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I Want to Be a Real Man

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"He's a man! Such a man! He's a real, a real man's man!"
William Regal's (old) WWE theme

This is the character who is always trying to be the Ideal Man, usually by being brave, responsible, or chivalrous. He sometimes has some kind of inferiority complex due to an overbearing older sibling or father. He is sometimes heard shouting about being a man at the top of his lungs while posing dramatically on a rock (bonus points for crashing waves or a sunset). Generally on their way to being a badass of some form. Occasionally has an ill younger sister or Keet little brother.

Oh, and never mention any child-like or cute attributes he might have.

Compare with the The Idiot from Osaka, Hot-Blooded, No True Scotsman, and contrast Emo (in any of its forms), often overlaps with Loser Protagonist. Also heavily overlaps with I Just Want to Be Badass given that the concepts of badass and manly are frequently interconnected.

Not to be confused with I Wanna Be the Guy, which is more Macho Masochism than it is manliness. Or Become a Real Boy, which is not about seeking manliness but humanity.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In Captain Harlock, this is the defining characteristic of Tadashi Daiba, in both the first anime series and in the "Endless Odyssey" OAV series. In the latter, in fact, Daiba's father is so convinced that Daiba must become a man that he makes Captain Harlock promise to kill Daiba immediately if, for whatever reason, he thinks that Daiba cannot become a man — a promise that Harlock has no intentions of ever breaking, even if this means getting himself killed.
  • Imaizumin-chi wa Douyara Gal no Tamariba ni Natteru Rashii: ~DEEP~: Imaizumi's main struggle is not acting like a man. His father even kicked him out of the house and made him live alone because of that. Not being manly enough causes him regular pain.
  • From his childhood, Kamijo Hiroki of Junjou Romantica continually talks and worries about performing masculinity properly, leading to many of his relationship issues later in life, such as feeling unable to vocalize something as simple as "I want you to stay over tonight" because it shows weakness/sentimentality. Fortunately for him, his boyfriend overcompensates with his earnest and lovey-dovey behaviour.
  • The titular character of Kunisaki Izumo no Jijou aspires to be one, mainly because he got fed up on being always mistaken as a girl.
  • Aki Shiina of Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sou is a short, effeminate-looking middle schooler with a complex about both of the aforementioned. His series-wide goal is to become more manly, but everyone around him prefers him to stay his cute self and dote on him for it.
  • My Hero Academia: The pursuit of manliness is a major part of Kirishima's characterization. He idolizes the strong and chivalrous Crimson Riot, describes his likes and dislikes as "manly" and "unmanly", and has a powerful Quirk and masculine interests (such as working out). This is partially driven by his own insecurity.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Touji is very much this type, everything he does in the series is to help or protect his friends and family.
  • One Piece:
    • This is stated to be Usopp's dream. He refers to it as being a "true warrior of the sea", and takes inspiration from giants, who are the series' Viking analogues.
    • Chopper qualifies too. In the Skypeia Arc, after he fails to protect the Merry from having the mast burned he jumps up onto the railing and begins shouting about how he's going to become 'a real man!' and never let his True Companions down again. While on fire from sheer determination to do just that.
  • Osomatsu-san: Karamatsu, who by equating manliness with being a ladies' man wears Cool Shades all the time and tries to woo girls. How much does this work? Considering he was so desperate he tried to woo a(n actual) fish with a love letter, "it's not working" is an understatement. Made even worse by his 5 brothers, one of which is older, and the affection for Totoko which all 6 of them have.
  • This was Hani's original intention in Ouran High School Host Club before he was convinced by Tamaki to join the Host Club. He failed spectacularly.
  • Practically the whole premise of Ranma ½ — Ranma constantly wants to reaffirm his masculinity, which is made more difficult due to his annoying habit of turning into a girl at inopportune times (especially because there's a Dirty Old Master around trying to force him to be his personal cheesecake model). He later learns he has a particularly good reason to be obsessed with manliness- his dad and mom made a promise that Ranma will commit seppuku if his mom decides he isn't manly enough- but he's plenty obsessed with being manly before he learns about that little detail.
  • The purpose of the Otokojuku ('Man School'/'Manly Tech') in Sakigake!! Otokojuku is to mold Japanese Delinquents into ideal men.
  • Smile PreCure!: Pop wants to be seen as manly. Not doing him any favours is the fact that he's a plushie-lion-fox-fairy thing, which often gets him labelled cute, much to his frustration. He compensates this by acting like a ninja/samurai.
  • To Love Ru: Ren spends an entire episode of the anime trying to get more manly so he could marry Lala. Until he sneezed, causing his other half, Run, to take over.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Jonouchi, and his quest to become a "True Duelist" with honor and pride in Battle City.

     Films — Animated 
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa lampshades this with Alex wanting to prove to his dad he's a real lion, and Marty doing a little bit of snarking in response.
    Alex: Maybe my dad will think I'm... I want to show him I'm a real lion.
    Marty: (sarcastically) As opposed to a chocolate lion.
  • Mulan has a song called I'll Make a Man Out Of You where a training montage takes place where the army recruits get better and better at being soldiers. Particularly Ping, the kicker being that the audience is well aware that "Ping" is the very female Mulan in disguise. And it's Mulan having the smarts to figure out how to use the weights to shimmy up the pole and grab the arrow that turns the sequence from a failure montage into a string of positive moments.
  • This is part of Hiccup's motivation at the beginning of How to Train Your Dragon. He wants to slay a dragon to prove that he can be a tough Viking like his father the chief.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Steve Rogers felt the need to be treated like a man after continually being denied entry into the army. He made up for it when he became Captain America: The First Avenger.

  • The Irregular at Magic High School:
    • Minoru, who spent most of his life bedridden, places great importance on doing all the arduous, cool things a magician (especially a male one) might be expected to do. First on the list is protecting his Love Interest, which he fails at doing partly because she is an experienced bodyguard who is much more badass than him even with a fried Magic Calculation Area. The sequel shows that Minoru has taken up thrill-seeking pastimes like spacewalking, because he can.
    • Fumiya is a prodigious magician and spy who nonetheless feels unmanly because his body is naturally slender and effeminate. (Apparently his female classmates consider him a "mascot" to be shown off and cooed over.) He has time to grow, but so far the hormones are just not kicking in.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Frontier Circus: In "Never Won Fair Lady", Red Buttons plays the milksop son of a famous general sent to the circus to toughen him up. After falling in love with the female lion tamer, he decides he wants to become brave.
  • Glee: Kurt Hummel (named due to his actor's resemblance to Hummel figurines) is a Camp Gay show choir member with the motto "fashion knows no gender." He has a countertenor voice with a falsetto up to high F, and when the group performs gender-segregated numbers, he often sings with the girls. Despite this, he often expresses a desire to be seen as masculine, especially in the eyes of his Manly Man father Burt, for whom he at one point pretends to be a devotee of John Mellencamp. As Kurt gets older, he worries that his effeminacy will be a stumbling block to getting leading man roles in musical theatre, a low point being when he loses the role of Tony in his senior production of West Side Story to his much less campy junior boyfriend Blaine.

  • The person Michael Jackson is directing "Beat It" to is the kind of guy who gets into fights that they would be better off avoiding to prove that they are a man. As he sings in the third verse, "They're out to get you, better leave while you can. Don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man."

     Professional Wrestling 
  • "The Last Real Man" Silas Young, who also demands a certain degree of manliness from all his associates (he has few friends). In Ring of Honor, he took it upon himself to teach Dalton Castle's boys how to be men when they were acquired by his Tag Team partner, The Beer City Bruiser. Young found his work was cut out for him when he had to stop them from using a women's bathroom.
  • Also, WWE's Santino Marella, though his methods to prove his manhood were questionable, such as trying to enter the "Miss WrestleMania" Battle Royal.

    Video Games 
  • Ensemble Stars!: Tetora's Establishing Character Moment comes when he stands on a stage and declares to the audience that his goal is to become A Man Among Men!! And he has a very specific idea in mind of who that is - his karate club senior Kuro, a very physically strong guy who is nonetheless disciplined and kind, and who is also capable of cooking and sewing to take care of his younger sister. Tetora worships him as his ideal role model, which makes Kuro pretty worried that he'll inevitably disappoint him someday.
  • PaRappa the Rapper 2: This is Parappa's main personal goal throughout the game. Subverted at the end when he doesn't feel like he's grown up at all, but Sunny tells him he's man enough already as long as he keeps trying and doesn't give up.

    Visual Novels 


     Web Original 
  • Two characters from the roleplay group Roulette Rampage share this desire: the first session's Ryouta Akagi and Reloaded's Kiyoyuki Irino. In the latter's case, it becomes his entire character arc for the game, as he's a short, fickle, androgynous-looking actor who desires nothing more than to become more masculine for the roles he wants to do. His idolization of Tetsuo Shingen is in part based on this desire, as he's everything he wanted to be as a man save for profession. Eventually he comes into his own by the end, but by being himself and finding his strength in emotion rather than in physicality or some other ideal.

     Web Video 
  • Folding Ideas: The Foldable Human sees this as Jack's motivation for rebelling against society and starting a Fight Club. The reason why Jack wants to be considered masculine, according to him, is because he wants to feel like he fits in. Unfortunately, this doesn't cause him to become more responsible or brave, so much as more violent.

     Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Futurama, Kif tries to be more masculine to impress Amy and her parents. The main way he does this is by smoking, which causes a very bad reaction.
  • In one episode of Kim Possible, Ron discovered that his certificate of manhood (signed after his bar mitzvah) wasn't signed. He decided to strive for manliness.
  • This is one of Sokka's motivations is Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's partly caused by the residual sexism of the Southern Water Tribe, but a lot of it also comes from him being a "Well Done, Son" Guy caused by his father and all the men in his tribe going to fight in the war and leaving him, a twelve-year-old boy, in charge of his village. The fact that he accidentally let his girlfriend turn into the moon probably didn't help, either.
  • Dipper Pines also wants this in Gravity Falls. He shows great dislike for being called adorable, and the episode "Dipper vs. Manliness" is all about this trope and how it clashes with some aspects of his personality. However, he ultimately grows to reject societal views on masculinity and decides to just be himself.
  • In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Flapjack desires to be a real adventurer and this is often equated with being manly. A recurring character named "A Real Adventurer" is even a shirtless block of muscle. Unfortunately, he takes most of his advise from Captain K'nuckles.
  • Marco from Star vs. the Forces of Evil has had this problem sometimes, but it's taken to extremes in "Running With Scissors" where he literally spends sixteen years in Hekapoo's dimension becoming big and muscular to track her down so he could prove himself and earn a pair of interdimensional scissors. She even gave him the option of going back to Earth originally. Unfortunately, he's only buff when he's in Hekapoo's dimension, and not anywhere else because time moves differently in that world.
  • The subject of Hiccup wanting to be a real man is brought up in the spin-off series Dragons: Riders of Berk, after the first How to Train Your Dragon movie. A portrait of Hiccup and Stoick has Hiccup looking more muscular than he is in real life, making him feel like his father is disappointed in him. This prompts Hiccup to go on a dangerous treasure hunt that even Stoick was unable to finish.