Created By: WaxingName on September 15, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 4, 2015
Troped

Faster Than They Look

You expect this character to be slow. They actually can move very fast.

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DAN 004 wuz here takin over ur druft


Tyrion: Does he frighten you so much?
Bronn: I'd be a bloody fool if he didn't frighten me. He's freakish big and freakish strong. And faster than you'd think for a man of that size.
—Tyrion and Bronn discuss the prospect of fighting Gregor Clegane in Game of Thrones

So you meet this character. He looks slow somehow. Maybe he's so big, maybe he's so heavily armored, maybe he wields a big weapon, maybe his legs are too small, or he looks sickly and lethargic (or even a zombie), whatever. You'd expect to easily outrun this guy.

But then said so-called "slow" guy suddenly runs really fast! Bonus points if he specifically goes after you.

Despite the above, this can apply to vehicles or animals as well.

Supertrope to Acro Fatic and Impossibly Graceful Giant, as well as Speedy Snail for animals. Contrast Glacier Waif, who's slower than they look.


Anime and Manga
  • Pokémon plays this for laughs in an episode showcasing Slowpoke and Shellder. When Team Rocket tries to force their newly caught Shellder to clamp onto Slowpoke's tail and forcefully evolve it into Slowbro, Slowpoke is not a fan of this idea and is promptly chased around by Shellder, much to Team Rocket's frustration.
    Jessie: I thought you were a Slowpoke! (...)
  • One Piece.
    • In the Thriller Bark arc, Nami, Chopper and Usopp are being chased by zombies. When the three start running and think the zombies can't chase them, suddenly the zombies start sprinting at them. But not long after, the zombies have to catch their breath as they lacked the stamina.
    • There's the gigantic zombie Oars, who despite his size can move and react quickly to Straw Hats' attacks. Probably justified in that he has Luffy's shadow powering him courtesy of Moria's powers.
    • Bartholomew Kuma is a 10-feet tall cyborg with a big upper body who nonetheless is able to Flash Step around. He cheats; his Paw-Paw Fruit power helps him (by "pushing" himself so fast, at that).
  • In Black Lagoon Revy comments that Torch is faster than he looks "for a fat fucker".
  • Sloth in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. He's huge and true to his namesake he hates moving fast. But once properly motivated he Turns Red and starts fighting by slamming into opponents at high speed.
  • The Armored Titan of Attack on Titan looks like a Mighty Glacier because of the weight and reach of its armor, but once it sheds the armor at the back of its knees it suddenly becomes a Lightning Bruiser.

Comic Books
  • People often make this observation about The Incredible Hulk (for example The Wasp in the first issue of The Avengers). While they assume being a massive slab of angry green muscle would slow him down, his Super Strength also allows him to move his mass with ease.

Literature
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane is perhaps the largest man in all of Westeros, an almost eight foot tall tower of muscle. He is also one of the better swordsmen, in part because, as Bronn notes, while he isn't exactly fast by normal standards he's certainly quicker than you'd expect a man his size to be.
    • Gregor's younger brother Sandor isn't quite as big, being a "mere" 6'6 and also thickly muscled, but Master Swordsman Jaime Lannister considers him one of the most dangerous opponents one could face because Sandor is much, much faster than his size and build would indicate and a vicious fighter as well.

Live-Action TV
  • Lampshaded in a 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live, when Seth Myers remarks of Barbara Birmingham (Kenan Thompson) being, "Way faster than she looks", after she attempts to assault him in the blink of an eye.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters" the absorboloph looks like it's so slow it wouldn't win a race with a snail. Then it jumps up and starts chasing Elton...

Video Games
  • A quest in Uldum in World of Warcraft features Harrison Jones (an Indiana Jones Expy) in a fistfight with a large burly man, in reference to the famous propeller scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He says to the player:
    "My dad always said the big guys hit hard, but they're slow...I don't think my dad ever fought this guy!"

Visual Novels
  • In Rewrite, Kotarou encounters a giant dinosaur familiar. Since it's so big, he expects it to be lumbering and slow and for the human agents fighting it to speed around it like in games, but the dinosaur actually catches up to them and crushes easily them in two huge steps.

Web Original
  • Schlock Mercenary has Sergeant Schlock. Despite basically being a huge blob of wet clay, he quite often has shocked enemies tell him "You're faster than you look."
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged
    • At the end of the first season, Goku figures that now Vegeta's transformed from a roughly 5 foot tall humanoid into a skyscraper-sized ape, he'll be stronger but a lot slower-ohgodhe'sjustasfast!!!
    • In the second season, Gohan assumes that he and Krillin will easily be able to outfly The Brute/Fat Bastard Dodoria after getting in a couple of sucker punches on Dodoria and fleeing. He's just as wrong as his father was about Vegeta.
      Krillin: Not gonna lie Gohan, that was not your smartest move.
      Gohan: Oh come on Krillin, we have a ten mile lead on him. Factoring in our speed and velocity and his mass, there's no way he should be able to catch up. [Dodoria shows up right behind them throwing Ki Attacks at them both]
      Krillin: Well, look who's wrong!
      Gohan: There's always room for error!

Western Animation
  • In an episode of Spider-Man, Kingpin reveals that he's actually really fast despite his size.
  • Done In-Universe when The Simpsons go on an African safari. Marge looks through her binoculars at a far away cheetah lying under a tree. "He doesn't look so fast to me." During the time between her looking through the binoculars and putting them down the cheetah runs up and sticks its head in her face.
  • Total Drama
    • Owen appears to be a unathletic, sluggish, fat boy, and in most cases this is true. However if you present food to him a distance away, he can outrun anyone in between him and said meal.
    • This trope is also lampshaded in "Wawanakwa Gone Wild" where Gwen tries to catch a duck, but when she gets close, it suddenly runs off at an incredible speed in Road Runner fashion, leading her to say: "Last time I checked, ducks waddled".
  • Droopy. A slow and melancholic basset hound who nevertheless manages to travel hundreds of miles/kilometers in a matter of seconds, always there when the villain doesn't expect him to be so.

Truth in Television
  • Hippos and elephants are both much faster than one would suspect from their bulk.
  • Many Real Life ships are surprisingly fast, due to the fact that a very big ship can fit a very big engine. HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906, displaced 20,000 tons, was as long as one and a half football fields, and could make 21 knots under full speed. A heavily armed fortress that could travel 24 miles in an hour. USS Iowa, launched in 1943, displaced 45,000 tons, was as long as two and a half football fields, and could make 33 knots, able to cover nearly 40 miles in an hour. The modern day Nimitz class nuclear carriers weigh in at 100,000 tons, are longer than three football fields, and can make better than 30 knots without ever needing to stop to refuel.
  • Many animals, such as penguins, turtles and seals, look very sluggish as they waddle along on land. Once they get in the water they are surprisingly quick by comparison.

Community Feedback Replies: 86
  • September 17, 2012
    StrixObscuro
  • September 17, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^This trope is distinct from Acrofatic.
  • September 17, 2012
    WaxingName
    Perhaps this trope needs a better name. Any suggestions?
  • September 19, 2012
    PsiPaula4
    Well maybe the name of this trope can be Lightning (antonym of waif), seeing how this is the opposite of Glacier Waif.

    Thing is, what IS the antonym of waif? A waif is a person with a thin fragile appearance... what word would be the opposite? I can't really seem to come up with one.

    Also might want to say that this is related to Acrofatic, that is if said person Faster Than They Look is overweight.

  • September 19, 2012
    Khantalas
    Brute? Hulk? Oaf?
  • September 19, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^^No, do not use the word "Lightning" at all, or else it will imply that there is no "subversion" nature to this trope. This is supposed to be characters that definitely look strong, but are surprisingly fast, and the title has to make that clear or the trope will decay.
  • September 26, 2012
    BlackDragon
    This is some remarkably fast Trope Decay... it hasn't even been launched, and it's already looking like somebody slammed Acrofatic and Lightning Bruiser into each other and called it a day.

    Unless the medium makes a specific point out of 'he looks really slow, but is actually really fast', I don't think it can qualify. If it's just 'I think he looks really slow, but he's actually really fast', then it WILL be the same examples as the two above-mentioned tropes.

    As for an honest example - Trolls in Artemis Fowl. In The Last Guardian, it's brought up that the troll's shambling pace looks pretty slow, but is actually REALLY fast, faking out prospective prey who think that they've got enough time to get away - until suddenly, a hungry troll is right on top of them.
  • September 29, 2012
    AFP
    Yeah, there is a lot of overlap here with Lightning Bruiser. I think it all comes down to character expectations, if it's not just Lightning Bruiser.
  • November 14, 2012
    WaxingName
    ^Actually, this YKTTW was created in response to confusing examples on Lightning Bruiser because the "subversion" nature of the trope wasn't really adding anything to the definition.

    Also, it's Up For Grabs, so please feel free to edit what you think is wrong with it.
  • January 14, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    With THAT many examples, why hasn't this been launched yet?!

    Live Action TV
    • Lampshaded in a 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live, when Seth Myers remarks of Barbara Birmingham (Kenan Thompson) being, "Way faster than she looks", after she attemps to assault him in the blink of an eye.
  • November 22, 2013
    AFP
    Bump. Is this launchable?

    • Many Real Life ships are surprisingly fast, due to the fact that a very big ship can fit a very big engine. HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906, displaced 20,000 tons, was as long as one and a half football fields, and could make 21 knots under full speed. A heavily armed fortress that could travel 24 miles in an hour. USS Iowa, launched in 1943, displaced 45,000 tons, was as long as two and a half football fields, and could make 33 knots, able to cover nearly 40 miles in an hour. The modern day Nimitz class nuclear carriers weigh in at 100,000 tons, are longer than three football fields, and can make better than 30 knots without ever needing to stop to refuel.
  • November 22, 2013
    DAN004
    Seriously... I don't think we need to split Lightning Bruiser. It's already good as it is...
  • August 20, 2014
    dalek955
  • August 20, 2014
    Ryusui
    Deceptively Quick?

    I agree there's some overlap, but I think with some careful writing and selection of examples, this can stand out as its own trope separate from Lightning Bruiser.
  • August 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Lightning Bruiser used to have "deceptively quick/faster than expected" as one of its categories. (The other is "deceptively strong".)
  • August 21, 2014
    Chabal2
    Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Goku figures that now Vegeta's transformed into a skyscraper-sized ape, he'll be a lot slowerohgodhe'sjustasfast!!!
  • August 21, 2014
    BKelly95
  • August 21, 2014
    eroock
    We have Speedy Snail for animals
  • August 21, 2014
    KomodoClassic
    Truth in Television: Hippos and elephants are both much faster than one would suspect from their bulk.
  • August 22, 2014
    hbi2k
    FWIW, I think the name is just fine. Making it "lightning" anything will just cause confusion with Lightning Bruiser, while I think this is pretty distinct. Lightning Bruiser is about being fast, strong, and tough. As written, this trope is about being faster than appearance would suggest; it doesn't matter whether an example is also strong or tough.

    I'd be more concerned with overlap with Acrofatic than Lightning Bruiser, although I think you could make a case for calling this a Super Trope to Acrofatic. There's a place for examples like the Mountain in Game of Thrones, who is huge and deceptively fast but not obese and so doesn't belong under Acrofatic.
  • August 22, 2014
    DAN004
    I believe this is a supertrope to both Acrofatic and Lightning Bruiser. That is, if this trope isn't enough covered by those two. (Again, LB used to have "Deceptively Quick" as one of its forms, but I forgot why they changed the description.)
  • August 23, 2014
    SKJAM
    The standard superhero comics line used to be "How can something that big be that fast!?"
  • August 23, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^^ I don't think this fits as a Super Trope to Lightning Bruiser. There are plenty of examples of Lightning Bruiser that look like they shouldn't be as fast as they are, but there are just as many examples that look like they should be a Fragile Speedster but wind up being tougher than they look like they should be.
  • August 23, 2014
    Bisected8
    • People often make this observation about The Incredible Hulk (for example The Wasp in the first issue of The Avengers). While they assume being a massive slab of angry green muscle would slow him down, his Super Strength also allows him to move his mass with ease.
  • August 23, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ Only half Super Trope then. (It is possible for a trope to have two supertropes y'know.)
  • August 25, 2014
    WaxingName
    ^Not all Lightning Bruisers are Faster Than They Look. The whole reason that part of the definition was removed was because it was completely incidental to the idea of being "stronger, faster, and tougher."

    The other major change was that it was made into a "comparative" trope instead of absolute.
  • August 25, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Of course. Lightning Bruiser's other Super Trope is "Tougher Than You Look", which we may have under some other name.
  • August 25, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ No such thing as a "half" Super Trope. Either one trope is a subset of another trope due to all of its examples falling under the second trope's definition, or not. I think the word you're looking for is "overlap".

    And Lightning Bruiser as currently defined has nothing to do with "tougher than they look." Some examples might be, but that has nothing to do with their status as Lightning Bruisers.
  • August 25, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Tell that to Trope Rithmetic (specifically with the "trope X + trope Y" formula)

    And yeah, since LB's definition and description has shifted I actually have no point of bringing that supertrope idea up. :P
  • August 26, 2014
    MysteriousMrX
    Added Pokemon example
  • September 2, 2014
    DAN004
    Does the "strong" has to be one of the criteria?
  • September 3, 2014
    WaxingName
    ^Kind of. The main thing is that the character is big and bulky.
  • September 3, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^^ That's a good point. It might be good to back off on the amount of "looks strong" language. It seems to me that the trope works just as well whether an example looks like they should be slow because they have big muscles or heavy armor, or for another reason (they're large and bulky, they're fat, they look lazy, they have small or underdeveloped legs, whatever).

    The core of the trope is the subversion of expectations. This character (or animal, or vehicle, or whatever) looks like they should be slow, but holy crap! Turns out they're fast! Whether they're strong or weak or armored or unarmored doesn't necessarily have to enter into it.
  • September 3, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Thiiiiiiis.

    I think I'll take liberty of grabbing this, just so I can implement that.

    Btw we also have a related ykttw called Speedy Slug or something, essentially about a supposedly slow animal is surprisingly quick.
  • September 3, 2014
    somerandomdude
    A quest in Uldum in World Of Warcraft features Harrison Jones (an Indiana Jones Expy) in a fistfight with a large burly man, in reference to the famous propeller scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. He says to the player:
    "My dad always said the big guys hit hard, but they're slow...I don't think my dad ever fought this guy!"
  • September 4, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^^ That would be Speedy Snail, which is currently listed in the final paragraph of the description as a subtrope (that line will have to be removed if this launches before Speedy Snail).
  • September 10, 2014
    DAN004
    Buuuuuump
  • September 20, 2014
    PistolsAtDawn
    In Black Lagoon Revy comments that Torch is faster than he looks "for a fat fucker".
  • September 20, 2014
    Dacilriel
    Many animals, such as penguins, turtles and seals, look very sluggish as they waddle along on land. Once they get in the water they are surprisingly quick by comparison.
  • September 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Pmub
  • October 9, 2014
    DAN004
    One moar hat plz?
  • October 9, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    I don't know about the comic, but in an episode of Spider Man, Kingpin reveals that he's actually really fast despite his size.
  • October 9, 2014
    Mozgwsloiku
    Sloth in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He's huge and true to his namesake he hates moving fast. But once properly motivated he Turns Red and starts fighting by slamming into opponents at high speed.
  • October 9, 2014
    hbi2k
    The A Song Of Ice And Fire needs changing. It's the Mountain who's always described as faster than he looks, not the Hound, and IIRC by Bronn, not Jaime.

    Also, the "Super Trope to Lightning Bruiser" and reference to Speedy Snail, an unlaunched YKTTW, need removing before this is ready for launch.
  • October 9, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    'Deceptively' should be replaced with another word, as not even the Webster and Oxford Dictionaries can agree on what it means.
  • October 9, 2014
    Sahira
    • In the Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters" the absorboloph looks like it's so slow it wouldn't win a race with a snail. Then it jumps up and starts chasing Elton...
  • October 11, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Done In Universe when The Simpsons go on an African safari. Marge looks through her binoculars at a far away cheetah lying under a tree. "He doesn't look so fast to me." During the time between her looking through the binoculars and putting them down the cheetah runs up and sticks its head in her face.
  • October 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump
  • November 24, 2014
    ClockStopping
    • In Rewrite, Kotarou encounters a giant dinosaur familiar. Since it's so big, he expects it to be lumbering and slow and for the human agents fighting it to speed around it like in games, but the dinosaur actually catches up to them and crushes easily them in two huge steps.
  • November 24, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    Anyone else think classic Sonic The Hedgehog counts? Round, pudgy, short legged, a hedgehog... Doesn't scream "fast".
  • November 24, 2014
    TheWanderer
    Fully fixed the A Song Of Ice And Fire example. And added a second example to Dragon Ball Z Abridged with proper formatting.

  • November 24, 2014
    DAN004
    ^^ It would count if you write it as a proper example.
  • November 25, 2014
    Pichu-kun
    ^ I'm uncertain if he counts though.
  • November 25, 2014
    hbi2k
    I dunno. I get what you're saying, but the way his spikes are stylized, like windswept hair, suggests speed. I don't think it goes one way or the other strongly enough to be a good example, or even a subversion or zig-zag. I'd just leave it out.
  • November 28, 2014
    Skylite
    Kingpin: You think all this is fat? It's muscle.
  • November 28, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ needs a bit more context
  • December 13, 2014
    TheWanderer
    Possible quote:

    Tyrion: Does he frighten you so much?
    Bronn: I'd be a bloody fool if he didn't frighten me. He's freakish big and freakish strong. And faster than you'd think for a man of that size.
    —Tyrion and Bronn discuss Gregor Clegane, Game Of Thrones
  • December 14, 2014
    Snowy66
    Western Animation
    • Total Drama:
      • Owen appears to be a unathletic, sluggish fat boy, and in most cases this is true. However if you present food to him a distance away, he can outrun anyone inbetween him and said meal.
      • This trope is also lampshaded in "Wawanakwa Gone Wild" where Gwen tries to catch a duck, but when she gets close it suddenly runs off at an incredible speed in Road Runner fashion, leading her to say: "Last time I checked, ducks waddled".
  • December 16, 2014
    TairaMai
    In Real Life, railroad crossings are dangerous because a large train can appear to move slower to observers. Many people try to "race the train" and misjudge it's speed. Often with fatal results.
  • December 17, 2014
    NemuruMaeNi
    "People often make this observation" example is misleading, because it may be taken as word-cruft for out-of-universe people.

    If penguin counts, any fish should too. It's slow on land.

    As such, the hippos and elephants example is horrible. Substitute any species name, same value as an example, it'll be just a matter of miopic idiocy barrier adjustment for people who are meant as reference group.

    Quite a few examples violate "...But not too brief" part of Administrivia.How To Write An Example. What's an absorboloph? Who's Slowpoke? Revy and Torch? What the hell of a drug sequence is on in Rewrite? Kingpin size matters?

    What's the deal with The Simpsons' explicitly stating the "in-universe" play? Any/most/others can be or are out-of-universe? It has to be YMMV, if audience opinion is to be allowed.

    Example As A Thesis.
  • December 17, 2014
    Synchronicity
  • December 17, 2014
    Patachou
    Droopy: A slow and melancholic basset hound who nevertheless manages to travel hundreds of miles/kilometers in a matter of seconds, always there when the villain doesn't expect him to be so.
  • January 1, 2015
    DAN004
    Final bump.

    Index plz?
  • January 2, 2015
    FerrousFaucet
    I don't know if this belongs here, but in the Super Smash Bros. video games, there are some characters that move rather slowly, but have some deceptively quick attacks. Donkey Kong and King Dedede, and Ike specifically come to mind.
  • January 2, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Eh, that sounds interesting.

    Do you have more things like that?
  • January 2, 2015
    FerrousFaucet
    Besides Super Smash Bros., the only other example of "slow character, quick attack" might be in an RPG like Final Fantasy 6, where a character with a low speed might take longer for their turn to come up, but after you input an action they execute that action just as quickly as anyone else.
  • January 2, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ dunno about that. It looks like it'd fit, but for Smash Bros example, that suddenly high speed attack has a tactical gameplay purpose while in the FF one it's just the animation that is made quick without affecting the gameplay.

    Not saying it won't fit, but... you see, they have differing flavors.
  • January 4, 2015
    Elfkaiser
    Also from One Piece

    • There is also Mr. 4, a big guy who's rather slow in talking and apparently in thinking as well. He however is extremely fast when traversing the tunnels dug out by his partner Miss Merry Christmas, popping in and out of holes just as fast her.
  • January 5, 2015
    hbi2k
    Just as fast as her what?
  • January 5, 2015
    Elfkaiser
    ^ missed the second as

    He however is extremely fast when traversing the tunnels dug out by his partner Miss Merry Christmas, popping in and out of holes just as fast as her.
  • January 6, 2015
    hbi2k
    ^ As her feet can run? As her friend Charlie? As her hair dries after a rain?

    (Don't mind me, I'm just being a pedantic dick.)
  • January 8, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Obvious enough to me - he (Mr. 4) is as fast as her (Miss Christmas). Admittedly the grammar isn't the best.
  • January 17, 2015
    Snowy66
    Western Animation
    • Franchise/Ben10:
      • Terraspin is frequently mistaken for being slow due to having the appearance of a turtle, but he is actually incredibly fast.

  • January 17, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I think Cannonbolt applies too, but IDK.
  • January 18, 2015
    Omeganian
    • In one Ukrainian fairy tale, a brother and a sister are escaping from a dragon. They first try to run away on a horse, then a bumblebee, but these prove too slow. Finally, an ox offers to help them. They are skeptical at first, but turns out the ox is much faster than can be expected (a verst with every step, in some variants).
  • January 18, 2015
    Takaoldaria
    • In the Pokemon games, the move Trick Room can cause this effect as it inverts turn order - the slower Pokemon will start moving first, leading to this result.

    • An inversion with Escavalier : His Pokedex entries mention him as flying around at high speeds. In gameplay, he's one of the slowest fully evolved Pokemon.
  • January 18, 2015
    Snowy66
    ^^^ Maybe, is there any instance where characters said he was slow?
  • January 18, 2015
    Omeganian
    ^ Well, in the Russian translation, they do. In English they merely tell him "a horse and a bumblebee couldn't carry us away, how can you?"
  • January 19, 2015
    Snowy66
    ^ Yeah I guess that counts.
  • January 19, 2015
    mhj0808
    Just Launch It Already. I think it's distinct enough from Acrofatic; after all, nobody would describe The Hulk as being Acrofatic, but he's definitely faster than he looks. Also, this works as a Super Trope for all characters with Super Speed in general (since, after all, any ordinary looking human who can run 700 mph is technically faster than they look).

    My real question is, who has the right to launch this? Waxing Name hasn't been on here for months.
  • January 19, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I do.
  • January 19, 2015
    mhj0808
    Oh cool. Welp, you have my thumbs up man. I put in the last hat.
  • January 19, 2015
    Arivne
  • January 20, 2015
    TomWalpertac2
    Truth in TV entry:
    • Thanks to a 1500 horsepower gas turbine engine, the 60+ ton M1 Abrams tank can cross the battlefield at 40+ miles per hour. Just about everything else out there in anything like the same class is lighter, less powerful and slower.
  • February 4, 2015
    Snowy66
    Please launch it soon, I can't wait to add it to some articles.
  • February 4, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Index, maybe?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=cbajl6y3d1bznxkihxx61k4q