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The heart of the vessel, so to speak.

Dr. Orpheus: Did you say an ORPHAN?!
Dr. Venture: Yeah, a little... orphan boy.
Dr. Orpheus: It's powered by a FORSAKEN CHILD!?
Dr. Venture: Might be, kind of — I mean, I didn't use the whole thing!
The Venture Bros., "Eenie, Meenie, Minie... Magic"


A piece of Applied Phlebotinum that doesn't work unless you pay a really ghastly price... or have someone else pay that price for you.

Can have The Dark Side effect, as in being willing to pay the price can make you more evil. May be the result of a Deal With The (Super-Powerful Alien) Devil. See also Black Magic and Utopia Justifies the Means. In those cases it is much of the time a justified example of a Moral Event Horizon since The Dark Arts frequently require leaving empathy behind to go on.

May be a form of Aesoptinum. Very common in Fantastic Aesop stories. May use Human Resources or a Captured Super-Entity as the Power Source. If done on a wide enough scale, it becomes Industrialized Evil.

Compare Artifact of Doom and May Contain Evil. Contrast Psycho Serum, for which the users themselves generally pay the price. See also Mainlining the Monster, Human Sacrifice, and Horror Hunger. This is a type of Living Battery. Hamster-Wheel Power plays it for laughs.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Reverse Explosion system in 009-1, which is powered up by the Psychic Link between the mutants in the world, many of them just being children. Mylene, the titular 009-1 agent, decides to go rogue to stop it.
  • In Attack on Titan the Coordinate can only be controlled by the royal family. Eren learns this is because the Coordinate is Ymir, the Founding Titan. A slave to the Eldian king in life, she continued obeying his orders to serve his descendants after dying and becoming part of the Paths binding all Eldians. Eren sees her memories and realizes that Ymir wanted nothing more than to be free and valued but lacked the will to disobey the royal family.
  • Battle of the Planets:
    • In the episode 'The Space Beetles', the title mechas were powered by kidnapped children. Making the premise even MORE evil than the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman episode it was derived from (which simply used children's destructive instincts to direct the mechas).
    • But they still retained the children inside them, making them effective hostages.
    • The G-Force: Guardians of Space version had the beetles powered by the destructive impulses -and Gallactor was going to turn the four boys into Brains in Jars to make things 'simpler'.
  • In order to become an Apostle or a God Hand in Berserk, the "candidate" has to sacrifice the person (or people) they most love, who are then Branded and usually eaten alive by demons in the most horrible fashion possible. This betrayal serves to sever the newborn Apostole's ties to humanity and allow true evil to enter his or her soul. For worse, this can only happen during the lowest point of the future Apostle's whole life, when they're at their most vulnerable and liable to make the required Deal with the Devil and throw his/her loved ones away to make them into this.
  • An episode of Betterman reveals that an "unmanned" mech is actually piloted by another character's "dead" baby brother — now effectively a Brain in a Jar. Releasing him really does kill him.
  • Bleach:
    • Aizen nonchalantly reveals that he fed his Hogyoku with souls of Hollows and Shinigami alike. He implies this is one of the few ways to awaken it/make it evolve. One of his victims was actually a pre-teen Rangiku Matsumoto, who had a good part of her soul stolen to power it up - this prompted Rangiku's best friend Gin Ichimaru to become Aizen's Dragon with an Agenda. Also Hollows like to eat human children or hollow children as much as anything else.
    • It turns out that the entire setting is this. Long ago, the founders of what would become Soul Society took a primordial Quincy, tore him apart, and shoved him into a crystal prison to act as an undying regulator of souls. This "Soul King" acts as the lynchpin for all existence. When the Soul King is killed, the Shinigami's original plan to replace him was to subject Ichigo to this fate since his unique heritage and powers made him a suitable candidate to replace the Soul King. Fortunately for Ichigo, they were able to use the defeated Yhwach's remains as a replacement instead.
  • In the original Blue Drop manga, the Arume use their own children as bomb disposal units. They also use synthetic ones, but the "sacrifice" of the Arume children is more "beautiful" in the Arume's way of thinking — even though the synthetic children are full-blown sentient beings in their own right.
  • In Bokurano, the energy that fuels the Humongous Mecha is the Life Energy of the pilot. Meaning, whoever pilots it to save the world will die immediately after the fight is over. Moreover, it's theorized (and strongly implied) that the younger a person is, the more Life Energy he or she has. Which is offered as an explanation for why it's preferable for teenagers and little kids to fight and die in huge terrifying mecha battles, even when they join up with the army, and have access to combat-trained volunteers - it certainly explains why Koyemshi is so adamant into having Kana Ushiro, the youngest of the group at age 10, to pilot it. The world of Bokurano is such a nice place, isn't it?
  • In The Dark Queen and I Strike Back, the massive railgun Artralia is powered using the severed (but still living) heads of inhumans. The recoil of using Artralia kills the heads after a few shots, so they need constant replacement.
  • Digimon Data Squad has the good Dr. Kurata, who removes the hearts of digimon in order to transform them into his Mecha-Mooks, the Gizmon. It goes further when he starts collecting digimon life energy to resurrect the Demon Lord Belphemon.
  • A quite literal (and disturbing, especially for a kids' show) application of this trope occurred in another Digimon series, Digimon Tamers. The Big Bad D-Reaper is a mass of otherworldly energy which intends to slowly consume the entire world. Held captive at its core, though, is Juri Katou, a very young girl who is in deep despair over the death of her best friend and Digimon partner, which was the final and hardest blow to her after several years of quiet and hidden suffering started by her mom's demise. The D-Reaper is literally powered by Juri's misery.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • The magic in the parallel world of Edolas comes from the lives of the people from the normal world of Earthland.
    • In the Key to the Starry Heavens filler arc the Infinity Clock requires a Celestial Mage as a sacrifice to fully work. The person the villains use is Lucy. She is absorbed but this comes to bite Midnight/Brain II in the ass when she uses the power of the clock against him after his control of her weakens from the defeat of his subordinates.
    • It is revealed that the daughter of Gray's teacher, Ur, had too much magic energy in her body, which was making her ill, because of her naturally high level of magic energy she was taken away and experimented on (her mother believed her to be dead, while she believed her mother abandon her.) It's not completely clear whether Ultear was just experimented on or if her magical energy was somehow being used to power the facility).
  • In Fate/Prototype, the preliminary version of Fate/stay night (as seen below), when Manaka Sajyou rose to the challenge of fulfilling the Grail's real purpose of raising The Beast, she used her powers to force a bunch of local girls to throw themselves alive into the Grail itself and power it up. She also killed her father Hiroki to use him as a sacrifice to the Grail, and would have done the same to her younger sister Ayaka if her Servant Saber didn't rebel himself against her orders and stabbed her to death. And the kicker? She did that because the only other option would be to sacrifice Saber himself, which she refused to do.
  • In Fractale, the world is maintained under a massive integrated system with a central program based off a human girl who, unbeknownst to the people who constructed the system, had been sexually abused by her father until she regressed to a childlike state. In order to refresh the system and prevent total breakdown, they need to not only clone said girl, but also install that same childlike personality into her by subjecting her to similar abuse, to make her as similar to the original as possible.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
    • Much of the plot revolves around figuring out what makes the Human Resources work best, since live human beings are ingredients to creating certain powerful artifacts. It is eventually stated that the Amestrian Alchemy draws its power from human soul-energy provided by Father but the Xingese Purification Arts and Xerxes Alchemy are clean. As the series progresses it is revealed that Amestrian Alchemy really does derive from the Earth's energies as originally taught, but Father keeps a buffer that prevents alchemy's full usage and forces them to draw from the human soul-energy in his Philosopher's Stone. This conveniently gives him an "off switch" to every Amestrian's alchemy whenever he needs it. The Xingese were feeling this, by the way.
    • More to the point, the human souls power (and create) the Philosopher's Stone.
    • Most interestingly, despite Hohenheim being a Humanoid Abomination composed of Many Spirits Inside of One who fuels his alchemy, he's come to an understanding with each and every souls within him and often express regret that he has to use his friends in this way. The souls in return, agree to be used this way, and at one point actually cheered on him and even urged him to use more of them to gain the necessary power to hold off the Big Bad's assaults.
    • In the 2003 anime version, where it's revealed that alchemy instead draws its power from the souls of humans from a parallel universe— ours, in fact. Since our world is in the midst of World War I at the time (and not mentioned, but soon to be followed by the even more lethal 1918 Spanish flu pandemic) there are an abundance of souls for the alchemists to draw on.
  • Film continuity Galaxy Express 999 had the upper class using android bodies, powered by tiny energy cells that were made by harvesting humans. (The aristocrats with android bodies in the TV series continuity do slaughter humans, but only because they're really, really, bored.)note 
  • In the Ghost in the Shell franchise, it is possible to produce hyper-real androids with all the neurological affectations of a living human via electronic "Ghost Dubbing". This process drains and kills the original after only a few copies are made, and in the Ghost in the Shell universe, it is a serious crime punishable by life in prison or getting your brain wiped; plotlines concerning the process appeared in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, a few Stand Alone Complex episodes, and the original manga.
  • Gundam, in its usual mode of showing the horrors of war upon innocent youths, is fond of this trope:
    • One of the earliest examples is Mobile Suit Victory Gundam's Angel Halo, a huge Zanscare fortress that contains a MASSIVE Mind Rape machine (basically, a whole fortress with psycommus all over), powered by 20,000 "psyickers", all Newtypes who have been placed into capsules and put into constant trance to amplify the powers of a single Newtype (Queen Maria, and later her daughter Shakti); with it, the Zanscare Empire can collectively mindrape the whole population of Earth if they wish so. (Too bad that Shakti doubled as a Messianic Archetype and the Spanner in the Works. Too bad for Zanscare, that is.)
    • After War Gundam X:
      • In the Ocean Story Arc, a group of pirates who use special radar systems made from the brains of dolphins. By the end of the arc the systems are destroyed.
      • Before this there was the MAN-003 Patulia, a Mobile Armor that required a Newtype (in this case, an ailing artificial Newtype named Caris Nautilus) to operate its wired beam cannons. Said Newtype was rescued before the machine could consume him.
      • Another Newtype (an adult Girl in a Box named Lucille Lilliant) was sought after to force her lend her massive Newtype powers to those who found her and her capsule. The Lorelei arc was focused on the Freeden crew finding said Newtype first and saving her. They succeed, and Lucille is able to peacefully pass away after being 15 years in a forced coma.
    • The Devil Gundam from Mobile Fighter G Gundam was created to operate at its strongest if a being that has the power to create life is its core. In other words, a woman. Unfortunately for Allenby Beardsley and Rain Mikamura, the local Action Girls, both were seize by the villains and became "candidates" to be place in the core; when a Brainwashed and Crazy Allenby was saved by Rain from this, she was left as the only one within range of the Big Bad so he'd use her to engage in the final phase of his plan. Fortunately for Rain, her Love Interest Domon, Domon's True Companions (all of them also fond of Rain herself), many other Gundam Fighters and the newly-recovered Allenby were not about to let that happen.
    • The Boosted Men/Extended from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED can be examples of this trope - child soldiers specifically developed with drugs, mental conditioning, and a horrific training program, creating Naturals that could properly compete with Coordinators. They're even classified as equipment under "biological CPU" rather than pilots. Stella Loussier especially, once she takes control of the Destroy Gundam- a humongous Gundam (by Gundam standards) designed to level entire cities in a matter of minutes.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE a captured Yurin L'Ciel is strapped into the cockpit of a pink mobile suit and used as an amplifier for Desil's powers. It ends as well as expected.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, the Gundam Frames require the Alaya-Vijnana interface to be piloted, which is a risky surgery operation that must be performed on a child in order to be effective (so the child's developing nervous system incorporates the technology). On top of that, overuse of the Alaya-Vijnana can cause severe neurological damage, especially when the limiters on the system are released. When Mikazuki briefly released them at the end of the first season, he permanently lost sight in his right eye as well as the use of his right arm, except when he's hooked up to the Gundam. One shudders to think what piloting a Gundam was like before those limiters were put in place.
    • Another Gundam example would be the EXAM System from the Blue Destiny video game and related media. Accidentally created when something went wrong with attempt to make an anti-Newtype system, resulting in the consciousness and "soul" of the Newtype participating in the procedure being sealed within the machine...which apparently allowed it to be copied and split between the four EXAM computers built. The spirit of the trapped girl tries to communicate with the pilots, begging them to destroy EXAM so she can be at peace; Yuu Kajima agrees, while Nimbus Schterzen is convinced he's The Chosen One and wants to destroy every EXAM except the one in his machine.
    • In the non-canon crossover between Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and Space Runaway Ideon, Neo Zeon planned to use seven-year-old Princess Mineva Lao Zabi and her Newtype powers to reawaken Ideon. All it did was piss off the mecha and force Amuro Ray and Judau Ashta to save her and put it down.
  • Gunparade March the mechas require young children with a genetic trait to run them. But because such children are hard to come by, they genetically engineer them. The side effect is that their growth is arrested at around eight years old.
  • The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious:
    • The holy sword, Igzasion, is supposed to be the only weapon capable of killing Geabrande's Demon Lord, but it can only be made through the sacrifice of Elulu, due to her being a dragonkin who absorbed energy from the human world.
    • Gaeabrande's Demon Lord developed Chain Destruction, a device that can kill the real souls of summoned heroes and gods. He harvested the negative emotions of countless priests that he tortured in order to make it.
  • In Innocent Venus, artificially created children provide the neural systems in the mechas so that they are psychically compatible with the pilots. The memories of the trauma inflicted on them remain in the mechas, making it dangerous for pilots to stay psychically linked to their mechas for too long...
  • In Inuyasha the titular character at first believes that to empower Tetsusaiga to shatter barriers he needs to slay Shiori, a half-demon child who creates a powerful barrier for her demon-bat kin. Averted when Inu-Yasha refuses to follow through. Shiori then gives him the focusing jewel she used to create the barriers which is able to empower the blade.
  • A short film called Kakurenbo had kids being hunted by demons through an empty city, and when they were caught, they were plugged into a generator just like every other group of children to play the game before them, presumably so the lights would lure more children to come and play. It's also strongly implied that the last child will have to "seek" the next group of children.
  • In the Kikaider OVA series, an enormous doomsday device requires Dr. Gill's son to power it.
  • In Kurau Phantom Memory, human beings are deliberately afflicted with Rynax energy in an attempt to turn them into superweapons. Since Rynax energy consists of sentient beings, this procedure almost always causes a lot of misery for all involved test subjects.
  • In Little Witch Academia (2017), Shiny Chariot learns a spell from her best friend Croix that uses dreams and emotions to allow for greater spectacles at her stage shows. What Croix doesn't tell her is that this spell uses a person's dreams and converts it into magical energy, depriving the target of their magical ability. The main characters Akko and Diana were at one of Chariot's shows when they were young children. Yet when they meet again years later, Diana eventually regained her magical ability after discovering she had lost it, while Akko is left unable to even fly on a broom, the simplest of witch skills.
  • Made in Abyss has cartridges, designed as a means of preventing the Curse of the Abyss by Bondrewd. It is revealed that they were created from orphaned children, subjected to a process in which they were stripped of all "unnecessary" body parts and crammed into boxes the size of lunchboxes, while still alive. They then would experience all the effects of the curse in place of whoever carried them (in this case, Bondrewd).
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has the Saint's Cradle, a massively overpowered Cool Starship that can only power-up when commanded by a direct descendant of the Saint Kings of Ancient Belka. The problem? The last Saint King died over a hundred years ago without any heirs, so their bloodline is effectively extinct. So what is a Mad Scientist to do? Why, clone the last Kaiser, infuse said clone (despite her being a six year old girl) with a Lost Logia, torture her until she is under his complete control, then make her activate the Cradle, despite how utterly painful the process is for her. The problem with that? Little Vivio just had to go and get herself adopted by not one, but two Action Moms — both of whom qualify at this point in the series as People of Mass Destruction, and are less than happy with this Mad Scientist's shit.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, many characters, including the heroines of the story, have come to regard the Pillar system as one. This is because said Pillar is completely trapped by his or her mission as such, even the littlest desire for anything NOT related to Cephiro's happiness will "taint" them and cause the land to start falling apart, and only death will release them.
  • In Magi: Labyrinth of Magic, Magnostadt is a Magocracy where 2/3 of the population lives underground, their magoi running the magical items that make the surface a paradise. Some people are surprisingly okay with this, since they provided for without having to actually work, but sucks if you want to survive a common cold or ever see the sky again.
  • ''Mahoromatic: In the manga, brains of "scrapped" cyborgs are used for facility management in the Keepers' headquarters. While still conscious.
  • In My Hero Academia, the Shie Hassaikai are producing Power Nullifier bullets that disable the Quirk factor through the use of Eri, a little girl who has a Quirk that allows her to rewind things back to a previous state. They do this by harvesting her blood and tissues as a prime matter for the bullets until she's dead. Then their leader, Overhaul, who has the power to deconstruct and reconstruct anything he touches, brings her back to life to repeat the process. Midoriya and Mirio are absolutely disgusted in themselves that they weren't able to immediately save her when they encountered her beforehand after they found out. Even the former Boss of the Shie Hassaikai was appalled by the lengths Overhaul was going to in order to gain power.
  • In My-HiME, the summon monsters controlled by the HiME are tied to the life force of their "most important person" (a family member, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.). If that monster is destroyed in combat, the person dies with it and fades into the ether, also robbing the HiME of her abilities. This leaves a possibility that the killed character can be brought back to life, but this doesn't come into play until the very end.
  • My-Otome:
    • The Otome usually can only use their robes after linking themselves to the life of a master.
    • Also, the dead body of Arika's Missing Mom Rena Sayers is the Predecessor of the Valkyries. Whether or not she was brought back to life and is merely in a comatose state is open for debate.
  • One episode of the OVA Mini Series MAPS (and presumably the original manga) featured a Wave-Motion Gun that was powered by the psychic energy released by hundreds of small animals being brutally killed en masse. The Gecko Ending of the anime series revealed that the MacGuffin, the Star Maps, were meant to be used to target a galactic-scale version of the weapon.
  • Naruto:
    • The lore has it that members of the Uchiha clan can only get the Mangekyo Sharingan by killing their best friend. Later events show that they "only" need the tragic death of a loved one, killed by them or not. But once you've done that, the fun really begins: using the Mangekyo Sharingan causes blindness and the only way to restore your vision permanently is to take the eyes of someone else who also possesses it, preferably a relative.
    • Kakashi's own Sharingan, which helped make him one of the most powerful shinobi around, was transplanted from his dying best friend Obito, a death Kakashi blames on himself. Kakashi and Obito/Tobi obtained the Mangekyo at the same time when Kakashi killed the Brainwashed and Crazy Rin, the partner whom both of them cared for.
    • Akatsuki member Kakuzu was able to obtain immortality by stealing his opponents' hearts.
    • Fellow Akatsuki member Sasori makes puppets out of people. And he's not the only one, either: it's a technique that was taught to him by his grandmother Chiyo.
    • Jugo can replace injured organs and body parts by absorbing those of other people. However, he's a nice enough guy that he restricts this to people who are already dead and even then only in emergencies.
    • Impure World Resurrection resurrects one dead person as an undying slave of the technique's user, at the cost of a live person used as a medium.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, as a child, Asuna Vesperina Theotanasia Entheofushia was an Artificial Human used to power the magic-cancelling defense system of Ostia while bound in chains. Later she was also used to power the magic-cancelling spell that would have destroyed the whole Magic World. Thanks to everyone's joint effort at containment, only the whole of Ostia was destroyed. The resulting mental trauma from being used as the power source to destroy a whole country was probably one of the reasons Nagi and party decided to wipe her memory and send her to Earth, so she could live a normal life as a schoolgirl named Asuna Kagurazaka.
  • The titular cyborgs from Neon Genesis Evangelion are made from the cybernetically modified cloned flesh of the very beings they're used to fight and the souls of the mothers of the various pilots. And they're piloted by forsaken children, themselves, including a girl who is one of many clones of one of the aforementioned mothers (Rei), alongside that mother's son and the clone girl's brother (Shinji) and the daughter of another woman driven mad by an Eva-related experiment (Asuka).
  • In Noein, the only thing protecting La'cryma from the encroachment of Shangri-la is a quantum computer powered by the humans embedded within it.
  • Project ARMS. Pretty much literally. Almost every Egrigori experiment uses a child as the test subject. Most prominent are the Keith clones which were implanted with the first ARMS, many of which turned into monsters as a result, the Chapel children who were given drugs while in the womb to make them super smart and work as scientists for the group, various mutant and psychic children taken to be soldiers, and Alice who was on the research team and whose dying body was bonded to an alien lifeform and became a computer controlling the Egrigori. There's also the other ARMS teens, who were specially genetically engineered to be soldiers to take down the Egrigori.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey's Magical Girl system is this in a nutshell. Rip out the souls of pubescent magical girls and make them suffer the tragic consequences of their wishes until their souls shatter and they mutate into reality-warping Eldritch Abominations, all to stave off the heat death of the universe. The universe is literally powered by the souls of dead children.
  • RahXephon. The huge mecha style beings attacking the city are in fact psychically linked to people within the city. Thus when the being is damaged so is the person they're linked to. There is a rather interesting plot twist in that a young girl who's in love with the protagonist and whom he swore to protect... turns out to be one of those people and he ends up killing her, while believing that he's protecting her. Cue very unterstandable angst when this happens.
  • In Reborn! (2004), the first generation of the Gola Mosca were powered by Dying Will Flames. As shown when Tsuna rips the Gola Mosca attacking Hibari and his friends apart and discovers a person inside of it. The situation is made worse for Tsuna since it was his grandfather, the 9th head of the Vongola family inside of it.
  • The Record of a Fallen Vampire: The Black Swan parasite inhabits teenage girls to kill the Strauss. If they can't, they are themselves killed by the Black Swan, usually in about five years. Also, the Black Swan itself was made from the souls of Stella and her and Strauss' unborn daughter. Really sad.
  • Junior, from R.O.D the TV appears first as a mysterious, effeminate child antagonist, working as a secret agent for the British Library towards their heinous goal. He's lived a lonely life, and is automatically drawn to those that show him kindness. However, after his Heel–Face Turn it becomes apparent that Junior was kidnapped as a baby from his I-jinn mother (Nancy) and had basically been intended his entire life to become a vessel for The Gentleman. The process involves having all the old man's information DOWNLOADED into his brain. And ... what's supposed to happen to him? Um, you don't want to know.
  • Romeo X Juliet eventually reveals that Neo Verona's prosperity (and continued existence) is contingent on the willing sacrifice of the daughters of House Capulet, who become integrated with Escalus and bound to it for eternity. This does not sit well with Juliet's boyfriend Romeo, who fights first Juliet (the Sole Survivor of the Capulet clan) and then Ophelia (the guardian of Escalus itself) to save her from her cruel fate; in the end, however, Romeo dies right after defeating Ophelia, destroying Escalus in the process. Juliet then saves Neo Verona by turning herself into a new Escalus... but with the implication that the cycle of sacrifice that sustained Neo Verona in the past has finally been broken.
  • In the Sailor Moon Super S movie, Queen Badiane wanted to use all of the children on Earth like this, kidnapping them and putting them on stasis to feed off their dreams.
  • Pasifica Cassul in Scrapped Princess may be considered this seeing as she was basically a nuke for the Church, she was meant to gather energy her whole life, and then die on her 16th birthday, releasing the energy and defeating God in order to set the world straight.
  • Serial Experiments Lain features a scientist who tried to tap the psychic energy of hundreds of children, apparently draining them and leaving them in a deep coma.
    • There seemed to be a some sort of explosion caused by an overflow of psychic energy, dissolving the children's bodies, trapping them forever in the Wired. The scientist comments how no matter what he does, bringing them back to real world is impossible.
  • Space Battleship Yamato 2199: The Cosmo Reverser System, sought after by the crew of the Yamato to reverse the destruction wrought on their planet, requires the memories of someone from the earth in order to work. The stored consciousness of Mamoru Kodai was originally meant to be used to facilitate this, but his spirit activated the system early so it could revive Yuki Mori for his brother, Susumu. When Captain Okita passes away shortly after the Yamato comes into range of Earth, though, his spirit restarts the system and saves the earth.
  • Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry has the evil Deague searching for "samples", i.e. the mysterious alien Emilys. What they are samples of is the alien race that was dissected — without anaesthetic — to create the first mimics; the two Emilys in the series are the last living one and the last non-scrapped mimic with a still-living alien brain inside.
  • Taken as literally as possible in Sword of the Stranger. The antagonists want to sacrifice Kotaro, an orphaned child, to make their emperor immortal. They don't quite manage to carry out the sacrifice, of course, so we never find out whether it would have worked. They do, however, paint their entire gigantic altar red with chicken blood as part of the ceremony.
  • In Toriko process of cooking the ultimate ingredient from Acacia's menu happens to involve a lot of human sacrifices, because said ingredient requires a lot of energy, and without proper "fertilizer" to satiate it, will simply suck energy out of every living thing close to it, killing the person who cooks it. Humans just happen to be perfectly fit for a role of fertilizer.
  • Yuui and Fay in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, in an Omelas-esque fashion. Since the people of their country believe that twins inherently bring misfortune to those around them, it's decided that the two kids should be sent to the Sinners' Valley, a hellish limbo of sorts, so this doesn't happen. It doesn't work.
  • In Vandread, the enemy's planet harvest organs to support themselves on a planet so polluted that they had to convert the entire surface into a giant machine. The enemy has gone as far as to manipulate the cultures of human colonies to cater to the harvest. The home world, Earth, has declared this necessary for continuation of humanity. All human colonies are just "parts" and are expected to fulfill their "purpose". The bloody war between men and women in the protagonists' home system exists only to prime sexual dimorphism for the reaping.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne Abridged, Emperor Donkirk became ruler of Zaibach by inventing a machine like this, one that turns blood into oil. As he put it "Cutting out the middle man"
  • In Witchblade, the I-Weapons are corpses that had a cloneblade stuck on them.
  • Witch Hunter Robin
    • Orbo, the fuild that nullifies witchcraft, is later discovered as being made out of the drained bodily fluids of the witches everyone thought were being humanely imprisoned. Made especially horrifying, as many of the sometimes-innocent witches, including children, had character development earlier in the series.
    • There was also a witch whose power allowed him to sacrifice people to heal others. However, he only killed crooks, and eventually himself.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Millennium Items are revealed to be created with the souls of 99 slaughtered victims. In the original Japanese version, they were created by literally mixing the flesh, blood, and bones of the victims into the gold used to cast them.
    • Also, the Duel Monsters used in the show are actually the souls of at least several citizens and soldiers from Ancient Egypt during Pharaoh Atem's rule, if not from billions of people in the anime's past. For example, Yugi's signature card, Dark Magician, contains the soul of one of the Pharaoh's most trusted priests (Mahad) while Dark Magician Girl is apparently said priest's apprentice (Mana).
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Dr. Faker is attacking the Astral World by using Haruto's Psychic Powers to bombard it with trash.
    • And in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, the Professor's ARC-V machine requires the souls of thousands of people in order to fuse the dimensions together, as well as to re-assemble his daughter. The latter part also requires him to use her four reincarnations as components. He succeeds in bringing his daughter back to life, but at the cost of Yuzu, Serena, Rin, and Ruri.

    Comic Books 
  • A story in Heavy Metal Magazine depicted a disparate group of beings infiltrating and fighting their way through a high-tech structure, eventually reaching a computer resembling a huge, sleeping human face. They blasted open a dome on the forehead and remove... a baby. The only text is at the end, over panels of the group walking in a garden-like setting, in the style of an intelligence report on the destruction of the City of Om, caused by the failure of the central computer system known as The Dreamer, due to the removal of the "human component" known as "The Soul of The Dreamer", who is now "enjoying the ecstasy of life."
  • Checkmate: In a story arc involving the Suicide Squad, the team is shown invading a power plant in a Southeast Asian dictatorship. A boy emitting solar power is hooked up to a machine siphoning the energy. They break him out, but leave him in the Mirror Dimension, on orders to make sure he is no longer a threat to American interests.
  • Dark Empire: Emperor Palpatine did this to maintain his immortality. To be exact, he dreamt of conquering the entire universe and drawing on the Force from every individual for the sole purpose of keeping himself, and possibly Darth!Luke alive for all eternity. And yes, all Sith are obsessed with immortality.
  • Doctor Doom sealed his position as truly evil rather than arrogant Well-Intentioned Extremist when he tracked down his first love, convinced her he had abandoned his technology and evil ways, then sacrificed her to demons in order to boost his magic powers as a complement to his genius tech. The demons then gave him a cloak made from her flesh, which he wore. However, every writer after these events pretended they never happened.
  • In the 2016 Doom Patrol series, the first arc involves the team being brought together to save Danny the Street. Having long since evolved into the pocket dimension Danny the World, and acquiring the ability to create life, Danny was hunted and captured by an unscrupulous interdimensional corporation that plans to torture them into being an endless supply of "ethically sourced" ground meat.
  • Blue Mountain, home of the Gliders in ElfQuest, featured doors and ornaments that were maintained and controlled by rock shaper elves. Once free-willed elves, these rock shapers were so deeply sunken into meditation or mental numbness that they were oblivious to all but other Gliders' commands to open or close.
  • In Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, there is no Superman or Batman; the most powerful superheroes are their Distaff Counterparts, Supergirl and Batgirl. Batgirl is trying to take down Lex Luthor, and elicits a reluctant Supergirl's help. They both travel deep underground Metropolis, trying to find the 'clean fuel source' that Lex Luthor discovered for the city years ago. It turns out that it's her cousin Kal-El...who never got to grow up, but died as an infant in a jar. But considering that this is Lex Luthor, are we truly surprised he'd stoop so low?
  • In Mark Waid's Empire, Golgoth has Endymion (essentially this Universe's Superman) hooked up to a machine that drains his blood and turns it into a hyper-addictive drug
  • Frau Totenkinder of Fables sacrificed her own child in exchange for her considerable magical powers. In order to keep said powers, she also has to sacrifice one newborn every year. In modern times she has supposedly stopped killing infants and uses donated blood from newborn Fables instead. It's heavily implied that she also maintains her magic by owning an abortion clinic.note  And as her encounters with Hansel and Gretel (shown in flashbacks) indicate, in a pinch a child of any age will do. Kay's comments also indicate that Totenkinder sacrifices hundreds, possibly thousands, of children, upon which the old witch says she 'invests her money in perfectly legal ways among the Mundy'.
  • Iron Heights, the horrendous supervillain prison for the enemies of The Flash, is powered by Fallout, a man who was irradiated and accidentally killed his family. He is so irradiated that he needs to be quarantined so that his energy can be safely released. When the Flash first sees him, the process for powering the prison is extremely painful. He later makes the warden change the system so that Fallout is more comfortable.
    • This is oddly similar to The Dark Knight Strikes Again, where Flash himself is used to power an entire city by essentially running on a giant hamster wheel all day, every day.
  • Give Me Liberty has secret experiments performed with schizophrenic kids. One of them turns out to be a telepath.
  • Graveyard Shakes: To keep his son Modie alive, Nikola removes the life force of a 13-year-old child and transfers it into Modie. Modie doesn't like his dad doing this, though.
  • Green Lantern:
    • The power rings of the death worshipping Black Lantern Corps of Blackest Night don't rely on emotions like the others. Instead they are powered by killing a lot of people. Killing a person and stealing their heart restores 0.01% power to every ring in the Corps. So it takes about 10,000 hearts to recharge all the rings to maximum power, minus the power used to steal those hearts of course. And when all the rings are charged to 100%, Nekron appears.
    • Speaking of which, it's common knowledge that the rings of Green Lanterns and other similar corps run on emotions, but the Lights Out arc revealed the dirty little secret that they're finite power sources. Once those emotions dry up, the universe ends — and this isn't the first time it's happened.
  • In the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy series, the alien Universal Church of Truth powers its technology with "Belief Engines", generators that draw on the faith of its legion of worshippers. At least one of their starships is shown carrying storage banks full of the faithful, kept in stasis and wired directly into the ship's power systems.
  • A classic House of Mystery story, "The Piper at the Gates of Hell!" has a village called Anyville have perfect consistent tranquility as long as they surrender an innocent to a demonic skeletal piper figure to be tormented forever every twenty years. When the brother of such an innocent is taken, he cannot let this custom continue and rescues him. However, the town pays the price as it is explodes into fiery chaos with the pact's abrogation. Only the brothers and their father are safe as they leave, praying that they will have the strength to resist the temptation of such a Deal with the Devil.
  • The Iron Man miniseries Hypervelocity reveals that the AI used for Life Model Decoys and elsewhere in the Marvel Universe — such as the Virtual Ghost backup of Tony Stark who's the series' protagonist — was based on horrific human experimentation. The bad guys in the series are the Virtual Ghosts of some of the test subjects.
  • Incorruptible. The Superman analogue goes quite insane after a living entity spreads itself by turning kids into skeleton zombies. 'Supes' caused this by negligence. Oops.
  • In the last post-Zero Hour volume of DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, there was a new galaxy-level faster-than-light spaceship drive introduced by the government of the United Planets. The Legion discovered that the drive power sources were living and sentient beings who had been created by the government via the abduction, torture, and genetic splicing of citizens of two of the United Planets' member worlds - and that being used to power the drives put them through agonizing pain and slowly killed them.
  • A Marvel Comics crossover storyline had the villainous Secret Empire capture mutants to drain their greater-than-normal psychic energy to power weapons and vehicles to take over the U.S.
    • The events are later revisited in the short prose story "Firm Commitments", told from the point of view of a scientist who discovers the immense thermodynamics-breaking potential of Mutant neurons, gets involved with events far greater than himself, and has his life ruined as a result.
  • In Micronauts, Baron Karza's body banks are pure Body Horror. They've granted Karza and his followers effective immortality... by literally cutting up society's undesirables for spare parts, to replace their own organs when they wear out. When Mari was a naive young princess, she suffered an accident, but was very pleased with the lovely new legs she was given... until she learned they'd been stolen from her best friend, the court dancer, who was left crippled and would never dance again. The elite's dependance on the body banks is the foundation of Karza's dictatorship.
  • In the Mystique comic, there's a mutant who can control all machines and gets plugged into a giant device that requires her power to run. She's a little girl, of course.
  • DC Comics: The Reign In Hell miniseries reveals one of the more feared punishments of hell was becoming building materials.
  • During the "Home Schooling" arc of Runaways, when an injured Klara Prast accidentally raises a massive forest around their house, Nico and Karolina struggle to convince Victor and Chase to leave it alone, because they're afraid that the forest might be connected to Klara's own lifeforce, and therefore attacking it might cause her even further injury.
  • In one arc of Silver Surfer, the Surfer is conscripted to defend a massive, scientifically-impossible planet from the Queen of Nevers, the living embodiment of all possibility. It turns out that the city is powered by the Queen's heart, which was stolen from her by the planet's architects, and she needs the heart back or else the realm of possibilities will collapse.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics)
    • In an obvious shoutout to The Matrix, the series features a new creation by Dr. Eggman/Robotnik after the Roboticizer is rendered obsolete: the Egg Grape Chambers. Eggman captures Mobians in them and uses their life force for power. This slowly drains their memory as well. Left too long, they can be killed, or at the very least left with amnesia of varying degrees.
    • The use of someone's life force for energy is also the principle behind the energy weapons and rockets built into Bunnie's robotic limbs. One enemy (the Iron Queen), who usurped control of her robotics, tried to use this to kill her via overexertion.
  • Lord Odion of Star Wars: Knight Errant abducted every child in his domain, so that he could instill despair in their hearts that, when harnessed by an ancient Sith artifact, would drive every living thing in the galaxy, and possibly the entire universe, into a murderous frenzy, leaving him the only person in existence.
  • A plot point in Teen Titans had Deathstroke's team breaking up a drug manufacturing ring that created Bliss, a drug literally made from children. It's later revealed that the reason for Roy Harper's behavior while supposedly on heroin (supposedly in that there was no way a man on heroin would be able to fight like he was) was that Deathstroke was secretly spiking his heroin with samples of Bliss.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The old Nazi Karl Schlagel created a machine that works by strapping children into it.
  • During the Messiah War X-Men storyline, an alternate future version of Kiden Nixon is used by Stryfe to empower a machine that prevents time-travelling.
  • The X-Men storyline that introduced the Brood established that the Brood's Space Whale ships are made of the Acanti, huge alien life forms that float around space. The Brood capture them, lobotomize them and turn them into living vessels powered by pain.

    Fan Works 
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Bleach crossoverA Hollow in Equestria Nightmare Moon IS this trope. Her first appearance was made possible by consuming the souls of 17 innocent foals, allowing her to exert total control over Luna's body and gain access to her alicorn magic. Fastforward a millennium to her season one defeat, she was ripped from Luna's body but her spirit remained alive, feasting on fear until gaining enough strength to return and consume the souls of 21 foals to regain her physical form, and become powerful enough to hold her own against Luna and Celestia simultaneously. And just for added measure, she bound her spirit to Twist to ensure she had a foal hostage to exploit.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Fluttershy, upon learning how cruel the world can be, finds a source of powerful magic and sets out to turn Equestria into a perfect utopia by siphoning out all vices, sadness and wickedness of the world... using herself as container to hold them. She decides to bear all the evils of Equestria upon her back, and suffer eternally herself just so no one else has to ever suffer anymore. This also ends up grotesquely deforming her. She even refers to herself as the Forsaken Foal of Omelas.
  • Rainbow Factory:
    • Rainbows are made out of foals who fail their flight exam. Specifically, their ribs are broken, and then they are mutilated in what is essentially a giant meat grinder.
    • The sequel, Pegasus Device, makes it worse by mentioning that the victims must be fully conscious, because the fear and pain is an integral part of the process.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Zemblaini sacrificed Horizon — a two-year-old foal — in order to use the innocence of his Lifeforce to force open the Gates of Tartarus and release Nightmare Moon's army. Celestia managed to link his remaining Lifeforce with the Echoes, stabilizing him and keeping the Gates sealed. However, he's remained trapped there for the twenty years since, awaiting the day the Elements of Harmony are restored and used to undo the damage. And part of his mind is still aware...
  • The Dashverse story Hot Heads, Cold Hearts and Nerves of Steel starts with Sombra's minions kidnapping every foal in Ponyville and several other towns. Several chapters later, when said minions confront the Mane Six, they reveal that the reason the foals were taken was so Sombra can sacrifice them to empower himself.
  • In the Tarnished Silver series, Princess Celestia convinces herself (on scant to nonexistent evidence) that this is how Equestria works, so she sets out to clandestinely shield paedosadist slaver rings from justice such that an adequate population of forsaken children will be maintained.
  • A Crazed Gleam, sequel to A Mad Glimmer: Hundreds of years into a Bad Future where Queen Chrysalis successfully conquered Equestria, the changelings' society is powered by an artificially engineered race(?) of fetus-like ponies called "generators" that were created from the genetic makeup of Princess Cadence. They're barely sentient enough to feel love and psychologically incapable of feeling anything else. But hey, at least they're happy.
  • In the Avengers of the Ring sequel Methteilien, Wanda Maximoff is forced to act as a power booster for Morgoth's own control of the Mind Stone, unwillingly helping him shield the planet he is using as a base of operations.
  • When you learn that Dante is the doctor in the AU Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction Asylum, you can tell that this trope will be in effect.... In this universe, Philosopher's Stones can be fueled by alchemic energy, but you can't get enough unless it's pushed through an alchemically potent human, or 'conduit.' If done in excess, this process will eventually turn the conduit into a Soulless Shell. Of course, Dante doesn't care much.
  • In Harry Potter and the Soul Gems a dark wizard used large diamonds containing the souls of children with special abilities to power the traps which protected the tombs he built for his clients.
  • In Episode 67 of Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Eggman and Rouge discover the truth behind Beelzebub's fake Chaos Emeralds; they're empowered by Dark Chaos Energy - produced by dozens of lobotomized slaves undergoing And I Must Scream.
  • In Death's Champion Hedwig tells Harry that it took the sacrifice of hundreds of human souls for the Flamels to create the Philosopher's Stone.
  • In Harry Potter and Godric's Legacy Voldemort performs an annual ritual which prevents him from dying by sacrificing an unborn child and sending its soul to hell in his place.
  • In The Power That's Inside, Pokemon power the human power grid in a gruesome way.
  • In Blue Steel The Goblet of Fire was created by the blood sacrifice of five virgins.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: The sequel Picking Up the Pieces reveals that the Hivemind Body, one of the three Pillars of a Changeling Hive, is created by fusing twelve Changeling infants into a single being, with their individual minds erased by the process. While they're so young that they had almost no conscious minds yet, the whole creation process and effect still horrifies Page, to the point where she mourns those who were sacrificed for it.
  • Maybe the Last Archie Story: Mad Doctor Doom kidnaps Sabrina and gets her hooked up to a time machine which works by siphoning her magic energy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link:
    • A book in the Monktown Valley Library claims that bombchus are created by binding the souls of mice to bombs, though both the bombchu shop owner and Word of God state that it's an In-Universe Factoid Failure.
    • Saria created the Soul-Charged Sword by binding her own soul to the blade after she was mortally wounded by Arborachnid, giving it its Sword Beam abilties in addition to letting her briefly act as a Spirit Advisor.
  • With This Ring: The Renegade gains access to a database of Apokoliptian technology, and is able to use that to build squads of flying blaster-armed drones, but they have poor battery life, because Apokoliptian power generation "is either too advanced for me to replicate safely or is of the 'runs-off-the-misery-of-paraplegic-kittens' variety."
  • Becoming a True Invader: Zim uses Nick to power a beam that causes the people afflicted by it to be overcome with joyful emotions.
  • Boldores And Boomsticks: Faba's machine to create Ultra Wormholes caused Nebby horrible pain every time he used it.
  • There Was Once an Avenger from Krypton: When the Miraculous team are discussing everything they know about Hawk Moth to try and figure out how to defeat him, Caline states her belief that he's sacrificing animal souls in order to corrupt the Butterfly Miraculous' powers in order to make it fit his goals.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Monsters, Inc., the entire monster society is powered by the screams of children. Later on, we get introduced to the Scream Extractor, which fits this trope even better by sucking out the screams of a single kidnapped child in order to gain more power, unlike scaring which didn't physically harm children by near suffocation. Thankfully it never gets put into mass use, and in the end the monsters find a better power source — popping out of closets and making kids laugh instead of scream.
  • There's a more mundane/clueless example in ParaNorman; the town of Blithe's Hollow depends on attracting tourists and selling them things based off of a witch-hanging done three hundred years ago. The witch is revealed to have been an eleven-year-old girl who was killed for being weird. It's only incidental that her ghost is sticking around, furious and unable to move on.
  • In Pinocchio, boys are turned into donkeys and sold to salt mines, or end up working in circuses, on farms, or are made to pull the wagon that brings more boys to Pleasure Island.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Arcade features a video arcade named "Dante's Inferno", where a new virtual reality arcade game called, boringly enough, "Arcade" is being tested. If you lose, you're trapped inside the game and die. Turns out the game is Powered by a Forsaken Child, whowas abused and, eventually, killed by his mother. The game designers decide it's a good idea to take a few thousand brain cells from the body and use them in the game.
  • Cloud Atlas: Fabricants that serve out their time as workers are killed and recycled into Soap and food to feed fabricants and purebloods, respectively. Sonmi has the good fortune to watch this happen.
  • In The Matrix, we're all Forsaken Children. Nearly all of humanity is trapped in a virtual reality world while their real bodies are locked in pods and their muscle contractions are used to generate power.
  • Minority Report has a pretty literal version: the Precrime department's method of predicting the future involves three psychics, kept in chemically-induced dream state 24-7 and hooked up to a computer, so that the detectives can piece together visions of murders from their recorded dreams. Where does literal come into it? Well, it turns out that the Precogs are actually the abandoned, mutated offspring of drug addicts. Doubly frightening was the knowledge that one of the creators of the Precrime system was willing to kill the mother of one of the Precogs to ensure that they would stay Forsaken Children.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger's nightmare powers are fueled by the fear and souls of children.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the ritual for the Fountain of Youth. When Jack finds out that it requires a human sacrifice, he immediately finds his desire for the fountain "greatly lessened".
  • Snowpiercer: Parts of the eternal engine have been breaking down and they are replaced by children younger than 5 to do it manually.
  • In Thir13en Ghosts, the ghosts of the title are used to power some sort of demonic machine designed to open "the eye of hell".
  • In Warcraft (2016), fel magic is powered by life force of living creatures, so Gul'dan has thousands of prisoners drained from energy to keep the Portal open.
  • According to Warlock, one of the ingredients of a flying potion is the rendered fat of an unbaptized child. While in modern times there are alternatives that are not fatal to the child, the character is from the 17th century, back when there were no alternatives (and he's also an evil bastard), and kills the child extracting it. The potion is based on a (supposed) actual witches recipe of the era ("fat of unbaptized brat" even gets a mention in Shakespeare). Likewise the nail in the footprint has a real-world source.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men has the machine that turns ordinary people into mutants powered by Magneto, but using it weakens the power source (likely killing him if he uses it on full power), so he forcibly has the power-stealing mutant Rogue absorb him and uses her to power the machine.
    • In the original draft for the movie, Magneto actually wanted to use Wolverine instead as a sort-of living antenna to amplify his powers, apparently due to his Adamantium skeleton.
    • X2: X-Men United: Stryker's mind-control serum is derived from chemicals secreted by the brain of his own son, Jason. Although still alive and still capable of using his impressive powers of illusion, Jason's been given a lobotomy to make him more pliable and is confined to a wheelchair, complete with a shunt in the back of his head used for collecting the fluid.
    • X-Men: The Last Stand: The mutant cure is distilled from Leech's blood, although the scientists hope to eventually artificially synthesize it. Unlike other examples, Leech is treated rather well and seems fine with the arrangement.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100:
    • The Mountain Men cure their periodic radiation poisoning through "blood treatments": they kidnap Grounders (who are naturally resistant to radiation) and use them as human dialysis machines, pumping their radiation resistant blood into the Mountain Men, and the Mountain Men's contaminated blood into the Grounders. This makes the Grounders incredibly ill, and if done often enough will eventually kill them.
    • Later, the Mountain Men discover a way to make themselves permanently resistant to radiation, removing the need for the blood treatments. Unfortunately, this new treatment requires taking lethal quantities of bone marrow from captured Sky People.
  • Babylon 5:
    • One episode featured an immortality drug that required killing people to manufacture it. The Vorlons decide We Are Not Ready for immortality and assassinate its war criminal creator before she is able to pass on the formula.
    • The Shadows use living beings, suitably adjusted, as the control units for their spacecraft. They also use people to grow some of their technology, according to one of the canon novels. It's not stated whether this kills the people on whom the stuff is growing or not, but it's not a pleasant process.
    • Babylon 5 also contained the alien healing device, which can cure any wound or illness but only by siphoning life energy away from a healthy being (its creators used it as a means of "just" capital punishment, taking their life to insure somebody else got to keep theirs).
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), President Roslin's cancer is cured by injecting her with the blood of Helo and Sharon's unborn daughter. Thankfully, they don't need all of it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The episode "Doublemeat Palace" leads the viewer to believe Buffy has encountered a Soylent Green-type situation — only to move on to a more realistically plausible, but equally strange-feeling twist.
    • The Season 8 comics have Buffy's new bonus powers. Subverted, as she soon finds out her power, like all magic, came from the Seed Of Wonder. As she got closer to it, she became more powerful.
    • The First Slayer herself is essentially a forsaken child forcibly infused with demon energy by magicians. Essentially true of all slayers.
    • Dawn is this for Glory in Season 5, with the blood of The Key being required to open a portal that Glory needs to return to her home dimension.
  • Cleopatra 2525's robotic oppressors of humanity were revealed to be slightly less robotic than believed: They're cyborgs, using brains harvested from human children.
  • HBO aired Cosmic Slop, three short supernatural stories hosted by George Clinton. One story was about a fleet of aliens arriving to earth and offering to solve all of the world's current problems. In return for all of the people of African descent who do not pass the 'paper bag test'. Did they get their price? In a heartbeat!
  • Doctor Who examples:
    • In the sadly-lost story "The Savages", the inhabitants of a technologically-advanced city extended their productivity and lifespans by draining "life force" from the people who lived outside the city. While they admittedly tried not to take enough to kill anybody, it was more because they didn't want to lose their supply than for humanitarian reasons.
    • "Warriors' Gate": Rorvik's culture has spaceflight dependent on wiring a time-sensitive slave into the navigation systems and hitting that slave with high voltages.
    • "Revelation of the Daleks": Dalek creator Davros offers to help solve a galactic famine problem. How convenient that he's set up shop on a cemetery planet...
      Sixth Doctor: But did you bother to tell anyone they might be eating their own relatives?
      Davros: Certainly not! That would have created what I believe is termed... "consumer resistance".
    • "Remembrance of the Daleks": A young girl is kidnapped and mind-controlled to augment the Supreme Dalek's rational and logical battle computer with human imagination and emotion.
    • "Bad Wolf": The Controller, a Wetware CPU wired into the Deadly Game space station — although she's an adult when we see her, one of the minor characters explains she was "installed" when she was five years old. She's also the only one who knows about the villain and their evil plan, but she can't say anything about it until a solar flare cuts her off from their control.
    • "New Earth": The hospital has the cure for every known disease, through infecting thousands of expendable Artificial Humans with those diseases.
    • "School Reunion": The antagonists are using schoolchildren to crack an equation that will give them Reality Warper powers because adults lack the imagination. It's mentioned that students have fallen ill as a result, and some students get eaten by the Evil Teachers when they can get away with it.
    • "The Girl in the Fireplace": The Doctor and co. come across a spaceship whose crew was taken apart to be used as spare parts by the clockwork repair droids.
    • "The Sound of Drums"/"Last of the Time Lords": The Toclafane, who the Master uses as his personal army of Happy Fun Balls, can be considered partly this trope. Martha Jones pries one of them open and discovers, to her horror, that the Toclafane were created from the final remnants of humanity. Instead of traveling to the fabled Utopia, they end up in the reaches of space, gradually turning on each other, cannibalizing their own bodies, and becoming more childlike.
    • "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" plays with it: The Library's computers are run by a terminally-ill child who was inserted into the mainframe to keep her alive and entertained with every book in the universe. Powered-by, but hardly forsaken.
    • "The Beast Below": Starship UK is propelled by torturing a Space Whale. No, really. And in a "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" parallel, every citizen of Starship UK is told just what their megaship relies on for power at age 16 as part of the "elections". They are then given the choice to Forget or Protest; most choose to Forget via Laser-Guided Amnesia, whereas those who Protest end up food for the Whale. Also subverted in that the Space Whale purposefully came to help because it heard the crying children of Britain and wanted to save them. The humans of course had no way of knowing this and thus captured and tortured the whale to propel the ship, not knowing it would've helped of its own free will.
    • "The Doctor's Wife": Genius Loci House stays alive by eating TARDISes. This also applies to its servants Auntie and Uncle, who are "fixed" when they "break" with body parts from people who wind up in House's pocket universe, á la Frankenstein's Monster.
    • "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos": After being mistaken for the Ux's god, Tzim-Sha abuses their Reality Warper powers by getting them to build and power a superweapon capable of stealing and shrinking down planets, which is painful for them. The younger Ux, Delph, ends up involuntarily trussed up in the device because of his doubts about Tim's alleged divinity, but the older one, Andinio, isn't snapped out of her naïve belief until the Doctor arrives.
    • "The Timeless Children" reveals that Gallifreyan civilisation is powered by the natural regenerative abilities of an abused and experimented-upon child from another dimension. Namely, the Doctor.
  • The Attic from Dollhouse is first introduced as a classic And I Must Scream scenario. What it actually is, however, is much worse: It's a super-computer with human brains as processors, where each "component" is locked into an infinite loop of their worst nightmare in order to keep the brain running at adrenaline-inspired top speed.
  • An episode of First Wave had Cade stumble upon a Gua-run hospital, where they were helping some people... by giving them parts from other people's bodies. None of this was altruism, of course, but merely just another experiment.
  • Almost all the cursed artifacts in Friday the 13th: The Series. An example is a cursed television that extends its owner's life whenever it consumes a soul.
  • Fringe:
  • Game of Thrones: Melisandre implies this about Shireen's sacrifice. The blizzard that blocked their path disappeared for several months, clearing the way to Winterfell. Even if Stannis died, the way for Jon Snow and the Vale Cavalry to secure victory over the Boltons was laid clear and faced no interference from the oncoming winter, taking a full army with them to Winterfell rather than face the starvation and defection that Stannis did. Davos refuses to accept this and calls the Lord of Light evil for allowing Shireen's death, but Melisandre points out that it was the same Lord who resurrected Jon. In either case, Jon banishes Melisandre rather than execute her.
  • In Heroes, the Big Bad of the first season, Sylar, is capable of "acquiring" the superpowers of others through an unshown (until the beginning of season 3) procedure that requires killing them and removing their brains Technically he doesn't have to kill them to do it as he learned in volume 3. However the quickest route to it is studying the brain and (Unless the victim has a healing factor) the process of slicing their head open is shown to be fatal. It's implied in a later volume that he knew even before volume 3 he could absorb powers through empathy. He just liked knowing every little thing about the power, and the life of the person who had it meant little to him.
  • In an episode of The Invisible Man, an eminent neurologist is removing pieces of homeless people's brains in order to cure those he considers more worthy who've suffered brain injuries. He gets proper justice in the end - he falls off the stairs to his death. Since he's an organ donor, his own brain serves to cure one of his victims.
  • Sakurai Yuuto, aka Zeronos in Kamen Rider Den-O has people around him lose their memories of his future self every time he transforms. When that turns out to be insufficient, then he gets his new Zero Form, which is powered by peoples' memories of his current self (this after nearly disappearing completely after his past self is killed by an Imagin). In the end, the future Sakurai does disappear completely... leaving the current Yuuto with a different, new future to discover.
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie The Night Strangler (sequel to The Night Stalker and followed by Kolchak: The Night Stalker), the killer slays exotic dancers and uses just a little of each one's blood to whip up a batch of his special life-extension serum, which he must do every 21 years or die.
  • Lexx,
    • The first season, also known as "Tales from a Parallel Universe", was made up of four movies. The second movie, "Eating Pattern", revolved around a junkyard planet where bodies could be made into a highly addictive drug called "Pattern".
    • The title Living Ship also eats planets, occasionally including inhabited ones.
    • Let alone growing the Lexx in the first place; prisoners from all over human space (most of whom had only committed fairly minor offences) had their major organs cut out by circular saw (to make robotic drones, apparently?) and the rest of their body was shrinkwrapped and fed to the Lexx. All it has to say on the matter was that "The food was good there".
    • And even later, the entire population of the League of 20,000 Planets received the same treatment; becoming food for the Gigashadow, the body of the last survivor of the Insect Civilization.
  • In an episode of Masters of Horror entitled "The Fair-Haired Child", the plot involves a grieving couple appealing to an otherworldly force to resurrect their dead son. They in turn, have to feed him ten children. The child shows his um...gratitude to them in a similar way.
  • The Otherworld episode "Paradise Lost" had a immortality drug called Kaloma that was created by draining the life force of human beings.
  • In one episode of Sliders, the characters stumble upon a village with its own Fountain of Youth. Which is the excretions of a gigantic mutant worm...whose primary diet is people.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1 had tretonin, a drug that granted the user perfect health-but had a side effect: the drug destroys the immune system, rendering the user dependent on the drug forever. The SG-1 team, after beginning negotiation for some of the drug, learn that the drug is actually created from the offspring of a Goa'uld queen the Pangarans discovered in a stasis jar. Normally this would not be so bad considering the Goa'uld are the series' Big Bad, parasites that force their way into humans' brains and take over their bodies while most likely applying eternal mental torture to the host mind and are literally born evil since they inherit the memories of their parents. Unfortunately, much later, after the Tok'ra (the rebel faction of the Goa'uld who were allies with Earth) are brought to help analyze the drug, it is discovered the Goa'uld queen is actually the Tokra's long lost queen (and their last hope of reproducing as their number are dwindling and she was the only known Tok'ra queen). Naturally the Tok'ra object to such treatment of their queen. Eventually subverted when, later that season, the Tok'ra are able to synthesize tretonin without the need for live symbiotes. Because said Tok'ra queen showed them how before dying.
    • Stargate Atlantis: An early first-season episode had the Atlantis team find a gate on a planet with mist that supercharged the gate to levels that would allow them to dial Earth. It so happened that the mist was a species of sentient beings, some of whom were burned up to power the gate every time it was dialed out. After they explained this to the explorers via an elaborate dream sequence, the Atlantis team agrees to leave and designate their planet off-limits.
  • Star Trek: Discovery has a better-than-warp-drive propulsion system powered by an herbivorous animal that writhes in pain whenever they make a jump.
  • In Star Trek: Enterprise the crew encounters a repair station run by captured sentient beings of various races. The price of repair - one member of your crew. They get him back.
  • Star Trek: Voyager had another ship trapped in the Delta Quadrant — with an enhanced warp drive that burned alien Energy Beings to get them home.
  • In Supernatural:
    • Angels must take vessels to interact with most people on earth. Powerful angels usually leave the humans who served as vessels as broken husks.
    • Metatron's spell in Season 8 required the murder of a nephilim, carving a cupid's bow out of its owner, and forcefully removing an angel's grace.
    • In the Season 10 finale, one of the required ingredients for curing the Mark of Cain requires the spellcaster to kill someone they love. In the same episode, Death will only help Dean endure the Mark if Dean murders Sam.
  • Torchwood: Children of Earth,
    • the Four-Five-Six incorporate prepubescent human children into their physiology, keeping them eternally alive, childlike, and fully aware, because their bodies produce hormones that act as euphoric drugs on them.
    "You mean... you're shooting up on children?"
    • The way Torchwood fights back is literally this trope, they re-route the Four-Five-Six's psychic Mind Rape wave back at them through a forsaken child. Specifically Jack's grandson Stephen who was the only child near when the solution was discovered with minutes left to save the day. Stephen screamed himself to death.
  • The The Twilight Zone (2002) episode "Evergreen" has the Ever-Green community, where they turn some teens into red plant fertilizer disguised as a 'reeducation camp' especially for them.
  • An episode of The Worst Witch has Sybill turning a torch into a magic lamp that will grant any wish. The catch is however that it'll absorb energy from other things to grant each wish. When it runs out of plants to absorb, it starts to drain the girls and the teachers instead.

  • The Vocaloid song Kagome, Kagome heavily implied this.
  • There is a (disputed) theory that the final verses of the children's song "London Bridge is Falling Down" relate to pagan use of human sacrifice during construction of important buildings.

  • In Big Finish Doctor Who "The Genocide Machine", it is revealed that in the Library of Kar-Charrat the Chief Librarion Elgin has captured many of a local aquatic life form and placed them in a wetworks facility so they can be used to download data, a process which destroys their minds.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deadlands
    • All Arcane (non-Badass Normal) powers work this way. The setting has it as an explicit rule. The soul involved is inevitably your own. Except for Blessed and Shaman powers, which only require adherence to your religion and (in Shamans' case) proper rites. You still do the sacrifice, but it's voluntary and only involves limiting yourself.
    • While not known in Deadlands: The Weird West, it is common knowledge in the Wasted West that ghostrock is made up of souls, which scream and wail as you burn it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • A few creatures such as demiliches can trap souls and fuel spells with these.
    • In the Dark Sun setting, use of arcane magic, by default, drains life force from the environment around you, killing plants and leaving the soil infertile for years. Widespread use of such magic led to the world of Athas becoming a desert wasteland. Magic users who embrace this are called Defilers; those who learn to use magic without harming the environment are called Preservers. The respective advantages and drawbacks of Defiling vs. Preserving varies from edition to edition. In second edition, Preservers advanced in power more slowly than Defilers. In fourth edition, Defilers can drain life force from their own allies to empower their magic.
    • The creation of permanent enchantments in AD&D2 involved the decrease of the Constitution attribute. The Forgotten Realms (Volo's Guide to All Things Magical) has the "Blood Link" spell, which allows the vitality of another sentient creature instead of the caster's own to be sacrificed for permanency (though this could compromise alignment, like most lifeforce-draining effects). Which also explained how drow and Red Wizards got tons of magic trinkets.
    • Vhaerun grants a spell allowing the caster to drain levels (lifeforce) for use as charges for magic items.
    • Continued in later editions, with slight modifications. In Third Edition, permanent magic item creation requires spending XP. Note that XP and levels in this game represent life-force: many vampires and similar creatures literally drain your levels when they feed.
    • Mystara has a nuclear reactor of some crashed spaceship that became a magical power source, with some training allowing its users to try a divine ascension. Those who fail the attempt are sucked inside and become more fuel. Later, its accidentally ascended original operator made a copy free of other (worse) side effects.
    • Too many examples in Ravenloft to mention them all; perhaps the nastiest was Azalin's Doomsday Device, powered by the stolen souls of his murdered enemies and the collective life forces of every living thing in Il Aluk, greatest city in the game setting. Also featured in Dance of the Dead, a Ravenloft novel, in the form of an enchanted riverboat powered by captive fey and magical beasts.
    • Spelljammer had the Lifejammer helm, a magical device that allowed ships to travel through space by draining the life energy of creatures placed within it. Death Helm is the same with Charm effect, so the victim who failed a saving throw will fight off attempts to pull them out of this.
    • Book of Vile Darkness supplement
      • It features a foe called the Dread Emperor who uses this trope. He wears special golden armor that has four small children attached to it by lengths of chain. When hurt he can drain life from the children to heal himself. Players wishing to take him down (and who wouldn't?) must find a way to deal with this or risk sacrificing four innocent lives in the process. note 
      • The book also includes the Soul Eater prestige class, which allows the player to gain strength and abilities by bestowing negative levels on their enemies, essentially draining their life force. The player can eventually take their victim's appearance and all of their abilities if they kill someone this way.
    • Liches in 5th edition have to maintain their phylacteries with a steady stream of victims' souls or the magic preserving their undead bodies starts to falter.
  • Exalted,
    • The magical material known as Soulsteel is...well, filled with the aware, agonizing souls of the imprisoned dead (not surprisingly, Wraith was a big influence on Exalted's Underworld).
    • And Starmetal is made out of the bodies of (usually) minor gods, although in this case the gods in question are not conscious (with one non-painful exception).
    • Perhaps the most literal case in the setting is the phylactery-womb, the device that the Yozis use as the staging point and storage device for Infernal Exaltations. Her name used to be Liliun once, and she was a daughter of the Scarlet Empress, traded over as part of mommy's botched deal for immortality. Now she's been twisted and violated in a number of senses, left barely lucid and babbling, just so that she can serve as the perfect receptacle for the Infernal shards. Her Dad, however, has never stopped trying to find her, and when he finally does? he hired one of the Anathema (a Lunar Exalted, which the Immaculate Faith teaches are evil monsters) to get his daughter out of Hell. He was willing to throw his lot in with creatures he THINKS are insanely evil, who he's fought against his entire life... just to get his little girl back.
    • There is also the 'Mephitic Engine of Desolation', a necromantic device that prevents prayers from reaching gods and the heavens. It's created by the ritual torture and sacrifice of five children... Suffice to say, the details are unpleasant.
  • The game Fairy Meat (a spin-off from the Knights of the Dinner Table comic) involves characters eating parts of each other to regain health.
  • An almost literal example in Hunter: The Vigil – Dark and Light, where the Magisters of Economie get their powers from using comatose Princesses as power sources.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, this is a staple of black cards. The whole concept of black mana is sacrifice for selfish, personal gain — even to the point of sacrificing bits of yourself. All colors have some sort of ubercard that's cheap to use but has some drawback. Black, however, is the king of this, with a hideous number of cards that allow one to do quite a lot of awesome things, but cost you creatures, land, life, cards in hand, cards in graveyard (a viable resource for black, so not something to be sneezed at), or something else. One makes you lose the game if you don't win by the end of your next turn. Some especially notable examples:
    • Lich is a classic. It essentially turns you into a Lich — you lose all life, but do not immediately lose the game. Instead, you can discard cards in place of damage taken. If you are unable to discard, then you lose.
    • Another notable early example is Lord of the Pit, an extremely powerful creature for its cost that requires a sacrifice of one creature per turn or it turns on you.
    • The infamous Necropotence allows the player to trade life for more magical power and knowledge (i.e. draw cards). One common combo is creature removal (i.e. killing creatures), discard spells, and the Avatar of Woe, a huge creature which costs eight mana (two of which have to be black), but only costs the two black mana if there are a total of ten or more creatures in all graveyards. This card was so powerful it has been banned or restricted in most formats.
    • In the game's backstory, Urza collapsed Serra's Realm, killing everyone inside, to activate the powerstone core of the skyship Weatherlight. Also, during the Invasion block, when Urza led a group of planeswalkers into Phyrexia to destroy it, he powered the bombs he planned to use with the soul of the planeswalker he expected to betray them. Which was justified, in that he was right.
  • Paranoia has this when you ask what the incredibly Dystopian society is eating. Depending on the version, it's everybody who dies, or everybody who dies who wasn't Blue rank or above. Including children. (Or just bland things like algae and synthetic protein, but even then, people accidentally falling into food vats is disturbingly common.)
  • Old World of Darkness
    • In addition to preying on humans to sustain themselves, the vampires of Vampire: The Masquerade can perform diablerie — feeding on their elders to improve their generational status, though if the elder has sufficient willpower they can take control of the diablerist's body and use it as their own.
    • Taking it more literally, in order to cast the Dark Thaumaturgical ritual "Sojourn into Hell" (which opens a gate into Hell itself), you must first make sure nobody is waiting to set you on fire for even considering it, and then wash an entire wall with children's blood.
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, most supernatural items known as Fetishes (no, not that kind) are powered by a spirit that's permanently bound into the item. While most werewolves prefer to strike a voluntary bargain with a spirit, others may skip the "voluntary" part...
    • Mage: The Ascension:
      • It iss possible to extract quintessence (the energy that makes reality real) from the life force of a willing creature. Many mages use their own life force. Some use specially reared livestock. A few villains use specially raised children. (A larger number of villains will attempt to use unwilling sacrifices, but this creates enough "resonance" opposed to the intended effect that it cancels out any potential benefit. They either don't notice, or don't care.)
      • Characters in Mage: The Ascension with enough skill in the Spirit sphere could bind spirits, and were considerably more likely to substitute coercion or brute force for diplomacy.
    • In Wraith: The Oblivion, the spirits of the dead — which would include the characters — can be boiled down and forged into anything from furniture to money. If that weren't bad enough, the unfortunate victims used to make this "soulsteel" remain conscious, and those who carry soulsteel items can occasionally hear them weeping.
  • Chronicles of Darkness
    • In Genius: The Transgression, materials like these are called Larvae. They constitute any item which invoked an Obligation roll to obtain, and offer increases to efficiency. Earlier editions followed up the section on Larvae with the quote from Doctor Orpheus at the top of the page. Notably, it is explicitly stated that the power of Larvae comes not from any property of the materials themselves, but from the mental effects of being willing to do immoral things For Science!: If a player comes up with some way to obtain the same items ethically, they provide no special bonus.
    • Vampire: The Requiem
      • Since it doesn't have the concept of 'generation', it handles eating other vampires differently: if you chow down on someone more powerful, it boosts the power of your blood, expanding your capabilities. Sufficiently potent vampires, however, end up needing to feed on other vampires to survive.
      • Speaking of Vampire: The Requiem, this is the trope around which the Belial's Brood faction known as the Mercy Seat is built. They are based on gnosticism and believe that the world is evil. It is possible to leave this evil world and reach a higher realm of existence, but in order to do so, they must basically damn someone to hell in order to rectify a cosmic imbalance. The more innocent the sacrifice was, the better the chances of leaving this world. Allegedly. The fact that there's a bunch of evidence, both in mechanics and fluff, to back their assertions up is another trope.
    • Mage: The Awakening
    • Princess: The Hopeful:
      • The Court of Tears leeches the very possibility of goodness and hope from the world to fuel the magical lanterns that protect their fortress-city of Alhambra from the Darkness.
      • The Court of Mirrors has the gems created by Enduring Beauty. They are one of the most powerful magical resources in the setting and can be used for any number of impressive feats, but in order to create them you have to literally peel the beauty off someone's face, leaving them permanently disfigured.
    • Leviathan: The Tempest: As befits their Lovecraftian nature, the power of a Leviathan's Ritual is in part determined by how depraved the Ritual is. So (for example) killing an animal would generate very little power (if any), killing a human and cutting out his heart would generate more, and having one of your followers kill his sister and eat her heart would generate even more.
  • Warhammer 40,000 universe,
    • The Imperium of Man has the Astronomican, a giant psychic beacon essential for warp travel. Originally powered by the Emperor's immense psychic strength, the device is later powered by the souls of ten thousand psykers (daily) trained for the purpose. The Astronomican's extreme psychic energy requirements cause the psykers' deterioration and death in only a few months. A constant stream of sacrificial psykers is therefore required to power the Astronomican.
    • Although at least the psykers who power the Astronomican are trained, and see the giving of their lives as their last and greatest duty. A similar process of soul-draining is used to feed the Emperor, and their compliance is... not so necessary.
    • Psykers are also required to maintain a ship safe during Warp travel. They are intentionally put into a coma and kept in hybernation, and their dream-state in this particular condition projects a bubble of realspace (the Gellar field) that's essential to shield the ship from the evil entities that roam the Warp. Needless to say, this treatment eventually kills them.
    • In the Ciaphas Cain novels, there is a mention of "tasty, nutritious Soylens Viridians."
    • It's also implied that some of the longevity treatments that allow even Puny Humans with enough wealth or ranking to live for a few centuries are made from children. Even sympathetic and otherwise heroic characters are known to use them, just to show how fucked up the setting is.
    • There is one variant noted in the early fluff which involved cloning a person, applying some phlebotinum to cut-and-paste said person's soul into the clone, then spending a couple of decades (re-)teaching it skills and brainwashing it to think it was the original. Sure, it runs afoul of the Continuity Problem, destroys the soul of an innocent and wasted 20 years back in school, but hey, what with the other treatments out there, this body's good for another 2-3 centuries or so...
    • Then there was an infamous incident with "Sororita" brand armor paint, where Grey Knights responded to a daemonic incursion by flaying a group of Sisters of battle alive and using their blood in wards. This rapidly became Fanon Discontinuity on account of one sample of Incorruptible Pure Pureness using another this way out of fear of being less than incorruptible jumping the line between "grimdark" and "moronic". A Later novel somewhat rectifies the incident, claiming that Grey Knights asked Sisters politely and Sisters willingly sacrificed themselves to finish off the daemon army. They are zealots raised in a culture that worships martyrs after all. The same novel claims that a LOT of Grey Knights magic war gear literally works on the souls of innocents.

    Web Animation 
  • According to The Dragon of Broken Saints, the Knight Templar he serves believes the only true way to peace is to create an empath, give her a life full of joy and then unleash such misery unto her that her suffering overwhelms all of humanity into a state of empathy. The forsaken child in question is Shandalla, one of the series' main characters. And for extra thematic appropriateness, the big bad is her father.
  • Little Runmo: The purpose of the facility found under bottomless pits appears to be to process Runmo's lost lives (as in the actual item gained through his death) into a sludge that the Dring King uses for his martinis, as well as apparently keeping him healthy; soon as the flow's shut, he dies.
  • This quote, taken from Llamas with Hats: "I should probably mention I filled our luggage with orphan meat." "Wh...what?" "Well, I'm building a meat dragon, and not just ANY meat will do!"
  • Penny from RWBY is the first artifical being on Remnant to have a soul and thus capable of generating an Aura. Volume 7 reveals that her "father" Pietro Polendina accomplished this by donating a portion of his own Aura to grant her sentience. He has to repeat the process every time she is rebuilt, which leaves permenant holes in his Aura that do not regenerate.

  • 8-Bit Theater features a rather humorous example: Every time Black Mage launches a Hadoken, he siphons love from the Universe and twists it to highly destructive ends, making it create an explosion that consumes love (the divorce rate rises, for example). Not that he cares, but Red Mage seems to. The Hadoken was received by BM after sacrificing several orphans.
    Black Mage: It takes the happiness of others and turns it into pain and explosions. It's win-win.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: The Ghost-fueled Robots.
  • The Gamercat opted to interprete this way what happens to red fairies in The Legend of Zelda. Of course, in case you feel terrible too, there are also healing potions, but... do you know how those are made?
  • In Geist Panik, Nob says that human blood acts as a magic grease that all runes and magic use to some extent. He also says that orphans' blood works best.
  • Goblins reveals this is the secret behind Kore's ability to remain a paladin despite his evil actions. Due to a curse, the soul of every creature he kills is trapped inside his body in a state of perpetual agony. Using the alignment of the captive souls allows him to act in any manner without violating his own alignment.
  • One of the defences Gunnerkrigg Court got is a bound ghost. Who is extremely unhappy about the situation for several very understandable reasons. The records were cleaned and those who meet this guardian in person are unlikely to survive, thus most of the current generation are blissfully unaware of this, except a team secretly searching for a way to remove this old shame.
  • In Homestuck
    • Her Imperious Condescension (the Troll Empress and the ancestor of Feferi) has a flagship that runs upon the immense psychic powers of The Ψiioniic, the Ancestor of Sollux — causing him excruciating agony. Also, trolls lower on the hemospectrum (like the Ψiioniic) live comparatively short lives, so the long-lived Condesce extended his lifespan with her magic. He's been her Helmsman for thousands of years until the Vast Glub happened, rendering the Condesce the only remaining troll in the galaxy (as tyrianbloods are immune to Gl'bgolyb's psychic scream and Feferi was in SGRUB's game world).
    • Vriska at one point theorizes that Sburb must be played only by adolescents.
    • While we're on the subject: Trolls each get a lusus (a sort of guardian) at "birth" that takes care of them until they reach adulthood. Eridan kills the lusi of other trolls and gives the corpses to Feferi for Feferi's lusus Gl'bgolyb to eat, making Gl'bgolyb powered by causing children to be forsaken. But it's for a good cause, really: if Gl'bgolyb doesn't eat, she'll start complaining, and then every troll in the world starts dying. Meanwhile, Vriska has a use for all those forsaken, guardianless children: she feeds them to her lusus, a giant spider. By the time the trolls reach the age corresponding to about 13 in human terms, they've been doing this for years.
  • Kevin & Kell: In a World… that lives by Carnivore Confusion, this certainly doesn't seem out of place. Although it was meant as a jab at then-current bio-diesel fad.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The God Empress Mottom gets her eternal youth by eating the fruits of a special tree. The tree requires regular feeding with virgin blood. And the fruits aren't lasting as long as they used to.
  • Looking for Group:
    • Cale has to kill an innocent child to save the city of Kethenecia. One of the themes for that chapter was that "Innocence is the cost of justice." This leads us to believe that the aforementioned child must be killed to save the city of Kethenecia (the city of justice). After it is revealed that the child is the Archmage, he states that the innocence is not some nameless child, but the innocence of Calenon.
    • Richard's Nigh-Invulnerability is fueled by the ashes of innocent people he kills. As he starts moving from Token Evil Teammate to Necessarily Evil, he starts sacrificing animals instead. After a Phlebotinum Overload changes the nature of his powers, they are instead fuelled by protecting the innocent. Which is still a case of this since it results in Richard deliberately putting his adopted son in harm's way to do so.
  • In Narbonic , aside from Future Dave's time machine that uses up one parallel universe per trip, the hamsters' nefarious plan involves using geniuses in People Jars as an energy source.
  • Heavily implied to be the source of the Black Rocs power in Necessary Monsters. You can almost hear the heartbeat over the motor...
  • The Order of the Stick,
  • In Sinfest, the Devil promises the spray was laboratory tested on orphans.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Torg's magical talking sword Chaz is powered by the blood of the innocent to gain Absurd Cutting Power and the ability to kill a Physical God. He's only able to make much use of its full power when in a Sugar Bowl dimension being invaded by sadistic demons, so that there's plenty of such blood being spilled by others.
    • The chronologically earliest appearance of Chaz, as of the chapter "Mohkadun", seems to imply that it didn't need to be empowered with innocent blood when wielded by its earlier and perhaps original owner: Satan.
  • In Spacetrawler, the construction of the eponymous spacetrawlers is implied to involve horrific abuse of Eebs, and when the details are eventually revealed, they're every bit as bad as implied: an Eeb is trained to telekinetically gather space debris — by injecting them with a drug that causes debilitating pain if they ever stop gathering said debris. Then the Eeb's body is dissolved, while still conscious, and their Brain in a Jar is placed in the spacetrawler.
  • In Terinu, the title character's entire race was genetically engineered to serve as living power plants for the Varn Dominion. And they were wired to enjoy it.
  • In Unity, a society full of sentient/uplifted animals, you might not want to know where their food comes from.
  • Unsounded: The humans the First Silver Weapon was created from are still alive inside it, powering it like a beating heart. These unfortunates include several children due to Starfish's proclivities. Killing them weakens it, but doesn't destroy it.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara's magic gun is powered by the soul of a little girl sacrificed by her parents to their evil god. That's where it gets... weird. To be clear, he only found out when the viewers did, and was as horrified as you'd expect. He almost shot himself with the gun, but the girl's soul talked him out of it.
  • In the short miniseries, Freako Asylum, the two protagonists go to "The Twisted Machine of Science" to answer their questions on how to handle the situation. In its center is an infant hooked up to the machine. Unusually for this trope, the kid looks positively jolly and is dancing around in his/her seat.
  • In To Boldly Flee, Doug telling Critic that if he leaves the entire TGWTG world falls apart comes across as this trope, and post-comeback, word of former says Critic still knows it and uses it to evil advantage.
  • According to Bennett The Sage during a guest appearance on Ask That Guy with the Glasses, Santa Claus uses the power of aborted babies to deliver gifts to people who don't have a chimney.
    Ask That Guy: OH GOD!!!

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers has the Psychocrypt. Literally sucks out Life Energy to create Slaverlords through which the Queen can see and hear. In this fashion, she can keep direct control over her armies and her crumbling Empire. The Queen of the Crowns already hunted the Gherkin race to near-extinction in her thirst to create Slaverlords. Then, she discovers humans, who are ideal specimens to create Slaverlords. A good deal of the Rangers' job is to keep the Queen from obtaining more humans for the Crypt. The process, as seen in "New Frontier" & "Psychocrypt" is also horrendously painful.
  • Adventure Time:
    • In "Power Animal", Finn is kidnapped by gnomes to power a device designed to flip over the Earth's crust.
    • "Bonnie and Neddy" introduces Princess Bubblegum's brother Neddy, a reclusive dragon-like monster who hides in a cave under the Candy Kingdom and produces the "candy juice" used by the rest of the kingdom. Though Neddy is hidden away more for his own protection, as he's very nervous and sensitive, and is deeply afraid of everything that isn't his sister. He otherwise seems quite content to stay in the dungeons and feed off sap from the roots of the giant candy tree.
  • In Argai: The Prophecy, Queen Dark gains and maintains her immortality by stealing the youth of several maidens throughout time and keeping them in eternal slumber.
  • In The Fairly OddParents: Fairy World is powered by belief in fairies. It would be Clap Your Hands If You Believe, if not for one little issue: the only belief that apparently matters is Crocker's. A man who does not remember having fairies, but knows they exist and is completely obsessed with them. Fairy World is thus powered by the spazzes of a forsaken former godkid. To prevent all of Fairy World disintegrating should Crocker die (having magically guaranteed that he'll never get over his issues), several more Crocker-alikes are given his obsession. Although from how it's phrased it's possible that they just started harvesting from people who were already obsessed.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack features a boat powered by angsty children. The children are also used as cannonballs.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the book The Journal of the Two Sisters, it is revealed that the act of raising the sun and the moon every day used to be this. Both the sun and the moon are obviously necessary for life on the planet to survive, but they won't move on their own. Teams of unicorn volunteers would work together to do the job, but their magic would be drained and result in Rapid Aging. When Celestia and Luna found out about this, they proved their power by doing it by themselves (Celestia raised the sun, Luna the moon) with no side effects, and restored the lost magic to all the volunteer unicorns to boot. By the time of the cartoon, most ponies have forgotten that there was ever anything difficult about the process at all, since Celestia has been handling both the sun and the moon by herself for a thousand years.
  • Over the Garden Wall: The Beast of the Unknown exists because of a Soul Jar lantern kept lit with oil from the inside of Edelwood trees, which are grown from the souls of lost children who submit to the forest.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Shielding the outside of Evil Rick's fortress are hundreds of tortured Morties to prevent the other Ricks from tracking him down. According to "our" Rick this is obscene overkill, since you can get the same effect with "five Morties and a jumper cable." ...And That Would Be Wrong.
    • In the Season 5 finale, Evil Morty, who was puppeteering Evil Rick during the above example, doubles down on this and uses the blood of all the Mortys on the Citadel as well as their Ricks to power his warp drive and break through the wall Rick put around their section of the multiverse.
  • A more mundane and light-hearted example found in The Simpsons: Homer is forced to turn a gigantic capstan, with a guy with a whip egging him on... in order to operate a rotating display in the break room.
    Homer: Ow! D'oh! After lunch, can I whip you?
    Slave-driver: [cheerfully] Nope.
    Homer: Oh, no fair. Ow!
    [pan to the plant lunch hall, where Lenny and Carl observe the rotating dessert table]
    Lenny: Hmm. Wonder what makes it turn.
    Carl: Who cares?
  • Steven Universe:
    • It is implied that many Gem artifacts, including the Desert Glass and the pyramid in "Serious Steven", are powered by Gems. Lapis Lazuli herself powered a magical mirror, though this was meant as an interrogation device which Pearl mistook as some sort of database.
    • The Cluster, a planet-busting weapon that Homeworld planted at the center of the Earth, is made up of the forced fusions of millions of Gems who were shattered during the Gem War.
  • Starscream's clone technology of Transformers: Animated involves the use of protoforms, which can be described as fetal or pre-natal Cybertronians.
  • The Venture Bros.:
  • Wakfu:
    • Qilby the Traitor stole the heart of the Mechasm Orgonax and used it to create the Eliacube. The literally heartless Mechasm grew up to be figuratively heartless as a result and became hellbent on wiping out organic life (or at the very least, killing every last Eliatrope in the universe).
    • Nox was willing to drain the wakfu of entire civilizations and commit wholesale genocide without batting an eye in order to use it to power up the Eliacube and unleash a Reset Button that would allow him to save his long-dead family and erase all the atrocities he committed to get it done.


Video Example(s):


Simple Rick

Meet Simple Rick, the only Rick in the multiverse to have obtained true happiness. Unfortunately, other Ricks would prefer to be superficially happy rather than genuinely content, and are currently mainlining Simple Rick's brain to that end.

How well does it match the trope?

4.87 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / PoweredByAForsakenChild

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