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Monstrosity Equals Weakness

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A trope in which, the less human or normal looking an enemy or monster is, the weaker or less effective that enemy will be, whereas less monstrous foes will be deadlier and more powerful. If all foes are humans, then you can see this in body type instead: fatter or bigger fighters will be less powerful than thinner characters.

This is mostly due to the fact that writers seem to think viewers associate monstrous figures with being strong but mindless and stupid, and thus use less monstrous forms for more effective villains. Even if that villain has a monstrous final form, he will usually be seen in his humanoid form for most of the time, his other form essentially existing only as an excuse to allow them to die. This may also be because humanoid villains become characters with distinct personalities, while the more monstrous ones are less versatile outside a fight. Thus, they tend to be Mooks, Monster of the Week or the One-Winged Angel form of a villain who appears humanoid for most of the series. Often justified in-story by the notion that the inhuman beings prefer to seem human for whatever reason, and that the more powerful or skilled ones can do so more successfully.

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Humanoid in this case being two legs, two arms (though arms are one of the few things that some can get away with), one head and relatively normal proportions. Also, a relatively "normal" face as well.

This trope can also take on a more metaphorical meaning. Many stories show humans overcoming non-human opponents who vastly surpass them in strength or power. Usually this is because the non-human entity doesn't see humans as a threat and underestimates them. The human will therefore win because they used knowledge and cunning to defeat their non human opponent. In this context it can be said that it is because humans are weak that they can do amazing things. Having limitations placed on you forces you to try harder and focus all of you abilities. This usually results in quick and tremendous growth in the area a human focuses on. Also, having strong or clear weaknesses makes you aware of them and to not become over confident or careless e.g. humans know that they can die so they avoid risky behavior or humans know they are physically vulnerable so they invent armor and weapons to compensate for that. The biggest example is arguably the human spirit. Human have strong spirits because you have to have a strong spirit to live with and deal with mortality, physical weakness, etc. Conversely, a monstrous opponent is arrogant, easily caught off guard, and if a situation arises where they are, perhaps for the first time, in a situation where they are vulnerable then they freak out, panic, burst into a rage, and any other dangerous and self-harming behavior.

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Compare What Measure Is a Non-Human? and Humanity Is Superior. See also Bishōnen Line, a Sub-Trope of this, where a single character eventually becomes more human-like as they gain power, or Clipped-Wing Angel, the exact opposite. This is usually the flaw in a Shape Shifter Mashup. It also occasionally overlaps with The Worf Effect, with enormous, monstrous enemies existing mostly to be cut down, to show that not even such amazing brute strength is any match for whoever is fighting it. There is considerable overlap with Monster Lord. Contrast with another opposite, the Power-Upgrading Deformation, where progressive deformations raise a being's strength.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, the weaker vampire and zombie minions are often pretty grotesque-looking, and many of which are easily disposed of. Their master, the Big Bad Dio Brando, is a lot more handsome-looking, a lot more evil, and far more powerful.
    • Continued in the second part, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, where the vampire minions are predictably hideous, but the Pillar Men who created them are inhumanly gorgeous and vaguely-homoerotic muscular men. The most fabulous-looking of them, named Kars, eventually uses the Red Stone of Aja to become the Ultimate Being.
  • Extremely blatant in YuYu Hakusho, where all the most powerful opponents are the most human ones, even if all but one of these were demons. Inversely, if a character doesn't look at all human, that's a cue that he'll be beaten in two seconds. As an almost inverse, some of the characters have demonic forms... which consist of nothing but a tail, or, in one case, cool looking eyes all over their body, but a no less human-esque than their normal forms.
    • The best example is the Four Saint Beasts, which are described by Kurama as not looking at all human. In a complete inverse of what Kurama describes, the enemies get more and more human looking as the heroes go through their lair. The weakest is a gigantic golem, and the strongest is a normal-looking guy whose bangs double as antennae.
      • The other two beasts avert it, though. The second-least-human, Byakko, is ridiculously hard to kill, while the second-most-human, Seiryu, goes down fairly easy. Considering who fought who, it may just be due to their opponents being of differing strength, but the trope is still avoided from a narrative standpoint.
    • Toguro is notably the exception to the rule, the closer he gets to full power, the more monstrous and inhuman looking he becomes. Which makes sense, as he is originally a human who became a demon in the pursuit of strength
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5: The Monster of the Week is, well, monstrous, while the Quirky Miniboss Squad is humanoid, and the first Big Bad has only human-looking forms. The series also inverts Bishōnen Line: the aforementioned Quirky Miniboss Squad tend to start out human-looking, switch to less-attractive, animal-inspired forms for battle, and have full-fledged giant hideous monster forms when it's time for the heroines to kill them off.
  • Arguably present in Berserk. Apostles tend to be human-ish when introduced, proceed to become incredibly monstrous, and subsequently die within the next chapter or so. Not that normal mooks don't already steamroll regular humans, but the main character Guts makes shorter work out of the least human-ish monsters.
  • At the start of Bleach Hollows are pretty much non-human looking and a single one can be beaten easily. Once Aizen upgraded them to Arrancar, which are basically humanoid hollows, the real trouble started for the soul reapers.
    • Menos do this on their own. The massive Gillian are the weakest, and look like sky-scraper versions of normal hollows. Adjucas are significantly stronger, smaller and usually animal or plant like in their appearance. Vasto Lordes are strong enough to beat Captains, and they're human-sized and supposedly look human as well.
    • Aizen is a more subtle example. While his transformations do make him stronger and more monstrous, he becomes careless and easily prone to rage when faced with a situation he cannot comprehend or overcome. This is what ultimately leads to his undoing.
  • In Gantz, many of the different alien beings encountered look monstrous and grotesque. However, it's always the humanoid-looking ones that seem to give the protagonists the most trouble. This is taken to the next level in the final arc, where the final enemy is a civilization of giant humanoid beings that possess far more advanced intelligence and technology than the humans.
  • Sango, the trained youkai hunter of InuYasha, was taught that the most dangerous youkai are those which look human, a rule of thumb which proves almost universally true throughout the series. Of particular note is the fact that the worst defeat suffered by Sesshoumaru - who is presented as probably the most powerful youkai in the series - occurs the one time he transforms from his humanoid form into that of a giant dog, even though said transformation is presented as a power-up. Most powerful demons are capable of attaining a human form and possess some sense of intelligence, using their monstrous form only when fighting seriously. In other words, it's not that looking human makes you stronger, it's that changing into a human is an ability that most weak demons don't have.
  • Done deliberately in Hunter × Hunter, where the freakish-looking big guy with a steel-plated fist turned out to be a terrible fighter who had some plastic surgery screwed up, hurts his hand when he punches things, and can only win fights by intimidating the other guy into giving up.
    • More typically used in the Yorknew City arc, when it came to the Phantom Troupe (people with little strange about their appearance but their outfits) fighting the Shadow Beasts (weird monster people, except one guy who was just fat and ugly): when one member of the Phantom Troupe fought 4 Shadow Beasts, he killed all four though he was only able to recover from his injuries thanks to his allies assistance. When the other six Shadow Beast attacked five Phantom Troupe members, they were able to non-fatally incapacitate one but got killed by the other four without beating a single one of them.
  • Busou Renkin justifies this: Homunculi can only attack in the manner of the base creature. Gorilla-based can just use pure strength, an eagle-based one can use their talons, but only a humanoid homunculus can use real weapons. This includes the titular superweapons, by the way.
    • Oddly enough, averted by the one Hawk-based Homunculus: although incapable of using kakugane, he was still a worthy foe by virtue of his sheer power, honed predatory instincts and experience.
  • Typically played straight in Dragon Ball Z (See also Bishounen Line). Notably lampshaded by Piccolo: the Saiyan warrior Nappa is a huge, towering mountain of muscle, but he's clearly much weaker than (and more than a little afraid of angering) the Saiyan Prince Vegeta, who is noticeably short, even compared to average humans.
  • Inverted in Attack on Titan. The regular Titans look like gigantic, heavily doped people, while the Titan Shifters all have some kind of inhuman deformity, like Eren's serrated lipless mouth, Annie's exposed muscles, and so the list goes. Shifters, as they retain their human intelligence, are easily the most dangerous type of Titan.
  • In Fairy Tail, the demons of the Books of Zeref are extremely powerful and dangerous foes, but there's a noticeable trend that the more humanoid they are, the more dangerous they are. Hulking brutes who tower like buildings over humans like Lullaby and Deloria, introduced earlier in the manga, are eventually outclassed entirely by the likes of Jackal or Seliah, who are human-sized and only have dog ears or horns to distinguish them from humans. Mard Geer, Larcade, and E.N.D. are the most powerful demons shown yet and look just like normal humans outside of their One-Winged Angel forms. This is justified since Zeref created them both to perfect the art of Creating Life so he could bring his little brother Back from the Dead and to make something strong enough to kill him. The most powerful demon of all, E.N.D., is fittingly enough said reanimated brother, Natsu Dragneel.
  • Also the anime Claymore qualifies for it. The Awakened Beings there have both a human form and a monstrous form. Actually the Awakened Being are much stronger in their monstrous form than in their human form. But all the Awakened Beings first seen in their human form before they turn, are really strong opponents. The Awakened Being, which you sees from the outset in their monstrous form, are defeated faster.

    Comic Books 
  • Averted with Fat Cobra from Immortal Iron Fist. He looks like a big fat brutal sumo wrestler. He turns out to be extraordinarily fast, strong, skilled and intelligent even relative to the superhuman billionaire hero.

    Film 
  • The original Final Battle of Blade involved Deacon Frost transforming into a giant Blob Monster made of blood, rather than the Sword Fight with the eponymous protagonist. The original scene didn't play well with test audiences, who tuned out and lost emotional investment in the story because of this trope.

    Literature 
  • Older Than Television and most likely the Ur-Example, Bram Stoker's Dracula, while never exactly weak, was an unnatural and horrifying old man in the first act when all he had to feed from were slaves and Transylvanian commoners that were in low supply. After gorging on the blood of the crew of the ship he stowed away on, and several weeks of terrorizing Londoners, he became stunningly attractive and seductive.
  • A running theme in The Lord of the Rings is that, while monstrous beings may be superficially more powerful in some ways, their monstrosity is ultimately a result of corruption and weakens them in the long run. This applies even more to metaphysical beings like Morgoth, who was a dark towering monstrosity because he'd LOST the ability to change form.
  • Nouda in Bartimaeus Trilogy is far less dangerous as a giant demonic monster than as a balding middle-aged man. Justified in that our world is harmful to demons, who aren't native to it. Nouda temporarily got around this by possessing a human host, but his essence proved too strong for the human body to contain, and he started bursting back out it, losing the projective insulation of a human body in the process.

    Live Action TV 
  • This happens quite often in the newer Kamen Rider series. All the bad guys will be monsters, and usually each will be animal-themed. However, the monsters-of-the-day will be monstrous beastmen, while the higher-ranking ones look more like humans in animal-themed armor.
  • In Super Sentai / Power Rangers, bad guys, whether they be monsters-of-the-week or major villains, almost always go down much quicker in giant form than human-sized form. Then again, this is probably less due to the giant monster forms being weak, and more due to the fact that they're fighting a giant robot with tons of strength and weapons.
    • An especially guilty example is Damaras from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. In human sized form, he's a massive badass, able to smash the Gokaigers with little effort, and only losing because Basco backstabbed him. Giant form? Just stands there and takes finishing moves until he dies.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Zig-Zagged somewhat by the minions of the Darkness in Princess: The Hopeful.
    • The most common sort are the Darkspawn, who generally look very inhuman due to having picked up a lot of Umbrae. They have little more mind than beasts, and since every Umbra has a drawback to offset its power, tend to come with a number of weaknesses. They're still dangerous in a physical fight, but they are generally pretty easy to handle.
    • Mnemosyne, meanwhile, are those who embraced the Darkness without their conscience putting up a fight, meaning that they retain their human minds and bodies. They tend to be squishier than Darkspawn, but their ability to plan, used complex tactics, and fake humanity enough to move through society without standing out too much makes them far more dangerous, especially with their ability to learn the Black Magic of Calignes.
    • At the top of the tree, we have the Cataphractoi, incarnate spirits created when someone is Driven to Suicide or otherwise gives up on hope. Like Mnemosyne, they retain the appearance and mind of the human in whose image they were created, and can learn Calignes, but they also can temporarily assume a much more powerful (and grotesquely inhuman) form which often includes some Umbrae.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, the regular/weakest of the Nobodies are twisted abominations that look like mangled, bleached clothing. Even the Twilight Thorn Boss was a Warm-Up Boss, being easily beaten through Reaction Commands. However, Special Nobodies, like Organization XIII, have no consistently distinguishing features from other human characters, and are among the hardest bosses in the game. The Heartless, however, except Ansem, do the opposite.
    • In the game, this was explained. The Nobody is the physical form of a person left behind after their heart has been taken and turned into a Heartless. Most Nobodys literally become faceless, indistinguishable nobodies, but the strongest beings retain their original appearance (or a form close to it), basically becoming the soulless husks of former people.
  • The order of Kain's Lieutenants ascends in order of weakest to strongest. You begin with Melchiah, who is basically nothing more than a stitched together bundle of rotting flesh, and end with Kain, who is still largely humanoid despite his evolution.
  • Often used in House of the Dead in terms of its bosses, where the various bosses one fights may be anything from mutant animals to hulking giants to living plants, but the final boss will usually be a very humanoid creature that only has a bit of zombie-ness about him. This is not often used with the normal enemies, though, where the most dangerous are usually the most inhuman.
  • A good way to spot the Warmup Boss in any given game in the Mega Man X series is to find the biggest one. Chances are it's the weakest. Also applies to the intro boss, which will almost certain be a hulking wimp. Its Sequel Series, Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX, also use this trope, though in Mega Man Zero 2 you really had no way of telling which was which till you went through the stage. The various minor bosses you face are mostly animal-form. Major villains—Sigma, Prometheus and Pandora, and so on—are humanoid. But the various bosses with multiple forms tend to become less humanoid in each.
    • Omega is another example, since his final form is cosmetically identical to Zero and is the most difficult. However, Albert from Megaman ZX is an exception.
  • Used straight with Haseo's B-St form in Dot Hack GU. While it is infinitely more powerful than his second form (as in, being able to use an attack that makes Gate of Babylon look minuscule), it also hampers with his cognitive ability so much so that he gets his ass handed to him by Ovan really easily.
  • While the demon forms of Elvis, Shannon, and Belze are nothing to sneeze at, it's Azel and the Bonus Boss Evil Gene who are the most difficult bosses in God Hand, mostly due to their speed and ability to dodge your attacks, even while you're using the God Hand.
    • Averted with Angra himself, however. Easily as hard or harder than Azel, and several times larger than any other opponent, to the point your main point of attack is his chin.
  • In the Tales Series, the toughest bosses tend to be the human or humanoid ones, due to being small targets, being able to pull off combos like the player, and often having a Mystic Arte/Hi-Ougi; privileges non-human bosses rarely have.
  • Neverwinter Nights has this one down pat. Humanoid enemies are crippled by the game engine to make them a fair fight. A level 20 fighter (assuming level-equivalent equipment) will win against almost any monstrous opponent in the game engine; a level 20 sorcerer has trouble being threatened by anything the game can keep track of.
  • The Draenei in World of Warcraft have two derivative species: the appropriately named Broken, and the Lost. Draenei exposed to the fel or demonic magic of the Burning Legion are corrupted and lose contact with their source of power, the Light. This manifests as physical deformations and a descent into madness. The Broken are more-or-less sane, but they have crippled bodies and are in constant physical and emotional pain. The Lost are completely insane, and even more crippled than the Broken. An analogy: Draenei are healthy trees, Broken are burned but still standing trees, and the Lost are stumps.
    • High elves, blood elves, and Wretched are arguably a similar case. Or they were before the Sunwell Plateau, at any rate.
      • The Burning Legion Eredar are an odd example: Though they look more like Draenei than the Broken and Lost, some are still mutated to the point of looking unsettling, possessing blood red skin, fiery green eyes, and large fangs, with some individuals even growing horns and strange toed feet instead of hooves. Despite appearing fearsome and demonic, Legion Eredar on average are incredibly powerful sorcerers, and the ugliest of all, Kil'jaeden, is one of the most powerful villains in Warcraft by far. Despite this, they're still more physically appealing than the Broken or the Lost.
  • Averted in Dragon Age: Origins. Non-boss humans and humanlike Darkspawn (essentially Tolkien Orcs) are some of the simpler enemies. Bizarre creatures like Ogres and demonic spirits of the Fade are noticeably tougher, but the best example is the nightmarish Brood Mother, who is explicitly stated to be the corrupted form of a normal female, and is a full-fledged boss monster. The Archdemon itself may also counts, though in its case the monstrosity makes it un-dragon-like instead of inhuman.
  • Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure for the PC and PSP plays this straight most of the time, as each boss is usually smaller than the last. The first three bosses Bob, Mosby and Roger are all relatively large (after transforming), and then you get to the fourth boss who transforms... Into you. She suddenly has a ton of moments where she can block your attacks and counter with quick moves, whereas the first three are all a case of "Hit them when you get a good opening." The fifth boss is once again a giant monster, but you soon find that he's a complete joke and was only setting up for the real boss— the Phantom Prince, who's roughly the same height as Parin. The trope's subverted as the final boss is the large and powerful Tokaron, the legendary dragon. But he's not the strongest enemy, actually. It's really the Bonus Boss, Blackbean: Prince of Destruction. He's the smallest boss in the game, coming up to about the same size as the game's standard Mook, roughly half of Parin's height.
  • The Id in The Halloween Hack is frightening looking, but it doesn't even try to fight you. However, after defeating it, Andonuts uses his mind power to turn into a PSI-wielding, profanity-spouting superhuman.
  • Mostly Averted in Metroid (with the exception of [[Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever Kraid in Super Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission). Samus most dangerous rival isn't any of the rival hunters who've appeared in games like Metroid Prime: Hunters or Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, most of which are taken out fairly easily, but rather the fiendish pterodactyl-like alien Ridley, and the even more monstrous Mother Brain. What's more, when Mother Brain was "resurrected" in the body of an android in Metroid: Other M she was notably weaker than she was in her monstrous form. On the other hand, the absolute, no-contest most deadly enemies that Samus ever faced, even temporarily, were her own Evil Twins, the SA-X and Dark Samus, the latter of whom was originally a massive mutated Metroid before she was reborn as a galaxy-conquering Humanoid Abomination.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3 has plenty of huge, monstrous bosses to challenge the player...but by far the hardest battles are against the human-sized villains like Koren and Jagan.
  • This is overtly a plot point in Final Fantasy XIV. Most of the civilised societies of the world are made up of the humanoid races available to players. In contrast to them are 'Beast Tribes' that consist of races that are often seen as primitive at best, vicious at worst depending on the individual tribe. Members of Beast Tribe races are looked down upon by the city-states of Eorzea, and indeed even the sympathetic members of them are often presented as any combination of dim-witted, superstitious, alien, or technologically primitive. The only reason Beast Tribes are considered a threat by the armies of the city-states is because they are prone to summoning Primals capable of mass destruction and tempering non-believers into their service.
    • This also plays into the Big Bads of the overarching stories. While most final bosses usually take the form of a giant monster such as one of the aforementioned Primals or a technological wonder, most of them are done at the behest or to the whims of a more humanoid villain. In A Realm Reborn, the Garleans and the Ascians turn the Omega Weapon on you in the final battle. In Heavensward, the final boss is Archbishop Thordan VII turned into a Primal personification of the legendary King Thordan. In Stormblood, the final boss is Zenos Yae Galvus possessing Shinryu using his powers as a Resonant. The closest the game has come to subverting this is Nidhogg, the Arc Villain of the greater Dragonsong War, whom is fought in patch 3.3 to bring that arc to its conclusion.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10, Ben's most used and most effective aliens are humanoid, while his least used (Brainstorm, Goop, Ghostfreak) are the most inhuman. Even Cannonbolt stood on two legs.
    • One could even compare the Highbreed, which is more or less a giant chalk white humanoid without a face, to the DNAliens, who are strange mixes among squids, brains and various other critters (and parasites besides), and see this.
  • In Steven Universe the Corrupted Gem monsters the heroes fight early on are completely nonhumanoid in appearance, and are often weaker than regular humanoid gems (partially because they're mentally corrupted to the point where they're non-sapient). Notably, once Jasper is corrupted, she goes from Implacable Man to being poofed by a single strike from Peridot.

    Real Life 
  • Somewhat Truth in Television: People with conditions that make them unnaturally large often have severe health problems because of the greater stresses on their bones and muscles compared to average-sized people.. For instance:
    • Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man, had a pronounced limp, difficulty speaking, his enlarged right arm was useless and he had to sleep with care lest his enlarged head break his neck.
    • André the Giant, whose hulking size gave him massive sway in the wrestling world, but also crippled him as the years went by and eventually led to him dying prematurely. Andre himself stated that his freakish strength allowed him to save his brother's life when a tractor fell on him, so he considered the trade-off worth it if for no other reason.
    • Similar tropes can be seen after a certain point in professional sports - you want to be big, but not too big. For example, the best NBA post players have generally been between 6'9" and 7'1". Most taller players have too high a center of gravity, too slow reflexes, and too many injury troubles to be superstars.
  • Ligers (male lion-tigress hybrids) are prone to joint problems and other health defects directly caused by being larger than either parent species. Tigons (male tiger-lioness hybrids) don't suffer from the same problems, because a quirk of the genetics involved causes them to be smaller than either parent species.

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