Took A Level In Badass: Anime and Manga

"I think I'm catching the 'I-can't-do-this-or-go-there' Disease."
Usopp at various pre-timeskip points, One Piece

"It's true, I'm slipping. I used to lie a lot more often. Now, I can actually do these things."
Usopp post-timeskip, One Piece

  • Attack on Titan:
    • The entire 104th, over the course of their training.
    • Not that she wasn't already a badass, but after she and Levi fight the Female Titan, in the Raid on Stohess arc Mikasa is seen employing some of his techniques (notably the spinning, and slashing along muscle planes) to great effect.
  • Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass went from Naďve Newcomer to Bad Ass Normal after going through heaps of Break the Cutie and a Trauma Conga Line. How Bad Ass did she get? She not only took out Big Bad Sociopath Makishima Shogo, who had resident Bad Ass Kougami struggling against him, but also forces the Sybil System to let her take the lead in recapturing him and makes it play by her terms.
  • Pretty much sums up the Character Development of Myojin Yahiko from Rurouni Kenshin. He starts as a boy who wishes to defend his parents' honor on himself and sees the protagonist Himura Kenshin as a model to follow. While practicing swordmanship Yahiko fights thieves and yakuza that threaten innocent people. However, it's not until the Kyoto and the Jinchuu arcs that he turns into an Ascended Fanboy as Kenshin requests his assistance when it comes to defend his friends. By the series' end, Yahiko has grown into a famous swordsman who mastered the Bare-Handed Blade Block (with two fingers) and succeeds Kenshin's sword in order to surpass him.
    • Yahiko aside, Rurouni Kenshin has two other instances of levelling in Bad Ass:
      • Sano undergoing the Training from Hell to learn his ultimate technique. His mentor even notes Sano's almost overnight maturity.
      • Kenshin learning his ultimate technique and taking his first steps towards coming to terms with himself.
  • Certainly a part of this trope is Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index. An example of this was when he "awakens" during his fight against Teitoku Kakine and immediately disposes of the enemy that was curbstomping him just prior to him "awakening."
  • While Dragon Ball Z plays this trope to death (At first Goku loses to Raditz, then he comes back from the dead and beats the much stronger Nappa and Vegeta) special mention must go to Gohan, who went from wuss to greatness by the end of the Freeza saga, and more greatness by the end of the Cell saga.
    • He took an even bigger level of badass around the end of the Buu saga. Though he didn't get to defeat Buu, he was effortlessly destroying him with his bare hands. Not a single Ki blast left his hands.
      Buu: "So, hotshot, you want to fight Majin Buu?"
      Gohan: (smiling coldly) "Fight you? No. I want to kill you."
    • Also, his future self from Trunk's timeline. Went from a wimpy kid to a badass warrior who was able to fight both androids on near equal terms with one arm.
      • It's worth noting that while Good guys can do this, most villains can't or are unaware they can. They're born with a certain level of strength and as far as they're concerned that's as strong as they will be, and are ranked and privileged accordingly. Vegeta, after being defeated on earth by people who on paper are far weaker than him, figures this out and increases in power himself. With Freeza's forces unable to understand this concept, nearly all of them end up throwing themselves to the slaughter by attacking the "weaker" Vegeta and refusing to comprehend that he could possibly be stronger than he was supposed to be.
      • Oh yeah, Vegeta took so many levels of badass in Dragon Ball Z you lose count…but in keeping with what's stated above, most of them were AFTER his (somewhat forced) Heel-Face Turn.
    • Future Trunks, who was no match for either of the two Future Androids, let alone Cell, returns to the future with his training from the Cell Saga and obliterates them with no effort. From their perspective, his power level suddenly jumped through the roof in no time.
    • Mr. Satan, say what you want about the countless times he runs and/or fakes injuries to hide his shame...somewhere between his moments of heroism in Z (fighting off the men who shot Buu's dog and getting Vegeta away from Buu) and the start of GT, this guy grew a spine. Probably one of the best moments he gets is during the Baby Vegeta Saga, Baby has just supposedly killed Gohan, Trunks, Goten and even Super Saiyan 4 Goku...and Pan. The fact that his granddaughter was, for all he knew, dead; gets him to not only stand up to Baby but scream and threaten to kill him until Goku reappears to tell him to back down...and then says how impressed he is. Keep in mind that Baby is in the gaint Oozaru form and Mr. Satan easily took more than just a level in Badass.
      • What, no mention of him weaponizing his Popularity Power to get the inhabitants of Earth to send their energy to Goku to fuel the Spirit Bomb?
    • Frieza comes back and decides to take a trick out of the heroes' book and train for the first time in his life, taking several thousand levels of badass in the process and becomes able to match the now god-level Goku blow-for-blow. And then he transforms
  • Pokémon
    • Ash Ketchum picked up one of these during the Hoenn and Battle Frontier arc, then again in the Sinnoh arc of Pokémon, really hitting his stride during the latter after his second battle with Fantina.
    • Also worth noting the transition from BW and XY. Ash proceeds taking on (and succesfully taming) a rampaging semi-legendary Pokemon with just only his Pikachu and Froakie in the second episode of the XY season.
    • Also, by the Battle Frontier season, May had become a really, really skilled Coordinator.
      • There's also Ash's Chimchar. At first it looked like a pretty weak Pokémon, but after Ash brought Chimchar to his team, its performance improved, especially starting at the Hearthome Gym and beyond. Then it evolved into Monferno, then into Infernape, its final form. It seemed like a Butt Monkey at first, but due to its status as the DP era's woobie, it's grown to be one of the most powerful Pokémon on Ash's team. In fact, Chimchar won two rounds in every single gym battle starting at the Hearthome Gym.
      • In fact, all of Ash's Pokémon take a level in badass after evolving or learning a new move.
    • Amazingly, the Team Rocket trio of all people seem to have nailed this trope perfectly in the new Best Wishes series. They've gone from being the Butt Monkeys of the entire show to competent and intimidating villains who manage to escape with style every time a plan is foiled. Right on the 2nd episode of Best Wishes, Jessie captures a Woobat off-screen. Later, they capture Pikachu and Iris's Axew, but Ash calls his new Pidove, to which Jessie calls Woobat. Cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. After Pikachu and Axew are freed, Jessie makes Woobat cheap-shot them while Pikachu is preparing a Thunderbolt. If it wasn't for Oshawott's Big Damn Heroes moment, they would have won, and instead of blasting off, they Smoke Out, leaving Pikachu and Axew all beat up and in dire need of medical care. I mean, damn! Unfortunately, as of the Kalos saga, they Took a Level in Dumbass and returned to their incompetent selves.
    • Madame Muchmoney, who in her first appearance was a fat, spoiled rich snob. In her second appearance, she's been wandering the wilderness (in an attempt to find her missing Snubbull) and has gained incredible muscle and strength from it.
    • Bianca. Before the Clubsplosion, she had lost five times without a single victory. However, she defeated Trip by using Emboar's Fling to throw Conkeldurr's stone pillars back at it, and defeated Georgia in round 2 before losing in the semifinals. She also obtained 8 badges and made it to the Vertress Conference, where she defeated her opponent in the preliminaries round.
  • Once Ellis from El Cazador de la Bruja gains dominance over her witch powers—meaning she can call them forth at will and control them—it's a whole new ballgame. Especially for fat formerly-transvestite bounty hunters.
  • One particularly magnificent example is Eve from Black Cat, who begins the story as a Tykebomb-turned-Damsel-In-Distress before joining the heroes as the Tagalong Kid. For the first few volumes it seems all she ever does is get captured or beaten by whatever villain the heroes are facing this chapter, but Eve resolves not to be The Load after the first time this happens... thus beginning a series-long tale of Character Development and badass level-grinding, ending with Eve being one of the strongest and most versatile fighters in the whole series. Hot damn.
  • In the Anime The Familiar of Zero, Main Character Hiraga Saito gets a level of badass in the very beginning, going from ordinary Japanese Teen to a Gandalf. His ability allows him to wield any object intended as a weapon with incredible skill as well as enhancing his physical strength and agility while doing so. As for Lousie, his master, while she is and is always incapable of casting any of the four basic elements of magic, its later revealed that her affinity is to the Void element, making her an extremely powerful Mage, despite the cast time involved in casting Void-based spells.
  • In Tail of the Moon, Usagi starts off the series as a bumbling ninja-in-training, unable to get her qualification. She didn't have many skills beyond medicine making. Then the massacre of Iga happens... and she takes a HUGE level in badass.
  • Kouhei from Moon Phase, previously a bumbling magic-less thick-head, suddenly becomes a powerful mage after taking some serious Training from Hell after the 20th episode.
  • Ryuuroden: Here is Shiro at the start of the manga in the bottom panel. And there's Shiro about sixty chapters later. At first a normal kid sent to the realm of Romance of the Three Kingdoms who barely manages to escape several kidnap attempts, to a badass martial arts expert. Well done, Shiro. Well done.
  • Akasaka in Higurashi: When They Cry definitely did some Level Grinding in Bad Ass between his first fight against the Yamainu mid-first season and the rematch against them by the end of the second one.
    • And how about Keiichi Maebara toward the end of the second season? Granted, he went the inspirational leader route rather than the ass-kicking one, but he did it with such panache that I almost expected him to bust out a pair of distinctive pointy orange sunglasses and scream "GATTAI!"
    • What about Rika? In the Eye Opening arc, she quickly goes from a cute little girl to a person who would rather stab herself in the neck seven times than allow Shion the pleasure of torturing her.
  • Umineko: When They Cry lets almost every character get at least one of these. Most notably, Shannon going from the blushing Moe maid in the 1st arc who's among the first to die to insanely awesome in the second, or George and Jessica's fights against Ronove and Gaap in the 4th arc... and most of the adults, including but not limited to Rudolf and Kyrie's fight (and VICTORY) against demonic stake-girls or Krauss showing off his mad boxing skills against a giant goat-headed butler. It's a guarantee that by the time this series ends there won't be a character left who hasn't become a total badass.
    • Except Kanon, he will never be badass. For Kanon, it turns out that he intentionally doesn't take any level in badass because he's revealed to be rather lazy when it comes to battling no matter what the situation to counteract Shannon who always becomes the badass of the two.
    • As of the 5th arc, Battler has them all beat. And it was awesome.
    • Even Kanon gained a major one in Episode 6, with a Big Damn Heroes moment rivaling that of Episode 5.
  • In the first season of Shakugan no Shana, Hecate (an important member of the Evil Council) was portrayed as a cute, harmless girl who just prayed all the time and was doted on by another member. Even in the anime-original climax arc, the most she did was "synchronize". Her eventual reappearance in the second season quickly corrects this notion with liberal Beam Spam, Spheres Of Destruction, and a loaded "gun" to the face.
    • Yuji of Shakugan no Shana fits the "super-powered girlfriends do the fighting for him" part, but eventually takes a level in badass near the end of the second season. Suddenly he's impaling people with giant swords, blowing them up with balls of silver fire and crushing necks. Wow.
  • Kei Kurono of Gantz starts the series as a repulsively selfish, sex-obsessed high school brat, but after surviving multiple rounds of the Gantz game, a berserk, suicidal Death Seeker phase, and the brutal, splattering deaths of all of the people he never realized he actually cared about, he becomes a hardcore survival machine and capable leader. Also happens to a lesser extent to anyone who survives a round of Gantz...
    • Kurono is in interesting case since his natural survival instincts make him a serious badass right from the first time he puts on the suit- he debatably never "levels up" at least not with regards to his own skill. However his Character Development into the Gantz team's leader turns the team from an assorted group of bewildered innocents who are mostly fodder into a hardcore combat unit who can cut their way through armies of enemies without losing a man. This makes him many times more Bad Ass.
  • In Naruto, all the main characters do this during the Time Skip.
    • Hinata, the shy, insecure girl goes to face Pain, who had minutes earlier blown away the entire Konoha village. Later, during the Fourth Ninja World War, she kept her Byakugan active for an entire night, fighting evenly beside her cousin Neji against hordes of White Zetsu.
    • Konohamaru, who was a petty kid pre-timeskip, saves his teacher and defeats one of Pain's bodies during the Pain's Invasion Arc.
    • Naruto, a brash loudmouthed kid pre-timeskip, takes several levels in badass over the course of the series. As early as Chapter 1, he learns the A-rank Jonin Level technique, Kage Bunshin no Jutsu, which becomes one of his two signature techniques through the series. Later, he learns his other signature technique, Rasengan. He gains increasing levels of mastery over controlling the Kyuubi sealed inside him, which becomes his Super Mode. He also learns another Super Mode, the Sage Mode, and eventually manages to combine both. He gains the ability to summon frogs, and develops several variations and upgrades of all his techniques. Along the way, his maturity and battle strategies improve, eventually leading to him effectively leading the Shinobi Alliance's fight against Akatsuki during the Fourth Ninja World War.
    • Kabuto, goes from being Orochimaru's minion to being The Dragon during the Fourth Ninja World War, when he resurrects an army of deceased ninja, soldiers, leaders, champions, assassins, etc., and forces the Big Bad Tobi into forming an alliance. He also gains the Snake Sage Mode and effortlessly deals with Itachi and Sasuke, catching them in a genjutsu.
    • Choji, creates chakra wings without using the special pills, and uses this new power to beat down several resurrected ninjas, who by the nature of the resurrection were "immortal" with unlimited stamina and chakra. He then takes on the Gedo Mazo along with his dad, and staggers it with a single blow.
    • Tobi, whose true identity is Uchiha Obito, was once an Idiot Hero, but goes on to become an utterly brilliant manipulator, gains the Wood Release ability, learns several advanced techniques from his "mentor" Bigger Bad Uchiha Madara, ability to control the Gedo Mazo and all the Bijuus sealed inside it. He then declares war on the entire world with only the aforesaid Gedo Mazo, and the Zetsus by his side. (Kabuto does join his side later, but he didn't know about that when he declared the war.) He then takes several more levels of badass in preparing for the war and then in the fight itself. To put it in perspective, his disguise is incredibly thin, due to Tobi being Obito, with the kanji reversed, and yet the readers were almost universally surprised by The Reveal, because it seemed outragepis that a wimp like him could take so many levels in badass.
    • The entire cast becomes this trope during the Fourth Ninja World War, thanks to Naruto sharing chakra cloaks with everyone. In particular, Ino manages to continuously connect telepathically the entire battlefield in the middle of fighting, which even her father couldn't do without special equipment and efforts.
  • In Animerica there's Makoto, who's been shown several times in both Canon and specials that he can kick ass even while being the Plucky Comic Relief at the same time.
    • There's also Takuya, who's first sign of badassery was shown when he saved Mischa from Kiyone by finally being able to conjure up a powerful lightning bolt and aim it at him perfectly. The second was when he stood up against Thalin by cleverly making use of his special Killer Yo-Yo and pwning him with it. It's because of these acts that he earns the heart of his Love Interest. You see Takuya, you're not such a loser after all!
    • Where to begin with Ron?! Well, he turns the Big Bad good with a classic You Are Not Alone speech, saves his girlfriend and her brother by beating up two of the major villains in a funny, yet awesome manner, and finally turns into a Badass Normal when he fights and defeats Shiragane, an act which prompts Kiyone to say that he's even better than him in battle. Ron truly deserves his place as a Regular Character.
    • Janine...just Janine. She went from being The Chick to just plain awesome during her fight against Malin. You heard me. JANINE. ACTUALLY. FIGHTS. After spending the last season being The Woobie, she finally decides to stop playing the victim and shows the audience what shes capable of. "Im so sick of being the Damsel in Distress, its time I showed everyone that I can fight!" Not only does she use the self-defense Kasuse taught her, she uses her powers offensively for the first time in a crazy, yet epic manner. Fans and haters of her character rejoiced as she had finally overcome her pacifistic nature and shows that she has gone through major Character Development since Season 2. Plus her one-liner to Malin:
      Janine:"I’m not here to play around! Hand over my boyfriend, or I will give you a makeover the world will not forget!"
  • Takeru "TK" Takaishi went from cute Tagalong Kid in Digimon Adventure to a "veteran" Chosen who unflinchingly took the Digimon Kaiser/Emperor's whip strikes before beating the crap out of him in Digimon Adventure 02.
  • GunBuster: Noriko. Takaya. Goes from being a hopeless, crybaby high school student with no self-esteem to the legendary savior of humanity, who is still remembered (although her name got mangled a bit) 12,000 years following her victory (which annihilated the Galactic Core). How, you may ask? "Hard work and guts!"
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    • Simon is a pretty crazy example. Starting the series as a digger living underground, he then got by as The So-Called Coward sidekick to the living incarnation of awesome, suffers a Heroic BSOD, but bounces back, hard, taking new levels in badass so frequently that he maxes out. Then he takes EVEN MORE LEVELS.
      • Case in point. This is what he was like at the begining of the series. This (skip to about 5:14) is what he grew into by the end of the first season. Then comes the seven year Time Skip and he's pulling stunts like this.
    • Simon didn't multiclass into Badass. It's his Prestige Class.
    • Viral in a total inversion of Good Is Dumb, makes a Heel-Face Turn that changes him from a heavily Diminishing Villain Threat and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, to a guy that who in his first fight along with Simon destroys a fleet of enemies by the sheer force of their combined awesomeness.
    • Kittan! After failing to become the leader of the Gurren brigade, he became a really loud wall-flower, if not just a loud follower of Simon. But when the Super Galaxy Dai-gurren was trapped in super dense space and was going to be crushed, he volunteered for a suicide mission, stole a kiss from Yoko, failed and died, but didn't and reappeared carrying a drill that broke off from the Gurren Lagann, and then in a spectacular display of badassery melded the drill to his robot's arm and performed his own version of the Giga Drill Breaker, saving the Super Galaxy Dai-gurren and paying the ultimate sacrifice. All within 3 minutes.
      • And the time in the raw version where Kittan died was the exact same time when Kamina died.
    • Funnily enough, this even applies to Kamina; he gets his ass kicked the first time he tries to fight Viral in a mecha battle without the aid of Simon and the Lagann, but the next time they fight 1-on-1, he's able to easily hold his own with just the Gurren.
      Viral: "What the? How did he get so good so fast?"
    • In The Movie, we even get Nia piloting her own Ganmen in the final battle, who normally tends to not be one of the fighting characters, more serving as The Chick than as an actual pilot.
  • Fate/stay night: Shiro Emiya, the most pathetic mage in the Fifth Holy Grail War. He gets pretty badass by the end of the series. Give him another couple of years, and you get Archer, A! MAN! SO! EPIC!, they had to create the word gar GAR! to describe people like him.
    • Only in the original game, unfortunately. In the Fate route Shirou still seems rather pathetic at the end of the series despite changing that attitude about halfway through the story. In Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel, on the other hand, he racks up a laundry list of Crowning Moments of Awesome and arguably becomes even more badass than Archer at his best thanks to his unstoppable Determinator status.
    • Now that the Unlimited Blade Works was released we can see how Shirou becomes more badass especially in his epic fight with the King of Heroes Gilgamesh.
    • Fate/Zero: Master of Servant Rider, Waver Velvet. A resident Butt Monkey of the Magic Association London branch's Clock Tower, he gets kicked around for not having an established family. He's frail, maybe adept at best at magic, and is wholly focused on proving he's not a Butt Monkey. Cut to the end of the Holy Grail War, and he stands up to Gilgamesh, the strongest Servant, and stands up for Rider, and lives to tell about it. And by the end of Stay/Night, he has become one of the top teachers and most respected people in the Clock Tower, even taking his former tormentor's title.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia: China is not known to be the biggest badass around, him being the resident Really 700 Years Old Immortal Butt Monkey; however, the anime (and once in the webcomic) give him a moment of beating the crap out of both Germany and Japan (despite the former having a gun and the latter weilding a katana) singlehandedly using only his Wok of Doom. This promoted him to Badass Adorable and Cute Bruiser.
    • All of the Axis and Allied powers (except for Italy) take levels in badass at the end of the movie, Paint it, White! After spending most of the series being ineffectual against one another, and after screwing up every previous attempt to fight the invading Pictonians, they finally resort to punching, kicking, and beating them with a stick and wok. They get overpowered, but they still hold their own for awhile.
  • Kazuma of Kaze no Stigma, in the backstory. Exiled a few years ago for getting his ass handed to him by his little cousin, by the present time he's become the most badass character in the show, handily defeating anyone and everyone (including his dad) without breaking a sweat. Turns out his exile was the best thing to happen to him, since he lacked his family's flair for fire. Instead, he found his talent for the wind.
  • This sums of the basic plot of History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi.
  • Series Butt Monkey Keitaro spends the eleventh volume of the Love Hina manga off on an archeology dig with Seta and returns an omnicapable dreamboat that can face Motoko on near-equal terms and generally radiates awesome. This was foreshadowed when it was mentioned that Seta, Keitaro's Badass mentor, failed the exam for Tokyo University three times as well.
  • In the Read or Die OAV, Wendy Earhart is just a goofy, clumsy comic relief secretary. Then in the sequel R.O.D. the TV, she's a cold uber-assistant; assassinating non-combatant scientists and ordering The Men in Black to conquer countries.
  • Itsuki Iba, the president of Astral in Rental Magica, starts off as largely useless except for a magic eye that frequently hurts him to use, and is constantly rescued by the others. Eventually, he starts studying martial arts as a semi-magical discipline, and combines that with his magical sight to become fairly effective, at least in situations where hand-to-hand combat becomes necessary. Otherwise, he's still largely useless.
  • Sheeta in Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky, starts off the movie as a quiet damsel in distress. By the end of the film, she's allowing the Big Bad to shoot off her pigtails and reacting with only a wince.
    • She did rescue herself right in the opening of the movie by smacking a guard with a bottle and jumping out of the airship.
      • That would be the Big Bad before he took his own level in Badass.
  • Maya in Fafner in the Azure. Sat on the sidelines for the first two thirds of the series, finally got her chance to pilot... and turned out to be an absolutely awesome sniper.
  • In UFO Robo Grendizer, Duke Fleed's neighbor and best friend was the Naďve Everygirl Hikaru Makiba, who soon becomes a Distressed Damsel. She realizes this won't get her anywhere, so she's Put on a Bus for some episodes and returns both wearing sexier clothing (miniskirts, boots and denim > gowns and pretty hats) and with a tougher, yet still gentle attitude. By the end of the series, Hikaru has become one of Duke's more trusty sidekicks, along with Koji and Maria Grace.
  • The robot Mic Sounders the 13th from GaoGaiGar actually seemed to be built around this theme. In his first appearance, he was little more than a gigantic little kid's toy with an annoying, childlike personality who can't even hope to scratch the Monster of the Week. (In fact, he gets flicked away as nothing more than a fly) However, then his restraints are deactivated, and he transforms into his "Boom Robo" mode, with a keytar and soundstage powerful enough to tear giant robots apart at the molecular level... and then levels back down after he's done fighting, into his lame toy-looking "Cosmo Mode" again. Apparently his fluctuating Badass level was on purpose: He could accidentally destroy the Earth otherwise.
    • A more traditional example (and arguably a far more EPIC one) would be Mamoru. When the series starts, Mamoru is a grade school kid whose only claim to fame is his ability to fly and purify Zonder cores; he's very much the Tagalong Kid for the first few dozen episodes, as demonstrated in episode 4 when he tried to purify a Zonder on his own and almost got himself killed. Shortly after the Primevals make their appearance, however, Mamoru discovers that he's an alien (something we've known since the first episode) and gets a powerup from Galeon that allows him to purify Primeval cores as well as Zonder cores. Not long after that, the little tyke starts racking up Crowning Moments Of Awesome almost as fast as Guy. This list includes, but is by no means limited to:
      • Bursting through the floor of the Main Order Room while riding Galeon to save the 3G bridge crew from being mind controlled by the Ear and Nail Primevals, and then demanding that said Primevals fight him (these are the same Primevals that trade blows with 3G's giant robots every episode).
      • Saving Hana from the strongest Zonder Robo in the series.
      • Stalling the Zonuda, which even GaoGaiGar almost didn't beat, long enough for Guy to show up.
      • Facing Pei La Cain in single combat in FINAL and vaporizing him with purification.
  • Aki in Tekkaman Blade was The Chick in the first series, but in the second, takes at least two levels in Badass: Not only has she become the hard-nosed commander of the Space Knights in the intervening 10 years, but has also become a Tekkaman herself. This is revealed by her Tek Setting (with her own Pegas robot, even!) and slaughtering a squad of Radam Tekkamen that had been giving the heroes problems, just to show them how it's done.
  • Previously in Claymore, Raki who served as The Load and Morality Pet to the main character turns into a badass swordsman over the timeskip, using an ordinary blade to slay a Youma in two strokes. And then going "Pimpin!", all Dante-like.
    • Clare herself also takes several levels in badass throughout the course of the series.
      • Not only Clare. All of the Sexy Seven have since discovered that by carefully managing their yoki flow while in hiding during the Time Skip, they've achieved such mastery of it that e.g. a timid former Rank 40 (out of 47) can now effortlessly take down a whole team of modern Claymores without hurting them much. It is implied that had most Claymores actually survived for as long as the Sexy Seven have, they would have achieved such power, too... but that's exactly what The Organization doesn't want.
    • Clarice, the new number 47, deserves to recognition BIG TIME. She was deemed a failure in the organization because her hair color remained unchanged after the transformation process and was only kept because the organization was low on warriors. Because of this, she was shunned and looked down upon by the other warriors, and she had an extremely timid personality. She had an eye opening experience when she was put in charge of controlling Miata and was assigned to assassinate Galatea which failed in Rabona. By Chapter 108, she's not only single handedly killing yoma, but she's also ordering a bunch of human soldiers around. Way to go, girl!
  • As Mahou Sensei Negima! completed its transformation into a fighting shounen, the (many) characters went and plundered the badass warehouse:
    • The Library Trio (Nodoka, Yue, and Haruna) went from adventurous Cute Bookworms to Badass Bookworms via, respectively, looting powerful artifact to multiply her combat usefulness, becoming a full-blown Black Magician Girl, and lucking out on the Superpower Lottery.
      • Nodoka in particular gets one when she chooses to stand up to one of Fate's companions, even though he just erased two of her friends from existence in front of her. And then, she grabs his weapon out of his hands and runs away with it.
    • Asuna has recovered from negative levels, remembering long-buried memories of past powers to become the kind of Barrier Maiden that can bloody the nose of any Big Bad that tries to mess with her.
    • Kuu Fei has gone from just knowing Waif-Fu to mountain-smashingly mastering it.
    • Negi himself very quickly took one to stop being an Inept Mage. Ever since, he's kept on growing more badass, especially since he's started using Black Magic.
      • "More badass" you say? Looks more like he's sharing Prestige Class with Simon...
    • And Makie, too! Ever since she got her atrifact, she put that gym ribbon of hers to impressively good use.
    • Most terrifying of all, during the big Mahora vs. Cosmo Entelecheia fight, it was revealed that Negi's irresistibly inspirational Shounen-Let's-All-Do-Our-Best-Aura has affected even EVA: she reveals a new spell she's been working on, designed for eliminating multiple top-tier opponent all at once, with the drawback of not particularly distinguishing friend from foe, as anyone teasing her about being inspired by Negi found out. Congratulations, Negi: Your example has lead one of the most powerful mages, an immortal vampire, to work harder. At being unspeakably dangerous. And now, we're all gonna die.
      • Actually, that spell only works on "puppets", as Evangeline put it. i.e. It only works on people created within Mundus Magicus, and has no effect on actual humans.
  • Erstin Ho got this treatment in the anime-to-manga transposition of Mai-Otome. In the former, she was The Mole for the Schwartz, who was too weak and gentle to actually fight, got hurt quite often and eventually died in a very heart-breaking manner. In the manga, however, while retaining her meek and gentle nature, she's shown as an extremely capable and powerful fighter, almost defeating Arika of all people in the first volume (even if she was, at that point, under Shiho's mind control), and later, after a very close brush with death, receiving a Meister Robe just like Arika and Nina, and playing a vital role in defeating Evil Manga Sergei. This is mainly due to manga Erstin being a master of Boob Fu, and has trained her breasts to be lethal weapons.
  • In Season 2 of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Saji Crossroad goes from Ordinary High-School Student to Celestial Being's Tag Along Guy and then to Setsuna's partner and pilot of the 00-Raiser. His girlfriend Louise Halevy, crippled in Season 1 and taken in by the A-Laws, becomes a Broken Bird Dark Action Girl. Setsuna himself lives to take levels in badass, to the point of becoming The Ultimate Innovator almost at the end of the series. And that Patrick's Heel-Face Turn actually made him stronger than he ever was... enough to survive an Heroic Sacrifice and earning his and Kati's happy ending. That, and Patrick actually managed to kill something in Episode 23 of Season 2, a feat the Ace Pilot of the former Advanced European Union had never carried out on-screen. Graham Aker, on the other hand, is actually a subversion of this trope, as he already was badass but got turned into a revenge-seeking pissed-off MS pilot. (So Saji and Graham switch around.) To some degree, Allelujah does this at least twice: First time is actually in Episode 25 of the first season, when Allelujah and Hallelujah merge together for a while, only to have that ability taken away by killing Hallelujah, but letting Allelujah survive (it doesn't make much sense, since they're two minds in one body), and the second time when Setsuna resurrects Hallelujah by healing Allelujah's brain with an overflow of GN Particles. The two minds fuse again and kick ass for a second time against Healing Care. They make a return in the movie and put on a good show, buying Setsuna enough time to complete his mission.
  • This trope is the major theme in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. As the series is divided into three separate generations, it's only natural that the original protagonists grow from simple, traditional Gundam pilots into real badasses. For example, AGE-1 pilot Flit Asuno eventually becomes a Vice Admiral and base commander for the Earth Federation, then retires into a Badass Grandpa and The Obi-Wan to his grandson Kio. Likewise, AGE-2 pilot Asemu Asuno grows up to become the "Super Pilot" of the Federation (complete with the badass monicker White Devil), then goes MIA to become Captain Ash, leader of the Bisidian space pirates. Now to see what Kio becomes...
  • Hellsing's Seras Victoria first takes a level in badass in the first chapter when Alucard turns her into a vampire, converting her from a shivering victim into someone who can hold her own, and occasionally more when she's driven into a Berserker Rage. Later, when she drinks the freely-offered blood and soul of Bernadette, she takes another level to the point where she has an entire platoon of hardened Nazi vampire soldiers quaking in their jackboots.
  • One Piece:
    • Buggy mans up considerably, in a way, after everyone escapes Impel Down and his past as a member of Gold Roger's crew is revealed, leading the Marines and most of the escapees to believe that he's as strong as his old mate Shanks, who is now an Emperor. With this newfound fame, he declares his intention to sail into Marineford and strike at Whitebeard, the strongest man in the world. He may still be a wimp, but he's a badass wimp.
    • Mr. 2, on the other hand, has most definitely taken a level in badass. Several even. To the point where he stayed behind in Impel Down in order to fight the warden Magellan (who neither Luffy, the high-ranking Revolutionary Ivankov, or the Blackbeard Pirates could beat) alone and surrounded by guards while the rest of the escaped prisoners flee from the prison. And according to the first Mini-Series since the Time Skip, he somehow managed to survive, escape, and is now ruling over the secret sanctuary hidden in the prison.
    • Who could have forgotten everyone's favorite coward Coby? When you first meet him in the second chapter of the manga (or first episode of the anime), he cowers in fear whenever Alvida's name is even mentioned. Compare that to right after the Enies Lobby arc when it definitely appears as if Garp beat a level of badass into him, going so far as to know one of the abilities the enemies during the arc itself gave the Straw Hats a great deal of trouble with. He seemed to gain another level at the end of the Marineford arc, when he stared down Admiral Akainu, the man who killed Portgas D. Ace with his bare hands and blew off half of Whitebeard's face in order to save Luffy's life. He collapsed after Shanks released his Haki, but that deserves a mention mostly thanks to the fact that his decision changed the course of the war and history as the world knows it.
      • He's also awakened a Haki ability of his own during the Whitebeard War.
      • And now, as some concept art revealed, he got promoted to Captain.
    • With the latest timeskip, the Straw Hats are liable to reach an unprecedented level of badass.
      • Usopp MANSOPP and Nami prove it with Usopp easily taking out three Pirates impersonating the Straw Hat crew with his Pop Greens and Nami using Weatheria technology to create a thunderstorm which inevitably zaps the entire half of the crew along with the bar they were previously in.
      • To follow suit afterwards, Luffy and Zoro decide to get in on the act with Luffy using Haoushoku Haki and knocking out the Fake Straw Hats who attacked him with relative ease, and Zoro slicing a Galleon in half while using only one sword, complete with a one liner just like Mihawk.
      • A better example came a little later. Remember how it took the entire Straw Hat crew everything they had and then some to stop a single Pacifista? Luffy just flattened one with a single Jet Pistol. And then Sanji and Zoro team up to one-shot a second one, with both claiming that their attack was the one that did it in. Either attack probably would have done it.
      • And by Punk Hazard, just in case there was no doubt, Usopp took out an entire room of Mooks on his own, without even breaking a sweat. Not to mention him and Nami working together being able to take out two of Joker's supposedly extremely dangerous mercenaries with minimal effort.
    • Even before the timeskip, the Enies Lobby arc was the "take a level in badass" arc. Luffy got both of his gears, Zoro got the Asura technique, Sanji got the Diable Jambe, Nami had Usopp upgrade her Clima Tact, Usopp himself turned his sling shot into Kabuto (a long staff with a slingshot with 5 bands on the top). The only main characters who didn't take a level in badass were Franky, Robin and Chopper, and of them one was not fighting and the other hadn't even joined the crew. These were each of their strongest abilities and weapons before the timeskip and more that each one came up with their ability (except Nami, who had Usopp make hers).
      • Chopper took a level in badass in revealing his "monster point." And post-Time Skip, he retains his intelligence in this form, when previously he couldn't.
    • Conis was a sweet girl from Skypiea who looked as threatening as a kitten. Then, when she discovered Enel's plan to annihilate Skypiea and seemingly saw her father killed by Enel, she went to warn everyone and when an officer tried to stop her, she aimed a BFG at his face and warned him to back off.
    • Tashigi started off as an adorable, yet clumsy young Marine soldier who, although capable in battle, was definitely too weak to be considered a threat. A "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Crocodile and two years later, she's now a Marine captain, and has awakened a form of Haki, and is skilled enough to deflect cannon balls with her sword. She still isn't strong enough to fight the Straw Hats yet, but it's impressive nonetheless.
  • Given the historic background of Vinland Saga, that useless girly crybaby Canute does eventually have to become King Canute the Great of Denmark, England, Norway, and Sweden. When he uses his guardian who always handled all interaction with other people for him, he grows giant balls of steel and within an hour has the three deadliest men in all of northern Europe in his service.
  • Jeremiah Gottwald from Code Geass starts off as a Smug Snake who quickly becomes the Butt Monkey and gets kicked around by everyone. Then he comes back in the first season finale as an Ax-Crazy cyborg who easily rips through the Black Knights. In the second season, his modifications are completed, restoring his sanity and making him even tougher...at which point he pulls a Heel-Face Turn out of loyalty to Lelouch's dead mother. Not for nothing do fans of the series consider him the living embodiment of manliness and loyalty.
  • Jomy from Toward the Terra, after the Time Skip. Jomy goes from being an unwilling and sort of whiny kid to becoming an admirable leader of the Mu when we see him again after 12 years.
  • Teana at the start of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S: Immature rookie that almost caused a friendly fire incident and likely deserved the little head cooling from Nanoha and punch to the face from Signum. Teana by the end of StrikerS: Smart Girl that took down three Number Cyborgs on her own. While crippled. Speaking in hard Power Levels, she is a B-ranked mage who defeated one AAA-ranked and two AA-ranked combat cyborgs simultaneously. StrikerS Sound Stage X sums up her progression in two words, Starlight Breaker.
    • All of the Forwards advance by two Power Levels on the mage ranking scale by the end of StrikerS: Teana, Subaru, and Erio go from B to AA, and Caro, from C+ to A+. By ViVid, Teana is S-Ranked.
  • Shiki from Tsukihime is normally a laid back guy, but anger him enough so that he takes off his glasses and he'll instantly take like five or six levels in badass at the same time. Or, y'know, make him give in to his Nanaya side, and by the badassness alone you're screwed.
    • After the original Visual Novel he's apparently even more badass without having to give in to his Nanaya side. He's apparently killed three Dead Apostle Ancestors since then. His Nanaya side is actually the thing that scares him the most because he's afraid it's merely an unstoppable killing murdering psychopath.
  • Vampire Knight: Yuuki Cross is a straight example, going from something of a Distressed Damsel to an awesome Action Girl after Kaname transforms her back into a vampire. Chairman Cross is a subversion; he was a former vampire hunter before the series, and returned to being badass later in the series.
  • Yukiteru from Mirai Nikki, after his father dies and he decides to start playing the game to win, not just to survive. He vanishes for five days, and when he returns mysteriously, he's gone from helpless woobie relying on his psychopathic girlfriend to survive into a badass secret agent type, with the girlfriend clinging to him like a Bond girl (symbolizing that he's the one in charge now).
  • Hiro in Princess Resurrection. In the early series he was a complete deadweight, whose only real job was to do repair jobs around the house since he was... you know... useless at fighting. And then he almost singlehandedly wiped out an army of mummies with a hatchet.
  • Kuwabara from YuYu Hakusho was just an ordinary street punk who was only a mildly better fighter then the average street punk. Through his association with Yusuke and the spirit world police he became quite proficient and certainly helpful with his spirit awareness.
    • Yusuke, being the main character, does a few major jumps in ability, but considering the Sorting Algorithm of Evil his first fight remains as tough as the later fight. Kuwabara on the other hand, shows a marked improvement in dealing with the demons, while still not at the same level as Yusuke.
    • Then there's Hiei, who went from being nearly killed by his ultimate technique to not only just gaining control of it in a few days, but also being able to go up a class rank (from C+ to mid B class) and being able to absorb said ultimate technique and become even more powerful, temporarily.
  • Sylphiel Nels Lahda from Slayers. Though she's a very competent healer in her own right, her skill in offensive magic in the first season is extremely lacking, to the point where her attempts at casting Flare Arrow result in Flare Carrots appearing instead. However, by the time her appearance in the second season rolls around, not only has she taught herself one of the most destructive spells ever devised, the Dragon Slave, in the interim, but she nearly manages takes out the season's big bad with it as well when she stacks it on top of Lina's.
  • Chinami between Code-E and Mission-E. Although she still only qualifies for Faux Action Girl. Her sidekick does most of the fighting.
  • Much of Shikabane Hime: Kuro is taken up with Ouri taking a level in badass. Six episodes in and he's capable of going toe to toe with the Seven Stars.
  • Shu in Now and Then Here and There. He spends the entire series being kind, idealistic, and an extreme pacifist. When Nabuca dies, Shu drops the cheerful disposition, becomes hard as stone (at least for the time being), and singlehandedly succeeds in freeing all the prisoners, rescuing the Magical Girl, and beating the crap out of the Big Bad.
  • This trope is practically defined by Flame of Recca's Domon Ishijima. Being The Big Guy in a series that seemed to copy YuYu Hakusho, people expected him to be the comic relief guy that couldn't catch up. He still provides comic relief, but along the way, he evolves from being the weakest of the team into potentially one of the most powerful team members ever. And his fighting record keeps getting better and better... His crowning moment of taking badass levels? Magensha shot him with a cannon that can shred people into pieces...and Domon simply punches it, deflecting it. Awesome.
  • Bat from Fist of the North Star, where he went from a Bratty Half-Pint in the first series who would wet his pants at the first sign of danger to a badass resistance leader capable of holding his own against the bad guys. Ken even notices this by telling Bat that he has "become a man". Coming from a guy that makes people explode by punching them, that's something special.
    • Well, in his defense, most preteen boys aren't used to the sight of a hulking gang boss instantly exploding in a shower of blood and guts. He'd learn.
  • Youko Nakajima from The Twelve Kingdoms took SEVERAL levels in badass throught the series, from a extremely meek and insecure girl to THE FRIGGIN HIGH QUEEN (Lady of War included). Shoukei and Suzu deserve a mention too, as they go from a Royal Brat and a Shrinking Violet to quite awesome Action Survivors.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, after about 9 volumes of absolute fail and Tsuna being the physical Embodiment of Suck, No-Good Tsuna finally took multiple levels in badass. This was due to the unveiling of his Hyper Dying Will Mode, in which he becomes a calm, cool, level-headed fighter that can do things from lighting his hands on fire to flying. It gets even better in the Future Arc, where after receiving a Mind Screw, courtesy of the Vongola Boss Right of Passage accompanied by the claustrophobia and lack of air of TYL!Hibari's hedgehog dome, Tsuna gets another level in badass. Everyone took one when they put on those Impossibly Cool Battle Suits.
    • Yamamoto is very subject to taking multiple levels in badass. Even Reborn has expressed that the unfailingly naive nice guy is actually a natural born killer, and will probably be very good at being a Professional Killer. This is surprising to the rest of the cast, because Yamamoto is the nicest guy in the world who fought using the back of his sword during the important battle over the Rain Ring. Even TYL, he was borderline on being a Badass Longcoat. The guy's just the physical embodiment of the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass trope.
    • Tsuna takes even MORE levels in Bad Ass once he upgrades to the Vongola Gear and gets the Oath Flame in the Inheritance Ceremony Arc and unlocks the Ultimate Dying Will Mode in the The Curse of the Rainbow Arc. Good lord!
  • In the manga adaptation of Dragon Quest (titled Dai no Daibouken/Dai's Great Adventure), the title character Dai's meek sidekick Pop goes from a total loser to one of the most heroic characters in the series.
  • In the "The One to Carry On" Ranma ˝ OAV, after suffering a disastrous defeat to the Sibling Team of Natsume and Kurumi, both Ranma and Akane train very, very hard for a rematch — Ranma trains specifically in female form to compensate for her inexperience with it, but Akane endures an even harder training regimen with Ryoga that improves her overall performance. The differences in her skills and demeanor surprise everyone who sees her.
  • Kamishiro Yuu from Holyland is a loner and weakling who constantly gets shoved around by bullies. But once he stumbles across a book that shows how to throw a proper punch, he practices punching a thousand times and begins beating up bullies and learning other martial arts moves.
    • While that seems like a quick trip for taking a level in badass, it's actually a thousand times a day.
  • Bleach:
    • After Byakuya and Renji take Rukia back to Soul Society, Ichigo, Sado and Orihime train intensively with Urahara and Yoruichi to be able to go to Soul Society to rescue Rukia, while Uryuu puts himself through his own private Training from Hell to do the same. Within Soul Society, Orihime pushes herself to the limit to increase her abilities to be able to use them without chanting while Yoruichi puts Ichigo through another Die or Fly test to achieve Bankai. By the end of the Soul Society arc, Ichigo's group are viewed by the Soul Reapers as being, at minimum, Lieutenant-level, except for Uryuu who sacrifices his power to defeat Mayuri.
    • Ichigo's development throughout the entire story is a journey of Die or Fly power-up sequences designed to bring him up to the level of the latest threats. Fighting Ikkaku, Renji and Kenpachi powers him up until he's ready for Bankai training. Visored training powers him up to be able to fight in Hueco Mundo. Further power-ups in battle with Dordonni, Grimmjow and Ulquiorra lead to a massive power-up that allows him to perform Final Getsuga Tenshou against an overwhelmed Aizen. Broought Down To Badass by that fight, Ichigo then trains with the Fullbringers to gain a Fullbring power-up before being given a Soul Reaper power-up by the Gotei 13. In the Final Arc, he receives another power-up from the Royal Guard to enable him to fight the Vandenreich.
    • An injuried Sado is almost killed by D-Roy, and realises he's fallen far behind Ichigo's current level of power. He immediately goes to see Urahara to request intensive training to improve his abilities and be of more use to Ichigo. Urahara uses Renji's Bankai to achieve that new level of power, allowing Sado to infiltrate Hueco Mundo. Once in Hueco Mundo, Sado undergoes a further power-up that enables him to take on Privarron Espada and win.
    • Uryuu uses Letzt Stil to defeat Mayuri, destroying his power in the process. His father chastises him for developing his power improperly, stating Uryuu should have been able to defeat a captain without resorting to Letzt Stil. He puts Uryuu through Training from Hell to restore Uryuu's power. As a result, Uryuu's new level of power allows him to join Ichigo in Hueco Mundo and defeat Privarron Espada in battle. In the Final Arc, he's put through another power-up by Yhwach, who believes Uryuu possesses the ability to surpass even his level of power.
    • In the Soul Society arc, Renji uses the same Bankai training technique Yoruichi shows Ichigo to achieve Bankai and help Ichigo rescue Rukia. He later uses the Bankai to help improve Sado's power level. In the Final Arc, he receives training from the Royal Guard to gain the power required to fight the Vandenreich.
    • In the Lost Agent Arc, Orihime reveals she has spent 17 months training hard to improve her power and resolve. As a result, she can now integrate Tsubaki into her shields, creating new shields that can both defend and attack at the same time.
    • In the Final Arc, Byakuya is almost killed by the Vandenreich invasion. The Royal Guard put him through intensive training to vastly increase his power compared to previously, allowing him to fight the new enemies.
    • In the Final Arc, Kenpachi is put through Training from Hell by his oldest adversary, the Eleventh Division's first ever Kenpachi, Yachiru, to unlock his true power, which even he didn't know was hidden away. The Central 46 fears the unlocking of his potential, but the Gotei 13 believe they need his power to defeat the Vandenreich.
    • In the Final Arc, Komamura petitions one of his clan elders for the secret family technique that will allow him to achieve his full power, which has been locked away by a curse. He is granted the technique, but the power-up is only temporary and reduces him to the form of an ordinary, powerless wolf afterwards.
  • Tenma and Nina in Monster, who are promptly de-woobiefied by their gun training and grim determination.
  • Tetsuo Shima in AKIRA goes from an inferiority-complexed nube in a biker gang to an almost god-like psychic psychopath in about an hour into the film, capable of exploding peoples' heads, leveling bridges, surviving a satellite laser canon (and destroying it in the vacuum of space), and damn near absorbing a city into himself. At the end he is implied to be God in a new universe of his creation. However, topping all that is he never manages to defeat his Badass Normal friend Kaneda.
  • In Zatch Bell!, when the heroes are training in preparation for the battle with Clear Note, Kanchome takes several levels in badass, moving up from being one of the weakest demons in the battle to becoming the second strongest demon in the entire series, able to force Zatch to use Baou Zakeruga just to survive a fight against him, and completely demolishing Clear's Dragon, Gorm.
    • The MASSIVE level in badass Gash and Kiyomaro took in the Faudo arc after Kiyomaro came back from the dead.. Zakeru, their first and weakest spell, managed to crush a Dioga level spell and its caster without batting an eye. Plus the four, count them, four new spells they got just from Kiyomaro dying in the first place.
  • In Shaman King, Bokuto no Ryu takes a few levels in Badass after being left behind at Yoh's house. He reappears as a shaman without losing a single preliminary fight.
  • In Pokémon Special, this and Character Development is a given to all of the protagonists in their own respective arcs, but special mention to Yellow must be given. She initially just tries to run away from battles, endangers herself when trying to protect others, doesn't know her own Pokemon's move sets very well, doesn't know what evolution is, cries when her Rattata does so (initially thinking it was gone forever), etc, etc. By the end of the arc, she's fighting Lance (who is much of a cheating bastard as his game counterpart) of all people all by herself, her first strategy involving surfing on lava to create a tornado to suck him into it, and when that fails and her arm gets broken, she tries even harder and ends up simply blowing him away (albeit with some backup) with a massive burst of energy.
    • Yellow is the poster girl for Badass Grinding, and you'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise. If one counts backstory, however, Sapphire's the runner-up. Even though he was a hard badass back then - born and raised by Norman, who wouldn't be? - Ruby locked away his inner badass after repulsing a Salamence with three unevolved Pokemon and frightening the poor docile girl to tears, eventually going in the opposite direction for the next five years. As a result of his demonstration of masterwork and bravery, coupled with her own shame over her reaction and the injury he sustained as a result, she disappeared into the wild, ground herself into an Action Girl, developed Charles Atlas Superpower and never looked back.
    • And now we have White aiming for third. After she repaired herself from the fatal error at the Nimbasa Ferris Wheel, it's safe to say she realized that not only is something much bigger than BW Rentals going on, but as long as she's traveling with Black she's going to be damsel bait for Team Plasma. As a result, she's taken a small squad of Pokemon (including a last-minute donation of Brave by Black) onto the Battle Subway for training, with plans to stay on the train until she feels she can handle the stress. If they are anywhere near the cheesiness of the games counterpart, then Team Plasma better hope the experience breaks her further or Black will be the least of their worries... and if the two join forces after that and Ghetsis is still running the show, well, HELL.
  • For Soul Eater, Black Star using the Nakatsukasas' demon blade mode properly after training in Japan is a major example. Arguably Maka with Demon Hunter considering her progress following the Clown chapters (compare how she handles Arachne and Gopher to the first couple of Black Blood incidents), although in her case she was competent already; Soul's assessment of the Clown's hallucinations allowed her to take that capability to the next level. Such is the progression of the storylines, Kid's Sanzu Lines was the next example.
  • The main cast of 20th Century Boys take several levels in badass throughout the series, as the story follows them from their childhood school days, through their normal 20's and 30's, and finally sees them form La Résistance to combat the Big Bad, Friend. However, the character who takes the most levels in badass is probably Otcho, who is last seen by his friends as a timid salaryman. Cut to 10 years later? He's a goddamn freelance ninja beating the crap out of thugs in Bangkok.
  • Nao from Liar Game, who started out as a very naive, gullible girl who could only cry every time someone lied or tricked her, much to her dismay. Now, she's pulling a few strings of her own, carefully using her honesty nature to bluff and lie to others (though usually for their benefit, as she would give them her winnings afterwards to pay off their debts). She even talked down to Yokoya, cleverly using his pride to goad him into coming back for another round, so she could win back the money he had stole to pay back others' debts. And later on, she collaborated with Fukunaga to trick her opponent and kept Akiyama in the dark the whole time about it.
  • Shiro Kabuto in Shin Mazinger is a meta example. In previous incarnations of Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger, he's typically a somewhat annoying, useless Tagalong Kid; in Shin Mazinger, he can easily escape being tied up and held captive... Later on he has the line "I'mma cutcha!", hangs out with Yakuza and a government operative, and in the Final Battle is having quite a bit of fun pushing the plungers that trigger hidden bombs which in turn blow up Mechanical Beasts.
    • In the manga, Shiro does a lot of Big Damn Heroes to Koji by flying the Pilder all by himself AND always suceed to deliver it sucessfuly and does some asskicking too before finally change place with Koji. By near the end of the manga, he have finaly learned how to fly the Pilder properly and killed one of the assasin that is targeting Koji.
    • Boss and his gang also recieve a level-up in Shin Mazinger. While most of the time they're there for the audience to have a laugh, he and his two lackies, Mucha and Nuke (who are revealed to know martial arts), rescue Kouji from Baron Ashura's clutches. In the final battle they help out in their mecha, Boss Borot, by catching a freaking ICBM, stopping Baron Ashura him/herself from flattening the heroes, and pulling Mazinger out of the rubble of the city, enabling Kouji to fight. Boss also becomes Genre Savvy by the end: "Don't worry about us, we're the comic-relief characters who get blown up but still live!"
      • Then there's Baron Ashura who goes for being a somewhat incompetent The Dragon to an extermely dangerous adversary who can battle Mazinger-Z by him/herself on foot and actually graduates to Magnificent Bastard by getting the last laugh over Kouji and friends.
    • Hikaru Makiba from UFO Robo Grendizer started the series like a farm girl. After the first season she got fed up with being a Damsel in Distress and decided to become an Action Girl. For the end she was piloting mechas and blowing up alien warships.
  • Emporio Alnino in Part 6 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure doesn't have much in the way of a powerful combat ability, or anything real impressive. But, he gains Weather Report as a stand, and is the one to kill Enrico Pucci, which Jotaro (resident badass of the series who can stop time) and Joylene (daughter of said resident badass) couldn't do.
  • The title character of Ringing Bell takes a couple levels as a result of his Training from Hell.
  • In Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (Flunk Punk Rumble in the American release), the two geeks from computer club go from this to this.
  • Tsukune from Rosario+Vampire started the series as your typical loser harem lead, but then Moka injected him with vampire blood to save his life and he gained temporary vampire powers, which was repeated in later encounters with monsters. After a while, the constant injections turned him into a mindless ghoul, though he was saved by having that form sealed up. Since then, he has been able to call upon his ghoul powers at will, and with training from Moka, has undeniably become a full-time badass.
  • In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, generic mook Jerid Messa gains a level once his first love interest dies, and keeps moving up through the series. Eventually, he's almost on equal footing with the Newtype hero. He still bites the bullet, though.
  • Usagi Tsukino of Sailor Moon, across all canons. In both The '90s anime and manga versions, she starts off as a ditzy crybaby, but she tends to level up at least once per arc. By Sailor Moon R, she'd already started growing into her role as The Hero, and by the time Stars comes around, she's already become a very competent Action Girl. At the end of the series, she's able to fight Galaxia, the strongest Sailor Senshi in the galaxy, on equal terms.
    • Also, the other Senshi get at least a power-up every two seasons.
    • Especially notable is Hotaru Tomoe. She is introduced as a sickly, fragile girl, who has a tendency to collapse from painful "attacks". After Mistress 9 takes over her body, her spirit manages to protect Chibimoon's soul and moon crystal and the souls of the other senshi, all while confining Mistress 9 to her body and preventing her from becoming more powerful. And from there, she goes to be Sailor Saturn, who has enough power to singlehandedly drive the enemy from Earth.
  • Akira in Cage of Eden goes from being the lecherous class clown to the leader of the most successful group of survivors. More prominent is the cabin attendant, Oomori. At first she breaks down quickly and is scared to death of a small and furry animal, but later she takes a stab wound from Kouhei and tries to write it off as nothing.
  • Matsuda shooting Light in the last episode of Death Note deconstructs this trope Evangelion-style: the viewer is too stunned by how sad everything is to pay much attention to how cool the resident Butt Monkey just became. Said Butt Monkey's skills were a Chekhov's Gun: he once or twice did show that, despite not being on part with the others, he was a pretty decent shot. Too bad he also had to be throughly broken to ever show them again.
  • Although even putting the name Shinji Ikari and the word badass in one sentence may sound like the ultimate Oxymoron, the theatrical retelling Rebuild of Evangelion, now at the third film (of a planned four) Evangelion 2.0 may be trying to paint a very different picture of Shinji to his original TV series self. During the climax of 2.0, Shinji takes on the angel Zeruel in a fashion much like the same battle in the original series. However, instead of going blank and having the Unit-01 become sentient on its own...Shinji himself reactivates the Unit-01 into berserker mode off of his sheer will to save Rei Ayanami, whose Unit-00 had been eaten by said angel previously, after a failed attempt to kamikaze the Angel like in the TV series. With red eyes and a nearly feral expression as well as a temperament of sheer anger and altruistic determination... this may be one of the most dramatic examples of having taken a level in badass that Japanese animation has ever seen when one considers the character. Unfortunately, the third film proceeds to deconstruct this with a nuke and leaves him in an Angst Coma that makes his breakdown in the original series like a headache.
    • "I want Rei. Give her back!" was delivered in Tranquil Fury mode. And he does weird stuff with his AT Field too.
    • Although he's still generally the passive and despondent teen we all know and love(or hate), Shinji has also generally had a more forward and direct personality. Being more forward in bringing Rei out of her shell, taking more chances in the battle against Ramiel, rampaging around the Geofront after the Unit-03 incident, and confronting his father in a more direct manner. So far anyways...
    • Most of the Angels had their abilities amped up for Rebuild of Evangelion, but none so much as Sahaquiel. In the original series, it was a goofy-looking winged eyeball thing that fell toward NERV, got stabbed in the face, and deflated like a balloon. In Rebuild? It's about ten times larger, and is a completely alien Eldritch Abomination in appearance that is continually warping light around itself to create bizarre color patterns across is body. When caught, it generates a twisted humanoid body to fight Unit-01 directly.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, GX and 5D's, several characters (mainly main characters) do this. Most notably, however, are Yugi (not Atem) and Jonouchi. Yugi winds up being able to defeat Atem, despite never actually getting to play in any of the more important duels. And Jonouchi... doesn't really need an explanation, but it is still provided: He starts out with no dueling skills at all, tries beating Yugi with a deck consisting of 40 Normal Monsters and nothing else, fails, gets a bit of advice, and manages to defeat Mai, Rex, Weevil, Mako, Esper Roba, one of Dartz' Motorcycle-riding Henchmen, and Odion (though this hardly counts as it wound up being "whoever get up first wins"). Also, Seto in Season 4: "If at first you don't succeed, blast it again with your BLUE-EYES WHITE DRAGON!"
    • In GX, we have Manjyoume, after he returns to Duel Academy and has his black jacket and the Ojama deck. Also, Hell Kaiser Ryo.
      • Also, Hell Kaiser Ryou's little brother, who defeated an opponent Ryou couldn't beat, and whom Ryou himself said had surpassed him in skill and potential.
      • Judai himself does it in Season 4, after bonding with Yubel, dropping his jovial and frivilous personality and adopting a far more serious one. His physical appearance even changes slightly after the incident, as he looks older and more mature.
      • As far as villains go, there was the mercenary duelist Titan, who might count. In his first appearance, he was a charlatan who used hypnosis to fool his opponents into thinking he could create Shadow Duels. (In the dub, Judai found out eventually, and accused him of being "just an out-of-work carnie", which was exactly what he was). The duel with Judai turned into a real Shadow Duel due to the curse in the Abandoned Dorm, but that's not what changed him. When he returned as a member of the Seven Stars, he had been given real dark powers by Kagemaru and could create lethal Shadow Duels for real. This didn't make him that much more of a threat, however—he still lost to Asuka.
    • Rua who up until now was just Ruka's Moral Support, but recently badassed his way into Signer status so hard the Crimson Dragon made up a new mark for him.
      • Although Life Stream Dragon is shown as servant to the Crimson Dragon long before Black Feather Dragon is introduced (Episode 30, several Openings and Endings).
    • Also in 5D's there's Carly who In the Dark Signer Arc, dies, gets reborn, turns utterly evil and severely injures the guy who killed her, and almost beats the former King. And considering she was a Butt Monkey at the beginning of the arc, who lost after the second turn in her first duel that's a pretty big step.
    • Jonouchi's biggest level in badass isn't even described here... he duels Marik (that is, the evil side of Marik/Malik) to the point that, if he had managed to keep himself conscious for a few more seconds... he would have won. To point out WHY this is badass, Marik had been using life point (and due to it being Marik, life force) draining cards the whole duel, up to an including the actually hot Lava Golem. Jonouchi still kept going and fighting back. Marik summons RA to deal with him. Jonouchi surivives that, then manages to summon his ace at the time, Gilford the Lightning... and then for the first time, we see Marik SCARED of someone, as he almost loses at that point, if not for the fact that Jonouchi finally couldn't take the strain and fell into a coma, his soul now on the line. And he still manages to break out of that coma in time to cheer Yugi on in the next duel. He also has an offscreen level, as at the end of the Battle City arc, he and Yugi have a duel to decide if he gets Red-Eyes back (Jonouchi's suggestion, Yugi is happy to just give it back but he wants to duel). Later, we see him using his Red-Eyes, which implies that Jonouchi BEAT YUGI in a duel.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    • Madoka turned from a Crybaby into an extradimensional god that can retroactively kill witches with kindness.
    • Homura took many levels of badass. According to her previous timelines shown in Episode 10. She went from Mikuru-level moe to Master Chief-level badass; a Shrinking Violet without combat magic to a Lady of War with missle launchers.
    • As of the Rebellion movie, Homura has jacked away Madoka's god powers to become the devil. Sayaka also Took a Level in Badass during her fight scenes, and Mami has gone from badass with emotional issues to badass with Railway Cannon Tiro Finale.
  • In Kami Kaze, Ordinary High-School Student Misao Mikogami was originally a helpless Damsel in Distress, terrified and powerless when introduced to a world of demons, Blood Knights, and Omnicidal Maniacs whose idea of a fun evening is slaughtering all the occupants of a fairly well-populated high school. Skip to a couple of months later and she is a Physical God who takes down some of the most Bad Ass hell-spawn to ever be let out of their can - things that even the most seasoned veterans can't make a scratch on - with a literal flick of her wrist. Not only that, she takes on the other deities at their own game, throws their rhetoric back in their faces, and actually becomes far more powerful and influential than the leading male Bad Ass swordsman of the series (and this is a Seinen series we're talking about here). The only downside? Apparently taking that many levels in awesome leaves you emotionally unstable. There is a good reason why everyone runs for cover when she gets mildly irritated by something. And God help you if you tell her that her boyfriend might be dead (very bad things happened to the last guy who said that).
  • Quite a few people in Black Lagoon come under this: Rock, for instance, starts out as a low-level Butt Monkey employee of a Japanese megacorp... ends up as a Magnificent Bastard who has all of Roanapur afraid of him.
    • You also have Garcia Lovelace.
    • And, in one of the Omake episodes, Sgt. Boris of the Vysotniki. He was apparently a skinny Shōnen boy, who joined the Soviet Army to get tougher.
  • It's arguable that a number of characters from Tenchi Muyo! have these sorts of jumps, though some of them are kinda jarring:
    • The first was the main character himself, Tenchi Masaki. He starts out as your normal 17-year-old with an Unwanted Harem. Then first Big Bad Kagato comes around and nearly kills him. One divine rescue later and Tenchi ends up slicing Kagato in half (along with his ship) with his amazing power. That amazing power (which is later revealed to be the power of that universe's god) is amplified even more when the timeline is fixed at the end of the 3rd OVAs.
    • The next is Sasami. Initially, she's the Cheerful Child with the secret that she's also a Physical God and afraid of telling everyone that lest they all shun her. She seems much more open after she reveals that secret, but that's not it. When we see her next in the 3rd OVA series, she reveals that she also has staff training and is able to take on a Galaxy Police elite and defeat her. Oh, that staff? It's actually one of her hair bands that she keeps her ponytails in!
    • The third? Seina Yamada of Tenchi Muyo! GXP (a continuation of the original OVAs). When we first see him, he's the franchise's biggest Butt Monkey due to his horrible bad luck (they even talk about it in the series' end theme!). He doesn't take the level until near the end when he's tossed into a machine that resembles Dual Zinv and, after he finds out that the pirates that were after him not only had Team Pet Fuku, but also forcibly made her reproduce other cabbits, he flipped out and tore apart the pirate fleet on his own.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Greed is easily taken down by Wrath/King Bradley. However, once he's resurrected in Ling's body, he's able (somewhat) hold his own against Wrath, presumably by at least partially drawing on Ling's combat skills.
    • Al starts off the series mostly passive, following the lead of his brother. Then about 1/3 of the series he stands up to the Homunculus Lust, throwing his body between her and the BSODing Hawkeye despite both of them telling him to run away. By the end of the series, he's capable of singlehandedly going toe to toe with the most powerful Homunculus.
      • More specifically, half-way through the story, he remembers seeing the Truth and gains the ability to transmute without a circle.
    • Falman gets one as well. He starts out as a bumbling and mostly incompetent member of Roy's team. When the team is split up, he gets shipped off to the cold northern fortress of Briggs. When he returns as part of the Briggs assault on Central, he's able to take command of a squad and hold off the advancing Central counterattack. Also, he manages to stare down Bradley, who'd just single handedly taken out a squad of tough Briggs soldiers, his tough as nails commanding officer, and a tank. When ordered to step away from the gate, he refuses despite knowing that Bradley could easily kill him.
    • Even Yoki goes from formerly corrupt comedy villain/Butt Monkey to dramatic rescuer, though it's more like he only took 1/4 level.
  • In the first half of Tiger & Bunny, Kaede Kaburagi is a normal little girl that just happens to unknowingly have a superhero for a father. Then the second half of the series rolls along and it turns out that Kotetsu/Wild Tiger's more impressive qualities and superpowers are inheritable.
    Kotetsu: "She's my little girl, all right!"
    • Origami Cyclone spends the beginning of the series as a useless attention whore who only exists to advertise his sponsors and bemoans the fact that his NEXT power, the ability to copy anyone's appearance, is useless in the ultra-theatrical line of heroics he's involved in. Then his character development episode comes, and he decides to start actually helping out, and by the last episode he's pulling off feats of awesome such as deflecting energy blasts with his swords and throwing the giant shuriken on his back and riding on it.
  • Guilty Crown: Watch the first episode. Yeah. He did just rush at a mech and slice off its arm. As himself. With just a sword. After essentially pissing himself in a corner when that girl is taken away by the local government thugs halfway through the episode.
  • Blue Seed: Yoshiki Yaegashi starts out as the cowardly rookie computer nerd. He gets mostly ignored by the other TAC members and is teased and slightly bullied by Koume Sawaguchi. He's attracted to Momiji at first and enrolls her into a talent contest without her knowledge. After he realizes her attraction to Kusanagi, he lets her go and becomes attracted to Komue whom violently rejects him at first. However, by the end of the series, when everyone else is afraid to fight Susano-Oh, Yoshiki is the only one who stands tall ready to meet the challenge, much to Koume's surprise. Koume falls in love with him afterwards.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Leorio was pretty cool already but he was definitely on the lower side of the power scale. At the Phantom Troupe arc he has barely learned Nen, the power which the guys with high Power Levels use to fight. After the arc he was Put on a Bus until later. Suddenly in the most recent arc he returns and how: He publicly calls out Ging for refusing to visit his hospitalized son. Words don't seem to have an effect, so he flips him off and sends him flying with an uppercut, courtesy of his brand new Nen ability. In-universe it's acknowledged as awesome enough for a standing ovation and enough votes for him to take over as hunter chairman to rocket him from an unknown to third place.
  • InuYasha: Sesshoumaru spends most of the manga one-armed. He's still one of the most powerful characters in the entire story. When the Bigger Bad is finally unleashed, however, even Sesshoumaru is no match for it. Cue a Noone Could Survive That moment leading to a Came Back Strong reveal where Sesshoumaru Took a Level in Badass and suddenly the worst youkai evil in history is no longer any match for him.
  • Tsubomi Hanasaki of Heart Catch Pretty Cure. When we're first introduced to her, she's an extremely shy and introverted girl who, upon becoming Cure Blossom for the first time, freaked out and tried to run. Because of it, she was given the derogatory term "The Weakest Precure in History". By the end of the series, she realizes that she does lean on her friends for support, but that's her greatest strength - and she uses it to great effect when she and her teammates become something of a Physical God and One-Hit KO the series' Big Bad. When we see her next in Pretty Cure All Stars DX 3, she's leading the other pink-type Cures after they're all separated.
    • Speaking of DX 3 all the teams there take a good level by taking down their movie-only foes with their normal powers and attacks when the last time they fast any of them, they were forced to take up movie-only Super Modes.
  • In Zeta Gundam Kamille Bidan and his Arch-Enemy Jerid Messa begin the series as an Idiot Hero Insufferable Genius and an overconfident Starter Villain and Jerk Jock respectively. By the end, Kamille is being viewed as a Newtype saviour figure, while Jerid has evolved into an incredibly dangerous Ace Pilot in a Super Prototype.
  • Tohru Honda of Fruits Basket undergoes a more subtle example of this trope. She starts off as a Plucky Girl, but with a tendency to overwork herself to sickness and be overly obsessed with the memory of her late mother. By the end of the series, she grows much stronger emotionally, able to move forward in life without clinging to her mother's ghost and talking down a crazy Akito, who wanted to stab her.
  • Shuuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa in Battle Royale. They start out as fairly-normal Japanese schoolkids...but you grow up fast in the Program, if you survive at all. And Shogo Kawada was a normal, if smart and cynical, boy... before the Program changed him. By his second go-round, he's well able to deal with anything the Program throws at him.
  • While Mio from Ten Yorimo Hoshi Yorimo doesn't reach proper Action Girl status, her control over her hydrokinetic powers does noticeably grow. In the third volume, among other things she puts down a whole building that's on fire via first telekinetically controlling the firemen's water hoses, then summoning enough rain to finish the job. In the seventh volume, when the car she and Miyabi's father are in plummets into the ocean, she manages to create a protective bubble to pull the car out of the ocean, saving Mr. Fujiwara and herself. And in the eighth (and last) volume she repeats the rain trick on a burning shrine and raises the nearby water to protect the people, before she and her love interest Shou die protecting everyone else.
    • To put it on perspective: Big Bad Tadaomi is ultra powerful because he's been training in his pyrokinetic abilities for years, Shou controls his wind "magic" fairly well too (though we're not sure of how long he's been working on them)... but after Mio finds out that she has water powers, she manages to control the basics in few days and with next-to-none proper training.
  • Hatou from Murasakiiro No Qualia, from the moment she decides to find out more about Yukari's death
  • Girls und Panzer: The girls from Oarai High School start out as novices in the demanding sport of Tankery... and, thanks to their team captain, The Power of Friendship, and sheer grit, become Badass enough to pull off victories even against much more experienced, better-equipped teams.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jonathan Joestar starts off as a Spoiled Sweet getting constantly overshadowed by his recently adopted brother in every way possible. At one points, Dio Brando Crosses the Line Twice and pulls Jojo's heroic trigger. Not only he knocks down Dio in a very satisfying fashion, the boy grows up 7 years later and becomes very masculine and, eventually, the only person strong enough to challenge his arch-enemy, who has been turned into one of the most powerful vampires in 1880s.
  • Tokyo Ghoul uses this, as well as showing the consequences of seeking power.
    • After the Time Skip, Kaneki has gone from relatively weak to an incredibly powerful Ghoul. He's shown extensively studying and practicing different fighting techniques, as well as using Tsukiyama as his sparring partner. However, the trope is then deconstructed with the revelation of his less heroic means of becoming stronger: cannibalizing other Ghouls in order to become a kakuja. Doing so takes an incredible toll of his already strained mind, and ends up costly him dearly.
    • In the sequel, Nishiki Nishio has become a powerful and infamous Ghoul known for antagonizing CCG and other Ghouls, alike. The methods or reason for his power-up haven't been revealed.
    • The sequel also sees Seidou Takizawa gain a major increase in strength, in a case of From Nobody to Nightmare. Once Overshadowed by Awesome, the experimentation performed on him by Aogiri Tree has transformed him into a powerful and brutal Half-Human Hybrid.
  • Fairy Tail: Strangely averted for Lucy, one of (if not the) main character. She is getting better with her celestial spirits, but she's still not at the same level as Natsu, Gray, or Erza. Then again, those three are pretty damn powerful.
    • Lucy officially takes a few levels after unlocking her Second Origin. She can now summon multiple spirits at once, combine their attacks, and double her magic power with Gemini to cast Urano Metria on her own.
    • Unfortunately, that didn't stop her from getting beaten silly twice, whilst battling against Flare and Minerva (granted, she would've won against Flare, if it weren't for her cheating).
    • Played straight after the one year time skip thanks to her Star Dresses. While she admits that she's not on Natsu's level if he decided to go all out, she could still give him a good sparring session. She actually becomes strong enough to take out several books with one hit, and is willing to stand up to the Praetorian Guard of the Big Bad.


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