Showy Invincible Hero
So you have a setup for an epic action show, but you've raised the stakes so high that even one loss will be devastating. Maybe Evil Only Has to Win Once. You could try to fake it with an apparent loss in the middle of the episode, multi-part series or perhaps a bittersweet victory when a character has a Heroic Sacrifice, but otherwise you can't have a genuine loss.
This would likely mean an Invincible Hero if any suspense was played up, so the show doesn't play up the suspense. With this trope, whether the heroes win or lose is not the point. It's them looking awesome when they do it. It's all about the spectacle with these shows. Of course, beware the metaphorical God Mode Sue line.
Anime and Manga
- Just about half of every Super Robot show ever made.
- Akagi fits. Due to the way it's narrated and the fact that it's a Prequel to another story, Ten, where Akagi already is a legend, you are supposed to know that Akagi always wins. The story is about how he became a legend. And looking badass while doing it.
- Golgo 13 wouldn't have a career (and we wouldn't have a series) if he ever failed. The series has gone on for as long as it has on equal parts this trope and his steady recession from the spotlight (his stories are now largely about the people hiring him).
- Both subverted in the absolute cruelest and most heart-rending way possible and later played straight in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Kamina appears to be going this route in classic Super Robot fashion, but he's killed ruthlessly in episode 8 after letting his guard down. After the Time Skip (specifically in Part IV), however, Simon plays it straight, never getting so much as a scratch on him.
- The Showy Invincible Hero starts long before the timeskip; basically as soon as Simon Gets over Kamina's death nobody save the (Anti) Spiral King could touch him.
- Space Adventure Cobra is a lot like this. You don't ever doubt he'll handily win and hand the bad guys their rear. The only question is : "how will he do it, and how cool will it look?"
- Mamoru Takamura of Hajime no Ippo is a Showy Invincible Hero in all of his unimportant matches. He usually steamroll KO's his opponents in the first round, sometimes it's just shown in a stillstanding picture. In one of his matches (the one before his World Match), this trope is even used by Takamura on purpose, as he wanted to come off absolutely invincible to the audience, which is why he only used his weak hand to defeat his opponent. All of his serious matches don't fit this trope, however.
- Alucard of Hellsing is a God Mode Sue, but nobody cares because it's just too damn fun watching him massacre the bad guys.
- Takuto of Star Driver, as of writing, has not lost a single fight, but that's okay, because he wins each one in a different way. A different awesome way. And the villains have even started incorporating his inevitable curbstomps into their plans...
- After getting his Mid-Season Upgrade, the battles become much more samey.
- Dante from the Devil May Cry anime pretty much waltzes through every fight in the series. Somewhat justified as the series is supposed to focus on Dante's day-to-day jobs so he never goes up against any major threats until the last episodes.
- You never wonder whether or not Hibino is going to succeed or not. You only wonder to what degree of funny and awesome his successes will be.
- Rushuna Tendo always wins, but DAMN if she doesn't look hot while doing so.
- Vegetto, Vegetto, Vegetto! He might just be the king of this trope. He effortlessly dominates Buu even when turned into a piece of candy, and mocks him the entire time.
- Dark Schneider from Bastard!! is this most of the time.
- Most superhero comics are this to some extent, although they might not win every time the higher the stakes the more likely the trope is to come into play,
- Superman, and the Alan Moore-created Tom Strong, count as this. There's no question they'll win, it's just how long it'll take to get them there- and what interesting moral questions the victory will raise.
- Superhero comics usually make the inevitability of the hero's victory interesting by shifting tension away from winning or losing, and focusing on other problems. DC heroes tend to get a lot of suspense and drama out of whether or not they will manage save everyone in the villain's path (they often don't succeed, which leads to angst), while Marvel heroes often have personal beefs with their villains and the drama stems more from their relationship with the villain and the emotional issues that get brought up during the fight.
- The Metabarons are all this, starting with Aghnar. They are able to win against impossible odds, to the point of Refuge in Audacity, especially when Aghora slaughters an entire universe in a mirror dimension. The dramatic tension of the series comes largely from the horrible tragedy that continuously befalls the Metabaron clan.
- The newChaos forces from The Open Door. As explained by a character, due to the still-rebuilding population on their native universe's Earth, every loss will be felt more severely compared to hostile factions that have reserves, forcing them to go the Bigger Stick route, combined with a Dangerously Genre Savvy avoiding of universes that have even bigger "sticks". So this is a form of justifying this trope.
- Inverted in The TSAB Acturus War. The author has stated that the TSAB will win and the point of the story is the Villainous Valour of the DRA as it tries to make the Bureau bleed as badly as possible for that victory.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Smallville crossover Stakes and Fenceposts, even armed with magic, the Buffyverse villains are simply no match for Clark Kent, and he pretty much just destroys them all as a total Badass.
- James Bond, sometimes.
- Ip Man. Not so much in the sequel.
- Cleric John Preston from Equilibrium.
- The Expendables.
- Commando: John Matrix. He shoves cars, defeats an entire army, successfully brawls with dozens of police officers at the same time and blows lots of shit up.
- In a bid to give the movie a Worthy Opponent (and hang a lampshade), Bennett even says that either he or Matrix could single-handedly take out that army.
- The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne. The thrill of those movies isn't from whether or not he'll succeed, but how. Case in point, any action hero can fight off a surprise attacker, but only Jason Bourne can do it with a pencil.
Live Action TV
- Super Sentai and its counterpart Power Rangers. It's never a question what will happen in battle, but how impressive the megazord will be and how big of an explosion will follow.
- Columbo: The title character is one. Once you know what the show is like, you know he's got the criminal anyway. The fun is watching him nail the bad guys bit by bit.
- There is never any doubt that Shawn Spencer of Psych will get the bad guy. But it sure is fun to watch him go.
- Burn Notice: The same applies to Michael Westen. Oh, yeah. He's gonna get the guy. But the appeal is in watching him and his buddies pull it off.
- Monk may sometimes doubt his own ability to solve the case, but we never do. The interest lies in watching him solve the cleverest crimes on the basis of what seem to be the thinnest inspirations, and on anticipating the moment when he'll finally explain everything and catch the killer (who is almost always a horribly smug jackass) red-handed.
- The Avengers: John Steed and Emma Peel never lose. They're not even challenged very frequently by the diabolical masterminds who oppose them. But that doesn't matter—what matters is that they both look incredibly cool while they're doing...well, anything.
- This is most of the appeal of watching MacGyver. If the title character's in a strait jacket and handcuffs while poachers are about to release some kind of nerve gas into the air supply of a zoo, the question is never, "is he going to fail?" Rather, it's "How's he going to use a paper clip, his pants, four Tic-Tacs, a blender that doesn't work, a teaspoon's worth of peanut butter, a blender that does work, and a handful of wet dirt to jimmy himself loose, disable the pumps, and beat the bad guys before time runs out?"
- The original Mission: Impossible was a team of Showy Invincible Heroes. Sure, there might be a hiccup or two along the way, but you know the M.I. team will always achieve their goals. The real fun is in seeing how the simultaneous parallel plots ingeniously come together in the final act to deliver the bad guys' comeuppance.
- The Doctor rarely loses, and even when he does, odds are he'll repay the favor later.
- Of course, given the sort of things his enemies tend to get up to, the ripple effect, if not the plan itself, would probably change history such that the universe would end (or never have existed as of the Season 5 finale).
- While he rarely loses and his companions rarely die, some seasons do leave the survival of any and all people introduced in the current episode up for grabs. In other seasons, not so much. It's Depending on the Writer.
- This was pretty much the entire point of Bill Goldberg's character, especially in his WCW run. He built up a win streak of almost 200 wins straight, and the entire appeal of that streak was in seeing who he could beat next and how quickly he could do it.
- John Cena tends to float into this territory sometimes; often times it's just the Boring Invincible Hero, but when he DOES start selling properly (usually in an I Quit or Last Man Standing match) and goes into full-on Determinator mode, it can be downright scary how much legitimate punishment he can absorb before finally getting the upper hand back and even the smarks start wanting to watch him get back up. Easy enough to say it's all part of the script, but then you remember he usually returns from an legitimate injury in between a third and a quarter of the time he logically should...
- Many TAS Speed Runs.
- The battles in Final Fantasy VII (and maybe other installments in the series as well) can be like this. Most of them are easy, but oh so flashy if you want that. The final battle against "Safer Sephiroth" is an Inversion in that the villain is going to lose for sure, almost certainly on your first try, but he's so showy he still manages to come across as godlike. The more-final duel between Cloud and Sephiroth is also an example, as it is unloseable but you're probably going to win it with Omnislash, which you may not have even seen before that. And yes, it is showy.
- Dante of Devil May Cry is practically the personification of this... in the cutscenes anyways.
- Ingame, you can make the cutscenes look tame by comparison.
- Mario and Link are Nintendo's main examples of this trope.
- Master Chief of Halo fame seems to fit this trope well.
- Modern era Sonic the Hedgehog games like Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Colors, and Sonic Generations turn Sonic into this, seeing as how much of the fun comes from running through the levels almost nonstop and looking awesome doing so.
- Exalted is the king of this trope in tabletop gaming, where the heroes are expected to be very showy (up to and including getting bonus dice on their actions if they're showy enough when they do them), and largely invincible. The trope does not hold with respect to major antagonists. Many of them outclass player characters as much as the latter outclass common Mooks.
- The Smallville RPG takes this to an interesting place by making all PCs, and even most NPCs, impossible to kill (well, unless the Player chooses to have them die for dramatic reasons) so that all the drama is carried by character interactions, and the interest by how they go about building and destroying beliefs and relationships.
- Increasingly games with high action quotas include rules for PCs escaping death:
- Some games, like Fantasy Craft, emphasize a difference between every day action scenes and dramatic ones, and let you escape death so long as it's against mooks or other less dramatic obstacles, albeit at a cost.
- In other games it will appear as a special ability (as in Spirit of the Century) or even as an optional rule.
- And, in some games, like Lady Blackbird, it is simply assumed that heroes this cool in a game this swashbuckly are destined to come back, so the Dead Consequence is merely "Presumed Dead".
- In all variations, the amusing, exciting, or just bizarre explanations of how the characters come back help make them even more awesome.
- The Salvation War trilogy is explicitly about Humanity (as in, the people of Earth starting from January 2008) versus both Heaven and Hell, and it becomes quite obvious before long who's winning... but the ride is full of awesome, win and even heroic tragedy in a setting that at times seems to laugh at the idea thereof... well, up until Book 3: Lords of War, at which point it's "the morning after." What, you thought Humanity becoming the masters of Heaven, Hell, and Earth would be consequence-free?
- Red vs. Blue has Tex devolving into this in the later seasons. She was always the best of the characters but her skills have been hyped to the level where there is not one single competent threat she can face. Combined with her Jerkass personality it's hard to see why the series creators want the audience to be rooting for her.
- Subverted in that she ultimately always loses and/or dies in the end. The memory she's based upon is of Alison losing and dying, so it's hardcoded into the original Tex A.I. and Epsilon Tex to always fail in the end.
- This only applies to solving cases. Practically everything else is a huge challenge for him. The fun doesn't just come from watching him do what he's good at.
- From the thread that eventually led to the trilogy, even.