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Despite the idea of the "four elements" being obsolete, writers love to play with the idea in fiction. Sometimes, a writer will merely use the idea of the "four elements" for an Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors system. Other times, however, writers will base not a character, but an entire ensemble on the classical elements.
This can sometimes be used literally by giving each member of the ensemble power over the particular element. Other times, however, it can be used on a more symbolic level, by giving each person personalities associated with the element in question or by using Theme Naming to assign each person an element.
This also tends to correspond with the Four-Temperament Ensemble. Traditionally melancholic ≡ earth, choleric ≡ fire, phlegmatic ≡ water, and sanguine ≡ air, though there are other interpretations.
The classical Western set was: earth, air, fire, and water. But philosophers in ancient Greece added aether (since the heavens were not observed to change, they couldn't be made of the earthly four). Similar systems were developed independently elsewhere, almost always with the classical four (the Chinese had a five element system of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal), but often with a fifth one variously identified as space, heaven, spirit, void, aether, etc. See Element Number Five.
Shows/games that absolutely need a Five-Man Band will possibly add another: western creations prefer something like Heart and eastern creations will use light or lightning, which will probably end up in the hands of The Hero.
Anime and Manga
- In Mahou Sensei Negima, disciples of Mage of the Beginning comes in this flavour (plus Dynamis).
- Fairy Tail has the enemy team of Element 4: Aria of the Wind, Totomaru of the Fire, Juvia of the Rain and Sol of the Earth.
- God's Right Seat from To Aru Majutsu no Index follows this trope with Vento of the Front, Terra of the Left, Acqua of the Back, and Fiamma of the Right.
- In Naruto the four elements are included among the main chakra natures. Lightning is added as the fifth element and many combinations have been recorded/experimented throughout the series. Futhermore each element has it's own dominant village and region such as Konoha (Land of Fire).
- The Fantastic Four
- Reed: Water. Like liquid, he is able to change his shape and fit through obstacles that solid objects can't.
- Ben: Earth. In addition to being super-strong and resilient like rock, his appearance is similar to that of a golem.
- Johnny: Fire. He has the power to self-ignite, so it's fairly obvious.
- Sue: Air. She has the power to become invisible and can make the air exert force, like the wind.
- The Batman and the Outsiders villain team The Masters of Disaster featured characters with water, earth, air, heat and cold powers.
- WITCH has the four elements for Irma, Taranee, Cornelia and Hay Lin, plus Energy for Will.
- In Sonic the Comic, the Chaotix once ran afoul of the Fundamental Four, four villains directly based on the four elements and parodying the Fantastic Four. Gravel, Hydran, Squall, and Flare. They were defeated by making them into a pot.
- DC's Elementals are named for none other than the original Elemental Embodiments. They compromise Salamander, Undine, Sylph, and Gnome.
- Each of the Warriors of Virtue has a talisman representing one of the five eastern elements.
- The Ghost Rider movie used this to justify villain Blackheart's Quirky Miniboss Squad's theming of Air, Water, and Earth — with the Rider himself handling Fire.
- The Craft Nancy represents Fire, Sarah represents Earth, Bonnie reprents Air, and Rochelle Represents Water.
- J. K. Rowling has stated that the four Hogwarts houses in Harry Potter are based off the four elements. Gryffindor is fire, Hufflepuff is earth, Ravenclaw is air, and Slytherin is water. Also according to Word of God, the Triwizard Tournament was originally going to have four tasks with each one based on a classical element. However, Rowling had difficulty coming up with tasks for all of them. In the end, the First Task combines air and fire while the Second Task is water and the Third Task is earth.
- Angels and Demons uses the theme of the four elements in the murders of four Catholic Cardinals and in the clues to the location of the Illuminati's meeting place.
- The Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog: "Fire within me! Earth beneath me! Air above me! Water around me!"
- Spice Girls
- In Mozart's The Magic Flute, the hero and heroine undergo ordeals of Earth, Fire, and Water; Air seems to be missing, until you realize that the Flute itself is a wind instrument.
- Champions adventure "The Coriolis Effect". Donnah Hannah and three anonymous NPC's are transformed into elemental themed villains (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) by the Black Enchantress.
- Dungeons and Dragons had the Elemental Princes of Evil: Cryonax (cold), Imix (fire), Ogremoch (earth), Olhydra (water) and Yan-C-Bin (air).
- And their Good counterparts. But neither set ever teams up.
- The Chaos gods of the Warhammer universe.
- Khorne - the fire that consumes.
- Nurgle - the hungry earth.
- Tzeentch - the uncatchable air.
- Slaanesh - the beguiling water.
- Final Fantasy frequently has four elemental crystals - Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Often there's the Four Fiends to go with them. Both pop up in Final Fantasy I, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Final Fantasy IX brought the Four Fiends back but not the crystals, and Final Fantasy III has the crystals but not the Fiends.
- Final Fantasy IV, the DS remake de-powered Titan to the level of the Fire, Ice, Lightning trio of Ifrit, Shiva and Ramuh, making the four equal in power and usefulness. As an Element Number Five, Holy Dragon was powered up to be narrowly stronger than the four.
- Near the beginning of Final Fantasy V, each of the four protagonists is associated with one of the four elemental crystals along with a personality trait associated with said element. Bartz gets wind and quest, Lenna gets water and kindness, Galuf gets earth and hope, and Faris gets fire and courage.
- Breath of Fire IV kind of does this. Nina uses wind, Cray uses earth, Scias uses water, and Ursula uses fire. There are, however, two more characters in the party, with Ershin getting the most powerful spells of all elements but too little Mana to use them regularly, and Ryu's dragon forms focusing on fire but also having access to wind and earth.
- In both Golden Sun games, each of your party members maps to a specific element, and they characters of each element in the original and the sequel even look alike. But when you get access to the first game's characters in the sequel, you can put together parties of whatever you like.
- Continued in Dark Dawn, where you eventually end up with two party members for each element as in The Lost Age.
- Romancing SaGa has 4 Elemental Lords; beings that embody the elements: Pyrix (Fire), Adyllis (Earth), Strom (Water), and Avi (Air). Fighting them is optional; however, failing their Ecology Quests forces you to fight a corrupted yet stronger version of them.
- Dragon Quest VII has the heroes awaken and round up the four Elemental Spirits. They're also Bonus Bosses.
- Each one of the four kid protagonists in Homestuck is associated with a classical element (among other things). John is wind, Rose is water, Dave is fire, and Jade is earth.
- Played with in 8-bit Theater when the Dark Warriors find the elemental orbs of light and divide them amongst themselves. Two were clear cut (the Earth Orb for the elf and Water Orb for the pirate), but the other two were just given to whoever.
- The Global Guardians PBEM Universe featured Gaea's Children, a supervillain team themed after the four classic elements. The members were Flame, Mountain, River, and Wind.
- In the hybrid webcomic/browser game Demon Thesis, the four main characters find themselves gifted with these powers after a mysterious entity from another dimension starts interfering in our world. There is one exception though: Sam's powers are actually over ice rather than water.
- Captain Planet and the Planeteers: The five members have the powers of earth, fire, wind, water, and... heart.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender's Five-Man Band (in the second half of the third season) has this along with Sokka as the Badass Normal. Lampshaded (or...something) in the finale.
Sokka: Team Avatar is back! [series of dramatic zooms] Air! Water! Earth! Fire! (grabs some large leaves for himself and Suki) Fan and sword!
- The Xiaolin Monks of Xiaolin Showdown each control one of the four elements.
- Galaxy Rangers: Zach: Earth (very connected to his family, very literally grounded, augmented strength, Lawful Good leader), Shane: Water (shapeshifter, friends with dolphins, names his horse after a sea god), Niko: Fire (Fiery Redhead, psionic blasts), Doc: Air (Air is the element of ideas, communication, and bullshit - and he's well-stocked on all three)
- Action League Now: The Flesh represents Earth (has strength far surpassing an ordinary Chuck-o-mation character), Thunder Girl represents Air (her super ability is flight), Stinky Diver represents Water (he's a scubadiver, no doubt), and Meltman represents Fire (what else but fire, or Heat, to have givin him his melted form?).