I've spent years preparing for this encounter... training, meditating... you're just a child! Aang:
Well, you're just a teenager.
Common theme running through initial seasons of shows featuring a Kid Hero
. The young hero meets a series of dismissive
characters who assume ineptness because (wait for it) — "You're just a kid." The dismissive characters can be good or bad, but will meet their comeuppance by the end of the episode (or the season, if it's a multi-episode arc).
Requires a show built around the concept of a hero who is stronger or more competent than they appear.
Because the conceit of this trope wears thin after two or three years, it often quietly fades, only to reappear in another character.
When it's the villain instead of the hero whose youth is being remarked on, you might be dealing with an Enfant Terrible
, in which case you're in big trouble.
See also Stay in the Kitchen
, where a character is as "just a woman" or "just a girl". Frequently found in plots based around athletics, or the Macho Disaster Expedition
Such a character may frequently be on the receiving end of Not Now, Kiddo
Not to be confused with Just a Kid
, the Australian name for Caitlin's Way
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Anime & Manga
- Nue of Air Gear is the Thunder King, making him one of the top riders of the series, and is also one of the youngest of the Kings.
- The Girl part of Gunslinger Girl means that this is the usual reaction to them, even from people who have heard of their existence. The gunslinger part means that said people die soon after making this mistake.
- Lampshaded by almost all the villains Gohan fights in one-on-one battle in Dragon Ball Z. Goku also suffered from this in the Dragon Ball series and in Dragon Ball GT, which annoyed him even more, as he was reaching his sixties and was one of the strongest beings in the universe.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Lieutenant Ross and Sergeant Brosh lecture Ed and Al on how their youth means that they should give adults some more responsibility in the story. Of course, Ross is effectively shut down by Maes Hughes, who, Genre Savvy man that he is, knows who the main characters are.
- The Prince of Tennis: Ryoma's rivals often comment derisively on him being just 12-to-13 years old and in his first year of junior high. And they end up losing to him soon.
- Notably averted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, where the Time-Space Administration Bureau will recruit anyone sufficiently skilled and responsible (or plot-important), regardless of age. No one magical ever looks down on, underestimates, or refuses to fight Nanoha or her peers because of their ages. Even her Muggle parents are surprisingly understanding and permissive.
- 17-year-old turned 7-year-old Shinichi Kudo in Detective Conan finds this a serious problem as no-one will take his deductions seriously. Then again, he still makes the best of the situation by constantly exploiting his ability to be underestimated by the culprits.
- He's not immune to the trope in his teenage body either. In a recent chapter, police detective Satou confidently told her partner that the two "high school detectives" would get stuck and come running back to the police. She was immediately struck speechless when they arrived to announce that they had whittled down 50 cars to just three suspects.
- Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs: Fireball is often the butt of jokes because he's 18 years old and his teammates are all over the age of twenty. 24-years-old Colt is the one who treats him like a child the most.
- Saying that cute Genki Girl Ninja Misao of Rurouni Kenshin is "Just a kid" is a good way to get yourself kicked in the head.
- Both Firo and Luck from Baccano!! have a history of dealing with this. Because he started in the upper ranks of The Mafia at an age no greater than fifteen (and potentially as young as thirteen) thanks to family connections, Luck spent much of his career building up a front more ruthless than he actually is to counter it. Meanwhile Firo, while attaining his position at a somewhat later age and solely through his own skill, looks quite a bit younger than he may be and tends to get written off as a brat because of it.
- The title character from King of Bandit Jing is also a victim of this; you'd think by now the bad guys would learn that the infamous "Bandit King" is no more than 16 years old.
- His age is somewhat debatable - in the manga, due to the art style, he looks younger, at least in the beginning.
- Daisaku gets this a lot at the beginning of Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, especially from Tetsuoko, who is jealous of Daisaku's mature manner (for a kid) but also of the close bond he shares with Ginrei.
- Gundam Wing. Noin is bitter at having been defeated by "just a kid". To which Wufei retorts "You saw I was a kid and you underestimated me."
- Of course, he 'just a woman'ed her.
- Victory Gundam. Usso gets this a lot, given that he's only 13. He's Genre Savvy enough to use this to his advantage several times, because he knows people will underestimate him, or hesitate to harm a kid in battle. Of course, some of his opponents get Genre Savvy right back and treat him as as much of a threat as any adult soldier.
- Full Metal Panic!:
- Sôsuke Sagara gets this from time to time. Especially noticeable in the arc where he had to cooperate with other soldiers to assassinate Gauron. None of them (except Gray) were willing to listen to his advice or input, because they were so insulted that Mithril would send a "kid" to help. They were proven wrong within an episode, and it ended very badly for them because of it. Plus they were really shocked when they found out that Sôsuke was an Afghan guerrilla when he was eight. Prior to that, he supposedly was a highly trained KGB assassin. Now he's 16 and the only man at Mithril who can use the Lambda Driver.
- Talking about the Lambda Driver, episode 12 shows what happens if you think of Takuma as a harmless kid. Hint: it involves a 50-meter-tall mecha and Tokyo.
- Many warriors have this reaction to Thorfinn in Vinland Saga. They mostly end up dead as a result.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!:
- Asuna seems to have trouble seeing Negi as anything other the sweet little brother she has to protect. Even after getting taken down in a few seconds by him in a sparring match, she still worries about him far too much.
- During the elimination round of the Mahora Fesival Tournament Arc, most of the other fighters were treating Negi, Kotaro, and Evangeline as silly little kids that seem to have lost their way. The jokes stopped the moment people more than twice their size started getting effortlessly knocked around.
- Evangeline's opponent in the first round tried to avoid this by treating her as an equal and not to be underestimated; of course since Evangeline is one of the strongest characters in the setting even while depowered, she still took him down in a split-second with a half-hearted punch while distracted.
- The Thousand Master himself, and a bit of a sore point. When a threat level of Ala Rubra was placed, with Zect and Eishun listed as the most dangerous... then Nagi was mentioned as, "oh, and this kid is pretty good too," complete with his own picture, which is suddenly scowling. Oh, and Zect looks like an eight-year-old while Nagi was fifteen or so.
- Digimon Tamers is notorious for this, as every single one of the main characters' families plays the Just a Kid card. Jenrya's mom was probably the most memorable — she was the only one who never really supported the idea of her son fighting, even after seeing him in action.
- Tamers wasn't the only season to have a Just a Kid situation. Iori/Cody got this treatment from his older teammates, two of whom (T.K./Takeru and Kari/Hikari) conveniently forgot that Iori/Cody is two full years older than they were during their first adventure with the Digimon (at least that's the age gap in the American version. Correct me if that isn't universal).
- Issuing requested correction: Iori is one year older than Takeru and Hikari were when their adventures began.
- In Highschool of the Dead, despite most of the main cast being high school age and obviously competent from the reader's perspective, they receive this treatment once they reach the Takagi mansion. Fortunately, the cast gets their chance to prove themselves.
- In Eyeshield 21, this was the reason why Mamori didn't want Sena to join the football team, as she still sees him as someone who needs to be protected by her. And this plays a major role in why she cannot realize that Sena is in fact Eyeshield 21.
- Iris from Pokémon has a rather...odd...habit: calling Ash a kid whenever he says something she doesn't like or does something not smart. In fact, she does it often in plenty of episodes...even though she's a kid herself!
- The Amazing Spider-Man: Spidey gets unmasked by Dr. Octopus in an early issue, but thanks to Peter Parker's youth (and Spidey's poor performance in the proceeding fight) neither Ock nor the assembled crowd believe Parker is really Spidey, assuming that Peter just donned a Spider-Man costume to play the hero. Years later, when Spidey unmasks on national TV, Doc Ock goes on a rampage fueled by the humiliation of being constantly beat by a high-schooler.
- Subverted a lot in Ultimate Spiderman, where Spiderman is normally a well-respected threat to the bad guys until he begins to quip. His talking points normally date him (making pop-culture references or naďve assumptions), prompting the bad guy to reply along the lines of "Wait, how old are you?"
- Teen Titans is built on this trope.
- The Runaways have to deal with this kind of treatment all the time from adult superheroes. This doesn't mesh well with the runaways' ingrained belief that Adults Are Useless at best thanks to the whole "parents are evil supervillains plotting to wipe out humanity" thing that shattered their ability to trust adults. In their well-meaning efforts to look out for the kids' well-being, the adult heroes are just reinforcing the idea that the runaways can't ever trust adult authority figures.
- The backup feature in one issue of Tomahawk was about Brass Buttons, Stovepipe, and Dan Hunter (none of them even 20 yet) embittered by the other Rangers looking down on them because of their youth. Naturally they end up saving the day later.
Films — Animation
- This was the main plot of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. SpongeBob got this from nearly everyone in the movie as a reason he's not capable of doing what he sets out to do. Of course, he does prove himself.
- This trope name is also the name of the third song on the movie's OST, performed by Wilco.
Films — Live-Action
- The Neverending Story. The Prime Minister (or whoever he's supposed to be) didn't want Atreyu the child, he wanted Atreyu the warrior. Atreyu just shrugs and says he is the only one of his tribe with that name and they can take it or leave it. They take it.
- In X-Men: First Class, when Magneto, of all people, suggests that he and Xavier train the young mutants to fight Sebastian Shaw and the Hellfire Club.
Xavier: They're just kids.
: No. They were
Q: I'm your new Quatermaster.
Bond: You must be joking.
Q: Why, because I'm not wearing a lab coat?
Bond: Because you still have spots.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy, at least during the high school years. It disappears largely after then, because everyone in Sunnydale (and beyond) has apparently heard of Buffy and is no longer surprised at her abilities. The trope was back in full swing during season seven, with the training of Dawn and the Potentials. There's also a Call Back in the Season Finale of Season 5, when Buffy saves a Victim of the Week from a vampire. He says, "But you're just a girl!" Buffy walks off; "That's what I keep saying."
- Doogie Howser, M.D.: The premise: medical doctor who is just a kid. Faintly based on a real-life example.
- Sliders: Quinn Mallory
- The Wire: Omar Little, one of the lead characters, dismisses many young players in the Baltimore drug trade because they're "just kids", including using the phrase exactly to describe Michael, who is meeting with Marlo, in late season four. One such child, Kenard, is looked at by a Baltimore police officer as an example of how Omar's influence and brazen antics have spread to young, impressionable children, who view him as a hero. Near the end of the series, Omar is unexpectedly gunned down by Kenard, and had dismissed the child as a threat when he walked into the store.
- The trope is then used word for word in the season five finale. Michael has become a stick-up boy in Omar's mould, and when he holds up Marlo's "bank" is told "Shit, you just a boy!"; [blam] "And that's just your knee."
- Game of Thrones: Tywin Lannister dismisses the 18-year-old Robb Stark as a threat because of this, figuring that he'll probably run back home to the North at the first sight of battle. He is oh so very wrong. When the dust settles, his son is a prisoner of war, and half his army has been destroyed. Turns out that Robb is actually quite the tactician.
- On Diagnosis: Murder, Dr. Jesse Travis got this from at least one elderly patient.
Myths & Religion
- Prevalent in Nasuverse works. Then again, the one saying it is usually far beyond mere humans.
- Both the five protagonists and two of the antagonists of the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes fit into this trope.
- Vista, in Worm, is a thirteen-year-old superheroine on a team of older teenagers. She's also the member of the team with the most actual experience as a superhero, because she's had her powers since she was eleven. It frequently leads to her experiencing this trope.
- A rather vulgar example brought to you by the The Tourettes Guy. Apparently, asking for Captain Crunch cereal is enough to get the "Just A Kid" treatment and some very blue-mouthed put downs if you're Danny's son.
- Truth in Television: There are some children who are really, really good chess players. If you see a kid playing chess in a park, you underestimate him at your peril.
- The same could be said about kids playing the most brutal Fighting Games in arcades.
- Several notable bands who are known as extremely talented have had teen members, Primus among them.
- There were those that thought that about Charles XII. It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.
- All of Europe thought that about Maria Theresa. They proved mistaken.
- No matter how old your are or how much experience or education you acquire you will always be a child in your parent's eyes.
- This could be part of the reason behind teenage rebellion. When teenagers start seeing that the world is seeing them as an adult and being given more responsibilities (being able to drive, vote, enlist in the military, etc.,) and you parents still see you as "my little baby," it's entirely possible that most rebellion is the child saying, "No, I'm not anymore." Most go in the wrong direction, but still as good a theory as any.
- Sometimes the opposite happens- being seen as that baby is meant in a meaningful, loving way, because they got the pleasure to raise you. Unfortunately, this isn't true for all families.
- If you have any elder siblings, they will always think of you as the baby, even if you qualify as a genuine badass Crazy Awesome.
- This was part of the real reason Joan of Arc's ability to lead an army was questioned. Women soldiers were not unheard of (especially as all the men were getting killed), some had even commanded, and it was not the first time someone had reported being asked by God to fight the English. It was the first time someone did all these things at the age of fourteen.
- These Cracked Article