Stronger Than They Look YKTTW Discussion

Stronger Than They Look
A strong guy who doesn't look strong somehow.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-09-15 18:31:01 sponsor: WaxingName edited by: DAN004 (last reply: 2015-04-24 17:45:46)

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DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft

So you meet this character. He looks weak somehow. He's either small and scrawny, or meek, peace-loving and/or gentle, not heavily armed, lazy or untrained, frail, or unassuming. Either way, everything that you see about him doesn't strike you as "strong".

But then, said so-called "weak" guy starts lifting something many times his size/weight or breaking something hard without much effort.

This "character" may sometimes not be a person; an animal can be this too.

Related to Hidden Badass. See also Pintsized Powerhouse, Strong Ants, Killer Rabbit, Cute Bruiser and Glacier Waif for the subtropes of this. (Note, examples that fit in the subtropes would be listed there rather than here.)

Compare Badass on Paper, Muscles Are Meaningless and Lightning Bruiser. Contrast Muscles Are Meaningful.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In most animated adaptations Sonic the Hedgehog can be seen taking, avoiding, and dealing out damage in equal measure, sometimes to Made of Iron levels. However, in most of the games, he is too fragile to qualify.
  • Natsu of Fairy Tail. He's agile, strong, practically Made of Iron, and uses a very rare and powerful type of Fire Magic taught to him by a Dragon. Fellow Dragon Slayer Gajeel also qualifies, and he's literally Made of Iron at times, being the Iron Dragon Slayer.
    • Both Dragon Slayers are particularly notable for being extremely powerful with or without magic, as almost all other magic users are physically weak, and almost all other fighter types can't use magic. Some exceptions would be Erza, Mirajane, the artificial dragon slayers and Zero of Oración Seis.
  • Eclair from Kiddy Grade, who can take and defeat guard robots and combat cyborgs twice her size. Fittingly enough her name means "lightning bolt" in French.
  • Luffy from One Piece certainly doesn't look like he is very strong and resilient. Thinking that has been the mistake of almost every Big Bad of the series
    • Sanji as well. Lean and swift on his feet...with enough leg-power to casually kick aside massive beasts
  • Sanosuke from Rurouni Kenshin. Though, his speed has generally been downplayed due to it being a specialty of the main character. From the beginning of the manga, he's been noted to be very quick, even with a massive zanbatou. After abandoning that weapon, he's been able to trade blows with fellow Lightning Bruiser Anji and block gunfire with a well timed Futae no Kiwami.
    • Kenshin himself is every bit the hard-hitting speedster. While he's taken to striking with the blunt edge of his blade, he still manages to cause knockouts and broken bones. He's also managed to keep fighting despite suffering grave injuries.
  • Gatomon from Digimon Adventure may be tiny and cute, as well as fast as one would expect. But she's actually a Champion Digimon and extremely strong.
  • Bleach: Soifon is the main example of the series. She's a tiny woman but is one of the fastest captains in the Gotei 13. Her attacks are based on her exceptional speed and use it to full advantage. On top of that, however, the Official Bootleg confirms that her strongest ability is actually her physical strength rather than her speed. As a result, she's the unarmed combat expert of the captains, something that allows her to use her two strongest abilities together and to their maximum potential. In the manga, her great physical strength manifests in bankai form. As a nuke.
    • Yoruichi is Soifon's mentor and idol. Soifon has spent a century try to surpass Yoruichi in both speed and strength but hasn't made it yet. Yoruichi's reliance on her strength and speed together is so great that, unlike even Soifon, she doesn't even bother to use her zanpakutou in battle.
  • Naruto- Many of the top tier Naruto shinobi move insanely fast & yet can hit deceptively strong. Some prominent examples would be Minato, Maito Gai, Rock Lee etc.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist's King Bradley is a lean old man who moves with Olympic athlete level speed, evades bullets with ease, and hits hard enough to completely dismember a person in seconds.
  • The "Lost Boy" Hibiki Ryoga from Rumiko Takahashi's Ranma ½ carries an umbrella with him that he uses as a truncheon, a javelin or as cutting disc. A minor character once tried to lift it, but failed despite using both hands. Ryoga, however, retrieves it with one hand effortlessly. And he looks like an otherwise normal boy his age.

  • The Flash, whenever the writers don't forget how much it sucks to be punched by someone going that fast.
    • This has varied over the years, and still varies with the writer. In Wally West's first hundred issues or so, he could usually hit no harder than a typical athlete — his aura absorbed most of the energy. As the editor pointed out, Wally would break his hands with every punch otherwise. When the Speed Force was introduced, it quickly became a catch-all answer to physics gripes; thus Wally's been delivering super-punches again, apparently using the Speed Force to sneak around Newton's third.
  • Spider-Man have enhanced strength, reflexes, and agility. Despite that, as Peter Parker he's always known as "that nerd" or "that everyman journalist".
  • Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja has been trained as a ninja for most of his life and the deadliest killer on Earth. Though strong, he usually relies on his speed, agility, and expertise to defeat his enemies, preferring more subtle methods.
  • Astérix: A small man who nevertheless is superstrong after having drunk the magic potion.


    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live Action 
  • The heroes of most cinematic martial artists, such as Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, etc.
  • The Beast of Kung Fu Hustle. The final Big Bad of the movie, don't let his old age fool you; he is faster and more Made of Iron than the Landlady and Landlord. Good thing Sing is faster than him after the Beast accidentally unlocks his true power.
  • Godzilla series:
    • Megaguirus is the single quickest, nimblest monster in the entire series, and still manages to pick Godzilla - a monster three times her own mass - off the ground, as well as take a considerable amount of physical punishment and be little worse for the wear. She burns like a gasoline-doused paper bag, but physically speaking, she can swap blows with the best of them.
    • Some versions of Godzilla himself also qualify, but none so much as his Final Wars incarnate, who shrugged off nuke-scale explosions that left mile-wide craters in the ground, while simultaneously dispatched his enemies with wire-fu maneuvers and amazingly quick reflexes.
    • King Seesar is a less extreme example, being an (allegedly) stone monster who barrels right into enemies with surprising speed and executes spectacular roundhouse kicks.
  • River Tam in Serenity; for someone that small, she hits hard as hell.
    Wash: Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90-pound girl, 'cause... I don't think that's ever getting old.

  • The Vord Queen in the Codex Alera books is terrifyingly powerful. While she looks a bit like a Cute Monster Girl (or at least tries), she's faster and stronger than Aleran crafters using Bullet Time and Super Strength, crafts better than pretty much anyone anyway, can run up walls and ceilings, and is generally able to slice you to little pieces. Oh, and balest bolts bounce off her skin. To make matters worse, she's a brilliant commander with a massive, Hive Minded army consisting in large part of lesser Lightning Bruisers.
  • Max the Silent from Andrew Vachss's Burke books, despite not looking very powerful at first glance, is death in close quarters. In the event that someone manages to land a blow on him, it becomes apparent that he can shrug off should-be-painful stuff like multiple knee strikes from Muay Thai opponents.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Data is a Ridiculously Human Robot who looks closer to normal Earth humans than the more imposing Nausicaans and Klingons. Yet, he bent a rod of parsteel with a tensile strength of 40 kilobars (stronger than kevlar) with minimal effort in one episode using his bare hands. He also lifted a full size metal anvil effortlessly in another.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy looks like an ordinary teenage girl but has Super Strength. The same goes for most of the vampires, though some of those actually do look pretty strong.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cosmic Whiz Kid". Toman the assassin is from a high gravity planet. He looks rather weak but has superhuman strength in Earth-type environments, making him a formidable opponent.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Masato Yoshino from Dragon Gate is a Fragile Speedster minus the fragile. He's the second smallest guy on the roster, but he can press guys his own size over his head, and knock guys much bigger than himself flying across the ring with a dropkick.
  • AJ Styles, while not as big as the others, is not only lightning fast and agile, but can casually lift and tackle behemoths like Samoa Joe and Abyss, and can stand up and carry someone who is using a jujigatame (crucifix armbar) on him.

  • Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao. The man started his career at 106 pounds, has advanced all the way to 147 (almost unheard of in Boxing). And his KO percentage has risen, while he retains the same blinding handspeed he had at lower weights. Ricky Hatton got a little taste of that combination earlier this year, as did Miguel Cotto, both men billed as "bigger and stronger" than Pacquiao, until he put a thoroughly one-sided beat down on both of them. Hatton got knocked the hell out in the second round, and the ref jumped in to save Cotto in the final round of their fight.
  • Mark Recchi is small for a hockey player who plays a physical style (5'10, 180 pounds) but early in his career was nicknamed "The Wrecking Ball" for his propensity to crash into opponents, many larger than himself. Pat Verbeek, also qualifies, earning the amazing nickname "The Little Ball of Hate". Unlike Recchi, he was also known for fighting.
  • Mixed Martial Arts
    • UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo fights at 145 lbs and is known for his amazing knockout power in his hands, feet and knees.
    • UFC Middleweight champ Anderson Silva is a tall, skinny fighter at 185 lbs and is known for his one-punch knockout power as well as his effortless evasion on the feet. He's broken UFC records for winning streaks and title defenses.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Monks were intended to be this. They were meant to have high movement speed and hit very often. Unfortunately, the 3.5 version is often considered to be quite lacking at high levels of optimization. The 4e version does somewhat better as a relatively effective striker.
    • Anyone who is naturally weak but possesses or uses a magic/psionic item that grants increased strength is this. Examples include drinking a Potion of Giant Strength or wearing a Girdle of Giant Strength.
  • The nature of the New World of Darkness character-building system dictates these — damage is determined by Strength + skill, and speed is determined by Strength + Dexterity + 5. If you have high strength, you're quick and powerful.
  • Exalted: since there's nothing whatsoever preventing you from buying, say, Melee, Athletics and Resistance (for Solars), Dexterity and Stamina (for Lunars), or Malfeas and Adorjan (for Infernals), these tend to emerge quite rapidly. A Malfean soak/damage build using Adorjani run-like-the-wind and hurricane flurry magic is something you do not want to meet in a dark alley - her ridiculously high Soak and Hardness mean all but the most brutal attacks will just bounce off, and she's likely able to outrun a Bugatti Veyron and rip off enormous rains of radioactive blows. Solars are just as unpleasant, albeit more focused on technical skill and proficiency than weird Primordial power.

    Video Games 
  • In the ninth and tenth installments of Fire Emblem, Ike is a pretty straight example of this. In Path of Radiance, he starts out a Fragile Speedster, but about halfway through, he becomes almost as strong and well armored as the Mighty Glaciers, but also retains his initial speed advantage. He starts out this way in Radiant Dawn, and only gets better (barring slight speed issues).
    • As is Sety (who actually has the possibility of getting enemies a 0% chance to hit him) and the swordmaster class.
      • Pretty much ANY Second Generation FE 4 character. Except poor Corpul. Even those who'd appear to be Squishy Wizards , like Yuria, for example (Yuria's notable, her Physical Defense sucks, like a typical Squishy Wizard— but due to the fact that she's known for "vamping" via the Resire/Nosfetaru spell, are fully capable of taking even the hardest of hits and shrugging them off like they were nothing) are examples of this.
    • Many of the "Mercenary/Hero" class characters throughout Fire Emblem gain great speed and strength gains. And are strong enough to wield the heavier swords myrmidons cannot.
    • Fire Emblem is full of these. In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, you could do this easily with Amelia, who had excellent speed growths and, if promoted into a Knight, access to the mighty General class.
    • Trueblades, the class that Swordmasters turn into after level 20 in Radiant Dawn, could also count, especially Mia. They have a ridiculous evasion rate, hit their target most of the time, and between all of their offensive stats you'd be hard-pressed to find anything short of a mini-boss or boss that can survive more than a single round with one; usually they'll end up getting killed by critical hits or their Astra ability.
  • Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog. He's the strongest character in the Sonic universe, even if he's as small as Sonic or Tails.
    • In Sonic Chronicles, Sonic is the Jack-of-All-Stats except for being the fastest character in the game. In the usual gaming fare, he's a Fragile Speedster and somewhat of a Glass Cannon but it really just depends on whether you can hold on to a single ring. In Sonic Unleashed, he does indeed play this straight, as he is able to move fast, destroy tough enemies, and lose only 20 rings per hit.
    • Sonic's "Sonic boost" ability makes him into one of these.
  • Alex Mercer of [PROTOTYPE] just seems like a guy in a hoodie and jacket. But he can run fast enough to scale buildings and outrun helicopters. And can lift cars above his head, dropkick people to send them flying a block away. And let's not even go into his blades, tentacles, claws, clubs, or shapeshifting powers.
    • It helps that he has a ton of mass hidden beneath that lanky physique, to the point where a four-foot drop to the ground will result in cracked pavement and simply standing on a tank will noticeably slow it down; definitely a hard-hitting speedster.
    • The sequel gives protagonist James Heller similar powers, and a comparison between the two reveals that Mercer is stronger, but Heller is much faster.
  • Dante from Devil May Cry looks like any other human, as many of the bosses assume. However, his devil heritage gives him both the Healing Factor to shrug off humanly-fatal wounds and the power and speed to tear enemies a new one with ease. At least in cutscenes.
  • The Big Sisters in BioShock 2 are much faster and more agile than the Big Daddies, and able to dish out a surprising amount of hurt. They are also probably the most terrifying enemy you face in the game...and this is RAPTURE we're talking about.
  • The junction system in Final Fantasy VIII allows the player to boost any character's Strength, Stamina, and Speed dramatically by linking the stats to the right kinds of magic, but Zell deserves particular mention; his stat growth is naturally designed to make him hit fast and hard. At higher levels and with good junctions, his ATB speed becomes noticeably faster than the rest of the party's.
  • Wild Arms 2 has the protagonist Ashley Winchester who fits this trope like a glove. Even though his build is average, he's got a pretty good HP, can insanely be fast even without his Accelerator Force Action, can deal good damage, and yet wields a bayonet that looks like a BFS. And that's not even getting into his Superpowered Evil Side.
  • The Doomguy in the old games also qualifies. He carries an alarming number of heavy weapons and runs at something approaching highway speeds.
  • Shadow Man the robot ninja in Mega Man 3 is similar to Quick Man from Mega Man 2, but faster and tougher, and has the same sliding ability as Mega Man.
  • Defying the common expectations of his job class, Zidane Tribal of Final Fantasy IX is a surprisingly hard hitter and has good HP, only balanced by his lack of heavy armor (of which only two characters in the game use anyway). And then he becomes a straight-up nuker in his Super Mode.
  • Yuuto and Etrangers in general function as this in Eien no Aselia which is why they are valued so highly. While Yuuto has basically no skill in combat to start, he's still a match for all but the most skilled and powerful of spirits. Also, Eternals.
  • P.N.03's Vanessa Z. Schneider. Just looks like your average female adult protagonist, but with Blackbird suit, unlocked on a New Game+, she has all stats maxed out, making Vanessa one of these. To a lesser extent there's the Ultra Fusion, arguably the best non-secret suit.
  • Albert Wesker of Resident Evil, especially Resident Evil 5. He can move faster than a human eye could perceive, yet is able to punch through metal wall (not mentioning a ribcage and spine), lift and hurl a missile like a dart, and has a Healing Factor on the verge of immortality. He often hides it behind a normal business suit, a labcoat, or a black longcoat.
    • Maybe the most laconic summation of all his Lightning Bruiser features in one move: he can catch a rocket fired at him and hold it still; said rocket then exploding in his hands merely dazes him.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Red vs. Blue: Agent Texas and Carolina. Downplayed; like most freelancers, they just look like normal soldiers (albeit in armour) but are exceptionally fast and hard-hitting, even amongst their fellows.

    Western Animation 
  • In Sonic Sat AM, easily Sonic. Though in the games he is usually much more a Fragile Speedster, here he can punch and kick robots (kicking makes sense...), and when already running, throw things multiple times his size with his momentum.
    • He is also the only Freedom Fighter to have broken security cameras by throwing junk at them...with ONE hand...
  • Both of the Fire siblings from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Both may be young but they're very talented firebenders, especially Azula who can bend lightning.
    • The same series also gives us Toph and Aang. Although you would expect Aang to be more of a Fragile Speedster, mastering all the elements other than just air really helps him with the bruisin'.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Rainbow Dash, who is a boisterous tomboy and has been shown to not only fly fast enough to accomplish the legendary "Sonic Rainboom" - the only pegasus known to have ever done so, including the two god-princess alicorns - but has since also gained enough control over the ability to manipulate it into a thermonuclear explosion used to utterly demolish a huge old barn. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; on another occasion, she kicked a fully grown dragon in the face hard enough to not only provoke it into going on the offensive, when the entire problem the dragon posed was that it refused to get up from its nap, but actually whine near-tearfully about it afterwards in conjunction with Fluttershy's amazing verbal beatdown.
    • Big Macintosh can also be very fast and very strong when he needs to - being towed to a house doesn't even slow him down, when he's on the run.
      • That wasn't even Big Macintosh running at full tilt, he was literally hopping
  • Droopy: Puny dog who has surprised many of his opponents by beating the shit out of them when you make him mad.
  • Tom and Jerry: Jerry is able to beat up Tom with a force impossible for someone his size. He has also lifted up other things like golfclubs and the like.
  • The Simpsons: Ned Flanders has been shown as quite muscled underneath his clothes.
  • Teen Titans: In the first episode when Cinderblock grabs her, Starfire (an otherwise scrawny looking teenage alien) out right states the trope before she gives him a mighty kick to the face that sends him flying back.

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee. Legend has it that he could hit a leather punching bag so hard that it would tear a hole in it and so fast that a 24-frame-per-second video camera would have trouble following him as anything but a blur.
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