Subverting the Competence Zone results in one problem. It can be hard explaining why someone much older or younger would follow the cast around in the first place, especially if the story is trying to be realistic in explaining it and the audience immediately assumes they should spend their free time with people their own age. This leads to the reuse of characters, especially as repurposed (and often self-imagined) guardians for characters who didn't have them in the first place. If it's an adult female she's usually unmarried.
Less likely to be lampshaded in a fantastic setting, or if said folks are inhuman or magical in nature. Most of the time the audience doesn't really want an explanation.
See also Older Sidekick.
Anime & Manga
- Azumanga Daioh: There are two unmarried teachers who are on friendly enough terms that they follow their students on vacation. This is probably an exaggeration of the closer relationship Japanese students have with their teachers. Also justifiable because Yukari and Nyamo do have a lot of free time — Yukari is such a jerkass that nobody except Nyamo will voluntarily associate with her, and both of them are single at an age where they'd be expected to be married.
- Lucky Star: There are two adults who are present whenever the girls take a driving trip. Kuroi-sensei even manages to invade Konata's online gaming time during the evenings. Likewise, Konata's cousin Yui is around the girls enough that Kuroi assumes Yui has to be unmarried since we don't see her husband (on business trips) around at all. Konata wondered if that is why Kuroi-sensei became an Old Maid.
- Majokko Tsukune-chan: Tsukune says this verbatim to the Watermelon Master, who spends his life judging watermelon-bashing contests around the world.
- Pokémon: The Series: Brock originally joins Ash in order to pursue his dream of becoming a Pokémon Breeder, but since returning to the cast in Johto, he does little to further this goal and passed up many chances to head out on his own. He eventually leaves the main cast at the end of the Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl series — to become Pokémon Doctor instead, inspired by an experience he had with taking care of sick baby Pokémon on a ship. He has also served as the "doctor" of the group for the majority of his time traveling with Ash and friends.
- Reborn! (2004): Bronco Dino is supposed to be the boss of his own family, but he helps out Tsuna often. One of his men even calls this trope by name one time.
- Sailor Moon: In the fourth season, Chibi-usa needs Usagi to cast any kind of powerful magic. This Wonder Twin Powers requirement and the age difference between the two of them end up putting Usagi in a position where she has to be regularly available to participate in Chibi-usa's adventures. As well as tons of Contrived Coincidences.
- Samon the Summoner: Nebiros has the appearance of an adult and spends most of his time with high school students, Samon lampshades this at one point.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Mai Kujaku/Valentine —who, as a professional duelist, does have quite a bit of free time on her hands— hangs out with True Companions eight-to-ten years younger than her. She also falls in love with one of them. Justified because her little friends are champion duelists too, so they all ran in the same circles. She first meets them in a tournament they are all competing in.
Films — Live-Action
- Juliana: It's heavily implied that Don Pedro (the kids' adult boss) is unemployed and spends most of his time engaging in illegal activities that he funds thanks to the kids' labor. When he's not doing that, he's either checking on the kids —waking them up, splitting them into work groups, and collecting his fee of their earnings— or taking them to the beach on those rare occasions when he's in a good mood. So, it's Played for Drama.
- The Loud Sim Date: The only possible explanation for why Lisa would actually bother to make body pillows of Lucy, Lynn, Lincoln, and Ronnie Anne.
- Backstroke of the West: The Plum Of implies that Gun Ray is invading her home country out of boredom.
- Shining Pretty Cure: Frédéric Verdant's alter-ego is officially a businessman transplanted to Japan. In practice, this stops at him wearing lots of suits; he's usually enjoying coffee at the Sun Café or wandering around town.
- About a Boy: Will has an incredibly large amount of time on his hands. Justified in that he has this time because he lives off royalty checks for a popular fictional Christmas Song his father wrote. Partially deconstructed because he has so much free time, he has no idea what to do with his life.
- The Baby-Sitters Club: Charlie, Kristy's seventeen-year-old brother, apparently has all the time in the world to drive Kristy, Shannon, and Abby wherever they need to go.
- Mr. Majeika: The titular character teaches at a regular school and, instead of grading assignments or preparing his classes, he gets into supernatural hijinks with his students. Somehow justified because he's a wizard and therefore better equipped to deal with that sort of stuff.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: There's a half-decent excuse for why Giles hangs around three of the kids in school. They are a freak (Buffy), a dork (Xander), a nerd (Willow), and he is in charge of the library where those three are always meeting. Plus, he is Buffy's Watcher and therefore obligated to watch her. Then, the school blew up. Having also been fired from the Watcher's Council earlier in season 3, he suddenly finds himself with a lot of free time in season 4. Cordelia lampshades this in "Graduation Day, Part 2", when she reasons that Weasel doesn't need to leave the country, what with Giles being unemployed and still following them around like a big loser. By season 5, when he gets gainful employment again, it doesn't need any further explaining, as the show likes the True Companions concept.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Since Gordy the janitor always slacks off at work, deciding he'll "let the night guy get it", he has plenty of time to hang out with the Power Trio and other students, and help with simple plans. And obsessively chase that Weasel Mascot.
- Although it's been mentioned he has a family and his presumed father appears at one point, the Janitor would rather waste his life antagonizing J.D. to a bizarre degree. Only when a germaphobic woman —who would eventually become his wife— starts a relationship with him, he's seen less and less.
- Jordan spends a lot of time at the hospital. She's a board member and only works a few days out of the year and hires a nanny to watch the kids even while she's at home. Yet, she's there everyday like clockwork, just hanging around.
- Our Miss Brooks: Sixteen-year-old Walter Denton drives Miss Brooks to school and sees her often during the day. This is despite that he is usually portrayed as relatively popular, and likewise has a steady girlfriend.
- Dissidia Final Fantasy: Since Exdeath doesn't care about the war of the gods and does as he likes, Exdeath tends to mill around the world looking for things to do. This is the whole reason he's after Bartz in the 13th cycle: Ultimecia and the Emperor spy on Bartz in the lands of Chaos and he runs off, and since they're too busy to chase him they call in Exdeath to do it since he's not doing anything else.
- Team Fortress 2: Inverted with The Administrator as she has only one hour off work every year. The rest of her time is spent annunciating events and interacting with the players.
- BoJack Horseman: Deconstructed. Bojack has indeed tons of free time, what with being an unemployed actor who amassed a fortune from the royalties of his One-Hit Wonder of a sitcom. Then there is his isolation from everyone, loneliness, not-friendly attitude, constant Dismotivation, and constant grumpiness. Don't forget his desire —almost to the point of an obsession— of wanting something, be it just a drink, a vacuum, or a companion with whom he can have a normal conversation. This attitude only makes him even more miserable since all his free time has made him dwell on everything he's seen, done, been, and achieved. He's concluded he doesn't like it one bit.