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Most characters are fully developed by the start of the story...
...but not this one.
extraordinary happens in his/her life (usually of the supernatural variety, but not always), and THAT extraordinary event is when the character is galvanized into its most popular form, ganing a lot of characteristics in the process.
Note that this character doesn't necessarily have to be the protagonist of the story, just a major one.
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball, Goku's best-known characterization started when Raditz arrived on Earth and revealed to Goku that Goku is really a Saiyan. This marked a turning point not just for Goku as a character, but for the franchise as a whole.
- .An unique experiment changed The Incredible Hulk from a grey-skinned Genius Bruiser that emerged whenever the sun went down, to a green-skinned Dumb Muscle that emerges whenever Bruce Banner gets angry or sad or excited, establishing Hulk's defining characterization.
- Sunset Shimmer getting hit with the Rainbow of Harmony and having all the evil purged out of her is what helped her define as the Atoning Big Good of the Equestria Girls franchise
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bucky's character arc truly began when he resurfaced in modern times as the Winter Soldier. The resulting efforts of getting rid of this Super-Powered Evil Side of his, as well as the rift caused between those wanting to help Bucky and those wanting to capture him, had lasting impacts in the MCU.
- The T-800 in the first Terminator was a Generic Doomsday Villain. It wasn't until the Human Resistance set a T-800 reprogrammed to protect John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day that the character as we know and love it would be established.
- The Trope Namer is Erin Winters from Scary Go Round. Originally an unremarkable character, until she accidentally drinks a growth formula that makes her grow about 7 ft. tall. This is the true start of her character, as she learns to be more confident and assertive, stands up to Alpha Bitch Esther, and even becomes better as sports.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle's current characterization was set in stone after the events of "Magical Mystery Cure", when she gained wings, and thus became an alicorn. Much like the Troper Namer, Twilight became more assertive and confident after becoming an Alicorn. She learned to connect better with the rest of the Mane Six and became a wise Reasonable Authority Figure.