One Man Cast YKTTW Discussion

One Man Cast
Only the main character can do anything, and everyone else is just there for show.
(permanent link) added: 2011-06-25 13:58:17 sponsor: Confusion567 (last reply: 2011-06-28 12:55:30)

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((Recently renamed from Goku Syndrome, because that was a bad name.)) ((Added Comment examples 6/27))

Needs a Better Title

The good guys are fighting the forces of evil! But wait: The Hero isn't here, he was off training! They need to just hold on until he gets back, because they can't do anything themselves.

This trope, found most commonly in DBZ-Style anime, is the tendency for one character to be ridiculously more powerful than others and, more importantly, for the other characters to be absolutely worthless without him. While excusable in individual instances, particularly when fighting a season-ending Big Bad, when this happens every single story arc it starts to grate on the nerves.

This is distinct from an Eigen Plot, where the four good guys fight the four bad guys and the Big Bad is matched up against The Hero. Instead, any fight between heroic and villainous forces is a Curbstomp Battle until the hero shows up, at which point it turns into a Curbstomp Battle the other way. Quick identifier: If The Hero could have beaten every enemy and overcome every challenge without any other character, it's Goku Syndrome. If the combined forces of every other character in the show could not do the same thing in a season that The Hero does in an episode, it's Goku Syndrome.

Different from The Only One, where the main character's organization is the only group that can do anything; in this case, the other main characters are ostensibly strong, but are often just there to show off The Worf Effect, and only The Hero is worth anything at all.

Essentially an anime version of It's Up to You, in which every single other character is nothing compared to the awesome might of the main character (though it does sometimes appear in other media).

Compare The Last Starfighter, in which there's only one character LEFT, and One Riot, One Ranger, in which one one character is sent in the first place.


  • Dragonball is the trope-namer, of course. In nearly every major battle (particularly in DBZ), the other good guys can barely even take down the lowest rung of enemies until Goku (or later, Gohan) arrives.
    • A particularly spot-on example is in the Vegeta arc. The Z-Fighters can barely beat the Saiba-men, who are described by the Saiyans as laughably weak, and Nappa manages to kill two people without breaking a sweat. It's implied that if Vegeta were to lift a finger, he could kill all of them in one shot. During this whole time, Goku is running back from his training with King Kai, and when he arrives he takes out Nappa in an episode.
    • This happens twice on Namek when Rakoom manages to hold off several Z-Fighters at once until Goku arrives and defeats him accidentally, and then again while he's healing from his fight with Captain Ginyu, when Frieza beats down the entire group of good guys at 50% power while taking only superficial wounds.
  • Averted in Naruto; the main character is Unskilled, but Strong, and while he always gets to fight the major villains on his own, he relies on his teammates to do anything that takes some finesse. Sometimes entire arcs go by without him even meeting the Monster of the Week.
  • Bleach was this for a while, but it got better. For large swaths in the middle, no major battle would be decided until Ichigo Deus Ex Machina'd his way into it.
  • House seems to be a TV example of this in most episodes. He has a crack team of young, professional doctors and yet every solution they add to his dry-erase board ends up being either dismissed or failing only to have House figure it out and administer the life-saving treatment in the episode's climax.
  • In early episodes of Batman 1966 Commisioner Gordon & Chief O'Hara only call Batman when it's a job too big for the regular police (who have actually tried & failed to solve it themselves), but after a little while they call Batman in for practically anything & everything. "The Litterbug is in town? Better call Batman!"
  • Smallville. I can't recall any episode where Green Arrow or one of the Justice League did any saving without Clark present, or even as the main hero.
  • He-Man and She-Ra both seem to have this in spades. No matter what was going on, these two were the only ones that could handle it. She-Ra at least inverts this in one episode where she shows up and tells her team to figure it out for themselves.
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