Examples of this trope:
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Anime & Manga
- Played with in Soul Eater with Dr. Stein, who, while being the best meister the DWMA has ever had, has mentioned wanting to dissect Maka, his best student. No one even wants to visit his home, let alone take Maka's place.
- The Forwards in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS have been handpicked for a year-long personal training by the eponymous character. Most combat mages in the setting consider themselves lucky to get Nanoha to act as their OPFOR for half a day. Not to mention that she normally only teaches advanced aerial combat to squadron-sized classes (as opposed to one-on-four training from basics up for the Forwards).
- Jiraiya in Naruto fits this trope to a T. He only had two groups of students before Naruto, and in both cases one of them was an insanely gifted shinobi who became a legend. He chose to train Naruto become he reminded him of the Fourth Hokage, his previous student and Naruto's father.
- His fellow Sannin can also be considered this—Orochimaru is only known to have trained Anko, Kabuto, and Sasuke, while Tsunade is only known to have trained Shizune and Sakura.
- Kakashi can be considered this, as until Team 7 came along, no one passed his Genin Exam.
- The Hokages seem to follow this paradigm closely Hashirama & Tobirama ==> Hiruzen ==> Tsunade/Jiraiya(Jiraiya didn't acually become Hokage but was nominated for the position more than anyone else in the series)==> Minato ==> Kakashi ==> Naruto
- In YuYu Hakusho, Yusuke has to enter and win a tournament in order to train under Genkai. Unfortunately, she has no concern for the moral character of her student and successor, so Yusuke must also win to prevent the technique from falling into the wrong hands.
- Koumyou Sanzo from Saiyuki puts his chosen successor, Kouryuu (later Genjyo Sanzo)) in a tough place by making him the favored disciple. The rest of the monks at the temple are explicitly jealous, and spread rumors of Koumyou choosing him for other reasons.
- Dragon Ball
- Lord Muten-Roshi is implied to be this. When he offers to train Goku, Yamcha (watching nearby) comments on how the master never takes on students, and when Kuririn comes asking for training, Roshi simply tells him to go home. Then he changes his mind when Kuririn shows him some dirty mags. Later when Yamcha ask to become one of his students he turns him down, saying that two was his limit. He quickly changes him mind when Bulma says that she would come and visit if he took Yamcha in.
- Master Roshi's rival, the Crane Hermit, is also picky about who he trains. As far as we know his only students are his younger brother, Tao, Tien, and Chiaotzu.
- Master Korin, Goku's other teacher, only teaches those who can climb Korin Tower. He trained most of the original cast.
- Much like Korin, King Kai only trains those who make it to the end of Snake Way. Although he trains Piccolo, Tien, Yamcha, and Chiaotzu, Goku is the only one he teaches the Spirit Bomb and Kaioken to.
- In the entire series, Piccolo only trained Gohan. Although he does help Goku teach Goten and Trunks the Fusion Dance.
- Goku himself falls into this. By the end of Z he only personally trained Gohan and takes Uub as his students.
- Dr. Orson from A Cruel God Reigns can be seen as this since he is retired and ill, but chooses to counsel Jeremy for free.
- Played with Zeref in Fairy Tail. He's the most powerful wizard in history, and is a boogeyman for wizards all over the continent and he takes in Mavis and her friends as his students not because they had talent or the like, but simply to repay Mavis for her act of kindness toward him. They would all later on become the most powerful wizards in the series.
- Kaname Sengoku in Welcome to the Ballroom is a downplayed example. He's a world-class dancer who ends up mentoring Fujita (in a very informal way), but it's only much later that the viewer (and Fujita) learns that he's never taken a student before and even turned down several prospective ones. Reality Ensues in that despite being an excellent dancer, he's still new at being a teacher and fumbles with teaching on occasion.
- In the Transformers fanfic Things We Don't Tell Humans, Terratron is this. It's a big deal that he offers to train Prowl and Jazz as kids, given that they will have to relearn a lot of it when they get their adult frames. The training each one receives is their own private business unless they have permission to tell close family members, and no more than one of his students are ever seen in public with him at a time. Any one student might not know who the other current and former students are. It's a very big deal when Terratron finally breaks these rules.
- In the Vocaloid fanfic Vocal Vision Luka has finally wanted to train Miku because of her resemblance with her former friend.
- General Ty Jun's mentor, Lady Sho, is described as such in Kyoshi Rising; a reclusive martial arts master who lives on Ember Island, she has turned away many students including the Fire Lord, and if she shows interest the only way to stay on as her student appears to be a Trial by Combat.
- Ranma Saotome, Chi Master has an extremely skilled Indo-Chinese guru living in Hong Kong, one very well-known among practitioners of chi manipulation. She rarely takes students, but those she accepts almost invariably become influential members of the martial arts world. Ranma spent a year as her apprentice, which led to him becoming a good deal stronger and more skilled than he was in canon.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Professor Quirrell has studied Muggle martial arts under one such master. The master ended up teaching him one of the most important lessons in his life - how to lose. Unfortunately, the master then ran afoul of Voldemort, who also wanted to learn from him only to be rebuffed. Voldemort then went Pai Mei on the dojo (only with magic).
- In Dragonheart: A New Beginning, Geoff is trained by the king's advisor Osric. Osric claims it is because he's a natural and deserves special attention, but his real motive was to make Geoff eager for battle and to trust him in order to convince Drake to give up half his heart.
- Star Wars: Due to his unusual affinity with the Force, Anakin gets mentoring and attention from high-ranking Jedi beyond that given to other padawans.
- To a minor degree in the Legends universe. Jedi Knights and Masters are encouraged not to choose Padawans out of duty simply because that Knight or Master wouldn't put in as much effort into the Padawan's training vs a Padawan the Knight/Master actually wanted to train.
- Pai Mei from Kill Bill. Apparently he only rarely accepts students and is a thousand-year-old renowned recluse. For extra irony points, his greatest student whom he taught the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique is someone who pushes all of his Berserk Buttons: a Caucasian American woman who favors Japanese swords.
- In Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Mazer Rackham is this to Ender.
- The Giver is an example of this trope. The task of the Receiver of Memory is to remember the details of their history and how the world used to be, only when a successor is chosen does the Receiver take on the title of "Giver" as he begins to transfer these memories to his replacement. Usually this is a once in a lifetime kind of thing, but the current Receiver had a protege that failed many years ago and has had to carry on as the remember for a long time while waiting for the next suitable replacement. Jonas becomes the Giver's student, and he is considered to have a special rank in the community.
- In Warrior Cats, it is considered to be a huge honor to be mentored by the Clan leader or, to a lesser degree, the deputy. It occurs only a couple times in the series, most notably in the first book when Bluestar, the leader of ThunderClan, chooses the main character Firepaw as her apprentice. It is also considered an honor to train as the medicine cat's apprentice, because it is such an important position; each medicine cat only trains one apprentice in their lifetime. In that case, however, it usually isn't a surprise because the younger cat already has an interest in healing and helps out the medicine cat for a while before officially being apprenticed.
- Miss Havisham trains Thursday for Jurisfiction in Lost in a Good Book. She's specifically described by Mrs. Dashwood as being highly selective, and she herself says as much, warning Thursday that she could easily lose the privilege of studying with her.
- Harry Potter: Harry has a much closer relationship with the headmaster, Dumbledore, than is usual for a student, to the point of the Professor being almost a surrogate father. In the sixth book Dumbledore even gives him special lessons.
- In Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, there is a rule that any mage that discovers magic in someone is responsible for teaching them or finding a mage with the same kind of magic to take over instruction. Mages who can control lightning like Tris are both rare and tend to get themselves killed young so famous vision mage Niko chooses to train her himself.
- In Thief of Time, everyone is shocked when Lobsang becomes the apprentice of Lu-Tzu The Sweeper. Even if they don't recognise The Sweeper in person, they are shocked by his rep, and because he never takes apprentices anymore. In fact Lobsang's apprenticeship is a punishment posting for both of them in different ways.
- Heralds of Valdemar: Darian certainly has this reaction when he finds out Firesong k'Vala has moved to k'Valdemar Vale specifically to train Darian.
- In Belisarius Series an emperor hires one of the greatest warriors in India to train his daughter as a warrior. Later she and her mentor get married and they become a Battle Couple.
- Toyed with later in the series. Rajiv was the eldest son of the near legendary warrior Rana Sanga, and wound up learning from one of the only two men who had ever even survived a duel with him... a lowborn Roman soldier named Valentinian.
- In Trudi Canavan's Black Magician trilogy, the heroine, Sonea, becomes "The High Lord's favourite". He supposedly takes an interest in her unusually powerful magic and talent (and he does) but it's actually also so he can keep an eye on her and use her to blackmail her friends into keeping his ability to use Black Magic a secret.
- In the Jedi Apprentice series, Qui-Gon Jinn is this to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Because of his previous apprentice's Face–Heel Turn, Qui-Gon had been reluctant to accept a new one, despite the fact that the position of being his Padawan was highly sought after. Nevertheless, fate conspired to bring the two of them together.
- In the first Chronicles of the Kencyrath book, God Stalk, Master Penari—who's known as the greatest thief in the city of Tai-tastigon—takes Jame as his apprentice. For fifty-six years, ever since he stole the Eye of Abarraden, everyone's wanted to be his apprentice, but Jame is the only one he ever takes. He chooses her to screw over the rest of the Thieves' Guild.
It was obvious now why Penari had chosen her, a Kencyr, to be his apprentice. After decades of pressure to make him reveal his secrets, he had taken revenge on them all by choosing to confide not only in an outsider but in one whose very race was to him a guarantee of her incorruptibility.
Live Action TV
- The butler Carson, of Downton Abbey, is like this for the servant trade. Normally very gruff, he's willing to assist lower-ranking servants if they show talent, humility, and a willingness to take instruction. This shows with Alfred, whose employment Carson originally views with suspicion (he makes a faux pas at a Fancy Dinner, serving like a restaurant waiter rather than a footman; he's about three inches taller than the generally-accepted maximum for footmen; and he's O'Brien's nephew, to boot), but who proves to be quite down-to-earth and devotes himself to learning the proper trade of a footman. This leads to this exchange:
Thomas: You�re taking a lot of trouble with Alfred. I feel quite jealous.
Carson: I don�t know why. He asked for help. You never did.
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Master Orgus Din hasn't taken on a new Padawan since his last was killed a decade ago in the Sacking of Coruscant. Then he decides to train the Jedi Knight Player Character.
- The Elder Scrolls series has the Psijic Order, the oldest monastic order in Tamriel, founded during the ancient times by an Aldmeri sect who rejected the transition to Aedra worship from ancestor worship, known to them as the "Old Way" or "Elder Way." They settled on the island of Artaeum, the third largest island in the Summerset Isles, which has been known to disappear for centuries at a time for reasons only known to the Order. Thousands of years later, they are now more well known as a reclusive order of immensely powerful magic users, who have Sufficiently Analyzed Magic to the point where they can utilize magic in ways (and on a scale) unmatched by any other extant group in Tamriel. Many magically adept prospective students seek to join the Order from all over Tamriel, but very few are ever accepted. It is said that the Psijics use a "complex, ritualized method" for selecting initiates that is "not understood by the common man." In the roughly 500 years between Artaeum's reappearance in the 2nd Era until 3E 430, only 17 initiates were taken on by the Order. However, from 3E 430 to 3E 432, leading up to the Oblivion Crisis, the Order accepted an unheard of 30 initiates.
- Circe of the Whateley Universe chooses Phase to mentor. Circe has only chosen an apprentice about once a decade or so. Downside: all of Circe's apprentices end up dying horribly.
- Master Piandao from Avatar: The Last Airbender, skilled swordman, former Fire Nation Elite Soldier (but not a Firebender), High Master of the White Lotus Order and famous for defeating 100 soldiers alone after he deserted the army, there were many people who wanted to be trained by him, but he rejected most of them, between the few pupils he accepted to train were Prince Zuko, and Sokka (who gained him a level in Badassery after his training).
- Also of note is he trained his Butler, Fat, he offered to cook in exchange for learning, and they've been friendly ever since.
- Twilight Sparkle was just trying to get into the royal academy. One magic overload later, she is studying directly from Princess Celestia, the ruler of Equestria herself, who also happens to be something of a Physical Goddess.
- Bruce Lee allegedly went through a period of this due to having a surplus of people who wanted to learn from him.
- While developing Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, Satoshi Tajiri was mentored by Shigeru Miyamoto, whom he already admired. Later, when the Pokémon anime was made, and the main character named "Satoshi" (after Satoshi Tajiri), his rival was named "Shigeru" in Miyamoto's honor.