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Invincible Incompetent

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Johnny: How did Brer Rabbit get away, Uncle Remus?
Remus: Who say he git away?
Toby: Brer Rabbit always gits away.
Remus: Don't you be too shure... ain't I done tol'd you that Brer Rabbit, bein' little and without much strength, he's s'posed to use his head instead o' his foots?

An Invincible Incompetent is a hero who defeats powerful opponents, despite having very little skill or ability. Frequently, they keep this up for years, heroically gaining almost no power as they progress, so as to make their constant victories even more impressive.


The method by which they do so differs. Some win on sheer, blind luck. Others know exactly when to say "Let's Get Dangerous!", or intelligently exploit a major weakness of their enemy before returning to their previous state. Many get by on the efforts of mentors and other side characters. However they do it, it makes them effectively invincible, despite being largely incompetent.

This trope caters to audiences who like to identify with the "weaker" side in any conflict. A downside is Villain Decay; it is hard to present a villain as a credible threat if they repeatedly fail to stop the bumbling hero that they supposedly outmatch.

Despite the clear comedic applications of this trope, it is just as often played for (relatively idealistic) drama, with the audience expected to root and identify much more with an outclassed hero.


Closely related to The Fool and the Idiot Hero. See also: Underdogs Always Win, which is this trope on a meta level and primarily applied to sports stories. Inspector Oblivious is a subtrope.

The polar inverse is Powerful, but Incompetent.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler) perpetually comes from behind to win. Granted, everyone does this, but Jonouchi never seems to be picked as a favorite to win anything, despite several finals showings. Jonouchi's an odd combination of Idiot Ball and Informed Flaw. For no explained reason except poverty, his deck is mostly full of weak cards, in hard contrast to Kaiba, who owns and runs some of the rarest and most powerful cards. To compensate, he also uses many luck-based cards, which have frequently given him victory over stronger opponents, though this is a double-edged sword, seeing as luck could play against him sometimes.
  • In the Irresponsible Captain Tylor nobody can decide if Justy Ueki Tylor is this or he's just that good but prefers to look like this.
  • Ju Ingong in Transfer Student Storm Bringer defeats everyone and becomes JJang of the school without any fighting skills simply through dumb luck, although everyone who witnesses his fights believes him to be using super-advanced fighting techniques.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the Unova League, Ash/Satoshi's new rival Cameron has intelligence that makes Ash look smart by comparison, frequently misses important facts and information yet still proves good enough to beat 8 gym leaders to get to the League. When the two face off, Cameron handicaps himself with 5 Pokémon to Ash's 6 and ends up facing half his team with only Riolu, and still manages to win. Subverted moments later when Cameron gets eliminated in the next round.
    • Ash's Kalos companion, Serena, was something of a novice Faux Action Girl that never really improved in battle skills throughout her run. However she ended the series with her team having not lost a single battle, and rarely even getting scratched, either due to outside intervention, one of her Pokémon evolving at the right time, or most of her opponents being even lower level battlers such as Team Rocket.
  • Angel Densetsu: Kitano. Although no pushover (he's freakishly durable and strong, and can defeat most opponents without harming them by shoving them away), he's blissfully unaware that a lot of people he interacts with are actively trying to hurt and maim him, yet he defeats anyone opposing him while believing with all his heart that they're nice and friendly.

    Comic Books 
  • Woozy Winks, sidekick to the DC superhero Plastic Man, was a literal version of this. As part of his origin story he once saved a powerful wizard from drowning. As thanks, the wizard put a spell of protection on him, the result of which was that he would magically avoid/survive absolutely anything that could ever hurt him. Falling piano? He'll stumble out of the way so that it hits just an inch behind him. Shoot at him? He'll bend down to pick up a penny just in time to avoid it. At the same time, he was so incompetent and dimwitted that he couldn't really take advantage of this, with it being entirely likely he never realized he had this power to begin with.
  • Donald Duck as seen in comic books usually lands somewhere around this trope when he gets into action adventures. He's basically never a skilled fighter (unless appearing in some alternative version like Superduck/Paperinik), and otherwise tends to be some mixture of resourceful and dumb. Sometimes the trope will be averted or subverted when someone in a story recognises his crazy ability to survive anything as a real talent. One example of this involved his being hired as a secret agent while the agency also used his weird lateral-thinking brain as a model for their AI, albeit combining it with actual high intelligence.

    Fan Works 
  • Perfection Is Overrated argues that essentially, the Mary Sue boils down to this, as they succeed despite going about tasks incompetently, become popular even when their personalities are repulsive, and survive mistakes that should have killed them. The SUEs, the main antagonists of the fic who represent Mary Sue archetypes without the Plot Armor or author favoritism, end up losing to the Himes because they continue to act as though they're invincible, even when they're not, and it's briefly suggested that their reason for wanting to change the world is because they can't function in it the way it is.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inspector Clouseau of The Pink Panther series is a shining example, combined with Bat Deduction in that his profoundly stupid and illogical actions often save him and/or destroy his attacker and/or solve the case he's supposed to be working on. Many skilled assassins try to kill him, but Clouseau inevitably survives by some absurd accident, almost always unknowingly killing the assassin(s) in the process. All for the sake of Rule of Funny, of course.
  • The Phantom Menace gives us Jar Jar Binks, who almost singlehandedly wins the Battle of Naboo for the Gungans due to his bumbling antics accidentally dealing serious damage to the droid army over and over again. He clearly has no idea what he's doing for the entire battle and yet is somehow alive, unscathed, and victorious in the end despite it.

  • Discworld,
    • Rincewind is noted for trying to run away from the plot action, yet invariably winning somehow. It's been noted that he has the favour of the Lady, goddess of luck. It's also been noted that she will lose interest if he ever acts like someone with divine protection.
    • The elderly faculty of Unseen University display this trope in a different way. Despite being a group of old men who like nothing more than to eat huge dinners and bicker with each other, they manage to stroll out of situations which should have left them dead a dozen times over. This really annoys anyone who comes into contact with them. There are hints they could be properly dangerous if it came down to it, but danger almost always gives up and goes away before it comes down to it. In the early books Unseen University was a very dangerous place to work at and was filled with powerful mages prone to Klingon Promotion and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. The current faculty all lived through that time, survived it and came out on top. They simply decided that not trying to kill each other was more restful.
    • Explored in Sourcery where a sourcerer is born that acts as a font of magic. He encourages the Wizards to exploit their powers, as the Unseen University's actual purpose is to teach Wizards how to not use magic, instead letting them spend their time on academic politics and massive lunches. As soon as he does, the old, overweight and lazy Wizards immediately conquer Ankh-Morpork, set up a massive tower and start a devastating war amongst each other threatening to destroy the world. Only after the sourcerer decides to retire to his own pocket dimension do they calm down and return to their normal bumbling selves.
  • Ciaphas Cain: Has a dark and dramatic take on a protagonist who attempts to run away from the action yet always ends up winning. The difference being that he is actually competent, or he would not have survived very long, let alone lived to retire in the Warhammer universe. However, he refuses to admit this. Only the first short story actually fits the trope, its plot boiling down to "I tried to run away but ended up exposing an enemy surprise attack from that direction and looking heroic." It's something of a Running Gag in the later books that Cain narrates about how he manages to hold his own in a duel through sheer luck, only for the exasperated editor (who fought beside him many times) to point out that he was actually an incredibly skilled swordsman in a footnote.
  • Craig Shaw Gardner's "Ballad of Wuntvor" satirizes the concept. Within the work, he refers to the trope as the "Eternal Apprentice".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Get Smart: Max Smart, who once disarmed an atomic bomb by getting his tie stuck in the timer.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Sabrina went seven years without ever learning even one or two simple spells she could reliably not mess up. Notable in that there usually was no villain except for her mastery of this trope alternately causing and fixing problems.
  • Power Rangers RPM: Ziggy the Green Ranger is several leagues behind the other Rangers in fighting skills — and not just the ones on his own team, but just about every other Ranger, period — but he manages to bumble his way through fights, providing support for his teammates rather than drag them down.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Mikey Whipwreck was the epitome of this trope in ECW. Despite going for months on end without managing to land a single offensive move, Mikey somehow managed to wrack up an impressive winning streak due to coincidental outside interference or just sheer dumb luck. This culminated with him winning the ECW Television Title and successfully defending it for a while, despite his numerous attempts to vacate the title.

    Web Comics 
  • The main character of Artificial Time XS, Sheath, is essentially a teenager with a Ralph Wiggum level of intelligence. Several people try to kill her. None of them succeed. This even carries over into A Second Mario Bros X Thing where she survives the end of reality (granted, she receives a McGuffin that lets her keep existing just before everything else is gone), and somehow failed to notice every single thing that happened in the preceding cutscene (including the end of everything).
  • Sluggy Freelance: Sam, as a vampire, is almost invincible against unprepared humans, being Immune to Bullets and stuff. But against other vampires, or a competent Vampire Hunter, he's just someone who's dumb as a brick. Yet he manages to survive not only brush-ins with vampire hunters but being hunted by all of the Vrykolakas vampires for years. It's all dumb luck, like when he discloses his location online but gets the state wrong, causing the vampires hunting him to crash a vampire hunter convention instead. It gets to the point that one of his former enemies wants to make him a ruler of vampires because he's the only one who's survived against all the three clans of vampires.

    Web Animation 
  • This is the concept behind the "Build Murray" character build on the Animated Spellbook. The idea is to play a character who has no business getting into adventuring, but is such a lucky idiot that he succeeds regardless. Manipulating the random dice mechanics as a Halfling Diviner allows the player to fortuitously bumble their way to victory. This build is intended to evoke Bill Murray's various characters.

    Web Videos 
  • In Noob, Sparadrap, one of the worse players, tends to be this on and off. The only situation consistently having it happen is his "fights" against Dark Avenger, to the extent of becoming a Running Gag.

    Western Animation 


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