Skilled, but Na´ve
Old age and treachery will beat youth and skill every time.You get a young character who is, frankly, pretty awesome at what he does. This person out-performs the grizzled veterans at nearly everything, whether it's bringing down the Monster of the Week, commanding the Redshirt Army into battle, or solving the murder. A few years older and he will be a total Badass. There's just one problem: The complete lack of real-world experience. This character's talents may serve him well in a professional context, but he still finds himself running into trouble by doing things the superior experience of his less talented predecessors would tell him to avoid. This is often exacerbated by arrogance and Pride from the rookie who finds himself outperforming people who have made kicking ass their career. Sometimes he will have a sense of responsibility to use his new abilities to the fullest (not having the patience and foresight more experienced characters have in knowing you can't help anyone if you are dead, of course). Many, many heroes start off this way. The Hero often starts off as the least experienced member of the Five-Man Band, giving him room to grow as a character while tending to ultimately be the most powerful member of his team. Main characters in general have a nasty habit of going beyond their experience levels and relying on raw talent and bravado, which frequently gets the rest of the group into trouble as well. In particularly tragic circumstances, such impetuosity can get a character or his allies killed, with all the emotional torque and lessons about the fragility of youth and the dangers of overestimating talents. It's a frequent source of the Mentor Occupational Hazard. Kid Heroes, such as Young Guns, Kid Samurai, and Cute Bruisers, can find themselves falling into this. Add Hot-Blooded into the mix and you're asking for impetuosity combined with incompetence. In a military setting, this can be one of the defining traits of Ensign Newbie. This trope is very closely related to Idiot Hero, to the point where the two tropes look identical at first glance. There is a subtle difference however. While Idiot Hero refers to a character who is genuinely intellectually challenged but whose other strengths (Heroism, personality and morality) make him a hero, characters of this trope may be very intelligent, possibly even geniuses, but they don't have enough experience, both in life and in their chosen fields, to make the best of that talent. It's a subtle difference, but an important one. However, an Idiot Hero can also be Skilled, but Na´ve if his usual line of work tends to rely more on instinct and moral certainty than on abstract intelligence, and naturally the lack of intelligence will tend to exacerbate his na´vetÚ. If they do evolve, they are rather malleable. A bad shock may send them into themselves, creating a Zen Survivor or Knight in Sour Armour, a character who feels cynically about issues but still can't stop the bold idealistic tendencies from showing through when the chips are down. Or constant steady success may create a full-on Badass or All-Loving Hero. They can easily become a Future Badass in cases of Sacrificial Lion or an earlier Downer Ending where this character survives. Note that to fit this trope characters have to be: 1) Just as powerful or more powerful than more experienced characters OR 2) Noticeably remarkable in their skills for their experience level AND 3) Na´ve when it comes to comprehending the world around them, subtle meanings of things, and the like. (These characters are likely to be Wide Eyed Idealists and believe in Honor Before Reason. They are excellent candidates for believing in Black and White Morality in a more realistic setting where shades of grey are the norm.) 4) While being excellent technical fighters and academically very capable at what they do, they are vulnerable to tactical oversights that only a more experienced character could possibly pick up on.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Naruto himself is this. He's a powerful ninja but his obnoxious moralizing and belief in the inherent goodness of others, based solely on the fact that they used to be his friend or they once had similar personalities to his own, would be mercilessly crushed if author Masashi Kishimoto weren't a Writer on Board.
- Itachi Uchiha claims that his younger brother is one of these (Hence the manipulations of Orochimaru, Madara/Tobi and to some extent Itachi himself.)
- Sakura had some of these tendencies as well; despite having excellent chakra control, and potential for genjutsu, she had even less fighting experience than Naruto, and tended to be useless in fights for a good chunk of the series.
- The 1st Hokage is considered to be this by his younger brother, the 2nd. While Hashirama is unquestionably one of the most powerful shinobi to ever live, he had the rather na´ve idea that all of the clans (who had spent generations killing each other) would all of a sudden get along after he founded the village. Likewise he distributed the tailed beasts among the ninja villages, hoping that this would balance things out and prevent war. It didn't.
- Nagato. As Pain, he is/was an indomitably powerful ninja, but his ultimate goal was to end all war with the threat of the use of an incredibly powerful weapon. This sentiment has been expressed by many inventors in the past, who believed that the weapon they created would be devastating enough to end war forever (the Gatling gun and dynamite to name two) and without exception they have been sadly mistaken.
- Bleach: Orihime has martial arts ability. In fact, she has black-belt level skill. She also has a one-hit kill ability that could potentially be devastating. The snag is that she is too idealistic and soft-hearted to be able to function as a warrior. The end result is someone who struggles to possess the mentality for battle which affects her skills and power. She's been working on this REAL hard.
- The Devil Is a Part-Timer!: Emilia Justina/Emi Yusa is very powerful and charismatic, but is genuinely shocked to discover that the Church of Ente Isla, which she had been fighting for her entire life, is corrupt; her friends, Albert and Emeralda, are not too surprised to discover this themselves. Furthermore, she is unaware that Suzuno is another Ente Isla native, something that Maou and his group knew from the minute she saw them, until Suzuno explicitly told her so to her face.
- Azuma Kazuma of Yakitate Japan. He's an excellent baker (and is later to be incredibly good at math), but has little experience due to growing up in a remote rural area. He didn't even know what nan bread was, "inventing" it himself without realizing it had already been invented.
- Tamaki of Bamboo Blade. Absolute prodigy at swordplay, hopelessly na´ve in other situations.
- Negi Springfield from Mahou Sensei Negima!, a highly talented mage who at 10 years old has the sort of power and skill that most don't get even after decades of study and training...but he's still a ten year old and he thinks like one. As a result, a good chunk of his training involves getting the na´vetÚ beaten out of him.
- In the beginning Goku from Dragon Ball lacks even the most normal skills, such as personal hygiene, maths, social skills and the like... he gets better along the story but remains na´ve enough to fall for the oldest and dumbest tricks in the book (for example, he's fooled when Raditz tells an obvious lie, and is shocked that he would lie)... he's also a powerhouse of brute strength, agility and endurance AND he's a genius in all things related to martial arts. Clearly Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training.
- Luffy of One Piece: a strong and determined character who is made of rubber... who also goes "WOOOOOOOW" at every little thing along with Chopper, and who lacks common sense in many (most) occasions... like Goku above, he also gets better, sorta, as the story progresses.
- Shichika of Katanagatari: He's spent his entire life on a remote island cut off from civilization with only his sister and his father. He can't even tell other humans apart from each other by sight alone. While he did receive 20 years of training in Kyotoryuu, a powerful fighting style that is essentially "swordsmanship without a sword", he lacks actual battle experience. This actually cost him a quick victory in Episode 2 when he was caught off guard by his opponent's sword pressure and inadvertently held back on what would have been a decisive blow. Fortunately he had a backup plan in that case (which also doubled as a Crowning Moment of Funny).
- Hajime No Ippo:
- Woli is absolutely made of this trope. That's what you get from being a divine boxing genius who got the Indonesian title after three fights. He's a happy-go-lucky monkey boy who makes stupid moves such as talking to his opponent during the match and eating bananas before the match, yet is basically the Takamura of feather-weight in terms of natural talent and fighting instincts. The only reason he lost against Ippo was due to lack of experience. Even Coach Kamogawa admits that Ippo couldn't win against a Woli with more boxing experience.
- Itagaki Manabu is a good example as well, albeit not as extreme as Woli.
- Teana Landstar of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha fame has the Young Gun trait. Her Character Development is chiefly about getting over herself and learning to be a team player.
- Romeo X Juliet: Juliet, oh Juliet. You're a total Badass Adorable, but you should've known better than falling for the cute guy in a Cool Horse...
- Dr. Tenma in Monster. He's a surgical prodigy and an excellent doctor in general, but he's completely oblivious about Dr. Heinemann's political games, and that costs him the life of a patient he could have saved. After that, he gets better and evolves into an All-Loving Hero.
- This trope is addressed in Samurai Champloo: One of Jin's early opponents, Inuyaka, notes that while he's a very skilled swordsman, he hasn't had enough outside experience to fight him in an unfamiliar environment, as he's spent his entire life training in a dojo. (By contrast, his counterpart Mugen wouldn't know formal fighting if he was presented with an instruction manual.)
- Haqua du Lot Herminium of The World God Only Knows was a brilliant student, whose hard work and talent were so undeniable that she broke through the glass ceiling and became the first student from a lower-class family to ever be awarded the Scythe of Testament, signifying her place at the top of her class. Once put in the field, however, she causes trouble by losing patience with her human partner's Gradual Grinder approach, due to her need to prove herself. Then, when Vintage rears its head, she proves to be woefully na´ve when it comes to reading people, requiring the help of her more worldly acquaintances on numerous occasions.
- Pick a Gundam protagonist. Amuro, Kamille, Kira, Shinn, even the supposedly cynical Setsuna all start out pretty na´ve. Then they get caught up in the war and, in one way or another, all break.
- Priscilla from Claymore fits this with tragic consequences. She hadn't been on the job for long before she was promoted to number two in the organization, and she was truly skilled at what she did. However, her big flaw was that she lacked experience and tended to see everything in black and white, even when fighting yoma. Both Teresa, who she was hunting, and Illena, who was really in control of the entire assassination task force (albeit it was technically Priscilla since she outranked her), called Priscilla out on her na´vetÚ, but seeing that Priscilla was also emotionally unstable do to her traumatic past - you can guess where everything eventually led to.
- The Prince of Tennis: Kabaji Munehiro is one of the most formidable players due to his Power Copying abilities coupled his physical power. However, he often lacks experience with the techniques he copies from opponents, which allow both Kawamura and Tezuka to exploit this.
- Mizuki from Kamisama Kiss knows quite a bit of magic and is far tougher and stronger than any ordinary human. However, he has lived a very sheltered life and when he is suddenly dropped into modern day Tokyo it really shows.
- Shierke from Berserk is a very skilled witch (and arguably the most useful character to have in a fight after the main three), but her youth and relative inexperience leads her to overestimate her abilities and make several ultimatley avoidable mistakes due to recklessness.
- Shinji Ikari in Rebuild of Evangelion. He's shortly established as the most competent and skilled EVA pilot, beating out the much-more-experienced Asuka while in an EVA he's unfamiliar with, but is easily manipulated by Gendo into accomplishing his goals and triggering a Fourth Impact.
- Sensei from Barakamon. While a genius in calligraphy, lacks social skills and gets easily flustered when interacting with others, accidentally saying that his piece for a contest was a test piece and forcing him to come up with a new one at the last minute. Similarly, he constantly acts childish, gets outsmarted by 6 year olds in social interactions and has no idea about romance. Still he helps his students win calligraphy contests and always places high in them.
- In Game Theory (Fan Fic), Nanoha is this. She's amazingly talented with magic, but unaware of her limitations, and her childish outlook sometimes causes her to make mistakes in a fight and allows Precia to play her like a fiddle.
- In The Universiad, Celestia was this back in the Black Queen War. Her younger self, while still stupendously powerful, na´vely held out for a cure to the Plague where far more experienced and hardened Forumers had established the impossibility of doing so. Reactions varied widely from admiration of her tenacity to derision.
Films — Live-Action
- The ISOs from TRON: Legacy. Femtoseconds after they form, they are able to communicate clearly, and learn damn near anything.
Flynn: Profoundly na´ve, yet unimaginably wise.
- In Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust, Mario is hired to assassinate the Emperor because he fits this trope. He's being set up to fail; he doesn't. In all the other books where he appears or is mentioned, it's enough later that he's become an Old Master.
- Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson in his first two appearances in Discworld. He adapts very quickly.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Brienne is a woman in a male-dominated society and is able to fight on equal level with many of them in a stand-up fight—the first thing she does on screen is defeat Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, who is widely agreed to be one of the greatest fighters alive. Even Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister admits she's stronger than him, though he also says she needs more experience to be truly deadly. Unfortunately, Brienne is a Wide-Eyed Idealist in a Crapsack World where Anyone Can Die. This doesn't work very well for her.
- Robb Stark is an incredibly skilled battle commander despite being only 16 and never going to war before. He wins every battle he commands in and shows exceptional cunning in his strategies. But his inability to fully grasp the bitterness and potential for treachery in the likes of Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, utter na´vetÚ about Greyjoy and Iron Island family dynamics, and his insistence of Honor Before Reason regarding Jeyne Westerling led to him losing the war and his life.
- Parzival in Parzival is this for the first half of the poem, before gradually coming to self-awareness.
- Shannon Foraker of the Honor Harrington series is this. She is a phenomenally competent Tactical Officer, earning the nickname "Tac Witch" because of her nearly magic ability to work out problems. She is so focused on her work, however, that she pretty much ignores everything else. Unfortunately, during the 7th and 8th books, several events yank her into the real world and cause her to become much more introverted... and possibly dangerous to herself and those around her. One of her superior officers notes her loss of na´vetÚ with regret, as it was one of the things that made her so likable - if occasionally exasperating.
- Matteo Ta'anari of Someone Else's War is clever and tenacious, but completely unprepared for military life. Which, as a newly conscripted Child Soldier, may not be in his favor. On the other hand, it's what motivates him to organize a grand escape.
- Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files takes this trope and runs with it. Until he starts offing gods and species and learning about the underlying conflicts in the series, he has a reputation as a magical thug.
- Throne of the Crescent Moon: Raseed is a young dervish with Knight Templar attitudes towards personal conduct. His mentor, a worldly old sorcerer, is constantly criticizing him for only caring about fighting and knowing nothing about life. He's constantly saying and doing things that cause problems, forcing his friends to rein him in.
- Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds fits this trope. His extraordinary intelligence makes him a valuable asset to the team but it is frequently mentioned that he is na´ve and maladjusted.
- Star Trek:
- Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is, in his words, "designed to surpass humans both mentally and physically". He can perform complex calculations in his mind in mere milliseconds. But when it comes to interacting with people...
- Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is this trope in the first few seasons — he's a brilliant physician but fresh out of medical school (where he graduated second in his class), and thinks of his posting to DS9 as an adventure in "frontier medicine" (something that doesn't please Major Kira, who's native to the region, at all). Actor Alexander Siddig deliberately played him as very, very annoying. He grows up as the series goes, though, and in later seasons it's revealed that he's been hiding a big secret all his life, and so has probably never been quite as na´ve as he seemed.
- Many Outsider Music artists fall in this trope. Some are quite na´ve people who nevertheless make highly unique and original music.
- Eclipse Phase: anyone with the Real World Na´vetÚ trait, especially artificial intelligences (which come with RWN by default).
- Mass Effect:
- Liara in the first game. Young by asari standards, inexperienced, and will fry your brain or throw you across the room if you piss her off. Not anymore in Mass Effect 2 as the Shadow Broker's attempt to do Shepard harm two years before have turned her into a character hellbent on getting revenge.
- Tali is also an example: While not as na´ve as Liara, she did go to the Shadow Broker for protection, which everyone knows is a bad idea. This almost gets her killed twice over. (The Broker told Fist to kill her when she turned over the data, but Fist had gone over to work for Saren, and thus wanted to kill her before Saren could be implicated).
- Princess Tana from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones starts like this. She is a Plucky Girl with quite the talent to ride pegasi and use a Blade on a Stick, but she's also very sheltered by her brother and has just finished her official training. This leads her to catch a huge Distress Ball in Ephraim's route, but with some training, she can become quite the powerhouse.
- Sanada Yukimura from Sengoku Basara is this trope personified. He's hotblooded and impulsive, doesn't know the first thing about strategy but is skilled enough to take down most enemies, and those he can't he takes down through sheer determination. It's also implied that he has a great deal of potential that hasn't been unlocked yet, mainly due to his lack of experience, forethought and gullible personality.
- Merrill of Dragon Age II is a young Dalish elf who happens to be a brilliant mage and excellent historian. Aside from a mage Hawke, she's the single most powerful member of the party. Unfortunately, she's had next to no life experience and, as a result, she's a gullible, distracted ditz with almost no common sense. If it weren't for the fact that half of the party looks out for her, she'd probably never have survived her first year in Kirkwall.
- N of PokÚmon Black and White is very good at his job (as an extremist semi-cult puppet leader) because he is a VERY na´ve person. It's even mentioned in-game.
- Mega Man X is shown to have been very na´ve when he started out as a Maverick Hunter, especially in the X1 remake Maverick Hunter X and its OVA prequel The Day of "Sigma", though he's also stated to have limitless potential.
- In a strange way, the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout: New Vegas. The Brotherhood is the single oldest organization in the Western U.S., and their access to pre-war technology and military-level training gives them enormous power, but their close-mindedness and isolationist policies have led them to lose contact with reality. The Brotherhood simply refuses to see that their advantage in quality, in all aspects of society, is shrinking daily, and their disadvantage in quantity grows even quicker.
- Yuri of Exterminatus Now is a prodigy with her dual beam swords, able to cut in half a speeding vehicle with a single slash. Unfortunately, she's not very good at listening to orders, having been raised as a demon hunter to... you know, slay demons. So she's not so great at dealing with the more subtle approach the inquisitors have to adopt. (Not that they're exactly great at it.) Not to mention that in the incident mentioned above she got chewed out immediately afterwards for destroying the very evidence that they were trying to secure by stopping the vehicle.
- In Moon Crest 24, Drake's got the skills, Derek's got the na´vetÚ.
- Grace from El Goonish Shive has a bit of this. She's becoming a bit less na´ve, but not much.
- Aang the Avatar is like this in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He's so na´ve and kinda ditzy that characters easily forget that he's already a master-level airbender when the show begins. The fact he's a 12-year-old kid doesn't help, either. None of that gets in the way of him learning everything — FAST.
- Korra from The Legend of Korra is skilled in three of the four elements, but due to her sheltered upbringing, she's socially inept when she goes to Republic City and discovers the enemies that call it home.
- In the The Venture Bros. episode "The Lepidopterists", 21 and 24 are accompanied by Henchman #1, a totally by-the-book henchman who clearly never had been on a single mission. While 21 and 24 infiltrate JJ's museum with carefree abandon (due to their Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder status), Henchman 1 continually runs into problems and is eventually hunted down by Brock Samson. Throughout their mission, 21 and 24 attribute Henchman 1's difficulties to him being a noobie and not actually knowing what he's doing and tell him exactly how he's going to die (at Brock's hands).
- Rook Blonko in Ben 10: Omniverse. A highly-skilled Plumber, he is often mystified by Earth customs.
- Omi of Xiaolin Showdown is one of the more skilled Xiaolin Dragons, but his sheltered upbringing gives him No Social Skills, and makes him an Unwitting Pawn on more than one occasion as well as an Unwitting Instigator of Doom.
- This can happen in educational tracks that go from high school to university to post-graduate degree without including practical applications of theory driven work. Particularly jarring with some technical occupations, for example software engineering. There are people who can explain to you in detail the theory on data structures and such, but will have a hard time writing a simple function to solve a simple problem.
- This is sometimes the case with Military Officers. Take a newly minted Officer from West Point. He's attended Airborne School, Air Assault School, Ranger School, and had four years of Officer training, but when he's put in charge of a platoon of combat-proven soldiers, he will be a bit na´ve. The Navy, Air Force, and Marines are no exception. Just about every military novel, ever, will mention how a green Lt. (or equivalent) needs to be paired with an experienced NCO in order to not screw up.
- There is an old saying in Spanish-speaking countries: Mßs sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo. Roughly: "The Devil is wise not because he's the Devil, but because he's old."