Nothing is scarier than a 12-year-old with a Kalashnikov.They depend on us to defend them, but we're forcing them to defend us. Sometimes they have a talent to help them get through the war, which unfortunately may be the reason they were drafted to begin with, but often it's just tough luck. While the notion of innocent childhood dates to the early modern era (thank the Victorians and their contemporaries), even the ancients felt fairly queasy about the idea - and with good reason: warfare screws with kids' heads, and they're rarely good for much else afterwards. Since the use of child soldiers forces the enemy to gun down children in self defense, it's a very strong contender for the most morally reprehensible war crime in existence. On a somewhat lighter side, there are also many stories, in fiction and real life, concerning boys (and girls) who lied about their ages in order to serve their countries. This trope is great for an angsty backstory while at the same time excusing Improbable Age with prior experience. A staple of the shows which focus on violence but broadcast to kids, such as the more serious Mecha Shows. It's a good way to avoid Children Are Innocent, particularly if a kid creepily sees it as a game, but sometimes the loss of innocence is played for as much drama as can be. In fiction, this also has the convenience of explaining why Persons Of Mass Destruction are obeying their weaker bosses and not running things, or at least not demanding wages and better job conditions. It doesn't occur to them; and even if they do rebel, they don't know how to do it properly. This trope blends imperceptibly with New Meat. Since even legal adults can be teenagers, old soldiers in particular may regard them as no more than children. This trope is Truth in Television; many armies in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa have underaged troops. Furthermore, even Western countries such as Germany, Russia, and the United States have overlooked recruitment ages in major conflicts such as World War II. This was likely to happen before the late 20th century, because births were not as well documented and the recruiters took them at their word if they looked about the right age. Though it's frowned on by Western culture, there is a certain brutal logic to conscripting youth - everyone is under threat, so everyone fights. Sometimes the children are better off on the front lines than enduring what would happen to them if the enemy takes their village. As a more pragmatic and ethical solution, many countries that feature soldiers in the 16-19 age range often utilize them in noncombat or support roles, and/or continue to train them until they're older, resulting in far better psychological health, effectiveness of personnel, and morale overall. Child soldiers can be divided into two types: Those who fight and kill humans, and those who either don't because they fight a nonhuman entity (Strike Witches, Stellvia of the Universe) or avoid lethal means (Lyrical Nanoha). The former usually carry a heavy trauma, while the latter tend to avoid it. Some Super Soldiers probably started out early enough to be counted as this. The Tykebomb (of all varieties) is what happens when this trope backfires. Compare Little Miss Badass, Creepy Child, Cute Bruiser, Enfante Terrible, Kid Samurai, New Meat, Young Gun, Recruit Teenagers with Attitude. The Shell-Shocked Veteran may actually be a high-school senior. Contrast Falling into the Cockpit, which usually implies no former military experience. See Plucky Middie for the naval version. See also Raised by Orcs for cultures that use their enemies' children this way. If only children get to be soldiers, then you have a Competence Zone on your hands. If it's because they're the only ones left, then you have a Teenage Wasteland on your hands.
— Nightcrawler, X-Men
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- In Now and Then, Here and There, King Hamdo has an army of them he kidnapped from neighbouring villages that he sacrifices without a second thought.
- In Valvrave the Liberator we get two kinds of this. On the heroes side are the pilots of the titular mecha, who are all high schoolers who had no combat experience before they began fighting to defend their home and their lives. They range in age from 15 to 17. On the bad guys side, the nation of Dorssia has a base called the Karlstein Institute, where it trains soldiers at an early age. The Deuteragonist is a graduate who, at 17, has already established his reputation as a bad ass soldier. His fellow graduates are about that age, but the youngest one is Q-Vier, a total Blood Knight who treats killing and war as a game.
- Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!. By the start of the series, Sousuke's 16 years old and has been fighting for his whole life, having been raised as a mujaheddin in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. This is apparently Truth in Television, which is why many child soldiers are from the Middle East in anime. Gundam 00 also uses this and Black Lagoon made a reference to it.
- Sagara had actually been a soldier before that. He was actually sent to kill a guerilla leader at age 8 after being trained as an assassin by the KGB, but failed and joined the arabic leader's troops. He was brought to Russia by Kallinin, who legally adopted him when he and toddler-Sagara were the only survivors of a plane crash, and introduced him to military life. Kallinin later deserting the KGB also to join sides with Sousuke, further training him in the art of war at still tender ages.
- In the novels, it's mentioned that Gauron himself was one of these: he was fighting for the Khmer Rouge by at least age 12, and probably earlier.
- Sousuke's former comrade, Zaied is also an example, and unlike Sousuke, is played horribly straight, having grown up into an Empty Shell Sociopathic Soldier, who seems to lack all social contact, drive and ambition. It makes him a dangerous antagonist and Evil Counterpart to Sousuke.
- Sousuke would fit somewhere between the Talented and Tragic variants of this trope. Sousuke is not exactly traumatized by his experiences, but his perspective of the world is fundamentally altered. This leads to a lot of the comedy and drama in the series. For example Sousuke believes in a non-lethal version of Violence Is the Only Option, leading to him suggesting ending harmless squabbles with knockout gas or tasers.
- Divergence Eve has Kotoko-01, though since she's an android it may or may not count.
- Gundam, even discounting judicious use of Falling into the Cockpit, has a lot of this, starting with 16-year-old Amuro Ray.
- The pilots in Gundam Wing were all 15 at the start of the series, but the most extreme case is Trowa, who (according to Episode Zero) was picked up by mercenaries after spending the first few years of his life completely alone, and thus has been a soldier since before he was able to talk. The show's protagonist Heero has many similarities to Sousuke Sagara (mentioned above) such that many consider Sousuke to be an Expy.
- Setsuna F. Seiei in Gundam 00 was brainwashed by and fought for religious extremists in the Middle East some years younger than ten. Being sixteen in the series proper, he's still older than most Gundam teen leads: Usso Eving in Victory Gundam is the youngest Gundam pilot at 13.
- And for Usso, it speaks of how children are forced to fight. While all teenagers in real life would want to pilot a giant robot and crush all the adults. Imagine if it was a tank, and you don't even got your driving license... real scary thought.
- Indeed, a Zanscare pilot that Usso downs shoots himself when he sees how old Usso is, because he can't bear to live in a world where children so young are made into soldiers.
- In Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny the same thing applies with most of the main cast, heroic and antagonistic being in their teens. Although in this case, most of the child soldiers actually volunteered to fight for their countries; many of them soon realized that they bit off far more than they could chew, though.
- The Extendeds as well. They even had to go through torture and abuse in their training as children, in order to be molded into soldiers that surpass the Coordinators.
- Most blatant example: Gundam ZZ's Elpeo Puru. A ten year old Newtype girl trained for combat in a prototype war machine, mentally conditioned to focus on the pilot of the Gundam (this backfired: she focused on him all right, but her obsession became affection and she only wanted to be his little sister). Then it's revealed that they cloned her at least a dozen times and treated the resultant girls as equipment rather than people, nothing more than pilots who were to obey their commander and fight whomever he ordered. Unicorn shows one of the clones having survived to adulthood, and it wasn't a good time for her.
- Decil Galette of Gundam AGE is one of the most revoltingly evil examples of this ever created, being a seven-year old boy who joined the army because it gave him the chance to kill people. By the Second Generation he's more or less grown up into an expy of Ali Al-Saachez and Yazan "I'm gonna violate you" Gable, the franchise's two defining Psychos For Hire. On the other side, we also have the third generation's protagonist, Kio Asuno, whose grandfather (first protagonist Flit Asuno) raised practically from birth to pilot the Gundam AGE 3 and continue his bloody vendetta against the Vegans.
- This is basically the entire concept of Naruto, where the main characters, at the start, are twelve years old and already sent into occasionally life-threatening missions. To the authors immense credit, the series does not shy away from this. The fact that they are ninja and they're accompanied by more experienced ones helps, a little, but tough cookies if you watch your family die before you one night, or have to leave your teammate to die. The trope is played with rather interestingly, as the series of messiah-like characters see this trope as a major part of the problem with the whole ninja system in general, which they seek to fundamentally change or end (most fail, but they leave the world a little bit better every time as well).
- This story without a doubt fits this trope, as Naruto, as of the gradually building climax-arc of the series, is the savior and prophet everyone is relying on to save the day. Naruto himself grew into the role of Messianic Archetype not by destiny or conscious choice, but because of the various events and realities of his live, and the choices he made eventually culminating in a person and reputation that effectively becomes messianic. In a sense, the Upbringing Makes the Hero combines with several wise mentors passing on their full or partially messianic philosophies onto Naruto, who sees the reality of the world around him and puts two and two together.
- Some characters start even younger, as Kakashi graduated at the age of 5, became a Chunin at 6, and by 13, was a Jonin who would have died on several occasions if not for his teammate Rin's medical ninjutsu. Itachi saw consequences of war at 4, graduated at 7, Chunin at 10, ANBU at 11 and ANBU Captain at 13, at which point he massacres his entire family and clan in an apparent fit of madness (and psychologically tortures his surviving 8 year old brother for good measure); its later revealed that he did this UNDER ORDERS because they were plotting a rebellion after being wrongly blamed (mostly) for the demon attack that kicked off the story.
- For that matter, Naruto and Gaara both had demons stuck into them at birth; in the case of Gaara, this was done with the express purpose of turning him into a supernatural child soldier- he was later deemed unstable (surprise, surprise) prompting his own father to try and fail kill him. And Gaara was still expected to work for him and his ninja village. The actual circumstances are a bit more complex and sympathetic, but still pretty bad.
- Seen in horrific detail in Hashirama's time. See "Just Plain Tragic" entry. Notably, young characters are explicitly referred to as child soldiers in this flashback, and it is mentioned their parents can't see the problem with this because they were raised as child soldiers as well, as were their parents and going on back generations.
- Also the Chunin Exams. The surface idea is that it promotes friendship and peace between the nations, and allows future clients to see the fighting strength of each village. However, it is revealed that the Exams are essentially a replacement for full-out battle between the nations, with the Genin of the villages as the soldiers, showcasing their village’s political strength.
- Most of the Konoha 12 are under 17 when they enter the Fourth Shinobi World War. The generation before them was equally unfortunate: they were around 13 when they were thrown into war. And not all of them made it out, either.
- Eureka Seven: Eureka, for her prodigious skill in piloting the Nirvash, becomes its pilot, and Renton, who decides to co-pilot it to protect Eureka. Naturally, reality hits him hard when he figures out that by piloting, he's become a soldier with extreme skill in killing. The series makes a major plot point of this, exploring what really happens when children pilot Humongous Mecha.
- The armed forces of the Space-Time Administration Bureau from Lyrical Nanoha doesn't seem to have a minimum age requirement. Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate become active members at the age of tennote and proceed to skyrocket through its ranks. Unlike most examples, the child soldiers of the series all join out of their own volition. (However, this is also a Boxed Crook arrangement, as these tend to be the opponents of previous seasons; and anyone not working for the TSAB is still in prison or at least confined to a frontier world.)
- Played more darkly in Runessa Magnus' backstory in StrikerS Sound Stage X. She fought in wars on her homeworld of Orussia, but was rescued by an NGO after being severely wounded at the age of 9.
- The young nuns (and probably priests/monks if there are any) from the Saint Church are Warrior Monks and are also known as knights. Though, not as active than the main bureau, the church is a part of the TSAB, and the nuns have to protect people (especially the important ones), and they can assist the TSAB divisions as reinforcement. Though, the only sister we've ever seen who actually fought along with the TSAB was Schach Nouera who is apparently a young adult.
- Though Younger Than They Look (though, there is one who is Older Than She Looks), most of the Numbers had bodies of teenagers when they were engaged with the Jail Scaglietti Incident. While Uno, Due and Tre are biologically in their mid- and early twenties, the oldest of teenager was officially 16, while most of the others are either 14 or 13. However, it seems that the Numbers don't age like the Type-0 prototypes, as Tre, Quattro and Cinque looked exactly the same as in the Combat Cyborg Incident eight years ago, and they would be 12, 6 and 8 respectively, but they didn't look like.
- Duel Academy students in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX — what do you expect when your weapon is a children's collectible card game? This doesn't stop their principal from feeling terrible about putting the fate of the world in the hands of teenagers.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V takes a long and hard look at this trope in regards to the franchise. Unlike many other series, it shows the realistic effects of putting regular teenagers in life and death situations. With many having either been heavily indoctrinated into becoming sociopaths (both on the antagonist side and the protagonist side) or are slowly being broken due to the stress.
- Major Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist earned his commission in Amestris' State Military at the tender age of twelve.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Mana Tatsumiya is (supposedly) 14/15 years old, but has been fighting in various trouble spots around the world since her childhood. Her old Pactio card actually shows her, around 10 years old, with Desert Eagles Akimbo.
- There's also Nagi, Negi's legendary hero of a father. The big war in the Magic World started when he was only around 13, and in the Magic World, if you're strong enough, you could fight in wars even if you're just 12 or 13. Nagi being...well, invincible, he ended the war on his own. At age 15.
- The cadets of the esteemed Ariadne Battle Maiden Knight Squad, which Yue Ayase managed to become a part of.
- In fact, the entire class (including the teacher!) that wasn't left behind counts, save the ghost Sayo. Setsuna has been a bodyguard or training in Shinmeiryuu techniques since childhood.
- Fate's haremettes also can be seen as this.
- In Strike Witches, all but two of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing's Witches are children, the youngest being only 12 (the two oldest are, appropriately enough, the commander and her second in command). Justified somewhat in that most magic users are teenage girls anyway, and the fact their magic gets weaker the older they get. So by 20 they are decommissioned from service.
- InuYasha: Sango is a highly trained and skilled demon hunter at age 16, with it being implied that she first started doing so when she was 11.
- The main cast of Sky Girls are in their teens, the youngest only 15 years old. This is justified by 90% of the male population between 20 and 30 being dead in due to a war against an alien enemy.
- Mostly averted (both ways) in Gundam SEED Astray's Kazahana Aja. Although she is an official member of the Serpent Tail mercenary group at the tender age of six, she's only the team's civilian liason, and thus is generally a non-combatant (Plus, her mother is part of the group, too). Her report at the end of X Astray is a bit of a Tear Jerker, however.
- Played straight and subverted by Zettai Karen Children, where the psychic children are used more or less as soldiers, but the organization doing so still treats them like children and tries very hard to provide for a healthy upbringing for them.
- GunBuster has a bunch of high-school kids charged with piloting the Humongous Mecha which will defend the Earth. In fact, the early parts play out more like a sports movie as competitors vie to get "on the team".
- The Shinigami in Bleach permit recruits to join up while still biologically children so long as they can meet the entrance requirements. Of course, Shinigami are all Really 700 Years Old, but Ise Nanao, Ichimaru Gin, Hitsugaya Toshiro, and Kusajishi Yachiru were VERY young by Soul Society standards and still often acted childish or immature. Yachiru is still a child in the current timeline, as is Toushirou—and he's the 10th squad captain.
- In One Piece, during Donquixote Doflamingo's speech about justice during the Marineford Arc, when he gets to his "Children who never knew peace" part, we see a couple of these.
- Yu Ominae from the anime/manga series Spriggan, was "recruited" (read: kidnapped) into a secret U.S. government black ops unit called COSMOS sometime after his archaeologist parents were killed in Iran. Considering he's no older than 16-17 by present day in the series (he's a high school student), this means he was likely taken around the age of 10.
- COSMOS (Children of Soldier Machine Organic System) was filled out with children kidnapped by the CIA from around the world. They are brainwashed, have their names replaced by a number and given extensive special forces training. To give some perspective as to the results of this training, Yu, after freeing himself from COSMOS' brainwashing, is considered to be one of the deadliest special agents alive in the world of Spriggan. Most of their missions involve classic black ops missions like assassination, artifact retrieval and covert infiltration.
- In the manga Jormungand, the character Jonah is a child soldier and is a prolific fighter, who has been hired by a arms dealer. Even though he's on par with the other highly trained fighters, he's also mentally fragile and hates weapons and his reliance on them. Before serving Koko as a bodyguard, he served in the Mountain Division and saw action against the Russians. Prior to the series, he had single-handedly wiped out an entire mountain base as retribution for his friend Malka being forced to walk across a minefield to clear it. Needless to say, his personality disturbs the other adult mercenaries but they have since come to accept him.
- At the beginning of 9 Banme no Masashi the titular character is 16 and one of the top elite soldier in her secret paramilitary organization.
- Most of the main cast in Kagerou-Nostalgia, with Kazuma Shudo, a 14-year old, PTSD-ing mercenary being the straightest example.
- Some, if not all of the Spider Riders are ages twelve to thirteen. For pete's sake, Princess Sparkle is only eight!
- In Sound of the Sky, the oldest member of the 1121st Helvetian Tank Platoon is 18 years old. The youngest is 14.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- Son Gohan is forced to fight his uncle at age 4, thwart an alien invasion at age 5, fight a war against a galactic overlord a couple months later, endure copious Training from Hell, and then fight an insanely powerful monster (who proceeds to beat him to a pulp and kill his father) when, even taking into consideration Year Inside, Hour Outside training, he was but 11. Yes, he does show some signs of PTSD when he grows up.
- You can't forget Vegeta who was enslaved at age 5 to the same Galactic Overlord who killed his father, destroyed his race, and blew up his planet.
- The days-old infant Kakarrot was sent to Earth with the expectation that his first full moon transformation into a Great Ape would be enough to exterminate the weakling inhabitants of this backwater mud ball. This was standard procedure for Saiyans, so they're basically an entire race of Child Soldiers.
- In Dragon Ball Minus Raditz is consider a warrior out helping Vegeta take over worlds, despite being no more than 5 or 7. The same with Vegeta. Although Goku isn't sent to destroy Earth, it isn't unusual for Frontier Babies to be sent out when they're no more than 3.
- Goten and Trunks were expected to fight and defeat Majin Buu using the Fusion Dance when they were 7 and 8. Although, it wasn't like the Earth had anyone left to fight Buu at that point.
- Downplayed in Date A Live. Due to the fact that the talent to use the Realizer is very rare, the Anti Spirit Team(AST) has to take child recruits. All the ones seen so far in combat are orphans and generally very good. Their mission is to exterminate the Spirits, but that turns out to mean "bug them till they leave on their own". Downplayed that everyone heads to shelters when an incomming spirit is detected, the AST can 't really hurt the Spirits, and the spirits themselves don't try all that hard to fight back. So all that really happens is property damage most of the time. When they do get a spirit angry enough it tends to go poorly for them.
- Class 3-E in Assassination Classroom is a variation of the trope. First, they are training to be assassins, not traditional soldiers. Second, their trainers/teachers actually goes out their way to ensure the children can have a normal life (well, as normal as the situation they are in can allow).
- Sephira Fiore from Il Sole penetra le Illusioni begins drafting the card holder when their power starts to awaken, which can begin at the tender age of ten, possibly younger.
- The main cast in Soul Eater are all members of the combat-orientated class, and later an elite unit, because they all show exceptional prowess as meisters and Weapons, whether through natural talent, learned skill, or being Death the Kid. While they are established as being in the minority among the students, they are not the first; flashbacks show their teachers being in a similar position.
- Most of COSMOS in Mother Keeper appear to be teenagers when we first see them, including Ricalna.
- Rurouni Kenshin: note
- Kenshin was 14 when he ran away from his master to join the rebellion. In this case, it would be underage enlistment rather than conscription.
- Aoshi, at least, of the Oniwabanshuu. He was a protector of Edo Castle strong enough to fight Shikijo into submission by 13, and presumably would have killed him if he had declined to switch sides. He then became leader of them at 15.
- In Unlimited Fafnir, Yuu and the girls at the Midgar school are still teenagers, and are forced to take down the dragons plaguing humanity due to having much more power than even the military.
- Attack on Titan: Due to the army's appallingly high mortality rate, its minimum recruitment age is twelve.
- Even more so with Reiner, Annie and Bertolt, who (as mentioned above) destroyed the Walls and infiltrated the human ranks at the ages of ten and eleven, the heavy implication being they were trained from a very young age.
- Members of Border in World Trigger are recruited as early as twelve(one branch has an unofficial five-year-old, but it's clear he doesn't come anywhere near a fight). Justified in-universe by the fact that Trion glands grow during puberty, so you have to train most Trion users as preteens/teenagers to develop them to useful levels. In neighborhood, infants with potential are drafted into the military and are modified to make them more powerful. However, in both worlds, the best combatants tend to be adults because it takes years to build the necessary skills and experience.
- Panzer World Galient: Jordy Volder, not that the circumstances give him much of a choice in the matter: the Big Bad conquered his father's kingdom and was gradually taking over the whole planet, forcing him to learn how fighting. In addition, he's the only person capable to pilot the titular Humongous Mecha.
- The heroes of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer range from the elderly (the Master) down to late elementary school (Akane Taiyou), with nearly half of them below the age of 18. And people do die in the secret war they're fighting. It helps that the heroes mostly aren't fighting other people, but instead golems, but there are a handful of reasons that all but force some of the good guys to be kids: the small pool of potential heroes as they need to not have a Weirdness Censor, the need for the heroes to come from a fairly small area (and thus even more limited population) so they can work together, and the important (to the working of the heroes' powers) symbolism of the Earth being defended by everyone no matter their age - the adults protecting their legacies and current lives, and the children fighting for their futures. Some of the most powerful combatants were the middle school girls Subaru and Yuki because while everyone else fought with their own style, those two fought together.
- Really this is what Captain America's sidekick Bucky was.
- And let's not forget, the eponymous BOY wonder, Robin and his successors. (Especially in Frank Miller's All-Star Batman & Robin.)
- And, in a sense, Batman himself. He dedicated his life from childhood to fight a war on crime... he hasn't been a kid since he was eight years old. The distinction being, of course, that he did this willingly and also didn't actually fight crime until adulthood.
- Cassandra Cain may not have ever been a Robin, but before becoming Batgirl, she spent the first eight years of her life training as an assassin and the next eight on the run..
- Xavin the Super Skrull in training from Runaways thinks of herself like this, but based on the flashbacks to his training on her homeworld it seems like he has never really seen combat and only undergone Super Skrull basic training.
- Hit Girl from Kick-Ass is a strange case, because not only is she aware of her status as this, but she's far more capable than the 16 year old title character. Also, in a realistic twist on the trope, the bad guys have absolutely no problem with trying to kill her. The two most heinous examples are when they shoot her in the back with "a hundred bullets" (which she recovered from) and whacking her in the head with a meat hammer. To be fair, however, she had already done much, much worse to them. After her father gets killed, Kick-Ass helps her track down her mother, and she goes back to a normal life like nothing bad ever happened. The first issue of Volume 2 shows her continuing to train Kick-Ass, keeping a small army's worth of firepower hidden in her bedroom, and being thoroughly bored with civilian life. So her normal life is probably going to just be a temporary blip.
- In the movie, her mother is really dead, so she returns to a normal life - probably devoid of bullies, but that's a detail - with just Dave as a guardian.
- X23 from the X-Men was artificially created to be a perfect killing machine, this meant learning to kill from birth on and being send on messy assassinations by the age of 12.
- Metaphorically Marrow was also a child soldier. Being forced to kill fellow Morlocks in order to survive and being indoctrinated to hate normal humans for no apparent reason.
- This is the source of Captain America's opposition to Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe.
- And even moreso with Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man, who is even younger.
- The Muties story "Arrested Development" is about an African boy who is kidnapped by a Joseph Kony expy named the Reverend and forced to become a child soldier. The stress of this triggers the development of his mutant ability to manipulate time, which he ultimately employs to get his revenge on the Reverend.
- A particularly ridiculous version is the Star Trek fanfiction series about Marissa Picard, in which a twelve-year-old is given command of the Enterprise saucer section, and does so well with it that she is permanently promoted to Ensign (not acting, like Wesley Crusher at 16). She starts up a "Kids' Crew" organization that is a shadow government for starships, in which children, none of whom seem to be over 12, can take over the running of a ship if its senior crew are incapacitated. Their ranks are acting, but so long as they're still 'activated' they can tell any properly commissioned officer what to do. Few of the adults over whose heads they jump seem to mind, and those that do quite reasonably resent it are depicted as idiots.
- By way of comparison, in TNG, there was a "cadet crew" made up of some of the teens and older pre-teens, but their activities were realistically limited. The only time they actually did anything "for real" was during an exceptionally severe shipwide emergency where everyone available was needed. Even then, they were limited to doing what they'd actually learned.
- In Exoria, Hylian Joint Intelligence is revealed to have hijacked the Spencer Welfare Program, an initiative designed to raise and educate orphaned children so they can serve the government when then grow up. Joint Intelligence keeps tabs on the program to search for candidates for the intelligence agency, and provide them underage military training covertly. Agent Link became an exceedingly young agent of Joint Intelligence this way. On one hand, Link doesn't seem to be too badly off with this upbringing, but Princess Zelda clearly disapproves, and, given the story's narrative slant, it's too early to tell how this will come back to bite Link in the ass.
- In The Mad Scientist Wars, Commander Primary Xerox, head of The Men in Black-style organization M is somewhere between the two types. Up until the age of ten he was trained along with other children to be an assassin, and sent to kill Mad Scientists. On one hand, he has amazing reflexes and a great deal of weapon training, but on the other hand The guilt of his only mostly repressed memories has haunted his adult life, and he's never really recovered from the emotional stress. And he has the body of a Jaded Vet to go along with his mentality.
- Played for drama (obviously - it is a Bokurano concept applied to ponies) in Our Equestria - a group of children gets tricked into Falling into the Cockpit. It gets From Bad to Worse from there.
- Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Discounting the pilots themselves, Shinji has the "Gretch," an entire army of young children to do his bidding by passing messages, spying on the whole city, and performing various missions for him. Unfortunate Implications avoided by the fact that these missions are rarely very dangerous. Justified because no one notices them just hanging around.
- Fauna considers the Titans to be this, and hasn't much respect for the JLA (or Doom Patrol) as a result. She also finds it very disquieting to see the Titans' children so eager to follow in their parents' footsteps. She keeps her opinion mostly to herself to avoid offending her teammates, only confessing it to Troia, who tried to justify it. It still makes her seriously question the ethics of choosing a caped hero's life.
- Tabitha, as portrayed in the The Familiar of Zero fics Points Of Familiarity and The Hill of Swords, is one by dint of her Evil Uncle sending her on impossible missions in the hope of getting her killed. She persists in disappointing him.
- Deconstructed during the Tamers Forever Series
"What am I supposed to do now?" Henry whispered. His body let go of itself and Henry fell right next to the immense rookie Digimon."I know what they want me to do…they want me to just jump to the front line and take my friends to battle, as if we were soldiers willing to die for our country. Besides, they think it's so easy…that in the end, Daemon will be defeated, just like D-Reaper and the Nightmare."The sound of Henry's fist crashing against the floor covered Jeri's gasp."Of course! If the kids do it, it's because it's easy, right?"
- Kakashi's Kid, a Naruto fic, has one of the genius's children as the narrator. She has no hopes of leading a nonviolent life, especially if her mother is indeed an Uzumaki.
- Also from Naruto,Spider Thread has the main trio becoming ninja at a very young age.
- Again, this is a major premise of Naruto, so it naturally comes up in the Justice League crossover Connecting The Dots. The principled Justice League is horrified to discover there is a whole dimension of child assassins, even though Flash points out that the League employs plenty of teenagers.
- Digimon Clone Wars introduces the Red Ribbon Army (not to be mistaken with the one form Dragon Ball), a terror organization lead by Davis, who consists entirely out of the cloned children of the other Digidestineds. Taken up to eleven by the fact, that some of those children are not even two years old. The sad thing is, the author actually thinks Davis is a good guy, despite that and expects us, to root for him.
- The Cutie Mark Crusaders officially become ones in chapter 16 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. To their credit, they actually want to fight the griffins and they helped in defending Ponyville ealier.
- Darklanders that serve as Ungoliant's soldiers are inclined to be teenagers and young adults. Individuals older than twenty-six are relatively uncommon.
- In Boys Do Tankary, several of the characters have actual military experiene despite not being older than the Girls und Panzer cast. Nyra is 12, her crew consists of several teenage girls. On the more extreme side, Vincent was six when he entered the army, and he and Gage were seven when they got leadership of their own platoons. While the war is portrayed fairly disturbingly, the implications it would have on the kids are not fully explored, although Vincent and Gage are driven to drink by a series of events that resulted in Nyra's death or so they thought at the time.
- It was the plot of Toys. Kids are trained to fly military drones by arcade machines, unwittingly turning themselves into child soldiers.
- Star Wars
- The Clone Troopers are considered combat ready at age ten, though they go through accelerated aging and look twenty.
- You also have the Jedi. Who are sent out into the field at fourteen or younger, looking, fourteen or younger, to chop people's arms off with unstoppable laser swords.
- The film adaptation of Voyage Of The Dawn Treader starts out with a teenage Edmund lying about his age to try and enlist to fight in World War II. Unfortunately, the recruiting officer can tell he's underage and turns him down. Apparently, Edmund's tried multiple times and is becoming increasingly frustrated.
- The Italian-produced World War II film Hornets' Nest involves a group of Italian children taking up arms against the Nazis after their parents are massacred by the SS. A little on the unrealistic side, with untrained kids mowing down countless Nazis left and right, it can't quite seem to decide if it wants to show war as an adventure or as a grim reality with tragic psychological tolls that come with children becoming killers, and its efforts to have it both ways leave it feeling a bit disjointed.
- Taps: Seen during a standoff between the cadets at a military school for boys and the Army. All of the cadets are teenagers or younger and are handling live weapons.
- In The Book of Life, Joaquin becomes a part of General Posada's army at the age of 10. Somewhat justified given how the other recruits weren't exactly strong and Joaquin showed promise (mostly due to the Medal of Everlasting Life).
- The main characters in Barely Lethal are girls trained since they are little kids to be badass assassins, but apparently don’t go into the field until they’re teenagers.
- "The Kid" from the second and third Matrix movies enlists in Zion's defense forces despite being too young. After bluffing about his age and getting busted, he argues that "the machines don't care how old I am" and the officer reluctantly agrees to let him join up.
- The titular character of Mulan is sixteen when she is sent off to war. Her father was the one who was meant to, but due to his physical disabilities Mulan ran off dressed as a boy.
Live Action TV
- Battlestar Galactica (1978): "The Young Lords".
At the bridge the youngest daughter—drops tin cans into the water
- Frasier: Frasier and Niles' Greek aunt Zora.
Niles: Have you forgotten that when Hitler invaded Greece, she joined the partisans so she could strangle Nazis?Frasier: I have never believed that. She would have been five at the time.Niles: That's why the legend says they were strangled with jump ropes.
- Power Rangers Turbo: Justin Stewart, the Blue Ranger.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Nog is a sci-fi version of Plucky Middie.
- The Jem'hadar are a race engineered to fight for the Dominion, and to grow to adult size very rapidly. One seasoned veteran spoke with pride of how he'd attained the ripe old age of eight. Being 20 means you're an Honored Elder.
- Firefly: River is adorable, despite being a solider. Luckily, Simon was able to save her from the ominous Academy so she has a chance to be helped, and he would never let The Academy threaten her safety. Ever.
- American Odyssey: A teenage boy named Aslam is given a gun and told to guard Odelle, the prisoner. It's implied he already knows how to use the weapon.
- Edilio trains them in Gone.
- The kid from the Ender's Game series. And, to an only slightly lesser extent, the majority of characters in that series (or at least the first book). To be more specific, the International Fleet is not looking for more Cannon Fodder. They need capable commanders for the upcoming Third Invasion. The idea is that children are too young to fully understand and agonize over sending soldiers to their deaths. They are also more flexible (mentally) and can learn to think like the enemy.
- Many characters in Fiona Patton's Tales of the Branion Realm, justified by the medieval setting. Crosses over with Enfante Terrible in some cases.
- King Matt and friends from Janush Korczak's "King Matt the First" where the pre-teen king also institutes a children's parliament. It ends in a complete, brutally realistic ruin for his country.
- The eponymous witches in the short story "Witch War" by Richard Matheson. Young girls with magical powers who use them as weapons in a WWII setting. And it's very disturbing.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Peter and Edmund in the first two books (and Susan in the films); Jill and Eustace in The Last Battle.
- The War Against the Chtorr. With most of the world population killed off by alien plagues, anyone old enough to fight the alien invaders is conscripted into the military.
- In Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds, one of the two major human factions in the setting, the Polity, used genetically engineered, nanotechnology enhanced child-soldiers against the other major faction, the United States of Near Earth, in a war some time before the beginning of the novel. They later show up in the course of the novel, as part of a rogue Polity group which is attempting to destroy the book's MacGuffin. They are described as being particularly hard to fight because of human instincts and their own extreme skill and small size.
- Massively subverted in John Scalzi's Old Man's War series - While normally only Earth's elderly are recruited into the Colonial Defence Forces (their bodies get replaced), Special Forces soldiers are created from the DNA of recruits who die before they can be transferred to a new body. As a result they are fully mature adults who are emotionally and socially retarded, which helps them perform their jobs. In The Ghost Brigades one SF soldier notes that a dead child they encounter on a wildcat colony is twice as old as two of them put together, leading him to conclude that "it's a fucked up universe".
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet the Commander of the Academy talks briefly of taking these young men and changing them forever. Even those who eventually drop out will find civilian life foreign to them. Robert A. Heinlein graduated from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis at the age of 22. He may know what he's talking about.
- In the Seafort Saga the radiation associated with FTL travel means you must join the Navy as a child so your body acclimatises to it as you grow up; otherwise you risk cancer. The protagonist finds himself commanding a ship for several years, starting at the age of 17. Later he is Commander of the Naval Academy and must send the academy cadets on suicide missions to defend Earth.
- In the short story by Harry Harrison, War With The Robots, the command staff are all teenagers as anyone older lacks the reflexes and flexibility of mind needed to fight the war. They retire after four or five years.
- In Yellow Eyes, Panama is forced to recruit children as soldiers to defend itself from the Posleen. It avoids becoming a Moral Event Horizon because it is clearly portrayed as a desperation move against the Posleen, who would have killed and eaten the children anyway if they weren't stopped. Also, the children are rarely used as front-line soldiers, instead they are used primarily for supply and logistics work in order to free up adults to fight in the front lines.
- Most of Redwall's main heroes are the rodentine equivalent of about twelve to fifteen years old.
- The Honor Harrington novels have an inversion of sorts, where due to the effects of Prolong (a lifespan-increasing treatment), freshly graduated soldiers will often still look like
preteensyoung teenagers—but are actually in their thirties or forties. This produces some dissonance when they meet societies that haven't had access to the treatment.
- The Tomorrow Series is about a group of teens (exact age not specified, though they're still in school) who inadvertently become guerilla soldiers when their country (Australia) is invaded while they're out camping.
- The whole Harry Potter series is about kids getting caught up in their elders' war and recruited/forced to fight in it in various capacities. This is an instance of "Precociously Talented Type" and "Just Plain Tragic Type" combined.
- Ditto for the Percy Jackson series. Neither side thinks twice about recruiting and training to fight demigods as young as ten years old. Percy himself fights his first battles at age twelve, Annabeth fights hers only seven. Somewhat justified because monsters are constantly out to kill them, eat them, or both, so knowing how to fight is a requirement for any demigod to survive.
- Bitter Seeds has a team of Nazi child psychic soldiers.
- David Westheimer's alternate history novel about a 1945 invasion of Japan features a Japanese schoolteacher leading his his malnourished class against American tanks. Tragically, it's implied that the teacher is so fanatical that he ignores his charges' youthful status; at one point the night before the attack, he hears children sobbing and debates whether or not to order his 'troops' to look for them. When they do rush the American tanks with inadequate satchel charges, the US tankers are briefly surprised, thinking they are being attacked by midgets, then open fire and kill them all.
- Rana Sanga's son Rajiv in the Belisarius Series was being groomed to be a quite formidable Warrior Prince while still a teenager. However his father certainly intended that he be allowed to grow up before seeing actual combat and he only participates in war in the series because of an attempt to murder his family while his father is away on campaign.
- In Who Fears Death this is part of Mwita's background.
- A subversion is found in the Philip K. Dick novel The Counter-Clock World where aging reversed decades ago, and there's a commando squad of elderly soldiers who are now the size of small children and infants.
- In A Brother's Price, the Whistler family's grandmothers were all soldiers-turned-thieves-turned-spies, and they passed a great deal on to their descendents. When a shot rings out near the house while their mothers and older and middle sisters are out, leaving no one older than twelve save for a brother, they get themselves inside, younger siblings and boy first, older ones "doing a slower rear guard, scanning over their shoulders for lost siblings or strangers." The twelve-year-old girl goes with her soldier training to give orders, and little girls work in teams to load rifles and guard the windows. However, they never actually have to see action—a captain advises her princess to keep back, she doesn't want to have to execute an eight-year-old for shooting her—and said princess is later horrified at the thought of the little girls riding out with her after some smugglers. They want to come, but their elder sisters won't let them.
- In Stone King, youths as young as twelve are conscripted into the Japan Self-Defense Force's Titan Corps.
- As part of the BattleTech Expanded Universe, seveal novels mention child mechwarriors: Several 15-16 year olds in the second Grey Death mercenary's novel are piloting mechs; Later Draconis Combine hero Shin Yodama is mentioned as carrying demolition charges through culverts at the age of 14.
- The Spirit Animals series has an interestingly Justified example. When the four eleven-year-old heroes establish bonds with the Physical Gods known as the Four Fallen, the Greencloaks are forced to send them into battle immediately, because the Devourer is moving right then and only the Four Fallen have a chance of stopping them.
- Also a specific example when one of the four kids, a girl named Meilin, offers to champion the party in a ritual duel. Naturally, the grown-ups assume she's off her head, until she explains that she's been trained in this world's version of kung-fu since she was five.
- The Candy Shop War justifies this trope. Magic in the universe has an in-built Catch-22 Dilemma: Magic works best when you are young, but takes so long to learn that by the time you can do magic you've lost the power. Thus, the villains manipulate children into doing their dirty work.
- In The Red Vixen Adventures when Alinadar was six her family was killed and she was enslaved by the vicious pirate Bloody Margo. As soon as she could hold a rifle she was sent out with the boarding parties. At her trial historical precedent for child soldiers is brought up and she is exonerated of the crimes she committed as a minor, but not those acts of piracy from her service with the much less domineering Red Vixen as an adult.
- In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society novel Fall of Heroes, Carla tells Lone Star that having a sidekick was bad enough; to let the teenagers fight is this trope.
- Journey to Chaos: The Dragon's Lair mercenary company has a reconstructed version of this trope. It accepts new members as young as ten years old but only as apprentices, and only part time. The vast bulk of their missions are harmless chores like painting someone's shop or collecting medical ingredients, because they are still in training. They don't go on missions with any danger until they have sufficient practice and even then their adult mentor is the one expected to do the heavy fighting. They won't be real soldiers until they have demonstrated both the maturity and the combat skill to handle being a real soldier. In other words, when they are no longer children.
- The citizens of the planet Cadia in Warhammer 40,000 are trained from birth for combat, mainly because their planet is parked right outside a Negative Space Wedgie that leads straight to hell, and frequently spews forth the Legions of Hell. The birth rate and recruitment rate is the same thing. Their soldiers enter combat as part of the youth army, the "Whiteshields," at age 13. They only get promoted to the full army by earning a medal. And they are badass. A common saying is that any Cadian who can't field-strip his own lasgun by the age of ten was born on the wrong planet.
- Similarly, Catachans. Their homeworld is basically "if Australia was a jungle" in terms of Everything Trying to Kill You, and three quarters of the children don't even make it to adulthood. Those who do? The Catachan Devils are armies made entirely of Ramboes if they'd been cast in Predator.
- Stormtroopers, Commissars and Sisters of Battle are trained in military orphanages from very early age. While they usually don't see combat until graduation, their training includes shooting at live targets, usually at convicts.
- Space Marines, due to the requirements of their implants, are inducted into the chapter at around the onset of puberty, and the entry requirements make sure they must be well-versed in the act of war before they're even considered. Their transformation into full-fledged Space Marines isn't complete by the time they're seeing battle as part of the chapter's Scout Company. That said, said Scouts are usually in their early thirties by then.
- As in so many other things, Space Wolves are the exception. They take in valorous young men on the brink of death, usually in their twenties (leading the population of their planet Fenris to see their order as a Warrior Heaven in itself, but that is neither here nor there). Although we're never given figures on the success rate, the wisdom of this is uncertain; when Leman Russ was found by the Emperor, his associates all volunteered to become Space Marines, and over half died from implant rejection. On the other hand, few of them were young in any way, and several were downright elderly.
- This crops up in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution. Psionic powers often manifest in adolescence and young adulthood, but can occur in childhood. Just because you’re 7, it doesn’t mean you’re too young to join, be press-ganged, or sold into a conspiracy.
- The premise of Bliss Stage is that the only people left who can fight the Alien Invasion are teenagers.
- A number of races in Warhammer Fantasy do this as well. Dark Elves begin training the moment they are strong enough to pick up a sword or spear. All Bretonian knights start off as a Knight Errant. Once the young knights have proven their worth in the field of battle, they are knighted and receive a small plot of land to rule.
- Given to the nature of Bretonnia to that of Medieval Feudal Europe, it is assumable the Knights Errant are actually young boys ages 13 to 17. Needless to say, they die a lot.
- In the d20 Modern Sourcebook D20 Apocalypse, kids as young as 12 can be adventurers (explorers, scavengers, and other people who constantly brave the post apocalypse world). While they are not soldiers, given how hostile the post apocalypse world is, they might as well be. And the minimum age for law enforcement (vigilante, town militia...) is 15. Justified by the post apocalyptic setting, where people have to learn fast or die at the hand of raiders/mutated monsters/other.
- Sakura Wars: Nearly all of the members of the different combat Divisions shown in the series are, at the oldest, in their mid-to-late teens or early twenties, with Maria Tachibana being an established veteran of the Russian Civil War at only 19, and Leni Milchstrasse being part of a German Super Soldier project from a very young age. Iris, Coquelicot, and Rika/Rosita, however, take the cake, being only ten or eleven.
- Latooni, Seolla, Arado, and Princess Shine from Super Robot Wars Original Generation. The first three are Tykebombs, while the fourth is a princess who isn't technically enlisted, and is simply allowed to fight alongside the other heroes to protect her Kingdom.
- Also, Mihiro Ardygun in Super Robot Wars W, who co-pilots the Valhawk with her older brother (himself 16) at the age of 10. During the Time Skip, while her brother was missing, she took over piloting duties full-time. Though not a soldier officially, she does fight on behalf of a government organization that does include several soldiers, including the aforementioned child soldiers from Gundam Wing and Full Metal Panic!.
- In Halo, the Master Chief and his fellow Spartans started their grueling military training at age six, and have been kicking Covenant rear since they were fourteen. Their skills and reputation are such that the Covenant calls them "demons."
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx goes even further, with the SPARTAN-III program, which turned children into suicide super soldiers who went off to fight and die at around the age of twelve.
- 14-year-old Leo Stenbuck fell into the cockpit of Jehuty in Zone of the Enders, but continued to fight of his own free will as a part of the military afterwards, and is only 16 in the sequel.
- What's a young girl in a pretty white dress doing as one of the top three generals in Chrono Cross? At least you can say the other kids making up the party weren't inducted into the army, what with growing up in the streets as a thief, swinging an oar, fishing, or being abandoned in the woods at 3 with only an axe and the highest strength score in the game to survive.
- Some of the backstory for the Crusader games indicates the Silencer Corps (of whom the main character was a member) prospects are identified through mandatory testing on adolescents. It's also hinted that it's no so much physical prowess they're looking for as it is psychological suitability...
- In Sabres Of Infinity the Tierran army's minimum enlistment age for officers is 14, making the protagonist one if they so choose.
- In Valkyria Chronicles, Gallia has a policy of Universal Conscription, so military training is a part of general education and citizens as young as fifteen may be called up to serve. Moreover, the militia is known to have soldiers as young as twelve, although the girl in question enlisted voluntarily and required special permission to do so.
- Even worse, the little girl is a shocktrooper, the most durable and most damaging troop type in the game.
- Fallout 3, while not exactly soldiers the children who live in Little Lamplight are all well armed little nutjobs. You can even sell them guns, ammo, and drugs. And thermonuclear devices.
- In Final Fantasy VII, no one in the game seems to consider the idea of a fourteen year old Cloud Strife joining the Shinra Army unusual (Zack Fair also joined in a similarly young age). And then there's people like Sephiroth, Shelke, and Cissne who started their fighting careers as mere children, although not through any choice of their own.
- The SeeD in Final Fantasy VIII functions as a highly regarded military academy type institution and many students enter voluntarily. Students typically aren't taught in combat until their teens, and don't see actual combat outside of the training room until their graduation. Upon graduation, the SEED sometimes also work side jobs in policing duties and receive a regular salary.
- Also the underlying function of the SeeD is to be prepared to defend the world against an imprisoned evil sorcerer
- However see the below category to see the flip side of this.
- In Final Fantasy IX, we have Eiko, a White Mage girl who can use Summon Magic. She happens to be six years old and is the Sole Survivor of her tribe, apart from a bunch of Moogles, who keep her company. She is also Wise Beyond Her Years and not only understands the complexity of the world-threatening conflict when Zidane and his friends meet her, but willingly joins them to Save The World. The rest of the cast, while not nearly as young as Eiko, are also mostly teenagers and overall Final Fantasy IX has the youngest cast on average of any main game in the series.
- Fire Emblem has a few child characters, mostly thieves, Mages in training (and a few full fledged mages) and exiled royalty (often The Hero), or Manaketes who are Really 700 Years Old. Older ones around 16-17 are very common. The youngest lord is Roy of Fire Emblem 6, who was put in charge of an army initially consisting mainly of members who look barely older than him at age 15; but for units in general it is taken to extremes by Rolf and Mist, who are put on the battlefield as an archer and a healer, respectively, while looking barely 10 or 11 years old (well, Rolf at least; according to some sources, Mist is only a year younger than Ike, i.e. sixteen in Path of Radiance), and further by Nah of Fire Emblem Awakening, who, considering Manakete aging, must be around the physical age of an early elementary schooler at most, (but still has the maturity of someone much older).
- Ikari Warriors member Whip from The King of Fighters is only 16.
- She was also a Tyke Bomb, seperated from her brother K. Heidern really enjoys recruiting young girls for some reason.
- Grunt from Mass Effect 2 is a tank born krogan who is and acts like a child... by krogan standards. His major issue is that he is not only clanless but his "father" was hated by many krogan. In his case he's technically only a few days/weeks old in Mass Effect 2, but has the body of a krogan in late adolescence and had memories and knowledge downloaded into his brain.
- Quarians in the Mass Effect universe are frequently involved in combat before and during their Pilgrimage (their rite of passage into adulthood).
- Thane mentions training as an assassin since the age of six, with his first kill taking place when he was twelve
- Ayame from Tenchu counts, as she's only 14 during the events of Tenchu 2
- Spirits are raised from birth to be soldiers in Eien no Aselia. Birth doesn't appear to start at infancy for them, however.
- The Metal Gear franchise has Frank Jaeger a.k.a. Null a.k.a. Gray Fox a.k.a. the Cyborg Ninja. Although his exact age is unknown, he fought in the Mozambican War of Independence around the age of 7 or so. Armed only with a knife, he got his name by his method of killing: he deceived the enemy with "the frankness of a young boy" and moved in for the close kill. He was known as the 'Frank Hunter,' which became 'Frank Jaeger' because he could speak a little German. During the events of Portable Ops, his chronologically first appearance, Frank was still only a teenager when subjected to sensory deprivation treatment in order to make him the emotionless 'Perfect Soldier,' Null.
- And we have Raiden who became a child soldier in the Liberian Civil War thanks to Solidus, recieving the nicknames of "White Devil" and "Jack the Ripper". Having a combat rifle at age six, he became captain of a unit of child soldiers ("the Small Boy Unit") at age ten. Similarly, Solidus himself was also heavily implied to be in his teens when he participated in the war.
- Metal Gear Solid, the novelization, the Official Missions Handbook, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker also heavily imply that Solid and Liquid Snake were raised within the military from a very young age, at least since two years of age, in fact.
- In the original Freedom Force, both Liberty Lad and Sea Urchin are Child Soldiers themselves. There's a scene in which Man O' War feels uneasy about "putting the wee ones on the front line".
- Zig-Zagged in Tales of the Abyss. We have Tear who was trained by Legretta and was given military-grade training from a young age. It shows, but she has a sensitive side too. (And an urge to act like a young girl like thinking it'd be so fun to be hugged by Anise's giant plush animal.) We also have Sync who is only fourteen years old, is a candidate for That One Boss, and falls into the dramatic side given his backstory. One of Sync's comrades, Arietta, also falls into the Alas, Poor Villain types, since she can't be any older than 16 yet was trusted by the Daathic Government to act as a bodyguard for Sync. Her successor, Anise, is only thirteen, is blackmailed into being The Mole because of her parents being hugely in debt, and clearly had to grow up fast a bit. Oh, and the other god general who's underage by our standards? Asch the Bloody who is 17...and had clearly been in the Daathic Army for years beforehand. Luke also marches into battle when he's only 17 as well, but consider that He's actually much much younger than that!
- Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World also gives us Alice, one of the main antagonists who's part of a terrorist organization and is clearly underage. Marta, too, who is only 15 years old.
- League of Legends has no real restrictions on membership beyond the ability to kick enormous amounts of ass, so you can have children fighting amongst adult archangels, insane wizard Yordles, and people who've been in the military for years.
- Annie, who is 6 years old and fights clutching her teddy bear in one hand... and occasionally turning it into an flaming giant to destroy her enemies
- Nunu, a boy whose strong magical abilities are enhanced physically by riding into battle on the back of a Yeti.
- Amumu, an amnesiac child Mummy.
- Lux, older than the rest, but still a magically gifted child forcibly conscripted at 13 years old.
- Kog'Maw, who's still an infant, but because he's an infant Eldritch Abomination who destroys everything in his path, no one minds.
- While she's grown up now, Riven's backstory indicates that she was a fanatical child soldier for Noxus.
- Niko Bellic, the main protagonist in Grand Theft Auto IV was about 16 or 17 years old when he and fourteen other child soldiers from his home village fought in the Bosnian war.
- The various Links in The Legend of Zelda with confirmed ages range in age from seventeen and a half (in Skyward Sword) to nine (Child Link in Ocarina of Time).
- Although the whole World War Two-themed Silent Storm cast is adult in the year when the game is set (1943), several of them has this in their background, usually in the form of "joined X army while being 15/16/17". Some of them actually saw combat when underaged (the German Reggie was recruited in the beginning of World War One when he was 15, after lying about his age), some other not (Gunnar entered the Wehrmacht at 16, in 1933).
- The straightest example is Carm (an Italien woman), who took part in World War One as a mountain guide for Italian troops when she was pre-teen, and ended to kill a dozen of men during the course of the war (in the actual game, she is in her late thirties).
- The World Annihilation Front of Sands of Destruction is composed largely of teenagers, and certain members of the World Salvation Committee are no older. On the Front side, there's Morte at 16 and Kyrie at 17; Agan is 18, Taupy has a Vague Age but is implied to be older than most of his teammates, and Rhi'a is 300 but as a dragonkin is the equivalent of 15. On the Committee side, Naja is 17 and his commander Rajiv appears to be about the same (but is never given an exact age). The leaders of both groups are shown to be adults, however.
- The story mode in Splatoon involves the fourteen year old protagonist fighting singlehandedly against the enemy Octarian army.
- Bowser's army in Super Mario Bros. features multiple young Koopas, including the Koopalings, Koopa Kids, and Bowser's own son Bowser Jr.
- One of the enemy types in Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! are bird chicks who are soldiers.
- Benjamin Soderer in Lost Cause joins the Confederate Army at 16 years old, thinking it will prove his own bravery at such a young age. However, it only proves how unready he is to face the Hells of war.
- The title character in Terinu was raised by Space Pirate Mavra Chan to be an assassin, starting at the tender age of nine. His best friend Matt was sold by his own father to Chan to serve as a cook's mate on the same ship at the age of eleven. It's a sufficiently Crapsack World that in Matt's case this was distinct improvement over his previous situation.
- Karcharoth of Cry Havoc was conscripted at the age of six, and has been fighting in one army or another for fifteen years. Understandably he has a rather distorted view of life. He was recruited due to his minor, but growing, psychic powers.
- Cloud's mother in Sandra and Woo, Ye Thuza Williams, was a child soldier in Burma. As a result, she tends to teach her children how to employ violence as necessary with mixed results.
- Sirene from the forum RP Open Blue is a highly militarised country that drafts children as young as 12 for a four-year service, with the exception of children qualified for technical schooling instead. Not even royals are exempt.
- Zero Takaishi of Tasakeru joined with the Daigundan and became a samurai at age 13, as is the custom for males of his species.
- The youngest Protectors of the Plot Continuum are about thirteen years old when they start in the field. The youngest agent ever, Ella Darcy, was ten when she joined, but she wasn't a field agent.
- Done with a complete lack of angst in Magical Girl Hunters. The protagonists stop to comment a few times on how horrible it is for children to be taught to fight at an early age. Usually right before putting a bullet between their eyes.
- Welcome to Night Vale has thirteen-year-old Tamika Flynn, leading a child militia against Strex Corp. She's already a veteran at this, having taking down the librarians at twelve.
Tamika: We do not look around. We do not look inside. We do not sleep. Our god is not a smiling god, and we are ready for this war.
- The Lambsbridge Gang in Twig begins the story as a group of kids barely into the double digits, with the implication that they've been acting as a wetworks team for the Academy of Evil for several years already.
- Occasionally implied in the Transformers metaseries with the younger-minded characters. Done outright in Transformers Animated with Sari especially after she turns out to be a Robot Girl and is pushed into the front lines in season 3.
- The episode "Human Error" (where the main 'bots are shown in analogous human bodies) shows that Bumblebee is the Cybertronian equivalent of roughly her age.
- Omega Supreme might also count, given that he was specifically created to be a superweapon and purposefully made mentally 'slow' so that he wouldn't question orders. Not a child, but close to a child's mind.
- The Transformers in Animated have an explicit childhood stage. He was a child soldier with mild mental retardation, and the actions of his creators made it clear that they knew what this would do to him, and how wrong their actions were.
- Transformers Prime's version of Bumblebee may also be considered this. The prequel novels state outright that he was among the final generation of Cybertronians to be born, and while fighting on the front lines is not given any explicit significance for him, the episode "Masters and Students" hints that he's not officially recognized as warrior-class due to being too young, though a later episode would have him admit he was holding off until they fixed Cybertron.
- Jedi Padawans such as Ahsoka Tano of Star Wars: The Clone Wars could very much be considered this. Ahsoka is only fourteen or fifteen and yet leads troops into battle and gets into the thick of the fighting herself. Their talent with the force and training from childhood makes even the Padawans very deadly warriors.
- When Kamino comes under attack, the clone cadets take up arms to defend their home. Thanks to their accelerated growth, they're about as half as young as they look.
- Codename: Kids Next Door.
- It gets better. The KND are a global organisation with, amongst other things: A Moonbase, orbital cannons, spaceships, military vehicles, Humongous Mecha, lasers, a giant flying convention center and huge "hidden" bases that recruit kids at around 5-7 years old, train them and kick them out when their thirteen, wiping their memory just in case they go rogue. They are an army of child soldiers. The only reason this isn't presented as horrifying at all is because they are every bit as childish as non-members (if not more). Executing a huge, global operation to fill in the Grand Canyon as a giant cereal bowl, anyone?
- The plot of Avatar: The Last Airbender? A group of kids and teenagers take down the Fire Nation army.
- Episode 8 of Sym-Bionic Titan had The Academy on Galaluna, a military training facility which starts training future soldiers as children. To be fair, however, it is partially Truth In Television: most of them are teenagers, and military schools do exist for such ages. However, they also showed a row of children who looked even shorter, and, presumably, younger than Lance and Arthur — who were already small and really young-looking to begin with.
- In the original ThunderCats (1985), the Thunderkittens are apparently about twelve, or their species' equivalent, but they go into combat just as much as the adults. Lion-O is a borderline case, since he begins the series physically adult, but mentally a child.
- In Ben 10: Omniverse, the Amalgam Kids that first showed up in Alien Force are revealed to be products of experimentation by a rogue branch of Plumbers called The Rooters, and were created for the purpose of destroying Ben, then inflicted with Laser-Guided Amnesia when their attempt to take him out failed.
- Young Justice:
"Objectively, you are. Have you no adult supervision? I find your presence here quite disturbing."
- This gets lampshaded in Young Justice, where the team is the black ops for the Justice League, where the oldest of them is 16 and the youngest is 13. An exasperated Mr. Twister brings this up after he curb stomps them when Robin protests that they aren't children.
Wonder Woman: I shouldn't be surprised, since you indoctrinated Robin into crime-fighting at the ripe old age of nine.Batman: Robin needed to help bring the man who murdered his family to justice.Wonder Woman: So he could turn out like you?Batman: So that he wouldn't.
- Later discussed in the episode "Agendas". With the League discovering that Captain Marvel is only ten, they begin debating whether to boot him out of the Justice League. Batman says he knew all along, and it has no impact.
- By season two, the story has started to edge into the "tragic" sub-category, as the child heroes have to confront the death and trauma that comes from their job.
- Similar to above, the Teen Titans. In the comics most of them eventually grow up quickly enough to avert this for most people, but the main gang in the cartoons doesn't. They almost die on several occasions, have no adult supervision, and the youngest is between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.
- Caleb is the leader of the rebellion at 15 years old.
- W.I.T.C.H. themselves, with Will celebrating her thirteenth birthday in an early episode and Hay Lin being the youngest at twelve (presumably). It probably helps they get Elemental Powers as well as an Older Alter Ego when they transform. Will's boyfriend Matt begins to train as a a warrior in season two, though this is his choice and Will is not happy about it. Some of Caleb's troops in season one look even younger than him, but they're still effective in ambushes and combat.
- Dutch's younger brother Dar in Motorcity, who works for Kane Co. He looks up to and respects Abraham Kane. He pretty goes through the same experience Mike did in "Vendetta".
- The training of a Medieval knight was usually begun at the age of seven (7), and it was claimed after twelve, the boy is fit only for a priest. When a young nobleboy made 13, he was expected to serve his master on battlefield as a valet. At 17, he would serve as a fully armed man-at-arms.
- Calvin Graham, one of the many underage enlistees who served in World War II and became a bit of a celebrity figure in his time (and underage enlistees were often made to run extra miles and lug extra loads in the Training from Hell). Unfortunately, due to the US government policy he was not able to get veteran benfefits. Despite that, his ship, the South Dakota, was one of the most feared ships in the Pacific Front.
- Galusha Pennypacker of Pennsylvania was a sixteen-year-old sergeant in 1861, a seventeen-year-old major months later — and twenty when promoted to Brigadier General in 1865 (he was instrumental in the capture of Fort Fisher and was also awarded the Medal of Honor). He was still too young to vote at the time.
- John Lincoln Clem (born John Joseph Klem) ran away from home to join the Union army at age nine. Both recruiters he saw rejected him for obvious reasons but he tagged along with the 22nd Michigan anyway and made himself useful so the 22nd eventually sort of adopted him as a mascot and drummer boy, with officers chipping in to pay him a soldier's wage of $13 per month. He was allowed to enlist officially two years later. He served at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he is said to have ridden an artillery caisson to the front and wielded a musket trimmed to his size. In the course of a Union retreat, he shot a Confederate colonel who had demanded his surrender (although there is some debate as to the accuracy of this story), and was later promoted to sergeant, making him the youngest non-commissioned officer in the US army. In October 1863, Clem was captured in Georgia by Confederate cavalry while detailed as a train guard. The Confederate soldiers confiscated his uniform which reportedly upset him terribly—including his cap which had three bullet holes in it. He was included in a prisoner exchange a short time later, but the Confederate newspapers used his age and celebrity status to show "what sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babes out to fight us." After participating with the Army of the Cumberland in many other battles, serving as a mounted orderly, he was discharged in September 1864. Clem was wounded in combat twice during the war. After his discharge he went back to school, graduated high school in 1870, and re-joined the army the following year. He stayed in the army until he retired at the age of sixty-four.
- Several conquering kings (or wannabe conquerors/kings) were merely boys when they led their armies into war. Examples include Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Charles XII of Sweden, Edward, the Black Prince, of England, and many others.
Just Plain Tragic Type
Anime & Manga
- In order to combat the Nova, the world of Freezing has to use people with the ability to use special implants that allow them to be faster, stronger and heal faster then any human. All of these people are teenaged girls and boys, with the boys, called Limiters, taking a supporting combat roll for the woman, called Pandoras, in battle. The battles with Nova all end in countless graphic and horrible deaths and almost all Pandoras and Limiters carry mental scars of some degree. The constant use of their powers also breaks down their bodies and all Pandoras able to live through their battles die at a very young age.
- Now and Then, Here and There deals with this trope in an almost unwatchably brutal manner.
- The various groups employing Contractors in Darker Than Black don't really care much about issues like "age." As such, kids who manifest powers tend to be grabbed up immediately, Unpersoned, and trained as assassins or other special agents. Additionally, Hei was a Badass Normal one; he fought in Heaven's War to protect his Contractor little sister, and one flashback makes it clear he wasn't more than about 16 when he first got involved.
- Gunslinger Girl:
- The children of Neon Genesis Evangelion are early on said to have a Competence Zone of 14, but it seems instead to be a similar result from the Applied Phlebotinum. Milked for all the drama and deconstruction it can give.
- Guts from Berserk was trained as a mercenary by his adoptive father when he was just a little boy and had to participate in his share of horrific violence as a result. One of the most horrible things to happen to him back then was being sold by the adoptive father as a sex slave to a pederast soldier for three silver coins.
- Bokurano has a group of 12-13-year olds (the first episode states they've just finished grade school) protecting the whole world from being destroyed. Even if they were completely well-adjusted to begin with (and they're not — this is a Mohiro Kitoh work) the circumstances of the 'game' they've found themselves in makes their tenure as 'defenders of earth' more tragic than most other examples on this page combined.
- Runessa of Lyrical Nanoha. As mentioned in StrikerS Sound Stage X, unlike the other characters, she was born in a world where war was a part of her everyday life, and for as long as she can remember, she had always carried a gun (not a device shaped like a gun, an actual gun).
- Chise from Saikano. In high school (or was it Junior High?) but being forced to be in the military and going as far as turning into a machine with a Berserk Button that is automatically triggered by battle.
- Kirika and Chloe from Noir, and to a lesser extent Mireille, actually belong to both types. Kirika was an active assassin from the time she was five.
- Setsuna F. Seiei (mentioned above) also falls into this category. He was forced to watch his fellow child soldiers die and killed his parents at the bidding of his group's leader. Years later, he still dreams about dodging bullets and wishes he could go back in time and save his younger self.
- Really, all Gundam pilots under age 18 are horribly traumatized and haunted by the horrors of warfare.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans decides to make this trope the central focus of the series: the heroes are a group of orphan kids/teens raised as child soldiers by Private Military Contractors who look upon them as disposable, even labelling some of them "Human Debris".
- Kazuma Shudo of Kagerou-Nostalgia is a teenage mercenary who's been in the business ever since demons killed his sister and his dreams of being a Kid Samurai. He's broken, burned out and sufferring from severe shell shock. One could argue that Child Ninja Fuwa, demon-hunting initiate Shiranui, and Tykebomb Goki are also this.
- During the Warring Clan's Era of Naruto, the life expectancy of shinobi was 30 years, primarily due to the high death rate of their children. Children as young as seven or even younger were deemed shinobi and sent into battle. There they were often ganged up on by adults and ruthlessly slaughtered even if they were crying in fear. Oh... and things like Adult Fear didn't exist during that time since the killing of children in battle had become a norm.
- Although they aren't forced to enter, the minimum age requirement for the army in Attack on Titan is twelve. Why? Because it has an appallingly high mortality rate and basic training takes three years. That means the main characters are between the age of 15 and 17, thrown out onto the battlefield and forced to fight Humanoid Abominations.
- Taken even further with Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie, who are revealed to be child terrorists sent to exterminate humanity by a yet-unknown force. The younger two were eleven when they committed their first act of mass murder. The oldest of the three, all of twelve at the time, is shown to have suffered such guilt over his actions that he's gone insane.
- Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet stars Ledo, who has been in his space colony military fighting squid-like monsters for basically his entire life. Naturally, his society is Social Darwinist to the point where fighting is his life; they lost the very concepts of family members such as brothers and sisters, as well as of thanks and "coexistence". And on top of that, those too weak or sick to fight these monsters are summarily euthanized. This is the only way of life the guy has ever known.
- This is nothing compared to Gen Urobuchi (the co-writer of the above series)'s seminal work, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. You may have thought before that being a Magical Girl wasn't as glamorous as the costumes make it look; this Cosmic Horror Story brutally reminds us that Sailor Moon and Nanoha were just adolescents tasked with putting their lives at risk to fight weird monsters and save the world, even though adolescents aren't always known for their decision-making abilities which becomes the very tragic crux of this show.
- In Il Sole penetra le Illusioni, we have what happened if Magical Girl series didn't have purification power, and the only way to stop Daemonia is by killing them with the host. It's especially troublesome if the Daemonia is someone you know.
- Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! has Mitsumi, who was an orphan who Cyrus adopted and raised to become a skilled, Tyke Bomb of a Pokemon trainer. She ditches Team Galactic prior to the story but is forced to rejoin and nearly murders Hareta.
- Lily from Phantom Thief Pokémon 7 was kidnapped by Team Galactic at a young age due to her ability to see aura, brainwashed, and trained to be a violent Galactic member.
- In Sands of Destruction, Morte's younger brother Reve joined the Golden Lions to fight the more tyranical beastlords and attempt to gain equality for humans. His exact age at the time isn't specified, but he couldn't have been older than twelve. He dies not long after joining and his death is the catalyst that sets Morte off on her quest to destroy the world.
- Suitengu of Speed Grapher, with the added angst of having been literally sold into it as a slave to repay his parents' debts after their deaths.
- In Rurouni Kenshin Soujiro slaughtered his entire abusive family and joined Shishio as a preteen, to become his foremost assassin as a teenager. note
- The Oniwabanshuu seem to have been at least partially raised specifically to be spies and assassins; Aoshi was an accomplished fighter by 13, Han'nya dedicated himself to being useful to them (and Aoshi) after being saved when young, and Misao (at 16) is both a good fighter and fancies herself a full member and capable of even leading them despite having been primarily raised by retirees.
- Yuki Yuna Is a Hero starts off as a simple Magical Girl Warrior anime about a group of middle schooler Kid Heroes who are assigned by the government to fight Vertexes and protect the planet. Later revelations show that being a Hero is less innocent than originally depicted. It isn't lethal (literally) but it certainly is dangerous. "Pure", young girls are the only ones who can be used as Human Sacrifices to the World Tree. As they continue to fight their bodies become more disabled with time as they undergo Mankai. The youngest of the Magical Girls were elementary schoolers when they began. One died, another became bedbound, and the third (who is Togo) lost her memories but is still nervous when she's made to become a Hero again.
- In Last Days of the Justice Society, The Flash is shot and killed by a child soldier in 1945 during the fall of Berlin.
- Mariane Satrapi's Persepolis featured a portrayal of the real life Iranian unit of children, who were walked into the minefields to detonate them ahead of the troops.
- The Vertigo reboot of Unknown Soldier is set in Acholiland, the base of operations of the Lord's Resistance Army, one of the most infamous Real Life users of child soldiers. Therefore, they're all over the place.
- When the X-Men were up against Storm's uncle, a ruthless African dictator, he had a whole unit of child soldiers, trained to be extremely sadistic. Storm had no choice but to kill a squad before they could to the same to her.
- While not as explicit, Cyclops is an example of a child soldier grown-up. Traumatized as a child (kidnapped father, orphaned with his brother), trained in military tactics from age 14, and sent on paramilitary actions until he was a full adult. Recent X-Men author Kieron Gillen even cited this trope as his central motivation for the character.
- Batwing, "the Batman of Africa," has a back story where he was forced into service as a child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His parents also died of AIDS, completing a truly African backstory.
- Transformers: More than Meets the Eye has the Warborn, Cybertronians born during the war. When one of them undergoes a psychotic break, the fact that he's spent his entire life a soldier isn't even raised as a reason for why he's snapped. Not even the ship psychiatrist, the sanest and most empathetic of the cast, is unnerved by the concept.
"In the end, High Command decided they wanted their new troops to fight, not study, so they reduced the steps from ten to eight to three. Three steps, Nautica: 'From thaw to war in under an hour.' Because who cares whether or not a warborn knockoff with a three-minute life expectancy can quote Dominus Ambus or notate the Grand Celestial Melody? So long as he can assemble a path-blaster with his brand-new eyes closed, everyone's happy. That's sarcasm, by the way. I dabble."
- A later issue reveals that whole platoons of Cybertronians were brought online solely to fight, and taught the necessary skills required only to fight. They're labelled the Made To Order. And all the MTOs we've met so far? All Autobots.
- Said issue also reveals the MTOs are made so quickly they tend to suffer from all manner of neurological impairments. And no-one blinks an eye at this, either.
- A flashback in an issue of Green Lantern shows that at one point in his past, apparently before he tried taking over his home-planet, Sinestro was confronted by a child suicide bomber on Korugar. Said child kills Sinestro's wife trying to get him.
- Advice And Trust: Shinji, Asuka and Rei, fourteen-years-old kids pilot war mechs and fight a war against giant alien monsters. Asuka and Rei have been training her whole lives for it, and the former is especially devoted to it. Often they talk about how broken they are due to be someone else's war tools.
- In All-American Girl, Chrysalis used her abilities to produce numerous pony/changeling hybrid (or "pepsis") children from her rape of Shining Armor. She then uses her magic to accelerate their growth so they reach young adulthood pretty much at birth. Though some manage to prove themselves and act like generals or elite operatives, she really only views them as tools and pawns in her plans, and is perfectly willing to kill them or send them on a Suicide Mission if they show any "weakness" (ie, empathy or morality), and she doesn't really her pure changeling offspring as anything more than tools either, or maybe potential rivals in the case of her princess daughters. Twilight Sunburn can attest to that.
- The Child of Love: Shinji, Asuka and Rei are fourteen-years-old kids forced to or cajoled into fighting giant alien monsters. This is already pretty bad as it is, but it gets worse when Gendo decides turning a newborn baby into a war weapon.
- Evangelion 303: Despite of the original material playing the trope, this fanwork consciously averts it. The creator does not keep the pilots' canon ages, and all of them are at least twenty-years-old.
- In Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness, at least half of the members of the Dumbledore's Army die horribly, and a good amount are crippled or killed in the sequel. However, the fic tends to glorify the hardened child soldiers in comparison to Harry, who hasn't embraced the military mindset. What's more, it gets taken to utterly ludicrous levels. Somehow, they manage to form a complete mock-military structure despite being from a culture with no armed forces, develop a martyrdom mindset that in real life requires indoctrination from toddlerhood, and in general make an absolute mockery out of the subject. And the injuries they suffer are only terrible because the author's forgotten the Harry Potter universe has extremely powerful magical healing.
- The Firefly fanfic Forward has a reveal later on that some of the Academy's test subjects are pre-teens. It is implied that one of them managed to kill several security guards when a training exercise went out of control.
- HERZ: Shinji, Asuka and Rei were child soldiers in the past, and the ordeal broke them down. Twelve years after they have mostly recovered but not entirely, and the past will not leave them alone.
- The Pokémon fanfic Dawn of a New Era features the eponymous Pokémon coordinator as a badass but broken warrior.
- The Sufferists from Hivefled are led by a Well-Intentioned Extremist with a penchant for Fantastic Racism, and consist mostly of kids and youths who skipped conscription, with the few adults being mostly disabled. Said leader later leads all 250 of them into battle with the thousands-strong Alternian fleet, which ends about as well as you'd expect.
- Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: Reconstructed with Mana when she declares that, yes, she has been traumatized, and yes, she has lost friends, but she is a soldier, it is her LIFE, and she refuses quitting.
- Alex Vaughn, the main protagonist from The Terminators: Army of Legend series was kidnapped when he was only three years old and forced into the military. By the time he founds the Terminator Militia, he's only four years old.
- The War Of The Masters: Owing to a bureaucratic mistake between species with different aging rates (Klingons are physically adult several years sooner than humans or Gorn), the Klingon Defense Force and allied services ended up inducting Gorn and Moabite human minors as full soldiers. The practice was abolished after somebody with sense managed to get the age problem across to the Klingon high command, but not soon enough to prevent Moabite teens developing war-induced PTSD, especially after the Fek'Ihri invasion of Moab III and New Saigon.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion Genocide: Shinji, Asuka, Rei and the remaining Children are fourteen-years-old kids forced to drive war machines and win a war. In chapter 11, Misato and Ritsuko argue their position:
Misato: You know, as much as everyone seems to want to blame Asuka, we really are all responsible. Keiko should have never been out there. Sending her was a crime.
Ritsuko: Spoken like someone who doesn't realize that what she does for a living is send children to war. Meanwhile, have you even been to see her?
- Children of an Elder God: Played for horror in this Evangelion/Cthulhu Mythos crossover. All adults who try to synch with an Evangelion go mad, mutate or die. The only ones capable of piloting an Evangelion are six fourteen-year-old kids who have to fight Cthulhu and co. to save humanity, and whose bodies change and mutate whenever they kill an Eldritch Abomination. Eventually they stop being human, and although they don't go mad, they're very traumatized.
- In Once More with Feeling: Several characters like Kaji highlight that NERV is using kids to fight giant alien monsters, and the Eva pilots have an awful deal, but unfortunately the survival of mankind demands sacrifices. Even so, Shinji is understandably bitter about it.
Shinji: You are asking a fourteen year old child to put his life on the line, going into combat against things that tear through divisions of crack troops.
- Blood Diamond shows the kidnapping and indoctrination of the son of one of the main characters. Includes the real-life practice of giving kids amphetamines to kill any feeling of fear or guilt — and killing their relatives so they can't go back. Also features children killing children with AK-47s.
- The protagonists in War Witch are these.
- Glimpsed in The Two Towers in The Lord of the Rings.
- Specifically, there is a scene where the soldiers suit up to defend Helm's Deep and we see a number of people being armed are very young boys needed to up their soldier count. Mercifully, we're never shown the kids doing any actually combat besides throwing stones at the besiegers from the wall.
- Downfall features as one of the POV characters a schoolboy from the Hitler Youth who is defending Berlin from the Red Army. Additionally, a girl of about 12 is manning an 88mm gun at the Battle of Berlin. When everything appears hopeless, her not-much-older comrade shoots her at her own request, then kills himself.
- In Pacific Rim, the Australian Jaeger consists of father-son duo, Hercules and Chuck Hansen. It's revealed that Chuck enlisted in the Jaeger Academy at 12 and was only 16 when he first deployed in Striker Eureka, replacing his belligerent uncle on the frontlines. And despite having the highest Kaiju kill count in history at 21, Chuck is also shown to have a Hair-Trigger Temper, terrible communication skills, and a double dose of Daddy Issues and Survivor's Guilt in regards to his father choosing to save him over his mother. He later pulls a Heroic Sacrifice and blows up Striker Eureka to take down two Kaiju so Gipsy Danger can seal the Breach.
Rob Kazinsky: From a very, very young age, Chuck grew up trained to be a Jaeger pilot. Herc was never a father to him and he spent more time with machines than he did people. It really affected him.
- Pure Ones in Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole. First off, they take owlets from their nests and train them to fight the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, who are damn near unstoppable. As if the "Pickers" being moonblinked wasn't bad enough, throughout the climatic fight many of them were most likely killed. To top it off, the whole thing is disturbingly similar to the Hitler Youth. And Nyra's name is Aryan with an "a" missing. Think about that for a moment.
- Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron features a Russian boy soldier who is captured by the German characters.
- He was later released by the protagonist, to promptly be shot by a passing Russian soldier. Cue Protagonist BSOD.
- In the 1959 German movie Die Brücke (The Bridge), a group of seven Hitler Youth tragically try to defend their hometown from American tank troops. All but one get killed.
- Even more tragic, the bridge had no strategic importance, their teacher had them send there in order to keep them away from actual fighting. Additional the bridge was meant to be destroyed anyway to block the Americans entering and taking the town. The bridge gets saved in the end - allowing the American troops to enter the town. More tragic, the story was based on an actual event, upon the personal report of a surviving veteran who in his own youth experienced a similar situation in World War II.
- The film was remade in 2008 — and the remake is even morer depressing and sad than the original. In the end the actual bridge, which is still in existnce, is shown.
- In The Straight Story (David Lynch's most logical film yet), one scene has Alvin Straight recounting his experiences in WWII, in which he had to kill a bunch of Hitler Youth.
- In USSR there were MANY films about children fighting in the underground resistance during WW2, many of them ending being either killed or executed by Germans (Young Eagle, Zoja, Fifeenth Spring etc). Sadly this is Truth in Television.
- Heavily subverted in the film Till the first blood where a war game in summer camp begins to resemble an actual war more and more.
- Probabile the most famous examples are Ivan's Childhood and Come and See with the child soldiers as protagonists. The least funny thing to watch in your average Friday night.
- Another Russian film series The Uncatchable Avengers features four teenagers (3 boys and 1 girl) fighting in the Russian Civil War(1918-1924).
- City of God prominently features children fighting in drug wars the projects of Rio de Janiero. Children are shown killing each other, dealing and using drugs, and in one shocking scene, a child is forced to execute one of his friends by the villain.
- In Doctor Zhivago, during the Russian Civil War, the Red Army unit in which Zhivago is serving as a medical officer comes under fire from a (presumably White) machine-gun nest in the distance. The Reds shoot all their attackers dead, then approach the nest and find that, while they are wearing some sort of uniform, they are only boys, except for one old man. One Red looks closer at a uniform and says, astonished, "St. Michael's Military School?!" To the dead old man: "You rotten bastard!"
- Lord of War: West African dictator André Baptiste has a military unit composed entirely of child soldiers which he calls the "Kalashnikov Kids" and his "Boys Brigade".
- In Master and Commander (see also the example from Aubrey-Maturin novels in the Literature section, below), a 12-year-old midshipman loses an arm to enemy fire in the opening scene of the film. Captain Aubrey is very solicitous of him thereafter, giving him a book with an engraving of the one-armed, one-eyed Admiral Nelson, and leaving him in command of the HMS Surprise when the other officers board a French vessel; and the boy remains so game an officer that a case could be made for including this under the "Precociously Talented Type". But, still! This is Truth in Television. In fact, most officers of the Royal Navy in that period probably started out as midshipmen in their teens or younger.
- The whole Harry Potter series is about kids getting caught up in their elders' war and recruited/forced to fight in it in various capacities. This is an instance of "Precociously Talented Type" and "Just Plain Tragic Type" combined.
- In Taps, cadets at a Military School find out that the useless adults are planning to close the school and sell the land to condo developers. With the school's commander in the hospital, they decide that they will not allow this to happen and barricade themselves within its walls with weapons from the well-stocked armory. This leads to the inevitable standoff with the national guard.
- In The Horse Soldiers John Ford plays this for tears and laughs.
- The German film Stalingrad (1993) has Kolya, a Russian child who is captured by the platoon after attempting to attack them with a grenade.
- The South Korean film 71:Into The Fire is the story of 71 student-soldiers who have to hold a strategic point for 11 hours. Only one has seen combat before, and over the course of the movie all but 23 die. And while it's tragic enough to see the teenage soldiers discover War Is Hell, the film has a brief scene where the protagonists prepare to shoot a North Korean commando and see that he's only 12 years old.
- Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron is revealed to having been raised a Tyke Bomb for the Russian military.
- Beasts of No Nation is about child soldiers conscripted to fight in a rebel military force in a war-torn African country.
- In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the First Order conscripts its Stormtroopers from children taken away from their families, training and conditioning them into soldiers until adulthood.
- In Fury (2014), there's one scene where a trio of Hitler Youth run up to a column of American tanks with a Panzerfaust. One of the characters, Norman, sees them but hesitates to shoot. This results in the kids blasting the tank in front of them to kingdom come, and incinerating the unfortunate crew. War Daddy then pops up the hatch, mows the kids down with his rifle and berates Norman for getting the tank crew killed.
"You see that? See what a kid can do? That's your fault! That's your fucking fault! Next German you see with a weapon, you rake the dogshit out of 'em! I don't care if it's a baby with a butter knife in one hand and momma's titty in the other, YOU CHOP HIM UP!!!"
- The midshipmen in Aubrey-Maturin books, tragically a case of Truth in Television.
- Aubrey-Maturin is not the only example — middies in Napoleonic naval fiction are commonly in action. Richard Bolitho destroys a pirate ship at sixteen, while Horatio Hornblower captured a French privateer at seventeen. Lord Ramage took to sea at thirteen. The minimum age in the Royal Navy was twelve for midshipmen, and eighteen for lieutenants. These restrictions were commonly relaxed, especially for members of prominent families. Mitigating this, midshipmen were frequently carried on the ship's books a few years before they were actually carried on the ship. If a boy's father had been in the navy, some sources say that the minimum age was NINE. As the Midshipmen, there were also the ships boys, many of who were born on board ships (possible origin for the term "son of a gun", being born between the guns) and would be used in action as soon as they were able to start running powder and shot from the magazine to the guns. "Topmen" too would usually be closer to boys.
- The Horrible Histories book The Frightful First World War recounts a true story where an underage boy tries to join the British Army by lying about his age, but quickly caves in when he's called out on it by the Recruiting Sergeant. Then the Sergeant tells him to leave, run around the block once, come back and try to be a little more compelling.
- In Dragon Bones, sixteen-year-old Ciarra is ordered to stay behind while the other members of the group kill some rapist bandits. She doesn't listen, wounds a man in a way that makes him suffer, and has to ask her big brother Ward to mercy-kill the man. She's quite competent in combat, but can't stomach the killing. Her brother Tosten is somewhat older than she is, but not used to killing, either, and is visibly disturbed after his first kill. Ward has killed before, possibly before he turned sixteen, and is a bit worried by the ease with which he can kill.
- Horatio Hornblower: While some of the Child Soldiers in this book series are the heroic Plucky Middie types, some of them die tragically. Similar fate awaits the ships' powder monkeys.
- Cotillion and Shadowthrone's army of orphans in Malazan Book of the Fallen. In a show of Black Humour, the children were rescued from crucifixion and "given" to the two, which was not appreciated due to their preference for acting from the sidelines.
- Les Misérables features minor character Gavroche, a street-child who participates in the student uprising, collecting ammunition from the bodies of fallen enemy soldiers and survives being shot once to throw his bag of bullets over to his friends before falling to another shot.
- The later Harry Potter books see several underage wizards/witches seeing real combat due to various circumstances, namely the rising stakes. The most tragic example is Colin Creevey, who is killed in the book 7 finale (he would have been sixteen or possibly even seventeen at this point, but his small stature would have certainly made him seem younger).
- In Temeraire, which is as historically accurate as any series featuring dragons can be, shows young midshipmen and other military personnel among Britain's armed forces. Laurence himself ran away from home to join the Navy at twelve, and when he becomes an aviator, several of his crew are around ten, eleven, or twelve. While aviators don't actually go up at ages earlier than that and aren't part of the crew meant to fight until years later, cadets start training at seven so they're acclimated to the dragons by the time they're ready for duty. This is more presented as childhood being shorter in those days, as well as the British being pressed hard by Napoleon, than anything else. The author also does not shy away from some of these Child Soldiers being killed, either in battle or through accidents that will occur on military vessels.
- Teenage witch Sylvia of Arc from Nick Perumov's Keeper of the Swords series. Was "considered a veteran at the age of ten." She fills both variants (i.e. is both Precociously Talented AND Tragic) of this trope, though, as she is IMMENSELY talented and could take most adult opponents with ease... until she started to run into demigods, that is.
- Even Alisa Selezneva, "Girl to whom nothing will happen" from books of Kir Bulychev, was drafted as a soldier once at age 12.
- She (actually the author) also gives an explanation WHY this is common: "If a grown up soldier revolts, he can be hard to deal with. He may very well turn the weapons you give him at you. Kids usually can be controlled by means as simple as threatening to deny them sweets."
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Legion, Chayne's Back Story: his planet, fighting the Emperor, had recruited children. Chayne had found himself in charge of his company when their leader died. After their defeat, the Lord Commander picked him out, gave him a guardian, and turned him into an elite Imperial soldier.
- Karin Lowachee milks this trope for all the tragedy it's worth. The main character from Warchild is a child soldier, borderline spy and assassin, even. He's not a very happy or well-adjusted young man. But then he's contrasted with his friend Evan, who in addition to being captured and raised by pirates, is alluded to being a child whore in addition to a soldier. The "good guys," if you can call them that, use teenagers as cannon fodder.
- The second book in The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones, Drowned Ammet, introduces Mitt, a boy whose family is forced off its farm and into the city slums because they can't pay the earl's rising taxes. Then Mitt's father joins a society of revolutionaries and dies, which prompts Mitt to join the society himself, and then he gets the brilliant idea to blow up the earl.....
- In Animorphs, a group of barely teenagers (they were 13 when they started) get drafted into fighting a secret alien invasion by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cue the loss of any personal life, killing and nearly getting killed a dozen times a week, being forced to sacrifice loved ones for the greater good and recurring nightmares that last for the rest of their lives. By the end of the war, they're still under-aged (16 to be exact)
- Chris Abani's Song For Night takes place in West Africa (presumably Nigeria, given the writer's home country) during a senseless war that forcibly recruits children. Amongst the tragedies, these kids are usually orphans, they get their vocal cords slit to keep them from making noise, they're coerced to rape innocent people by their sadistic leader, and witness their comrades get blown up by proximity mines, which they're trained to defuse. Unsurprisingly, many of them don't last past their teens. The worst part? The aforementioned statements are Truth in Television, since the story's based off the author's real life experiences.
- In Suicide Kings from the Wild Cards series Dr. Nshombo uses child Aces as soldiers. Since they have superpowers this would normally put them in the precocious category, except for how he gets them. He takes normal children in large numbers and exposes them to the wild card virus. This kills most of the people exposed to it. About nine percent suffer extreme but survivable mutations. And about one percent gain superpowers without being mutated, known as Aces. Aces or those with useful mutations are conscripted. The rest, including those who turn out to be "deuces" are shot.
- The Gone series. In book 1, the Big Bad has recruited superpowered kids from Coates Academy to fight for him, and The Dragon has an army of Child Soldiers armed with guns. In books 2 and 3, The Hero has an unofficial army of teenagers with superpowers, and The Lancer is the commander of an army of Child Soldiers with guns. The Dragon beating a 9-year-old to death while laughing is enough to disgust even the Big Bad. Justified because they live in a Teenage Wasteland.
- Robert Muchamore's unpublished book, "Home" (available online here ), which features children in a guerilla army; however, they are there purely by accident, and the leader is a pretty decent guy, though no bones are made about his kills and the psychological effects on them.
- There's a short story which details the journey of a group of children on the Children's Crusade. As history tells, it does not end well, which makes their optimism that God will favor their cause once they reach Jerusalem to be rather a Tear Jerker. Fortunately, the narrator had been a werewolf since birth (he joined the Crusade in the hopes of God freeing him from his curse) and the night they're delivered to Egypt as slaves happens to be just the same night as the full moon...
- Willie, husband of the narrator of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, joined the Confederate army in the The American Civil War at the age of 13. It messed him up—just how horribly is revealed gradually over the course of the book.
- Hans and Gretchen Richter in 1632 were kidnapped from their peaceful family in the Thirty Years' War, Hans to be a soldier and Gretchen to be a Sex Slave. They are forced to do their captors' bidding lest their younger siblings be killed as useless mouths. The amazing thing is that they were able to remain human at all and had any capability of recivilizing themselves when they were freed.
- A young Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess is held hostage by the Ottoman Empire and forced into the Janissaries.
- In Warrior Cats, one of the laws in the warrior code is that kits must be six moons old (the feline equivalent of about age 10) to begin training, and they don't see battle until they're more experienced. This rule stemmed from too many kits being trained at too young an age; it took their mothers refusing to fight in a battle to make the Clan leaders see sense. This law has been broken once during the books: Brokenstar trained ShadowClan kits to fight when they were barely weaned from their mothers, and as a result many of the Clan's kits died in battle.
- In Chanda's Wars by Allan Stratton, Chanda's siblings are taken by a warlord in an unnamed Sub-Saharan African country to be soldiers.
- Someone Else's War is about a fictitious Muslim boy who joins the (real) Lord's Resistance Army to find and save his little brother from this fate.
- All of the soldier boys from The Drowned Cities. Sociopathic Soldiers abound, especially among those who've reached their teenage years or grown up.
- Arya Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire. In A Game of Thrones, she is just a spirited tomboy, meant as a foil to her ladylike sister Sansa. As of A Dance with Dragons, war has killed off most of her family, and hardened her character: hoping to become lethal enough to kill who she views as the men responsible for her close ones' death, she becomes an assassin-in-training for the feared Faceless Men. The fact that she doesn't seem to feel any remorse or guilt while killing just adds to her creepiness.
- The autobiography A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a very chilling, tragic account written by a boy who was removed from the government army of Sierra Leone by a group from UNICEF.
- Septimus Heap was raised as one of these for the first ten years of his life, after being stolen from his parents at birth. He was intended to be raised as a Tyke Bomb, but ended up in the army instead. Despite moving in with his real parents at the end of the first book, his army experiences never quite leave him.
- The dragonets in the Wings of Fire series. They were stolen as eggs, and raised under the belief that they would be of the "talented and special" type, in order to put an end to a continent-wide war, but the dragonets themselves don't agree with their mentors' vision of them. Eventually, they decide to break free and go about saving the world their way.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's Knights Of The Forty Islands, a number of children are kidnapped, taken to an unknown archipelago, and scattered over the forty islands, interconnected by bridges. Each island has about a dozen kids who are promised a return home if they manage to conquer all the other islands. Which is impossible, since each island is connected to three others, meaning there is simply not enough manpower to conquer even one other island while trying to protect your own. The kids attempt an alliance with other islands, but it quickly breaks down. Their main weapons are special wooden swords that turn to steel when the wielder feels anger, which only serves to make the kids more prone to anger. At the end of the novel, when the protagonist returns home, he is attacked by a teenage gang, only to easily fight them off with the skills picked up on the islands. He has to force himself to stop before killing some of them, as the instinct is now so ingrained in him.
- Beasts of No Nation is narrated by a child soldier fighting for a rebel force in an unnamed African country. Many of his comrades are underage.
Live Action TV
- 24: Redemption: Sees Jack Bauer rescuing the pupils of school from becoming Child Soldiers and also features them.
- Band of Brothers:
- Touches on this a couple times:
- In episode 4, intelligence for Operation Market Garden stated that the German soldiers in the Netherlands were mostly "children and old men". This turned out to be inaccurate and contributed to the failure of the operation.
- Pvt. Jackson, who died by his own grenade in episode 8, was noted to have lied about his age when he joined the army at 16.
- In episode 5, Winters is haunted by the memory of shooting a German soldier who looked no older than 18.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy leads the potential slayers into what is essentially a hopeless war in season seven, with many or most of them being under 18. For that matter, though it was more of a lone warrior gig prior to season seven any slayer would probably qualify, since 15-16 seems to be the usual age to be called, and 16 to 17 the usual age to be killed.
- Farscape: Peacekeeper training starts young. Some recruits are the result of an "assigned birthing to fill the ranks" and others are conscripted from Sebacean colonies. Those born into service never get to know their parents as it is against the rules for parents to make any contact with their children.
- Firefly: If the School for Scheming's plan had worked, River Tam would have become one of these. She was sent to an Alliance-controlled Academy, aged fourteen, for what she and her family thought was a more challenging curriculum than normal high schools. Instead, she got the Training from Hell, and it's implied that she isn't the only one to get it, just one of the only ones to actually live through the process, and there very likely were other kids screwed just as much as she did (only the series couldn't get deep enough for being cancelled). By the time she's rescued from the facility by her brother Simon, she's only seventeen years old.
- Hornblower: In this miniseries adaptation of the books, this trope doesn't appear very prominently, but there are some children aboard ships, both British and their enemies. Series two featured some powder monkeys. In "Loyalty" (series three), there's a memorable gory scene when young Midshipman Jack Hammond freaked out because he got splattered with blood of one little powder boy who got blown up to smithereens with a cannon ball. There are also many characters who fall into the naval type, and those Plucky Middies got explored more and viewers got to know them better. Alas, they made us root for them, only to let them suffer later and then let them die tragically.
- JAG: The series finale had one of the officers dealing with a marine who is actually only 16 years who lied about his age signing up. To resolve the situation, the lawyer talks the Marine Corps into making the kid an honorary Marine before he is sent home to his mother with a promise that they would be delighted to recruit him legally when the time is right.
- Dealt with in several later-season episodes:
- Famously, in "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet":
Wendell: I'm never gonna forgive you for this! Not for the rest of my life!Hawkeye: Let's hope it's a long and healthy hate.
- However, Hawkeye also arranges for him to have Frank Burns' inappropriately bestowed Purple Heart to soften the blow.
- Revolution: As episode 7 reveals, Mooks employed by the Monroe Militia start out as such, being forcibly conscripted from their homes and families.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the alternate timeline of "Yesterday's Enterprise", Wesley Crusher is given the full commission of ensign and is assigned to be part of the Enterprise bridge crew, possibly to show how desperate the Federation is in the history where it is losing to the Klingons.
- In "The High Ground", the Ansata terrorists have children as part of their group to fight off the occupying Rutian forces.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Kira Nerys joined the Bajoran resistance at the age of twelve or thirteen. While she was willing (indeed, eager) to join the fight against the Cardassians who were occupying her planet and her side was generally the "good guys", this show fully exploited War Is Hell and The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized, meaning that much of what she saw and did allows her to qualify as this.
- The Wire: A looser example, but during season 4, Michael (who was only 13 or 14 at time) was forced to become this for Marlo's drug crew. It was the only way for him to escape his worsening circumstances at home. While Michael could handle taking his finances from his junkie mother, the return of his step-father made him feel threatened (and for good reason, if he was really molested by him). By requesting the help of the local gangsters, it gave Michael their protection and housing to get him and his step-brother away from home. The Wire implies that many young inner-city kids (including Bodie and Wallace) got their start in the drug game through similar circumstances. Even Calvin lampshades this in season 4 when he stated that by 18, kids are too deep into the drug game to be reformed, let alone act civilized to authorities.
- Falling Skies: Since most of the country's military was wiped out in the aliens' initial invasion, most of the fighting now has to be done by the remaining civilians, including young children.
- In particular, there's Jimmy who's only 13. He acts as a Morality Pet to Weaver, who treats him both as a child and a soldier, and occasionally laments that he has to be a soldier at all.
- The aliens also use harnessed kids as this, presumably expecting that the humans will be unwilling to shoot a child.
- The 100: The kids sent down to the Earth are forced to become these to protect themselves from the Grounders and later from the Mountain Men. Child soldiers also seem to be an accepted practice among the Grounders (though their idea of when adulthood begins may be different from ours); Clarke is horrified to learn that one of Grounder warriors her people killed is a young girl, and even more horrified to learn that said young girl already had several kills under her belt.
- The titular character from Agent Carter discovered the Black Widow Ops program during one of her mission. Her fellow Howling Commando underestimated one of them. He paid dearly. It's disturbing to see girls who barely reached their teen got brainwashed to snapped each other necks and slept with their wrist cupped to their bed and some even continue to blindly serve the program into their adulthood, such as Dottie Underwood.
- The song Little Weapon by Lupe Fiasco is about child soldiers, but also video games.
- Rasputina's "Child Soldier Rebellion".
- Nightwish's "Planet Hell" is about the hellish lives child soldiers live.
- Finnish military march Sotilaspoika (Soldier Boy). The lyrics imply his father was a child soldier too, and when he makes 15 he too will enlist.
- Billy Connolly's "Sergeant, Where's Mine?" has the line "Whit dae ye dae wi' a gun in your hand, when ye're facin' a hundred-odd weans?"
- Turns up several times in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, particularly in the supporting materials. The defence of Hive Hellsreach during the Second Battle for Armageddon is one of the more poignant examples.
Evacuees will be restricted to those below the age of seven (plus one parent/guardian) and those above the age of ninety. Regrettably, there are not enough places for everyone, so each person eligible for evacuation will be assigned a number. [...] If you are not eligible for evacuation you will be immediately assigned to a hive defence unit - details of where to report will follow this announcement.
- The RPG Grey Ranks depicts child soldiers (aged 15-17) during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
- The game "Broken Rooms" has a world called 'The Unvisible' which has been invaded by monsters that are invisible— and cause severe psychic trauma— to adults. Only certain adults can see the monsters, so the average age for soldiers is 8-12. Big Science has designed assault weapons with low kickback and painted them in neon colors to appeal to the children, who are trained in combat tactics from the time they can walk.
- The Wole Soyinka play Travel Club and Boy Soldier is about a military coup in an unspecified third-world nation, and the "Commandant" who's leading the whole thing is, well, the titular boy soldier. He's a teenager when the takeover happens, but he's been in the army for years by that point.
- Les Misérables features Gavroche, who tags along with the student revolutionaries (who are themselves implied in several songs to be at most in their early 20s) and manages to take 2 bullets while collecting ammunition for the students before he is fatally shot in the head.
- Suikoden II is the ur-example of this trope in Eastern RPGs. The story begins with two friends who, during military training in a youth brigade, are attacked by their own country's forces dressed up as a neighboring nation's units, just to justify going to war with that nation. Many child soliders such as Pohl are even killed (in his case, run through by Luca Blight). Your childhood friend Nanami even tries on more than one occasion to get the protagonist to abandon the war, saying that they're just kids and they have no place in a war. Agreeing to run away with her leads into one of the most emotional scenes in the game, which is no small feat.
- The protagonist of Planetarian is a former child soldier, and has Flashback Nightmares about the experience throughout the game.
- In the Metal Gear series, this is the Back Story of aforementioned Frank Jaeger and Raiden. It turned the former into a badass and the latter into a psychological wreck. To be fair, Frank's a psychological wreck, too.
Kaz: We've expanded our housing. They'll have their own quarters. Separate from ours, won't be counted as staff.
- The Beauty & Beast Corps that Snake fights in Metal Gear Solid 4 are all child soldiers who were horribly traumatized in their childhood. For example, Laughing Octopus was forced to laugh while she killed people, despite the fact that she found it horrifying, and so she cackles like a hyena all through her boss battle. At the end, she confesses, "I'm not really laughing..."
- Big Boss's final plan, outlined in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, was to rescue war orphans and train them as soldiers, then feed them onto the battlefield to perpetuate an endless cycle of warfare.
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has the player actually battle child soldiers at select points, although killing one will result in an instant Game Over and one very angry Miller. One mission has Snake come face to face with a group of child soldiers he had been contracted to kill, but instead fakes their deaths and takes them back to Mother Base. Only then Snake intends to have them trained as his own soldiers instead. Thankfully Miller and Ocelot are having none of that, with Miller making it clear how largely unable they are to fight before stating that they'll educate the kids and give them a chance to live normal lives.
Snake: So what, we're running a daycare now?
Kaz: They'll learn how to read and write; do basic jobs.
Snake: A chance at a real life... just not from behind a gun.
Kaz: Being behind a gun is what we do, Boss. There's no room for angels in our heaven.
- Taken to a new frightening level in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. One of Desperado's long-running plans is the abduction of children in various war zones, installing their brains into artificial casings, and running AI programs ad infinitum to make them into killing machines. The brains are utterly terrified of their state, and one is even seen undulating in terror when Sundowner pulls it out and strokes it.
- Drakengard features a few missions where the enemy soldiers are child conscripts. Naturally, Caim, being the murderous nutcase that he is, viciously slaughters them all, much to the dismay of his more level-headed comrades.
- Particularly the pedophile, though the child-eating cannibal is pretty ecstatic at the fresh food. One of your comrades is an eternal child forced to do a lot of killing, including his own sister, and who is ultimately forced to make a Heroic Sacrifice that doesn't even kill him, but leaves him stranded alone in a timeless void incapable of even achieving the peace of death. It's safe to say Drakengard revels in this trope, especially when the Abominations show up.
- In the game is a mission where most of the foes are the normal faceless adults you've been used to fighting throughout the game, except for a small squad of child conscripts. You can ignore them easily enough, but if you want one of the unlockable weapons during this mission, you have to hunt them down. And since getting all the endings in Drakengard requires every single weapon, you're forced to do this.
- Emotionless Girl Leona from The King of Fighters started this way, after killing her own parents under Goenitz's More Than Mind Control and being adopted by Colonel Badass Heidern who had lost his daughter and wife.
- In Iji, some of the logbooks imply that the Tasen draft soldiers as soon as they're old enough to hold a rifle. The diary writing Tasen soldier and her girlfriend are among those. This is somewhat justified since the Komato have hunted the Tasen to the brink of extinction. While the titular character's younger brother is, at most, a teenager, he doesn't qualify because he is simply Mission Control.
- Final Fantasy VIII is a deconstruction of this trope. Despite them being rather quirky, all of the protagonists save one are the members of an elite fighting force trained from the age of 5 who get their childhood memories messed up by the special equipments they use. Early on, it is made quite clear that their inexperience and youthfulness significantly screw up their jobs and lives. Seifer breaks the commander's order and later betrays everybody out of pure ego; Quistis suddenly feels sorry for yelling at Rinoa and abandon her post; Irvine suddenly becomes doubtful of his sniper skill; Selphie breaks down crying from the destruction of her old school; and Squall, while the most professional, is pretty much a Troubled, but Cute trope incarnated. There's also Zell, who is easily set off by being insulted and who often has trouble keeping his mouth shut.
- In Final Fantasy Type-0 the Power Crystal of the Fiefdom of Rubrum only grants the power of magic to the young and as the population ages their skill with magic wanes. The protagonists are teenaged students of a combination Wizarding School and Military Academy that is drafted to fight in the war.
- Suikoden V has Nether Gate; among their many, many atrocities is how they raise children to become career assassins. The player meets several members; some managed to escape its influence and have spent years recovering. Others... haven't.
- In Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway it is implied that Frankie is under 18. He dies.
- Some people did (and still do!) lie about their age in order to join the military.
- Fire Emblem games usually play this for drama. The younger members often have some tragic backstory that forces them into war. A few examples: Amelia, Ross, and Franz from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones all have a Missing Mom. The latter two suffering from varying degrees of Disappeared Dad. Amelia's mom was kidnapped by bandits, whatever that may lead to Though, if you support Amelia with Duessel, we learn that her mom got better. Ross's mom got sick and died, and his father, who had left them to join the army, retired to raise his son. Franz's mother got sick and died as well, his father, a knight, died fighting bandits. We also have Colm and Neimi. Neimi was raised by her grandfather, and when he died, Colm was the only other person she had. Naturally, those two are the fastest support in the game, usually able to get to A level by the 8th chapter.
- F.E.A.R. has psychic commmando Paxton Fettel, as well as the player character, the Point Man. Though grown by the events of the game, both were trained from birth. Fettel in particular killed people when he was only ten, though not in combat, and it wasn't entirely his fault...
- The psychological and emotional ramifications are explored in third game. Essentially, they're both scared children running from something far more powerful than them and either becoming obsessed with that (or similar) power or lashing out mindlessly in fear.
- The Point Man was entered into stasis at around 16, and taken out and trained when he was physically in his late 20s. It's hinted (but never made clear) that he might still be a child mentally.
- Fallout: New Vegas: You can talk to a Retired NCR Ranger with a broken leg in Novac. If you ask him why his leg is broken, he'll say that it was because the Legion sent children as suicide bombers against him and his squad, knowing they'd hesitate to shoot.
- If you go to the Legion fort, you can find little boys training to be full-on Legionnaires. It's horrifically implied that those children are expected to enter combat very soon, what with the battle against the NCR over Hoover Dam on the horizon. What's worse, in the NCR, troopers can sign up to join the active military at 16 - Chief Hanlon says that any Legionnaire who survives 10 years is considered an exception veteran, as many, many die long before then. That means that many of the lower-ranking Legionnaires you gun down in droves probably aren't very old at all.
- In Dissidia Final Fantasy 012: Duodecim, Vaan, possibly in reference to the orphaned friends he had in his own youth in the slums of Rabanastre, views the fact that the young Onion Knight is also part of the Conflict of the Gods as being a tragedy (despite the fact that the latter is very capable of holding his own, to the point that everyone else on the team ignores his age and sees him as a worthy peer), and so ends up inadvertently patronising him for his youth. Onion Knight desperately wishes that Vaan would treat him as someone worthy of respect, until he realizes that it is Vaan's way of doing just that: Vaan never tries to stop him from fighting, after all.
- Subtly implied to be the case if Shepard has the Colonist Background in Mass Effect. We are never given the details precisely of how they survived the Batarian raid on Mindoir on their 16th birthday, which wiped out their entire family. Judging from other first-hand descriptions, the raid is implied to have been a bloodbath, meaning that it's very likely that Shepard had to pick up a weapon and do a lot of growing up that day.
- Turians are said to have a life cycle similar to humans' but are also known to conscript every able-bodied young person into the military at only fifteen years of age. The psychological ramifications of subjecting teenagers to military life and warfare en masse are left unexplored (but maybe that explains Garrus and Saren).
- Since Celes Cher from Final Fantasy VI has the rank of general at age of 18, it is safe to say that this trope applies to her.
- Some Angolan child soldiers appear during the first level of Call Of Duty Black Ops II, being trained by Cubans to fight in the civil war against the American-allied UNITA. Mercifully, they only appear in cutscenes and you don't fight them.
- Cloud's mom, Ye Thuza, from Sandra and Woo was recently revealed to have been with Burmese rebels when she was only 16. While it hasn't been explored in much detail yet, it's certainly demonstrated a touch more seriously than the overall tone of the comic, apart from being half of a punchline in which Ye Thuza remarks she's "always been a rebel" while comparing her life as an American housewife to her years in Burma.
- Ruby's World uses this as the base of the conflict; the villains regularly use third world children as material for their cybernetic super-soldiers, and several of the young heroes have this blood-stained technology in their bodies.
- In El Goonish Shive, after a monster attacked Susan in Paris, two Immortals empowered her and Nanase, and instructed how to kill it. Later, in the Hammerchlorians storyline, it was revealed that these Immortals could have very easily gone to an experienced local magic-user instead. Susan... didn't take it well.
- In Katusha, Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, the title character is a 16-year old Ukrainian girl in Kiev and has just graduated high school in 1941 when Germany launches Operation Barbarossa. After the Germans roll through Kiev, she ends up joining a band of partisans, along with her classmate Zhenya (also 16), her foster sister Milla (age uncertain), and her younger brother Vadim (age 15). Within a few months, all of them become quite handy with weapons and adept at killing. By 1945, Katusha is serving in the Soviet Army, commanding a T-34 tank.
- In Madgie, what did you? XIX, the children aren't given much of a choice in whether or not they want to but it is put that they have to fight. That, and their guardians, the ones that lead them, have would't put them up to it if they didn't have to.
- While Welcome to Night Vale's Tamika Flynn is also justifiably listed under the 'ridiculously talented' heading, she and her fellow soldiers also come under 'tragic' in episode 46, "Parade Day", where they rebel against Strexcorp but get exactly no help from the adults, leading to them all being captured.
- In Brave New World Universethe fact that the Chosen, many of whom are young teens, were picked by strange forces to fight a war they don't understand hasn't really been brought up yet.
- In the side story Ride The Whirlwind, the main character Ricki, and her former boyfriend Al, who are both fifteen years old, are working with a group that defends the Chosen against any threat frequently using murder to get their way. Ricki has had a mental breakdown trying to get another character to kill her in a fight. Al has begun self harm, scraping his tongue until it bleeds trying to get the taste of other peoples blood out of his mouth.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang—the only character who knows what it is to live in a time of peace (other than Bumi, who is at this point over a 100 years old)—is the last survivor of a genocide. Then you have Jet, Sokka (who is put in charge of the defence of a village and an invasion), Zuko (the poster child for emotionally/physically scarred Child Soldiers), Katara (her childhood ended at nine)... One of the main villains is a fourteen year old girl who ends up having a Villainous Breakdown. It's even lampshaded a few times.
- Katara: I haven't done this since I was a kid!Aang: You are a kid!Zuko: You're just a child!Aang: Well, you're just a teenager.
- Back to the Future had a story where Doc Brown's son Verne go to the The American Civil War and find themselves recruited as a Confederate Army drummer boy. As he is being trained by another boy, Jimmy, he is told that they are positioned in the front lines in the line of fire:
- Jules: But we're just kids!Jimmy: [Bleakly] War makes you go up fast.
- In Star Wars Rebels, the Empire has a training program that recruits teenagers to be trained into new Stormtroopers, and subjected to a harsh training regiment. The dark part however is that the trainers report any recruits who are suspected as force sensitive to the Inquisitors, and what ever happens to them is unknown.
- In the Season 5 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of all shows, the Crystal Empire Bad Future has foals being recruited for the war against Sombra.
- A disturbing number of conflicts in Real Life have drawn children into them. Worse, it still happens, especially with the more renegade military forces of the world. Even by historical standards children who should have been considered far too young for service have throughout history been forced into real combat situations.
- The NGO War Child estimates that there are 250,000 child soldiers in the world today.
- The CIA world factbook's "Manpower fit for military service" starts at age 16. International Law requires that conscription can't start until age 18note .
- Almost invariably the fate of the sons of the nobility in the Middle Ages. To train a knight, start with a boy of 7. If you start after 12, he will be fit only for a priest. Most knights and sergeants (non-noble men-at-arms) started combat duty as valets in the age of 13.
- Resistance movements often feature child soldiers, given that the adults fit for military service have for the most part been killed, captured, or otherwise neutralized by the invading army. During the Armenian Genocide the Armenian Boy Scouts as an organization saw signficant combat action (although they were officially utilized in support roles such as hospital staff). Polish scouts and other children fought in all three major battles of Warsaw during WWII.
- At least a third of the Union Army in the American Civil War (as many as a million troops) were seventeen or younger. Boys as young as thirteen fought in combat (especially under the Confederacy), as opposed to drummer boys who were technically noncombatants.
- The Virginia Military Institute corps of cadets, some no older than fourteen, fought at the Battle of New Market in 1864. Of 264 present, ten were killed and 42 wounded.
- In the days of black powder and line infantry, drummer boys, many only 11 years old, some younger, stood in the front rank, armed only with their musical instruments as the men around them fought.
- The 'musics' who survived the battle also doubled as stretcher-bearers, carrying the wounded to the filthy and disease-ridden field hospitals, where amputation and cauterization without anesthesia were often the only treatment available to the wounded. Although not normally a combat role, it was most certainly a traumatic one.
- In those same days there were also powder monkeys, boys of the same age who transported gun powder on ships.
- The British Army ended the practice of sending pre-pubescent boys into battle after the slaughter of Isandlwana when the boys were not only killed but their bodies desecrated - like those of their elder comrades in arms.
- The Germans recruited young boys as "Flak-Helfer" during the second World War, assistant AA crews, who didn´t see much combat and if they did it consisted of shooting at specs in the sky. They alternated between going to school and helping with AA guns until they were 18, at which point they could join the ranks. Being properly trained in etiquette, ranks and all the other boring stuff, they usually made for very fine soldiers during training, had high morale and little reason to object to orders.
- And then there was the Volkssturm...every male who could hold a rifle was drafted. Regardless of age.
- There was an ironic nickname for the Volkssturm: "Gulash". Because it consisted of old meat and fresh vegetables...
- The last photos of Adolf Hitler show him awarding Iron Crosses to child soldiers in the ruins of Berlin.
- Speaking of Nazis, the SS Hitlerjugend were formed of teens from the Hitler Youth recruited into the SS directly. They were trained viciously, turning these darker boy scout equivalents into hardened, The Dreaded killers. They were the only units in 1944 described as both "voluntary" and "enthusiastic".
- And then there was the Volkssturm...every male who could hold a rifle was drafted. Regardless of age.
- The Italian Ragazzi del '99 ("boys of 1899") that fought in World War I: after the devastating defeat at Caporetto, the Italian army restored its numerical superiority by drafting the boys born in 1899, that at the time (1917-1918) were seventeen years old. This is openly acknowledged as a desperation move, and these child soldiers are still honoured by having streets, squares, parks and (allegedly) the 99 Flake ice cream named after them.
- The Ragazzi del '99 and the other Italian soldiers first drafted during World War I are an example of the Italian commander-in-chief Luigi Cadorna trying to correct the inadequate equipment of the Italian Army with a combination of superior numbers and training: the boys were drafted months before their eighteenth birthday, but spent the time between the draft and their eighteenth birthday training in the new trench warfare, reaching the front with superior skills than the new drafts of the Austro-Hungarian Army. After Caporetto, however, every soldier had to be sent to the frontline, resulting in the almost three hundred thousands already trained to be sent to the front in haste while the rest of them was drafted.
- Imperial Russia had the cantonists, who were the children of the soldiers; in 1827, Nicholas 1st decided Jews and other minorities should be subjected to draft, starting to 12, so as to make them good Russian Orthodoxs; they would be sent in cantonists' batallions, where they would be subjected to brutal training and forced conversion until their 18, when their 25 years term of service would begin.
- Janissaries were drafted from Christian children by the Ottoman Empire.