"All it comes down to is this: I feel like shit but look great."He's tall, charming, strikingly good-looking, well-spoken in five different languages, and classically trained in even more instruments. He's the Big Man on Campus, former president of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, valedictorian, and working on his doctorate in a scientific field that a peon like you can't even pronounce. He always wears a suit...until the eventual Shirtless Scene during his (strenuous) exercise routine, that is. He has a lovely smile. But inside, he's an ugly, writhing mass of self-hatred and possibly Parental Issues. Expect him to have at least one bizarre trait or ability that should not be overlooked, as well as an unhealthy attitude about love, life, and humanity in general. He most likely doesn't have anyone that loves or respects him for what he really is. This may be justified. In the most cynical works on the sliding scale, he'll be a Serial Killer, or at least a future one. In works on the more idealistic end he'll be struggling with mental illness, mental disorder, or some other demon that makes his life miserable but isn't his fault. This character is usually male, but not always. Also, he may just be a perfectionist crumbling under his own standards. The chief difference between the Broken Ace and the usually female Stepford Smiler is that the Stepford Smiler wants to appear normal at all costs, often to the point of hurting herself emotionally (or because she's sociopathic). This guy has the same setup, but is more talented and wants to be the best, loved by all, and accepted. The debilitating personal issues which he's hiding are only getting worse because of being repressed and the stress of his efforts to excel, and these sorts of characters are prime Jerkass Woobie material. See also The Ace, who's still better than you at everything but isn't so prone to mental disorders or emotional problems, and the Byronic Hero, who's just as awe-inspiring and brooding but lacks the charming, polished façade and is rarely presented as pathetic. For a plot wherein The Ace is revealed to have deep personal problems, see Broken Pedestal. Anyone who has experienced The Perils of Being the Best is likely to become this. In case you haven't noticed, this has nothing to do with Asexuality. In Real Life, this is rather common. Real people have flaws no matter how perfect they seem to be at first glance.
— Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
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Anime & Manga
- Haru's friend Taku from Accel World is a friendly, smart, athletic...pretty much everything Haru wishes he was. All of this masks Taku's extreme resentment and jealousy of Haru. Taku is horribly insecure about his relationship with his girlfriend Chiyu because he believes that Chiyu secretly loves Haru instead of him. In his eyes, Chiyu always looks happier hanging out with Haru than she does when she is with him. All of Taku's achievements—athletics, academics—were done for the sole purpose of making himself better boyfriend material than Haru. Taku even went so far as to use Acceleration to improve his performance—he didn't actually achieve anything through effort alone. He also installed a virus in Chiyu's neurolink so he can spy on her at any time, making him borderline Bastard Boyfriend material. Thankfully, Taku gets better after a confrontation with Haru.
- Adekan: Shiro is a man of breathtaking beauty who is wanted by both men and women for his looks and charm without even trying. It's later revealed that he has serious issues and its only Kojiro that finally makes him actually feel something since he's spent his life as a cold assassin fighting for his survival.
- Atsumu Matsuyuki aka Yukiatsu from anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. On one hand he's gorgeous, booksmart enough to go to an elite highschool, popular among girls, and looks pretty well-adjusted. On the other he blames himself for his first love Menma's death, deeply resents Jintan and his closeness to her, is unable to interact well with Tsuruko (the only person from the True Companions still close to him), considered Anaru as his "backup" love interest, and took to crossdressing as Menma to alleviate his own pain.
- The Area 88 manga and OVA is brimming with broken aces:
- First, there's Shin Kazama, the most skilled fighter pilot at Area 88 who is also a psychological mess due to Kanzaki's betrayal and war trauma.
- There's Mickey Simon, a tall, blond, charming ace pilot who veils his war trauma and cynicism with a friendly exterior. The Vietnam War left him with PTSD, which prevented him from leading a happy life back in New York.
- Saki is a wealthy prince, diplomat, and fighter pilot who has a condescending attitude toward the Asranian people, a strong desire for revenge against his father, and a death wish, as evidenced by his suicide at the end of the manga.
- Hoover is a former major in the West German air force, a seasoned NATO aerial commander, and heir to a long lineage of ace fighter pilots. He also suffers from crippling survivor's guilt over the deaths of several pilots during a training exercise near Mont Blanc.
- Arisa, who was thought of as the beautiful charismatic class rep by her twin sister Tsubasa is gradually revealed as one of these having a part in creating the King, culminating in her attempted suicide which starts the plot off.
- Comes with the territory in Attack on Titan, due to the nature of the world. Anyone that survives long enough ends up with MASSIVE issues of one nature or another.
- Levi is considered the World's Strongest Man. He's also an obsessive neat freak, incredibly snarky, and abrasive to the extreme. One could only assume that this is his way of coping with the countless deaths he has faced.
- Mikasa ranked in the top of her class and is considered a prodigy of historical significance. She's also a Broken Bird Emotionless Girl desperate not to lose her family for a third time, and it's heavily implied that the reason she is so powerful is because of the horrific trauma she experienced as a child.
- Reiner ranked just below Mikasa, being both an incredibly-skilled soldier and an all-around solid, reliable guy that others deeply admire. He's actually a Titan spy, and slowly suffers a complete emotional breakdown as a result of Becoming the Mask.
- Annie is every bit as skilled as Mikasa when it comes to combat, but she's a Perpetual Frowner Ice Queen who has a lot of trouble associating with other human beings. It's because her father put her through extreme and unambiguously abusive training to make her that skilled a fighter, and like Reiner, she's a Titan spy who is having immense difficulty coping with her own actions. When her duplicity is finally unveiled, she completely snaps.
- Sakaki of Azumanga Daioh, hoo boy. Talented in both academics and athletics, tall and well-endowed, to the point where she is even the object of attraction and admiration of many a girl. Underneath it all though, is the resentment of her image and related insecurities, where she would much prefer to be adorably petite, not to mention that she shows more interest in animals and all things cute, something lost on almost everyone else. It certainly doesn't help that her looks scare off as many people in that she appears to be a delinquent, when deep inside she would like to be friends with them.
- Griffith from Berserk. An excellent commander, a masterful swordsman, graceful, elegant, and charismatic. He's also got serious problems, mostly involving his greatest warrior Guts. When Guts leaves the Hawks, it starts a downward spiral for Griffith that would culminate in the betrayal of all the Hawks in order to become Femto during the Eclipse.
- Guts is gaining this status with his new companions. They all look up to him as an awesome force of nature against impossibly strong foes more or less, but it's obvious or at least suspected by them all that Guts is hiding some serious issues about his past (which, funnily enough, none of actually inquired about).
- Ciel Phantomhive of Black Butler. He's a very cute young male, the head of the Phantomhive noble family, and runs the Phantomhive Company, which manufactures toys, sweets, and food. He is shown to be extremely competent and intelligent, both at running his company and at learning new tasks. He learns to dance in a short period of time, just through Sebastian's teaching, and it is stated that he takes a variety of lessons from tutors. He also comes across as being a mostly emotionless, cold, intelligent child; he is capable of portraying himself as an engaging, happy, easygoing individual, typically when undercover, but is quick to revert to being callous when he no longer has to hide his True Self. Before the loss of his parents, his life as a slave and role as a human sacrifice, however, he seemed to be a happy and energetic child. He also seems to have no qualms with lying to, stealing from, or killing others, so long as it benefits him in some way.
- Break Blade's Girge. He is extremely good-looking, the Ace Pilot, soft-spoken, and polite. He is also a psychopath, his favorite pasttime is killing off teammates, and he basically can't be bothered to be bothered. Evil Redhead indeed.
- Carlos Santana and Roberto Hongo from Captain Tsubasa. Both are handsome and skilled sports idols, but to reach the places they are now, they went through lots of heartbreak and suffer. Santana became a heartless machine after his double Parental Abandonment and the abuse dealt by his coach, and for several years he was unable to connect to anyone emotionally; Roberto was almost Driven to Suicide when he lost everything after being diagnosed with eyesight problems and having to forcibly retire and had to rebuild himself from zero. They both get better.
- And then we have Stefan Levin, who had a borderline perfect life until his girlfriend was hit by a truck in the same day he became the Swedish champion and was about to propose to her. The results were horrifying on his psyche, and drove him to straightforwardly brutalize his rivals as much as he could within the rules to win and dull the pain. He also gets better in the end.
- In Charlotte, Yu is seemingly the perfect student, with perfect grades and also good looking to boot. In reality, he's not that smart, got good grades by cheating and he's just a selfish Manipulative Bastard. He is then exposed by Nao Tomori, another person who has similar special powers to his.
- Claudine de Montesse becomes this when he goes to university. While he's genuinely booksmart, kindhearted, world-weary and all, his Break the Cutie past as well as his identity issues coming from being a female-to-male transsexual in early XX century France cause the poor dude lots of emotional trouble.
- Code Geass:
- Prince Clovis. To most of his subjects he appears to be the perfect prince. In reality, he is an insecure wreck who commits mass slaughter to cover his screw ups.
- And Suzaku. Oh God, Suzaku. Handsome, sweet, idealistic, skilled pilot, super human fighter...Death Seeker, Self-Made Orphan, Hypocrite, Idiot Hero, Broken Cutie.
- Lelouch may also count—as a student, he's a gorgeous, Brilliant, but Lazy Gentleman Snarker who half the school is a bit sweet on, and as Zero, he's a badass Magnificent Bastard and tactical genius. What neither of these descriptions mentions is that he's mostly driven by rage and extremely severe Parental Issues.
- Chancellor Prince Schneizel is seen as the friendly civilized face of the Britannian Empire. He's really a twisted cynic willing to manipulate (Nunnally) or kill (Cornelia) family members and nuke his own country to further his plans. He becomes a straight Ace and even keeps his position only after Lelouch takes his free will away.
- Yoh Hinomura from Crying Freeman. A Tall, Dark and Handsome artist who is actually a Hitman with a Heart who cries for his victims.
- Light from Death Note is an incredibly handsome, straight-laced, straight-A, genius student who happens to believe that murdering masses of criminals (and anyone else who stands in his way) will create a perfect utopia with himself as its all-powerful omnipotent God. Also, he loves potato chips.
- Dragon Ball:
- Vegeta. He is born the prince of his race and a Child Prodigy so talented that Frieza himself took a liking to him, grooming him into one of his righthand men. To the remaining Saiyans he is a figure of both admiration and fear, having their complete loyalty. When he is introduce, he is far stronger than anyone in the series, including Goku. He is also a master tactician when level headed. However, Vegeta hates being under the rule of another or anyone stronger than him and despise never being able to escape his oppressor even when he learns said oppressor destroyed his home world. He is also force to live under Fantastic Racism by his own comrades and even his boss. To make matters worse he is surpass in every way by a warrior he considers a low class, who also defeats his enslaver, leading to an Inferiority Superiority Complex that nearly cost him his newfound family and happiness. His cold, uncaring nature also makes it hard for anyone to like or even tolerate him. It's not until the end of the series that he finally begins to recovers and makes peace that he will never be the strongest in the universe.
- Vegeta's former boss, Frieza, becomes one after his defeat to Goku. He has nightmares about Goku and suffers from a clear case of PTSD. His mental status only get worse from his suffering in Hell. By the time he returns in Resurrection 'F' and Super, he is clearly not sane anymore, only caring about revenge.
- After going through some serious Training from Hell, Tagoma becomes this in Dragon Ball Super. His power greatly surpasses Shisami who is about as strong as Piccolo, becoming the strongest soldier in Frieza's army. However, being Frieza's punching bag for four months has left him horribly broken. He now has a cold outlook on things and no longer values his comrades.
- Hikaru Himuro of Dragon Drive. At the start of the series, he's undefeated and has curb-stomped everyone he's ever played against—until Reiji catches him off-guard and nearly defeats him. It later becomes evident that he has a serious inferiority complex and literally does not understand the concept of friends.
- Seiji Yagiri. Handsome, smart...and huge Yandere for a girl's head.
- Namie, as well. In the novels, she's always described as an incredibly stunning young woman and she has enough smarts to give Izaya a run for his money. She's also rich, as well as the previous head of Yagiri pharmaceuticals. Oh, and did we mention she's a virtually emotionless Jerkass who's madly in love with her brother?
- Another example is Shizuo Heiwajima's younger brother, Kasuka. Rich, talented, brilliant, beautiful and...off. The fact that he hooked up with a serial killer should tell you just how off. Even said Serial Killer, Ruri, described him as being out of his mind.
- Izaya Orihara. Smart, rich, connected, Bishōnen, good at fighting, and an incredibly awful sociopath underneath, who will go as far as tricking girls into making Suicide Pacts with him For the Lulz and manipualte other people for the same reason. If not for Shinra, he'd be a downright monster.
- In ef - a fairy tale of the two., Miyako Miyamura seems to be a walking Purity Sue: cheery, athletic, funny, with top grades, a superb cook and housekeeper. She's actually unable to socialize with people since she was practically abandoned by her parents after their VERY bitter divorce, so she became The Ace to try regaining their affections—and failed badly. So she's also out-of-reality, selfish, clingy, childish, love-starved...and in dire need of both a swift slap to the head and a tight, warm hug.
- Agon Kongo of Eyeshield 21. He's a once-a-century prodigy, who doesn't even need to practise to be a brilliant athlete, has a reaction time that's nearly superhuman, gets good grades with his eyes closed, and has fantastic social skills when he cares to. One the field he's a One Man Football Team; off the field, he's incredibly successful with girls, and is more or less allowed to do whatever he wants to at the school. It's made him an incredibly entitled, borderline sociopath, with no empathy, a total inability to connect to others, and a very short fuse. He's feared instead of liked, and almost everyone who spends more than a few minutes with him (deservedly) wishes he was dead.
- In Fate/Zero, practically every Ace among the Masters. Kiritsugu and his status as the number one competitor, along with everything else, including Saber? Horrible life prior to meeting Maya and Iri, emotional issues, has no choice but to sacrifice his family for his dream, has the worst compatibility with his Servant out of the seven Masters. Kayneth and his prestigious magical talent and status as a Lord? Horrible luck, his fiancée is in love with his Servant, overwhelmingly arrogant. Kotomine and his superhuman abilities and immense talent for anything and everything he does? None of it means anything to him because of his soul-afflicted emptiness. Tokiomi and his incredible magical skill and having the strongest Servant in the entire Nasuverse? His Servant fully plans to betray him, and he tore apart his own family due to his misguided attempts to make his daughters "equals" while holding true to Magus philosophy.
- Among the Servants, Lancer, Berserker, and Saber all qualify. Lancer is easily the most skillful combatant out of the lot, but he has terrible luck, bad compatibility with his Master, and a curse that makes women fall in love with him, including said master's fiancée. Berserker is one of the strongest Servants in the Nasuverse, capable of giving even Archer a hard time even while handicapped by a sickly Master, but he's insane, and so fixated on Saber that he tends to have tunnel vision and thus get blindsided whenever she's around. Also, again, he's handicapped by his Master's frail condition. Saber is the best all-around combatant, and has the strongest overall abilities statwise, but she has the worst Master/Servant compatibility in the war bar none, and is consistently a victim of circumstances, or her Master's underhanded tactics. In addition, she's badly hampered by her guilt complex over her kingdom's fall, and her worry over Irisveil, who is literally dying in front of her with no way to stop it. And that's just how bad things are for them at the start of the conflict; by the end, everything is at least an entire order of magnitude worse for all three of them.
- Sousuke Yamazaki from Free!. He's a nationally ranked butterfly swimmer, also excellent at the front crawl and apparently good at backstroke, very attractive, scouted by universities for swimming scholarships, etc. Turns out he came home from his prestigious high school in Tokyo because he injured his right shoulder through overtraining. His refusal to take a break from swimming and actually deal with the problem resulted in the joint breaking down, and he'll never be able to swim professionally.
- Satellizer L. Bridgette from Freezing. Beautiful, skilled, booksmart, and so damn fucked up.
- Yuki Sohma of Fruits Basket. He gets better by the end of the series, though.
- His underclassman and future girlfriend Machi Kuragi can be seen as a failed attempt at this since by the time we see her, her neurosis has taken over.
- Yuno Gasai of Future Diary. Smart, beautiful, and diligent; those who don't truly know Yuno would simply see the model student role she plays while at school. In truth, she is extremely Ax-Crazy and Yandere for Yukki to the extent of kidnapping and confining him. She can be quite clingy and is fond of stalking him because he made a Childhood Marriage Promise with her—after Yuno had fatally snapped on her Abusive Parents. When obstacles arise that either endanger Yukiteru's life or threaten their relationship, her thoughts turn murderous and she lets nothing get in the way of her path. Even herself, if this means Yukki will win.
- Naoki Shinjyo of Future GPX Cyber Formula: A former F3 champion, Grand Prix winner, and a rising star of world-class racing competition with an attitude. His one flaw is his short temper, which leads to a major problem because he's repeatedly beaten by a couple of 14-year-olds who've come from nowhere in term of motorsport experiences. As a result, he becomes overly arrogant, gets worse and worse in racing, and starts blaming everything on his engineers and dumb luck. It isn't until he's sacked by his boss and obtained a harsh reminder from his Love Interest that he finally starts to smarten up.
- Gate Keepers:
- Ruriko transformed herself into a beautiful, smart and capable leader because an incident with an injured kitten from when she was young convinced her that she can rely on no one but herself.
- Reiji/Shadow is handsome and charismatic but hates being human because his childhood trauma convinced him humans are gullible and can be manipulated if he presents the right image. He is also misogynistic because the girls who he thought were his friends laughed at him when he was living in the street.
- Tetsuya Tsurugi from Great Mazinger. Yes, all those ten years of training under his adoptive father's wing have made him into a combat pro that is respected by everyone, including the Mykene...but nothing can cure his lack of self-worth, his inferiority complex, and his pathological fear of being left alone and replaced. And that bites EVERYONE in the ass later. To the point that, in one continuity, he practically commits suicide to take down the Mykenes.
- Suguru Teshigawara from Great Teacher Onizuka is the most well-known teacher in school. He is handsome, smart, and comes from an influential family. He also harbors an unhealthy attraction towards Azusa. After Onizuka one-ups him again, Suguru beats up a student while in class.
- The titular Haruhi Suzumiya. Talented in pretty much everything she does (especially music and studies), bright, cheerful, charismatic—and dangerously out of reality, as well as so spoiled and pushy that she treats other people like toys. (Poor Mikuru). And then we have her massive Reality Warper powers. The series is about Kyon and the SOS Brigade attempting to keep her worst traits at bay.
- Mikael from I'm Gonna Be an Angel! calm, polite and sweet to those who don't know him and stubborn, obsessive and totally insecure boy to those who are close to him (mainly, one person). In reality, a boy who cannot accept who he really is and constantly desires perfection. His self-hatred leads to an epic Face Heel Turn and even more epic breakdown. He gets better, though.
- In Kannazuki no Miko, Chikane is a female example of this. Intelligent, wealthy and beautiful, she's basically adored by everyone around her, and doesn't show any real flaws...until Cerebus Syndrome kicks in. Then we learn that she's destined to kill the only girl she's ever loved...and she becomes a Yandere to cope with this...and she secretly fears that her feelings for Himeko make her "unclean". For someone so gifted, she's remarkably quick to fall to the dark side.
- Soichiro Arima from Kare Kano. Handsome, popular, smart, kind...and full of self-hatred and parental issues that pushed him to become the "perfect" son, even after he and his girlfriend Yukino (who's also a Broken Ace, but a far milder one) agree to drop their Stepford Smiler facades. Yukino became jealous of Soichiro's success but we find out he modeled himself after her. She later has to face her own Broken Ace phase after Maho temporarily gets the others against her, and when she realizes that thanks to her sheer efforts to act like the Perfect Girl, she cannot interact with others normally.
- Mu La Flaga in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is an expert pilot and war hero who comes across as a friendly and easygoing person—which he is, but a lot of his affable behavior serves to cover for the fact that he drove himself to become an ace pilot as a means of finding some sense of self-worth (he was such an unfavorite in the eyes of his father that he was disinherited and locked away in a Big Fancy House for years, while his dad went and cloned himself), and he's overachieved as a soldier to the point that he's not capable of thinking like a civilian any more.
- His rival Rau le Creuset qualifies for this trope for many of the same reasons (he's the above-mentioned clone of Mu's insanely narcissistic father), but the psychological damage his charismatic facade hides is even more severe than Mu's, and has given him a hatred of humanity so violent that he's driven to try to speed up what he sees as its self-destruction.
- Athrun Zala becomes this in the sequel. ZAFT, and in particular the Minerva crew treat him like The Ace, but he can't live up to his own standards, is obviously struggling with PTSD, and is more than a little self-destructive. Throw in a nice big batch of Heroic Self-Deprecation, and the inability to see anything but shades of grey and away we go. His screwed-up love life doesn't help matters.
- Chairman Durandal (also Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny) is one too. He's a lawyer and geneticist turned politician, and an Affably Evil Villain with Good Publicity Dark Messiah respected by most of the world. People worship the ground he walks on and he projects an air of "I have the answer." In truth, he's incredibly depressed over the dissolution of his relationship with Talia and inability to save Rau Le Creuset, and is out to impose genetic determinism because he has lost all faith in humanity.
- Heck, Char Aznable from the original series is pretty broken. So much so that he becomes an Omnicidal Maniac and a borderline Lolicon during the events of Char's Counterattack. Even before then, he suffered from a near total Lack of Empathy, and a vastly overblown sense of his own self-importance.
- As the Chariest of the Char Clones, Zechs Marquise of Gundam Wing is another Broken Ace. His partner-in-crime and eventual enemy, Treize Khushreneda is an even better example. He's a genuinely gentlemanly Cultured Warrior and Magnificent Bastard, who has the world in the palm of his hand, and the respect of everyone, including his enemies. He's also depressed by his attempts to make the world make sense, isolated from society and the other villains by a set of morals that would have been more appropriate to 19th Century Europe, unable to connect with other people or even recognise his own feelings for them, and as is revealed in the finale, a bonafide Death Seeker. Treize basically has all the abilities of The Ace (albeit a villainous one) combined with the personality of a Stepford Smiler.
- Monster's Johann Liebert is something of a subversion, in that he has virtually no actual personality or drive of his own, to the point of being almost more of a force of nature read as The Ace than even a broken one. His sister Nina, on the other hand, is brilliant, driven, and a genuinely good person, but plagued by first her lack of memories and then the horrors of the ones she recovers.
- This just happens to geniuses a lot in the Naruto world, as you would expect from anyone who's ranked especially high within a society of superpowered killers:
- Uchiha Itachi—he was torn between village and clan and full of emotional turmoil while going about being a thirteen-year-old The Stoic, and then Danzou pushed it to the crisis point and made him choose. A well-adjusted person, let alone a well-adjusted genius, could probably have taken a third option. Itachi's training and issues combined to make him manipulable. He's yet another iteration of the old Naruto koan, 'a ninja is a weapon.
- He does touch upon this when he's resurrected though. Itachi's biggest problem was that because of how he was, he couldn't relate well to people and so did things on his own. He didn't have a team to really bond with and admitted that had he trusted others or had Sasuke help him with his family, things may have turned out different.
- This trope definitely runs in the family. Itachi's brother, Uchiha Sasuke—prodigy, handsome, extremely-skilled ninja, wanted by a lot of girls, and pretty damn screwed-up in the head as a result of his past and present. When the main character, his rival, starts to surpass him, Sasuke snaps and pulls a Face–Heel Turn.
- And the legendary Uchiha clan head, Madara Uchiha. Having been raised in war and combat, he made a name for himself as one of the world's strongest, always fighting to protect the Uchiha. When his clan turned their backs on him in order to honor a peace pact that was "practically binding them into submission", making all that his clan had sacrificed meaningless, he abandoned them and took it all out on the new village of Konoha which he helped build, dying in the process.
- Sasuke's ex-sensei, Hatake Kakashi, is another Broken Ace, albeit one who remains on the side of good. He was a child prodigy who became a jounin before he even entered his teens, is one of the only non-Uchiha to have mastered the Sharingan, is a skilled elemental user and has over 1000 jutsu at his disposal. He's also eaten up with self-loathing and guilt at not being able to protect his team mates, both of whom are dead, and his father committed suicide in front of him when he was a child. One of his quirks—chronic lateness—is explained by his constant visits to his old teammate Obito's memorial, although it's actually an aspect of his having turned himself into a living memorial; Obito was always late for the reasons that Kakashi uses as excuses in the present. As expected, Kakashi does not take The Reveal that Obito survived and went off the deep end very well.
- Before being outed as a villain, Orochimaru was a tremendously skilled young man, ranked as one of the powerful ninjas in the world, and on track to become the head of his village. Until all the horrendous things he'd done as a Mad Scientist came to light.
- Pain's smooth confidence and A God Am I mentality eventually give way. Beneath them, Pain is a shattered husk of a man who lost everything to war convinced that sharing this suffering with everyone in the world is the only way to achieve (even temporary) world peace.
- Naruto himself grows into one. His badass boasts gain credibility the more he matures and he also grows handsome and a weapons grade badass with various girls in his village taking a liking to him after he saves them from Pain. He also suffers massive guilt over not being able to save Sasuke, hides deep insecurities behind a goofy attitude and smile and endures numerous Break the Cutie ordeals one which includes his parents sacrificing themselves so that he could survive and sealing the Nine Tails Fox inside him when he was just a baby and his best friend whom he is trying to save trying to kill him numerous times. There's also the fact that should Akatsuki take the nine tails fox from him he'll die. He's also determined to save Sasuke to the point of losing an arm to him.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Asuka Langley Sohryu. At the beginning of the show, Asuka has the highest sync ratio, is the most superlatively trained pilot, and has a college degree at age 13. While Shinji cowers and struggles to overcome his fear of giant horrible aliens trying to kill him, Asuka readily jumps into the fray to kick ass and take names...only to be revealed to be crippled by parental issues, combat stress, and adolescent angst. Oh, and a bit after Shinji passes her in synch tests (essentially taking away her "best pilot" status), she is hit with a Mind Rape.
- One Piece
- Portgas D. Ace. One of the most powerful pirates under Whitebeard's command, owning nearly everyone he comes across...until he meets Blackbeard. After being imprisoned in Impel Down, he is revealed to have a lot of angst about his father (none other than Gold Roger) and barely even wanting to live. And once his little brother Luffy frees him and gives him a second chance? He takes a lava punch from a General Ripper to protect the poor kid, then dies in his arms. To explain how badly broken Ace was, one must know the Driving Question of his life. The question which he spent his entire life searching for, that he continued to live to find the answer to...was whether or not he deserved to be born. He was that broken.
- All the of the Seven Warlords of the Sea are supposed to be The Aces who can match the Four Emperors along with the Marines, however, all of the Warlords, saved for Blackbeard and Buggy, are people with severe emotional and mental issues. Crocodile had his will broken by the harshness of the Grand Line, and tries to take over a kingdom and turn it into a military state. Mihawk is constantly bored since no one can challenged his sword skills. Hancock was enslaved as a child by the World Nobles and has a tattoo permanently embedded on her back. Jimbei lost his captain and friend who was betrayed by humans, his queen was killed by an assassin, and Arlong went on to terrorized East Blue after he was freed since he became a Warlord. Doflamingo is a former World Noble who was exiled, hunted and tormented by people who were wronged by the World Nobles, lost his mom to illness, and was raised by a gang who treated him like a god. Moriah had his entire crew wiped out by one of the Four Emperors and tried to create a pirate crew of zombies so he never has to experience that lost again. Kuma was slowly turned into a mindless cyborg and now has no will of his own. Law, the newest member after the two year time-skip, had his life ruined because the government covered up how his home got lead poisoning (which caused other kingdoms to wall off his city and kill anyone who tried to escape), he only had a few years to live because of said poisoning, his entire family was murdered by people who thought his illness could be spread, and his mentor figure was murdered saving his life both from Doflamingo and his illness.
- Oboro Mochizuki of Psyren. He's a Long-Haired Pretty Boy, is a movie star and idol, has the ability to master PSI abilities with almost no effort, has healing ability and excels in Rise type of PSI. However, he also has a hidden screwed up and sadistic side. He shows it when he uses his "First aid heal" at full power against a Tavoo.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has two of these: Mami and Homura.
- Mami Tomoe is an elegant, skilled fighter who acts kind and gentle and appears as a role model, but her ideal magical girl image is just a facade to hide how broken she is from constantly fighting witches on her own, not having any time for friends or a normal life, and knowing she could have used her wish to save her parents as well as herself. She's so desperate for friends that when Madoka offers to team up with her, Mami becomes reckless with overexcitement during a battle, and let's just say things don't end well for her.
- Homura Akemi never loses her cool, and is both book smart and athletic, as well as an extremely skilled Magical Girl who uses her weak in raw power but VERY flexible in practical use abilities nearly flawlessly. There's a good reason for this—the "Groundhog Day" Loop she's stuck in as a result of her constant failures to save Madoka means she's had a LOT of time to develop her skills, and her composed attitude is her way of staying sane after watching her best friend die or become a witch over and over again.
- Kyoko also has some of this: she may be a selfish Jerk Ass, but she's been fighting witches—and other magical girls—for years and is very good at it. She doesn't have friends because she doesn't need them...supposedly. But Sayaka reminds Kyoko of how she used to be more idealistic, before her father went berserk and killed her whole family because of the wish she made to improve her family's life and help her father make the world a better place. Kyoko eventually kills herself to destroy Witch!Sayaka, and as an atonement for how messed up she'd become.
- Sun Ce from Ravages Of Time—a warrior with few peers who can and has single-handedly torn his way through armies, a Magnificent Bastard even to the point of outdoing his oath-brother Zhou Yu (one of the Eight Geniuses), leader of an army at age twenty and military hegemon of southeastern China under his family banner by his mid-20s...but underneath it all, a boy still lashing out at a cruel world that got his beloved father Sun Jian killed right after finally showing his son some affection. Moreover, it's a father whose public reputation for loyalty to the Han Dynasty and righteousness is at odds with Sun Ce's own beliefs and public personanote . It doesn't help that in the side-novel Bofu, he's got a case of the Green-Eyed Monster regarding his younger brother Sun Quan.
- Akio Ohtori of Revolutionary Girl Utena. He once was the most generous and sweet person as Prince Dios, but his terrible experiences left him completely disenchanted and embittered. Now he's a Magnificent Bastard who manipulates everyone and everything, including Anthy, his little sister, who is pretty much trapped in a Fate Worse Than Death after trying to help him.
- Rurouni Kenshin has a whole Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass thing going, like Vash above, but with those who know the truth about him cultivates a type of guardian dragon image and attempts to show no genuine weaknesses because they're under his protection and look up to him, and is almost universally admired and feared under his Nom de Guerre. He is, however, crawling with issues, mostly self-doubt and self-loathing but also some serious unresolved conflicts in his personal philosophy. Understandable in someone traumatically orphaned and enslaved around eight, raised by a tsundere drunkard genius with a very cynical view of the world, and became a terrifyingly effective assassin at fourteen. Who is now a Technical Pacifist. In a nation that has just pulled itself out of war and is in its way to become Imperial Japan. His story is a Take That to the whole Jidai Geki fiction genre, and it shows.
- Minako Aino in the manga version of Sailor Moon: she's the most experienced of the Sailor Senshi, can annihilate opponents with Super Strength without transforming, brings couples together by just being around them for an extended period of time, is an awesome athlete and singer... And is the local Stepford Smiler due having to kill her own love interest and realizing she would always choose duty over love (something that stings her hard, as she can see the Irony of being this and a Love Goddess at the same time).
- Phoenix Ikki in Saint Seiya is LEAGUES over the other Bronze Saints in fighting ability, and his Phoenix Cloth guarantees that, even if defeated, he comes back stronger and more dangerous every time. However, getting that Cloth was an ordeal that scarred him for life, and even having his friends as support he still has trouble coping with friendship and companionship.
- Souma Saiki of Sakura Gari. A man with borderline-unearthly beauty who's extremely cultured and a genius businessman...but also a cynical Depraved Bisexual who has been through severe abuse of all kinds.
- Shinnosuke Yamazaki from Sakura Wars was a brilliant engineer and a hero alongside his team (Team Hanagumi's predecessors). According to the anime, he was also obsessed with finding a permanent solution to Tokyo's monster problem; he went mad after finding out they exist As Long as There Is Evil. When he couldn't beat them, he joined them and became Aoi Satan.
- Sakuya Ookochi from Sensual Phrase. Tall, Dark and Handsome, with a great singing voice, extremely sexy and charismatic, and with a very cute and loving girlfriend who's also a talented songwriter. However, he's also completely messed up due to his seriously fucked up views on love and sexuality (poor, poor Aine) as well as a terrible past that involves his Lady Drunk mother's death, the discrimination he faced as both a half-foreigner and an Heroic Bastard, and lots of other stuff.
- Kaede Rukawa from Slam Dunk. Girls want him. Boys want to be him. But basketball is his one true passion and he pursued it relentlessly to the detriment of his social life.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kamina. He was an insecure young man painfully aware of his own shortcomings who always relied on others. The only thing he could do was inspire other people, most notably Simon (considering how valuable this was, this was quite useful). Word of God is that he had the lowest potential for Spiral Power among the main cast because of this (excluding Viral, a Beastman who cannot naturally produce Spiral energy to begin with). Spiral Power depends on a person believing in himself/herself, which Kamina could never do.
- Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger & Bunny. In the public eye he's a handsome new up-and-coming superhero and friend of the people; charming, well-educated, eminently marketable. In private he's cold, cynical, obsessively introverted, haunted by a Dark and Troubled Past involving the murder of his beloved parents when he was just four years old, has severe trust and relationship issues and has never had a single friend.
- Barnaby's situation turns out to be worse than he himself believed when it's revealed that his parents' murderer is the man who eventually became his trusted mentor and guardian of 20 years; a man who's in the habit of doctoring people's (including Barnaby's, obviously) memories whenever he wants them to do his bidding. Is it any wonder the poor guy's so messed up?
- And then we find out that Mr. Legend, everyone's favorite Old Superhero, became one after losing his powers and descending into alcoholism and Domestic Abuse. Which caused his son Yuri (whom we'd meet as Lunatic) to horribly snap...and kill him.
- In a milder version, Keith "Sky High" Goodman temporarily went through this after the Time Skip when he loses his title as King of the Heroes, slips further down the ranks, and has to come to terms with his defeat at the hands of Jake Martinez. After falling in love with a strange and quiet girl in the park, he regains his confidence in himself and his abilities.
- Aoyama Masaya from Tokyo Mew Mew tries hard to be a perfect son and student in order to hide his rather misanthropic personality and the conflicts that come with it. He also admits that the facade is largely out of practicality, since seeming like an ideal kid was the surest way to get adopted.
- Tokyo Ghoul:
- For all of skills and talent, including good looks, Amon is really, really messed up all things considered. Not only does he inflict massive self-deprivation, but he's so utterly devoted to ridding the world of Ghouls he has no real individual happiness. Considering how he tends to be the Sole Survivor of many things in his life, it's not hard to see why.
- In the sequel manga, Akira refers to Sasaki as "The Ace of the Mado group". He hides it well from most people, but he's about a broken as a person can be due to his past and present while still being relatively functional and maintaining a handsome star pupil state. In general, he masks his massive emotional and psychological issues behind a cheerful smile, terrible puns, and a gentle attitude.
- Tsukiyama is a smart exceptionally handsome young man with impeccable manners who comes from a rich family. He also happens to be the gourmet ghoul and he is incredibly cruel in his methods of securing the ultimate dish made from ghoul/human flesh. He grows obsessed with Kaneki and pursues him, with his feelings implied to grow to be romantic. Unfortunately, his attachment to Kaneki leads to him suffering horribly and nearly starving himself to death due to mourning over Kaneki's supposed death.
- It's not until his final battle with Kaneki that we learn just how broken Arima is. He's a flawed Half-Human Hybrid doomed to die of internal Rapid Aging (he's already suffering premature hair whitening and glaucoma) thanks to his hybrid Ghoul genetics who was bred to be a glorified Elite Mook for V, and he hated every second of his life as their pet murder machine. Arima also didn't exactly have the best social life. He's simultaneously revered and resented (meaning he has few actual friends) by his colleagues, making him seem rather lonely.
- Vash of Trigun is quite possibly the best gun-fighter on Gunsmoke, effectively immortal, and has saved countless lives. However, he has also suffered immense tragedies, his body is littered with the scars and wounds of his battles, and for every life he fails to save he falls into a depression. He tries to hide the bleaker side of his existence by constantly smiling, goofing off, and partying whenever possible.
- Vash approaches this trope extremely sideways, given that the classic Broken Ace is preoccupied with appearances and Vash has three distinct reputations: the way people think about his name, the way people who meet him casually view him, and the way people think of him after he saves the day. The three interact in strange ways. Vash wants to be seen as harmless, except when he's using his scary rep to intimidate opponents or clear innocents out of ricochet range, but his actual excellence and kindness draw a lot of admiration when observed. On the other hand, his emotional issues combined with his evil reputation can attract a lot of serious hate.
- Vash is also a Broken Ace in that he tries to be a Wide-Eyed Idealist in a setting that is far too cynical to let him be successful at it.
- Seto Kaiba mixes this with Villain with Good Publicity on one hand and Noble Demon on the other. He's a world-famous duelist, a child genius, and the billionaire head of a hugely successful multi-national gaming company. He's also completely uncaring of anyone outside his Morality Pet Mokuba, is filled with hatred for Yugi for being a better duelist, is haunted by the memory of his abusive stepfather, and is completely absorbed in his work and his dueling, showing little, if any, interest in anything else.
- Judai Yuki becomes a deconstruction of The Ace in season 3 of Sequel Series Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Success has always come so easily for him that he puts too much pressure on himself to be a perfect, invincible hero who can never let anyone down until he finally snaps under it and falls over the Despair Event Horizon. In this series, when it comes to the psyches of teenagers burdened with saving the world, Reality Ensues.
- Hell Kaiser Ryo suffered a similar breakdown—one major loss for the undefeated champion made him lose all sense of self-worth until a Freak Out transformed him into a Combat Sadomasochist.
- Kouji Nanjo from Zetsuai 1989. He's handsome, smart, good at kendo, excellent in singing and songwriting, and from a powerful and rich family. And he's also a BUNDLE of issues.
- Batman. Wealthy enough to do whatever he wants to do, can have beautiful ladies by the score, highly educated, is as strong and smart as a non-meta human can get, can outthink pretty much every other superhero (including Mr. Terrific and J'onn J'onzz), and can flatten Lex Luthor at his own games. Permanently scarred by the blood and death of his parents, driven to protect as many as possible to keep others from feeling that horror, finds it incredibly difficult to completely trust and give of his self, and has had terrible romantic relationships due to the second identity, which eventually became his first.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark is one of the smartest, richest, and most popular people on Earth, snarky, a ladykiller who had everything anybody could ever wanted in their life. However, deep inside he suffers from self-hatred (which has even developed into suicidal tendencies), alcoholism, control issues, and the scars left by his abusive father. He has even stated he feels he doesn't deserve the friends and good things in life he has.
- The Plutonian of Irredeemable is slowly revealed by flashbacks to have formerly been this. Underneath his standard smiling, selfless persona he was actually resentful of his life as a superhero, stuck saving people he felt were ungrateful, being totally unable to cope with any critics, and needing to be compulsively loved and adored by everyone in the world. When he realized that wasn't going to happen he wound up even more broken.
- The new Phantom Lady is a PHD Multimillionaire who has been trained since birth to be a super spy superhero. Also canonically one of the most beautiful women in the DC universe. Yet she's constantly worried that people don't take her seriously and that being a superhero is eating her soul.
- The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers:
- Rotorstorm. On the surface he's perpetually cheerful and snarky, constantly making jokes and in general having fun. However this is revealed to be a cover persona of sorts; he's actually still deeply traumatized from his experiences in the Simanzi Massacre, a massive battle where he witnessed (and possibly participated in) numerous war crimes and atrocities. As if that wasn't enough, he's filled with self loathing and preps for missions by insulting himself, thanks to the horrifically abusive teaching he received from his drill sergeant and "mentor" Jetstream.
- To a lesser degree Pyro as well. His Optimus Prime-esque demeanor is mostly a facade, covering up the fact that he's secretly terrified of dying in the sort of pointless, forgotten death soldiers usually get during wars. He spends his life constantly trying to set up a big and dramatic Dying Moment of Awesome, believing that dying in such a manner is the only way he'll be truly remembered.
- Ozymandias from Watchmen AKA Adrian Veidt, a seemingly-forever-young (he's 46 and looks about 25) blond supergenius who is insanely rich, pretty much has America in his hands, and defeats Rorshach, Silk Spectre, and Nite Owl at the end...he's also persuasive enough to talk Dr Manhattan around at least to the point of not turning him into a rapidly expanding cloud of superheated plasma. He is also the antagonist and portrayed as deludedly-idealistic to believe that his plan will work. He even has a slight Villainous B.S.O.D. after enacting his plan, although the film version ramps his emotional broken-ness up several levels. He shows approximately three times the guilt, self-loathing and painful isolation of his comic book counterpart, even saying he "often [feels] stupid at being unable to relate to anybody". He spends his last few minutes of screentime in a Villainous BSOD, staring into space and looking about ready to fall over as the camera zooms out on him.
- Cyclops. He's the leader of the X-Men and the leader of the mutant race, but oh boy, has Scott ever endured so much pain, chaos and tragedy throughout the course of his life. Underneath that stoic facade is most definitely an emotionally broken and fragile man. Even before Cerebus Syndrome hit, Cyclops was this. A strong, versatile power came with a crippling inability to control it, and fear that someday he would hurt those he loved with it. Good strategizing skills coupled with terrible social skills isolated him from his teammates and made him a repressed, disliked, Kuudere who had barely any close relationships.
- Scott's fellow X-Man Wolverine is also one of these. He's got over a century's worth of accumulated skills, accomplishments, bedmates, friends, and is the poster-boy of "mutant cool". He's also got over a century's worth of painful memories, dirty business, lost loves, enemies, and is full of self-loathing.
- And Logan's own daughter/Opposite-Sex Clone, Laura Kinney a.k.a. X-23, who may pack even more angst into her seventeen short years than Logan has his entire 150 or more. She's without question one of the best fighters and most experienced members of whatever team she's assigned to thanks to being raised as a Living Weapon by the ones who created her. She was also horrifically physically and emotionally abused by her creators, forced to kill her own mother via a chemically-induced berserker rage which will make her turn on anyone no matter how much she cares for them, had to give up the relatively normal and happy life she was creating with her only other family when the ones who made her came looking for her in order to protect them, and spent an unknown period of time as a prostitute under a violently possessive and abusive pimp. Laura has been left a mess of confused emotions and finds establishing true friendships incredibly difficult as a result, and it's been very strongly implied she's prone to bouts of severe, if not outright suicidal, depression. And her solo series reveals she was left with so little sense of self during her captivity and days as a prostitute she never realized the horrible things done to her were even wrong!
- Gilda in Ace Combat The Equestrian War. Even though she became one of the best griffin fighters, she turned away from everyone and remained a solo player. Rainbow Dash makes her realize that during their second confrontation.
- Eri in Eri's Game is a good fashion designer but after Shiki's death, she started to give that up. Then she started to become an activist who could hold a gun to take an army out by herself. However, this is only because she wanted to die.
- Bart Simpson Attorney At Law: Yes, that Bart Simpson has become a highly successful attorney at the age of 27, and the story begins with him as The Ace. However, as a teenager, Bart developed a relationship with Gina that grew so toxic, he was driven to alcoholism and near-suicide. When and Gina and Jessica Lovejoy start coming back into his life, he again goes back to the bottle. Thankfully, Milhouse and Alex are able to make an intervention.
- Aces in the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project tend to be this:
- Akiko Yamaguchi can defeat powerful opponents without the necessary power-ups. The story, as in the original, starts with her attempted suicide from all the crap she had to go through;
- Sailor Venus is a formidable and experienced magical girl, a Super Cop and an Idol Singer. She's also a Stepford Smiler as in canon, and, differently from canon, did not get over all her issues yet;
- Mami Tomoe has an immense mana reserve and a power that, once she got the hang of it, proved itself a Game Breaker, making her the single most lethal Puella Magi around (she's known as Mami the Invincible, and Sakura and Homura could barely believe their eyes when they saw another Magical Girl holding her own in single combat against her). She's also a Stepford Smiler so depressed she cannot go all out unless she knows she cannon possibly survive the battle. She was also mentored by a pair of Puellae Magi she describes as formidable but also "one bad advice away from trying to destroy the world";
- Homura Akemi is as formidable as in canon. She still has her many issues (even if she's getting better);
- Kumiko Shizuki (nee Kaioh) is the Puella Magi who went toe-on-toe with Mami and lived. Her love life includes being Elsa Maria's lover and having to protect her from other Puellae Magi (why she was fighting with Mami in the first place);
- Rikka Seii was a formidable Puella Magi. She's now known as Elsa Maria;
- Megan Williams lived her well known adventures, and was instrumental in Discord's original defeat. But upon being unable to ever visit Equestria again her siblings were convinced it was all a fantasy, and her parents committed her to an asylum because she didn't 'accept' it was a fantasy. She may have escaped in short order and appear to have recovered, but her character sheet mentions she still holds a grudge after over thirty years.
- The Crimson Garment, Satsuki's Dark and Troubled Past gets Adaptation Expansion, explaining where she got her Social Darwinist mentality from. Ragyo's tyrannical upbringing and sexual abuse made her feel that she must be "perfect in every way" in order to please her. Her status as a "Well Done, Daughter!" Girl, risking her life to activate her internal life fibers and working from a young age to become "perfect" in the hopes that Ragyo will stop abusing her if she succeeds, is even more tragic.
- Princess Celestia in The God Empress of Ponykind and its sequel; she starts off as a confident warrior queen, ready to march out and forge a new empire. Luna's corruption, the resulting civil war, and the reveal that her oldest enemies are still out to get her slowly break her down to the point where she blames herself for destroying everything she ever loved.
Celestia: You are very hopeful that this will turn out in such a way...But I gave up on hope a long time ago.
- Blaine is Cerebus Retconned into this over the course of Hunting The Unicorn. In an interesting variant, he's literally an ace who got broken: He's a very nice young man and is genuinely as chivalrous and kind as his canon portrayal—but it's because he's lonely, naive, and still hurting over his disastrous first relationship. Plus, he's aware of his canonical Selective Obliviousness and has very low self-esteem.
- The Immortal Game: Twilight Sparkle is an example of an Ace who gets broken over the course of the story. At the beginning, it's established that in addition to being Celestia's prized student, she's also officially the most powerful Unicorn alive. However, this just makes her a target for the villains, who infect her with an Artifact of Doom (by pushing it through her eye), which takes control of her body and forces her to watch as it tries to kill her friends. She's eventually freed, but soon after finds herself forced into the role of Rebel Leader, the stress of which—combined with the psychological trauma from the possession—drives her to the brink of insanity. On top of that is the reveal that Celestia was subtly manipulating and training her for this role all along, which shatters Twilight's image of her beloved mentor and leads to her hating her. Even after her mind recovers, she's left a lot more cynical and bitter.
- Tristan Winter (formerly Harry Potter) in The Jaded Eyes Series is a prime example. He'd be a straight out Marty Stu if he wasn't so completely and utterly insane.
- The Kirita Chronicles: There are a least two examples.
- Kirigaya Kazuta (Kirita/Kirito), Kirito's genderbent counterpart, does well in school, strong enough to beat up people in the real world, and she is good looking. However, her actions and decisions have led her to being isolated, and she has admitted to making numerous mistakes in the past that she has or would come to regret.
- Kudo Tomomi (Delano) he was once known as 'The Ace' in school because of his intelligence and athletic abilities, but he lost his athletic abilities in a car crash caused by his mother. As a result, he became a bitter person who embraces virtual reality, so he can 'walk' again.
- In Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, Naruto himself is this. He isn't as Book Dumb as his canon-series counterpart, and he's a terrifyingly skilled fighter capable of taking down gangs all by himself. At the same time, he's got some serious loathing for his time as a Kyuushingai in the back-story, and the trauma of having to partake of city-wide massacres day after day for a whole year has taken a toll on him by the time the story's main plot has begun.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has a few examples...
- Advice And Trust: Asuka -who was the best pilot in the team as well as a certified genius and a gorgeous, hot-blooded, brave girl- was already pretty broken before the beginning of the history, and she was heading towards a full breaking. Part of the premise of this story is altering the event where her downward spiral began (her and Shinji's ruined First Kiss) and seeing if she can avoid to become a fully broken ace. So far her self-esteem has suffered a few severe blows but she has managed to hold herself together.
- The Child of Love: Asuka is a brilliant girl and an excellent mecha pilot, but she's also an orphan with self-worth, self-confidence and trust issues. And then she got pregnant at the age of fourteen. And then she found out that his Commander used her like a doll.
- Children of an Elder God: Asuka is the best fighter and mecha pilot in her squad, a college graduate, and she is bolder and more cheerful than her canon self. However she keeps hiding deep childhood trauma and abandonment issues, and fighting ancient cosmic horrors got her even more broken during the War.
- Doing It Right This Time: The three pilots -Shinji, Asuka and Rei- count like this (specially Asuka who is the best and most rigorously trained pilot and was out of college when she was thirteen), since each one of them is an one-person army with ample experience piloting giant robots and killing giant space monsters... and all are hugely traumatized. Getting orphaned when they were barely four, getting abandoned and/or abused by their fathers and dying during the end of the world are only some of their traumatic experiences.
- A Crown Of Stars: Asuka is beautiful, brave, a great fighter, an excellent pilot, a certified genius... and is inwardly broken due to deep childhood trauma, becoming a child soldier, getting beaten, mind-raped, abandoned and defiled before the Apocalypse, getting turned into a pawn in someone else's wars and a plaything after the Apocalypse...
- In Ghosts Of Evangelion Asuka was her team's best pilot and fighter. At the same time she was deeply traumatized. She blames her traumas, PTDS and sour behavior on piloting.
- HERZ: Asuka was the best Humongous Mecha pilot in the cast… and then she got repeatedly humiliated before being hit with a Mind Rape. After fighting the MP-Evas she lost one eye, one arm and her body got scarred permanently. She almost died and lost her mother again, so she became unstable, bitter and angrier.
- Higher Learning: Asuka was her team's ace pilot and was also more heavily traumatized than her teammates due to being an orphan with abandonment and self-esteem issues. Kaoru tried to encourage her to reach out to others, and his adviced helped her for a while, but the final battles broke her very badly.
- Last Child of Krypton: When Shinji met Asuka he shortly realized that gorgeous, intelligent girl and Ace Pilot was very hurt and was way more fragile and more vulnerable than she looked.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Asuka was a beautiful genius and the best pilot and fighter among the main characters. When the story begins, she's in a coma after trying to kill herself due to be mind-raped.
- Once More with Feeling:
- Shinji comes across as The Ace and a Robeast-killing machine to the rest of the characters, but deep down he's fighting hard to keep himself from falling into old habits; add to that the massive amount of guilt and self-loathing he feels towards his actions in the original timeline.
- Asuka seems brave, strong-willed and self-assured on top of being an excellent pilot, but she is barely holding herself together. Shinji is aware of this and is determined to prevent her from falling apart.
- The One I Love Is: Shinji thinks that Asuka is better than him at everything: she is beautiful, smarter, more sociable, braver, more strong-willed and a better pilot and fighter. Then she gradually reveals she is utterly broken inwardly and she sees herself as a worthless failure.
- In The Second Try, Asuka was a certified genius, an excellent pilot and a formidable warrior. However she'd been abused by her parents when she was a child, developed a personality that simultaneously sought attention and drove people away, and was hurt, mind-raped and killed during the war. After surviving the end of the world she managed to get better, but but losing her daughter when she was sent back in time nearly broke her down again.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka comes across how as beautiful genius and mecha pilot. However she is deeply traumatized due to her mother's madness and suicide, her father leaving her and all adults regarding her as a cog to make a weapon working. Similarly, when she is acting as Supergirl, people automatically thinks she is a formidable super-heroine and a perfect paragon of morality and nobility, not knowing inwardly she is a broken ball of neuroses and pain.
- In Thousand Shinji, Asuka was the best pilot and physical fighter. She was also heavily traumatized due to childhood trauma. Shinji helped her with her mental issues, but after his disappearance, she fell apart completely.
- Robin in Pretender is this. Robin is a genius tactician gifted with both tomes and swords, lead his army to many countless victories without the loss of a single life. On the other hand, he is filled with great guilt over Emmeryn's death and his jealousy of Sumia for having Chrom's love and has poor self-esteem for having no identity outside of being a tactician and no past to speak of.
- In Reconciliation, Hanako is a best-selling author, but has no real friends, apart from her publicist Sho; as a result of her Bad Ending, she cut ties with Hisao and Lilly because she was too ashamed and afraid to face them. By the end of the fic, the "broken" part seems to have faded; while Hisao is dead, Hanako is once again friends with Lilly, and is in a relationship with Sho.
- Allen in Requiem of Time has become a Marshal, evolved his Cursed Eye beyond canon level, has a degree of control over the Fourteenth Noah, and is the leader of the secret third side of the war. He's also slowly going crazy from a combination of the Fourteenth Noah and his Cursed Eye becoming uncontrollable.
- Jorge Garcia in The Secret Life Of The Backyard Kids. The story introduces him as a handsome, intelligent, popular, rich, charismatic young man. However, he's a Cute and Psycho Broken Bird Stepford Smiler who's abused by his dad to be perfect and he transforms into a black leopard and destroys his bank in rage.
- Obsidian Citrine of the Hunger Games fanfic Some Semblance of Meaning, who comes across as extremely confident, talented in combat, good-looking, and charismatic...yet has some serious issues, especially by the end of the story.
- The Saga Of Avatar Korra: Korra is even stronger than she is in canon. However, being kidnapped by the Red Lotus and put through a Training from Hell regiment for fourteen years has affected her psyche, and she has very little clue about things outside training.
- In Swinging Pendulum while Ichigo is adored for his fighting skill and ties to nobility, he comes across as very cold, arrogant and indifferent to those that either don't know him or adore him. He is also a Shell-Shocked Veteran, struggling with despair after losing everyone he held precious.
- Kali of the Death Note fanfic Zenith, Darkness, Reverie. The tale commences with with a brilliant (but exceptionally verbose) freshman accepted into one of the best high schools in the country. It's mentioned rather nonchalantly that she's a competent violist, boulders competitively, writes novels (possibly), and possesses an extensive knowledge base about string theory. By the eleventh chapter or so, she spends several paragraphs begging the voices in her head to "shut up". And this is Kali, who peruses the dictionary when bored. Kira is purportedly the manifestation of this "Broken Ace" state. Kira's not particularly broken.
- Manolo in The Book of Life. After refusing to kill the bull, the whole town (sans Maria, the Rodriguez brothers, and Joaquin) ridicule him. His own father practically disinherits him. If it couldn't get worse, Manolo thought that Maria, the only woman he's ever loved, died by protecting him from a snake bite. Leading to her father, Joaquin, and himself to mourn her "death" and blame himself for it. Manolo then indirectly asks Xibalba (who concocted the whole thing) to kill him so he could be with her. Poor guy...
- Elsa from Frozen. As shown in supplementary material, her little sister Anna views her as The Ace, and with good reason. Elsa is intelligent, elegant, graceful, beautiful...and constantly living in fear of hurting people with her ice powers, having to keep up a facade of perfection and stoicism to protect people, only to have it all completely backfire, meaning her life spent in silent misery was for nothing. Needless to say, Elsa finally gets pushed over the edge, though her intentions are always good.
- Word of God confirms that she has depression and anxiety issues.
- Vitaly from Madagascar 3. Outwardly brash, confident, coldly competent, intelligent, sophisticated, cynical, and extremely strong...but inside a lonely, insecure, broken tiger who is secretly afraid of both fire and failure thanks to having gone too far with his ring jump and ruining both act and circus. Luckily other than being a bit too talented and threatening with knives, he isn't a sociopath nor a villain. And unlike most examples of this trope, he actually gets healed and unbroken once Alex gives him a Rousing Speech to restore his confidence and inspire him with a new and safer way he can reinvigorate his act.
- The rooster Chanticleer from Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle starts out as the Big Bird of the Barnyard with his power to raise the sun each morning. However, after a battle with one of The Villain's mooks, Chanticleer was too weary to crow, and the sun came up nonetheless. His farmyard peers laughed and jeered at Chanticleer, so he ambled away to the big city. There, he became a singing sensation, though still morose about losing his "sun-raiser" status.
- Prince Charming in the Shrek movies is a parody of this type that acts like and actually thinks he is a standard heroic Ace, but really is a vain, juvenile Mama's boy once you scratch the surface.
- Big Z in Surf's Up, who threw a race and pretended to be dead when he found he was getting too competitive (and someone was actually capable of beating him).
- John Nash in A Beautiful Mind is a brilliant and successful graduate student and later mathematics professor but is a socially-clumsy loner with schizophrenia.
- Nina from Black Swan. She's a young ballet prodigy who is a natural for the lead role of Swan Lake, is very sweet and incredibly beautiful...who's also incredibly socially awkward, emotionally stunted, self-loathing, is implied to have an eating disorder, and is completely batshit insane.
- Ginger from Casino is Vegas' top casino hustler. She's beautiful and smart. She marries Ace and becomes respected among Vegas' elite. But she also has a troubled relationship with her pimp Lester and as the years pass she succumbs to substance abuse.
- Under all his wealth and prestige, Charles Foster Kane is a broken man who can't hold down a relationship with anyone and desperately longs for his stolen childhood.
- Eddie Felton is this at the start of The Color of Money, after the events of The Hustler. He ekes out a living selling liquor, and no longer plays pool or hustles people for money.
- Kathryn from Cruel Intentions falls between this and Stepford Smiler. She must be considered a lady (smiler) and that requires being a role model who's the best at everything (this).
- In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent is quickly established as The Ace, though with a problem with his temper. He's crippled organized crime in the city, and is close to finishing the job. Then he loses the woman he loves, has half his face burned off, succumbs to The Joker's More Than Mind Control and crosses the Despair Event Horizon becoming Two-Face.
- Huxley sees Spartan from Demolition Man as what a cop ought to be; strong, brave and a believer of justice. Spartan is however aware that his violent ways have hurt innocents and if the world was perfect, he wouldn't exist.
- Die Another Day villain Gustav Graves is charming, talented, and insanely rich (from blood diamonds). However, he is really a North Korean with plastic surgery building a Kill Sat to help his faction finally win the war. He has daddy issues too, and really really hates anything Western. He admits to having based the Graves persona partly on Bond.
- Apt Pupil has an A student get fascinated with the local hidden Nazi's old war stories. This eventually causes him (and the Nazi) to snap.
- Tyler Durden from Fight Club, being The narrator's subconscious conception of his ideal self, which he manifests as an alternate personality.
- (The real) Jerome Morrow in Gattaca. Once a champion swimmer on top of the world, he lost the use of his legs in an accident and was confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. He's still a brilliant and remarkably gifted individual (with an ego to match), but he's also internalized a lot of their culture's demands for absolute perfection. As a result, he's got a lot of anger with himself and everyone else.
- Anton Jr. (Vincent's younger brother) turns out to be something like this as well. The audience doesn't get to know him very well, but he's definitely the Ace in their father's eyes, and seems at least a little Broken considering his issues with the fact that his non-engineered brother beat him in a swimming race once after years and years of beating him every time since they were little kids.
- High School Musical: Gabriella. She's portrayed a very attractive Teen Genius, but underneath is extremely lonely from constantly moving schools, insecure about everything outside of studying and hides her intelligence to avoid being labelled the 'freaky math girl'. She does become more comfortable with herself after the first film.
- Troy has it even worse. Big Man on Campus and super-talented basket ball captain, but also increasingly uncomfortable with the expectations of his parents, friends and the rest of the school. In the third film, after a song which screams self-loathing (to the point of him ripping down posters of himself), he decides to go to a different college than expected, thousands of miles away from his hometown, partly to get away from the spotlight and pressure. In fact a huge part of his and Gabriella's initial attraction, is that they accept each other as themselves and not the hyped up perfect people everyone see's.
- Sgt. Angel from Hot Fuzz is the best cop in London but his perfection gets him Reassigned to Antarctica. He can't hold down a relationship because he's Married to the Job.
- Interstellar brings us Dr. Mann. Everyone speaks of him as if he was a hero, the best scientist and most driven member of the Lazarus Project. Unfortunately, by the time the main characters reach him, the isolation, fear and frustration over the planet he was assigned to survey being completely uninhabitable has driven him mad.
- Emil Blonsky in The Incredible Hulk is one the greatest special forces operatives in the Western Hemisphere. He's also a Blood Knight with a burning need to be the best there is.
- Raymond Shaw from The Manchurian Candidate is a war hero and a rising star in politics but his issues with his mother allow him to become a brainwashed assassin.
- Chuck Hansen in Pacific Rim. He's one of the youngest Jaeger pilots and has the highest Kaiju kill count in history. However, he's also a Child Soldier who has a Hair-Trigger Temper, terrible communication skills, and a double dose of Daddy Issues and Survivor's Guilt with regards to his father choosing to save him over his mother. It's also heavily implied that he believes his only purpose in life is to live and die fighting the Kaiju, which comes true by the end of the film.
Chuck: After Mum died, I spent more time with these machines than I ever did with you.
- Detective Loki from Prisoners has solved every case assigned to him. In reality, he is a man without a perfect life.
- The title character from The Stepfather film franchise. He's very good with this hands, able to create works of art with just a couple pieces of wood and an hour's worth of time. He's also very intelligent and charismatic. Unfortunately, he's also an ax crazy sociopath and psychopath who's obsessed with creating the perfect family seen in the television sitcoms of the 50s and 60s.
- This is apparently how Robert Pattinson plays Edward Cullen in the Twilight films. It's an Alternative Character Interpretation that Stephenie Meyer wouldn't endorse, but arguably it makes a lot more sense.
- Parodied in Tropic Thunder with Kirk Lazarus, who is a talented actor because he doesn't know who he is.
- Zohan from You Don't Mess with the Zohan. He's a superhuman Badass Israeli who can get any girl he wants. But the film establishes that he has grown disillusioned with the Forever War that is the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and that he would rather follow his dream of being a hair stylist. He fakes his own death just so he doesn't have to fight people.
- The Godfather Don Vito Corleone is a fearsome, wise and respected crime lord but in his final days expresses his regret to his son Michael that he couldn't turn the family legit.
- Ciaphas Cain. Capable, intelligent, handsome—and a compulsive liar desperately trying to hide what he sees as his own fundamental lack of courage and decency in a culture obsessed with martyrdom. It's fairly obvious in his memoirs that Ciaphas is incapable of giving himself credit for any achievement, because he has to justify any noble act with ignoble intentions.
- Deverry: Rhodry ap Maelwaedd. A brilliant fighter and battle leader, he is very intelligent, willing to work past cultural and societal constraints and bias, successfully ruled a rhyn for many years, and can be very quick to notice small things and take advantage. Also severely prone to terrible bouts of depression called hiraedd, often takes on far more responsibility then is remotely necessary, blames himself for things that are in no way his fault, is often subject to severe honor before reason and becomes a Death Seeker, with only his honor keeping him from suicide.
- Ender Wiggin from Ender's Game may be only 10, but he is one of these. Everyone in Battle School (with some exceptions) loves him. He is the best in the standings, his free-time practice sessions are attended by many people throughout the school, he has the best army in the school and is one of the best tacticians ever. But he feels isolated from his friends and unloved. This becomes very apparent in Ender's Shadow, as Bean is really Ender's only confidant. He is a poor, lonely boy with the weight of the world on him.
- "Boy" Staunton from Fifth Business, with a side of Manchild as his chosen name indicates.
- Lance from the Gone series. He is smart, athletic, handsome, and was popular before the poof. He also suffers from Fantastic Racism.
- Crowley from Good Omens. He's a Noble Demon, with a confident, attractive facade (implied to even have an aggressively cool haircut that only looks good on someone like him) and a quick wit. He has a relentlessly stylish apartment full of fancy gadgets, he always seems to have the best of everything, and drives the coolest of Cool Cars. However, in spite of the book's ensemble cast, he stands out as pretty much the main viewpoint character, whose thoughts we hear the most, and behind the painfully cool exterior he's frightened, weary, and eventually very angry, which causes him to rebel against both Heaven and Hell. He's definitely not the slick bastard he appears to be on the outside, but unlike a lot of these characters it ends up making him stronger and extremely sympathetic.
- Carl Hamilton series is a famous, highly decorated SEAL-trained intelligence operative, independently wealthy, a gourmet chef and wine connoisseur and fluent in four languages. He is also crippled by a complete inability to handle romantic relationships, not being able to confide in anyone concerning his work, and increasingly guilty conscience about killing people for what later may turn out to be no good reason.
- Hannibal Lecter takes on shades of this in the Hannibal Rising prequel novel, when his Freudian Excuse of horrific childhood ordeals is revealed. In his adulthood, he is quite happy where he is.
- Harry Potter excels in Defense Against the Dark Arts and Quidditch, and, to a lesser extent, other fields in magic. However, Harry develops major insecurities as a result of his abusive childhood and the pressures the wizarding world dumps on him.
- Albus Dumbledore is talented, powerful, and famous bordering on revered for defeating Grindlewald and leading the fight against Voldemort, both of whom are said to have only feared him out of all wizards. As the books go on, it becomes clear that he's also a deeply lonely man whose intelligence does not prevent him from making emotional mistakes. The "broken" part really kicks when his Dark and Troubled Past is revealed in book seven.
- Tom Riddle was an example during his schooldays—a prodigy, incredibly popular, disguising his true nature. In this case, he's an out-and-out murderous lunatic instead of just "messed up" or "morally ambiguous", driven by his fear of death.
- Severus Snape. Brilliant student who improved his potion textbook. But he was also a non-socialized Creepy Child, allegedly created many Curses (actually he only created ONE curse and many spells) alongside his potions, destroyed his one chance of a happy life upon using a massive slur against his Only Friend, and is so bitter over his bullying at the hands of the hero's father and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents and everyone around him...that he takes up to use his position as a Hogwarts teacher to torment not only The Hero, but his friends, and especially an innocent boy named Neville Longbottom.
- Horatio Hornblower is a brilliant sea warrior whose men are devoted to him, who managed to make several women fall in love with him, and who managed to manipulate the French into two of their greatest military disasters in history (Trafalgar and Russia). He also absolutely hates himself.
- The Victors of The Hunger Games. Everyone celebrates their triumph except... most of them.
- Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles is pretty, magically-gifted, superlative at everything he does, but poor, arrogant and a wreck in the present day.
- Mayor Madeleine from Les Misérables is the most beloved man in town but really he is Jean Valjean, ex-convict with a compulsion for self-sacrifice bordering on madness.
- Maxim from the first Night Watch novel is good-looking, fairly intelligent, and a very successful businessman, and he looks down at the less successful. While some of his murdering of Dark Others isn't his fault (he had Detect Evil ability and wasn't in on The Masquerade), it's noted that he has no real comprehension of love—pretty much, when given a choice between punishing evil and doing good, he chose the former.
- Lancelot in The Once and Future King, who falls in love with Arthur and becomes so obsessed with becoming the greatest knight in the world (so that Arthur will love him back) that he gives his entire childhood in the pursuit of this dream. Throughout the book, he is shown to be extremely uncomfortable in his own mind, and is quite self-loathing. Guinevere mellows him out a bit, eventually.
Guinevere: Three years is a long time for a boy to spend in one room [the armory], if he only goes out of it to eat and sleep and to practice tilting in the field. It is even difficult to imagine a boy who would do it, unless you realize from the start that Lancelot was not romantic and debonair. Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites would have found it difficult to recognize this rather sullen and unsatisfactory child with the ugly face, who did not disclose to anybody that he was living on dreams and prayers. They might have wondered what store of ferocity he had against himself, that could set him to break his own body so young. They might have wondered why he was so strange.
- Besides The Once and Future King, Lancelot also qualifies in Le Morte D Arthur, where he does all his fantastic deeds just to win Guinevere's attention. It does not end well.
- The entire point of the poem "Richard Cory". Richard Cory is a kind, rich gentleman who gets along with everyone he meets, regardless of their social station, has women dreaming of him, and men wanting to be him. And then he inexplicably commits suicide, and no one knows why.
...we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Luke Castellan is this trope all over. He's handsome, popular, talented, and a trusted authority figure. He's also a huge traitor who wants to overthrow the gods. This is later revealed to be because his mother was cursed and went completely insane when he was a baby and his father, Hermes, left him with her.
- J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion:
- Melkor. The name means "He Who Arises in Might", and he is explicitly called the greatest of the Ainur. This goes to his head, and he eventually winds up getting a new name...Morgoth, the Dark Enemy.
- The Elf Prince Fëanor is possibly the greatest Elf to have ever lived, "For Fëanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him." He's a great craftsman, charismatic enough to make most of the Noldor (one of the Elf tribes) follow him from Valinor to Middle-Earth and he has seven sons. He's also incredibly arrogant, threatens his half-brother Fingolfin out of fear they will take the throne, and obsessed with the Silmarils he made, the three greatest jewels ever made. When Morgoth steals the Silmarils Fëanor and his sons swear the Oath of Fëanor, to get the jewels back no matter what. This leads to Elves killing each other and many of the troubles over the next 600 years, even though Fëanor died soon after reaching Middle-Earth. His actions mean he will not reincarnated from the Halls of Mandos until the end of the world.
- Also Boromir from The Lord of the Rings. He's a proud and gallant warrior, greatly admired for this by his people (and his younger brother) but the pressure put on him by his position as heir to Gondor's ruler and his belief that Sauron could never be beaten fed his obsession with the Ring and made it easy for him to fall for the temptation.
- Túrin Turambar. He's one of the most Badass heroes to have ever lived, killing Glaurung Father of Dragons. However his actions lead to a lot of suffering (though its unclear how much is Túrin's fault and how much is Morgoth cursing his family) and he ends up killing himself.
- Skulduggery Pleasant is the best detective the Irish Sanctuary (or possibly any sanctuary) has, is skilled with both magic and hand-to-hand combat, and was one of the best soldiers during the war, being part of a seven-man cell called the Dead Men who went on suicide missions but always survived. He's also a living skeleton. His friends and allies all warn his new protégé that he is horribly damaged by his family's murder and is renowned for his Unstoppable Rage when people he cares about are in danger. This doesn't worry Valkyrie at all until she learns that Skulduggery is so broken his darker thoughts and desire for revenge turned him into Lord Vile, the most infamous general of Mevolent's armies, who was hell-bent on the annihilation of all life.
- Song at Dawn: Dragonetz appears to be the perfect knight: strong, gallant, and handsome, but he's also bitter, disillusioned, and afraid of marriage because he thinks he'll screw it up.
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- Robert Baratheon is remembered as a handsome, virile warrior but he degenerated physically and morally after becoming king. He understands how out of depth he is with running a kingdom and would have preferred a life of wandering.
- Eddard Stark is seen as the model of a liege lord, but he is plagued by feelings of inferiority and fears his family will pay for the things he allowed to happen during the rebellion against the Targaryens.
- Tywin Lannister is the most powerful and rich lord in Westeros but in reality is a man haunted by his father's past failings and fears his children will end up the same.
- In Space Marine Battles, Cato Sicarius becomes this after Fall of Damnos. He considers Damnos to be his greatest failure (it is, in fact, first time he's ever lost as a Captain) and is tormented by the fact, has Bad Dreams about the Undying and believes that he'll be punished severely for what happened there. He's not, and manages to dig out of his Heroic B.S.O.D. when the Ultramarines retake Damnos.
- The Stormlight Archive:
- Kaladin is an interesting version of this trope. He starts out as an Ace, charismatic leader, excellent spearman, trained in medicine, pays bribes to protect his men and get new untrained boys into his squad where he can watch over them. But after he's betrayed he's definitely broken. The skills are all still there, but he has trouble finding the will to use them anymore.
- As it turns out, all of the Knights Radiant are this. Being broken is a prerequisite to being a surgebinder.
Kaladin: You want too much of me. I'm not some glorious knight of ancient days. I'm a broken man. Do you hear me, Syl? I'm broken.
Syl: That's what they all were, silly.
- Of The Three Musketeers: Athos is outstanding for his looks, thorough education, martial prowess, and social graces. Unfortunately, he is also a somewhat misogynistic alcoholic with truly terrible luck. He is less misogynistic then horribly distrustful of women, because he married the patron saint of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, Milady de Winter. Athos really achieves Broken Ace in the later books, when his faith in Royalty is shattered when the king takes his son's fiancee as his mistress.
- Denth from Warbreaker is friendly, charming and good with words, despite being a mercenary. He also happens to be obsessed with revenge, and will do anything to get it, including torturing and killing innocent people. He can't move past the issue that broke him in the first place, even when given the opportunity to heal.
- Kiriyama from Battle Royale can master almost any skill. Combined with his inability to feel emotion due to brain damage which makes him the perfect killer. It's only as he dies does he regain emotion and the first thing he feels is regret over everything he's done.
- Jack Bauer from 24 is lauded by his colleagues for his service to his country, but his penchant for justice has made him do terrible things.
- Raven Reyes from The 100 had, by age 18, become quite possibly the best mechanic on the Ark, a master at operating in Zero-G, and a certified badass, who traveled down to Earth solo in a space shuttle she rebuilt herself. Yet almost everything in her life not related to those skills is a complete mess. She was abandoned by her mother, loses her boyfriend to another girl after just two weeks of separation, becomes paralyzed in her left leg and resists others' attempts to help with her condition, acts distant towards the men she sleeps with so she won't become attached, and tends to put all other moral concerns on the backburner when her (ex-)boyfriend's safety is at stake.
- Grant Ward from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. starts off as the perfect spy, The Big Guy for Coulson's team of specialists. He wasn't the most sociable, but even that gave him a James Bond-like quality, forgoing a social life for king and country. Still, he becomes friends with the rest of Team Coulson and has a budding romance with Skye. Then it later turns out that he's The Mole working for HYDRA, and he betrays SHIELD and his friends. Then we learn the circumstances of his recruitment and just how screwed up his life was up to that point. At the end of the season, Ward's mentor is killed and he's arrested for his crimes, and attempts suicide in jail. In the second season, Coulson and his crew make it very clear that they do not trust or forgive him for his actions. When circumstances require them to work together again, pretty much everyone wants to kill him. Even when he gives some Freudian Excuse, he's shut down by Agent May, whose PTSD is often a plot point ("We all have our traumas, Ward, didn't turn any of us into psychopaths.") He escapes at the end of that mission and has since become a recurring villain.
- Kara "Starbuck" Thrace from Battlestar Galactica (2003). Top notch pilot, expert markswoman, fine brawler—but suffering from memories of an abusive childhood, a morass of self-esteem and self-loathing issues, and unsure of how to have a life beyond being The Ace. And of course it just gets worse halfway through the fourth season when she finds out she's been Dead All Along.
- Roan Montgomery from Chuck is a Badass Grandpa Chick Magnet despite his age but beneath it, he's a Jaded Washout.
- Jeff Winger from Community is good-looking, has a gift for gab, and is liked by everyone—but his masculinity hides his issues with his estranged father and his fear that no one will like his vulnerable side. He calls himself "broken" in season 4.
- Even more so Rich from pottery class, who has a load of mother issues after his brother died. On the outside he comes over as the allegedly most charismatic and cool character on the show.
- Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a fantastic lawyer who has graduated from both Harvard and Yale. She is also filled with self-doubt, self-hatred, massive anxiety, and depression. When she screws things up with Josh Chan (the guy who she moved to West Covina for), she sings to herself, "You Stupid Bitch," which is all about her self-loathing:
You ruined everything, you stupid bitch.
You ruined everything, you stupid, stupid bitch.
You’re just a lying little bitch who ruins things
And wants the world to burn.
Bitch. You’re a stupid bitch.
And lose some weight.
- Doctor Who:
- Some incarnations of the Doctor from fall under this trope, especially in the revived series, which starts with the premise of the Doctor being forced to kill his own species offscreen.
- The First Doctor begins to develop into one of these once Ian and Barbara leave the crew and the Doctor begins to come to terms with the massive predicament he's in, while simultaneously suffering a string of adventures with major Downer Endings. After Steven says Screw This, I'm Out of Here! at the end of "The Massacre", he has a full-blown Heroic B.S.O.D. and is far more delicate and fearful afterwards.
- The Tenth Doctor is confident and cavalier on the outside, but he suffers from survivor's guilt and verges on self-loathing on the inside.
- The Eleventh Doctor is a charming, charismatic, moral, slightly eccentric, Chaste Hero on the outside. At first, his confidence seems genuine, but as time passes it quickly becomes apparent that Eleven is just as riddled with grief, rage and self-loathing as Ten.
- "The Daleks' Master Plan": Sara Kingdom is Mavic Chen's best agent, a hero in her organisation, said in awed tones to have "the strength of ten men". She shoots Bret Vyon (a "traitor" allied to the Doctor) and was sent to murder the Doctor and his companion too, and would have done it if they hadn't been accidentally teleported to the planet Mira. While on Mira, the Doctor confronts her, clearly in a disturbed psychological state, and she eventually admits Bret was her brother. She joins the Doctor's side soon afterwards.
- Captain Jack Harkness, later of Torchwood. Dashingly handsome, brave, cocky and nigh-immortal...but after being abandoned by the Doctor for being "wrong", suffering trauma after his repeated deaths, seeing everyone he loves die in battle or of old age, and now having being forced to allow his own grandson to be killed he's definitely a Broken Ace. He also has a Dark and Troubled Past. He still feels guilt over getting his brother captured by a vicious alien race. Even during his time as a temporal agent, it wasn't all gallivanting through history and screwing Anything That Moves (although there was a fair bit of that too). He has a chunk of memory the size of 2 years missing, although he completely forgets about it after meeting the Doctor.
- Some incarnations of the Doctor from fall under this trope, especially in the revived series, which starts with the premise of the Doctor being forced to kill his own species offscreen.
- The Crane brothers in Frasier. For all their success as psychiatrists, it doesn't spare them from the fact that both of them suffer from deep-seated parental issues and are both hapless with women, even though, oddly, they never seem for want of one.
- James Gordon of Gotham. Gordon might be a rookie detective, but he's a former soldier and a very good hand-to-hand combatant, effortlessly disarming and taking down a large heavily-armed man and then later delivering a beatdown to two mob enforcers among other badass moments. He's also good looking with a laundry list of admirers who will always strive to do what is right and clean up Gotham. However, most of his admirers are Ax-Crazy and he's constantly fighting with his own dark side which others take note of. Also, there are frequent hits on his life (by two of his admirers even) and the lives of those close to him. In addition, Galavan worming in his way out of justice, combined with Gordon netting a 40 year sentence for his vigilante execution, seems to have stripped Gordon of any notion that the law can work in Gotham which is what he firmly believed separated the villains from the heroes.
- This seemed to be a central theme in the NBC series Heroes. Having superpowers didn't cure the characters of their painful pasts, past mental issues, or dark secrets.
- Dr. Gregory House from House. Not only is he the greatest diagnostician, he has also mastered all the manipulative aspects of human sociology and psychology. In addition, he speaks several language, plays a mean guitar, and has the expertise needed to turn his own apartment into an ICU. Despite all this, he still manages to have no social skills, has no friends, and is an unapologetic, drug-addicted criminal.
- Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother tries very hard not to be this trope, but he isn't nearly as good as hiding this fact as he thinks he is. His over-the-top, self-aggrandizing "awesomeness" is his way of overshadowing all his emotional issues.
- Jack Shephard of Lost—brilliant, handsome, athletic, charismatic doctor on the outside. Angry, emotionally-abused, masochistic, repeatedly-relapsing addict with a messiah complex on the inside.
- Don Draper of Mad Men. Creative director/shaman of both the older Sterling Cooper and the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Incredibly handsome and charismatic. Able to bed any woman pretty much just by looking at her. Has won multiple advertising awards and manages to accept them while cutting a dapper figure. He achieved this by stealing another man's identity to get away from his dirt poor abusive upbringing. His marriage to Betty showed the consequences of a Broken Ace marrying a Stepford Smiler. A major part of season 4 was about surveying the wreckage of that union.
- In the haunting episode "Heal Thyself," the camp's talented and charismatic new surgeon, a veteran of a front line aid station, has a complete mental breakdown during a particularly long and gruesome O.R. session that stretches across a couple of days. They find him crouched down in the Col. Potter's tent, doing the Thousand-Yard Stare, and compulsively scrubbing his hands to wipe off the imaginary blood that he is convinced they are still coated in.
- Hawkeye has signs of this through the mid and late seasons from the stress of saving the lives of soldiers that are just going to get killed later anyway. But the final episode is when he really is broken because he inadvertently caused a mother to kill her own child.
- Nikita is the best covert operative Division created but she hates them for turning her into a killer who is unable to live a normal life.
- Nathan Ingram from Person of Interest was a world renowned software engineer and CEO, but he's actually The Beard for the real genius, his friend Harold Finch. Nathan was actually The Alcoholic and his family life was in shambles.
- Allison DiLaurenties from Pretty Little Liars is originally presented as a very bitchy Ace. She later goes through so much being buried alive hardly the worst part she winds up being seriously broken. It also turns out she was quite broken from the being with, thanks to her very disfunctional family.
- Melissa Hastings is a played down version - while certainly The Ace, she wasn't broken quite as hard as Allison - though hard enough...
- Red Dwarf's Arnold J. Rimmer is a literal example of the trope. Sucked dry of his negativity and neuroses (themselves powerful enough to destroy a Lotus-Eater Machine) by an Emotion Eater, he immediately turns into Ace Rimmer (what a guy!). Eventually, he becomes the next Ace Rimmer—as each one dies, he recruits the next, and so on, until it finally reaches Arnie himself. It is mostly his neuroses that hold him back—but, luckily for him, the Red Dwarf universe has it set that pretty much every Rimmer gets redeemed. Before then, he makes an awesome Last Stand at the end of Series 6.
- An early episode had JD competing (purely in his own mind) with another intern (named Nick) to see who was the best between them and who should be the unofficial leader of that group of interns. Eventually JD has to concede defeat, as his rival can match JD's medical knowledge while also being more handsome, less socially awkward, more charismatic, less of a suck-up and even has the girl JD likes interested in him. Hints are dropped throughout the episode however, that Nick is a Stepford Smiler who is repressing all his doubts and feelings. At the end of the episode Nick fails to save the life a 7 year old kid and completely breaks down and quits working at Sacred Heart.
- A little later in the series, they brought in Doctor Kevin Casey. He was played by Michael J. Fox, and they gave the character severe OCD to help explain the tics caused by Fox's Parkinson's Disease. His OCD made him an incredible doctor and surgeon, as his compulsive need to study meant that he had read every book he could get his hands on multiple times and perfected his physical dexterity, performing complex operations in a fraction of the time a normal surgeon would require. He's also incredibly nice and wise, giving helpful advice to everyone in the hospital, helping them fix their lives. So, having humiliated Turk in the OR, Cox in front of his interns, and JD by destroying his ego with an off-hand comment, all three seek him out to confront him. And they find him trapped in the scrub room outside the OR, unable to leave because he's been compulsively washing his hands for hours. He's on the verge of tears but he just can't leave.
- Dr. Cox himself could be seen as this. He's intelligent, witty, well respected, perhaps the best Doctor at Sacred Heart and keeps in fantastic shape for a man his age. However, he's also bitterly lonely, broken shell of a man who hasn't had a meaningful relationship in years. He gets somewhat better as the show goes on, after his ex-wife returns, and he becomes a father.
- Several examples on Smallville:
- Lionel Luthor: Of the Villain with Good Publicity variety, Lionel is the Big Bad of Season's 1-3. He's a Magnificent Bastard, Corrupt Corporate Executive and Cultured Badass with more money than God, and the ears of kings, sultans, and presidents. He's respected by those who don't know how evil he is, feared by those who do, and has the entire world at his beck and call. He's also a damaged, empty man who has immense difficulty identifying with other people, and is trapped in a mutually self-destructive relationship with his son, a relationship he is unable to salvage even after a Heel–Face Turn. He's burned every bridge he's got to get where he is, and is revealed to be a Self-Made Orphan who's still running away from his abusive, drunken parents.
- Lex Luthor: Lionel's son. On the surface he's got it all: wealth, power, women, immunity from prosecution. Underneath, he's self-loathing, caught up in a desire for parental approval that he'll never get, before or post-Face–Heel Turn, haunted by the deaths of his mother and brother, and consumed by his need to control the people around him. He blows up every friendship he ever has in his drive for success and his eventual slide into cackling supervillainy is as tragic as it is inevitable.
- Jason Teague: He's a good-looking football coach, secretly dating one of the hottest girls in the school. His family is rich, he's a former star player himself, and he's able to lie and cheat at Lex's level. Unfortunately, he's pretty eaten up by his Mommy Issues, has no self-esteem, and is nearly incapable of taking any action his mother (Season 4 Big Bad Genevieve Teague) doesn't approve of.
- Green Arrow/Oliver Queen: A heroic example. In one life Oliver is the heir to an immense fortune, a billionaire playboy with more women than he can handle and a life most people only dream of. In his other life, he moonlights as a Badass Normal Superhero saving more lives before nine A.M. than most people do before lunch. And yet neither of these is the real Oliver Queen. Inside he's hollow, convinced that his life is a sham, and manifests numerous self-destructive tendencies including alcoholism, the inability to commit to anything, and a total disregard for his own safety that's both impressive and frightening. His committment to saving the world overshadows everything else he does, leading to bouts of drinking, a temporary drug addiction, and culminating in his Interrupted Suicide in Season 9.
- Tess Mercer: A female variant. Much like Lionel and Lex, whom she succeeds as leader of LuthorCorp, Tess is an incredibly rich young woman, who has successfully escaped an abusive home life. She speaks two or three different languages, is extremely attractive, and has the money and power to do whatever she wants. She also has horribly low self-esteem, no faith in humanity, and a fatalistic need for a Messiah, all stemming from having given up on her former idealism and desire to change the world in favour of moving up in the world. As the show progresses, her ace facade disintegrates more and more, and the Broken Bird underneath is increasingly exposed. Alliances with Checkmate and Major Zod, and an eventual Heel–Face Turn have all failed to give her the sense of self-worth she's seeking.
- In The Sopranos, Tony Soprano is the mob boss of all New Jersey; charismatic, powerful, ruthless, and has a keen business acumen. Underneath it all, he suffers from some serious Parental Issues and other mental problems, which cause him to have panic attacks.
- Dean Winchester from Supernatural. Handsome, charming ladies' man and badass hunter on the outside, self-loathing bundle of PTSD and daddy issues on the inside. His brother Sam is the brains of the operation (but no less badass) and tends to be much more empathetic towards people in need, but is a nest of hatred, anger, and self-loathing and is driven primarily by revenge for much of the show.
- Every hunter is this in spades, to the point of only being good at what they do by being so horribly broken. Capable of fighting monsters, demons, and undead nightmares, hiding from (or staying on the run from) the police and FBI for the crimes they commit doing their jobs, and all of them make the hardiest survivalist look like a pansy. The only reason any of them live the life they do is that either they were raised into it, which is a whole mess of issues right there, or they experienced firsthand losing someone close to them because of the things that go bump in the night and became obsessed with revenge. John Winchester was arguably the worst we've seen, often being remarked on as a hunter of unparalleled skill but uncaring of anything that wouldn't lead him to the Yellow-Eyed Demon, to the point of being abusive and neglectful towards his sons and raising them as soldiers to fight an unending daily war (which Sam and later Dean resent him for).
- John Connor is the Messianic Archetype of the Terminator franchise who will eventually lead the human race to victory against the machines but Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles shows the hell he went through to become what he is. He's also made rather questionable decisions like trying to strike an alliance with a renegade faction of machines.
- Possibly Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men. Despite being a rich, handsome womanizer, many episodes indicate or imply that he is riddled with mommy issues. There is the possibility that his womanizing is a means of acting out said mommy issues or is even a means of overcompensating for repressed homosexuality/bisexuality or having been more abused or neglected than Alan when they were kids.
- Dr. Bashir, CMO of Deep Space Nine: brilliant, charming, funny, athletic, genuinely caring enough to make ex-torturers Heel–Face Turn out of love....and needy as hell, ignorant of his own privilege, and convinced that he's a fraud and that everything he's achieved is fake due to his extremely illegal genetic enhancements, which were given to him by his parents without his consent and if discovered will lead to him losing everything.
- John Sheppard on Stargate Atlantis is undeniably a Colonel Badass and Ace Pilot who's not afraid to kick some ass in order to defend the city of Atlantis. He also has severe self-loathing, intimacy, trust, and abandonment issues which come into play when people under his command or close to him die because of the inherent danger of his job.
- In modern takes on the Transformers character Optimus Prime, Optimus is often presented as being a great warrior, inspiring leader, brilliant commander, and so on, but also having hints of some sort of personality disorder or otherwise being neuro-atypical. Most commonly it's presented as depression (despite his reputation, someone he commands always dies) or post-traumatic stress (four million years of war can do that to you). There are also some who argue that in various elements of the Transformers Aligned Universe, including High Moon Studios' games and the Transformers Prime series, Optimus is subtly coded as being autistic. Some critics of Michael Bay's movies even snark that the long war has unhinged that Optimus into a psychopathic monster.
- The above-mentioned "Richard Cory" example was expanded on in a song of the same title by Simon & Garfunkel, contrasting Cory's facade of happiness with the poverty of one of his envious employees. The song ends the same as the poem. The narrator still envies him.
- Is the chorus repeated (even after The Reveal) merely to be consistent with standard song structure? Seems unlikely, as Simon—self-described in "Homeward Bound" as "a poet and a one-man band"—was a careful wordsmith. And because a final chorus would be anti-climactic, its inclusion requires an important reason. Even so, it's not clear whether this was simply for the sake of Irony, or if the narrator's envy was allowed to persist so his crushing poverty would be underscored.
- Ziltoid of Devin Townsend's Ziltoid The Omnicient seems like your ordinary fourth dimensional evil overlord, spreading terror and destruction across the known universes, fraternising with the fifth dimensional planet smasher and the omnidimensional creator, and of course raiding the earth for our finest coffee to use for time-bending. But in the end, Captain Spectacular of Earth has seen Ziltoid's true self; a nerd.
- The list of "troubled musicians" in Real Life and fiction is probably plentiful enough for it to be its own trope.
- "Oh No" by Marina & the Diamonds is a Broken Ace anthem of sorts. It's particularly popular for Fan Vids about this kind of character.
- "We" by Christian singer-songwriter Joy Williams describes two people wanting to really be known as they truly are.
"She's independent and beautiful
Wish I could be like her
She's got the girls and the boys so wrapped around her finger
Rumor is, she's some kind of dream
Nobody knows, she cries herself to sleep."
"He's on the top of the social scene
He's stylish, cool, and clever
He's got a cool attitude that screams 'He's got it all together'
You'd think he's addicted to himself
But he wishes he could be someone else."
- "Where Do You Go To My Lovely?" by Peter Sarstedt is about a woman (Marie-Claire)who is beautiful and witty ("You talk like Marlene Dietrich and you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire..."), intelligent and with excellent taste (she's a graduate of the Sorbonne, owns a Picasso, dresses in Balmaine, listens to the Rolling Stones and drinks Napoleonic brandy) has famous friends and is famous in her own right. However the narrator, who is a childhood friend, recalls their shared origins as beggar children in Naples and suggests that beneath her incredibly glamorous life Marie-Claire still bears the scars of life on the streets.
- Sadly this trope is very common for professional wrestlers. Many great talents have been plagued with severe personal issues that have ruined their careers.
- Scott Hall has been wrestling with alcoholism for quite some times, yo-yoing back and forth for almost two decades. WCW even made his drunken behavior into a character trait.
- Jake Roberts has struggled with alcoholism as well. Several times during his career he's shown up to an arena fully drunk. He was one of the first wrestlers to take advantage of the WWE's drug rehab program for current and former wrestlers in the wake of the Chris Benoit situation.
- Jeff Hardy and his battles with drug addictions will very likely land him in jail in the near future. Not to mention, his already terrible reign as TNA World Champion was capped off with one of the worst title matches in history (see the So Bad It's Horrible TNA page for more details).
- Hulk Hogan has gone through a very messy, very public divorce, not helped by his son Nick getting involved in a car crash that left the other driver dead. Hulk at one point said he gets why OJ Simpson did what he did.
- Ric Flair has a litany of broken marriages, money problems and substance abuse demons.
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has several times been detained on domestic violence charges.
- "Mr. Perfect" Kurt Hennig could do just about anything, except put down the bottle which led to his death.
- Shawn Michaels, considered to be one of the most talented performers to have ever stepped into a ring, had a terrible pain killer addiction on top of being a colossal jackass backstage who used his considerable pull to screw over several of his coworkers. After his four-year retirement and conversion to Christianity, he has since gotten rid of all his vices, became The Atoner, and all around committed to subverting this trope.
- Kayfabe-wise, Randy Orton portrays this with some Reality Subtext. Orton was the talented athlete that most of WWE's higher-ups envisioned at the top of the company back around 2003-2005, but never surpassed John Cena's status mostly because of his inability to stay out of his own way. In kayfabe, especially, most of his heel turns are marked with bouts of insecurity and paranoia, and his recent bout as a face portrays him as a skilled athlete, but a stoic Sociopathic Hero. And, both in and out of kayfabe, Orton still occasionally dips into anger and behavioral issues.
- In Exalted:
- The Unconquered Sun himself. Created by the Primordials to be the embodiment of absolute perfection, he turned out to be perfect in four different ways that didn't always get along. Combined with his addiction to the Games of Divinity and the Great Curse driving his Exalts into depravity, he essentially suffered a nervous breakdown and locked himself up in the Jade Pleasure Dome.
- The Primarchs of Warhammer 40,000 are gods among men and strong charismatic leaders of their adopted planets but each harbor serious issues like insecurity (Fulgrim), inferiority complex (Perturabo) or a need for revenge (Angron) which led half of them to commit rebellion. The loyalists aren't any better.
- Their father/creator the Emperor of Mankind. The most powerful psyker to ever live, a brilliant scientist, a ruler who united humanity in a golden age, practically a living god...but his inability to be the father his sons needed dooms himself and the Imperium to a slow wasting death. All that is left of the once-mighty Emperor is a decaying husk trapped between life and death that can only watch as the Imperium falls apart over ten thousand years.
- Freddie Trumper in Chess, though his ace reputation is also notoriously short-tempered and cocky. Still, he drove himself to be a chess champion due to his rather hellish childhood, and doesn't want anyone seeing his weakness. The audience only finds out during "Pity the Child".
- Anatoly Sergeievski counts too, if the lyrics of "Where I Want To Be" are any indication. Figures that in a show where the two female leads are broken birds, the men would be broken aces.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano, Reinassance man, (legendary poet, duelist, soldier, philosopher, physicist, musician, playwright, novelist and excellent actor) who also is an ugly, writhing pile of Mommy Issues, who systematically throws away every chance of success he has, prefers to help a fair guy get the girl he loves instead of confessing to her, abuses everyone who is not his friend and an asidious killer of Asshole Victims because his enormous Gag Nose.
- Ultimate heroic example, without even a trace of Jerkass: Jesus Christ himself in Jesus Christ Superstar is deeply conflicted by his own messiah role and increasingly uncomfortable with his followers and fanbase, particularly because he doubts that anything he's done will even make an impact.
- Stacee Jaxxx from Rock of Ages'' is a famous rock star but his solo career is stalling thanks to writer's block.
- Tybalt in Gerard Presgurvic's musical version of Romeo and Juliet, especially in the Hungarian production, where he's an epileptic pyromaniac on top of being obsessed by family honor and in love with Juliet.
- Graf von Krolock from Tanz Der Vampire. Suave, unflappable vampire, seducer of the young and beautiful, dominating and powerful...and then, come The Eleven O'Clock Number, we see him practically writhing in the dirt of the castle graveyard as he castigates himself for being driven to destroy what he loves and never rising to the true pinnacle he always wanted to achieve.
- Jin Kisaragi from BlazBlue. Handsome, smart, strong, rich, highly ranked, popular with girls despite his cold attitude, a hero for ending a long civil war, and so on. As he put it himself, he was showered with everything men would kill for. His only problem was his inability to care about all of those. However, when he found out that his brother was still alive, he snapped hard and being nihilistic turned out to be the least disturbing thing about him.
- Makoto Nanaya shows some of this as well, though not to the same extent. She's an outstanding fighter, a massive determinator, and surprisingly smart and perceptive, with a compassionate and energetic personality to go with it, on top of being smoking hot. She also has a bit of a childish disposition, but your mileage may vary on that one. Unlike Jin, however, she was the least popular girl at school not because of any of that, but due to intense Fantastic Racism, forcing her to take on a Jerkass Façade to keep the assholes away. Her bad ending makes it worse by implying (with some undeniable evidence) that she's essentially a Pandora's Box of racism issues that she's tried to keep shut her entire life, and that the Academy bullying is the tip of the iceberg...
- Crisis Core. Sephiroth, Genesis, and Angeal. Their issues drive the first two to villainy and the third to perform Suicide by Cop.
- Kyras in Dawn of War 2. He is the single best psyker and soldier in the entire Blood Ravens chapter and behind it all he has fallen over to chaos not out of self interest, but simply for fear of being forced to lose his men to it again.
- Squall in Final Fantasy VIII. He goes out of his way to come off as a stoic, professional badass who doesn't need other people, and succeeds admirably—he stands out as an exceptional soldier even among SeeDs. Much of the student population at Balamb Garden admires him for his extraordinary skills, and "gorgeous" goes without saying for a Final Fantasy protagonist. But the entire thing is a Jerkass Façade he puts on to hide his massive emotional insecurities. Underneath it, he's a Child Soldier with No Social Skills who avoids getting close to people because he's afraid of the pain of losing someone he cares about.
- A case can be made for Lightning of Final Fantasy XIII. She's a tough-as-nails soldier in the Sanctum's Guardian Corps who wields the Blazefire Saber (itself a trophy of her acknowledged skill and strength) and was all set to be promoted to officer. But her military prowess and attitude are products of her trying to force herself to grow into a good guardian for her sister Serah after they were orphaned; "Lightning" isn't even her real name, but a call-sign she turned into a new identity. Indeed, this forced maturity does nothing to help when the events of the Purge roll around, and when we first meet her, she's already harboring guilt over not even believing Serah when her sister needed her.
- Lightning: I thought that by changing my name, I could change who I was. I was just a kid.
- Fire Emblem Awakening gives us Cordelia. She's a beautiful redhead with outstanding fighting skills, a self-assured atittude and a kind heart, as well as very popular in Ylisse. However, we then find out that she loves a man she believes herself to be unworthy of, that she's thought of to be arrogant and spoiled when she's actually not, and that pretty much eaten on the inside by Survivor Guilt after her whole squad is massacred. Not to mention, her Kid from the Future Severa has a HUGE inferiority complex due to her mother's fame, and when Cordelia died after they had a huge fight over a misunderstanding, she's totally broken.
- Cherche's son Gerome is pretty much good at everything, from fighting to handling his dragon mount to sewing. His Ace-like traits (strength, aloofness, seriousness) are because of his major trauma from losing everyone (including his parents) in the Bad Future; he might not have become so good at everything if it weren't for that, but he'd be far better off as a person.
- Harken from Fire Emblem 7 is a handsome, skilled, loyal, popular knight and about to marry the local Lady of War, Isadora. He is then utterly broken by the deaths of his lord in liege and his companions at the hands of the Black Fang, and becomes a Death Seeker Blood Knight who has to be talked out from pretty much throwing himself into battle to just die and dull the pain, and is also plagued by the guilt of having almost forgotten the girl he loved in between all the angst. He gets better, thank God.
- Not only that, but his supports with Marcus reveal that before he was subjected to all of that trauma, poor Harken already had serious self-worth issues coming from how his former lord of liege used and abused him and then threw him out of his household. What happened with the Black Fang was the corollary to a breaking process that lasted several years.
- Prince Zephiel takes this trope and uses it as his Start of Darkness, alongside Used To Bea Sweet Kid and Abusive Parents. But he does not get better.
- Lancelot of Guenevere is seen as a flawless knight and is nearly universally beloved, but he's privately become depressed about the world and his place in it, even before he falls in love with the wife of his liege.
- Kyo Kusanagi's cousin and Big Brother Mentor, Souji, in The King of Fighters: KYO. He was supposed to be the true sucessor to the Kusanagi family instead of Kyo or Saisyu, and Kyo respects him to the point of calling him "Souji-san" (which considering Kyo's very rough and informal speech patterns, is very meaningful)...but he pushed himself so insanely hard that he ended up giving into his dark side and had to relay the leadership on his uncle and cousin, or he'd be consumed by his own darkness.
- Riku, Sora's best friend from Kingdom Hearts, to an extent, at least in the very first game. Better than The Protagonist Sora and the other island kids at pretty much everything; older, stronger, cooler, more attractive, and (most importantly) seemingly "closer" to Kairi, whom he and Sora—quite awkwardly for them—both have feelings for. Riku, as a result, takes position as the leader of the group. While Sora is jealous of these aspects about Riku, it turns out later in the game that Riku is the one with a massive inferiority complex to Sora, becoming very jealous when Sora finds new friends in Donald and Goofy and Sora turns out to be the Chosen One for the Keyblade; and last but not least, it gets even worse when it turns out that Riku feels as though Kairi likes Sora more despite the fact that he (Riku) has "done more for her". The villains, naturally, exploit Riku's issues with Sora soon enough and draws him into the Darkness and have the two fighting against each other.
- Eventually, Riku goes through extensive Character Development in Chain of Memories (the mid-sequel between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2) when he confronts his insecurities head on. However, the sequel mostly abandons his Ace traits altogether; the plot no longer concentrates on that aspect of Riku as Sora finally takes over the leadership role permanently.
- And THAT gets turned on its head in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance though in a positive way. Sora and Riku end up taking the Mark of Mastery Exam in order to deal with issues in the Worlds in the Realm of Sleep. While Riku still harbored some feelings of self-doubt (which lead to Sora agreeing to take the exam in the first place), things play out interestingly enough. Throughout the game, it's Sora who ends up going through Mind Rape via the New Organization XIII. Riku, due to said Character Development and past experiences, actually got his body immune to any Darkness-based issues caused by Xehanort. In the end, after all hell breaks loose, it's Riku who ends up being named Keyblade Master over Sora. Good thing Sora is an all around Nice Guy and is genuinely happy for Riku, so no jealousy issues crop up again.
- Eventually, Riku goes through extensive Character Development in Chain of Memories (the mid-sequel between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2) when he confronts his insecurities head on. However, the sequel mostly abandons his Ace traits altogether; the plot no longer concentrates on that aspect of Riku as Sora finally takes over the leadership role permanently.
- BioWare pulled this one out in spades for Knights of the Old Republic—most of the crew of both games, including the Player Character, are this trope.
- Carth Onasi: Ace Pilot, decorated war veteran, and can be a genuine Nice Guy...but his mentor's betrayal, destruction of his homeworld, and loss of his family have left him with raging trust issues.
- Bastila Shan: Whooooo Boy. Talented and beautiful young woman, star Padawan of the Jedi Order, mastered a rare Force ability that makes her essential to the war effort (and the only thing stopping Malak from steamrolling the galaxy), and is given most of the credit for taking down Darth Revan...but is wound up so tightly from all the pressure that she's become dogmatic, thoroughly lacks a sense of humor, and is terrified of anything that might go against the Order's dogma.
- Juhani: Survived an attempted genocide by the Mandalorians, Upto Eleven levels of Fantastic Racism, crawled her way out of one of the worst slums in the galaxy and fought hard to be accepted into the Jedi, even though she was older than most trainees. Probably the best lightsaber fighter in the galaxy besides the Player Character, and holds herself to extremely high standards. Too bad she's wound up tighter than Bastila, and is a psychological mess from all the pressure she puts on herself and the unresolved childhood issues that Jedi training has done absolutely nothing to help and everything to try and repress.
- Canderous Ordo: One of Mandalore's generals, commander and veteran of battles all over the galaxy for forty years. Lost it all at Malachor Five, was cracking heads for a petty crime boss, and after unraveling his Proud Warrior Race Guy persona and laundry list of battles fought? He admits he's Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. Even when he finds one? His gruff pride and steady persona are used as target practice when Kreia delivers a Breaking Speech about how he's really little more than Revan's "loyal beast."
- Jolee Bindo: Lived in the dangerous woods of Kashyyyk, and puts on a face that's a cross of "Grumpy Old Man," and "Old Master." Fought in Exar Kun's War, was a smuggler and adventurer even when he was with the Order, and never stopped with the thrill seeking...but was really self-exiling himself over his perceived failures as a Jedi, including his failure in training his wife, who turned to the Dark Side.
- The Jedi Exile in the second game? A highly charismatic Magnetic Hero, one of Revan's top generals in the Mandalorian Wars and the "Hero" of Malachor V. A grossly dysfuntional mess who can't even talk about their previous battles and so traumatised by ordering the destruction of Malachor V, that it severed their entire connection to the Force.
- And then revealed to have become a Humanoid Abomination, who's Magnetic Hero qualites are the result of unknowingly creating Force-bonds which sway people to their point of view, as well as having regained the Force by pulling it out of the Force-Sensitive people around them and people they've slain in battle.
- Atton? Ace Pilot, excellent smuggler, rarely loses at Pazaak, decorated vet of the Mandalorian Wars, utter Determinator when he fights...former Sith Assassin that used to get off on torturing Jedi until one showed him he was Force Sensitive and persuaded him to run away.
- Bao-Dur? Gadgeteer Genius whose talents with shield technology surpasses even the Echani (who invented them). Built his own mechanical arm after losing his in battle...and made the weapon of mass destruction that won the battle at Malachor V.
- Handmaiden? Daughter of an Echani general turned Senator, one of six elite guards to a Jedi Master, excellent fighter, impeccable protocol and manners...Is hated by her half-sisters just for existing (she was the product of daddy's affair with a Jedi), has such little self-esteem she doesn't feel worthy of a name, and reading her thoughts produces an endless loop of how she must learn to fight harder.
- Mical: Officer and a Gentleman, Gentleman and a Scholar, spy that ostensibly works for the Republic, but might be working just for Cede or Carth, he is doing some "light" reading in a monster-infested ruins of a Jedi archive, and greets you in a formal (if a bit archaic) manner. "Broken" because being a Republic officer was merely a fallback after he spent his childhood and youth training for the Jedi, but the Wars left no one left to train him, leaving him to pick through ashes for what was left of his dream.
- None of them hold a candle to Revan, in terms of Ace-ness and Broken-ness. A near perfect blend of charisma and power...which made his fall to the Dark Side all the more disastrous. There's a reason he's known as one of the galaxy's greatest heroes and as one of its worst villains.
- Hibiki from Lux-Pain is this. He's considered one of the top students of Kisaragi High school that got accepted on board to study to America, beats the Insufferable Genius Shinji at math and computers and is deemed very attractive by his peers. However, that's only on the surface reputation. To begin with his trauma, his parents died in a car accident when he was very young and it left him relatively unstable, he was taken care of by the Kisaragi nurse Honoka who later adopted him. However, he was labeled as a strange boy shortly after being released from the hospital after the accident and was isolated from his peers. Then his best friend, who later because his crush, Ryo befriended him and he was fine...until those feelings got in the way and he got jealous of Ryo's co-worker Ai. This promotes him to leave to America, but then he comes back a year later, thinking that his feelings are gone. They didn't go away...and he goes crazy because of his powers that were caused by his psychological pain. Whether or not he survives depends on if the player gets the normal ending or the good ending. Regardless, he lead a pretty bad life and the player can decide how it can change.
- Deugan from MARDEK. In Chapter 3, he actually becomes the next Grand Adventurer as "Lone Wolf", just like he always wanted to, and is already almost as famous and popular as his childhood hero Social Fox was. But due to his incredibly poor self esteem, he still doesn't think this is enough, and also seems to think he doesn't deserve anything good that happens to him.
- Miranda from Mass Effect 2. Beautiful, intelligent, confident, skilled, a decent fighter, and "absolutely perfect" in every aspect. And then it is revealed why she is perfect: "daddy issues" does not begin to cover it. She was genetically-engineered to be absolutely perfect and capable of accomplishing anything. This causes her to view anything she accomplishes to be a result of her father's money and planning, and believes that only her mistakes are truly hers. This means that when everything goes right she has no sense of accomplishment, and when everything goes wrong or she is surpassed somehow (such as through most of the plot of the game) she feels like a complete failure, because she was given everything she needed and still managed to screw it up. Thankfully, Shepard can fix that if he/she so chooses.
- Depending on how s/he's played, Shepard can be a pretty good example. During character creation, Shepard can be given a Dark and Troubled Past that would leave anyone with some serious psychological traumas; by the end of Mass Effect 3 it's possible to lose a lot of crew members and friends (and be forced to kill a few of them), commit genocide (including destroying an entire inhabited solar system to slow down the Reapers, which is not optional) and see some of the most seriously messed up sights the galaxy has to offer. Shepard may be the baddest warrior to ever live, but it's no picnic to be her/him.
- Garrus Vakarian is basically Shepard's understudy and becomes a Memetic Badass between the first and second games by fighting evil mercenary groups on Omega. A deadly shot, a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, and a talented leader...who spends about half the second game obsessed with revenge against the traitor who got his squad wiped out, blaming himself for trusting said traitor, and depending on Shepard to be his rock, the person he can rely on to never betray him. In his romance with a female Shepard, he eventually admits that he's seen so much of what he's been involved with fall apart messily that he desperately wants that romance to be the one thing that goes right. He mostly grows out of it by the third game, and even switches roles so that he is the one keeping Shepard standing when everything goes to hell, even if not romanced.
- Kasumi Goto is the galaxy's best master thief, a sophisticated, quick-witted, technologically-adept cat burglar who is equally at home robbing a casino and strolling around a party, but is so obsessed with her dead boyfriend that if you let her keep the graybox at the end of her loyalty mission, she begins to withdraw into those memories rather than move on with her life. Unlike many options, you don't get a chance to help her truly overcome it; Shepard's recommendations to that effect are treated to a flip dismissal, and even when you send her to help on the Crucible (assuming she was loyal; if not, she'll die/disappear), that seeming functionality is just a patch and the underlying issues are still there. Then, in the Extended Cut, you'll get a shot of her hooked up to the graybox if you pick the Destroy or Control endings, implying that she's pretty much descended into addiction; even Synthesis only keeps her functional by recreating Keiji from those memories.
- Zero from Mega Man X is cool, collected, a revered Maverick Hunter, and a humongous Badass. He's also an Anti Anti Christ with a lot of baggage, most notably over him releasing The Virus that caused the events of the series and him mudering his girlfriend. In Mega Man Zero, he becomes Legendary in the Sequel, but he's also an amnesiac Hero with Bad Publicity whose body is used in the slaughter of 75% of all life on Earth.
- Metal Gear:
- Solid Snake becomes a legendary hero and prevents global war, but is haunted by the things he's done and seen and often downplays his achievements.
Solid Snake: There are no heroes in war. The only heroes I know are either dead or in prison. One or the other. I'm just a man who's good at what he does: killing.
- Solid Snake becomes a legendary hero and prevents global war, but is haunted by the things he's done and seen and often downplays his achievements.
- There's also Raiden, who didn't start as an ace, but did become one over time. By the time of his spin-off series he's adored by his allies, respected by his enemies, possibly the most powerful warrior in the world and capable of picking a fight with an actual army head-on and winning. He's also incapable of staying away from the battlefield despite how much he wants to have a peaceful life and is forced to admit that no matter how he dresses it up, he fights to feed the bloodlust he holds within.
- Samus Aran of Metroid. Beautiful, one of the greatest fighters in the galaxy, a legend in her own lifetime. Also one big bundle of neuroses, dependency issues, and survivor's guilt held together almost entirely by thoughts of vengeance most of the time.
- Shinjiro Aragaki of Persona 3 may qualify. When he rejoins SEES, he likely has the single greatest damage output of the group and is implied to have been the best fighter before he left in the first place. Thing is, he's being eaten away at from the inside by guilt from having accidentally killed Ken's mother two years prior.
- Cyrus from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl games. He's highly intelligent, charismatic, eloquent, and reasonably attractive, all things considered. As a villain, he's a Magnificent Bastard whom just about everyone in his organization adores (and so do his Pokemon, if his Crobat is any indication)...but the only reason why he acts like that is because he was driven insane from trying to live up to the impossible standards his parents set for him.
- In the anime episodes he appears in, it's even more so, since he adopts the appearance of a successful businessman while plotting with Team Galactic.
- Elzam von Branstein from Super Robot Wars Original Generation. He's an Ace Pilot, a Supreme Chef, a Father to His Men...And he was forced to kill his wife in a Sadistic Choice several years ago, losing the respect of his younger brother in the process. He spends most of the game as a Stealth Mentor, trying to find new heroes to take his place. When his brother finally forgives him, he goes back to being The Ace under the guise of Ratsel Feinschmecker.
- Lots of characters in the Tales Series. Nobody in the franchise gets away with just being The Ace. You've got to get broken somehow. A few examples:
- Zelos in Tales of Symphonia is probably the straightest example. He's the Chosen of Tethe'alla, an academic prodigy, a peerless womanizer, and on top of that, his combat skills are nothing to sneeze at. But he's so broken that he's basically a Death Seeker. Investigate his backstory a little, and you find out being the Chosen has torn his life apart. His parents hated each other but were forced to marry in order to produce him. His mother died Taking the Bullet for him, even though she loathed him and believed he should never have been born. His half-sister, his only remaining family, has been confined to an abbey and acts like she hates him. He has no friends, just his "hunnies", who only hang out with him because he's the Chosen. He's fully aware of this. Oh, and the only reason he did so well in school was because the girls all took notes for him.
- Guy and Jade both nearly fit this archetype in Tales of the Abyss. They are both extremely talented fighters. Guy is set up to be a quintessential hero, reminiscent of the protagonists of previous games—his optimistic attitude, as well as his fighting style, are very similar to Lloyd's—while Jade has the reputation and intelligence of an ace. Both of them, however, are more broken than they initially seem:
- Jade, for starters, is a sociopath, whose disregard for human life and Pride pushed him to invent fomicry. After realizing the many, many horrors that his technology brought to the world, he feels so guilty that he wishes he could go back in time to kill himself as a newborn. If you think hard enough about fomicry, especially how the Big Bad plans to use it, Jade's ace tendencies basically caused every problem in the game.
- Guy pretends to be confident and optimistic, and his Dynamic Entry in the first few hours of the game is so cool that when he says "enter the amazing Guy!" you're more inclined to applaud than disagree. While he's also charming enough to be a womanizer of Zelos's caliber, his gynophobia means that he's more likely to lead girls on. There's also the fact that Duke Fabre slaughtered his entire family and left him buried under a pile of corpses for several days when he was five years old. His initial goal was to kill Luke in front of his father for revenge, and thanks to the curse slot, it's confirmed that this desire is still present throughout the game despite his Undying Loyalty. Guy is much creepier than that winking face would lead you to believe.
- Kaori Yae of Tokimeki Memorial 2: she's pretty, has the overall best academic grades among the whole cast, is even better at sports than sporty heroine Hikari, and has such a natural talent at rythmic games such as Dance Dance Revolution she can play them flawlessly even on her first try; yet, due to a traumatic event in her past, she has zero social skills, as she can't trust anyone anymore, and people in return can't trust her. Her Ace skills even out if the Main Protagonist manages to help her get out of her Heroic B.S.O.D., as she'll enter again the Volley-Ball Club and fully involves herself in, meaning her grades take a toll and become only average; and while she becomes more cheerful and open to others, she still has difficulties making friends.
- The main guys of the Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side games lean towards being Broken Aces as well. They're always smart, athletic, good-looking, and admired by their classmates, but Kei Hazuki in GS1 is deeply apathetic about most things and finds it hard to relate to others; he's often tired to the point of falling asleep in class because of his modeling jobs, which he does not because he's particularly interested in it but because he has difficulty saying no. Teru Saeki in GS2 is a worse case: he pushes himself hard to live up to other people's expectations to the point that his entire speech pattern changes depending on who he's talking to, and like Kei, he's often tired from the combined burdens of keeping up his grades, working his part-time job, and pacifying his league of fangirls.
- Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat is this. He may be the Mortal Kombat Champion of Earthrealm and a protege of Raiden, but starts to becomes this as the series goes on, especially in the new timeline. Getting murdered by Shang Tsung causes his vengeful zombie to kill many of his own allies, an act he still feels responsible for in the original timeline. It gets From Bad to Worse in MK9, when he loses many of his friends and allies over the course of the game, loses his love interest (Kitana) and best friend (Kung Lao), and loses faith in his mentor Raiden. In MKX, after becoming a revenant, he still views his former mentor with great contempt (AND explicitly tells that to Raiden in his face), and willingly ascends to become the new ruler of the Netherrealm alongside Kitana at the end of MKX.
- Raiden from Mortal Kombat starts to become more of this in the rebooted timeline. He may be the protector god of Earthrealm and mentor to Liu Kang, but beneath that shell is a broken man who is distraught losing many of his champions, has to deal with multiple invasions and carries a big Guilt Complex for accidentally killing Liu Kang. He never recovers from this in MKX, and this culminates in his Face–Heel Turn after purifying the Jinsei (Earthrealm's life force) at the end of MKX.
- Auron from Final Fantasy X is revered as a legendary guardian who aided High Summoner Braska in defeating Sin. He's an unflappable badass who easily chops up dragons with a huge sword. He's the wise and snarky older mentor to the rest of the cast. All of that masks a bitter and broken man who wanted to change the world and failed. He failed to stop Braska and Jecht from sacrificing themselves to stop Sin. And when he discovered they had sacrificed themselves for false hope, he even failed to avenge them. There's also the little fact that he's Unsent. It doesn't much more "broken" than being already dead.
- Depending on how you build your stats, it's perfectly possible to play Ayano as one in Yandere Simulator. She can be a popular girl who gets good grades, is strong enough to fight trained martial artists, is dedicated to a school club, and can easily seduce both male and female classmates. However, in the game's backstory she felt nothing until she fell in love with her beloved Senpai. At which point, she became a Stalker with a Crush. You can choose a variety of methods to eliminate girls who also share an interest in your Senpai, ranging from simply pairing them up with someone else, to manipulation, to flat out murder, but Ayano will always be messed up. Word of God also states that the reason why she has so much capability is because she's so determined to make sure Senpai is hers that she can accomplish anything she puts her mind to in pursuit of that goal.
- The Dangan Ronpa series has Izuru Kamukura, which has been purposedly made into The Ace via surgical operation, done by Hope's Peak Academy itself. The experiment has Gone Horribly Right, as he's guided only by the drive to acquire more talents; not hobbies, not emotions, nor anything else.
- Saber in Fate/stay night, toward the end of her life. She suffered in her Masquerade out of duty, and became broken when it seemed to her that her country would've been better off if she hadn't tried, and someone else taken the role.
- Gilgamesh. The greatest of all Heroic Spirits, the "King of Heroes", and wielder of some of the most powerful Noble Phantasms in existence...whose ego was left unchecked after the loss of his Only Friend Enkidu.
- Tohsaka Rin appears perfect on the surface; she's beautiful, popular, intelligent, and an enormously gifted Magus. However, she also has some really crippling self-esteem issues, feels abandoned and betrayed by her parents, and has some pretty severe (self-admitted) problems empathizing with others.
- Yuuji in Grisaia no Kajitsu is very intelligent and experienced with a wide range of skills, but beneath the surface are many hints of deep depression and self loathing. Grisaia No Meikyuu explains how those parts of himself got there. Grisaia no Rakuen shows that his shattered psychological state was in fact much worse than it seemed at the end of the preceding story though he finally does find true peace at the end when he, the Mihama girls, Chizuru, JB and Kazuki all set up a new Mihama on a southern island granted to him by Asako.
- Keiichi Maebara in Higurashi Higurashi When They Cry. He's a perfectly kind fellow in Hinamizawa, bright in comparison to some of his peers, well known and respected by many in the village, and has a few females who have a crush on him. Oh, and in the past, he went on a (non-lethal) shooting rampage because all his peers had grown jealous of his talent and bullied him. Let's not even get started on other situations in the present times...
- Nameless—The One Thing You Must Recall—: Tei. He's the most handsome, most popular, and most mature of the dolls, but it's a a front he's viciously maintaining to mask the fact that his self loathing has reached the level of dangerous unbalance.
- Amusingly, Ace from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is this. He's smart, noble, self-sacrificing, and the sole culprit of the deaths that take place, as well as the ruthless and antisocial owner of the evil pharmaceutical company.
- Souji in Suika is good at essentially everything: handsome, popular, and a complete chick magnet, but has been using these as part of a fake persona out of trauma for eight years.
- Ace Attorney has a few.
- Adrian Andrews is cool and professional to hide the fact that she's got a severe codependency problem and is still aching from the trauma of her mentor Celeste Inpax's suicide, a fact that Franziska takes full advantage of. When she shows up again, her demeanor is far changed. She's flightier and less professional, but also seems happier.
- Manfred von Karma is like a Broken Ace factory. His daughter Franziska is a prosecuting prodigy who won her first case at thirteen, but she's got a mad obsession with perfection and one-upping her adopted brother Miles Edgeworth. Edgeworth himself has a lessened obsession with winning, but is haunted by suspicions that he killed his father.
- Edgeworth's worse than that—he is undoubtedly an excellent prosecutor, known both as "The Demon Prosecutor" and "King of Prosecutors" in-universe and is apparently so handsome that almost every woman (and possibly some of the men) develop crushes on him on sight, but not only is he so haunted by his father's murder that he has screaming nightmares every night until Phoenix Wright solves the case, he's also terrified of small spaces, heights, and earthquakes because it took place in an elevator to the point where he passes out on turbulent airplanes and is so socially inept that he has no friends, doesn't understand basic social protocol, and doesn't notice when or understand why people would flirt with him.
- Athena Cykes is a brilliant young lawyer and psychologist who earned a double bachelors in two of the hardest college-level courses by 18. In Europe, which is notably more difficult than in America. And she's no slouch as a defense attorney. But man, does that girl have issues. Between Blackquill and her guilt complex on one end, her own suppressed memories of potentially murdering her mother on the other, and her incredible PTSD from both, it's a wonder the poor girl is even able to function before the end of Dual Destinies.
- Lucan from (P)lanets. He's as handsome as a prince, just as kind as one, and is so popular and loved by everyone that he has an Instant Fanclub of two hundred girls. Except that he really doesn't want the attention and the main reason he's so popular in the first place is that he brainwashed them with his Mind Control psych into loving him due to his loneliness and belief that he's so pathetic that they couldn't possibly love his true self. The brainwashing was largely unintentional on his part and he's meant to be a sympathetic version of this trope, but that's still one hell of a warped facade to live with. Lucan is so Broken that he is the only choice that can lead to a Bad Ending. If Marin rejects him after learning his dark secret, he takes it so badly that he intentionally brainwashes Marin into loving him.
- Jack of Check, Please! is a Tall, Dark and Handsome hockey prodigy - and also a mess of anxiety, perfectionism, and "Well Done, Son!" Guy issues.
- Homestuck's Dirk is a perfect example. At first glance, he appears to be completely flawless—he is a Badass of the highest caliber, is an incredibly-skilled engineer capable of creating fully-sentient virtual clones of himself, and has his group's session of Sburb all planned out. The reality, though, is quite different: he suffers from severe psychological trauma from being born in a Bad Future, and is one of only two humans left alive on Earth. His Bro, his one guardian figure who he clearly adored, was murdered prior to his birth, leaving him forced not only to raise himself with nothing but a Demonic Dummy for company, but to live up to the legacy of his heroic and Shrouded in Myth ancestor. Due to the pain this famous ancestor inflicted upon the ruling empress, Dirk is top on her hit list. On top of all this, he has developed a crush on Jake, who was born 400 years in the past and who he may not even meet, let alone get to confess his feelings to. As The Stoic, he's unable to confide in anyone, leaving him the heroic equivalent of a ticking time bomb—though from what we've seen so far, he'll probably be okay.
- We get to see this ace break in-story—not especially dramatically (little in Homestuck is played for drama), but, for the work, pretty hard. At least, falling into a depressive, self-loathing fit so deep that not even a magically-induced sugar high can bring him out of it certainly looks like this. Just a bit before this, we see him lamenting how his emotionlessness and manipulative bastardry have alienated him from his friends and boyfriend, and displaying some ambiguously-suicidal impulses in nearly destroying his robotic personality copy. If this wasn't enough, afterward we find out that he has a fair-sized insecurity complex about his sexuality and the fact that he'll never be able to love his dearest friend in the way she wants (and deserves) because of it. Give this kid a hug already!
- Vriska could also count. From the outside, she's a wild, powerful, intensely-confident Pirate Girl who has her friends wrapped around her little finger. As time goes on, though, it becomes more and more clear that her desire to live up to what she believes her ancestor is has turned her insensitive to the point of a Jerkass Sue, which has driven away all of her friends, including her crush and her moirail, something she claims to not care about but which she really does. Despite acting confident, she lapses into worrying Self-Deprecation at times. Also, as Terezi points out, she can only manipulate people through mind control, since she's too impatient and reckless to actually play people properly. Basically all of her plans fail, and the one thing that actually does go right for her—becoming God Tier—only happened when Aradia beat her up in revenge for killing her and left her to bleed to death slowly...and then it all ended up being pointless anyway, since the one time it would have actually helped, she is killed beforehand, since, even if she won, Karkat and Terezi would still have died. In the end, the one person who had ever believed in her, John, later admits that she was just some weird psychotic girl who kind of had a crush on him one day a long time ago. Ouch.
- Jason "Ace of" Spades in Last Res0rt has this one all wrapped up. Celebrity soldier-turned-Second-in-Command Executioner? Check. Crack shot? Check. Looks great shirtless? Check. Always, always insists on wearing—or at least carrying around—that fur-trimmed jacket? Check. Beaten as a child by his Djinn mother? Che—wait, what was that last one again?
- Artie of Narbonic has undertones of this. He is 6+ ft tall with a perfect body, has an IQ that is literally beyond human possibility, has won several genius grants, is quite successful as a novelist, and as of Skin-Horse, is seen to have an endless stream of one night stands with other gorgeous men. Hell, as of Skin-Horse he is described exactly by the trope description if you add Civil Rights Leader to the list. But on the inside, he is nearly continually disappointed with himself, and struggles to deal with his dual nature as a human and a gerbil and his place in the transgenic community. He isn't quite completely broken, but he is as close as you can get without becoming so.
- Pyrrha Nikos of RWBY is a prodigy in combat and viewed as a celebrity for her tournament victories and endorsement deals. She can single handedly defeat entire teams of fellow students, and possesses one of the most powerful Semblances seen thus far, and still remains a Humble Hero and Nice Girl, determined to spend her life protecting people. But all of this leads to a major case of Lonely at the Top: everyone else avoids socializing with her because they assume she's too good for them, or they want to use her for her fame the way Weiss did in Volume 1, and is implied to have had no real friends before coming to Beacon Academy. All this eventually leads to her death in Volume 3, when her ingrained belief that she is destined to be a hero leads her to take on an opponent even she can't hope to defeat without help, in a (futile) bid to reverse the desperate situation. In the end, the most she accomplished was that her death triggered Ruby's Traumatic Superpower Awakening.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara has more than a few elements of this. He's a nice-looking hero with wonderful toys and True Companions around him—but he wants so badly to be a good guy and to think that he's much more than his Channel Awesome co-workers. He has a Small Name, Big Ego: his number one priority seems to be whether the fans watch him or not and his Comedic Sociopathynote is far creepier than the others because whereas they embrace it, he denies it. The post-Entity storyline has people calling him out on how broken he is, and tell him that he's close to becoming an outright villain.
- Owen from Moonflowers is a handsome, talented mage at twenty-five. He's also gay in Ireland, and faces a lot of homophobia for it: He was nearly killed five years pre-story, can't find work, and has a tendency to call himself homophobic slurs. Despite only remarking that the attack was his "worst birthday ever", he's clearly more affected than he claims: getting attacked in Galway ends even more badly than expected when one of the men chops off his shoulder-length hair, reveals his head-scar from the first attack, and triggers the previously-calm Owen into hurling profanity-filled death threats.
- Phase (Ayla Goodkind) of the Whateley Universe. He's Exemplar hot, he has a gorgeous girlfriend, he's made himself a fortune in the past year, he speaks multiple languages, he has superpowers that make him a threat against most mutants, he's a gourmet...and he is tortured by the fact that his family hates him because he turned into a mutant.
- Worm: Taylor Herbert, aka Skitter, develops into a version of this over time. She goes from a bullied, timid, and superpowered high school girl to a powerful supervillain, defeating foes such as Lung, the Slaughterhouse Nine, and even Alexandria. However, as she does so, she begins to worry more and more about her actions and their consequences, ending up even more of a mental wreck than she was before.
- Billy in Adventure Time. He is ahem "~THE GREATEST WARRIOR EVER / A HERO OF RENOWN! / WHO SLAYED AN EVIL OCEAN / WHO CAST THE LICH KING DOWN! / [...] / ALSO, HE FOUGHT A BEEEEEAAAAAR!~". However, since doing all sorts of similar heroic deeds in the past, and becoming a role model for Finn and Jake, he's holed up in his secret crack and stopped fighting evil with violence, because he's seen that doing so in the Land Of Ooo is useless. He tries to convince Finn and Jake that fighting evil in that way is "as pointless as a dog chasing his own tail."
- An episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks has a one-episode character who is good at everything, which pushes all of Alvin's competitive buttons. But the episode also shows that the case full of trophies and his working spaceship built as a science project don't keep his parents from leaving him with the butler and travelling around the world, sometimes remembering to drop him a postcard, maybe. The boy deeply envies Alvin and his brothers for their loving father. Admitting this and his loneliness allowed him and Alvin to become friends.
- An American Dad! episode was about Stan creating a clone of his son Steve he named Steverino, which he transformed into a model of masculinity. Steverino disappeared and in Stan's search, found out it was Steve who was missing and Steverino had taken his place. He resented being molded into the perfect son and just wanted to be a lazy sack like Steve.
- Archer. Known around the globe as the world's most dangerous spy, and displays almost absurd levels of strength, durability and fighting skill. Also an alcoholic Jerkass manwhore and borderline Psychopathic Manchild who is hated by everyone he knows, is totally incompetent at everything but combat, has a plethora of mommy issues to the point that in the first episode he gets an erection at the thought of his mother dying, and openly admits that he dicks around whenever he's on a mission due to his crippling fear of his own mortality.
- Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender, though she doesn't really bother with the good publicity part of Villain with Good Publicity, still fits. She's a beautiful, extraordinarily-talented young woman, even if she is Daddy's Little Villain, but most of her exterior aloofness and obsession with power stems from being desperate to ignore how utterly psychotic she is thanks to her thinking that her mother hated her. Same inside, same overcompensation, different shell.
- In the Search, she starts hallucinating visions of her mother regularly, and her only goal at this point (and the reason she went along with Zuko in the first place) is to find and kill Ursa. By the end of Part 3 she might potentially be on the road to recovery. She had an easy chance to kill Ursa (who didn't know she was Ursa at the time...It Makes Sense in Context) but Zuko was able to talk her down and she left on her own accord. Now, if she finds out what Ursa actually did to lead them to that point...she might snap again, potentially justified in doing so.
- The second flavor fits as well. She has some serious issues with perfectionism, thanks to her desperation to win her father's favor and not turn out like her brother.
- The Avatars in general seem to be this from what we've seen of them over the course of both series. The first Avatar, Wan, was able to master the art of controlling fire better than any human before him, but ended by unknowingly releasing the most powerful dark spirit, Vattu, from confinement, almost resulting in The End of the World as We Know It and, in the end, dies believing he failed Ravva and couldn't save the world. Avatars Kuruk and Roku are both Failure and Tragic Heros, respectfully. The former's carefree attitude about his Avatar duties led to Koh the Face-Stealer stealing the face of the woman he loved as punishment, and the latter's inability to stop his friend Fire Lord Sozin before the start of the series led to the world being the way it is now (a fact he's all too aware of). Finally, we have our two main leads, Aang and Korra. The former never wanted to be the Avatar in the first place and feels intense guilt for running away from his responsibilities, believing that doing so lead to the death of his entire nation and plunged the world into the 100-year war. The latter believes that she can't ever fully live up to the status of the former Avatars, tends to cross the Despair Event Horizon Once a Season when the bad guys get the better of her, and starts suffering from PTSD after the events of Book 3. The point of both series is to eventually evolve the leads from this trope into bona fide Aces over the course of their respective shows, a goal which, thankfully, works and sticks by the time of both shows' Grand Finales.
- Harvey Dent is often portrayed this way before he becomes Two-Face, particularly in Batman: The Animated Series. Fantastically successful District Attorney, beautiful fiancee, best friends with Bruce Wayne, one of Gotham's wealthiest citizens from one of its older families—but Dent's long-term mental issues of anger repression and dividing his vicious side from his lawful side catch up with him -with terrible results. Bruce never gives up on him, though.
- An episode of Beetlejuice had the Ghost with the Most going into a funk after being constantly upstaged by his insufferably cheerful, goody two-shoes brother Donnie. When BJ goes on a "mope-about" in the Down-and-Outback, Donnie and Lydia go to rescue him. But after getting hit by a "gloom-a-rang", Donnie goes into a funk too and admits that he knows full well how much his perpetually cheery attitude annoys people. Donnie doesn't cheer up again until Beetlejuice admits that he doesn't really hate his brother.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: Chad Dickson, f.k.a. Numbuh 274, Soopreme Leader of the KND, was considered to be the best KND operative on the planet. He was skilled, talented, handsome, involved in nearly every extracurricular activity you could think of — and was outright idolized by all of his subordinates, including resident workaholic and Sector V's ace and leader, Numbuh One. The guy even had trading cards and action figures. But after he defected to become a teen spy, it turned out that he had a lot of negative qualities. Chad was obsessed with being the best, and that led to him coveting the honor of being Earth's representative for the Galactic Kids Next Door. However, Nigel is chosen instead despite all the sacrifices Chad made, and his jealousy consumes him to the point that he tries to kill Nigel during his last appearance on the show.
- Chalky Studebaker from Doug is a mild example. Exposed in an episode where Doug is accused of cheating off of Chalky. Doug and Chalky's papers for a test are near identical, and since Chalky is The Ace, everyone assumes Doug was the one who cheated. (Despite the test being a mere "B"). Doug has to chase down Chalky to confront him about it, and ends up being exposed to Chalky's trophy case, which is not as big or filled as his older brother's. Chalky's dad gives obvious encouragement towards getting all the trophies, showing the "Well Done, Son!" Guy side of Chalky. After Doug flat tells Chalky's father that he cheated, Chalky proceeds to break down and say that he just wasn't able to keep up with all of the different trophy earning activities AND keep up his grades and finally admitted to cheating.
- Ever After High. Apple is a Princess Classic who in any other series would be a Purity Sue- in every way, academically, socially, and philosophically, she is Ever After's ideal woman. Unfortunately, she lives in a time when Ever After is undergoing drastic social change and revolution by the lower classes is threatening to split society down the middle. Apple simply cannot deal with it, because in all her life she never expected such a thing to happen. She lampshades the trope, stating that if not for Raven's defiance of tradition, her life would probably have been perfect. (Apple's life, that is- not Raven's. Raven got what could be generously termed 'the short end of the stick'.)
- Gravity Falls:
- Local teenager Wendy Corduroy is hot, is incredibly strong due to her lumberjack skills, and is very popular. It turns out she is very stressed due to her family.
- Dipper is a down-to-earth, Wise Beyond His Years twelve-year old who has managed along with his twin sister Mabel to uncover many of the mysteries of Gravity Falls. He also has a major crush on Wendy, and his common sense can be overridden by said crush and secretly fears that he may not be very smart. Not to mention the many times he has tried to discover the secrets of Gravity Falls has endangered both him and Mabel...
- Alpha Bitch Pacifica Northwest is the talented, popular daughter of the founding family of Gravity Falls, and she holds much sway in the community. Then in Golf War, we are shown her parents are neglectful and push her to be competitive, and she also lacks basic social etiquette, not even understanding the concept (or pronunciation) of sharing. Then in "Northwest Mansion Mystery'' we learn the Northwest family has been crooked to the very core for 150 years. Pacifica's own father has conditioned her to respond to his command with a bell so he can force her to his level of treachery and classism.
- Vlad Masters in Danny Phantom. Despite being the Big Bad, to the public's eye, he is a well-known and well-respected billionaire celebrity and later mayor. He's handsome, debonair, intelligent, and in his ghost form, clearly a better fighter then the hero is. And yet, his big ego prevents him from gaining the love of his life and Danny as a surrogate son because he is too deep in denial to realize he's getting love in all the wrong ways. This bites him in the ass hard in the Grand Finale.
- Olga Pataki of Hey Arnold!. She looks perfect on first glance, being very good at academics, music, has a personality many consider pleasant, and is considered very beautiful. However, with enough pressure, this facade of perfection can crack...revealing a young woman who's horribly neurotic, unstable and melodramatic due to having to live up to her parents' constant attention and enormously high standards, as well as dangerously out of reality. In Olga's own words to her little sister Helga: "You're lucky[our parents] don't even notice you."
- In The Legend of Korra, all the seasons villains are broken aces in their own way. However, the most apparent on them all is Book 4's villain Kuvira. She was discovered and taken in by Suyin as a little girl to be her personal protege. Is foreshadowed all during Book 3 as being the best out of all her soldiers in Zaofu. She's highly intelligent, charismatic, and a badass warrior who created her own version of metal bending. She also suffers some deep depression and self-loathing, because of her parents abandoning her as a little girl, making her feel like she is worthless, regardless of what she accomplishes. The series finale showed that this was the reason she became a conquering tyrant. Because in her mind, saving the Earth Kingdom was the only thing she had left to hold on to.
- In Recess a one-shot character arrives at the school who is better than everyone in everything ever. He is the very image of a Marty Stu...who is desperately lonely because his talent makes everyone he meets resent him. As long as he remains true to himself, he can't make friends.
- Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty is a genius scientist and inventor who builds robots for fun and invented inter-dimensional travel. He's also addicted to alcohol and an extensive list of Fantastic Drugs while being neglectful (if not abusive) to his family. His catchphrase "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub" translates to "I am in great pain, please help me" which is why he tries to numb his emotions with substances. Nevertheless he almost always is able to save the day (even if it was mostly his fault to begin with).
- Barney from The Simpsons. Flashbacks to his early life reveal him to have been (and still is) brilliant and talented. Homer noted that he was too serious and never had any fun so he got him to drink with him one night. If Barney wasn't broken, he never would have become The Alcoholic so easily.
- Eddie Brock, as seen in The Spectacular Spider Man. He is introduced as Peter Parker's Big Brother Mentor who playfully teases him, puts his life on the line often in supervillain attacks, has a great job with the Connors, and is overall a nice, friendly guy. When things start to not go his way, however, his true colors are revealed: He truly hates Peter and is jealous of him because when their parents died, Pete was raised by his aunt and uncle, he was orphaned, his "teasing" of him is actually belittling him, his "self-less" flirtations with life are his Death Seeker tendencies, and considers the Connors to be his only "family", so his resentment of Peter grows when he accidentally causes him to be fired from his job.
- In the Grand Finale of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spider-Man teams up with a bunch of Spider-Men from alternate realities. One of them has a suit of armor similar to Iron Man. He is rich, the head of his own corporation, loved by everyone in his city, engaged to Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson is his godfather, Wilson Fisk is his lawyer, and Uncle Ben is still alive. He is in short, everything that Spider-Man isn't. He's also a cocky, egotistical Jerkass, and his Leeroy Jenkins tendencies result in both him and another member of the team being injured.
- In ThunderCats (2011), Tygra is a Happily Adopted member of the royal family of Thundera, and is better than crown prince Lion-O. At everything, as he notes loudly and often. Tygra's older, more skilled at fighting, more knowlegeable in military tactics, more popular with their people, their father's favorite, and The Dutiful Son. But to Tygra's great resentment, Lion-O, the flakey Cloudcuckoolander kid brother gets to take up the sword that Only the Chosen May Wield and be the king by dint of Royal Blood alone, even receiving attention from Praetorian Guard Cheetara, whom Tygra has pined for from afar (not knowing that Cheetara's feelings lay with him and not Lion-O). Tygra seethes at the idea that his own Hard Work Hardly Works while The Chosen One is undeserving, and struggles to reconcile his jealousy of Lion-O with his genuine Big Brother Instinct.
- The crux of Tygra's Character Development is that he is a perfect Thunderan, and has always lived in a world where Thunderan culture and values held prominence. After Thundera falls, Tygra is thrown into a life of survival and desperation that's nothing like what he's used to, and he can't quite deal with that—or the idea that Cats are not innately superior to all other animals. Notably, after Lion-O's death, Tygra is forced to become leader of the surviving Cats, and he's terrible at it.
- The Outrider from The Venture Bros. is like this, though what exactly is broken is not immediately obvious. He's a powerful mage and superhero who is handsome, charismatic, and manages to balance his work with his personal life in a way that his rival Dr. Orpheus (and, indeed, most of the other characters on the show) just can't. However, it's revealed that he was only able to do this by taking risky shortcuts to power that, though they paid off, left him vulnerable in ways Dr. Orpheus isn't. Also, he's a bit of a jerk.
- American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton—whose face is on the ten-dollar bill—was the ultimate Broken Ace: he was one of the few famous Founders not to come from a land-wealthy family. Hamilton went from a poor orphan boy in the West Indies to Revolutionary War hero and father of American finance out of his sheer force of will. Meanwhile, his father left the family when Alexander was ten, his mother died of yellow fever two years later, his cousin who was supposed to take care of him and his brother committed suicide, one of his best friends died in battle, his eldest son died in a duel, causing his eldest daughter to become mentally unstable. Contemporaries routinely described him as cocky, strident, fiercely opinionated, and hot-tempered yet there is much evidence to suggest that for most of his adult life he was chonically insecure about his humble origins and being a bastard child and that he was constantly haunted by fears of not amounting to much as a statesman.
- General George S. Patton was one of the most famous figures of World War II, both for his brash, domineering attitude and the fact that he was a brilliant General. However, he also struggled a great deal with his self-esteem and believed he would never live up to his father's reputation. Other portrayals, like the film Patton, show him as a General Ripper tolerated only because his results were good.
- Michael Jackson was the King of Pop and had a star-studded life. Deep down, though, he didn't want to be a star; he wanted to have a real childhood.
- Ernest Hemingway was a renowned writer but had a miserable life. Traumatized by war, unable to stay in a romantic relationship, he eventually killed himself.
- Doug Walker. Attractive, popular, funny, eloquent and surrounded by people who love him, but has a Guilt Complex the size of Texas. You can pop on any of his anniversary commentaries to find that out.
- Mary Kay Bergman is a particularly tragic example of this trope. She was a renowned voice actress thanks to her sheer talent and mentored the likes of Tara Strong and Grey DeLisle. Unfortunately, she has been suffering from severe depression throughout her life, culminating in her suicide in 1999.
- Pete Wentz. Member of one of the most popular bands of the 2000s, crush for thousands of teenage girls from 2005-2007—Rolling Stone called him "the RPatz of his time"—excellent lyricist, suffers from Bipolar Disorder and nearly took his own life in 2005 just before his band got huge.
- Professional golfer Tiger Woods: During the Turn of the Millennium, he experienced a meteoric rise to the top spot in golf, not just among his contemporaries but of all time. He won an unprecedented number of major and minor tournaments, coming one win away from achieving a Grand Slam (winning all four major golf tournaments in one year), which no one has completed under the current requirements. Then his infamous sex scandal broke in 2009, where he was revealed to have at least a double-digit number of mistresses, leading to a divorce from his wife, a shift in public perception from awe and admiration to ridicule and suspicion, and a career slump that he has yet to recover from.