either Gryffindors or Slytherins, Hufflepuff House and Ravenclaw don't get a lot of attention. Cedric Diggory and Luna Lovegood are the most prominent characters to be from their respective houses. Cedric is mentioned in the third book but only really plays a big role in the fourth book (and he dies at the end) and Luna isn't introduced until the fifth. Harry never even makes it to the Hufflepuff common room. Although Newt Scamander, the protagonist of the prequel film series is a Hufflepuff, giving the house a prominent character in the franchise at large. However, there still isn't a prominent Ravenclaw.
    • Hogwarts itself, and with it most secondary characters, during Deathly Hallows.
  • Qualia the Purple: Yukari is the deuteragonist of the story and her death is the cause for the story's actual plot. Yet as the story proceeds, it focuses more and more on the physics aspect of the idea of parallel universes and how to achieve this, so that Yukari barely appears anymore, aside from a background mention here and there. Trying to prevent her death in any universe is still the focus of the story, but it becomes hard to remember.
  • The Sons of Fëanor in The Silmarillion all but disappear from the narrative for long stretches of time, only occasionally rearing their heads to interact with other elves. We know next to nothing about the kingdoms the established in Eastern Beleriand, or even what their particular followers were like. Which is strange because their father was a major character in the early book. Eventually they do come back into focus towards the end, when they begin to commit further Kinslayings in pursuit of the Simarils.
  • The title character of the Haruhi Suzumiya novels has greatly reduced role in the later books, with Yuki and then Mikuru taking a more prominent place. This is possibly justified because the title character isn't the main character. That role falls to our Narrator, Kyon. Given Kyon's notorious status as an Unreliable Narrator, the titles themselves may be intentionally misleading.
  • In the first book of Septimus Heap, we are introduced to Silas and see through his perspective frequently, and it seems as though he is going to be one of the main characters. But virtually all viewpoint character besides Jenna, Septimus, Nicko, and Simon are swept away for the vast majority of the series and only get a few scenes at most per book mentioning what they're up to.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • A Feast for Crows does this to a lot of characters. Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Bran Stark, three central POVs of the first three books, disappear entirely, while Jon Snow is mostly absent, being reduced to a cameo in Samwell's chapter. Sansa and Arya Stark still appear but are relegated to a few chapters. Davos Seaworth is absent, as well, meaning the Stannis Baratheon subplot isn't featured. This has the effect of making the book something of an Oddball in the Series.
    • A Dance with Dragons brings back the missing POVs from the previous book, but puts aside Sansa's storyline.
    • Theon Greyjoy is knocked out at the end of A Clash of Kings and absent for the next two books. He finally resurfaces in A Dance with Dragons... initially as the character Reek, who isn't initially made clear to the readers that he is Theon.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Szeth gets much less attention in the second book (specifically, he spends most of the book flying back and forth across the continent), but the focus character of book five.
  • Warrior Cats usually avoids this, despite its huge cast, but there are still several examples.
    • Hawkfrost, a major character in the ten previous books had his role reduced to ominously floating around ThunderClan camp a few times from Long Shadows to The Fourth Apprentice. However, he became important again from Fading Echoes to The Last Hope, serving as one of the main recruiters of the Dark Forest.
    • In the Warrior Cats: Omen of the Stars series, other than a handful of scenes, Spirit Advisor Spottedleaf mostly disappeared from the plot, with her role as an adviser being given to Yellowfang.
    • In the SkyClan and the Stranger manga, many characters who were important in Firestar's Quest and SkyClan's Destiny, such as Egg and Frecklewish, simply disappear from the story. This is one of the more understandable times it happened, seeing as SkyClan and the Stranger is a manga that's about 300 pages long, while the rest of the SkyClan Saga is nearly 1000 pages of print featuring lots of characters.
    • RiverClan's role in the plot is significantly diminished in Power of Three and Omen of the Stars, although this is due to ThunderClan no longer sharing a border with them.
    • Cinderheart is a major character in the first four books of Power of Three, but after her first character arc is wrapped up in Eclipse, she gets little more than a passing mention in Long Shadows and Sunrise.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, sometimes characters are barely mentioned in a book due to the ridiculously huge cast. This is at its most egregious when Mat, one-third of the series' main trio, spends a book apparently trapped under a pile of rocks. (He is actually recovering off the page.)
  • Kell Tainer is the main-focus character in Wraith Squadron. His Character Development arc finishes by the end of that novel, and the next two novels (Iron Fist and Solo Command) focus on other characters in Wraith Squadron, with Kell getting viewpoint status for maybe one section per book.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • It's become something of a standard rule in Dom Coms that the protagonist couple have three children (see Full House, Home Improvement, The Nanny, etc.) as a quick and easy way to have a childhood's worth of plot lines very quickly (the oldest has teen problems, such as dating and driving, the middle child has kid problems, such as first day of school, and the youngest gets to sit there and either look cute, or get an occasional one-liner.) Often, the youngest of the three children will have to go out of focus, usually because very young kids simply can't act that well and are subject to stricter child labor laws. D.J. from Roseanne and Jake from Reba are two notable examples.
    • Inverted on Full House, where D.J., the oldest of the three kids, fell victim to this trope instead, being the least "cute" of the three, and utterly lacking in "precious" mannerisms and memorable catch phrases.
    • On Family Matters, on the other hand, the youngest child (Judy Winslow) went so far out of focus that she actually disappeared.
    • Similarly, on Boy Meets World, the youngest Matthews sibling goes out of focus and then disappears completely, but she shows up half a season later, played by a different actress. Lampshaded when the new actress' first line in the show is "That's the longest time-out I've ever had!"

By Series:

  • 24 has it very often:
    • The first most notable case is for former President David Palmer and Michelle Dessler. Both characters are highly prominent at first, but in the fourth season neither even shows up until halfway through the season. Then they are both killed off at the very beginning of season five.
    • Tony actually averts it in the fourth season as he likewise isn't there at the beginning but returns fairly early on. Season five plays things frustratingly straight for him. He winds up being in a coma offscreen for the most of it, then after only a few episodes after waking up gets killed in a rather unsatisfying manner. The fans were pissed at this treatment, and the outcry got so high the death was controversially retconned much later.
    • Curtis has a fairly large role in season four and the first half of season five, but continues to disappear in the second half, even disappearing right before the finale. He returns in the first few episodes of season six but then gets rather quickly killed off.
    • Chloe is often absent for much of the seventh season despite being the most important character after Jack by that point. In this case, it's due to real life events, namely actress Mary Lynn Rajskub's real life pregnancy. Since the show couldn't naturally portray this what with only taking place over a single day, this left her not doing much aside from being shown working at a desk, and not long into it she was Put on a Bus. She does return for the final few episodes though.
    • Surprisingly Jack of all people went through this in season seven as well. He winds up getting infected with a nerve agent which leaves him heavily sidelined and unable to join in on the action. He still appears in every episode, but doesn't really do much aside from getting sicker with each appearance. Probably the biggest acknowledgement of this are the show's recaps at the beginning of each episode, which for the first time in its history don't explicitly feature him.
    • President Allison Taylor is notably absent for a good chunk of the middle of the eighth season, and the writers flat out admitted it's because they didn't really know what to do with her at this point. Then she gets back into focus in a big way in the last quarter when she is forced to make a decision that compromises her morals, allying up with the Big Bad as a result.
    • Season 8 also brings in John Boyd as Arlo Glass, ostensibly a main character, as well. However, he never really gets a sizable subplot to deal with. Aside from some minor flirting with Dana at the start of the season, he remains a back-up CTU analyst who does little to serve the plot. He has comparatively minimal dialogue and most of his actions are things (mostly hacking and computer usage) that Chloe likely could have managed herself. Despite this, he is one of only four characters to appear in every episode of the season (the others being Jack, Chloe, and Cole), and the last line of the show (up to that point) is an order that Chloe directly gives him.
  • In 90210, Navid, in theory one of the main characters and appearing in the opening credits, barely appears in the first eight episodes and after the pilot has no plot of consequence for a third of the season. Ironically this only changed when his character was tied in with a guest character who had been far more visible and important (she was promoted to the credits soon after and they are now the Official Couple).
  • Particularly bad on the first few legs of each season of The Amazing Race, when some teams can go entire episodes getting only one or two lines, though these are usually teams who last late into the race and get their airtime later. Generally speaking, the team per season that gets along and finishes in the middle is the one who gets the least amount of screen time.
    • Brennan from Season 1 is almost never shown talking in the interview segments; all the talking comes from his partner Rob. He later explained in an interview that this is probably due to his tendency to ramble on compared to his partner's terser, and hence more editing-friendly, talking.
    • Derek gets pushed into the background in Season 3's later episodes in favor of his brother's Love Triangle with Flo & Zach.
    • Uchenna & Joyce won Season 7, but don't get major airtime until leg 8, and they are pushed back into the background for most of the first All-Stars.
    • Fellow winners Kisha & Jen get lost behind all the big personalities in Unfinished Business, and only get snippets of airtime prior to the last four legs.
    • Jeremy & Sandy (Season 19) finish in second, but don't get much screen time until one of the late legs.
    • Logan and London (Season 29) came in third but had almost no screen time at all. This is because it was an all strangers season so there was a lot more interpersonal conflict than usual and they just were the team that got along the best.
  • Angel: In Season Five, Andy Hallett (Lorne) probably spent more time in the makeup chair than he did in front of the camera. On the upside, Lorne does get his own episode and is featured in the final stretch.
  • Arrow: After Season 1, the only way you'd know Laurel Lance is the alleged female lead of the show is her second billing in the credits. Season 2 pushes her into the background with a disconnected alcoholism arc that boils down to a weekly drunken scene or missing episodes completely, while the show focuses on the crime-fighting Oliver/Diggle/Felicity trio and later Laurel's sister Sara. (Despite Sara being billed as a guest star.) In Season 3, although Laurel finally knows Oliver's secret identity, her "Black Canary arc" is relegated to a few episodes in the middle of the season and she's rarely present for any of the big team moments. By Season 4, she's basically background furniture and backup in fight scenes, so you see more of the stunt double than the actress. Her demotion is largely due to the audience's negative reaction to her character and the Laurel/Oliver relationship in Season 1 and a shift from the destiny, comic mythology approach to focus on more popular, original characters Felicity, Diggle and Sara. By the end of Season 4 the writers seem to have realized how superfluous she's become to Oliver's story and kill her off. Laurel later returns in Season 5 and becomes a main character again in Season 6, but this is a Truer to the Text alternate Earth version, which allows for more flexibility to her storyline.
  • Barney Miller was originally intended to shift between the title character's job at the police precinct and his life at home with his wife, Liz, and their two kids. The kids disappeared after the pilot episode, while Liz was eventually moved offscreen save for a couple of guest appearances.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • The Simon (Number Four) and Doral (Number Five) model Cylons are hardly seen, and certainly have far less character development than the other models. Arguably, the Fours are never prominent outside one episode, but the Fives have a fair amount of screen time in the first year of the show.
    • And then there's D'Anna, who opts to stay behind on Earth after everyone else leaves, and Leoben, who sort of freaks out when Starbuck finds her own body and is then never seen again (except for a brief appearance in the Grand Finale), despite vast hints earlier on that he'll be a fairly central and important player.
  • Better Call Saul, the prequel/spinoff to Breaking Bad, is essentially about Jimmy McGill's descent into Saul Goodman. That said, this trope does take place:
    • One episode of season 1, "Five-O", is dedicated exclusively to Mike's backstory. Jimmy only appears in one long scene.
    • In season 2, this happens to Howard Hamlin to some extent since he doesn't have as many interactions with Jimmy, having more with Kim or with Chuck.
    • "Bali Ha'i" noticeably puts a lot more focus between Kim's and Mike's plot arcs than on Jimmy's plot.
  • With the Spotlight-Stealing Squad having a choke-hold over the 13th season of Big Brother US, Porsche, Adam, and Lawon have had this. Posts on Jokers Updates have even been talking about most of the newbies (Especially Porsche and Lawon) only to have numerous responses of, "Who?"
  • The Book of Boba Fett:
    • The series pushed its own title character aside during the three-part Required Spinoff Crossover with The Mandalorian. The crossover attempts to not only resolve the main threat of Boba Fett Season 1, but also set up several other Star Wars projects. Boba doesn't show up until about halfway through the second part, when he makes a silent two-minute appearance, then disappears again until the final part.
    • Only Drash and Skad, the Mod's apparent leaders, have been named with most not even getting lines. The rest are generally just in the background.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt Jr. becomes gradually less and less important over the series run, probably because of R.J. Mitte's growing up over the show's five years while the show itself only takes place over two years. Considering that the last two episodes are about 8-10 months after all of the others, thus meaning the bulk of the show is in a period of time less than a year and a half, his aging wouldn't make sense at all.
  • Several characters in Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer suffer from this, Xander probably getting the worst of it, but Giles, Anya, Dawn, and to a lesser extent Willow are all massively pushed to the sidelines in order to accommodate more storylines for Spike. Although Giles' reduced screentime is more due to the fact that Anthony Stewart Head moved back to England to spend more time with his family.
  • Casualty had this happen to many characters over the years, by virtue of being a Long Runner, but recently, it is more due to Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Sam Grey who played Scouser Alice Chantrey went from main character to appearing now and then due to modelling commitments. She remained plot-relevant, but became harder to write about as her alternate career began.
    • Charlie Fairhead, at one point the protagonist, swings between Demoted to Extra, this trope and Character Focus.
  • Spoofed on Community, where one episode features an Abed subplot of befriending a pregnant classmate relegated to the background. In some scenes, Abed's plotline is shown onscreen, but literally out of focus. Later in the season, when Abed mentions that he helped to deliver a baby earlier in the year, and one of his classmates asks where they were for this, he replies that they were probably off in the background somewhere. An earlier episode has Abed mention that while his "gimmick" is meta-humor, they had leaned on it pretty hard the previous week, and he resolves to "lay low for an episode." He then spends the episode as the only one of the main characters without a plotline.
  • Compared to her CSI supervisor counterparts Horatio Caine and Mac Taylor, Catherine Willows from the mothership suffers from this, in favor of the Ray Langston Show. Of course, if you're going to shell out the money for Lawrence Fishburne, you're going to end up using Lawrence Fishburne.
  • This happened to Dawson on Dawson's Creek due to Joey and Pacey getting more focus. In fact, Joey is the only character to appear in every single episode, despite the show being named after Dawson.
  • Happens a lot on Degrassi due to the large number of characters. They often use a Four Lines, All Waiting structure.
  • ER:
    • Some viewers treat the first half and the last half of the series as two functionally-different shows, as enough changes are made between Seasons 7 and 8 to have two-markedly different tones. Most notably, the show focuses on both the titular Emergency Room at County General, along with the surgical unit (in which major characters would be shown taking part in operations), only for the latter to be functionally put in the backroom when Romano is injured, and all but gone entirely by the point that Elizabeth Corday (the sole major character who split her time between both wings) departed the series.
    • After Kerry Weaver gets Kicked Upstairs in Season 7, she has far less focus and impact on the plot, only occasionally getting a short arc to remind us that she's still around. This coincided with Laura Innes getting more involved with directing the show, which she continued to do after Weaver was written out in Season 13.
    • Several of the Big Good characters also lose steam and eventually disappear (but are still treated as being active among the staff) throughout the series, including Dr. Hicks (a major part of the early seasons, then trailing off to virtually nothing before disappearing entirely, with only her locker nametag remaining for years afterwards) and Donald Anspaugh (who more-or-less disappears completely early on in the final season, only for characters to reference him after he's gone).
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, a running story line is that Debra is overwhelmed by taking care of the three children, who are nonetheless offscreen most of the time. As Ray whispers to the camera in the early season title sequence, "It's not really about the kids."
  • Friends does this to Ross's ex-wife and son, with Ben disappearing after season 8, Carol after season 7, and Susan (Carol's wife) after season 6.
  • The Full Monty (2023) is a sequel series taking place around 26 years after the events of the 1997 film of the same name. In the movie, Gerald had a major plot line (unconfessed unemployment). In the series, all he does is hang out at the café and be snarky.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Bran doesn't appear at all in Season 5, freeing the writers up to focus more on the ever-more spread out other storylines while avoiding doing repetitive scenes of him being instructed by the Three-Eyed Raven.
    • Bronn in Season 3. Even moreso in Season 6, where he doesn't appear until the seventh episode of the season. In Season 7, it takes him nearly 3 full episodes (almost half that season) and he doesn't have a line at first. This is likely because of the dislike between Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey. Seeing as they refuse to share screentime this means that Bronn only can appear when Tyrion or Jaime are at or going to a fight.
    • In Season 5, Varys is largely absent after the first three episodes due to losing track of Tyrion. He catches up with him in the finale, though.
  • Glee has Tina Cohen-Chang, who while she had a large, dedicated fanbase, is lucky if she gets 1 line per episode in season 2 and 3.
    • In-universe: Tina ends up losing it and gets angry with everyone. Afterwards, she has more lines and complains when she isn't being focused on.
  • Gullah Gullah Island has this trope for some characters.
    • For Shaina, she appears at the beginning and end of "Please Don't Eat the Alstons". She made two cameos in "Going Places". She was completely absent for the rest of "Armando's New Home" after going upstairs to eat ice cream in bed. She only appeared at the beginning of "What's Up With Jobs?" and was not seen for the rest of the episode after the song "Job Jamboree" along with Corey and Jessica. She only appeared in the school segment with no lines in "Binyah Binyah Goes to School" along with Sara.
    • James didn't get a larger role in "Look Who's Balking" as he was only shown at the beginning and end.
    • Vanessa didn't get a larger role in "Whose Friend Are You Anyway?" as she only appears in one scene along with Armando and Marisol. She made one cameo appearance at the beginning of "Family Day".
    • For Binyah Binyah, he only appeared in two scenes in "Please Don't Eat the Alstons" where he was first shown taking the cookies from the cookie jar, and when James and Bryan found him eating all the cookies. Binyah Binyah appeared 15 or 16 minutes later in "My Favorite Things". He also appeared in two scenes in "James' New Buddy" where he hides from James and Miguel with Miguel's soccer ball trying to surprise him, and later during the song "One and One is Two Girls".
  • This happens to Potsie on Happy Days after Richie and Ralph left the show. Most of Potsie's post-Richie/Ralph appearances are simply as a singer of the house band for Arnold's.
  • Homeland premiered with the premise focusing on the returning POW Nicholas Brody, with Carrie Mathison trying to uncover whether he's become a turncoat. However, by season 3, Brody's story fades out of focus and attention shifts to the further adventures of Carrie and her mentor Saul Berenson. The show effectively became a Franchise Zombie once the Brody story petered out and the creators wanted to continue with the characters they still had.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Den-O does it to its own main character, Ryotaro, as time goes on. This is presumably due to a combination of the Imaging stealing the spotlight and Takeru Satoh, Ryotaro's original actor, leaving the franchise to pursue other roles after the third (and supposedly Grand Finale) movie. The character is Nth Doctor'd for his next few appearances, but doesn't show up at all in the Kamen Rider 40th anniversary movie. The real nail in the coffin is the usage of Den-O's two Super Modes: Liner Form, which comes with and represents Ryotaro's Character Development but gets used less and less while Climax Form, which is an excuse for the Imagin to act goofy, gets used more and more.
    • Kamen Rider Double has done this post-series to half of the title character. Renn Kiriyama, a proud Promoted Fanboy, has been willing to reprise his role several times since the show ended, while Masaki Suda (like Takeru Satoh) moved on to other projects and hasn't come back since 2011's Kamen Rider × Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO: Movie War Mega Max. As a result, Shotaro has appeared in several post-series crossovers but all you'll ever get out of Philip anymore is recycled audio clips.
  • Kyra Rockmore, Kenan's sister in Kenan & Kel. After Season 2, she rarely ever appears in the show. She doesn't even appear in episodes with the rest of her family or The Chicago Witch Trials episode which would have been a perfect opportunity to bring up her crush on Kel. She does, however, appear in the series finale movie as well as the graduation episode.
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this has happened to every main character that does not have the title detective in front of their name.
    • Dr. Warner and Dr. Huang were never really in focus and have always missed several episodes a season.
    • Sergeant John Munch went out of focus around season nine when he got promoted to his current position and is appearing less than the doctors.
    • As of season 12, Captain Cragen has also gone out of focus.
    • This becomes really noticeable when one of the three remaining characters takes time off like in "Reparations" when only two of the seven cast members appeared.
  • Given its large ensemble cast, this easily happens on Lost.
    • The worst-off character is unquestionably Claire, who's only had three episodes in the limelight. This is particularly frustrating, especially in the final season when her reappearance after a season long absence seems like a good set up for a terrific flashback episode that never really happens and the hold situation is instead handwaved away magically.
    • Still better off than Libby, who gets no limelight episodes before getting crushed by a bridge.
    • Ilana is the same in the sixth season.
    • Jin and Sun get a pretty bad case of this in several seasons. In the first season they both appear in most of the episodes and get their own centric episodes, but after that all of their centrics get lumped together as one and their role in the plot diminishes considerably. For starters, in season 3 they both disappear for about six episodes in a row and have no dialogue in several others. Its also around this time that they start to just sort of follow other characters around for want of something to do, other than the occasional Character Focus. Luckily, they both get some decent character development in seasons 4 and 6, which keeps them from being completely useless.
    • All 3 non Daniel Faraday freighters after season 4. Charlotte never got much love for the writers and then she dies. Miles pretty much just becomes a two man comedy team with Hurley and doesn't get a season 6 centric episode. Season 5 sets Lapidus up as important, with Bram thinking he may be a candidate he becomes a regular and then goes out of focus with the candidate story shifting focus to other characters with nary a mention of Frank. Poor guy doesn't even get flash sideways cameo and is basically just comic relief. Until the finale when his unceremonious death turns out to be a subversion and he successfully gets the survivors off the island.
  • The Knights of the Round Table in Merlin (2008) fall prey to this trope. Though they were given significant attention in their introductory episodes (in fact, both Lancelot and Gwaine are introduced in episodes that are named after them), once they were established characters the writers seemingly ran out of ideas over what to do with them. Two were actually killed off when the actors decided they had better prospects elsewhere, and the remaining ones were given virtually nothing to do but jump into a fight scene every now and then.
  • Inevitable in Mind Your Language, given that the show have an Ensemble Cast of at least ten students per season, alongside class teacher Mr. Brown and recurring characters. Among the European students, Greek Maximilian is a borderline Satellite Character who usually hangs out with Italian class monitor, Giovanni, and the class' French Ms. Fanservice Danielle, and doesn't have any episodes centered around himself (or featured frequently in gags like the Spanish student Juan). For the Asian students, the Japanese Taro Nagazumi - literally seated in the back - only shows up in episodes featuring everyone, and gets little-to-no development compared to his Chinese counterpart, Su-Li, who sits beside Taro in class had a bunch of episodes focused on her. In fact when season 4 replaces half the cast with suspiciously similar substitutes, Taro is the only departed character who doesn't get a replacement character. Then there's the Hungarian Zoltan who appears only in season 2, was in 8 out of 40-ish episodes, and doesn't get the spotlight in any of them and serves as background filler before leaving the class.
  • This also happens in Modern Family, partly due to the legal limitations on the younger actors' work time. But during the first half of the second season, some of the adult characters barely made appearances in episodes that focused on one of the three households almost exclusively.
  • Ducky's assistant Jimmy Palmer in NCIS was once an example of this. He appears in the opening credits and occasionally trailers, but initially you could be forgiven for not even having a clue who he is. Especially after he starts planning his wedding Jimmy rarely even appeared in most episodes, only appearing for a couple minutes at the most unless the episode focused around him and he shared that time with Ducky every time. This was subverted after Season 14 when he became a qualified doctor in his own right, and started appearing much more prominently and in a lot more episodes. When Ducky retired as medical examiner, Jimmy stepped up to the role and has been a major character ever since.
  • Never Have I Ever: Aneesa becomes unimportant in Season 2 after "... begged for forgiveness", serving as Ben's girlfriend to add pain towards Devi during her quest to become more mature and moving on to Paxton. She gets back into focus in Season 3 though, which explores her relationships with Ben and then Fabiola.
  • Ryan was always listed as a main character in the credits of The Office (US), but he almost never has a plot of consequence. Andy is clearly the de facto most prominent character after the main four, and Ryan lags behind most of the supposedly secondary cast.

    Ryan had a get-out-of-jail-free card, because the actor who played him also happened to be one of the executive producers of the show. Well, he was a writer who got promoted to executive producer. It isn't like he pitched a hissy fit.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • There is a long list of characters that start off relevant and then get relegated to cameos and small appearances every once in a while. Examples include Granny, Red, Archie and the Seven Dwarfs. Several others disappear altogether though in their defence they are mostly relevant to one arc.
    • Henry becomes this starting from Season 3 where he is used more as a Living MacGuffin for the first half and practically vanishes for the second half until the very end. He does not regain the kind of relevance he had in the first two seasons until the season 4 finale.
    • Henry gets off lightly compared to Will Scarlet/The Knave of Hearts. Despite been a main cast member his role in episodes is mainly that of a recurring guest with his biggest reason for been around (been from the spin off) is ignored except for two brief mentions.
    • Season 5 seems to be set out to avert this with the first episode having Grumpy give a passionate speech about how he is tired of waiting around on the side lines and he and the dwarfs join the main cast in the latest adventure accompanied by Granny and Belle. The second episode puts these characters to use and Henry gains a Love Interest of his own making sure he gets more importance than last season.
  • Parenthood has mild examples as many characters (especially the children) simply do not exist - and are never mentioned - in episodes that do not focus on them.
  • Police, Camera, Action!, although a documentary series, had contributions from a number of police forces, but these went out of focus by certain series:
    • After the 1998 series, Rigspolitiet Denmark (the national Danish police) appears less and less, with a cameo in Nowhere to Hide.
    • Same for Leo De Haas Produkties B.V. who supplied footage from The Netherlands between 1995 and 1998. However, they have cameo appearances in the 1999 and 2000 series.
    • By 2007, neither foreign force appeared in the Retool.
    • Also, the Surrey and Hampshire Police footage is less often used after 1998, leaving just Metropolitan Police, Lancashire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police, Los Angeles News Service and Police Service of Northern Ireland as the main contributors.
  • Power Rangers:
    • "Who's Madison?" was a fairly popular meme while Power Rangers Mystic Force was airing. Even Madison herself lampshaded her own lack of focus. Among other reasons, it could be that Nick was taking up all the airtime that year. A lampshade was hung on this at Power Morphicon, when Nick and Maddie's actors mentioned he continually lobbied to get Madison a bigger role on the series. This finally led to an incredibly awkward "come back for me" moment in the season finale after they'd spent almost no time interacting all season. The fact their actors happened to be a couple didn't hurt...
      • The year before in Power Rangers S.P.D., Disney didn't want to hire yet another regular actor to play Sam the Omega Ranger. Since the showrunners were kind of stuck with him thanks to Stock Footage, they resorted to Fake Shemping and cut his presence down to the occasional token appearance.
      • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Leo's brother Mike is built up to be a fairly important character, even being the one to pull the Quasar Saber from the rock. However, he's absent from the series after he falls into a crevice, presumed dead. Eventually, it turns out the Magna Defender was at the bottom of that same crevice, and saved Mike by fusing his spirit with his. When the Magna Defender dies after leaving Mike's body, Mike in inherits the Magna Defender powers, but even after his triumphant return, we see only the core five rangers for the most part, while Mike is relegated to their space colony's command center, though presumably he's covering for Kai's absence with their boss, Commander Stanton, who does not know the identity of the rangers.
      • Likewise, Aisha had similar treatment in her tenure on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.
      • Power Rangers RPM is really good at giving characterization to the Rangers and keeping them in focus. However, between Dillon, Ziggy, Summer, Dr. K and Scott, Blue Ranger Flynn Mc Allistair receives little focus besides the episode dedicated to him. Gem and Gemma's characterization consists mostly of being the comic relief.
  • Dr. Verbena Beeks in Quantum Leap gets talked about a whole lot, and her role at Project Quantum Leap is to work directly with the time-displaced "leapees," but she doesn't actually appear on screen after Season 3. It's jarring in Season 5, where there are a bunch of scenes set in PQL's waiting room, but Beeks isn't in any one of them. This is subtly lampshaded (but ultimately played straight) in Season 5's "Return of the Evil Leaper," where she is talked about, and leapee Arnold Watkins mistakes Al's handlink for her — but it's Al who does some armchair psychology with Arnold, not Beeks.
  • Despite being billed as a regular in Riverdale Josie McCoy has appeared less than most of the supporting cast. There is only one episode were she is mostly in focus, and after that, only has two other appearances in the first season.
  • Comes up in the 8th season of Scrubs due to budget cuts; every member of the main cast is out of focus for at least one episode.
  • Vulcans rarely appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was a deliberate choice by Gene Roddenberry to differentiate TNG from The Original Series.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Samantha Wildman is one of numerous secondary characters that come and go, so her limited screen time is hardly surprising — except that her young daughter Naomi is in many episodes in later seasons, so it's hard not to wonder where Samantha is.
    • They did this accidentally for 6 seasons with Lt. Carey, before suddenly realizing in the final season that they had forgotten he was still alive, and then bringing him back for one more episode.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Laris and Zhaban are important supporting characters in the first three episodes of Season 1, but they're never seen or mentioned again afterwards.
  • For a show with only two leads, Supernatural occasionally has episodes that give one brother far more focus than the other, though this often is a case of Real Life Writes the Plot when one or the other actor has limited availability. Notable examples include Season 2's "No Exit," when Sam is largely kept in the background as Jared Padalecki needed medical treatment for his broken arm, and Season 9's "Mother's Little Helper," when Jensen Ackles needed some time off, thus giving Dean a relatively small personal plot (albeit very connected to the larger mytharc) while Sam handles the actual hunt that week.
  • Survivor:
    • The players from the range of third-voted out to right before the merge are pretty much living props at the reunion. Yve perhaps got this the worst in Nicaragua, literally never getting a question directed at her. Jill supposedly wasn't even at the reunion.
    • Other than Shambo and Russell Swan, the Galu tribe in Samoa is out of focus, as well as Mick in the Foa Foa tribe. You can actually cut out every shot of the Galu Tribe with the exception of Russell Swan being evacuated and you won't miss anything important - heck you probably won't even change the length of the episode.
    • A few people in Tocantins, when the camera isn't focused on Coach.
  • That '70s Show: After season six, Laurie Forman is never seen on-screen again but is mentioned in passing many times over the next two seasons. These range from explaining what she's doing at that point in time (such as moving to Canada), to her past in Point Place (such as who her godparents are). Laurie's last screen reference is in the finale, where Kitty, after stating heartfelt reasons why she loves everyone in the room, including telling Donna that she loves her like a daughter, asks "Speaking of daughters... has anyone seen Laurie?" prompting a long laugh from the studio audience.
  • 30 Rock:
    • In the earlier seasons, Jenna seems to repeatedly take several episodes off. This largely ends after her character fully flanderizes into a Small Name, Big Ego / Attention Whore type. During the time when she doesn't get much focus, a typical nonappearance of hers is lampshaded:
    Tracy: Everything worked out with Jenna's dad visiting.
    Liz: What?
    Tracy: Oh, you weren't really around for any of that.
    • Josh, meanwhile, disappears from the show for so long that it looks for all the world as if he'd suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. He eventually shows up again after having been absent for over half of the season. In the next season, he is Put on a Bus and is never heard from again.
    • Although a little more focus is placed on her at the end of season 5, when she gets married, Cerie previously appears just often enough on the show to remind you she is still there.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Hey, Veronica, where did Wallace, the Watson to your snarky Holmes go for two seasons? Why'd Mac become your bestie for season 3?
    • Budget cuts prevented most of the cast (other than Keith, Veronica, and Logan) from being in most episodes of that season.
  • Genelle Williams' character Leena on Warehouse 13. Although Williams is a main contracted actor, she's actually not in very many episodes, and her character Leena has little screen time in episodes she is in, and has little impact on the plot. Leena isn't even acknowledged in series promos that supposedly highlight all the main characters. Williams is also absent from the new intro sequence.
  • The shift to an ensemble cast caused Rand in The Wheel of Time (2021) to get little focus (while in the book, he was the main POV), with most of the focus going on the Aes Sedai Moiraine, her Warder Lan, the two ta'veren Egwene and Mat, and Nynaeve. This gets averted HARD once it's revealed Rand is the Dragon Reborn.

  • Eminem's first two albums are almost entirely from the persona of Slim Shady, but The Eminem Show scaled his presence back, being largely from the perspective of Eminem. Recovery is likewise dedicated to Eminem, responding to a previous album (Relapse) that was criticised for being too Shady-dominated — Shady gets zapped on Recovery's opening track and agrees to be on his best behaviour, only returning in the Album Closure.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Hindu Mythology, despite being part of the Trimurti (The supreme trinity that represents the fundamental functions of reality) and being the Creator God, Brahma (not to be confused with Brahman) is not that worshipped nowadays and is mostly ignored in favor of Shiva and/or Vishnu (depending on the local tradition). Brahma also has significantly less presence in mythological stories, while Shiva is protagonist of several myths and two of Vishnu's incarnation have protagonist roles in the two most important Indian epic works of literature, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This is what led up to the death of WCW. There were so many contributing factors to why WCW died, none of which should have happened. Hulk Hogan had a seven million dollar contract that gave him complete creative control. There were over 140 guys on the roster, most of whom never got used — yet they still bought plane tickets to fly them to shows (for the sake of comparison, WWE's current roster of male wrestlers currently sits at 65; their team, including Divas, commentators, announcers, referees and valets, might barely break 100.) Executives from Turner Broadcasting couldn't handle the backstage politics, and the bookers they hired were happy to put themselves over at the expense of the company.

    The number of wrestlers on the roster had gotten to around 265 when the decision was made to cut costs. About 200 wrestlers were fired. Before the cuts, the roster included Lanny Poffo and Kevin "Nailz" Wacholz. Poffo was hired as a favor to his brother (Randy Savage) in 1995 and never worked a match for the company. Wacholz worked one match for the company in 1993 (as "The Prisoner" at the first Slamboreee) and signed a contract, but everyone forgot about him, so he was never pink slipped and his contract rolled over until someone realized he was paid to do nothing for 7 years and he was released. Going back even earlier, The Honky Tonk Man was working for WCW without a contract (which in WCW usually paid a weekly salary instead of per appearance), he would sign in at each TV taping. After he quit, he asked a friend to keep signing in for him so he could keep getting paid. It worked for a few months until they were caught. It's believed that there were many, many other screw-ups where wrestlers were forgotten about and paid for doing nothing.
  • CMLL's Mini-Estrella and Women's divisions aren't included on the Fantasticamania cards since co producer New Japan Pro-Wrestling has nothing comparable to them. They don't compete in CMLL's Universal Championship either.
  • Very common in WWE. A new wrestler will be introduced to much fanfare or will even be quite successful. Usually seeing their greatest success for as few as six weeks or, if lucky, as many a six months. They start off winning on the main shows. Gradually, they start losing more than winning. Then they are only seen on lesser shows like Superstars and Main Event. Finally the company will be wishing them "good luck on their future endeavors." In between, you're bound to catch a glimpse of them once in a while: participating (fleetingly) in a Battle Royal, looking on from the middle distance as something happens backstage, or standing underneath the TitanTron with the rest of the cast to commemorate a recently deceased wrestler or national tragedy. Let's look at some of them in more detail.
    • The Highlanders are hot stuff, until creative got tire of them and introduced Cryme Tyme as the new hot stuff, until creative got tire of them and introduced a bunch of second generation wrestlers as hotstuff, until creative got tire of them and made them lackeys of Randy Orton. This allowed two second generation wrestlers a second chance to get hot again before someone else inevitably became the focus. Most wrestlers don't get that much.
    • Apollo Crews on Raw. Despite being undeniably gifted athletically, he's struggled even to remain on the midcard, even as the crown jewel of Titus O'Neil's "Titus Worldwide" stable (which itself has not been featured prominently). It's likely that WWE sees him as nothing more than a bland babyface, since he doesn't seem to possess a gimmick of any kind, let alone an entertaining one.
    • Billy Gunn. Ever notice how unsuccessful he was outside of the tag team division? He may have shone as one of the New Age Outlaws and as Chuck Palumbo's Ambiguously Gay partner, but solo he was little more than "Mr. Ass," whose gimmick was that he loved women's butts. Not much that can be done with that gimmick without offending many people, so Gunn faded into the background and only occasionally appeared on the midcard.
    • Bo Dallas made a splash in early 2013 while still a part of the NXT roster, entering the Royal Rumble Match as an extrabrand participant and eliminating Wade Barrett. After that, however, he was sidelined for a long time. He kept bouncing from one heel gimmick to another; these included a motivational speaker ("BO-lieve"), a political candidate ("BO-lieve in Bo"), and one of the four Social Outcasts (and arguably the most insignificant of the quartet at that). Then he finally gained some notoriety as a prominent member of the Miz's "Miztourage," and even made it to main-event level on television (if only by association). But he soon started to fade from the scene again, partly because both members of The Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) took over the roles of Miz's main henchmen and partly because the Miz himself vanished in order to shoot another Marine sequel.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A similar variant happens in Pen and Paper RPGs. While this can easily happen in when a player is absent for too long or doesn't speak up enough, it also happens when a group is well-established and a newcomer happens to join. The group starts to act like the other person is not there, and as a result their character acts out of focus. This sometimes drives away newcomers, and discourages other people who have an interest in the game but have nobody to play with because the local group(s) are iron-bound.
  • Often happens in Warhammer Fantasy, the Dogs of War have been shelved for being game breakers. But Kislev and other human nations barely get mentioned anymore to the point GW acts as if they don't exist.

  • The Spamalot song Whatever Happened To My Part? is about the Lady of the Lake complaining about the fact that she hadn't been onstage since the end of act one (the song is sung halfway through act two).
  • The Fool in King Lear has no spoken lines after Act III. Directors sometimes address what happens to him, sometimes not.
  • By design, the Tsukiuta stage plays focus on different characters in every episode (usually the combination of the two units' Senior, Middle, or Junior pairs, but not always). Sometimes, like in 2018's brilliant ''Kurenai Enishi'', the non-focus members are given brilliant scenes to shine in, so their fans are well satisfied. On the other hand, you have episodes like 2019's Shiawase Awase, which featured the pairs of November and December representatives, with the girls' side members guest starring. Everyone but those four barely had a scene. And even when there's a Seniors feature, it's likely to be a Hajime and Shun feature, with Haru and Kai only supporting (unless Gaku Matsuda is playing Haru). Likewise, when the SQS (Solids and Quell) series plays don't have a separate Solids side and Quell side, Quell are likely to be forgotten. SQS Episode 4: Tsukino Empire 2, for instance, has a wonderful flashback scene of how Solids first met in that Alternate Universe, followed by a scene of Quell discussing how they met while doing other things and waiting for the Solids members to (change into their present-day costumes and) join them.
  • In the 1954 musical version of Peter Pan, the Darling children are technically the main characters - even if they're mostly Pinball Protagonists - but when the story gets to Neverland, Wendy remains in focus while John and Michael become almost irrelevant, partly because they just get lumped in with the Lost Boys, who themselves are presented as a cookie-cutter ensemble.

  • Many BIONICLE characters fell victim to this phenomeno, as the story always had to focus on those guys that kids could buy. The web-serials thankfully ceased this, and then some older characters even received new toys.

    Video Games 
  • For how most of the Ace Combat games since Electrosphere have essentially been prequels showing how the world got to the point it was in that game, very little focus has been given to anyone involved in that game's conflict other than General Resource, one of the two Mega Corps engaging in Corporate Warfare. They ended up getting two whole games explaining how they started out as the South Belka Munitions Factory and then became North Osea Gründer Industries, another game in which they tried (and ultimately succeeded, though not without great cost, as their military force was neutered and allowed the other corporation, Neucom, to become their rival) in taking over the remaining independent republics, and a remake showing how they were responsible for the A.I.-controlled ADF-01 FALKEN. Neucom Inc.? Exactly one namedrop, not even in any of the games, about how they were the Erusea Aeronautics and Space Administration until after the Usean Continental War.
  • This happens to Highwire, Geoffrey, and Rusty Nails in AMC Squad during the development of Episode 2 due to a case of Serendipity Writes the Plot. The Real Life mappers who portray them have left the project prior to 2015, which means none of the characters have roles in the events of Showdown in Hong Kong, and none of the other developers were able to find anyone to fill in their positions for a while until mapper Micky C joined the project. This also explains why none of the characters were able for the climactic mission of Episode 2, Arsia Mons Colony, despite Geoffrey and Rusty having Martian backgrounds.
  • Probably the most extreme example is Eiji Kisaragi. He burst onto Art of Fighting 2 as a mysterious stranger with a tenuous connection to Ryo Sakazaki, and it's strongly hinted that he's going to be a major player for years to come. In SNK's very next fighting game, The King of Fighters '95, he's reduced to a bit player who gets bushwhacked by Iori Yagami. Then in Art of Fighting 3, he's mentioned all over the place (largely in connection with exile Jin Fu-Ha) but not seen even once. And that's the last we see or hear of him for nearly a decade, finally resurfacing in KOF XI (where he's a bit player in a throwaway joke plot).
  • Rebecca Crane, long-serving Assassin's Creed modern day character, doesn't appear at all in Assassin's Creed: Unity. No explanation is given for this in-game. It is particularly notable since her partner, Shaun Hastings, has a significant role in the story. It is also somewhat ironic as a character in Assassin's Creed Rogue, which released on the same day as Unity, states that Shaun and Rebecca are inseparable. Apparently not.
  • Baldur's Gate III offers each companion their own storyline, but some get more attention than others.
    • Folk Hero warlock Wyll's backstory was rewritten fairly late into development, and as a consequence he doesn't have too many reactions to various situations the party finds themselves in. His story arc revolving around rescuing his father can't be acted on until the final act of the game either. To make matters worse, the process of getting his Golden Ending results in his patron Mizora showing up during a Timed Mission to kill his father, prematurely ending his storyline unless you came prepared. However, he feels much more fleshed out if chosen as the Player Character.
    • The Sixth Ranger Halsin/Minthara suffered badly from this. Halsin's storyline completes around the same time he officially joins the party, leaving him with nothing for Act 3 in addition to him being Overshadowed by Awesome with Jaheira and rendered entirely redundant. And his evil counterpart Minthara doesn't have a storyline at all, with many of her interactions (including half her romance) with the Player Character being Dummied Out.
  • Eddie and Shift get hit with this in BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm. Unlike Catie, Anon, Til, and Tyalie, who continue to get screentime and character development throughout the game, Eddie and Shift are basically forgotten about after their respective arcs. They still show up for cutscenes, of course, but they don’t have as many lines as the others, and their support conversations are noticeably shorter and less detailed. For Eddie, it’s somewhat mitigated by his strength in battle, which means you’ll be using him quite a lot, but Shift is a Fragile Speedster who doesn’t even get that.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Trish and Lady surprisingly get this in DMC5. Despite being integral Action Girls of the earlier installments, the anime and even playable in the previous mainline game, they don't contribute much to the story, getting defeated early on and after getting rescued, spend the rest of the game in Nico's van and don't help in defeating the Big Bad Urzien.
    • Vergil gets this in DMC2 and DMC4 as unlike DMC1 and DMC3, he doesn't have a role in either story, due to being presumed dead after his demise as Nelo Angelo in Mallet Island. He is playable in DMC4 but his only story appearance is a short flashback in the game's Special Edition. Vergil does make a proper return in DMC5 though as the Final Boss and is playable in that game's Special Edition.
    • Lucia makes scant few appearances after DMC2 despite being the Deuteragonist of the game, with her most recent appearance being more than a decade later in the prequel novel Devil May Cry 5: Before the Nightmare. Her lack of exposure, is largely attributed to DMC2's infamous reputation among the fanbase and Loose Canon status in the main continuity's overall lore.
  • Maderas and Hoggmeiser don't get any lines after they've been defeated and joined your party in Disgaea. They're not even shown in cutscenes.
  • The Darkspawn get hit with this in Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition. This, however, makes sense: the coming of a new Darkspawn Blight was the major event of Dragon Age: Origins, but the second and third games are focused on other issues and the Darkspawn aren't swarming to the surface en masse again, so they're not nearly as big a threat.
  • Most Final Fantasy games have this, except the characters other than the main three (hero, lancer, and love interest) tend to drop in and out of focus. List of examples follows:
    • Final Fantasy IV is the first one to give characters distinct classes and characterisations. Though Cecil's always in the party, the other members rotate with the plot momentum and thus do get some relevance to the story after they initially join.
      • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years: Rosa and Cid. While every other (living) playable character from Final Fantasy IV gets their own focus chapter and storyline, those two are reduced to serving as supporting characters for Kain. This is especially surprising in Rosa's case, considering the fact that she was the heroine of the original game.
    • Final Fantasy V has issues for each character, but seeing as the party only changes once, everyone stays in focus.
    • Final Fantasy VI juggled its ensemble cast relatively well in the first half of the game, with Terra and Locke acting as the de facto main characters. After The End of the World as We Know It when the party members are scattered and must be re-gathered, Celes takes over main character duties, several minor characters are given A Day in the Limelight, and Terra and Locke are almost forgotten about due to (usually) being the final two to rejoin the party. The former at least gets a couple cameos. The latter is simply absent, and isn't given much to do after he comes back either.
    • Final Fantasy VII has Cloud's struggle as the game's focus, but the other non-optional characters get several mandatory sections that feature them heavily, and one of the optional ones (Yuffie) has a lengthy side-quest focusing on her. The only real exception would be Red XIII. He's introduced as a rare species that Hojo is fascinated with. After that he is completely dropped from all things plot-important until Cosmo Canyon gives him his time in the sun. After that, he becomes all but irrelevant until the very ending cutscenes, as even scenes including his "grandfather" Bugenhagen don't need him to say anything unless he's in the party to say one single line of dialogue for showing up. Apparently he'd had an extensive arc plotted out for him early in development, but all of it is dropped apart from a couple of Fauxshadowing lines that had been left over from an earlier draft of the script.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has little time for people who aren't Squall or Rinoa, and tries to make up for this with the odd time that the whole party has to tackle a crisis and giving the characters various other roles. Selphie becomes the final airship pilot, Zell is Mr. Exposition, etc.
    • Final Fantasy IX is the best about this for the most part. Except for Quina, who is just there for comic relief, and Freya, who... well, after early Disc 2 she just stands around and looks like a rat. But the ATE system lets other characters get scenes when they aren't with you, or even on different continents!
    • Final Fantasy X is somewhat mixed about it. The power trio of Tidus, Auron and Yuna still gets all the action, but Wakka and Rikku get decent time. Lulu, however, is largely there to provide exposition on locations and people's actions/motives, with her connections to the other characters and story elements only occasionally being brought up. The only real time she takes centre stage is during a sidequest that explains a particular part of her backstory. Albeit, a sidequest dedicated to powering up Yuna. Kimahri isn't relevant till 3/4 through the game, either.
    • Final Fantasy XII inverts the usual way this happens: instead of the hero and his girlfriend being the main characters, everyone else in the party (except for Fran) gets all the Character Focus while Vaan's role is to exist as a way for them to reflect on and work through their problems. Penelo (said girlfriend) also seems shoehorned in so there could be a sixth character, as well as a natural mage character, though she does have a small amount of plot importance: in addition to serving as Ashe's "conscience" alongside Vaan, her friendship with Larsa makes him (more) sympathetic to the misfortunes suffered by Dalmasca.
    • This is reversed in Revenant Wings where Vaan becomes not only the main character but the savior of the world, to the point where many of the other characters become window dressing.
    • Final Fantasy XIII shifts perspectives a lot, so characters go in and out of focus. It can be said, though, that all of them are pretty well-developed.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has characters who may have been active in the plot while they were guests, but once they join your party properly, they never appear in cutscenes or get mentioned again.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2 takes this to the next level in regards to Lightning. During the first trailer, we are told she is the main character (playable and otherwise). Come the second trailer, and we see that she now shares the spotlight with Serah and Noel. Fast-forward to today... and while she is the only character on the box art, she only serves as the character Serah and Noel are travelling across time and space trying to locate, the narrator and is sometimes playable for brief periods of time.
  • There's always lots of characters, and you can do the support conversations any time you like, but in a Fire Emblem game, you're lucky if you get a single line more than two missions after you're introduced, as the developers don't want to rest anything plot-significant on the shoulders of someone who might be dead by that point.
    • Later games have been getting clever about this with optional "Info" conversations, allowing a good fourth of the cast to get decent story-relevant characterization.
    • Some other games also have natter between enemies they state they are out to get or know somehow. For example; Nino, Jaffar, and Renault actually have a few things to say to Nergal instead of just of Athos and the Lords in The Blazing Blade, and in Path of Radiance, Ashnard will have a conversation with any Laguz he faces and characters like Jill or Reyson.
    • Rhea gets this on the Azure Moon (Blue Lions) route of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Unlike on Crimson Flower where she's the Big Bad or Verdant Wind and Silver Snow where she returns to relevance a few chapters before the end, Rhea vanishes from the plot after the timeskip and the only role in she serves is her capture justifying the Church of Seiros characters joining your army. She's rescued and abdicates as Archbishop offscreen in the ending and isn't relevant to the epilogue outside of a few characters' endings.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • Ironically, this happened to Freddy Fazbear himself. In the first game, he is the most dangerous animatronic in the pizzeria, hiding in the darkness, coming for you when the power runs out, and jumping from the east hall straight to your office. But in the sequel, he and his Toy counterpart are arguably the easiest animatronics to fend off (they don't come for you often, and they come for you from the hallway, meaning you don't need the camera to keep track of them). In the third game, he's the first one to get dismantled by the Purple Man. There IS a Phantom Freddy, but it seems to take more after Golden Freddy than regular Freddy. In the fourth game, he's one of the easier Nightmares to deal with, and in both 4 and Sister Location, he doesn't even headline the main restaurant, being outshone by Fredbear and Circus Baby (respectively).
    • Chica is sidelined hard compared to the other three original animatronics. She has very little significance to the overall mythos compared to the others, and she's the only one to receive no representation at all in Sister Location, while Freddy and Foxy have Funtime counterparts and Bonnie appears as a puppet on Funtime Freddy's arm.
  • This is common in Granblue Fantasy for being a game with lots of characters.
    • Not everyone appear during in-game events. some are not even lucky to be casted as supporting characters, and a majority of R-rarity characters are not given enough characterization outside of their own Fate Episodes.
    • Likewise, Collaboration characters are only given focus on their respective events.
  • In Halo, the Master Chief has been given less focus outside of the main games since Halo 3, with the writers focusing more on expanding the rest of the universe.
  • In Hogwarts Legacy, the Player Character has four companions from each of the eponymous Wizarding School's houses; Action Girl Natsai Onai from Gryffindor, Token Evil Teammate Sebastian Sallow from Slytherin, Animal Lover Poppy Sweeting from Hufflepuff House, and finally, last and least Bollywood Nerd Amit Thakkar from Ravenclaw. Unlike the other three, Amit is the only one of the player's friends who lacks his own storyline. He's a bookish Cowardly Lion who tags along for one main quest after befriending them in class before declaring he's had enough adventure for a lifetime. Understandable that not every teenager's mentally equipped to be a Kid Hero, but still embarrassing to get less screentime than a Hufflepuff.
  • Two noteworthy examples from the Kingdom Hearts series:
    • Riku and Kairi, who both played major roles in the original game, don't really do anything of high importance in Kingdom Hearts II until the very last world, despite still being technically main characters. Riku has since become the Deuteragonist of the series, but Kairi has remained out of focus for the rest of the franchise, further breaking the base on a subject.
    • Donald Duck and Goofy were Sora's constant companions in Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II. After that, they've fallen by the wayside. They only had brief cameos in Birth by Sleep, were just unlockable multiplayer mode characters in 358/2 Days, and their biggest role in coded is reminding Data Sora about what they and the real Sora did together in the past. In 3D, "dream" versions of them appear in a Three Musketeers-based world, but the real versions of them don't do much until they have a Big Damn Heroes moment near the end of the game. Only as of Kingdom Hearts III are they adventuring with Sora again.
  • Left 4 Dead:
    • In the Left 4 Dead DLC expansion Crash Course, Bill has no new lines, and uses earlier lines when they aren't quite appropriate. This is because his voice actor, Jim French, was busy with his other jobs and Valve couldn't get in touch with him in time to record lines. This eventually lead to Bill being unceremoniously killed off before the events of The Passing, the DLC that brings together the two games' playable characters. Once Jim French was available again, however, the next DLC starring the original Survivors and its accompanying comic put most of the focus on Bill.
    • Rochelle in Left 4 Dead 2 has lots of interesting lines, but the game usually focuses on the other 3 survivors when it's time for someone to talk, thus most people never get to hear Rochelle say anything interesting or even talk at all. This unintentionally makes Rochelle's character bland and generic, which many people hate her for but hardly understand why she is this way.
  • Legend of Dragoon has a large cast of nine playable characters (only seven at a time, as one gets killed and the other sidelined), but the party members that join later in the game, Kongol and the princess Miranda, have significantly less time devoted to their character development. Miranda is only given one scene of dialogue in the Kashua Glacier with Meru, while Kongol only gets a scene at the Home of the Giganto. To top it off, their scenes on the Moon That Never Sets are significantly briefer.
  • The Legend of Zelda has actually often averted this trope in regards to post-SNES incarnations of Zeldanote , but there are still a few legitimate examples:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna steals a lot of Princess Zelda's spotlight, who is pretty much demoted to an Exposition-giving Princess Classic... however, the latter returns to the focus in the end of the game, where she turns into a Lady of War (and to her credit, most of the time she's out of focus is because of something she did that saved Midna's life).
    • While the Zelda introduced in The Wind Waker is an Action Girl/Pirate Girl with a fairly active role in that game's plot, she ends up spending most of Phantom Hourglass as a frozen statue, with her spotlight being stolen by Linebeck.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Zelda appears exactly once and that in a flashback. Despite her name still being in the title the plot has nothing to do with her.
  • Since Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64, Birdo has been a common character in Mario spin-offs. However, she has been absent from many Mario spin-offs, such as Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10, and even Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash.
  • The Mass Effect series had numerous characters and some were given more focus than others.
    • The squad from the first game, minus Garrus and Tali, were sidelined into either Exposition Fairy territory (Liara or Wrex) or in a single cutscene (Ashley and Kaidan) come the second game.
    • Tali actually does hit with this to some extent in both sequels. While Garrus is recruited early on in all three games, Tali only joins forces with Shepard early on in the original. In both parts two (barring a borderline cameo) and three she does not show up until sometime through the halfway point, long after significant chunks of the story have come up.
    • The third game had many of the characters from the second game cut to reduced roles. While possibly justified given the nature of the second game, Garrus, Liara and Tali return to the squad and are given large roles. Thane, Miranda, Mordin and Legion have larger, non-squadmate related roles, but the rest serve only as cameos.
    • Interestingly enough, the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC does this to Shepard, as the DLC quickly becomes all about Liara and ignores everyone else, to the point where your other teammate is taken out by a thrown table at the beginning of the final boss fight, and is unconscious for the entire battle.
    • Unfortunately, even the fanservice-heavy Citadel DLC got hit with this. Assuming you have saved every single possible character across all three games, there are three people who cannot make an appearance due to plot developments in 3: Thane, Legion, and Mordin, who won't even show up if he survives the genophage arc due to needing to keep his survival a secret. As far as other characters go, possible love interests Kelly Chambers and Diana Allers sit the events of the DLC out entirely, while Dr. Chakwas, Engineer Adams, and engineers Ken and Gabby are similarly nowhere to be found.note 
  • The title character of Mega Man X loses focus once the plot starts picking up from the second game onward. The spot that was stolen from him by Zero. This is what Inafune originally intended the series to be, since Zero is supposed to be the real main character of the X series. A Take That! against Executive Meddling that made X in the first place. This backfired a good deal with X7, where at the start of the game, you're given Zero and Axl, with X going into a pacifistic role. X7 isn't liked very much.
  • In Mega Man X: Command Mission, Massimo, Marino, and Cinnamon have introduction levels, but that's it. After that, they're just cast-filler who tag along with X, Zero, and Axl for the sake of it. Had Capcom at least given them more missions that reveal more about their backstories and personal reasons for joining X's group, Massimo, Marino, and Cinnamon would've been decent at best.
  • In the Metroid series, this has happened to Kraid. In the first Metroid, Kraid is one of the main commanders of the Space Pirates alongside Ridley, and he reprises this role in Super Metroid. After Super, Kraid practically dropped off the radar as Ridley took center stage more and more as Samus's Arch-Enemy. Kraid himself just appears in Zero Mission, itself a remake of his debut game, and that happens to be his last appearance for 17 years until Metroid Dread. Incidentally, that game is also the first time Kraid appears without Ridley, likely to give the big lizard a chance to shine without having his pterodactyl friend steal his spotlight again.
  • Octopath Traveler: Mattias from Ophilia's story is a member of the Leoniel Consortium, an organization of merchants that assists with the Kindling. The Leoniel Consortium is only mentioned twice in the entire game, during Ophilia's first and third chapter. Mattias, on the other hand, turns out to be more important to the plot than he initially seems, as he's a traitor plotting to ruin the Kindling so that he can gain power from the local God of Evil.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: Mitsuru doesn't have a lot of dialogue when the group gathers together to discuss what to do next, preferring to be off to the side resting. This can end up in his death, as after a rather hectic rush through a Gas Chamber, it may be entirely possible to forget that he was left on the other side all alone...
  • Persona:
    • Philemon, the Big Good of the series, hasn't made a full appearance since Persona 2. The save points in Persona 4 were made to look like a cloud of butterflies as a reference to Philemon's continued involvement in the overall series, but in Persona 5 the butterfly representation was hijacked by his servant Lavenza.
    • Persona 5 revolves around the titular Phantom Thieves. Given that not all of them are available at the same time, it's unsurprising that some of them get less screentime and development than others or fade into the background after their debut arc:
      • After being a prominent character throughout the Madarame arc, Yusuke shifts out of focus as more party members join and is eventually relegated to little more than comic relief. He remains a playable party member for the entire game, but he never quite reaches the relevance he once had. However, Persona 5 Strikers gives him the same amount of spotlight as the other thieves, and he has a mini-arc of his own there.
      • Of all the Phantom Thieves, Haru receives the least focus and screentime. She joins the group fairly late in the game (and doesn't get much screentime before her official introduction), her introductory arc initially puts more focus on Morgana leaving the Phantom Thieves than her own issues (to the point where she discovers her thief outfit and the Metaverse off-screen), and her confidant doesn't start until around Sae's Palace, at which point Akechi is the focus character. Strikers fixes this by giving her equal spotlight to the other thieves and another mini-arc of hers.
      • Ironically, despite Kasumi's prominence in advertising for Royal, her plot relevance is surprisingly minimal before the last few months of the game to the point where she might actually have the smallest role of all the thieves. While she has several interactions with Joker throughout Royal before the final month, most of them are completely irrelevant to the overarching story and she doesn't properly join the Phantom Thieves until the final palace, at which point the game is almost over. And unlike the other thieves, Kasumi hasn't appeared in any of the spin-off games yet, preventing her from getting any additional focus or screentime as herself.
  • This certainly happens with Pokémon's titular monsters. Every time a new generation of Pokémon is introduced, a lot of the Pokémon end up becoming out of focus and usually are only available to the player after they've beaten the main storyline and obtained the National Pokédex. Pokémon Black and White was especially bad with this since none of the older Pokémon are available to the player until the National Dex upgrade is obtained, however the sequel offered a good variety of both old and new Pokémon. The most egregious example was Pokémon Sword and Shield, which contrary to previous mainline entries had hundreds of Pokémon not even programmed in and totally unavailable for transfer. Due to the franchise being habitually Christmas Rushed, the creators even came out and said all future installments would be like this.
  • The USMC in [PROTOTYPE 2] play a much, much smaller role than they did in the first game - in fact, they aren't mentioned even once outside of the opening cutscene. They're mostly just scattered randomly throughout military bases to make less sadistic players feel bad about rampaging.
  • The Resident Evil games do this frequently due to the Rotating Protagonist, meaning many fan favourite characters can often get shoved out of focus.
    • The surviving S.T.A.R.S members from the first game Chris, Jill, Rebecca, Barry and Brad are out of focus for the sequel as Leon, Claire (Chris’s sister), Ada and Sherry are the protagonists with only a zombiefied Brad returning. You can also find a picture of Rebecca in Wesker’s office as a Easter Egg.
    • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis which is a prequel brings back Jill and shows how Brad got infected. Depending on the ending Barry also comes to rescue Jill in a helicopter but the rest of the cast aren’t seen beyond epilogue screens explaining what happened to them.
    • Claire, Chris and Big Bad Wesker return for Resident Evil – Code: Veronica but Leon is only briefly mentioned by Claire. Jill was supposed to appear in the game but was put in RE3 instead.
    • Leon and Ada return for RE4 along with Wesker (albeit only seen on a screen in Ada’s side story). While the other RE2 characters Claire and Sherry are absent due to the Time Skip.
    • Chris and Jill return for RE5. Although Jill spends most of the story presumed dead and is revealed to be Reforged into a Minion and has her role taken by newcomer Sheva for the whole game. Jill is playable in the DLC though.
    • Chris, Leon, Ada and surprisingly Sherry all return for RE6 while Jill and Claire are notably absent. Claire was apparently meant to be Leon’s partner again but was replaced with newcomer Helena, so she could be in Resident Evil: Revelations 2.
    • Chris and newcomer Ethan are both highly prominent in RE7 and Resident Evil Village, while the rest of cast’s whereabouts are left unexplored. Word of God says it was to cut down on conflicting scenarios as Ada was originally going to have a role in the story before being removed.
    • Jill is the hardest hit out of all the Resident Evil characters when it comes to this. While even the likes of Rebecca, Barry and Sherry have made later appearances, Jill is left out of focus of the games as well as the animated media after RE5 and Resident Evil: Revelations. The likely explanation is the Capcom themselves no longer consider Jill a bankable character after the lackluster sales of her games, although that’s hardly her fault. This has been averted at long last with the new CG film Resident Evil: Death Island where Jill returns to the story, the creators may well of known how momentous this would be to the fans, given they used Jill as The Stinger of the trailer.
    • The zombies get less and less focus in the later titles after Raccoon City, as more exotic B.O.W monsters and enemies take their place.
  • Cham Cham in Samurai Shodown, although popular, has only appeared in a few games. Earthquake and Gen-an from the same series have the same deal (though the former at least got to return for the 2019 game).
  • In the base game and Indiegogo DLC campaigns of Skullgirls, Valentine and Double are powerful Co-Dragons who opposes most of the cast, with Double going even further in revealing herself to be a Greater-Scope Villain who is responsible for most of the hardships the playable roster suffers from. Then the Season 1 Pass came out, and while they got plenty of work in Annie's story mode, they fell out of the spotlight hard by Umbrella's, with Double getting no more than a passing mention (despite showing explicit interest in Umbrella's powers in Parasoul's story), or, in Black Dalia's case, never showing up at all despite having every reason to make an appearance (Marie was killed early on, and the Skullheart was being held ransom so Dalia can fight stronger opponents). Valentine gets this worse, suffering from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome in both cases while her superior Brain Drain takes her place as Lab 0's most dangerous operative and antagonistic force.
  • Over the years, most of Sonic the Hedgehog's Ensemble Cast have been pushed to the side... in favor of developing new relationships between Sonic and one-shot characters such as Shahra in Sonic and the Secret Rings, Merlina and Caliburn in Sonic and the Black Knight, and Chip and Professor Pickle in Sonic Unleashed, or only having Sonic and Eggman in Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I.
    • This actually happened to Sonic himself in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) where he plays the least relevant role of all three protagonists. He never even figures out who the Big Bad is, or what he's even planning. He's more occupied with rescuing Princess Elise repeatedly. What's especially damning about this is that was the franchise's 15th anniversary.
    • Sonic Colors marked Sonic Team's attempt to streamline the franchise, which meant all the supporting cast had to go, leaving just Sonic, Tails, and Eggman (and Orbot and Cubot as comic relief). With that said, many of the other characters do appear in the Nintendo DS version. Sonic Generations brought many of the supporting cast back for minor roles, though they went away again for Sonic Lost World, with Amy and Knuckles appearing in a few cutscenes, but not contributing to the main plot. Sonic Boom seemed to be bringing them back to playable character status, though was poorly received when it launched. And then Sonic Forces brought a lot of the supporting cast from past games to team up together to fight off Eggman's rule as part of the Resistance, but were relegated to Mission Control and cutscenes as the gameplay focused on a brand-new custom Avatar character, along with Sonic and Classic Sonic like Generations.
    • The classic characters like Fang, Bark, Bean, Mighty, Ray, and any characters pre-Adventure were never introduced to the games past their debuts, with the modern iterations of the current Ensemble Cast getting more love than them. While they'd make appearances in the Archie comics, they never made the transition to new games, to the point Sega was actively ignoring them in favor of keeping Classic and Modern game content separate. This eventually was walked back in 2023, where TailsTube confirmed they all exist in the present day and are adventuring elsewhere in the world.
  • Splatoon:
    • Thanks to the outcome of the previous game's final Splatfest, Marie gets a huge amount of focus and character development in Splatoon 2, where she serves as your Mission Control and will talk about her backstory and what she's been doing in the years between the games. So what about her cousin Callie? While she's mentioned throughout the campaign, since finding her whereabouts is one of the plot's driving forces, she doesn't appear in person until the final boss fight where she's your opponent during the first two phases, alongside DJ Octavio, due to being Brainwashed and Crazy. Meanwhile, Cap'n Cuttlefish gets a Written-In Absence and no physical appearances at all, unless you get the Octo Expansion DLC campaign.
    • Splatoon 3's main campaign does this to Pearl and Marina. While the duo weren't involved with the second game's Hero Mode either, they were main characters in Octo Expansion alongside Cap'n Cuttlefish and Agent 8. Here, they've been Put on a Bus, having gone on a world tour and now serving as vocalists for one of the new in-universe bands. They come back in the DLC, though.
  • Jim Raynor for a great deal of StarCraft's story. He's the main character for the Terran campaign, and then only pops up occasionally with minimal impact throughout the first game and expansion's five other campaigns. Justified, since he didn't really have much manpower behind him after defecting from Mengsk. His major contribution is helping the Protoss defeat the Overmind, but he really just shows up, with no explanation of how or when he formed an alliance with Zeratul, and then leaves again. He's front and center for Starcraft II, though, and manages to get a lot done with a small rebel force.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Guile; being a rather popular character during the time of Street Fighter II to the point that both the film and the cartoon promoted him to the position of the lead, it's rather odd that he doesn't appear for the next several years. He finally returned in the home console version of Street Fighter Alpha 3, the arcade version of which features every other character from the original World Warrior except for him.

      Guile going out of focus makes plot sense, however, as his character motivation is to avenge the death of his friend Charlie. In the Alpha series Charlie is still alive, and in Street Fighter III the murderer is long dead. No such excuse exists in the plotless Versus games, however, where his presence has been sorely missed since Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The games where Guile does appear — the EX series, Street Fighter IV, and Street Fighter V — have Bison alive, giving him a reason to be there.
    • Many of the new characters in Street Fighter III have yet to make an appearance outside those games. Though this is slowly being rectified, as Alex, Yun and Yang, Ibuki, Makoto, and Dudley have since made appearances in other Capcom games. Also a partial justification, as SFIII is currently at the end of the Street Fighter timeline, and some characters' stories, such as Necro, Urien, and Twelve, are based around the game's Big Bad, making it hard to find a good reason to put them in other Street Fighter games. And Alex is the current champion of the World Warrior tournament!
    • Chun-Li, of all characters, got hit with this trope in Street Fighter V, which is odd considering she has the greatest motive to want Bison dead. You only get to control as her only once in the entire story mode, contrasting the other characters who get at least 3-5 instances of play time.
  • In Tactics Ogre as well as its spin-off, any of the special named characters with custom portraits who join you will rarely get a word of dialogue after their story arc is over. Some like Kachua, Canopus, Guildus, and Mildain play relevant parts in the story in Tactics Ogre if they're still alive. However; the ending certainly doesn't forget that they joined you at all, oh noo - So if you kept all the named characters who joined you through the story alive and didn't dismiss or let anyone die, be prepared for a long ending! And some of these characters even join in groups, too — so as you can bet, there's a LOT of possible variations!
  • Knight of Lodis has a smaller cast in general than Tactics Ogre, so it's a lot easier to keep the special characters like Ivanna, Orson, Shiven, etc in focus after they joined your party. Like with Tactics Ogre, you get variations on the ending depending on who survives. And to a greater extent, you see more characters talking against an enemy who they have something personal against. (Nichart and Ivanna will talk with each other) However, the optional characters like Elrik and Eupharie don't speak much after their small story arc... Elrik does talk with Rimmon if he's still there.
    • Orson and Shiven deserve special mention. Depending on which path you took, one will join your party, and the other will simply vanish from the storyline. If you took path A, Orson will be a boss because he's still with Rictor's Army. If you took Path B, Orson will join you because he is dismissed from Rictor's troops and Shiven will actually... vanish into the shadows until a good part into chapter three when Cybil is nearly killed by Alphonse and he shows up out of almost nowhere, However this is actually justifiable; Shiven is actually a ninja who was hired to spy for Cybil; he was off in the shadows.
  • Regal from Tales of Symphonia is the only member of your party that you never have to use in the game. After his backstory is all wrapped up, he has very few lines throughout the rest of the game, unless you aim to take his ending.
  • In Tales of Graces, Cheria Barnes starts off being a deconstruction of the I Will Wait for You trope but otherwise, seems only to be put in for a Token Romance.
  • In a series that has loads and loads of popular characters who make up most of the cast, Touhou bosses tend to be one-game wonders that don't always get seen again in the main games. If you're lucky, you get a return as a protagonist assist, another game's midboss, or if the fandom really likes you (e.g. Cirno). However, side material such as the spin-off games and manga have bigger casts and are heavier on cameos.
    • A joke goes that Sakuya Izayoi was knocked out of focus for Youmu Konpaku, and then Sanae Kochiya, as protagonists. In-series, though, Sakuya has stated very directly that she wouldn't go on incident resolution unless it directly involved the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
  • Trails Series:
  • The Tree of Life: The Science layer is a crucial part of extreme mode at first, receiving several upgrades and buyables through the first four original game layers. Once you get to Phosphorus however, the game stops giving it new tabs, while Nitrogen Science maxes out rather early beforehand and all the buyables are soon covered thanks to an autobuyer. It eventually comes back with Protein and DNA Science tabs with some new buyables in the latter, but then it becomes almost useless again after starting Token II.
  • In Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, every character other than Wylfred loses focus as soon as the chapter in which they're introduced concludes, unless you use the Destiny Plume on them, and they only get last words. But, if someone related to that character is around, they add a couple lines to the death scene.
  • World of Warcraft
    • The Horde was this in classic as many of their towns and zones were very unfinihsed, questlines went nowhere, and they had significantly less areas to level in. The only big storyline in the story such as Onyxia's control of Stormwind was purely about the Alliance faction.
    • A common complaint about Cataclysm was that the Alliance and its leaders got very little story and character development compared to the Horde. A few members of Blizzard's staff have even admitted they dropped the ball here, but hope to do better keeping both factions interesting in future expansions.
    • In WOW as a whole, the major case of this revolves around the world's factions. Blood Elves and Draenei were the sole focus of their expansion, The Burning Crusade, but for a time had very little to no continuation beyond the end content of that. Thankfully, this has been averted for the blood elves as of Mists of Pandaria, and the draenei get more time in the limelight in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
    • Wrath of the Lich King continues this trend with the Knights of the Ebon Blade (a faction of rebel death knights released from the Lich King's control) being pushed aside when Cataclysm arrived, despite their major focus during the fall of the Lich King, as does Mists of Pandaria with the Goblins and Worgen, who were introduced in Cataclysm.
      • The Worgen deserve special mention for being this almost from the very beginning. They are almost immediately Demoted to Extra after their starting zone is over, to the point that the actual ending of their experience has very little to do with anything else in the zone and the finale of their starter plot is played by the Horde players, as in with the Worgen as the villains. After this, they are shipped to Darnassus where they've pretty much been practically interchangeable with the Night Elves ever since. Battle For Azeroth, finally spotlighted the Worgen leader Genn Greymane as mentor to Alliance leader King Anduin: and with Anduin being kidnapped at the beginning of Shadowlands it is Greymane who is organizing the Alliance rescue effort.
    • Until Warlords of Draenor, you would be forgiven for forgetting that the Draenei are in fact not a balancing race for the alliance so they would have an equal number of playable races to the horde. You would also be forgiven for having to look up who Prophet Velen is even if you have been playing since 2004.
    • Happens to the Horde again in Legion where they and their cast get no focus in the story despite the orcs historical feud with the titular legion, with the story solely focusing on the Alliance heroes and their army of light. Many quests automatically assume the player will be of the Alliance faction, to the point that one major neutral quest giver, Alleria, goes off a rant about her hatred of the Horde despite that gameplay wise, its equally likely a Horde player will be around her as she does this.
  • In Xenogears, pretty much everyone who joins the party after Bart doesn't get much of the spotlight after the plotline where they're introduced. Rico, in particular, is given nothing unique to do after the party leaves Kislev.
  • Unfortunately, it seems every Xenosaga party member aside from Shion, Jr., and KOS-MOS is gradually forced out of the spotlight, especially in Episode III.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, Sharla doesn't have much to contribute to the main plot after defeating Xord, though the dangling threads of her arc get picked back up again for a while much later in the game. Likewise, after his introductory moments in Makna Forest, Riki loses plot relevance and primarily serves as comic relief.
  • Roc has some relevance in Chapter 3 of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 as the Blade of a Guest-Star Party Member. After the chapter ends, there's a brief side-plot in Chapter 4 that culminates in Rex acquiring Roc as one of his Blades... after which Roc stops making appearances in the plot, despite being one of the few required Blades.

    Visual Novels 
  • Apollo Justice was meant to become the new protagonist of the Ace Attorney series when his game was released back in 2007. By the end of 2014, fan-favorite Miles Edgeworth had gotten two games of his own, while original protagonist Phoenix Wright had appeared in two crossovers. Apollo appeared in none of these, and marketing for the series largely returned to putting Phoenix and Edgeworth front and center. However, in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Apollo gets quite a lot of focus in the game (shared with the newcomer Athena Cykes) and, for half of it, he takes a level in cynicism. This time around, it's Phoenix that's kind of phased out (he's still there, and playable for a good chunk of the game, but the plots are much more personal to the other two attorneys, with Phoenix serving more as a mentor).
  • Fate/stay night has a recurring issue with this due to its three routes focusing on different characters and plot elements. Heaven's Feel notably kills off most of the Servants from the other two routes.
    • Sakura Matou is prominent in the first few days of the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes, before fading away. She returns with full force for the Heaven's Feel route, though.
    • Rider is little more an a minion who dies early on in the first two routes, while the Heaven's Feel route gives her a substantial role as one of the only Servants left and fleshes her out more.
    • Kirei Kotomine is hit by this in the Unlimited Blade Works route. After a prominent introduction, he only gets a few scenes before getting killed off midway through. Which is odd, considering he's pretty much the Big Bad of the other two arcs.
    • Although he's the focus character for the Unlimited Blade Works route, Archer is more of a side character in the Fate route and dies midway through the Heaven's Feel route.
    • Poor Lancer has no luck at all: after his prominent introduction at the start of the game, he doesn't really get to do anything in two of the routes - something he complains about in-game. He only shows up near the end to fight Gilgamesh in the Fate route, and gets killed off early on in the Heaven's Feel route. Even in the Unlimited Blade Works route, where does get a role as Rin's replacement servant, he's still overshadowed by Archer, although he does get to kill Kotomine.
  • From Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Ultimate Cosplayer Tsumugi Shirogane is written this way until The Reveal. She has a severe lack of relationships and Ship Tease between other characters in comparison to a majority of the cast. She also does very little to participate in the class trials.
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, August is summer vacation, but most of the cast goes to school in the middle of the month for various reasons, from summer training to makeup classes to not being able to leave(the kindred spirits haunting the school). There are a few exceptions, though. Yuna's friend Ano is traveling with her family for the summer and Miki and Seina of the beautification committee have no particular reason to be there, so they don't appear during the main story, although Miki appears in a post-game unlockable scene.

    Web Animation 
  • Pom Pom of Homestar Runner fame was once one of the core characters, Homestar's best friend, and the Straight Man of the group. Once Strong Bad became the de facto main character, the humor became more wacky and surreal, and Pom Pom's role gradually faded until he could only be seen in brief cameos or holiday toons. It doesn't help that he's The Unintelligible.
  • Battle for Dream Island's 4th season, BFB, is infamous for having many characters that get the spotlight much less than others, especially since it has the largest cast in all of Object Show history at 64 (excluding the hosts and recommended characters which easily put it in the hundreds). A notable example is TV, who is mostly a background character and never speaks or do anything remarkable.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • After the TV series ended and the show shifted back to its internet episodes, the likes of Cuddles, Giggles, Petunia, Flaky, Russell, Mime, and Disco Bear were given little to no episodes about them.
    • Meanwhile, Toothy has been struck by this since the TV series had begun. Most notably, he was the only main character to never starred in the season ("Autopsy Turvy" doesn't count, since it was a fake-out episode).
    • Nutty gets less and less episodes centered around him as time went on. At best, he gets a few supporting roles and brief cameos, with the occasional major appearance. Similarly, Lifty and Shifty were given increasingly less episodes featuring them, starting with Season Three.
    • Cro-Marmot has never been a prominent character in the series. Sure, even he made a few starring roles, but otherwise, the show has given him little to essentially nothing to do. A few whole seasons has gone without Cro-Marmot having a starring role and beginning with Season Four, he disappeared from the show altogether.
  • Ultra Fast Pony occasionally lampshades characters who go many episodes between appearances.
    • Apple Bloom appears in the very first episode, then doesn't appear again until episode nine. Twilight Sparkle completely forgets about AB's existence in the interim.
    • In "One Joke to Rule Them All", Zecora has a brief scene, after which a caption appears, reading "And we'll never see Zecora again... A fate worse than Luna."
    • In "Utter Lunacy", Ponyville organizes a celebration in Zecora's honor, to make up for her lack of screen time last season. Spike points out that Luna was similarly neglected, and Luna immediately crashes the party.
    • Subverted in "Sister Angst". Rarity is thankful that "At least Twilight's not in this episode, stealing my screen time," at which point Twilight shouts a reply from just off-screen. For the rest of the episode, Twilight stays just off-screen, shouting at Rarity at awkward moments.
    • In "Faith to Faith":
    Twilight: That's bullcrap! Princess Celestia is the only true alicorn!
    Spike: What about Princess Luna?
    Twilight: Princess who of the what now?
  • In Red vs. Blue, the Reds have remained comic relief and background characters while the Blues developed the plot.
  • RWBY:
    • For most of Volumes 1-3, Team JNPR's storylines focus more on Jaune and Pyrrha, with Nora as comic relief. Ren, however, remains mostly in the background as a quiet boy who doesn't talk much, isn't flashy, and only reacts to the events around him. From Volume 4, his role increases significantly, with Volume 4 building up Ren's past to create the season's climax.
    • In Volumes 2-3, Sun and Neptune get screentime, but their team-mates Scarlet and Sage have no role in the plot. They have one cameo as background characters in Volume 2; in Volume 3, while they do appear for Team SSSN's tournament fight, Sage has little focus and is eliminated very quickly, while Scarlet gets a couple of lines and brief fight before he is also elminated. They do appear during the climactic battle of the volume, but only as part of the student ensemble.
    • In Volume 4, Yang's storyline remains based in Vale. Although Oobleck and Port visit Taiyang's house to find out how Yang is doing, Glynda stays out of the spotlight in this volume. Oobleck, Port and news updates indicate she's leading Beacon Academy's cleanup efforts and also in charge of Beacon's recovery attempts.
    • After having primary villainous roles in Volumes 2-3, Mercury and Emerald are reduced to background characters in Volume 4; Emerald occasionally speaks when acting as Cinder's voice, but Mercury's presence is entirely voiceless. They are entirely absent in Volume 7, only returning in Volume 8. Mercury is upgraded to Salem's group, but sent out of the volume early to prepare for the Vacuo Arc, while a Heel–Face Turn sees Emerald join the main cast as a hero.
    • Following Cinder's defeat at the end of Volume 5 and subsequent exile from Salem's forces, both Mercury and Emerald see a significantly reduced screen presence in favour of setting up and carrying out the villainous plot of Volume 7, for which they're not required. As a result, they only make two appearances throughout all of Volume 6 and are completely absent from Volume 7.
    • After being a Supporting Protagonist for much of the Mistral volumes, Volume 7 benches Jaune. He's is the only member of RWBY or JNR to not have any importance on the main plot, although his comic relief mini-plot does turn out to be useful for the climax at the end of the volume.
    • After having a prominent role in Volume 6, Maria is largely in the background during Volumes 7, remaining at Pietro's side as his aid while the others work with General Ironwood on protecting Atlas and Mantle. In Volume 8, both she and Pietro are reduced to largely background roles.
  • When SMG4 began in 2011, its episodes centered around the core Nintendo cast from the Mario Kart 64 era, along with SMG4 himself and a group of fellow Mario 64 Machinima-makers depicted as Mario recolors. Around 2016, Youtuber characters aside from SMG4 were phased out. Then, following the introductions of Boopkins, Bob, and especially Meggy Spletzer, even many of the core Nintendo cast began to take a back seat to new original characters, with only Mario and Luigi maintaining full relevance. Bowser, Toad, Peach, Toadsworth, Wario, and Waluigi still appear but rarely have impact on the stories compared to non-Mario franchise characters. Peach even lampshaded this twice in 2021 by noting her long absences. As for the Mario recolors, only X and FM – who help out Luke (SMG4) on the production end – appeared at all after 2016 (not counting cameos by a few others during the 10th Anniversary Special).

  • In 8-Bit Theater's latter strips, it might as well be called The Black Mage and Red Mage Show, Featuring Thief. Fighter often is silent (or even absent) for several strips in a row, only to pop in for one panel and spout a non-sequitur. Depending on the current story arc, said exposition is usually about magic or the elf kingdom, with the mages and Thief (an elf) trading roles as The Watson. Poor Fighter gets left out of pretty much all story-important conversations by necessity.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del:
    • Scott the Linux guy and his penguin Ted disappeared without a trace for several years, despite an upcoming plot point about him being announced once and several hints being dropped that they were to be part of a major storyline. In a bizarre move, fans who questioned his absence were actually banned from the comic's forums over it. The promised storyline finally came to fruition in August of 2011.
    • The Chef Brian and Players strips basically vanished, though as strips featuring them are intended to be non-sequiturs (since they're, you know, not really important to continuity), it's nowhere near as distressing as the Scott and Ted absence. The Players returned in full force after the Reset Button, essentially becoming the new main characters, but Chef Brian is still a distant memory.
  • Later editions of Femmegasm shift away from lead characters Shelly and June in favor of Jazzy and Daisy (two dogs) and Author Avatar Pembroke the dragon. However, Shelly and June come back near the end.
  • Done intentionally in Fite!, where Gorgado's face actually replaces Guz's in the header for a while.
  • Friendly Hostility employs Rotating Arcs to give its cast equal air time, and the creator of the series keeps readers ahead of what's happening (especially regarding who's not around for this plotline and when they'll be back). However, Bootsie and The Demon are still prone to disappear. More surprisingly, Collin, one of the two main cast members, is absent for an extended period of time in both 2005 and 2007, as the "Big Summer Storylines" — An Arc that lasts for the summer holidays — in those particular years focused on his boyfriend, Fox, and characters who had far more to do with Fox's storyline than Collin's (Fox's sister in 2005, and his workmates in 2007). When Collin is the focus of the arc, however, Fox will at least be mentioned, or given a one shot "Meanwhile..." comic to update the reader on what he's up to.
  • The characters from the first three books of Girl Genius, except for Agatha and Krosp, are almost entirely replaced with a new cast of characters at the start of book 4; Gil (pictured), Klaus, and their inner circles slowly weave their way back into the story over the course of book 6, and Vonn Pinn and the students return toward the end book 8, bringing the Castle Heterodyne arc into full swing.
  • Goblins has this with the character Dies-Horribly, due to his story being a subplot, and the infrequent update schedule.
    • Inverted in an especially cruel way. For a very long time (almost 3 years), the last comic to feature the original Goblins group of Complains and company ended on a massive cliffhanger... and ever since then, the story focused roughly equally on Dies-Horribly and company and Minmax's group. Said comic was posted in January 2011. As of September 2014, the plot finally got Minmax and Forgath to where Complains' group is...only to almost immediately split off one of the combined party.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • The character arc involving "Lord Tedd" has been rather Out of Focus, but at least a Lampshade or two has been hung. Specifically, that YES Normal Tedd's father HAS been doing things in the background.
    • This has also happened to two of the eight main characters, Justin and Sarah, a good deal. Both of them are usually lucky to get to be the chorus, while all the other principal characters usually have a storyline in progress for them. Interestingly, during the party Justin sort of swapped roles with Elliot, with Elliot and Sarah's main lot in things during the period of crises everyone else was having seeing the two of them make out on the couch.
    • The page quote comes from an out-of-continuity EGS: NP strip published near the end of "Painted Black" in the main comic; an epic storyline that was mostly Grace, Eliot, Ellenm and Nananse. Another lampshade about this comes later when Justin dreams that he's a hobbit who is specifically told he can't go on adventures; his fellow hobbits are Tedd and Susan.
  • Homestuck:
    • Jade is the least focused of the main four kids by a huge margin. John gets a lot of focus because he's the main character, Dave and Rose get a lot of focus because Hussie loved writing them, and Jade... Jade spends the majority of the comic isolated from the rest of her team in one way or another, resulting in her having less development than a few of the background trolls that were only intended to be jokes. The end of the comic tries to justify this with the explanation of The Ultimate Self, saying that it doesn't matter that Jade didn't get to do anything because there were alternate timelines where she did do things and those Jades somehow develop the main Jade even if she (or the audience) don't know what they did.
    • Parodied in Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. One of the strips introduces "the new friend Geromy", who is immediately (literally – the comic he first appears in doesn't involve him at all) shoved into the background to do nothing except stand around while the title characters goof off. He doesn't even get one single line of dialogue.
  • Vashiel from Misfile frequently falls victim to this trope, last seen wandering the earth looking for a missing angel. Has now reappeared and, shock horror, appears to even have his own story arc. It shan't last you know.
  • This is inevitable for Polandball where every country and even city or province can be a character. What makes this trope interesting in this universe is the fact that what makes a character appear often is their quirks rather than how relevant they are in Real Life. That being said, the Polandball comics seem to favor settings in the Balkans and in the Middle East and yet this trope applies to at least one in country in both those regions.
    • For the Middle East, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain are pretty out of focus. They have no civil unrest to make for a good comic setting like Syria and Iraq do nor do they have enough human rights violations to appear as a Rich Bitch alongside Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
    • For the Balkans, Slovenia appears the least. The Balkan comics are famous in the fandom for their colorful cast of Ax-Crazy ethno nationalist countryballs all trying to remove each other. Slovenia is the White Sheep of the Balkans, and thus wouldn't be involved in their antics but wouldn't fit in other comics set in Europe as well.
    • For the Scandinavian countries, Iceland is featured the least. His 4 brothers all have pretty distinct traits (Sweden is a politically correct gamer rivaled with Lego lover Denmark while Norway is the most "viking" of the bunch while Finland is always depressed and alcoholic) while Iceland has nothing really standing out.
    • As for the rest of Europe, Luxembourg and Portugal aren't in much despite being very close to attention grabbing neighbors.
    • Among Central Asia, only Kazakhstan appears a lot.
  • Questionable Content has a few examples:
    • Steve was absent for a while. Lampshaded several times, where often one character will mention "We haven't seen Steve in awhile." cutting to said character drinking. He even spent an, alluded to, stint as a government agent taking out some nameless supervillain to explain his absence. For a little while it was unclear if this was actually real, or just a drunken dream, until a later strip showing a chance encounter between him, Marten and said Big Bad's Baroness Torture Technician seems to indicate that it wasn't.
    • Raven was once one of the most prominent characters at the start, but went out of focus for months and wasn't mentioned. Her role as the other point of the barista trio had been mostly taken over by Penelope. Eventually, she was Put on a Bus, and shown to have left for college.
    • There was quite a gap where Pintsize and Winslow went unseen, and secondary characters like Penelope and Tai went out of focus during dramatic arcs for others. They all came back later, though.
    • Another strip lampshading the non-appearance of some characters.
    • It's been indicated that Sara, another employee at Coffee of Doom from the first few strips, may have been eaten by an Allosaurus. No other theory has been presented for her absence in the comic.
    • Most of the original main characters have moved permanently to the background after completing a character arc or two of their own. This is especially the case with Marten, who's been a supporting character at best since the Dora breakup. Before then, the comic was originally about him and his desperate quest for a love-life. Dora and her staff at the coffee of doom only exist to provide conversation, each of them having had a minor day in the limelight. The most recent and frequent arcs have been all about Hannelore and Faye, who have always been breakout characters, until Hannelore was recently Put on a Bus for a while to avoid her becoming a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Now the series is focusing almost completely on Faye and her budding romantic relationship with Bubbles.
  • MegaTokyo:
    • Boo, the conscience-hamster and the Mascot has perfected his vanishing act to magician-worthy standards. On one hand, this makes sense, as MegaTokyo has been leaning towards the melancholy side of life so fuzzy, incompetent hamsters may jar the mood. On the other hand, with all the angst that's been heaped on Largo lately, you'd think now would be a good time for his conscience to lend a hand. Boo has shown up again, though Largo seems to have lent him to Ping. Or something... This might also be a demonstration of how much Boo is out of his league, and how little influence he has on people. Remember the comics with him just trying to find Largo?
    • The comic's basic set up is very conductive to this, as one day in-universe equals approximately a year's worth of strips. Yuki and Ping have both been known to have disappeared for years on end, with the in-universe explanation being that they were just doing something else on those days.
  • PS238 has a lot of this, thanks to its massive cast. It's particularly noticeable because some of the characters who were very prominent in early plots haven't had anything beyond a background appearance in years. Notably, every student at the school beyond Tyler and Julie, as well as all the teachers, have fallen out of focus, most after just a single story arc. Tyler's parents have also fallen out of focus (mostly as a way to show how quickly they forgot him once they had Tyler's super-powered clone Toby to serve as a substitute son).
  • Scary Go Round:
    • Tessa and Rachel were intended to be the main protagonists, but this only last for the first couple of chapters before they were slowly replaced during the happenings of the next couple by Shelley Winters, the main protagonist of the SGR's precursor Bobbins. In later chapters, they would rarely show up except for a few special "A Tessa and Rachel adventure" chapters. Eventually, they vanished for a while before their last appearance as villains, leading a group of evil nuns.
    • This also happened to plenty of others, as there were tons of characters, and often ones that had spent two chapters in the limelight would rotate out to for new ones. Even Shelley, who became the more or less the centre of the ensemble and Series Mascot, was Put on a Bus for a few months at one point.
  • Happens to just about everyone at one point or another in Sluggy Freelance. Usually occurs when one or two characters get Trapped in Another World, causing the strip to focus almost solely on their efforts to get home for the next few months, with only token appearances from the non-dimensionally displaced characters.
  • Slick in Sinfest starting around 2011, which was amplified by the birth of one of the more notorious plot tumors (The Sisterhood sub-plot) and Spotlight-Stealing Squad in the strip's history. Also applies to Buddha, the dragon, the zombie, and the angels after the Sisterhood appeared.
  • Something*Positive features such a massive cast, with many people living in different parts of the country, that formerly major characters like Jhim & Kim (the former of whom was easily in the Top Five most important characters in Year One) will disappear for a year before being seen again. This trope is essentially why the creator has the "Old Familiar Faces" series every January — because he realizes a lot of characters have vanished but he does want readers to remember they still exist somewhere in S* P-world.
  • Sonichu did this to the title character, as the author Christine Weston Chandler focused the story more on herself and demonized avatars of people who had wronged her in Real Life than on Sonichu himself.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Onni was the character going through a Refusal of the Call in Adventure I, and becomes the person who needs to be searched for by the other main characters in Adventure II. Both resulted in him disappearing from the story for chapters at a time.
  • unOrdinary: Arlo catches on that someone has been eavesdropping on his private conversations at Wellston, and he intimidates Cecile into giving up Terrence's name in chapter 65. However, this plotline surrounding Terrence was sidelined until chapter 205 where it's revealed that Terrence has been using his invisibility for something far more sinister that catching juicy gossip for the school newspaper and is spying on students to find targets Spectre might be interested in.

    Web Original 
  • Achievement Hunter did this to a game franchise. During its early days, Halo used to be its darling, with a number of shows dedicated to it - Game Night, Halo Fails of the Weak, and Achievement HORSE. What happened to it?
    • First came the Let's Play videos, especially the series Let's Play Minecraft and Let's Play Grand Theft Auto, both of which became insanely popular.
    • Achievement HORSE suddenly had Trials Evolution join in on the competition for quite awhile before it was reborn as Achievement HUNT, allowing all games to be included.
    • Game Night suddenly stopped without warning, then returned as a livestreamed series with very little Halo.
    • The final nail was the alteration of Fails of the Weak, retooling it to encompass all the best fails of the week and making it a part of the GameFails channel (which, ironically, was spun off from Fails of the Weak).
    • In terms of people, Caleb Denecour was this. Originally part of the main Achievement Hunter group, his speaking roles dropped significantly after an incident in Let's Play Minecraft where he cheated, earning him the rage of the viewers. The guy still gets hate mail to this day because of those incidents. (The reduction to near-exclusively video editor is also because he has other priorities outside of AH and its parent company.)
  • In Chrono Hustle ERK-147 became a main character after its introduction, but as time went on, it appeared less and less, and now it is essentially just Nikola Tesla's lab assistant, who only shows up when there is science/technology exposition to give.
  • Lampshaded in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    NARRATOR: Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
    BULMA: Remember when we used to do stuff? You know? Be out there with them? And help?
    OOLONG: And remember the Red Ribbon Army?
    ROSHI: And what about King Piccolo?
    BULMA: Whatever happened to Launch?
    ROSHI: Who?
    NARRATOR: Meanwhile, back at the plot…
  • The Boomerville faction on the Dream SMP invokes this trope, preferring to fly under the radar as a retirement area for older MCYT away from the drama of the younger members of the server. However, it's for this very reason that Dream abducts both of the founding/primary members of the faction to be used as human guinea pigs for testing the revive-book, and their disappearance was completely glossed over until Dream posted a video revealing where the two had gone... which was posted about a year after the two's deaths.
  • Kit-chan's Fullmetal Alchemist capsummaries and abridged series parody this, with Edward stealing the screentime often forcing other characters (mainly Al) to have their lines cut mid-sentence just to keep the spotlight on him.
  • AZKi of hololive is a bit of an unusual example. She is actually one of the agency's more popular original talents... as a musician. Gaming content isn't (and has never been) a focus of hers, and her sub count is among the lowest in hololive since the fanbase does not translate the same way. On the other hand, she's quite popular and respected domestically.
  • SuperMarioLogan's videos rarely give most of the supporting cast, specifically the older characters like Woody and even Chef Pee Pee, any screen time in the recent videos ever since Jeffy was introduced in early 2016.
  • Ever since 2023 , the older secondary characters (aside from a select few like Ike, Bowser or Yellow Yoshi) have been shoved to the background on Vester And Friends. Among the characters who have been ignored but not completely forgotten include Yellow Yoshi Junior , Wallace , King Dedede, Mickey Mouse, The Koopalings, The Inklings, Bowser Junior , Nabbit, Dry Bones, Ash Ketchum, Silver, Peach, Rosalina, Blue Toad, Yellow Toad, Jigglypuff , Kamek , Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong.
  • In Vinesauce Tomodachi Life, a series with over half a hundred characters, this is bound to happen. Generally, an islander will only get focused on if they've established themselves as a character (only about 15-20 islanders have) or if the game and/or Vinny decides something interesting should happen to them. Even main characters aren't safe; Witch and Waluigi were among the first islanders added, and they were well-known for being the first (and by far the most stable) couple, but around the time they got married, they stopped being interesting and focus shifted to other islanders.
    • Of all the islanders that aren't focused on, Lolly stands out as an islander whose defining character trait is never being in focus. She had the unfortunate position of being added in the second half of Episode 28, after Isaac pushed the Reset Button and eliminated the first half of the day, so viewers were not concerned with her at all (Dheerse was added alongside her, but her voice made sure she had a memorable trait). She didn't do anything to establish herself, she didn't ask for much, and none of the islanders paid attention to her. Thus, Vinny never did anything with her, and she ended up being known only for this trope. Well, that and being assimilated the episode after her birthday, where she finally got some screentime.



"You're not in this episode."

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / OutOfFocus

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