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Oh, no, your sister just died!

But you don't have the Applied Phlebotinum to make a Replacement Goldfish to remember her by. Still, you look kind of like her, right? So your Dead Little Sister will live on through you!

The motives for this can vary a great deal. Sometimes there's a tangible need for this level of deception- the dead sibling may have been the lynchpin in high-level government negotiations, and the surviving sibling is the only one who can plausibly play the role. It can also be a slightly misguided attempt to live your sister's dream's for her, since she didn't get the chance. This trope can also be exactly as disturbing as it sounds, and we end up with one Ax Crazy sibling convinced he really is her.

May or may not involve a Wholesome Crossdresser, depending on the gender of the person being replaced and the person doing the replacing. May or not be related, possibly just good friends.

Related to Kill and Replace. A subtrope of Dead Person Impersonation. A somewhat limited form of Batman Gambit. May include Settle for Sibling. For the literal version see Two Siblings in One.

Examples of My Sibling Will Live Through Me include:

Anime & Manga/Manhwa

  • Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi sorta uses this: Kourin died in an accident as a little girl, and Ryuuen/Nuriko was so devastated that he attempted to cope via dressing up as a woman and living the life that he believed she'd lead, were she alive..
  • A Naruto mission used this trope, where a country's princess took her assassinated brother's place to keep the assassination secret.
    • The entirety of the Sasuke/Itachi conflict in was caused by this trope. Everything Sasuke went through up until Itachi's death was his brother's doing, so that after Sasuke killed him Sasuke would fulfill Itachi's objective.
  • Le Chevalier d'Eon is all about this. The sister was murdered, so her soul went into her brother's body and periodically possesses it to carry out vengeance...
  • On Black Lagoon, Gretel becomes this after her brother is killed. Before that, they not only switched clothes, but literally traded personalities at will.
  • Angel Sanctuary, with the brother Voice dying. His twin sister Noise later cuts her hair to better resemble him and says he'll live on through her.
    • She later on lets her hair grow again, after avenging his death.
  • The manga Yubisaki Milk Tea does this. The original reason the male main character crossdresses was to pretend to be his big sister in photo shoots, though the sister is still alive, just on a date.
  • This is central to the plot of the manga Basara.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, Ken's parents often had the spotlight on his older brother Osamu, who was regarded as a child prodigy. Out of jealousy, Ken wished he were dead, and soon after he died in a car accident. After that, Ken took on several of his brother's attributes out of guilt, and in hopes that his parents would recognize him more. Ironically, they only started properly loving him the way he was when he STOPPED doing so.
  • In humor manga Sket Dance, team geek Switch's Tear Jerker Backstory turns out to be this. He used to be a really normal handsome guy, before his genius little brother was killed. Something he said in a fit of jealousy put the murderer on the kid originally, so he stopped using his accidentally destructive voice, eventually replacing it with the text-to-speech program the original Switch was working on when he died, and he feels it should have been him, so once he snaps out of his Heroic BSOD he ditches his entire previous personality and takes on his brother's nickname, glasses, dress sense, and lifestyle. His mother is furious. Oddly, he appears to be completely comfortable with this identity these days and is highly popular with his classmates, despite coming off as a nut job. (He got the 'number one Otaku' and 'number on Nice Guy' medals by popular vote.) It never comes up outside of flashbacks, and none of the classmates who would remember what he used to be like ever bring it up, but there is a genuine creepiness factor to Switch and his laptop once you know why he's doing that, especially since other character's tragic backstories are treated much differently in the story.
  • Played with in one episode of Hell Girl that featured a young girl living by herself in a sanatorium. She says that "Mina's daddy left her" and she doesn't want Tsugumi and Hajime to ever leave. It turns out that Mina isn't talking about herself in the third person. Mina died a long time ago, and the girl is actually a doll.
  • Creepily and cruelly played with in Sakura Gari. As a child, young Youya Saiki saw how his half-brother Souma was forced by his evil tutor Katsuragi into murdering Youya's mother Sakurako, as revenge for her abusing and raping Souma. Poor Youya fell into insanity, took up his mother's name and started calling himself Sakurako, wearing his mom's kimonos and tricking everyone outside the family into believing he was a girl. He ended up locked in an old warehouse for nine years, then only got out when a fire broke in.
  • Subverted in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 with Lyle Dylandy; when he becomes the second Lockon Stratos, he deliberately acts like a lech towards Feldt and a Brilliant but Lazy jerk to everyone else to make it clear that he is not the same as his deceased twin older brother Neil, the original Lockon.
  • Ran Fujimiya in Weiss Kreuz doesn't actually impersonate his little sister Aya (thankfully) but he does take her name in order to allow her to live through him while she's in a coma.
  • Happens rather literally in Psychic Academy. After an incident in the backstory where Ren got killed and his sister Fafa ended up needing a heart replacement, Ren's heart was placed in Fafa. Since that point, whenever Fafa's pulse rises above a certain level, she turns into Ren. This isn't just a personality shift, her body literally changes gender.
  • A textbook example in the hentai comic Secret Plot Deep, Imada's sister died in a car crash, which devastated his parents. After a few weeks, they convinced themselves that Imada was his sister, and that Imada had been the one to die. Imada began dressing as his sister at that point because to not would deepen his parent's misery (and because his parents had thrown out all of his clothes).
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, this is part of the reason Fai is so messed up. As well as other things.
  • The real reason Ringo Oginome from Mawaru Penguindrum is so obsessed with the teacher Keiju Tabuki, because her sister Momoka died the same day Ringo was born, and her death tore the Oginome family apart; young Ringo then started to aim to "become Momoka" in a heartfelt yet misguided attempt to bring her parents back together. Tabuki is also the person who taught Ringo about "destiny" as well as what Momoka meant to him and the Oginomes, so she started to follow the instructions written in Momoka's diary to further her "transformation" into her dead older sister.
  • Lizzie attempts to do this for Ivan in Priest since she just happens to look like his dead girlfriend for some reason. He's not very receptive, though.
  • In the Magic Knight Rayearth anime, Sierra does this for her sister, Presea, as a request from Clef so they can both help the Magic Knights via convincing them that Prtesea was revived as Esmeraude died. (And to fix a big plothole) It works, but Sierra is deeply saddened as a result..
  • A variant is invoked in Black Jack. When the son of the head of a major corporation is killed in a fire, the father forces his last living child to pose as said son (if his son, and only his son, doesn't inherit the company, it will be absorbed by a rival company). The trouble is, said last living child is a girl (albeit one who looks uncannily like the dead son), and the poor girl is pressured into agreeing to a sex-change operation and identity switch. It turns out that the son is still alive, but was hiding because he didn't want to be his father's pawn. He helps his sister until their father dies, at which point Black Jack (the surgeon hired to do the sex-change operation) reveals that he never actually performed the operation. He just hypnotized the daughter into thinking she'd been turned into a boy. Erm...yeah.
  • A massive, MASSIVE plot point in Black Butler is related to this. The "Earl Ciel Phantomhive" that the readers know is NOT the real one, but his twin younger brother. "Real" Ciel was gangraped and murdered by cultists in the ritual to summon Sebastian, and his (currently unnamed) twin contracted with Sebastian instead to get his revenge on the cult for destroying his family and then keep on living. So he took his late older twin's identity and lived as him for 3-4 years, which logically has taken a massive toll on him...

Comic Books

  • Inverted, then played straight in the DCU by the Crimson Fox.
    • The inversion: Upon gaining their superpowers, identical twins Constance and Vivian D'aramis, co-owners of a Parisian perfume company, arranged to fake Constance's death, so each of them could go back and forth playing Vivian and the Crimson Fox.
    • Played straight: When Vivian was actually killed in action, Constance assumed both roles.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes has a brief example; when Lightning Lad was killed, his previously unmentioned twin sister with the same powers showed up at Legion headquarters and pretended to be her brother, back from the dead, until the deception was exposed and she joined the Legion under her own identity. Exactly why she thought this was a good idea was not very clear.
  • In the one-shot Batman: Jekyll and Hyde, Harvey Dent somehow absorbs the personality of his Dead Little Brother Murray, which becomes Two-Face. This version of the origin has had criticisms.

Fan Fiction

  • Lucky Star Challenge Fic "What It Takes" has Tsukasa, as the "something she did to make someone mad" for the challenge, kill her parents and wound her older sister (Matsuri) so that she can resurrect Kagami by having (Kagami) live through (Tsukasa's) body. She succeeds, but due to interference, Kagami ends up sharing bodies with Inori, who was fighting Tsukasa earlier.


  • Tootsie: Michael Dorsey (as Dorothy Michaels) reveals to his castmates that he is actually his character's twin-brother out to honor his sister's memory.
  • An Officer and a Gentleman: Turns out Sid only wanted to be a naval officer to live for his brother who died in Vietnam.
  • Avatar requires Jake Sully to go to Pandora after his brother is killed, because his identical twin brother had an Avatar exclusively created to work with his DNA, and only Jake Sully will be able to operate that Avatar now.
  • The Masked Bandit in The Fall indirectly does this by adopting the mask of his dead brother, the Blue Bandit.
  • The House of Yes has a dark example. Ax Crazy Jackie kills her brother Marty and implies that he'll live through her.


  • Wind on Fire in Firesong when Kestrel dies and Bowman is still seeing her in his head 8 years later, living the life she would want.
    • Furthermore Kestrel bids little sister Pinto to love Mumpo for both of them. Pinto already loves Mumpo, but he has always been in love with Kestrel. In the Distant Epilogue Mumpo and Pinto are betrothed
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, after Miles is killed (temporarily it turns out) the Dendarii want his clone-brother, Mark, to impersonate him. Mark is horrified by the thought, largely because rescuing Mark from a disasterous previous attempt to impersonate him got Miles killed in the first place. Mark responds by gaining enough weight that he no longer resembles Miles.
  • Happens in the Sign of the Zodiac series. After Olivia's murder, her sister Joanna needs a new identity, and those doing the plastic surgery on her decide to disguise her as Olivia.
  • Played rather literally in The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, in which Prince Arthur, on his deathbed, made his wife Katherine of Aragon promise to marry his brother and have their children and become queen. May or may not have actually happened this way.
  • This is the premise of a series of V. C. Andrews novels. The main character Celeste has a brother named Noble, who is the favorite of her New Agey, spirit-obsessed mother. When Noble drowns to death, the mom forces Celeste to dress like and act like Noble, in the hopes of having Noble's spirit live on through her. She even dresses up Noble's corpse like Celeste and tells the whole town that it was Celeste who died, not Noble. Needless to say, the whole thing comes off as downright creepy
  • In Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton, the pirate Lazoo has an older brother who died in infancy. She was born shortly afterward after her father had been away at war for over a year and raised as her brother to hide her mother's infidelity.
  • In the Protector of the Small books, would-be Non-Action Guy Neal starts training for his knighthood at fifteen (a late age) because his older brothers have all died, and his family/house is a pillar of the kingdom that's supposed to always have at least one knight serving the crown.
  • The Wheel of Time has Vandene, who starts wearing the clothes that used to belong to her sister Adealas after Adealas is murdered.
  • Agatha Christie did this in A Murder is Announced. The dead sister was the heir to a large fortune, and by impersonating her, the other sister hoped to get the money.

Live Action TV

  • In the HBO series In Treatment, one of the patients was treated by his parents as a replacement for his older brother, who died young and was the favorite child.
  • One episode of Jonathan Creek had a plot point of woman whose identical twin had been killed while attempting a dangerous stage-magic trick, and she took on her identity to avoid grief for her sister's family.
  • An episode of MacGyver featured a rock star that was eventually revealed to be her twin sister switching back and forth between both identities: the real rock star had died during a climbing accident involving the two sisters. This caused the surviving sister to take both identities to "keep her sister alive" and grow increasingly unstable.
  • Parodied in Allo Allo. Rene is sentenced to death by the Germans for working with the French resistance, but is able to fake his death (with a lot of help). He covers his reappearance by claiming to be his own identical twin brother for the rest of the show's run.
  • One episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featured a pair of twin aliens. When one was killed, the other explained that twins in his species are essentially one being (leaving him as only half a person). Referring to his deceased brother as the only thing that made life enjoyable he asserts that the only joy he will ever feel again will be from taking his revenge PERSONALLY on the killer. He explains that letting the local law or even the killer's home planet (where he is slated to be executed) deal with him is not good enough.
  • Actually doubled up on in an episode of House. Count 1: The Patient of the Week is a teenage girl with a sick brother who seems driven to live the life he'd be living if he weren't sick, so that he can experience it vicariously through her. Count 2: Eventually, through some Medical Phlebotinum, it turns out the only way to save her is a treatment that will shorten his life significantly. She first tries to kill herself when she realizes what her parents are arguing about, but then her brother tells her he wants to live on through her continuing to live.
  • Just before jumping to her death, Buffy tells Dawn to "live ... for me." However, because nobody in the Buffyverse stays dead for long, we never find out if Dawn would have adopted this trope.
    • It's somewhat more gruesome than that. Not only does Buffy tell her sister to live for her - she herself also deliberately dies for Dawn, since spilling the blood of Dawn was explicitly the only thing that could stop the impending apocalypse - until Buffy realized that as the older sister, she would also quality.
  • Law and Order SVU inevitably had the creepy parents-replace-dead-child-with-her-sister version.


  • Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, as Viola takes on the role of her brother Sebastian. She pulls it off because the people she's impersonating him to don't know Sebastian, and she doesn't use his name, so it's an entirely private tribute on her part out of practicality because she doesn't have a man to represent her interests. Then there is a lot of falling in love, gender-bending and clever wordplay.
    • This also features one of two of Shakespeare's uses of tragic Antonio, two guys with the same name who in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice appear to be desperately in love (platonically or not) with younger men who use them shamelessly and then get married, because Sebastian isn't really dead. When Antonio mistakes the cross-dressing Viola for Sebastian, he gets his heart totally broken.

Video Games

  • Cloud's way of repaying Big Brother Mentor Zack's Heroic Sacrifice in Crisis Core, which leads to his Loss of Identity existensial crisis in Final Fantasy VII.
  • .hack//G.U. implies that the "Saku" half of the player "Sakubo" is in fact the user's stillborn older sister. Given the nature of this series, it would not be a surprise if "Saku" really was Sakura Nakanishi given a second chance at life in her younger brother's body.
  • At the end of Final Fantasy XII, Basch takes over the position of Judge-Magister Gabranth, who was formerly his twin brother.
  • Spun around in Persona 5 Royal. When the real Kasumi Yoshizawa sacrifices her life to save her twin sister Sumire, Sumire loses it so badly that she expresses the desire of actually becoming Kasumi. This makes her an easy prey to the Big Bad Takuto Muraki, who transforms her into a "fake Kasumi" with the powers of his own Persona Adam Kadmon - or so it seems, since others still see "Kasumi" as Sumire, thus believe that she has lost it.

Visual Novels

  • In Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All, the Miney sisters. The two got into a car accident, killing Ini Miney and leaving Mimi Miney severely burned. Mimi underwent plastic surgery and her face was rebuilt as her sister's, due to a photo of her sister being in her pocket. Turns out Mimi deliberately did this to hide from her past failures as a nurse and get revenge for her sister's death.
    • And a bit literally with spirit medium Maya Fey. Her sister Mia lives on through her...because Maya occasionally channels her. Averted (thankfully) with Dahlia Hawthorne and her unwitting half-sister Pearl. If Pearl had succeeded in channeling Dahlia the vengeful spirit would have used her body to murder Maya.
  • At the end of Hisui's True End in Tsukihime, Kohaku dies, so Hisui decides she will live life loving Shiki, like she wanted to. She already loves Shiki fortunately.

Western Animation

  • Done in a Whole-Plot Reference to Tootsie in Family Guy. In that episode, Stewie pretends to be a girl named Karina Smirnoff in order to land a part on the American Adaptation of his favorite television show - the only part available was playing a little girl named Mary. He then falls in love with one of his (female) costars, but the costar explains to her/him that she's not a lesbian ... so Stewie marches into the (conveniently live) taping of the episode, and in character (as Mary, not Karina/Stewie) explains that Karina was actually his sister who died, and he was Desmond - a perfectly normal little boy transvestite - who was trying to carry on her memory.
  • Timmy's mom has got a job as a weather girl and so Timmy's Dad got out a puppet looking just like Timmy's mom to be a mother to Timmy. He took it a little too far.

 Mom Puppet: I think you're being too harsh on Timmy.

Dad: (spits out water) Oh, sure! Take his side!

Timmy: No amount of therapy will ever make this moment okay.


Real Life

  • Author James M. Barrie was one of ten children. His older brother David was their mother's favorite, and after David was killed in a skating accident, six-year-old James began trying to ease his mother's grief by taking on David's mannerisms and dressing in his clothes. That much.
  • It used to be fairly common that if a child died in infancy or childhood the parents would give a subsequent sibling the deceased's name.
  • Peter Sellers had an older, deceased brother named Peter. Which is what his parents always called him. Eventually the boy molded himself after his dead brother, and Sellers's infamous lack of a true identity began to rear its head.
  • After Katharine Hepburn found her older brother Tom dead of an apparent suicide (Miss Hepburn always maintained it was an accident), she swore, "I pledged to Tom and myself that he would live in my heart and mind as long as I lived . . . The real date of his death would not be until the day I died." She told people that his birthday was her own for years.
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