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Character Rerailment is what happens when a derailed character returns to their previous characterization. Generally this signals the end of a Dork Age. This may also follow a changing of the guard at the asylum. May also happen repeatedly if a character bounces between writers. Sometimes the time spent derailed turns out to be All Just a Dream.

See also, We Want Our Jerk Back, Flowers for Algernon Syndrome.

Examples of Character Rerailment include:


Anime & Manga

  • While in the past two or three volumes, she was murderously insane in pretty much every single chapter, in volume 8 of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, Chiri returns to her original characterization as very uptight, but still somewhat the Straight Man.
  • Orihime from Bleach is an odd case of rerailment due to Character Development instead of undoing Character Derailment. She has recently gone back to being her humorous, perky self like how she was to begin with rather than the broken, emotional character she's been portrayed as throughout the Hueco Mundo arc as a result of being kidnapped and watching her Love Interest being beaten to near death. This is because all her issues from said arc were wrapped up and she was free to be a content person once more.
  • Mamoru Chiba from Sailor Moon was subjected to quite the Character Derailment in the R season, going from a polite young man who still didn't unnecessarily sugarcoat his words and did tell his (much-younger) girlfriend and her friends what he had in his mind, to a Angsty and broken mess who acted borderline abusive to her, badmouthing her to keep her away and safe, and caused her lots of turmoil (which once almost killed her since he would not tell her what he did have his reasons... when in fact said reasons did involve her and she had all the right to know). Fortunately, once he finally told her the truth and the arc reached its end, Mamoru's Out of Character half-season was put in a shelf and he returned to be the Senshi's Big Brother Mentor and a kind yet sincere boyfriend to Usagi. Too bad fandom won't let him live it down, though....him being put heavily Out of Focus in the next few seasons didn't help matters either.
  • Jessie, James, and Meowth, the Team Rocket trio from the Pokémon anime were first introduced as true members of the evil Team Rocket organization, constantly obeying their leader Giovanni all the time, but after their obsession with capturing Ash Ketchum's Pikachu began in the show's second episode, they started to ignore Giovanni and went after Pikachu and occasionally, some other random Pokemon instead, which inevitably resulted in them constantly getting kicked around and "being blasted off again" every single time, even when Ash continued his journeys from Kanto into Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh. However, by Best Wishes, poor Jessie, James, and Meowth were eventually "rescued" by a stronger member of Team Rocket and as a result the three all Took a Level In Badass after being trained back into true Team Rocket members again. This means that they must now obey Giovanni again, they cannot steal other Pokemon again, and especially, they can't blast off again anymore (they are all given jetpacks so they can escape from an extremely dangerous situation, especially if "the twerps" are involved, which is completely against Giovanni's rules).
    • That said, a lot of their fandom was gained as a result of their Badass Decay into a trio of stooges. As always in the Broken Base of Pokemon, there are people who like them taking a level in badass and people who prefer them to be lovably pathetic.


Comic Books

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 rerails several members of the cast after their derailment in Seasons 6 and 7, while at the same time continuing their character development. Some, however, still haven't really recovered (Giles, Amy, Buffy herself to a wildy varying degree, etc.)
  • A number of comic book characters have gone through this. Notably Batman, who swings between Jerkass behavior and being called out on it, typically going on a trip to rediscover himself.
    • Nightwing underwent a similar process after Devin Grayson's disastrous run on the series, which had him join Deathstroke as Renegade. The Reset Button on that one was pounded so hard it cracked.
    • For Nightwing, it was a case of rerailment or death. Dan Didio has stated that it was originally planned to have Nightwing die at the end of Infinite Crisis (if you've read it, you can probably figure out where), and he kind of implies that Devin Grayson's handling of the character is one of the reasons.
    • This seems to be a pattern with Batman characters, including the case of Cassandra Cain, the second Batgirl... for a while, at least. After she was revealed to have thrown out her heroic side and become evil, later writers ret conned this by saying that she was under the control of Deathstroke through a drug, only to have her swing back to killing people again. Poor girl can't catch a break.
  • Hal Jordan of the Green Lanterns went through this after he went insane and killed most of the other Lanterns. It was eventually revealed that he'd been possessed by Parallax, the embodiment of fear, and though at the time this seemed like an Ass Pull both Parallax and the Yellow Lanterns have gone on to become an integral part of the Green Lantern mythos. Oh, and all the dead Lanterns turn out to be alive.
  • Writer Peter David, who wrote The Incredible Hulk for 12 years, disliked the changes made by a subsequent writer so much that when he came back to write the title, he had the entire previous storyline revealed to have been All Just a Dream.
  • At this point, there are at least three different characterizations of Magneto, with authors repeatedly rerailing one by derailing the others. Chris Claremont's tormented Well-Intentioned Extremist is the most complex, but Grant Morrison's Complete Monster is arguably closer to the character's roots. Any attempt to argue which characterization is the "true" one is inadvisable.
  • Like Peter David, Alan Davis dismissed a later writer's run on ClanDestine as a dream. It was hilarious because it was just a single-line throwaway.
  • Gambit started off as a Rule of Cool-based, Mr. Fanservice Manipulative Bastard Handsome Lech Death Dealing Badass Longcoat who relished the challenge of getting his hands on the Forbidden Fruit Rogue, though stymied by his self-centered Jerkass qualities and the large number of people he pissed off in his thief career. Then, Rogue left him to die in Antarctica. After this, the result was a lot of Angst on Gambit's part, whose characterization was changed from the previously-described version to a Self-loathing Atoner desperate to punish himself for his (morally blameless) role in the Morlock Massacre. More recent adaptations, however, have reached back to the character's roots: X Men Origins Wolverine showed Gambit as competent, charming, handsome and relatively low-angst card-sharp who won a Cool Plane in a poker game, and Wolverine and the X-Men had Gambit as a mercenary, ruthless, charming, manipulative thief for hire (albeit in only two episodes). Whether or not this trend will continue is currently unknown.
  • The entire purpose of One More Day was to get Spider-Man single again and make him "young and fresh" again. In order to do this, he was made to make a deal with Mephisto to save an OLD WOMAN from dying, at the cost of his wife and unborn child, then was reset to being single, "young and fresh", and....living with his elderly aunt again. Safe to say, this didn't work out so well, but later writers have done their best to salvage it.
  • Shatterstar's an odd case in that the "rerailment" wasn't to his original characterization. X-Force had him slowly lose his rage, but handled it believably, and didn't give him Badass Decay. Rob Liefeld's work on the series snapped him back to his old self, but didn't do much with the possibilities involved. X-Factor toned him down again, and has had more of a positive reception.
  • Speedball's infamous transition from wacky comic relief to self-hating atoner in Civil War has been undone, redone, and partially undone again as different writers debate over the character. As of Heroic Age, he's still haunted by his memories, but he's slowly recovering.


Fan Fiction

  • Fanfic sporkings sometimes have the characters derailed in the fic comment on what the character would have actually done in whatever situation the fic describes.
  • The main aim of most fixfics.
  • In Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, this happens to an extent with Sasuke. Initially, his only noteworthy characteristic is not liking it when Ronan sucks his own dick, and then he gets killed off in the temple bombing. Then, it's revealed that he survived and, due to some reasons related to time travel, is now evil and motivated by Revenge for his family like in canon. Unfortunately, he also became a fundamentalist Christian in the process.
  • One of the darker arcs (Dark!Jareth arc) of the Mega Crossover fancomic Roommates invokes this mixed with a liberal dose of You Can't Fight Your Canon. After trying to be the hero (and failing) for 150 or so pages Jareth snaps and reverts back to his original characterization and this Super-Powered Evil Side of his tries to force the others back too. It's heart breaking and asks the highly meta question: "Is it even possible for a fictional character to change or redeem himself? Or does the story define everything he can ever be?"

Film


Live Action TV

  • The Cybermen from Doctor Who were originally emotionless and monotone species of cyborgs. From Earthshock onwards they turned into generic gun carrying evildoers. This was finally fixed in the New Series and Big Finish Doctor Who audio stories.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (and its successors) went to great pains to avoid the image of Watson as a fat, blundering old moron who couldn't see that the sun had risen until Holmes point it out to him, and turned him back into the young, fit, and incredibly accomplished surgeon with military background who, while still nowhere near as bright as Holmes, was still very intelligent in his own right.


Video Games

  • In Donkey Kong Country Returns, Cranky Kong is cranky again (Yeah, how THAT Character Derailment ever managed to happen in the first place we'll never know...)
  • Sonic in Sonic Colors. After a few years of being portrayed in the games as something of a goody-goody, teamwork-obsessed Invincible Hero, he's back to being a slightly more nuanced version of the snarky Mascot with Attitude that he was supposed to be from the start.
  • Axel from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories underwent massive characterization changes and Badass Decay in Kingdom Hearts II. Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2, set between the two games, attempts to explain how this happened; he had been friends and co-conspirators with Saix, but gradually ended up bonding with Roxas and Xion instead, and using manipulative and underhanded means for what he at least claims is their own good, leading Roxas to leave the Organization and Xion to die fighting Roxas and be erased from everyone's memory.
  • In The Sands of Time, the Prince of Persia was a snarky, slightly naive teenager (possibly) fresh from his first battle. In Warrior Within, he became dark, brooding, and occasionally yelled obscenities at his enemies. The Two Thrones backpedaled to the characterization from Sands, but justified his attitude in Warrior Within as the Prince's darker side - who manifests in The Two Thrones as the Prince's Super-Powered Evil Side.
  • In Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers, every character from the original games (except Pablo) went back to their original characterization (though not their look), winning huge applause in the process.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core did this for the Final Fantasy VII cast, particularly Cloud, Aerith and Yuffie. They weren't exactly the same as before, but this was Justified Trope by the game being set five years before the original game, and they were a lot closer to their original counterparts than they were in Advent Children and Dirge of Cerberus. Aerith got her flirtiness and Plucky Girl traits back, Cloud regained his sense of humour and realistic levels of Angst, and Yuffie regained her snarkiness and manipulativeness.
  • World of Warcraft: Cataclysm turned Sylvanas back into her old bitchy, vengeful, bitter, snide, condescending, determined, manipulative self that had been gone since Warcraft III.
  • In the Pokémon series, there's usually a Pokemon intended to be a bad guy in each generation except for the second (the fourth has two): Mewtwo, Deoxys, Giratina and Darkrai, and Genosect. Most of them (Genosect pending) are given the Not Evil, Just Misunderstood treatment in the anime movies - With Mewtwo, Deoxys, and Giratina, it stuck, but Darkrai, who was portrayed as putting a child into an endless slumber for no real reason in his initial appearance, was hastily retconned into having his deadly Nightmare ability as a defense mechanism after The Rise Of Darkrai portrayed him as an Anti-Hero. However, after his role in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, in which he stands with Purple Eyes, Ghetsis and Grings Kodai as one of the biggest Complete Monsters in the franchise, he's slowly edged back towards being evil - even in a one shot appearance in the anime, a wild Darkrai was portrayed as the Monster of the Week, and Poke Park Wii seems to be portraying him as a villain who, while not as much of a Monster as his PMD version, is still a Jerkass. He seems to be becoming the default Big Bad for Pokemon games outside the main series.
    • Curiously enough, in the Mystery Dungeon games, both Mewtwo and Deoxys (the latter being the first game's True Final Boss) in the first game and Giratina in the sequel are for some reason all depicted on the side of good. Now guess who the bad guy is, considering all of this...
  • Bowser after becoming a lame sitcom dad who just wanted to ruin Mario's vacation in Super Mario Sunshine actually became a Galactic Conqueror in both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2, where not only did the Koopa King want to take over the entire Mushroom Kingdom, but also all of outer space as well.
    • Similarly, King Boo was actually first introduced as a demonic, sinister, and outright terrifying villain in his debut game, Luigi's Mansion, but by Super Mario Sunshine he was redesigned in a way so that he now looks almost completely silly and ridiculous-looking, before being redesigned again for the spinoffs so that he now looks like what is basically a giant Boo with a crown on his head. Justified for Sunshine, since that King Boo is actually just an illusion created by Bowser Jr's magic paintbrush, and is confirmed by Nintendo to be a separate character than the one we know more of (his Japanese name in that game is also different); the spinoffs, not so much. However, the upcoming sequel Luigis Mansion 2 for the Nintendo 3DS will actually change King Boo back to his old frightening self again, and it's heavily implied that from that game onwards he will return to being a more threatening character.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 does this to most of its cast. Johnny Cage is shown as being a Hollywood douchebag with a heroic spirit, instead of the Butt Monkey who serves no purpose aside from being killed off as a gag. Likewise, Jax goes from being a stereotypical Blaxploitation hero back to his role as the Badass Straight Man of the cast. And Shao Kahn finally stops being a regular playable character, and returns to his spot as the overpowered Final Boss.


Western Animation

  • Similar to the Aladdin Example in the Film folder, Frozen 2 is this for both Elsa and Anna after the derailment that was Ralph Breaks the Internet.
  • The 2018 animated movie The Grinch rerails the Whos into their All-Loving Hero depiction from the original book, after the live action movie derailed them into cruel, villanous characters. This rerailment, in turns, rerails the character of the Grinch himself, who has no personal grudge towards the Whos and only hates the holiday of Christmas itself, thus he himself is also closer to how he was in the book.
  • Batman Beyond: After two seasons of Character Derailment, first into an unpleasable harpy, and then into a doormat, Dana Tan is finally restored to her original sweet and supportive characterization... in the Fully-Absorbed Finale Distant Finale.
  • One of the main points to the first season of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien is to finally mend Kevin's abrupt, unexplained shift in characterization and powers that occurred in Alien Force, ultimately culminating in using his old, sanity-warping powers as a means to save the world, and becoming evil again as a side-effect.
    • Vilgax's characterization and vocals[1] in one of the Alien Force video games, Vilgax Attacks!, was much closer to how he was portrayed in the first series.
    • Vilgax also regained his original series' personality in the Grand Finale of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, what with outsmarting an Eldritch Abomination God and what not.
  • The Simpsons: Homer goes from Jerkass to the original Homer sometimes at will.
  • Family Guy horribly subverted this trope with Stewie: in the season 9 premiere, he killed a character for first time in years and revealed that he still wanted to kill Lois. Fans cheered upon seeing this, thinking that the old Stewie was back. Three episodes later, it was shown that Stewie wasn't going back to his old self, much to the fans' disappointment.
  • Most of the Character Derailment in Total Drama Action was reverted in Total Drama World Tour. Trent (although only a minor character) was back to being normal, Courtney stopped being evil and started being the holier-than-thou Ted Baxter she was in season one. Most of the characters who were flanderized like Owen and Bridgette returned to having multiple dimensions.
  • The DCAU team has admitted that Superman got derailed into a punching bag during the early days of Justice League and took steps in further episodes to remind viewers why he's, well, Superman.
  • Recent characterizations of Daffy Duck have attempted, with varying levels of success, to get him back to his daffier roots. The Looney Tunes Show, latest in the line of reboots, has flanderized him to the point of Ambiguous Disorder.
  • Although unintentional, the real reason why Waspinator was portrayed as the Butt Monkey of the Transformers franchise is because Hasbro actually found his cartoon voice extremely stupid. As a result he ended up getting kicked around and being blown up every single time, while muttering to himself "Waspinator has plansssss..." as he tries to put himself back together again. At the end of Beast Wars' final episode, poor Waspinator is rescued by tribe of natives and crowned their leader, causing him to finally become "happy at last", but in Beast Machines, he for some reason returned to Cybertron where he is immediately rehired by Megatron, who then wipes his memory clean and transfers his spark into that of the Vehicon Thrust's (who is smarter, stronger, and more dangerous than Waspinator). When Waspinator-as-Thrust finally gets his memories back, he eventually starts to get kicked around and being blown up again, and when the Maximals turn Cybertron into a second Earth, they also transfer Waspinator's spark back into his original (but smaller) wasp mode again. In Transformers Animated, Waspinator returns, but is now known as Wasp instead, and he is changed into an extremely terrifying and powerful villain.
  • Zigzagged with Mickey Mouse: He was originally depicted as a brave action hero, but later shorts changed him into a laid-back slacker while Donald Duck took the spotlight. Now, he's either back to being an action hero in several video games, is the owner of a nightclub for other Disney characters, or a lame Dora the Explorer-esque kids' show host.

Notes

  1. Though rather than Steven Blum, he's voiced by John Dimaggio.
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