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Sometimes, a person's spirit is just too corrupted to redeem. Maybe he committed despicable acts, maybe he became one of The Heartless, maybe he just had extraordinarily bad luck. Regardless, there's simply no hope of redemption.
So, what do you do? Turn him into a baby!
Turning someone into an infant - mind, body and all - will essentially purify his/her spirit, and allow him to start over. Typically, the transformation is soon followed by one of the heroes (or at least a good person) adopting the newly made infant, and presumably raising him right this time.
This can be undermined if the person who adopts him raises him to be evil, anyway, or it turns out to be In the Blood after all, or if the age-reversal fails to erase the villain's memories, or if he chooses it, perhaps after being told of his past. Good parenting or bad, questions of how this outcome is morally any different from imposing a Mind Wipe on someone are seldom addressed.
See also: Fountain of Youth, which is usually the cause of this. Compare Turn Out Like His Father. When this trope is used as a reward instead of a punishment (of sorts) it's And Your Reward Is Infancy.
Anime & Manga
- As Kid Buu finally disintegrates into nothingness at the end of Dragon Ball Z, Goku wishes for his soul to be reincarnated so he's a better person. Indeed, Buu is reincarnated as Uub, a kindly and friendly boy from a poor village whom Goku meets again during the Tenkaichi Budokai. After a quick match to gauge Uub's powers, Goku takes him away and blows off the whole tournament, leaving on a years-long training mission to bring Uub up to speed.
- Also zigzagged with Emperor Pilaf, Mai and Shu. After getting turned into children by Shenron it seemed subverted at first as they're still out to commit mischief and plotting world domination. But then it's apparently played straight with Mai (at least the Mai from Future Trunk's timeline)
- Michal in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
- Saffron in the final chapter of Ranma ½. As a phoenix, Saffron should be expected to reset to an egg after his defeat, though.
- Hotaru Tomoe, alias Sailor Saturn, in Sailor Moon. This one falls under the "was just unlucky" Hotaru/Sailor Saturn wasn't evil, but had the power to destroy the world, and the entity that possessed her body - Mistress 9 - WAS evil. Without her evil father (manga) / demon possessed father (anime) being the one to bring her up she wouldn't have gotten possessed herself.
- Also Queen Nehellenia, sent back to her home planet as an infant.
- Valgaav in The Slayers.
- Mayuka in Tenchi Muyo!: Daughter of Darkness. She starts out as a Tyke Bomb created by the movie's villain, but is reverted to a fetus at the end. Washu puts her in an artificial womb, with the whole cast intending to help raise her once she's born (again).
- The oldest homunculus, Pride in Fullmetal Alchemist. And unlike before, he's actually aging properly this time.
- The Sandman - Dream does this for his former lover Nada. Different from other examples because Nada was noble and virtuous, but had been made to suffer so much that Dream felt he could only make amends by giving her a chance at a happier life. This trope is almost what the Corinthian gets as well. However, he gets to start over an adult, physically.
- Magneto, the famous X-Men villain, was changed from a mad world-conqueror into a more morally gray character this way, by his own creation, the "Ultimate Mutant". While he was later aged back to adulthood by a villain, complete with all his memories, his megalomania was now gone. We also have Cassandra Nova, in New X-Men.
- Subverted in Uncanny X-Force. The team was on a mission to stop the revival of the villain Apocalypse or kill him if he returns. When they see he had return as an infant, they didn't feel comfortable killing a child and decided to take him in a raise him to be good....All except team member Fantomex who decides to not take any chances and shoots and kills the kid Apocalypse anyway, to the horror of the others.
- At the end of the Our Worlds at War crossover event in 2001, Lena Luthor--who'd been taken to the future and raised/warped into an evil cyborg by Brainiac 13--is reverted back into infancy, and one of the last scenes of the crossover is Superman giving her back to her father, Lex Luthor, and begging Lex to Raise Her Right This Time. A few years later, after Lex goes goes insane, is kicked out of the Presidency, and goes on the run, Lena is put up for adoption to more fit parents. She hasn't been scene or mentioned since.
- Following an arc in which he died in a case of Redemption Equals Death, Loki, a longstanding villain in The Mighty Thor is resurrected as a young boy and serves as a Redeeming Replacement of himself. The explanation is that Loki pulled his Face Heel Turn as a teen, and his younger form only has memories from before that, at which point Loki was a nice kid who looked up to his big brother.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic Meta Crossover Fandom Wars, this happens essentially to the human race as a whole after the war. This was 1. to prevent the Fandom Wars from ever happening again and 2. to prevent the humans from living in total regret and resentment over their loss and to be assimilated more easily. Director Yozu is reborn as Pio and Zoey's son a few years after the main storyline, to serve as an example for the audience.
- Sky High - Royal Pain was regressed to a baby by her own Pacifier device, then raised by her henchman to be evil again. Royal Pain intended to do this with all the heroes, raising them to be villains under her command.
- At the end of the first segment of Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders, which was mocked in Mystery Science Theater 3000, Jonathan, the Jerkass Straw Critic, drinks a potion created using Merlin's tome that turns him into a baby. He is then implicitly raised by...his wife, who had previously been having a hard time getting pregnant.
- This happened to the villain of The Princess Pawn, at the end of the book.
- In the Q novel Q-Squared, Trelane is destroyed at the end of the novel, but his essence survives and Q can begin raising him again.
- In A Hero Born the hero offers to let the villain do this to him again should the latter win a game of chess.
- In Half World, the Big Bad is transformed into a harmless baby, and the heroine decides to raise him properly this time.
Live Action TV
Doctor: She can start again. Live her life from scratch. If we take her home, give her to a different family, tell them to bring her up properly, she might be alright.
Captain Jack: Or she might be worse.
Doctor: That’s her choice.
- Dr. Forrester of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is turned into a baby (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey) in his last appearance on the show. Subverted in that his mother Pearl initially promises to raise him right, but it's revealed later that he turned out just as bad as before. So she killed him.
- In one episode of The Fantastic Journey, a murderer steals an object that has the power to warp matter, create food and other such things from a peaceful community. The orb reacts to him and regresses him into an infant. The community scoop him up and promise to raise him well; his life will replace the one he took.
- In an episode of Weird Science, Chett is turned into a kid again, and then regrows into an adult at accelerated speed. Replacing his military school upbringing with a few days of kindness and love from his "older" brother turns him into a big softie.
- Isabelle in The4400 went from being a baby to a young adult almost instantaneously, and as a result of this and her incredible power became quite mentally unstable. Her father Richard finds a way to make her a baby again, hoping she'll turn out right if she's given a more normal childhood. Shortly thereafter, Isabelle's dead mother Lily appears in a vision to Richard and convinces him to change Isabelle back.
- Functionally done in Angel when Angel makes a deal with Wolfram and Hart to rewrite Connor's past to be brought up by Muggles rather than by an obsessed vampire hunter, in a hell dimension.
- In an episode of Psi factor a middle age and criminally inclined woman get subjected to an experimental treatment that causes her to periodically and traumatically regress in age with the ultimate end result being death unless the process is halted. By the time it is she’s physically and mentally a seven year old with no memory of her life as an adult. At the end she’s placed in the care of her own grown daughter (whom she had been estranged with) where it’s implied she would be brought up to be a more morally upright person this time.
- The Korean folktale The Magic Spring is about a Fountain of Youth and two old men: one kind and one greedy. The kind old man takes a single sip from the spring and ends up as a young man; his greedy neighbor drinks as much as he can swallow and ends up as a baby. Just to wrap things up neatly, the kind old man and his wife always wanted a child...
- Chrono Cross - Serge is purified in this way about two-thirds of the way through, though he rapidly ages back to normal afterward.
- King's Quest VII ends with Malicia being turned into a baby, to be raised again properly.
- Prince Cort, at the end of Legend of Legaia. He is promptly adopted by his long-lost younger sister Noa.
- One of the minor villains was redeemed in this way by Luna in Seiken Densetsu III.
- Wander from Shadow of the Colossus, during the final cutscene. This is a rare example of not being any kind of redemption, as Wander is probably the only fully heroic character in the entire game. He was possessed by the god-like being that was guiding you through the game until that point, though it's possible that he died and the baby was his child instead.
- Borf, at the end of Space Ace.
- Inverted in Terranigma in which the villains do this to Ark once he's outlived his usefulness. However, upon gaining maturity again, he is 'reborn' as the hero destined to defeat Dark Gaia and complete another revolution of the cycle.
- In The Dragon Doctors, a team of thieves tries to steal a drum full of rejuvenating fluid. Goro, the soldier surgeon, cracks open the drum with a booby trap and one of the thieves is exposed to a massive, incurable overdose of the fluid, turning her into a confused infant. The last we see of her she's being handed to someone in Pediatric Care and being reassured that she'll be well-taken-care-of.
- Discussed in a couple of Vlog Brothers videos. The idea is that, when time travel is discovered, time travelers should abduct evil dictators and the like when they're infants and put them in an "Evil Baby Orphanage" where they could be raised to be good people.
- In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, the Daimyo's son is deaged for this purpose, although he's only turned back to a young child and not an infant.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, an evil TV exec is hit by his own de-aging ray, at which point two of his cronies reveal themselves to be his parents and remark that "maybe this time we can raise him not to be evil". Bizarrely, he already looked like a baby, so his appearance did not change.
- Daolon Wong, the Big Bad of Season 3 of Jackie Chan Adventures actually did this once to Valmont, the Big Bad of Season 1, though it was meant as a cruel joke after the only way Valmont could think of threatening an Evil Sorcerer was "Because I'm bigger than you!" Kid-Valmont spends the episode demanding the heroes change him back. They do...and promptly hand him over to Captain Black, at which point Valmont realises the missed opportunity.
- Occurs in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, in a way. At the end of the pilot, Princess Luna is turned back from Nightmare Moon, and is de-aged to a filly. Next time we see her she appears much older, almost full grown, though only a year has passed. Given we have no idea how ponies, let alone immortal alicorns age, it could very well fall under this trope.
- In an episode of Spider-man the animated series elderly mod boss Silvermane seeks a means of regaining his youth. By the end he gets it. But he gets it too much and is reduced to a crying infant and it’s implied this trope would be played straight. Only for it to get subverted in the next episode Silvermane appears in where it’s revealed that while physically a baby he still possessed his adult faculties. And he hated being a baby!
- In a Beetlejuice episode BJ is put in jail for his antics and put through several attempts by the wardens to reform him but to no avail. Their final tactic was this trope. It still didn't work.
- The Real Life religious doctrine of reincarnation is based on the idea that the universe gives you a second chance to live a good life.
- A few even have a way to get it to stop doing this as their goal.