Quickly-Demoted Leader

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Ha! Legendary guardian? I was just a boy. A boy about your age actually. I wanted to change the world too, but I changed nothing. That is my story."

Auron, Final Fantasy X

So, here you are, the top of your field. You felled countless enemy commanders, slew a dragon, worked up to your rank by the sweat of your brow, and became the envy of everyone. That's why you're the main character!

Wait, what's this? Despite your illustrious career, something disastrous just happened. You've been demoted and now you're working for some young, shiny hero instead! Hold on--weren't you the main character?

Sorry, but you're not the main character.

The Quickly-Demoted Leader is established as a powerful character, but then is immediately made to serve under the hero. This happens to provide the hero with the companionship of someone with much more experience and might put him in a position of authority quickly. If too Genre Savvy of their position, the Quickly-Demoted Leader can easily become The Resenter.

Possible reasons this character has lost his position:

  • He doesn't have the right balance of emotion -- maybe he's too reckless, or maybe he's The Stoic.
  • He's not The Chosen One.
  • He made a mistake on a mission at the worst time. This can be realistic depending on the degree of the mistake and his reputation.
  • He attempted a Face Heel Turn or other form of betrayal.
  • His character flaw finally got the best of him. Alcoholism is a common one.
  • He suffered a crippling injury or was otherwise weakened considerably. This is common if the demotion is figurative rather than literal.
  • She was demoted for not possessing a Y chromosome.

May overlap with Proud Warrior Race Guy. If resentful, the character may insist he's Still the Leader.

Examples of Quickly-Demoted Leader include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bleach is extremely guilty of this, with Rukia being depowered after literally five minutes of her showing herself to the main character and then spending the rest of the Story Arc being useless and even becoming a Damsel in Distress afterwards, triggering a Rescue Arc. Eventually her drop in power is revealed to have been part of the plot. Her subsequent fights make it seem she Took a Level in Badass although it's really her fighting at normal strength.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha introduces Yuuno so you can watch him get his butt kicked, turn into a ferret, and hand over magic casting and monster fighting duties to our heroine.
  • Prétear puts an entire harem of experienced capable male warriors behind an inexperienced teenage girl. Because she's The Chosen One and apparently their powers are rather ineffective without being able to merge with said girl. Subverted somewhat because this did not go well for the last girl who had to be the Pretear. One Face Heel Turn later and our male heroes use the exact same methods to find the new Prétear. You think they'd learn.
  • In possibly one of the few inversions in existence, Gundam Seed Destiny gives us Shinn Asuka's relationship with Athrun Zala. With war breaking out again between the Earth and the PLANTs, Athrun reenlists and in spite of getting a shiny new Savior Gundam does pretty much nothing for the greater part of the series, playing second fiddle to a well-meaning but flawed soldier. Then it becomes more apparent Shinn has been being manipulated magnificently by the evil Chessmaster chairman of ZAFT, and Athrun goes back to the actual hero group, and ends up owning Shinn in the final battle.
  • The Monk in Eureka Seven qualifies for this. He's supposed to be a very powerful "attuned" person to the will of the Earth (actually trained for this), and can even destroy large buildings. But he's arrogant, not interested in explaining almost anything he does and doesn't even bathe. He's also the Proud Warrior Race Guy. These all pail however in comparison with his history of being in Renton's position and failing for no explained reason, unless he was the corralians' own, intended Quickly-Demoted Leader.
    • Holland Novak is a MUCH better example of this. He is the leader of Gekko State, but was rejected by Eureka as her partner, and greatly resents and physically abuses Renton, who does become Euraka's partner.
  • In the Southern Cross arc of Robotech, Sean starts out as the commander of the ATAC unit, but when Dana comes along, fresh out of the academy, he gets busted to private due to a combination of his own terrible discipline record and Dana having family connections in the brass.
  • Kiritsugu Emiya in the Fate series. Played with in that the prequel Fate/Zero has him as the protagonist and actually shows us how he became the Quickly-Demoted Leader: failing to fulfill his wish, failing to destroy the Grail, and being cursed to lose his powers and die after mentoring Shirou for five years.


  • This happens to Spock at the end of Star Trek (2009).
  • Ultra Magnus is given the Matrix of Leadership in The Transformers: The Movie and can't get it open (dammit, open!). It later falls to Hot Rod to kill Unicron with it.
    • Foreshadowed because Hot Rod was the first to touch the Matrix as it falls from Optimus Prime's dying grasp.
  • Fung from Shaolin Soccer. He's a great soccer player who throws a game and is crippled by outraged fans a hired mob, then years later becomes the coach to a group who use their shaolin martial arts to form their own soccer team.


  • Kratos May, from Javier Negrete's La Espada De Fuego. He is easily the greatest swordsman on the continent and second-in-command of a band of mercenaries so powerful that they're their own nation. When the time comes to fight for a Sword Forged by the Gods, a wizard who saved his life tells him to teach the much younger protagonist so he can win the sword instead.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe plays with this a lot, with Luke being the Obi-Wrong in many of the stories.
    • The Jedi Academy trilogy plays it straight: A Sith Lord's ghost puts him in a coma.
    • In Legacy of the Force, he is the commander, but killing Jacen would be the dark side because Jacen killed his wife.
    • In the Black Fleet Crisis, he's too busy finding his mother even if it is a con.
    • In the Hand of Thrawn, he's busy saving Mara, who he marries at the end.
      • The last two are subversions, because while everyone is busy saving the Republic from a major threat, Luke go to isolated regions, not much caring. And in the end he is the one who finds something to save the day. Yeah, while he was the only one not searching.
    • Subverted in the Corellian trilogy, where he plays matchmaker for Lando.
    • Also subverted in the New Jedi Order, since Luke and Mara have an active sex life which leaves them distracted.
    • Fate of the Jedi plays it straight, with Luke being in exile.
  • In the Black Company books, Lady is the Big Bad of the first trilogy. Then someone speaks her true name, and she's Croaker's second-in-command from then on.

Live Action TV

  • Often shows up in Power Rangers due to the series' use of Rookie Red Ranger:
    • Power Rangers Time Force: After her fiancee, Red Ranger Alex, gets apparently killed, Jen takes charge and swipes his and other morphers so her team can take down the villain. However, has to hand over the Red morpher to Wes, a civilian with no military training, because he's a dead ringer for Alex and the only DNA match close enough to unlock the morphers. But mostly averted in that while Wes leads the charge on the battlefield because the producers don't know how to not have the Red Ranger stand front and center, he only serves as (somewhat) dumb muscle or extra firepower while Jen still calls the shots on the team.
    • In Power Rangers Wild Force, Taylor had been the a Ranger for about a year, longer than any of the others, and yet had to step down from leadership in favor of a guy that was Raised by Natives in the Amazon because his patron Power Animal outranked hers. She wasn't happy about it.
    • Sky of Power Rangers SPD was easily at the top of the police academy - the problem is that he knew it, and failed a test of character due to arrogance with a dash of sexism. His superior officer made him Blue Ranger to learn some humility, while the Red morpher went to Jack, a thief drafted into the Ranger program as a kind of community service sentence. He was even less happy than Taylor was.
    • Power Rangers Jungle Fury had a bit of variation. While leadership never openly came up, an early episode had Blue Ranger Theo concerned that Red Ranger Casey was an untrained "cub". This was resolved when he was gently prodded "So train him."
  • Averted in Psych. Initially, and for most of the first season, Police Chief Karen Vick is Interim Chief Vick. She's also pregnant, providing one of the standard excuses for character replacement via this trope... Then, in the second season finale, it finally seems like she's going to be replaced, with Chief Vick outright saying, "I was originally appointed just to be the interim chief..." However, she ends up getting a promotion and from season two on holds the chief position permanently.
    • Of course, she's only pregnant because Kirsten Nelson, the actress who portrays her, was with child.
  • A disabled Dan Moroboshi is this to upstart Gen Ootori in Ultraman Leo.

Video Games

  • Maria of Sakura Taisen is a firearms expert with intrigue and assassins in her past, so she seems like a good choice for leader in a war. But she is summarily replaced as field leader by...a rookie cadet we first saw swabbing the deck of a ship. Averted insofar as she stays on as second-in-command, remains competent in the field, and is tapped to be leader once again during the time Oogami is transferred to Paris.
    • Dodged in Sakura Taisen V with Ratchet, no-nonsense knife expert and prototype mech pilot. Leader and general badass, until shortly into Chapter 1. At this moment, her spiritual power gives out, rendering her unable to pilot her mecha and thus no longer able to lead from the front. Instead of getting demoted to following the new hero, Shinjiro Taiga, Ratchet gets the promotion she deserves from being Taiga's immediate commanding officer to still his immediate commanding officer.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has one of these... namely, you. You, the player character, are actually a supporting character in the long-lost Emperor's son's story. Although you do more than your share of the work, it is he who the plot ultimately revolves around, he who will defeat the Big Bad, and he who will be remembered in future legends. You do get the Elder Scrolls equivalent of a knighthood, though...
    • Your efforts don't go unrecognized, as you do get a huge statue in Bruma for saving the city, and yes, it is you, not a generic statue. You will at least be remembered as, probably, The Obi-Wan played straight.
    • In the sequel, Skyrim, there is a book about what happened. History is a bit fuzzy on the details but the player character is remembered for a dizzying mix of heroic deeds while the son is only really known for his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Orca in the .hack// games is Kite's best friend and mentor in The World. He's quickly data-drained and spends the rest of the first game series in a coma, thus setting up the plot.
  • Ace Attorney has quite a few characters like this.
    • The end of the first game also has Edgeworth's mentor behind bars.
    • This even counts for flashbacks: Diego Armando in the third game took over the mentor duties over one of his collegues when the actual mentor failed to show up for her first case. He ended up hooking up with her... and then being poisoned to almost-death by her Ax Crazy cousin.
    • In Apollo Justice, Apollo actually puts his own mentor in jail in the first case. It would appear that in this universe, taking on a rookie attorney is the fastest way to end either your career or your life.
  • Final Fantasy VII quickly puts Cloud in charge of AVALANCHE and the Older and Wiser Barret Wallace under his command. Of course, Barret is not necessarily the most reliable of mentors.
    • VII actually completely subverts this trope, Cloud is (as far as the story knows) the most experienced party member and is in fact the guy that tried and failed to stop The Big Bad the last time he showed his face, yet is allowed to lead the party anyway because he's still the most suited for the job.
  • Final Fantasy VIII continues this with Quistis Trepe, who starts out as Squall's instructor. She's already on thin ice by the time you meet her for not being able to control her students and gets her instructor's license revoked after the raid on Dollet early in the game. Officially, this is because she "lacks leadership qualities," though unofficially it's because the disciplinary committee threw its weight around after she teased their leader. However, this only demotes her to being a normal SeeD, and somewhat subverts this trope in that Quistis, despite being upset over getting a demotion, actually seems happier to have the bureaucracy out of her way and returning to SeeD field work. She also has seniority over Squall up until events past Disc 1 in which Squall eventually gets promoted to leadership roles because of his proven ability to take control in difficult situations. As they are roughly the same age and both considered prodigies, this is not so surprising.
  • Final Fantasy X has an odd version of this in Auron, who actually succeeded in bringing his first summoner, Braska, to Zanarkand to perform the Final Summoning and is helping a new party, including Tidus whom he is mentoring, to do the same thing with a new summoner, Yuna, Braska's daughter. However by not stopping Braska and Jecht from sacrificing themselves to Sin as the pilgrimage traditions dictate, Auron failed to bring an end to Spira's cycle of death, and now is attempting to help Tidus end it. He never really gets demoted, but the concept is still there in that the mentor figure that is theoretically more powerful than the main character is still forced into a subservient role instead.
    • Justified: Yuna is the one giving orders to Auron (and the rest of the party), and Auron's role as a guardian is to take orders from her, as the summoner.
    • Also, Auron clearly has no interest in taking the leading role. Perhaps because the dead shouldn't lead the living.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has Marche's mentor Montblanc gladly hand over the keys to the clan after a single tutorial battle.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 does the same thing with Cid, though he's actually given a plot reason to back down from leadership. He still hands over the clan to Luso who, like Marche, is actually a normal schoolboy with little combat experience.
    • Although, to be fair, luso kinda lends himself to being charismatic/somewhat endearing and full of potential, even if Cid is unimpressed it does help to gain new members.
  • Live a Live subverts the hell out of this with Hash and Uranus, with an It Got Worse / Wham! Episode combo.
  • Titania of Fire Emblem Path of Radiance is first Ike's mentor and boss, and after his father dies, she becomes Ike's subordinate. Unlike many examples of this trope, Ike's youth and inexperience is actually a source of conflict and some of the mercenaries quit over it (Ike himself thinks this is too sudden). Titania and those that remain do so by choice. Titania also doesn't get demoted - she still has her "second-in-command" position, she just changed bosses.
  • Growlanser II includes several returning characters from Growlanser I. Many of them, including the first game's hero, end up Overrated and Underleveled, serving under the command of the new main character - who just recently graduated from the military academy. The game even lampshades this in the script, in a brief scene where the Growlanser I hero reassures the Growlanser II hero that he'll do fine despite his relative inexperience.
  • A variant occurs with Lifesigns; Suzu-sensei probably should have been fired. She's an alcoholic with some serious mental instability who puts her obsession with her boss and unrequited love above her responsibilities as a surgeon, placing her squarely under the "too emotional" category. Who picks up the pieces of her Freak-Out and proves to be a better doctor in the process? The hero, Tendo, of course. Afterwards it's hinted that Suzu quits, although this isn't entirely clear.
    • It's even worse in the JP-only prequel, where she's a hopeless drunk who hangs around in the basement drinking and attempts suicide at one point.
  • Captain Anderson in Mass Effect is your commanding officer at the beginning of the game, but once you become a Spectre he steps down and takes a desk job because a Spectre must have their own ship and the Normandy is too awesome not to give to the first human Spectre. (Though you'd think that they'd just reassign Anderson to a different ship.) However, at the end of the game you have an option of making him the first human Council member.
    • A few discussions imply that while Anderson could get another posting, he'd rather take the desk job and be able to support Sheppard rather than leave him alone to deal with Ambassador Udina. Later events in the games prove him right.
      • It's also implied Anderson has been on the Citadel for several years serving in an advisory role.
  • In another BioWare game, Dragon Age, Teirn Loghain has this done to him for killing the King and undermining the war efforts. Another choice is to have him killed, of course.
  • Wild ARMs 3 strangely takes the two most experienced party members, Jet and Clive, and demotes them both to taking orders from Virginia, a complete newbie at combat, let alone Drifter work, as soon as everybody's tutorial is finished. Pretty much because they like her pep talks.
    • Not that Jet will admit it.
      • It should also be noted that while they follow her orders, they do so only if they agree with them. In several instances they flat out refused to do something Virginia proposed on the grounds of it being unforgivably dumb and suicidal and steered her towards a more reasonable choice without making it look like they were taking charge. In the end, the de facto leader is Clive, as Virginia near-constantly defers to his authority when he disagrees with her, because she trusts his judgment more than her own.
  • Lufia II gives us the record-setting example of General Selan, who practically within seconds of meeting Maxim--a scruffy traveler who became famous by recovering a stolen crown from two idiot thieves--is ordered to take orders from him.
  • Tales of the Abyss gives us the Necromancer, Jade Curtiss. When he first joins your party, he is level 45, hitting for hundreds of damage while your other two characters are around level 7. Shortly thereafter his magic is mostly sealed, reverting him to a more manageable level, and allowing the spoiled brat hero to take the lead again.

Western Animation

  • Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender used to be the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation and a famed general known as "The Dragon of The West". After his only son was killed in the siege of Ba Sing Se, he abandoned the battle and was disgraced, his younger brother Ozai usurping his inheritance. Iroh voluntarily accompanies Zuko in his exile, becoming his mentor and a true father figure to the prince. Despite his much greater wisdom and experience he willingly serves under Zuko's command, having to stand by and helplessly watch him do stupid things like sailing into Fire nation waters.
    • That's mostly because if Iroh took a more serious effort in helping Zuko to capture Aang, it'd be over and done with by the second episode.
      • Not to mention, As a member of the White Lotus Society, Iroh is actually working to help the Avatar.
      • Even without this, Iroh knows that keeping Zuko away from his father (and he's only allowed to go back to his father if he captures the avatar) is the only thing that can make him a better man.
    • Either subverted or not technically this trope in that you meet him after his demotion and in fact before he is established as being demoted in the first place. You don't get a hint that he was ever in a higher rank than Zuko (rather than just being a teacher to a nephew who is at a higher rank simply because he's also the Prince of the Fire Nation) until 3 episodes in.
    • Interestingly, in season 1 he appears as the Quickly-Demoted Leader from the Fire Nation. And what is he asked to do in the Grand Finale?
    • Anyway, Iroh is the Eccentric Mentor, not the Obi-Wrong, because he's aware that it's not his job to save the world. So he is the mentor to Zuko, but knows his place. Obviously he used Obfuscating Stupidity to keep Zuko from succeeding because he wanted to open Zuko's eyes about the wrongness of Fire Nation. But even after Zuko's Heel Face Turn, he will send everyone on the fronts they are needed, and counts on Aang to win the decisive battle.

Real Life

  • In most armies, a platoon is commanded by junior officer in his early twenties who's just finished his training. The most experienced member of the platoon will almost always be his second in command, the platoon sergeant. Even in larger units, until you get up to the level of regiments and brigades (commanded by senior colonels or generals), the person with the longest, most illustrious military career will probably be the senior enlisted man, not any of the officers.
    • The reason for this is that it's quite difficult to take care of both the tactics and admin/discipline side of leading a platoon. They're also mutually incompatible to an extent, tactical leadership requiring a certain distance from the men but admin and discipline requiring a closer relationship. Therefore the officer deals with the relatively easy tactical side of things (whilst learning from the sergeant who will have learnt a fair bit of this himself) and the sergeant takes the job that requires more hands-on experience and a closer working relationship with the men.
  • If a sports player steps in for an injured player and consistently plays better than that player, they are usually given the starting spot, while the injured player becomes a backup.
    • It's also common in professional sports for the primary backup to a key position (like a quarterback in football) to be a highly experienced older player, while the starter is a younger rising star. Even if the younger start gets demoted to the backup position, it's always expected to be temporary, and part of the older player's job is to be a mentor to the younger one, who's seen as the future of the franchise.