This character has a natural empathy for other life forms. They talk to animals that don't normally go near humans. Their garden is a work of art and they gossip with the flowers. They predict the weather by listening to the birds and can foresee a drought by examining the plants. Sometimes this is a very general ability encompassing all of nature, sometimes it's exclusive to one particular species. But either way, they have a special relationship with some non-human being on a level other humans can only dream of.
The problem? It's a totally different story when it comes to the members of their own species.
The price for communing with nature is apparently a graceless ineptitude with other people. You might find them deep in conversation with a lion, unicorn, daffodil, robot or many-tentacled people-eating thing, but a simple "good morning" on your part is liable to send them scurrying for cover or provoke a tirade.
Broadly speaking, there are two variations of this character.
The first type is a sweet natured, shy little soul who simply doesn't understand humans. They're so noisy, and they fight all the time, and they ask awkward questions and...(here the train of thought breaks down as they start hyperventilating and go fleeing back to their farm/garden/whatever). When it comes to taking care of sick animals or wilting plants, however, they can show remarkable courage and tenacity. If The Hero and his merry band need his/her help, they'll have quite a job on their hands to earn enough trust to win him/her over. Nearly invariably, they manage it. If the character who's Not Good with People joins their group and becomes a regular cast member, they suffer some mixed fortunes - The Lancer will probably enjoy teasing them and sending them running for cover, but at least one other member will adopt The Shepherd role and stand up for him or her. They can also be surprisingly successful romantically - the animal-plant empathy combined with their inherent sweetness can see them walking off with a pretty guy or girl on their arm while more assertive types snarl in envy (although much will depend on whether the writer favours good guys and nice girls, or spitfires and rebels).
The second type is much more active, but far less benign. Unlike the first type, who seems to symbolize the fluffy, gentle and "pure" nature of...well, nature, this type abides by the law of the jungle and is much more pragmatic. This approach can extend even to the species that they're "connected" to. Rather than singing to the flowers, they'll probably prune them in a businesslike manner and lecture them on last year's poor growth rate. They will however, give them a smile and an affectionate pat when they do well, and the plants will love them just the same.
Though they're just as talented with animals and/or plants as the first type, they're not afraid of people — they just don't like them. The traits that their brethren find "scary," they find "annoying" or "disgusting." Talk to them and they won't run away...but brace yourself for a rant on how all Humans Are Bastards and why should they bother helping you when you're just a member of the scummy species they hate the most?
Admittedly, often their bark is worse than their bite. Those who prove to them that there is something salvageable in human nature (through, say, a Patrick Stewart Speech) might manage to win them over, setting then up for better interpersonal relations...or just prepared to make an exception for one or two humans in particular. Even if they do, their non-human buddies will always be first in their affections. If they don't...well, then they're a nature-loving Jerk Ass whose talent with animals or plants supplies their Pet the Dog moments.
Sometimes, their dislike of humans results from spending so much time with other species, putting their experiences as homo sapiens in a new and unflattering perspective. Sometimes it's the other way around — the character's hatred of humans actually drove them into developing a bond with some other living being.
If a type 2 becomes egotistical enough, to the point that their "gift" is more an intellectual ability than an emotionally-based talent, then they become a variant of the TV Genius.
The sci-fi genre in particular has seen the boundaries widened by throwing in robots and aliens as viable alternatives to animals and plants. The one rule for this character is that they have a powerful empathy with some other species than their own, apparently at the expense of basic social skills.
Polar opposite of Animals Hate Him.
See also No Social Skills
open/close all folders
First Type (Shy)
Anime And Manga
Both Harima and Yakumo from School Rumble could arguably be defined as this. Harima gets this during a stint as a hermit who gathers a large following of animals. Yakumo's telepathy helps drive her away from people, and she does like animals, but she lacks Harima's expertise... with the possible exception of giraffes.
Sousuke from Full Metal Panic. He gets along way better with animals, and can actually communicate and understand them better than humans. (Especially interesting in the case of Mousuke and Shiro, both of whom he relates to much better than any human in the series.) As for his communication skills with humans... let's just say they're strained at best.
Unless you're in the military of course. Then Sousuke will either confortably give you respect and professionalism if you out rank him, or while not terribly chatty be able to hold a friendly conversation about weapons and tactics if you're equal in rank or below him. If you're a civilian however, he generally doesn't know what to do with you.
Natsume Takashi the protagonist of Natsume Yuujinchou, is kind and understanding of almost all the Youkai he meets -including the ones who try to eat him, but is isolated from humans for most of his childhood due to his ability to see spirits. As a result he "never knows what to say" to them.
Mikael from Tenshi ni Narumon. He is too much in love with angels cause he was brought up by them in Heaven to care about humans. The irony is that he needs to learn how to help them if he wants to become a full angel and go back to Heaven.
Nepeta in Brainbent isn't particularly shy - she's actually rather friendly, in her eccentric way - but she's high-functioning autistic and has difficulty with social conventions. She's also very fond of cats.
Willard: the title character is a meek social misfit with a strange affinity for rats.
Abby the veterinarian from The Truth About Cats and Dogs - though she deals well with people over the radio and by phone, face to face isn't so easy, especially with romantic interests. Kind of straddles the two types here in that she doesn't have a hard time speaking up for herself or others (e.g. towards her neighbour's abusive boyfriend), but she struggles with more ordinary interactions.
Tamora Pierce uses both types. Daine of the The Immortals series starts out as shy and insecure around people, while being very confident and businesslike in her dealings with animals. Thanks to Character Development, she grows in confidence, but retains her innocent outlook and some Country Mouse traits.
Stefan, the hostler from Song Of The Lioness and Protector Of The Small was a type one as well. A valuable ally to both Alanna and Kel, over the years he remained quiet and much preferred his horses to human company.
Rosethorn from the Circle of Magic universe is a type two. As a green mage, she has a huge garden and all plants love her. She takes care of them including businesslike affection and stern admonitions to calm down and grow properly. At first her only interaction with the students placed in her dormitory is to warn them that if they even breathe on her plants, she'll hang them by their heels in the well. She lightens up slightly when she realizes that Briar has plant magic too, and ropes him into being her apprentice. By the later books, though, she's been outted as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
Red, the groom from Pony Tale series The Saddle Club was fairly shy most of the time. The three heroines felt that this allowed the Alpha Bitch Veronica to use him as her personal servant. It turned out that Red had one or two tricks up his sleeve, but for the majority of the series he kept himself to himself.
The Long Earth's Joshua Valiente finds himself rather uncomfortable around people. He doesn't hate them, but he feels more connection to the scarcely populated parallel Earths.
The Ranger from the Nintendo DS version of My Sims is the first type. The animals love him, but he took the job as Forest Ranger in a run down-holiday island specifically so that he could hide away from other people. Help him out and gain his friendship, and he'll help you win over the animals of the island in return.
Erana from Quest For Glory is a bit shyer than you'd expect from her legends.
Kevin from Seiken Densetsu 3. What's odd about this (and maybe a subversion) is that his fellow beastmen have no problem speaking to humans.
Otacon from Metal Gear Solid and its sequels. He's kind to animals, and a genius with machinery, but he's also a socially awkward Shrinking Violet with a tendency to trust the wrong people. (Oddly enough - see Nepeta, Temple Grandin, etc. - Otacon being on the autism spectrum is fairly popular Fanon.)
Rin, the main heroine of Little Busters, is a loner who has trouble talking to people, but she loves cats (and they love her).
DeForest Kelley (aka Doctor McCoy) was notably shy, appearing only infrequently in public (although when he did, he was universally warm and welcoming to fans), but he adored his dogs and Myrtle the Turtle (yes, that was her real name).
Dawn Prince-Hughes (a writer and ethologist with Asperger's Syndrome) gives the impression of being this kind of person in her memoir. She found gorillas easier to understand than her own species.
Second Type (Grumpy)
Anime And Manga
Dr. Black Jack leans towards this, being a Dr. Jerk with a huge environmentalist streak. He's gone as far as purchasing an entire island for the sake of making it into a wildlife preserve.
Fuyuki Shido, the "Beast Master" of Get Backers (although blind violinists are his weakness)
Genzou Hayashi from Binbou Shimai Monogatari definitely qualifies, although he loosens up somewhat after Kyou and Asu take care of him in the hospital.
There was a one-shot female villain on Dragonball who coddled and protected any animals in her path, yet did not bat an eye when her teammates were in harm's way.
Vegeta is the epitome of this trope. Whenever the gang is gathered together, you can always count on him standing off in a corner alone. Often with a grumpy/angsty look on his face.
Keenan Crier of Digimon: Data Squad, who identifies more as a digimon than a human, and treats other humans as threatening invaders.
Polyushka (or Porlyusica) from Fairy Tail is quite a grumpy loner, being modelled after Baba Yaga and similar reclusive witches. She claims she can't stand people, but is actually one of the most benevolent characters in the series.
Coroner Dr. Laurel Weaver from Men In Black. "I hate the living."
Prince Nuada in Hellboy 2 displays this, ever so slightly, as he has no problem with the guard dogs of the BPRD headquarters, but is pursuing humanity's destruction (the two are linked, really, being fae, he's a force of nature himself, and humanity is seen as being harmful to nature).
Poison Ivy from the Batman mythos is a very aggressive example of Type 2.
Fellow Bat-villain Catwoman is also a Type 2, though she's more of a "steal from the rich and give to the animals" mindset, and not so much a "Humans Are Bastards and all need to die" one.
As mentioned above, Tamora Pierce is fond of this type of character. The standout examples of type two, however, are Briar and Rosethorn from Circle of Magic. Their names say it all. They're devoted to their adoptive families, and both actually have good social skills simply because they have to deal with people so often...but essentially, they're both tetchy and irritable, and would ideally like to be left alone with their gardens. Briar in particular is prone to pushing people away, even those he loves, when stressed or anxious.
Far less sympathetic — and much more sinister — is Emperor Ozorne from Daine's The Immortals series. Humans are expendable and exploitable to him, and he doesn't treat the magical Immortals any better... but he's genuinely upset when the birds of his aviary start falling sick, and is prepared to offer Daine anything if she'll stay and look after his menagerie to the point he'll give her land and a title if she agrees to do so ...or kidnap her if she doesn't.
Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld series is a rather odd case of this. She's got a rather impressive affinity for cures magical and physical, has an affinity for nature magic few other witches could match, and the best witch at Borrowing in the last hundred years or longer. She's the only witch to ever successfully borrow a hive mind like bees. She also recognizes that being Right doesn't make you nice, and as a result, has developed a reputation that crosses the species lines. The troll name for her translates to "She Who Must Be Avoided," and the dwarves call her "Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain." She can use people skills if she wants; witness the counter-cardsharping she does in Witches Abroad.
It's not so much that she doesn't understand people, or that she despises people, as that her abilities leave her with very little respect for the pretenses and comforting lies that make human existence endurable. This is true of almost all Discworld witches, but Granny Weatherwax has it even more than most.
Similar to Susan Calvin, below, is Adora Belle Dearheart, a crusader for golem rights. She not once, but twice shoots at her future husband with a crossbow, dismisses small talk with "Now we've been appropriately human to one another, what did you want?", and has only ever once been forcibly stopped from smoking, but when she talks about golems she gets all soft and caring. And when one of the golems she looks after dies, well, she starts acting as if she actually had...feelings.
Lord Vetinari is very good at dealing with people, but he seems to like his dog Wuffles more than any people.
Although, knowing him, that could just be another one of his strategies for dealing with, yes, people.
Isaac Asimov's Susan Calvin is a brilliant, acid-tongued robot expert who openly admits that she likes robots better than humans. In one story she comments that the difference between robots and humans is that robots are essentially decent.
Tarzan has openly commented that humans are petty, violent, and talk too much, and much prefers the company of apes. In one novel when he is stricken with a temporary case of speech aphasia he laments that he can no longer talk to apes, but doesn't much care that he can't talk to humans.
People who talk too much seemed to be a pet peeve of Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, as several of his other characters occasionally comment that they hate such people.
Doctor Dolittle can speak with animals and relates well to them, but aside from a few close friends he doesn't much like humans. In the 1967 film, his female companion confesses her affection for him and he nervously admits that while he loves animals, actual people are really hard for him to deal with.
Elphaba from Wicked is snarky and distant even toward her friends, and she has a hard time expressing her feelings (mostly because she is Unable To Cry). On the other hand, she is an active fighter for Animal rights and, later in the book, seems to gain an ability to communicate with various creatures. One of the most prominent examples is Elphaba's journey to the Vinkus, when she travels in one wagon with a monkey, a dog, bees, and crows, and the other travelers (including her own son) have to share a second wagon between themselves.
Heroic Albino Jagoda from Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu series is a Wild Child variety. Growing up isolated without other children her age and having telepathic abilities, made it easy for her to befriend local dragons. Her friends generally communicate through thoughts and donít lie in a human sense, so she see nothing wrong in looking into their heads without a warning or always telling what she really thinks. When other humans appear on her island, they consider her behavior to be rude and antisocial. She, on the other hand, can see all of their dirty little thoughts, e.g. that they see her as a white-skinned, red-eyed freak, and react aggressively. It takes her some time to learn that all humans has their secrets and that donít make them bad people.
Rafael from Gives Light. He's the son of a hated serial killer, so it comes with the territory.
Live Action TV
Many animal rescue/training shows will have at least one grouchy example. You'll see them soothing and patching up injured animals, then tearing the head off a human bystander. One standout example was an animal rescue show where the main rescuer was asked by a man who'd found an injured fox in his garden if he could touch the animal. The rescuer snapped that of course he couldn't, it was a wild animal. Perfectly sensible statement... except that the rescuer was holding the fox at the time, so unfortunately the message came across as "of course you can't touch wild animals, unless you're special like me." Although you may argue that the sentiment was "don't touch wild animals unless you have special training for it, like me".
On a related note, the crew on Whale Wars could be seen as heroic or an Animal Wrongs Group, depending on your stance, but you'd have a hard time denying their captain falls squarely into Not Good with People. He waxes lyrical about the importance of protecting majestic and peaceful whales, but to the members of his own crew, never mind those on the "opposing ships", he is ruthless and has some serious empathy failure. He sends them out on dangerous "missions", snarls at them if they point out that it is a dangerous task, and will exile them from the ship if they dare defy him.
Claude Raines in Heroes is an invisible man, and claims to know what people are really like when they think they're alone. He's so sickened by and disillusioned with humans he's completely withdraw from society. He does however, feed the birds that come to his coop, and lets them out again it night.
While type ones may exist, the rather combat-oriented nature of Dungeons & Dragons mean that most player characters will find themselves at odds with militant city-hating druids and rangers. The Baldur's Gate series has a "Shadow Druid" as a recruitable NPC who is just nasty in the first installment, then goes on to sic dangerous animals on a nearby town in the second.
Surel from Bionicle, who lives among wolves. Also, Malum, living among Vorox, although that's more because he was exiled than because he avoids people by choice.
In Sam & Max Season 2, Santa Claus admits the only reason he took the job is because he hates children. As Saint Nick, he only has to deal with them one day out of the entire year.
In fact, he technically doesn't have to deal with them at all; the one day out of the year that he actually has to even go near children, they're not allowed to harass him.
Jin Kisaragi from BlazBlue became a Jerkass partially because, as he said it himself, he's Not Good with People. He comments once that he can finds natural environs, away from signs of human life, remarkably relaxing.
Cadugan from Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic is a half-elf who fits the "in harmony with nature" and "loves all woodland animals" elvish stereotypes to a T, but has a grumpy and sarcastic disposition and hates interacting with cities and people who aren't Lucas.
Bitch's powers affect her mind so that she thinks and perceives social interactions like a dog. This also makes her unable to grasp tone, expressions and several other key aspects of human interaction. As such while she turns out to be quite empathetic and kind, this is expressed almost exclusively towards dogs. Towards humans she is lessthanfriendly.
Prowl from Transformers Animated; the irony that he is a robot from a world that doesn't have nature is not lost on his companions.
It doesn't help that he's The Stoic in general, and most of his non-treehugging time is spend in private meditation or training.
Mutt from GI Joe has always been better with animals than people, and shares a deeper connection with his dog Junkyard than he ever has with another person. However, his lack of social graces cause him to come off as, well, wild and temperamental, hence the codename "Mutt". In fact, they even force him to wear a freaking muzzle, Hannibal Lecter-style, because unlike Big Friendly Dog Junkyard, Mutt bites.
This may lean towards No Social Skills but keep in mind this is not meant to be offensive!: Some people are just so shy that they don't talk, until a topic they feel safe with pops up, or until someone starts asking them about something they enjoy.
Longtime veterinarians can develop this kind of attitude, especially if they see a lot of abused or neglected patients. Those that work at emergency clinics tend to be the most affected, as a good deal of "emergencies" are simply issues that could have been treated much more easily if the owner had them attended to earlier.
Anime And Manga
Count D plays the part of the reclusive, soft spoken animal lover, but he's actually very much a type 2; he's just less noisy about it. Like the rest of his family, he has no tolerance for human weakness. Despite the fact that he's the protagonist, and has his fair share of Pet the Dog (well, human) moments with Leon and Chris, he's much more dangerous than most type twos. They're only grouchy, Count D is actually dangerous. Admittedly though, he's not actually human, just masquerading as one.
In Ghibli's Tales From Earthsea Tehru switches between painfully shy, when talking to someone named 'Sparrowhawk', but the first thing she says to Arren is "Did you come here to kill this lamb?"
Although Tehru and Arren's relationship is another trope entirely.
Dr. Jezebel in Count Cain doesn't give a damn about human life (and when he does it shows itself in odd ways: "I love you so much I want to kill you!" to Cain, his half brother), but he would never, ever harm an animal, not even a wee sparrow. Even his partners notice that his entire being changes around animals, from a near Omnicidal Maniac to a nigh-angelic Friend to All Living Things. Like everyone else in Count Cain, he has a veryFreudian Excuse When he was a sickly child, his Big Bad biological father "helped" him by giving him multiple organ transplants and delicious food, courtesy of his mother and sisters and beloved pet lamb, respectively. The lamb is but a memory but the family remains, in small jars in Dr. Jezebel's office. and otherwise excellent social skills.
Trowa Barton is able to reduce a lion to a cuddly kitten with simply patience and eye-contact, but the jury is out on his actual opinion on people. Since the series finale aired over ten years ago, the jury will never reach a verdict.
Canonically, Trowa spent the first few years of his life completely alone, and thus lacked the basic "normal" upbringing; even after he was found, it was by roving mercenaries who pretty much adopted the kid. Therefore, his Not Good with People probably stems from poor childhood development and could be considered Type A.
Three out of the five Gundam pilots fall into this type, mostly because they've all been raised since childhood to be supersoldier pilots. Only Duo and Quatre seem to have no particular socializing problems. Heero is kind-hearted but he's so focused on his mission that he comes off as cold to most people. And Wufei is generally a jerk to everybody and is obsessed with his own strength.
Neon Genesis Evangelion gives us Rei, who struggles with some aspects of humanity, cripplingly shy and, particularly when she's a newly minted clone, is aloof and distant. On the other hand she has an excellent grasp of other aspects of humanity, but shows difficulty in being social. Gendou on the other hand is more a type two.
The Dragon Riders Of Pern usually start out as type ones. Their bond with their dragon puts humans a poor second in their hearts, and they become so wrapped up in their reptilian buddies that they become awkward and shy with people. As they grow up, however, and become aware of their privileged status on Pern, a superiority complex kicks in, and many become arrogant or condescending type twos.
Subverted with Kylara, whose self-absorbed hedonism leads her to ignore her own dragon to the point of neglect (which leads directly to tragedy later)
However, the Type Two riders are usually the more extreme cases (such as Kylara). It would be insane to live with hundreds of insufferably conceited dragonriders, and many of the Weyrfolk genuinely admire them, so it's safe to assume that the average greenrider just gets a boost in confidence and self-assurance.
Because of his large stature and rough appearance, Hagrid of Harry Potter fame appears to be the second type to those who don't know him, but is a Gentle Giant who, while not exactly shy, is socially awkward.
Countess Gertrude of Gormenghast is probably closer to the second type, with her legions of obedient birds and cats and her disdain for humankind.
Live Action TV
The X-Files episode "Alpha" had Karin Berquist, a woman who's an expert on canine behaviour; spending years living in the wild with them, but unable to interact socially. When Mulder mentions he met her on the internet, it doesn't take Scully long to realise Berquist's agenda in luring out someone as quirky as she is with an unusual case.
Protagonist Will Graham from Hannibal has trouble forming connections with humans, but he genuinely cares for his six dogs and is seen relaxing and smiling around them.
Satori Komeiji from Touhou: Subterranean Animism could almost pass for a Type One... until she starts bragging about her mind-reading powers. For some reason, other youkai and humans don't like having their innermost thoughts made public knowledge. Animals, however, enjoy having their wants and needs understood, and Satori is indicated to have many pets (including the Stage 5 and Stage 6 bosses, animal youkai who lived with her before they could talk).
Yuuka Kazami, the flower youkai, is also generally portrayed as Not Good with People. Canon indicates to some degree that she might be a Type One, but fanon usually portrays her as a more antagonistic, sometimes even sadistic, Type Two. Considering the fact that she once stated that she consideres genocide a game (it was a joke, probaby) and on a different occasion responded to accusations that she was the culprit behind the most recent incident with what amounts to "Sure, Let's Go with That" it seems like she actually encourages being percieved as an antagonist.
N from Pokemon Black And White fits both categories. While he can talk to people, he's certainly not very good at it, and noted to be much worse with anyone other than the protagonist and his two mysterious friends, especially due to his belief that Humans Are Bastards, making him somewhat hostile. If you look closely, his dialogue even appears notably faster than anyone else, which may imply any or a number of social issues. Conversely, he can speak to Pokemon very comfortably and even understand them- a trait all but unique in the universe. This turns out to be justified. In order to create a champion to get rid of trainers, Ghetsis arranged for N to be socially isolated and exposed only to Pokemon who had been abused by humans, rendering N unable to understand or identify with humans and giving him the belief that they all abuse Pokemon.
Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is definitely the first type, only with other ponies as the people. On the other hand (justifying being placed in the "both" category) she's infamous for an intimidating glare (which seems to be the reason she's such a Shrinking Violet; she can't control it, and hates to impose), and when her "good with animals" schtick goes tits-up, she has the biggest flipout this side of Jesus at the temple.
Many autistic people understand and get along with animals almost uncannily well, but have a great deal of difficulty with human interactions.