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Improbable Age

A character whose age seems inappropriate with their occupation or position given the amount of experience they would need, whether or not said age is actually important within the storyline. Tends to lean to the younger side, resulting in the Teen Genius, Kid Hero, and Hollywood Homely for female characters all inexplicably under thirty. In benign cases, it's because the writers assume the audience better identifies with characters their own age.

In some cases, an age that is improbable on first glance may actually be Truth in Television. In ages past, life expectancy was shorter and people needed to be capable at a younger age; in fact, studies seem to indicate that adolescence is a modern creation. This has produced a very curious effect where the longer humans live, the longer the age gap of competence tends to widen. It also must be noted that many of the examples below occur in violent settings; people growing up in a warlike environment have no choice but to adapt and learn to survive, and the faster the better. It's a common problem in societies with inherited positions of authority, although usually some adult regent would be appointed until the heir comes of age.

Although in the past, competence, skills, and abilities were more neccesary at a younger age (as opposed to the modern convention of serious training starting only at age 18 or so), this convention is often abused for fields where expertise is implausable without years of formal training at a more mature level. For example, a teen already being an expert in modern disciplines that require formal university education as well as graduate level education. There is only so much that a kid could learn from his local library.

For characters whose age seems inappropriate given their maturity (rather than competence), see Wise Beyond Their Years. If the people running a society are improbably young, see Teenage Wasteland. If the character is of an appropriate age but the actor is too young, it's an inversion of Dawson Casting. Can be easily hand waved by making a character Older Than They Look, or even Really 700 Years Old. May lead to Child Soldiers. Contrast Competence Zone.

See also Under Age Casting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Before we even get started here, it should be noted that this trope is nearly universal in Anime and Manga due to Japanese culture's adoration of youthful heroes. The 15-year-old Shonen hero — despite training for all of half his young life — will eventually defeat the mature, battle experienced, 40 year old badass villain and save the world. The 12 year old protagonist of a Harem anime will have high-school girls inexplicably throwing themselves at him constantly. The 25 year old anti-hero of a Crime Fiction Seinen manga will out-gambit the entire police force and become the city's crime kingpin in no time. Catch the drift? At the very least, you'll be hard pressed to find a manga where the lead character is limited in their potential solely due to age.
  • In Death Note Light Yagami starts the series at 17, yet he manages to take on the best detective in the world (who himself is only 24), and even out-gambit him. This example is particularly striking because both characters can predict human behaviour near-perfectly — which takes experience that they're just not old enough to have yet.
    • Later on, Mello and Near take on the investigation and also both out-gambit Light, who are both even younger than Light.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion features the typical teenager mecha pilots, though the organizations combating the Angels are working on other plans that do not depend on child pilots, who they don't take very seriously and have serious doubts about, for good reason.
  • Sousuke Sagara in Full Metal Panic! is 16 at the beginning of the animé, but a fearsomely-skilled sergeant in a paramilitary organization, although this is explained by a history as a child soldier in Afghanistan; its also a way to logically hang around the schoolgirl-aged Chidori.
    • His commander, Teletha "Tessa" Testarossa, is about the same age and has her position almost solely by virtue of the bizarre racial memory gift possessed by those called The Whispered, which meant that she designed the submarine.
    • Sousuke's colleague Kurz Weber also qualifies, though not to quite the same extreme as Sousuke and Tessa; he's only nineteen at the start of the series and the Light Novels eventually reveal that he began training as a sniper at the age of about fifteen.
  • Most of the main cast in Soul Eater are 13 - 16 years old. It's pretty impressive for 13-year-old Maka to be so good at slicing through pre-Kishins that she nearly turned her partner into a Death Scythe at the start of the series, the strongest position a weapon can get to (And later on, she really does manage this.) and later (in the anime at least) takes out the world's most powerfully evil being, the Kishin, with a single punch to the face.
    • With Spartoi demonstrating just how 'elite' these teenagers are, Kid's the only questionable example, in that he is not human and a 'fragment' of Lord Death.
    • Shoutout to Justin Law, who did become a Death Scythe at age 13, the youngest in history. And he did it alone, without a partner. By the time we see him he's 17 and the coordinator of Western Europe.
  • Ranma Saotome of Ranma ˝ is a world-class martial artist capable of feats impossible for a mere 7th-dan black belt, and he's only 16 at the end of the series. (This is explained by his father Genma's slave-driver-esque training regimen and spending Ranma's early childhood Walking the Earth as part of said regimen.) He STARTED the series at 16 as well, so that was a busy year.
  • The Slayers has the four main protagonists. Lina in particular is possibly the only sorceress in the world able to manifest the power of the world's Guardian of the Multiverse, the one being above God and Satanic figures Ciefeed and Shabranigdo respectively, the Lord of Nightmares, and utilize it effectively. Her magical level is also noted to be much higher than average. At the start of the series, she's a tender fifteen.
    • Zelgadis the chimera sticks out even more, depending on the adaptation. He's a hyper-intelligent chimera, able to strategize like a general, utilize effective swordplay and magic, and use a nautical sextant with ease. Throw in the ability to play the guitar in the anime, and you have an ace of a sorcerer at nineteen (or sixteen, in the anime).
    • Princess Amelia is a well-rounded priestess and an effective healer, not as powerful as Lina, but being a fourteen (anime)/fifteen (novels) year old diplomat is nothing to sneeze at.
    • Gourry is a phenomenal swordsman, but is twenty-two at the start of the series, and Word of God stated that he was a mercenary/soldier since seventeen. Depending on where you live, that's actually not uncommon in Real Life, so he averts this trope to a degree.
  • Amuro Ray from Mobile Suit Gundam was an ace mecha pilot at the age of 16. This was a hold over from Super Robot series where the pilots of Humongous Mecha were sometimes teenagers. Slightly subverted in the fact that, despite his age, he has as much time in the cockpit as anyone on his side, since he's literally the only one who ever took the original prototype of the weapon into combat.
    • Kamille Bidan of Zeta Gundam is even crazier: he designed the eponymous hyper-advanced mobile suit he ends up piloting. It's handwaved that he's been an amateur mobile suit designer for years... but a Gundam?
    • Usso Ewin of Victory Gundam was an expert mecha pilot at the age of 13. Handwaved by the fact that he grew up playing Mobile Suit simulators for an arcade. It's also Lampshaded repeatedly by almost everyone he meets: both his allies and enemies simply cannot believe the pilot of the Victory is a kid.
    • There is, in the Universal Century timeline, exactly one Gundam protagonist over the age of twenty. Shiro Amada (24).
    • Now also Hughes Curro (32) and Sherry Allison (24), from the oncoming Gundam 0081. Erik Blanque from the same show is a borderline case, as he's 20. There's also a number of older characters in the spinoffs like MS IGLOO.
    • In the Tomino's own novels, that arguably represent his vision of UC more authentically (read: without Executive Meddling), Amuro is 18, and a military cadet, sent to train with the first Federation Mobile Suits. He still falls into the cockpit, but at least he's officially sanctioned to do so.
  • Gundam Wing's OAV Endless Waltz is especially inexplicable, with Mariemaia Khushrenada leading a rebellion despite being seven years old. (Granted, she was a figurehead for the most part, but the Man Behind the Man was seeing that she got some in-field experience, too. The age of her father Treize would seem to imply he became a father at 17.)
    • The manga prequel, Episode Zero, goes wild with the trope. Treize was commanding soldiers way back then, one of whom was a 12-year-old Lucrezia Noin.
    • The main series is also entirely guilty. Zech Marquise is a respected colonel within OZ and an master mobile suit pilot at the age of 19, and his equally skilled Love Interest Lucrezia Noin is in charge of OZ's elite pilot training academy at the same age. Treize Khushrenada is the leader of the entire organization at 24. The Gundam pilots, who were only 15 during were stealing mobile suits, fighting in skirmishes, and beating trained mercenaries around that same time; in this case, however, it's a bit more believable, as they are stated to have been trained as fighters since they were in nappies. Vaguely more palatable by the fact they have about as much experience in mobile suits as anyone else; the MS itself is supposedly only about 20 years old in Wing.
  • Gundam 00 also has a little bit of this in its first season, although it gets justified in-show; protagonist Setsuna F. Seiei begins the show at sixteen years old but the very prologue to the show shows us that Soran Ibrahim, who Setsuna really is, was conscripted into a child mujahideen as early as ten years old, which is an all too common story in the real world and leaves Soran with very real emotional scars. Allelujah Haptism is similarly 19 but is an artificial supersoldier who escaped from his research laboratory under absolutely tragic circumstances. Soma Peires is in a similar situation to Allelujah. Feldt Grace is a Bridge Bunny at 14, with her justification (mostly only brought up in side material) being that as her deceased parents were part of the previous generation of Gundam Meisters, she has essentially grown up with Celestial Being.
    • This also basically disappears by the "Zeta 00" season of the show; four years pass, this after the first season takes nearly a year, so by then just about the entire cast is at least in their early to mid 20s, which is still slightly young but not at all unheard of for a real-life combat pilot (with a now-huge majority of the cast being near, at or older than 30 years). The only prominent teens even left on-cast are Feldt (who's now 19) and 14-year-old Mileina Vashti, who's the daughter of the chief engineer of the Cool Ship and has ostensibly been around this stuff all her life and ardently wants to help out as a Bridge Bunny. All the characters had their appearances suitably altered to reflect their aging.
  • Gundam AGE looks set to continue the trend, with 14-year-old protagonist Flit Asuno having built the Gundam.
    • And then he gets one-upped by Desil Galette, 7-year-old Humongous Mecha Ace Pilot. Helps that he has Psychic Powers, but even so...
    • And the cute captain of the Diva in the third generation, Natora Einus.
    • Kio Asuno of the third generation gets a similar excuse to Usso: he grew up playing Mobile Suit simulators, so at 13 he can pilot the Gundam very well. He also has his grandfather Flit, a highly skilled and experienced pilot, as a co-pilot.
  • Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist is quite young to be a Major in the Army and a State Alchemist... but here, everyone knows this, he's considered something of a genius for it. Ed does actually visibly mature, leading enough people to humorously assume he's simply very short much to his annoyance. It's explicitly stated that passing the state alchemist exam (for which there's no minimum age to take) automatically makes you a Major.
    • The Amestrian military as a whole has a ton of people who are Improbable Age. Some of the most blatant are Roy Mustang who is in his late 20's and is a Colonel, Hughes who was the same age was a Lt. Colonel, and Olivia Milla Armstrong who is in her early to mid 30's is a Major General. It's justified by showing that killing a superior officer is a great way to get promoted in the Amestrian government.
      • And as an alchemist, Mustang also started out as a Major, so he could have anywhere between 7-16 years to be promoted two ranks, without breaking canon.
      • It probably helps that Mustang is something of an Ace, too.
      • Plus, Mustang distinguished himself in the Ishbalan Rebellion, and so was likely promoted to Colonel for that.
      • Given that Amestris has been in a constant state of war for over three hundred years, being a high-ranking officer at the age of 20-something is justified even without killing one's commanding officer (which was only done because said officer was an arrogant fool). Constant war, after all, means a constant need to replace dead superiors, and thus anybody skilled enough to stay alive is likely to be promoted to very high ranks.
  • In addition to being a fully-trained mage (stronger than professionals in their 40s), Negi Springfield of Mahou Sensei Negima! has been assigned to be the English teacher of a diverse group of 31 teenage girls. He was not quite ten when he was assigned to the latter post, but that's okay since he somehow also managed to master Japanese. In his class are martial arts masters, genius inventors, retired mercenaries and entrepreneurs, so perhaps it's to be expected that they'd get such an odd teacher. His father was also a celebrated war hero and considered the strongest man in the world by the age of fifteen.
  • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh! is a sixteen-year-old inventor, pilot, and sole owner of a successful billion-dollar gaming empire (still a stretch even at his dub-raised age of 18); however, how he managed to attain this was a major plot point of the 'Virtual World' arc. Much like Ranma, the hellish schooling forced on him by his adoptive father may have something to do with it.
    • Duke Devlin is also a sixteen-year-old inventor and the owner of a huge gaming store. Not quite on Kaiba's level, but still.
  • The Astronauts in Rocket Girls are justified as having been chosen because they are 16-year-old girls and much lighter than adults. Girls have already done most of their growing by age sixteen. You'd be much better off finding adult women with small bones.
    • Yukari was just the only/first tiny woman available when one was needed.
  • Rebecca Miyamoto of Pani Poni Dash!, who graduated from MIT at 11 and is now a high school teacher. She's like an exaggerated Distaff Counterpart of Negi.
  • In Mai-HiME, nobody except Mai finds it odd that Mashiro, the Fuka Academy director, is only 11 years old. Well, officially. Actually more than 300. And the avatar body is probably even older, if Childs indeed pass from carnival to carnival as implied.
    • In the manga, she really is as young as she looks.
  • Every single player in Prince of Tennis. They're supposedly in junior high (7th, 8th, 9th grade), although none of ninth graders look that way; one is often mistaken for a teacher. Not to mention how the twelve-year old main character can cream professional adult players without even breaking a sweat. But he can't beat his father, though.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena tends to be a bit of a shock when we hear Utena is only about 13 or 14 years old, with some other characters not much older, considering what they get up to...
  • The Time-Space Administration Bureau of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha doesn't seem to have any minimum age requirement to join its Armed Forces. Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate became Contract Mages at nine. Chrono was already an officer at fourteen (and while the Admiral who's his commanding officer is also his mother, no indication of nepotism is made). No one bats an eyelash at being ordered around by Vita, who despite being several centuries old, has the outward appearance of a six year old child; Hayate notes in the first Sound Stage that she would be in first grade if she were going to school. Despite her apparent age, Vita considers herself an adult, even if she doesn't always act like one.
    • Also notable are the character's appearances after a Time Skip between seasons. Chrono's vaguely-forties mother is the only normal character who doesn't appear older.
    • Yuuno, who's approximately the same age as Nanoha, was the one who originally excavated the Lost Logia. Alone.
    • Vivio, while still in third grade, holds the title of librarian at the Infinity Library. Otto lampshades this when Vivio suggests that she should address her as a normal third grader.
      Otto: If I may say so, I do not believe there are any other normal third graders with the title librarian at the Infinite Library.
      • Yuuno was appointed chief librarian of the Infinite Library at age 15.
    • According to Sound Stage M2, Fate became an Enforcer at age 12.
    • It also appears to be something of a sticking point for non-magical military personal; during a discussion between Hayate and an officer whom she outranks (and is probably in at least her thirties), who is herself aide to a general in at least his late forties, the women makes a slight snide reference to the idea of magical talent letting one shoot through the ranks.
    • Possibly the most ridiculous example of all is Chrono, who became an Admiral by the age of twenty.
  • Mahoromatic pulls a similar thing, where Suguru's teacher, a comedically-perverted teacher nearing Christmas Cake status, appears in a Distant Finale yet looks exactly the same.
  • The titular Marine Boy seems to be a full agent for the Ocean Patrol even if he's barely pubescent.
  • Not quite so unbelievable in The Daughter of Twenty Faces as main character Chiko's physical accomplishments tend to be gymnastic, and tween-to-early-teen girls are noted for their flexibility and are a staple of the Olympics, and her powers of insight are not out of place for a smart, curious girl; that said, she still seems a little young to be dodging armed men, bluffing her way out of incredible danger and making off with artifacts of incalculable value. Much of the rest of the cast does comment on this, however, and part of her training is proving that she can be of value.
  • By these standards, Azumanga Daioh's Chiyo Mihama almost seems to be slacking off, as at age ten, she's only just starting high school.
  • Ridiculously common in series about wild animals with social structures involving a single leader. The example that comes most clearly to my mind is the anime series Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, and for that matter, its sequel, Ginga Densetsu Weed too. Somewhat justified however, in that many animals including dogs are considered more or less adults within a few years old.
  • Ash or possibly any other Pokémon Trainer who starts his/her quest at age 10. This involves leaving their parents and families to travel across the world on foot, facing off against as-yet-untamed monsters with potentially deadly Elemental Powers, and camping without a tent in the woods like old pros. And Ash's mother sends him off cheerfully with nothing but a backpack full of gear and a reminder to keep his underwear washed.
    • The Japanese novels actually go into a bit of detail about this, explaining that A) 10 years old is considered the age of adulthood in the Pokémon world - with all of the legal implications that entails, and B) Ash's mom was a young mother who wanted her son out of her life as soon as possible so she could re-capture her youth.
    • One iteration of the Manga mentions in the second chapter that Ash only has a short leave of absence from school while he goes on his journey as he laments how unproductive the first hours of his quest have been.
    • Plus, Pokémon Centers tend to be excellently run rest stops with practically all the comforts of a hotel, and free care for your Pokémon.
    • Lampshaded here.
    • In Pokémon Special, White owns her own company despite probably only being around 14.
      • In an earlier volume, Falkner is portrayed as a policeman despite most likely being under 18.
      • The most egregious example is Rakutsu (Nate), who is only 12 years old but is a high-ranking and extremely competent member of the International Police.
  • It's something of a stretch for the audience to believe that the now eighteen years old Christopher Thorndyke in Sonic X constructed a fully functioning portal that allowed him to transfer between worlds, gained his pilot's licence and became a black belt in Karate in six years between the end of one series and the beginning of the next. They're all possible, but accomplishing all of them in the same time span (when he was previously little more than an annoying twelve year old) is somewhat more incredible. Amazingly enough this characterization jump helped him rather than hindered him.
  • Played with in Martian Successor Nadesico when the 12 year old science officer explains the "recent trend" in "young, attractive captains" to the 20 year old Genius Ditz heroine using obvious expies of Anime spaceship captains.
  • In Baccano!, Firo Prochainezo becomes an executive member of a Camorra organization at the age of eighteen. While this may not be as impressive as some of the examples above, it's enough (in the novels) for another character to immediately disbelieve it and then subsequently accuse him of sleeping his way up the ranks.
  • The main characters of Digimon Savers are all stated to be between 15-18, and are all the SOLE FIELD OFFICERS (at least onscreen) in a "The Men in Black" style operation to prevent Digimon-related disasters in the real world. This would fall neatly into Competence Zone, until you start hearing more about the exploits of Touma/Thomas - at age fifteen, he's already graduated from university and is a fully trained doctor.
  • Pretty much everyone who starts out in Gurren Lagann is less than 20 years old, with Simon and Yoko being around 14 and Kamina at most being 17. The other members are not much older, except for maybe Leeron. How a 14 year old kid managed to defeat a millennium-old powerhouse of a man nearing the status of a deity is beyond me... and 7 years later, takes on an entire race of beings much stronger than the original opponent. Saving the universe at age 21 shouldn't naturally occur...
  • Pretty much everyone in Naruto is a superhuman fighter when they are just out of their teens. Kakashi is noted to have become a Genin at age 5, a Chuunin at age 6 and a Jounin at age 13.
    • Itachi needs a mention here too. ANBU Captain at 13.
    • Deidara joined Akatsuki at around 14.
    • Most examples fall under the general rules of the series, but, apart from Kakashi, Naruto and Sasuke take the cake; At the age of 16, they are among the top 10 fighters in the entire series, and rising fast. (And speaking of fast, Naruto has gone from being held back by his average speed to the fastest man alive.)
    • Killer Bee is at least implied to have become a Chuunin at the age of 5. In which, it probably took less than a year to reach it after graduating the academy, beating out Kakashi and Yamato's records for the youngest Chuunin appointed in the series.
    • Hanabi deserves mention on account of apparently having made Genin by age 10 in peacetime, when most don't graduate the Academy until age 12.
    • Gaara becomes the Kazekage of the Hidden Sand by the time he's 15.
  • In Saiunkoku Monogatari, To Eigetsu not only becomes the youngest person ever to pass the Imperial Examinations and qualify for court office at the age of thirteen, he earns the highest score and is almost immediately appointed co-Governor of an entire province (alongside seventeen-year-old Kou Shuurei). Similarly, by the time he was taken in by the Kou family at the age of fourteen, Seiran had already spent a year infiltrating and destroying a band of criminal mercenaries.
  • Monkey D. Luffy and Roronoa Zoro of One Piece are in an exclusive group of pirates (11 members total) with bounties over 100,000,000. At the ages of 17 and 19, respectively.
    • Nico Robin was forced to become a fugitive at the age of eight, and managed to survive multiple betrayals by the adults who took her in and successfully escaping the marines for 20 years. She is said to have destroyed six Marine ships, but this is actually a lie.
    • Tony Tony Chopper is a fairly skilled doctor at the age of fifteen.
    • The Straw Hat crew as a whole qualifies, given how renowned and powerful has come to be, with most of the members being teenagers or young adults, and the oldest members still being fairly young : Robin is 28/30, Franky is 34/36, and Brook died at age 38, which isn't terribly old.
    • Rob Lucci single-handedly killed 500 soldiers who had been taken hostage and took the head of a pirate captain at the age of 13, becoming the youngest member of the elite assassin group CP9 in the process. The 23-year-old Kaku has been in CP 9 for at least five years, making him 18 or younger at the time of his joining.
  • And then we have Spriggan, where Yu Ominae appears to be starting high school: he's not only an elite super soldier, he's a hardened, proven veteran who's seen so much action thanks to being abducted by the US military and trained as a super soldier assassin.
    • Tea Flatte is one too, due to her being immortal thanks to Merlin's magic.
  • Saki Amano in Kanamemo is the chief of a local newspaper office and commands absolute authority (to some extent) over the entire cast. She's in elementary school.
  • Zambot 3 demands a mention! Not just were the titular robot's three pilots prepubescent, this was a Kill 'em All series!
  • John in Ghost Hunt is an ordained Catholic priest at the age of 19.
    • Naru, who is head of a successful paranormal investigation company at the age of 17, comments on the improbability.
      • However, in Naru's case, this was subverted, as it was revealed that Shibuya Psychic Research is only a code name for the Society for Psychical Research, and that his adopted father Martin Davis is the real head.
  • Son Goku of Dragon Ball. Master martial artist, breaking rocks in one punch that are about the size of his head by his mid-late teens. Goes off on a wild adventure with the 16 year old Bulma at the age of 12. And less than a year later, he took on and completely destroyed an entire terrorist organization that was feared world-wide! Then three years later he effectively destroys a Demon King that threatened to cause The End Of The World Aswe Know It, and then defeated his even more powerful son three years later! Somewhat justified in that he's a member of a Proud Warrior Race.
    • Gohan, Goku's oldest son, take this Up to Eleven by reaching and surpassing his father's power level at no less than age five. And at age 10, he had effectively destroyed a being capable of destroying entire Solar Systems!
  • Bleach:
    • Ichigo Kurosaki managed to become one of the strongest shinigami in the series at age 15 (whereas most of the other shinigami have been training for decades, if not centuries).
    • Toshiro Hitsugaya, a Child Prodigy who is the youngest captain in Soul Society history. He's approximately 12-13 in terms of biological age. His youth becomes a major weakness that Aizen can exploit but his talent is so great even a shinigami as experienced as Kyouraku believes Hitsugaya can surpass in him around a hundred years or so.
    • Yachiru is a vice-captain who is biologically around 7-8 years old. She's immensely strong and fast and seems to have no trouble holding the position of vice-captain.
    • Gin Ichimaru went through academy training at a very young age, and it only took him a year to complete a six-year programme. He became third seat almost immediately after graduating by easily killing the current third seat.
    • Uryuu Ishida is the same age as Ichigo. At the age of 15, he fought Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi and displayed Quincy skills beyond anything Mayurinote  had ever seen, to the extent that he kicked Mayuri's ass upon unleashing his ultimate ability. Although Mayuri lampshaded how improbable it was for a child to possess such high level Quincy ability, Uryuu's father has stated that Uryuu's power is still under-developed and immature; thus the power he used against Mayuri was not the true extent of his abilities. At the age of 17, he's revealed to possess abilities that the thousand-year old Quincy King — who handily defeated Yamamoto — considers threatening enough to need surveillance.
    • Ryuuken Ishida is extremely young for his job as the Director of Karakura General Hospital. In a flashback set 20 years before the manga begins (and 5 years before his son is born), he's a high schooler (so under 18). That means he's no older than 40 even after the series' Time Skip. While he's been shown to be so intelligent he can keep up with Urahara, this is still ridiculously young for the level of responsibility involved. Japanese medical education assumes a minimum of 6 years student training, then 2 years of general clinical practice training, followed by 5-6 years of training in a speciality field. If he entered college at 18, he shouldn't have even become a fully qualified surgeon for at least 13 years, let alone become director of a major urban hospital in less than 20. What's more, Uryuu's elementary school flashbacks indicate Ryuuken may have been director for several years now, further straining the limits of probability. Given that Ryuuken's control over Karakura General (such as being able to build a secret Quincy training ground underneath it) seems to extend beyond just being the Director, it's likely that he owns the hospital and thus Screw the Rules, I Have Money! comes into play.
  • 2nd Lt. Alice L. Malvin from Pumpkin Scissors. Justified as she's a noble out of officer school (in the prologue). She's still in her teens in the series proper, but younger people have fought in World War One, which the series is a blatant fantasy analogue of.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Tsuna, the main character, and several of his classmates and friends are recruited into The Mafia while they are still in middle school. Not to mention, Tsuna is expected become the Tenth boss...
    • Add the Arcobaleno, seven (eight if you count Lal Mirch) infants who are considered to be the strongest fighters in the mafia world. Of course, you find out that they are in fact, Older Than They Look later on, but it's still amazing what they are capable of doing with their incredibly small physical bodies.
    • There's also Squalo, who, after defeating the Sword Emperor Tyr, was supposed to take over the Varia, the most feared assassination squad in the Mafia at age 14. The Varia went to Xanxus who was only 2 years older.
  • Muhyo of Muhyo And Roji, officially the youngest executor ever in the MLS, doesn't look older than 10. Biko who's a skilled artificer, looks around the same age.
  • In the anime version of Rockman.EXE, Preteen Genius Enzan Ijuuin (Chaud, stateside) is the vice president of IPC, a major computer hardware company. He's also about 12 years old.
  • Black Lagoon,
    • Deconstructed where 17-year-old Yakuza Princess Yukio Washimine becomes a mafia boss because the yakuza council will only recognize a blood relative as head of the clan. The first obstacle once she obtains the title? A war with war veteran Balalaika and her ex-special forces henchmen. The show goes into detail of showing just how strained both the newly minted boss and the mafiosi are about the whole arrangement, and the stress of having to take on all the responsibility. In the end, her clan disbanded and her second-in-command and only confidant killed by the war, Yukio commits suicide.
    • The show also has extremely implausibly young professional assassins Hansel and Gretel. Even given the incredible amounts of Rule of Cool the two operate under (in order to ensure they're not killed two seconds after they're introduced), the show goes into detail showing just how incredibly messed up someone would have to be to have a career like that at that age.
  • Detective Conan Non-Serial Movie Phantom of Baker Street. Hiroki Sawada is already a grad student at MIT at the age of... ten, written a commercial genomic genealogy tracker and then an AI system (to which he practically coded himself in). This is not to say, if the backstory is read correctly, he finished what others would take 15-16 years of schooling in 2 years. Well, the side effect: not only he couldn't play with the other kids, he has to choose not being recognized at all or being kept in work all day... One won't be surprised about what's going on with that.
    • The case of the major character Ai Haibara was a deconstruction... and then reconstructed. Her parent worked for the Black Organization and after their accidental death, she was also separated with her sister Akemi as the Organization sent him abroad for education more fit for a Child Prodigy, ending up heading her parent's lab at age of 18 at the latest which deprived her childhood, as she said, not to say that her position and her closeness to Akemi, who became a Red Shirt, provoked a series of events that ended up with her taking the poison she developed and shrunk into a 6-year-old.. This is why she wasn't interested in taking the Antidote herself; she liked her life (i.e. re-enacting a normal childhood) as it is now.
  • In Mirai Nikki the two main characters, and their friends, who are all 14 years old, often have to fight for their lives in a survival game in order to become God. Yuno in particular has the highest kill count in the series, and is seen as horrific by most fans, at least on some level. However most of the other characters are adults so this trope is Played With. The really odd one is Reisuke, a five-year-old boy who is disturbingly well-versed in creative ways of killing people.
  • In Black Butler, Ciel is the head of the Phantomhive noble family and Funtom company. It does help that his parents were killed, but he is pretty intelligent for someone who is only 12 years old. Though considering how fast he was forced to grow up and the literal Training from Hell he was forced into to gain those abiities, combined with the fact children were allowed to get away with more in the time period its set in, the things he can do are more justified.
  • A Prequel Manga of Sakigake!! Otokojuku shows that Edajima is specially admitted in the Tokyo Imperial University at the age of eleven, and he passed the test in such a short time, complete with saying the test is far too easy.
    • The sequel manga occasionally shows what has become of Otokojuku students some 18 years after their graduation. J is now Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces, and thus a four-star general, in his early 30s.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai has Maria and Kate, who are both teachers and nuns at the age of 10 and 15 respectively. Maria not officially, though she's capable of the teacher part — but the characters have been expected to buy her in both roles for seven books before they find this out.
  • A Certain Magical Index has quite a bit of this, much of which is justified in one way or another.
    • On the science side, every single esper is under the age of twenty. It is strongly implied that the power development program (at least in its most recent, most effective form) is only about a decade old, so it makes perfect sense that there are no adult espers. The fact that most of the non-esper Badass Normals on the science side are also teenagers is less justified, but there also only a handful of them, so it's not something to worry about too much.
    • On the magic side, it appears that the leader of every single magic cabal, cult, and secret organization is a twelve year-old loli, but it's implied that most of them are significantly older, and just using magic to decrease their age. There are ones who are genuinely young, though; Stiyl Magnus is a veteran fire mage at age 14, and Tsuchimikado was Necessarius' feng shui master at the ripe old age of 15. Kanzaki is the magical equivalent of a nuke at age 16, but then she's a Saint, and was born with her power.
  • In Valvrave the Liberator, for Valvrave pilots, there is in Ordinary High-School Student, a former Idol Singer, a Casnova friend who lost the girl he truly loved, a Japanese Delinquent, and a Hikikomori.
    • When New JIOR declares its independence, their government ramps it up as there are only two adults are members and the rest are all high school students. Prime Minister? The daughter of the surrendered JIOR nation. Minister of Cultures and Sciences? An Otaku. Minister of Internal Affairs? A black-haired young Anya Expy. Cheif Cabinet Secretary? The Student Council President. Minister of Foreign Affairs? A Lovable Alpha Bitch. Minister of Health and Welfare? One of the only two adults on the Module. Defense Minister? The same Ordinary Highschool Student. And it was formed partly thanks to a Child Soldier who recently defected with plans to overthrow the Dorssian regime.

    Comic Books 
  • The Comedian in Alan Moore's Watchmen apparently joined the Minutemen at age 16, having already established a reputation as being particularly brutal and vicious while acting as a vigilante in the city's waterfront area. Clearly a precocious little scamp.
    • Before Watchmen also applies this to Ozymandias, who was apparently already a successful businessman with his own corporate building before he hit 20. Since this one wasn't written by Moore, however, its canonicity is debatable; Watchmen proper only indicates that he was active as a superhero by 19, which is more plausible.
  • Young Tintin can fly planes, drive tanks, operate weaponry, navigate harsh terrain, carve a working trumpet out of a tree branch with a pen-knife, build cars out of discarded spare parts, learn elephant language in a matter of weeks, etc.
  • Derek Dynamo from Super Dinosaur fits this to a 'T'. No more than 13 yet he does battle with powerful Dino Men.
  • Hunter Rose Of Grendel, who is depicted as near super-humanly gifted. World-class fencer in his early youth. Becomes a best selling novelist and socialite while at the same time the crime lord Grendel, and later the adoptive father of the daughter of one of his victims, all before the age of eighteen.
  • Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, is an eleven years old Badass with Charles Atlas Superpowers? If it wasn't so awesome it would have really stretched the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

    Fan Works 
  • In ''Time Gate X'', an science fiction Land Before Time fan fiction, one of the main characters, Tanner Colvin, is a military scientist who is 14-15 years old.
  • In the legendary satirical fanfic A Trekkie's Tale, the heroine Mary Sue is fifteen and a half years old and a Starfleet lieutenant.
  • Marissa Picard has her beat. She was captain at age 9!
  • A milder, lampshaded example. Bait and Switch's Captain Kanril Eleya is well aware that at 29 years old she's very young to be commanding a Galaxy-class starship. She puts it down at least in part to Klingon Promotion: as the fic is set in the Star Trek Online time period a lot of the more senior officers of Starfleet are dead. It also helps that she's been in the military since she was seventeen, albeit originally as an enlisted crewman in the Bajoran Militia.
  • The point of the Ore Imo fanfic My Life Can't Lose Its Normality is to make the main character of the series, Kousaka Kyousuke, cooler than he is in canon. It goes about this by having him and several other characters be part of a team of vigilantes who are just as badass as most special operatives, if not more. They're in high school.
  • In Boys Do Tankary, in the flashbacks, characters who are even younger than the teenage protagonists of Girls und Panzer are shown crewing and commanding tanks, this time in actual war, rather than tankery matches. In particular, Vincent joins the army at the age of six, and he and Gage become leaders of their own platoons at the age of seven. Disturbingly enough, the horrific implications of this are never explicitly commented on. In a less extreme example, Iris, "the Captain" is only eighteen.
  • Over all extremely common in fanfic due to most writers being young and focusing on young heroes.
  • Defied in All-American Girl. When a number of human soldiers are conducting an interrogation of armed terrorists, Princess Celestia transforms herself into a human female soldier to secretly participate in the interrogation. The other soldiers point out that her human form is a little too young for her chosen rank (Lieutenant Commander) and advise her to transmogrify her uniform into that of an Ensign.

    Films — Animation 
  • Similar to Ginga Nagareboshi Gin's "puppy as pack leader" complex, Wolf Quest, the first of the two horrendous Balto sequels, took this to the next level. Not only was Aleu leading an entire wolf pack when she was barely more than a year old, she was only a quarter wolf, and the rest was dog. Not to mention it's highly unlikely that some outsider can just show up and suddenly become Alpha. But of course the only justification for this is that cartoon animals are typically more civilized and accepting than the real thing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Last Action Hero, where most of the action occurs inside a fictional action-adventure movie, naturally lampshades this when Danny Madigan, a young boy who gets partnered with mature police officer Jack Slater, uses the fact that he is too young for this post to try persuading Slater that they are inside a movie.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Word of God says Queen Amidala was 14 during the events of the film. In the sequel, she's a Galactic Senator at 24 and seems to pass down the trait to her daughter, who held the same position at 19. Anakin and Luke would be examples if they they weren't The Chosen One and his son respectively.
    • According to the Expanded Universe, Naboo youth were required to work in public service for a number of years, and majority was determined by intellectual maturity rather than biological age, so what looks like Improbable Age was the norm for Naboo. That Amidala and Palpatine stayed in politics past the age of twenty was the more unusual thing.
  • Subverted in the historically accurate John Ford/John Wayne western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. The 1870s cavalry unit depicted is officered primarily by 30 and 40 year old Lieutenants and Captains who were all Majors and Colonels (and even Generals) during the Civil War but had to revert back to their regular army ranks after the war ended. The one young 2nd Lieutenant is told (only half-jokingly) he'll make a good 1st Lieutenant in 10 or 12 years.
  • The third James Bond, Roger Moore, fell into this trope, especially in the later films. It was somewhat disconcerting seeing him, at age 58 performing an Unnecessary Combat Roll here and there in A View to a Kill, which gave him the label "Geezer Bond" in an Esquire article.
  • Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Righteous Kill, which was by most accounts only noteworthy as it was the first movie since Heat to star both actors, and the only one to have them both in more than one scene together. They played Homicide detectives at age 65 and 68 respectively. Not a particularly egregious use of the trope, but it seems more likely that anyone pushing 70 in the NYPD would have at most a desk job and not be pursuing drug dealers and serial killers.
  • The Radio Rock DJs in The Boat That Rocked are on average rather older than most of their real-life Sixties counterparts. Bob in particular is pushing it, but even The Count and Gavin are at least ten years older than they should be.
  • Star Trek XI — Pavel Chekov, the the chief navigator aboard the Federation's flagship is seventeen. He's also apparently an expert in advanced theoretical physics. By the end of the film, Kirk is made Captain at twenty-five. In comparison, his counterpart was the youngest captain in Starfleet at thirty-one. Quickly deconstructed in Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk's arrogance and inexperience led to him making a series of bad calls, culminating in a serious Prime Directive violation for which Starfleet relieves him of command.
  • A criticism of A Bridge Too Far was that Ryan O'Neal, at thirty-five, was too young to be believable as an Army General. His real-life counterpart, James Gavin, was the same age and was the youngest general commanding a division during World War II.
  • Rachel Dawes from the rebooted Batman films looks way too young for her prominent position. Cillian Murphy as well.
  • After Cain is captured in RoboCop 2, the leadership of the gang is taken over by his prepubescent apprentice. This is somewhat justified in that he threatens to cut off the supply of their designer drug of anyone who doesn't obey him.
  • The title character in The Librarian movies managed to earn 22 academic degrees (including 4 Ph.D.'s) by the age of 31. In the second film, he meets a female archaeologist about his age who holds 27 degrees.
  • In Superman Returns, 23-year-old Kate Bosworth plays Lois Lane, who already has a Pulitzer and over five years of tenure at the Daily Planet (Superman/Clark was away from Earth for five years, and when he first started working there, Lois was a veteran, so the number is certainly closer to ten years), in addition to a kid. In contrast, Margot Kidder was 30 when she first played Lois Lane.
  • Lampshaded in In the Loop. The British bureaucrats comment that American White House staffers all look way too young for their level of authority. One says that it's like Bugsy Malone but with real guns.
    Malcolm Tucker: "No offense son, but you look like you should still be at school with your head down a fucking toilet."
  • Spy Kids: Carla Gugino looks old enough to be the parent of two pre-teen children, but not old enough to have spent several years as one of the world's top spies before retiring to have them.
  • In The Bourne Series, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is one of Jason Bourne's field handlers on an extremely sensitive mission and apparently has beyond Top Secret clearance given what she is involved in (monitoring all of the Treadstone field agents). In other words, significantly more dangerous to the Agency than Bourne is if she screws up, or if something was missed in her vetting and she is less than 100% loyal. When The Bourne Identity was filmed, Julia Stiles was a very young looking twenty-one. There's an attempted Hand Wave in The Bourne Supremacy when Nicky explains her cover was an exchange student studying in Paris.

  • In one of the Lone Wolf Newsletters, Joe Dever provided a list of Kai and Magnakai ranks and the average ages the Kai Lords reached them. A raw recruit entered at the age of 7, made Initiate (the rank Lone Wolf has at the beginning of his first adventure) at 16, and completed his training and became a Master at 28. The Grand Master, at the time the highest rank, was anywhere from 56 to 60. Of course, that was the old Order; Lone Wolf would radically shake things up, becoming an Initiate at 15, making Master before 18, and reaching Grand Master at the shockingly young age of 35 (even more shocking when you consider that due to his time in the Daziarn, physically he was just a lick over 23). And even that pales in comparison to his successor in the New Grand Master books, who reached the rank of Grand Master at 14.

  • In Fiona Patton's Branion medieval fantasy series, the oldest protagonist out of four books is twenty-four. Children commonly go to war, and in one book two boys, ages eleven and twelve, end a siege by poisoning the defenders. Another is leading sieges at sixteen (justified by his being Crown Prince and over the age of majority in this universe).
  • In Duumvirate, genetically engineered Northberg children become Illuminati at eight. Taking advantage of their inexperience is generally a bad idea.
  • In Hugh Laurie's novel The Gun Seller, the narrator (presumably sarcastically) describes his lawyer as a nine-year old. There's also a twelve-year old banking exec.
  • In the Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, Cú Chulainn is a magnificent warrior trained in superhuman feats and able to overcome each and every one of Connaught's champion warriors, at about 16-17 years. One opponent calls him out on it, refusing to fight a beardless child. Cu Chulainn runs off to find a goat, trim some of its hair, and make a fake beard for himself to challenge the warrior again.
  • Robert Jordan loved this and used it constantly in the Wheel of Time, the main character Rand al'Thor becomes the leader of several countries by his early 20s, Mat Cauthon is hailed as one of the greatest military leaders of all time, and Perrin Aybara leads his people in ridding his town of Trollocs and Whitecloaks, and has also become a great military leader, both being born weeks only weeks after Rand. Egwene al'Vere is about 20 and is leading three hundred Aes Sedai in revolt of the White Tower, and has essentially conquered the White Tower, something not even legendary general Artur Hawkwing accomplished, by the time you meet Tuon, the 20 year old heir of the Seanchan Empire and Magnificent Bastard you're not the least bit shocked.
  • Used in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell's The Mote in God's Eye. The way FTL jumps work affects the nerves of the crew, with older crew taking much longer to recover. So the military is organized such that most ship commanders tend to be mid to late twenties to trade off the youthful ability to function versus the experience issues.
  • Discworld's Tiffany Aching, who defeats the Queen of The Fair Folk and stares down Granny Weatherwax, at the age of nine.
  • Niko Leandros may be Wise Beyond His Years, he may have raised himself to take many levels in badass, with little or no help/schooling whatsoever in his childhood, but it's incredibly implausible to believe that as a four-year-old, he was capable of taking care of a newborn baby.
  • Justified 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 plot strategy in the fast-paced war. They retire after four or five years.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower books, among other Age of Sail books, boys were appointed midshipman as young as twelve. This was a case of Truth in, history. This actually provides an inversion, though: Horatio became a midshipman at the improbably old age of 17.
    • Midshipmen in the Royal Navy were promoted to Lieutenant on the basis of an exam taken whenever the Captain deemed them ready (but which could not be taken before a certain age). Midshipmen serving on a frigate in the early years of the of the Revolutionary wars would become very competent very quickly, and so it is not so unusual that Hornblower should be quickly promoted.
  • At the end of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Reveal takes place that Constance is three years old, or rather, that she is becoming it at the end of the book. To be fair, she is much weaker than any of the other characters, but still.
  • Virtually every book Tamora Pierce has ever written, though it's most highlighted in the "Circle Opens Quartet" where each of the four protagonists is a fully qualified mage at the age of 14, much to the dismay of 18-year-old trainees who won't get their credentials for another couple of years. The Tortall Universe has this in general. It's justified due to the medieval setting when the age of adulthood was younger, so it's quite common to see a sixteen-year-old cop.
  • In Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin's older brother basically becomes President of Earth at age 13, due to his online debating skills.
    • In the subsequent Shadow series, Card puts his age nearing his twenties. Peter (Ender's Brother)is only elected due to multiple countries seeing him as the least amount of threat to their sovereignities, and the decentralization of the power of the office. He also defuses a war, and calls several countries out with controversial information on their activities.
    • There's also Ender and every kid at the Battle School. Ender destroys an entire alien race by the age of 9 or so, and then shortly after, he writes a book and starts a new religion. Not bad for someone who hasn't hit puberty yet. This trope is also basically the whole point of the Battle School. Valentine Wiggin is also instrumental in Peter's rise as Hegemon, and at the age of around 11, she becomes a powerful demagogue who directly influences current events and shortly after, becomes a very influential historian. And then you have Qing Jao Xenocide, who is the sole person to discover Jane's existence, and she's only around 18 or so, with Wang Mu, her even younger assistant, who's just as brilliant, if not more so (those two are justified in that they're genetically modified to be super intelligent, though). And we haven't even mentioned Bean yet. In fact, the entirety of the Ender’s Game series is BUILT on this trope.
  • Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest uses it in universe: Prince Rupert's extreme youth for his military accomplishments is commented on by his captor.
  • Jules Verne lesser-known novel Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen, which is rather self-explanatory.
  • Deconstructed in A Song of Ice and Fire: assuming adult responsibilities at a young ages is one of the many, many reasons why the entire cast is Royally Screwed Up.
  • This is the premise of Harry Potter; he's famous because he survived an encounter with Voldemort and he was a baby. The only other person to acomplish this feat is the very old Albus Dumbledore who is regarded as the greatest wizard living.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel is barely 14 when he is put in charge of the Internal Affairs division of the British government, and is held single-handedly responsible for matters of national security. He also buys himself a luxurious townhouse at the same age, and lives on his own.
    • In the same series, Kitty is a part of the resistance against the magical government from the age of 13 onwards. At the same age, she appears as the plaintiff in a court case by herself, with her parents explicitly refusing to have anything to do with the case. By the age of 16, she's living on her own. The last one is justified in that commoners like her are encouraged to finish their (limited) schooling and join the workforce as soon as possible.
  • Legacy of the Dragokin: Lydia is fifteen years old and the sole general of the Baalarian army. This does not go unaddressed; she has critics accussing her of nepotism because her grandfather's The Emperor and she does her best to act like an adult so her subordinates will take her seriously.
  • Kindling Ashes: Giselle is a teenager and yet she is the leader of the Firesouls because she is host to the Alpha Dragon. He's the one they're truly following with Giselle as his interperter of sorts. For the same reason, she becomes the Alpha Flier.
  • Space Voyages: The basic premise of the series is that three Teen Geniuses are sent on a space mission by themselves. Needless to say things don't quite go according to plan.

    Live Action TV 
  • Angel: Has an example, though one that people will only notice in a Fridge Logic type of way. The gang rescued Fred from Pylea where she had supposedly been stuck there for five years. She was a pretty girl in her mid-20s. Yet she was also said to be a very accomplished grad student before being sent there. At the age she was sent there, she could've been only a college junior at best.
  • Austin & Ally: Ally, whose dad runs a music store, is president of the mall merchants' association at age 15/16. Granted, this essentially means she acts as moderator at their meetings, could happen if nobody else wanted the job, and involves no pay but would look great on a college application.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Teen Genius Sheldon started college at the age of eleven and received a Ph.D within five years. He also became a researcher at Caltech before he was 25.
  • Bones:
    • Many characters have this problem. Most of the scientists are in their mid-thirties and yet have been at the Jeffersonian for at least four years, have more than two degrees, and a high amount of volunteer work in other countries. One character has several psychology degrees, was a Rhodes Scholar, is an experienced FBI profiler and has time for video games. He's 23. It is a bit unrealistic, even for geniuses.
    • Ironically, Brennan's level of education appears to be a toned down version of what Kathy Reichs had done by that age.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • All potential slayers are between the ages of about 15 and 18 when, or if, they are activated.
    • Willow becomes the most powerful witch in the Western hemisphere at the age of 21 (after learning magic was real at 16), and in the season 8 comics Buffy is one of the leaders of the Slayer Organization at 23, Xander, who is mission control is also 23, and Dawn (who's now in a relationship with him) is 18. These people could take over the world if they wanted to.
  • Charmed: Especially the early seasons, where 20-something Prue is an expert antiquities appraiser and her younger sister, Piper, is a gourmet chef/nightclub owner. The youngest, Phoebe, was originally something of a slacker, but she eventually became a star advice columnist with a major San Francisco newspaper. Phoebe then became romantically involved with the owner of the paper (who was, of course, about 30), with access to his private jet for romantic getaways to Hong Kong.
  • Crime and Punishment Series:
    • Routinely occurs in these shows, particularly with replacement characters, where detectives and officers often seem far too young to have achieved their rank. It's common among not-quite-main protagonists, and particularly blatant in the case of female bosses, who are are routinely played by actresses in their late twenties and early thirties. Most often, they look like, well, actresses, thin, pretty, fragile, well made up and well dressed.
    • Compare this to the bosses in Law & Order (S. Epatha Merkerson) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Dann Florek), both of whom are obviously middle-aged and carrying the gravitas of people who have seen it all in their decades of service.
      • Lampshaded in Law & Order when Milena Govich joined the cast. Cassaday's youth and looks made it difficult for her to get taken seriously by anyone and caused people to suspect she only made detective as a PR stunt by the department.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Dr. Spencer Reid: Three PhD's, FBI profiler, turns 24 in the show's first season. Needless to say, he has a hard time getting taken seriously by people who don't know him very well (which fact he has been known to turn to his own advantage).
    • It's made clear that he's been brilliant his whole life, which can shave decades off schooling.
    • He did graduate high school at age 12. He even mentions that when he was in college, he wasn't even old enough to drive.
      • The writers of the show think "Ph.D" and "doctorate" are interchangeable terms, though, as Reid is said to have earned several "Ph.Ds" before the first season, which is to say, by the time he was 23, at the oldest. Unless his years have more days than other people's, it isn't possible, because Ph.Ds require original research projects, and written dissertations, which must be defended before committees, and each one requires coursework, which no university is going to schedule just for one student's convenience, and which must be done before the research project is begun. I don't care how brilliant someone is, you can't make plants grow faster, or rats learn the mazes faster, and there is a physical limit to how long it takes someone to type 300 pages, not to mention a committee of several people each to read those pages. Maybe he has more than one doctorate, an advanced degree that does not require a dissertation, but he does not have multiple Ph.Ds.
  • Dollhouse:
    • The Dollhouse is filled with people who are far too young and pretty to actually be masters of the jobs they are sent on. Strangely, no one ever calls them out on this.
    • Well, except in the very first episode, where everyone comments on the fact that Echo is far too young and pretty to be a competent hostage negotiator. Eventually contributing to her partial breakdown.
    • Not to mention Topher, who supposedly is one of the world's best experts on neurotechnology when visibly he is at most in his late 20s. This put him actually as too young to be even a normal neurosurgeon, which requires four years of college, four years of med school and seven years of residency to achieve. Yet somehow Topher manages this super-secret and revolutionary technology despite being a guy who could only be a few years out of grad school at best.
    • Although given what the Dollhouse does there might be an explanation.
  • Doogie Howser, M.D.: The premise revolves around a sixteen-year-old doctor.
  • Gossip Girl:
    • Fashion-related example: Jenny Humphrey. Somehow, some way, at age fifteen, she's a mini-couturier, able to rival nearly all of New York Fashion Week's regular fixtures.
    • As of mid-season two, Chuck Bass fits this trope. The guy took over his father's company at age seventeen, albeit briefly. As of season three he runs his own hotel, hosts political election parties and has a grand opening of his new club... and the guy has only just turned eighteen. The club opening episode revolved a lot around acquiring a liquor license, yet the fact that the club owner was not legally allowed to purchase alcohol was never brought up.
  • Greys Anatomy: In a rare case of characters being implausibly old for their positions the characters that start as interns in the first episode are nearly all a little on the mature side. A normal intern would be roughly 26 years old but except for Katherine Heigl the other actors were 7-10 years older. Cristina was stated to have had a PHD as well as her MD, so she could have been a bit older but this is mostly a case of the actors playing characters younger than they are.
    • Addison Montgomery, however, is a straighter example. She's a board-certified OB/GYN (which is a four-year residency) subspecializing in maternal-fetal medicine (three year fellowship). Since she attended school with Derek Shepherd and was mentored by Richard Webber, she likely completed a general surgery residency (five years) and at least a two-year pediatrics residency, and fans are still divided on the order in which she did all that. She's also extremely well-regarded in her field, referred to as "The Meryl Streep of Maternal-Fetal Medicine", indicating that she has been practicing for quite some time. She looks pretty damn good for somebody who, under the best circumstances, should be at least early forties.
  • Homicide Life On The Street: Colonel Barnfather is Captain and then Colonel of the Homicide unit despite being around the same age as the Homicide Detectives, and much younger than Giardello, the shift Lieutenant.
  • House:
    • The "ducklings". Given that Cameron and Chase are both stated as 26 in season one and Foreman is 30, they're a bunch of medical prodigies alright. Cameron, an immunologist, would have had to graduate high school roughly at age 14. Foreman, the neurologist, could have gotten that far in his career by 30, but he's also shown as being a neurosurgeon meaning he also would have graduated high school early. Chase is the one who stands out the most though, since aside from being a Trauma specialist and having some form of expertise in pediatrics (meaning he would have graduated high school around age 13) he also spent a few years in seminary training, back when he wanted to be a priest. He must have graduated high school around age 10. However in season two he is aged up to 30.
    • Then add the fact that all three of them have had enough training to not only be capable of performing every medical test known to man, they are also qualified to do them. They must have all graduated high school in the womb.
    • Chase is Australian, and fans have pointed out that he might have been able to get his specific qualifications in a shorter period of time than American doctors, due to the way the Australian medical board is set up.
  • LOST:
    • Ethan Rom, the only surgeon the Others had and apparently a very good one, was 27 when he died. Daniel Faraday is a tenured professor at Oxford when at the earliest he had to be born in 1977 and was probably born in 1978, but it is justified by him being explicitly said to be the youngest graduate in Oxford's history (meaning he graduated when he was 13 or less) and he screws up rather badly when he's a professor, putting his girlfriend in a permanent coma and gradually getting severe memory problems.
    • Boone is mentioned as running a part of a large business despite being only twenty-two or so (Ian Somerhalder was twenty-five when the show started). However, he explicitly states that his mother is head of the company and it is quite obvious that he did not earn it through experience.
  • Lost Girl has Dr. Lauren Lewis. She speaks at least 4 languages, has a medical degree, has served as a field medic in Afghanistan, researched diseases in the Congo for at least several months, has experience working in a lab, and has spent five years as a literal slave to super-human creatures called the fae. All before the pilot. Oh yeah, and she's 29 or 30 at the oldest. It's not so much impracticable as impossible, though the writers probably kept adding to her backstory as they needed things explained, leading to a resume that's downright heroic.
  • NCIS:
    • Ziva David is less Improbable Age and more Impossible Age. She joins the show in her early twenties, supposedly after she's graduated high school, served her two years in the IDF, attended college, applied for Mossad, become immediately tapped for inclusion into an elite and highly competitive special operations unit with a training period of several years, and still have enough time to become "an experienced agent" with multiple missions under her belt. And this is at a age the youngest CIA intelligence officers would be beginning training.
    • In a less obvious and less egregious case from NCIS: If you pay attention to the various backstory tidbits dropped for Tony along with his stated age (a little younger than his actor), it works out that he made detective at around age twenty-eight and this is after he most likely got a Masters. In context he must be a law-enforcement prodigy - though that does fit in with his characterisation some of the time.
  • One Tree Hill: Brooke went from relatively unremarkable teenager who had just graduated high school with a starting fashion line to an internationally famous multi-millionairess owner of a fashion company, magazine and television channel in under four years thanks to a Time Skip between seasons 4 and 5. True it is later revealed that Brooke's mother is the business brains behind the empire, but the fact that Brooke personally became so famous and that her designs were so successful so quickly stretches credibility beyond breaking point.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Tommy Oliver. Between the years of 1997 (when he graduated high school) and 2004, he managed to have a successful career as a professional racecar driver, go through college, get a doctorate in paleontology, become a mad scientist and create several varieties of incredibly advanced cyborg dinosaur thingies, and become a licensed teacher. Makes you feel like you've already wasted your life, doesn't it.
    • There is a bit of fridge brilliance here though, when you spend 4 years fighting monsters in a robot dino, driving giant cars, and teaming with Teen Genius Billy Cranston; some of that is going to rub off.
    • In Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, Dana is an 18-year old paramedic. And by the time of her cameo appearance a year later, a licensed doctor.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive has Rose, a Teen Genius who is already a college professor.
    • With Power Rangers RPM, we have Dr K who is that season's mentor, is no older than 19 and has been doing complex mathematical equations since she was 5.
      • Granted, she wasn't even allowed to see the sun. When she was 5 she was locked up in the Ultimate Training from Hell and the entire crux of her arc rests on "I just want to see the sun" and "I wish I could remember my own name."
    • Then there's Spike in Power Rangers Samurai, whose dad Skull graduated or dropped out at about the same time Tommy did and was shown as single up to 1999, yet he has a fifteen-year-old son by 2011.
  • The Pretender: Jarod was a boy-genius who was kidnapped by an Evil Corporation at age four and exploited for his intelligence for over twenty years. He was designing airplanes, engineering buildings, and helping catch serial killers by about the age of twelve and developed a method for human cloning in his late teens.
  • In Relic Hunter, Sydney Fox seems rather young for a full professor with her own secretary (Tia Carrere was 32 years old in the first season).
  • Revolution: In the episode "The Stand", Danny Matheson uses a rocket launcher to blow a helicopter to oblivion. This is made more remarkable by the fact that he is only 18 or 19 years old, and has never had occasion to use a weapon like that in his life.
  • Saved by the Bell:
    • In the college years, Kelly has a brief fling with her professor while she's nineteen. It's explicitly mentioned that he's 32. Now, it's possible to get a Ph.D. and be a professor by that age, but it's also stated that he has two published books, and an appearance on Good Morning America. Also, he somehow found time to get married, have a child, and get divorced. Borderline possible, but highly unlikely. Interestingly, the actor was in his late 20's at the time, so they were aware of the age issue and tried to fix it somewhat.
    • That's not improbable at all considering that there's no requirement that you do all of that sequentially. Most of the things on the list wouldn't have taken that much time to accomplish anyway - You can get married in Vegas in a day, write a book in under a year and have a kid at the same time, and TV appearances rarely last more than a few hours.
  • Spaced: Daisy's employment agency boss in series 2 seems about 12 years old. This isn't commented on in-show beyond Daisy's incredulous looks, but fits the ongoing theme that Tim and Daisy are starting to feel a little old as they approach their late twenties.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In the last seasons, Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell's in-show age (younger than the actor's real age) is so low that in order to be a lieutenant colonel he would have to have received almost all of his ranks shortly after the legal mandated minimum time between ranks.
    • It is implied he was promoted to Lt. Col. because of his action in Antarctica.
    • And the SGC looks to recruit the best and brightest, so if there really was someone so good as to get all his promotions all the way up to Lt. Colonel in the legal minimum time, it would come as no surprise that he'd work at the SGC.
    • Called out in Stargate Atlantis with Doctor Keller, especially in the Episode Vegas where she replaced a coroner and there's no way she should be old enough.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Wesley Crusher, being allowed to pilot the ship and use Technobabble to save the day in his teens.
    • Sela, a (half-)Romulan commander who has been seen leading two very important operations with potentially galaxy-wide consequences at the ripe old age of 22. This becomes even more unbelievable when you consider that Romulans have about twice the lifespan of humans, making her roughly the equivalent of an 11-year old general.
    • In Star Trek: Armada, which doesn't take place much later than the series, she has made admiral. This is all the more glaring since her appearances in the show tended to be her being involved in failed Romulan schemes. Even if she avoided being demoted or otherwise punished, it would at least put a crimp on her promotion prospects.
  • Warship: One episode of this BBC documentary series includes a brief visit to a cemetery in a foreign port where a number of British seamen are buried. One of the graves belongs to a lieutenant-commander of the Royal Navy note  who was killed in action during the Second World War. He was twenty-four.
  • Dana Scully of the The X-Files is a mild case, given she's a medical doctor with a specialty in forensic pathology, who had been in the FBI for two years by the time of the pilot. Her birthdate is in 1964, which makes her 28 at the start of the series (since the date given for the pilot is March of 1992, though it aired in 1993). This seems highly unrealistic, because becoming a forensic pathologist in the US requires a person to graduate medical school with an MD, then a 3-5 year residency specializing in anatomic pathology, then a 1 year forensic pathology fellowship. That's at least 13 years of education. And to top it, according to the series, she got a Physics bacharel in 1986, and four years later was recruited by the Bureau while in med school. She should be in her early to mid-30's, not her late 20's.
  • The Newsroom: Sloan has a double PHD and several years of post-doctoral work, but she's played by the 30-year-old Olivia Munn. It's also revealed in the backstory that Will became a lawyer at the age of 21.

  • Dar Williams's "We Learned The Sea". I may be misinterpreting it, but it sounds as though it features a skillful and stoic ship's captain who's A Mother To Her Men. She's also, apparently, eight years old, and addresses a crewmember who's even younger:
    I am the captain and I have been toldnote 
    But I am not shaken, I am eight years old
    And you are still young, but you'll understand
    That the stars of the sea are the same for the land
  • At seven years old, Rachel Trachtenberg was playing the drums for her family's band: The Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players. She later learned bass guitar. By the time she turned 17 in 2011, they had released two albums, she had released two albums of her own (one solo and one with a separate band), and now produces a TV and radio show.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Joe 90: The whole point of this show. A child secret agent was thought to be less conspicuous than an adult one, and every week his scientist father would add knowledge into his mind that were only accessible when Joe wore glasses.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, among other games, has characters' starting ages at the time of adulthood for their race; considering that adventures may not take very long in-game, this can make for such improbabilities as a young man beginning his martial training at 18 and slaying dragons single-handed before he's 20.
    • If players follow the starting age rules listed in most books, this is averted. Only classes that are essentially brute force (like the Barbarian) or based on innate power (like the Sorcerer, who's power is in his blood) start exceptionally young (between 16 and 19) while Wizards and Monks, who gain their abilities through intense study and discipline, have an average starting age of 17 to 27 similar to a college graduate. Further justified in that Player Characters have exceptional ability scores, especially where relevant to their class abilities.

    Video Games 
  • Miranda Keyes in Halo, who's a commander at age 27, although this is handwaved with the explanation that many high-ranked military people have been killed during the Human-Covenant War and had to be replaced.
    • In Halo 2, she's only commanding a troop-carrying corvette or frigate (just look at its positively miniscule size compared to Covenant ships of the line), the equivalent of a modern-day Marine amphibious helicopter carrier. Which would be a reasonable position for a person of her rank and age. In Halo 3, she's one of the most senior officers in the UNSC navy by virtue of being one of the only surviving officers in the UNSC navy, the Covenant Loyalist faction having almost entirely destroyed Earth and its defending fleet.
    • The Spartan-IIs and IIIs are also like this. Master Chief and his fellow IIs were fourteen when they fought their first real battle, while the IIIs were mostly around ten to twelve when they were sent on suicide missions. The IIs in particular are explicitly stated to be recruited for physical and intellectual exceptionalism from a very young age before receiving their chemical, genetic, and bionic augmentations. Some selection also goes on with the IIIs, though not nearly to the same extent.
  • In EarthBound, the younger sister of Ness (13) has a job. Part-time, but still.
  • Tales of the Abyss plays with this trope.
    • Van Grants looks a lot older than 27, and yet he's The Leader Oracle Knights because he's powerful and charismatic . He got a lot of flak for it when he was first promoted, and so he grew a beard to make people think he was older than he really was.
    • Jade Curtiss was capable of Fonic Artes (i.e. magic) that would take an adult decades to fully master at a young age and was adopted into a military family who noticed his talents, but despite this he's never stepped beyond Colonel (he's 35 at the time of the story). Dis Motivation is implied to have a role in this as he claims 'I have my hands full just being a colonel'.
    • Luke, The Protagonist is seven years old because he's a clone but looks more like seventeen and a skilled swordsman because he has nothing better to do than practice all day.
  • Many have commented that every main character in the original Resident Evil title is about ten years too young for the palette of skills at their disposal. Chris Redfield is an ex-Air Force fighter pilot and member of a crack police unit at 25. Jill Valentine is ex-Delta Force (a unit which does not admit women) at 23. Rebecca Chambers graduated from college, having specialized in pharmacy, which is a graduate-level program, at 18. By the second game, the main characters' backstories seemed to mesh a little bit better with their given ages; Claire is a 19-year-old college student and Leon a 21-year-old rookie cop.
  • In No More Heroes, Henry and Sylvia were married and in college 10 years prior. Since Henry is Travis's twin brother, that would mean that Henry and Sylvia were attending college and got married at around 17.
    • Actually, this could be a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. The games never say that they got married in America. The age of consent, and minimum marriage age, in the United Kingdom is 16 (although the latter needs parental approval). Given that Henry is Irish, it's entirely possible that it happened when he was in college there.
    • About Being in college at 17. There are seventeen year olds in college; borderline cases of people who were born late in the year. He wouldn't have been seventeen for long, but there's a window.
  • In the Ace Attorney games, only three of the attorneys that appear in the first two games appear to be out of their twenties: Winston Payne, Marvin Grossberg, and Manfred von Karma. Of course, considering all the other idiosyncrasies of the justice system as presented in the games, ridiculously young attorneys are pretty much par for the course. In some places it's possible to be a lawyer without going through grad school, but really, it's all just handwaved.
    • Godot's age on his profile in-game simply says ??. However, Godot is Diego Armando, who was 27 in the events of Turnabout Beginnings, which was 6 years prior to the events of Trials and Tribulations, meaning that Godot is now around 33 years old, making him the only one of Phoenix's rivals older than 30 in their debut appearance.
    • Phoenix had passed his bar exam by the time he was 24. Lost his badge at 26, became a mentor to Apollo Justice at 33, and then regaining his badge at 34.
    • Mia Fey passed her bar exam by the time she was 23, and had her own law office by the time she was 27.
    • Franziska von Karma became a lawyer at only 13. They kind of explain it as being a result of her being born and raised in Germany, that land of remarkably progressive laws and very easy bar exams.
    • Calisto Yew was 23 when Edgeworth met her, and she'd been practicing law for at least a couple of years. Not that she was actually a lawyer, but nobody seemed to doubt she was one due to age or incompetence.
    • Apollo Justice himself is even younger than Phoenix when he becomes a lawyer (22). At his age, he should be finishing college or just starting law school!
    • And then you have Adrian Andrews, a 23 year old manager, Ron DeLite, a 22 year old Chief of Security... let's face it, the Ace Attorney series hates old people.
    • Klavier Gavin (also German) was a rockstar AND a lawyer at 17.
    • Kristoph Gavin (also also German) was a well established defense attorney by 25.
    • Miles Edgeworth (partially raised in Germany) had his court debut at 20.
    • In Turnabout Beginnings, the victim, Valerie Hawthorne's age is listed as 23. She was a policewoman, and was so even five years ago...when she was 18.
    • In Rise From The Ashes, Lana Skye was 29 and Chief Prosecutor. Two years before that, she was a highly ranked and very well respected detective who was only getting ready to become a prosecutor in the first place. Also, she is shown wearing 3 Prosecutor of the Year awards, despite being a prosecutor for only 2 years.
    • While Manfred von Karma is much older than any other prosecutor in the series, it should be noted that he went undefeated for 40 years, meaning he started his successful career at the age of 25. Who knows when the forgeries started.
    • As of Dual Destinies, Athena Cykes is the youngest person known to become a defense attorney, having joined the Wright Anything Agency at the age of 18.
    • Dual Destinies also reveals that there's a law school known as the Themis Legal Academy that teaches students to be attorneys, prosecutors, and judges at high-school ages. One of the students at Themis is actually 25, having been held back repeatedly for seven years. In our world, 25 would still be fairly young for a senior Law student, but everyone in-universe is shocked by how old he is.
  • While her official age is never given, Lynne was a young girl ten years before the events of Ghost Trick and now she's a full-fledged detective. The only real explanation we get is that Cabanela took her under his wing ( and fudged her exam scores), so he might have made the department take in a younger detective than usual.
  • The Final Fantasy series in general, as a whole, and egregiously. Some examples include:
    • The Light Warriors from Final Fantasy I may get this, Depending on the Artist they range from "at least definitely adults" to "ambiguous chibis." The Warrior of Light in Dissidia: Final Fantasy at least has the dignity of being one of the older-looking heroes, despite his lack of official age...
    • In Final Fantasy II the most valuable soldiers of the rebel force fighting to stop the Evil Empire...are teenagers. Justified in that when the game started they were nobody refugees who had to fight even to enlist. There's also, though, the matter of Minwu. He's a courtly wizard. Look at his character art: there's no way he's over 35.
    • In Final Fantasy III, every hero is a Kid Hero. The Updated Re-release turns the blank characters into fifteen-year-olds. Young-looking fifteen-year-olds.
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Cecil and Kain lead the dark knights and the dragoons, respectively, at the ages of twenty and twenty-one, respectively. Even taking into account the fact that both of them were likely trained from early childhood, that's still very, very young for their positions. One wonders what the older soldiers think...
      • Oh, that's nothing. Rydia starts the game at age seven (though she gets aged up offscreen). Palom and Porom are five. FIVE. And their special ability lets them combine their magic to mimic comet, flare and meteo. And they have enough mental resolve to turn themselves to stone to save the world. What did you learn in kindergarten?
    • In Final Fantasy V, main character Bartz is all of twenty, though at least he's nothing more than a vagabond. Faris, however, is the same age and master of a pirate ship.
    • Celes from Final Fantasy VI is an 18-year-old army general working for The Empire who burned down a resisting village shortly before the events of the game. And apparently she's taken time off from soldier training to learn how to sing in an opera. Terra is the same age, and is also a frighteningly competent (if brainwashed) soldier-slash-biological-weapon. Although, she isn't human...
    • In Final Fantasy VII, both Zack and Cloud join the Shinra military when they're about 14 years old, which appears to be accepted as normal. Zack becomes a hotshot SOLDIER First Class at age 17, while veteran uber-SOLDIERs Sephiroth, Angeal, and Genesis are all only in their early twenties during the majority of the events in Crisis Core.
    • SeeD from Final Fantasy VIII fits this trope, with all of its members being special forces certified mercenaries before hitting age 20. Quistis in particular is notable, as she's not only a SeeD but a SeeD instructor (the license for which she got when she was 15) despite being only 18, just one year older than most of the other party members. On the other hand, the Garden that trains the SeeDs starts accepting students at the age of five, and Quistis started training at around twelve...
      • Halfway through the game, Squall Leonhart becomes Commander of the entirety of SeeD at the age of seventeen, justified by the fact that not only is he the SeeD with the most complete understanding of the current crisis, he's also destined to be the SeeD who defeats the Big Bad, as per Headmaster Cid's foreknowledge of the Stable Time Loop involved. Squall's not remotely happy about it.
      • It also provides the refreshing aversion of Laguna, a soldier out on tour of duty at the age of 27.
    • Top of the list has to be Eiko from Final Fantasy IX - she's only six years old.
      • Zidane and Garnet are both 16 and Freya is 21. If you weren't told this, you would never know it. They act much older, and have histories and experiences that imply they can't be that young, for example Freya being a member of the Dragon Knights several years ago and Zidane having years of experience as a thief. May be justified in that both Freya and Zidane aren't human and hence may age and reach maturity differently. Vivi is also 9, but, given in-story justifications, that's not really an improbable age—actually, considering the average life expectancy of Black Mages, Vivi arguably counts as Really 700 Years Old, despite his childlike innocence. Kuja is only slightly better in this regard, being a famed "weapons dealer", rich Treno personality, proprietor of a massive desert palace, and doing all his villain accomplishments at the tender age of 24.
    • In Final Fantasy X, the prospective High Summoner and savior of the world is probably about 17 or 18. Her guardians aren't much older, and apparently one gets to be a Legendary Guardian by surviving one pilgrimage and reaching the ripe old age of 35.
    • Final Fantasy XII has Vaan and Penelo (both 17) and Larsa, age 12. On the other hand, Basch is 36 and Fran is at least 50. Balthier, despite his initial impressions, is only 22. This is somehow old enough for him to have become a Judge, ran away from being a Judge, and then become one of the most notorious sky pirates in the game world. Although his father made him a Judge and is implied to have pulled a lot of strings and bent some rules to do it, which makes things a bit more palatable.
    • Dissidia: Final Fantasy, where they put all the heroes from the first ten games together and the oldest character ends up being 21! Which makes it particularly odd to see 17-year-old Squall acting as Team Mom to Bartz and Zidane, when Bartz is older than Squall and Zidane is only a year or two behind him at most.
      • The youngest of them all is cute little Onion Knight. People who think he's Luneth generally have him at 15, while people who think he's one of the Onion Kids from the original FF 3 tend to estimate around the ripe old age of 12.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2, the protagonist are school kids, while the people who's in combat in Ivalice are older than them.
    • Somewhat justified in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - by reading the magic book, the kids, especially Mewt all played a part in creating the world of Ivalice by making it like a Final Fantasy game they all played, so it wouldn't be surprising that they are all able to participate in the game/world at their current ages, since they would be the protagonists. And Mewt has Reality Warper powers, so he would probably be a borderline Physical God in Ivalice. Besides, everyone aside from Cid and Remedi has a Vague Age anyway.
  • Dragon Quest V starts off the protagonist as six years old. He gets treated as such, and it shows in other things such as being unable to read signs, but this obviously does not stop him from donning Plate Armor and wielding a Broadsword to considerable effect.
  • Though never outright specified, many of the commanding officers in the Advance Wars series look like kids, or teenagers at best. Fittingly, the series treats war more like a game than an armed struggle.
    • Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict mostly averts this trope and justifies the few cases that come along: Will/Ed is a trained army cadet and is forced into a leadership position because the troops respect him more than they do Lin, while Penny/Lili, Tabitha/Larissa and Isabella/Cathleia are all tyke bombs designed to be army commanders.
  • Knights of the Old Republic. In the second game, 23-year-old Mira chides the male Exile for hitting on her and being too old.
    • Bastila's Battle Meditation is the central power responsible for the Republic's ability to battle the Sith, but the most liberal estimates of her age place her in her early twenties. She is, however, the only Jedi alive with her ability. The game acknowledges her age in several ways: she's still a padawan and there are repeated comments to the effect that in peacetime they wouldn't let her outside the enclave without a Master to watch her back. Plus her other abilities kinda suck becuase her training emphasised her unique abilities ahead of combat skills.
    • Averted in the second game in the series: Mira, the youngest member of the party, is commonly estimated to be around twenty. The Exile (the player) is a war hero[ine], and is generally agreed to be in his/her late thirties or early forties.
    • Chris Avellone puts the ages of Visas, the Disciple and the Handmaiden at 25, and Mira at 23. Considering all the highly accomplished young people out there, the Star Wars universe must have a brutal learning curve.
  • Sienna In Phantom Brave was fighting Sulphur 30 years ago. She doesn't look a day over 27. Marona does it at age 13, so...
  • Super Robot Wars Original Generation: the only underage regular pilots in the EFA are those children, all other pilots are at least 18.There are some other underage pilot. The platoon leaders get they positions after superior officers defect or refuse the command responsibility. With the ship captains, Lefina received Hiryu Kai on "training basis" with Sean as an XO who has experience and authority to take command when he see fit. Tetsuya is the only person who has enough experience to command a Space Noah after the defection of Lee and Daitetsu's death. He even proved himself when temporarily take command Kurogane.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 deliberately goes the opposite direction with 100+ year old sniper "The End." In one of the series famous No Fourth Wall tricks, you can cause him to die of old age by adjusting your system clock.
    • All of the Cobras are an inversion, if they were in their twenties and thirties during World War II, then they would have to be in their forties and fifties during the events of game. Of course, The Boss is a straight example as she was born in 1922. The Cobra Unit was formed in 1941, with her serving as its commander from its formation until the end of the war, meaning she started the war as a special ops commander at 19 and ended the war at 23. This of course has creepy connotations when you consider her relationship with The Sorrow...
    • Ocelot, who was a GRU major at 20. He was raised as a spy by the Philosophers, which makes it a bit more believable. And either way, this seems perfectly normal compared to most of the other examples on this page.
    • This is either lampshaded, justified, or just discussed in a radio conversation at one point. Apparently it has something to do with his parents, as well.
    • Yes, because his parents are in fact The Boss and The Sorrow, meaning that the fame of his parents earned him special privileges.
    • While we're on the subject of Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake was mentioned to have been attached to the Green Berets during the Gulf War. As Snake was born in 1972 he would have at most been 19 years old during the war; the age requirement for even being eligible to join the US Special Forces is 20 years old, meaning that Snake would neither be a full member of the Green Berets nor would he even be past basic training. This isn't even getting into the fact that Snake later goes on to join FOXHOUND, which is an analogue for the Delta Force, and is noted to be the most advanced Special Forces Unit America has to offer, at age 23. Snake even defeats Big Boss, the most legendary soldier in the world at 23, and proceeds to defeat Big Boss again at 27. By the time of Shadow Moses Snake is a legendary special ops soldier who has gone on countless missions of extreme national security importance — by the time he was 33, and in fact by that point he had been in retirement for a few years. It says something very poignant and tragic about Snake's life that during a time in his life were most other people are going to college, getting married, or finding stable jobs, he was out saving the world in top secret black ops.
    • Big Boss himself is a case of this. Though it should be noted that Big Boss's age has been retconned twice, so while his earlier backstories were not a case of this his current one is. Going by the current canon backstory set by Peace Walker Big Boss was born in 1935, making a great deal of his career improbable and close to outright impossible. He met The Boss (the aforementioned legendary World War II hero) at age 14 and was her apprentice for the next 10 years of his life (1949-1959). Joined the Army at 15 in order to fight in the Korean War, and joined the Green Berets during their formation as a unit in 1952 at 17. In 1964 Big Boss joins the highly elite and top secret unit known as FOX (the precursor to the FOXHOUND unit Solid Snake was a part of) as its original ace operative, at age 29. In the same year, Snake infiltrates Soviet territory to hunt down rogue Russian operatives to prevent a nuclear war, and in the aftermath of the mission's success is awarded the title of Big Boss in order to mark him as The Boss's successor. Additionally Big Boss is given command of the FOX Unit, which he would have to be a ranking officer akin to a Colonel or a General to even be able to touch the authority reigns of such an important unit. Founds the successor organization to FOX, known as FOXHOUND, and becomes its commanding officer at age 36, and please note that one would have to be extremely lucky to be at the appropriate military rank to lead such a unit at that age. Later on during the 80s, when Big Boss resumes his role as commander of FOXHOUND, when at this point Big Boss is in his 50s, his command role in relation to his age begins to become more plausible.
    • The little girl Sunny trumps all of them. Introduced in Metal Gear Solid 4 the daughter of Olga is a genius level intellect capable of tinkering with advanced computer technology and robotics on par with the level of Otacon, Snake's resident technology expert, at 7 years old. Things are hardly much better in Metal Gear Rising, where at age 11 she is the employee manager of a space exploration corporation that designs highly advanced aircraft technology, and in addition she has made several aircraft designs of her own while working for the company. Raiden even gets to ride around in an experimental aircraft that she personally designed and helped build that can fly at Mach 30.
  • The Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors games take this to a new level. Both games would feature one or two Loli characters, with Improbable Weapons to boot, and still have them go into battle fought by men in their thirties (The Two Qiaos, Oichi in Samurai Warriors 1 and Gracia, I'm looking at you all.)
    • Especially blatant in the case of the Qiaos, who, historically, were older than Sun Shang Xiang.
  • In Eternal Sonata, one of the regular party members is Beat, a street kid who is...wait for it...only eight years old. He seems to have little problem shooting and mercilessly beating enemies, but once expressed worry that he would wet his pants in fear while crossing a high bridge.
  • Link from The Legend of Zelda series is already a master of multiple weapons, including bows, bombs, boomerangs, and swordplay, as well as a few magic spells in some games, but then you take into account that in most games he's no older than 12 years old.
    • Justified. Everything except the bow and sword are completely new or exceedingly rare weapons, so no one is a master, making Link's (limited) ability the best there is with none able to counter. His sword is explicitly stated to be magical (and sentient), and his frequent left-handedness likely gives him a considerable learning-curve advantage. His bow also fires magical arrows.
    • There's also Tetra from The Wind Waker, who is the captain of a pirate ship despite being a preteen girl. This is lampshaded by one of her crew members, who jokes that she's actually 35.
  • Both subverted in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, where Julius Belmont is over fifty years old and still a force to be reckoned with, and played straight, as he was 19 by the time he killed Dracula.
    • The 19 years old thing is not unusual for the Belmont clan, considering Richter did it, and most Belmonts are only a few years older at most. If anything, Juste was YOUNGER, at 18. Julius is notable for being fifty years old by the time of the Sorrow titles, and yet still being able to kick ludicrious amounts of ass, impressive for a guy who hasn't been working out for three decades. Consider, each generation of the Belmont clan is stronger than the last. Besides Reinhardt Schneider, the last full-blood Belmont was Ritcher, and that was 202 years before Julius went into action in 1999. Think about it.
  • In the SSX games, many of the competitors are just teenagers, with Kaori Nishidake at only 17 in SSX 3... but Griff Simmons takes the cake by only being eleven years old. To be fair, this seems slightly less unlikely when you realize he was based on Ryan Sheckler, who won gold at the X-Games in real life when he was only 14.
  • In the May-be Soft comedy Visual Novel Patvessel, Hikari, a hopeless 18-year old Genki Girl, is installed as the captain of a city patrolling(...) fully functional battleship because her father is the chief of police. At her age, much less her level of experience, she really shouldn't be doing that.
  • In Fallout 1 and 2, it's possible for your character to start out at as young as 16 (you can select your age to start; it affects pretty much nothing). Considering that all the screwing, murdering, and driving the character can do, they probably figured sixteen was the absolute youngest they could go.
    • Considering its a post-apocalyptic setting where no one would probably care about things like mandatory education, minimal age for drinking, driving, weapon-handling, etc. because you need to learn how to survive, it's kind of justified.
    • In Fallout 3, your character is 19 years old but your initial skills are explained by things like your father giving you a BB gun when you're 10, having to deal with a gang of bullies, your father teaching you medical skills, etc. Also, like above you're in a lawless wasteland, so the drugs and such make sense.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has a purely cosmetic age slider that can make your character look between 20-ish and middle aged. This means that it's possible for The Courier to go from being a package courier to supreme ruler of the Mojave Wasteland in their mid 20s. And that's not counting the things you do in the 4 add-ons.
  • Lampshaded in Escape from Monkey Island:
    "I'm Captain Threepwood! I've been to Monkey Island four times, defeated the evil pirate Lechuck repeatedly, I uncovered the gates of Hell, I destroyed an Australian land developer and his Ultimate Insult, discovered the world's only talking monkey, and married the most beautiful governor in the world...and all before the age of 22!"
  • In Kingdom Hearts, the characters start at 14 or 15, but look even younger. They save worlds. Plural.
  • Ciel from Mega Man Zero is a human who is leading the Reploid La Résistance at the age of 14, after she built Copy X, a near perfect replica of one of the (if not the) most powerful and advanced AIs in the world, at the age of 6. She may be a gene-boosted human, but that's still impressive.
  • In the Mega Man Battle Network games, Enzan/Chaud may not be quite as accomplished as his anime counterpart, but he's still a high-ranking Official NetBattler who gets a lot of important missions... only to be shown up by the equally young Player Character Lan, of course. He also skips a lot of grades, to the point where he's starting college when Lan's in sixth grade.
  • Grandia's protagonist, Justin, is 14 his best friend Sue is 8 and the experienced adventurer Feena is 16. Despite their age they can pretty much defeat anything opposing with no sweat. There's also the Garlyle Forces which has many officer positions held by 16 year old girls.
  • Prototype's Director McMullen had his doctorate in genetics at age 20, and founded Gentek the following year. However, while he could have been a prodigy, his age is only mentioned once in the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot, so it's entirely possible that the writers simply screwed up the math on his birth date, and the editors neglected to call them on it.
  • Mass Effect: Tali is 22 in the first game, but this is justified as her being a technological savant amongst a race of technological savants, as well as her father being a member of the Admiralty Board, a group of five people that guides their entire civilisation. It does get out of hand in the third game when she's made a member of the Admiralty Board, though. On the other hand, she's 26 or so by the time she's promoted to admiral, and she doesn't think she's really qualified. She never actually commands ships in battle, either; it's more of a political appointment and it's explicitly stated that she only got it because she was both the daughter of the previous admiral and had the most experience fighting geth (thanks to teaming up with Shepard in the previous two games) of any quarian in the fleet.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: Lemongrass is maybe 13 years old at oldest and opens up her own item shop. Justified though due to her Disappeared Dad leaving her no real choice and having Tear to guide her.
  • Lampshaded in the Korean MMO driving game Drift City. One of the people who dishes out missions is obviously a kid. "How old am I? Don't ask me that!"
  • Certainly Pokémon is famous for this, given that you generally take down a criminal syndicate as a ten year old, but they continue it in Gen. IV with Cyrus. He's the Big Bad of the Sinnoh region, has a legion of minions, uncovered legends and science that show how to ascend to godhood, solves one of the biggest questions the fanbase had had (see his report about Poke Balls hampering power), has made more money than he knows what to do with, and did I mention he's stated directly to be twenty-seven years old? And it gets better—an agent comments that they haven't gotten a promotion in five years. Barring an unspoken previous leader, Cyrus had the team up and running by the time he was TWENTY-TWO. Although there's an in-game reason given for this: he was pressured from a young age to be perfect, and it's said to have caused his mental breakdown. Think about that next time you battle fourteen-year-old Red, who's already become a hermit.
    • The spinoff Pokémon Conquest actually lampshades this, Mori Motonari mentions the protagonist is much younger than he expected, and starts to wonder whether he's the old guard on his way out. (Judging by his looks, he's in his twenties at the very most)
  • Fire Emblem has done this, sometimes even lampshading it. In Path of Radiance, for example, Ike protests that he's too inexperienced to lead a mission. Though he does end up leading the company rather well after his father dies. Then there's the Empress of Begnion who's ten-years-old, much to other characters' surprise.
  • The entire primary casts of the first and second Lunar games (Lucia excepted) are all in their teens. In Silver Star, Alex and Luna are 15, Mia and Nash are 16, Jessica is 17, and Kyle is 18; in Eternal Blue, Hiro and Lemina (and NPC Mauri) are 16, Jean is 18, and Leo and Ronfar are 19. Their ages have not stopped Kyle from becoming leader of a group of thieves, Mia carrying rather a lot of responsibility for ensuring the smooth running of the Vane academy, and Leo and Mauri bearing the titles of White Dragon Knight and Red Dragon Priestess respectively.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, at character creation you have an age slider that can make your character appear as young as your mid to late teens. The slider is purely cosmetic, meaning you can go on to be the simultaneous leader of every guild in Cyrodiil, a member of the Blades, and savior of the world without anyone mentioning that you're practically a child.
  • Barring Robotnik, an old man, and Shadow, who was in stasis for a few decades, the characters in the Sonic the Hedgehog games are almost all in their mid-to-late teens, and a few are even younger. In fact, assume they're around 15 if you don't see them here: Charmy and Cream (6), Marine (7), Tails (8), Amy (12), Rouge and Big (18), Vector (20), and Vanilla (unknown, mother of Cream). And almost every last one of these guys has contributed to saving the world at least twice, with the exception of Marine, who only showed up in Sonic Rush Adventure, and Vanilla, who doesn't really do much.
    • Especially Tails, who has been absent from a grand total of two games since his first appearance.
  • In Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, the last chapter likely ends up with your character being the leader of a faction fighting for control of a country at age 17-18. Now it does make a little more sense in the context of the plot and what has led up to there, but still try imagining such a thing.
  • Sakura Wars V has Cheiron/Sagitta, who is a 21 year old lawyer. (She's also black in the year 1928.)
    • Rosita is an actor and bounty hunter at age 11.
  • Most of the plot-important doctors in Trauma Center are considered the best surgeons in their fields and are anywhere from in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties.
  • Laharl, the ruler of the netherworld from Disgaea may be Really 700 Years Old, but he is mentally and physically around 13. Likewise, Jennifer built Thursday at the age of 10, and Fuka from the fourth game wanted to Take Over the World (Of course!) at the age of five! This is probably meant to be a parody of the concept, just like everything else.
    • Flonne is over 1500, but physically and mentally about 15 (and seems significantly younger due to being a flat chested and The Ditz). She is appropriately a mere angel trainee at the start of the first game. However by the third game, which seems to take place no more than a few years later (human characters like Gordon and Jennifer look no older), she is the Archangel, second in command to the Seraph. Seems like absurdly quick career advancement by our standards, for creatures who are Really 700 Years Old it must feel like it happened overnight.
  • Admiral Mikey, a character General Knoxx refers to several times in Borderlands: The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, is the admiral of the Crimson Lance 3rd Starborne Brigade. He's also five. Unlike other characters in this list who are usually Wise Beyond Their Years, Mikey is simply a five-year-old boy appointed to the rank of admiral because of unchecked nepotism. Playedfor Laughs, like damn near everything else in the game.
    • 'Goddamn Nepotism'
  • Fighters in Arcana Heart range in age from 5 to 16 (ignoring the robot), with most girls being around age 14. Two characters deserve special mention: Catherine Kyoubashi and Kira Daidouji are both on the younger side (12 and 11, respectively), and each holds a doctorate from a prestigious university. Kira, in particular, is considered a pioneer in her field; the fact that she's not exempt from mandatory elementary school in Japan after earning a doctorate in America is what pushes her toward World Domination. Dorothy Albright is a somewhat less improbable version, having "merely" gained fame as a Las Vegas stage magician and an arrest warrant for being a masked Gentlewoman Thief by age 9.
  • Chaz of Phantasy Star IV begins the game a fully-fledged hunter at sixteen and (except for Rika, who is one year old, being a genetically engineered Numan) the youngest member to join the party. Gryz is a hardened warrior at eighteen, and Kyra is a mysterious, powerful, and famous Esper at nineteen. Although the game says his age is unknown, for comparison's sake, Rune is twenty-four, though having the memories of the greatest of Espers lodged in his head does make judging his functional age a bit dodgy.
  • While you might assume that Princess Crea is older than she looks in Duel Savior Destiny, it turns out that she really is about ten to twelve years old.
  • Done in World of Warcraft depending on the player's race. While some are adults (and in the case of Draenei, likely thousands of years old), Tauren, Orcs, and Trolls player-characters are all explicitly stated as starting their adventures as soon as they come of age (which seems to be mid-teens). So, come Mists of Pandaria, Lorewalker Cho is right when he identifies the player as an old veteran in a young warrior's body. Your character is canonically in their early 20s at best but has already slain enough Eldritch Abominations that it's routine.
  • Nanako from Persona 4 is 6 years old, and she's already doing all the cooking and laundry and grocery shopping by herself. She's forced to do it because her mother's dead and her father is always working late, and the game makes it clear her knowing all this stuff at such an age is rather strange.
  • Fox McCloud is an ace Airwing pilot despite being only 18 years old in Star Fox 64 (and not sounding or looking anything like his age). Same for his teammates Falco Lombardi and Slippy Toad, who are respectively 19 and 18 years old - although Slippy actually manages to look and sound twelve at most. This was only after the series reboot though; their official age in the first game made more sense (Fox was 25, Falco was 28 and Slippy was 19).
  • Oracle Overlord Pram from Makai Kingdom usurped her father's Netherworld when she was two years old.
  • In Princess Maker 2, when statting your own viewpoint character, you can set his age as low as eleven, just one year older than his adoptive daughter at the start of the game. Said character is a hero who defeated Lucifer and his horde and saved the kingdom all by himself, potentially before hitting puberty. (This also makes the option to marry your own adoptive daughter much less questionable.) And then there's also the things your daughter can accomplish before hitting eighteen, and the various endings (court mage, queen, queen of Hell)...
  • In the Visual Novel Everlasting Summer, the majority of the romanceable characters look, act, and are treated as if they are in their late teens. A disclaimer at the start of the game even claims that none of the heroines in the game are under the age of 18. Yet they are all members of a youth group called the Young Pioneersnote , a group which has a membership age range from 10 - 15.

    Web Original 
  • Führer Katrina Seran from v2 to v4 of Open Blue achieved the equivalent rank of Fleet Admiral in the Seranni Navy at the age of 20, and became ruler of her country a month later when her father, the Kaiser, "mysteriously" died. It helps that she's quite the Evil Genius.
    • Another qualifier is Rhianna von Adolph, the equivalent of a Colonel and leader of the special forces division of Seran's intelligence agency at the age of 26.
    • A third is Elysia Schneider from v2, a Vice Admiral at the age of 27. Her Back Story furthermore indicates that she has held this rank for a few years now. Apparently, being one of the Führer's classmates is a surefire way to end up with a lofty position within the Reich.
  • Harry (and by extension, the rest of the student characters) in A Very Potter Musical claims to be "just a twelve-year-old kid," despite the rather mature romantic subplots and advanced spellwork present in the musical. This is played for humor.
  • Jeremiah Arkham in The Joker Blogs looks too young to have even finished medical school, let alone be married and running his family's asylum.
  • Teliha from Phaeton is not just an expert on the field of monsters, she is powerful enough to bind souls to machines, break the bonds of mind and body, and bound countless enigmoids to her will before she's even appeared, and when she did, she was 12. Justified since she's been fighting in such a world since three months of age.

    Western Animation 
  • Again, Tintin but maybe he's an incredibly well preserved runt ...
    • In the non-canonical novel, he has a genetic condition that keeps him as an early teen. When he considers the complexities of adult life, he considers this a blessing.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) featured Teela as the captain of the royal guard at age 16.
  • Danny Phantom where 14-year-old Tucker becomes mayor of Amity Park in the Grand Finale. Plenty of "Whaaaa—?!" reactions were commonplace among the fandom.
    • Less Whaaaa—? inducing after the fifteen year old Mayor in the Middle East started making headlines.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes has 11-year old Heloise working for Lucius at Misery Inc.
  • Phineas and Ferb invokes this trope in the name of comedy. Whenever someone asks the two titular characters Once an Episode whether they're too young to be doing whatever absurdly ambitious project they have planned this time, Phineas responds with a deadpan "Yes. Yes we are." Hey, Refuge in Audacity works.
    • Except of course in the episode where they became pop stars... in that instance, no, they weren't too young for it.
    • Lampshaded in one episode, where one of the delivery guys apologizes for the other delivery guy asking the question and states that the guy who asked is new to the job.
    • Also used on the other end of the spectrum when a character is doing something they should have outgrown.
      • No, Doofenshmirtz isn't too old to build a fort, and Linda isn't too old to rock.
  • Marissa Faireborn in The Transformers, commander of Earth Defence Command. While her age is never explicitly stated, certain details mean she cannot be older than 20 (though the Japanese continuity allows her to be as old as 25, and possibly a former Idol Singer).
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, benders such as Zuko, Toph, Azula, and Katara, as well as badass normals such as Sokka, the Kyoshi Warriors, the rest of Ozai's angels, Jet and his freedom fighters are all incredibly powerful, trained, and young, but are still capable of fighting on equal terms against adults, who had years if not decades of expriences over them.
    • Most Avatars before Aang came along were informed of their status at 16 and spend the better part of a decade mastering their various abilities afterward. Aang was told he was the Avatar at twelve, put himself in deep freeze a few months later at most, then spent the three seasons after thawing out seeking instruction in bending and making up the rest as he went along.
  • Sequel series The Legend of Korra has the main cast SLIGHTLY older, and Korra at least has had a life dedicated to training as the Avatar since she was 4. However, the Fire Ferrets Pro-Bending team become champions with a team of people who are 16, 17 and 18, and Mako (the 18 year old) joins the police force during the six months between seasons 1 and 2. Asami is also 18, is an expert driver that can outperform anyone (granted, automobiles are only about as old as SHE is) and goes from Spoiled Sweet to savvy leader of her father's company struggling to make up for the reputation his siding with the Equalists saddled them with.
    • Season 4 averts this trope, as the three year gap ages the characters into their 20s, and Asami doing things like rebuilding the train station in Republic City is no longer unlikely for her age range.
  • Pound Puppies (1980s) has Holly owning a puppy pound despite being about 12. Averted in season 2 where her aunt Katrina owns the pound.
  • An episode of The Simpsons has Ralph Wiggum running for the US presidency even though the minimum age is 35 years and he never went to electoral college. Lazily explained with Bart explaining that under the Bush administration the constitution has been rendered meaningless.
  • South Park thrives on this trope, especially in the later seasons.
  • At the age of 14, Kim Possible is already established as an international crimefighter. Her Mission Control Wade is 12 and a college graduate, and later, Ron's adopted sister can smack down ninjas at the age of three (though she's a Chosen One).
  • Parodied on The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, when the leader of the Dinobonoids on Billy's favorite cartoon is a boy about 12 years old, yet goes by the title of "Professor".
  • Mike Chilton in Motorcity is 17, yet he's a Badass Driver despite only having been able to drive for a year (unless you assume he drove illegally in the past). Not only that, but he's also a very skilled fighter. As the leader of the Burners, he already has a reputation, yet most who have heard of him rarely comment on his young age. He apparently worked for Kane a year earlier, yet back then he was accomplishing alot, which makes you wonder how old he was when he joined.
  • Cotton Hill from King of the Hill he was 14 when he joined the army having lied to the recruiters telling them he was 18, and his many badass feats during World War II up to when his shins were blown off were accomplished when he was around 15 or 16.

    Real Life 
  • Five people took down HBGary. The one who social engineered their admin was a 16 year old girl. A 16 year-old girl was instrumental to taking down a security company that has contracts with the United States government. This is possibly not the real identity however as many of these individuals use fake identities.
  • One interesting real fake example comes from the character Robin Sage invented for the purpose of testing how likely it was that people in the defense and intelligence communities actually checked the back stories of people on social networking sites. Her age was stated to be 25 yet she had 10 years of work experience in the cyber security community as well as a degree from MIT. Her name is also taken from the US Army Special Forces final training exercise. In addition her profile picture was taken from a porn website and chosen to look somewhat ambiguously foreign.
  • Artur Rimbaud is one of the most acclaimed poets of the 19th century. His first poem was published when he was 15, and he completely gave up creative writing at the age of 20. Rimbaud went on to live for 17 more years, dying at 37, but he wrote no more poetry during those years.
  • Brazilian writers Rachel de Queiroz and Clarice Lispector. The first published her novel O Quinze, one of the most important books on Brazilian literature, when she was 20. The latter, who had books published all over the world, including places such as China and Vietnam, and was once called the Brazilian Franz Kafka by translator Gregory Rabassa, published her first book, Near the Wild Heart, when she was 23...and wrote it when she was 19.
  • Most female elite gymnasts reach their peak between 15-18, and anyone in their twenties is referred to as 'old.'
  • It's surprising in Casanova's autobiography how young people started in the Enlightenment - leaving aside all the 13-year-olds he seduced, Casanova was a doctor and almost a priest by the age of 16, and in the army by 18. Values Dissonance, anybody?
    • Napoleon was a subaltern officer at 16 and a Brigadier General at 24 (his studies at the École Militaire took only a bit longer than 1 year). During the Age of Enlightenment, skills and knowledge were held dear by the ruling elite, but they were still expensive to acquire for ordinary people, so anyone who rushed himself through school was needed and they would turn a blind eye to small faults like "he's too young".
  • Alexander the Great. Conquered most of the known world in his late teens and died just shy of 33.
  • During the American Civil War, Colonel Charles R. Ellet at the age of 19 took command of the Cool Steam Ship his father built, the USS Queen of the West. He then wreaked havoc against confederate ships and shipping in the vicinity of Vicksburg.
  • George Armstrong Custer started the American Civil War as a Second Lieutenant and was promoted to Major General of volunteers while only in his mid 20's.
    • Armstrong wasn't even the youngest Civil War general. The youngest one was Galusha Pennypacker, who joined the US Army as a Sergeant at age 16, was promoted to Major a few months later, and was promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers at the age of 20. He became known as the only US general who wasn't even old enough to vote.
    • During the American Revolution, French volunteer offficer Marquis de Lafayette was 19 when he became a Brigadier General.
  • Jimmy Page founded Led Zeppelin in 1968 at the age of 24. Before that, he was offered the role as a guitarist in The Yardbirds in 1964 (though for a variety of reasons, he didn't actually accept until 1966.) Before that he was a prolific session musician, and contributed to several songs which reached #1, and even played a song on a British television show at the age of 13.
    • Richard Thompson has something similar in the folk-rock genre; joining Fairport Convention aged 18, recording three hugely influential albums in 1969-1970, and leaving for a solo career aged 21 in 1971.
  • Ilya Svetlichnyi was a passable rock drummer at an age of three.
  • Martial arts movie star Jet Li won his first gold medal in national wushu competition at the age of twelve, and retired from competition to work as a coach at the age of seventeen (although attaining a black belt only requires a minimum number of years and the hard yards.)
  • Arkady Gaidar, a Soviet writer, was a regiment commander in the Red Army of the Russian Civil War while he was 16. When the war was over, he became a writer.
  • Child mujahideens and similar child "soldiers" are an all-too-common, and tragic, problem in Third World countries facing violent civil conflict.
  • George Washington became a Colonel when he was 22.
  • At 20, Augustus was already a triumvir, one of the three most powerful men in Rome
  • In his twenties Pompey gained the command of three legions, made successful campaigns in Sicily and Africa, and gained his first triumph. He also became consul when he was, by law, several years too young. It was amazingly impressive at the time.
  • Scipio Africanus saved his father's life with a heroic charge at the age of 17, was given command of all Roman armies in Hispania at the age of 24, and became consul and defeated Hannibal (widely considered one of the greatest generals EVER) by the time he was 31.
  • According to oral tradition, Sundiata Keita was only 18 when he founded the Mali Empire.
  • Joan of Arc never got out of her teens at all; she was about sixteen or seventeen when she led the French to a series of victories against the English - and managed to do this without even the advantage of being of noble birth or male.
  • Royal Navy Midshipmen did start off at age 12 or so. They could be expected to command men, men 20 years older, as needed being in the chain of command.
    • This hasn't changed that much in some ways. Officers in their early twenties nominally outrank senior NC Os probably old enough to be their fathers, or sometimes mothers these days, though for the first couple of years they're still considered to be in training and don't have much in the way of real authority.
      • Alieviated somewhat in that Officers are supposed to specialize in knowing what to do, and NC Os are supposed specialize in knowing how. Hence the old saw about the three words that will make a lieutenant into a General being "Carry on, Sargeant."
  • Speaking of the UK Armed Forces, they're one of the few countries who still accept sixteen year-olds as enlisted recruits, though one has to be over eighteen to be deployed overseas. There's been some talk of raising these limits due to some worrying reports about younger soldiers being more vulnerable to PTSD.
  • War tends to do this. The average age of the entire US Armed forces in WWII was 26, but there were entire units where no one (up to and including the CO and senior noncoms) was older than 30. Improbable age promotions mostly tended to happen in specialist units like the comandoes, paratroopers, and air forces where being young enough to withstand the physical demands was an asset; that the youngest U.S. General in World War II was 36 year old paratrooper James "Jumpin' Jim" Gavin. And sometimes FieldPromotions just happen to stick after the battle.
    • WWII editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin acknowleged this in "Uncle Willy", a cartoon showing a youthful Captain embracing his uncle, a middle aged infantry private.
    • Revolutions amplify this; while this happened from time to time under the ancien régime, with Rocroi being won by a 21 years old duke of Enghien (a member of the house of Bourbon), Napoleon himself was 24 when he became a general, gained command of the italian theater of war at 25 and was 27 by the time the Italian campaign ended. Some of his marshals were equally young when they became generals in the republic; about half of them were colonels in their 20s, general officers at 30 or so, and the youngest of the marshals, Davout, got the baton at 34.
    • Towards the end of World War 1 boys as young as 13 were being enlisted into the army in the U.K because most of the men over 18 had already been called up and died. Offically the age limit was 18, but by that point the British Army didn't have the luxury of asking too many questions.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower is an interesting case: In WWI he was quickly promoted from Lieutenant to full Colonel and placed in command of the entire US Tank Corps. (His demotion after the war ended was even quicker but they gave him a capitaincy as a consolation prize.) He'd only just made his way back to Colonel by the time WWII broke out but once the US entered the war he was once again quickly promoted (over the heads of many more senior officers) to command Allied forces in Europe.
  • Billy Connolly did a bit on about a 22 year old Feng Shui expert; "When you're twenty-two you're not an expert on any-fucking-thing!"
  • Not as incredibly young as most on this page, but Thomas Fairfax became the senior officer in command of the Parliamentarian army during the Three Kingdoms Wars (British Civil Wars) at the tender age of 33. Admittedly the war was conducted largely by people with no prior experience of warfare so anyone talented enough would rise high quickly. It helped that he was also politically acceptable and convenient, less politically minded and more malleable than his elder subordinates Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell.
  • William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of Britain at the age of 24. It probably helped that his father previously held the position, but this didn't stop him losing a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons on account of his age, and ignoring it. He would eventually stay Prime Minister for the next 18 years.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a virtuoso musician by the age of four, and was composing small pieces by the age of five. Though he zigzags the trope as he didn't write any of the pieces he is remembered for until well into adulthood.
    • Federick Chopin' pieces were being published when he was seven and he was being celebrated as a composer.
  • Chess player Garry Kasparov became a master at 14, a Grandmaster at 17 and then the world champion at 22!
    • Grandmaster Kasparov, you old-timer, meet Hou Yifan — current women's world chess champion, and seventeen years old.
  • Many boxers and other fighters become professionals before they are eighteen.
  • Mary Shelley, S.E. Hinton, and Christopher Paolini all had novels published while still in their late teens.
  • Emily Grace Reaves is starting her own clothing line, the Emily Grace Collection, to be sold by Ooh! La La Couture. How old was she when she started the clothing line? Eight.
  • Évariste Galois, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, started reading doctoral-level maths books like novels while at school, was rejected from France's top mathematical institution because the professors weren't clever enough to understand his work, invented a new and monumentally important branch of mathematics while in prison for revolutionary activity and died aged twenty in a duel over a girl.
  • Cracked presents the "5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward". It begins with Johnny and Luther Htoo, twin Child Soldiers who successfully defended their village on their own from an invading army before quickly becoming the leaders of God's Army at the age of nine. It ends with Iqbal Masih, an 11-years old who escaped slavery and became spokesman for the Bonded Labor Liberation Front (a group dedicated to freeing child slaves), liberating 3,000 children before he was assassinated at the age of thirteen because of his worldwide-reknowned fight against child labour. Geez, they make the achievements of several fictional examples look puny in comparison.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche at the age of 24 became the Chair of Classical Philology at Basel University. He did not have a Ph.D. and hadn't even completed his doctoral dissertation. He was given the chair almost solely on the recommendation of the philologist Friedrich Ritschl, who had never taught a more talented philologist than Nietzsche. Nietzsche is still the youngest person to have ever held this position.
  • There's a belief that the great theorists (mainly in physics and mathematics) make their most ground-breaking discoveries before the age of 30, and work they do after is of lesser importance or merely an elaboration on their early work.
  • The younger generation of English Romantics are somewhat renowned for their short, intense lives: John Keats died of tuberculosis at 25, Shelley was lost at sea a month before his thirtieth birthday and Byron made it all the way to 36 before contracting a fatal fever fighting in the Greek War of Independence. All three of them are firmly established as some of the greatest poets of the English language.
    • This also applies to some famous German writers of that era, for instance Christian Dietrich Grabbe (1801-1836), Wilhelm Hauff (1802-1827), and Georg Büchner (1813-1837).
  • Carl von Clausewitz started his military career when he was twelve years old as a lance corporal and had it cut short by cholera 26 years later as a major-general.
  • Nazi Germany became so desperate for soldiers by the end of the war that they had children who hadn't yet reached puberty put on the front lines.
  • Adolf Galland commanded Luftwaffes fighter force at the age of 29.
  • Muammar Gaddafi was only 27 when he ousted the King of Libya and established a military dictatorship.
  • Rob Bottin became a movie special effects artist when he was 14.
  • Buster Merryfield only began acting when he reached retirement age, and went on to become a main character in Only Fools and Horses.
    • By the same token, Alan Rickman didn't go into acting until he was in his 30s.

Hollywood OldAging TropesCompetence Zone
Impractically Fancy OutfitImprobable Appearance TropesImprobable Hair Style
Doogie Howser, M.D.ImageSource/Live-Action TVDownton Abbey
Implied AnswerCharacterization TropesIncorruptible Pure Pureness

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