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Recruit Teenagers with Attitude
Alpha shows the world that he does not know the definition of the word "attitude". Or "teenagers", for that matter.

So the Big Bad has been unleashed, or the rebellion needs more help over-throwing the evil empire. Who do you get to help? A crack team of trained mercenaries? How about some expert martial artists? Maybe the existing peace-keeping forces such as the police or military?

No? Then how about those kids standing over there? Yeah? Okay, cool, go for it.

This trope happens when, instead of getting qualified help from highly trained professionals, or at the very least, adults who are more likely to understand the risks associated with a possible life-or-death scenario, we're treated to a team of young people with little to no experience with whatever they're about to face and thrust into it head first. Often, the teens are given weapons or powers to defeat this threat, but are given little to no training with these things, yet, for plot reasons, still come out on top.

This trope usually occurs in media aimed at kids and pre-teens, as that's the sort of audience who looks up to high schoolers as the pinnacle of human achievement, or at the very least are more relatable than some "crusty old" 30-somethings. Ironically, many such shows, if live-action, will invoke Dawson Casting and those "teenagers" won't really be teenagers anyway. Go fig. If we're talking about an anime or comic, it may very well be a result of Author Appeal.

Many stories sometimes have a token teenager, or may even have a whole sub-cast of children, but this trope is for when most or all of the main cast are teens (or younger). So Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn't count here. However, the trope applies if the singular main character is young.

Similar to Ragtag Bunch of Misfits and Child Soldiers. Tangentially related Adults Are Useless. See also Summon Everyman Hero.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Sailor Moon: At least, it seems this way at first.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew seemed to pick 5 random girls who were just in the wrong place and wrong time. They just happened to have DNA that was compatible with the chosen animals.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the mecha anime it deconstructed, fall within this trope and Falling into the Cockpit.
    • Likewise with even younger children in Bokurano.
  • Getter Robo, at least in the original continuity.
  • Prétear. Granted, it's justified in the case of the Leafe Knights—they're literally born into the role and not exactly human, so they've been training for this their entire lives. (Plus, the four older knights only look as if they're in their late teens or early twenties, but they're actually at least twice that.) However, this trope is played completely straight in the case of the eponymous Magical Girl—Himeno is about 15, has no formal training besides an interest in martial arts (that she doesn't even seem to use in battle) and is completely mentally unprepared for her role as world savior. This is dealt with in-series during her constant battles with self doubt, as well as Takako/Fenrir's backstory—she was also a teen unprepared for battle, and focused obsessively on Hayate to give her the confidence to continue, which was why his rejection of her was so earth-shattering.
  • Ronin Warriors: It was so bad that in the first episode they almost lost due to what was basically a pissing contest, and they spent the rest of the season paying for it.
  • The Eldoran series does something like this, except that "teenagers" is replaced with "A class of elementary school kids".
  • Robot Taekwon V combines this with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, and the Big Bad is defeated by a teenage boy, his Action Girlfriend and his friends.
  • Mao-chan one-ups this. Due to publicity issues, Japanese military had to resort to getting a trio of ridiculously cute little girls to stop alien invasion. And make a television show about it. Somehow it worked.
  • In Dragon Ball, Dr. Gero tries doing this to defeat Son Goku, turning a runaway brother and sister into super-powered cyborgs. It doesn't end well.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey only recruits young and inexperienced teenage girls to fight the Witches. Most of the main characters are completely normal schoolgirls. There is a reason why it has to be teen girls.
  • The Pretty Cure franchise does this virtually all the time. Yes! Pretty Cure 5 had Nozomi personally choose who was gonna be a Pretty Cure (with the general formula being that they would blow it off, new monster show up, realize she couldn't abandon the others, come back and become a Pretty Cure). HeartCatch Pretty Cure! is probably the only one who doesn't follow this formula.
  • Sort of done all throughout Digimon, though they're more of the tween-age in most of the shows - all apart from Digimon Savers, which stars a Hot-Blooded street punk that's recruited by a secretive government organisation when he forms a partnership with and Agumon.
  • Borderline in The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer; played straight for all the teenage characters - Yuuhi, Amamiya, Mikazuki, Tarou, and Hanako, but the age of all the Beast Knights ranges from primary schoolers to the 40-year-old detective Nagumo.
  • In the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the kids were fighting for personal reasons. However, as the series went on, they got increasingly roped into "save the world" situations, despite being high school students. Justified, by the fact that Yugi, as the Chosen One and the world's best duelist in a world where card games can destroy worlds and damn souls, was often the only one qualified to deal with the situations and the rest of the gang got involved simply because of the Power of Friendship.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: Though in this case, the X-Men did receive combat training prior to their first mission. It bears mentioning that the team's youngest member was only 13. Justified in that mutant powers manifest at puberty, and Xavier started a school for "gifted youngsters" to train them in their potentially uncontrollable and deadly mutations. But he also liked watching them sweat.
    • In Ultimate X-Men, the team barely has time to be assembled and forced into tight leather pants before being sent to rescue a young mutant from 50-foot killer robots.
  • Played straight, and extreme, in the Marvel comic Power Pack, which chronicles four pre-teen siblings who received their superpowers and world-saving mission from a dying alien. This was actually a subversion of the more typical adult, Serious Business superheroes of the time, and much of the humor since has come from contrasting them with heroes like Wolverine. Similar to the Animorphs situation, the alien was dying, the kids were there, and the alien didn't exactly have the option of going and getting the Marines.
  • Kyle Rayner, who was for a decade or so the only Green Lantern, started out this way. Ganthet needed to give the last ring and power battery to somebody, and Kyle was standing there, so Ganthet literally said, "You'll do," and gave them to him.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs, five teenagers are picked by an alien to save the world from an alien invasion. To its credit, the series does deal with the absurdity of five teenagers being the world's only hope, and in the end they're all shown to have some fairly deep psychological trauma. Initially explained that said alien didn't have much choice, since he was about to die and the kids happened to be there.
    • However, it is later revealed that a Sufficiently Advanced Alien Energy Being (read: stand in for God) hand-picked more than half of the kids for various reasons; since it is involved in an absurdly complex universe-spanning game with an evil Sufficiently Advanced Alien, the earth's defenders being teenagers might have been a restriction as part of one of the in-game deals.
    • The Andalite Chronicles has another explanation: experience had taught Elfangor that human children were capable of much more than one might think.
    • When the Animorphs gain the ability to increase their numbers, they seek out more teenagers. Because they figured teenagers adapt to new situations quicker than adults, and that teenagers would listen to them and be happier to let them take the lead than adults would, in addition they deliberately seek out disabled kids as there's no way the Yeerks would be using them as hosts.
  • A literary example, the new The Hardy Boys series, Undercover Brothers. Frank and Joe are members of a crime group composed of teenagers, ATAC (American Teens Against Crime). The reasoning behind it is that teens can go places and ask questions that would be suspicious if asked by an adult.
  • In Ender's Game, the Battle School recruits kids as young as 6 or 7, where they are examined for strong willpower and survival instincts. This is justified in-universe, because no one old enough to understand war and with enough compassion to be a great general will fight it. Like in Animorphs, the kids end up very, very messed up. And the fallout is that many of them try to take over the world Ender's older brother recruits some of them on his side and does conquer the world.
  • While they didn't exactly recruit them, the rebellion in The Hunger Games series doesn't get off the ground until Katniss and Peeta (mostly Katniss, who has a lot of attitude) defy the Capitol while also gathering enough public adoration that the Capitol is reluctant to punish them directly, essentially making them figureheads for the rebels.
  • In the Lost Books series, Johnis, Sylvie, Billos, and Darsal, on multiple occasions.
  • The Other Light members in the Left Behind book Kingdom Come are all physically teenagers and young adults under 100 years old looking for recruits of the same age range so that they could pass on their teachings before they die at 100 to the generation that will confront God and Jesus at the end of the Millennium...only to get seriously owned!
  • In The Tripods, this is the only option because most people over 14 are Capped and mind-controlled.
  • Also the situation in The Resisters series by Eric Nylund. Humans are absorbed into the Cha'zar collective at puberty. The adults running the resistance stay underground and are unaware of other adult resisters until the third book.
  • Alex Scarrow's Time Riders series plays with this trope. The main cast are all thirteen to nineteen, as one would expect from this trope and teen to young adult fiction generally. However, they were chosen because it was known exactly when and where they were to die, and invariably dying in such a way that the body could not be recovered, enabling them to be snatched from the jaws of death easily. Also, all three had skills well suited to the tasks they would perform in the group - initiative, data-mining and a keen eye for tiny changes in detail. They also take a hulking great combat unit along on missions for when tactical evaluation or martial prowess are required. They are also purpose built organic robots who are slightly more resilient than ordinary humans anyway, and thanks to Liam's time in the past on missions he's closer to twenty by now and pushing the definition of 'teenager'.

    Live Action TV 
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: the Trope Namer. In the pilot, mentor Zordon asked for "five overbearing and over-emotional humans" in the area, and helper robot Alpha said, complete with facepalm, "Oh no, not that! Not... teenagers!" to which Zordon responded, "that's correct Alpha," to which Alpha sighs, "I was afraid of that." Only one of the group didn't have any martial arts training and they were fairly decent shots on the very rare occasion when they actually used their blasters. The reasoning behind this, stated in the first episode was that as teenagers they would be the generation to inherit the planet, and thusly should be the ones who protect that inheritance.
    • The rest of the Power Rangers franchise downplays this, however. Aside from the fact that half the teams have characters that are past high school, many seasons justify teen heroes by either having them already in training to fight evil when said evil emerges (Ninja Storm, Jungle Fury, Samurai) or the only ones in the vicinity to already have powers (Dino Thunder, Mystic Force). Even in the seasons with adults, they're not military but they're recruited for the skills that they do have (Lightspeed Rescue, Operation Overdrive).
    • Also, these "teenagers" definitely are NOT as Zordon described them. They're neither angsty nor overbearing.
    • Power Rangers Megaforce, being a deliberate homage to Mighty Morphin', brings this trope back in full force. Gosei is a bit more diplomatic than Zordon, though, asking for "energetic and unstoppable" humans, but his Robot Buddy still verbally facepalms at teenagers much like Alpha did.
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie (considered non-canon, but still interesting) implied that Zordon had been recruiting teenagers for centuries. Ivan Ooze remarks with disgust that "Zordon's still using a bunch of kids to do his dirty work" when he meets the current team, and clearly hates teenagers even more than he hates humans in general because of it.
    • Kousoku Sentai Turboranger from Super Sentai is probably the Trope Codifier, as it's the first Sentai team to consist of just teenagers, but they've yet to be referred as 'Teenagers With Attitude' (this was before Power Rangers was even conceived in its current form).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Averted, mostly. Most of the Scoobies weren't exactly recruited - they were just swept up in events. Anya and Tara were genuinely recruited, but they had extensive knowledge of demons and magic, respectively (and in Anya's case, was over a thousand years old despite physically being a teenager). Also, in later seasons, they stopped being teenagers. Slayers though are always chosen from teenage girls, and few of them live past 18. About the only explanation for this is that the creepy old men who created the Slayer role figured younger girls would be easier to control or they lived before "teenager" appeared as a concept and what is now a teenager was considered an adult.
  • Lab Rats:Leo sends three teenagers aged 14-16.

    Video Games 
  • Many City of Heroes players make their in-game avatars as teenagers.
  • Ditto Champions Online players.
  • EarthBound's four main characters are teens (and possibly even younger in the Japanese version), though they were chosen by a prophecy. Unlike many examples, though, the trope is deconstructed a bit, since what the characters have to go through at the end of the game is meant to signify a loss of innocence.
  • Lampshaded in Golden Sun, when this is one of the objections the adults of Vale have to the Wise One (and the High Elder) insisting that only Isaac and Garet can chase down the Mars Clan warriors to recover the Elemental Stars. Possibly justified when we learn they're not meant to thwart the return of Alchemy, but rather, to gauge the necessity of it, which the elders of Vale already proved unwilling to do.

    Webcomics 
  • In El Goonish Shive Susan and Nanase got their magic potential unlocked this way, when two immortals recruited them to fight an aberration (a dangerous vampire-like being). This encounter led to 15-year-old Susan getting some long-lasting psychological scars due to being forced to kill someone who used to be human. It later turns out the immortals in question had no legitimate need to do so as they could have called on several more experienced sources to neutralize the threat. The fact that they convinced teenage girls to handle it alone was a source of great disgust to Jerry, another immortal.
  • Mocked in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things here.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender : The Gaang never picks up anyone over the age of sixteen. Justified in the beginning as Katara is pretty much the last person on the planet who still believes "the Avatar will return" - and later that all the adult warriors get themselves captured and/or killed. An alliance of Cool Old Guys shows up for the finale, however.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers had Gaia recruiting five teenagers with no previous experience fighting evil. On the good side, they were able to summon a superhero when things got too tough. The Planeteers were the generation that was going to grow up to inherit a polluted planet, like the intended audience, so it made sense for Gaia to teach people of that generation to take care of it.
  • Double Subversion with the Storm Hawks, as when they tried to register the first time, they were turned down for being too young (with the exception of Stork). Eventually, they are recognized by the Sky Council as Sky Knights.
    • Also lampshaded as many secondary characters comment on their ages for about the first dozen episodes.
    • At one point several other kids tried to join the team as well, but were ultimately encouraged to return to their homes for awhile.
  • Played straight in the new Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 animated series. When one of the six teens rather sensibly ask their holographic Obi Wan why they alone were chosen to save the world, she replies that each one brings "something different" to the team. Which one brings driving experience to a battle for the fate of the world that involves high-speed racing is never saidnote .
  • The Animesque Totally Spies!. Think Power Rangers meets Buffy.
    • The sequel series The Amazing Spiez is even worse since the core cast are 13 (Lee), 12 (Marc and Megan) and 11 (Tony) in the first episode (which heavily implies that they've been at it a while).
  • Explained as the reason why the Mother Planetoid adopted the BRATS Of The Lost Nebula and gave them the equipment they needed to battle the Shock forces, as the Planetoid's creator believed that only teenagers and their chaotic nature could outmaneuver the Shock's forces.
  • While most of the cast is, surprisingly, grown up in Generator Rex the title character and protagonist, Rex is 15, and working as the top agent for a N.G.O. Superpower. Completely Justified thanks to his High Level Super-Powers, the most important of which is Permanent Power Nullification in a world overrun by superpowered, often mindless mutants.
  • The main cast in Code Lyoko is entirely made of teenagers (though one of them is technically in her twenties, retaining a teenager's body and personality due to being trapped in a virtual world for eleven years) who regularly use a highly advanced computer to go on a virtual world and fight a powerful evil AI. The trope is justified, however: the recruiter (Jérémy) was a teenager himself, and he has to rely on his friends because if he had gone to ask for adults' help, they would have 1) Shut down the computer without leaving him time to free Aelita from it and 2) Probably seized the machine and used its extremely dangerous tech for unhealthy purposes. Plus, whenever the heroes try to rely on adults for help, it almost always ends up with Adults Are Useless in application. And even when it doesn't, they always lose their memories thanks to the supercomputer's Return to the Past program.
  • Exaggerated and justified in Ben 10, where the Omnitrix, a watch-like alien device known as the most powerful weapon in this universe, was actually intended for experienced Retired Badass Max Tennyson. However, his 10 years old grandson Ben happened to find it first, and his DNA was close enough to Max's to have the Omnitrix taking him as its owner; after that, the Omnitrix being a Clingy MacGuffin, Ben is unable to remove it and the error cannot be undone. By the time it can, Max has convinced the Omnitrix's creator Azmuth to let Ben keep it, believing the kid has potential.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the main characters are (more or less) young adults who were chosen by Princess Celestia to wield the Elements of Harmony that can defeat Nightmare Moon.
    • Then again, each of the main characters is shown to have a job and live on their own (with exceptions for Pinkie, who lives with her employers, and Applejack, who lives with her family). So they're clearly not "Teenagers," in the sense that the term typically brings up.
    • What's more, the only pony Celestia technically chose herself was her own personal student — while she did send Twilight Sparkle to Ponyville to among other things "make some friends", it remains a mystery just how much of an idea who those friends might turn out to be she had already.


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Really Seventeen Years OldTeenage TropesSmitten Teenage Girl
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