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Mentor in Sour Armor

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Kubo: Don't you ever say anything encouraging?
Monkey: I encourage you not to die.

Some mentors are gentle to their students. Not the one in Sour Armor. This renowned warrior's tongue is as sharp as their weapons, and they're not afraid to use it. Your average Mentor in Sour Armor has been through quite a lot; whatever the case, they put on the Jade-Colored Glasses long ago, and their biting wit is as close as they really come to showing emotions under most circumstances. They're on the side of good, but Good Is Not Nice. They're stubborn, worldly-wise, and have more than earned their scars. They lead by example, showing off the skills that won them fame to their inexperienced but promising apprentice, who they won't hesitate to berate for not giving their all. Beneath all that snarky abrasiveness, though, they do have a soft side, and care about their apprentice more than they want to admit. Their snark is hardly ever just to be mean; they've got a point to make and don't see a reason to mince words. If a Mentor in Sour Armor smiles, it's a big deal.

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Physically, it's not uncommon for Mentors in Sour Armor to be deceptively short and wiry; others might be Expecting Someone Taller and surprised by the strength and prowess they've fit into their small body.

A Mentor in Sour Armor's abrasive exterior can make them come off as a Drill Sergeant Nasty, and indeed it's not uncommon for one to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. If they had a particularly tragic backstory, they might be a Broken Bird and/or Stepford Snarker too. Commonly they're a Badass Teacher or Colonel Badass of some stripe; Deadpan Snarker is practically required. The short ones are usually The Napoleon. A Mentor in Sour Armor's familiarity with combat means Nerves of Steel are near-universal, and they might even be a One-Man Army. For another good-hearted character with a sour attitude (and a similar title), see Knight in Sour Armor.

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It's often easy to confuse a Mentor in Sour Armor with a Cynical Mentor, but they don't generally overlap. The difference is in the character's intentions: a genuinely Cynical Mentor is actually as sour at heart as they seem on the surface, while a Mentor in Sour Armor is softer deep down.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Captain Levi Ackerman, humanity's strongest soldier, is a dead ringer for this trope by the time of his first appearance in the main series; he's embittered, sometimes cuttingly snarky, and seemingly emotionally dead inside, besides the fact that he's one of the physically shortest of the main cast — most of which are younger than him. However, due at least in part to his awakened Ackerman heritage, he is deceptively strong, superhumanly fast, and incredibly physically resilient. He does his best to mentor the younger protagonist Eren in having faith in one's comrades and committing entirely to one's decisions, to varying degrees of success — this somewhat goes out the window when the rest of their squad are killed in a matter of minutes later on after Eren trusts them to protect him without getting involved directly. Levi remains completely detached, hardly seeming to lose his cool even as he's exacting bloody retribution soon after. He also helps calm down Armin after the latter killed another human in self-defense, strengthening his resolve in the process. Levi's full backstory, as revealed in the No Regrets OVA and to a lesser degree in the first half of Season 3, also ticks the box for Broken Bird. To a lesser degree, Levi's also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, remaining doggedly loyal to Commander Erwin and his fellow soldiers no matter the odds stacked against them. He also has a decent go at being a Perpetual Frowner — we don't see him truly smile until the first half of Season 3 — and those present are downright surprised And there's no questioning his status as a One-Man Army from his introduction scene onward; he and Hange are the first characters we see deal with Titans not only competently, but downright casually, and in Levi's case, actually contemptuously.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Izumi Curtis is an interesting variant. She doesn't have the renown of your average Mentor in Sour Armor, but there's no denying her badassery, and her mentorship of the Elric brothers has the trope's characteristic dynamic: she's a brutal Sink-or-Swim Mentor who actually loves her students like her own sons.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char Aznable, mostly in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam under the alias Quattro Bajeena. Apparently, his signature sunglasses are, in fact, Jade-Colored Glasses. While it could be argued that he's more misunderstood at the time of the series than downright "sour," he's not exactly warm and fuzzy to the protagonist Kamille as he's trying to teach the latter how to be a proper soldier and how to awaken his latent Newtype abilities to their full potential. He does, however, subvert the Expecting Someone Taller trope common to his role, being taller than Kamille and far more physically imposing. Given his true identity's reputation as the infamous Red Comet of Zeon, he likely qualifies for One-Man Army as well.
  • My Hero Academia: Eraserhead is the teacher of Class 1-A and, as an experienced Hero, someone who had to behold the absolute worst of what can happen to those who try to use their Quirks to fight crime (including, in his A Day in the Limelight chapter in the prequel manga My Hero Academia: Vigilantes, having his best friend die in the first day of his apprenticeship) and does his absolute damnedest to make his students understand this peril. Which he does by being the most relentless, soul-sucking killjoy Stern Teacher in the UA campus, if not the entire Japanese Hero scholarship system.

    Fan Works 
  • Kyril Sutherland from The Night Unfurls may not have the esteem, the snarkiness, and the short height of this typical archetype, but he is still stoic and blunt to a fault. It goes without saying that Yharnam has scarred him a big deal, but he is still a literal Knight in Sour Armor. As apprentice hunters, their training is harsh but not to the point of being worse than hell, they get complimented if they show progress, and the entire reason why they are training under him is because they wanted to become stronger and improve their lives, which he did gave them the opportunity to do so. As for his badassery, he is the Good fucking Hunter.
    • Perhaps the quality that makes him stand out from many a person of this archetype is that he is upfront to his apprentices about the requirements of being a hunter (particularly, any apprentice hunter would have Kyril's own blood coursing through their veins), and he would neither think any less of them should they wish to quit, nor force them to do anything against their wishes.
    • Just the very fact that he can feel pride towards his four apprentices says a lot about his character.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda: Master Shifu discovers that the chosen Dragon Warrior is not one of his students whom he trained so hard, but Po, a panda who has not had a single day of mentored training. This leaves Master Shifu very cold and dismayed to have to try and teach him Kung-fu. When it appears all is struggling, Shifu looks for a way to get Po to quit, but he keeps persisting, much to Shifu's dismay. When he is eventually called out on Po for pushing him too hard so he could bail out, Shifu realizes that he Was Too Hard on Him, and decides to be a more encouraging mentor.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Unlike the Peter from Miles' universe, Peter B. Parker is less enthusiastic about mentoring Miles. He's jaded from being Spider-Man for so long and his divorce from Mary Jane, and is a Deadpan Snarker. He still tries to teach Miles, though some of his advice is less than helpful.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Throughout The Empire Strikes Back, Master Yoda makes little effort to hide his displeasure at Luke's impatience, failures to grasp what he's being taught, and decision to cut his training short to help his friends. He only reluctantly trains Luke at the behest of Obi-Wan's ghost, who points out that Anakin was not that much different as a Padawan himself.
      Yoda: Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?
    • Luke himself takes on the role in the sequel trilogy, bitter and wayworn after his bid to restore the Jedi fell through. For but a single moment, he showed fear at the possibility that lay inside Kylo Ren, to which Ren saw his activated lightsaber and created the Knights of Ren from the rest of Luke's students to destroy the academy, and he has deeply resented that moment ever since. He only trains Rey because she unleashed an exceptionally powerful outburst of the Force. Having Master Yoda show up to provide him wisdom didn't hurt, either.
  • In Shredder Orpheus, Axel is abrasive, short-tempered, and foul-mouthed, but he looks out for the rest of the Grey Zoners and cares about Orpheus's well-being, especially in the second half of the movie.

    Literature 
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Ferdinand, after growing up with the abuse of his Wicked Stepmother, only feels comformtable showing the more negative sides of his personality to people he likes and has a low tolerance for incompetence. Because of that, he tends to berate Myne quite harshly when she makes mistakes, but also goes beyond the call of duty to ensure her well-being. This comes along with being The Ace in every single job he holds, to the point of sometimes being briefly called back to temporarily help out in some he quit doing full-time.
  • The Hunger Games: Haymitch Abernathy, after years of watching the Tributes he's mentored die senselessly in the titular Games that he himself once won, is a cynical alcoholic who doesn't bother sugarcoating things for his charges. Nonetheless, his advice not only ensures Katniss' survival, but he ultimately becomes one of her staunchest allies when it comes time to revolt against President Snow and the Capitol.
  • Ranger's Apprentice: Halt is a veteran Ranger, who's had to deal with everything from the First Araulen Civil War to Decadent Court politics before he meets Will. And when Halt does train Will, he makes sure to keep Will humble. Halt refers to Will's shooting skills, which he knows are much, much better than military archers, as "mediocre".
  • The Stormlight Archive: Zahal in Words of Radiance. He is a grumpy old soldier-turned-monk, who assists in giving battle training to the children of the rich. He doesn't think much of most of his students (except for Adolin), and grumbles at people if they so much as pick up some marbles of his. However, when Kalidin asks him for help fighting Szeth, he begrudgingly agrees to help him. In time, we see how he genuinely cares for his students, and enjoys seeing them succeed. This makes a lot more sense when you realize who one of his first students was... He is actually a character from the book Warbreaker, and he had a student in that book

    Live-Action TV 
  • Homicide: Life on the Street: Munch's partner Bolander frequently belittles him, but it comes from a genuine desire to see Munch improve as a detective and he genuinely wants to instill a good work ethic in him. It's just buried underneath a lot of grouchiest and bitterness.

    Video Games 
  • Johnny Silverhand's Virtual Ghost in Cyberpunk 2077 is a cynical Bomb Throwing Anarchist and Insufferable Genius with an impulsive and egotistical streak, but he genuinely cares for V and does everything he can with his decades of experience to help them survive the mean streets of Night City.
  • General Rahm Kota from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a former Jedi Master and General who survived the Clone Wars through insisting on using a private militia, claiming the Clone army was "unfit for battle." His paranoia and cynicism escalates after Vader's secret apprentice Galen Marek defeats him, blinding him and leaving him to die. The same apprentice later comes to him to help him fight the Empire, only to find him in a drunken Heroic BSoD on Cloud City. He eventually sobers up, and, while he is incredibly blunt with him, he shows more care for him as a mentor than his former master ever did, especially as he tells Juno after Galen sacrifices himself to help them escape from the Emperor that he could sense his love for her ever since he reunited with him on Cloud City.

    Western Animation 
  • Old Bruce Wayne from Batman Beyond is in what we can only estimate is his 80's and had long since given up the life of Batman sometime in his 60's after being too old and injured to continue the fight. Enter Terry McGinnis, who stumbles across Bruce's secret after fighting off some Jokerz and steals the suit to bring justice to the man who murdered Terry's father. Bruce agrees to train the boy to be the new Batman, but he's even meaner and harsher than he was in his heyday. Bruce eventually softens up and comes to care for Terry genuinely. Even before learning Terry is his literal son some ten or so years later in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue."


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