The Smallest Hero!?A manga series by Sekihiko Inui, brought to North America by Tokyopop (until they folded).Twenty Minutes into the Future, advances in technology have made low-level superpowers available to anyone who can afford the treatments and gadgets necessary. As a result, corporate-sponsored superheroes have become ubiquitous in Japanese society. Young Shuto Katsuragi has been a superhero otaku since he was rescued by one as a child, and plans to become a hero himself at the earliest opportunity. Unfortunately, Shuto is just short of five feet tall, skinny, and generally way too wimpy to be considered hero material.Opportunity knocks when the evil organization Jackal kidnaps Shuto and a classmate, and the hero who comes to save them fails. But not before he passes a transformation device to Shuto, who promptly uses it to "henshin." But it was all a trick! Shuto finds that he is now actually a hideous supervillain named Ratman, who is contractually required to do whatever Jackal wants. And what they want is for him to infiltrate the headquarters of the Hero Association and steal their files — a job that incidentally makes him Hero Association Enemy #1.But there's hints that everything is not as it seems — don't Jackal's minions seem just a bit too relaxed to be evil? And some of the heroes hardly seem heroic...Not to be confused with Italian superhero parody comic Rat-Man, the one-time character from The Justice Friends, the horror novel Ratman's Notebooks, or the strange benefactor from Portal.
Tropes seen in this series include:
Ambiguously Gay: Shiki hasn't really stated anything directly, but how he constantly touches Shuto and refers to him as cute heavily suggest so.
Action Girl: Rio Kizaki, who later get a superpower upgrade when she becomes an official hero.
Actually Pretty Funny: Crea and Gengo, despite trying to tell Shuto that the Jacky 5 in the virtual training are "heroes", they can't help but laugh at their appearance as well.
Almighty Janitor: After ANK goes bankrupt, Ankaiser loses his position as its A-Rank commercial hero. Shortly after, he becomes the commercial hero of Kaiser Gym, but has to start over as a D-Rank hero. He is shown to still have his equipment from back when he was an A-Rank.
Batman-Gambit: Jackal's plan for creating Ratman relied on Shuto acting like a superhero fan. One, "hey wait a minute", and the whole scheme would have collapsed.
His not stopping to think is brought up by none other than... himself. He outright thinks that he doesn't have time to be suspicious of the situation.
Battle Amongst the Flames: Invoked the second time Ratman and ANKaiser meet each other when he disables the sprinkler system, as Ankaiser believes he will get more prestige defeating Ratman in this situation despite the fact it puts innocent people in danger. Obviously Shuto is not pleased.
Boxing Lessons For Ratman: Shuto, after realizing that all of his strength is from being Ratman and relies solely on being Unskilled, but Strong, deduces that he needs to actually learn how to fight to deal with his opponents that are equally strong or stronger. So he now jogs four days of the week and went to a Boxing Gym to improve himself.
Bridal Carry: In Episode 01, how Shuto as Ratman saved Mirea from Jackal who "captured" her.
In Episode 14 with some Roof Hopping, how Shuto as Ratman brought Rio to the car crash emergency.
In Episode 20 with some more roof hopping, how Shuto as Ratman brought Anzu to where her brother and Mr. Big Horn crashed and how he helped her to deliver both Pizza Fat and Bison Burger deliveries to the Pen Pen building.
In Episode 24, how Shiki saved Shuto.
Broken Pedestal: Many to Shuto, when many of the "heroes" just seem to be in it for the glory and prestige rather than genuinely wanting to help people.
Cassandra Truth: Ratman when he tries to explain he isn't the bad guy and stopped the bad guys. More often then not the one he is trying to explain this to still believes he was involved.
Also the Jackey Blog. Where it states that it is a communication for the Combatants of an Secret Evil Organization, no one outside of the Combatants takes it seriously as no one believes a Secret Evil Organization would post their activities so publicly.
Averted somewhat with Ankaiser, who later states he doesn't care if Ratman caused the fire or not as he just wanted to defeat him.
Clark Kent Outfit: Shouichirou is commonly seen in a business suit and looks to be about an average middle aged man. That is until he takes off his suit. It is later revealed that Ankaiser considers his only lost to him and he was almost picked to be Shiningman.
Coincidental Broadcast: When Rio is trying to figure out Ratman's motives, the teacher is explaining the use of rats in lab experiments.
Covert Pervert: Of all people Mirea, in the extra Chapter 19.5, after Shuto (who due to a drug has reverted to the age of five) suggests Mirea and himself take a bath after dinner. She is later seen in the kitchen repeating the idea in her head.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Ratman vs Jacky Five, 1st simulation battle. Having power isn't the same as having the skills to use it, right, Shuto?
Cute Bruiser: Rio, who kicked the butt of three upperclassmen without breaking a sweat.
Dark Is Not Evil=/=Light Is Not Good: Lampshaded by the reporter when she witnesses the fight between Ratman and the Unknown Hero, since she can't tell which one is supposed to be the hero or the villain.
Date Peepers: Crea and the Jackies do this when Shuto and Mirea go to the movies, but later lose them.
Description Cut: Crea states the Jackies got in by using "kickass disguise equipment", cut the shot of a Jackey hiding in a cardboard box.
Fountain of Youth: Shuto spends an EX-chapter chemically regressed to a much younger physical and mental age.
Funny Background Event: The Jackies LIVE AND BREATHE this trope. From trying on Rio's underwear and posing (until she notices them) to their anticlimactic (and totally deadpan) antics, these masked goons are an endless source of fun.
Furo Scene: Rio was soaking in the hot tub after working out when the alarm reported intruders.
Gemstone Assault: The Gem Unit of PRISMMAN uses gems when they fight. It is lampshaded that they are quite an expensive bunch of heroes.
Genre Savvy: Rio, who was able to correctly assume that Ratman was an experiment for an evil organization.
Shuto had some when he realized in the first chapter that the set up he was in was highly suspicious, but he ignored it because he thought Mirea was endangered.
Shuto finally gets some of this in chapter 18. He realizes that Jackal isn't particularly evil, so they must have a better reason to fight the Hero Association, and "because you're short" is a ridiculous reason to make him Ratman. He confronts Crea about it, but she doesn't tell him the truth—he didn't really expect her to.
Gilligan Cut: The leader of Jackal assures her sister that Ratman won't be caught. The next page has Ratman on his knees in front of a hero apologizing for getting caught.
Glory Hound: Prism Red, at first. But especially ANKaiser, who goes so far as to disable the sprinkler system of a burning hotel so he can be the one to arrest the "villain" while other heroes are busy saving civilians.
Gratuitous English: here and there in the story, and every chapter name is "subtitled" in English too. At least it's usually grammatically correct, if not always stylish.
And again here. Shiki even lampshades how dense Shuto is to not feel her anger.
Grey and Gray Morality: It's rather explicitly shown that the members of Jackal are not nearly as evil as they claim they are. Shuto also discovers that some heroes aren't as nice as people believe they are, such as ANKaiser. However, there's plenty of evidence that there are heroes who genuinely want to help people, such as Fatman and the Akiba Holy Girls, or heroes who wants glory but still a decent human being like YAVIS. And in later chapters, even ANKaiser gets some development that depicts him as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
Implausible Deniability: Once Shuto has discovered enough to suspect that something's going on, he confronts Crea and demands to know why he was chosen as Ratman and what her real goals are. Instead of telling him, she repeats her implausible reasons from the start of the story, but in monosyllabic half-sentences and without even bothering to look at him.
Jaw Drop: Shuto as Ratman does this, showing his teeth.
Lawful Stupid: Shuto signed a contract that legally requires him to work for Jackal as Ratman. So naturally it does not occur to him to simply ignore a promise made under false pretenses. It does help that his lifelong dream was being a supersomething, and there's a cute girl attending him at Jackal base as added bonus.
Let's Get Dangerous: Mirea might not be dangerous by herself, but she has the Jackies on her side. To the point that when an enemy throws a rock at her face, she doesn't even bother to blink when a Jacky appears out of nowhere and catches it.
Minion with an F in Evil: The Jackal minions. The first chapter they forget they are supposed to kidnap Shuto, so they play with and feed stray kittens. Seen in the picture above.
Their most common contribution to fights is also usually to evacuate innocents. Unlike most examples, their bosses generally don't want them to be evil anyway, although Crea sometimes gets (affectionately) frustrated when they act so softhearted that it interferes with operations.
Not What It Looks Like: Rio hears the description of a purse snatcher as a tall man in black, then comes across Ratman, who is a tall man in black holding a purse (which he just took away from the real thief).
Episode (Chapter) 42 has one of these at the end with Mirea and Shuto in the nurses office. Where Mirea is hugging a shirtless Shuto from behind, and the Nurse assumes something else.
Nine years before the story starts, Crea saw Shouichiro Kizaki holding a gun over her parents' bodies and assumed he killed them. He was actually making a vow to avenge their deaths while holding the real killer's weapon. This misunderstanding isn't cleared up until chapter 53.
Papa Wolf: Rio's father might never give her a Heroes License, however when he couldn't find her for a day he summons the Hero Association to find her.
Parental Abandonment: Crea and Mirea's parents died when Mirea was little. Rio's mother also died when she was little, partially fueling her desire to become a superhero so that she could save others from a similar fate. Shuto's father is also nowhere to be found, but his situation is less clear.
A Ranks: ANKaiser, Vanguardner, and Hevenly Maiden.
B Ranks: The Gem Unit of PRISMMAN.
C Ranks: The Akiba Holy Girls.
D Ranks: The two heroes with arm cannons who were chasing a Jackey in Episode 04.
E Ranks: Fatman
F Ranks: YAVAIS
Rank Inflation: After A-rank hero ANKaiser gets badly beaten by Ratman, the Hero Association calls in the S-rank heroes. Somewhat justified though, in that the A-ranks are the most powerful publicly known heroes, and S-ranked heroes operate in a completely different capacity as the Association's secret enforcers.
Screw Destiny: Shuto's outlook at being a super hero. He knows his height would most likely prevent him from ever truly being one, but still focuses on trying.
Rio as well, her father explicitly stated he will never give her a Hero's License, but that doesn't stop her dream of one day becoming one. So she trains for it when he isn't around and tries to stop crime.
Secret Identity: All hero license holders under the Hero Association. Ratman's first mission is to steal the information of who they are.
Crea's explanation of why Jackal chose Shuto as Ratman is that no one could make a connection between a "shorty" like Shuto and the "big" bad Ratman.
Secret Police: "S Security" is a group made up of the S-ranked heroes. Unlike other heroes, however, S Security are the Hero Association's secret enforcers, who go to brutal lengths to covertly eliminate threats that can't be handled by heroes who have to maintain a good public image.
Superhuman Transfusion: It is revealed that the incident 10 years ago caused Shuto to be severely wounded which led to Shiningman to give Shuto his blood for the transfusion. This also gave him access to the S Factor.
Super Prototype: Ratman is an experimental bio-weapon. He's literally a lab rat.
Superpowered Evil Side: You won't like Ratman when he's angry. Triggering his animal fighting instincts activates his S-Genes and gives him enough of a boost to make 2 A-list heroes run for the hills.
Ratman did this in Episode 02 to escape Big Mama and Billy.
Van Guardner did this with ANKaiser to escape from Ratman's Breath Weapon.
The Knights Who Say Squee: Shuto as Ratman has one of these towards ANKaiser, to where he forgets he was currently breaking into Kizaki Mansion and asks for his autograph. It's soon afterwards that he receives a Broken Pedestal moment.
There Is Another: In Episode 41, Hijiri reveals to Crea that there is someone else other than Ratman who has the S-gene.
Through His Stomach: It appears to be Mirea's main course of action to get Shuto's attention, such as making him delicious lunches or giving him extra to eat.
10-Minute Retirement: Shuto when he stops being Ratman after his fight with the Unknown Hero. He returns by the end of the same chapter.
Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Shuto and Mirea. To where Mirea even says point blank to Shuto's face she prefers how he is now and his height would not bother her if she was with him. And he still doesn't get the hint.
Actually he does fluster to her statement, but was more concerned by the fact that Crea was eavesdropping on their conversation.
Too Dumb to Live: The Jackeys on many occasions. One notable example; they know they are targeted by the Hero Association, but don't seem to think it's a bad idea to go grocery shopping while still in costume.
Another is where their best idea to take on the heavily defended Hero Society HQ, was by simply climbing over the wall to the front door. Shuto even lampshades this. They also do this again when they break into the Hero Society HQ for the second time, again lampshaded.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: The other characters' reaction to discovering Mr. Big Horn is married to Linda. He's not that ugly by square-jawed muscleman standards.
Villains Out Shopping: One of the Jackies is spotted while grocery shopping and was attacked by two D Ranks from the Hero Association.
It happens again in Episode 22 but this time it was from a Robot Girl.
Reality Ensues when a photo of Mira and the Jackies shopping is taken and Ratman nearly goes berserk trying to stop it from being published in a popular magazine.
Virtual Training Simulation: The Jackal Organization has one, it excels in reproducing the environment and Ratman but didn't have enough effort for making virtual heroes and instead have the Skull Ranger Jacky Five.
The Voiceless: The Jackies, normally. One does speak when in disguise.
What the Hell, Hero?: One of the themes of the series so far. Shuto tends to give these to some heroes, especially Ankaiser.