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Dumbass No More

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"I am just so proud of them, man. They have finally stopped being super idiotic."
AntDude, on the Pikmin becoming more intelligent and self-reliant in the third game.

A cousin to Took a Level in Badass, only the major change is in the character's intelligence. Tired of being thrown around mental gymnasium, said dumbass decides to do some "brain trainin'". They will drop out of the storyline for a while. If they're the main character, this sabbatical will be used to develop the other characters in the story.

Contrast Took a Level in Dumbass. Sister Trope to "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome, in which a character gains intelligencenote  temporarily, but returns to normal by the end of the story. For moments where one pretends to be a dumbass and eventually discards the facade, see Obfuscating Stupidity. Compare this trope to Took a Level in Smartass, despite similar names, this one involves a character becoming smarter, or at least, less dumber than they used to be, while the other one involves a character becoming snarkier.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Doraemon: The title character used to be Book Dumb and one of the worst students in the Robot Academy. However, he probably got better from his early years, since nowadays he can quote many facts about different subjects and is easily the most knowledgeable of the main cast (unless Dekisugi is around). That said, he's still a bit clumsy.
  • Two-layer Dragon Ball example: Majin Buu is a short-witted villain. After transforming into Super Buu, he gains an intelligence boost to some degree, but is still prone to impulsive acts and is lacking in patience and human emotion or mannerisms. However, after getting thrashed by Gohan, he manages to come up with a plan and absorb Piccolo (one of the most intelligent characters in the series) and Gotenks (a character at least his equal in power) into his body. After that, he becomes a Genius Bruiser, starts playing mindgames and emotional torment on his opponents, having backup plans, and overall being a ruder version of Cell, boosted even further after absorbing Gohan himself. And then he inverts the trope, being forcibly downgraded into his Kid Buu form. His original form, he is like a very young child, unrestrained and his most dangerous form.
  • Nao Kanzaki from Liar Game starts out as very naive, mostly having to rely on the more skeptical Akiyama to help her out of a jam. However, she learns to stop being naive and deceive her opponents in the Liar Game, even taking advantage of the fact that everyone sees her as the honest one to trick them into doing what she wants, such as convincing Yoyoka into staying in the Liar Game or delivering the Coup de Grace in the following Revival Round.
  • Naruto:
    • The eponymous character is an interesting case. Naruto goes from last in ninja school to a shinobi who can think on his feet. Then, he goes to trading ideological arguments with several human war machines as much as he trades blows with the same people. His allies still push him to think before he acts, though it most often turns out he already has several tactics in mind, leading the allies to say something like "he's not the same dumb kid we knew, after all...".
    • There's also Obito Uchiha, who started off as basically an Uchiha version of Naruto and, after his Face–Heel Turn, ended up being The Chessmaster Big Bad.
  • Hachi in One Piece. He's still not terribly bright, but he's quite a bit smarter than the Dumb Muscle he used to be. He goes from being so dumb that he catches the seat of his pants while fishing and is tricked into escorting his boss Arlong's prisoner Zoro to freedom to being the Mr. Exposition of Sabaody Archipelago who's wise enough to know that antagonizing the Celestial Dragons is a terrible idea.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash starts off as an Idiot Hero who gradually matures and learns over the course of two series. However, while his Pokémon battling skills improve during Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl, he gets less intelligent in every regard that doesn't have to do with Pokémon battling, zigzagging this trope. And during Pokémon the Series: Black & White he completely hits the Reset Button, completely inverting this trope. He plays the trope completely straight in Pokémon the Series: XY, however, and gains so much maturity and skill he doesn't even really qualify as an Idiot Hero anymore (naive and reckless certainly, but not an idiot). He returns to idiocy in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, but with the stipulation that he retains his battle competence, making him something of a Genius Ditz Idiot Savant.
    • Team Rocket started off the Goldfish Poop Gang of the series, and by the second and third series became complete Harmless Villains and prone to imbecilic acting and tactics. In the fourth series, in contrast to Ash, they suddenly became far more devious and sinister as a result of their promotion to Elite Mooks to Giovanni. After their special placement slowly dissolved they reverted back to being bumbling, though still remain more calculating and lucid than before.
  • Gourry Gabriev, in the Slayers anime series, is pretty much the resident Idiot Hero and seems to get stupider in each season. Evolution-R, the fifth season, starts portraying him more akin to his novel self (who is not an Idiot Hero but instead Obfuscating Stupidity for a number of reasons, including the fact he likes Lina explaining things to him/thinks she's cute when she's mad).

    Comic Books 
  • Impulse from Teen Titans got sick of being the The Fool of the team (which was mostly on account of his extreme ADHD), so he used his Super-Speed to read the contents of an entire library, while taking the opportunity to "promote" himself to Kid Flash. Because he also has Photographic Memory he basically became a walking encyclopedia. Unfortunately, he's more a Genius Ditz given that he's got the knowledge but not the wisdom or common sense.
  • Sunspot spent his youth with the New Mutants as an impulsive Leeroy Jenkins who punched first and asked questions later. Then he joined The Avengers and wised up during an eight-month Time Skip, coming out the other end as an obscenely rich and obscenely devious chessmaster who fought with his mind and not his fists.
  • Floyd Gottfredson wanted to do this in the 1940s Mickey Mouse comic strip, although he never pulled it off in the end. Since Mickey's nephews Morty and Ferdie were too much alike, he wrote Ferdie out with plans to bring him back as an intellectual, with the explanation that he had been away for his studies. The comeback, however, never happened and the role of Child Prodigy in the comics went to Goofy's nephew Gilbert.

    Fan Works 
  • Dreaming of Sunshine: Naruto ends up learning how to strategize effectively earlier on than in canon due to Shikako's tutoring. Though he's only a little more powerful than in canon by the Chunin Exams, he manages to earn his promotion.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: Darth Nihilus was originally the Dumb Muscle of the Sith Triumvirate, lacking any strategic skills or long-terms plans for himself. His One-Track-Minded Hunger had turned him into a near-mindless killing machine whose only priority was finding his next meal. Following his death during the Battle of Telos IV, Nihilus seems to have greatly increased his intelligence, becoming more adaptive and manipulative than before. It's implied that this is a direct result of Meetra sapping most of his powers. Since his hunger grows as he gets stronger, when the Exile weakened him shortly before killing him, his hunger lessened and became more manageable. With his Horror Hunger no longer dominating his every thought and his spirit trapped inside an inanimate object, Nihilus is able to utilize his intelligence more often and is in a situation where he is entirely dependent on being able to outsmart and manipulate other people.
  • Downplayed in My Heroes Reborn. While a capable hero, Mirio Togata is rather Book Dumb. However, after regaining his Past-Life Memories as Monkey D. Luffy, the consensus is that compared to the idiot he was in that life, he's a genius.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: At the beginning of the story, it's revealed that Ash's fluctuating levels of maturity and skill were caused by Cyrus screwing with him as a way to test his newfound abilities to alter the reality. Once the new reality kicks in, Ash is no longer an Idiot Hero and on top of that retains all his knowledge and experience from the previous timeline.
  • Purple Days: After a while of failing to stop the "Groundhog Day" Loop he's been trapped into, Joffrey gets tired of his willing stupidity and starts several loops of deep study and training, starting in the Citadel.
  • Sonic Destruction: Knuckles in previous Real-Time Fandub projects was portrayed as The Stoner with some shades of outright cloudcuckoolander, but the AI-generated scripted combined with a new VA means he's far more lucid. He's practically an Only Sane Man, taking initiative to combat Eggman and mostly lacking any crazy moments.
  • Total Drama World Tour Deluxe: Lindsay ends up sneezing out a crayon at the Alps. She explains in a confessional that when she was six years old she stuffed a pack of crayons up her nose after being dared by her sister. She thought she sneezed them all out afterwards, but realizes that one stayed put and ended up penetrating her brain and affecting her memory, logic, and reasoning. After this, she starts remembering everyone's names and becoming more useful in challenges, effectively losing her Dumb Blonde status.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Absent-Minded Professor: In the first movie, Biff Hawk gets every question on Brainard's exam wrong, but he's working as the professor's lab assistant in the sequel and is pretty adept at the job.

  • This is the very end (which is also the beginning) of Invisible Man, with the title character "hibernating" and thinking over what he's done and how he could improve.
  • Algorind the shiny-eyed paladin from Thornhold by Elaine Cunningham was less than bright lad raised in a monastery and then released into non-black-and-white world with a mission that wasn't what it seems. As such, he was a Butt-Monkey who barely survived a completely deserved and mostly self-inflicted slapstick pinball, and ended up shrunk to the size of a mouse. In the sequel The Knights of Samular he got a clue enough to realize what's going on, spot a fallen paladin and deal with this problem, though still was easily manipulated by another party.
  • When Jack Pumpkinhead first appeared in The Marvelous Land of Oz, he wasn't too bright. In later books, however, as the jack-o-lantern head serving as his head started to spoil - which it seemed, had been a little overripe to begin with - he found he could just replace it with a ripe one, and became smarter as a result.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman begins the series as relatively street-smart, but otherwise an idiot who causes no end of problems for Walt and himself through his poor decision-making. By Season 5, he's grown up enough and been through enough hell that he's able to stand as an equal partner to Mike and Walt, coming up with his own plans to destroy evidence in a police facility and even rob a train without being caught.
  • Roman Roy spends the first season of Succession as a lazy, irresponsible troll completely lacking in good sense, but he starts taking his job at Royco more seriously in Season 2, not only successfully being tasked with luring in an important angel investor, but also bravely scuttling the deal instead of taking credit for it when he insightfully realizes all its hidden weaknesses.
  • The very point in Canada's Worst Driver. When you achieve this trope, you graduate (although a select few are subjected to a Non-Gameplay Elimination). In Canada's Worst Driver Ever, Chris and Shirley (from Season 1 and Season 7, respectively) had enormously improved—Chris from simple experience, Shirley by dogged study and practice.
  • Melvin Potter in Daredevil (2015) has mental issues that frequently make him childlike and confused. By Season 2, he is far more collected and rational. The likely explanation is the fact that Wilson Fisk is now in jail and no longer around to pressure Melvin by threatening his girlfriend or withholding his medications.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Silence in the Library", Miss Evangelista is a Brainless Beauty mocked by the rest of the crew. She becomes the first casualty of the Vashta Nerada and her consciousness is uploaded to the virtual reality of the library, where she becomes The Smart Guy and saves Donna in the followup "Forest of the Dead"... but the virtual system messes with her face.
    • When the Doctor is reunited with Rose Tyler, "Mickey the Idiot" has become confident and resourceful. It seems he was never an idiot to begin with, but rather a screw-up who just needed the right motivation to get his shit together.
  • When we meet Harland Bassett in The Practice, he's so inept that not only has he never won a jury trial, he's been compelled by a judge to inform all his clients of the fact. Later on, he uses underhanded tactics to get his niece acquitted of shoplifting charges, winning the case while also being held in contempt. In the time between this and his last two appearances, he's honed his skills to the point that he's able to prepare a solid case against a major pharmaceutical company backed by one of the best lawyers around, and when it comes to trial, he wins the case without resorting to dirty tricks.

    Video Games 

  • After the timeskip following the battle for the Sapphire gate, The Order of the Stick's Elan has gone from a total idiot to... well, an idiot who still manages to make V look dumb by using illusion magic.
    • He leveled his Int again in this strip, learning to use his Bard levels effectively. Neutralize Poison has already come in handy, though it's still not enough.
    • Elan once again demonstrates that his INT score is higher than it seems, although he's still severely lacking in WIS, having failed to notice the "Evil" part of his father's Affably Evil manner.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode "Grounder the Genius", Dr. Robotnik invents a chip that's supposed to make him even smarter, but his dim-witted minion robot Grounder accidentally puts it into his own brain while trying to piece himself together, becoming a genius.
  • Cinnamon Bun from Adventure Time has always been a dullard due to being literally half-baked. In "Red Throne", he finally becomes fully baked, and as such is far more intelligent then he's ever been.
  • On The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball Watterson and Darwin went from Too Dumb to Live to a more normal level of intelligence after the first season. This was probably Characterization Marches On also as they were a mix of that, mischievous, Only Sane Man and just naive. The Only Sane Man characterization seems to be becoming the dominant one.
  • Both Rufus and Amberley in The Dreamstone. As often as they saved the day, it was more often because of their more competent peers or because they had the Urpneys as their enemies, thus whenever these two conveniences were temporarily out of the equation, they usually ended up looking pretty clueless. Starting midway into Season Three, the two start acting more capable, and are shown able to think of solutions on their own. Rufus also becomes less of The Millstone while Amberley becomes The Strategist. Note this was restoring their original personalities, as they Took a Level in Dumbass following the pilot episode.
  • In Ducktales 2017, Steelbeak of Darkwing Duck gets the Adaptational Dumbass treatment, and is shown to be Book Dumb, brutish, shortsighted, and sensitive to insinuations about his intelligence. Come the Grand Finale, he uses the intelligence ray on himself, turning him from a Dumb Muscle to a Genius Bruiser, and is much smarter in how he fights Scrooge and his family.
  • Broadway from Gargoyles was more naïve, gullible, and innocent early on, he seemed to be the least intelligent of the main gargoyles in the beginning, as the series progresses he becomes more intelligent, knowledgeable, and less goofy.
  • Deconstructed in the case of Morty Smith from Rick and Morty - while constant adventures and near-death situations turned him from naive, slow in the mind kid to one of the more competent and self-aware characters of the show, they also took a serious toll on him, resulting in his constant sense of disillusionment and insecurity.
  • Tokka and Rahzar, the two mutants from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, were dumb as bricks in the movie; they made one appearance on the 1987 cartoon, however, where they were smart, and very articulate. (And not exactly evil either, portrayed as two Reluctant Monsters just trying to survive).
  • In the original 1965 version of Secret Squirrel, the title character had a tendency to bungle his plans. In the 90's revival Super Secret Secret Squirrel, he became more competent, with all of the bungling relegated to Morocco Mole.
  • In the climax of Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show, Ed, who was never the brightest bulb throughout the entire series, pulls out the last screw holding the screen door as Eddy was being physically harmed by his abusive older brother, because he knew that the recoil would lead to Eddy, who was holding onto the door, to fly back and severely harm said older brother. It worked.
  • When South Park began, Eric Cartman started out as an ignorant Dirty Coward with about the same level of naivety as Butters, in addition to being Book Dumb. Following the infamous Scott Tenorman incident, while he still retains his gullible and childlike traits, he's definitely become more clever when it comes to plotting schemes and manipulating others, even bordering on a Child Prodigy at times.
    • When Timmy made his debut, he seemed to be heavily mentally handicapped, to the point where it was often questionable whether he even knew what was going on. After his first couple of appearances, he started to drift towards being more cognizant and in later seasons more comes off as a kid with a speech impediment rather than a mental handicap.