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Broken Hero

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"Why are you alive? Why are you— Why aren't you like her? Broken. Only fit to dig and carry."
"For a while I was broken. I lost my whole family, Talitha. My friends. My childhood. I had to pull myself up and keep going."
Talitha asking a Colonist Shepard how they moved on from their shared tramua, Mass Effect

A hero who is a dropout, result of a failed experiment (in Science Fiction), or maybe just abandoned/abused as a child. Nonetheless, this character is amazingly cheerful and optimistic, and nice to even the people who don't appreciate them. May be introduced as a Big Eater, a ditz, or some other harmless personality. They may even make some ostensibly humorous jabs at themself.

Their Backstory is usually learned in flashbacks sometime later in a show, sometimes without warning. This can shock the other characters, especially The Rival Anti-Hero, and earns them respect. By definition, they are usually also Stepford Smilers or Sad Clowns.

A Beta Test Baddie and a Broken Hero often have a complicated relationship of sympathy tied with dislike, until the former finally loses patience with the latter. Compare Iron Woobie if The Hero still keeps on going, despite all the misery they endure.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Krista Renz from Attack on Titan. She's a sweet, beautiful girl adored by everyone because of her kindness and is considered the "Goddess" of the 104th Trainees Squad. However, it turns out that she's a Heroic Bastard disowned by her noble family, with massive issues concerning her self-worth. She's a Death Seeker so desperate to die in a way that will get her praised that she was willing to risk the life of an injured comrade and joins the Recon Corps while crying. Ymir calls her on it numerous times, and she's begun to improve as a result.
  • Orihime Inoue, a girl with long orange hair and a very cheerful attitude, from Bleach fits this trope pretty well, losing all her family members to accidents and having to see her dead brother turn into a horrific spiritual monster, who then tries to eat her.
  • Tsuzuki of Descendants of Darkness. He's a Big Eater, Badass Adorable Shinigami, who everyone seems to make jokes about, including himself. Until the Kyoto arc, that is.
  • D.Gray-Man: Allen Walker, the protagonist and one of the sweetest and most adorable characters you can find in the whole series. He's nice, cheerful, idealistic, and really, really cute, but his life has been kind of traumatic. By which we mean that his parents abandoned him, he was beaten by clowns until he got adopted, his foster father died, his mentor abused him, he has to watch tormented Akuma souls screaming in pain, and (in the anime) the very first Akuma he killed (besides Mana) was his best (and only) childhood friend. His whole life has been, and still continues to be, a never-ending Trauma Conga Line, not that you'd realize by looking at him right away.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Tohru Honda lost her father at a very young age, her mother in her teens, and ended up living in a tent. Nevertheless, she is cheerful and bright — so much so that other characters who want to help and provide moral support have to figure out on their own that she's in need of it.
    • While he may not necessarily be the main hero of the story, Momiji Sohma is impeccably cheerful and caring despite having his mother rejecting him and eventually going insane due to Momiji's curse (turns into a rabbit when hugged by the opposite sex or very stressed like when sick).
  • Sousuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic! is a borderline example — he is normally The Stoic but is a mentally well-adjusted and good-hearted person under it all, if somewhat socially awkward. For someone who has been a Mujahideen Child Soldier since the age of seven before moving on to work for a mercenary army and has literally never known normal civilian life, that's rather impressive. The sympathy this engenders for him from the school staff may explain in part why he always seems to get away with bringing guns to and detonating parts of the school building on a regular basis. It also helps that Mithril bribed the hell out of his school when he first enrolled.
  • Gundam:
  • Gon Freecs from Hunter × Hunter lost his mother, his father is missing, and he has a knack for making enemies who want to gut him, but is still eternally cheerful. He's the Broken Hero and The Ditz rolled up in one.
  • Miroku from Inuyasha is an easygoing, carefree, and cheerful guy who likes to joke and tease, even though he will die very young being consumed by the Wind Tunnel in his right hand.
  • Naruto:
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Negi is one of these despite only being ten. No parents, no family except a cousin that was away most of the year and then that whole bit where demons invaded his village and turned everyone to stone. Everyone was horrified to see his memories of said event, which worked exactly opposite to how it was supposed to.
  • Maria no Danzai: Kiritaka Nagare was subjected to severe bullying for months. Even so, he was able to pull off a convincing cheerful smile to his mother who probably didn't suspect something is wrong with him until his birthday. More notably, he was ostracized by his own classmates because of Shikimi's Frame-Up, thus making him feel all alone, yet he didn't seem to resent them for this and focused on exposing the bullies. A quite impressive example when the guy was during those times 13.
  • Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He's a deeply traumatized, depressed, angsty mess from the outset, but just how bad it gets in the later arcs is staggering.
  • Oz Vessalius from PandoraHearts pretty much embodies this trope. He's a Cheerful Child Stepford Smiler who was completely shunned by his father at a young age, despite wanting desperately to impress him. His pride/confidence pretty much gets crushed after failing to save a girl from her own death — illegal contractor and a little boy who ends up losing his father and his own soul to chains. Nonetheless, he tries to act like he's fine and smiles at everyone. As of Retrace LXX, already pretty shaken up, he realizes that he is actually a freaking stuffed bunny, the chain B-Rabbit who, one hundred years ago, was forced to murder countless innocent people. By the end of Retrace LXXIV, he is almost completely mentally and emotionally broken thanks to his memories resurfacing as well as interference by Jack.
  • Mami Tomoe from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, who smiles as she gives advice to Madoka and Sayaka and fights the Witches... but confesses that she cries a lot when alone and says her smiles are all false.
  • Sanosuke Sagara from Rurouni Kenshin, a happy-go-lucky brawler and gambler who never met a jug of sake he didn't like; also estranged from his biological family and had his father figure executed on false charges by the very government they helped to bring into power. Kenshin himself qualifies as well.
  • Shirayuki from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs is an irresistibly adorable Cheerful Child, whose life has been miserable since literally the day she was born and involves a severe case of Abusive Parents, having Complete Immortality forced on her, repeatedly having her heart gouged out, being forced to bring about an apocalypse, among others.
  • Yona of the Dawn: Zeno is unceasingly cheerful, often providing the most comedy of the group. Unlike the others who are descendants of the dragons, he's the original one, having been blessed/cursed with immortality and invulnerability, a power that only activates if he takes enough damage (and of course it still hurts him as much as it would a regular human).

    Comic Books 
  • The DC universe has its fair share of hard-luck heroes:
    • Batman's parents were killed by some mugger in a dark alley changing his outlook on life and convincing him as a child to dedicate his life to fighting and trying to prevent crime.
    • Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing)'s parents (and in some versions aunt, uncle, and cousin) fell to their deaths in front of him, he was threatened by the mobsters responsible, separated from the circus he'd considered extended family, and thrown in a juvenile detention center because the Gotham Child Services workers were corrupt and overworked. He then escaped and tried to track down his parent's killers himself before becoming Bruce Wayne's ward.
    • Jason Todd (Robin II/Red Hood) watched his mother slowly succumb to her addictions while his deadbeat father died in jail and was forced to eke out a living as a homeless teen. Then he was placed in a home that turned out to be run by a criminal using the kids to commit crimes before being taken in by Bruce and becoming Robin. note 
    • Cass Cain (Batgirl II/Black Bat) was raised as a human weapon by her father who didn't even allow her to learn to speak and then ran away after her first kill as she saw the horror and pain of her victim and drifted homelessly and without language to aid her until she came to Gotham determined to join the Bat's crusade due to Bruce's determination not to kill.
    • Billy Batson is an orphaned boy whose evil abusive uncle stole his inheritance and abandoned him on the streets to fend for himself.
    • Hal Jordan's home city was destroyed and he was possessed by Parallax.
  • Pretty much everybody in the Marvel Universe. There's Captain America (grew up poor during the Great Depression, parents died when he was young, dead sidekick and identity issues), Luke Cage (grew up in a bad part of New York, wrongly jailed for drug possession), Iron Man (alcoholism, depression, self-worth issues, romantic issues, and massive survivor's guilt), Deadpool (disfigured, partially reformed murderer, crazy), every single X-Man (Fantastic Racism and often some of the most stupidly dysfunctional families imaginable), the Fantastic "I promise I'll make you normal again someday, Ben!" Four, a certain Dr. Bruce Banner, Rick "the Hulk is my fault and I'm often trapped in the Negative Zone" Jones, the seething mass of neuroses that is Spider-Man, everything that's wrong with Henry Pym, and... yeah, pretty much everybody else.
    • The Initiative in the Marvel Universe is a government-subsidized effort to train the next generation of superheroes, which includes some old characters and new ones. Those that weren't already broken when they went into the program...are quickly and brutally broken down by the events in the Initiative series.
    • Then you have The Sentry, who makes the rest combined look well-adjusted. And that's on his better days.

    Fan Works 
  • When Shinji and Asuka got together and befriended Rei in Advice and Trust, the Children became a bit happier due to their stronger emotional bonds. They're still traumatized teenagers, but they smile more often and they're actually hopeful about their future. And they've become better warriors, too.
  • Child of the Storm has most of its protagonists as this — which is unsurprising, since it draws heavily from the Marvel Universe. It gets to the point where, by the sequel, the only protagonists who're not obviously neurotic or traumatised are Clark Kent, Thor (who's just deeply stressed by all the trouble Harry manages to find himself in), and Clint Barton — and we don't see much of Clint's point of view, either. Harry, though, is a prize-winning example, thanks to functionally becoming a Child Soldier despite the best efforts of the Avengers, going through a horrific Trauma Conga Line that leaves him with terrible PTSD and a slow recovery thereafter. However, unusually for this trope and setting, he — and others — gets therapy, recovering slowly and steadily, remaining a fundamentally a kind and decent person and a hero down to the bone even in his grumpier moods. He comes to believe that while there's no justice or mercy in the universe... that just means he should make some. There's a reason that a suit of armour designed for him in the sequel is codenamed 'Project Galahad' - and that's before Book III completes the reconstruction process into a Knight of Faith.
  • In spite of everything that they endured in Children of an Elder God, the main characters — Shinji, Asuka, Rei, and Touji — tried to remain optimistic and positive during and after the War.
  • A Crown of Stars: Shinji and Asuka were severely traumatized due to deep childhood trauma and being children fighting a war they did not understand. They tried to save the world but at the end, they were so broken that Shinji let it die. Their lives got worse during the next years while they tried to survive in a devastated world ruled by warlords, but after getting help and an improved and more optimistic outlook they are again fighting to save their world.
  • Flashpoint 2: Advent Solaris shows us a Barry Allen that has lived through the events of Justice League Dark: Apokolips War and he is not the same after what he went through, constantly fighting through bouts of PTSD as he tries to save the world from its latest crisis.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: Shinji and Asuka try to get over their issues and improve their lives after the War.
  • In Last Child of Krypton, Shinji is the most powerful hero on the planet, and he tries to be nice and upbeat despite of having abandonment and loneliness issues.
  • Lightwaves: Hanna in a nutshell. Parents dead. Kind of by his fault. Experimented upon. Horrifically. Part of (a pretty downtrodden) La Résistance in a Dystopia that makes flowers illegal. Living in an abandoned carpet factory with a Dr. Jerk. All-Loving Hero extraordinaire.
  • Once More with Feeling: Shinji has suffered terribly, he has lost his mother and his family, and he has seen literally everyone dying… but he tries to be optimistic and upbeat when he returns to the past because being sad and depressed the whole time got him precisely nowhere the last time around.
  • The Second Try: After Third Impact, Shinji and Asuka managed to overcome their many psychological issues and insecurities and became a little happier and more upbeat.
  • Optimus in TFA Kaleidoscope is this more than his canon counterpart in Transformers: Animated could ever hope to be. Growing up under the oppressive rule of a ruthless caste system, being drafted into a seemingly endless war where he killed countless and witnessed all manner of death and destruction, then losing everything to hide the ultimate source of power in the universe and effectively cutting himself off from all life of his own volition is way too much for any normal bot to bear. Yet he perseveres all the same.
  • Thousand Shinji: Shinji, Asuka, and Rei were abused as children. When they convert to Chaos, though, they focus on the positive aspects of their dark gods, and although neither of them is nice, Shinji becomes optimistic and hopeful, Rei happy and mirthful, and Asuka courageous and passionate.
  • Harry in The Wizard in the Shadows. All the trauma of the Wizarding War, plus four years of constant and brutal warfare in Middle Earth with no prospect of return are implied to have driven him a little mad. At first, this seems to be only in the Cloudcuckoolander sense, with the darker side hinted only in respect to the fact that this is someone who hunts Ringwraiths for fun. He becomes more cheerful and better adjusted as time goes on.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Neville Longbottom eventually evolves into a Broken Hero after the tragic insanity of his parents is revealed to Harry.
    • As well as Harry himself — he's nice to people despite being emotionally abused by his aunt, uncle, and cousin.
  • High School D×D: Kiba Yuuto is a calm, confident and skillful Knight. His perpetual smile and collected demeanor hide the fact that he is the only survivor of the Church's Excalibur experiments, who were so brutal that left him traumatized and killed all his friends when he was a mere child and to top it off, he is an artificial human without sense of self-worth; he is so deeply loyal to Rias simply because he has nothing else to hold on, something that Rias knows but is unable to fix. He even admits to it in the Kokabiel arc. Though it gets kinda fixed with Issei and Koneko's friendship (with a healthy dose of Rias' Tough Love to help).
  • Lord Peter Wimsey always appears to be a cheerful aristocrat and a Motor Mouth, frequently compared in-universe to Bertie Wooster by both the narrator and other characters, however it is revealed that he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the War. We get literal flashbacks from him when he relives events of it after a particularly stressful case triggers him and also Flashback Nightmares.
  • Rosario Hernandez in the Urban Dragon books is an obese homeless woman who managed to tame a dragon, befriend ghouls, and fight monsters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly qualifies, even though his Back Story is revealed almost immediately in the pilot (or would have been if it hadn't been shown last...)
    • It should be noted, however, that Fox employed Executive Meddling after viewing the pilot to make him more of a jokester; his portrayal in the pilot episode was somewhat more low-key and bitter. But in all versions, there's still an element of this depending on the circumstances and Mal's mood.
    • Ditto for River Tam; during her more lucid periods she's actually a really nice and cheery girl, but she is about as completely broken as a person can get, without factoring in her madness.
  • Jarod The Pretender is this, though we find out the basics of his backstory pretty quickly. He was kidnapped as a child; mentally, emotionally, and physically abused; kept as a slave for most of his life; and as the series progresses it gets worse, but his personality is that of a cheerful, adorkable, mischievous, and insatiably curious Manchild (at least until he gets into psycho badass avenger Pretender mode or has the occasional Heroic BSoD).
  • Chuck in Pushing Daisies is extremely upbeat and enthusiastic for someone who has never known her mother, had her father die when she was nine, then moved in with her aunts only to die herself and then be resurrected in such a way that she can't see them again either.
  • Stargate SG-1. All the characters have suffered tragedy to some extent, Jack lost his son, Sam lost her mother, Teal'c lost both parents, etc. But Daniel wins this trope for being more or less cheerful despite losing his parents as a child in an accident, losing his foster parents in another accident, spending most of his professional career having his theories scorned at (most of which, as he points out, turned out to be right) and had just been evicted from his apartment at the start of the movie. As soon as the TV series starts, his wife is taken. He spends two and a half series trying to rescue her, then Teal'c kills her to save Daniel. Once he gets over losing his wife, he runs into an ex-girlfriend, who is promptly made into a host, but is still polite, has faith in common humanity, and chides Jack on being so snarky.
    • Actually subverted on nearly all counts. Teal'c only lost his father, not his mother, and while Daniel certainly did lose his biological parents, his foster parents were never mentioned in Canon. If he did lose them, too, we didn't hear about it. And his backstory was alluded to since the original Stargate movie, as was Jack's particular tragedy — Jack O'Neill having made his first appearance trying to commit suicide with a nuclear bomb. Daniel's being 'polite' is often strewn with pithy and/or patronizing comments, and his having faith in humanity could be considered gullibility. Jack's open hostility, sometimes snide cynicism, and occasional moral pragmatism disqualify him completely, though in the trauma stakes he could probably trump Daniel. Teal'c has a similar problem to Jack, and Sam was never broken enough to qualify.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: James Tiberius Kirk survived a massacre that killed half the people in the Taurus IV colony (according to the eventual timeline, as a teenager) and undergoes all manner of other heartbreaking circumstances through the series, including, but not limited to, the deaths of a number of people he loves, torture, betrayal, and having to Shoot the Dog very occasionally. One would never know that he's suffered such trauma from his usual Officer and a Gentleman self.
  • Both Sam and Dean from Supernatural, due to their crappy childhood and their status as Cosmic Playthings. Except that while they're nice guys, you could probably get frustrated with them very easily because of all those issues.
    • Castiel fits this trope perfectly; in "The Great Escapist" it was revealed that Castiel repeatedly rebelled for mankind against whatever order he deemed too dangerous for them like the slaughter in Egypt, which lead his superiors to use torture, memory wiping and brainwashing to punish him and force him to be obedient again, which never lasted for long as Naomi complained about having to do it too many times, and that's not counting all the times he was used, given up on by his so-called friends (when Dean kicked him out of the bunker right after he died to be homeless again without any help) and told over and over how useless and expandable he is by everyone. Nevertheless, he still finds it in him to help save people and show mercy even to the people who wronged him, like how he decided to let Metatron go in Season 11 after he took his grace, and destroyed most of it to cause the fall, which made him a target to all the angels and hated by them.
  • Glitch, from the Tin Man miniseries, who is awfully upbeat for someone who's had half of his brain removed by the bad guys. Missing half his brain may be why he's "upbeat". The parts of him that could react appropriately are floating in a jar somewhere.
  • Stefan from The Vampire Diaries. He has endured a lot of pain and tragedy yet still seems to hold it together.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: Ragna the Bloodedge was a young man who lived happily with his brother Jin and his sister Saya. Then a psychotic hipster named Yuuki Terumi burned down his home, killed his adoptive guardian, and chopped his arm off. He gets a new arm called the Azure Grimoire from a girl who rescues him, which grants him awesome power but will probably one day kill him horribly. He's a man who has lost almost everything he's ever held dear to him, and it really shows in his attitude toward life. However, he's a source of much of the game's comedy moments, with most of the cast snarking at him and/or kicking his ass.
  • Robo from Chrono Trigger, who was abandoned by its creator for sympathizing with the humans. He's also literally broken when he's introduced, needing Gadgeteer Genius Lucca to repair him before he can join the party.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII has more than a few elements of this — he's a bullied-as-a-child People Jar escapee. He's got a dorkish, awkward side to his personality as a result.
    • Big lovable goofball Snow from Final Fantasy XIII is an orphan. You never find out about his past, per se, but there are moments where it's demonstrated just how much he really longs for the family he never had, and how devoted he is to his fiancee, slowly endearing him—uh, sort of — to Lightning.
  • Lucius from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. He was brutally tormented in an orphanage after his parents died when he was three, yet he still treats everyone with compassion and fairness, even going so far as to say that he wished that the man that abused him could still live well. He even forgives the man who murdered his father (and by proxy, his mother) and caused his terrible childhood.
  • Halo 4: Dr Halsey's interrogator accuses Halo's Master Chief as this, as despite all of his Badass abilities, he is considered an empty shell, and Cortana is the only thing that's keeping him from falling apart. That said, it is made abundantly clear that the interrogator is mainly trying to make the SPARTAN-IV project look better, not bring out actual truth.
  • Commander Shepard of the Mass Effect series can fit this depending on how you play Him/Her. Two of the backstories, Earthborn and Colonist has Shepard being an orphan, the former has Shepard being a product of the streets while the latter had Shepard's entire family killed. Colonist Shepard can even admit to one character that s/he was totally broken for a while after his/her parents were killed and maybe still is. Regardless of background, by the time of Mass Effect 3, the sheer weight of responsibility on Shepard's back has pushed him/her to the breaking point.
  • Marona from Phantom Brave. Her parents died when she was five and the world as a whole, including her Honorary Uncle, seems to hate her for her spirit-seeing power, but she's an All-Loving Hero nonetheless. There's quite a bit of terror in realizing that this is a prepubescent child whose only real companions are dead people for the majority of the game. Ash is a dependable guy, but he's not exactly fit to do the bills and the vacuuming, meaning that Marona basically manages an entire island by herself.
  • Resonance of Fate:
    • Leanne. Several times it's remarked how cute and sweet she is, and she is a perpetually upbeat, cheerful, determined, and playful little thing. (At one point, a dorky, strange, not physically attractive possibly, uh, 'special' character hires her to go on a date with him as a job. At the end, she refuses the money and flirts honestly with him, saying 'It wouldn't be a date if I took that, now WOULD it?' With a wink and a sweet grin.) She's also totally girly, even when kicking ass and taking names in gun battles. Meanwhile, she's actually the only survivor out of twenty experimental children who were all supposed to die at set dates in an attempt to control the human lifespan. She is very aware of it, and, in fact, attempted to commit suicide immediately before her time was supposed to 'run out', so she would control her own fate. Only one person in her life cared for her, and she's not sure if he's even alive — the last she saw of him, he was being dragged away after setting her free, assuming she had only a year left to live. Perhaps not as tragic as some examples here, but it certainly counts.
    • Vashyron. He is often relied on for comic relief and comedic moments in the game, he is rarely very serious for long unless on a job, he seems to get along with pretty much everyone he comes across, he's a womanizer, protective, and a fun-loving eccentric. He is another lone survivor, however, after his entire military squad was wiped out. By a lone little girl. Well, okay, so she only looked like a little girl. If you don't count the horns. or the wings, or the creepy too-old woman's voice and super-ninja powers. Seriously, what IS this chick, anyway? Two of them originally escaped the carnage, but after a rather heart-wrenching sacrifice — only Vashyron was left standing.
  • Undertale: The dialogue options and reactions of other characters to the Fallen Child in the Neutral and True Pacifist endings seem to indicate that our main character is a cheerful goofball and an All-Loving Hero...and they also climbed a mountain that no one has ever come back from alive. A few characters are troubled by what exactly could drive a child to do that.
  • Gulcasa of the Ancardia series of Dept. Heaven games. You don't see as much of his normal disposition in Yggdra Union due to his fighting for the opposite side, but in the other two games especially, he's revealed to be the sweetest, most idealistic, and adorkable demonic Christ figure you ever did see. His mother abandoned him when he was a toddler, his father brutally abused him all his life, and he grew up in extreme squalor. When his life finally started to turn around at age seventeen when he was a part of La Résistance, his father figure betrayed him, his childhood friend/surrogate mother/possibly first crush died because of it, he had to kill said father figure because of this, he was reunited with his mother only to be forced into a Duel to the Death with her, and then his other childhood friend and his mentor backstabbed and deserted him. The Trauma Conga Line made him a lot more driven but didn't put much of a dent in his wholehearted love for and trust in his True Companions or his determination to create a peaceful world.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Shirou. As his Back Story reveals, he lost his family, his friends, and his old life in the great fire 10 years ago, but is still extremely friendly and helpful towards almost everyone and never seems bothered by the event beyond some bad dreams. As one of the game paths later reveals, Shirou basically lost his entire existence and sense of self from the trauma as well, and his personality was 'rebuilt' around the fact that he was rescued when basically no one else was. Shirou is fundamentally broken on a mental level, in that he is unable to live for his own sake and can only find meaning in life through the act of saving others like he himself was once saved. Kirei Kotomine is something of an inversion — A Broken Villain. Like Shirou, he has no sense of self and only defines himself through others. The trouble is, while Shirou finds his meaning in helping others, Kotomine finds his in the suffering of others.
    • As we learn in the Heaven's Feel route, Sakura Matou is broken to an even greater degree than Shirou is. Born as Sakura Tohsaka, she was given up for adoption to the Matou family to serve as their heir. Doing so involves being tortured daily by her adoptive grandfather, and later on raped by her adoptive brother. By the time of Heaven's Feel, she's endured the former for eleven years, and the latter for three.

  • Hanna of Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name. It hasn't been revealed what happened, but it's heavily implied in Tessa's DA sketches that something went wrong.
  • Ben Park from Weak Hero. Throughout middle school, he faced constant jeering by his peers who believed, due to his non-confrontational nature, that his strength was all for show. This ended with his best friend Alex becoming distanced from him and getting involved with the wrong crowd. When Alex got in trouble because of it, Ben came to his rescue and not only got thoroughly beaten by Donald Na, but suffered from a severe arm injury while protecting Alex. Though he has every reason to angst about it, Ben is a constantly cheerful guy who barely seems to care, and instead, it's Alex who blames himself for what happened and beats himself up over it.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Although not the hero, Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender embodies this trope rather well. Introduced as Zuko's happy-go-lucky crazy old uncle, it's later shown that he was a badass general before his father and son were both killed (Azulon was a major Asshole Victim, though) and his younger brother took the throne instead of him.
  • Heavily deconstructed in BoJack Horseman. As it turns out, becoming a decent and caring person in spite of the horrid experiences suffered might bring rather dire implications if the person doesn't deal directly with his psyche; as such, he could resort to becoming The Paragon and hollow himself as the happy façade he puts on becomes thinner and thinner (like Secretariat), he could keep the "helping and comforting" part by doing noble deeds out of selfish motives or a guilty conscience (like Sebastian St. Claire) or without being a bad person themselves, he could let the pent-up fury and sadness leak through the surface until becoming outright nastiness (like BoJack). You can be a Broken Hero but without real help or support, it will cost you.
  • Samurai Jack becomes this trope by the time of the final season. Having spent literally decades trapped in the Bad Future and unable to find a way back home or to destroy Evil Overlord Aku due to having lost his sword, he has hit rock bottom and became a shell of his former self hallucinating with all the people that he failed to save. In fact, he expresses suicidal thoughts with a sinister version of himself inside of his head. Nevertheless, Jack still continues his journey, overcomes his inner demons, and kills Aku for good, thanks to the help of Ashi.
  • Oddly enough, Optimus Prime of Transformers: Animated. Once a promising recruit at the Autobot Academy, now the captain of a washed-out repair crew.
    • To a degree, every member of his crew qualifies, too. Especially Ratchet. If not literally because of the little bit taken off his helmet/head crest thingy, then because of the events that led to him being put in control of Omega Supreme.