Follow TV Tropes


Faster Than They Look

Go To
Hungry Hungry Hippo: Safari Edition

Tyrion: Does he frighten you so much?
Bronn: I'd be a bloody fool if he didn't frighten me. He's freakish big and freakish strong. And faster than you'd think for a man of that size.

So you meet this character. He looks slow somehow. Maybe he's so big, maybe he's so heavily armored, maybe he wields a big weapon, maybe his legs are too small, or he looks sickly and lethargic (or even a zombie), whatever. You'd expect to easily outrun this guy.

But then said so-called "slow" guy suddenly runs really fast! Bonus points if he's mad and is specifically going after you.

Despite the above, this can apply to vehicles and animals as well. Examples of exceptionally fast individuals of an otherwise slow animal species go under the subtrope Speedy Snail.

Supertrope to Acro Fatic and Impossibly Graceful Giant. Overlaps with Lightning Bruiser if the character can be mistaken for a Mighty Glacier at first glance. Contrast Glacier Waif, who's slower than they look.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon:
    • Played for laughs in an episode showcasing Slowpoke and Shellder. When Team Rocket tries to force their newly caught Shellder to clamp onto Slowpoke's tail and forcefully evolve it into Slowbro, Slowpoke is not a fan of this idea and is promptly chased around by Shellder, much to Team Rocket's frustration.
      Jessie: I thought you were a Slowpoke!
    • Gardenia's Turtwig was also portrayed this way. It's a Turtle Pokémon that walks on four legs... and moves at super speed.
    • Ash's Snorlax looks like a sluggish Mighty Glacier, but proves surprisingly Acrofatic.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Thriller Bark arc, Nami, Chopper and Usopp are being chased by zombies. When the three start running and think the zombies can't chase them, suddenly the zombies start sprinting at them. But not long after, the zombies have to catch their breath as they lack the stamina.
    • There's the gigantic zombie Oars, who despite his size can move and react quickly to Straw Hats' attacks. Probably justified in that he has Luffy's shadow powering him courtesy of Moria's powers.
    • Bartholomew Kuma is a 22ft-tall cyborg with a big upper body who nonetheless is able to Flash Step around. He cheats; his Paw-Paw Fruit power helps him (by "pushing" himself so fast, at that).
    • All of the Four Emperors have displayed this trope at some point or another:
      • Big Mom is a very obese Gonk, but is perfectly capable of chasing down a fleeing Sanji (the second fastest Strawhats).
      • Kaido is an extremely muscular Top-Heavy Guy...and the instant he sobers up, he can Speed Blitz Luffy.
      • Whiteboard, gives the appearance of a Mighty Glacier due to his age...but was able to Flash Step right behind Admiral Akainu in an instant.
      • Shanks was able to intercept Akainu in an instant with absolutely no forewarning of his presence on the entire battlefield.
  • In Black Lagoon Revy comments that Torch is faster than he looks "for a fat fucker".
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Sloth is huge and, true to his namesake, he hates moving fast. But once properly motivated he Turns Red and starts fighting by slamming into opponents at high speed.
    • Alex Louis Armstrong possesses a bodybuilder's physique that would usually indicate a Mighty Glacier, when in fact he manages to outspeed the aforementioned Sloth! Notably, his alchemy has nothing to do with his own physical abilities, making this a case of Charles Atlas Superpower.
    • Scar is a Downplayed example; his physique is more toned down than Armstrong or Sloth, but he still has a muscular, stocky form. Despite this, his strategy is closer to that of a Glass Cannon, using speed and his deconstructive alchemy to end fights.
  • In Attack on Titan, most titans can move much more quickly than one would expect of creatures their size and shape. In spite of their awkward gaits they are still giants and thus they have much bigger strides and more power to move faster. The Armored Titan in particular looks like a Mighty Glacier because of its bulky armor, but once it sheds the armor at the back of its knees it suddenly becomes a Lightning Bruiser at the cost of gaining an Achilles' Heel.
  • In Eyeshield 21 Otawara's advantage as a lineman is that while not as strong as most lineman he is faster than someone his size should be which even out againsgt Mighty Glacier like Kurita and even break through if he picked up enough speed.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Drum of the King Piccolo Saga is a big fat guy, but is able to Flash Step around.
    • Vegeta displays this as a Great Ape. He's as big as a skyscraper, but his speed is unaffected; Goku himself is shocked at how fast Great Ape Vegeta can move despite his size.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Fuji of the Ten Swords is a literal giant, yet is so fast that the gang at the Oniwabanshu place didn't even notice his presence until after he had cut half the inn down.
  • Sora from Massugu ni Ikou is a Dachshund. Despite her stubby lil' legs, she's quite fast and can jump high.
  • InuYasha:
    • The evil, man-eating demon Goshinki is ten feet tall, yet he can move fast. In fact, Inuyasha realizes during the fight that he is much faster than he looks. That Goshinki can read Inyuasha's thoughts makes him even more dangerous.
    • Another episode has the half-demon Gyu-oh. He looks like a pure human during the day, and like a pure bull-demon at night. In his demonic form, he looks big and massive, but is much faster than it seems. He was able to effortlessly fend off Sango's huge boomerang and quickly caught up with the fleeing Kagome. And he is not only strong, but also smart.
  • Claymore shows us Dauf. He has a big, bulky shape, and does not look very fast. But although the other Awakened Beings are still faster than him, Dauf is still impressively fast.

    Comic Books 
  • People often make this observation about The Incredible Hulk (for example The Wasp in the first issue of The Avengers). While they assume being a massive slab of angry green muscle would slow him down, his Super Strength also allows him to move his mass with ease.
  • X-Men: Colossus is often described as moving with far, far more speed and agility in his metallic form than his bulk (and name) would lead anyone to expect. Though characters have also noted that he's still slower than other characters of similar strength level who aren't made of metal, like Hercules or Wonder Man.
  • In Red Robin Tim gets taken by surprise by "Goliath"'s speed and almost loses his life for it. He normally wouldn't make such an assumption based on appearance but he was in a hurry and had noted that Goliath hadn't been able to grab Tam, an untrained civilian, but didn't realize Goliath hadn't really been trying to.
  • Beta from The Walking Dead is a huge and obviously strong man, towering over even other large characters, but in several fights he also proves himself to be startlingly fast and nimble. Negan spends part of their fight screaming that Beta shouldn't be able to move so fast and to stand still already, and even Jesus, who is experienced in Parkour and practically a Dance Battler, is surprised by Beta's speed and agility. Justified when Beta is finally unmasked; he was a famous world class athlete before the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • John Byrne likes this trope - "How can something so big be so fast" or some variant thereof is practically an Author Catchphrase for him.

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • At the end of the first season, Goku figures that now Vegeta's transformed from a roughly 5 foot tall humanoid into a skyscraper-sized ape, he'll be stronger but a lot slower-ohgodhe'sjustasfast!!!
    • In the second season, Gohan assumes that he and Krillin will easily be able to outfly The Brute/Fat Bastard Dodoria after getting in a couple of sucker punches on Dodoria and fleeing. He's just as wrong as his father was about Vegeta.
      Krillin: Not gonna lie Gohan, that was not your smartest move.
      Gohan: Oh come on Krillin, we have a ten mile lead on him. Factoring in our speed and velocity and his mass, there's no way he should be able to catch up. [Dodoria shows up right behind them throwing Ki Manipulation at them both]
      Krillin: Well, look who's wrong!
      Gohan: There's always room for error!
  • In Heart of Ashes, Kathryn sees in one of her visions Ancalagon the Black, the largest dragon to have ever lived in Middle-earth. He was big enough to block out the sun and crush three mountains underneath him when he eventually died, yet much to Kathryn's astonishment, he was able to fly quickly and nimbly as much as his noticeably smaller brethren.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Many Kaiju are this even if they don't seem particularly agile. Most incarnations of Godzilla for instance don't even need to run to easily outpace fleeing crowds, mostly due to having strides dozens of meters long.

  • In Dragon Bones it is mentioned that Ward looks slow, because he's so big, but is actually quite fast.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane is perhaps the largest man in all of Westeros, an almost eight foot tall tower of muscle. He is also one of the better swordsmen, in part because, as Bronn notes, while he isn't exactly fast by normal standards he's certainly quicker than you'd expect a man his size to be, and one hit from him is all it takes.
    • Gregor's younger brother Sandor "The Hound" Clegane isn't quite as big, being a "mere" 6'6 and also thickly muscled, but Master Swordsman Jaime Lannister considers him one of the most dangerous opponents one could face because Sandor is much, much faster than his size and build would indicate and a vicious fighter as well.
  • In Animorphs Jake morphs into a rhino. When he does it for the first time, he himself is surprised that he is much faster than he expected.
    • Much later in the plot, a girl named Colette morphs into a crocodile. Cassie is surprised to learn that crocodiles are not only strong and resilient, but also fast.
    • Likewise, a girl named Kelly morphs into a bull. Marco is impressed that she is not only strong and resilient as a bull, but also fast.
  • Frank Zhang from The Heroes of Olympus looks very overweight. But he is a demigod, and therefore physically much stronger than an ordinary human, but also much faster. Some monsters who fought him were surprised at how quickly he could attack or dodge them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Love & Monsters", the Abzorbaloff pretends it is very slow and comments on how big and sluggish it is, but when it actually pursues Elton it turns out it's just as fast as he is.
  • Lampshaded in a 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live, when Seth Myers remarks of Barbara Birmingham (Kenan Thompson) being, "Way faster than she looks", after she attempts to assault him in the blink of an eye.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The gist of Calvin Tankman's gimmick. He's stocky, nearly four hundred pounds and purposefully shows off his bulging(but not hanging) gut as he lumbers before the match, before suddenly approaching much more quickly.

    Video Games 
  • A quest in Uldum in World of Warcraft features Harrison Jones (an Indiana Jones Expy) in a fistfight with a large burly man, in reference to the famous propeller scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He says to the player:
    Harrison Jones: My dad always said the big guys hit hard, but they're slow... I don't think my dad ever fought this guy!
  • Pokémon:
    • The move Trick Room can cause this effect as it inverts turn order — the slower Pokémon will start moving first, leading to this result.
    • Miltank, a large cow Pokemon with impressive physical bulk, has a fairly respectable Speed base stat of 100. (For the record, that's equal to Charizard)
    • An inversion with Escavalier: Its Pokédex entries mention it as flying around at high speeds. In gameplay, it's one of the slowest fully evolved Pokémon.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Nemesis of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis looks to be as strong as a mammoth and tough as an ox, yet reasonably slow. However, once you get far enough away from him, he starts sprinting towards you at an all-out pace.
    • The Ustanak of Resident Evil 6 is also deceptively quick for its size, something that Sherry lampshades.
  • Super Smash Bros.:
    • A variant: some characters do move as slowly as you'd expect (King Dedede, Bowser, Donkey Kong etc) but some of their attacks come deceptively quick. Wario, on the other hand, really does run that fast.
    • With the addition of Character Customization in the fourth game, you can make those characters much faster than normal.
  • Letho of Gulet from The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is easily over six foot and almost as broad as he is tall, along with possessing a sleepy eyed, brutish look. This nicely disguises the fact that he's a wickedly smart Manipulative Bastard, along with the fact that he's lightning fast and possessed of a skillset that's more rogue than tank. More than a few opponents who really should know better find themselves dead before they've even found the time to underestimate him, the others spend their last moments cursing themselves for doing just that.
  • Paladins
    • While the other Flank champions are small to average in size, Buck is large and has a burly physique that is more fitting a Front Line champion. However, his muscular legs can propel his bulk far and fast with his Mighty Leap.
    • Ash is a heavily armored Front Line champion who carries a BFG. However, her mobility skill, Shoulder Bash, covers large distances at breakneck speed, which is balanced by her having to windup before rushing. In contrast, other Front Lines either have short range mobility skills or none at all.
  • Uncharted gives players the option of playing as "Doughnut Drake", a morbidly obese version of the normally svelte and agile protagonist, Nathan Drake. Despite his much larger frame, Doughnut Drake can run, jump, fight, and hide just as well as his thinner counterpart, making him much faster than he looks.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Rewrite, Kotarou encounters a giant dinosaur familiar. Since it's so big, he expects it to be lumbering and slow and for the human agents fighting it to speed around it like in games, but the dinosaur actually catches up to them and easily crushes them in two huge steps.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Kingpin reveals that he's actually really fast despite his size.
  • Done In-Universe when The Simpsons go on an African safari. Marge looks through her binoculars at a far away cheetah lying under a tree. "He doesn't look so fast to me." During the time between her looking through the binoculars and putting them down the cheetah runs up and sticks its head in her face.
  • Total Drama
    • Owen appears to be a unathletic, sluggish, fat boy, and in most cases this is true. However if you present food to him a distance away, he can outrun anyone in between him and said meal.
    • This trope is also lampshaded in "Wawanakwa Gone Wild" where Gwen tries to catch a duck, but when she gets close, it suddenly runs off at an incredible speed in Road Runner fashion, leading her to say: "Last time I checked, ducks waddled".
  • Droopy. A slow and melancholic basset hound who nevertheless manages to travel hundreds of miles/kilometers in a matter of seconds, always there when the villain doesn't expect him to be so.
  • Ben 10: Terraspin is frequently mistaken for being slow due to having the appearance of a turtle, but being a living hovercraft he is actually incredibly fast.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Rose Quartz is roughly 8-feet-tall and chubby, but a flashback to a battle early in the rebellion shows her Flash Stepping and generally dashing quickly around the Ruby bodyguards.
    • Yellow Diamond is 20 or 30 feet tall, tall enough to make booming noises with each step, and in "Reunited" she dashes across the battlefield at almost Flash Step speeds before stomping on her opponent without missing a beat.

    Real Life 
  • Hippos and elephants are both much faster than one would suspect from their bulk, with both having been clocked at nearly 30 mph, at least for short sprints.
  • Many Real Life ships are surprisingly fast, due to the fact that a very big ship can fit a very big engine. HMS Dreadnought, launched in 1906, displaced 20,000 tons, was as long as one and a half football fields, and could make 21 knots under full speed. A heavily armed fortress that could travel 24 miles in an hour. USS Iowa, launched in 1943, displaced 45,000 tons, was as long as two and a half football fields, and could make 33 knots, able to cover nearly 40 miles in an hour. The modern day Nimitz class nuclear carriers weigh in at 100,000 tons, are longer than three football fields, and can make better than 30 knots without ever needing to stop to refuel. A very big ship will also have a very long waterline, contributing to very fast hull speed.
  • Many swimming animals, such as penguins, turtles and seals, look very sluggish as they waddle along on land. Once they get in the water they are surprisingly quick by comparison. As this video shows, some turtles can be fast even on land.
  • The fastest reptile is the Leatherback Sea Turtle, which can swim at 21 MPH.
  • Thanks to a 1500 horsepower gas turbine engine, the 60 ton M1A2 Abrams tank can cross the battlefield at 42 miles per hour on roads (and 25 miles per hour off-road). In fact the limitation on speed is the comfort of the crew and reliability of the treads rather than engine power, which is why the speed is intentionally limited by a governor. Ungoverned M1 from the first production line(with smaller guns and less armor) could go as fast as 80mph.
  • Grizzly bears may be pretty bulky, but they're known to be able to reach a speed of 35 mph. For the record, the top speed of a human being (Usain Bolt at least) is somewhere around 27 mph.
  • Both breeds of Corgi are known for their short legs, but they're so short because they're herding dogs. In order to avoid being trampled they need to be quick-footed. As a result, they're more nimble than they look.
  • African buffaloes are notorious for being much faster than they look. Not only can they run fast, but they are also surprisingly agile.
  • American bison are another species known for their quick speed over short distances: in a sprint they can outrun race horses. Yellowstone National Park has signs warning visitors that although they look slow, the average bison can run roughly three times as fast as the average tourist so keep your distance.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: