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Anime and Manga
- Two-layer Dragon Ball example: Majin Buu is a short-witted villain. After transforming into Super Buu, he gains an intelligence boost to some degree, but is still prone to impulsive acts and is lacking in patience and human emotion or mannerisms. However, after getting thrashed by Gohan, he manages to come up with a plan and absorb Piccolo (one of the most intelligent characters in the series) and Gotenks (a character at least his equal in power) into his body. After that, he becomes a Genius Bruiser, starts playing mindgames and emotional torment on his opponents, having backup plans, and overall being a ruder version of Cell, boosted even further after absorbing Gohan himself. And then he inverts the trope, being forcibly downgraded into his Kid Buu form. His original form, he is like a very young child, unrestrained and his most dangerous form.
- Nao Kanzaki from Liar Game starts out as very naive, mostly having to rely on the more skeptical Akiyama to help her out of a jam. However, she learns to stop being naive and deceive her opponents in the Liar Game, even taking advantage of the fact that everyone sees her as the honest one to trick them into doing what she wants, such as convincing Yoyoka into staying in the Liar Game or delivering the Coup de Grace in the following Revival Round.
- Naruto is an interesting case. Naruto goes from last in ninja school to a shinobi who can think on his feet. Then, he goes to trading ideological arguments with several human war machines as much as he trades blows with the same people. His allies still push him to think before he acts, though it most often turns out he already has several tactics in mind, leading the allies to say something like "he's not the same dumb kid we knew, after all...".
- Hachi in One Piece. He's still not terribly bright, but he's quite a bit smarter than the Dumb Muscle he used to be.
- Ash starts of as an Idiot Hero who gradually matures and learns over the course of two series. However, while his Pokémon battling skills improve during the third series, he gets less intelligent in every regard that doesn't have to do with Pokémon battling,zigzagging this trope. And during the fourth series he completely hits the Reset Button, completely inverting this trope. He plays the trope completely straight in the fifth series, however, and gains so much maturity and skill he doesn't even really qualify as an Idiot Hero anymore (naive and reckless certainly, but not an idiot).
- Team Rocket started off the Goldfish Poop Gang of the series, and by the second and third series became complete Harmless Villains and prone to imbecilic acting and tactics. In the fourth series, in contrast to Ash, they suddenly became far more devious and sinister as a result of their promotion to Elite Mooks to Giovanni. After their special placement slowly dissolved they reverted back to being bumbling, though still remain more calculating and lucid than before.
- At the end of School Rumble Tenma went through it.
- Gourry Gabriev, in the Slayers anime series, is pretty much the resident Idiot Hero and seems to get stupider in each season. Evolution-R, the fifth season, starts portraying him more akin to his novel self (who is not an Idiot Hero but instead Obfuscating Stupidity for a number of reasons, including the fact he likes Lina explaining things to him/thinks she's cute when she's mad).
- Impulse from Teen Titans got sick of being the The Fool of the team (which was mostly on account of his extreme ADHD), so he used his Super Speed to read the contents of an entire library. Because he also has Photographic Memory he basically became a walking encyclopedia. Unfortunately, he's more a Genius Ditz given that he's got the knowledge but not the wisdom or common sense.
- This is the very end (which is also the beginning) of Invisible Man, with the title character "hibernating" and thinking over what he's done and how he could improve.
- Algorind the shiny-eyed paladin from Thornhold by Elaine Cunningham was less than bright lad raised in a monastery and then released into non-black-and-white world with a mission that wasn't what it seems. As such, he was a Butt-Monkey who barely survived a completely deserved and mostly self-inflicted slapstick pinball, and ended up shrunk to the size of a mouse. In the sequel The Knights of Samular he got a clue enough to realize what's going on, spot a fallen paladin and deal with this problem, though still was easily manipulated by another party.
- When Jack Pumpkinhead first appeared in The Marvelous Land of Oz, he wasn't too bright. In later books, however, as the jack-o-lantern head serving as his head started to spoil - which it seemed, had been a little overripe to begin with - he found he could just replace it with a ripe one, and became smarter as a result.
Live Action Television
- The very point in Canada's Worst Driver. When you achieve this trope, you graduate. In Canada's Worst Driver Ever, Chris and Shirley (from Season 1 and Season 7, respectively) had enormously improved—Chris from simple experience, Shirley by dogged study and practice.
- Melvin Potter in Daredevil has mental issues that frequently make him childlike and confused. By Season 2, he is far more collected and rational. The likely explanation is the fact that Wilson Fisk is now in jail and no longer around to pressure Melvin by threatening his girlfriend or withholding his medications.
- In Doctor Who, by the time The Doctor is reunited with Rose Tyler, "Mickey the Idiot" has become confident and resourceful. It seems he was never an idiot to begin with, but rather a screw up who just needed the right motivation to get his shit together.
- A strange example of this trope exists within certain CRPG games like Fallout or Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. Because it is possible to both start the game off as dumb (read: Int 1-3) and permanently increase stats without using bugs, some players may be playing a game "stupid" and then accidentally turn him back to standard dialogue choices as a "normal person".
- After the timeskip following the battle for the Sapphire gate, The Order of the Stick's Elan has gone from a total idiot to... well, an idiot who still manages to make V look dumb by using illusion magic.
- He leveled his Int again in this strip, learning to use his Bard levels effectively. Neutralize Poison has already come in handy, though it's still not enough.
- Elan once again demonstrates that his INT score is higher than it seems, although he's still severely lacking in WIS, having failed to notice the "Evil" part of his father's Affably Evil manner.
- Caboose from Red vs. Blue quickly became a rather extreme form of The Ditz. Come Recreation, however, he's managed to regain much of his intelligence (and sanity), to the point that he is fully capable of rational thought and even managed to repair and awaken Epsilon-Church. He's still fairly ditzy though.
- On The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin went from Too Dumb to Live to a more normal level of intelligence after the first season. This was probably Characterization Marches On also as they were a mix of that, mischievous, Only Sane Man and just naive. The Only Sane Man characterization seems to be becoming the dominant one.
- An episode of The Transformers (the 80's cartoon) has Grimlock become a genius temporarily, even starting each sentence with "I, Grimlock" as opposed to his usual "Me Grimlock".
- In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Grounder the Genius", Dr. Robotnik invents a chip that's supposed to make him even smarter, but his dim-witted minion robot Grounder accidentally puts it into his own brain while trying to piece himself together, becoming a genius.
- Cinnamon Bun from Adventure Time has always been a dullard due to being literally half-baked. In "Red Throne", he finally becomes fully baked, and as such is far more intelligent then he's ever been.
- Deconstructed in case of Morty from Rick and Morty - while constant adventures and near-death situations turned him from naive, slow in the mind kid to one of the more competent and self-aware characters of the show, they also took a serious toll on him, resulting in his constant sense of disillusionment and insecurity.
- Tokka and Rahzar, the two mutants from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, were dumb as bricks in the movie; they made one appearance on the 1987 cartoon, however, where they were smart, and very articulate. (And not exactly evil either, portrayed as two Reluctant Monsters just trying to survive.
- Both Rufus and Amberley in The Dreamstone. As often as they saved the day, it was more often because of their more competent peers or because they had the Urpneys as their enemies, thus whenever these two conveniences were temporarily out of the equation, they usually ended up looking pretty clueless. Starting midway into Season Three, the two start acting more capable, and are shown able to think of solutions on their own. Rufus also becomes less of The Millstone while Amberley becomes The Strategist. Note this was restoring their original personalities, as they Took a Level in Dumbass following the pilot episode.
- In the original 1965 version of Secret Squirrel, the title character had a tendency to bungle his plans. In the 90's revival Super Secret Secret Squirrel, he became more competent, with all of the bungling relegated to Morocco Mole.