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Playing With / Decoy Protagonist

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Basic Trope: The story begins with someone who's not the actual protagonist; he'll be coming in later.

  • Straight: In the Humongous Mecha anime Trope Busters, the story revolves around Bash the pilot of the eponymous mecha, and his fight against Emperor Evulz' evil empire. However, in episode 5, Bash makes a Heroic Sacrifice to stop The Dragon Triskelatus. From episode 6 onward, the pilot and the center of the story is Bob, Bash' adopted little brother.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Something like this happens so often in Trope Busters that by the time the 24-episodes anime ends, the titular mecha has been piloted by a dozen or so pilots, some of them not even lasting half an episode. But each of them is a protagonist of their own story arc.
    • The entire group of heroes at the beginning gets wiped out all at once and is immediately replaced by another group of heroes.
  • Downplayed:
    • Trope Busters is The Anime of the Game - in the game, you control five characters. However, one of them is a Guest-Star Party Member and is replaced later on with another more significant character.
    • Halfway through the first season, Bash is Put on a Bus and replaced by Bob.
    • Bash starts out as the leader, holds an important role throughout the show, and avoids being killed at any point, but as the series goes on it becomes clear that Bob is the true protagonist as he grows as a person and takes over from Bash.
  • Justified:
  • Inverted:
  • Subverted: In episode 17, Bash is Back from the Dead and is now ready to pilot the Trope Busters again. The story again revolves around him and his much-surprised friends and foes.
  • Double Subverted: But at the end of episode 17, he makes a Heroic Sacrifice. Again. This is after the viewers believe that the story will continue to revolve around Bash.
  • Parodied: Bash is a traditional cape-wearing, charismatic hero who is first seen delivering a speech to his fellow pilots about the importance of bravery and teamwork... Right before being gunned down by a bunch of Mooks less than five minutes into the first episode.
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  • Zig Zagged: We see that Bash dies at the hand of Triskelatus, but some episodes after that we see that Bash is alive and kicking the arses of The Empire. It seems that Bash is still alive after all, just not fighting alongside Bob. But then it's revealed that those episodes are about Bash' past. But in one of those episode, we see adult Bob fighting alongside Bash. The episode right after that we see the very same adult Bob visiting the worn-out grave of Bash...
  • Averted: Either Bash or Bob is the protagonist of Trope Busters, from the first episode to the last.
  • Enforced: "We want to make a coming of age story of Bob. Bash's death give the audience a sense of passage of time."
  • Lampshaded:
    Bob: Bash kicks the bucket and you all assume I'm best for the job? You're out of your minds! Bash is the only one any good at this sort of thing!
  • Invoked:
    Alice: You are now the leader of La Résistance, Bob. It's your story, not Bash's.
  • Exploited: Bash trained Bob ahead of time, knowing that, eventually, he'd get himself killed, and didn't want to leave without knowing someone could continue his legacy.
  • Defied: Bash makes a Heroic Sacrifice... but comes back at the end of the episode, having been Only Mostly Dead.
  • Discussed: "You know, I really thought Bash was the one who would lead us to victory..."
  • Conversed: ???
  • Deconstructed:
    • La Résistance have a hard time coping with Bash' death.
    • The audience doesn't like Bob.
    • Bob struggles to function due to Survivor Guilt, feeling that it's not fair that Bash will never be remembered as a hero and he will usurp his place just because of the coincidence that Bash died first.
  • Reconstructed:

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