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Diamonds are forever, which comes in handy when you want to make someone really suffer during a life sentence while keeping them (securely!) caged.
Characters in a Crystal Prison are put inside some gorgeous, colorful and exquisitely cut variety of gem. This crystal is usually made of Phlebotinum capable of keeping the captive alive despite the lack of air, either in suspended animation or forever awake. This escape proof prison may trap them bodily like a bug in amber; in fact, if the Crystal Prison isn't coffin sized it's going to be small enough to be worn as jewelry.
While breaking the gem can release the captive, attempting this literal jailbreak may not be a guarantee of getting the captive out alive. Breaking it could also shatter or kill the captive, or the gem may be unbreakable unless the jailer/creator somehow dispels it. That being said, a prisoner who is pushed into using Heroic Resolve may crack open the crystal through sheer force of will.
If the crystal is imprisoning a very important character, and if Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors is in-universe at the time, this can get a person or persons from all the various groups to combine their powers into one technique, preferably in a big Finale or at least a Swirly Energy Thingy that features Power Glows, and dis-integrate, not disintegrate (breaking, not incinerating or atomizing) the crystalline prison.
Contrast Soul Jar, where the Soul is put in a crystal, and Body to Jewel, where the character becomes crystal. Also compare Harmless Freezing, with ice blocks being the main difference. See also Mineral MacGuffin, Magic Mirror, Phantom Zone and Power Crystal.
As you can see from the example distribution, this is most common in anime and video games.
Anime and Manga
- Sailor Moon: In the first anime's first season, Jadeite got this for repeatadly failing to Queen Beryl.
- In the final fight against Kaorinite in the third season, Tuxedo Mask gets sealed in a glass crystal by Senishenta and has to be released by the Senshi. Fiore pulled the same on him in the R movie, but he broke through on his own.
- In the R series and their manga/Crystal counterparts, a comatose Neo Queen Serenity was encased in glass for her own protection after she was severely injured in the Black Moon's attack against Crystal Tokyo. After the enemy was defeated, she was healed and then released.
- Sorta took place in the first anime's final season, Stars, when Nehelenia traps the Senshi in Magic Mirrors.
- Hellmaster's signature move in The Slayers NEXT, whether a coffin-sized one on individuals or a titanic glacier on an entire city. The latter use was cast on Sylphiel's apparently revived Doomed Hometown, and the latter on all of Lina's friends as he all but kills them and then encases them to foce Lina cast the Giga Slave spell. And sharp-eyed viewers will realise that this was already seen in NEXT's OP, albeit for few seconds.
- It was copied by Rezo in the 4th season.
- Pandora in Violinist of Hameln.
- Lisette in 11eyes
- Happens to Yuka later. For some reason, her clothes are also gone.
- Although ice is not usually considered a crystal, Snow of MAR evokes this trope by encasing herself in ice when she first appears, and the characters, good and evil, don't want to just bust the ice apart, possibly for fear of shattering her as well. They must find a fire ARM to melt the ice instead.
- It's also made quite clear that she isn't preserving her life by doing this, one of the characters notes that they only have a handful of hours to rescue her before she'll die while trapped.
- In the Naruto Shippuden three-tails filler arch, the Anti-Villain Guren's jutsus were centered on using crystals. She put Hinata in one of these and, while the crystal substance was extremely strong, the main problem was getting her out without shattering her if she was even still alive. Guren later put her Morality Pet Yuukimaru in one of these as well, but this time it's to protect him.
- Mahou Sensei Negima's Asuna is briefly seen in one of these. It happened in her Dark and Troubled Past, after she's caught by the Lifemaker.
- A self-inflicted version takes place in Attack on Titan, with Annie "Female Titan" Leonhart. She has a weird power that lets her body emanate a crystalline substance for self-protection, so she willingly encases herself whole in it to avert interrogation and torture.
- Tenchi Muyo!:
- In the OAV's, Kagato locked Washu in one and then hid it inside a Pocket Dimension of his Cool Starship. Mihoshi arrived there by sheer luck in the middle of a fight with a monster she ran into, which lets Washu break out.
- In Tenchi in Tokyo, a captured Sasami gets put inside one by the Dark Magical Girl / Big Bad Yuugi, who considers her her Only Friend. Sasami is still wearing a shard of the MacGuffin in her bracelet, and she's released when it reacts to the other shards.
- Saint Seiya:
- In the filler Asgard arc, Megrez Delta Alberich's Harness Amethyst was basically him using this trope offensively, encasing his enemies in amethyst-like coffins that sap them of their Life Energy until they're reduced to skeletons. The only way to undo this is to kill the user, which is what Shiryu does to release the captured Marin and Seiya.
- Pictured above: In the series proper, Aquarius Camus has the Freezing Coffin technique in which he uses ice like this. He uses it on Hyoga in hopes that he'd sleep until he'd be able to fully become a Saint and break the coffin himself. Before that happens, Hyoga is rescued by his friends Shiryu (who uses the Libra Cloth's weapons to break the ice) and Shun (who raises his own Cosmo to warm him up, to Intimate Healing level in the anime).
- In the Vampire Princess Miyu manga, Reiha uses ice as well to trap Miyu like this for a while.
- An early Justice League of America story, "The Doom of the Star Diamond!"
- During the JLA Grant Morrison run, this happened to Triumph. He was a hero who turned bad due to a run of unbelievably crappy luck.
- In Blackest Night, a Green Lantern story, this is one of the methods the Star Sapphires (Violet Lanterns) use to recruit new members. The crystals they encase people in become brainwashed to become more compassionate and compels them to join the Star Sapphires. Curiously, the Star Sapphires comprise only of women.; they've trapped men before, but all have either broken free or were rescued by someone else.
- Cristalline in X-Men 2099 can produce crystals out of thin air. Apparently she can structure them to allow air through, so when she is in good mood her enemies will be trapped in a block of cristal but relatively unharmed.
- The first book in the Franco Belgian Comics series Chroniques des pays de Markal is about a stone with this power.
- The Ogdru Jahad in the Hellboy film. Hellboy shatters the ice-like crystals, partially releasing them.
- Zod & co. from Superman 2, who got thrown into the original Phantom Zone.
- For the evil Djinn in the first two Wishmaster movies (at least), a gem was basically used in place of the more traditional bottle.
- Godzilla Junior is trapped in a crystal by the titular alien villain in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla.
- In the The Elenium, Queen Elhena starts off in a crystal. Turns out it's not to imprison her, but to keep her alive until her knights can find a cure to her illness.
- In Servant of the Dragon, third book in David Drake's The Lord of the Isles epic fantasy series, Cashel is served by the demon Krias, who is trapped in a large gem mounted on a ring.
- In the Conan the Barbarian story "Tower of the Elephant" an evil sorcerer is trapped inside a plate-sized ruby, to suffer eternal torment from an extradimensional being he had previously trapped and tormented for power and knowledge.
- One of the Magic Kingdom of Landover books had Ben trapped in a crystal.
- In Dark Lord of Derkholm, Mr. Chesney keeps the demon that allows him to send Pilgrim Parties to Derk's world trapped inside what resembles a clear paperweight. He ultimately ends up taking the demon's place in the final step of his well-deserved Humiliation Conga.
- The Keystones of The Seventh Tower act as this.
- Dungeons and Dragons has a spell called Trap The Soul. When cast, it imprisons the target's soul inside of a gem.
- There's also Magic Jar, where you willingly transfer your soul into a gem or crystal, then attempt to possess another living creature who comes near.
- Dungeons and Dragons 1st/2nd Edition had a spell called Binding. One variation of the spell was Minimus Containment, which shrank a creature and held it inside a gem.
- A demilich could drain the souls out of its victims' bodies and store them in its gemstone teeth.
- C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness. The Soul Gem could drain the souls of creatures and store them in itself.
- "The Garden of Nefaron" in Dragon magazine #53. The evil psionicist Malakon had his mind trapped within his own psychogem.
- Magic: The Gathering: In the Mirage storyline, Mangara was trapped in amber, as depicted on the card Amber Prison.
- And, of course, the card itself does exactly what you'd expect.
- Mega Man X 2 features Crystal Snail and his weapon, the Crystal Hunter. Getting hit by it will trap you in crystal, and you have to mash buttons to get out. When you beat him and get his weapon, you can do the same to weaker enemies and use the trapped enemy as an Improvised Platform. And if you dash into them, they shatter into pieces.
- The Arcane Warrior whose soul was trapped within a gem for thousands of years in Dragon Age comes to mind.
- In the Legend of Spyro trilogy, Spyro, Cynder, and Sparx are trapped in a gem between the second and third games.
- In the first game of the original series, most of the characters were (depending on whether you read the manual or play the game) either sealed in crystal or turned into crystal statues.
- Sonic Adventure, Perfect Chaos was released from the Master emerald.
- Krystal in Star Fox Adventures .
- Towards the end of Ocarina of Time, Princess Zelda is imprisoned in a crystal. This is of course, the page picture.
- In A Link To The Past, this was the the fate of the seven maidens when they entered the Dark World, as they were too pure to change form and thus became imprisoned in crystal instead.
- Din in Oracle of Seasons
- In Skyward Sword, Zelda does this willingly to prevent the end of the world.
- In a spin-off example, the Nintendo-themed Choose Your Own Adventure book The Crystal Trap had Link being the victim of this due to a curse laid by Gannon on the Tri-Force pieces (which got Link on a technicality since the Tri-Force of Courage was in his heart). The reader followed the plot of Zelda trying to free him from the curse before it became permanent, as one of the "failure" endings depicted the crystal turning to stone with Link still inside.
- Patroklos Alexander in Soul Calibur V is one of the few men to receive this treatment, albeit briefly at the end of the game.
- The Unholy Crystal boss in Splatterhouse 2, which contains the soul of Jennifer.
- Oblivion has soul gems, which are gems in which you can trap souls.
- Something of a recurring theme in Valkyrie Profile and Valkyrie Profile Silmeria; apart from the Valkyrie's ability to temporarily trap monsters in a crystal (ice for Lenneth, light for Silmeria), Silmeria, Lenneth and Brahms all end up in crystals during VP 1 and 2. Rather like this, really.
- Myzrael is a princess (elemental princess, note) trapped in a crystal in a quest in World of Warcraft.
- A few enemies and bosses, notably some crystal giants, can do this to you. A few ice using bosses can imprison you in an ice block as well.
- Warlocks can trap the souls of their enemies in crystals in order to fuel their stronger spells. And it happens to the warlock himself in this episode of "Chronicle of the Annoying Quest"
- In the musical Edutainment Game Julliard Music Adventure, the player must rescue a Queen who is trapped in an amulet.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy VII: The real Sephiroth is found encased inside one of these.
- Also, a sidequest shows that Seph's mother Lucrecia willingly locked herself in one to atone for her part in the experiments that led to Sephiroth's birth
- Final Fantasy XIII: Once branded a L'Cie by the Fal'Cie, Crystal Stasis is the reward for fulfilling their focus, in contrast to failing and becoming a Cie'th (i.e. transforming into a twisted, zombie-like horror). But this also means the Fal'cie can reawaken them and use them as puppets as much as they want. This is what happened with Serah and Dajh, and Vanille and Fang were originally Pulse L'Cie brought to Cocoon and awakened by Barthandelus as his Unwitting Pawns. Ultimately, this also happens to Lightning, Snow, Sazh and Hope by slaying Orphan, but soon awaken as a result of Vanille and Fang's double Deus Ex Machina Heroic Sacrifice.
- Final Fantasy VII: The real Sephiroth is found encased inside one of these.
- The entire plot of Kingdom of Loathing comes about because the Naughty Sorceress imprismed King Ralph. In a prism.
- Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 had several Toads and Lumas trapped in crystals (possibly by Bowser), and Mario/Luigi had to spin said crystals to set them free.
- There are also Goombas trapped in crystals as well. Makes players wonder why Bowser wanted to trap his own minions in crystals along with his enemies.
- In Runescape, the goal of the "Merlin's Crystal" quest is to rescue Merlin, who has been trapped inside a crystal by Morgan le Faye.
- An Archaeology item of ancient amber in 'World of Warcraft allows characters to do this, but only to themselves. As one might imagine, it's not a particularly useful item.
- In Warcraft III, a Soul Gem shows up in the last mission of the Orc campaign; it's used to imprison Grom Hellscream so he can be captured without killing him.
- The Big Bad does this to your entire party at the end of Breath of Fire II. The Hero breaks out of it, but this angers the Big Bad and he shatters the remaining crystals. (The Hero's Eleventh-Hour Superpower brings them Back From the Dead soon after.)
- In the Story Mode of Soul Calibur V, Patroklos is imprisoned in a crystal after the spirit of Soul Calibur turns on him.
- In Chrono Cross, when you find Schala, the Time Devourer has her imprisoned in a crystal atop its back. Freeing her is how you unlock the Golden Ending.
- In Realm of the Mad God, Mysterious Crystals are scattered throughout the Realm, literally begging you to smash them. They are actually the prisons of bosses that summon demon PONEHS.
- Several enemies are trapped inside crystals in the Crystal Caves -level of Medievil.
- In Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Ariel is seen trapped inside of an amber crystal.
- In the Skin Horse arc "Borrowers," Tip finds the maintenance staff trapped inside the living crystal entities in the basement. He gets captured too, but since the crystals are sensitive to noise, they release him when he threatens to start singing Madonna.
- At the end of her episode of Adventure Time, Tree Trunks ends up inside a gem, (gem-apple, really). She seems quite fond of it.
- During the two-part finale of Storm Hawks, many sky knights are captured and imprisoned in a giant crystal.
- In Thundercats 2011 this is Parodied in "Omens Part Two," when The Lizard Army uses a giant geode as a Trojan Horse to enter Thundera, having been stuck waiting in there for two days, not counting the trip to Thundera. One complains to his general about the smell after being freed.
- Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation had the characters trapped in a crystal chandelier by Dark Heart.
- Galaxy Rangers: A Psychocrypt victim will have their Life Energy in one crystal, and their body entombed in a second; merging the two will free the person. This is what happens to Zachary's wife Eliza.
- Amber is the fossil resin of ancient trees. Since resin evolved as a way of trapping insects and other small animals (to protect the tree from the damage they do), we naturally find a lot of insects, spiders, etc., trapped in amber.