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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 shines brightly on one particular character, or on a select group of a particularly large cast. 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. While someone's hogging the limelight, other members of the cast are going to see a serious decrease in airtime. 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 them 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.

If a character is absent for too long, they risk suffering from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, dropping off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again. Alternatively, they 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.


Examples

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    Advertising 
  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Shouko remains out of focus for most of Asatte no Houkou.
  • Attack on Titan features a Sympathetic P.O.V. arc focusing on Reiner Braun and the Child Soldiers of Marley, with a few flashback appearances by Bertolt and Annie. Nobody from the main cast (except for a couple of cameos of Eren, but we don't initially know it's him) appears for eight chapters (also worth noting that this is a monthly manga, so that's eight months without seeing the protagonists) until Eren Yeager shows up at the very end of chapter 98 and talks to Reiner. As of chapter 100, we still haven't seen anyone else from the main cast since chapter 90, although it's hinted that they're nearby.
  • Azumanga Daioh:
    • Sakaki seems to get most of the focus throughout the series... until her animal plot is resolved with Mayaa coming back. For the last two episodes of the show, she has MAYBE ten lines total and about half of those are random background/crowd chatter lines it seems. For most of the rest of the series, Kagura probably falls into this most of the time as, despite being one of the main six, she doesn't show up properly until a little under halfway through the series and is rarely (if ever) the focus of an episode (or the small mini-episodes that make up one episode).
    • Kaorin gets relegated to the secondary cast almost immediately and hardly shows up at all in the last third of the series, partly the result of getting assigned to a different class.
  • Bakuman。: Miho has been seen much less after the news comes that PCP will not get an anime, and Mashiro and Takagi must come up with a manga that will, a significant setback in their promise to have Miho star in their anime. Justified in that Mashiro and Takagi have promised not to meet in person until they fulfill their promise. Toward the end of the manga, when the anime gets greenlit, only for Miho's relationship with Mashiro to come to light and cause controversy, Miho appears much more.
  • Bleach: Tite Kubo paced the story slowly and cycled through such a huge cast that even the most important characters are ignored for long periods. For example, despite being in the middle of battle, Ichigo is barely referenced for a year and a half between 2008-2009 due to how many characters were fighting. Tatsuki and most of the other posse associated with the high school setting are a very important part of the first arc, but are dropped like the first stage of a rocket once the story shifts settings. In the Quincy-centric final arc, so many characters are again fighting that Uryuu isn't seen for about as long, despite his vitally important role. Lampshaded by the anime team, who had the characters occasionally joke about the length of time they're left out of the storyline.
  • Bodacious Space Pirates: Chiaki suffers from this around episode 8, when Gruier shows up. What makes it more painfully obvious is the amount of emphasis on her during the opening and closing credits, where she is seen alone, or with just Marika, the main character. She plays a very important role in the beginning of the show, and helps Marika start her space pirate career, then largely vanishes while Gruier spends time with Marika. However, she gets more screentime again around episode 15.
  • Cat Paradise: Yumi Kayakawa, the main character, is considered to be this by the mangaka. However, the manga does have a considerably large cast for only five volumes, so it was probably difficult packing in all that character development without this happening.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun: While normally part of the core cast, Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu all had significantly reduced roles in the Sisters arc, which focused almost exclusively on Mikoto. You could even say that Mikoto herself suffers from this since Touma features heavily and is the one who defeats Accelerator in the end.
  • Daily Lives of High School Boys: Tadakuni slips out of presence over the run of the series, despite being the protagonist. This is lampshaded In-Universe in both manga and the anime adaptation; the anime even says his out of focus is because he is too plain.
  • In Dangan Ronpa 3, much of the class of Super Dangan Ronpa 2 have nothing to do in Side:Despair until quite late on in the plot and all of them are heavily Flanderized into two-dimensional versions of their game selves - the only characters who play a consistently active role in the plot are Chiaki, Nagito, Mikan and, to a lesser extent, the Ultimate Imposter.
  • Death Note: During the Yotsuba arc, the perspective subtly but noticeably shifts from Light and his plotting to that of L and the task force, making it closer to an ensemble show. L's moral ambiguity comes into greater focus, Matsuda gets his day in the limelight, Misa gets in on the action by the end, and Aizawa gets some nice Character Development. There's a reason for this - during that arc, Light doesn't have his memories of using the Death Note, and his purpose during those episodes is to be the voice of reason for L when he suggests letting people die in order to catch Kira. Which makes it even more jarring when he gets the Death Note and his memories back at the end of the arc, and his Gambit Roulette that's been running in the background the entire time is revealed, culminating with the death of L. During the Time Skip, when Light and Misa are exposed by the 13 day rule, Light makes Mikami Misa's successor which leaves Misa's role out for the rest of the story while Mikami takes over until the end.
  • Digimon doesn't exactly have the best track record with this trope.
    • Yamato and MetalGarurumon in the final arc, showing up for maybe a minute in the span of five episodes. It even feels sort of shoehorned it since in that sole appearance they pretty much come out of nowhere with no explanation, nuke Pinocchimon/Puppetmon, then disappear for the next three episodes.
    • Digimon Tamers isn't the most even in its handling of the screentime of the tamers. Of the ten, only five (Takato, Ruki, Jenrya, Ryo, Juri) are really in focus during the final arc. That said, there's justification for it this time: the former four are the only ones able to effectively fight the D-Reaper, while they're trying to rescue the latter from it. Three of the tamers are too young to participate much (Shuichon, Ai, Makoto), and two of them didn't even become actual tamers until the last episode anyway (Ai, Makoto). Above all else, it should be noted that only four of the five in focus were intended to be tamers from the start; everyone else wasn't planned at all and is simply a case of Throw It In!—especially in the case of Ryo, whose inclusion was mandated by executives to writer Chiaki J. Konaka because the characters' related game was selling well. (Except for Kazu, who was always intended to be a Tamer but still got screwed focus-wise.)
    • Digimon Frontier is utterly notorious for this - throughout the latter half of the series only Takuya and Kouji, maybe Kouichi on occasion if you're lucky, actually do anything or have any real plot relevance.
    • Digimon Savers, which is arguably the worst in that only Masaru - one character out of four - is really focused upon much. Touma isn't so bad comparatively, but then there's Ikuto and Yoshino. Ikuto regularly disappeared completely for extended amounts of time, with minimal explanation, and Yoshino is even worse especially considering she's still there the entire time. In fact, Ikuto and Yoshino were so out of focus that they had their Digimon reach the Burst Mode in the same episode (while Masaru/Marcus and Tohma/Thomas got individual episodes for that).
    • Digimon Xros Wars goes through an odd journey for it's characters as well. First arc? Taiki, Akari, and Zenjiro have the spotlight while the other Xros Loader digidestined, Kiriha and Nene, remain in the background. Second arc comes around and Akari and Zenjiro get Put on a Bus for Kiriha and Nene to gain their spotlight alongside Taiki. Sequel arc then comes around and Kiriha and Nene join the bus as well to make room for the new main character, Tagiru, and Yuu, the Sixth Ranger entre from the second arc.
  • Dr. Slump:
    • Senbei Norimaki, the titular doctor, gradually becomes less prominent after getting married. This is also lampshaded in-universe (there's No Fourth Wall in this series) later in the manga. He still gets A Day in the Limelight once in a while but not nearly as often as before.
    • Aoi, Akane's sister, is a minor but recurring character in the original series, however in the 90s remake she almost never appears.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Many main characters early on in Dragon Ball are shifted out of focus over time in favor of the Saiyans during the latter half of the series. Side character Lunch is hit particularly hard with this — she doesn't even get Put on a Bus, she just disappears. The creator eventually admitted sheepishly that he had forgotten all about her. Her only appearances in Z are anime-only scenes in Saiyan Saga filler and a small cameo in the Buu Saga where she adds her power to Goku's final Spirit Bomb.
    • When compared to the other Z Big Bads, Cell gets significantly less attention in modern media, particularly Dragon Ball Super. Whereas Vegeta is the deuteragonist, Frieza the antagonist of a movie and a recurring character in Super, and Majin Buu a secondary character, Cell doesn't get much love. Granted, he's the least popular of the four (at least in Japan; in the West it's a different story), and this — coupled with his difficult to draw/animate design — probably factors into his lack of focus. However, his fortune reverses with Dragon Ball Fighter Z, where he plays a major role in the story.
  • Eyeshield 21: Lampshaded when Ishimaru (who is himself the focus of a running gag relating to how he is constantly ignored by creator and characters alike: Demoted to Extra) shows up in a later arc for one panel after a year's worth of publication time absent only to lament "I finally show up after a year and my panel is so small..." before disappearing again.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Story arcs tend rotate focus amongst the main cast.
    • During the Briggs Arc, Mustang and his men are not seen for a while.
    • Rose herself is out of focus in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa. She's a major character in the later episodes of the 2003 anime but only appears in a few scenes of COS. Winry, who has less focus in the 2003 anime as a whole compared to the manga, and Noah, who is Rose's German counterpart, get attention instead.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing usually cycles around the pilots' stories equally... except for the fifth, Wufei Chang, who is often absent for several episodes at a time with nobody knowing what he's up to. It's somewhat made up for by the fact that when he does resurface, it's as a huge Spanner in the Works for whoever is doing whatever at the time.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00
      • A serious problem is that character arcs are terminated very swiftly in order to change focus to a new character. After Allelujah's enormous Shoot the Dog moment in which he wipes out a child-soldier breeding facility, he essentially stops being in the plot in order to facilitate Setsuna. In the second season, Allelujah again finds himself having a short subplot that is not expanded on until the later episodes (and is thin even at that). It gets so bad that during a critical battle (the first offensive of the new 00-Raiser suit), Allelujah's Arios is used solely as a battery to power the Cool Starship. He gets exactly two lines in the episode, consisting of a grand total of three words

        The main problem is that Allelujah's whole role in the plot revolves around his super soldier past and Soma/Marie, having absolutely nothing to do with any of the other main characters or the main plot of Innovators Terrorism and Celestial Being; whichever the plot is focusing on means he's either getting all of the focus or none at all.
      • Most of the characters that survive the end of the first season get demotions in order for the series to switch the focus to Ribbons and his next phase of world conquest, but all the surviving combat characters became members of the A-Laws, so they have adequate time to show their stories. The only surviving user of a non-Celestial Being Gundam, Nena Trinity, however, ends up going from being part of a major story arc to becoming a servant and is almost a non-factor throughout the second season. In fact, the episode that finally gives her adequate airtime and reveals why she went to Liu Mei all those years ago... is the one where she is killed off.
  • K: The main trio of the first season, now the Silver Clan, are not the focus of season 2. In the first season, they were the main plot, while HOMRA and Scepter 4's stories together formed a B plot. The movie featured Kuroh's relationship with Yukari as a b-plot, with HOMRA's issues as the main story. The second season has more focus on Scepter 4 than previous seasons, and the new antagonists in the Green Clan, with the first season's trio behind that.
  • Kyo Kara Maoh!:
    • Wolfram falls victim to this periodically. Although he's physically present in every episode, in some episodes his lines consist mainly of "Yuri!" yelled at regular intervals with different vocal inflections. At the start of the show, he is the loud, over-emotional but undeniably loyal accidental fiancee; by the end of the first season, he narrowly avoids becoming The Artifact when and the plot kicks into high gear after Conrad's apparent betrayal. He usually loses out to big brother Conrad, who gets quite a bit of Character Focus. Wolfram regains some ground at the end of season two, although he is unconscious for most of it.
    • The same goes for Gunter and Gwendal, although it's debatable as to whether they qualify as "main characters." At least Gunter gets the odd day in the limelight to show off.
  • Love Hina:
    • The series gives us five initial potential love interests, with three more later on, although it's fairly evident that the main character Keitarô gets with Naru in the end. All but one, Mitsune "Kitsune" Konno, get fairly detailed backstories, growth, and Character Development. Kitsune plays a Cool Big Sis role to Keitarô and is a student with Naru, but little else is known about her.
    • Also, the foreign ten-year-old Sarah MacDougal gets focused on for a part of one early volume, then is cast aside for the rest of the story.
    • The OVA takes the focus away from Mutsumi, who is a prominent character in the later episodes of the series as well as the Christmas Special and Spring Special. It wouldn't be so noticeable if she weren't present in so many scenes where she contributes nothing. Sarah and Mei also appear in the OVA as little more than scenery.
  • Lucky Star:
    • Miyuki Takara in gradually faded into the background as the show progress through its season. Although she is initially presented as a primary character, noting her prominence in the opening title sequence, by the end, Yutaka gets far more screen time and dialogue. Fans speculate that Miyuki's shallow characterization of being an intelligent, friendly Meganekko didn't mesh well with the series coming to focus more on playing with quirkier personal behaviours and banter. This is despite Yoshimizu apparently having a glasses fetish. Referenced in Hayate the Combat Butler: "We've been left out like a pink-haired, big-breasted girl with glasses."
    • Tsukasa fades out a bit in the last few episodes. She has only one major line in Episode 23.
    • In 2010 episodes of the manga (the anime only got up to Volume 4), the four main girls themselves go somewhat out of focus since they graduate high school and go on to different schools. Konata and Patty of all people are the only two who remain together. The manga has started to focus more on a "new generation" of girls at Ryooh High School.
  • Lupin III frequently takes the spotlight off of some of the characters. It's one way to avoid the Four Lines, All Waiting trope that can happen with multiple characters going in different directions. Goemon is the most constant victim. He'll usually going missing for long periods of time, off training while the others pursue the MacGuffin of the week. Sometimes he'll appear 2/3rds of the way through the story. Fujiko will occasionally make only sporadic appearances, especially if she's sided with the bad guy.
    • In a Real Life Writes the Plot example, Goro Naya was having trouble in the late 2000's, so the writers would come up with injuries and obstacles to make fewer lines for Zenigata. He'll disappear for long periods of time, popping up only for humorous purposes or to conveniently derail Lupin's plans.
    • Lampshaded in Lupin III (Red Jacket): Zenigata is being chauffeured around by another cop, who spies Lupin. Zenigata tells the cop not to bother chasing him, because Zenigata isn't supposed to be in the episode.
    • During Lupin III: Dead or Alive, Goemon and Jigen are out of focus for most of the story, in favour of Pannish and Olèander.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: given the size of the cast, it was inevitable that just about every character other than Negi would fall into this at some point. The most notable ones are Kaede (who after a brief day in the limelight chapter early on doesn't get much plot relevance outside of being additional muscle for the group), Anya (who is in focus for all of a dozen or so chapters before getting stuck as a Damsel in Distress), and Ayaka (who doesn't show up at all for quite a while once the Magic World arc starts note ). There's also Zazie, who is never in focus to begin with, despite being one of the series' most mysterious characters.
  • Medaka Box: Akune and Kikaijima (aka the other student council members) often get less and less screen-time as the series delves into more absurdity. Even Zenkichi is not immune.
  • Murasakiiro no Qualia: 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.
  • Naruto:
    • You can validly claim that the whole of the Konoha 12 outside of the main Team 7 (Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura) suffers from this for the Shippuden portion. Aside from glimpses of spotlight for Team 10 (Shikamaru, Choji, Ino) during the Hidan and Kakuzu arc and during their reunion with the now-deceased Asuma during the Shinobi War, the development of the Konoha side-characters is virtually non-existent. All Team Guy (Rock Lee, Neji, Tenten) gets is a small bone thrown to them to act as back-up for Team 7 during the Rescue Kazekage arc, and Team 8 (Shino, Kiba, Hinata) has it worse, just receiving a minor role to help the Konoha search party look for Itachi.
    • Lampshaded in an omake at the last episode of a Story Arc, where Temari and Kankuro are both pissed that they aren't going to be showing up again for a long time (they both later reappeared in the manga after being gone for 172 chapters, which is over three years real time).
    • Lampshaded again in a later omake which has Shikamaru noting that for the next Story Arc he's pretty much the main character and Naruto will barely do anything (to Naruto's shock). What makes it even worse is that after that Naruto still doesn't even participate in a fight that goes anywhere for over a year of manga chapters.
    • Lampshaded again in another omake when Neji has a tough time remembering who Hanabi, his cousin, is. Of course, she wasn't intended to be an important character, but even he falls out of focus.
    • Iruka, Naruto's friend, first mentor, and first role model, tends to only show up whenever Naruto reaches an especially significant personal milestone (the few examples in Part II include his return to the village, Jiraiya's death, being accepted by the villagers, and going off to war).
    • After his big introduction and being the focus of an arc, Sai doesn't get much of anything to do except for one single moment in the War Arc, and his attack has absolutely no effect.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Hikari, Toji and Kensuke become gradually less important as the show progresses, until they finally leave the city off-screen due to their homes being destroyed. In interviews, Hideaki Anno even admits that the school setting and its characters became irrelevant to the plot far quicker than he'd initially expected.
    • The manga at least attempts an explanation. Shinji accidentally kills Toji during the Bardiel incident (in the anime, Toji only loses his leg), and subsequently avoids Hikari and Kensuke because he is unable to face them after what he's done. Hikari, after catching a glimpse of Shinji and Kaworu, remarks that "Even if Ikari was with us again... it wouldn't be like before. We wouldn't be like friends anymore."
    • It Gets Worse in the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. By the time of the third movie, the three of them don't even appear at all.
  • Ojamajo Doremi: Hazuki and Aiko are part of the original main trio along with Doremi in the first season. Later in the series, both of them (especially Hazuki) are mostly ignored in favor of the other main characters.
  • One Piece: all of the Straw Hats except Luffy have only been seen on two occasions in the manga since Chapter 512, when Kuma teleported them to separate islands; once to briefly show their whereabouts, and once more in a two-part cover page story arc. Granted, the crew gets more focus at the end of the Post-War arc as they prepare for the Time Skip, and then back together after it.
    • Smoker and Tashigi (the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist pair that chase after the Straw Hats) for the first half of the manga (and therefore, the first half of the Grand Line). This is most likely deliberate, as Smoker's logia abilities mean that Luffy didn't stand a chance in hell at beating him.
    • The Going Merry, the ship of the Straw Hats, is often declared to be a character and a member of the crew in her own right, to the point where her ultimate demise is a very moving scene. However, it becomes somewhat jarring since the all the important arcs generally take place on some island or another and the Going Merry is left behind to not appear for dozens of chapters at a time. It doesn't help that the vast majority of the series' action focuses on battles between individual people, and anything resembling actual naval combat is mostly absent, thus actually giving Merry very little on-screen opportunity to show her credentials as a character in her own right.
    • Chopper, Nami, Sanji, and Brook during the latter half of the Dressrosa Arc. Though they are still a part of the story (since they head to the Straw Hats' next location), Dressrosa is so long (the longest arc in One Piece's history, with 101 chapters, smashing the old record of 66) that they were missing from the action for over a year and a half (from December 2013 to July 2015) while they waited for the rest of the Straw Hats to defeat Doflamingo.
    • At least one member of the crew being Out of Focus was common from the Baratie on (excepting, of course, showstoppers like Arlong Park and Alabasta), but it's generally less noticeable because early arcs ran "only" about a dozen episodes max, and the next one would usually rotate the neglected member(s) into the spotlight. To wit:
      • Baratie: Nami, ironically, only becomes relevant when she leaves halfway through - if only because it sets up the next arc.
      • Loguetown: Nami, Usopp, and Sanji are all pretty much left in the background, though the anime adds A Day in the Limelight stories for both Usopp and Sanji (the former's was planned by Oda but got cut for space; the latter was made from whole cloth by the anime writers).
      • Whiskey Peak: Usopp and Sanji sleep through the whole thing, contributing literally nothing to the plot, even tangentially.
      • Little Garden: Zoro, Nami, and Vivi spend most of their screentime stuck in Mr. 3's Death Trap. Sanji seems like this, but despite being isolated from the main plot, contributes some vital Chekhovs Guns for Alabasta.
      • Drum Island: Zoro, Usopp, and Vivi spend most of their time down on earth, while all the real action happens at Wapol's mountaintop castle.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: otaku girl Renge has a whole chapter dedicated to her in the manga, but then she falls into the background. She does still make quite a few cameo appearances such as during the Halloween chapter, and is said to be one of Haruhi's customers. The writer, Bisco Hatori, said she had intended to make Renge a more frequent character, but for whatever reason she never went through with it. On the flip side, the anime adaptation turns Renge into an Ascended Extra and the As You Know, Genre Savvy Fangirl. Bisco-sensei was happy to see Renge get more screentime, even if it does become less frequent toward the anime's finale.
  • Persona 4: The Animation: In episode 13, the story is mostly told from the perspective of the protagonist's surrogate little sister, Nanako, as she conducts a childish investigation while pretending to be a cartoon detective. Later in episode 14, we see exactly what the Protagonist was up to, and how Nanako saved the man who operated the fireworks (he was choking), and because of the things she didnote , indirectly helped the Protagonist save the life of a mother after she was struck in the head.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Johto arc is famous for this, causing Brock and Misty's characters to be easily summed up as "movable background". The writing staff do end up employing a variation of Rotating Arcs in later seasons, but only two characters have such arcs going at a time — leaving Brock and Max almost eternally Out of Focus and Misty Put on a Bus (and May, Dawn, Iris, and Serena Put on a Bus at their arcs' conclusion). Fan reaction is mixed, to say the least.
      • In the original series, it particularly hits Misty, Brock and Tracey's Pokémon hard, as only a few of them get enough screentime to flesh out their characters, while almost all of them lack distinct personalities. While this issue is still present in later seasons, since Advance Generation onwards, all of Brock's Pokémon he catches later on are given distinct character traits, despite their lack of screentime.
      • Iris in the first quarter of the Unova saga, due to having no Pokémon suitable for battle (her Axew is still a baby, her Excadrill doesn't listen to her, and her Emolga is incredibly lazy and undisciplined.) This is changed during the first Tournament Arc of the saga, where she wins the tournament and goes on to have more focus. On the other hand, Cilan also loses focus due to his goal of being an S-Rank Connoiseur requiring less focus, though this is remedied by giving him other interests to focus on.
      • Serena is this before the Showcase arc, due to not having a set goal at the time. It happens again after said arc ended. Because she's too young to train Pokémon and doesn't have a goal either, Bonnie is also this before XYZ, when she becomes a central figure as Squishy's caretaker. Clemont (and his Pokémon besides Chespin and Dedenne) also fades into the background after his Gym Battle, once again due to lacking a real goal.
    • Ash's bird Pokémon fall into this a lot. Pidgeotto, for example, travels through a region with Ash and barely wins any battles at all. Usually it's just called out to search for/pop Team Rocket's balloon, or to blow away one of Weezing's Smokescreen attacks. To its credit, it plays a important part in winning a Gym Battle so Ash can get the Earth Badge. Noctowl suffers from the same issue, being mostly important in only one Gym Battle. Swellow and Staraptor get a little more battling prowess, but they still don't have as much screentime as Ash's other team members. This is likely because there are no Flying-Type attacks that explode; hence no blasting off Team Rocket. Unfezant gets this the worst: with no Team Rocket balloons to pop, and Ash's Unova team featuring a wider array of Pokemon, her appearances are few and far between. Talonflame falls closer to Swellow and Staraptor, getting not much screentime outside of Gym Battles, but participating in 7 of 8 Gym Battles (9 of 10 if we count the two matches Ash lost).
    • In the original series, since Ash catches too many Pokémon in Kanto, his Kingler, Muk and Tauros suffer greatly from this trope. Kingler is barely seen and participates in only two battles (where it does extremely well). Muk occasionally pops up in some comedic scenes after its first battle, but it is also heavily underused. And since Ash catches thirty Tauros in the Safari Zone, it is unknown which ones he actually gets sent to him and they don't appear very often (although they get more battles than Muk and Kingler). The Tauros herd are basically one and the same Pokémon, just multiplied. Heracross from Johto also suffers this fate, as it gets sent to the lab not long after its capture, but it is given some good moments to shine. Phanpy suffers this in the original series, due to being the latest Pokémon to be captured and it hatched recently there. However, in the Advanced Generation series, Phanpy re-joins the party and eventually evolves.
    • Due to the rotating system in Unova, most of Ash's new Pokémon suffer from this fate, some more than others, especially Palpitoad who only appears in eight episodes. Oshawott, Pignite and Snivy usually avert this and stay in the party for most of the time.
    • Almost all of Dawn's Pokémon get very little screen-time due to a certain Piplup hogging all the limelight. Her Pachirisu in particular suffers from this, getting less screen-time than all of her other Pokémon combined. To make matters even worse, Piplup is seen as a major annoyance by many fans, resulting in it becoming The Scrappy of the Diamond & Pearl era.
    • The Team Rocket trio, especially in the movies. As of Best Wishes, they no longer appear in every episode, and when they do, it's for a short amount of time. Granted, there are many who actually prefer this, as the short time they spend doing important things is usually plot-important, as opposed to the years they've been in every episode solely for comic relief or as chew toys. Downplayed in XY, where they are back to being Pikachu-stealing regulars, though are still occasionally omitted from episodes where they are unnecessary
    • Sun & Moon sees Ash having his largest group of friends yet with, including him, a group of six. However, it seems clear that the writers either have their favorites or simply can't handle that many characters at once. One of the worst offenders is Mallow who, after her Bounsweet evolved into Steenee, seemed to have been left aside, not having much Character Development and being the only of the Akala trio not to have a Z-Ring, as the Grass Trial was taken by Ash so that his Rowlet could have a Grassium Z. Sophocles doesn't fare much better, either, having little more Character Development than Mallow in spite of having more episodes focused on him than she does. While Lana and Kiawe fare better, they're both outshined by Lillie, who is the only one to receive a fair amount of presence to the story as the Deuteragonist.
  • This is one of the reasons why the Pretty Cure All Stars New Stage trilogy is such a mixed bag as the focus on Original Characters pulls focus from the older teams.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has an odd example. Go find a piece of art—fanart, official, whatever—containing four of the five Magical Girl heroines. Which one is left out? It's Kyoko Sakura, isn't it? Exceptions to this are rare: four of the end-of-episode artworks have four of the girls, and all of them lack Kyoko. The series page image, which is commonly used in promotions, does the same thing. Kyoko is the last main character to appear (in episode 4), but she ultimately gets more screen time than Mami and has a pretty obvious Les Yay thing with Sayaka, so the reasons for her being excluded so often are unclear. It's possible that this is to preserve The Reveal of her first appearance, since most artwork featuring four girls was produced before the fourth episode. After the conclusion of the series, most artwork shifted to either feature all five girls or feature pairs. Mami isn't part of an official duo, so she took a turn being left out until The Movie, which pairs her with Nagisa.
    • The wraiths/demons/majuu have been out of focus since their first appearance at the end of the series. To this day, the only thing anyone knows about them is that they're analogous to witches, they have a uniform appearance, and they travel in groups. Their last major appearance is in the PSP game, where they can be fought in a possible ending of the last story route. Other than that, wraiths don't appear in any of the spinoffs. From new series to Drama CDs to every single comic anthology, if they're not a short story of Homura pining, they always take place before wraiths exist. Even The Movie, which doesn't have this excuse, mentions them only in passing and primarily centers its plot around witches and nightmares. The merchandisers completely ignore them as well. Tropes Are Not Bad, though, since most fans consider the wraiths to be boring; many Fan Fic writers have lamented that the worst part about writing post-Madokami stories is having to incorporate them.
  • Ranma ˝: Ranma often drops by Dr. Tofu's office when he is injured or needs medical advice. A few seasons later and Dr. Tofu vanishes without a trace. As has been noted elsewhere, his relationship with Kasumi was never going to go anywhere and that gag got old quick. Furthermore, Cologne could take over the medical advising role, and she did, giving him nothing left (or at least new) to do.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Naru Osaka, ostensibly Usagi's best friend, just kinda disappears by the time the first season ends. It's probably because Usagi had found new friends in all the other Sailor Guardians, and she had unfortunately just been a filler friend for a whole season. Lampshaded and played with in fanworks and extra materials not done by Naoko herself. Fans postulated Naru is some sort of living mana battery (and it even led to a few fics where she becomes the newest and most powerful Sailor Guardian) and when the seasonal villains stop collecting energy, her interaction with them stops as well.
    • Usagi's family, who in the beginning are a very important emotional anchor that just kind of fade away the longer the story went on. Maybe this is why so many fan writers like to ship Hotaru/Sailor Saturn with Shingo.
    • The moon cats (Luna and Artemis) fall out of focus in the final season.
    • Even the (Inner) Guardians themselves are not exempt. Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus have vanishingly little involvement in the manga and Sailor Moon Crystal storylines after the first arc. It becomes especially pronounced beginning with the Infinity arc, which focuses on the newly-introduced characters of Haruka, Michiru, and Hotaru and on Usagi and Chibi-Usa's interactions with them, most of which the four Inner Guardians are not present for and have little input on. By the time things get real at the midpoint of the arc, even the role of reacting to and commenting on developing events mostly goes to Chibi-Usa and the Outers, relegating the Inners almost entirely to the background, to the point where the Inners, specifically Moon's bodyguards, don't go with her to confront the Big Bad, but rather leave her with the Outers.
  • Sgt. Frog: Aki is the mother of the Hinata family and thus the 'highest rank' in Keroro's eyes. Of course it's obvious she would out of focus due to her job, which makes her come home rarely, but she is portrayed as a main character, so having her only make an appearance in background events is kinda sad. We also know very little about her.
  • Shugo Chara!: Ever since the "Black Diamond" arc, Yaya Yuiki has the sole purpose to transform into "Dear Baby" once every 3 episodes and then get her butt kicked hilariously, due to her powers being so absurdly useless (Ducks?! Seriously... DUCKS?!) that even Ma-Ti would laugh. She gets almost no screentime aside from embarrassing scenes and her lines in dialogue are limited to baby-like 3rd-person ranting about wanting something. Her guardian Chara, Pepe, is even worse; she does so few things that even completely determining her personality becomes challenging.
  • Slayers:
    • The four major protagonists have only so much of their histories covered (and the importance of said histories only go so far), but virtually nothing is known about Gourry Gabriev, the swordsman of the group. The only thing known about him for sure is that an ancestor of his wielded the Sword of Light and defeated a beast named Zanaffar with it. He has an established backstory, but it's only availible via interviews. When a potential story involving said ancestor falling for an elf girl popped up in a Non-Serial Movie, Haijime Kanzaka jossed it.
    • Taken to an extreme when all four main characters become this in the third anime season; they're used as props to save the world, which is overshadowed by the idiotic Belligerent Sexual Tension of Filia and Xellos and the stories of the dragon race, the Big Bad, and the mooks that work for him. It wouldn't be so bad if the Character Development that the four of them were gaining weren't more or less gone.
  • Soul Eater: The series does this on and off with its characters, shifting the focus frequently. Not so much in the anime, but the manga sometimes has even some of the main protagonists absent for three or more chapters except maybe in a panel or two. It seems more apparent in the manga since it's updated monthly which can cause slower plot progression depending on what's happening (despite the fact the chapters are generally 30+ pages long).
  • Space Dandy: After Season One, Meow and QT start suffering from this. They both don't do much more than just hang around in the background providing commentary until the Character of the Day shows up, after which QT and Meow either disappear or stick around to provide occasional support commentary and nothing else. Between the two, QT has it worse, to the point where if QT were just completely written out of Season 2, it wouldn't change much of anything.
  • To Love-Ru:
    • Haruna began declining in appearances for quite awhile as Yui slowly overtook her spotlight. Understandable, considering the fact that by this time in real-life Kentaro Yabuki's wife, who served as the model for Haruna, divorced him, triggering his Creator Breakdown that eventually resulted in the cancellation of the original series. In later chapters of Darkness, though, she occasionally gets A Day in the Limelight again.
    • Lala was the main heroine in the first series. In the first half of "Darkness", she is more or less a background character.
  • Takatsuki is the deuteragonist for much of Wandering Son but by high school the manga begins focusing more and more on Nitori, to the point where she can go chapters without being referenced. It doesn't help that Takatsuki is drifting away from Nitori, being in a different school and rarely talking despite being basically Platonic Life-Partners.
  • Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches is quite bad about this, to the degree that if your name isn't Ryuu Yamada, Toranosuke Miyamura, Nene Odagiri or (to a smaller degree) Urara Shiraishi, you shouldn't expect much screen-time except for in your introduction arc and/or in the odd limelight-chapter here and there - even if you actually appear in almost as many the chapters as the aforementioned four.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Honda/Tristan, although Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has made him something of a Ascended Extra. It helps that, by reducing the time of the episodes, his scant few lines give him a higher percentage of the show!
    • One of The Abridged Series' main running gags is how Bakura gets very little screen time. It's almost always his Superpowered Evil Side that shows up in the show.
    • Yugi himself has less screen time than being the eponymous character would suggest. Tropes Are Not Bad though, as he is a Vanilla Protagonist and has crucial role in the final two arcs of the show as a compromise.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Season 3 saw Asuka, Manjoume, and Shou become completely irrelevant as the exchange students steal what would have been their roles in the season.
    • Even before that, Bastion Misawa had been suffering so much from this trope that he willingly joins the evil side despite being able to win his duel. His screen time does not improve.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Characters are regularly Put on a Bus in season 3 for the sake of resolving new problems. The worst offender is Aki (one of the Signers) and Carly (The Lancer Jack's love interest who spent the last arc having a very emotional Break the Cutie / Came Back Strong / Love Makes You Evil storyline dueling against him). This really pissed off the fans (especially the female ones) as they are Ensemble Darkhorse and one of the few well-written Action Girl from the YGO franchise.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has this in the case of Himika Akaba (the mother of the show's Lancer Reiji and Reira and the wife of the Big Bad Leo Akaba who is working against him). Probably because she is an adult in a series filled with Kid Hero. Not that she is particularly missed.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • Hiei went through this during the Chapter Black arc. He gets Put on a Bus fairly early on, and after returning in time for the assault on the Big Bad's hideout didn't really amount to much. He wouldn't have a bigger role again until the Makai World arc came up.
    • Kuwabara take this role in the Makai World arc where, in an inverted Put on a Bus example, he chose to stay in the human world.
  • Yuru-Yuri, Akari, the supposed protagonist, loses focus to her wacky friends. The anime turns this into a horribly cruel joke, to the point that the camera drifts away from her in the middle of a monologue to focus on something more interesting, and her friends need to write her name on their hands to remember who she is. In group shots, her face is obscured most of the time, be it from some unfortunately-placed object or another character blocking her view without knowing it. They also do it from the first episode, for no reason.

    Comic Books 
  • Shazam:
    • Captain Marvel is said to have been getting this treatment, as he's slipped into something of a Dork Age in the past few years, and has received very little attention from DC titles. His nemesis, Black Adam, has been given much more attention, including major parts in various Crisis Crossovers. 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 (and Didio in particular) is pushing Darker and Edgier, and Captain Marvel has always been associated with Lighter and Softer. Which would explain why Black Adam, who can best be described as "Captain Marvel as an antihero" is getting all the spotlight. Don't worry, Shazam fans. Captain Marvel is currently undergoing a reboot in the New 52 Justice League of America, written by Geoff Johns.
    • Mary, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Recently, they've been heavily pushed by Marvel, though.
  • X-Men:
    • Of the original five, Iceman gets the least focus and character development. Scott, 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.
    • Ever since the end of the New X-Men: Academy X and Young X-Men series, most of the 21st Century X-Kids have fallen victim to this. With the exception of a few characters like X-23 (now part of the All-New X-Men) and Prodigy (now part of the Young Avengers), most of the young mutants faded into the background in favor of the newer young mutants who were introduced after Second Coming and Avengers vs. X-Men.
  • Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo, fell victim to this in Brian Michael Bendis' first run on New Avengers.
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • 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.
  • Ever since Barry Allen returned during Final Crisis, Wally West, his successor, has fallen increasingly out of focus to the point that, after The Flash: Rebirth, he barely appeared at all. He is the only Flash to be hit with this (as fans feared), as Jay Garrick has the Justice Society ongoing, and Bart returned to his role of Kid Flash.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 appearead 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 late 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Garfield:
    • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Hana from Pretty Cure Full Color, once it turned out that she's just a Red Herring and the real Cure Spring is Sakura.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Loads and Loads of 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".
  • 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.
  • Early on in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, Cheerilee and Corona the Tyrant Sun both go 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 ends up getting displaced by the Night Court. Later stories have since worked to rectify this.

    Films — Animation 

    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 Blade would only communicate with the crew via Post-It Notes signed "From Blade".
  • 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!"
  • The third Astérix film (Asterix at the Olympic Games) 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 (Pat Hingle) 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 her and Carter fade into the background completely.
  • Roald Dahl characters:
  • 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' Power Trio, spends a book apparently trapped under a pile of rocks. (He is actually recovering off the page.)
  • 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.
    • Hogwarts itself, and with it most secondary characters, during Deathly Hallows.
  • Warrior Cats usually avoids this, despite its Loads and Loads of Characters, 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 Loads and Loads 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Pterry 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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 pulls off a final Crowning Moment of Awesome by successfully getting the survivors off the island.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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's reduced screentime is more due to the fact that the actor moved back to England to spend more time with his family.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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 McLeaned 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walt Jr. becomes gradually less and less important over the series run, probably because R.J. Mitte 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Re Tool.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Happens a lot on Degrassi due to the Loads and Loads of Characters. They often use a Four Lines, All Waiting structure.
  • Star Trek: Voyager - Samantha Wildman. She 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • With NCIS Ducky's assistant Jimmy Palmer appears in the opening credits and occasionally trailers, but you could be forgiven for not even having a clue who he is. Especially after he starts planning his wedding Palmer rarely even appears in most episodes, he'll only appear for a couple minutes at the most unless the episode focuses around him and he'll share that time with Ducky every time. He also doesn't do anything of use and just makes some painfully awkward attempts at small talk until somebody shuts him up.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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. 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.
    • 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 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.

    Theater 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Toys 
  • Many BIONICLE characters fell victim to this phenomenon, 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 
  • 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 Rekka, and in Path of Radiance, Ashnard will have a conversation with any Laguz he faces and characters like Jill or Reyson.
  • This is common in Granblue Fantasy for being a game with Loads and Loads 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 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.
  • 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 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. Seifer is the most unfortunate victim of this. At the start of the game, he's The Rival to Squall and is clearly set up to be one of the main villains. Unfortunately, following the end-of-Disc 2 battle with him at Galbadia Garden after which Ultimecia is revealed as the true villain, he diminishes in importance. The real kicker is that his character arc gets no closure. He's fought at Lunatic Pandora as the final boss of Disc 3, and then the next time we see him is the ending, where he's... fishing? What?
    • 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 Disc 1 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 limited to providing exposition on locations and people's actions/motives; her backstory is a SIDEQUEST for God's sake — and it's 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. Word of God is that Vaan was never intended to be the main character. He was a last minute addition to satisfy a request from marketing for a more traditional main character. 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 narrator and is sometimes playable for brief periods of time. Yet Motomu Toriyama still described her in the build-up to release as a "major character," "the backbone of the plot," and the "driving force of the plot". Pretty good for a mostly non-playable, barely-seen character, huh?
  • Street Fighter:
    • Guile; being a rather popular character during the time of Street Fighter II, 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: New Age of Heroes. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, this is pretty much why everyone hates Cheria Barnes in the story. She 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Two noteworthy examples from the Kingdom Hearts series:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • As of the past few years, most of Sonic the Hedgehog's Ensemble Cast have being 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 more recently, only having Sonic and Robotnik.
    • This actually happened to Sonic himself in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) where Sonic 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 egregious 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). 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 2 cutscenes, but not contributing to the main plot. Sonic Boom seems to be bringing them back to playable character status.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 is especially bad with this since none of the older Pokémon are available to the player until the National Dex upgrade is obtained.
  • A common complaint about World of Warcraft: 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.
    • 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.
  • 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. 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). The traditional mitigation of this problem are games that feature as many of the characters as possible: Phantasmagoria of a Flower View, the four fighters (Immaterial and Missing Power, Scarlet Weather Rhapsody, Hisoutensoku, and Hopeless Masquerade), and the Shoot the Bullet series. Additionally, supporting material for the series is at least half World Building so the bosses crop up a lot.
    • A joke goes that Izayoi Sakuya was knocked out of focus for Konpaku Youmu, and then Kochiya Sanae, as protagonists. In-series, though, she has stated very directly that she wouldn't go on incident resolution unless it directly involved the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Since Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64, Birdo has been a common character in Mario spin-offs. However, she has been absent from many recent Mario spin-offs, such as Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10, and even Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash.
  • 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.
  • The story mode of Splatoon 2, likely due to the outcome of the previous game's final Splatfest, gives Marie a huge amount of focus and character development, as she serves as your Mission Control and often talks about her backstory and what she's been doing in the years between the games. So what about Callie? Well, she's mentioned often enough, gets a few Sea Scrolls to herself, still has a bit of dialogue after most of the boss battles, and finding her serves as Marie's primary motivation for recruiting the player in the first place, but for plot reasons she doesn't appear in person until the final boss fight, gets all of three lines as herself, and disappears after the credits roll unless you decide to redo the final battle. Her only in-game appearance (indeed, the only acknowledgement of her existence) otherwise is as a sticker on Crusty Shawn's food truck. And she still has it better than Cap'n Cuttlefish, who gets a Written-In Absence and no physical appearances at all.
  • 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 hasn't made an appearance since Zero Mission, itself a remake of his debut game.

    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's Sakura is prominent in the first few days of the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes, before fading away to the status of an afterthought. She returns full force for Heaven's Feel, though.
  • From New Dangan Ronpa V3, 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.

    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.
  • 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: After netting a pivotal role in Volume 3, Mercury is reduced to a voiceless cameo in Volume 4, as the few scenes he's in instead focus on Cinder's struggles and the other members of Salem's group. Even Emerald has slightly more relevance since she offers to speak in Cinder's place.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 of the other principle 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, Ellen 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 lately, and 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 disappeared for years on end, with the in-universe explanation being that they were just doing something else on those days.
  • 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.
  • 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 Loads and Loads 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.
  • Homestuck: Despite the gargantuan page count at comic's end, Loads And Loadsof Characters and limited page sizes mean several characters are out of the limelight for any amount of time spanning anywhere between days and weeks because:
    • Hussie took his sweet candy coated time to properly flesh out a character through a series of one on one conversations between two characters.
    • Hussie took his sweet candy coated time to properly explain a plot point through a series of one on one conversations between two characters.
    • The character is not in the universe or timeline the comic is currently focusing on.
    • Hussie is trolling the readers.
    • In a more general sense, Jade ended up being 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. Response to this is... mixed.
    • 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.
  • Done intentionally in Fite!, where Gorgado's face actually replaces Guz's in the header for a while.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sonichu did this to the title character, as the author Christian Weston Chandler focused the story more on himself and demonized avatars of people who had wronged him in Real Life than on Sonichu himself.
  • 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.
  • 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 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).

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Equestria Chronicles has this problem, occasionally.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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