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Child Soldiers / Anime & Manga

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Child Soldiers in anime and manga.


Precociously Talented

  • At the beginning of 9 Banme no Masashi the titular character is 16 and one of the top elite soldiers in her secret paramilitary organization.
  • Class 3-E in Assassination Classroom is a variation of the trope. First, they are training to be assassins, not traditional soldiers. Second, their trainers/teachers actually goes out their way to ensure the children can have a normal life (well, as normal as the situation they are in can allow).
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  • The Shinigami in Bleach permit recruits to join up while still biologically children so long as they can meet the entrance requirements. Of course, Shinigami are all Really 700 Years Old, but Ise Nanao, Ichimaru Gin, Hitsugaya Toshiro, and Kusajishi Yachiru were VERY young by Soul Society standards and still often acted childish or immature. Yachiru is still a child in the current timeline, as is Toushirou—and he's the 10th squad captain. Subverted for Yachiru who turns out to be Kenpachi's zanpakutou spirit.
  • Downplayed in Date A Live. Due to the fact that the talent to use the Realizer is very rare, the Anti Spirit Team(AST) has to take child recruits. All the ones seen so far in combat are orphans and generally very good. Their mission is to exterminate the Spirits, but that turns out to mean "bug them till they leave on their own". Downplayed that everyone heads to shelters when an incomming spirit is detected, the AST can 't really hurt the Spirits, and the spirits themselves don't try all that hard to fight back. So all that really happens is property damage most of the time. When they do get a spirit angry enough it tends to go poorly for them.
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  • Divergence Eve has Kotoko-01, though since she's an android it may or may not count.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Son Gohan is forced to fight his uncle at age 4, thwart an alien invasion at age 5, fight a war against a galactic overlord a couple months later, endure copious Training from Hell, and then fight an insanely powerful monster (who proceeds to beat him to a pulp and kill his father) when, even taking into consideration Year Inside, Hour Outside training, he was but 11. Yes, he does show some signs of PTSD when he grows up.
    • You can't forget Vegeta who was enslaved at age 5 to the same Galactic Overlord who killed his father, destroyed his race, and blew up his planet.
    • The days-old infant Kakarrot was sent to Earth with the expectation that his first full moon transformation into a Great Ape would be enough to exterminate the weakling inhabitants of this backwater mud ball. This was standard procedure for Saiyans, so they're basically an entire race of Child Soldiers.
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    • In Dragon Ball Minus Raditz is considered a warrior out helping Vegeta take over worlds, despite being no more than 5 or 7. The same with Vegeta. Although Goku isn't sent to destroy Earth, it isn't unusual for Frontier Babies to be sent out when they're no more than 3.
    • Goten and Trunks were expected to fight and defeat Majin Buu using the Fusion Dance when they were 7 and 8. Although, it wasn't like the Earth had anyone left to fight Buu at that point.
  • Eureka Seven: Eureka, for her prodigious skill in piloting the Nirvash, becomes its pilot, and Renton, who decides to co-pilot it to protect Eureka. Naturally, reality hits him hard when he figures out that by piloting, he's become a soldier with extreme skill in killing. The series makes a major plot point of this, exploring what really happens when children pilot Humongous Mecha.
  • Major Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist earned his commission in Amestris' State Military at the tender age of twelve. Though it's noted that he's a very special case. The military doesn't generally have child soldiers. Edward's status as a prodigy and string pulling by Mustang is the only reason it happens. Also, it lets the Big Bad who's controlling the country keep an eye on him.
  • Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!. By the start of the series, Sousuke's 16 years old and has been fighting for his whole life, having been raised as a mujaheddin in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. This is apparently Truth in Television, which is why many child soldiers are from the Middle East in anime.
    • Sagara had actually been a soldier before that. He was actually sent to kill a guerilla leader at age 8 after being trained as an assassin by the KGB, but failed and joined the arabic leader's troops. He was brought to Russia by Kallinin, who legally adopted him when he and toddler-Sagara were the only survivors of a plane crash, and introduced him to military life. Kallinin later deserting the KGB also to join sides with Sousuke, further training him in the art of war at still tender ages.
    • In the novels, it's mentioned that Gauron himself was one of these: he was fighting for the Khmer Rouge by at least age 12, and probably earlier.
    • Sousuke's former comrade, Zaied is also an example, and unlike Sousuke, is played horribly straight, having grown up into an Empty Shell Sociopathic Soldier, who seems to lack all social contact, drive and ambition. It makes him a dangerous antagonist and Evil Counterpart to Sousuke.
    • Sousuke would fit somewhere between the Talented and Tragic variants of this trope. Sousuke is not exactly traumatized by his experiences, but his perspective of the world is fundamentally altered. Sosuke has severe difficulties functioning outside a military setting, firmly believes that Violence Is the Only Option (not necessarily lethal violence, though it is definitely in the cards), and has no standard of value for anything beyond "How useful is this in combat for me?". This leads to a lot of both the comedy and drama in the series.
  • Galaxy Angel has four of the six Moon Angels fall under this trope during the first trilogy.
    • Milfie and Chitose are both 17, with Mint one year behind them; Vanilla is 13. Ranpha is exactly 18; Forte is 22.
      • Vanilla doesn't grow out of it when the second trilogy starts, the only one to fall short as she's 17 by that point. She's still older than the Rune Angels' confirmed trope qualifiers Anise (16), Milfie's little sister Rico (14), and Natsume (11); it's unknown if her adoptive daughter Nano counts as well, as Nano's true age is unknown.
  • GunBuster has a bunch of high-school kids charged with piloting the Humongous Mecha which will defend the Earth. In fact, the early parts play out more like a sports movie as competitors vie to get "on the team".
  • Gundam, even discounting judicious use of Falling into the Cockpit, has a lot of this, starting with 16-year-old Amuro Ray.
    • The pilots in Gundam Wing were all 15 at the start of the series, but the most extreme case is Trowa, who (according to Episode Zero) was picked up by mercenaries after spending the first few years of his life completely alone, and thus has been a soldier since before he was able to talk. The show's protagonist Heero has many similarities to Sousuke Sagara (mentioned above) such that many consider Sousuke to be an Expy.
    • Setsuna F. Seiei in Gundam 00 was brainwashed by and fought for religious extremists in the Middle East some years younger than ten. Being sixteen in the series proper, he's still older than most Gundam teen leads: Usso Eving in Victory Gundam is the youngest Gundam pilot at 13.
    • And for Usso, it speaks of how children are forced to fight. While all teenagers in real life would want to pilot a giant robot and crush all the adults. Imagine if it was a tank, and you don't even got your driving license... real scary thought.
      • Indeed, a Zanscare pilot that Usso downs shoots himself when he sees how old Usso is, because he can't bear to live in a world where children so young are made into soldiers.
    • In Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny the same thing applies with most of the main cast, heroic and antagonistic being in their teens. Although in this case, most of the child soldiers actually volunteered to fight for their countries; many of them soon realized that they bit off far more than they could chew, though.
      • The Extendeds as well. They even had to go through torture and abuse in their training as children, in order to be molded into soldiers that surpass the Coordinators.
    • Most blatant example: Gundam ZZ's Elpeo Puru. A ten year old Newtype girl trained for combat in a prototype war machine, mentally conditioned to focus on the pilot of the Gundam (this backfired: she focused on him all right, but her obsession became affection and she only wanted to be his little sister). Then it's revealed that they cloned her at least a dozen times and treated the resultant girls as equipment rather than people, nothing more than pilots who were to obey their commander and fight whomever he ordered. Unicorn shows one of the clones having survived to adulthood, and it wasn't a good time for her.
    • Decil Galette of Gundam AGE is one of the most revoltingly evil examples of this ever created, being a seven-year old boy who joined the army because it gave him the chance to kill people. By the Second Generation he's more or less grown up into an expy of Ali Al-Saachez and Yazan "I'm gonna violate you" Gable, the franchise's two defining Psychos For Hire. On the other side, we also have the third generation's protagonist, Kio Asuno, whose grandfather (first protagonist Flit Asuno, who himself was fourteen when he first got involved in this mess) raised practically from birth to pilot the Gundam AGE 3 and continue his bloody vendetta against the Vagans.
    • Mikatsuki Augus of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans fits this, an extremely deadly pilot and soldier thanks to the implants given to him as he has not one but three of the implants which is the maximum a human can have. Mika is notably ruthless towards his foes in battle and more than willing to give him up his physical well being to push the Barbatos to it's limits, however this will eventually cost him his life at the end of the series. By proxy his allies in Tekkadan are also relatively skilled pilots as well with Ride and Takaki being the youngest of the bunch. This is also played for tragedy as most of them will not survive to the end of the series or become emotionally and mentally scarred by it.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, the Moore Brotherhood is horrified when the Federation a group of new pilots and they find out they're nothing more than teenagers being shoved inside mobile suits. Io Fleming can't help but realize that they're probably not coming back home. Indeed, the Psycho Zaku tears through the entire team like paper.
    • Mostly averted (both ways) in Gundam SEED Astray's Kazahana Aja. Although she is an official member of the Serpent Tail mercenary group at the tender age of six, she's only the team's civilian liaison, and thus is generally a non-combatant (Plus, her mother is part of the group, too). Her report at the end of X Astray is a bit of a Tear Jerker, however.
  • Innocents Shounen Juujigun: Nearly all of the main cast apply. While not a lot of actual fighting was shown, it was apparently perfectly normal and acceptable to send 8-14 year old children on a Crusade with full knowledge that at least some of them would die. The kids themselves also seem at peace with this, with most of them being excited to have a chance to fight the "infidels"... at least until some of their number actually start dying. Guy is a notable example, as his bandit life suggests that he's been desensitized to violence and killing from a very young age.
  • InuYasha: Sango is a highly trained and skilled demon hunter at age 16, with it being implied that she first started doing so when she was 11.
  • In the manga Jormungand, the character Jonah is a child soldier and is a prolific fighter, who has been hired by a arms dealer. Even though he's on par with the other highly trained fighters, he's also mentally fragile and hates weapons and his reliance on them. Before serving Koko as a bodyguard, he served in the Mountain Division and saw action against the Russians. Prior to the series, he had single-handedly wiped out an entire mountain base as retribution for his friend Malka being forced to walk across a minefield to clear it. Needless to say, his personality disturbs the other adult mercenaries but they have since come to accept him.
  • Most of the main cast in Kagerou-Nostalgia, with Kazuma Shudo, a 14-year old, PTSD-ing mercenary being the straightest example.
  • The heroes of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer range from the elderly (the Master) down to late elementary school (Akane Taiyou), with nearly half of them below the age of 18. And people do die in the secret war they're fighting. It helps that the heroes mostly aren't fighting other people, but instead golems, but there are a handful of reasons that all but force some of the good guys to be kids: the small pool of potential heroes as they need to not have a Weirdness Censor, the need for the heroes to come from a fairly small area (and thus even more limited population) so they can work together, and the important (to the working of the heroes' powers) symbolism of the Earth being defended by everyone no matter their age - the adults protecting their legacies and current lives, and the children fighting for their futures. Some of the most powerful combatants were the middle school girls Subaru and Yuki because while everyone else fought with their own style, those two fought together.
  • The armed forces of the Space-Time Administration Bureau from Lyrical Nanoha doesn't seem to have a minimum age requirement. Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate become active members at the age of tennote  and proceed to skyrocket through its ranks. Unlike most examples, the child soldiers of the series all join out of their own volition. (However, this is also a Boxed Crook arrangement, as these tend to be the opponents of previous seasons; and anyone not working for the TSAB is still in prison or at least confined to a frontier world.)
    • Played more darkly in Runessa Magnus' backstory in StrikerS Sound Stage X. She fought in wars on her homeworld of Orussia, but was rescued by an NGO after being severely wounded at the age of 9.
    • The young nuns (and probably priests/monks if there are any) from the Saint Church are Warrior Monks and are also known as knights. Though, not as active than the main bureau, the church is a part of the TSAB, and the nuns have to protect people (especially the important ones), and they can assist the TSAB divisions as reinforcement. Though, the only sister we've ever seen who actually fought along with the TSAB was Schach Nouera who is apparently a young adult.
    • Though Younger Than They Look (though, there is one who is Older Than She Looks), most of the Numbers had bodies of teenagers when they were engaged with the Jail Scaglietti Incident. While Uno, Due and Tre are biologically in their mid- and early twenties, the oldest of teenager was officially 16, while most of the others are either 14 or 13. However, it seems that the Numbers don't age like the Type-0 prototypes, as Tre, Quattro and Cinque looked exactly the same as in the Combat Cyborg Incident eight years ago, and they would be 12, 6 and 8 respectively, but they didn't look like.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Mana Tatsumiya is (supposedly) 14/15 years old, but has been fighting in various trouble spots around the world since her childhood. Her old Pactio card actually shows her, around 10 years old, with Desert Eagles Akimbo.
    • There's also Nagi, Negi's legendary hero of a father. The big war in the Magic World started when he was only around 13, and in the Magic World, if you're strong enough, you could fight in wars even if you're just 12 or 13. Nagi being...well, invincible, he ended the war on his own. At age 15.
    • The cadets of the esteemed Ariadne Battle Maiden Knight Squad, which Yue Ayase managed to become a part of.
    • In fact, the entire class (including the teacher!) that wasn't left behind counts, save the ghost Sayo. Setsuna has been a bodyguard or training in Shinmeiryuu techniques since childhood.
    • Fate's haremettes also can be seen as this.
  • Played for Laughs in Mao-chan, which centers around the eight-year-old granddaughters of Japan's Chiefs of Ground, Air, and Naval defenses being given alien technology to turn them into Magical Girls to fight an invasion force so cute and ineffective, it would make Japan's Defense Force look like bullies, if they used real soldiers.
  • Most of COSMOS in Mother Keeper appear to be teenagers when we first see them, including Ricalna.
  • This is basically the entire concept of Naruto, where the main characters, at the start, are twelve years old and already sent into occasionally life-threatening missions. To the author's immense credit, the series does not shy away from this. The fact that they are ninja and they're accompanied by more experienced ones helps, a little, but tough cookies if you watch your family die before you one night, or have to leave your teammate to die. The trope is played with rather interestingly, as the series of messiah-like characters see this trope as a major part of the problem with the whole ninja system in general, which they seek to fundamentally change or end (most fail, but they leave the world a little bit better every time as well).
    • This story without a doubt fits this trope, as Naruto, as of the gradually building climax-arc of the series, is the savior and prophet everyone is relying on to save the day. Naruto himself grew into the role of Messianic Archetype not by destiny or conscious choice, but because of the various events and realities of his life, and the choices he made eventually culminating in a person and reputation that effectively becomes messianic. In a sense, the Upbringing Makes the Hero combines with several wise mentors passing on their full or partially messianic philosophies onto Naruto, who sees the reality of the world around him and puts two and two together.
    • Some characters start even younger, as Kakashi graduated at the age of 5, became a Chunin at 6, and by 13, was a Jonin who would have died on several occasions if not for his teammate Rin's medical ninjutsu. Itachi saw consequences of war at 4, graduated at 7, Chunin at 10, ANBU at 11 and ANBU Captain at 13, at which point he massacres his entire family and clan in an apparent fit of madness (and psychologically tortures his surviving 8 year old brother for good measure); its later revealed that he did this UNDER ORDERS because they were plotting a rebellion after being wrongly blamed (mostly) for the demon attack that kicked off the story.
      • For that matter, Naruto and Gaara both had demons stuck into them at birth; in the case of Gaara, this was done with the express purpose of turning him into a supernatural child soldier- he was later deemed unstable (surprise, surprise) prompting his own father to try and fail kill him. And Gaara was still expected to work for him and his ninja village. The actual circumstances are a bit more complex and sympathetic, but still pretty bad.
    • Seen in horrific detail in Hashirama's time. See "Just Plain Tragic" entry. Notably, young characters are explicitly referred to as child soldiers in this flashback, and it is mentioned their parents can't see the problem with this because they were raised as child soldiers as well, as were their parents and going on back generations.
    • Also the Chunin Exams. The surface idea is that it promotes friendship and peace between the nations, and allows future clients to see the fighting strength of each village. However, it is revealed that the Exams are essentially a replacement for full-out battle between the nations, with the Genin of the villages as the soldiers, showcasing their village’s political strength.
    • Most of the Konoha 12 are under 17 when they enter the Fourth Shinobi World War. The generation before them was equally unfortunate: they were around 13 when they were thrown into war. And not all of them made it out, either.
    • In the peaceful times of Boruto, the standard age for becoming a genin has increased. In the original series, characters entered the academy at 6-8 years old and, while most don't graduate until 10-13, it's been shown that you can technically graduate at 6 if you're good enough (such as with Kakashi). In Boruto, all of Boruto's classmates are at least 10 when they enter the academy.
  • In Now and Then, Here and There, King Hamdo has an army of them he kidnapped from neighboring villages that he sacrifices without a second thought.
  • In One Piece, during Donquixote Doflamingo's speech about justice during the Marineford Arc, when he gets to his "Children who never knew peace" part, we see a couple of these.
  • Panzer World Galient: Jordy Volder, not that the circumstances give him much of a choice in the matter: the Big Bad conquered his father's kingdom and was gradually taking over the whole planet, forcing him to learn how fighting. In addition, he's the only person capable to pilot the titular Humongous Mecha.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: note 
    • Kenshin was 14 when he ran away from his master to join the rebellion. In this case, it would be underage enlistment rather than conscription: it's noted in this arc that samurai traditionally came of age at 15. He spent most of the next few years as an assassin, and the rest of his life as The Atoner.
    • Aoshi, at least, of the Oniwabanshuu. He was a protector of Edo Castle strong enough to fight Shikijo into submission by 13, and presumably would have killed him if he had declined to switch sides. He then became leader of them at 15.
  • The main cast of Sky Girls are in their teens, the youngest only 15 years old. This is justified by 90% of the male population between 20 and 30 being dead in due to a war against an alien enemy.
  • Sephira Fiore from Il Sole penetra le illusioni begins drafting the card holder when their power starts to awaken, which can begin at the tender age of ten, possibly younger.
  • The main cast in Soul Eater are all members of the combat-orientated class, and later an elite unit, because they all show exceptional prowess as meisters and Weapons, whether through natural talent, learned skill, or being Death the Kid. While they are established as being in the minority among the students, they are not the first; flashbacks show their teachers being in a similar position.
  • In Sound of the Sky, the oldest member of the 1121st Helvetian Tank Platoon is 18 years old. The youngest is 14.
  • Some, if not all of the Spider Riders are ages twelve to thirteen. For pete's sake, Princess Sparkle is only eight!
  • Yu Ominae from the anime/manga series Spriggan, was "recruited" (read: kidnapped) into a secret U.S. government black ops unit called COSMOS sometime after his archaeologist parents were killed in Iran. Considering he's no older than 16-17 by present day in the series (he's a high school student), this means he was likely taken around the age of 10.
    • COSMOS (Children of Soldier Machine Organic System) was filled out with children kidnapped by the CIA from around the world. They are brainwashed, have their names replaced by a number and given extensive special forces training. To give some perspective as to the results of this training, Yu, after freeing himself from COSMOS' brainwashing, is considered to be one of the deadliest special agents alive in the world of Spriggan. Most of their missions involve classic black ops missions like assassination, artifact retrieval and covert infiltration.
  • In Strike Witches, all but two of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing's Witches are children, the youngest being only 12 (the two oldest are, appropriately enough, the commander and her second in command). Justified somewhat in that most magic users are teenage girls anyway, and the fact their magic gets weaker the older they get. So by 20 they are decommissioned from service.
  • In Unlimited Fafnir, Yuu and the girls at the Midgar school are still teenagers, and are forced to take down the dragons plaguing humanity due to having much more power than even the military.
  • The villains of Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid use orphans they pick from the streets as guinea pigs and enforcers.
  • In Valvrave the Liberator, the Anti-Villain Karlstein agents are this, to contrast with (and deconstruct) the Kid Hero supposedly Ordinary High-School Student team who Fell Into The Cockpit of the titular mecha. It's only because of the ridiculously advanced level of the Valvraves (powered by a space-vampire energy that humanity at large is still unaware of) that the students can even hope to beat the Karlstein team — and the fact that they have a defector from that team, L-elf, as their strategist, who knows his former team well. The second season shows the conditions they trained under, and the level to which death and killing was such a part of their lives even when they were very young.
    • Special mention goes to Q-vier, the youngest of the group at 14, who looks even younger than that. He's the most vicious, a definite Blood Knight, who sees the world like a big fighting game.
    • The Karlstein agents also have number-letter codenames instead of names, and only one of their names is revealed in the series.
    • The Valvrave pilots also break into a form of this - except that the two survivors were already somewhat broken to begin with.
  • Members of Border in World Trigger are recruited as early as twelve (one branch has an unofficial five-year-old, but it's clear he doesn't come anywhere near a fight). Justified in-universe by the fact that Trion glands grow during puberty, so you have to train most Trion users as preteens/teenagers to develop them to useful levels. In neighborhood, infants with potential are drafted into the military and are modified to make them more powerful. However, in both worlds, the best combatants tend to be adults because it takes years to build the necessary skills and experience.
  • The Light Novel/Manga/Anime series Youjo Senki: Saga of Tanya the Evil, offers an interesting example in the form of the titular character, Lt. (later Colonel) Tanya Degurechaff, an incredibly gifted mage and a brilliant and ruthless tactician who even earned herself the nickname the Devil of the Rhine, who just so happens to be only around ten years old. While the Empire (basically a slightly altered WWI Germany in a world with magic) does allows boys and girls that show exceptional magical ability to volunteer and even go to officer school, it is not actively encouraged and reactions to Tanya not only being a battle hardened soldier, but also a officer who commands the respect and fear of her adult subordinates ranges from surprise to terror at the thought of someone so young leading operations on the frontlines, with several characters even mentioning in horror that they have children and siblings around her age.
    Erich von Rerugen: There was a time when I had the chance to see Lt. Degurechaff myself. [...] If I could please offer my opinion: she is a complete and utter monster, in the form of a little girl.
  • Duel Academy students in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX — what do you expect when your weapon is a children's collectible card game? This doesn't stop their principal from feeling terrible about putting the fate of the world in the hands of teenagers.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V takes a long and hard look at this trope in regards to the franchise. Unlike many other series, it shows the realistic effects of putting regular teenagers in life and death situations. With many having either been heavily indoctrinated into becoming sociopaths (both on the antagonist side and the protagonist side) or are slowly being broken due to the stress. Still, the heroes eventually kick bad guy butt and stop the fighting using Card Games.
  • Played straight and subverted by Zettai Karen Children, where the psychic children are used more or less as soldiers, but the organization doing so still treats them like children and tries very hard to provide for a healthy upbringing for them.

Just Plain Tragic

  • Attack on Titan gives us two painful varieties to choose from:
    • The minimum age for enlistment in the military is twelve. Why? Because it has an appallingly high mortality rate and basic training takes three years. That means the main characters are between the age of 15 and 17, thrown out onto the battlefield and forced to fight Humanoid Abominations.
    • Taken to an even greater degree with Marley's Warrior Program. Children 5-7 years of age are enlisted by their families, with the promise of full citizenship and improved living conditions. These children are indoctrinated to believe their own people are "descendants of the devil", taught that loyalty to their homeland should be valued above even friendship or family, and used as front-line Super Soldiers. A select few are chosen to receive the "honor" of hosting one of the Nine Titans, reducing their lifespan to 13 years. Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie demonstrate the horrific emotional toll this takes on them as their superiors force them to commit acts of murder and espionage. All while knowing that if they fail, question their mission, or are accused of "betrayal", they will be killed and their families condemned to A Fate Worse Than Death.
    • Of course, even if they succeed, their families are still treated terribly, with the only real benefit being "honorary" citizenship. It's also a risk for the parents, as their children could betray them, such as what Zeke Yeager did to his parents for being leaders of La Résistance and plotting against the military.
  • Guts from Berserk was trained as a mercenary by his adoptive father when he was just a little boy and had to participate in his share of horrific violence as a result. One of the most horrible things to happen to him back then was being sold by the adoptive father as a sex slave to a pederast soldier for three silver coins.
  • Bokurano has a group of 12-13-year olds (the first episode states they've just finished grade school) protecting the whole world from being destroyed. Even if they were completely well-adjusted to begin with (and they're notthis is a Mohiro Kitoh work) the circumstances of the 'game' they've found themselves in makes their tenure as 'defenders of earth' more tragic than most other examples on this page combined.
  • The various groups employing Contractors in Darker Than Black don't really care much about issues like "age." As such, kids who manifest powers tend to be grabbed up immediately, Unpersoned, and trained as assassins or other special agents. Additionally, Hei was a Badass Normal one; he fought in Heaven's War to protect his Contractor little sister, and one flashback makes it clear he wasn't more than about 16 when he first got involved. Through this is somehow justified by the fact that they lose their emotions and their sense of guilt. Even the youngest Contractors seem to become Creepy Children at best and sociopathic cold-blooded murderers at worst.
  • The Parasites of DARLING in the FRANXX are teenagers specially trained from birth to pilot Franxx units and defend humanity's cities against the Klaxosaur threat. (Adults cannot pilot, as they've already been divested of the sexual instincts and reproductive ability required to activate Franxx.) Though they're allowed to live in a Gilded Cage when not fighting, Parasites are dehumanized with code numbers instead of names, have only the barest concept of love or affection - let alone sex or even kissing - and are expected to readily sacrifice themselves in Papa's name to protect the adult population. A significant part of the series is devoted to Squad 13 realizing just how messed-up their existence is.
  • In order to combat the Nova, the world of Freezing has to use people with the ability to use special implants that allow them to be faster, stronger and heal faster then any human. All of these people are teenaged girls and boys, with the boys, called Limiters, taking a supporting combat roll for the woman, called Pandoras, in battle. The battles with Nova all end in countless graphic and horrible deaths and almost all Pandoras and Limiters carry mental scars of some degree. The constant use of their powers also breaks down their bodies and all Pandoras able to live through their battles die at a very young age.
  • The Ishvalan War in Fullmetal Alchemist involved some child soldiers, either in self-defense or due to a lack of adults. Roy is traumatized because he was forced to burn alive a boy who tried to shoot him. He freezes up during his first duel with Ed (who was around the same age as the boy), which allows Ed to regain his footing and fight back.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet stars Ledo, who has been in his space colony military fighting squid-like monsters for basically his entire life. Naturally, his society is Social Darwinist to the point where fighting is his life; they lost the very concepts of family members such as brothers and sisters, as well as of thanks and "coexistence". And on top of that, those too weak or sick to fight these monsters are summarily euthanized. This is the only way of life the guy has ever known. It's pretty much Full Metal Panic! played almost entirely for drama.
  • All Gundam pilots under age 18 are horribly traumatized and haunted by the horrors of warfare You can take nearly everyone mentioned in the previous section and fit them down here, too. But there are some standouts:
    • Setsuna F. Seiei (mentioned above) also falls into this category. He was forced to watch his fellow child soldiers die and killed his parents at the bidding of his group's leader. Years later, he still dreams about dodging bullets and wishes he could go back in time and save his younger self.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans decides to make this trope the central focus of the series: Tekkadan are a group of orphan kids/teens raised as child soldiers by Private Military Contractors who look upon them as disposable, even labelling some of them "Human Debris". Forced to undergo invasive surgery for piloting implants, most of them don't survive long enough to see old age. The group Tekkadan slowly loses their humanity throughout the series, becoming more violent and nihilistic after Biscuit's death and ends with All of the Gundam frames pilots, Mika included, were killed on their battlefields while Orga, their leader was gunned down by Nobliss Gordon's assassins as part of Rustal finishing off what's left of Tekkadan.
      • Technically Human Debris are viewed even worse, they are bought or even enslaved by the raiders and pirates and made to pilot Mobile suits and armor that can make use the system and one group that uses them first and foremost are the Brewers who are as unpleasant as they come with the Debris seen as even less valuable than the machines they pilot. Of all of the human debris rescued by Akihiro after the tragic battle with the Brewers that led to the death of his brother, only Derma, a Mauve Shirt survived to the end of the series. As all of them are slaves who are forbidden from surrendering before the enemy and given the same implants and are mentally broken to the point of suicidal despair and fights like brutal animals and their deaths are often seen onscreen.
  • Gunslinger Girl:
    • The titular girls get rescued from death and cybernetically enhanced at a very young age. They then are brainwashed into working for an Italian government organization to fight terrorism—generally by using very big guns. The tragedy comes in with the loss of the girls' humanity through both their implants and their brainwashing which are slowly killing them. None of them will live to see adulthood.
    • Pinocchio's father trained him to become an assassin at a young age.
  • Kazuma Shudo of Kagerou-Nostalgia is a teenage mercenary who's been in the business ever since demons killed his sister and his dreams of being a Kid Samurai. He's broken, burned out and suffering from severe shell shock. One could argue that Child Ninja Fuwa, demon-hunting initiate Shiranui, and Tyke-Bomb Goki are also this.
  • Runessa of Lyrical Nanoha. As mentioned in StrikerS Sound Stage X, unlike the other characters, she was born in a world where war was a part of her everyday life, and for as long as she can remember, she had always carried a gun (not a device shaped like a gun, an actual gun).
  • During the Warring Clans Era of Naruto, the life expectancy of shinobi was 30 years, primarily due to the high death rate of their children. Children as young as seven or even younger were deemed shinobi and sent into battle. There they were often ganged up on by adults and ruthlessly slaughtered even if they were crying in fear. Oh... and things like Adult Fear didn't exist during that time since the killing of children in battle had become a norm - kill a child now and they won't grow into a more dangerous adult later, weakening the enemy.
  • The children of Neon Genesis Evangelion are early on said to have a Competence Zone of 14, but it seems instead to be a similar result from the Applied Phlebotinum. Milked for all the drama and deconstruction it can give.
    • Rebuild of Evangelion makes it much worse: the Curse of Eva traps them permanently in a 14 year old body.
  • Kirika and Chloe from Noir, and to a lesser extent Mireille, actually belong to both types. Kirika was an active assassin from the time she was five.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure! has Mitsumi, who was an orphan who Cyrus adopted and raised to become a skilled, Tyke Bomb of a Pokemon trainer. She ditches Team Galactic prior to the story but is forced to rejoin and nearly murders Hareta.
    • Lily from Phantom Thief Pokémon 7 was kidnapped by Team Galactic at a young age due to her ability to see aura, brainwashed, and trained to be a violent Galactic member.
  • Project ITOH: Genocidal Organ. The protagonist's unit is sent to attack a rebel headquarters guarded by child soldiers who are high on drugs. The battle is entirely one-sided as the well-equipped elite Super Soldiers tear through their inexperienced opponents, though the protagonist first has to report for 'counseling' to ensure that his Emotion Suppression is working to enable him to shoot kids.
  • This is nothing compared to Gen Urobuchi (the co-writer of the above series)'s seminal work, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. You may have thought before that being a Magical Girl wasn't as glamorous as the costumes make it look; this Cosmic Horror Story brutally reminds us that Sailor Moon and Nanoha were just adolescents tasked with putting their lives at risk to fight weird monsters and save the world, even though adolescents aren't always known for their decision-making abilities which becomes the very tragic crux of this show.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin Soujiro slaughtered his entire abusive family and joined Shishio as a preteen, to become his foremost assassin as a teenager. note 
    • The Oniwabanshuu seem to have been at least partially raised specifically to be spies and assassins; Aoshi was an accomplished fighter by 13, Han'nya dedicated himself to being useful to them (and Aoshi) after being saved when young, and Misao (at 16) is both a good fighter and fancies herself a full member and capable of even leading them despite having been primarily raised by retirees.
  • Chise from Saikano. In high school (or was it Junior High?) but being forced to be in the military and going as far as turning into a machine with a Berserk Button that is automatically triggered by battle.
  • In Sands of Destruction, Morte's younger brother Reve joined the Golden Lions to fight the more tyranical beastlords and attempt to gain equality for humans. His exact age at the time isn't specified, but he couldn't have been older than twelve. He dies not long after joining and his death is the catalyst that sets Morte off on her quest to destroy the world.
  • The Sibyllae of Simoun by necessity, as the titular Simoun are unable to be piloted by anyone who's chosen a permanent gender, which is traditionally done at 17 (though the Sibyllae are granted an exemption if they choose to fight). Particularly tragic is they were never meant to fight: the Simoun were originally used for religious/ritualistic purposes, and were only used for war when they became the most effective weapon against Argentum. The Sibyllae are in a bit of denial about it too, for the longest time they insisted they were "praying to the sky" and "inscribing Ri Maajon". They...don't take it well when they realize they started saying they were "going on patrol" and "fighting".
    • Even among the Sibyllae, Rimone is an extreme example of the precocious type, having become a Simoun pilot at a young age (most of the pilots are or can pass for their teens, while Rimone is still clearly a child).
  • In Il Sole penetra le illusioni, we have what happened if Magical Girl series didn't have purification power, and the only way to stop Daemonia is by killing them with the host. It's especially troublesome if the Daemonia is someone you know.
  • Suitengu of Speed Grapher, with the added angst of having been literally sold into it as a slave to repay his parents' debts after their deaths.
  • The protagonist and titular character of Violet Evergarden. She has served as a child soldier for so long that she has no idea how to function in civilian life and views herself as nothing more than a weapon whose only purpose in life is to follow orders.
  • Yuki Yuna is a Hero starts off as a simple Magical Girl Warrior anime about a group of middle schooler Kid Heroes who are assigned by the government to fight Vertexes and protect the planet. Later revelations show that being a Hero is less innocent than originally depicted. It isn't lethal (literally) but it certainly is dangerous. "Pure", young girls are the only ones who can be used as Human Sacrifices to the World Tree. As they continue to fight their bodies become more disabled with time as they undergo Mankai. The youngest of the Magical Girls were elementary schoolers when they began. One died, another became bedbound, and the third (who is Togo) lost her memories but is still nervous when she's made to become a Hero again.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V takes a long and hard look at this trope in regards to the franchise. Unlike many other Yu-Gi-Oh! series, it shows the realistic effects of putting regular teenagers in life and death situations. With many having either been heavily indoctrinated into becoming sociopaths (both on the antagonist side and the protagonist side) or were broken due to the stress, with results ranging from a Creepy Child to violent Shell-Shocked Veteran Anti Heroes.


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