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Pyrrhic Victory / Anime & Manga

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Pyrrhic Victories in anime and manga.

  • In Attack on Titan, it seems that humanity is doomed to experience these. Any victory they manage to obtain by the skin of their teeth comes with heavy losses, and massive destruction, with the survivors wondering whether or not it could even be considered a true victory. Jean also questions whether any victory that requires them to throw away their humanity can even be considered a victory, rejecting the tendency of his superiors (and Armin) to fall back on stating that I Did What I Had to Do.
    • During the battle of Trost, humanity obtains their first real victory, taking back the city from the Titans. But with the city massively damaged, hundreds wounded or dead, and the gate forever sealed (undoing four years of the Survey Corps' hard work), no one feels like celebrating.
    • The raid on Stohess District ultimately succeeds in capturing Annie, thereby proving the existence of Titan Shifter spies and saving Eren from being handed over to the authorities. But with the city badly damaged, and the heavy toll on both civilian and military lives, many are horrified when Erwin states that it can be considered a victory. That Annie encased herself in a Crystal Prison to prevent interrogation does not help matters. Not to mention that a good portion of the populace is outraged that the Survey Corps conducted such a destructive, deadly mission right in the heart of humanity's capital.
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    • The mission to rescue Eren is successful, but at a massive physical and emotional cost. Erwin loses his right arm in the battle, and Hannes is among the many killed during the prolonged chase and battle. Krista is also successfully retrieved, but Ymir flees along with the exposed traitors — Reiner and Bertolt. That the group's surrogate Big Brother and Team Dad is The Mole is a devastating blow to everyone.
    • The mission to reseal Shinganshima and find a way into the basement of Eren's childhood home is also successful, but with heavy losses, to the point at which there are only nine survivors in the entire Survey Corps. In particular, Erwin dies of his injuries, and while Armin is saved by an Emergency Transformation into a Titan followed by him eating Bertolt to steal his Colossus Titan ability, Armin now only has 13 years to live.
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  • Toward the end of the Golden Age Arc in Berserk, the Band of the Hawk succeed in rescuing their leader Griffith from the torture dungeon in the Tower of Rebirth in Wyndham against all of the odds that were thrown at them (which included the king's guards, foreign assassins, and an exiled band of sadistic murdering and raping mercenaries led by a truly nasty Apostle). However, in the end, not much came out of it since Griffith was too horribly damaged from the torture he endured to be the leader or the man that he once was. Harsher in Hindsight though — despite how cruel it sounds, the Hawks were probably better off not rescuing Griffith at all if they knew what was going to happen to them when the Eclipse went down.
  • In Bleach, Uryu's fight with Mayuri Kurotsuchi ended with Uryu defeating Kurotsuchi at the cost of having all of his powers semi-permanently sealed away.
    • When Ichigo wins a fight by giving into his Superpowered Evil Side. Yes, he won, but in doing so he traumatized one friend, stabbed and tried to kill another, and brutally mauled his opponent to death.
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    • Also, his final victory against Aizen. Aizen can only be sealed away and imprisoned meaning there's always a chance he could return. Meanwhile, Ichigo sacrificed his powers and his ability to be a substitute Shinigami. Thinking he has no right to complain about this, he tries to go on with a normal human life for 17 months, his grades slipping and not planning for his future because he's unable to face up to reality that having the power to protect is an integral part of who he is, without which he's reduced to simply existing instead of actually living. It takes another substitute shinigami shaking up his life to make him face and accept the truth.
    • Sajin Komamura sacrificed his heart in order to become stronger and, for a while, making him incapable of death. He then proceeds to curb stomp Bambietta. However, after his new technique wears off, he permanently loses all his Shinigami powers, and becomes and ordinary wolf.
  • The anime ending of Chrono Crusade qualifies. Chrono and Rosette manage to save Joshua and defeat Aion, but Joshua is badly brain damaged and can't remember them, Chrono and Rosette are badly injured during the final battle and die together six months later, Satella kills her sister and herself in order to stop Fiore from taking Joshua back to Aion, Remington is left broken and filled with regret, Aion's plans cause the Great Depression, and in the 1980s Remington witnesses a man that appears to be Aion take out a gun and shoot the Pope. It's also implied that Aion is revived by humanity's sins and will live on as long as sin exists in the world, meaning that Chrono and Rosette's sacrifices only seem to stop Aion temporarily.
  • The end of Code Geass goes something like this — Lelouch is dead, Suzaku had to fake his death (and both of their reputations are in ruins), the entire populations of both Tokyo and the Britannian capital are dead and it's likely that Nunnally and several others are likely to need some kind of therapy (which they apparently got by the epilogue). The world's at peace, but it's come at a heavy price.
  • The ending of Death Note certainly feels like one of these. Soichiro Yagami, one of the only truly good characters in the series (according to the artist himself,) is dead, L is dead, Mello is dead (although that was just as planned), poor Matsuda's probably going to need some serious therapy, there is no afterlife (at least in the manga), God knows how many NPCs are dead, and a year later, the world's practically returned to normal. Kira barely changed anything. Ouch.
    • The manga's ending is less Pyrrhic for Light though, as there is still a cult of followers worshiping him, even though everything else returned to normal.
    • The movie version is only marginally better. L gains 23 days, but he still dies. Kira is stopped sooner, but the world still goes back to normal. There's still no afterlife (at least for Death Note users). This time, he survives, but Soichiro's the one that needs therapy now.
  • Devilman and its adaptations combine this with The Bad Guy Wins. Ryo/Satan succeeds in his goal of wiping out humanity, except that it cost him everything. The demon army he was leading to retake the Earth was wiped out to a man, and even his best friend/love interest Akira was killed at his hands without him even realizing, leaving him as last living thing on Earth. And even then, his hollow victory doesn't last very long before God hits the Reset Button on the entire planet.
  • D.Gray-Man: At the end of the Noah's Ark Arc, after battling all these Noah, Allen Walker restores the Ark by playing a special song in a secret room within the Ark that the Noah don't know. Of course, Everyone who came along for the journey, got left behind, and supposedly died come back, but when they get back, poor Allen is charged for knowing how to control the Ark, since only certain Noah know how, and for being the container for the 14th. Not only does he have to control this monster inside his head, he has to be subjected to some not so good treatment from Leverrier. Now is that the way to treat your savior?
    • The Attack of the Black Order arc results in an even more pyrrhic victory. Bonus points for happening just after the above pyrrhic victory. They do succeed in repelling the invader (especially the level 4) and stopping Lulu Bell from retrieving the akuma egg but the akumas end up destroying a good part of the facility leading to a relocation, kill many members in both the science section and the security section and the worst is Marie commenting that with this attack the earl probably wanted to make them understand that he could kill them whenever he wants. This is supported by the last words of the level 4 they had so much trouble to get rid of "Don't act cocky for beating a weakling like me".
  • Defeating the D-Reaper in Digimon Tamers was this. Basically, the only way to stop it was to use a weapon that damaged their own Digimon to the point they had to go back to the Digital World or die, and by the time it was ready the D-Reaper had already destroyed a good portion of both the Digital and real worlds. To rub salt in the wound, the weapon couldn't even kill the D-Reaper — all it did was let the Tamers seal it away and pray to the Sovereigns that it never broke out.
  • Several times throughout Dragon Ball. Most notably, the end of the Saiyan Arc; while the Saiyans are repelled, with Nappa being killed and Vegeta retreating in bad shape, more than half of the Z Fighters are killed (Yamcha, Tenshinhan, Chiaozu, and Piccolo) in the battle, and even the survivors are in pretty rough shape. Even worse, the Dragon Balls have ceased to exist due to Piccolo's death (and because of his connection to Kami, Kami is dead too), meaning that no one can be brought back to life again. When the discovery of the existence of Dragon Balls on Namek is made, the race is on to find and gather them before the new bad guys do.
    • Dragon Ball Super has perhaps the most grim ending yet in the Future Trunks arc; Just when it seems like Big Bad Zamasu has been defeated once and for all, he turns into some sort of spirit that begins to consume the universe itself, causing Goku to press the button he'd been given earlier to summon the King of All. Once he arrives, he takes one look at the situation and decides "This is just hideous. I guess I'll just destroy this world". Goku and the others narrowly manage to leave the future timeline before it all disintegrates, and back in the present, Whis suggests that Trunks return to an earlier point in his timeline before Zamasu showed up. He'll go with him to warn Beerus about what Zamasu is about to do so the tragedy won't happen again, while Trunks and Mai get to live out their lives in peace, though since they'll be returning to an earlier point in their own lives, there will be two of them running around. The future world they fought so hard to protect from Zamasu and Goku Black? Gone. Their friends from that world? Dead. In short, this arc makes the ending to the Cell-arc look like pure sunshine and rainbows by comparison.
  • Freezing. In every battle with the Monster of the Week, The Nova ends in massive death tolls, which increase with every battle as the Novas evolve and improve at a rate mankind just can't keep up with. The tiny part of the population able to fight The Nova is dwindling ever quicker and getting harder and harder to replace, made worse because the entire population able to fight Novas is made up of Child Soldiers who, on top of risking life and limb, die at a young age anyway because of the use of their powers.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka a Pyrrhic Victory is achieved by an antagonist in a beauty pageant. By cheating the voting system, she manages to beat Tomoe in the pageant, but as she receives her reward, everyone in the audience boos her and says they want Tomoe to be the winner.
  • Gundam:
    • In the backstory of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeon had two. The first was the Battle of Loum, in which they crushed the Federation fleet at the price of nearly exhausting their own military itself (it's learning of this, alongside Revil's Rousing Speech as he told them this, that made the Federation decide to continue fighting instead of surrendering). Then there's the invasion of Earth itself, in which Zeon defeats numerous Federation armies and takes over large parts of the planet... And gets involved in a brutal attrition war against a foe that outnumbers and outproduces them by a ridiculous margin, wasting resources needed to build up the fleet for when the Federation will bring the battle back to space.
      • The final battle at A Baoa Qu. In the end Zeon is defeated and reverts to a Republic, but the Federation military (and the government's hold on its more militant elements) was weakened to the point that those remnants of Zeon's military that rejected the armistice are still a major threat. Furthermore, Revil was killed by the opening shot of the battle, so there's nobody to keep the military's most extremist elements in check and the Federathe did before with so much scrutiny on her]]. Marcy, having fought tooth and nail for this victory, doesn't take it well, but does come to terms with it.
    • The resolution of the Yurin/Flit/Emily Love Triangle in Gundam AGE. Sure, Emily got to both marry Flit and be the mother of his children Asemu and Unoa, but this is because Yurin was horribly killed off, thus Emily's "second-best" for him. And she's very aware of it. And we're not counting how Flit himself was broken beyond belief by the death of Yurin... enough to become the Dark Messiah Anti-Hero.
      • By the end Nearly EVERYONE on both sides except the 3 main Gundam leads are dead. Although Flit was able to resist going genocidal on the Vegans in the end he'd more or less wasted his whole life on a cause he abandoned in the end, and he died shortly after the war ended. Asemu became a wanted criminal and missed out on his son's entire childhood, and he wasn't able to help Zeheart in the end. Kio got his peace he wanted, but all the Vegans he personally knew and wanted to save all died. In spite of this very bleak outlook the series acts like it was a super happy ending, one reason the ending was not well received by fans.
    • After winning the previous Gundam Fight in G Gundam, Master Asia looks back and is horrified by the carnage and the damage he and the other participants have caused. He becomes bitter at humanity's willingness to go through such lengths and has thus chosen to be extreme in his own way.
    • In Gundam Build Divers, Riku finds himself challenged by Tsukasa in order to retrieve the special SD Gunpla that Tsukasa had taken which lead to Ayame's initial Face–Heel Turn. Tsukasa has them use the old Gunpla Duel game system so he can prove to Riku that his Gunpla Duel-honed skills were superior to anyone who played in Gunpla Battle Nexus Online. Riku ends up winning, getting back the Gunpla and disproving Tsukasa, but his Gunpla, the 00 Diver Ace, is wrecked due to the Gunpla Duel's system inflicting actual damage to the models.
  • At the end of Hellsing, The Major and every last one of his Millennium vampire soldiers have been slain, but he dies content. The cost of his defeat was the destruction of London, with almost all of its population dead overnight, Alucard apparently destroyed, the Hellsing and Iscariot Organizations having lost most of their key members, Pip and most of the Wild Geese dead, Walter having died a traitor (but managing to take the Doktor and his twisted creations with him), and Integra now missing an eye.
  • In Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, after 140 chapters of mind games, waiting, and sexual frustration, Kaguya finally manages to bait Shirogane into confessing his love for her. However, immediately afterwards she sticks her tongue down his throat, thereby (by her logic) making her look like a undisciplined, emotionally desperate slut even though he's the one who initiated their relationship. She has a Heroic BSoD afterward from the shame, while Shirogane feels nothing of the sort.
  • Twenty years before the main story in Mahou Sensei Negima!, Ala Rubra stopped the war in the Magical World and saved the world. Unfortunately, this was only achievable through the sealing of Asuna, which caused the floating capital to collapse and destroyed the cultural center of the world. The dynasty of the founders and kings of Ostia was also assumed to be wiped out when Arika was blamed for the disaster.
  • Mazinger Z: After a long and hard battle, Kouji defeated Dr. Hell with Mazinger Z. However, the Mycene immediately attacks without giving any time to rest and he is unable to do anything to stop them. Mazinger Z, Venus A, Boss Borot and the Photon Research Institute are easily destroyed (and several world cities, including Tokyo, in the movie). Kouji is saved by Tetsuya and his Great Mazinger, who claims that Mazinger Z isn't needed anymore.
    • And in Great Mazinger, the heroes finally defeat the Mykene army... but it was due to the Heroic Sacrifice of Prof. Kabuto, Kouji and Shiro's biological father and Tetsuya and Jun's adoptive father. Despite the victory, nobody felt victorious; in fact Tetsuya blamed himself for his father's death, and rightly so. In one of the adaptations, Tetsuya himself bites the dust.
  • All Might's battle with All For One in My Hero Academia ends in one for him. All Might is victorious but his true form is revealed to the world, and he uses up the last bit of One For All during their fight. Forcing him to retire. His opponent All For One meanwhile is locked up for good, but believes that his absence will spur his pupil on to become a stronger villain and feels that he came out ahead.
    • A more minor example occurred much earlier during the Heroes vs. Villains school exercise with Midoriya and Uraraka as the heroes and Bakugou and Iida as the villains. While Midoriya and Uraraka are able to secure the objective of the exercise and therefore prevail, Midoriya passed out with a broken arm and Uraraka becomes extremely nauseous to the point of vomiting, both from overexertion of their powers. Meanwhile Bakugou and Iida are basically untouched. The unusual circumstances of the Hero team's "win" are even lampshaded. The two are also chastised for causing collateral damage as part of their plan, which while okay from a purely pragmatic standpoint, is not very heroic.
    • The final battle of the UA Sports Festival. Bakugo defeats Todoroki and wins the tournament, but realizes that Todoroki held back against him due to personal issues with using his fire quirk. Since he didn't actually prove that he's the strongest at UA, his victory is a hollow one that leaves him furious, and he has to be physically restrained to take his 1st place medal.
  • The entire conflict against the Angels in Neon Genesis Evangelion ends with Rei dead and replaced by a clone, Asuka traumatized into a coma, Kaworu dead with his soul sealed away inside the Adam embryo, most of the Evangelion units destroyed, Kaji dead, Misato crawling into a bottle, and Shinji becoming such a self-loathing mess he opens the following movie with a suicide attempt. It gets worse in the movie, when we realize the Angels are actually NOT the real threat as Shinji's Jerkass father reveals his final gambit for an Assimilation Plot along with his masters in SEELE. Gendo abandons everyone to be killed by SEELE while he goes downstairs to end the world.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Rebuild of Evangelion. In the second movie, Shinji attempts to rescue Rei's soul from Zeruel's core after the former has been consumed by the angel. He fulfills this goal to an extent, but at the cost of triggering the Third Impact and kickstarting the end of the world. In the end, it is revealed in the third movie that he hadn't even been able to save the Rei he wanted to save after all.
  • At the end of One Piece's Paramount War arc, the Marines succeed in their stated goal of killing Portgas D. Ace and Whitebeard, ostensibly proving the strength of their justice. Yet the Navy loses so much in the victory that even they admit their position ultimately ends up weaker.
    • Before the War began, Straw Hat Luffy sneaks into Impel Down trying to free his brother Ace, and ignites an unprecedented prison riot. Blackbeard also attacks the prison at the same time to do some recruiting, and the ultimate result is a mass jailbreak of at least 240 prisoners escaping, some Warlord-level, and some so dangerous that the World Government had to erase their existence.
    • During the War, the Whitebeard Pirates and their allies prove to be more powerful than expected, decimating half of the Marines' assembled forces. Whitebeard himself demolishes the Marine HQ with the Tremor-Tremor Fruit, and splits the island in half. What's more, the arrival of the Red-Hair Pirates allows the surviving pirates to escape. Even worse, Blackbeard somehow steals the power of the Tremor-Tremor Fruit, putting the most destructive Devil Fruit in the hands of a total madman who now has two Devil Fruit powers, despite this supposedly being an impossibility.
    • After the War, Whitebeard outright confirms the existence of the One Piece, starting a second Great Age of Piracy, with the Marines being unable to respond because of their forces being less than half as strong as they used to be. Along with losses on Whitebeard's side, this turns the New World into a bloodbath. Worse still, Fleet Admiral Sengoku and Vice-Admiral Garp choose to leave the Marines because of the Government's decision to basically cover up everything about the prison riot and pretend it didn't happen. Following the promotion of Akainu to Fleet Admiral, Aokiji also leaves out of disgust. And Blackbeard is able to take Whitebeard's place since he was killed in the war, seizing much of Whitebeard's former territory.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: In any timeline (excepting the penultimate one) where Walpurgisnacht is defeated, all the local magical girls are left either dead or having expended so much magical power that they'll soon be powerful witches themselves.
    • Even worse are the timelines where Madoka becomes, according to Kyubey, what could be the most powerful witch in existence.
    • This happens kind of a lot. Homura defeats Charlotte, but not before Mami dies. Sayaka prevents a witch from killing Madoka, Hitomi, and several adults by becoming a magical girl. This leads to her becoming a witch, and her destruction in a Heroic Sacrifice by Kyoko (yet another "victory").. In the ending, Madoka erases all witches from existence; but Sayaka and all the historical magical girls still die, and new witch-like monsters appear. Madoka herself disappears, and most people forget that she ever existed. Madoka seems pretty content with this outcome, though.
  • In Slayers, the Koma War (translated variously as "Dark Lord's Resurrection War", "War of Demonic Invasion", "War of the Monsters' Fall") a thousand years ago ended badly for everyone. Ruby-Eye Shabranigdu destroyed Aqualord Ragradia... but was permanently frozen in the Grim Up North, all his power sealed. Half the Golden Dragons in the world were slaughtered... but Mazoku also suffered the deaths of two Priests and two Generals (who are irreplaceable), as well as the desertion of Chaos Dragon Gaav and all serving him. Even aside from Gaav's outright betrayal, without Shabranigdu organizing them, the Five Retainers couldn't get along and started bickering amongst each other over the best way to end the world. Humans suffered devastating losses, including losing the ability to perform Holy Magic and being confined to a single continent by the Mazoku God-Sealing Field, but on the other hand started developing increased levels of Black and Shamanic Magic. In short, nobody won. Thus, in the novels, when Dynast Grausherra decides to bring about the resurrection of Ruby-Eye through a second Koma War, even his fellow Mazoku are opposed to the idea.
  • Occurs in Steins;Gate when Rintaro finally returns from the alpha world line, where Mayuri is doomed to die somehow, to the beta world line, where Kurisu is doomed to be fatally stabbed. Subtly lampshaded when Rintaro then gives a huge, hammy speech proclaiming his victory, clearly on the verge of tears the whole time. Then subverted when it turns out that the beta world line must be averted in order to prevent World War III, and the way to do this is to go back in time again and save Kurisu, thus preventing an international time machine arms race and moving into a world line that Rintaro's future self dubs the "Steins Gate world line".
  • The conclusion of the First Space War in Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Yeah, humanity survived... by the skin of its teeth, with less than a million humans out of the six billion that once inhabited Earth, and the planet is devastated and barely hanging on as an ecosystem. As for the Zentraedi fleet, their numbers have been severely reduced, and many of them, in being absorbed into Earth culture and becoming isolated from the other Zentraedi in the galaxy, have lost their purpose in life, becoming little more than wandering bandits picking fights for no reason. Fortunately, it gets better, with humanity and its allies becoming a thriving interstellar civilization by the time of the later Macross series.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: The Anti-Spirals are defeated, but more than half of the Gurren Brigade are dead, including Kittan, and Nia dies soon after returning to earth, because her life force was tied to the Anti-Spiral. On her wedding day of all days.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, when Kite defeats Mizar in a Duel. The cost? He dies from the cold vacuum of space afterward.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho:
    • The ending of the Chapter Black arc has Yusuke defeat Sensui, except Sensui was already dying and the demon gate was opened just so he could die honorably. In addition, said demons turned out to mostly be nobler than the humans Yusuke was to protect, and The Spirit World did indeed turn out to be corrupt.
    • Then in the Makai tournament, Yusuke ends up one-on-one with Yomi, one of the three former Demon Kings. It was an intense battle from beginning to end. In the end, Yomi won the battle, but doing so took so much out of him that he had nothing left for his next opponent. So even in losing, Yusuke managed to keep Yomi from fulfilling his ambition to rule Makai and wage war on the other realms.


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