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"You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
Obi-Wan Kenobi, before his Obi-Wan Moment, Star Wars: A New Hope

The Hero is fighting The Dragon, or the Big Bad, and finds out he is hopelessly outmatched. The villain decides to go ahead and kill him off, and it's over. The hero is dead.

Or is he? Perhaps he was Only Mostly Dead, or Death Is Cheap. Or maybe The Medic was able to bring him back. Either way, he starts to fight again, and reveals that thanks to his defeat, he Took a Level In Badass and may have access to powers that he never had before.

Congratulations, he just Came Back Strong. It's not a Desperation Attack, Heroic Resolve, or One-Winged Angel, but a permanent increase in one's Power Level. It could be that dying has opened his mind to new possibilities, he literally trained in hell, he was granted access to new spirit powers, a MacGuffin is used to help him return and he gains special abilities from it, or maybe his race just makes him stronger from death.

Contrast Came Back Wrong. Compare Heroic Second Wind, which is similar to this without the nasty implications of death.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples of Came Back Strong include:

Anime andManga

  • In Dragonball Z, Saiyans are stated to grow stronger when they are beaten to near death, and Vegeta uses this to his advantage on Namek by having Dende heal him after intentionally letting Krillin almost kill him.
    • Later, Cell self destructs and reforms, causing this to happen due to the fact that he has Saiyan cells. This is the last time this Saiyan trait is specifically mentioned.
    • There's also the example of dying and then training in the afterlife, especialy with King Kai. Goku learned the Kaio Ken, Spirit Bomb (AKA the Genki Dama), and probably the Super Saiyan 3 form this way.
      • Probably? He gained both Super Saiyan 2 AND 3 this way.
  • In Zatch Bell, Kiyomaru dies or comes very close to it in Faudo, and when he reawakens his heart power is massively increased and he gained the answer talker ability.
  • The best way to increase one's spirit energy in Shaman King is to die. All of the main warrior characters die at least once, and some die several times.
  • In Aflame Inferno, the main character gets possessed by Inferno after his nearly fatal blow.
  • Kazuki of Busou Renkin gains his renkin as his heart because he almost dies. He also pulls this trope again in episode 14.
  • Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho did not awaken his spirit powers until after his death, and later he awakened his demon powers after his second death.
  • Phoenix Ikki in Saint Seiya. Every time he's killed, he gets back twice as strong. Given that he died quite a few times, he's a undisputed powerhouse now.
  • In Bleach, the straightest example would be Ichigo's near death, or hollow, transformation to regain his spirit powers. The normal example of dying and becoming a shinigami or a hollow does not work because you never come back to life, you stay dead.
    • Ichigo's Hollow form is a unique example. Basically, whenever Ichigo is Only Mostly Dead, it tends to take advantage of his weakness by taking control of his body. However, it states on several occasions that if Ichigo's truly dies dies then something bad will happen (he tends to be very vague on what that is, depending on the translation. After Ulquiorra blasts a hole straight through Ichigo's chest we find out just what that is: the Hollow's powers go completely insane and neither side has any control over them.
  • In Princess Resurrection, one has to die in order to become an immortal blood warrior.
  • Brook from One Piece plays this somewhat straight. He died and came back as a skeleton, so, while he isn't explicitly stronger, he is much faster now, a lot harder to kill, and able to do things like run on water or jump distances that are ridiculous even by One Piece standards.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed and Al both nearly die when they try to resurrect their mother. They barely survive and gain the ability to use alchemy without circles, and Al is also a Made of Indestructium Animated Armor.
  • Code Breaker's Ogami pulls this trope twice. The first time when he was a child and received the Emperor's flame, and the second when Yuuki kills him and the Emperor allows him access to the next flame for making the correct choice.
  • Tsukune Aono from Rosario to Vampire combines this trope with Came Back Wrong via liberal use of vampire blood. Later it's just this trope when he learns to control his Super-Powered Evil Side.
  • In King of Thorn, Marco Owen is killed by Zeus. However, another character sacrifices her life to bring him back, and the new Medusa-enhanced body she gives him has useful new abilities such as a resistance to Zeus's electrical attacks.
  • In Digimon Adventure, every time Myotismon is killed, he eventually simply comes back in a more powerful form. Until the Grand Finale of Adventure 02, where his soul is blown up, most likely rendering him Deader Than Dead.
  • Inuyasha: Sesshoumaru is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by Magatsuhi, leaving Inuyasha to try and rescue him. Inuyasha, however, doesn't have the strength to fight something that defeated Sesshoumaru so impressively and ends up on the verge of suffering the same fate as his brother. That's when Sesshoumaru breaks free of Magatsuhi's bonds and returns to the fight. In style.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, it is later revealed that Negi died from Heroic RROD after his fight with Dynamis, and came back via Magia Erebea, fusing with it in the process.
  • A few characters in Psyren


Comic Books

  • Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan also fulfills this trope, although it's not solely his death that is the catalyst of his powers, but the way he died.
  • In the original Thanos stories in the 1970s, this was how Adam Warlock "finally" defeated Thanos.
  • In Invincible, Allen the Alien becomes stronger every time he regenerates from life-threatening wounds. At the beginning of the series, he was barely able to fight the Virtumites one on one. Now he's more than a match for one or two of them.
  • This is Superman foe Doomsday's power; whenever he is killed, he is able to come back to life, with an added resistance to anything that had ever killed him before.
  • In volume six of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott gets killed by Gideon, gets trapped in limbo, comes back (because of his extra life), and defeats Gideon, thanks to the power of understanding.
    • In The Movie, it happens in a similar manner, but during Scott's second attempt, he manages to reconcile with Kim, apologize to both Ramona and Knives for cheating on both of them, and then finally kicking Gideon's ass.
  • Phoenix from X-Men, overlapping with Came Back Wrong - at least until the Retcon that the "Jean Grey" from the shuttle crash to her death on the moon was an impostor.
    • Later, in the Planet X arc, Jean and Wolverine are headed into the sun, and Wolvie kills Jean to spare her the agony of incineration. She soon awakens in full Phoenix mode, reshapes the asteroid into a ship with the power of her mind, and easily returns to Earth. And this time, she came back right.
  • In the Star Wars Legacy comics, Big Bad Darth Krayt comes back from the dead and is no longer bothered by the crippling Yuuzhan Vong implants while also becoming more formidable and Drunk on the Dark Side than ever. He then attempts to invoke this trope on Cade Skywalker, hoping Cade will have the same reaction with The Dark Side and finally be his disciple, but it just encourages Cade to embrace the Light Side and kill Krayt.
  • Doctor Strange, as part of his trials to become Sorcerer Supreme, had to meet Death in combat. When he realized he couldn't defeat or escape Death, he surrendered entirely to it, died, and was restored to life -- now functionally immortal.


Film

  • This happens to Sing in Kung Fu Hustle. Beaten practically to death, he somehow emerges from his cocoon of bandages as a superpowered master. The beating apparently opened all the previously blocked chi paths in his body, unlocking his heavily-foreshadowed hidden potential.
  • Star Wars's Obi-Wan allows Vader to strike him down simply so that he'll become more powerful.
    • Even though becoming one with the Force makes one more powerful, we guess, no one ever uses that power so it's not very clear whether this applies.
      • Based solely on the movies, I thought this supposed greater power meant the ability to basically be anywhere at any time, a la Obi-wan manifesting on Hoth, Dagobah, etc, and speaking to Luke telepathically. Whether or not this is a power greater than the ability to mow down stormtroopers with a lightsaber is debatable.
        • Maybe Obi-Wan was just insulting Vader's imagination.
        • Or he was acknowledging that Luke would become more powerful than he could ever be, and allowing himself to go on and continue teaching was the greatest blow he could deal to the Sith.
  • Charlie St Cloud: After almost dying in a car accident, Charlie gains the ability to see and speak with the dead.
  • Resurrection (1980): After surviving a car crash that killed her husband, a woman finds that she has miraculous healing powers.
  • Sara of The Craft nearly died but she managed to invoke the power of Manon.
  • Happens twice to King Ghidorah in the film GMK. Once when Mothra sacrifices herself and Ghidorah absorbs her essence to become stronger and once when Ghidorah absorbs an artifact from the shrine in which he was placed/worshiped. However, it's still not enough to defeat Godzilla.
    • Also occurs to Godzilla himself in Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla II when Rodan sacrifices himself to revive Godzilla after Mechagodzilla nearly kils him. Godzilla becomes more powerful because of it and gains his most powerful attack-the Spiral Beam, which he uses to utterly obliterate Mechagodzilla.
  • Neo of The Matrix only gets to awake his spoon-bending powers after being killed by Agent Smith in the first movie.
  • RoboCop


Literature

  • In Dune, Paul Atreides almost dies when he drinks the water of life, and when he wakes up he is the Kwisatz Haderach.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey dies and comes back as Gandalf the White.
  • Stephen King's The Dead Zone: A man is critically injured in a car accident and is in a coma for five years. When he wakes up, he has psychic powers, including precognition and psychometry.
  • In Eoin Colfer's The Supernaturalist, people who've undergone a near-death experience can see the Parasites - not always permanently, but that's how it is for all the named characters - and are therefore able to fight them. (So can Bartoli babies, but that's beside the point.)
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novels, a Planeswalker only has full access to their powers after experiencing extreme physical trauma (sometimes, but not always, death).
    • In the game itself, there are cards that do that to both players and creatures. Tuktuk the Explorer does this to himself: A 2/2 for three mana, he's beneath the curve. When he dies, you put a 5/5 token into play called Tuktuk the Returned.
  • A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin begins with the protagonist being mysteriously resurrected, possessed (and empowered) by the "blue electric angels" of telephony.
  • In The Dresden Files novel Grave Peril, at the climax of the book Harry is killed by the Nightmare in his dreams, and is immediately revived via CPR. When he comes back, Harry has created a ghost of himself (ghosts being psychic copies of the individual who died and are created at the moment of death) and the two proceed to whup ass. While doing so, Harry literally eats the Nightmare in his dreams and thus absorbs his magical power, allowing him to come back with so much strength that he vaporizes a pair of vampires almost instantly with no effort.
    • To some extent when he was assassinated - he was already the Winter Knight, but he was incredibly drained and had nothing material left - not his house, his car, his weapons, his pets, his equipment, only a single change of clothes ... and then he spent most of a book as a powerless ghost. Now? The Winter Knight is back in town, and just dictated terms to Queen Mab.
  • A variation happens in the Dragaera novel Issola when Lady Teldra gets killed with a Morganti weapon. Vlad uses it to create a new Great Weapon, which makes him permanently stronger, starting with slaying a Jenoine.
  • There's a short story where colonists on an alien planet deal with escalating threats from local fauna, starting with pests that feed on their crops and working up to large predators. Eventually someone works out that it's the same lifeform, coming back stronger each time they wipe it out. He realises this just in time to stop them from killing an alien that looks basically human:

  "I think we can deal with this one. What I don't want to face is what comes next."

  • In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, a variation takes place: Voldemort uses Avada Kedavra on Harry, technically killing him. But since Harry is an unintentional Horcrux, all this does is kill the bit of Voldy's soul inside Harry, so he gets better and comes Back From the Dead. Cue Voldy wanting to humiliate him by throwing the body around using the Cruciatus Curse and Harry being completely immune to the pain he expected to come with the spell.
    • Although that last part is actually due to Voldemort's use of the Elder Wand, which refused to harm Harry, its true master.


Live Action TV

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Xander resurrects Buffy from her death at the Master's hands, she comes back stronger, knows instinctively where he's going, and is no longer vulnerable to his hypnosis.
  • This is basically what happens in Kamen Rider 555 when someone is killed and revived as an Orphnoch.
  • Kamen Rider Agito gave us Gills, who died of his powers breaking down his body but was revived by a psychic with healing abilities. The result not only cures him of his degrading body but grants him the power to become Exceed Gills.
  • Gentaro Kisaragi, a.k.a. Kamen Rider Fourze, is killed in #31 by Kamen Rider Meteor (who made a Deal with the Devil with the Ares Zodiarts to save his best friend), only for Kengo to use the Cosmic Switch (which they hadn't been able to get to work before that) to revive him, giving him his Super Mode in the process.
  • In Charmed, when Cole arrives in the underworld, he finds that the souls of demons have their powers eaten by the creatures that live there. He decides to get in on that action, and collects enough powers to return to the land of the living, and with almost every demonic power there is. Unfortunately, it eventually drove him crazy, and he wanted to die, but couldn't.


Mythology And Religion

  • In Norse Mythology, Odin sacrificed himself on Yggdrasil and after he came back to life, he knew magic.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Jesus in the New Testament.
  • In Inuit mythology, Sedna is just an ordinary woman until her father chops off her fingers and throws her into the ocean. She becomes the goddess of the ocean, the most important goddess of the Inuit cosmology because it's only with her on their side that the people can avoid starvation. Her fingers turn into seals.
  • In Yoruban mythology and Santeria, Shango. He was an ordinary king until he hanged himself and became one of the most powerful (and popular) Orisha. His salute means "the king is not hanged".


Real Life

  • Human bones get denser when they recover from certain types of injury. It is for this reason that students of the Okinawa school of Karate routinely hit themselves with bricks.
    • A little more explanation: hitting bones repeatedly causes microfractures, which then heal to form a stronger, denser lattice, resulting in stronger bones. (It also helps to desensitize the nerve endings.) Many systems of martial arts do something similar: special mention to Cimande Pencak Silak where the whole system is about overpowering wrist or forearm strikes, and the practitioners would originally train against trees to get the conditioning. Bear in mind though there is a lot of controversy about this topic - some say it works, some say it works but isn't useful, some say it works but will give you problems in later life, and some say it just doesn't work.
  • This is how muscles and bones improve. When you strain them the cells die, but they get repaired to be stronger than before. Overtraining is possible, though, where you break down cells faster than you grow them. As with induced microfractures, many bodybuilders and strength athletes deliberately overtrain when they need a large amount of development over a short time or when they expect to miss several exercise sessions.


Tabletop RPG

  • In Brave New World characters gain super powers by undergoing a near-death experience while in mortal danger.
  • In the Pathfinder tabletop game, being born dead and then coming back to life is one of the possible origins of a sorcerers powers.
  • Geist: The Sin Eaters: As mortals, Sin-Eaters typically have some sort of connection to fate or the world of the dead (represented by glimpses of ghosts or strange hunches). Once they die, however, a geist offers them the chance to come back, and when they accept, they gain access to a whole suite of powers.
  • In order to become an Abyssal Exalted, you have to be on the exact verge of death at the time.
  • In Dungeons and Dragons, this is how the Risen Martyr Prestige Class works. A saintly character is temporarily resurrected after their martyrdom and given extra powers to complete their unfinished task... in theory. In practice the class is terrible [1], doesn't give you the choice to pick levels in anything else and the final ability kills you again. Even in the worlds without resurrection it is intend for, its more practical to just make a new character.
  • The new "Undying" rule in Magic: The Gathering leads to creatures that have undying responding to being Doom Bladed by returning from the graveyard with slightly higher power and toughness. Hilariously, if combined with persist (which leads to "came back weaker"), you can get creatures that simply never die.


Video Games

  • Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman has this as one of the core mechanics. Every time you get killed, you lose the items you're carrying and get sent back to level 1, but your basic stats increased depending on your "total level earned", and stats boost you get from level up depends on your basic stats. As Pirohiko says, a hero always comes back from the brink of defeat to save the day!
  • Mega Man X's Zero died the first game, was rebuilt in the interim, and came back with upgraded armor and weapons in the second game. A lesser version occurred with X5 and X6. He didn't get new armor, and the offensive boost was basically a tweaked Arm Cannon, but he did gain a Double Jump as a standard ability.
  • Used in the Disgaea games. You level up, then you reincarnate into a new body that starts with better stats. The game more plays with this trope.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 features the controversial kiss from Princess Elise that not only revives Sonic from dead-but-not-really-death but transforms him into Super Sonic for the final boss.
  • Blaz Blue: Ragna nearly bled to death after someone cut off his arm and burned down his home. Then he was bitten by a vampire and fused with the corpse of an Eldritch Abomination. This gave him the Azure Grimoire and Soul Eater powers which turned him into a One-Man Army. The bad news is that if he uses them too much, he will turn into the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination.
  • Happens in Jade Empire when your Spirit Monk is killed by the main villain, then finds the last piece of the Dragon Amulet while fighting his/her way back from the spirit world.
  • Death Knights from the Warcraft series combine this trope with a bit of Came Back Wrong. Most Death Knights are already powerful Warriors or Paladins to begin with, but when they are raised they are imbued with powers over necromancy and disease, making them the Scourge's most powerful soldiers. This is less evident in World of Warcraft due to the obvious balance issues making Death Knights more powerful than the other classes would cause, but from a lore standpoint it remains true, even though it only translates into a higher starting level.
    • In World of Warcraft Cataclysm's Rage of the Firelands patch, you confront Alysra and defeat her single-handedly in a quest. After you do so, some Druids of the Flame arrive, and revive her as a fire hawk, resulting in her flying off to the Firelands and becoming a much more difficult raid boss that requires 10-25 players to defeat.
    • Ingvar the Plunderer in Utgarde Keep combines this with Trick Boss. After he's reanimated as an undead, his abilities become more powerful. Similarly, the Black Knight goes from being defeated alone in a quest to being a 5-man dungeon boss in Trial of the Champion. The Scourge had a habit of handing out this type of upgrade during their heyday.
  • Happens to the Big Bad of Final Fantasy II. The Emperor comes back to life as a lich king, having taken control of Hell and its legions. In Soul of Rebirth, his good side took over Heaven.
  • In Final Fantasy IV this happens to a few bosses. When you kill the Earth Fiend Scarmiglione, he comes back as a zombie, attacking from behind or Dr. Lugae, he comes back as a cyborg.
  • This is how you beat Izanami in Persona 4, with a little help from The Power of Friendship.
  • Before the events of Tsukihime, Tohno Shiki has the ability to see "things which are hidden". When he is killed and brought back to life, this mutates into the ability to see death, allowing him to cut anything by tracing its "lines of death" or destroy anything by stabbing its "point of death". This manages to be even more overpowered than it sounds, but Shiki has to wear Anti-Magic glasses to prevent going mad (besides the obvious reasons, just looking at a "very immortal" character for too long can cause brain damage).
    • Ryougi Shiki in the earlier Kara no Kyoukai gains a stronger version of the same ability when one of her two personalities dies, leaving a hole to "Origin" in its place. Effectively her new second personality is the universe itself, and possesses unlimited power
  • The Nameless One in Planescape: Torment sometimes regains memories after he dies and comes back, which can translate into more experience points, and hence more power.
  • In Starcraft II, one mission against a Hybrid Monster named Maar has him repeatedly assaulting your small base. If you kill him, he keeps coming back, larger, with more hit points and a more powerful attack.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the Tyrants you defeated in the first four sectors come back in new, terrifying forms in Sector 6, Fornax, but not before declaring a personal war on you, Captain Hello, Insert Name Here.
    • Additionally, Commander Gore is killed very early into the mission. However, the forces of the Schwarzwelt bring him back as a puppet and an observer, in a type of zombie called Ubergestalt. When he shakes off control, he reveals that not only has he regained his humanity, but he now possesses supernatural abilities and superhuman traits.
  • In Ogre Battle series (and Tactics Ogre games from the same universe) it's possible to ressurect your fallen units as undead. They have weakness against enemy clerics, but often much stronger then they was in live. In Knight of Lodis it's possible to ressurect fallen knight as Angel Knight, one of the best classes in game, who doesn't have weakness to holy.
  • It could be said that Commander Shepard of Mass Effect 2 does this, as he/she is killed by the collectors, then brought back with cybernetic enhancements, the benefits include: unbreakable bones, nigh-bulletproof skin, speed, strength, a biotic boost, superior adrenal application, Bullet Time perception and the ability to fire weapons that break the arms of the people that fire them. The Collectors and Reapers learn that messing with Shep ends badly.
  • In Touhou 13: Ten Desires, Toyosatomimi no Miko wakes up from a sleep of over a thousand years to be the Final Boss of the game. While her judgment may have been impaired immediately after waking, her skill with danmaku wasn't.
  • Red Savarin from Solatorobo says he feels better than ever after his brush with death. It eventually results in him being able to Trance and become extra-powerful when he feels the need to protect someone.
  • Asura from Asura's Wrath, after dying once, comes back and can now utilize his Six Armed form (Which at one point was only usable with his daughter Mithra's Help) as well as newer, more powerful forms after it.
  • In an ending from Marvel Vs. Capcom, Jin proceeds to destroy Onslaught's soul in a sacrificial attack. Suddenly, Ryu wonders when Jin will be coming back.
  • In Arcanum this is the result of sacrificing yourself to Velorien, the All-Father, after figuring out the riddle of the old gods.


Web Comics

  • In Order of the Stick, Roy trained with his dead grandpa during his stay in heaven, and learned a new sword technique when he came back.
    • Sort of. It doesn't actually count until he takes the feat to actually be able to use the move. And since he probably didn't earn any experience points in heaven, and the resurrection spell results in the loss of a level, he actually came back weaker, but has the potential to become stronger, with a special move to one-shot a level 9+ Cleric.
  • In Freak Angels, all the titular characters have regenerative immortality and sustaining normally fatal injuries expands their already formidable Psychic Powers.
  • In Homestuck, dying upon a Quest Bed ascends players of Sburb to the God Tiers, a tier of power beyond the standard levels which grants the player immense power over their elemental aspect, together with conditional immortality. Six characters have done this: John, Rose, Dave, Jade, Vriska and Aradia.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the very first antagonist, the Goo, came back as the Omega Goo in the second arc complete with abilities related to the way it was defeated the first time.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Jane came back to help her friends as a ghost. Her ghost powers included some nifty new attacks.


Web Original

  • The DBZ example is played with in Team Four Star's Dragon Ball Abridged after Dende first heals Krillin and Gohan.

 Vegeta: Unlike the runt [Gohan] and I, you don't get a power boost from it.

Krillin: HAX!!! I CALL HAX!!!


Western Animation

  • Parodied on South Park in which Cartman throws himself off a roof in a poorly-planned attempt to fly and wakes up from a coma in the hospital, and the cops who have the Idiot Ball believe he has precognition. Kyle later does the same thing at the end of the episode so people will believe him about the serial killer's identity and Cartman's uselessness. Eerily, the lights flicker violently when Kyle gets frustrated.
  • Played With in the series finale to the original Transformers series when Optimus Prime is brought back to life In Its Hour of Need and promptly rebuilt as a Chrome Champion to defeat the Hate Plague.
  • The season two opener for Beast Wars ends with Optimus Primal coming back from the dead, complete with a Mid-Season Upgrade. He sweeps in and singlehandedly drives off the Predacon army.
  • Octus was killed in episode 18 of Sym-Bionic Titan and remained that way through episode 19. Octus is revived in episode 20 by the leader of G3. While he himself hasn't been shown to have become stronger, the Titan gets an upgrade as a result, gaining powerful energy beams and is generally overall stronger. Lance even comments that it's stronger than before.
  • Colonel H. Stinkmeaner from The Boondocks was just an annoying, foul mouthed old blind guy, who got his ass whooped, and died as a result. Come season 2, we find out he's been spending his time in Hell(Like he'd get into Heaven...) turning himself into a kung fu asskicker. When he get's sent back to Earth, he mops the floor with the Freemans.
    • Helps that he could see this time, and he was possessing a young man.

Notes

  1. The "Iron Chef" competition, centered around making builds that allow even the worst classes to playable, refuses to run it because is THAT bad
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