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Protagonist Power-Up Privileges

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The Five-Man Band has just found the Sword of Plot Advancement, a mythical blade said to bestow great power for justice on one who is deemed worthy. So who will claim it? The Leader, of course! New story arc, the team is in search of five ancient crystals that can give them magical powers. Who do you think will find one first?

In works of media where the focus otherwise is on some sort of team, of any number of people, there will inevitably still be a tighter focus on The Hero. Thus the Hero will usually be the first to receive a special power or new weapon, and will usually end up having more powers or weapons than the rest of the group including a few they don't have equivalent versions of. In cases where the other members of the group do have powers of a similar nature, the Hero's will still be superior in some way.

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The Rival (sometimes overlapping either The Lancer or the Sixth Ranger) may get to share an otherwise exclusive power with the Hero that the other members of the group won't get. This way the two can stay on an relative equal level of power.

This mainly applies when the power-ups are arbitrary given to main protagonist(s), rather than focusing on the side characters' inability to keep up or maintain his new powers. If the work in question focuses on the latter more often, Sidekick Glass Ceiling would be a better fit. Compare Unique Protagonist Asset, where the plot justifies why the main character has special powers no one else does.


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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Almost every season the Hero and the Lancer get to evolve further than the rest of the cast. It is also universally common (though not always the case, very often so) for the protagonist's partner Digimon to reach the next stage of evolution first, then perhaps the Lancer, and the rest of the team afterward.
    • Digimon Adventure
      • Tai and Matt and their partners Agumon and Gabumon are the only ones to reach Mega level, while everyone else stops at Ultimate. This makes Agumon and Gabumon the ones who do most of the work against the Mega-level Dark Masters, although Patamon's Ultimate-level form is treated as an 11th-Hour Superpower and defeats the final Dark Master before the Final Boss.
      • The following movie gave Tai and Matt the ability to fuse their partners into Omegamon, cementing them at two Evolutionary Levels above everyone else.
      • Digimon Adventure tri. Double Subverts this. The remaining members of the original group finally reach Meganote ... and then all these new Megas are lumped into a Fusion Dance with Omegamon to give the latter a new Super Mode.
      • Digimon Adventure Last Evolution Kizuna is more or less all about Tai and Matt, and the final battle features them unlocking the eponymous last evolution, carrying their Digimon to even further heights.
      • This trope is taken to a ridiculous extreme in Digimon Adventure: (2020), where Omega/Omnimon is formed in the second episode before most of the other cast even gets their Digimon yet!
    • Digimon Adventure 02
      • V-Mon gets a third Armor form where everyone else only gets either one or two. Said form, Magnamon, is outrageously powerful compared to all of the others but disappears after its one usage.
      • V-Mon and Wormmon get the first DNA Digivolution form, which everyone else eventually matches, but they're the only ones to evolve this composite form into a Mega-level form, Imperialdramon, once more leaving everyone else stuck at Ultimate. That Mega later gets a Super Mode called Fighter Mode.
      • In the first 02 film, Hikari and Takeru's partners inexplicably reach their Mega stages... for the sole purpose of enabling The Hero and the movie's exclusive character to reach their then-strongest stages (the above mentioned golden mode) to do all the work.
      • In the second 02 film, when both Omegamon and Imperialdramon: Fighter Mode fail to defeat the Big Bad, Omegamon lends Imperialdramon his power for an even greater Super Mode.
    • Digimon Tamers zigzags this.
      • The leading Power Trio and both Sixth Rangers achieve Mega level, and one of the supporting teammates gets a natural Mega for a partner; The Hero and a Sixth Ranger both also get living vehicles and Super Modes, and the Sixth Ranger was the first to get the Mega level, the vehicle, and the super mode.
      • On the other hand, within the Power Trio itself, Takato and Guilmon are the first to reach the Ultimate stage, the first to Biomerge, and the only ones to get the vehicle and super mode. (Technically, they're also the only ones to reach "natural" Mega, but Megidramon was a dark digivolution, so that wasn't exactly a privilege).
    • Digimon Frontier takes this to an extreme, even with its nonstandard Evolutionary Levels, and squeezes in a last minute subversion to compensate.
      • Everyone reaches the second level and masters their beast spirit, but only The Hero Takuya and The Lancer Kouji reach the third level and can use hybrid forms, and the fourth level — in an act of All Your Powers Combined — requires the remaining members of the team to surrender their Transformation Trinkets to be split between Takuya and Kouji, reducing everyone else's role to "transfer your powers to them and go hide behind something."
      • The show attempts to make up for this by having a fifth level, Susanoomon, a single Fusion Dance of all the Transformation Trinkets at once, group the whole team together in something akin to a team biomerge.
    • Digimon Savers is the first case where the franchise completely averts this trope. Much like Tamers, the Power Trio and Sixth Ranger all reach the Mega level, but it also takes a step further by also having all of them reach the Burst Mode. This makes it the first occasion where the entire main team in a Digimon anime reach the same level by the end of the series.
    • In Digimon Xros Wars, Shoutmon is the base form of all the Digixros, being the consciousness in charge even when he Digixrosses with a more powerful Digimon. He and Greymon are also the only ones that can Digivolve, and when Shoutmon Digixrosses with Zeekgreymon he's the one in charge instead of sharing consciousness.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Among the members of Team 5Ds, Yusei and Jack have no less than three alternate forms of their Signer Dragons; only one other Signer has such an alternate form (Rua/Leo), and they have just the one. To summon two such alternate forms, Shooting Star Dragon and Red Nova Dragon, Yusei and Jack access "Accel Synchro" and "Double Tuning" summonings; Jack is the only one who can do Double Tuning, and one other character has access to Accel Synchro and it's a plot point they teach Yusei how to do it. Then Yusei surpasses their skill in it by the end of the series with Limit Over Accel Synchro, summoning Shooting Quasar Dragon as an All Your Powers Combined fusion of the other Signer Dragons.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, Yuma and Shark are the only ones that get Chaos Xyz Evolution, upgrading their aces from Utopia to Utopia Ray and Shard Drake to Shark Drake Weiss. Yuma is also the only one to get Zexal morph, which literally allows him to make whatever card he needs. Early on this is limited by needing specific circumstances to activate, but later, all important duels happen where he can use it.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: For a great amount the series does keep Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke on relative equal levels; even with the Hinokami Kagura unveiled Tanjiro can’t use it for continuous periods early on, having to resort to mixing Water Breathing in between, meanwhile Zenitsu and Inosuke groom their own Breathing forms to greater heights; however, when the Infinite Castle arc gets heated, Tanjiro’s growth starts to soar, he can use Hinokami Kagura without problems, never resorting to other Breathing styles again, but the exact point where Tanjiro has become undeniably above his two buddies is when it is solidified the Marks, Crimson Blades and Transparent World have become the three most powerful states among the Slayers, where only the Hashira and Tanjiro ever attain it. After Tanjiro then masters Hinokami Kagura into its actual Sun Breathing form, he has arguably become more powerful than some of the Hashira as well.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku is usually the first to train at a new training ground. The rest of the heroes make it there next season, but by then Goku has moved on to another one already. In sequence the Kame House first, then Korin's Tower, Kami's Lookout, King Kai's Planet, Gravity Chamber. The final two training grounds (Hyberbolic Time Chamber, and Beerus' Planet) Vegeta actually went in first, but Goku followed a little later in the same season, so essentially at the same time. He's the first to reach Super Saiyan and Super Saiyan 3 transformations, and he was also the one chosen to ascend to Super Saiyan God in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods which Vegeta called him out on. In the follow up movie, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ Goku's Super Saiyan form is blue as a result of the god power up. Vegeta also has this same form, finally putting them on the same level of power for awhile.
    • During his son Gohan's stint as protagonist, Gohan is the first one to achieve Super Saiyan 2 and is the only one to receive a power-up from Old Kai, which brought his latent abilities to the surface and made him stronger than the first three Super Saiyan forms. In Dragon Ball Super, recovering this latent power put him on part with Super Saiyan Blue.
    • Initially, Vegeta was the first to go Super Saiyan 2nd Grade (with Trunks soon to follow), but that was all. Then in Dragon Ball Super, while Goku gets a massive power in Ultra Instinct, Vegeta ultimately says 'screw it' to getting that same power; he and Goku are just too different for him to follow in Goku's footsteps. Using Ultra Instinct requires letting go of all thoughts and feelings, including pride... which Vegeta refuses to do, as pride has been central to his character from beginning to end. With this resolve in mind, when Vegeta breaks past his limits by sheer will, he gains an entirely-unique evolution to his Super Saiyan Blue form (which is initially equal to Goku's SSB:KKx20 level, but later grows in power to rival/beat God of Destruction Top(po). And since Ultra Instinct ultimately turns out to be a Defense Mechanism Superpower, with Goku unable to do it at will while Vegeta seemingly can with his (even at low energy), Vegeta is practically ahead of Goku at the end of the arc.
  • Sailor Moon is the first to receive new Special Attacks and Super Modes. In the anime, she is also the only one to reach the Eternal Form and the only one who received upgrades every season, as opposed to the other Senshi who received upgrades in every arc of the manga.
  • Ryo was the only one who got a powered up armor in Ronin Warriors, doing so by taking the powers of four of the eight remaining armors, usually meaning his friends.
  • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, Van is the only heroic character to ever fuse with an organoid, giving him unfair stat boosts from day 1. He could only be matched by Raven who also had an organoid. By time of season 2 he had mad a point of training without the organoid so he could be legitimately powerful, but still fused to face other organoid owners.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Domon's Shining Gundam is the only one to have a hypermode for the first half of the series. When the other Shuffle Alliance members unlock theirs Domon gets the entirely new God (Burning) Gundam, and then proceeds to eliminate his teammates one by one during the Tournament Arc with relative ease.
  • Naruto: Naruto and Sasuke always unlock new levels of power around the same time. This was intentional on the creators part so neither would outdo the other. After the first arc in Shippudden however the rest of the cast got mostly shafted. Except for the Jonins who are still relevant by showing off more of their true powers even though they are consistently outdone by Naruto.
  • In the Pretty Cure movies, all pink Cures since Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO! (with the exception of HeartCatch Pretty Cure!) will get exclusive Super Modes. However, the respective series finals will give all teammates the same Super Modes, with some exceptions.

    Comic Books 
  • Inverted in Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War. Not only do none of the rings choose Kirk (instead going to Chekov (blue), Bones (indigo), Uhura (violet), General Chang (yellow), Decius (orange) and a Gorn (red), with green already being taken by Hal Jordan), he doesn't even use one of Scotty's knock-off versions like Sulu, and it's Spock who's essential to the All Your Colours Combined scene at the climax. The final pages even give the oft-killed Security personnel ring-based phasers and personal force-fields, whilst the concept of Kirk as a ring-bearer never gets any further than idle speculation as to which one might have chosen him.

    Fan Works 
  • In Thieves Can Be Heroes!, Izuku Midoriya takes up the role of the Persona 5 protagonist, making him the only member of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts who is able to wield multiple Personas and fuse them together to create even more powerful Personas.
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    Films 
  • Kung Fu Panda has Po learn the basics of Kung Fu in the first movie, being enough to keep up with the Furious Five, but in the next two he gains more powers with each film (first Inner Peace, then mastering his Chi), putting him far ahead of them in power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This trope is incredibly common in Tokusatsu shows. If such a show has more than one superhero character, you can expect The Hero to get at least one more Power Up compared to the other superhero(es).
  • Power Rangers/Super Sentai: Usually, the red ranger gains access to the more impressive weapons, mecha and/or power ups that the rest of the team won't get. If the red ranger gains an extra mecha, there is a high chance it can transform into a robot on its own without any other components and fights just as good, if not better than the team's initial combined mecha.

    Power Rangers takes it a step further, as the Red Ranger usually has a "Battlizer" or some equivalent power-up that gives him armor and new abilities, and usually the other rangers will not get a similar power. Some Super Sentai series also follow this practice, giving only the red ranger a power up, but this is not as regular as in Power Rangers.

    This trend seemingly started in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. Just before the Sixth Ranger died, he transferred his powers and ownership over his mecha Dragon Ceasar over to the red ranger, enabling him to don golden chest armor and use the Sixth Ranger's weapon. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers did the same, except the Sixth Ranger didn't die.
    • A notable aversion in this would be Ressha Sentai Toqger. Part of the theme of the season was teamwork, sharing, and imagination. As such, the rangers were given numerical designations and while each one was identified by a de facto color, the Red Ranger need not be the leader character, Right/ToQ1. This made it it so that all of the seasons power ups could be shared among the teamnote , even if Right tended to be the character to unlock the new powers first.
  • Kamen Riders starting with Agito follow this trend as well. The main Rider will often get access to a number of starting forms specializing in different aspects, at which point one or more secondary Riders will be introduced whose powers are typically better than all of these initial forms.
    If the main Rider only has one main form, or the multiple forms are shared between multiple starting Riders, they'll usually be the Jack-of-All-Stats. Regardless of the setup, the main Rider will proceed to get the majority of the powerups and associated toys, with most secondary Riders only getting one enhanced form that puts them somewhere between the main Rider's penultimate and final forms. In particularly severe cases the secondary Rider can end up stranded with no powerups at all.
    • One of the biggest offenders in Kamen Rider is Kamen Rider OOO. The titular rider is able to separately transform his head, torso and legs, allowing him to mix and match his transformations. This system would theoretically allow him to take on 128 transformations. Birth on the other hand, doesn't have any transformations apart from his initial one, unless you count the Birthday form, which is him activating all of his weapons at the same time.
    • An unintentionally mean example appears in Kamen Rider Drive. Mach does receive a Super Mode, but it is a hand me down from the titular Kamen Rider Drive after he received an even better Super Mode. However, unlike Drive, Mach actually masters its powers.
    • The titular Kamen Rider Ghost has more than ten transformations, three of which are Super Modes. The other two Riders don't even reach five and Kamen Rider Necrom doesn't even have a Super Mode until sometime post-series.
    • Zig-Zagged in Kamen Rider Wizard. In the series that Wizard's default form(s) were actually weaker than a typical Rider (Beast and Mage). However, he only meets these magic users after his mid-season upgrade, putting both on par with each other and doesn't have much trouble handling Phantoms. His final upgrade follows Beasts and again, putting the pair on par with one another, albeit with Wizard having more forms.
  • Taken to ridiculous extents in Madan Senki Ryukendo, where the titular Ryukendo receives three transformations based on fire, water and lightning respectively, a Mid-Season Upgrade, improved versions of the aforementioned elemental transformations to go along with the Mid-Season Upgrade and, near the end of the show, a Golden Super Mode. The other warriors, Ryugunoh and Ryujinoh get no such luck, with only Ryugunoh receiving a single Mid-Season Upgrade, while both of them temporarily get a Golden Super Mode after Ryukendo shares some of his powers with them.
  • In both Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire The Hero receives a Super Mode the rest of the team has no access to. The latter even gets his own humanoid Humongous Mecha.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VIII, Squall has more weapons than any other party member, and his Infinity +1 Sword can be acquired earliest.
  • Final Fantasy XII, Ashe is the one to receive the two Swords of Plot Advancement, and in the manga Belias, the first Esper, chooses her as its master. Vaan, usually considered a Decoy Protagonist, has since been associated with one of the mentioned Swords of Plot Advancement while Ashe uses the other, the two wielding them such a way in an end-game cutscene.
  • Played with in Legacy of Kain. Kain is the hero of the first game Blood Omen, and in the introduction to the second game Soul Reaver, it's mentioned Kain is always the first among him and his lieutenants to evolve a new ability. During said intro, Raziel, the protagonist of this game, becomes the first to beat him to it by growing wings, stealing the spotlight from Kain in a fourth-wall sort of way.
  • A staple in BioWare RPGs:
    • In Baldur's Gate, it's the Bhaalspawn who gets all the nifty Bhaal-induced powers, whereas NPC party members (including other children of Bhaal) are stuck with the standard abilities (though the other child of Bhaal that still is a Bhaalspawn when she's part of the party actually was supposed to get nifty Bhaal-induced powers, two-and-a-half games after you got them. It just that the coding for the delay between triggering events is a bit iffy). Then again, some of the NPC party members start out with their own unique non-standard abilities — for example, Minsc is a Ranger that can berserk, Mazzy is a Fighter with a couple of Paladin-like abilities (thus sidestepping the fact that in 2E, only humans can be Paladins).
    • In the Mass Effect series, it's Commander Shepard who gets all the cutting-edge upgrades, weapons, and technologies while his/her squad is mostly restricted to perfecting their confined areas of expertise.
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, if upgrades (such as attribute bonuses) can only be picked up by a certain character, it's always the Warden.
    • Likewise, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Inquisitor seems to be the person who gets all the special quest rewards, although this is offset a bit by the Amulets of Power, one-time boosts that give an extra skill point when equipped—but only to specific companions. There is only one Amulet of Power restricted to the Inquisitor in the entire game (plus, a certain Inquisition perk gives them an extra ability point).
  • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, only Cipher can purchase better planes (including superfighters) for himself, while his two wingmen are stuck with their starting planes for the entire game. This is in contrast to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War and Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, where you could equip wingmen with the same planes as yourself.
  • Inverted and then played straight in Fortune Summoners. The main character, Arche, can't use magic (because she hasn't learned any, her parents can't afford the Magitek needed to cast spells and because her weapon makes casting spells harder). In the final level you unlock the elemental stone you recover in the prologue and she gains a Super Mode.
  • In the Golden Sun series, only the protagonists and Lancers gain access the massively strong Ninja and Samurai classlines.
  • In Pokémon X and Y, the protagonist is the only one of the Five-Man Band aside from the Big Bad, the Final Boss, and the person who discovered it, to get the power to use Mega Evolution, even dueling The Rival to get it to boot. Justified since it is emphasized Mega Research has just been discovered and using it needs special technology that isn't in mass-production. Your rival does get to use it in the post-game story, however.
  • Originally in Sonic the Hedgehog, only Sonic got his Super Mode by collecting all seven Chaos Emeralds from the special stages. Tails didn't have it until Sonic and Knuckles, at which point he and Knuckles both gained a super mode. At the same time, Sonic got his Hyper Sonic mode. From Sonic Adventure onward, Tails and Knuckles` super forms are retconned out of the series. Afterward, the only additional characters to get super forms were Shadow, Blaze,note  and Silver. Despite that however, the latter three show up very infrequently and Sonic is the one who uses this power more than anyone else. Its later invoked by Word of God, who directly states that only the male Hedgehogs can become Super, acknowledging that Blaze is an exception due to having her own set of Emeralds.
  • In Super Paper Mario, Mario's ability to flip between 3D and 2D is the most useful and prominent of the playable characters' secondary abilities. The ability is so useful that it was used as one of the game's main selling points despite being a character specific ability.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles, the Infinity +1 Sword, the Monado III, is something only the game's main protagonist Shulk can wield, especially within the New Game+ where it becomes readily available for use outside of the final boss fight.
    • In its direct sequel, Rex is the only playable character to be able to bond with any blade, along with having exclusive access to Pyra/Mythra and Nia's blade form.
  • In Legend of Dragoon, Dart obtains the Divine Dragoon form, meanwhile Rose obtains the Dragon Buster, just in time for the showdown with Big Bad Final Boss Melbu Frahma
  • The Dragonborn, the Player Character in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the only character in the game able to almost instantly learn to use the Dragon language, which is a Language of Magic that allows the user to warp the reality around them. Regular people have to spend years to master even a single word of said language. This results in the Player Character gaining all kinds of fancy new abilities over time, while characters the player works with tend to stay the same in terms of fighting ability.
  • For MMORPGs, the Main Tank in Guild Raids tend to get first pick of the loot dropped by the boss, or at least at a significant discount compared to other members. And for good reason: the better geared the Main Tank is, the less likely he is to die. And if the Main Tank dies, it doesn't matter how much dps you can put out, as usually the boss will inflict a Total Party Kill shortly after.
  • In Persona series, only the protagonist has the ability to wield multiple Personas from Persona 3 onward. Because of this, they are also the only ones to possess the ability to fuse Personas to create even stronger Personas and manipulate which skills they inherit. This often makes them a One-Man Army and a Master of All by endgame.
  • The protagonist of Rakenzarn Tales is gifted with a unique class called the Arxus Rogue, allowing them to wield all weapons and learn any possible skill or magic. In-universe, this class is said to be extraordinarily difficult and takes years to learn. It's all but stated that the mysterious entity that dragged them into Rakenzarn was the one who gifted them with this class.
  • Rakenzarn Frontier Story: Makoto has the unique ability to store summon spirits within his body, allowing him access to a wide variety of powerful moves despite his relatively weak stats. This is justified as being a side effect of the botching summoning ritual that got him dragged into the adventure in the first place.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has Rean who has quite a number of power-ups throughout the four games set on Erebonia arc in the Kiseki Series. He obtains a Super Robot, control his Superpowered Evil Side, gains his Zemuria sword which gets wrecked and replaced with the Originator Zero sword through Millium's sacrifice, and finally becomes a Divine Blade by the final chapter of IV. By the end of the series however, he loses all of them except his Divine Blade status. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Origins has him gain a Super Mode that is even more powerful than the previous one while obtaining an Ace Custom that replicates the Super Robot he lost in some way.
    Webcomics 
  • Tower of God has this invoked in regards to Baam given that many of his biggest power-ups, such as becoming a living Ignition-Weapon and later on absorbing the thorn-fragments, are deliberately done so that he may become strong enough to achieve FUG's goal of killing King Zahard.
    Western Animation 
  • In both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra the Avatar is the only person able to learn controlling all four elements, as well as using spiritual powers, while other non-Muggle characters are limited to only one element. This results in the titular characters learning new powers and techniques at least once a season. Subverted in that specialised bending techniques like lava, lightning, blood and metalbending aren't part of the Avatar's learning journey and is therefore usually not in a fully realised Avatar's arsenal.
  • In Get Ed, Ed is an "electro-genetically enhanced teenager" and thus the only one the alien artifacts scattered throughout Progress City will respond to. Because of this, he's the only one to get powerups from these artifacts, however temporary most of these end up being.
  • Early in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic most unicorns only had "a little magic that related to their special talent", while Twilight Sparkle basically won the Super Power Lottery since her talent was magic. This gave her borderline god-tier magic powers in a world where most unicorns were limited to telekinesis and a single talent-related spell (like Rarity's gem-finding spell), especially since Twilight Sparkle was able to learn other pony's talent spells just by seeing them. This would eventually be balanced out with the introduction of characters like Sunset Shimmer and Starlight Glimmer as well as an apparent retcon to the unicorn's power limitations by having characters like Rarity teleporting and conjuring magic shields, though not without also turning Twilight into an alicorn thus giving her the power of a pegasus and allegedly an earth pony.

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