Never Grew Up
But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever,As you know, Growing Up Sucks. Some children, however, have found a way to halt their aging at childhood via Applied Phlebotinum or some supernatural means. Most of the time they'll have the mind, emotional maturity, and/or sensibilities of a child as well as a prepubescent body; adults in children's bodies are more likely to find it inconvenient or downright sucky, although not always. Compare Not Allowed to Grow Up and Really 700 Years Old. Not to be confused with One of the Kids. When the same effect causes hardship and angst for the eternal child, it's Not Growing Up Sucks.
So I think I'll be six for ever and ever.
So I think I'll be six for ever and ever.
—A. A. Milne, Now We Are Six
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Anime and Manga
- One episode of Cowboy Bebop features a Creepy Child. Supposedly, whatever stopped his aging also made him bullet- and explosion-proof.
- In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu's daughter is absolutely tiny despite being eight. She's actually growing more than most homunculi of her type do but he thinks there's a 90% chance she'll stop growing before hitting puberty. In the next Grail War ten years later she's slightly older than Shirou yet is still the game's Token Mini-Moe.
- The Trigun anime reinterpreted Zazie the Beast this way, apparently. Since the eternally-respawning humanoid avatar of the sand-worms' group intelligence would have been too complicated to deal with in one episode. Hell, the manga doesn't really deal with it completely.
- Kaori Yuki's Cain Saga manga series features an extremely sympathetically-presented member of the Nebulous Evil Organization, Cassian, a middle-aged man in the body of a prepubescent boy, formerly employed as a knife-thrower in a circus. He joined the organization because they have weird, futuristic occult-medical hybrid technology in development which might give him some way to get an adult body. He's assigned to be the primary minion of a high-up member of the organization, Doctor Jizabel Disraeli, who's around twenty and as we get his backstory, increasingly pitiful. Dealt with well in that Cassian, even though all visual cues are against it, sees Disraeli as a kid. Cassian is fatally wounded about as soon as his pseudo-paternal attachment to Disraeli is properly developed, and Jizabel transplants his brain into the head of a fellow villain they both hate who was recently thwarted by hubris and idiocy. (And the hero, in one of the hero's few success stories.) Cassian goes on the lam, and reappears as a handy plot device toward the end of the series' climax. Disraeli eventually dies in his arms, lamenting the fact that he spent all this time trying to please the wrong father, Alexis, the twisted Man Behind the Man, when he should have been looking up to Cassian. Cassian has many levels in awesome.
- Eriol Hiiragizawa in Cardcaptor Sakura is mostly this with a bit of Not Growing Up Sucks. He specifically chose to halt his aging, but while he looks like a child, he's mentally an adult. He doesn't have any angst over his age dissonance shown, but since he only stopped his aging so he could blend in with Sakura's classmates better, it would probably make his life after the series more complicated and restricted if he can't restart his aging.
- Akio, Anthy, and possibly Mikaga from Revolutionary Girl Utena all have some form of this, with the former two are implied to have been at Ohtori Academy for centuries. At the very end of the series Anthy decides to leave by "graduating" as a metaphor for growing up.
- In Pokemon Special, despite the fact that it is well over three years old, X's baby Kangaskhan never grew nor left its mother's pouch, mirroring its trainer's Hikikomori lifestyle.
- In a completely unexpected move, Rebuild of Evangelion Q pulled this trope off in an unexpected way: Shinji is woken up from stasis 14 years after the end of the previous film and is confronted by a 28 year old Asuka who still looks very much like her 14 year old self plus an Eyepatch of Power. Asuka mentions that it happened because of the "Curse of Eva"; personality-wise, she's considerably less bratty and quite bitter. Mari also appears to be affected but Rei isn't, considering that it's not the same one Shinji knew.
- Considering how heavily the Eva girls are merchandised in figurines and posters targeted at otaku, several fans have accused the creators of this being an egregious case of Not Allowed to Grow Up due to Pandering to the Base. Evidently, these fans would've liked to see Asuka when She's All Grown Up.
- Like those in Foster's Home below, the imaginary friends in Drop Dead Fred don't grow up. It is implied that those who do not grow out of needing their imaginary friends are ultimately prescribed pills that hurt or kill the imaginary friends.
- The Trope Namer is Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Never Grew Up, which has the Lost Boys as well as Peter Pan himself.
- The story Child of All Ages is about a child who regularly drinks a potion which keeps her young (it also lets her live for hundreds of years, so she isn't about to stop, even though there are many disadvantages to being a kid).
- Book example no one's going to recognize: The Meq (by Steve Cash). Also a spectacular example of a non-ending.
- There's a SF short story called "Start the Clock" that features this. Basically, one day everyone on Earth stops aging, and stays in whatever "state" they were at the time... little kids have it the best, in a way, because their brains stay in the "good at learning" state... and at the point in time the story's set, they've gotten the same rights as adults (they can hold jobs and live on their own and such). Anyone going through puberty got the worst deal, since it just keeps going, deforming them and giving them health problems. Infants tend to get cybernetics, and are scary and powerful.
- Although by the time the story is set treatments to allow people to continue to age have been developed.
- Oskar, the protagonist of GŁnter Grass's novel The Tin Drum, deliberately stunts his growth at age three, by hurling himself down the stairs, so that he can avoid being part of the horrific adult world around him. He attempts to shield himself further from adult horrors by drowning them out with his titular drum. In the end, however, a blow to the head ages him instantly.
- Harlan Ellison's short story "Jeffty is Five" is about a kid who is always five. Not only that, but he is also seemingly an unconscious Reality Warper; he continually gets to see new movies starring actors who've been dead for years, new episodes of radio shows that have been off the air for decades, and read new issues of comics that don't exist anymore. This leads the narrating character, who's highly nostalgic for the Good Old Days, to spend a lot of time with him... until, as usually happens in an Ellison story, it all goes horribly awry.
- The Gull of "The Age of Five" trilogy by Trudi Canavan is sort of an example of this trope. Whilst his body is that of a seven or eight year old child, he has the knowledge and maturity that he has acquired over thousands of years of life (he's also the oldest of the surviving immortals, a fact which, when revealed, causes his fellow immortals to lapse into a thoughtful silence as they wonder just how old he is.)
Live Action TV
- The first episode of Eerie Indiana involves two identical twins called Bert and Ernie who never got older than twelve and had to repeat seventh grade for thirty years because their mother locked them inside age-retarding Foreverware each night. As they state in unison, "It's a living hell". The main character pops their Foreverware open at the end of the episode, and they in turn do it to their mother, who used the same trick to stay youthful; the next morning, the twins are happily in their forties, and their mother is now an old woman.
- Tom Baker's incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor Who lampshades this at the end of the episode "Robot" when Sarah Jane says he's acting childish:
Doctor: There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Miri" revolves around a planet where an anti-aging drug led to a society of 300-year-old children, and no adults. (Although technically the children are growing up, just incredibly slowly.)
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse: One of the character templates in the White Howler tribebook is a woman with a condition that means she'll always look like a child, who puts it to use as a disguise.
- The Kokiri from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are given life by the Great Deku Tree and automatically stop aging at around 10.
- But as seen in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, they can have their form changed by the Deku Tree in order to protect them (in this case, the great flood) so the tree may have given them this attribute.
- Seere from Drakengard. It is more apparent in the sequel which takes place eighteen years later.
- Xenosaga: Rubedo, who's an artificially created human with the power to slow down cellular growth, stopped his own aging at around age 12 (the game mentions why but it's escaped my mind). This means while he's technically older than Guignan, he presents himself as Guignan's son, Guignan Jr. or just plain Jr.
- Breath of Fire IV has an entire town of these; the town of Chek is entirely populated by what appear to be kids but are actually people in their teens on up to elderly people. It's also a town entirely populated by summoners and shamans, and it's outright stated in the game that it's their proximity to the summoning temple for the gods in that universe that keeps them young.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny has Yuri Eberwein, the formerly human Unbreakable Darkness who achieved Complete Immortality when she became what she is now. The Sound Stages set after the game mention that, now that she could control her unlimited powers, she could let herself grow up as normal again.
- The imaginary friends from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends are real, and childlike, but never grow up, which becomes tragic when their creators grow out of them and eventually abandon them.
- Actress Mary Dahll suffered from a disease that prevented her from physically aging past the age of about 6 or so. She was a sit-com star for a while playing a little girl named Baby Doll. Eventually she quit and tried to become a serious actress with less than no success. After a series of failures she resorted to kidnapping her old castmates in an attempt to relive her glory years and drawing the attention of Batman.
- In Young Justice, Superboy still looks the same after a five year Time Skip. One of the side effects of the cloning process that created him is that he will always look sixteen. He still ages internally, so he's not immortal.
- There was Brooke Greenberg, who had a mysterious medical condition that had caused her mind and body to remain in infancy for 17 years before she died in 2013 (with some anomalies, such as her bone age being around that of a ten-year-old). There's no obvious supernatural involvement, although her first five years or so of life were full of medical catastrophes that spontaneously resolved without leaving any damage (for example, a brain tumor that spontaneously disappeared). This article has a video that shows her at twelve years old, looking much like a six-month-old infant.
- Though given that her telomeres were shorter than a normal child her age, Brooke could've actually aged faster than normal - even though she didn't grow up. It didn't happen.
- Nicky Freeman looks as if he's 10 years old. He was born in 1969, and is aging only at a quarter the normal speed.
- Maria Audete do Nascimento is a Brazilian woman in her 30s...she looks like a toddler.◊
- Then there are people who have Hypopituitarism, making them look like pre-teens/middle-schoolers long into adulthood. Comedian Andy Milonakis is a famous example.