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Big Ego, Hidden Depths

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The character with a Small Name, Big Ego is the focus of the episode, and in the end, their pretensions and facades are broken down to reveal a usually insecure and hurt individual — or in some cases, a truly caring person who hides behind their behavior because they are unable to express love/affection. Still others really are genuinely prideful, but show redeeming moral qualities regardless.

Usually, the last thing the character does at the end of the episode is restore their full character, so the viewer can go back to seeing them in the same stock way but with an added understanding of the character's hidden depth. Can also be a key component of said character's transformation into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Despite Oluo's arrogance in Attack on Titan, he greatly respects Levi (to the point of mimicking Levi's appearance and speaking style) and is very attached to his teammates.
  • Louis from Beastars. There is much, much more to him than simply being the lead actor in school.
  • Noelle Silva in Black Clover is first seen to be arrogant and proud over being a royal, disparaging Asta and thinking herself to be too good for the Black Bulls. Soon after it's revealed that she has bad magic control, which led her to be mocked by her family and desperately desire their acknowledgement. Much of her Character Development has Noelle overcome her deep insecurity by honing her magic potential.
  • Under his sour exterior and massive ego, Rin Matsuoka from Free! is a deeply wounded young man who can barely cope with his father's death.
  • Tetsuya Tsurugi from Great Mazinger will never let his foes forget that he's a combat pro and occasionally looks for a way to finish a combat out of wounded pride. Additionally, when the original hero, Kouji Kabuto returned, Tetsuya proceeded to chide him a lot and will never let himself get one-upped. It's also revealed that he's doing that because he's extremely insecure about his status as an orphan and believed that his director/adoptive father, Kenzou Kabuto (Kouji's actual father), only saw him based on his performance as a pilot, slip up a little and his purpose in life will evaporate when Kenzou actually did consider him as a son, but unable to say it well.
  • Tenka from Laughing Under the Clouds is larger-than-life, and everyone loves him for it, but despite his ridiculously confident and carefree behavior, he's actually deeply afraid of becoming a burden to his family and being hated and/or forgotten.
  • Naruto: Both Naruto and his best friend/enemy Sasuke have cases of this. Naruto is loud and boastful because he needs someone, anyone, to notice him as a person and not a thing. Sasuke, meanwhile, grew up in the shadow of his genius older brother, and his pride in his own talent covers up some massive insecurity.
  • Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion has a volatile temper and a massive Superiority Complex in order to compensate for the Parental Neglect she suffered at the hands of her mother, who spent her last days driven to such insanity that she did not recognize her Asuka, and instead became convinced that one of Asuka's dolls was her daughter. A whole new level of trauma is heaped on her when she found her mother had hanged both herself and the "Asuka" doll on the very day that she became an Eva pilot.
  • The title character of Space☆Dandy is pretty much an alien-hunting Johnny Bravo. He is also very principled when it comes to his job, refusing to take in sentient aliens because they usually have troubles of their own.
  • My Hero Academia: Katsuki Bakugo. Beneath his boastful, trigger-happy, and glory-hunting exterior is a genuinely insecure and worried heart. His sense of self-worth can easily be tied to his emotionally brittle ego, but his rant to Midoriya as they brawl for the second time indicates that, in spite of all the praise he was heaped on as a child, he has an unfulfilled need for validation and acceptance, which he realizes his battle prowess cannot earn him.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Ash Ketchum had this early on in his Pokémon career. Despite his braggart attitude and pretending he was already the greatest Pokémon Master of all time, his Kanto career went rather rough for him because his knowledge and skills were about as laughable as Team Rocket's competency. However, there were hints that his ego was just his way of compensating for the fact that he feared he lacked the capability of achieving his dream, which wasn't being helped by Misty and Gary both putting him down constantly. When Ash suffers his first humiliating loss in the Indigo League, he's able to snap out of his Heroic BSoD and recover towards obtaining his dream in a more humble and kinder manner.
  • Spy X Family: Damian Desmond has a pretty haughty attitude because of his family's pedigree, being the second son of the Desmond family to attend Eden College, where his brother already became an Imperial Scholar pretty fast, and pretty much expects to be worshipped by others because of all of this. But underneath he's still a child, and a particularly lonely one because his father considers him a stranger and his mother, while loving him dearly, has her own issues towards him. His obsession with earning Stella Stars to become an Imperial Scholar himself comes about not just because it's expected of him, but also because he wants his father to praise him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash:
    • This was pretty much the main point of Wally West during the late eighties/early '90s; he took over the role of being The Flash but acted like a brash, often selfish, unthinking jerk, but he had just stepped into the role left behind by his beloved late uncle and was incredibly insecure about filling his boots, as well as not processing his death well and was dealing with other issues thanks to his Abusive Parents having messed him up quite badly. His Character Development was largely based around him breaking down the Big Ego and wearing the Hidden Depths on his sleeves.
      • This is also the thing that sparked his relationship with Linda Park, who also had issues of this on her own. She put up an act of being a stuffy, no-nonsense reporter who was often antagonistic towards the Flash, but she was dealing with frustrations of not being taken seriously and was quite lonely, and didn't react well to Wally's acting out. They bonded when working on the same case caused them to see past their respective walls and became friends, which later blossomed into romance.
    • The Snart siblings, Captain Cold and Golden Glider, are both career criminals who spent much of the Silver Age as being opportunist jerks and could never resist rubbing in their supposed superiority when fighting the Flash, which in Cold's case continued when he returned from retirement years later. Glider, however, was dealing with the loss of her boyfriend and wasn't handling it well (he was a supervillain and she was Avenging the Villain) and later on, both would be revealed to have come from an abusive home, and used supervillainy as a means of escaping their shitty past.
  • Spider-Man: J. Jonah Jameson. Behind his gruff, skinflint exterior, Marvel has established that his hatred of Spider-Man stems from the fact that deep down, he knows Spidey is a selfless hero, and the fact that he can't compare makes him jealous. This close-up first happened towards the end of Amazing Spider-Man #1. I.e., he got his Big Ego, Hidden Depths in the issue he was introduced.
    • In the "Spider-Island" story from 2011, JJ (like most of New York) temporarily gained spider-powers; he used them to help Spidey out in one fight, and at the end of the storyline he lights the windows of the Empire State Building in red and blue as a grudging "thank you".
    • In one of his animated appearances, he argued that if Spider-Man was really a hero, he wouldn't need to hide his face with a mask — and backed this up by going out on the streets himself to track down a story.
    • In Ultimate Spider-Man, it was established that Jameson disliked costumed heroes because his son died on a mission to the moon with relatively little fanfare. Jameson saw his son as a real hero and vigilantes as glory hounds by comparison. Later, he came around and realized that Spider-Man and at least some heroes actually were the real deal.
    • In the main Marvel continuity, it was made clear during a storyline about quasi-governmental crackdown on mutants that even though Jameson dislikes costumed heroes and is a borderline bigot against people with powers (but otherwise dislikes everyone else as well, to the point of being for equal rights), he's genuinely reverential of rule of law and due process. His speech in that issue was so well-written that it almost justified the idea that he just doesn't like people taking the law into their own hands. Almost.
    • Young Avengers also suggests that Jameson's hatred of superheroes stems from the fact that as a child, he idolized Captain America's Kid Sidekick Bucky. When Bucky was killed near the end of World War II (something Jameson saw as Cap's fault), Jonah became bitter and disillusioned with the very idea of costumed heroes.
    • Also, the film version of Jameson doesn't hesitate to risk himself to protect others. He may be a cheapskate, hate Spidey, and have one hell of a mouth on him, but he's not all bad.

    Fan Works 
  • Advice and Trust: Shinji used to think that Asuka was an arrogant—although intelligent and brave—girl. Then they had a heart-to-heart talk, and he found out about her painful past, her deep traumas, her nightly nightmares, and her feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and loneliness. Asuka, for her part, discovers that despite being opposite in personality, Shinji completely understands where she's coming from since he's been through similar events; and both are overjoyed to discover kindred spirits who understand each other more than they realized.
  • Child of the Storm has Uhtred initially introduced as an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy and a poor loser, when Harry beats him in a sparring match thanks to a very risky and unorthodox trick and is feted for it. He gets significant Character Development shortly after following a Break the Haughty experience (the Disir were involved) where Harry saved his life, earning his Undying Loyalty, and Harry explaining that no, he really didn't want fame. It is later revealed that he really is genuinely very talented (Sif doesn't pick just anyone to mentor) and was trying to stand out from his large and talented family, and resented Harry getting praise and respect for (apparently) nothing. After that, he happily settles into being Harry's Sworn Sword and occasionally plays up the associated servility to annoy him.
  • Asuka from Children of an Elder God came across to other people as an arrogant, brash girl, but when they knew her a little better, most of them realized that she was trying to mask her insecurities and psychological issues, and she could be real nice.
  • Doing It Right This Time: After returning to the past, Shinji and Rei know that Asuka's bragging is a front to cover deep-seated issues and insecurities, so they try not to set her off (and she tries to be calmer and more open).
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka seems obnoxiously arrogant and prideful, but in reality, she's a very insecure person with trust issues (and it's implied that she attempted to kill herself before the beginning of the story). In a scene, Misato tells that Asuka can look strong, but she's very fragile.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion Asuka comes across as a bad-tempered, selfish, irrational girl… though she's a certified genius and a soldier since she was four, survived the end of the world…
    Asuka: You always gotta one-up me, eh?
    Shinji: Says the woman who's fluent in three languages, has two Ph.D.s, and does guest lectures at MIT and Harvard and other places on a regular basis.
  • HERZ: Asuka is a temperamental, prideful, boisterous woman, and some people wonder why Shinji married her. However she is a very fragile person who suffered terribly due to her mother's madness and suicide and her father's abandonment, and Shinji knows that she is the only person who can understand him and help him.
  • In Last Child of Krypton, Asuka may come across as a braggart, but in Shinji’s words “she’s beautiful, smart and nicer than she believes she is.” She’s also the last Amazon.
  • Trixie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is typically portrayed in this manner in fanon.
  • In Necessary to Win, Hiroe, like in Saki, is quite full of herself, yet also good-hearted (although as a tank commander, rather than a mahjong player). Here, it's revealed that she also cares for her teammates, because she believes that they're trying their best and that she's good enough to make up for any mistakes they make. She also hopes to win against the Nishizumi school, both because it would be proof of her greatness and because she wants to prove that Shiho's ruthless methods don't guarantee success.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, after having a long talk with Asuka about their mothers, where she tells him about her mother's death, her father remarrying and ditching her, her abandonment and loneliness issues... Shinji thinks her ego and anger issues are only a mask and she's more complex than people credit her for.
  • In Once More with Feeling, During Third Impact, Shinji saw Asuka’s mind and memories, and understood that she had built an arrogant, boastful, loud persona to hide her real, frightened, and traumatized self, and her feelings for him.
  • Phoenix's Tear: Reignition: C.P. is a Trap Master who insists that he avoided being captured alongside his peers because he was smart enough to evade Stone Dragon and the rest of Naga's followers. This boastfulness is one of his ways of coping with the pressure of being the only able-bodied color pandora left in his village, making him and his Booby Traps the last line of defense against the warumon. Eventually, he breaks down and admits he didn't outwit the raiders; he just got lucky and had his hiding place overlooked.
  • The Second Try: Asuka. Few people could guess that boastful, cranky, rash, childish teenager is in reality a mature young wife and mother who is trying to save the same world who took her family away from her again.
  • In Thousand Shinji, Asuka has -apparently- a big ego, but Shinji thinks that she's earned the right to gloat because she was a beautiful, intelligent woman, an excellent warrior, and a mecha pilot who had risen from her ashes after going through Hell when she was three.
  • In With This Ring, the lanterns initially mock Guy because he's a loud, obnoxious man with a crass attitude and is more than a little reckless. However, he learned how to project constructs without tying them to the ring before either Hal or John, figured out how to use his ring to heal himself based on something he watched Paul do, and helps rehabilitate criminals.
    • He also learned how to weaponize his large ego, or rather, he figured out how to No-Sell Orange Lantern assimilation because he wills himself to be the best he can be, and since he's already perfect, if he changed he wouldn't be the best, now would he?


  • From the outside, the title character in Eden Green comes off as an egotistical bitch, but since the story is first-person, she is revealed to be very uncomfortable with and afraid of the people around her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • WKRP in Cincinnati:
    • "Put Up Or Shut Up": Bailey convinces Jennifer to accept a date with Herb in the hope that he'll get scared and back down.
    • Lampshaded in the "Real Families" episode, where Herb signs his family up for the eponymous Show Within a Show and completely fails to make them look good.
  • Dan Fielding on Night Court got the treatment a couple times.
    • When he was misidentified by a lawyer as the father of a little boy, at first Dan was a complete jerk but eventually started to warm up to the kid. Even after the mother straightened out the lawyer, Dan still went out of his way to track the little boy down when he ran off and gave the little family a check for $1000. The little boy really wanted a glove for baseball; Dan told him to let his mother handle the rest. She'd know what to do.
    • Dan saved Roz's life once. Her blood sugar was too high (she's diabetic), making her act loopy and lost in the courthouse. Dan managed to talk her down from the edge of the courthouse roof and give her needed insulin, even though she half-clobbered him in the process.
  • Whenever the Ferengi are featured in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there is some exploration into the species beyond their hat of pursuing profit. Usually, Quark is the Small Name, Big Ego of the episode and often shows that he genuinely loves his family and is capable of great bravery in certain situations.
  • Scrubs:
    • Dr. Kelso's "His Story" episode was used as an opportunity to explore some of the softer sides of the character, ending with his character deciding that he was meant to be hated as leader (uniting his otherwise bickering subordinates in their resentment of him), and was satisfied with his place in the world.
    • The Janitor in "His Story III" spends the entire day keeping a patient with Lock-in Syndrome company, since the computer he used to communicate had broken. He reveals that he originally took the job because hospitals help people and by keeping it clean, he felt like he contributed to that. However because no one has ever thanked him or made him feel like part of the team, he's become apathetic and pranks people out of sheer boredom.
  • In the US version of The Office Michael is a terrible manager who's also completely clueless about his own incompetence. But, in addition to being a genuinely nice guy who generally cares about his employees, he's also shown to be an exceptional salesman. It just turns out that those skills don't transfer to management.
  • Taiga Hanaya note  of Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is smug, careless jerk with matching skills to boot. Later events offer a peek into his real self, a broken man who wants to be hated because it makes things easier for him and believes that this is the only way he can earn redemption. Simply saying that he's had a messed-up life would be a major understatement.
  • The earlier Sawyer-centric Lost episodes fit before Character Development made them moot.
  • Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also a former Trope Namers. (Ted Baxter Close-Up) This came about a couple of years after MTM became a success, and Ted Knight became concerned about Baxter becoming a one-dimensional buffoon. As such, the Ted Baxter character soon gained morals, got married, and had a family ... all while his on-air buffoonery and over-the-top delivery were de-emphasized and his desire to be the best newscaster (despite his inherent lack of skill) was shown to be driven by more than his inflated ego.
  • The episode of Taxi in which Louie loses his job after peeking at Elaine through a hole in the lady's room.
  • Happens often on The Colbert Report, and usually results in the character talking himself out of it: "Snap out of it, Colbert!"
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor, particularly his Sixth and Tenth incarnations. They're usually the smartest person in the room, knows it, and won't bother with much modesty under pressure, to the point that most random groups of people they happen to help out would probably tire of them before they could do them any good if they didn't have their various co-adventurers vouching for them and their usually heroic intentions. For all they might call us "stupid apes" or "pudding brains", they actually find humanity and its indomitable will to live very impressive and much prefers us to their advanced but stagnant homeworld. And, like many other examples on this list, they're not quite as confident as they act and actually capable of quite a lot of self-hatred, especially after the Time War.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Charles' big ego is a major part of his characterization, but unlike his predecessor Frank, he actually has the skills to back it up. Moreover, there are numerous episodes where he's shown to genuinely care about people, under his facade of arrogance and unconcern. Examples range from secretly giving candy to the orphanage on Christmas to sitting up with Hawkeye when his father is undergoing surgery back in the states to having an emotional meltdown when the Chinese POWs he was teaching Mozart to got killed.
    • Although eventually plagued with Flanderization by the last few years of his run, Frank Burns (Charles' predecessor) could occasionally undergo this. It's revealed that it took the man twice as long to pass medical school as most people, that he mainly became a doctor to satisfy his mother, and that he became a snitch because "it was the only way for people to notice me". In fact, even in the end, his reaction to Margaret's engagement shows the audience that he really feels hurt by the loss of her.
  • Foreman on House has moments of this. In "House Training", it's revealed that he acts like a jackass towards the poor or homeless because he knows he's not that different from the patient; the realization makes him contemplate what his life could have been and feel like he hasn't deserved anything he got since he started med school. Putting distance between himself and anything that reminds him of his old life is how he keeps himself from contemplating this.
  • The title character of Kamen Rider Build, Sento Kiryu, has amnesia, resulting in a severe case of Loss of Identity and with him being just so at a lost at where his place in the world is, but nonetheless tries to be the best person he can be with his new identity. This can come across as quite a shock to some who first meet him given how much of an Insufferable Genius Manchild Sento can be towards those around him.
  • The Rehearsal: Angela spends most of her screentime judging Nathan and claiming to know the "truth" about how the world operates, and generally looks down her nose at anyone who doesn't share her very specific and strange beliefs. In "Pretend Daddy," though, she not only quickly forgives Nathan for hijacking her own rehearsal, she also intuits that a lot of his problems stem from personal turmoil and encourages him to forgive himself, telling him that even if we forgive other people, self-forgiveness is an often overlooked part of the healing process.

    Video Games 
  • Papyrus from Undertale is a Large Ham who also thinks he's the greatest monster to ever live. He calls himself "the great Papyrus," and is always boasting about how great he is and how he will one day achieve everything he wants. However, he is far from malicious; indeed, he's one of the nicest characters in the entire setting. He doesn't just have high confidence in himself: he has high confidence in everyone. He always has great things to say about you during your trip through Snowdin and even tries to cheer you up when he thinks you're being too harsh on yourself (even if you were actually trying to insult him). Even when the player is the darkest they can be on a Genocide playthrough, Papyrus still thinks they can be good if they really try. Papyrus is also easy to befriend, and losing to him in his battle just leads to your capture in a Cardboard Prison, because he wants the protagonist alive.
    • He's also shown some traits that can be surprising if you just see him as an egotistical man-child. He can be pretty sly and manipulative when he wants to be, such as when he convinces Undyne to try befriending the protagonist as presenting it as a challenge. He's also more aware of what's happening around him than it seems; when he becomes king in one of the Neutral endings, he initially says that while he believes Sans' lies about his friends going on an "extended vacation", it's subtly hinted that he knows that they're probably gone for good.
  • Touhou Project
    • Cirno is shown in the manga series to possess a wide variety of skills that subvert her otherwise memetic status as an idiot, being capable of feats such as performing mathematics including multiplication and fractions, running a shaved ice business, and reading and writing in English, all things that put her ahead of the majority of fairies which often aren't even literate.
    • Marisa Kirisame comes across as a loudmouthed kleptomaniac witch, a Blood Knight even by Gensokyo standards, and an incorrigible mythomaniac. All of it is true, but her immense skill comes exclusively from hard work, rather than an outside source of power, without ever toeing the line that would be the loss of her humanity. Of course, she isn't shy about advertising some of it - she's fond of introducing herself as "Ordinary Magician", but goes out of her way to hide how hard she has to work to keep up with other characters in the franchise to make her feats look more effortless.
  • Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect comes across as extremely cocky and arrogant at points due to the genetic modifications made to her before birth to make her close to perfect. In reality, she's extremely insecure, with those genetic modifications only creating a severe inferiority complex. Her successes are attributed to her modifications, and only her failures are attributed to herself, and this is only made worse when she compares herself to Shepard, who has accomplished even more when s/he never had such modifications. Her father being a sociopathic perfectionist who threatened to dispose of her if she didn't live up to his near-impossible standards didn't help. Along with owning up to her past mistakes, one of the biggest points of her Character Development is also learning to accept her successes as something that she still did herself through her choices.
  • Dorian Pavus in Dragon Age: Inquisition is introduced as a snarky and arrogant aristocrat from the Tevinter Imperium who nearly everyone mistrusts. It's eventually revealed that he's the white sheep of his family who left after his father tried to change his sexuality with blood magic. He joined the Inquisition genuinely wanting to help and hopes to one day return to his homeland to change it for the better, and the end-game epilogue shows he's doing just that. On top of all that, he's kind and intelligent and ends up being one of the most loyal companions in the game.
  • Anomen Delryn in Baldur's Gate II is a wannabe paladin who is arrogant, self-righteous, and constantly bragging about impossible battles he probably never fought. Other members of the party (and many players) tend to find him annoying. However, his sidequest reveals that his mom is gone and his dad is a terrible person, and that Anomen's been struggling to simultaneously escape his father's influence and earn his respect. This sidequest is the main driver of Anomen's later Character Development, which can take one of two directions.
  • Lady Cassandra Mallory in the interactive romance novel Moonrise is condescending, demanding, and rude to the player when they first meet her. Depending on the player's choices, they can learn more about her and realize she's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Eikichi Mishina of Persona 2 is described by the game as a narcissist at every opportunity. He's brash, cocky, and violent, and thinks he's the hottest, most talented, coolest guy at Kusagayama High School, which he rules with an iron fist as its Death Boss. In the Club Zodiac dungeon, we start to see why Eikichi is this way: he used to be bullied relentlessly for being a fat, clumsy crybaby. He decided to change his life and become the guy in charge so that he could stop bullying like that at his school (though he admits that part of it was because he liked being on the top). As it turns out, he's actually a very caring person, especially towards his Love Interest Miyabi... though it doesn't stop him from being The Fighting Narcissist for the rest of the game.
  • Raffina from Puyo Puyo.
    • Refined and prideful as she is, her story in Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary shows she's a little self-conscious of her magic power, running off when Lemres points out her waist pouch is her main power source. She was left a near-stuttering mess once he pointed it out.
    • According to the light novel Everyone's Dreams, Coming True?!, as much as she mocks and argues with Klug, she actually considers him her voice of reason, who reigns in her pride and prevents her from taking things for granted through his scathing comments.
  • Beowulf from Skullgirls is a boisterous pro-wrestler who his opponents view as a self-aggrandizing blowhard who's just getting in their way. Indeed, he's often looked down on as just a performer and not a real warrior. However, Beowulf is a genuinely good and honorable person looking to make the city better by cleaning the streets of the people terrorizing it. He was even willing to accept and admit to the public that the biggest victory of his career was rigged in his favor (though without his knowledge), and promised to make it up to his fans by taking on the biggest threat of all, the Skullgirl. It's also shown that everyone underestimates his strength and skill, and he is legitimately a powerful fighter that could have won the rigged match cleanly.
  • Zed from Wild ARMs definitely qualifies. He acts like he's a celebrity in the making and gives himself all kinds of silly nicknames such as 'the Grim Reaper's pen pal' and 'the Ultimate Macho Man.' Then you run into him in Saint Centaur. If you manage to defeat him there, he reveals he's befriended a lone blind girl because she was nice to him, revealing all he really wanted was love and acceptance.
  • While Riku does act like a jerk and condescending towards Sora in Kingdom Hearts, he valued their friendship enough to feel completely betrayed at the thought of Sora abandoning him and Kairi, and he also admitted being jealous of Sora for his ability to just follow his heart.
  • The demon man Akira in Shin Megami Tensei IV is a brash, arrogant gang leader who calls himself the Future King of Tokyo, in sharp contrast to his humble, levelheaded, and entirely human Alternate Self, also named Akira. Visiting any district other than his own reveals that he's a weak fighter, regularly scavenges through trash, is well known as the city's Butt-Monkey, and even hides behind Flynn while he kills his enemies for him. Akira is well aware of his shortcomings but reveals himself to be one of the very few Lawful characters in the franchise who isn't a Knight Templar: his goal is to stop the endless gang wars and create a Tokyo where everyone is equal. Revisiting the districts after his coronation reveals a sharp gain in the quality of life.
  • Inspector Cabanela from Ghost Trick is a man who is obsessed over his own abilities as well as his "perfect record". He didn't even seem to mind that his best friend, Detective Jowd, was about to be executed and comes across as a massive, arrogant Jerkass throughout the game because of his actions. However, it is later revealed that this was all an act on Cabenela's end as the only reason why he acted this way was that he wanted to keep close tabs on The Manipulator's files as he was secretly trying to hunt him down, something he could only accomplish in a high-ranking position that he needed the perfect record to attain, and if he were to let Jowd escape by looking the other way instead of recapturing him and putting him back on death row, he would've been demoted as a result and all his work would've been for naught. Not to mention that Cabanela was actually trying to stall Jowd's execution as much as he can (even bringing the latter to the Prime Minister's office rather than straight back to jail to buy more time). Indeed, Cabenela was Good All Along.

    Visual Novels 
  • Sebastian Debeste from Ace Attorney Investigations 2 is an arrogant, self-satisfied rookie prosecutor who calls himself "The Best" despite always mixing up his words and arriving at the most absurd conclusions. He constantly boasts of his own perceived greatness even though nobody takes him seriously (his own father even habitually refers to him as his "idiot son"). Then, in case 4, he gets broken pretty badly when his father tells him that everything he thought he achieved is a lie and that he was really only ever being used as a pawn for him. As it turns out, Sebastian's biggest goal was to impress his former-chief-prosecutor father by surpassing him in greatness, and this revelation sends him so far over the edge that it takes an entire Logic Chess session to pull him out of it, the only time in the game where Logic Chess is used to build someone up rather than take them apart. After Edgeworth convinces him that he's better than his corrupt father, Sebastian Takes a Level in Badass and resolves to become a better prosecutor.

  • Vriska in Homestuck is very arrogant and convinced of her superiority, but it's clear that's because she had a horrible childhood where she was forced by her parent figure to murder people to survive. In this case, the audience is soon made aware of what her deal is, but Vriska herself is too emotionally tone-deaf to work it out, and over the course of her journey she realises what happened to her.
  • Radon in Wasted Away starts out as a negligent social climber - but when he actually has to confront his issues after losing his family, he starts to rethink things.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil is introduced having a general It's All About Me attitude and plenty of remnants of being a spoiled rich kid. However, he panics when he realizes he gave people a bad first impression and, once he remembers other people exist, he can be quite caring. For instance, when his strange new crewmate steals the meat out of his sandwich while he's distracted by something else, Emil's response is to go get more food for both of them. He later tries to befriend the new crewmate in question, despite the presence of a Language Barrier in addition to the weirdness in character. The guy's own cousin and Cloudcuckoolander's Minder settled for mostly bossing him around over the years.

    Web Original 
  • Michael Seer from The City of Never is a nihilistic author who constantly speaks to everyone in a condescending or sarcastic tone and only seems to care about himself. As the story progressed, he Took a Level in Kindness and started to value the concept of life, even after he himself died and was resurrected. By the time the story's over, he's The Anti-Nihilist.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Family Guy (where Peter gets amnesia) featured this with Quagmire, where after flirting with Lois after Peter dumps her, he gets her into bed, only for her to reveal that she likes Quagmire and feels like she can trust him. This causes him to have a played-with close-up, culminating in an Overly-Long Gag of him going through increasingly painful and absurd attempts to get himself erect again.
  • The Futurama episode "In-a-Gadda-da-Leela" seems to be this for Zapp, when he's shown to be kind and caring towards Leela (in his own inept way) when she's stuck under a log and it appears that they're the last two humans alive. Subverted near the end, when every last good thing he's done in the episode is peeled back to be part of a charade to get back into her pants, even going as far as to show that he trapped her under the log and also managed to make an elaborate hoax of Earth's destruction.
  • Xiaolin Showdown — Three of the four main characters undergo this trope: Omi, the truest Small Name, Big Ego of the show; Raimundo, the Brilliant, but Lazy Jerk with a Heart of Gold; and Kimiko, the Tsundere with the Hair-Trigger Temper.
    • Many episodes (particularly ones where the Xiaolin Dragons have strained relations) suggest that Omi fears being alone and believes that if he is perfect, he will be surrounded by adulating friends and admirers.
    • As shown during the events leading to his betrayal, Rai becomes angry whenever he feels helpless or inadequate. It's straight-up stated in "Dream Stalker" that his lazy, jerk-ish attitude results from his fear of not being good enough and letting others down.
    • And as early as the third episode, it's revealed that Kimiko deeply fears needing others' help and wants to prove that she can keep up with the boys.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show, it's revealed that Eddy's behavior is all an act pretending to be a jerk due to him believing that if he acted more like his brother (who is an even bigger jerkass), he'd be more popular. After he apologizes to everyone, the Eds are finally accepted by the community.
  • Darkwing Duck: "Inside Binkie's Brain" shows that while Darkwing Duck's 'inner hero' is fairly small, his ego is enormous. But this is a guy who puts his own life in danger for those he loves on a regular basis, adopted a little girl who desperately needed a father who understood her, and he even puts up with his royally annoying neighbors, Quackerware and all. "Life, the Negaverse, and Everything" shows how vitally important his role as father is to him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Rainbow Dash is generally portrayed as having a rather inflated opinion of herself and constantly reminds everyone how awesome she is, but most of her focus episodes reveal that she has a bit of an Inferiority Superiority Complex and despite being very protective of her reputation, she's loyal to a fault where her friends are concerned.
    • Similarly, in most episodes Rarity sits halfway between a Drama Queen and an Attention Whore, but most episodes that are focused on her reveal that under the facade she's actually one of the most emotionally mature members of the cast and she just has a tendency toward histrionics.
  • Lance from Voltron: Legendary Defender has an overinflated opinion of himself, but it's revealed to be overcompensation for suffering from I Just Want to Be Special.
  • Half the reason for Ahsoka Tano's Bratty Half-Pint behavior in the early seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars is that she knows Anakin didn't want her and keeps getting mad when it seems like he doesn't believe in her or trust her. When she realizes Anakin does believe in her during season 3, she tones down a lot.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Mitchell has a hot-blooded temper, a Napoleon complex, and a sarcastic streak, and projects a massive superiority complex in order to compensate for his loneliness as a result of his poor social skills and low self-esteem.
  • Brainy Smurf in The Smurfs (1981) goes through this in the episode The Dark Ness Monster, where the loss of his glasses forces him to ditch his superiority complex and rely on his friend Clumsy for help. At a later point in the episode, Brainy writes a heartfelt quotation to express his feelings, in which he refers to himself as being weak and just pretending to be strong. Some other episodes hint at this hidden side to Brainy as well, particularly the episodes The Smurfiest Of Friends and Papa’s Family Album.
  • Varney the vampire in Castlevania (2017) just screams for someone to take him down a peg: he takes credit for other peoples' ideas, boasts about how much Dracula trusted him even though he was clearly Reassigned to Antarctica, and contributes almost nothing to plans. Absolutely nobody respects him; Isaac tells his Magic Mirror not to accept any further communcations from him, St. Germain ignores his rantings, and Ratko gives him a scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech. In the last episodes, Varney's ego is justified: he's Death, an ancient and powerful spirit possibly even stronger than Dracula. He isn't acting stronger than he is, he's actually that strong.
  • The Legend of Korra: It's subtle, but it's frequently shown that there is more to Prince Wu than meets the eye.
    • In "The Coronation", he shows that despite his ego, he can freely accept criticism. When Mako tells him that while Kuvira is no saint, he's just as unfit for the throne, rather than become angry and defensive, he actually agrees with Mako and admits that he probably wouldn't make a great ruler, stating that no one ever told it to him like that before. This partially influences his decision to ultimately dissolve the monarchy and let the various states govern themselves.
    • In "Operation Beifong", he shows some surprisingly quick thinking when he actually suggests that they evacuate the city in preparation for Kuvira's impending attack. Both Raiko and Mako praise this suggestion, though he freely admits it was just to impress Korra.
    • In "Kuvira's Gambit", he turns out to be an excellent public speaker whose oratory skills convince the citizens of Republic City to evacuate, especially when Mako's emotionless warning drove the citizens into a panic.
    • In "Day of the Colossus", he again shows that he's surprisingly clever when he uses his singing to convince the Badgermoles to dig a tunnel out of the city and even fakes a Take Me Instead moment to distract three of Kuvira's goons when they corner them.
    • In "Ruins of the Empire", he displays a working knowledge of the Dai Li's history of brainwashing to keep control of Ba Sing Se, which Toph commends.
    • He also has a hallucination of his aunt, Earth Queen Hou-Ting, berating him for championing democracy not because he thinks it'll be better for the people, but because he doesn't want the responsibility of ruling when he knows he'll fail. This shakes him pretty hard.

Alternative Title(s): Ted Baxter Close Up