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Almighty Janitor

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"Just be sure to fill up the tank before you bring it back."

"In the unlikely event I ever become president of a company, my first order of business will be to promote the janitor to executive vice president. Then I'll call him into my office and say: 'All right, Herb, I want you to tell me what's going on in the company. Care for a drink before we begin? I think I have a bottle of Scotch around here someplace.'

'Lower left drawer of your desk,' Herb will reply, 'Right behind your box of El Puffo cigars, which, I might add, are excellent.'"
Patrick McManus, The Good Samaritan Strikes Again

Some works of fiction live and die on rankings. The characters have their own power hierarchy, but usually you'll find that each character's power level is consistent with their rank.

Then there's the Almighty Janitor.

The Almighty Janitor is that character who is near the bottom of the scale in terms of rank, but is at the top in terms of what he can actually accomplish. Maybe he screwed up in the past, maybe he pissed off the higher-ups and has been paying for it ever since, maybe he's really lazy, undercover, maybe the burden of being a genius took a toll on them or maybe he just likes his job (perhaps more than clinically recommended). Often, his lowly position is the very thing that grants him access to the true levels of power (for one thing, nobody pays much attention to him, so nobody interferes with him). Typically, he'll never go up in rank at all.

Compare Hyper-Competent Sidekick, who is similar to the Almighty Janitor in terms of being the one who really gets things done, but still has to do what the boss says. The Almighty Janitor is largely immune to the whims of the higher-ups and can disregard them at will. Compare and contrast Scullery Maid, who may or may not dabble with being an Almighty Janitor, but comes into her real power outside the scullery. When the Almighty Janitor does things right and people know it but he still doesn't get promoted, there is overlap with Limited Advancement Opportunities. A secretary is also a common recipient of this trope. Contrast Rank Scales with Asskicking, Overranked Soldier, and More than Just a Teacher.

A Giant Mook is similar to an Almighty Janitor in being low-ranking and dangerous, but is generally at least logically employed as a soldier.

When the Janitor really is the Almighty, see God Was My Copilot, and when a person in power simply styles themselves "Janitor," it's Just the First Citizen. If they used to be of high rank, they were probably Gracefully Demoted. Not to be confused with our former almighty admin. See also The Alleged Boss.

Also compare Magical Homeless Person.


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  • Charlie, the seemingly omniscient farmer mascot for Farm Bureau Insurance. Everyone from heads of state and industry to surgeons call Charlie for advice because "everybody knows farmers have some of the best advice."

    Anime and Manga 
  • Aquarion Evol: Zen Fudou, leader of Neo-DEAVA and one of the most powerful men on the planet, spends the first few episodes as a janitor working around the base before re-assuming his role as commander-in-chief. The other leaders of the group are oblivious. As to why he was doing this... well, much of what Fudou does doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Ymir is initially overlooked due to being Out of Focus, having ranked outside the Top 10 graduating cadets. She's actually Brilliant, but Lazy, and eventually confronted over having sabotaged her own grades in order to allow her Love Interest to take the 10th spot. When she gets serious, it becomes apparent she's one of the most dangerous soldiers in the series — she's a skilled Titan Shifter, cunning enough to play Xanatos Speed Chess against the various factions of the series, and one of the few characters with knowledge of the Ancient Conspiracy going on behind the scenes. She plays this all close to her chest, leaving few of her comrades sure what to make of her.
    • For a comedic, half-literal example, there's janitor Levi from the official High School AU omakes. He's extremely threatening and the students are terrified of him. There are many rumours that he's actually part of a mafia family. He just really wants to make sure the students keep the school squeaky clean and forces Eren to try out all of his cleaning products.
  • Baby Steps: Protagonist Eiichirou Maruo gradually becomes skilled enough to compete with some of the strongest players in the series, like Miyagawa, but he doesn't even become seeded until many tournaments later.
  • Beet the Vandel Buster: When the title character returns to his town for the first time in ages, he's a rather measly Level 11. Turns out he hadn't gone to the appraisers (required in order to level up) in 3 years, and thus was actually a Level 28. The other way he qualifies for this trope is that despite this level, he's still lower than what is normally expected for someone who has the universe's equivalent of a super move — in fact he has five.
  • Black Clover: Though Asta is a low-ranking rookie, his Anti-Magic and assorted combat skills allow him to fight on par with more experienced magic knights, with even a few captains acknowledging his fighting strength and his determination to never give up to the point that they are willing to rely on him when facing particularly dangerous opponents.
  • Bleach:
    • Ikkaku Madarame is a Third Seat who commands the respect of the Lieutenants. He even possesses the ultimate Zanpakuto release, Bankai, which very few non-Captains possess. If he revealed it, he believes he would be pressured into applying to become a Captain, but all he wants is to remain Kenpachi's subordinate until the day he dies. His actual performance isn't nearly at the level of a Captain but, despite the jump between Third seat and Lieutenant being drastic, he easily performs at the level of the most elite Lieutenants. At the end of the series, he is promoted to Lieutenant in light of Yachiru's disappearance.
    • Yumichika Ayasegawa is a Lieutenant-class Fifth Seat. He refuses to take the Fourth Seat solely because the kanji for four is ugly and Ikkaku already has the Third Seat (Word of God has confirmed Yumichika is Ikkaku's equal in strength). When he does reveal his secret, he's powerful enough to one-hit even strong opponents. The reason he doesn't use his abilities is because his squad is anti-Kido and that's where his talent lies. With Ikkaku's above-mentioned promotion to Lieutenant, Yumichika finally gets the Third Seat.
    • Given that Soul Society puts a Power Limiter on Captains and Lieutenants when they enter the World of the Living (so that their spiritual power won't endanger the Muggles — in severe emergencies the limiters are removed), and Ikkaku and Yumichika are stronger than most Lieutenants yet don't have the limiters... one has to wonder how much damage the two of them inadvertently do.
    • Rukia Kuchiki spent most of the story as an officer-class Shinigami who was ranked among the common foot soldiers due to her brother having prevented her from obtaining a seated officer's position in order to protect her, as higher-ranked Shinigami are assigned far more dangerous missions. When he apparently stops holding her career back, she takes the vacant Lieutenant's position in her squad. At the end of the series, Rukia becomes a Captain some time after Ukitake dies, having achieved Bankai near the end of the story.
    • Ichigo himself is one. Despite having a Bankai and power that rivals most Captains, he's officially not affiliated with the Gotei 13 at all, being granted title of "Substitute Soul Reaper", which is implied to hold no real authority given he's laughed off by an unranked officer of the Gotei 13 when he brandishes his badge. After the Time Skip, however, Ichigo gets enough pull with the brass that he's able to successfully ask for a meeting with Captain Commander Yamamoto in order to make what in any other circumstance would be an audacious request (the return of Ginjo's corpse in order to give him a proper burial in the World of the Living); Yamamoto grants it without issue after hearing his reasons.
    • Lieutenant Chojiro Sasakibe of the First Division is revealed to have been this during his funeral: he not only has served since the creation of the Gotei 13, but he also attained Bankai some time before even that. While he could've easily become a Captain whenever the position became vacant, he chose instead to remain as Yamamoto's Lieutenant. The anime even shows him to have fought in the first Quincy War against Yhwach, where he played a critical role in his defeat at the hands of Yamamoto.
  • Case Closed: Conan is just a kid (in appearance, at least), and nobody ever listens to kids. Once he has solved a crime, he usually has to resort to his tranquilizer wristwatch and voice-changing bow tie in order to relay his deductions through a handy Sock Puppet.
  • Claymore:
    • Clare is ranked dead last among Claymores at #47, and is treated like a piece of garbage as a result of being seen as weak. However, she ends up being one of the most powerful Claymores through pure gumption and determination and becomes capable of taking on — and winning — against Claymores ranked in the Top 5. Part of her success comes from the fact that she has been Power Copying higher-ranked warriors like no tomorrow since about chapter 20.
      • It's implied that part of the reason that she was ranked so low is due to Crippling Overspecialization; she single-mindedly trained herself to read yoma energy, which is a perfect tactic to use against the massively powerful Awakened Beings who exude huge amounts of power, but far less useful against regular, weak yoma, which were all she was ever sent to fight until a few volumes into the manga.
      • Also a reminder that she wasn't created with yoma flesh and blood, but rather requested to be infused with Teresa's blood (the manga shows her holding Teresa's head and requesting that the organization accept her).
    • A downplayed example would be Rafaela. She ranks #5 despite being the equal of her sister who was #1. This is because she was a retired former #2 and the organisation called her back to use her for special secret missions.
  • Code:Breaker: Ogami Rei has managed to take down several powerful Big Bads and fellow power users with his ability. Despite this, he's still known as 06, a status given to the weakest Code:Breaker by Eden.
  • Code Geass:
    • Suzaku is one of the top two Knightmare pilots in the entire world and controls an unstoppable Super Prototype, but is treated like dirt by the Britannia military because of the fact he is Japanese. This continues even after he is knighted by his love interest and only changes after he is made one of the twelve highest ranked warriors in Britannia.
    • Lelouch himself. He's only ranked 11th Prince of Britannia (which, considering his mother's status as 6th consort out of Charles' 108 wives and his many, many half-siblings, is pretty good), and is even exiled at age 10. Despite this, he is not only second to Schneizel himself in terms of strategy, but builds his own revolutionary organization from near-scratch (taking a small group of Shinjuku terrorists and making them an army). He's also only Vice-President of the Ashford student council (any rank below President Milly is a glorified slave).
  • In Darker than Black, the superpowered ninja protagonist, feared throughout the underworld as "The Black Shinigami", can usually be found working at a menial job as part of an undercover assignment. This can lead to... amusing situations. For instance, once, when he was working as a waiter, he got attacked by a violent drunk with a broken bottle who didn't want to pay his tab. Hei's dodging skills were so epic that someone nearby decided that "It's true — all Chinese people are martial arts masters..."
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba later develops into this for the three boys regarding their role as Demon Slayers, as well as for Nezuko within the demon power scale. Early in the series, the boy trio is as strong as their ranks suggest, and as such they need to take Lower Ranks within the Twelve Kizuki very seriously, and an Upper Rank is well beyond their capabilities. A few training sessions and grueling battles after, the boys are just small steps behind the Hashira in terms of power despite their placement never reaching the top among the 10 field ranks for Slayers; and by the Infinity Castle arc, Giyu outright states Tanjiro has reached Hashira level in terms of strength. In Nezuko's case, her raging bloodlust born out of desperation against Daki has the latter outright commenting on Nezuko's power resembling that of an Upper Rank demon, despite the fact Nezuko is a nobody as far as the hierarchy is concerned. By the end of the series, Tanjiro, Zenitsu and Inosuke would've all qualified for promotion to Hashira rank (by killing a Kizuki, or in Tanjiro's case Muzan himself), had the Demon Slayer corps not been disbanded due to the deaths of Muzan and all the Kizuki having more or less ended the demon threat.
  • In the Dengeki Daisy manga, the eponymous "Daisy", a former cutting-edge software engineer and an accomplished super-hacker, is the school janitor. Also rather quite almighty.
    "School janitor? A school janitor, he says? Do school janitors usually do these kinds of things? THEY DON'T!!!"
  • Asato Tsuzuki from Descendants of Darkness looks (and is paid) just like a normal Shinigami, but is extremely efficient in his work and can singlehandedly control twelve shikigami, including all of the extremely powerful Four Gods.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • This is the very basis of Vegeta's rivalry with Goku. Goku not only surpasses Vegeta in every way after the Namek Saga of Dragon Ball Z, but is the very first Saiyan to become a Super Saiyan in over 1,000 years and defeats their long time oppressor, Freeza. While Vegeta is still very powerful and usually second only to Goku in strength, the catch here is that Goku is a third-class Saiyan warrior while Vegeta is the prince of all Saiyans.
    • Similar to Goku, his father Bardock was born with a low power level and ranked accordingly. Although he gained a lot of combat experience and at the end of his life, his power rivaled that of Vegeta's father, he was still dismissed as a low-level (admittedly, this was movie-only; Word of God says that Bardock was slightly weaker than Raditz, though this still placed him in the top 20 Saiyans alive).
    • Whis appeared to be this at first in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, being an attendant to Lord Beerus with no mention of position or race, but it's later revealed in Dragon Ball Super that he's an Angel and answers directly to Zeno. He may not be a God, but his position is nothing short of bragging. Not only is he stronger than Beerus, he might very well be more important, as Angels are spared when their respective Universes get erased.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Despite not having the rank of S-Class, Natsu and Gray have consistently taken down opponents that are S-Class themselves. However, the Fairy Tail S-Class mages seem to be on an entire different level than S-Class mages from other guilds. Juvia and Gajeel were an S-Class mage and The Ace second only to Master Jose himself in Phantom Lord respectively, but they both had to pass the S-Class Trial of Fairy Tail to become a S-Class mage again (Juvia failed in the first round, while Gajeel passed but the test was interrupted by Grimoire Heart). Natsu and Gray are actually on par with Erza (an S-Class Fairy Tail mage) when it comes to fighting ability, but it takes more than strength to become an S-Class mage in Fairy Tail.
      • This is justified in a couple of different ways. First off, Makarov is very much A Father to His Men, and it would be well within character for him to set S-Class standards very high to make sure that his guild members don't take on a mission they can't handle. And secondly, Natsu and Gray may have the strength of an S-class mage, but they lack the maturity and judgement required to handle S-class missions by themselves.
    • Gildarts is the strongest mage in the Fairy Tail guild, and he eventually became the fifth Guild Master, but he resigned. So, he's on Guild Master level. The same goes to Laxus who fought pretty well against Hades, Grimoire Heart's master, and defeated the entire Team Raven Tail at the Grand Magic Games, including their master Ivan, his father.
  • Food Wars!:
    • Yukihira Jouichiro is a man in his late thirties who runs a good but unremarkable blue-plate diner in a good but unremarkable suburban shopping district with his son Soma... who was in his previous life known as Saiba Jouichiro, "The Asura of Cooking" and "The Wandering Chef", who turned the world of haute cuisine on its head with his unorthodox ingredients and rejection of traditional culinary divisions. In spite of having been out of the loop for years, he still has cooking skills to match all but a half-dozen or so cooks in the world, as well as the ear of many influential figures in the culinary world.
    • Proving that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, his son is also an example. Soma is only a freshman, but because he's been Taught by Experience from competing against his father for twelve years, he has much more knowledge and cooking skill than most of his upperclassmen.
    • Surprisingly to a lesser extent, Erina Nakiri can be considered one, even though being part of the Elite Ten which is filled with members of an Absurdly Powerful Student Council should automatically disqualify her from the list. This is because, despite being the tenth seat (which is the lowest-ranking), her true skills are vastly superior to what her ranking suggests. She only remains at the bottom of the list because she has no motivation or sees any reason for climbing even further.
  • The title character of Frieren: Beyond Journey's End is a legendary hero and quite possibly the most powerful mage alive, but she is seen as unqualified drifter in the eyes of the Continental Magic Association. There is no system that recognizes her prowess since she doesn't care for any registry, as she thinks these institutions change too fast for her to bother.
  • The janitor in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu after Sōsuke and Issei fed him his pet koi, whom he saw almost like a granddaughter. He then commences to attack Sōsuke and Issei, one an experienced soldier and the other a very talented martial artist, and not only are they unable to defeat the janitor in combat, they are overwhelmed by his superiority. Which is why you should always Beware the Nice Ones when they have a Chainsaw in easy reach.
    Sosuke: (on the ground, half conscious, chanting) ...Live ammunition...has no effect on this guy...
  • Gachiakuta: Semiu is primarily a receptionist for the Cleaners, and her Jinki, "Eyes", do not offer any capability to kill Aberrant Beasts, which are the Cleaners main purpose. That being said, what they do give her is Super-Reflexes that allow her to dodge bullets and attacks of any kind, even throwing a bazooka rocket back where it came from with her bare hands. It's later revealed she is only a receptionist rather than a field agent because she loved the idea of being an office lady and is the primary defense against human attackers to the Cleaner's HQ.
  • Kintaro Oe, the main character of Golden Boy. He spends a lot of time doing actual janitorial work — especially cleaning toilets, which he loves. That is, when he's not doing cooler things, like writing an award-winning novel or winning a race against a motorcyclist on his bicycle. At the end of Volume 2, a very frightening and powerful politician comments on Kintaro: "In the entire world, he is the only one I must fear. Only that man."
  • Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku: The members of the Yamada Clan are ranked not based only on skill, but rather, how fit are they for the position of next head of the clan. Segiri is the lowest ranked among them at rank 12 because she is a woman and is therefore seen as unfit, but she is actually among the most skilled of the swordsmen.
  • By the end of Hikaru no Go, Hikaru is only ranked a 1st Dan, but his skill level is so much higher that a higher-ranked player wonders why after losing to him. Likewise, Akira is a 2nd Dan, but his actual strength is closer to 6th; this is because he's studied for years under his father before ever going pro.
  • In Holyland, it is mentioned that many gangsters who know karate don't bother to take the test that officially marks them as black belts even if they can fight at that level because the police can use the qualification against them. note 
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Maki Zenin is a Grade 4 Sorcerer, the lowest level of sorcerer in Jujutsu society. Not due to a lack of strength, mind you: in fact, despite having almost no Cursed Energy due to her Heavenly Restriction, she has in exchange the Super-Strength and Super-Speed to take on Grade 1 Curses and Sorcerers. Her low rank is due to her family intentionally crippling her chances of promotion to her rightful rank out of spite for her not having an Innate Technique and being a woman. Toji Fushiguro, who came from the same clan, also had Maki's condition, and despite being able to soundly defeat the likes of Satoru Gojo, he was written off as a "Non-Curse User" — not even a threat.
  • Little Witch Academia (2017) has Chariot du Nord AKA Professor Ursula Callistis. As Ursula, she is content to appear as a clumsy, bespectacled teacher at the Luna Nova academy, while in her Shiny Chariot identity she is a magician who seems to mostly put up magic shows for kids that look like a bunch of bells and whistles (and is despised by the magic world for being an entertainer). However, her actual magical and physical capabilities far exceed everything that is seen in the series, to the point that a mistake during one of her shows left a mark on the Moon's surface. The final episodes has her being hit by a magical pollen that curses witches to lose their magic and fighting without the assistance of the Sorcerer's Stone (the catalyst for magic abilities in this setting): neither of these handicaps appeared to slow her down at all.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • As of the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, the cloned Crystal Dragon Jesus of the Saint Church is studying in one of their schools as an "ordinary" elementary student. But she fits right in, since two of her classmates are about as powerful as she is! (See ViVid.)
    • Said clone's adoptive mother holds the rank of 1st Air Captain. Under normal circumstances this would be considered high, but she's one of if not the most skilled aerial mages and combat instructors in the entire TSAB, so she should be at least three ranks higher (the StrikerS epilogue mentions that she turned down multiple promotions).
  • Isamu Alva Dyson from Macross Plus continues to blatantly flaunt his Hair-Trigger Temper and insubordination because he doesn't want to rise too high in rank, as he wouldn't be allowed to fly anymore as a pilot.
  • Maken-ki!: Minori pulls double duty as both the principal and PE teacher at Tenbi Academy, while Gen is the school's Makensmith. They seem comical, until it's revealed they're a pair of Retired Badasses. During the Okino Island arc, the reader learns Minori is an S Rank ability user, making her one of the most powerful people on the planet. Whereas Gen is one of only five people in the world capable of using Black Element.
  • Zenkichi Hitoyoshi of Medaka Box. Despite being The Lancer, and capable of helping people just as well as Medaka herself, he's still only "General Affairs Manager" within the Student Council. Also, people tend to underestimate his capabilities, instead only thinking of him as Medaka's dog.
  • In the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED universe, on a both literal and organizational level, there's the Junk Guild, which are just that: the guys who go cleaning up debris in space and on Earth, and salvaging anything useful from said debris. They are not to be underestimated however (especially Lowe Guele) and have their own lines of Mobile Suits (even a Gundam or two). By the end of the first Bloody Valentine War, the Junk Guild was in possession of a prototype of the Wave-Motion Gun the final battle of the war was fought over. As well as a digital copy of the brain of the late George Glenn (the original Coordinator and considered one of the greatest minds in human history) as one of their leaders.
  • Muhyo and Roji:
    • Roji starts as a Second Clerk and is a Provisional First Clerk for most of the series (which Muhyo tactlessly points out is the lowest of the low for magical law rankings), and only ends it at First Clerk. By then, he demonstrates skills that outweigh his rank, and in a sense, even his current job is proof of his status as this, as typically, only Judges are assistants to Executors.
    • Twin siblings Maril and Lili are even lower than Roji, being second clerks, and are rather sensitive about their rank, but nevertheless are talented magical law researchers. They, along with Roji, end up being invited to the magical law retreat by virtue of their potential.
  • My Hero Academia: Shinso is sort of a low-key example. He's not even in the Hero department at the school, only taking "general education" because he failed the practical portion of the entrance exam, but somehow he gets into the final tournament-dueling round at the sports festival. It becomes clear why when he nearly defeats the protagonist by controlling his mind and ordering him to walk out of bounds. Turns out his "Quirk" is nearly unbeatable unless you know its Achilles' Heel (it only activates if the target responds to something he says). The practical exam was mostly a robot-smashing contest, and his ability wasn't of much use for that. This is eventually subverted, where, after the Joint-Class Training arc, he's all but confirmed to be joining the Hero department at the start of his second year.
    • Many of the students in class 1-A themselves qualify by the middle of the series. Despite only having provisional licenses, several of them are equal to low level pros by the point of the Shie Hassaikai arc.
    • End of series Deku is equal to All-Might in his prime, if not even stronger, and yet officially he's still ranked as a provisionally licensed student.
  • Naruto:
    • The eponymous character remains a genin (the lowest possible active duty rank) right up to the very end of the main plot, partly because after his first attempt at the Chunin Exam is interrupted midway through, he's away from the village on a training journey while his peers pass it. However, he is prone to ignoring any rules or orders that he doesn't like, and gets away with it by virtue of personal connections with the brass and being one of the strongest ninjas in the entire world. Only in the Distant Finale do we get to see him at a higher rank, namely as the Seventh Hokage (the leader of all of Konoha), and even then does he note in an interview (in Sequel Series Boruto) that he'd still technically be a genin.
    • One filler episode features an old man nicknamed "The Ten-Thousand Year Genin", who has been a genin for half a century despite being as skilled as a jonin (the highest active duty rank) because his guilt over causing the death of his comrades led him to refuse promotion.
    • Considering that Nukenins have no ranks anymore, some of them were never promoted to Jonin. Sasuke was never promoted to a chunin, and Obito Uchiha alias Tobi was never promoted to a Jonin.
    • There's Might Guy's father, who was mocked for being the "Forever Genin". He mastered the Eight Gates and proceeded to use them to protect his son and his comrades by fighting all Seven Swordsmen of the Mist by himself. He even managed to kill four of them before his death.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Negi is technically still working under a "provisional" magic license and hopes to eventually become a full mage. Despite the fact that he's an absolute genius at spell development, has defeated/proved himself more competent than a number of high-level mages, and is probably one of the top ten most powerful people alive.
    • His father Nagi counts academically, as he dropped out of magic school. However, he was the leader of the Ala Rubra through sheer magical power. But he still needs a cheat sheet when casting spells to knock out entire airship fleets or seal 500-year-old Daywalkers.
  • As far as One Piece is concerned, bounty isn't reflective of capability, but reflective of infamy. A pirate can be the strongest in the world but have no bounty due to no one having heard of them, or be weaker than the average Marine grunt but have a high bounty thanks to having a high number of documented crimes or a high level of (assumed) influence.
    • The Arlong Pirates are one of the earliest cases of this. Being a band of Fishmen Pirates and offshoots of the famous Sun Pirates (which are led by Jimbei, a Warlord of the Sea), who once traversed the Grand Line, their collective bounty should have been much higher than it actually was, even if they were stationed in East Blue. The reason it's so low is because Arlong paid off all the Marines in the immediate area to help him keep a low profile to avoid Jimbei's attention, as Jimbei would've killed all of them if he had found out what Arlong was up to.
    • While technically Nami's position is only the navigator, her word is law on all matters related to sailing, finance and the day-to-day management of resources, thus making her the unofficial quartermaster. At this point, even she's quite a bit stronger than her initial 16,000,000 and 66,000,000 bounties (at the end of Wano arc, her bounty rose to 366,000,000) would imply thanks to the massive and dangerous upgrades she made to her Clima Tact. This is Truth in Television: In Real Life pirate ships, outside of battle, the quartermaster held just as much, if not more, power than the ship's captain.
    • Tony-Tony Chopper is the Straw Hat Crew's doctor, but has the ridiculously low bounty of 1000 berries (and even that's a relatively recent development; it used to be 50 and then 100) while his teammates are all in the tens- or hundreds-of-millions. This is because he has been mistaken by the Marines as the Straw Hat Crew's mascot. In truth, he is monstrously powerful and a vital member of the team.
    • Sanji's constantly doing more covert work for the crew, and is one of the top 3 fighters, but lacked even a bounty until the Enies Lobby Arc. His 177 million bounty after the Dressrosa arc isn't even the third-highest. It's the fourth, right behind Usopp's bounty of 200 million, despite being near equal strength to that of Zoro and Luffy, both of whom have bounties that are in the hundreds of millions. note  Then you add in that horrible sketch they put as his first bounty picture, which makes him near unrecognizable, and that's when you figure out why fans call "Black Leg" Sanji The Chew Toy of One Piece. However, as of the end of the Wano arc, Sanji's bounty has shot up to 1,032 billion, making his bounty the fourth highest in the entire crew, behind Luffy's, Zoro's, and Jinbei's. In the Egghead arc Sanji is even able to fight Admiral Kizaru, who almost killed Number Two Zoro just two years ago.
      • There's also Sanji's position in the crew. Concerning the members of the Monster Trio: Luffy is the Captain of the crew, Zoro is a Master Swordsman and the closest thing Luffy has to a First Mate, while Sanji is the cook.
    • At the start of the series Blackbeard was one of these, serving as little more then a Giant Mook with no bounty under Whitebeard for decades. A while before the story starts, he is nominated to take over a vacancy as commander of the 2nd Division, but passes it up, saying he has no such ambition, and the position is given to Ace. Considering that the top four Division commanders of Whitebeard are his strongest fighters, and Blackbeard had no Devil Fruit powers at the time, this says something about him. It turns out that all he wanted was the Yami-Yami Fruit, killing Thatch of the Fourth Division for it, then fleeing, making his own crew, capturing Ace, cashing in, becoming one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, and revealing that he has a lot of ambition, and this is just the start of them.
    • The Marines mistake Buggy the Clown for this and believe he kept a low bounty as a way of not drawing attention, the reason being his association with Shanks, one of the Four Emperors and his past history as part of Gold Roger's Crew. Numerous powerful pirates that joined in Luffy and Buggy's jailbreak from Impel Down also believed this was the case, and joined his crew without realizing that they're all much stronger than he is. He then became one of the Warlords during the Time Skip as a result, and after Wano one of THE FOUR EMPERORS following his joining forces with former Warlords Crocodile and Mihawk, thus more of an inversion of the trope.
    • Foxy the Silver Fox has a bounty of 26 million Berries, yet came closer to killing the protagonist than several villains in the series thus far. Foxy's bounty (a measure of power between pirates) is by far the lowest of any main villain in the Grand Line, the next lowest one being over twice as much. While Foxy is of below-average strength and a bit of a coward, he's got a rather useful Devil Fruit and and is quite good at using it, not to mention having no interest in fighting fair.
    • A few Marines count as lesser examples, as some are ranked fairly high, but not quite far enough to suit their abilities:
      • Vice Admiral Garp is very high up in the Marines, though one would wonder why the guy known for being on par with the Pirate King and is referred to as "The Hero", hasn't reached the top by the time the series began. As it turns out, he had actually been offered a position as Admiral numerous times, but refused them all. Vice Admiral is the highest rank that would still allow him to largely do his own thing. He's later demoted to a Marine instructor, but still has more unofficial authority than anyone but the Admirals.
      • Captain Smoker's Cowboy Cop tendencies are implied to be the reason he had the rank he did at the start of the series, considering he's a massively skilled combatant with Logia powers (notably, the only other Logia users shown in the Marines are Admirals, though in fairness his Logia powers lack the Person of Mass Destruction qualities most do). This is even pointed in the Enies Lobby arc, when several Marine Captains are sent after the exhausted Straw Hats; despite it being pointed out that they share the same rank as Smoker, they are a lot easier to take down. However, averting one of the conventions of this trope listed above, Smoker actually has been gaining promotions as the story progresses, first to Commodore after his second major appearance (which still wasn't accurate, concerning his strength level), and becoming a Vice Admiral after the Time Skip (which is accurate).
    • Of the Shichibukai, both Boa Hancock and Crocodile had (or in Crocodile's case, have) considerably smaller bounties than their fellow Shichibukai (80 and 81 million respectively). Then again, these bounties are (or were) inactive and by no means fully reflective of their capabilities, as Crocodile warranted imprisonment in Level Six of Impel Down while Luffy only warranted Level Five (despite having a significantly higher bounty), Hancock is considered monstrously strong by Sengoku, and it is shown that both were capable of combating some of the strongest pirates and marines in the New World during the Paramount War. This is, of course, barring Blackbeard (who had no bounty), and Buggy, who is an inversion. After their bounties are unfrozen, both have bounties of over one and a half billion.
      • Also worth noting that Hancock's bounty was frozen at 80 million after she was offered a Shichibukai appointment after her first raiding campaign at the age of eighteen. Eighty million becomes more impressive when you know it was her starting bounty.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash Ketchum, having years (sort of) of experience as a Trainer yet no official Championship title to his name until Alola. Every time he has to go through a new region, he's treated like a rookie Trainer again despite his growth as a person and as a Pokémon Trainer.
      • Though this is true in some extent, this doesn't dispel the fact that throughout all his adventures, he has raised powerful and loyal monsters that he can summon at his beck and call at any time. This is probably one of the reasons why the writers made Pikachu the only Pokémon to stay on Ash's team on a permanent basis. Pikachu would be powerful himself, but his competence and power level are often inconsistent by themselves, and he refuses to "evolve" into a Raichu at all.
      • Ash has, however, gained the position of a mentor in both the Ruby and Sapphire and Diamond and Pearl sagas, specifically to his two female travelling companions, May and Dawn, respectively. The end of the Battle Frontier arc of Ruby and Sapphire also saw Ash earning enough Frontier Symbols to be offered the position of Frontier Brain, which Ash declined in favor of continuing his journey.
      • An example of Ash's drop in competence and experience was during the entire Black and White saga, where he notoriously regressed back to being a beginner Trainer despite retaining and making occasional references to his memories of his past journeys. He displayed little to almost none of his expertise and often did a lot of rookie mistakes in his time in Unova, even more than he did when he was a beginner in Kanto back in the Original Series.
      • One fan theory justifying the above is that Ash took a serious knock to his confidence after his devastating defeat by Tobias in the Sinnoh League.
      • All but lampshaded at the start of XY. Unlike Unova, Ash and Pikachu don't Snap Back and no one in Kalos sells their abilities short. Most seem completely dumbstruck by all the heroics they perform in just a few days (Clemont, a Gym Leader and Child Prodigy, practically has Jimmy Olsen-esque fangasms over their face-offs with Team Rocket, who similarly start off legitimately feared in the region). Of course they both just want to get back to earning Gym Badges. Abiding by locale Serena, who became an admirer after Ash rescued her, he's been like this long before he was even a Trainer.
      • Even in Sun and Moon this is played around with up until his actual league win. For most of the series, Ash acts like a clown and a wide eyed kid, and fails miserably at nearly every class activity, only to get a Character Check back into his previous competence anytime things start to get serious.
      • His status as the Alola League Champion is generally ignored during Journeys except for one episode where two kids are excited to see him return. Near the final arc of the series, he returns to Alola once again, but this time, he participates in a Battle Royal where Kukui reveals that the entire event is actually packed with fans of his from all over Alola who showed up to cheer him on as Alola's Champion and representative in the Pokemon World Championships, with flashbacks to his victory confirming he is indeed still considered the official Champion. He also starts at the Normal rank in the Pokemon World Championships and has to work his way up, but as Iris shows, this even applies to Champions - pre-existing ranks and titles don't have you start in a higher rank. The initial members of the Masters 8 just end up being the ones who ranked up to that level the fastest, who are usually the strongest trainers anyway (since you rank up faster the fewer losses you have). It is for this reason Leon is number 1 - he has no losses. By the time the Masters Tournament comes around, Ash is finally acknowledged as part of the Masters 8, at Rank 8, and in a preview trailer showing all the members with their highest personal title, Ash's title is "Alola's First Champion".
      • Ash's rivals also tend to fall into this category, particularly Gary, who was a Pokemon capturing, training and battling prodigy, Paul, who competed in the Leagues of multiple regions like Ash, and Alain, who was the first normal trainer to defeat an Elite Four member on-screen. Of these three, Alain is the only one than ends up having their strength properly acknowledged by the world at large, reaching Rank 6 of the Pokemon World Championships, and therefore being the only non-Champion in the Masters 8, even ranking higher than Ash, the Champion of Alola (Rank 8) and Iris, the Champion of Unova (Rank 7).
  • In Rosario + Vampire, the bus driver appears to be far more knowledgeable and respected by the other staff than one might expect. He doesn't actually show any almighty powers or fighting skills aside from, apparently, being able to drive his bus anywhere, but he's impressive enough that some fans had promoted him to one of the three Dark Lords until that got Jossed. This is because he has the same highly distinctive glowing white eyes as the apparently immortal Headmaster Mikogami, who is one of the Dark Lords, it was widely assumed that the two are related. Turns out he is actually higher in hierarchy: He is a Nurarihyon, the lord of all monsters.
  • Although all of the Kurogane Five from Shin Mazinger are badass enough to take on giant robots on foot, Kiku is the one that takes the cake. A little old cleaning lady with super speed and can tear you apart with Razor Floss without even the slightest effort.
  • One episode of Sgt. Frog has Private Tamama become the new Platoon Leader. When the old Platoon Leader Sergeant Keroro complains that a lower-ranking officer shouldn't be allowed to lead a platoon, it's pointed out that he (technically) follows this trope, as he is outranked by Sergeant Major Kululu.
  • Sorcerer Stabber Orphen: The titular character Orphen is a pretty high level spellcaster who can exchange both physical and magical blows with high level sorcerers, take down plenty of dangerous magical creatures, and is talented enough to be considered one of thirteen candidates to become Court Sorcerer... but at the end of the day, he's still a dropout who never graduated and left the Tower of Fangs to focus on finding and curing Azalie.
  • Soul Eater:
    • All the protagonists are of this kind: Maka and Soul Eater began the series about to complete their training. However, when they failed their final test they were forced to go back to the beginning in order to improve. Black☆Star is a bottom-ranked student because he spends all his schoolwork time on training instead, but his innate assassin abilities and soul wavelength (and his constant drive for self-improvement) makes him more powerful than Maka. Finally, Death the Kid became a Shibusen student even though he doesn't need to (it was an attempt to bail the other main characters out of a pinch); being a shinigami, he's already as powerful as a full-fledged meister.
    • The manga eventually sees some of them break out of this rut, to the point that they're not only of a rank that reflects their abilities — two-star meisters and Weapons — but members of a "young elite" team, Spartoi. Kid is the only one of the main groups who lacks this promotion, due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime:
    • Diablo's official position within Tempest is as "Secondary Secretary" to True Demon Lord Rimuru Tempest. The thing is, Diablo is one of the Seven Primordial Demons, the first and original demons of their lines, as well as the top contender for the strongest subordinate of Rimuru, with his only true rivals in that regard being Zegion (the leader of the Labyrinth Lords) and Benimaru (the actual Commander-in-Chief of Tempest's military), and he's considered to edge them out. He's also the "technical" leader of the Black Numbers, the strongest individual fighting force in Tempest, by virtue of having defeated most of them to force them into servitude, but he mainly leaves matters with Benimaru, the other three Primordial Demons whose stations fit their powernote , or his lieutenant Venom. In fact, he made the Black Numbers because he didn't want to be shoehorned into a high-ranking important post since he wants to serve Rimuru personally most of all.
    • Diablo's "superior" Shion also counts, in that her primary duty is as the "Primary Secretary" but her raw battle power is nearly on par with the aforementioned Benimaru as a fellow Oni. She's also the leader of Team Reborn, a group that's ostensibly Rimuru's bodyguard squadron, but is made up of nigh-immortal and unstoppable fighters.
    • Tatsuya Kondo of the Eastern Empire is both the No. 1 of the Imperial Guard and the head of the Empire's intelligence division, yet his "official rank" is only that of 1st Lieutenant. That's because 1st Lieutenant was his rank in the Japanese military during WW2, which he held on to in order to remember and honor his comrades and subordinates in the kamikaze squadron he commanded before he was whisked to the new world when it was his time to die in a sacrificial explosion.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: For all intents and purposes, this is essentially what Naofumi Iwatani is, which is a major step-up from the other resident Three Cardinal Stooges who are absolute experts at incompetence and idiocy and gets much and much worse for them as time progresses due to their inability to learn from their mistakes.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • Rank 3 Ghoul Investigators are rookies that have not even completed mandatory training at the Academy. What makes this significant is that Rank 3 is only possible for a Ghoul Investigator if they were personally appointed by Chairman Washuu himself. Though they might not have the formal Academic training of their peers, in general they are combat prodigies capable of demolishing high-ranked Ghouls typically only handled by veterans.
    • Kishou Arima was a mere Rank 3 when he defeated The Owl in single combat, earning him a two-rank promotion and beginning his legendary rise to the top. His incredible ability made him the envy of older, more experienced Investigators.
    • Juuzou Suzuya starts the series out as a freshly minted Rank 3, and quickly proves to be one of the strongest Investigators in the series. His accomplishments on his first mission include using a motorcycle to enter and destroy a sniper's nest, killing dozens of Ghoul mooks with little more than a pair of knives, and taking down the infamous serial cannibal "Jason".
    • In the sequel, Haise Sasaki and most of the Quinx Squad began their careers as Rank 3s. All are experimental Half-Human Hybrid Super Soldiers.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle:
    • Lux Arcadia is technically royalty, but the Old Empire that he was prince of is destroyed at the time of the series. The New Kingdom treats him and his sister as a scapegoat for said empire's crimes and saddles them with a debt equivalent to one fifth of the national budget. This requires Lux to work for anyone who asks him in an attempt to pay off said debt, essentially giving him a position lower than the average citizen. He's also the Weakest Undefeated, a famous Drag-Knight who has never been defeated in tournaments (but doesn't attack his opponent and thus always draws, hence the "Weakest") and the Black Hero, a legendary figure who singlehandedly defeated the Old Empire's army and is responsible for the establishment of the New Kingdom. Almost nobody knows of the second point. This is subverted later in the light novels, where he becomes a member of the Seven Dragon Paladins, a group comprising the strongest Drag-Knights in the world.
    • Yoruka Kirihime is another example. She's also royalty of a fallen country, but in combat skill is equal to Lux. She contents herself with being Lux's servant and doesn't try for anything higher. Even after Lux joins the Seven Dragon Paladins, she remains in this position despite being easily capable of qualifying for that group.
  • Variable Geo: The idea of an MMA tournament for waitresses seems silly, until you learn they'e individually and collectively the most powerful humans on the planet. And one of them happens to be a 16 year old girl, who has one of the highest latent fighting potentials on record: Satomi Yajima.
  • World Trigger:
    • Yuuma and Hyuse have years of real combat experience prior to joining Border and thus are much more powerful than their ranks/points indicate.
    • Team-wise, Ninomiya Unit and Kageura Unit are former A-ranked units that were demoted to B-rank due to reasons unrelated to their combat performance. Suffice to say, they mop the floor in B-rank rank wars where running on sight or staying out of their range become viable strategies against their aces.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • Judai Yuki willingly remains in the low-class Osiris Red dorms despite the fact that he's the best duelist in Duel Academia. He just likes being in Red, though he has been offered a promotion.
    • Manjoume, originally in the Obelisk Blue dorms, stays in Osiris Red from the second half of the first season onward as a consequence of having briefly dropped out of and reentered the school.
    • Rei goes to the Osiris Red dorms instead to Obelisk Blue because she has a crush on Judai.
    • Actually, every important character who is in the Ra Yellow dorms is better than most of the Obelisk Blue students. However, Misawa was offered a promotion like Judai, but refused; and Sho kept getting promotions and ultimately became a Obelisk Blue student himself (though, in the middle of the second season he defeated several Obelisk Blue students as a Ra Yellow student, later he became a Obelisk Blue student and then decided to become a Ra Yellow student again before he ultimately decided to become a Obelisk Blue student again).
    • It's revealed at one point that to be an Obelisk Blue student without promoting requires attendance to a special prep school (or being female). Consequently, it's possible for a student to absolutely ace the entry exams while being an exceptional player and still start in Ra (see: Daichi and Kenzan).
    • Daikotuji is the head of the Osiris Red dorm, which you'd think would make him a low man on the totem pole... but he's actually more powerful than both Asuka and Manjoume, two of the school's most skilled students.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • The Spirit Detective title when compared to the Spirit Defense Force, whose very power defines S-class youkai (as in, a youkai is in S-class if it can take on the entire team and win) and are only called in where there's a Godzilla Threshold. By the time he's fired from Spirit Detective, Yusuke was as powerful as an S-class youkai, and at his disappearance his predecessor Sensui was estimated to be A-class.
    • There's also Chu, the alternate of Team Rokuyoukai who turns out to be the team captain and strongest member. How'd he end up as the alternate? He's really bad at rock-paper-scissors.

  • Parodied in Chris Rock's comedy special Never Scared:
    Chris: You know the stripper myth? There's a stripper myth that's being perpetuated throughout society. The myth is, I'm strippin' to pay my tuition. No, you're not! There's no strippers in college! There's no clear heels in biology! Shit, man, I didn't know they had a college that only took one-dollar bills. And if they got so many strippers at college, how come I never got a smart lap dance? I never got a girl that sat on my lap and said, "If I was you, I would diversify my portfolio.", "You know, ever since the end of the Cold War, I find NATO obsolete!".
  • Kyle Kinane on the stereotypical wise high school janitor:
    "I know a little something about love, young man. Come sit in the closet with me."

    Comic Books 
  • Brian Bryan from Azrael. The main character's smelly homeless friend was capable of much wisdom, having been a psychiatrist in his former "life."
  • Deadpool: Gerry, the title character's old, foul-smelling, homeless friend, is actually the former head of a galactic corporation and spends a considerable amount of time pulling strings.
  • Inspector Ginko in Diabolik is a police inspector, but, thanks to his formidable skills as a cop and being the only one who can reliably keep Diabolik in check, he has authority far exceeding his rank (the police effectively treats him as a commissioner, and whenever he's replaced for some reason the temporary replacement always holds that rank) and reports directly to the Minister of Justice.
  • The Enemy Ace story War in Heaven has Ubben, the head of the maintenance unit, whose job is to make sure that the squadron's Me-262s are kept flying. At the end, he tells von Hammer that despite shortages of fuel, ammunition, and spare parts, "If you want 'em to fly, Herr Oberst, say so. And by God, I'll make 'em fly." Downplayed by Von Hammer, who gives him a wine bottle he salvaged from a B-17 he shot down and orders Ubben to get drunk.
  • Exaggerated by "Jack" a bartender at a place frequented by The Eternals. He's actually the Fulcrum, a being of godlike power who is second only to The One Above All, Marvel's version of the Man Upstairs Himself. (Clearly a Homage to Jack Kirby.)
  • In an issue of Gargoyles first comic run, Xanatos meets with various members of the Illuminati. David Xanatos, billionaire industrialist, is one of the lowest-ranked members at Thirty-six(out of thirty-six). His errand takes him to the White House, where he meets an old butler. This old man, who's served presidents since Lyndon Johnson, is ranked Two.
  • Judge Dredd is just a single street judge (beat cop) in a police force that has thousands of officers and patrols the entire Eastern Seaboard of the continental US, albeit one with an incredible amount of seniority, as most of his contemporaries are either dead, retired or disgraced. Nevertheless, he is usually put in charge in times of crisis, and frequently gets his way when the Justice Department needs to make a decision. This is partially because most of the upper echelons are his old comrades and proteges, and partially because the leadership is well aware that his reputation is a huge morale booster, and plays a large part in keeping Mega City One's absurdly high crime rate to barely manageable levels, so they avoid doing anything that would piss him off enough to quit. In fact, when he once did quit, they tried to replace him with Judge Kraken, a clone from the same genetic stock as him, who quickly became possessed by dark powers and almost destroyed the city.
  • Invoked repeatedly by Dr. Wily in Archie's Mega Man (Archie Comics) comics. To the world, Mega Man is a mighty hero built by the father of modern robotics, but to Wily, he's a lackey, a gofer, a floor and toilet scrubber who was remodeled into a knockoff combat robot and then flaunted around like he's special and unique. The idea that such a cheap piece of machinery is able to foil a genius like him time and again is outrageous to him. It's hard to tell to what extent he believes this, though, as he'll quietly acknowledge Dr. Light's brilliance at times, then lapse into this mindset when his latest plan is falling apart.
  • New Avengers: The nanny hired by Luke Cage and Jessica Jones to look after their daughter has also been known to defeat Physical Gods in single combat and has repeatedly demonstrated competence far surpassing anyone else on the team, but she's still the one best suited for the job.
  • In the Hawaii issues of the comic Ninja High School the janitor was, while not the best fighter, definitely a formidable combatant and stronger than the main character, a very skilled ninja herself, for quite a while.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, Donald Duck has a simple job as errand boy at Channel 00 at the Ducklair Tower, which also has a secret floor that acts as a secret HQ for his superhero identity, Paperinik. Also Ziggy, one of his coworker, has the training of a PBI (the equivalent of the FBI) agent.
  • Spider-Man: Peter Parker is a freelance photographer that struggles to pay rent. He's also the Amazing Spider-Man, and has saved New York City on several occasions.
  • Stick from Marvel certainly looks like a janitor, but he's the superhuman sensei who trained Daredevil and Elektra. And briefly trained Wolverine as well, when Wolvie was in a period of mental degradation.
  • Superman: Clark Kent is a pretty good reporter and by all appearances nothing else. But when he or a friend or a planet or a universe or a multiverse is placed in danger he cuts loose and reveals (to the reader) that he's the alternate identity of Superman. He's one of the most well known examples of this trope. (But "pretty good reporter" varies, Depending on the Writer. Clark Kent has at times been a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and bestselling author (under an alias). Then the next writer comes around, and he's dragged back down.)
  • Toad is another Marvel example since his employment as the janitor/grounds keeper of the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters. Despite never being a true A-list villain (or hero on occasion), his abilities and years of experience should warrant a higher position. Although considering the students are superpowered mutants, the school grounds are a semi-sentient living island, and the school is frequently reduced to rubble due to superhuman brawls, his position as janitor might be more appropriate than first appearances suggest. Especially after we see how much the other X-Men struggled when he temporarily left.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert
    • Dilbert's garbageman, who ranks as the "World's Smartest Garbageman" and possibly World's Smartest Man. He's a Gadgeteer Genius who can create a perpetual motion machine without any real effort, among other amazing feats including bringing Dilbert Back from the Dead. Scott Adams has stated that if we can't understand why the world's smartest man is a garbageman, that is because we are not the world's smartest man.
    • In one strip, Alice complains to the Pointy-Haired Boss that the janitor makes more per hour than she does. The janitor then walks by holding a toilet plunger with a horrible creature stuck to it. Alice says, "I love my job," while the Pointy-Haired Boss says, "I'm giving him a raise," both with wide, terrified eyes.
    • Another strip goes into the mechanics of why the janitor gets paid more than the engineers. The company demands that everybody work 70 hours a week, but the engineers are salaried while the janitors are paid by the hour and get overtime pay. Although since there isn't really enough work to keep them busy that long, the janitor spends most of his time hiding with a magazine.
  • The title character in the comic strip Frazz is an elementary school janitor who's smarter and more erudite than some of the teachers, and possibly the school principal. He's also a songwriter who gets at least a meaningful amount of royalties — it's somewhat implied he may not even actually need a day job, let alone as a janitor. At one point, when asked if he would be fired for helping with a prank, he countered that he's the only one who can unjam the copier.
  • The Illuminati in the Gargoyles comic are arranged in numerical ranking: Each ranked number shares that rank with an equal number of members. Billionaire Industrialist David Xanatos is at the bottom at thirty-six. In one issue, he meets a member who's the head butler at the White House. His rank? Two.

    Fan Works 
  • A.S.U.L.: In this Alternate Timeline, Uta is now a Marine Inspector who main duties are to investigate Marine bases for compliance of duties and corruption. However, she still posses the Sing-Sing Fruit, which, when used in a stealthy manor, allowed her to entrance Blackbeard and his crew long enough for the Marines to bind them with sea-stone cuffs.
  • Bargain, Don't Beg: Taylor Hebert's father Danny is a member of the Dockworker's Union, and served as its leader previously. Within the union itself, it's mentioned that if a leader of the Union gives/receives an order, everyone, up to the current leader, looks to Mr. Herbert for approval before fulfilling it. Outside the Dockworker's Union, they have connections to every other union in Brockton Bay (after they banded together for mutual support) and the Mayor's Office. So when Taylor's school refuses to take action against her assailants, suddenly all the school's janitors stop working, the food is barely edible, and everything starts breaking repeatedly. When the PRT foolishly tries to stop the police from taking action on the locker incident case and bury it, the unions focus their wrath on them... including the police officer's union. A group of mostly blue collar workers and bureaucrats manage to bring the city to a near standstill and change many PRT policies on a national level, at the direction of a retired union leader pursuing justice for his daughter.
  • The Clockwork Consequence: Rarity is a tailor serving under Nightmare Moon and Nightmare's most highest-ranking and loyal Dragon.
  • Coby's Choice:
    • Nami's official position on the Straw Hats is Navigator, but in day-to-day sailing, the rest of the crew — including Luffy and Zoro, who as the Captain and the First Mate should theoretically outrank her — defer to her guidance. She also carries a lot of influence by being Luffy's girlfriend, and later lover, then wife, which results in Luffy listening to her opinion on a lot of topics.
    • Coby's official position on the Straw Hats is Cabin Boy. In theory, he has no influence, but in practice, his morality guides the decision making of his crewmates, which results in Zoro attacking and killing a World Noble because they're scum and Luffy desiring to one day raid Mariejois to free the slaves.
  • Dekiru: The Fusion Hero!: According to All Might, Nana Shimura, despite being the strongest hero of her era, never came close to breaking the top one hundred in hero rankings. Before All Might, none of the One For All users were ever close to high in the rankings since being the best was trivial compared to protecting others. All Might himself only bothered with becoming the Number One hero because it better allowed him to spread hope to the common citizen and inspire dread in the common criminal, reducing crime rates and thus, theoretically, saving even more people.
  • Dreaming of Sunshine:
    • A delayed trope with Shikako, who remains a genin after Tsunade's instatement. She was nearly promoted for her deductive abilities and leadership, but not all of her skills are significantly removed from the average expected from a genin. Later on, as she grinds levels, that changes. She also gains a truly ridiculous mission record.
    • Later lampshaded by Tsunade and the Raikage during the Kusa Chuunin exams with regards to Shikako. "S-RANK?"
  • Naruto for a brief period in A Drop of Poison was on par with most Special Jonin while only an academy student. He was promoted to Genin rather than Chunin because Sarutobi "doesn't want another Itachi."
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • Harrick Hoare is the fourth-born son of Harren Hoare and with Harndon being declared unfit to rule, he is only the third in line of the throne, which makes it unlikely he will ever be king. He is also without a doubt the most reasonable and competent of his family and serves as his father's chief advisor.
    • Maron Mullendore is a minor nobleman from a relatively poor background. Though the commander of the city guard of Oldtown, his position is ultimately minor in the grand scale of things. Nonetheless, his plans concern the entire kingdom of the Reach and he is cunning enough to actually pull them off.
  • In Fractured (SovereignGFC) and its sequel Origins, Samantha Shepard takes this role (as in canon)—being given command of advanced warships, sent on impossible missions, and granted near-unquestionable authority despite still holding the rank of "Commander." She finally receives a promotion to Captain in Frontier and is given command of a Star Dreadnaught called the "Star Shepherd."
  • Ichigo and Tatsuki in Game and Bleach are far stronger than their levels imply due to Ichigo being the Gamer and having invited Tatsuki to his party. Yoruichi is over two hundred levels higher than Tatsuki, yet except for her charisma and dexterity (which are double and over triple Tatsuki's scores respectively), all of her stats range from slightly lower than Tatsuki's to slightly higher. From what Tatsuki can understand, it's because only people in the party can specifically train stats without leveling up, along with consciously choosing perks that make increasing their stats easier.
  • In A Growing Affection, Naruto's mother was a genin, before her death. She was also one of the five best ninjas in the Konohagakure. She died helping Minato seal the Nine-Tails in Naruto, only days after giving birth. She also draws Jonin-level pay, because the Hokage doesn't want their clients exploiting her S-Rank Jonin-level skills for a genin's day rate.
  • Harry Potter and the Guardian's Light is a fic whose author considers Argus Filch to be the Ensemble Dark Horse of Harry Potter. It makes sense that somebody who cleans up the messes of young magic wielders would be skilled, this is taken to extremes. As in, he runs a side job out of Hogwarts selling magical fire arms to the likes of John Constantine no less. And when Quirrel sends not just one troll but an army into Hogwarts, when they get beaten back, guess who cocks his gun dramatically and heads off into the forbidden forest to hunt down the survivors?
    Voldemort: [leading an army of trolls into Hogwarts] Orikal, we need to find where Dumbledore hid—
    Filch: [turns the corner and smirks] You have a hall pass?
    Voldemort: Argus Filch, you useless Squib! Still roaming the halls?
    Filch: Kind of in the job description.
    Voldemort: [starts blasting at Filch, who dodges behind the corner] I'll give you one chance to surrender. If you do, I promise you a swift death.
    Filch: [head shots one of the trolls from around the corner] I surrender, now move a little closer!
  • Heroic Myth:
    • Bell is officially the Vice-Captain of the Hestia Familia under Gilgamesh, but in reality Gilgamesh is technically subordinate to him as his Servant. That said, Bell is far weaker than his Servants, including Sigurd, Brynhildr, and EMIYA, who are all technically lower-ranked than him.
    • Bell's Servants are all Level 1, but their abilities match or surpass the strongest adventurers in Orario. Even EMIYA, who is known for being Weak, but Skilled among Servants is able to wound Ottar, the single mightiest adventurer in Orario.
  • Housemates:
    • The first part of this Thor and Being Human (UK) crossover, "Monsters", involves Loki crash-landing in Bristol, very depressed and damaged, and moving in with Mitchell, George, and Annie. Since he needs to help with the rent and groceries, they find him a job as an elementary-school janitor. The children soon work out he's magic. He animates action figures and things. Loki's always having to point out to the myth-savvy that he's not actually a god, and so Nick Fury has referred to him as the Custodian of Mischief.
    • By the end of the third segment of the series, Loki encounters a field trip from said school, in a zoo, during a pitched battle with alien invaders and pseudo-Nazis, while dressed in the... very villainous-looking hero costume Tony made him for the occasion, and saves the group via actual rhinoceroses before running off to defeat some evil airships. When he comes back to sort them out afterward, the headmistress promises him his job back. (He'd lost it due to being kidnapped by SHIELD eight weeks previously and thus not turning up for work.) This means that as the fourth fic starts, an action figure of him as the Avengers' 'magical consultant' is about to start being produced, and he's working as a school custodian in a building where everyone is fully aware that he's a powerful alien wizard. This removes some of the incognito factor of the trope, but must make the experience of having a clean school one of which the occupants are unusually aware.
  • I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again!: While it is a result of a Peggy Sue, that doesn't change the fact that the four strongest ninja in the village are currently genin. Naruto and Sasuke are especially egregious cases, as they are by far the two strongest ninja alive, period and they never made it to chunin in the main timeline (exactly how this is possible since Naruto became the Hokage isn't made clear).
  • Inspected by No.13 is about Harry becoming one of these unwittingly, out of desperation to survive the Triwizard Tournament. It is revealed that the Inspectors are the second most feared branch of the Ministry, only behind the Auditors, despite being fairly low on the payscale, as they're mentioned to only make twice what Arthur Weasley makes, though this is supplemented by a portion of any fines they assess.
  • Izuku in It Takes a Child to Teach a Village is a tutor in the slums and later a Quirkless hero course student at UA. He's also perfectly capable of ordering around villains, including Shigaraki, because of the fact he's a tutor. According to Izuku, getting an education in the slums is so difficult that someone who's not only teaching but doing so for free is the most precious resource imaginable. Even sitting by and letting someone else harm Izuku is liable to make entire gangs turn on their leaders.
  • Kingdom Hearts Familia Myth: On paper, Sora is a Level 1 adventurer that has just arrived in Orario and only recently started entering the dungeon. In practice he retains all his strength and skill from the events of III, which puts him leaps ad bounds ahead of all other adventurers, and his experience fighting the Heartless has already given him plenty of practice dealing with a wide variety of monsters. Further reinforcing this status, since all adventurers start out at Level 1 regardless of prior power, this means that any extalia he gets from defeating monsters is so miniscule levelling up isn't even feasible.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim has Nny. He's a figure of strong enough willpower to not be intimidated by the likes of Norlock, Gaz, or even Miss Bitters, but settles for merely being the Skool's janitor and cleaning up messes. Mind you, a lot of those messes are people he brutally kills for pissing him off, making this a rather dark example of the trope.
  • Discussed in the Peggy Sue fic New Chance, where Minato is explaining to Naruto the difference between ninja rank and class (overall skill). He points out future Naruto was this trope since he had a low rank but high class. He also points out that in some cases this trope happens to ninjas this because A) they've never been part of a village (Haku), B) they are stripped of their rank (Zabuza) or C) they are willingly invoking this trope (Han the Jinchuuriki of the Five-Tails).
  • It's noted in The New Man: An Adam Smasher SI that the titular character doesn't have any rank within the Arasaka Corporation heirarchy, being just a hired goon on the company's payroll. Unofficially, he has cart blanche to basically do anything he wants so long as it doesn't interfere with his primary objectives and only a handful of people, all but one of them being named Arasaka, can actually order him around. It is known that any suit, no matter how high up they are, is free game for him to kill should they cross him so few would dare to even try.
  • In the story A New ROAD of Misfortune, Touma, being a Level 0 as usual, basically doesn't care if he faces espers with levels above him, be that a Level 1 or 5. In the end, he just breaks the illusions of whoever needs it despite their level.
  • Persona EG: Juan the Janitor has Tier 3 access to the school social network, Canterbook. There turns out to be a very good reason for this. Juan was the designer of a social networking system about a decade back called Project: Wondercolt. Sadly, the students then, as with now, figured out they could use Wondercolt to bully other students. This resulted in suicides and even school shootings, and Wondercolt was taken down. Juan was discredited and his career in networking ruined. Fortunately, Celestia knew it wasn't his fault, and hired him as a janitor and gave him Tier 3 Access to Canterbook.
  • Racer and the Geek brings us Sunny Breeze, who in spite of being an unremarkable ranked member of a bank security team, is the one who gets counted on and inherently trusted with any kind of sensitive matter. Of course, this has a lot to do with his past life as a mercenary and having more combat experience than everybody else on the team put together.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Margo is an orphan girl who sells flowers on Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. This makes her very easy to overlook or dismiss. It also means that she's able to watch everyone's comings and goings, putting her finger on the pulse of practically all the business going on in the Wizarding world and making her a highly effective informant for the Court of the Rogue. When the Ruse is exposed, it's Margo who spots Harry running through Diagon Alley, recognising her by her distinctive boots and letting the Rogue make the connection from Harry to Rigel. She also turns out to possess a weather-control talent that was believed to have died out.
  • Yui is the healer of a minor village in Sanitize, said village being so small it doesn't even have a name. However, Yui remembers her previous life in our world where she was a medical professional of some sort, which gives her greater medical knowledge (the importance of sanitation for example) and a code of healing everyone who comes to her injured or sick. Both her methods and her code not only earn her village the name Chiyuku (healing ward) but also causes both the Senju and Uchiha to keep their battles clear of the village and deal with any undesirables who might threaten it.
  • The Case Closed fanfiction Second Wind by Ysabet (the third entry of The Window) adds the janitor Hei-san (his name even in his own POV segments) to the staff roster of Beika Elementary. Though not "almighty" per se, he is a friend of Conan's, acting as a casual informant as well as a supplier of grown-up magazines, and odd things about the school become notable when there's nothing even he can do about them. Then, Conan disappears, and Hei-san's skills become absolutely invaluable in his rescue. Eventually, Conan realises that "Hei-san" is simply a cover for Kaitou KID, who was investigating the story's villain for killing one of Aoko's friends via drugs cut with poison. He had tracked the villain to Conan's school and had been planning to identify them by using the janitor disguise to get close. He even straight-up refers to Hei-san as "Wonder Janitor."
  • The Somewhat Cracked Mind Of Uchiha Itachi: Iruka is a jonin-level shinobi but kept putting off a promotion because he already had his dream job: teaching at the academy. A promotion would force him to give that up and go on more missions. He gets promoted anyway after he and Mizuki take down Danzo, and Sarutobi promises him that he can continue teaching if he and Mizuki become therapists for the ROOT kids they just liberated.
  • Sonata's Crazy and Wacky Adventure in Skyrim has Sonata Dusk of all people. She is the most powerful Siren, and was even the leader before she got bored and made Adagio the leader instead.
  • During the Chunin Exam finals in Son of the Sannin, Naruto, Sasuke, Tenten, Lee, and Neji are all refered to by the narration as being "Elite Genin", who are so much more powerful in comparison to their peers that they're basically Chunin level in all but name. The former three all make Chunin on their first try, while the latter two fail to even make it to the finals and had to wait until the next one.
  • Optimus in TFA Kaleidoscope can face off against the three most experienced members of the Orion crew, multiple powerful Decepticons at once, and even match Starscream (the Decepticon First Lieutenant and a One-Man Army himself) in single combat. However, he doesn't hold the rank of Prime and it's implied that he was a low-rank soldier given that none of the bots who lived through the Great War seem to recognize him.
  • This Bites!:
    • Despite the outward appearance of arrogance, Foxy is not only a dangerous fighter, but has an intelligence network extensive enough to fill Apoo with dread. It's heavily implied that the only reason his bounty is so low is that he has been actively attempting not to make a name for himself.
    • Even though he's one of the weaker members, Blueno is the agent that Cross is adamant has to go down first due to his Devil Fruit.
    • For all their strength, as the ship guards the Kung-Fu Dugongs are technically the lowest ranking members of the crew.
    • Buggy. Unlike in canon, where the Marines think he's this, in this story, he actually is this. This Buggy is a Warlord-class combatant who deliberately "sandbagged" his career as a no-name pirate in the weakest sea in the world just because it was the only way he was ever going to get any peace and quiet without outright retiring. When he's finally exposed as a former member of the Roger Pirates and a peer of Shanks during the Battle of Marineford, he outright snaps and goes on a rampage, tearing through the Marines' forces like tissue paper and going toe-to-toe with Dracule freakin' Mihawk.
  • Witness (Good Neighbors) has Izuku himself as one, as he attempted to take All Might's advice and tried to become a police officer instead of continuing his seemingly hopeless pursuit of a career in heroics. Despite doing incredibly well on the police exam, he still gets rejected due to his Quirklessness, even though police aren't authorized to use their Quirks anyway. The only job he's able to find is as a janitor, and he struggles with keeping his head above water for a time... before figuring out how to use the role to his advantage and help others anyway.
  • The World's Greatest Chunin Exam Team is basically a Deconstruction Crack Fic set after the Fourth Great Shinobi World War where Naruto, B, and Gaara all enter the exam as one team. Despite being S-rank shinobi, heroes of the war, and (in the case of Gaara) a Kage, all of them are eligible to participate due to still being genin (a Kage retains the rank they had before gaining their title).
  • In Ordinary Girl, Jesse is the janitor's assistant, so she doesn't have the same clearance or parautility as her canon-counterpart. However, she is still able to accomplish things her canon-counterpart could regardless, including ending the Mold infection, rescue the altered items lost in the Investigation Sector, managing to escape Dr. Hartman (something whole swaths of Rangers couldn't do), be the first to realize that the book being read in the FBC book club is a particularly dangerous Altered Item and so on.
  • In Sword and Shield Death mentions that in a particular alternate universe, the 93-year-old janitor at MACUSA was the secret head of a Muggle crime syndicate and shot Grindlewald to pieces.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the final Wham Shot of Barbie in the Pink Shoes, it's revealed to be the case with Madame Katerina, the humble customer for the ballet company. She has hundreds of enchanted pink shoes that she can use to send the next girl in need of a life lesson on a dangerous adventure.
  • Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians. He's not one of the Guardians, in fact when the Man in the Moon is choosing a new Guardian none of the others even consider him. However, since he isn't a Guardian, his powers do not fluctuate based on belief until the very end, and with Pitch rapidly diminishing belief around the world, you can call this a Justified Trope. Also, taking into account Jack uses winter-themed powers, it's a good chance the ambient power of "belief" in winter for the majority of the world allows him an edge even after he becomes a Guardian against that kind of thing.
  • Soul: Most of the mystics who help lost souls stuck in the Zone are professional therapists, healers, or shamans. Moonwind, the "captain" though, he's a sign-spinner.
  • In WALL•E, M-O (Microbe Obliterator), a cleaning bot, saves WALL•E and EVE from being expelled into space by jamming his body into the shutting doors of the garbage airlock. The best part? He didn't even know they were in danger. The only reason he ever dropped himself into the garbage dump was to clean WALL•E up.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Any Given Sunday, Willie Beaman turns out to be this. He starts out as the third string quarterback for the Sharks and has been on the bench so long, that when he is given his chance, he doesn't know the playbook. However, he proves to be a natural talent once he gets used to playing with people calling him a prodigy. It's later revealed that he was actually a top number one draft pick prospect during college, but lost this status when he got caught talking money from a rich donor, along with other college students who got away with it.
  • Bloodfist VI features Corrigan, a courier. When the military brass attempt to look up his personnel file, they find that it's almost entirely redacted due to the secrecy of his previous work.
  • The Breakfast Club features an iconic one in Carl, who explains to the kids in detention the extent to which he is the "eyes and ears" of the school through many years of going through lockers, listening to conversations, etc. He also knows that the clock in the library is 20 minutes fast. He gains even more power when he catches Mr. Vernon going through confidential files.
  • Bruce Almighty has a literal example: God is seen mopping the floor of a building, dressed as a janitor. However, it's unlikely that God is actually employed as a janitor. It's more likely that God is doing this to demonstrate humility to Bruce.
  • In By the Sword, Max Suba starts off as this, before fully becoming a Badass Teacher for the group of losers the Sadist Teacher Villard casts off.
  • Captive State: The prostitute turns out to be the resistance leader.
  • In Chill Factor, the two main characters are a diner clerk and an ice cream truck driver, who ended up having to take a top secret weapon to a military base and fight terrorists the whole way there.
  • Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron has the lead character Steiner (James Coburn) as a sergeant who has been busted back to corporal, but whom everybody else in the squad clearly looks to as their leader.
  • In Daredreamer, when not cleaning up after Winston's messes, school janitor Zach plays the saxophone, watches over the kids, and shares Winston and Jennie's daydreaming abilities.
  • Edge of Tomorrow:
    • Dr. Carter is a brilliant mind and used to work as a scientist at Whitehall, trying to find a way to defeat the aliens. However he got demoted probably for his crazy ideas and ended up doing low rank mechanics work instead.
    • The main character is busted down to Private as punishment, yet he gains time-traveling powers and saves humanity.
  • Eddie the Eagle: Bronson Peary, former Olympic ski-jumper who trains the protagonist, works as the ski-jump centre groundskeeper.
  • Ernest P. Worrell is a janitor in most of Jim Varney's films, who always saves the day by the end of the film.
  • Forrest Gump: The defining trait of the main character is that he's a Born Lucky simpleton who manages to fall ass-backwards into multiple jaw-dropping accomplishments, meets historical figures and affect the course of history without even realizing it. While all of that was going on he even worked as a groundskeeper for the University of Alabama, but he ended up doing that job for free because he liked it so much (and he was already a multi-millionaire anyway).
  • Good Will Hunting: Will Hunting is, literally, a janitor cleaning the floors of MIT who is also a Brilliant, but Lazy, once-in-a-generation math genius.
  • M. Gustave of The Grand Budapest Hotel. He's a concierge, thus not exactly on the bottom rung of the ladder, but has no trouble chewing out his superiors for hiring a new lobby boy without coming to him for permission first. An even better fit for this trope is that same lobby boy, Zero, who takes over M. Gustave's lofty status after the latter is sent to prison.
  • Bill the Electrician in House II: The Second Story is an example of this trope. According to him, he has seen lot of things in his twenty-year career, and the portal to alternate dimension that he finds in the protagonists' house is nothing new. He just picks up his sword that he carries with him and joins the quest to retrieve the Crystal Skull from extra-dimensional Mayans.
  • In The Hunt for Red October, the whole defection plot by the senior Russian officers is nearly derailed by the cook, who is actually a GRU agent.
  • Hunt Her, Kill Her features a janitor named Karen, who is being hunted by five intruders in the warehouse where she works during a night shift. She manages to kill all of them by the end of the movie.
  • A common occurrence in James Bond films is to have a character who serves the Big Bad in a seemingly-innocuous position (for instance, their secretary or driver) turn out to be a ''much'' bigger deal (for instance, a trained assassin) once the villains reveal themselves to be, well, villains.
  • The monastery in Jasminum houses five monks (and a bunch of ducks). The only one of the five who does anything besides waiting for a certain prophecy to come true is Zdrówko, the cook, who single-handedly keeps the others from starving. When he displays knowledge of Latin, the prior is very nonplussed.
    Prior: You speak Latin?
    Zdrówko: Yeah.
    Prior: Why did you never tell me?
    Zdrówko: What for?
  • In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi is first introduced as a hotel handyman, a job he likely just does to keep himself occupied in retirement. (His Big Fancy House, fleet of cars, and other belongings suggest he's far more well-off than a typical handyman.)
  • In Kelly's Heroes:, Kelly is a former army officer who is busted all the way down to private after being wrongfully blamed for a failed allied mission. Despite his demotion, he still proves to be a highly capable soldier and his fellow squad-mates still look to him for leadership and experience.
  • In Kill Bill, Budd is a retired former-assassin who works as a bouncer and janitor at a failing strip club in Hicksville, USA. He lives in a Trashy Trailer Home and secretly wants to die.
  • Kung Fu Hustle is built around this trope, with the world's greatest martial artists all occupying extremely low and unlikely social positions. We first encounter three undercover masters of Kung-Fu who are a submissive baker, a gay tailor, and a sweating coolie. They are in turn trumped by blind street musicians, who are in turn beaten by the comedic, wacky slum landlords who walk around in their pajamas all day, who are themselves defeated by a dumpy old mental hospital patient in his underwear. The greatest martial arts master in the film turns out to be the local Butt-Monkey.
  • In Kung Fu Zohra, the middle-aged gymnasium janitor from Beijing turns out to be a kung fu master.
  • The Trainman of The Matrix Revolutions. Conductor for the train station program and responsible for carrying programs from the mainframe to the Matrix. He looks like a smelly hobo, but is effectively a god in his world and can defeat even Neo with just a flick of his wrist.
  • Cosmo Brown in Singin' in the Rain is clearly the greatest technical genius in cinema history. Starting as a lowly pianist for sappy love scenes, Cosmo single-handedly rescues an unreleasable picture in post-production by splicing it into a different movie (paving the way for Godfrey Ho's career... but no one's perfect); comes up with the idea of using playback to dub new lines into existing scenes; invents lip-synching on the fly; invents the movie musical; and just generally saves the entire studio from going bankrupt. "Gimme a raise", indeed.
  • Snowpiercer: Many years earlier, a now dead Inuit cleaning lady figured out that the world was warming up and led six people (implied to be of higher stations than her) in an an attempt to overthrow Wilford and stop the train.
  • Austin Millbarge from Spies Like Us. He starts the movie as a repair supervisor working in the bowels of the Pentagon, but is also an adept codebreaker who speaks fluent Russian, attracting attention from the CIA, who select him as an agent assigned in the USSR (actually, a decoy for the real agents).
  • Star Wars The Force Awakens: Finn admits that "sanitation" was his sole duty on Starkiller Base before his first combat assignment. His knowledge of the installation is invaluable to the Resistance when they need to blow it up. Eventually it turns out he is an even better leader than the visibly experienced General Pryde of the Final Order.
  • Chief Baker Charles Joughin in Titanic (1997). His portrayal in the movie showed him being one of about five people to climb to the top of the stern... and literally rode the stern of the Titanic down, making him the last person to have exited the ship. It may look a bit like Special Effect Failure that he just stood on top of it like he was in an elevator, but this is actually Truth in Television. When Rose mentions that only six out of 1500+ people were rescued from the water, it's very likely that she included him. See his section in Real Life.
  • UHF has Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards) starts the film as a lowly janitor working for the tyrannical R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) at Channel 8, then gets fired after a misunderstanding. Feeling pity for Stanley, the protagonist, George Newman (Weird Al Yankovic) offers him a janitorial job at the run-down Channel 62 station. Overtime however, Stanley becomes the star of what would become known as Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse. A program that would lead to Channel 62 becoming the number one channel in the broadcasting area. Eventually, Stanley saves the day by hosting the telethon, in order to save Channel 62 from being torn down by R.J. Fletcher.
  • Steven Seagal's character in Under Siege is a former Navy SEAL working as a ship's cook. His backstory involves striking a commanding officer after a bad mission, and losing his security clearance, etc.
  • In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Seagal's character once again fights against terrorists, this time aided by a train Porter named Bobby Zachs, who helps him fight the bad guys and eventually kills one of them singlehandedly.
  • Willy's Wonderland has Nicolas Cage's unnamed janitor character dismantling possessed animatronics with his bare hands.
  • The Zatoichi films (Takeshi Kitano version included) star a man named... Ichi. Zato is his title, the lowest of four ranks in the official blind people guild that existed in Japan at the time. So the title in Japanese means Low-ranking Blind Person Ichi. He ekes out a living as a lowly blind masseur, which was the one job they had for blind people in Japan back then. Ichi is also invincible. Between his sword and his wit, it is rare for anyone in the movies to get the upper hand on him, let alone beat him.

  • K.A. Applegate's Animorphs: Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill is stranded on Earth as an aristh, or cadet. Over the course of the series, he racks up a great amount of combat experience, acquires probably more morphs than any Andalite in history, is instrumental in a number of key victories (not all on Earth — see book # 18) — but he doesn't get promoted to full warrior because there's nobody around to do so. In the final book, Ax gets promoted directly to Prince, echoing a joke made way back in The Andalite Chronicles. He subsequently becomes something of a legend, like his brother Elfangor before him.
  • In Michael Green's Slice of Life comic writings (The Art of Coarse Office Life) , he points out that the tea-lady holds such a lowly position in the heirarchy as to be completely invisible. This confers privileges. She is one of few people in the company who can call the Managing Director a rude name to his face in front of juniors, for instance. He can't sack her as she's the only one who can get his brew exactly right, and provide the Danish pastry he so loves. Besides, this makes him look like a humourless Hitler who cannot take a joke. So she gets away with it. She gets to see the whole building and everyone in it. If she times it right, she can trade hot gossip almost the minute it happens. She is the invisible presence who pours the tea at the board meeting where promotions, pay rises and sackings are discussed. And listens. And sells on what she heard, while the MD frets about where the security leak came from. Nobody notices the lowly tealady pouring their brew. Not if she wants to remain invisible.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Blue priests are usually people from noble families who have too little Mana to be worth being raised as a proper member of the Supernatural Elite by their family or occasionally children of politically problematic birth Sent Into Hiding. On occasion, properly educated nobles will willingly join the temple to nominally retire from politics. Myne's mentor Ferdinand is from the latter category, but gets respect from many nobles of the duchy because of the family he's from. When he interacts with a noble from another duchy who doesn't know who he is, Ferdinand is treated like a lowlife despite being the temple's second-in-command and the other noble is blindsided when Ferdinand uses magic only people with a proper noble education know. It turns out Ferdinand is the son of the previous ruler of the duchy and the current one's much-appreciated half-brother. This means that great things can happen to those who get on Ferdinand's good side, while antagonizing him is a very bad idea, as his family will be hearing about it.
  • John Galt from Atlas Shrugged and his followers. They were the only ones left with the technological civilization to speak of (and they were capable to advance it...), but they did only menial jobs in the outside world.
    Hugh Akston: "If you find it inconceivable that an invention of genius should be abandoned among ruins, and that a philosopher should wish to work as a cook in a diner—check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."
  • Banished from the Hero's Party: Red's power is comparable to a slightly above-average knight who has reached his limits. Coupled with his intelligence and knowledge, this puts him at least on B-rank level, possibly A-rank, and he was part of an S-rank party, the strongest party that exists, yet he is merely known as a D-rank adventurer in Zoltan. Nowadays, people know him more as "the apothecary who is Rit's partner."
  • Bastard Operator from Hell:
    • The titular character is just a systems operator, but he in fact rules the entire company up to the CEO by Blackmail and being a Techno Wizard.
    • Further, on occasion a literal Janitor named George is found to be an aide to the BOFH in early episodes, giving him and his PFY access to "the bins of the rich and powerful..."
  • Artus from the Blood War Trilogy frequently compares his job to a janitor, but considering he's the "janitor" to Sigils portal network and making a journal of his work turned it into a Tome of Eldritch Lore of incredible power, he's probably the most powerful janitor in the multiverse.
  • In Catch-22, the two lowliest soldiers are shown to have the most power.
    • Ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen is a mail clerk who intentionally gets himself busted back down to Private whenever he can. Because he controls the mail and the mimeograph machine, he can intercept or forge any order he pleases. This makes him the most powerful man in the military, but he uses his power mostly to amuse himself. Wintergreen even claims he was about to cancel the Normandy Invasion until Eisenhower committed more armor.
    • Milo Minderbinder spins his duties as Mess Officer into a world-wide trade syndicate and becomes so wealthy that he gets away scot-free for hiring the Germans to bomb their base.
  • Touma Kamijou from A Certain Magical Index has a powerful Anti-Magic known as Imagine Breaker, which can negate almost any supernatural power. However, since his power can't be measured, he's given the rank of Level 0, the same as if he had no powers at all. The rank doesn't change even though he's used Imagine Breaker to beat Level 5 Espers (the highest level) and incredibly powerful magic-users on numerous occasions. After all, just because they now know Imagine Breaker is powerful doesn't make it any less impossible to quantify. Also, Touma may be able to take on Level 5s with his Imagine Breaker but he's still likely to be beaten by a couple Level 0 delinquents attacking him at the same time...
  • In Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Ikki Kurogane is the lowest possible power rank at his school, too low to even take normal classes and at risk of never graduating. However, this really amounts to a problem with the school's measuring techniques, which have no way to measure actual combat ability and only measure people based on how much magical power they can summon. While the amount of power he can call forth is incredibly limited, he's combatively one of the best fighters at his school, skillful enough to best a girl who's an order of magnitude above all the other students.
  • Cradle Series: The Arelius clan are janitors. Really, really good janitors, who are in charge of keeping a significant portion of the civilized world clean. Even before they had an Underlord as their Patriarch, they were an honored family in the Blackflame Empire. They also record all the secrets they hear for later use against their enemies. They've been doing this for generations, meaning they have more information than nearly anyone else. Their founder represented this trope by advancing to sage by manifesting the Broom Icon.
  • Discworld:
    • Albert, Death's cook and housekeeper is actually Alberto Malich, one of the most powerful wizards in the history of the Disc, and the founder of the Unseen University.
    • Every History Monk knows that the famous Lu-Tze is their greatest agent ever; few know that he is in fact the small and old head sweeper that they don't acknowledge almost every day, and not officially a History Monk at all. Additionally, every time Lu-Tze is somewhere in history on assignment, he will just start to work at a place that will be relevant for the history and no-one ever wonders about that, because he's the old wrinkly man that has just "always been there" and takes care of janitor stuff that nobody else wants to do.
    • Nanny Ogg, it is hinted, is a more powerful witch than Granny Weatherwax. Granny knows all about what people fear, but Nanny can make herself at home anywhere, among any kind of people, largely by asking people about the mundanities like their families and health problems. In one case she manages to get where she needs to be because nobody bothers to question an old lady who's prepared to do the washing-up. Granny is an incredibly powerful witch, and expects everyone she meets to know that, at all times, so she invariably behaves as though she is an incredibly powerful witch note . Nanny, by contrast, is also an incredibly powerful witch, but she has the invaluable skill of knowing when to turn it off.
    • The Ankh-Morpork milkman Ronnie Soak, who turns out to be Kaos, the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse who left before they got famous.
    • The true heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork, who keeps the peace, inspires the populace to be half-decent every now and then, and alters the place to his will. Captain Carrot of the City Watch. In this case, everyone knows it on some level. It's just in everyone's best interest to keep it that way, which he encourages. The exception is Jingo where he uses the authority to Vimes's great annoyance.
    • In Maskerade, Walter Plinge takes this trope to Secret Identity extremes.
    • Unseen Academicals: Glenda Sugarbean and Mr. Nutt are an Almighty Cook and an Almighty Candle Dipper. Glenda runs the Night Kitchen but is able to stand up to wizards and to Vetinari, while Nutt has many skills and "talks like a wizard" because he was given books on almost every subject, but prefers to work in the candle vats to keep away from people who might treat him badly based on his species.
    • There's also Mrs. Whitlow, Unseen University's head housekeeper. She terrifies the senior faculty with her ability to make sure beds get made and meals get cooked, something even the most powerful wizard can't do with their magic.
      Ridcully: To the laundry!
      Chair of Indefinite Studies: You know Mrs Whitlow doesn't like us going down there.
      Ridcully: And who is Archchancellor of this University, may I ask? Is it Mrs Whitlow? I don't think so! Is it me? Why yes, I do believe it is!
      Chair: Yes, but you know what she can be like.
      Ridcully: Er, yes, that's true...
    • Mrs. Evadne Cake. A spirit medium (verging on a small). She's feared by virtually every religious institution outside of Fourecks and the Agatean Empire (and the Ankh-Morpork Post Office). This is a result of her habit of volunteering with every temple she can find (including the ones with spike traps lost in the jungles of Klatch), and gradually taking over the cleaning, the sacrifices, the prayer rotas, the Vestigial Virgins, and generally becoming this trope, before having a falling out with the relevant High Priest over her habit of talking with the dead and leaving, throwing the entire temple into disarray.
    • Night Watch has Commander Sir Samuel Vimes end up in the past, occupying the role of Sergeant-at-Arms John Keel ("that's like 'sergeant with all the trimmings.'") where he combines his years of knowledge of police work in Ankh-Morpork, knowledge of future events (to a point) and his own deviousness to become a pivotal figure in the revolution, to the point that once Snapcase is the new Patrician he deems Vimes to be too much of a threat... because if the thought entered his head to overthrow the government, Snapcase would be powerless to stop him.
      • Vimes explains this logic to Snouty the watch janitor/jailer in why he wants Snouty to do things for him: as the Janitor Snouty knows where and how to get his hands on things and can do it competently.
    • Sergeant Jackrum from Monstrous Regiment. He is introduced as a simple, fat sergeant who is part of the last recruitment party in the ass end of nowhere. He soon makes it clear to his squad that a sergeant must be more competent than any officer if they want to keep their men alive and must subtly manipulate the officer in charge into making the correct decisions. We then later find out that he is also The Dreaded to all opposing forces and has saved the lives of over a third of the top brass, making him the most powerful soldier in the army due to the resulting favors and respect. He has also had over 50 years to learn every trick in the book (and add a few of his own ideas to said book) making him also the most competent soldier as well.
      • Corporal Strappi is actually a highly ranked officer investigating Jackrum because Jackrum has used his status to dodge his discharge papers for decades.
      • When Polly first sees Commander Vimes, Duke of Ankh-Morpork and second only to the Patrician in terms of power in and around Ankh-Morpork she assumes he is simply a grubby sergeant making rude faces behind Lord Rust. This is made more amusing as the events of Monstrous Regiment take place shortly after Night Watch.
  • Jack Vance's story "Dodkin's Job" is all about this trope. The protagonist is at the second lowest level of his hierarchical society and is about to be dropped to the lowest, "Junior Executive". So he appeals his case, step by step, to higher authority, and gradually discovers that they all answer to a much lower authority... not an almighty computer system or secret cabal after all, but a simple low-ranking clerk with a habit of adding his own opinions to outgoing reports. Opinions which are then accepted as fact, and embellished upon at every step of the dystopian, status-driven government, until they become country-wide directives. Dodkin ultimately takes up the same position, and with it, nearly unlimited power.
  • As anyone can tell from the title, The Dungeon Cleaning Life Of A Once Genius Hunter is all about one. Junu Kim was the world's strongest hunter until he was ambushed and killed. He was brought back 10 years into the past as a dungeon cleaner with his skills locked for being a Jerkass, and he has no choice but to work the job to get his skills back. He still however retained all his knowledge on dungeons, skills, etc, and is ballsy enough to confront higher ups even when he's at the bottom of the ladder. And when he finally gets some skills back, he conquers solo entire dungeons within minutes, wipes the floor with bosses and beats up entire teams of professional hunters with a MOP. It gets so ridiculous, higher ups start to assume he's a snitch for the Chairman. Which he isn't even remotely... at first.
  • Ender's Game: Bean is a lowly Launchie when first introduced. He becomes Ender's best soldier in Dragon Army, and even gets a special operations squad, and becomes the driving force behind most of the novel. He is more intelligent than Ender, puts Dragon Army together, guides Ender without Ender even realizing, and even provides the push Ender needs in the finale- "The enemy's gate is down". Not bad for a seven year old. This is expanded upon in Ender's Shadow, in which Bean already has a reputation for being a genius.
  • Shirley in Even Though I'm a Former Noble and Single Mother is an adventurer powerful enough to fight gods, but stays at B-rank because being promoted to a higher rank would force her to leave her daughters unattended for extended periods of time, as emergencies capable of threatening the country happen multiple times a week, and occur all over the kingdom. Adventurers of A-rank or higher are required by law to go face them, regardless of their circumstances.
  • Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière of The Familiar of Zero is considered a screw-up in every sense of the word in the magic academy and her family, since her spells blow up in everybody's faces. It turns out that she is the wielder of the supposedly extinct fifth element, Void, which lets her do all sorts of things. The eponymous familiar, Saito Chevalier de Hiraga, is also considered a wash at first, with no redeeming abilities at all, until you find out that he is actually the second coming of a legendary familiar capable of wielding any weapon, from the magic world or his own, real, world, with great expertise. With weapon being in the very loosest sense of the word, to the point where he can expertly fly a fighter jet because it's a "weapon."
  • Fengshen Yanyi:
    • Yang Jian and Li Nezha are two of Jiang Ziya's many disciples: the latter is a nigh-invulnerable demigod who wields a veritable arsenal of magic items and can usually end any threat by smashing it with his Universal Circlet. The former is noneother than a young Erlang Shen, has mastered the 72 Transformations and a magic power which allows him to pretty much No-Sell any attack.
    • Kong Xuan is seemingly an unimportant replacement Commander for the Shisui Mountain Pass fortress, just one of the many generals of the Shang Empire. Turns out, he's actually the human form of the Divine Peacock that Buddha uses as a mount and is so skilled and powerful that not even The Ace Yang Jian can beat him in a duel.
    • Near the end of the novel, the forces of King Zhou enlist the help of a series of "patriots" and wandering warriors, all of whom are actually monsters in human form. The boss of these monsters, the White Macaque Yuan Hong, is pretty much a Monkey King Lite.
  • Full Metal Panic!:
    • Gauron, as further explained in the Light Novels. One Amalgam member explained that with his skills, he could have easily been promoted to commander. However, because he had cancer, and that most of Amalgam's members had a hard time getting along with him (with them even making him the butt of a joke where they called him "Mr. Iron" — a metal that isn't able to amalgamate with Mercury, therefore indicating he "isn't one of them"), they never promoted him to that rank. Instead, they allowed Gates (who was obviously less competent and skilled) to take that position. Despite the lack of rank, however, Gauron still managed to be a very powerful, wealthy terrorist.
    • Sōsuke. Despite being insanely competent and skilled, saving the day countless times, he remains a sergeant for the entire series. Partly explained by how lacking in motivation he has to move up in rank, and how he just plain doesn't care. In one instance, he's shown to have actively underperformed because he didn't want to be promoted to being under Mao.
  • One of the Gears of War tie-in novels mentions that Private Augustus Cole has refused promotion multiple times because he wants to stay with his buddies and doesn't think a few extra stripes on his arm will help him kill Locust any faster.
  • The Genesis Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Lieutenant Robert Geary in Vanguard becomes the commander of Glenlyon's only warship Squall but doesn't get a bump in rank. Moreover, the rank is specifically stated to be provisionary. To be fair, though, the ship is only a cutter, with a crew of two dozen. Despite this, Geary knows that everything he's doing now is eventually going to shape the tradition of the future Glenlyon fleet, so he does his best to set a good example, such as never questioning the orders of the civilian government (at least, in front of his crew) and refusing to bend those orders even a little. On the ground, Sergeant Mele Darcy is a former marine from another colony. When she gets asked to form Glenlyon's first ground/marine forces, she is also told that her rank of sergeant is provisionary. Unlike Geary, though, her rank is very quickly bumped to major (not sergeant major), even before her first operation, although she only has a few dozen soldiers under her command.
  • The Goblin Emperor: While Bit Character Haru is just the gardener at an isolated hunting lodge, Maia recalls watching him kill dangerous swamp snakes. Additionally, Haru once gave Maia an insightful lecture about how to safely navigate the swamps without blundering into trouble, and Maia realizes that the same principle applies to political decisions.
  • Goblin Slayer: A handful of Silver-ranked adventurers have turned down the promotion of becoming Gold-ranked adventurers. This is due to the fact that Gold-ranked adventurers are mainly working for the national government and effectively lose their freedom of choosing their own adventures. This is why the Silver-ranked adventurers are referred to as the strongest adventurers on the field at the beginning of the series because they still have their freedom to do local quests.
  • In The Goneaway World the megacorp that effectively runs the Crapsack World of the title is run by the guy who delivers the mail. Sort of. He doesn't make decisions, he just delivers them. The same ones over and over again in an endless cycle.
  • The Guns of Navarone has Andrea, Captain Mallory's trusty second-in-command. The reader finds out at the end that Andrea is actually a Colonel, and significantly outranks the Captain. He just doesn't like giving orders.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Rubeus Hagrid. He's officially just Hogwarts' groundskeeper and, from book three on, the Care of Magical Creatures professor, but he's also a high-ranking member of the Order of the Phoenix, and one of the most trusted members of Albus Dumbledore's inner circle. Over the course of the series, Dumbledore entrusts some of his most important missions to him: he's the one tasked with rescuing an infant Harry from the Potter home after his parents are murdered, he's sent to bring Harry to Hogwarts on his eleventh birthday, and he's trusted to safely escort the Philosopher's Stone—one of the most coveted magical objects in the world—from Gringotts to Hogwarts. As revealed in the second book, he was also once on first-name terms with Voldemort himself, and knows him better than almost anyone else in the series.
    • House Elves are normally subservient to wizards and treated badly. However, they possess powerful magic that can override typical wizard enchantments. One can mention Dobby, who sent Lucius Malfoy flying after being freed by Harry.
    • For a more human example, there's Aberforth Dumbledore. He's no slouch as a wizard based on what we see, but he serves as the barkeep of the Hog's Head, a minor position surely compared to his brother being headmaster. However, from this minor position, he's able to wield considerable influence, like spying on suspected Death Eaters and shady criminals and most awesomely, preventing Severus Snape, then a Death Eater, from hearing the complete prophecy given by Trelawney to Dumbledore during her job interview and throwing him out. This played a huge role in the series and it's basically Aberforth Dumbledore doing his job.
  • The old man polishing the furniture in Queen Beauty's palace in Orson Scott Card's Hart's Hope is actually one of the deposed gods of the world — the one called God, in fact.
  • In The Helmsman Saga, one of the main characters is Utrillo Barbousse, a Petty Officer who remains in his rank and refuses to be promotes to an officer. However, The Siege has a chauffeur being completely unimpressed with Brim's rank — he is a Rear Admiral, and the chauffeur sees enough of them every day. But when he learns Brim's adjutant is the highest-ranking Petty Officer in the Fleet...
  • Played with in The Heroic Legend of Arslan by Narsus, former lord, a master strategist and swordsman who seems like The Ace (save for the fact that his painting skills are nonexistent). As payment for helping Prince Arslan take back the kingdom, he is offered a title... as court painter.
  • High School D×D:
    • Protagonist Issei Hyodou is this, seeing as he was reincarnated by Rias as a pawn. However, Rias had to use all eight pieces of her pawn just to even revive him because he's got a dragon in his left arm. With some Training from Hell, he becomes the most powerful character in their group. Ironically, he just wants a harem.
    • It gets played explicitly straight as the plot goes on, when Issei and several others undergo their Mid-Rank promotion exam. Issei proceeds to flatten his sparring partner, leading the assessor to muse that Issei could probably pass the High-Rank exam with his eyes closed, but isn't ready for the other responsibilities. And in a deeper irony, when he does become a high-rank devil with a peerage of his own, he's undergone serious Character Development and harem eligibility is a secondary concern to making smart decisions about who he wants under his command.
  • When Harry Harrison said to Brian Aldiss that there should be a story about a sewer cleaner who saves the world, the latter replied there should and he, Harrison, was the one to write it. So he did, titling it "An Honest Day's Work." Jerry Cruncher is a sewer cleaner who saves the world, and he does it without extra hidden skills or knowledge; he does it because he knows how to do his job.
  • The real decision-making power of the Solarian League, from Honor Harrington, lies in the hands of four Permanent Undersecretaries.
  • Dorrance Marstellar from Insomnia is a retired 90-something man and easily the oldest of the group of "Old Crocks" (as Ralph calls them), and believed by almost everyone to be senile, dim, but very nice. In reality he's very knowledgeable about the higher planes of existence and even seems to have more knowledge and power than the powerful and ancient three Little Bald Doctors: he has a brilliant rainbow aura unlike any other entity in the story, has power that seems to supercede the rules of The Purpose and The Random (being able to freely interfere with both), and is implied to answer to an entity even higher than Lachesis and Clotho if he isn't actually one in human form himself. However, save for stepping in on a couple of occasions to help Ralph whose been tasked with the all-important purpose of saving Patrick Danville's life, he is thoroughly adamant on "staying out of long-time affairs" and remaining completely and utterly neutral and giving as little — if any — information as humanly possible which he hints he does to protect "short-timers" from harm.
    Dorrance: Yes! Get lost! That's just what I outta do! It's what you outta do too, Ralph. You don't want to mess in with long-time business. It's a good way to get hurt.
  • Before her elevation as the Ministry of Agriculture, Beelzebub in I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level had been voluntarily staying at the bottom-tier of the ministry and apparently had this kind of reputation among ministry staff. Her elevation is because every other potential candidate for the position was corrupt in one way or another.
  • Journey to the West : Sun Wukong, one of the strongest warriors in existence, gets assigned the job of Heavenly... Stable Boy. When he finds out how low of a position this is, he's pissed and goes on a rampage. This becomes a Chekhov's Skill later in the story because all horses gain an innate respect/fear for Wukong because of this. In response to the rampage, they give the inversion of this, the title of "Great Sage Equal to Heaven" — a very impressive-sounding and high-ranking job, but one that provides no power or responsibility.
  • Ye Xiu in The King's Avatar was — and still is — considered one of the best Glory professional players and long-time veterans of the game, having captained Excellent Era into three consecutive championships. But currently, after being forcefully retired, he is simply a night-shift Internet cafe manager, something his ex-teammates mock him for.
  • In Kill Decision, this is invoked with Odin's unit, who are all non-commissioned officers so that they only answer to military high command rather than civilian authority, allowing them carte blanche to do what has to be done.
  • Juro from Krabat/The Satanic Mill/The Curse of the Darkling Mill (the title seems to vary). Since the head-mage has a nasty habit of killing the "best" apprentice at the end of each year, as one mage has to die as part of his pact with the devil, and he figures he might as well get rid of those who could threaten his position, the character in question figures it's safest to adopt a humble disguise, posing as a nigh-retarded janitor, while secretly accumulating power. By the end of the story, he becomes a Hypercompetent Sidekick to Krabat.
  • Kazuma Satou from KonoSuba often surprises people when he reveals that, despite his numerous high-profile victories, he is merely the lowly "Adventurer" class. You see, Adventurers have trouble raising their stats and proficiencies, but make up for this by being able to learn any skill they are shown. By the end of the series, Kazuma has learned Stealth, Escape, Steal, Snipe, Farsight, Shortsword Proficiency, Night Vision, Bind, Cooking, Beginning and Intermediate Magic, Set, Detect, and Disarm Trap, Detect Enemy, Smithing, Assassinate, Teleportation, Create Earth Golem, Drain Touch, Lip Reading, Heal, and Cursed Explosion.
  • Leviathan's Deryn Sharp is only a Midshipman aboard the Leviathan, but her influence reaches quite far. She has the ear of both Alek, the next in line for the Austria-Hungarian throne, and Dr. Barlow, a scientist who has enough authority to commander the largest ship in the British Air Navy for her own use. And over the course of the story she gain several high placed contacts inside the Ottoman Empire who feed her intel about enemy operations. By the end she leaves the navy to work for Dr. Barlow (who has realized her considerable talents) and the London Zoological Society, who, in this verse, is essential MI6. It is even lampshaded by a reporter, who compares her to the Bell Captain, who is said the most important person in a hotel, more important than both the owner and the manager.
  • Viktor Suvorov describes in the Liberators a case where a lieutenant-colonel, the duty officer of the district staff cowers in fear upon learning the young private whom he tried to chastise is the district commander's first deputy's wife's driver.
  • Lucifer's Hammer: JPL janitor Al Masterson has lots of vital supplies gathered when the comet hits. His job lets him learn enough about the comet to understand how much damage it might cause, while his lack of scientific expertise keeps him from realizing that there's a strong chance it won't hit (which is why the scientists are caught unprepared).
  • In Maburaho, everyone's status is determined by magic power, which is pretty much always measured in terms of how many times that person can use magic in his/her life. In a school where most people's counts are in the ten thousand range, Kazuki's treated like the lowest of the low for his pathetic count of eight. However, his low status actually results solely from this measurement not taking raw power into account, as he has more power in one spell than anyone else has total.
  • A Mage's Power: Mia's position within the Dragon's Lair is "Receptionist" but all the guild's requests are made to her personally. Thus, she's the one who gives the mercenaries their missions. Not only can she make their lives unpleasant but she also effectively has a lock on their income.
  • Bugg from the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the manservant of Tehol Beddict, an Impoverished Patrician fallen so far he can't even pay his one servant. Though Bugg doesn't care all that much because he is also Mael, the Elder God of the Seas, feared and respected by even the other gods, who only remains with Tehol because he's not had this much fun in a long, long time.
  • A cybernetic example is Mycroft (Mike) Holmes, the computer in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. He was nominally the property of the Lunar Authority, but over the years they plugged extensions and enhancements in to him because that was cheaper than buying separate computers to run the payroll, sewage, life support, phone systems, surveillance cameras etc. This led to him becoming sentient, and then he decided to help some human friends carry out a revolution against the Lunar Authority. His control over so much of the lunar infrastructure was a decisive factor in the success of the revolution.
  • Murder for the Modern Girl: Guy Rosewood starts out as a janitor working for the Cook County Morgue but due to possessing a talent for forensics, he's able to figure out that Roger Carrell and other corpses he analyzes were actually murdered. Because of this, Dr. Keene, a medical examiner, promotes him into an assistant.
  • Several books by Daniel V. Gallery (Now, Hear This!, Cap'n Fatso, Away Boarders) have a character called John Patrick "Fatso" Gioninni. He runs the incinerator compartment aboard an aircraft carrier. How is this possible, with all of the honors and promotions he got in World War II? Simple. He'd rather kick back, take advantage of the favors the brass owes him and stick it to the middle management jerks on the ship by means of wacky hijinks. Oh, and being able to fleece the newbie sailors doesn't hurt either.
  • Kreon in The Oracle Trilogy is the Shadow of the God, but daylights as a janitor and slave. For no apparent reason.
  • The People’s Choice: The presidential electors, whose job is just to officially swear in the incoming president, are suddenly thrust into the National spotlight after the President elect dies, having the power to keep his unqualified running mate Teddy Block out of the White House or usher him in.
  • In Perdido Street Station, the ambassador to Tesh is described as "a vagabond by custom." And in Iron Council, it's revealed that Spiral Jacobs, the ambassador in question, is also an incredibly powerful wizard.
  • In the children's' book The Queen's Progress, a maid, page and jester save Queen Elizabeth I from assassins.
  • Reborn to Master the Blade: Inglis ends up as this, by choice and her deliberate scheming, to her cousin, Rafinha. Officially speaking, Rafinha is the Knight of the two, the one blessed with the Rune, and is able to wield an Artifact that is able to slay the Prism Beasts who are unaffected by normal weapons; meanwhile, Inglis is Rafinha's Squire, assisting Rafinha with more mundane threats that don't need the might of an Artifact alongside providing all around support. In actuality, however, Inglis is more often than not doing the bulk of the fighting, commanding, and inspiring.
    • The "commanding" part is best illustrated with the Nova Arc, when due to the abrupt exile of most of the town's knights and their formal command structure, Rafinha is promoted to battlefield commander by virtue of being a Knight-Candidate, and has to lead the town militia against an oncoming horde of monsters. Rafinha has no battlefield experience or military education, and thus is scared to even go up to the battlements let alone shout commands. Inglis tells her that she will be fine and that she will join her by her side. After Rafinha calls for order to the militia and gets their attention, Inglis then "humbly relays" all of Rafinha's orders to the troops, which basically boils down to "stay here where it's safe, don't get yourselves killed by the monsters, while I (Inglis) run out and disrupt the monster's formation while Rafinha takes them down while they're distracted." The plan works beautifully.
  • In A School for Sorcery, Veronica is seemingly the maid for the school. She's actually an Adept, practitioner of the seventh, and highest, level of magic.
  • Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft, who acts as a human computer for the British government due to his sheer range and depth of knowledge. Sherlock himself said it best:
    "... Mycroft draws four hundred and fifty pounds a year, remains a subordinate, has no ambitions of any kind, will receive neither honour nor title, but remains the most indispensable man in the country."
  • Molly from Simulated is the Mansion's keeper and due to the nature of the place she can't leave but ohhhh is she powerful within there.
  • Sung Jin-woo, the protagonist of Solo Leveling, starts the series as an E-rank Hunter (on a scale of E to S and above), so miserably weak that he had managed to earn the dubious title of "World's Weakest Hunter" among his colleagues until an incident in a dungeon leaves him with the unique ability to "level up" in a world where the power level of a Hunter is usually fixed upon Awakening. Even as he rapidly grows in power, he avoids getting his power level reassessed in order to not attract unwanted attention until he's confident that he can handle it, as a result, he remains an E-rank long after his actual power completely stops corresponding to that rank, causing many people to underestimate him. Those who witness his strength without finding themselves on the receiving end are left confused and uncertain what to make of him. It's only some way into the plot that he is finally gets properly evaluated, by which point he is already equivalent to an S-rank Hunter. He only gets stronger from there.
  • Much like the Honor Harrington example above, the Right Honorable Henry Gladston Kiku, Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs in Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast is the true power in the department. After a disagreement on policy with his political boss, the Secretary, he offers his resignation. The press secretary present tells them to stop playing games pointing out that the General Secretary would lose a confidence motion over this, be replace by the opposition party leader and Kiku would be back at his desk in 48 hours.
  • Starfist's Charles Schultz. He's never risen above Private First Class, but he's feared and respected by all who know him. He actually goes "on point" because he knows he's the best and that he'll be able to protect his fellow Marines by taking point.
  • Up until Michael A. Stackpole's novel Isard's Revenge, five years after Endor, Wedge Antilles, the only pilot in the universe to have flown against both Death Stars, still held the rank of commander. Which he still held because he had refused all previous attempts to promote him, preferring to stay in an X-Wing cockpit and dreading the thought of a desk job. And the only reason he finally accepts the promotion, to general, is because another officer points out that his subordinates were following suit to stay under him. And because he was about to go on a mission where he'd need rank to pull. Within about a year, he goes from a mere X-Wing pilot to the commanding officer of the Super Star Destroyer Lusankya. There's a meta reason/retcon here. In The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook, Timothy Zahn wrote that Wedge had accepted one promotion, and one only, to become a Commander. All other promotions had been turned down. But the Dark Empire comic, set about a year later, had Wedge as a General. Stackpole had to ramp up Wedge's importance to the New Republic to make such a promotion plausible, and he did.
    • One of Wedge's proteges, Garik "Face" Loran, remains a mere captain for 20+ years as the head of Intelligence's Wraith division, up until he's forced into retirement by office politics. (He goes on to perform one quasi-authorized mission and is promptly reinstated — as the head of Intelligence.) In his case, this is very deliberate on both his part and his boss's; the rank of captain is just high enough to be autonomous and have sufficient pull for his needs (and if he needs to pull more rank, he has a direct line to the minister), while being low enough that nobody would expect to have heard of him or his whereabouts, allowing him to disappear as needed for his job.
  • Theo in Taming The Villainesses is officially Court Gardener, making him around 75th in the rankings of the court. However, everyone knows he's the second-most powerful person after the queen, thanks to being the only person she trusts.
  • Terra Ignota: Though just a Servicernote , Mycroft is also a genius polymath who knows everyone who's anyone, including the heads of six of the Hives and important people in the seventh, as well as the Censor of Romanova, who frequently bicker over who gets to make use of Mycroft's services first. There is a scene where the Censor literally has to personally drag Mycroft away from cleaning sewage so that he can help analyze top-secret data. He is also the unofficial head of the Servicers despite not wanting to be.
  • The Henituse territory in Trash of the Count's Family has a large number of these in the general population. Cale notes that any random old man on the street could secretly be a Master Swordsman. He eventually recruits people for an assassin/information network from an art festival.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • The head of ImpSec traditionally note  holds the rank of a mere Captain. Admirals, Generals, and Vor Lords tend to follow their orders anyways.
    • During his Covert Ops career, Miles Vorkosigan is this, being a mere Lieutenant courier officer, who just happens to report directly to the aforementioned "captain", in charge of a mercenary legion of 5,000 souls and more than a dozen spaceships. The problems this cause are outlined in Cetaganda and The Vor Game, as his superiors frequently lament his "excessive initiative."
    • Since working at ImpSec HQ requires high security clearances, even the janitors are captains, and colonels fetch the coffee.
  • Watchers of the Throne has the position of the Chancellor of Senatorum Imperialis. On paper, their job is simply making sure the High Lords who rule the Imperium can assemble for meetings. In practice, with every High Lord being a larger-than-life personality entrenched in their domain, the Chancellor also spies on and liaisons between the Imperium's most powerful politicians, enabling them to greatly influence Imperial politics.
  • Windswept by Adam Rakunis. When Vytai Bloombeck jumped ship to join the Union on Santee, his recruiter didn't bother to check his qualifications, just slotting him into a pipe-cleaning job. When Vytai whined about this, he was assigned an even worse job in the sewers, and a combination of screw-ups, a terrible personality, and a reputation as a petty conman have kept him there ever since. Protagonist Padma Mehta has assumed for years that his prior career was as a low-level gardener, but when she sees him clean-shaven for the first time, she realizes the tattoo on his cheek marks him out as a genetic engineer, and he's a genius with plant diseases.
  • In Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, the great Wizarding School on the island of Roke has numerous masters. In the course of Ged's studies he obtains the recognition of all of them, only to discover that in fact there's one more: the Master Doorkeeper, previously assumed to just be an irrelevant porter but actually a presumably powerful wizard.
  • David Lubar's "Wizards of the Game": Mercer Dickenson is a high school student who loves to play a Dungeons and Dragons-esque tabletop RPG. His constant ramblings about magic and spellcasting gain the attention of four people living in an elderly home who turn out to be magic-users from another world. They mistake him for a "Magus" and request his help to send them back to where they came from, since they need five to open a portal. To his surprise, Mercer and his friends are able to open a portal, but only after the true 5th magic-user comes to their aid. He is none other than the school janitor, Danny.
  • Chakona Space: Neal Foster of the Folly, an engineering genius with enormous influence and resources including an enormous starship and three colonies, who pretends to be a simple freighter captain.
  • A Jewish legend has a wife of famous and learned sage asking him how comes a certain humble and uneducated man can perform miracles, while he, for all his knowledge and wisdom, cannot. The sage answers that the relationship between God and the uneducated man is that of a king and a senior official, while the sage is more like a slave, or a personal servant — and who is more likely to be heard?

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 2 of The 100, Clarke is technically just a juvenile delinquent and isn't supposed to have any say in Camp Jaha's government. However, the Grounders and the remaining members of the 100 listen to her above anyone else, letting Clarke largely control the camp's relations with the Grounders and their war against Mount Weather. When Abby, the camp's official leader, tries overruling her, Clarke tells her, "You may be the Chancellor, but I'm in charge."
  • Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock was identified in the third episode as being destined for a meteoric rise to running the company. He may also be immortal.
  • Handicapped (by the loss of a hand) former Canadian super spy Adderly was banished to the Department of Miscellaneous Affairs, which handles jobs too insignificant to be dealt with by anyone else. Only slightly impaired by his prosthetic, he insisted on running amuck as a Cowboy Cop.
  • In Andromeda, by the end of the second season, Beka Valentine's skills and achievements are so great that the only reason Dylan hasn't promoted her any further is that there's literally nobody who can promote her to a level which would do her skills justice.
  • On Are You Being Served?, there is Mr. Harman, a multitalented Packing and Maintenance Department employee who frequently helps, in various roles, the Ladies and Gents staff members (getting extra pay for it doesn't hurt, either). His powers are perhaps never plainer than in "Take-over," when he finds out about the plot point "emptying the waste-paper basket" and comes up with his own plan for saving the firm.
  • The Ark (2023): Alicia is a waste management engineer. She is abruptly promoted to be chief of life support after the command staff are killed and the supposed previous chief of life support turns out to be an impersonator who bribed his way onto the ship. It turns out that she has multiple masters degrees and is the only one left who knows how to fix the life support controls. Why was she willing to work in waste management with those qualifications? Apparently Earth is so bad that "everyone wanted to be on this ship".
  • The Janitor in Black Hole High is actually an extremely knowledgeable time traveler from the far-far future who is meant to observe and ensure the continuity of the timeline. He is known as "Observer of Observers".
  • A Running Gag in the third season of Barry is the main characters venting about their problems to a slack-jawed baker who proceeds to give them extraordinarily good advice - which they inevitably ignore. At one point, it's revealed there's a whole line of people across the block come to talk to him.
  • The Blacklist: The Debt Collector, a highly skilled Psycho for Hire, is a janitor as his day job.
  • Bones: Not an all-powerful variant but a wise one. The night guard at the Jeffersonian, shown in only one episode, always knows just what to say, although he claims he just attends a lot of lectures at the Institute in his spare time. Given that Bones is hallucinating in this episode, it is possible that he doesn't really exist. Booth, for example, had no idea who she was talking about.
    • Also, Dr Hodgins, the self-described "bug and slime guy", is rich enough to probably buy the place if he wanted. He prefers to pretend otherwise unless it's necessary to solve a case, such as when his knowledge of sailing came in handy.
    Angela: I never knew you sailed.
    Hodgins: I was a rich kid. We had to sail and have at least one girlfriend named Muffy. It's in the charter.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • A decidedly dark version in Mike Ehrmantraut, a retired cop introduced as Saul's hypercompetent private investigator. It turns out the job is just a sideline to Mike's more lucrative career: right-hand man and chief assassin for Gustavo Fring, a major drug trafficker.
    • Demonstrated in the prequel series Better Call Saul. Gus nominally hires Mike as a "security consultant" to cover up a large payment Gus owes him for a crime. Without being asked to, Mike visits a warehouse affiliated with Gus's empire and immediately identifies a long list of security issues. Gus is impressed enough to give him a major role in his business.
    • Gus himself dabbles in this trope, hiding in plain sight as the humble manager of a minor fast food restaurant chain.
  • Chuck is ostensibly just a shop-floor computer repairman with the Nerd Herd at the local Buy More (a cheap electronic goods store), but the entire staff considers him their leader and always expects him to solve whatever problems they have. Including the store manager. Of course Chuck is actually brilliant, just shy of an Mechanical Engineering degree from Standford, and good with people (in spite of being a raging nerd), so he was always the most competent person in the store even before he was accidentally recruited to the CIA.
  • Johnny from Cobra Kai, full stop. He may be a drunken belligerent handyman and complete loser who hasn't done anything of note with his life for thirty years, but he also has a black belt in a particularly vicious form of Karate and was the star student of his Vietnam War veteran sensei. Naturally, even after being out of the loop for so long, when pushed into a fight by a group of asshole bullies he utterly dominates all four of them in a fight and kicks the crap out of all of them with very little effort. After having been drinking heavily, no less.
  • Played for Laughs in Community:
    • In "Contemporary American Poultry", where it's revealed that the cafeteria fry cook could easily become akin to a mafia don for the whole school and control everything and everyone because the only edible food in the school cafeteria are the chicken fingers, and the cafeteria fry cook is responsible for cooking the chicken fingers — and deciding who gets them...
    • Starting in Season 3, it was revealed that the entire profession of air conditioning repairmen collectively fulfills this role, dating back to the days of slaves using palm fronds to fan Egyptian Pharaohs.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is himself an example, as among his own kind he's just a madman who stole a TARDIS. He ends up becoming the most powerful Time Lord to ever exist, earning the title of Lord President of Gallifrey (thrice!) and President of Earth, as well as the greatest hero in the Universe, but still prefers to just wander from place to place.
    • Donna Noble, best temp in Chiswick, discovers key information in several episodes by putting her paper-filing and administration powers to good use. In "The Sontaran Strategem", for example, she finds an empty sick-leaves folder that leads them to question the episode's suspicious company.
    • Rory Pond briefly, but memorably, becomes this in "The Big Bang", after his wounded wife is trapped in the Pandorica for nearly 2,000 years. As an immortal robot (long story), he vows to guard Amy until the Pandorica opens again, and passes into legend as the fabled "Last Centurion", safeguarding the box from Roman times all the way into the late 20th century. When the heroes meet up with him again in the 1980s, he's become a security guard at the London museum where the Pandorica is displayed as an exhibit; the same museum, in fact, where his adventures as the Last Centurion are chronicled as ancient history.
    • Perkins the train engineer from "Mummy on the Orient Express" proves to be a Hypercompetent Sidekick and more resourceful than the train full of scientists, doctors, and professors. He is able to provide a box of data on Mummy sightings, and is the one to figure out the Mummy's ability stemmed from the fact it was out-of-phase. He even earns the very rare "You, sir, are a genius!" remark from the Doctor.
  • Eureka:
    • Henry Deacon, the simple mechanic who knows everything about everything. Need a crash course in quantum physics? Call Henry. Temporal theory? Give Henry a ring. How about a quick list of any of the town's supergeniuses who might possibly know something he doesn't? He can tell you. This is only subverted midway through Season 3, where he is named the town's Mayor-elect in a surprise write-in ballot.
    • A lot of characters could qualify as this, considering it is a town of Mad Scientists. Take Vincent for example. He seems to run a simple restaurant, but is so good at his job that no customer has ever been able to request a meal that he cannot provide. note  Taggart, who everybody sees as being a nut, is actually probably the greatest trapper and animal expert in the world. Even Fargo, the resident Butt-Monkey, is a genius capable of building a sentient house despite being treated as little more than a lab assistant by most of the other residents.
  • In an episode of Freaky, a troublemaking student discovers too late that the school caretaker is some kind of supernatural being who commands an army of floor buffers. Said troublemaker ends up a permanent stain on the floor of the school gym.
  • On Fringe, Olivia has trouble readjusting after her return from "over there." Nina Sharp refers her to Sam Weiss, the man who "helped put (her) back together" after she got her cyberarm. As it turns out, Sam Weiss is a bowling alley attendant. He's also a brilliant, if eccentric, physical therapist.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • A literal version: Tyrion tells Varys that at the age of 16, his father Tywin assigned him the job of running the sewers and cisterns of Casterly Rock. Tyrion revolutionized it and made it perfect to spite his father.
    • Hobb, the cook at Castle Black, proves he's a full-fledged member of the Night's Watch by defending his kitchen from some Wildlings with a cooking pot and a big-ass cleaver.
    • This is Ramsay's cover to gain Theon's trust.
    • Jon Snow is one for the first four seasons. He's one of the most respected and well-liked men of the Night's Watch, as well as one of its most formidable warriors, despite officially being a Steward—one of the lowly laborers of the Watch, in charge of maintaining the castles and grounds. note  Subverted, though, in that he's Lord Commander Mormont's personal steward, and he gets the position because Mormont wants to groom him as his successor. Then double subverted when Mormont is killed in a mutiny before he can establish Jon as a potential successor, leaving Jon as a garden-variety Steward who's resented as an upstart by most of his superiors. He still gets himself elected Lord Commander.
  • House:
    • When House was a child in Japan, he witnessed doctors asking for medical advice from what looked to be a literal Almighty Janitor. It turns out the guy was a medical genius who worked as a janitor because he was a Burakumin (an untouchable). House says this is the reason he became a doctor. The man wasn't liked, but he was respected "because he was right."
    • Subverted in the Season 4 premiere where, after the ducklings have all quit or been fired, House starts using the janitor to bounce ideas off of, even having him pretend to be "Dr. Buffer" and deal with the patient's family.
    • Returned to again in the Season 8 premiere, where the Almighty Janitor is a prison inmate working as a janitor.
    • House briefly had another one on his team in one season: The man had an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine rivaling that of House himself but it was revealed that he didn't actually have a medical degree: he was actually an admissions officer at Columbia who audited 30 years worth of medical school classes.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:
    • Charlie Kelly is an odd example: as a janitor, he ranges from merely competent to downright bizarre in his methods (he's dealt with the pub's rat problem through carbon monoxide and spiked bats), and his intelligence borders on Psychopathic Man Child, but he's by far the best worker of anyone in Paddy's Pub, and the only one who seems to take his duties seriously. Compared to a bouncer who can barely fight, a waitress who insists on practicing her comedy routine to waiting customers, a bartender who once converted all his savings into printed bills with his face on them, and an owner who does nothing but occasionally bail the bar out out-of-pocket, he looks downright exemplary for a guy treated consistently as the bottom of the totem pole. One episode showed him devising a massive (and successful) Xanatos Speed Chess plan to get the pub, which was currently in the middle of a chickens-steakhouse-and-airline-miles scheme, a perfect score from the health inspector, while the other workers cared more about who would get credit for the scheme than about the possibility of the bar being shut down.
    • On the other hand, this was subverted in the episode "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry", where Charlie decides that he'll ingratiate himself with the students by copying the events of the film Good Will Hunting. He thinks he'll say something that reveals him to actually be an intelligent and well-learned genius despite the initial impression of him being a simple janitor, which will wow them and make them love him. Unfortunately for Charlie, it turns out he's not just a simple janitor—he's a flat-out moron with almost no education to speak of. When he tries to act smart around the college students, his incoherent rambling totally fails to impress them.
  • A semi-common theme in Kamen Rider is everyman characters who occupy ordinary positions in society coming into possession of great power.
    • Eiji in Kamen Rider OOO starts the series off as a hobo who becomes the titular character through happenstance, as the temp job he was working just so happened to be a company that had a group of Ancient Evils in storage.
    • Touma Kamiyama, the titular Kamen Rider Saber, is a fantasy book author. This works in his favor though since his skill as a writer makes him a really effective swordsman via the Magitek the Kamen Riders in the series use, as his creativity lets him continually come up with new ways to wield his Seiken. By the end of the series, he effectively becomes a Physical God after unlocking his Super Mode and becoming the new guardian of Wonder World.
  • Las Vegas: Mike Cannon is an engineer, MIT graduate, and nerd. He starts the series as a valet. He's called in to help the actual security staff several times during the first season. Despite his initial reluctance — due to actually liking being a valet, and the potential pay cut — he eventually becomes full-time security staff. In the final season, he's actually promoted to head of security.
  • Leverage: Redemption: The custodial staff at the University of Louisiana New Orleans maintains a secret society (complete with a fez-wearing poobah) that works to keep things running while making life miserable for those who cross its members.
  • Played with in Lie to Me with Ria Torres, discovered by Lightman working at an airport as a TSA agent, whose naturally developed Living Lie Detector abilities rival those of her future boss.
  • Lincoln Heights, both Eddie and Jenn Sutton work as a police officer and Nurse, respectively. Eddie has spent 12 years as just a low level beat cop but is clearly capable of being a sergeant or even detective. He actually purposely doesn't test for those positions, knowing that a promotion would take him off the street and put him behind a desk where he wouldn't do much good to the community. His family could certainly use the extra pay. Jenn is more understandable as she most likely would of gone to school to become a doctor, or at least a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant, but became pregnant at a very young age and never went to college.
  • Mad Men:
    • The company dumps all of the unattractive girls in the switchboard office. In spite of their lowly status, Joan understands that the switchboard operators hold a lot of power, so she's very careful to stay on their good side and often brings them gifts.
    • The trope applies to Joan herself. Despite being a secretary, she soon proves to be the single most competent person in the office because she is the only one who knows how to deal with all the boring, bureaucratic (and very, very important) stuff that none of the SC partners ever bothered to know.
  • In the series finale of Malcolm in the Middle... You get two guesses and the first one doesn't count. Kid had to pay for college somehow.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly practically ran the 4077th M*A*S*H.
      • Early episodes depicted him as possessing genuine telepathic (and possibly precognitive) powers, but these were abandoned about midway through the first season.
    • Cloudcuckoolander Klinger is an extremely good supply officer and corpsman which is why he can't get himself kicked out of the army. If it wasn't for Radar, he'd be the most important person in the unit. Indeed, after Radar leaves, Klinger takes his place.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • Merlin himself. He appears to be a normal boy (and servant to Arthur), but he in fact is quite skilled in magic and can kick most people's butts. Arthur's made it so clear by now that Merlin's opinion is the one he values over all others — but still forgets to pay his wages half the time, let alone make him an official adviser. Be honest, Arthur just likes throwing things at Merlin and wouldn't get to do that if Merlin had rank. Merlin also takes advantage of this trope by hanging out all over the place when he needs to gather information, since no one will question the Prince's manservant "cleaning the bedrooms" or hanging out around the throne room.
    • The trope is also deconstructed—even though everyone in the know values Merlin's opinion, his position as a servant means that Uther and many other Jerkass knights treat him like dirt.
  • Lenny Bicknall from M.I. High and his replacement Frank London. International superspies forced to masquerade as a school caretaker.
  • Mr. Young has Dang, who in addition to possessing martial arts prowess, can move incredibly fast, defy gravity, and even be in two places at once.
  • Ye Olde Tyme Parody TV Show Police Squad! had Johnny the Shoeshine Guy. Inspector Drebin would consult him about "the word on the street"; Johnny would say "I don't know nuthin'!", whereupon the Inspector would slip him a twenty and get detailed insider info about the Bad Guys' operations. And in a running gag, after the Inspector left, someone else would come up and Johnny would give them detailed information using the same procedure. The persons in question included a surgeon asking how to perform open-heart surgery, a priest wanting to know about the Afterlife, a fireman needing instructions on how to put out a warehouse fire, Dr. Joyce Brothers needing to know about mental health, baseball manager Tommy Lasorda needing tho know how to handle his pitching staff, and TV music host Dick Clark asking about new musical trends (and getting his supply of anti-aging cream).
  • The crew of the Orion from the 60s German science-fiction series Raumpatrouille (Space Patrol) are a whole crew of Almighty Janitors. Despite being the best crew of Earth's starfleet, they're backset from rapid space units to space patrol because of the unorthodox methods of their captain. And yet, they still save the day several times, including single-handedly stopping a full-fledged invasion of Earth by an alien power.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Dave Lister has some traits of this; though officially ranked the bottom-most on the ship's social structure (he was a Third Technician — which translates as "assistant chicken soup vending machine repairman"), he nevertheless has several surprisingly displays of skill, including being able to repair a smashed mechanoid with only a few minor glitches in memory, instantly spot the flaws in a computer's simulation of using a nuclear explosion to dislodge planets to block up a white hole, promptly recalculate the "play" himself due to his skill at pool, and devise a plan to double-bluff a ruthless time-travelling judge-droid. Said judge-droid even demands to know how Lister can justify living his life as such a lazy bum when he has so much potential that he's never bothered to use.
    • Lister is also, for the bulk of the series, the de facto captain of Red Dwarf and Starbug, in spite of never actually formally being promoted beyond Third Technician. In the first season he tries to take the exam to qualify as a chef in order to outrank holo-Rimmer de jure as well as de facto, but that falls through due to Lister only having two working tastebuds.
  • Dr. Krogshøj from Riget is, despite his status as a low ranking doctor, one of the most powerful people on the Kingdom Hospital as he is both the resident Knowledge Broker and Friend in the Black Market for the entire hospital. He both knows every dirty secret worth knowing about every member of the staff and he is able to get his collagues whatever they request from him within a few hours, and without the bureaucracy and red tape that comes with requesting it through the official channels, making him a pretty powerful political player in the employee hierarchy.
  • Scrubs:
    • The Janitor himself is so devious, underhanded and omniscient it borders on a superpower.
      • He is the king of lies and is mighty enough to domineer over both Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso and he can make people do things with his mind.
      • He has the ability to sense when squirrels are scared.
      • The Janitor can speak several different languages fluently, particularly Spanish.
      • He was a licensed taxidermist at one point, but had his license revoked for killing and stuffing animals. Not that losing it stopped him at all.
      • He's an inventor, although all of his inventions are just two already invented items combined together. Knifewrench, the Penstraw, Drill & Fork (Mostly Fork), a Paintball gun that also makes business cards.
      • In "My House," Janitor made an impressive painting on the wall in one of the hospital rooms.
      • The Janitor can use fear alone to get the entire hospital staff to do anything.
      • He made a key that opens ANY LOCK EVER.
      • The Janitor was in a Harrison Ford movie.
      • He once traveled faster than the speed of sound but you must never ever ask him how.
      • He doesn't believe in the moon, thinking it's the other side of the sun. A statement which is probably now correct...
      • He was a world-class hurdler when he was 19 years old and could have gotten a college scholarship if he hadn't had sex with the president's daughter. The daughter of the President of the United States that is. In his forties, he does a 100m hurdle run in less than 10 seconds, calling it "not even world-record pace." In fact, it beats the world-record by a lot!
      • He once said that the US should search for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and was later proven right.
      • He can move pens with his mind, though it only seemed to work in his house on a slightly slanted table. But he did it!
    • In Real Life, Janitor's actor Neil Flynn began ad-libbing his lines early on in the show rather than sticking to the script (Dr. Jan Itor being a classic example). Eventually, the entire cast ended up following his lead, and the series creator would sometimes walk in on scenes and have no idea what was being filmed because it was being ad-libbed and deviating from the script so much. Sam Lloyd, who plays Ted, claimed that one time he opened up his script and when it came to Janitor, it just said "Whatever Neil says."
    • Carla seems to have the most power in the hospital, in that she holds sway over every single full-time staff member, including The Janitor. In "My Nightingale," Carla switched her shift to help the protagonist doctor trio when they are left without supervision for a night. Not that they noticed.
      J.D.: (voiceover) Even though we all know tomorrow morning, the three of us [J.D., Turk, and Elliot] will go back to being the most unappreciated people in the whole damn hospital.
      Nurse: Hey, what are you doing here? I thought you were off last night.
      Carla: I switched shifts to help some friends out. Have a good one.
    • There was an episode where Turk was in charge of some interns and one of them (a big buff Eastern European) was being somewhat of an Insufferable Genius. Turns out he was a surgeon with a few years experience back home but had to become an intern again when he came to Sacred Heart.
    • Subtly invoked in the series finale via Casting Gag: as J.D. leaves Sacred Heart, the last person he bids farewell to is an anonymous Sacred Heart janitor we've never seen before. Said janitor is played by series creator Bill Lawrence in a Creator Cameo, effectively bidding farewell to the series that he brought to life.
  • Sherlock:
    • Depending on just how much you can trust his word, Mycroft. It's not just in Sherlock; Mycroft's minor/notable position is actually canon from the original Sherlock Holmes books by Arthur Conan Doyle. "He is the British Government" was lifted word-for-word from "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans".
      Mycroft: For goodness' sake! I occupy a minor position in the British Government.
      Sherlock: He is the British Government. When he's not too busy being the Secret Service, or the CIA on a freelance basis...
    • In "A Study in Pink", Sherlock comes face-to-face with the source of the "rash of suicides" in London, who turns out to be a serial killer with a twisted game he's played against each victim so far... staking either side's life on seemingly even chance that he's "won" four consecutive times. After a few minutes of conversation, Sherlock at least grants that whether everyone else is an idiot compared to him, or (the man suggests this with a chuckle) God just loves him, "you are wasted as a cabbie..."
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • You can say John Sheppard. He mentions that people "never thought he'd make it past captain", and his job's been in trouble many times due to him having messed with the guy upstairs. Also, shown to be pretty intelligent, but doesn't really like talking about it. You can also say the entirety of his team is like this.
    • A good example of just how much of an Almighty Janitor he is can be seen in the two-parter, "The Storm" and "The Eye" in Series 1, where he manages to hold off an occupying force of Genii soldiers in Atlantis single-handed by outsmarting them at every turn. All the while, while managing to disable key systems so they can't follow him and still find time to accomplish his other objective, rerouting the lightning rod grounding stations to power the City's shield to protect it from an incoming hurricane that covers roughly 20% of the planet's surface.
      • He also qualified for, but turned down Mensa membership.
  • Stargirl (2020):
    • Invoked with Blue Valley High's janitor who is able to fight off Cindy Burman with surprising efficiency. Justified since he's actually Shining Knight whose mind has been damaged after being tortured and experimented on.
  • Star Trek:
    • These memory-alpha sites state that the petty officers (naval counterparts to army sergeants) have the most experience in Starfleet. Despite this, this analysis states that the enlisted are excluded from meetings and the chain of command.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Boothby knows all the cadets and gives many of them advice. Picard recommends Wesley pay attention to him even though he's just a janitor and gardener and he himself seeks Boothby's counsel when he's investigating Red Squad. Boothby is also mentioned fondly in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
      • Guinan. She's a bartender and a "listener" who always has good advice and has a special relationship with Picard (turns out they will have met before he was born because she's older than she looks). She also can tell when time has been retconned and adopts a defensive posture against Q as though she thinks she's capable of fighting him. Q's reaction suggests he thinks she can as well.
      • Even Picard himself shows shades of this at times. Though he is at the top of the pyramid in the Enterprise crew as the Captain, he is still this compared to the higher echelons of Starfleet rank. He could easily become an admiral (and the admiralty even regularly pressures him to do so), but he prefers to be a captain of a starship, much like Kirk before him. Exemplified in the Battle of Sector 001 in Star Trek: First Contact. Once he finds out that the admiral's flagship is destroyed, he takes charge, and the remainder of the fleet follow.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Garak. This plain and simple tailor has knowledge of multiple cultures, multiple languages, has in-depth computer skills, can crack codes that baffle entire intelligence agencies, excels at engineering, bomb-making, and interrogation techniques, is a crack shot with a phaser, is tapped in to more resources than almost anyone else, and when he's been out of the game for several years his unarmed combat skills are still good enough to put Worf on the defensive (Worf still won, but it left him with a hefty respect for Garak's skill). He's a tailor because he's in exile from Cardassia for an unspecified crime. Prior to his exile he was one of the most powerful Cardassians alive, protégé and biological son of Enabran Tain himself (the head of the Obsidian Order who, at his peak, was unofficially the single most powerful — and feared — Cardassian alive). Now Garak's a tailor. A tailor the Federation comes to rely on more and more heavily as the show progresses.
      • In addition to all that, he's a damned good tailor as well.
      • Miles "the only enlisted man in Starfleet" O'Brien. When he isn't present nobody can keep the station running, and he's effectively the chief engineer on the Defiant as well. When the Dominion war is full swing he's also effectively in charge of a major repair station that services warships from three navies. Any one of these should be a senior officer's job, and he does all of them at once as a CPO. He's frequently seen ordering commissioned officers around, suggesting his de facto rank is quite a bit higher than his actual pay grade.
      • Captain Sisko himself is a downplayed version of this trope. While he does spend a lot of time on the front lines commanding the Defiant, or commanding his station, both responsibilities befitting his rank, he also is one of the main architects of the Federation's grand strategy in the Dominion War as a whole, which really should be the responsibility of a flag officer. He's often discussing major strategy with General Martok and Vice Admiral Ross and being treated by both as more a peer than a subordinate.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • When Species 8472 creates a simulation of Starfleet Academy, the creature in charge of the project takes the role of Boothby, the groundskeeper at the real Starfleet Academy.
      • Tom Paris. Junior Lieutenant. Best pilot in the Federation. Once took down a cruiser with a half broken shuttle craft. Saved Voyager multiple times single-handed. Built an engine that could do infinite speed (though that was declared non-canon).
      • Halfway through Voyager, Harry Kim realizes that he's effectively become this trope. He's been on so many adventures and saved the ship so many times, but the fact that Voyager is thousands of light-years away from Earth means he can't be officially promoted and is stuck at the rank of Ensign until they get home, even though by Season 4 he's become vastly overqualified. He does take steps to combat the trope, though, taking on larger responsibilities, challenging authority when needed, and getting past his initial naivety, but because of Voyager's position he remains the lowest-ranked member of the crew (aside from Neelix and Seven, but only because they aren't "officially" members of Starfleet).
        Alien: (after being rescued by Kim) How long have you been Captain?
        Kim: I'm just an ensign.
        Alien: Ensign? Uh... What is that?
        Kim: A junior officer. (beat) The lowest ranked officer, actually.
      • But it's ridiculous and untrue that he could not be promoted. Capt. Janeway promotes Paris. She make Torres a Lieutenant JG and Chief Engineer though she wasn't even a Star Fleet officer. There are other examples. He could be given a field promotion. Janeway could and should but inexplicably does not promote Ensign Kim to at least Lieutenant SG over the course of the seven years.
    • Star Trek: Lower Decks features Mariner, who is incredibly competent at every skill applicable to being a Starfleet officer. She nevertheless prefers to be an ensign on the lower decks rather than on the bridge. When she's promoted, she is still very adept — but also incredibly miserable from all the bureaucracy required of the role.
  • On Suits, Donna — the all-knowing legal secretary — fits this role to a tee. It's a big part of her charm. Fittingly, when a former managing partner tries to take back control of the firm, the first part of his plan is to neutralize Donna. With her out of the picture he easily out gambits master manipulators like Harvey and Jessica. As soon as Donna returns, she is able to figure out the next part of his scheme within seconds of seeing that Louis is wearing a different suit than usual.
  • Supernatural:
    • In "Tall Tales", Trickster God Loki masquerades as a janitor in a university, thus allowing him to find people within the university to punish in twisted yet darkly comedic ways. A few seasons later, he is revealed to be the Archangel Gabriel, on the run from Heaven as a result wanting no part in the impending apocalypse, thus making himself an example of this again.
    • In "The Dark Side of the Moon," the Winchester brothers travel to Heaven, and meet a lowly gardener who knows a lot about the whereabouts of God—a question which is a great mystery that puzzles even the greatest of archangels.
  • Done very literally in Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. Jimmy (recognizable as the first half of Jay and Silent Bob) serves as the janitor at Crowley High. Though mostly The Stoic, he serves as a reliable source of information (and weed) for the central characters and occasionally cleans up the huge amounts of blood and gore that flood the school on a regular basis. The second season finale reveals that this is deliberate: he's actually a Big Good who secretly protects the school from three demons who have been trying to break inside for years; as a trade-off, though, he has to remain inside the building forever, which explains why he's always around just when the heroes need him.
  • Ianto Jones of Torchwood is initially identified as the team's tea-boy/janitor, who sometimes mans a Tourist Information desk. In practice, however, he takes on pretty much every role the team can throw at him, ranging from being Gwen's wedding fairy to going hand-to-hand with a Weevil.
  • The Unit is about a secret US Army special ops unit. The cover story, however, is the very boring "303rd Logistical Studies Division". The cover extends to the soldiers who are expect to be experts in packing and loading of military equipment, alongside their actual combat roles.
  • In the series Warehouse 13, the individuals who control and make decisions for the Warehouse are the Regents who "hide in plain sight" as grocery store clerks, diner waitresses, etc. One particular Regent, Theodora, not only guards the secrets of warehouse full of artifacts and objects that could destroy the world a thousand times over- she also makes the best pie in the county.
    Artie: I... You know, I just would have thought that... this waitress is a Regent?
    Valda: John Adams was a farmer. Abraham Lincoln was a small-town lawyer. Plato, Socrates were teachers. Jesus was a carpenter. To equate judgment and wisdom with occupation is at best... insulting.
  • The Weinerville Chanukah Special gives us Mrs. Kababble, the Weinerville Ski Lodge's terrifying housekeeper. She only appears for two scenes, but makes it quite clear if you forget to wipe your feet, no one can save you- not even if you're an alien invader.
  • The Wire:
    • Lester Freamon begins the series as a very lowly regarded detective in a department whose only job is keeping records of (potentially stolen) items sold to pawnshops over a certain amount, and he is given so little to do that he spends his days crafting dollhouse furniture rather than work cases. However, his low status is due to the fact that he is being punished for past insubordination, not for a lack of ability. When given the opportunity to shine again, he's quick to prove himself one of the very best detectives in the city. Furthermore, because Freamon gains the complete trust of Cedric Daniels in the early seasons and Daniels suddenly enjoys several unexpected promotions in the last few seasons, this gives Freamon much more clout and leeway within the department than would be expected considering that he is never promoted past detective.
    • As Jimmy McNulty explains, patrol officers have much more power and freedom in interacting with the public and with street criminals than one would guess from their rank, going so far as to call a patrol officer on his beat "the one true dictatorship in America." Patrol officers can choose to let criminals or civilians go, write them up for minor crimes, or snowball what should be a minor charge or interaction into an accusation of a major crime, and as long as their fellow officers will back them up (which is almost always, unless they've really gone out of their way to alienate their colleagues), they can get away with it. They also have more freedom from Da Chief than a lot of the higher ranking police commanders, since the top brass can keep tabs on all the mid-level police management, but simply can't look over every patrolman's shoulder all day. The show explores both the good side of this, such as McNulty and Baker skipping out on writing pointless tickets to investigate a robbery spree, and the bad side most notably Rabid Cop Colicchio brutalizing and robbing the people on his beat, and Officer Walker terrifying the local street kids and using his position to steal from suspects.
  • Jennifer from WKRP in Cincinnati is an example of this; despite being a mere receptionist, she is the highest-paid employee at the station, arguably the most competent person in the entire outfit, and untouchable by anyone, including the REAL boss.
  • Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, despite being anonymous to the population at large and describing himself as a "humble functionary", is effectively running the country from behind the scenes by the end of the series.
    President of Buranda: I've always thought that Permanant Under-Secretary is such a demeaning title... makes you sound like an assistant typist or something, whereas you're really in charge of everything aren't you?
  • An Israeli satire show once did a famous sketch whose concept is "What would happen if Superman was Israeli, and serving in the IDF?" Naturally, Superman was made a lazy, obnoxious and practically omnipotent quartermaster. In the sketch, even the Chief of Staff has to make deals with him to get him to do anything.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Classical Mythology
    • Hestia is quite literally an Almighty Janitor. Zeus's eldest sister, the eldest of the Olympian gods, and one of the six strongest beings in the cosmos, while all her siblings become kings or queens of various realms/aspects of reality, she just keeps busy as a housekeeper. Yes, on Mount Olympus the wizened old guy on the center throne with the badass lightning bolt and laundry list of slain monsters is both the younger brother of, and about as strong as, the soft-spoken lady who brings him his food and sweeps-up. Two examples of how badass she is:
      • She is, canonically, one of only three beings in the Cosmos over whom Aphrodite has no power, the others being the other two virgin goddesses, Artemis and Athena. For reference, Aphrodite is capable of beguiling Zeus himself — or granting Hera the power to — but she's powerless over Hestia.
      • Despite being one of the deities about whom the fewest myths are told, she was worshiped in practically every household and at the heart of every city. Bringing some of Hestia's flame was crucial to founding any new colony. And the Homeric hymns tell us that she receives a wine offering at the beginning and end of EVERY mortal feast.
      • Hestia is also Loved by All of the Olympians; though she herself is an Actual Pacifist, basically the only thing her family can agree on is that anyone who slights Hestia suffers.
    • Her Roman counterpart, Vesta, was also the center of one of the most politically powerful priesthoods in Rome, the Vestal virgins.
  • Jesus probably qualifies. Born to a humble family and raised as a carpenter, never went to school nor traveled far from his home and never invented anything; nevertheless if you believe the Bible, Jesus is also quite literally God Himself in human form.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • While managers are expected to have some sort of influence in pro wrestling, Harvey Wippleman was a manager of jobbers, yet eventually managed to build up a sort of power base for himself simply through sheer longevity in the business.
  • Jobbers as a whole are the 'janitors' in the wrestling business. Their role is to lose or 'job' to the more popular wrestlers, but since wrestling is a cooperative endeavor, even the marquee stars won't be able get over without their help. Jobbers are often also safe, reliable workers who make matches easier for their opponents, and can even be senior wrestlers, trainers, or locker room leaders who only became jobbers due to not having the right look, not having the ambitions, or a misdemeanor in the past gave them a bad public reputation.
  • Kazushi Sakuraba was a largely ignored under card wrestler in Union Of Wrestling Forces International. But when more heavily pushed pro wrestlers such as his mentor Nobuhiko Takada came up short in Mixed Martial Arts, Sakuraba was the one who took the sport by storm and became champion of UFC Japan, defending the honor of pro wrestling.
  • Women's Extreme Wrestling and Dangerous Women of Wrestling had Steve The Sound Guy, who somehow managed to stay employed after assaulting other employees, including those theoretically less expendable than him such as models and even some wrestlers and had the ability to influence who became a title contender.
  • Yoshiaki Fujiwara was an example of a wrestler who was legitimately skilled and always over yet for whatever reason, wouldn't get pushed by a promotion. (In this case, being the first graduate of New Japan Pro-Wrestling's dojo) Since leaving, he found some success in other places such as Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and Pro Wrestling ZERO1 but companies tend to fall apart around him before he can really get going.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: The Hero System allows characters to have "Contacts" (NPCs who will sometimes help you) and "Favors" (an NPC owes you a favor — basically a one-use Contact). Contacts with little authority or status cost just as much as higher-level ones, because their ability to help isn't less, just different (for example, a clerk at police headquarters is more likely to let you sneak a peek at the files than the police commissioner, because it's much easier for the clerk to bend the rules without anybody noticing).
  • In Exalted, Sidereal Exalted have powers that aid them in using this trope, especially when it comes to adopting unobtrusive and forgettable mortal personas with incredible training and advisory skills. Chejop Kejak is "known" in Creation mostly as the humble secretary to the leader of the Immaculate Order, a minor lecturer at the most prominent academy for Sorcery in the world, and an occasional (and often low priority) visitor to the Scarlet Empress, even while he is one of the most powerful individuals in Heaven.
  • GURPS Illuminati University does put the most powerful character in the setting — the ArchDean — in charge of the whole thing, but the second-most powerful character is the Janitor, who seemingly is always right where he needs to be when he needs to be, and he can clean up anything (in a World of Weirdness where nuclear reactor leaks, Cthulhu incursions, and tears in the space-time continuum are a boring weekday). He mostly uses his absurd knowledge and power to a) help him clean things up, and b) earn bribes from anyone who might need further info.
  • In Nomine specifically points out that many Cherubim (guardian angels) choose to work in jobs which most other celestials would find beneath them, such as janitors. This allows them to keep a low profile and go anywhere without being questioned. With the power a common celestial wields, this can indeed be an Almighty Janitor, or come close to it for those he wants to help.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • The sourcebook Lair of the Hidden has a scenario in which one of the almost god-like Antediluvians disguises himself as a mere human servant and attempts to guide some of his former students back to the path of Golconda with the help of the player-characters. All while still performing the duties of a servant in order to teach himself humility before the end comes.
    • Then there's Caine himself, who is at least an order of magnitude more powerful than the aforementioned Antediluvian, but has spent millenia Wandering the Earth and working menial jobs and observing humanity, and holds his power-hungry childer in contempt.

  • Figaro from Beaumarchais' plays The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro and the operas based on the plays. From his positions as barber and manservant, respectively, he manages to play the rest of the cast, which includes nobles, doctors and lawyers, like a violin.
  • The Yang family generals are the heroes of a number of Peking operas. They come in both male and female form. One of them, Yang Paifeng, is all about the titular maidservant, who is in charge of tending the hearth and serving tea, but doubles as a badass fighter.

    Video Games 
  • Advanced V.G. is about an MMA competition for waitresses. Waitresses who also happen to be among the strongest martial artists in the world, enough that a Nebulous Evil Organisation sponsored the tournament looking to test their biological weapons against them.
  • Angry Birds Fight! has a somewhat more literal example in the form of the Janitor Pig. It proves to be one of the most annoying opponents in the game due to its massive health pool.
  • Armored Core:
    • The series always had rankings, but it isn't until Armored Core: Master of Arena that you can fight each other. In that game, the lowest-ranking ones, even after the post-story unlockables are very weak. Along came Armored Core 2 and Armored Core 3. In Armored Core 3 and the sequel Silent Line, the arena also features a post-story unlockable enemies. The catch is that the lower in the rank they go, the tougher they are, so much so that in Armored Core 3, there's an email challenging you to defeat the bottom-most opponent, Exile, while giving you the Game-Breaker OP-I (albeit you need to train it properly first) just to give you a slight, repeat, slight edge over the opponent. To further hammer the point home, the email added "you may be considered unfair should you choose to use the equipment I provided."
    • Another example would be Armored Core 2's Werehound. He apparently stays at a relatively low rank specifically because he enjoys wrecking the confidence of hopeful new ravens. Too bad that one can simply evade all of his weapons to the point that he has no method of attack whatsoever.
    • The Almighty Janitor in Armored Core 2 is known as Mattheas. He pales in comparison to Armored Core 3's janitor, Exile, but is far and away the most skilled A.I. Raven you'll face in the game. He packs two of the most powerful weapons available.
    • In Armored Core 4, YOU stay at the bottom rank no matter how many opponents you trash. By time For Answer rolls around, and 4's protagonist goes rogue, he's risen in rank—to Rank 9. In-story, the League is so afraid of him and his mech (as well as Fiona Jarnefeldt), that they send in the Rank 1... with backup, because alone, well...
      • This will makes perfect sense to anyone that remembers the earlier Armored Core games, who probably just saw the "9" part and connected it to Nine-Ball, the Big Bad of the first game and a recurring That One Boss throughout the series.
      • 4 has another janitor archetype fittingly named "Roadie." While he's only rank 36 (just 3 ranks above the player) and his bio describes him as "a match only for a small squadron of Normals," in a real fight he hits incredibly hard thanks to his powerful and accurate missiles and his bazooka arms, and his defenses as a SUNSHINE model are strong enough to withstand high-powered laser blasts that can destroy a lighter NEXT in two or three hits. Because of this, not only does Roadie survive the events of 4, but he also becomes one of the top five pilots in Collared in for Answer, and potentially even one of the Final Bosses depending on the player's route in that game.
      • Also in Armored Core: For Answer: You, once again. Even though you're given the option to advance this time, nothing's really forcing you to, and you can destroy any number of other NEXTs and Arms Forts, and still be placed behind the guy who uses a mech speced for construction work instead of combat.
    • Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon has... well, you again, starting as just one of Handler Walter's nameless Hounds, having to steal your license to even operate on the planet from another unlucky pilot, eventually working up to deciding the fate of Rubicon and its prized Coral.
      • Turns out the pilot you stole your license from was (or rather, is) also one of these, as Boss Banter with the PCA's Cataphract unit reveals that despite their bottom-of-the-barrel arena rank, they were responsible for leaking the intel that brought the corporations back to Rubicon after the Fires of Ibis supposedly destroyed it, and they turn out to be quite the formidable pilot when they confront you to see if you're worthy of taking the name "Raven," after all.
      • Like White Glint in For Answer, the Arquebus Vesper V.IV Rusty holds the infamous rank 9 in the arena, and proves to be much more than mere numbers would suggest. After defecting from Arquebus and getting his own Mid-Season Upgrade to Steel Haze ORTUS, Rusty becomes either the penultimate boss of the Fires of Raven route (notably after you fought the top-ranked V.I Freud), or the player's support in the Liberator of Rubicon route, taking out an entire fleet of Arquebus' warships off-screen while you deal with his old boss V.II Snail and the Xylem.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Assassin's Creed: Subverted with Altaïr. While not "largely immune to the whims of the higher-ups", after he royally screws up he is stripped of his rank and the privileges that come with it, effectively starting from the ground up despite having previously attained the title of Master Assassin. He spends the majority of the game being a badass, trying to earn his status back and eventually gets there... sort of.
    • Assassin's Creed II: Ezio spends a decade (and most of the game) as an unofficial Initiate assassinating Templars, shoring up the Assassin power base and thoroughly derailing Templar plans before being formally inducted. He's given also a great deal of leeway in his revenge quest—it just so happens that his goals line up with those of the Brotherhood.
  • Roy Becket from Astebreed is literally this trope. He's just a cleanup man for a military company, but once he's in battle as the pilot of a powerful Humongous Mecha, goes to show why he's The Hero of the story.
  • Astra Hunter Zosma: Although Zosma is a fairly capable fighter, he's ranked dead last as an Astra Hunter. He later states that it's because he plays it too safe by only taking on easy ruins, which have already been scoured clean by other hunters. Depending Zosma's treasure count, he can end up in 99th (last), 50th, 10th, or 1st place in the guild rankings in the ending, though his combat prowess is undeniable considering he and his blob companion defeated Deneb, the former top Astra Hunter.
  • Kid Ultra from Battleborn was originally designed to be nothing more than a robotic babysitter. However thanks to what happened to him in his past and later being picked up by the Battleborn, he became a fellow badass fighting a legion of star consuming cosmic horrors.
  • Deconstructed in Bioshock 1. Andrew Ryan created the Underwater City of Rapture to act as a utopian Rich Recluse's Realm for the best and brightest society had to offer. Unfortunately he Didn't Think This Through as he failed to realize that he would still need laborers to keep the place running, so a good chunk of wannabe business magnates and scientists ended up scrubbing toilets. This led to a great deal of resentment towards Ryan himself among the newly-destitute working class of Rapture, which the Big Bad Frank Fontaine capitalized on to bring about the city's downfall.
  • Borderlands 3: The "Guns, Love, and Tentacles" DLC brings back Gaige, one of the Vault Hunters from the second game. Wainwright and Hammerlock have hired her as their wedding planner. She considers it her duty to make sure the wedding goes perfectly, so when a crazy cult starts interfering she doesn't find anything odd about picking up a gun and fighting back. She coordinates much of the DLC, and makes it clear several times that she just sees it as a normal and expected part of her job.
    Gaige: Never mess with a wedding planner.
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter: Ryu. In a world where your place in society is determined by your D-ratio, Ryu has the depressingly low D-rank of 1/8192. As it turns out, though, that D-ratio indicates the chances of a person bonding with a dragon; Ryu beats the odds and proceeds to carve a path of destruction all the way up the chain of command, eventually defeating a trio of 1/4-rank Physical Gods.
  • Bug Fables: Stratos and Delilah are low-ranking Explorers who have been dubbed "Team Slacker" in-universe, known for never finishing a mission and being scouts who find points of interest rather than fighters. In the postgame, they can be sparred as a superboss, where it is revealed that they are among the most powerful characters in the entire game. Lampshaded by Leif, his notes on Stratos having him say that their fight with the Wasp King would have been easier if they had Stratos and Delilah with them.
  • Chest:
    • Downplayed with Zong. While he's the prince of the Nether, in the earthly realm, he currently works as a handyman taking on various small jobs, all while having maxed stats in everything except luck.
    • The mayor of the Snow Village and the barkeeper Silin are known as the Aluxes brothers. Due to being descendants of a great hero, they're both among the strongest warriors in the earthly realm.
  • Chrono Cross:
    • Glenn is one of the best, if not the best, optional character you can recruit in this game. But despite being a dual-sword wielding badass with familial connections to the higher-ups, his only real job seems to be guarding the resident Damsel in Distress during her walks about town. No explanation is ever given as to why this is or why a bratty ten-year-old girl is his commanding officer, except that he has a childhood crush on the damsel he's guarding and that she happens to be a sadistic killing machine. With recognition like that, no wonder he betrays the Dragoons.
    • A much more literal example of this trope is the janitor on the S.S. Zelbess, who is actually the Sage of Marbule.
  • Chrono Trigger: The Nu is an odd example of this. In the palace of Zeal, Nus serve as janitors, and you can steal their Mop weapons. However, the self-proclaimed God of War's ultimate form at The End of Time is a Nu, and Nus are surprisingly capable fighters as well as having out-of-this-worldly knowledge.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Comrade Dasha, the intelligence officer/Voice with an Internet Connection of the USSR. Despite her relatively lowly position as a coordinator, in the Soviet campaign she ends up running the show alongside the player thanks to everybody else betraying one another. In the canonical Allied ending, meanwhile, she uses her status as "technically a civilian" to avoid getting locked up along with the other Soviet leaders and becomes de facto head of La Résistance.
  • One of the four playable heroes in Crisis Beat is Yan Fei-shu, a teen karateka and part-time janitor dragged into a terrorist plot. Who gets to kick tons and tons of ass using her mop as a Broomstick Quarterstaff.
  • Ahti, the Cloudcuckoolander Finnish janitor of the Federal Bureau of Control, in Control. He can seemingly come and go anywhere he pleases, even the most secretive and tightly restricted areas. He also apparently just showed up one day soon after the FBC first moved into the Oldest House. Nobody remembered hiring him, and he seemed to already know his way around the place better than anyone else. The FBC is so baffled by him that they just gave up on trying to figure him out, while Jesse offers a more mundane explanation: "the janitor always has the keys". Either way, it's clear that there's much more to him than meets the eye, with him possibly being either an avatar of the Oldest House itself or the Finnish sea god he's named after. It's worth noting that the Finnish word for "janitor" translates literally to "man of the house", and Ahti frequently uses Finnish metaphors translated literally into English.
  • The fourth and youngest of the playable heroes, Yan, from Crisis Beat, is a teen karate expert working part-time as a janitor on a luxury cruiser, The Princess, when the ship gets taken over by terrorists. Players using Yan can kick plenty of ass with a broom as their main weapon.
  • Dawn of War 2: Cyrus is a veteran of multiple campaigns and has served two decades in the Deathwatch, and could easily make a much higher rank if he sought it, but is content with being a scout sergeant in charge of training the chapter's initiates. The reason for this is because Cyrus' unorthodox (though often highly successful) tactics has made him unpopular with several of his peers and superiors, but by remaining in charge of training he is able to ensure that all the generations of space marines he trains will be molded to his way of thinking.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: Beethro Budkin is quite the literal example of this, starting out as just a janitor for hired by King Dugan to clear out his dungeon, but his penchant for curiosity ends up leading him into a giant plot that culminates in him saving the entire world from apocalypse. All the while, Beethro still ends up clearing out every place he finds himself in of the hostile monsters.
  • Deus Ex: This is invoked by MJ12 by having Walton Simons appointed director of FEMA. When they spring their plan to take over the United States, he would use the agency to imprison the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court and run the country himself. Later subverted when it doesn't work as numerous generals, state governors, and the Secretary of Defense refuse to acknowledge his authority.
  • Disgaea:
    • Across the series, there are penguin-like demons known as Prinnies who are at the bottom of the totem pole, doing menial labor for Overlords, with their wages often being described in single-digit sardines per month. But they can also be recruited into the player's army, and like with all other classes, enough Level Grinding makes them into powerhouses that inflict so much damage that their damage numbers turn into rounded-off values with a "M" (for million) at the end.
    • Another example comes from Mr. Champloo. A Home Economics Teacher at Evil Academy (unlisted, at that), whom has also been taking orders from the lingering spirit of the Overlord to guide Mao and company to unmask and stop the real villain of the game, Super Hero Aurum.
    • Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten: Though Valvatorez was once the powerful and widely feared Tyrant, he is now just a simple Prinny Instructor — a Prinny Instructor who The Most Badass Frickin' Overlord in All the Cosmos considers a Worthy Opponent.
    • Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance has the Maid class. Their backstory involves a Nether Noble seeing a zombie living such a free lifestyle, and he couldn't stand the sight so he made the zombie into a house servant, resulting in authority figures employing zombies as maids en masse. And like with Prinnies, Maids can be raised to ungodly levels, helped by their Evilities allowing them to use items without ending their turns and improving the efficiency of consumable items, including attack items, allowing them to easily nuke enemies with throwing knives, shuriken, darts, and the like.
  • Dyztopia: Post-Human RPG: Before finding the Virgo stone, Akira was a low-ranked Hunter due to prioritizing smaller, lower-paying jobs over larger demon hunts, despite being just as capable in combat as the top Hunters.
  • Doom:
    • The backstory of the nameless Space Marine in the original game is explained in the game's README file that he assaulted a superior officer after being ordered to fire upon civilians, and was transferred to duty on Mars as punishment. This is why he's just a lowly grunt soldier despite being able to kill all of The Legions of Hell singlehandedly.
    • The movie has a Shout-Out to this when "The Kid" is ordered to fire on civilians, refuses, and is promptly shot in the brain pan.
  • Dragon Age II: According to a sarcastic Hawke, this is what being the Champion of Kirkwall entails. Despite ascending to the nobility and later becoming the Champion, Hawke refuses to get themselves into a position of actual authority, preferring to run things from the ground, as this gives them the freedom to act without going through political red-tape. By Act III, this is actually given as the reason why the nobles want Hawke as the new Viscount, because instead of political posturing, they are the only person who actually manages to get things done.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • One of your migrants is a High Master level Lye Maker? Too bad you don't need soap yet (or lye production is bugged again), it's refuse hauling duty for you pal.
    • Also, military dwarves on a month of leave. Sure, they may only be good at hauling stuff right now, but they're still decked out in a Steel Breastplate and are only a few days away from training his axe skills up to master.
  • In the mobile game The Executive, you play as a generic Salaryman who works as an intern at a mining company, who demonstrates inexplicable martial arts skills when a lycanthrope apocalypse suddenly hits. Subverted later on, as the in-game newspaper not only credits him for saving the day, but he gets promoted as the game continues.
  • In Fate/Grand Order: After successfully resolving the Grand Order and restoring mankind's history the player is given the rank of "Cause", the third-lowest rank in the Mage Association. Justified, for multiple reasons. First, the protagonist's magic ability is so abysmal, it's said that even this rank is way beyond anything they could've achieved. Second, most of their achievements are severely downplayed by da Vinci in order to prevent the Association from issuing a Sealing Designation on the protagonist, and/or dissecting them.
  • Fate/Samurai Remnant: You'd think someone as bombastic as Gilgamesh to demand a job placement more grandiose than a fabric shop, even if it's a high-class one, but here we are. Woe betide anyone who thinks the boasting of this textile salesman is a bluff, as he is in fact the Ruler for the Waxing Moon Ritual meant to keep the Servants in line, and would have enough power to bury them even with a traditional Servant class.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
  • Final Fantasy Tactics:
    • Ramza spends the entirety of this game as a squire, quitting the royal military academy and going rogue before ever obtaining noble title like the rest of his family has/had. He also misses out on acquiring all the awesome holy sword abilities that come with knighthood which every other character who is an actual knight (including his former best friend Delita) possesses. That said, while he may only be a squire he is a monstrously powerful squire who goes on to stop a bloody and pointless war and saves the world from no less than six Eldritch Abominations.
    • Also, his Squire class is one of the strongest classes in the game, thanks to a couple of unique abilites he gets, plus equipment other squires can't use.
  • Freedom Fighters (2003) takes a cue from the Super Mario Bros. franchise. It's about a plumber who's on a job when the Russians invade and take over America. He then forms a military resistance to kick the Russians out of America.
  • Future Wars: The hero is a window washer, who stumbled upon his employer's dark secret and ended up fighting aliens in the past and future.
  • Geneforge 2: Among the Shapers, Asskicking Leads to Leadership is not in effect. No matter how many people and Mons you kill, you're still a mere apprentice magician as far as the NPCs are concerned, until you get back home and can have your status re-evaluated. And if you gained your powers through use of an Upgrade Artifact, you won't be climbing the ranks.
  • Genshin Impact: An NPC named Jiangxue can be found near the Wangshu Inn. While a fisherman, he is much more powerful than he appears: he once owned a Vision, he is able to sense monsters approaching, and without his Vision or any weapon, takes down a Ruin Hunter that is immune to any attacks from the player.
  • The Godfather: In the game, while Rank Scales with Asskicking is largely in effect, almost all of your levelable skills come from Respect levels gained by free-roaming rather than the plotline promotions up the Family's ladder. This means that your rank can still be "Outsider" while you're already far more accomplished than any number of enemy Underbosses.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: The in-game character encyclopedia outright says that the royal court of Kaocho are egotistical half-wits and Meisa the scribe is the only one who gets anything done.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Frank Tenpenny, the Big Bad, is officially a patrolman with the LSPD. Unofficially, he's the gangland kingpin of Southern San Andreas.
  • Half-Life:
    • Gordon Freeman. Yeah, he's a Badass Bookworm, but his doctorate is in theoretical physics, not ninjutsu, and the resonance cascade happened on his first day in the Anomalous Materials laboratory. He's fairly low on the totem pole.
    • Half-Life 2 lampshades this when you overhear the Big Bad broadcasting a speech to his Mooks, shaming them for their constant failure in stopping Gordon.
      "This is not some agent provocateur or highly-trained assassin we are discussing. Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had hardly earned the distinction of his Ph.D. at the time of the Black Mesa Incident."
  • Hiveswap has Marsti Houtek, a lowblood assigned to cleaning duty. That doesn't stop her from being a badass, though.
  • Iji: The Playful Hacker Yukebacera ranks as a common Tasen Soldier and looks like one. He's also, bar none, the most badass Tasen around and one of the toughest fighters of any race. To put it in perspective, he's the fastest NPC in the game, and has the most weapons aside from the final boss.
  • Kero Blaster:
    • Kaeru's job is officially listed as "custodial sciences" (read: janitor), and his only real job is to go out and clean teleporters. However, since the teleporters are housed in areas that are apparently quite hostile, he's armed to the teeth, and seems to do the most actual work around the company (he's even half of the name).
    • Pink Hour and Pink Heaven show that Comomo the secretary is just as skilled with a blaster as Kaeru.
  • Kingdom Hearts protagonist Sora has never been promoted to the title of Keyblade Master, despite being vastly more powerful than several characters who are given the rank of Master and having saved the world three times and counting. Part of the reason for the lack of promotion is that he just can't seem to stop getting knocked back down to Level 1.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Cool Old Guy Jolee Bindo is a powerful Jedi with mastery of the force, and his idea of a soul-searching vacation is to spend a few decades in a forest so dangerous that most Wookies fear it. But due to both contentment with the ranking, and disillusionment with the Jedi Order in general, he's technically still only a Padawan after Declining Promotion to Knight. Canonically he eventually gained the rank of Master and sat on the Jedi High Council after the events of the sequel before retiring.
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Liberal Crime Squad: You have dancers and yoga instructors. They all have very high Agility, Strength, and Health, making them even tougher than agents.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The player character Shepard holds the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on the Alliance military. However, given how slowly and gradually Shepard becomes important in the story enough to gain the full attention of the Big Bad of the series, they become this. This helps that they become a Spectre, who holds a lot of authority across the Citadel space and thus they are now outside Alliance authority (although they still answer to them from time to time, they just have a lot of freedom in their choices). Even among their crew, which some of them outrank the player character, they still defer to them for orders. By the time of the third game, they are acting as the military ambassador of humanity for the multi-species alliance and essentially act as Hackett's second-in-command during the Final Battle.
    • One of their squadmates, Garrus Vakarian, becomes this around the third game. All of Turian Hierarchy, including the generals and the Primarch himself, defers to him once they fully understand the Reaper threat. He even lampshades how come a failed law enforcer, dreaded vigilante, and being a companion of Shepard for the last two installments land him to one of the most pivotal positions in defending his homeworld and the galaxy as a whole.
    • If Tali is exiled from the Migrant Fleet and survives the Suicide Mission in the second game, by the third game she's personally asked by the Admiralty Board to help them reclaim Rannoch due to her invaluable expertise on the Geth. Because she's officially an exile, however, she can only lend them her assistance in secret. If she wasn't exiled, however, she's appointed an Admiral herself.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man was originally created to assist Dr. Light in his lab work, which is the main reason why Dr. Wily passed up on abducting Rock alongside the other Light bots in the original game (and its remake). Despite being the second-oldest Robot Master in existence, Dr. Light's upgrades turned Rock from a mere housekeeper into what is effectively the Super Prototype of the Classic series, able to defeat newer models and robots whose specs actually surpass his like Bass. Said robots make the continued mistake of underestimating him, with Tengu Man outright writing him off as a child, while Dr. Wily only once attempted to steal away Mega Man for his own nefarious purposes in comparison to the numerous times he's stolen and remodeled the creations of others. And it's implied Mega Man's original function is still his primary one, making this trope literal.
    • In the Mega Man X series, X is consistently at Rank B due to his general aversion towards fighting despite being the one to have handed Sigma his viral ass no less than ten times now. note  His rank can increase in-game starting with X5, but usually only in a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation since it doesn't stick story-wise until X8. Contrast Zero, who spends most games either blown to smithereens, providing support, or Brainwashed and Crazy, yet is consistently classed at Rank S (or Special A, depending on the game). This is even subtly invoked as a plot point in X5: the battle between X and Zero always ends in a draw, even in the non-canon scenario where Zero reawakens to his true nature after coming into contact with the original form of The Virus. Finally averted come X8 (and Command Mission), where X is recognized as a Rank S Hunter alongside Zero and Axl. Notably, this is after the much-maligned 10-Minute Retirement that sidelined X for most of X7, with X less hesitant to pull the trigger when necessary despite maintaining his characteristic Martial Pacifist stance and weariness about the ongoing Maverick Wars.
    • A villainous example comes from Dynamo, first introduced in Mega Man X5. A mercenary of unknown origins who works for Sigma, he's said to have skills beyond that of a SA Class hunter, which would therefore put him no less than on par with the likes of Zero and his own employer! Story-wise, Dynamo is arguably the most competent ally/underling of Sigma's, as he's the one responsible for engineering the Eurasia crash crucial to Sigma's plan note  and proactively tries to thwart the Maverick Hunters' attempts to retaliate (or at least stall for time) by attacking their base directly. Strangely, he's completely irrelevant to the plot in X6 and disappears from the series entirely afterward.
  • The twist ending of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain reveals that "Punished" Venom Snake, is not Big Boss, but the medic in the helicopter during the Ground Zeroes prologue to Phantom Pain that gets shot down. He is given plastic surgery to look like Big Boss as a distraction while the real Big Boss goes into hiding. Turns out despite being a medic, he had the military training and skills to equal that of Big Boss, making him a perfect double and would go on to form a powerful military army in his own right, which Solid Snake takes on in the original Metal Gear.
  • Monster Hunter: Rise: Everyone in Kamura is more capable than NPCs in previous games, but Hinoa and Minoto put on a particularly devastating show during Rampages, expertly weilding a Hunter-grade bow and lance respectively. The two of them are content to remain in the village otherwise, handing out and administrating quests they seem perfectly capable of handling themselves. Talking to them at the right time reveals they both have Hunter training, but decided not to pursue a certification for their own reasons: Hinoa is so much of a Big Eater she always goes through her rations too quickly, and Minoto suffers from Heroic Self-Deprecation that destroys her confidence and leaves her as The Shut-In.
  • Night in the Woods: A literal example, the Janitor is a theorised supernatural entity with an access to preternatural knowledge. He occasionally appears to the protagonist Mae to give sagely yet cryptic advice at key moments in the game.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Nathan Copeland is an assassin ranked second from the bottom out of a whopping 51 combatants, but is easily more skilled, agile, and powerful than nearly half the killers above him. Justified, as he says he simply joined the ranks and hung around at the bottom waiting to fight Travis.
  • Oddworld: Meet Abe, meat packing slave and former Employee of the Year turned savior of the Mudokon race (well, maybe). He also has psychic mind powers that can open portals made of birds and control his enemies.
  • The Player Character of The Outer Worlds. At the start of the game, the character is a Human Popsicle with a bevy of unimpressive backgrounds. From dirt farmer, a sports mascot and a literal janitor. They go on to cut a swath through the galaxy and turns civilization on its head.
  • The protagonist of Paperboy is just that, a paperboy. (Or a papergirl in some versions.) It's just that his route is one where Everything Is Trying to Kill You.
  • The Player Character in Papers, Please is a border inspector in the Fictional Country of Arstotzka who gets paid just enough to sustain his family, and that's assuming he processes entrants in a timely fashion and doesn't suffer too many penalties from incorrect admissions or rejections. But over the course of the game, he also becomes a crack-shot sniper who stops terrorist attacks better than the official security detail can (and one of the foot soldiers assigned to that security duty is a war veteran), can potentially stop a sex trafficking ring (and subsequently, save the lives of multiple sex workers) by detaining the right person, and can even help overthrow the national government just by making the choice to aid a conspiracy group.
  • Persona:
    • The Superboss in Persona 3 is an elevator attendant. In a Jackie O. hat. It's Igor's assistant Elizabeth, and she will wreck you.
      • This is lampshaded in her playable appearance in Persona 4: Arena, where the title she is given is "The Lethal Elevator Attendant." For obvious reasons, however, her power is toned down considerably in order to make her competitively viable. Until you face her in Score Attack Mode, that is...
      • Her brother Theodore in the PSP version is just as dapper, and just as formidable.
    • Persona 4 has Igor's other assistant (and Liz's and Theo's older sister) Margaret. Also, the game's True Final Boss is the gas station attendant from the very beginning of the game, actually the goddess Izanami in disguise. At the end of the Vita Updated Re-release (Golden), Inaba's new local weather lady turns out to be Marie, aka Izanami-no-Mikoto, who happens to be controlling the weather herself.
    • Persona 5: The ultimate Superboss and toughest enemy in the game, the twins Caroline and Justine, are two prison guards in a run-down gulag (granted, said gulag happens to be the supernatural Velvet Room). One of whom is an admin with nothing but a clipboard on her. It should come as no surprise that they're heavily implied to be the younger sisters of Margaret, Elizabeth, and Theodore. Their original/fused form, the no less diminutive Lavenza, serves as an even tougher Superboss in the third semester of Royal.
  • Pokémon Black and White:
    • After fighting through the Battle Company of Castelia City, you get the singular opportunity to face the chairman of the Battle Company, Janitor Geoff (And as you might expect, one Pokémon he uses is Trubbish).
    • During Black/White, he really is the chairman, he just likes pretending to be the janitor. However, in Black 2/White 2, he's retired as the chairman to actually become the janitor full-time and give advice to the new chairman (his grandson), henceforth playing this trope straight.
    • Both games actually have quite a few Janitor Trainers, and some are tougher than Geoff. Not to mention that there are a lot of Trainers in the game with unlikely professions, like Clerks, School Kids, Nursery Aides, Chefs, Maids, and even Preschoolers. Some of them that you encounter after completing the main storyline have Mons that rival even the ones used by Bosses.
  • Pokémon Legends: Arceus has Volo, who presents himself as just an Intrepid Merchant who's following your journey. The post-game reveals that he's actually the strongest trainer in the game and is even capable of commanding Giratina.
  • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet:
  • Rise of the Third Power: The Bell Ringer's job is just to ring a bell to wake up everyone in the castle on time. He's also a former soldier capable of taking on Rowan and Corrina at the same time, and he defeats the duo in the post-boss cutscene anyways.
  • Skullgirls: Adam Kapowski, elite member of Parasoul's personal guard, the Black Egrets. His skills are usually relegated to babysitting and fetching ice cream for Parasoul's Annoying Younger Sibling, Umbrella, who Parasoul is a Parental Substitute for.
  • Slap Happy Rhythm Busters: One of the characters, fittingly named Trash, is a literal janitor, who happens to be a more than competent fighter with his trusty vacuum cleaner.
  • Space Quest:
    • Roger Wilco of this series of adventure games — a literal janitor who never goes anywhere in terms of rank or popularity even after saving Xenon multiple times.
    • OK, he was promoted to head janitor between Space Quest I and Space Quest II. Then again, he was the only janitor staffed on the XOS-4's crew.
    • He was also an official Starcon starship captain in Space Quest V, if only for one game. And it was a garbage scow. The ending of the game also implied that he commanded the Goliath, if only briefly. The opening to Space Quest VI has him busted back down.
  • Space Station 13:
    • The Janitor position comes with a free Haz-Mat suit. Captain's garb and Detective's trench coat are both nice, but when the radiation storm rolls around they won't do much good.
    • The Assistant gets access to the back-rooms and corridors of Maintenance, common enough but they have no duties except wandering around the station and wasting space. Maintenance has access to pretty much every room, so it's common to see Assistants with a full toolbelt for hacking through otherwise locked doors, though they risk electrocuting themselves unless they steal a pair of insulated gloves which is often a giveaway that the player is up to no good.
    • Invoked with the Mime, who has but only access to maint and a dressing room and is rewarded with a magical barrier-creating spell. The condition? That the mime not talk.
  • Spyro the Dragon: Hunter the Cheetah, despite being rather ditzy and being primarily proficient in archery, has a wide array of machinery and tools that one wouldn't expect out of him, including a Jet Pack, a snowmobile, a remote-controlled fighter jet, a jet-powered skateboard, a motorboat, and, inexplicably, a pair of wings. He's also seen at the end of Year of the Dragon repairing a submarine.
  • In Stellaris we have the Scavenger Bot, it used to be an ancient space junk collection droid, but after millennia of collecting junk, breaking it down for fuel and to repair itself and ai glitches it started using the tech from the junk to upgrade itself until it evolved into a Mechanical Abomination.
  • Subnautica:
    • According to a personnel roster from the Aurora databanks, the player character was "Chief of Non-Essential Systems Maintenance" before the crash turned them into a badass Action Survivor. You can even find a log about cleaning toilets.
    • Below Zero reveals that thanks to saving the Sea Emperor's young at the end of the last game, they cured the Kharaa plague and singlehandedly saved every single living thing on Planet 4546b from extinction. Not bad for a guy who cleans toilets.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario. Plumber. Has managed to, among other things, defeat a powerful mechanical overlord and his second-in-command, slay a thousand-year old demon and her three pet dragons, kill the sun, and repel the forces of a powerful nation about a hundred times. (The idea that Mario and Luigi are plumbers has persisted since the game Mario Bros., even though they no longer do much plumbing. They encounter warp pipes in many games, and actually fixed plumbing in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Super Mario 3D World.)
    • In Paper Mario 64, there's Parakarry the clumsy Paratroopa mailman. He later joins your team and manages to kick major ass in battle, ultimately being one of the most useful party members in the game.
  • Tamriel Rebuilt's sister project Game Mod for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Project Tamriel, has Thane Fomir in Karthwasten, who is a downplayed variant. Thanes are important figures in Skyrim's holds, but normally they rule a stronghold at most. Major settlements like Karthwasten are the domain of Jarls if not directly under the King or Queen of the holdnote , but a series of events led to the nominal Jarl of Karthwasten being barred from her own citynote  and left Fomir, still technically only a thane, as the ruler of Karthwasten and trusted enough that the heir to the Reach has been sent to learn statecraft from him.
  • Undertale:
    • You encounter a skeleton named Sans. He's supposed to be on the lookout for humans but he decides he'd rather help you fool around with his brother. Any appearance of him later is usually him loafing off. Then you find him in the chapel, where he will judge your actions, proving himself to be The Dragon all along. And if you have done a No Mercy run, you have to battle him, where he proves to be the strongest monster in the game by ignoring your Mercy Invincibility, dodging your attacks, and even attacking your cursor when it's your turn!
    • Said brother, Papyrus, is introduced as a Harmless Villain and a bumbling fool who tries to capture the player character so he can become a member of the Royal Guard, but fails repeatedly because his traps constantly fail or backfire in his face. When you finally face him in combat, as expected, he is a Zero-Effort Boss. Until he reveals his ability to physically manipulate your SOUL, the first character in the game to pull off such a feat, and proves to be one hell of a Wake-Up Call Boss. Undyne, the leader of the Royal Guard he's trying to join, eventually confesses that he is extremely strong and should by all accounts have made it in a long time ago. She keeps "training" him as she doesn't have the heart to tell him he'll never make it in... because he couldn't bring himself to kill a fly, much less a human. There are also hints that, should the gloves ever come off, he might truly be the most dangerous monster. Flowey notes a suitably irritated Papyrus killed him a number of times in previous saves before Frisk took the ability away from Flowey and the developer confirmed his orignal ultimate attack was a Gaster Blaster his brother uses in his fight. It's quite stunning how strong this otherwise all loving goof is but the player never gets to truly see it.
    • In the Golden Ending, Woshua can literally become this should you meet certain requirements for sparing him.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, you get driven around between places by a vampire cab driver. If you play as a sane character, you never really suspect anything about him. If you play as a Malkavian, your character has an EPIC freak-out at one point late in the game when they realize that the guy who's been driving them around is CAINE HIMSELF.
  • Wild ARMs 3: One of the many, many Optional Bosses is the legendary fighter, Bad News. He's incredibly difficult to take down and has a ton of HP, second only to the two forms of the ultimate Superboss of the game, Ragu O Ragla. His Secret Identity? Ortega, the clerk at the counter of the arena where you fight him. He doesn't even bother to take off his flannel shirt and apron to fight you. He doesn't have to.
  • Wing Commander:
    • Col. Christopher Blair gets demoted to Captain after the loss of the Tiger's Claw in the prologue of II, relegated to a desk job on a remote outpost. That doesn't stop him from kicking ass when the Kiltrathi come knocking on his door (despite Admiral Tolwin's efforts to keep him pinned down) and eventually defeating them, and getting his rank back.
    • He then tries this voluntarily between III and IV after singlehandedly defeating the Kilrathi by retiring to a life of a farmer on a remote desert planet. It doesn't work out and he goes back in action in IV.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Hearts of Stone, Gaunter O'Dimm aka Master Mirror presents himself as a mangy vagrant, but he is the most powerful being to appear in any of the games and is heavily implied to be The Devil himself.
  • The World Ends with You:
    • Kariya is a field agent only because he has declined several promotions to the management. True to form, his fighting skills rival those of the top brass, and the Player Characters are appropriately hesitant about fighting him.
    • Hanekoma is Shibuya's Producer, an entity charged with making sure all the Reapers follow the Composer's rules. Producers are angels, and thus—according to the in-game lore—one rank higher on the cosmic totem pole than the Composer himself. Only Composers know the identity of their assigned Producers, so to everyone else, he's just a random coffee shop owner with oddly specific knowledge of the Reapers' games.
  • X-COM: Can have this thanks to randomly generated stats. So let's suppose you hire a group of rookies, one of them with no reflexes and who just got his grade from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy. So you keep him in the base for Psi-lab screening. Having not seen any fight, he is still a rookie among his fellow generals and lieutenants. Results come, showing a psionic strength of one hundred. The lowest possible guy in the hierarchy is potentially able to Mind Control any alien his squad will come across. While staying inside the craft.
  • YandereDev discussed this trope as an obstacle to adding a school store to Yandere Simulator. In the game, very few NPCs are unkillable. All three of them (Info-chan, the headmaster, and the guidance counselor) are very important to the plot or backstory, and one of them you can never meet in person (Info-chan). The clerk of a school store would not have the plot-importance of these NPCs, but would have the same invincibility, courtesy of being behind a counter and window in a locked room, and it would be kind of anti-climactic to get an unavoidable Game Over because a clerk spotted you killing someone (not even teachers do that—they will pursue you, and they are hard to kill, but you definitely can take them out before they apprehend you).

    Visual Novels 
  • The Big Bad of Ace Attorney Investigations 2, a Manipulative Bastard who ultimately succeeded in his lifelong quest for revenge against four people by manipulating events so that they were either killed or brought to justice for their crimes, has a day job as... a circus clown.
  • In Akatsuki no Goei, Kaito is ranked in the bottom five ranks of the class with poor grades in every subject. In truth, he is by far the strongest person in the class and could be the most intelligent as well given how he educated himself from illiteracy to capable of studying advanced robotics in less than a year. Of course, he does end up with the most prestigious bodyguard position anyway, but even then his principle doesn't actually think he's anything special rather than just easy to get along with.
  • Danganronpa: Officially, the title of “Ultimate Lucky Student” is used to refer to a talentless person who was selected at random to attend Hope’s Peak Academy alongside the actually talented Ultimates. Makoto even claims that he’s more unlucky, with things such as getting a bathroom door that doesn’t open correctly. However, this defect on his bathroom door proves to be critical for proving his innocence in the first murder, as only he and Sayaka knew how to open it correctly, so he wouldn’t have needed to pick the lock like the killer did. Fast forwarding to the second game, Nagito takes it to an even further extreme, with his luck allowing him to do things like play Russian Roulette with five bullets loaded and survive, and pull off an almost impossible to solve murder, resulting in his talent being portrayed as one of the most potent in the series.
  • In the "true" ending of the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night, Rin talks with Shirou after class, telling him that she has been accepted as a student at the Clocktower, and is allowed to bring him as her apprentice. This way he would be there for free but be the lowest on the totem pole, not even officially registered there. Despite his Reality Marble, something that, chances are, nobody else there could ever hope to obtain. Which is a great way to lay low since if news ever got out about his true power, they'd likely try to rip him apart to find out how it works.

    Web Animation 
  • Zig-zagged in the case of Little Kitten in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, who juggles two jobs as the Emperor's Caretaker and Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes. The Caretaker job is mostly housekeeper and Butt-Monkey rolled into one—but he's one of the few people allowed to speak with the Emperor. He keeps him happy and informed about the state of the galaxy (usually not at the same time); the Emperor has power, but needs Kitten to know the problems to solve. Even the janitor part gets dangerous sometimes; cleaning the sewers often involves killing eldritch infestations. As Captain-General, he technically outranks everyone in the Imperium except for the Emperor himself and the Primarchs (possibly), and the fact that the Emperor isn't going anywhere any time soon makes his word synonymous with the Emperor's will. A lot of that job is taking care of the other Custodes, and he can be found cooking and cleaning for themnote . In other words, the job that sounds menial is incredibly important, and the job that sounds prestigious involves a lot of menial work.
  • Helluva Boss: Our three most prominent characters, Blitzo, Moxxie, and Millie, are Imps, who are on the very bottom of Hell's Hierarchy. Even Hellhounds, who are viewed by most of hell basically as sapient pets and are legally considered as the property of their masters, are technically higher-ranking than them. And yet they are exceptionally talented at killing people.
    • Blitzo's proficiency at killing borders on Savant Syndrome, being terrible at basically everything else including running his assassination business but is skilled with just about any weapon and can easily do things without weapons that would get a human killed if they tried with them, despite lacking the Nigh-Invulnerability of most higher-ranking Demons which is essentially Complete Immortality made incomplete by an Achilles' Heel.
    • Moxxie couldn't punch his way out of a paper bag and he's a bit too soft to really be good at his chosen profession, having a panic attack in the first episode when he was asked to kill a mother who had kids. He's also more egotistical than his effeminate demeanor would suggest, which causes him to make dumb mistakes in the heat of the moment, at best causing him forgo playing to his strengths in favor of protecting his ego and at worst making him crossover into Too Dumb to Live. But when he's able to set aside his own emotions and ego enough to get his act together, he's a Crazy-Prepared and impossibly skilled marksman able to hit a bullseye with a cheaply-made toy gun without paying attention.
    • Millie is the most skilled fighter out of the three, being more physically capable than even Blitzo when she's in a good mood. But if you make her mad, you better start praying to whatever God has just forsaken you. In Blitzo's own words, "It would take a roided-out Hippo to take down that woman when she's upset."
    • Zigzagged with Striker, who is also considered a member of the Imp race yet is more skilled than any of these three, with none of them being able to defeat him alone. But he's also clearly not a pure-blooded Imp due to his snake-like features, likely being a hybrid of an Imp and a higher-ranking demon.
  • Mani Mani People: Shuji was fired from his company and he decided to become a janitor at a college. One day, he found a USB containing pictures of the professors having relations with his female students. He turned the USB to the authorities leading to the professor's arrest. Shuji revealed that he used to be a police officer working in the cyber crimes division.
  • The Red and Blue Blood Gulch Teams from Red vs. Blue are simulation soldiers, just meant to be test subjects for new equipment and cannon fodder for Freelancer training. Despite this status, they tend to come out on top of situations where regular UNSC Marines and Freelancers just die. Most notably, they took out the Meta.

  • Anecdote of Error: Yensha seems at first to just be the museum's security guard with a chip on her shoulder about students sneaking in, but it turns out that she's a bona fide war hero, who killed the most ruthless war criminal among the Dalgysume.
  • Eario the janitor from Brawl in the Family may be a Butt-Monkey in that universe, but he can apparently work at breakneck speed in resetting a level every time Mario loses a life.
  • The Temple of Phred, in Dubious Company, has the almighty janitor's closet, which houses the divination pool. The high priest admits that it didn't draw as much attention as the card tables.
  • Deliberately invoked by the players in this strip of Full Frontal Nerdity. The guys are playing Call of Cthulhu where their characters are Lovecraftian cultists and Fraternity students at Miskatonic University. Trying to gain more information about a rival Frat/cult, Nelson metagames by asking who is the oldest employee serving on campus to which Frank replies the head of maintenance. Nelson says that anyone surviving everything that has happened at Miskatonic over the decades of living in a Cthulhu Mythos world has to be one of these.
  • Girl Genius gives us Airman Third Class Axel Higgs, a.k.a., "The Unstoppable Higgs". Besides his moments of stoic Determinator badassery in the face of danger, the adventures in Castle Heterodyne hint that he's actually someone far beyond your mere third class crew member. Later on, Higgs turns up as a low-ranking officer in England's navy as well, leading Tarvek to speculate that Higgs is none other than the mysterious seventh Jägergeneral, the "keeper of many secret things" alluded to in the Castle Heterodyne arc. Higgs does not deny the charge. A short time later, Axel himself confirmed this, also revealing that not only is he a Jägergeneral, he's one of the first Jägers, making him one of the oldest beings in Europa.
  • Homestuck: So, your home planet of Prospit has been destroyed, you are now exiles living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you need someone to lead the rebuilding of civilization. Who do you appoint? Why, the mailwoman.
  • One-Punch Man:
    • Saitama, the titular Invincible Hero, is initially ranked dead last in the Hero Association despite acing the physical part of the Hero Exams and shattering every record the Association had... all because he bombed the written portion of the Exams. In reality, he's the single strongest thing in the series and is way stronger than literally any other hero (including the S-Class), but it doesn't stop politics and inner organization workings from throwing wrenches at him.
    • The three top-ranked heroes of A-Class, B-Class, and C-Class are downplayed examples: They could all get promoted to the higher classes, but for various personal reasons, choose not to. Licenseless Rider (C-Class) considers himself unworthy of B-Class, Fubuki (B-Class) would rather be the queen of B-Class than a high-ranked A-Class, and Sweet Mask (A-Class) views himself as being the buffer between A-Class and the prestigious S-Class. It's worth noting that Licenseless Rider's full power is never made clear, and he may have only reached the top of C-Class because he's the embodiment of a true hero in personality if not power (as most clearly demonstrated when he keeps throwing himself at a Demon-level monster despite being horrifically injured and knowing full well he won't even be able to buy time, or when he gets a cat out of a tree).
    • S-Class itself was created in part to address this trope. Before its formation, several future S-Class Heroes were placed at B-Class (such as Bang) or were in C-Class (such as Superalloy Blackluster). In fact, the latter was the lowest ranked C-Class Hero while still being comparatively as strong as his current self. S-Class was made to recognize the One-Man Army heroes who defied classification.
  • Played with by Questionable Content. Martin unknowingly meets one of the senior research librarians at his workplace — who's dressed as a janitor and carrying a plunger.
  • This Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip presents a dark (and weirdly logical) twist: the janitor's lack of status makes it easy for the professor to kill him and steal credit. This one takes it in a different direction.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Chief Warrant Officer Thurl. On paper he ranks barely over the grunts on payroll, in practice he is more vital than Tagon in the day-to-day running of the mercenary company and is the oldest and most experienced member of the crew. He is more adept than several of the actual COs in negotiation and command, and has invaluable contacts with old military and mercenary buddies. He also threatens to quit the moment somebody saddles him with a higher rank. After being killed, his uploaded personality takes a job with Petey as afterlife guide to Petey's Virtual Afterlife, where he goes on to have pretty much the same relationship to his new god-AI employer.
    • Schlock himself, as well. He's just a sergeant, but he's easily the most dangerous mercenary in the company, is smarter (and faster) than he looks, and used to own the company but gave it back for a pittance. The only control he took during his time as owner was to request the Sergeant rank; the previous owner made herself an Admiral. Although he usually doesn't, he can still ignore orders at will, and often just shows up at officer meetings. In his case, though, he's deliberately kept that way by the higher ranking people, who are all very well aware that giving Schlock any kind of actual power would be a horrible, horrible mistake. And that probably suits Schlock himself, who does not want the responsibility nor paperwork that officer rank would come with.
    • Specifically addressed in two of the Seventy Seven Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries:
    • Technically, General Bala-Amin's role is more like the Chief of Traffic Cops within the Sol system. But since "traffic" around the area includes things like speeding asteroids and out-of-control starships, even this position lets her have at least one Battleplate at her beck and call. And since she was the closest responder available during the Fake Civil War crisis on Earth, she was given a significant boost in political power during the duration of the event, upping the "almighty" part even further.
  • Grexzol from Second Empire is a borderline senile, Cloudcuckoolander Dalek working in menial positions in the Ziragalen fortress, rummaging for otaku memorabilia in the middle of an attack. And then we learn exactly what it takes for a Dalek to reach senility age.
  • Spellshocked, a (sadly now defunct and lost to the internet note ) webcomic that took place at a magic academy had, near its start, a near riot by a bunch of magic using students picking on an accident-prone non magic user. This is ended when a mysterious figure appears, sending everyone scattering. The figure is revealed to be an extremely intimidating individual, with, among other features, glowing gauntlets of power. Said individual then pulls out a mop and starts cleaning up the mess, revealing himself to be the custodian. Probably a Justified Trope, since it would require someone extremely powerful to fix the kinds of messes that a bunch of irresponsible kids playing around with the fabric of the universe could cause.
  • Reynir from Stand Still, Stay Silent is effectively a stowaway who ended up in the expedition on accident and is not at all prepared for the Silent World. As a result, he tends to only do menial jobs that don't put him in danger of infection, helping with food, laundry, and other things. He's also a Mage who, while untrained, figures out how to create runes that ward of Vengeful Ghosts and can even function as landmines. Since he can communicate with the undead, which most of the crew can't (and the only one who can is knocked out half the time, and grossly underestimates the threat the other half), he's also the only one who can actually figure out a permanent solution to their ghost problem.
  • Chessmaster and Master Anima Yu Hansung from Tower of God was originally offered a position as high-ranker (the top 1% of those who have reached the nigh-impossible goal of climbing to the top of the Tower), but he declined and became proctor of the second floor under Evankhell instead.
  • Transcerebral has Gerad, Andrea's school janitor, who seems suspiciously aware of her circumstances.
  • Unordinary:
    • Seraphina. In terms of official positions in school, her position as "Queen" has been taken up by Remi for activities such as the Turf War. However, it is still acknowledged that she is likely the strongest in school.
    • John is also one and is played more straight as he's is one of, if not, the strongest characters in the series, but pretends to be a cripple because he's afraid of being a monster again.

    Web Original 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: Linkara has defeated a Multiversal Conqueror, two Eldritch Abominations, one of them twice, and several Evil Counterparts from alternate universes, owns the most powerful warship in The Multiverse (stolen from said Conqueror), and has been acknowledged as his universe's Champion by a race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens... yet he seems pretty content to spend his days reviewing bad comics on the internet. This is something even he's questioned several times over, but it's simply what he loves to do.
  • By the time of the third campaign of Critical Role, Pike Trickfoot has largely retired from adventuring in order to focus on running the Slayer's Cake bakery. When Bell's Hells need to find a divine spellcaster powerful enough to bring Laudna back from the dead, most of them note  are confused as to why they're asking a baker for help.
  • The Armory Master of the Paracelsus' Sword in Einsteinian Roulette spends her time reading magazines behind a counter, answering the occasional doubt about weaponry the convicts may come up with and being bothered by some of the aforementioned convicts with "romantic" ideas. Aside from that, she went through 27 HMRC missions (in which loss of limbs and deaths are constant) without as much as a scratch and is perfectly capable of shrugging off nuclear attacks with the assistance of her equipment.
  • Harold the janitor in The Elevator Show.
  • An episode of Freeman's Mind has the titular character thinking of how the janitors must have the highest survival rate of Black Mesa employees caught in the catastrophe: They have a mop for use in melee, know the layout of the facility, and have the keys to all the locked doors he keeps running into.
  • During Season 2 of Noob, Gaea was under Level 20 and part of the game's worst guild. Yet, thanks to her guts in terms of blackmailing and her friendship with a hacker, she managed to get favors from both the game's top player and the creator of the game himself. After getting banned for blackmailing the top player.
  • Parodied by The Onion Radio News: "At the University of Chicago this week a janitor gave the planet some much needed breathing space after bumping the Doomsday Clock back by 30 minutes while dusting it. The janitor has been awarded the status reserved for living gods and flown to Japan to sweep up around an out of control particle accelerator."
  • Ace, of Ruby Quest. Ace is the only member of staff shown to actively carry out maintenance, and is often seen lurking throughout the Metal Glen as an ominous presence. Even Subject #6 (actually #5) is afraid of him by the endgame phase, crying out for his mother in fear:
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Despite the "no universal canon" nature of the Foundation, a character named Wilhelm Grungkok starred in exactly one tale written a few years ago. He's still brought up now and then, is one of the longest-surviving members of the Foundation that hasn't been augmented in some way (mostly because he knows when to duck), and between cleaning up the messes of the various "detainees" and overhearing conversation, the man's brain probably contains half the database of a multinational shadow organization for whom the phrase "knowledge is power" is a quaint starting point. And the poor slob still can't even get employee of the month...
    • There's also this LEGO stop-motion short building up on the idea that even janitors (or especially the janitors) at the Foundation are badass beyond what should be humanly possible.
  • An Internet urban legend concerns a new hire at a low-wage, dead-end job who is vastly overqualified and wealthy, but pleased to be there. Upon asking, his new coworkers find out he used to be a highly-paid manager at a prosperous company, but left them following a nasty divorce... and as long as he's still employed, his child support payments to his ex-wife are based on his current income, not his past job or savings.
  • There is a 4chan greentext story about a Star Wars roleplaying campaign in which the narrator's character is a runaway criminal laying low as a low-ranking spaceship technician, basically the chosest thing to a janitor IN SPACE!. After some unfortunate events and abuse from his own party members, he ends up falling to The Dark Side. While the campaign goes on, the janitor begins training in the dark arts, completely unbeknownst to the other party members and with some help from the dungeon master. At the climax of the campaign, he uses both his skills as a technician (turns out, being the primary responsible for the maintenance of the party's spaceship has its perks) and his newfound Sith powers to pull a magnificent act of treachery, eliminating both the Big Bad and the rest of the party and establishing himself as a powerful Sith in his own right, combining this trope with The Dog Was the Mastermind.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time has Princess Bubblegum's servant, Peppermint Butler. He serves his master and does not run the kingdom itself, but his name can grant a favor from Death himself, he's golf buddies with the show's version of Satan, and is the go-to person for dark sorcery.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Long Feng, the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se, and head of the Dai Li. Despite his position as just an "adviser to the King", as an adviser, he's managed to manipulate the King, control all information that flows through the palace and prevent him from even knowing about the 100-year long war with the Fire Nation. This comes to an end, however, when Team Avatar exposes him, and Azula out-manipulates him.
  • Terry McGinnis of Batman Beyond qualifies. He is, after all, officially (and de facto) Wayne's errand boy. Then from Batman: The Animated Series, there's Alfred, Wayne's butler...
  • Ben 10: The first few seasons (and associated live-action films) established that there is a powerful alien fighting force that takes cover identities such as school teachers, mailmen and phone repair people. They even call themselves The Plumbers, a job most would consider as low or lower than the janitor!
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: The final episode taking place in Gwen's magic university reveals the local janitor to be Bezel, the creator of the Charms of Bezel and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Notably, he hates real magic because nothing is out of his reach anymore, preferring simple slieght-of-hand card tricks.
  • Beware the Batman puts more emphasis on Alfred's past as an MI6 operative, with him actively helping Batman in combat since Alfred's incarnation is younger and in his prime than in most versions.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command had Booster as one for Star Command HQ before becoming an actual Space Ranger after proving himself in the pilot episode along Buzz with Mira and XR.
  • In Class of the Titans, the school janitor Mr. Suez turns out to be Zeus, King of the Gods.
  • Code Lyoko: Jim Morales, the Janitor and gym teacher of Kadic, is the one that the heroes have the biggest problem with when they try to sneak off campus. And when he's on their side? The pudgy, nosy man (who's held so many jobs that he doesn't have the time to talk about it) grabs a nail gun, stalks off to the school, and takes down invading monsters that shoot lasers.
  • "Yohnny the Yanitor" from Dexter's Laboratory gets so fed up with the title character staying behind to work after school, forcing him to stay late as well, that he turns the whole school into an obstacle course to get revenge in the episode "Trapped with a Vengeance." Though he lost, so to speak, he had some badass skills for a janitor.
  • The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants has custodian Mr. Ree, who is arguably the nicest member of the faculty at Jerome Horowitz Elementary, one of the few people who can get away with sassing Mr. Krupp, and was once a high-ranking government agent. As a result, he's also one of the few adults on the show that George and Harold can rely on for help.
  • The Fairly OddParents!:
    • The show pays tribute to this concept: Timmy makes a wish that backfires, and Denzel Crocker ends up as a buff, brilliant janitor instead of the hunched, looming teacher.
    • In another episode when Timmy wishes everyone in the world was super but then later was forced to wish that there were no superheroes, turning everyone normal except the supervillains, the only way to defeat the supervillains is for all the kids and other "normal" people, including a janitor, to team up and use their "normal people powers" to defeat them.
    • Denzel Crocker actually plays this trope straight, even outside of the episode in question; in spite of being portrayed as an incompetent elementary school teacher, you still have to take into account that he's done everything from creating a functional portal to Fairy World, discovering cold fusion (before someone hit the Reset Button on the universe), and creating a functional rocket with embezzled school funds. Oh, and he's always right about Timmy's fairy godparents.
    • Referenced yet again in another episode "Future Lost." When Timmy wishes for the world to be all retro-futuristic, human teachers have been replaced with robots. And because of this, Mr. Crocker is once again the same muscular janitor mentioned above in the retro-futuristic Dimsdale, where his obsession over Fairies has likewise with lots of things in retro-futuristic Dimsdale, been replaced with a hatred and fear of robots. For example, instead of shouting his usual "FAIRY GODPARENTS!", he now shouts "ROBOTS ARE EVIL!"
  • Fanboy and Chum Chum has Janitor Poopatine, a parody of Emperor Palpatine who trundles around school in an AI wheelchair with robot arms, destroying gum in an over-dramatic Acid Pool mounted on the back of said chair.
  • Flying Rhino Junior High has Buford, a former CIA agent, now custodian of the titular school. His expertise is usually called upon to help the students deal with "The Phantom's" latest reality-warping attack on the school. In one episode, a running Shout-Out to James Bond, he gets to supply the four main students with spy gadgets.
  • Futurama: Philip J. Fry is biologically unable to produce delta brainwaves, making him the only being alive who can defeat the Brain Spawn and has in fact done so twice, saving every living creature in the universe. Almost no one is aware of this, though, and Fry continues to cheerfully work a low-paying job on an interstellar delivery crew, living a relatively mundane existence by 31st-century standards.
  • Golden Gate is a short cartoon about a very secure bank vault. And an old woman, who works as a janitor and uses a back door to bypass everything.
  • In Gravity Falls, though it's more or less just Played for Laughs, Soos becomes this during Weirdmageddon, wandering the landscape helping strangers in need during the apocalypse. Apparently there's already some folk songs about him by the time he encounters Dipper and Wendy.
  • Hong Kong Phooey: "Is it Penry, the mild-mannered janitor? Could be!" Though, in HKP's case, he's not so much an Almighty Janitor as he is an Idiot Hero with a Hyper-Competent Sidekick. The sidekick in question, Spot, seems to fit the trope more appropriately, given that he's basically the janitor's pet cat, yet ends up thwarting the villains more times than the titular hero by a ridiculous landslide.
  • Spiff from Iggy Arbuckle, who is a "sanitation worker" and cleans up trash while simultaneously performing martial arts.
  • Invader Zim:
    • Agent Dark Booty is a borderline example. He's a high-ranking member of a secret society dedicated to protecting humanity from paranormal threats, and Dib's contact in the group. We never actually got to see him in action before the series ended, but the indications up to that point are that he really is or was as much of a legend as that indicates. His day job? Janitor at a NASA facility.
    • Sizz-Lorr is likely one of the biggest and most powerful of the Irken race, yet he runs a restaraunt on the Irken snacking planet of Foodcourtia. His job title? Frylord. He's the highest-ranking Fry Cook in the Irken military.
  • The Janitor: Literally, in the case of God's janitor, who does routine maintenance tasks like put a fresh coat of paint on Mars. Once told by God to wash off the earth because it was getting dirty, he forgot to turn off the spigot, and inadvertently caused Noah's flood.
  • One episode of Kim Possible featured the school janitor who was actually Canada's greatest secret agent, working undercover. His replacement was another nation's greatest secret agent.
  • King Rollo: The Cook could be considered the real ruler of King Rollo's kingdom. As she was a wiser mother figure, Rollo would usually defer to her advice.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Spike the dragon is often discounted by others for being rather immature and for being a baby, but he's still a baby dragon: a fire-breathing creature that is Made of Iron, can eat anything, and routinely bathe in lava. He may be the butt of jokes, serves only as Twilight Sparkle's assistant, and typically holds little the lowest rank imaginable such as not even having a position in her School of Friendship (he's described as "essentially being Twilight's executive assistant"). That said, he's also the reason the ponies made peace with dragons and changelings, has taken on both a massive Timberwolf King and King Sombra and won, and once casually saved an entire stadium from a stadium-sized falling iceberg by melting it.
    • Derpy Hooves is just a humble mail carrier and delivery pony, who's presumably been held back by her scatterbrained behavior and bad eyesight. Flashbacks however show she was a more capable flier than both Rainbow Dash and Spitfire until her eyesight went bad, she dove between Twilight Sparkle and one of the Storm King's bombs in the movie (making her the reason Twilight was even able to save the day), she was the only non-Wonderbolt to attempt to attack Tirek, she can apparently deliver letters to Tararus (yes, that Tartarus), and she has a habit of appearing amongst nobility and the elite during high profile events like the Royal Wedding and the Grand Galloping Gala. And, notably, she's still depicted as a fast flyer in spite of her eyes: during the attack on Tirek she was shown flying faster than anyone else and she was the Airsprinter's first pick to replace Rainbow Dash for their team.
  • Moville Mysteries features a school janitor who is a former archaeologist and adventurer. He devoted his life to keep contained an evil elder god named Polipotanaketl which he accidentally released some years before.
  • Pole Position combines this trope with The Dog Was the Mastermind in an episode where the main characters are searching for the elusive leader of a foreign spy ring. Initially believing a scientist was the spymaster they were looking for, it ultimately turns out to be his janitor. When the main characters Lampshade this trope, the janitor annoyingly replies "Just so you know, I'm a General in my country."
  • One episode of The Real Ghostbusters had the titular characters dealing with a Banshee who's singing causes destruction. When they go her location, they find the building looking like a disaster area and find an old janitor who's been pushed over the edge from all the cleaning he's had to do. He chases after them with his suprisingly good mop skills and the ghostbusters only managed to escape from him when his mop gets caught in a staircase's guardrail, sending him flying backwards.
    Janitor: Come on, one at a time or all at once! This mop is registered as a deadly weapon!
  • ReBoot: After becoming an adult and surviving the games, Enzo becomes an incredibly strong fighter, both physically and mentally. However, he is still technically a Guardian cadet because he never had the chance to attend the Guardian academy.
  • Hank from Recess. One episode had the kids discover that he was a math genius, whereupon he got scouted by the university, the military and by NASA—only to point out that if being a genius were his job, that would take all the fun out of it, so he'd rather be a janitor.
  • Regular Show:
    • Skips is a simple groundskeeper at a public park. Yet he has lived for centuries, and possesses knowledge and wisdom so great, that one would wonder why he chooses to spend his immortal life as a simple groundskeeper. Mordecai even points this out (insultingly) when doing a karaoke duet with Rigby.
    • The other Cool Old Guy Pops is the son of the park's owner and technically has more authority than Benson, but prefers to act like one of the guys.
  • Lenny and Carl from The Simpsons; despite being blue-collar workers who are typically as incompetent as Homer, it's later revealed that they are not only important figures in the Stonecutters (ranked 12 and 14 respectively), but are of higher standing than their billionaire boss Mr. Burns. Lenny and Carl are also revealed to have Masters Degrees in Physics, implying that they aren't so much incompetent as simply incredibly lazy when it comes to doing their jobs. (One episode confirmed the laziness.) Also, Lenny once took over from Mr. Burns after he went temporarily bankrupt and in more than one episode set in the "future", we see Lenny in charge of the Nuclear Power Plant.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob's fry cook status has occasionally granted him opportunities to cook for Neptune. Of course, Status Quo Is God and he enjoys his job at the Krusty Krab too much.
  • SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron fits this pretty well. Due to them getting screwed over by their superior officer, Jake "Razor" Clawson and Chance "T-Bone" Furlong are given a life sentence of tending to a military junkyard. Ironically, this job gives them ample access to most of the technology they need to build their crime-fighting arsenal.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) series, it's not until the sixth season episode Graduation Day: Class of 2105 where the Turtles finally attained the middle ninja rank of Chunin. Before all that, they were able to fight on par with long-lived warriors like Ch'rell and Agent Bishop who have at least centuries of experience on them, defeat some of the greatest warriors of the multiverse with Michelangelo himself winning the tournament in the Battle Nexus, play a huge role in stopping a Triceraton invasion of Earth, bring down an Eldritch Abomination in The Darkness Within, and ultimately become mystically powerful enough that they could transform into dragons and manhandle the Demon Shredder, stated to be the greatest evil who ever walked the earth. So in retrospect, the greatest accomplishments of the Turtles were achieved while they were still lower ranked ninja.
  • Transformers: Animated:
    • While not exactly as low as a Janitor and technically high ranking, Optimus Prime is in charge of a group of lowly Space Bridge repairmen after screwing up somehow, respected only by his team. He lacks self-esteem and wants to be a hero more than anything. He's working on it. This has led some to call him "Maintenance Prime", after an insult given to him by Sentinel Prime.
    • And Bulkhead, a big low level rube who is 100% big guy... and the universe's greatest space bridge expert. He was at least working on a space bridge at the beginning of the series, which was his life-long dream anyway, but if it weren't for a certain screw-up with Sentinel, he would probably be much higher up.
    • Also Prowl, another member of Prime's crew, who happens to be one of the most badass Ninjas on Cybertron. His reasons for being held back were a combination of early life pacifism, and a Heroic BSoD after his master died.
    • Also Ratchet, a vet of the Great War and is bonded to the single most powerful Autobot weapon in existence, Omega Supreme, which has been serving as the team's "simple non-combat" repair/maintenance ship all along. Seriously, outside of Bumblebee, the entire "lowly maintenance crew" are absurdly overqualified for their low station.
    • Outside of Team Prime, we have Arcee, who was the equivalent of an elementary school teacher before she became an operative for Autobot Intel during the Great War.
  • In Transformers: Prime, in his youth, Optimus Prime (or Orion Pax, as he was named back then) was a data clerk. In other words, a librarian.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012): Stan, the janitor of the school Peter Parker attends, was revealed to be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Not to mention he's the creator of Marvel Comics Stan Lee.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • Brock Samson is seen as one by his peers in the secret agent community as he's a top-tier agent playing bodyguard for a super scientist washout in Rusty Venture. (This was actually intended by the O.S.I. as a Reassigned to Antarctica situation for Brock to keep him from nosing around the Guild of Calamitous Intent.) He eventually quits, and by the time he returns to working for the Venture family, Rusty has inherited Jonas Jr.'s company in New York and is now high-profile enough that someone as tough as Brock being his bodyguard makes sense.
    • Red Death is in a similar situation. Despite being a veteran villain with god only knows how many years under his belt, failing health and increasing family commitments means he's stuck working under Wide Wale. Eventually subverted, as he gets a seat on the Council of Thirteen following Wale's resignation from it.
    • The Random Power Ranking the Guild uses labeled Professor Victor von Helping, a friendly Carl Sagan-esque college professor, as a 5/10. However, he's actually the son of supervillain Vigo von Hellfire, and inherited a pretty impressive powerset of metal skin, flight, and bursts of explosive flame. The Monarch and 21, who together managed to off multiple level 10 archvillains, couldn't even scratch him and needed to threaten his students to even get him to bother to fight back at all. This is because the Guild rates people by aggression level more than actual level of power: a guy who has highly dangerous superpowers and sci-fi gadgetry but only uses them as a last resort would rank below a Badass Normal with mundane firearms who goes for lethal force at the first opportunity.
  • In X-Men: The Animated Series (the 1990s series), the fourth season involves a four-episode arc in which Apocalypse tries to rewrite time in his own image from the Axis of Time. During this episode, Bishop interacts with a demented Reality Warper who eventually reveals he is the actual janitor who takes care of the Axis, meaning he's ultimately responsible for managing all timestreams in The Multiverse. Then, after everyone has left, he reverts to his true form as Immortus and sets about repairing all of the damage that was done in the process of stopping Apocalypse.

    Real Life 
  • Josef Stalin was given the role of "General Secretary" by the other members of the Politburo of the newly-formed Soviet Union, because from their point of view, it was a menial functionary position within the Cabinet with little relevance to the political moving-and-shaking of the government, whose sole purpose was to determine who was fit for party membership and assign positions within the party. Stalin, however, discovered that this allowed him to staff the key positions in the Soviet government with people who were loyal to him and/or consequently owed him favours; when the inevitable power-struggles came after Lenin's death, Stalin had a power-base to work with that the key theorists and political figures of the party, such as Trotsky, didn't. We all know how that worked out.
  • The party secretary of the Norwegian Labour Party for more than 20 years, Haakon Lie, practically ruled the party (ironically after the same centralistic principles as did Stalin despite his fervent anti-communism), although he never had any other political positions. The party members respected prime minister Einar Gerhardsen, but Lie was genuinely feared, and even after he was officially criticized by Gerhardsen, the general assembly of the party dared not oppose him. Having access to all members' personal files certainly helps.
  • This is often the case with remusters in the Canadian Armed Forces, that is soldiers who changed from one trade to another for whatever reason (usually physical or mental health-related, or they want a trade with transferrable civilian qualifications). When you change trades your rank and pay drops back down to that of a Corporal, the 2nd lowest rank, so it's not at all uncommon to have Corporals with over 25 years of experience, tons of qualifications and competencies, countless deployments, and a whole rack of medals, and yet be the lowest officially ranked member of their troop whose boss is a Master-Corporal with only 10 years in. Also, as your pay only drops if you chose to remuster, while a forced remuster due to an injury allows you to keep your original pay rate, it's also not unheard of to have a Corporal making more than his Warrant.


Video Example(s):


Janitor Worth

A silent retelling of Site-30s Janitor told entirely with the cooperation of both SCP-387 and SCP-705.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / AlmightyJanitor

Media sources: