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Power Loss Makes You Strong

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Spider-Man: Man, this was way easier when I had my Spider-Sense.
Shang-Chi: No. That was a crutch. A barrier that kept you from your true potential. You must go beyond the spider. Beyond the man. Beyond even the fighter. And become the fight itself!

A superpowered character finds himself without powers. Suddenly, saving the day is a hell of a lot harder. But he rises to the challenge, and succeeds. Usually gets his powers back at the end. This can serve to show that the hero is a hero for more reasons than just their powers, or at least that they are dangerous.

Compare Handicapped Badass, which is the loss not of a superpower, but of a normal human ability, Brought Down to Badass, in which the loss of a superpower does very little to hamper the character's fighting skill, and Disability Super Power, when the handicap itself ushers a superpower. Contrast With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Inversion of Useless Without Powers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Around chapter 120 of the manga, Code:Breaker, you learn that Oogami was originally a sweet kid that was amazingly dead-set on NOT taking life, no matter how bad the person he was fighting was. To top it all off, he also had FULL control over ALL SEVEN FLAMES! That all changed when he was killed. When he was brought back, his powers were considerably weaker and he was never the same, most likely due to partial memory loss.
  • Accelerator in A Certain Magical Index, after being shot in the head while saving Last Order, has his power limited to needing the calculations done externally and have them put into his brain via a choker looking contraption that only lasts 15 minutes. It gets upgraded, but the people who upgraded it installed a remote switch to turn off his power, so when he decides to save someone they want to kill, he just uses a pistol and wits to take out a group of hired delinquents (with Touma there helping out too, even if they both didn't know the other was there).
  • Becomes a major moral theme in the ending of Fullmetal Alchemist, when Edward sacrifices his ability to perform alchemy in order to bring his brother back to life, realizing that his powers were really insignificant, and that he still had his friends, and that made him stronger.
  • In the season three premiere of The Familiar of Zero, Saito loses his Gandálfr runes, reducing him to a normal human. He has a tough time at first, but his determination to protect Louise and some harsh swordsmanship training from Agnes allows him to kick ass until he gets the runes back.
  • Arguably the point of the Dusk Taker Arc for Accel World. Haruyuki is stripped of his wings, the one thing that made him feel special in the accelerated world. While this does send him into a nasty spiral, it also let's him realize that he's not powerful because Silver Crow has wings, Silver Crow is powerful because Haruyuki can make him fly.
  • Bleach: In the "Thousand Year Blood War" arc, the Vandenreich steal several characters' Bankai. They retrain and learn to use their regular abilities more efficiently. Byakuya uses a pretty cool metaphor in that just like you cannot see the image of a pointillism drawing unless you are far away, he wasn't able to see his full potential until it was taken from him.
  • This happens to both Lutecia and Vivio in Lyrical Nanoha, though for different reasons. Lutecia starts off as a powerful summoner, but she was placed under a Power Limiter as part of her rehabilitation and ended up developing a much more varried skill-set as a result. Vivio was the series poster child for Unskilled, but Strong due to being forcibly implanted with a Relic, takes up martial arts as a hobby after it was removed, and is the eighth best under fifteen hand-to-hand fighter on the entire planet by the time of ViVid Strike!.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kyoko loses her illusion magic as a result of her believing her family died because of her wish. Kyubey doesn't think Kyoko would last with such a drawback, but Kyoko finds ways to keep fighting while just relying on her weapon and combat skills. In "The Different Story", she's able to go toe-to-toe with a serious Mami and hold out better than she ever did during their training sessions.

    Comic Books 
  • Animal Man: The miniseries The Last Days of Animal Man depicts a near future where the middle-aged titular character, now a full time member of the Justice League, sees his powers slowly fade out to nothing. Nearly powerless, he finds a way to defeat two extremely Ax-Crazy supervillains with sheer guts, resourcefulness, and the very last, tiny drop of superpowers he has left.
  • Blue Devil: Blue Devil in the final arc of Shadowpact ... almost. He defeats a powerful demon without his own demon powers, but he does still have his original Powered Armor.
  • Justice League of America: In the Elseworlds series JLA: Act of God, a mysterious event wipes out all superpowers. Supergirl, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and The Flash re-train themselves to become Badass Normals like Batman.
  • The Mighty Thor: Thor once got powered down to "A mere mortal" but still had his big effin' hammer (Albeit without power as well). He still kicked terrorist ass so much that Cap thought he was awesome.
  • Spider-Man: The page quote comes from The Amazing Spider-Man (Dan Slott). When a device he used to defeat a powered up Scorpion burns out his Spider-Sense as well, Spider-Man finds himself in an awkward position to fight without his vaunted warning signal. He ends up approaching Shang-Chi, who helps him develop a brand new fighting style known as the Way of the Spider.
  • Superman:
    Supergirl: I trained with Batman. With the Amazons. I know first level Klurkor. Just because I can't use heat vision doesn't meant I'm helpless.
    • The "Green Sun" story in Superman #155 (August 1962). Superman is not only rendered non-superpowered, but blind. He still manages to overcome the Big Bad using ingenuity and gumption.
    • He did the same thing in Krypton No More. Orange sunlight has rendered him, Supergirl and Krypto blind and cut their powers in half, and he has to come up with a way to defeat an alien army using his brains.
    • During Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, Superman was left completely powerless thanks to Mr. Mxyzptlk. At one point supervillain Mammoth goes on rampage, and after a bit of trouble Superman is able to eventually get him to surrender, just by bluffing him.
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Clark Kent needs to capture an Intergang cell while depowered. So he borrows a gravity nullifier, breaks into Intergang's mobile base, and thanks to his gadget, combined with his expertise at moving around zero gravity environments, he takes them out with nothing but his bare fists.
    • During Two for the Death of One, Superman loses half of his powers, including his invulnerability, which is because Jackhammer makes short work of him during their first clash, forcing him to rely on his brains to win when Superman challenges him for the second time.
  • X-Men: Storm spent 3 real-world years powerless after accidentally getting shot by Forge with a power-neutralizing gun. However, she continued to lead the X-Men as a Badass Normal.

    Fan Works 
  • Dial: Through the first few arcs, the titular character had been grappling with the idea that the Omnitrix is the only thing that makes him worthwhile, and all the skills he learns and tech he invents doesn't help shake that idea off. It takes him getting lost in the Savage Land with busted Armor Gear and an Omnitrix damaged by anti-metal and him having to use those skills to survive, including getting captured by slavers, that helps him work out of that mindset.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Eliza loses her ability to talk to animals after using it in order to rescue her big sister from the poachers. As a result, she also loses the ability to understand animal languages. At the climax of the movie, Eliza still remembers how to command the elephants to stop before they touch the poachers' electric fences. She touches behind the elephant's ear using her foot. At the end, she manages to get her powers back from the shaman.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin has his mojo, the power source of his incredibly virile sex drive/libido, stolen, stealing Powers' "superpowers" in the bedroom and rendering the swinging super spy figuratively and literally/sexually impotent. However, in the end, even after the bottle with his mojo is destroyed, Austin is able to regain his mojo when he wins Felicity's love, regaining his sexual performance and finally taking her to bed during the credits... Along with his past self.

  • Animorphs: Zigzagged with Tobias. On the one hand, being trapped in hawk morph has cut him off from humanity and he's much more fragile than his teammates, even if he does regain his morphing ability later. However, on a few occasions his living as a hawk gets him out of a difficult situation by preventing him from reacting too fast to the news that Elfangor was his father or when tortured by a crazed Yeerk.
  • In Ghost Story, Harry is this. Because he's "dead". But he gets better.
    • It actually happens to him a lot: in Fool Moon, he goes beyond his limits and burns out his magic (temporarily) about two thirds of the way through the book. He still has to save the day. In Small Favor, he loses his blasting rod thanks to Mab altering his memory and can't use fire as a result, but there's still people in danger from things that could really use some burning, so he has to save the day. He also has a new weakness as of Cold Days that severely weakens the now-essential part of his power - as the Winter Knight, contact with cold iron causes the Winter Mantle to recede to just barely keeping him upright - but he occasionally weakens himself so that he can pull out the power at the right moment.
  • In the Sword of Truth, Richard has one of these in the finale arc. It's just one of the countless call-backs to the first books.
  • In The Rite, Teagan sees himself fighting a dracolich while suddenly out of spells and magical gear.
  • In A Confusion of Princes, in order to become an Adjuster, a Prince must pass a series of tests while in an unaugmented body. (This is later revealed to be a requirement for becoming Emperor.) Khemri manages to defeat a pirate fleet without his princely abilities.
  • In Guardians of the Flame, Lou Riccetti actually becomes more dangerous after losing his wizardly powers and being forced to rely on his engineering skills.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Peter Petrelli from Heroes during the Villains Arc, and later after the Discard and Draw.
  • As often as Clark loses his powers on Smallville, this happens quite a bit.
    • Most notable being taking a bullet for Lois while weakened by kryptonite.
    • In the Season Nine opener "Savior", Clark is threatened by a woman with a katana while he is powerless, and he kicks her ass. In that season's finale, he does a fair job of holding his own against Zod himself in a brawl between the two where both are powerless. But he ultimately must make a Heroic Sacrifice in order to "win."
    • In the episode "Mortal", he takes out three baddies who had superpowers, albeit with the help of a flashbang and a sledgehammer.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Done on Buffy when she turned 18 to see if she could function without powers, in the charming Watcher tradition known as the Cruciamentum. It was supposed to involve locking her in a house with an insane vampire. Then he broke free. Actually somewhat of an Invoked Trope on the part of the Watcher's Council - if the Slayer could kill a vampire without her powers, then she would probably do a good job saving the world with them. If she couldn't, well... a new Slayer would be Called.
    • The Senior Partners, upon sending L.A. to Hell (After the Fall), simultaneously turn Angel human at the least convenient time possible.
  • In "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers", a very common element of the series and its later incarnations was the loss of the Power Rangers' powers and either their attempts to recover them or the acquisition of new powers.
  • In The Flash (2014), Barry loses his powers to a meta-human. At the end, though, when his friends are threatened, not only does he regain his powers, but he's way faster than before, able to outrun lightning. In Season 2, he voluntarily allows Zoom to take his speed in order to save Wally. He then undergoes a dangerous procedure and has to face some hard truths within the Speed Force in order to be granted his abilities again. After this, he appears to be finally at Zoom's speed level. In Season 3, Wally sort of loses his powers after Barry undoes the Flashpoint timeline. After regaining them through the Philosopher's Stone, Wally is faster than Barry from the get-go and only gets faster from that point on.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Ragna the Bloodedge possesses the titular Blazblue, an Artifact of Doom of immense power, and it is this artifact that makes him one of the strongest fighters in the setting. In the third game, however, he is paired with a girl who gives off an Anti-Magic aura, disabling his Azure and leaving him severely weakened, as his reliance on the Azure has left him with a deficiency in actual fighting skill. Despite initial crushing defeats to people such as Jin and Kagura, the experiences change Ragna for the better - he delivers a Curb-Stomp Battle to Nu-13 without activating his Azure note . He is also able to hold his own against Azrael without using it.
  • The Warrior of Light in Final Fantasy XIV is given the Blessing of Light from the goddess Hydaelyn, which insofar allowed them to thwart the Ascian threat. Midgardsormr essentially shuts it off in a bid for you to prove your worth, and you spend a large majority of the Heavensward story without it. After getting even stronger and making your case, Midgardsormr gives your blessing back, making you an even larger threat, so much that you slay a convocation of knights and their king infused with godlike power, singlehandedly.
  • Happens in the third installment of the Heroes Rise trilogy. After the Player Character loses their powers at the end of the second game, they're barely able to use even a tiny fraction of their abilities, and using them takes a toll on their health, as well. After pushing their boundaries over the course of the game, the Player Character's powers come back with a vengeance just in time to escape the Blessed Vessel.
  • In The Longest Journey, April Ryan is able to slip between the worlds whenever she is threatened. By the time of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, she has lost that power (due to fear, ironically) and had to become good at fighting to compensate. She partially gets her powers back, but not enough to use them reliably.
  • Schezo from Puyo Puyo got his powers taken away from him in two different games for differing reasons, powering through that limitation to get back to his baseline and then some.
    • The first time, it happened in Madou Monogatari: Tower of the Magician because a magical pressure prevented him from casting most of his spells. Throughout the game, he eventually shrugs off the effects and is able to access his signature Areiado as if the limiter wasn't there. Since the effects are temporary, he has a net gain of strength by the time he leaves the titular tower.
    • Later, he loses his powers to the Space-time Crystal in Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon, entering Waku Puyo Land to recover his stolen magic. By the time he manages to find the crystal, he's grown so powerful, he could defeat his doppelganger, who uses the same spells he has because his doppelganger is his stolen magic made manifest by the Space-time Crystal. Trying to steal it back has become pointless, and even if he could, there's only a sliver of it left after the battle.
  • Alicia in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria spends the first half of the game Sharing a Body with the titular Valkyrie. While Alicia does most of the fighting, she's timid in battle, often says in battle how she either wants to run away, or that she wants neither to harm nor be harmed. During the Wham Episode, Silmeria is stripped from her by an errant spell cast by Lezard. In a twist on the trope, Alicia does not lose any of the powers associated with her time with Silmeria (she can still project photons, and materialize Einherjar), it is her personality that changes, turning her into a ruthless Blood Knight Knight Templar who is unafraid of combat.

    Web Animation 
  • Deconstructed in RWBY. Marcus Black removed Mercury's Semblance when his son unlocked it, calling it a crutch that would make him weak. Mercury was told he would get it back it back when he was strong, but after killing his father, that never happened. Despite becoming an extremely skilled fighter who can go toe-to-toe with empowered individuals, Mercury is immensely bitter over the abuse he suffered and feels he's had to work harder than anyone else to achieve his current status.

    Western Animation 
  • Two in Justice League:
    • Superman in Hereafter, as he lands in a world with a red sun.
    • Green Lantern in The Savage Time. His ring runs out, there's no battery around, he becomes a rugged infantryman. That's fine with him, as John is a US Marine veteran as well, so this is not exactly new.
    • And Green Lantern again in Hearts and Minds after a fight with Despero causes him to psychosomatically lose his powers. Regardless, he was still determined to "pull his own weight" in the final battle.
  • One episode of Superman: The Animated Series involved Canon Foreigner Luminus filtering out all but red sunlight from Metropolis. He proceeded to taunt, harass and play with Superman, knowing he was rapidly losing his strength. Oh, and he also mastered Hard Light by this episode, trapping Superman in a Western setting, Pirate setting and trying to run him over with a train. Superman manages to overcome this with good timing and playing off of Luminus's arrogance (seriously, Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him??) until he can destroy the filtering device. (It helps that, even without powers, Clark Kent is fairly large and muscular.)
  • Ginormica in Monsters vs. Aliens after Gallaxhar removes her Applied Phlebotinum, forcing her to recognise that she genuinely prefers being a monster to her old life as a normal human.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In the "Day of Black Sun" arc, the firebenders lost all their powers. Princess Azula, being a very nimble individual, was still very effective. And having those Dai Li Earthbenders helped.
    • Her brother Zuko takes advantage of the power loss to initiate his rebellion against their father, the Fire Lord. The Fire Lord, as is to be expected, is normally more powerful than Zuko, but he's no good at fighting without his powers. Zuko, on the other hand, is a master swordsman.
    • In the third season, Zuko experiences a hefty power loss once he begins to train Aang and figures out that his letting go of his anger and "Well Done, Son" Guy tendencies (and the frustration that brought him) has prevented him from using the The Dark Side version of Firebending the Fire Nation believes in. After a "life-changing field trip" with Aang he learns the "pure" form of Firebending and gets a dramatic enough increase in his abilities to successfully fight Azula one-on-one in the finale. Until she cheats, anyway.
    • In the season one finale of the sequel series, Amon succeeded in de-bending Korra, which then, combined with Korra's desperate attempt to save Mako, allowed her to finally use Airbending.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM)' episode "Super Sonic" involved Sonic losing his super speed and saving the day without it.
  • An episode of Batman Beyond featured Terry not only losing his technologically advanced batsuit, but having to face off against it when it's taken over by a rogue A.I. He even lampshades the moment as defining character growth for himself, admitting to Bruce before the showdown that he needed to know whether he really had what it takes to be Batman personally, or if it was just the powers the suit gave him that made him a hero.
  • After Danny Phantom willingly gets rid of his powers to have a normal life again just when a giant asteroid threatens to smash the planet, he manages to come up with a way to save the world as well as comes up with a means to do it. Aside from that, he shows just how badass he can be without his powers, right before he gets them back.
  • Parodied, played with, subverted, and played STRAIGHT to Hell and back with Captain Atom in Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Powerless". Captain Atom learns that without powers... you're a weak, squishy human who needs to be protected by Smug Supers like him.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: When Glimmer loses her powers, she laments that she is useless at first. Her mother Angella encourages her not to give up and gives her her deceased father's old war staff. With the staff, Glimmer takes down several mooks until She-Ra is able to restore her powers.