Four Is Death

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Four's bad. Fourteen's even worse. Thirteen was glad for the company.

In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, the words for "four" (四) and "death" (死), despite being written differently, are pronounced similarly (somewhat like "" in Mandarin, "sei" in Cantonese, "shi" in Japanese, and "sa" in Korean). As a cultural trope, Asian works of media tend to treat the number the same way Western writers treat the number 13 (except 13 isn't half a letter away from "death", although numerologically speaking, what is 1+3?... Oh my God!).

As a similar point of reference, building floors and apartments are (mis)numbered accordingly to avoid the number (the US does the same with the number 13. Floors will go straight from 12 to 14, while the UK skips Rm13), and some Japanese people prefer to say "yon" (another word for four) instead of "shi".

Villainous groups of four are often given the name of Shitennō, a reference to the Four Heavenly Kings, Buddhist guardian gods of the four cardinal directions. Historically, "Shitennō" was applied to a samurai lord's four best men, which is the root of the "four subordinates to a powerful leader" trend in many Japanese stories (while you're more likely to see heroes in groups of three or Five-Man Band). That said, there's probably overlap with Five-Bad Band. (Unless, of course, The Hero is a samurai lord and his Five-Man Band are the Shitennō to him - Samurai Sentai Shinkenger comes to mind).

On an unrelated note, Christianity also has several examples of Four Is Death, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, and Glory). In Judaism, the number four is also prominent, some examples being the four worlds described in the Kabbalah, the four sons, the four horns of the altar in Daniel, the forty days of raining during the Deluge, and the four matriarchs (not to mention the Tetragrammaton, or four letter name—the written name of God YHVH).

Probably unrelated is the fact that 4 is the most common numeral at which Numbered Sequels peter out and are replaced with some subtitle instead. The Rule of Three may also be implicated.

Compare 108, Thirteen Is Unlucky and the Number of the Beast.

Note: This is not a repository for every time the number 4 just happens to appear (or for series where the fourth installment was particularly bad), this is for when the trope is consciously addressed.

Examples of Four Is Death include:

Anime and Manga

  • For the Hunter exam (in Hunter X Hunter) Hisoka was number 44
  • Sailor Moon manages a set of four lesser villains per story arc (the Amazon Trio are red herrings for the proper Amazones Quartet). The first set was explictly called the "Shitennou" (roughly, "four heavenly kings").
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the fourth Evangelion unit (really the fifth unit if you count the prototype 00, but being called the 04 was all it took) disappeared into a Dirac sea during a startup experiment, taking a large chunk of the Mojave Desert with it. Also, Unit 03—the real fourth Evangelion -- got taken over by an Angel and had to be destroyed, nearly (manga, actually) killing Toji too, who was, of course, the Fourth Child.
    • Unit-04 was always referred to as yon-gouki in dialogue. Even Rebuild does this.
    • This may yet be played totally straight in Rebuild of Evangelion, as it appears that the series will now be 4 full-length features, rather than 2 fulls, and 2 half-length shorts to make a third, and we all know how the original series ended, after all...
  • In Naruto, megavillain Orochimaru sends his followers the Sound Four to retrieve Sasuke for him. The pursuit team of good guys sent after them, by contrast, are a five-man squad. (Which conveniently allows everyone on the team to face down a Sound Four member, with Naruto himself facing Sasuke).
    • Later, Naruto's Super-Powered Evil Side becomes dominant and goes into "kill everyone" mode when he grows four fox tails.
    • The Fourth Hokage spent the shortest time in office, a tenure that ended with him saving the village with a "Seal Evil" technique that required him to sacrifice his own life and seal his soul in the Death God's stomach, in eternal combat with the sealed Evil. Yeah, number four had it rough.
    • Meanwhile, the Fourth Kazekage seemed to be the worst thing to ever happen to Suna. He sealed a Tailed Beast in his son (in this case Shukaku, the One-Tailed Tanuki) which was already contained in a tea kettle. Gaara wasn't born yet and as a result the Kazekage's wife died delivering him. He then proceeded to alienate the boy from birth and when Gaara showed signs of being Ax Crazy (like all of Shukaku's previous hosts) he ordered the poor kid's uncle (the only person up to this point who had shown any kindness to him) to assassinate him. And to top off his career, he got his face torn off by Orochimaru as a prelude to his village being used as cannon fodder in an invasion.
    • According to the Fifth Mizukage, the Fourth Mizukage was like this for the Mist Village, and is largely responsible for the "Bloody Mist" image held by most other countries. The fact that he was being mind-controlled by Madara probably didn't help.
    • It's widely believed among the fans that, following the pattern, something seriously bad is going to inevitably happen to the stated-by-an artbook-to-be-the-Fourth Raikage. (Though maybe losing an arm was enough)
    • The Forest of Death's official title is the 44th Training Ground and has 44 gates.
    • The fourth stage of the Uchiha's Sharingan is the Mangekyo, which requires the user kill their best friend, and the fourth power of the Mangekyo is Izanagi, which allows the user to cheat death.
    • Of the Eight Celestial Gates, first through third are Initial, Heal, and Life; the fourth, however, is the Harm Gate. When opened, this gate puts enough strain on the body that the muscles tear themselves apart. And twice that, the eighth gate, is the Death Gate.
    • Sasuke was going to be the fourth body Orochimaru claimed before Sasuke thwarted Orochimaru and killed him, and before that, was going to be the fourth body Orochimaru had, including his original, before the Sound Four took too long and Orochimaru had to transfer prematurely.
  • The Kibao Hoarde of the SD Gundam Force anime. Four elite Musha Gundams who protect Kibaomaru's castle. There's Bakuhamaru the Undefeated, Mokinmaru the Sword of Raven, Kijumaru the Battle Beast, and Haganemaru, the Iron Sphere.
  • One episode of Chobits deals with an apparently haunted Room 104.
  • ×××HOLiC refers to this early on.
  • In Bleach Ulquiorra Cifer is the most powerful Espada Ichigo fights, leading Ichigo to initially assume he's number one. Not quite.
    • He's also the only Espada with a second release state. Moreover, even the first release state of certain Espada is too powerful to be used under the dome of Las Noches, since it might tear the whole fortress down. Guess which Espada is the weakest to fall under that prohibition.
    • Also, Ulquiorra's general deathly appearance: pale skin, black hair, permanently cold-looking eyes with lines underneath running down his cheeks like tear marks... you get the picture.
    • The 11th Division's fourth seat is empty for both the superstition and because Yumichika thinks the kanji for "Four" is ugly.
  • Moroboshi Ataru of Urusei Yatsura was marked out as a Cosmic Plaything by being born on the second most ill-omened day in the Japanese calendar, the thirteenth of April: 4-13. (This was also on Butsumetsu, the anniversary of the Buddha's death; the only unluckier day is April 4, which is Four Is Death squared.) Additionally in the first episode, his jersey has the number 4 on it.
  • In episode 4 of FLCL, Naota gets beaned by Haruko during the 4th inning of the baseball game at the beginning of the episode. The umpire even shouts "dead ball!"
  • Gundam's sequels and Spiritual Successors like toying with this:
    • Being the protagonist's Temporary Love Interest, Four Murasame in Zeta Gundam was so predestined to die. And she did. Twice. And again in the Compilation Movies with a bullet to the head.
    • G Gundam uses this trope in a similar way as Sailor Moon, with the Dark/Devil Gundam having four principal minions known as the Four Heavenly Kings, more than likely supposed to represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, what with Gundams named God and Devil in the series.
    • Also worth mention is the fact that both Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and Gundam Seed skip the obvious fours in their Gundam lineups (there is no GN-004 or GAT-X104). We then later find out what became of 004: it's hidden underneath GN-005, Tieria's Gundam Virtue. It's a girly looking Fragile Speedster down to the flowing red "hair" coming out of its head and is called Gundam Nadleeh, which is incidentally the word for people of the third, fourth, and fifth genders in Navajo culture, which only deepens the mystery of whether Tieria's a Gender Bender.
    • The second season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 seems to go to complete overkill with regards to the number four: it takes place 4 years at the end of the first season, the main Gundam Meisters are still composed of 4 members, the protagonist unit's designation number is 0000 and it is also the only 4th generation model at the start of the series. And if you want to take things further, the said unit is powered by two GN-Drives, one's from the very first (O) Gundam, while the other is from the protagonist's previous unit which is part of the third generation. Want to do the math? 1+3=? Guess. Oh, and the Innovades are four pairs, and it includes the Big Bad and Tieria.
    • Gundam Wing has an interesting take on this, Quatre Winner is the fourth Gundam Pilot, and has an aversion to killing whenever possible. Yet with his destruction of a whole colony with Wing Zero he has arguably the highest body count of any of the Gundam Boys. Also he apparently killed his Mother giving birth to him.
  • In the 1000-Year Demon story arc of Konjiki no Gash Bell, the main bad guys our heroes have to get through to get to mastermind Zofis are the "Shitennou", the four strongest demons from last millennium's battle.
  • Hokuto no Ken: Four words you do not want Kenshiro to say to you: "Omae wa mou shindeiru"/"You are already dead."
  • Claymores work in fours when participating in group demon-exterminating missions. In addition, when Number 6 (Claymores are ranked by power) lists the top five for her companions to watch out for, the only one to warrant emphasis and additional description is not Number 1 (by definition the strongest) but rather Number 4, who "cares nothing for the lives of her comrades or the lives of humans in general... A woman who lusts for battle and the blood spilled." The Number 4 to take over for her, Miata, is also little more than a Psychopathic Manchild, leading at least a few to conclude that all Number 4 Claymores are crazy.
  • There are powers of four all over Death Note... for obvious reasons. Take the Note's rules as one example: once a name is written in it, that person dies 40 seconds later. In addition, you have six minutes and forty seconds to write the details of the death after the name and cause - in other words, 400 seconds. One of the rules unmentioned in the series is that writing a name incorrectly four times in the Death Note by accident will grant the person who the user was trying to kill immunity to that Death Note. However, writing the name four times incorrectly on purpose will not only not render the target immune to that Death Note, but kill the user who wrote the name.
    • On a far more obscure note, Light's given name is spelt as "moon" (月). This has four strokes, which is ... crashingly unlucky and symbolic. Poor Light, doomed from birth.
    • On top of that, Mikami's office is number 4.
    • Also, Rem is Shinigami ranked number 4
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In the 5th arc Guido Mista has a problem with the number 4. This is seen in not only his normal life where any time he is around anything that has 4 of itself he freaks out, but in his Stand which is six bullet-kicking creatures that have numbers on their heads... that of course skip the number 4. He himself said that whenever he is around the number 4 bad luck follows him. Ironicly he is Italian, not Japanese.
    • Near the end of that part, after a bunch of people end up switching bodies... (It Makes Sense in Context) Guido accidentaly ends up dropping four bullets on the ground. He begs another character to drop another, but then the villain attacks and kills Narancia. After that, the number of protagonists left is, in an instance of twisted humor, four.
  • In Yakitate!! Japan, Kazuma's Ja-pan Number 44 is rather dangerous. It's so delicious, anyone who eats it for the first time has a Near-Death Experience.
  • Appears repeatedly in Weiss Kreuz: not only is Weiss, a team of assassins, made up of four members, so are three different groups of antagonists they go up against, and one team of allies. Sequel series Weiss Kreuz Gluhen, which re-forms the team into its fourth iteration, can be summed up as It Got Worse.
  • In Outlaw Star, the #4 Caster bullets are capable of killing the shooter if they fire them in sucession. (As do the #9 and #13 bullets, both also being unlucky numbers.)
  • Usagi Yojimbo is actually an American manga, but takes place in feudal Japan. At one point the hero Usagi has to fight an infamous band of four assassins called... Shi. It is made explicit that this is an intentional pun on their part.
  • In GetBackers, Ginji led a gang called VOLTS, and his direct subordinates were known as the Shitennou. They inspire equal amounts of terror and admiration among the population of Lower Town, and in the series proper are re-introduced to him and Ban as antagonists. According to one of them, Shido, the title "Shitennou" is for someone who has cheated death countless times.
    • Another one, Makubex, attempts to duplicate their success with his "New Four Kings." After his Heel Face Turn, one dies and the other just vanishes, leaving him with The Comically Serious and The Idiot From Osaka, plus his Team Mom.
    • Ironically, Kazuki, the least hostile of the four, has his own set of four subordinates who mirror the situation between Ginji and the Shitennou—including the aforementioned Comically Serious in Shido's place as the angry-but-ultimately-forgiving one. The aforementioned Team Mom mirrors Kazuki himself: clearly working against her former leader, but not directly threatening him.
    • Shido's Maryuudo tribe also boasts the four Shiki clans, which correspond to the four seasons. Their mortal enemies, the Kiryuudo, greatly fear the reunion of the four leaders, because it literally does mean death for them. Shido has the power to awaken hidden abilities to their fullest potential, and the other three have the powers of putting everything to sleep, healing, and instantly killing everything. They massacre the entire population of Kiryuudo pretty much in the blink of an eye.
  • In the Rosario + Vampire anime, Tsukune arrives at the bus stop at 4:44 pm and is attacked by rivals for Moka's love. Later on, 4:44 pm is the scheduled time for his execution for being human.
    • Kuyou, the leader of the Student Police, is a youko with four tails.
  • In Digimon Adventure, the four Dark Masters are the bad guys of the final arc.
  • Violinist of Hameln has the four Mazoku Generals as acting Big Bads.
  • In Soul Eater, weapon meisters use a form of spiritual telephone to keep in contact—the number for direct contact with Shinigami-sama is 42-42-564 ('shini, shini, koroshi' out loud—in other words, 'die, die, kill').
    • The 'shini' part gets used for Kid in the increase in the size of his soul - one scanlation translated Liz's comment as "42 soul-widths") and the Sanzu Line-enabled form for the Thompsons - Death Eagle .42.
    • This is also the other reason that Death Robbins ice cream has 42 flavors instead of 31. Ohkubo seems to really love this trope.
  • Lord Fungus in Final Fantasy Unlimited survived the first three shots from Kaze's Magun, but the fourth did him in.
  • The Godhand in Berserk originally had four members before Griffith did his epic Face Heel Turn.
  • Lordgenome's four generals in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, who are also given a "Heavenly Kings" nickname. They are also named after DNA base pairs.
  • In .hack GU, Tri-Edge's mark looks like a stylized rendering of the arabic numeral "4", rotated to its side (or mirrored, depending on how you look at it). The mark signifies those that have been killed by the enigmatic Tri-Edge, making the people that got killed fall into comas left and right.
  • In Code Geass R2, the first person with any screen time to die against Suzaku's new Lancelot Albion is the debuting Knight of Four. In the same series, the Valkyrie Girls, a group of pilots under the command of Luciano Bradley, are four in number- and they are the first to be killed by Kallen in the Guren SEITEN.
    • Tohdoh's "Four Holy Swords" are an example of Shitennou, though they aren't bad guys and they don't (all) die. In fact, they all survive the first season.... but only one of them lives until the end.
  • In D.Gray-man a Level 4 Akuma could take on Generals easily and was close to annihilating the Black Order.
  • In Black Lagoon, Roanapur is controlled by four criminal organisations - the Triads, the Russian Mafiya, the Italian Mafia, and a Columbian drug cartel.
  • The Shisheiten, Taishiro, and Holy Red Cross Knights from Samurai Deeper Kyo
  • Though they haven't all had screen time yet, One Piece has four superpowerful pirates known as the Four Emperors (one of whom happens to be someone extremely important to Luffy) who act as a counterbalance to the Marines and the Seven Warlords of the Sea.
    • The 4th division commander of the Whitebeard Pirates, Thatch, was the only commander who met an unfortunate end before the present story.
  • In Saint Seiya, the local Psycho for Hire resides in the Fourth Temple of the Sanctuary, the Temple of the Giant Crab. He's actually named Cancer Deathmask.
  • In a Fictional Document in Monster, called "The Nameless Monster", the Nameless Monster goes through four hosts. The first three are consumed from the inside out. The fourth consumes everyone who knows his name.
  • Albert Heinrich, aka Cyborg 004, is the most heavily reconstructed and had most of his body replaced with various weapons. The original manga even saddled him with the nickname "God of Death", and his original personality was that of a rather frightening vengeance-seeker that enjoyed battling Black Ghost. However, his character evolved over the years, and in the 2001 version, he's more of a withdrawn, Big Brother Mentor who's very disturbed by his enhancements.
  • Akane-san from the broadcasting room from Gakkou no Kaidan will kill without fail any and all people who hear her voice. She counts aloud the exact time of the sunset before she finally kills her victim, carefully avoiding the number 4. Her spirit can be repelled if one interrupts her count and say the number 4 out loud. To seal her, she has to hear the chime that indicates the end of a broadcast before sunset. Guess how many bell rings does that make.
  • In Black Butler II, Ciel and Alois arrange to have a formal duel while their Battle Butlers face off. Ciel explains that it is traditional, in duels, to take ten paces away from each other before the beginning, but, after reaching four (which is deliberately pronounced "shi" rather than "yon") Ciel attempts to cheat by attacking. He is thwarted, but this starts off the duel nonetheless, with it ending in Ciel stabbing Alois, which later leads to his death.
  • Deadman Wonderland: The Tokyo Fireball earthquake happened on 4/4/2014, measured 11.4 on the Richter scale, and 148,000 people died/went missing. The odd number out is that it happened at 5 PM.
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, the Quirky Miniboss Squad of the first arc has four members.
  • In the animal adventure episode of Excel Saga, one of the dogs is portrayed as a gambler who compulsively fiddles with a pair of dice. At one point he rolls a 4 and 2 ("shi ni", meaning "to death") and remarks that it's a bad omen.
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Makoto alternately, Kousuke and Kaho is fatally hit by a train just as the town clock strikes 4:00
  • At the very beginning of Ghost Hunt, Mai and two other girls are telling ghost stories, at the end of which they count one-by-one, and there's supposed to be an imaginary fourth person. Only, Naru sneaks in and fills the role for real, with obvious results.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, there are four models of Mecha-Mooks used by the Big Bad. Types I through III are relatively benign: sure, they might hurt you and knock you out for a bit, but they are not really meant to kill people. Type IVs, on the other hand, are the Hero-Killer kind, designed specifically to make people (especially mages) very dead. In addition to redshirts, their rap sheet almost included the title character herself and Vita by the end of the series.
    • For that matter, the four Wolkenritter, harbingers of the destruction the Book of Darkness will bring.
  • The four of spades in the Osamu Tezuka Reused Character Design playing card deck is Kiriko, the doctor of death from Black Jack.
  • The fourth episode of Shiki is appropriately titled "Fourth Death". It repeats for episode 14, given the kanji used.
  • In Your Name, it is on October 4th that a fragment breaks off the comet Tiamat and strikes Itomori, causing the death of 500 including Mitsuha.

Comic Books

  • The Frightful Four was a group started by the Wizard in an attempt to form a villainous counterpart to his foes, The Fantastic Four, consisting of himself, the Trapster, the Sandman, and Medusa. Problem is, however, Medusa was an Amnesiac Hero at the time, and when she recovered her memory, she betrayed them and left. Since then, the Wizard's inability to find a permanent fourth member of the team has almost become a Running Gag.
    • The Fantastic Four itself is this, in-universe, to a lot of alien races who have tried to conquer Earth and failed. Many alien cultures now view them as the Four Horsemen.

Fan Works

  • In Humble Shopkeeper, of the Bleach fandom, Shichi (an OC), whose (nick)name means 'seven', splits it into "Shi" (aka, 4) and "Chi", spelling them "death" and "blood", or, alternately, together "the place you die". This is explained due to her being an insane linguist.
  • The four number is carried on in Kira Is Justice, to the point that sixteen is a number used a few times. For example, the sixteen SIS agents.


  • Ju-On, the Japanese movie on which The Grudge is based, features a scene in which Mizuho, who has gone back to her school to meet her boyfriend, Tsuyoshi, only to find that he isn't there. All she discovers is a mysterious cell phone that happens to be lying around. She ends up having to wait inside the school whilst a member of staff searches the building - suddenly, the room goes dark, Toshio starts running around out of her eyesight, and the cell phone she found earlier begins to ring when she is hiding underneath a desk. The number displayed on the screen is simply "4444444444". And when she takes the call, she only hears Toshio's creepy mewing noise. (Of course, Toshio also happens to be right behind her at this point.) Obviously, these are ghosts who like making culturally appropriate dark jokes....
    • There's also the Ju-On short film, which is simply titled 4444444444. It is set during the first movie, and is directly connected to the scene above - it details just what happens to poor Tsuyoshi after he also discovers the mysterious phone.
  • Shutter features a horror sequence where the protagonist is running down a series of stairs. No matter how many flights he goes down, it's always level 4. Creeeepy.
  • In the Robert Duvall vehicle Broken Trail, his character rescues from sexual slavery five immigrant Chinese girls. Since none of them speaks English, and he obviously doesn't speak Chinese, he names them "Number One" to "Number Five". When the girls realize this, "Number Four" objects to being given an unlucky number for a name. One of the other girls eventually accepts to be "Number Four", and she does so because she fully expects a tragic fate to befall her—which indeed it does.
  • Japanese horror film Gakkou No Kaiden revolves around things that haunt an abandoned school when the clock hits... 4:44AM. 4:44AM typically is more horrifying than 4:44PM, where it's Handwaved that it's actually 16:44.
  • The Gang of Four in Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky; Huang Chan, Shorty, Taizan, and Hai.


  • Features heavily in one of the stories in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, although with the Chinese si instead of Japanese shi. For example, it is a very bad thing to be the fourth concubine.
  • In the Shadowrun short story "It's All Done with Mirrors", the characters go to meet with a Yakuza boss who has recently arrived in Seattle because of mishaps in his business to ask what will appease him into leaving. The Yakuza boss then outlines a task they will have to do for him. One of the mob boss's servants lays out sake with cups, and the boss offers to pour the drink for his guests. When The Smart Guy asks what will happen if they fail, the mob boss doesn't answer, but pours three times into his cup and four times into the cups of his guests. Only The Smart Guy, the Genius Bruiser, and The Professor in the group get the message.
  • House of Leaves has a lot of this: the Navidsons put four locks on the door leading to the scary parts of the house; the house is explored in teams of three with one person remaining behind to man the radios; there are four members of Will Navidson's nuclear family; there are four Exploration videos; and lots of little things peppered throughout the text.
  • Seen on occasion in BattleTech novels set in or involving characters from the Draconis Combine. Which isn't a big surprise, since being feudal Japan In Space! is basically that Successor State's hat; it just means the authors actually did do some research.
  • Used verbatim in this early chapter of the Artemis Fowl book Atlantis Complex. Justified in that the character in question is in the middle of a psychotic breakdown where he fixates on the number five.

Live-Action TV

  • In the CSI seventh season episode "Toe Tags", this trope is mentioned as they investigate the drowning of the bodyguard of an Asian high roller at a casino. She had been drowned because the high roller had bad luck and came unexpectedly back to his room and found her taking a bath in the bathtub he had had sprinkled with rose petals for good luck. So he blamed her for his bad luck.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Momotaros, who counts his attacks, ends up missing "Part 4" due to some combination of tiredness and feeling unappreciated. When Ryotaro calls him out on this, he claims that not using four is cool and proves it by counting from one to ten... while skipping four.
  • Kamen Rider 555 had the Lucky Clover, a group of four elite villains.
  • The same happened in Kamen Rider Kiva, with the Checkmate four
  • In Kamen Rider Blade, the 4th Rider Leangle was possessed by the evil spider undead and could defeat the other Riders with ease during his first appearances. Sadly almost his whole life gets ruined by this. But after a few Heroic Sacrifices and The Power of Love, he breaks free of the Undeads influence and was able to control his powers freely.
  • The original villains from Power Rangers follow this. Rita Repulsa's henchmen (Goldar, Finster, Baboo and Squatt) were her own equivalent of the Shitennou.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Tommy Oliver wears his fourth color (green, white, red, black) and is the fourth ranger to join the team...but isn't exactly the luckiest in the season: First he gets encased in amber by the evil possessed White Ranger. When, some episodes later, he breaks out of it, he couldn't morph back to human form. Then when his genius friend Hayley tries invention on him to turn him back to human, he turns invisible and can't turn visible for a few episodes. After another experiment, he turns visible again, but falls unconscious. During his unconsciousness he has a dream in which he must fight 3 of his previous incarnations. After he defeats those and wakes up, things start to go better for him.
    • This means four misfortunes happen to him. Amber, Mode Lock, invisibility, coma.
    • Dai Shi from Power Rangers Jungle Fury and the four Phantom Beast Generals, actually based on The Four Gods (there's a dragon, a tiger, and a turtle, and later, against their wishes, Camille getting upgraded into Camille Phoenix to round it out.) Also, four sets of villains in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, and four main villains in Power Rangers Samurai (though if they follow Shinkenger, Akumaro's counterpart won't be too far behind.)
      • Yup, Serrator's in the house, bringing it to five. However, for a time it's still four: Deker's Disney Death lasts a few episodes, and Xandred overtaxes himself to Curb Stomp the Rangers (the seal on him means the drying-out effect of being away from the Sanzu River works much faster for him.) so he's out of action for a while. During these periods, there's still four baddies.
  • One example from Super Sentai were the Four Hell Kings from Mahou Sentai Magiranger, who ended up being so powerful that the heroes needed to gain their Legend Modes just to be able to defeat two of them, though the other two they handled on their own.
  • In the NCIS episode "Hung out to Dry" Tony initally refuses a switch of reserve parachutes with a marine because their reserve is number 4, citing the fact that four is unlucky in China. He relents when Gibbs points out they're not in China. Turns out that the reserve Tony had (Number 13,) was unable to open as the marine he swapped with sabotaged it to kill the victim. It was up there as part of a Batman Gambit by Gibbs to expose him. The number of the "dirty" reserve parachute was selected because the victim was like a living rabbit's foot. The guy's mindset wouldn't let him say no to taking the 'chute.
  • Numerous occurrences on Lost. Four is one of the show's Numbers. Boone wears multiple t-shirts in the first season containing fours or sets of four, and is the first regular character to die. In a season 5 flashback, Miles discovers his ability to speak to the dead by finding a dead man in Apt. #4. In Jacob's cave, Locke is indicated by the number 4, and is the first of the six uncrossed names to be crossed out (as he is dead). There are many other instances.
  • Food Network used to have a Chinese-cuisine show called East Meets West, whose chef/host Ming Tsai occasionally mentioned this trope and went out of his way to make servings consist of either three or five.
  • Doctor Who: The tenth Doctor is told that "He will knock four times." and then The Doctor will die. The Master has a beat of drums in his head, a beat of four. Yet, The Master goes to his Final Death without the four knocks occurring anywhere but in his own head. We get a Hope Spot... and then we find out who really knocks four times to signal Ten's end.
    • The Doctor turns with an Oh Crap expression as he hears it, too, and the one knocking doesn't get it, so keeps knocking. We wind up getting four sets of four knocks! Death squared!
  • In the episode "Phantom Traveler" of Supernatural, planes keep crashing after 40 minutes of their departure. Later it is even mentioned that this is because four is a "biblical number" and "means death" (Noah's ark and the forty days of flooding given as an example). Hell, the episode itself is the fourth episode of the show ever! On top of this, try to guess what's the number of the gate the last plane takes off? Talk about numerological motifs!

Mythology and Religion

  • Ancient Jewish tradition - see the Leviticus Rabbah for one - holds that the souls of the recently deceased will stay around their bodies for three days with the possibility of returning. By the fourth day the point of no return is passed. That Jesus resurrects Lazarus in The Bible on the fourth day the latter has been in the tomb was a point in support of His really being the Messiah rather than just some dabbler with a bit of power, and no observant Jew in the day would have missed that.

Tabletop Games

  • Some Sin Eaters have the number 4 tattooed onto them as a reminder of their deaths.
  • The older Ravenloft supplement Islands of Terror had an isolated Chinese-themed domain that played this trope for all it was worth.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! gives us Sasuke Samurai #4, the very definition of Demonic Spider. When it battles an enemy, if the player gets a coinflip right, SS4 instantly destroys that enemy without actually battling it. If you're playing one of the video games, expect the computer to ALWAYS FREAKIN GET THE RIGHT FLIP.


Video Games

  • Mega Man Zero's Four Guardians of Master X, who served as X's generals and bodyguards. They would later become good guys of a sort—but not before Phantom self-destructed, reducing their number to three, which, in turn, changed the stature to Rule of Three- he was the only general without a dominant element or weakness to another element.
    • Mega Man Zero 4 has that heartbreaking conclusion, where it implies (we repeat, implies, not confirms) Zero was killed.
    • In the same franchise, Mega Man Battle Network 6 features EraseMan.EXE (aptly named KillerMan.EXE in the original Japanese version), an assassin Navi whose design draws on Japanese shinigami legends. When Mega Man fuses with EraseMan, he gains the ability to instantly kill viruses when the digit 4 is in their HP. As for Navis, they get an HP-sapping bug that eventually does them in.
    • Likewise, the first game has Wily acquire four superprograms to create the Life Virus. Later on, Battle Network 4 has the impending impact of a meteor that will wipe out Planet Earth- which turns out to be an insanely powerful and near-omnipresent robot called Duo. 4 is also regarded as one of the weakest titles of the Battle Network series.
    • In between the time periods of Mega Man X and Zero, there's the Elf Wars, resulting in a barren world, and a massive drop in the population (60% humans and 90% Reploids were wiped out), that lasted for four years.
    • Mega Man X4 was the first game in the X series to escalate the body count up to a horrific extreme- and first to present a legitimate threat to destroy the entire planet. It was also the same installment where Zero suffered a tragic loss... the death of his crush, Iris. In addition, three more key-to-the-plot Reploids perish: Colonel, a martyr to his own cause, Double, who performs a gory Face Heel Turn and gets a Karmic Death, and General, who performs a Heroic Sacrifice. That makes four major deaths in the story.
  • In Silent Hill 1, an elevator in an Abandoned Hospital that previously had only three floors suddenly gains a fourth floor button. Travelling to this "fourth floor" triggers a trip to the town's hellish Alternate Universe.
  • Neo Contra takes place in the year A.D.4444. The game also features a Four Elite.
  • The Malice Four in the NES Ninja Gaiden.
  • A good number of Harvest Moon games do evil things to you at precisely 4:44 when you perform a specific action. For example: looking at the TV in Friends of Mineral Town. This feature is often removed from the US version, and in some cases is related to more serious glitches caused by a bad removal! Maybe it is cursed...
    • Don't forget the battles that you can unlock in DS/Cute,when you sit behind your dog house at 4:40 am,and press A multiple times.
  • Death-related bosses and enemies in video games often have 444 or 4444 HP. Castlevania's Death is usually an example of this. So is Mitsuki Konishi, aka Tigris Cantus, from The World Ends With You.
    • Also, Master Tonberry, a robed green lizard like thing carrying a butcher knife and lantern that will slowly advance on your party before one hit killing you with said knife, or attack with 'Everyone's Grudge' doing 1 damage for each enemy a character has killed in the game, had 44,444HP in Final Fantasy VII
    • Death-themed items in Castlevania play by this trope as well. The Book of Death in Portrait of Ruin has 44 ATK, while Death's Robe in Dawn of Sorrow boosts STR, CON and LUCK by 4 (and Int by 13!). Death's Ring is especially noteworthy, as it boosts 4 different stats by 44 each but turns you into a One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • The Four Heavenly Kings of Orochi in The King of Fighters, each with control over a different element. The Hizoku (a ninja clan with suspicious motives) has its own set of Heavenly Kings - Lin, Sai, Ran and Chat.
  • The Final Fantasy series often has a group known as the Four Fiends or some synonym thereof, called the Shitennō in Japanese versions of the games. They usually consist of a Four-Element Ensemble that form the villain's chief minions.
  • The four bosses at the end of Street Fighter II are Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and M. Bison, who form the "Four Devas" of Shadaloo (although this is downplayed in the later games, as the series introduced more members to the organization).
  • Tenchu 2 has the Four Lords of the Burning Dawn, who are named after the Four Heavenly Kings.
  • The Fire Emblem series usually has a group of four bad guys who are tougher than any villain in the game except the Big Bad. The Four Wyvern Generals (initially three, but one is replaced after you kill him, meaning you fight four of them) in The Sword of Seal, Four Fangs in The Sword of Flame, Four Riders in Path of Radiance, etc.. The Sacred Stones looks like it'll subvert this at first—there are initially six characters in this group. However, one is betrayed and murdered by one of the others and another defects, leaving the number you actually have to fight and kill at—you guessed it—four.
    • In Fire Emblem 4 Seisen no Keifu, halfway through the game, your army falls into Alvis' trap. Most of the army dies including the main character, Sigurd. The female characters who escaped the trap die rather quickly after having their children as well.
  • In Super Paper Mario, the Flower People's civilization went into the Dark Ages in their year 444.
    • You have to pay 4 coins for the ferryman to ferry you across River Twygz.
  • The first Golgo 13 NES game combines this with Thirteen Is Unlucky, as you are given 52 chances (4 x 13) to complete your mission, or else it's Game Over.
  • The Quirky Miniboss Squad in Monster Rancher calls themselves the Big Bad Four.
  • Every iteration of the main series Pokémon games has a group of expert trainers known as the Elite Four. Defeat them, and you get to face off against the Champion in an epic Pokémon battle for all the bragging rights.
    • Of note is that, in the original Japanese, the Elite Four are actually called the Shitennou.
    • Of more note is that in the Pokémon Special manga they want to kill everyone.
    • In Platinum, Cyrus has four Commanders under him.
    • There are also four Team Rocket Executives in HeartGold and SoulSilver.
  • In Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, the Incredible Machine atop Altru Tower normally has three power levels, the highest of which allows it to hypnotize Pokémon from a radius of 500 miles. The Big Bad, after he unleashes Darkrai, pushes the Incredible Machine one level further: Level "Dark", which supposedly has more than enough power for him to assert complete control over the legendary Shadow Pokémon...or so he thinks.
    • And there's the Go Rock Quad from the original Pokémon Ranger game.
  • God Hand has the Four Devas as the main villains (along with a mercenary they hire at one point, Dr. Ion). In addition, the Dynamic Difficulty has 1, 2, and 3, but the level after 3 is Die.
  • Vexen, the fourth member of Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts, is the first one to die, assassinated by Axel when he attempts to betray the Organization in a bid for his life by revealing the existence of Roxas to Sora.
    • Also, the fourth and final, in Sora's story member you fight in Chain of Memories is Marluxia. Fitting, what with having a scythe and all.
  • In Persona 3, October 4 is a very, very bad day. Additionally, The Reaper has 4,444 hit points.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask, Link must visit four dungeons, kill the four boss monsters, and retrieve their four masks. It turns out, though, that the four masks hold the spirits of the Four Giants of Termina, who are good guys that help stop the moon from falling into the world at the end of the game.
    • Including the Fierce Deity's Mask, there are four transformation masks (and being the fourth mask, it's the deadliest). The dungeons lie in the four compass directions. If you draw lines connecting the temples/areas in the order you visit them in on the map, it will be a big four (on its side). And if you count the cut scenes at the end of the game, Link is in Termina for four days. The number was very important to this game.
    • The fourth dungeon in various Zelda games refer to this as well. In Ocarina of Time, the fourth Adult Link dungeon is the Shadow Temple, which deals with the undead. Similar cases include the Arbiter's Grounds in Twilight Princess, the Maze Island Palace in The Adventure of Link, the entire Ikana Canyon in the aforementioned Majora's Mask (though the residing Stone Tower Temple isn't too dark, perhaps not at all), the Ghost Ship in Phantom Hourglass, and the Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword.
  • The four main bosses in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots are The Beauty and the Beast Corps, a group of women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the horrors of war that were turned into literal war machines.
    • Notice how the fourth game was the end to the story (supposedly, and end as in no sequels), and everyone involved with the Patriots dies
    • Metal Gear Solid 2 has Dead Cell, which is comprised of Vamp, Fatman, and Fortune, and are led by Solidus Snake. This was done unintentionally though, since Dead Cell was initially planned to have more members than the ones that actually made it to the game.
  • In Wild ARMs, the leaders of the Demon army are called... the Quarter Knights.
    • Wild ARMs 2 follows this up with a four-member Recurring Boss squad known as Cocytus, who become the party's main antagonists for the first half of the game.
  • Super Metroid calls attention to its four strongest bosses (excepting Big Bad Mother Brain) with a golden statue of the four clustered together that blocks the entrance to the final level. While the group is not explicitly given a name in the game, some sources refer to them as the Four Guardians (Kraid, Phantoon, Draygon, and Ridley).
  • In the Shmup "Diadra Empty", flying dangerously close to one of the last bosses will give you a bonus called "Abyss Walker", worth 44,444 points.
  • In the Sega Genesis RPG Traysia, the fourth party member turns out to be the Big Bad.
  • Ace Combat 04 has Yellow 4, the first story-significant enemy who gets shot down by the main character, thanks to her plane being in disrepair.
    • Also, the opposing side in 04 give Mobius One two prominent nicknames. One is "the Grim Reaper"; so the player character in the fourth game is death.
    • A non-in-universe example: Namco really didn't want to make a fourth game in the series - they finally agreed to on the condition that it was numbered 04.
    • Ace Combat 5 has a much subtler example: you can have up to three wingmen, but a number of them get shot down: first Bartlett (who never returns), then Nagase (who is rescued), then Chopper (who is Killed Off for Real). Since then, no Ace Combat game had a four-man team (two-man armies in Zero and 6, two wingmen in X).
      • A less subtle example from the same game: after destroying the ballistic missile-launching submarine Hrimfaxi, the four pilots in the squad are nicknamed by the enemy "The Demons of Razgriz".
    • Ace Combat Joint Assault has the four-man Rigel Squadron that defects and becomes Recurring Boss Varcolac Squadron.
    • 7 has the Osean 444th Fighter Squadron "Spare", an expendable penal unit where Anyone Can Die is in effect.
  • The Vicious Ones, the main antagonists of Beyond the Beyond, have four members (winged archer Dagoot, grotesque magician Yeon, and Big Bad Black Magic duo Ramue and Shutat).
  • The Lufia series has four Big Bads.
  • River City Ransom has the Zombies, a faction of the Plague comprised exactly of four members. In the Japanese version, they were known as the Shitennou.
  • In The World Ends With You, Tigris Cantis, Konishi's noise form, has 4,444 hit points.
  • In La-Mulana, the last of the four key seals which must be found is the Death Seal, whose symbol contains the game's numeral 4. However, the Sage of Death (who unlocks the path to the Death Seal) will likely be the first of the four sages the player has to talk to.
  • In Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, the "names" of the dragons D-Constructs are simply numbers in Gratuitous Russian. "Odjn" (One) is linked to the hero. "Dva" (Two, mistranslated as "Dover") is the Bonus Boss. And Chetyre (Four) is, of course, the Big Bad.
  • Haunting Ground has four psychotic stalkers pursuing the main character trying to kill her.
  • In Resident Evil 2, an unlockable minigame, the 4th Survivor features an Umbrella Soldier codenamed Hunk. In Resident Evil 3's epilogue files, it's revealed that Hunk is nicknamed "Mister Death", and has a habit of being the only member of his squad to survive.
    • Hunk comes back as one of the four characters in the Mercenaries mode of Resident Evil 4. Consequentially, the fourth stage has the deadliest enemy in the game, which can spawn four times in a run.
    • The Keeper's Diary in the first game. Since it's his own personal Apocalyptic Log, the inexplicable "4" at the top of the last entry may have been a mistranslation. Since the keeper attacks you before you get a chance to read the diary, it can mean death for you, too.
    • In the remake, you only get to see the last few pages of Lisa Trevor's journal while picking it up in the cabin near the cemetery. When combined with the remaining pages that you later find elsewhere, they form an Apocalyptic Log, which slowly deteriorates into illiterate writing as the dates proceed, as a Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma, until it ends with the same inexplicable numeral "4" at the top of the last entry as in the Keeper's Diary. Since Lisa attacks you as you are about to leave the cabin after reading the last page of her journal, it can also mean death for you.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has Margaret' who is a living embodiment of this trope. She is the 4th ranked assassin of the UAA, wields two gun/scythe hybrids and even has boss music that alludes to this.
  • Makeruna! Makendou Z features four demon queens during the second half of the game: Honmanimou (a big-breasted cow woman), Honmadecker (a prison wardeness, who upon defeat turns out to be Doro's wife, now back to her senses), Honmadengunner (a cyborg), and Honmayaner (an archer woman). Main villain Dr. Mud also tried to enslave Makenkah (whose real name was Kaimyouji Eizan) as a fourth cyborg general of his, the other three being Dinosaur, Chuuko, and Shou. Even further, this game is the fourth installment of the Makendou series (if you count the OAV), and seems slightly darker and edgier than the previous two games, ending with the school building collapsing (with who knows how many people inside).
  • In Nanashi no Game, Riko at one point gets trapped on a creepy subway where every car is Car #4. She dies at the end of that chapter. In addition, the company that created the game is located on the fourth floor of the building it's in—and it's been closed for four years, which you find out from the fourth e-mail you receive on the fourth day.
  • The four Knights of Danika in Ogre Battle 64. You can also get a maximum of four Black Knights.
  • In the Wii version of Punch-Out!!, one of the challenges in Exhibition Mode requires you to defeat Japanese boxer Piston Hondo after blocking 44 jabs.
  • In Ghost Trick, main character Sissel can use his powers to rewind time to exactly four minutes before a person's death in order to attempt to prevent it.
  • In Fate Extra, the Protagonist learns this applies to getting into the Holy Grail War: potential Masters had four days to figure out something was wrong with their school, investigate, and survive a qualifying battle. If they failed to succeed at this after four days, well... they weren't going ANYWHERE.
  • Done rather subtly in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Platinum introduced a fourth Admin into the astronomy-themed Team Galactic. His name? Pluto (Charon in English), the planet/moon named after the god of death or his ferryman.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy, the rolling ball stages are full of massive iron dice blocks threatening to knock you into the abyss. Every side on these dice blocks read four.
  • Many enemies fromDark Souls have a four theme. You have the Four Lords, Gwyn's Four Great Knights and the corrupted monsters the Four Kings.
  • The Rance just loves the number four. There are the four apostles of Xavier, the four Demon Lords under the Demon King, that badly drawn monster that looks like a mutated 4-leaf clover, and so on.
  • In Honkai Impact 3rd, the Fourth Herrscher, Wendy, is the first character to die, and this happens in the fourth chapter.
  • In Yakuza 0, there are four Mr. Shakedowns, basketballer-tall brick shithouses that are slow but immensely durable and who will put Kiryu or Majima's health and wallet in the grave quickly if they land any hits.
  • In Saints Row 2, the fourth mission in each gang's questline is the most dire, with Carlos's Mercy Kill-worthy disfigurement, Gat getting hospitalised from a stab in the stomach, and Shaundi's abduction.

Web Comics

  • No Need for Bushido, set in Feudal Japan, features the Four Demons of Sorrow, the four elite Samurai or daimyo Wataro.
  • 8-Bit Theater, as noted on its page, has the four Light Warriors (the protagonists and arguably the worst thing to happen to the world), the four Fiends (some of the few actually dangerous enemies) and the four orbs to go with them (which are being used by the Big Bad for some diabolical purpose), the four Dark Warriors (a group of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain characters), the four Other Warriors (inspired by Dungeons & Dragons classes), and the four real Light Warriors (making four warrior groups total). In addition, the average strip is four rows long. ... Yeah, that world is doomed.
  • Our Little Adventure has introduced four high ranking members of the Souballo Empire who each seem to be in charge of a department.

Web Original

  • In The Gamers Alliance, the Vulfsatz is a group of four elite assassins. Demons have four hordes, each led by an archdemon.
  • In Marble Hornets, Jay recieves a mysterious text message on the 4th of April. A week or two later, he recieves a tape recorded on the day he recieved the text showing his missing friend Alex and a new character, Amy, narrowly avoiding an attack by the Slender Man / Operator at 4:04 pm. What makes it even better is that the first hint of Slendy's presence - the footage tearing slightly - occurs at 4 minutes and 4 seconds on the Youtube player.
    • In general, Operator related events tend to happen at fours on dates and times
    • The motif is continued in entry #40 - posted on May 4, with screen tearing occuring at 4:40 on the YouTube player and The Operator showing up moments later

Western Animation

Real Life

  • This even carries over to technology.
    • The Sony company has created several successive types of digital video tape, named D-1, D-2, D-3, etc. There was no D-4, due to the stigma associated with the number (Yet they had no problem with using the fourth letter of the alphabet...). Some were surprised that Sony released the PlayStation 4 as such due to the stigma. And it's even more surprising that the PS4 turned out to be the most successful eighth-generation video game console despite the number four leaving a black mark amongst Asians.
    • Canon also has several product lines conspicuously skipping from 3 to 5, but not skipping 40 and other multiples of ten.
    • Music equipment manufacturer Roland/Boss do this as well. The Boss guitar pedals are generally named along the lines of DD (digital delay) or OD (overdrive) and then a number. Guess which number is nowhere to be found in their product lineup.
    • BBK Electronics' OnePlus line also skipped the number four per cultural tradition as they're based in China. Amusingly enough, "Oneplus 3," which, treated as arithmetic, equals "Four."
    • Nokia, a Finnish company, also observe this to a large extent being that they had a huge Asian market in the 2000s. Among other things, they skipped the 4000 series and S60 4th Edition, though somehow they did release the Nokia 3410, a revision of the 3310, and the Series 40 platform for lower-end feature phones.
    • Similarly, Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek seems to consciously avoid using the number four when naming their systems-on-chips.
    • Asus skipped the number four with the release of the ROG Phone 5 gaming smartphone, also citing tetraphobia as their reason. Though they apparently had no problem with the earlier Zenfone 4 series back in 2017.
  • 164 is a Chinese homophone for "one road to death". This was the reason that the Alfa Romeo 164 was marketed in many Chinese-speaking societies as the 168 instead. Which, incidentally, is a homophone for "one road to prosperity".
    • There is a popular shopping centre in the Philippines called 168.
    • Plenty of Chinese shops will put 168 in their signs for its auspiciousness.
  • While US FCC regs normally prohibit customers from choosing specific numbers, T-Mobile company policy specifically requires them to grant any and all requests for a phone number with no '4's.
  • The Gang of Four from China were the four Communist party officials who were officially blamed for the Cultural Revolution. After their arrest, and during their trials, a massive hostile propaganda campaign was launched against them, which made full use of the four/death homophone.
  • The Big Four Pollution Diseases of Japan were four major environmental disasters which led to the establishment of the Environment Agency (the Japanese equivalent of the American EPA) in 1970. Three of the incidents took place in the 1960s, but the 1912 outbreak of cadmium poisoning called "itai-itai disease" is lumped in because a lawsuit wasn't brought until 1968.
  • In East Asian countries, the fourth floor is either skipped (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, ...) like the thirteenth floor is skipped in the West or, in an elevator, the buttons are numbered 1, 2, 3, F, 5 ... with "F" standing in for the English word "four" (which does not sound like death). Another common work-around is to replace the "4"-number with the previous floor's number appended with the letter A (i.e. 3A, 23A), as is floor 13 (replaced with 12A, and 14 replaced with 12B in this case). 14 is particularly bad. In Mandarin, 14, or yao si, means "will die" or "death wish".
    • This is Up to Eleven in Hong Kong, as floor numbers with the number 4 are all skipped together in some newer buildings.
      • And thanks to the influence from being a former British colony, the traditional 13 is also skipped.
    • This convention is also quite common in Vancouver, owing to its large Chinese population. The combination of eastern and western superstitions means that it's not unheard of for floor numbers in apartment buildings to jump from 12 to 15, missing both 13 and 14.
  • Tea sets or chopstick sets are sold with 3 or 5 cups/pairs rather than 4.
  • A common gift in China is three or five oranges, rather than four.
  • Dice in East Asia, aside from arranging the pips differently, use red pips for the numbers 1 and 4 to ward off bad luck (as opposed to the standard black).
  • The Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas avoids the digit "4" in all floor numbers and room numbers. The floor just above the 39th is the 50th, for example.