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Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond

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"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
Desidarius Erasmus, Dutch Philosopher (1466-1536), and paraphrased by many others

A character who, in their own reality/universe, is fairly normal, if not underpowered. They'd be a Mook or Red Shirt back home, or someone fairly low key. Or maybe back home they're weak because they have to measure up to god-level opponents or Eldritch Abominations. Whatever the reason, they're not considered strong.

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However, due to the nature of the world they are dropped into, they are unbelievably powerful.

This trope is about when Power Creep, Power Seep does not come into play. To be a Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond, you must be much more powerful than the locals, without gaining anything you didn't have before. At a certain point, the stuff in your pockets makes you a god to those who lack it; as civilizations technologically advance, members of that civilization have access to increasing amounts of energy. For example, your average medieval peasant could never hope to own something as destructive as an AK-47 automatic rifle or a few drums of fuel oil mixed with ammonium nitrate.

Compare Like a Duck Takes to Water where the individuals transplanted have some unique gifts or knowledge, and Not Rare Over There when it comes to resources. This one is just a normal guy or person in his/her universe, but is special in another. Fish out of Water goes hand-in-hand with this trope. This is a staple of comic book alien supers, whose “powers” consist primarily of “being a member of their species” on a planet where the dominant species isn’t as powerful, whereas on their homeworld they would be considered merely a Badass Normal. Invoked for Summon Everyman Hero. See also Those Were Only Their Scouts. Contrast Outside-Context Problem. Compare and contrast Mighty Whitey. Large Runt is a Sister Trope purely about physical size, not general ability.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 3×3 Eyes, Chuui looks threatening and unstoppable only because Yakumo lacks any power or Majuu. For people like Parvati, he's a minor nuisance.
  • Angel Densetsu presents an inversion with Ogisu who questions whether he’s lost his edge, eventually he realizes he’s just ended up in a school with a bunch of absurdly powerful fighters and accepts his place in the pecking order.
  • The main character in The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life was a modestly above average alchemist before going into suspended animation who was barely getting by because alchemist was a fairly common career and she didn't have the business contacts needed to make it big. But between her suspended animation lasting generations and the disaster she went into suspended animation to escape making it impossible to create more alchemists in that region, when she wakes up she's literally the only alchemist around, which makes her a priceless resource for those trying to clear the local dungeons and rebuild the ruined city.
  • Bakuman。:
    • This happen with Mashiro's uncle, Nobuhiro "Taro Kawaguchi" Mashiro. When he's first introduced, his drawings are fairly cartoon-like, bordering on Stylistic Suck, and he is said to have been ignorant of several manga drawing techniques. However, Kaya's father reveals that Nobuhiro was quite good at art compared to his classmates.
      Mr. Miyoshi: [Nobuhiro] always had good ideas in his head, and got good grades in art class. He was especially talented at drawing.
      Takagi: Whaaat!? Taro Kawaguchi was good at drawing?! No way!
      Mr. Miyoshi: He was better than the rest of us — a big fish in a small pond.
      Mashiro: Yeah, my uncle told me he realized how bad he was only after he decided to become a professional manga artist.
    • Ishizawa is a far cry from Mashiro's talent as an artist, although he'd like to believe the opposite is true. However, when they're both in college, it is revealed that Ishizawa has a series in Chara Kira Magazine, around the same time Mashiro and Takagi's first series was canceled, and is looked up to by the members of the manga club.
  • A common problem in Beastars. No matter how little a carnivore puts into their physical strength and how strong most herbivores get, the divide in strength is undisputable. This is pointed out most with the protagonist Legoshi, a gray wolf which are pretty middle of the pack among carnivores, stronger then some predators like weasels, who are still strong enough to accidently rip a herbivore's arm clean off, but not quite as strong as bears and tigers. It regularly causes problems with his relationships with his herbivore friends and love interest the rabbit Haru. All this is in spite of not eating meat which limits his physical strength.
  • Blame has Basic Safeguard exterminators. In the movie the basic exterminators are considered very dangerous robots, that keep the human population completely terrified, while in the Manga they are in fact low-level Mooks.
  • In Bloom Into You, Touko Nanami is easily the most talented actor on the student council, which, at her request, revives an old student council tradition of putting on a stage show for the school culture festival. After the play, Touko is scouted by a theater troupe that her student council's assistant adviser and a friend of Touko's late older sister belongs to, and realizes that compared to the other members, she's just a newbie. Touko actually doesn't mind, since she'd long felt pressure to live up to her seemingly perfect sister's example. In fact, she's relieved that her colleagues don't put her on a pedestal.
  • Bleach: Xcution (with the exception of Tsukishima with his Story-Breaker Power) are Boisterous Weaklings compared to Arrancars, Menos Grande, Sternritters and the captains and lieutenants of the Gotei 13. Against normal humans and ordinary Hollows, however, they're unbelievably powerful. Five captain and lieutenants of the Gotei 13 were Willfully Weak all the time and Curb-Stomped them. The funniest part of all of this is that they wanted to destroy the Gotei 13, so it'd be a miracle if they didn't die in their first step in Soul Society had they managed to come there!
  • Invoked by Mephisto in Blue Exorcist: up to this point, Rin has been facing small fry and had one major victory against the Impure King (by using the power of another demon to purify the decay). In order to make sure he understands that he's still in the kiddy pool, Mephisto resumes the "sparring" match Rin was having with Amaimon, the weakest of the 8 Kings of Hell, only this time Amiamon burns out his human shell to show his demonic powers.
  • Discussed in A Centaur's Life during the marathon; while protagonist Hime can run 100m in about 9 seconds (as fast as or faster than our own current world record holder, Usain Bolt), when she tries actually racing she's left lagging massively behind the other competitors. This is because, as the title suggests, Hime is a centaur, so while she can leave all her bipedal friends eating the dust of her hooves, compared to professional runners of her own race she's a slowpoke.
    • Later, Hime finds herself stranded in a medieval fantasy world. Except, her centaur strength, atomic-age education, and partly-horse appearance give her the skills she needs to masquerade as an angel from the heavens and take command of an entire kingdom of ordinary humans.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
  • Death Note: Among Shinigami, Ryuk is actually mid- to low-ranked. However, he's still a being that can kill any human by writing their name in the Death Note, no matter how manipulative or intelligent they are, including the protagonist Light, whom he eventually kills out of boredom.
  • In The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Ryoko Asakura is one of the best students at North High, but she finds herself unable to answer a math question that her peers at Koyoen Academy are studying at the same time, since the latter is a prep school that covers more material.
  • Dragon Ball: A persistent theme in the franchise is characters discovering they're in this trope and then ascending past it by pushing beyond their limits.
    • Goku is this for his entire childhood and teenage years; he's strong enough to resist bullets and it takes three arcs for him to encounter a villain who can actually kill him in Tao Pai-Pai. His first serious opponent is Piccolo Daimao, an embodiment of evil, making them both the strongest beings on the planet. But as it turns out, this is because they're from alien species that are naturally much, much stronger than humans. By the standards of their own species, Goku was weak for a Saiyan and Piccolo average for a Namekian, while both were weak compared to the average intergalactic warrior (though in Piccolo's case, he is technically still half of who he really is at this point and is actually a Super Namekian, having large amounts of combat potential). This is then subverted, as within two years they are both far stronger than anyone of their kind has EVER been.
    • Raditz is as weak as a Saibaman, but on Earth, he easily pulls off a Bullet Catch against a shotgun-wielding farmer and is powerful enough to curb-stomp both Goku and Piccolo, the two strongest beings on the planet, simultaneously, forcing Goku to pull off a Heroic Sacrifice to take him down. In fact, when they discover that Vegeta and Nappa consider Raditz a pathetic weakling compared to them, the Z-Fighters are in disbelief.
    • This gets a humorous nod in the Buu Saga when Babidi's minion Pui-Pui brings the heroes to his home planet, thinking they'll be crushed by its gravity, which is 10 times greater than Earth's. Unfortunately for the poor sod, Vegeta also comes from a 10G planet, and everyone in the room regularly trains in conditions of far more than that: Vegeta trains in 500x gravity, and Goku had been training at 100x a decade prior.
    • A filler episode of the anime has Krillin, Tien, Yamcha, and Chiaotzu train at Kami's Lookout against magic simulations of a pair of Saiyans called Shorty and Scarface. In Kami's own words, they are among the weakest of their kind, but still strong enough to easily beat those who at that time were the four strongest humans.
  • Similar to Dragon Ball Z, the title character of Jaco the Galactic Patrolman is way stronger than any human, easily lifting weights of multiple tonnes, casually jumping at enormous heights and running at incredible speeds, and killing a giant ship-sinking shark with one punch underwater, but flat-out admits that the aliens who have sent one of their own to attack Earth are way stronger, and that he can kill the invader only if he's still a child. As this is a Stealth Prequel of Dragon Ball and the invader is Goku, this shouldn't surprise anyone.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Ledo is an ordinary soldier among his peers, piloting a mass-produced Real Robot. Until he finds himself stranded on a long forgotten, far less advanced Earth. It's no surprise every time he fights the local hostiles with his mecha, it ends up being a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • In Gate, the JSDF's weaponry consisting mostly of Cold War era technology, is not particularly advanced, but the medieval inhabitants beyond the Gate are powerless to resist them, despite having a The Roman Empire-like level of technology and access to flying troops. The first thing that gives the technologically-advanced forces trouble is a giant-ass red dragon who can outmaneuver fighter jets and ends up having to be killed by essentially a magic-powered coilgun.
  • In Girls und Panzer, Miho Nishizumi, the main character, comes from a family that has long been in the practice of tankery, and feels inferior to her mother and her sister. When she transfers to Oarai, a school that had no tank program until it started it up the year it arrived in an attempt to avoid being closed down permanently, she's immediately sought after to join the tankery group, and soon becomes the commander. Erika, a former schoolmate of Miho's, comments that it must be a weak school if Miho became its commander, referencing this trope.
  • Goblin Slayer: The titular hero is presented as an unparalleled goblin exterminator to the point he attained Silver Ranking due to killing them by the thousands since he trained and prepared himself his whole life for this single purpose. With that said, when it comes to fighting anything else other than goblins he is hilariously inept, since he suffers a bad case of Crippling Overspecialization. This trope equally applies to the goblins he fights since they represent a very terrifying threat for villagers and rookie adventurers and yet, they are cannon fodder compared to the larger threats faced by high level adventurers — which speaks something truly bleak about this setting. It's for this reason that the Goblin Slayer isn't taken seriously as an adventurer, since he is perceived as nothing more than pest control in their eyes. However, this belief only applies to rookies to minimally experienced adventurers; true veterans of the frontier are just as aware of how heinous the goblins are, the problem is that the pay for clearing out a goblin nest or rescuing a woman from one is completely disproportionate to the risk involved. As such, the other silver-ranked adventurers instead see Goblin Slayer as straight up crazy for doing nothing but goblin quests.
  • This concept is the only reason the first arc of High School D×D appears to have any stakes at all. Raynare fancies herself a schemer with a plan to endear herself to the leader of the Fallen Angels, when the truth is she's a Stupid Evil bully leading a low-level scout squad and if Rias hadn't held her team back to let Issei reclaim his pride any one of them could have torn her apart.
  • The anime Inuyasha has the Noh-Mask, a malicious youkai, who is striding through the city in modern times, seeking the fragments of the holy jewel. He makes catastrophic damages, and kills several humans. No one can stop him until Inuyasha comes and fights him. If the Noh-Mask had not already had a jewel splinter, it would have been only slightly stronger than the lower youkais, who Naraku used as mooks.
  • Isekai Quartet: The series makes it clear, for some of its gags, that part of the reason why the cast of Overlord below is so overpowered in their own series comes to that the world they've been transported to has very low power levels in comparison to their own. Placed around the characters from the other series featured however, and they find themselves encountering fair matches like Tanya, characters that can handle their strength like Naofumi, and some that have the means to counter them like, of all people, Aqua. And then there's Reinhard.
  • It is discussed with Wiene from Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?. Because she's a benevolent monster, Bell and his party take her to the surface. However, they do not know what to do with her then, because other people would not accept her. Liliruca finally suggests simply taking her into the wild, because there she would have nothing to fear from the other monsters. The monsters get stronger the deeper they go into the dungeon, and the monsters on the surface are so weak that even ordinary people can handle them. While Wiene would be quite a weakling on the middle dungeon levels compared to the other monsters, she is absolutely invincible on the surface.
  • Koga from Kengan Omega is a gifted martial artist who is able to single-handedly take down entire dojos in his local area, and grows dissatisfied with how weak his opponents are. After finding the Kengan Association, however, he realizes that he'd barely qualify as the bottom of the barrel among that circle, much less stand beside the top-level fighters.
  • Done repeatedly in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Tsukuba and Daimonji are powerful for a high school Karate club, but in Kisara's gang they're a mook and a perspective mook respectively and easily outclassed by the Technique Trio, Shiratori, and especially Kisara herself. As for Kisara's gang it's one of various sub-gangs of Ragnarok and not even the strongest (that being implied to be the Valkyries), though Kisara, as one of the Eight Fists, is one of the strongest... And completely outclassed by the leader Odin, who, among ki-using martial artists, only rates as a Disciple and (at least at the start) not really that strong. And then there's Experts and the various ranks of Masters...
    • One key moment is Kenichi's misadventure with Furukawa, a knife-wielding member of Kisara's gang: during the first encounter Kenichi was scared off, but when they met again after Kenichi received basic training from the weapon expert of Ryozanpaku he couldn't help but give him advice on the correct hold.
  • Ginta from MÄR is a relatively normal boy in his home universe. However, when he comes to MÄR, he's considered super-strong because of the difference in gravity and atmospheric oxygen concentration. Which does not explain his ability to punch through stone barriers though, unless MÄR is also a world of cardboard.
  • Kanna from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. By dragon standards she's just a young child, but on Earth she's one of the strongest beings in the world. The sheer scope of the power difference between the two worlds comes up when she and Tohru are "roughhousing" (in a manner that wouldn't look out of place in Dragon Ball Z) and they tell Kobayashi that they were fighting at a human level (that is, at the level of the average human from their world).
  • My Hero Academia: As a child, Bakugo's powerful Quirk won him constant praise and made him a big-headed bully to those whom he saw as weaker, particularly the Quirkless Izuku Midoriya. He also stood out among his peers at what he called a "crappy public school," as the only one with a shot at getting into UA. Upon arriving at UA he's still acknowledged as being very powerful, but everybody in his class also has very strong (or at least useful) Quirks, and his bad attitude makes him mocked rather than feared. Meanwhile Izuku has acquired a Quirk of his own, and everybody likes him due to his kind, heroic personality.
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto and Sasuke had pretty much established themselves as pretty strong genin... until Haku showed up, seemingly killed Zabuza with a flick of the wrist, and disappeared without a second notice. When they try to fight him again, Haku reveals he had been holding back (and holds back through the entire fight). The only challenge he gets is from Naruto's first use of Kurama's chakra. And even then, it's only because Haku doesn't go in for the kill he's taking a beating. This becomes even more apparent when Orochimaru and the other major villages are introduced, and it takes a LOT of training from Naruto to catch up to Gaara or Neji in Part I and surpass the latter. By the tail end of Part II, though, Naruto and Sasuke are quite clearly among the strongest ninja in the world.
    • Likewise, Sakura is praised for her chakra control; but as she learns during the Chuunin Exam, most of the participants have roughly as good (if not better) control and are far superior to her in every other aspect.
    • Jiriaya, and to an extent the other Sannin, (Orichimaru and Tsunade) are large fish in a normal pond, being incredibly strong ninja in their own right, but they only managed to get into a draw against someone like Hanzo in their prime (this was back when they were a team), and then there are those like Nagato (who easily annihilated Hanzo). Jiraiya's final thoughts are to compare himself to a frog in a well that has made it to the ocean (referencing a Japanese proverb similar to this trope). Granted, being ninja, power isn't always the thing. Nagato mentions that had Jiraiya been aware of his capabilities, he would've most likely lost, implying only the element of surprise allowed him to beat Jiraiya despite having more abilities.
  • One Piece:
    • This comes up several times, where characters, usually one-shot, are hyped up as the strongest in whatever nation or island the story is taking place in at the time, only to be Worfed by a more worldly, and therefore more powerful, fighter. Zoro had this happen to himself in his "epic duel" with Mihawk at the Baratie; despite being the most infamous swordsman and bounty hunter in the East Blue, Mihawk makes short work of him.
      Mihawk: You may have a reputation, but you're still just a bunny. [...] You're a little frog, croaking in your puddle. Time you learned how big the world is.
    • Mihawk's presence in the story itself, when he effortlessly defeats not only Zoro, but Don Krieg, one of the strongest pirates in East Blue, also references this. By the time the protagonists head for the Grand Line, they are the strongest pirate crew in East Blue. But as the pirates from East Blue are considered weaker than the other seas, almost all of their opponents to come are more dangerous than anyone in East Blue.
    • Speaking of Don Krieg, he was really fearsome for the East Blue (though his bounty comes mostly from having the largest pirate armada in said sea), but next to nothing in the Grand Line, as he had to turn tail and return from there to East Blue after Mihawk decimated his entire fleet on the seventh day. He even had the audacity of calling himself "the strongest man on Earth", while said title rightfully belongs to Whitebeard (before his death, and now Kaido).
    • Luffy himself runs up against this obstacle in both powers and experience. The majority of his opponents in the East Blue were overall less familiar and less equipped to deal with a Devil Fruit user. Luffy therefore tended to win more easily compared to many of his later opponents on the Grand Line. On the Grand Line itself, Devil Fruits themselves tend to be more frequent and varied, making Luffy's own Gomu Gomu Fruit look more mundane and weak (at least until Luffy trains it more).
    • This was called back to after Zoro trained under Mihawk during the timeskip. His first "serious opponent", a Drunken Master octopus swordsman, bragged about being the strongest swordsman in Fishman Island. Zoro kept calling him a frog, until the swordsman was sufficiently incensed, at which point Zoro stated he was bragging like a frog in a well, unaware of the world.
    • Pretty much the New Fishman Pirates in their entirety. They take over Fishman Island (and even that requires them to beef up on Energy Steroids), but the Straw Hats easily defeat them. It's telling that the Arc Villain was defeated by the aforementioned Zoro with one slash. Underwaternote . Before Luffy even had the chance to fight the guy himself. Once that happened, it was fairly obvious by then on how the rest of the arc was going to go for the antagonists.
    • Arlong was one of the elite members of Fisher Tiger's crew, but not necessarily all that powerful compared to the rest of the Grand Line (and at least some of his former crewmates were substantially stronger than him as well), especially when he loses to Vice-Admiral Borsalino (future Marine Admiral Kizaru). However, when he arrived in East Blue, he conquered multiple islands unopposed, largely on the basis that he's from the Grand Line, and he's more than a match for the East Blue Marine forces that try to oppose him, since the best ones are stationed on the Grand Line. As it turns out, he was deliberately invoking this trope; Arlong flat-out knew he had no chance of making his ambitions a reality in the Grand Line, so he ran off and tried to achieve them in East Blue instead. Because of this, it's implied they got weaker due to the lack of sufficient opposition, as the moment his crew and him were faced with such opposition for the first time in years, they went down hard.
    • Bellamy the Hyena had the largest bounty in the area he had made base at, and was all too happy to gloat about it and taunt and rough up the Straw Hats because they didn't want any trouble. When he sees Luffy's newest bounty come in, he panics a little before convincing himself the bounty's a fake. When Luffy picks a fight, seething with pure fury over Bellamy roughing up their new friend Montblanc Cricket and ransacking his house, Bellamy accepts and goes through a long charge up with his Devil Fruit that makes him so fast he can't be seen...then Luffy sends him through the docks in one strike.
    • Downplayed with Eneru. He is much stronger than anybody on the Sky Islands, and he has an almost unbeatable Devil Fruit power (he can create and turn himself into lightning). In fact, Luffy only defeats him because his rubber body cannot conduct electricity, and his Haki allows him to predict his opponents' moves that made the fight with him pretty damn close. The general consensus is that he is one of the strongest characters in the series. However, when Luffy fights him, he (Luffy) comments that Eneru may be a Physical God in the sky, but on the Blue Sea there are so many strong guys that Eneru will look like a weakling. Oda has also said that if Eneru ever descended to the blue sea, he would be wanted as a very dangerous criminal. To clarify, he possesses the Rumble Rumble Fruit, which is explicitly referred to as the one of the Logia-classed Fruits which grants virtual invincibility. However, between the fact that Haki users can nullify Devil Fruit powers and the existence of at least one Paramecia (the Quake-Quake Fruit) that exceeds the Rumble Fruit in power, that advantage isn't enough. That said, with Eneru having Haki of his own and being surprisingly smart despite his insanity, he would've been a major player anywhere he went.
    • Many Logia users, people able to transform, either partially or completely, into an element or thing (Smoker becoming smoke), can see the first half of the Grand Line as their very large "tiny pond", as any person or crew who survives in the latter half is going to be trained in Haki, ki attacks which nullify the advantage of becoming one's element and allows them to sustain damage.
      • Captain Smoker qualified before the Time Skip. While he was certainly badass, he was also a Logia user stationed in the weakest sea then later in the first half of the Grand Line. Neither sea has many (or any for the East Blue) people even capable of touching him, let alone fighting. However, one guy on what seems to be on a whim stopped over at East Blue to see how his son was doing, and made Smoker quake in his boots without physically doing anything to him. Said man was admittedly later revealed as "The World's Most Wanted Man": Dragon the Revolutionary.
      • When New World pirate Pekoms, whose Devil Fruit power is a lowly turtle Zoan (with rare exceptions like mythical beasts, Zoans are generally regarded as the weakest Devil Fruit users, and herbivorous Zoans are the weakest of all) curb stomps swamp Logia Caribou, he gives the advice that Logias who rely exclusively on their Devil Fruit will die quickly in the New World.
      • Which is driven home later on later on with the next Arc Villain Caesar Clown, a Logia-type who has control over all types of chemical gas, including poisons. Pre-time skip, he would have been one of the most dangerous opponents the Straw Hats faced period, but coming out of two years of training (not to mention Luffy having developed an incredible Acquired Poison Immunity and Haki which let him strike Caesar through his Logia form), once Caesar can't run or spring traps and is forced into a straight-up fight, Luffy makes him look like an utter chump. Also notable in that Caesar is currently the only Logia that's been a major Arc Villain since the time skip, with Doflamingo and Big Mom being Paramecia-type fruit users, and Kaido being a Zoan.
  • One-Punch Man:
    • This is Suiryu's problem and the source of his pride. He's legitimately strong and would fit into the lower ranks of S-Class perfectly, but he's limited his worldview to what he sees in the tournament ring. Fighting only people much weaker than him has blinded him to just how many monsters and heroes out there are stronger than him. He finally understands this once he fights the Dragon-level Gouketsu and realizes that for all his strength, he can't make the monster even blink (for context, "Dragon" threats are among the most powerful monsters in the world and only surpassed by "God"-level ones. Even monsters on the rank below it, "Demon", are dangerous enough that even a low-ranked S-Class Hero can lose).
    • Done repeatedly with the various classes of the Hero Association, as promotion in the class above is obtained by surpassing the results of the current number one... Who for their own reasons remains in the class willingly:
      • #1 C-class Hero Mumen Raider is brave, effective, and generous, and has long earned a promotion in the B-class, but refuses the promotion because he knows he's not cut for the kind of opponents B-class Heroes are expected to face.
      • Fubuki and her posse are the top-ranked B-class heroes, and she thinks she's being extremely generous in deigning to invite Saitama and Genos into her group. Then when she goes to see him, she sees him hanging out with S-Classes who defer to him and has a small moment of panic. In fact, Fubuki herself is well aware of this. She's strong enough that she could easily be an A-Rank hero, but she believes she isn't strong enough to beat the top-ranked A-Class Hero, Sweet Mask (who himself is strong enough to be S-Class), and her Pride won't let her be second-best, so she stays at B-Class.
      • Sweet Mask himself stays in the A-Rank even though he could be S-Class because he considers himself to be a Threshold Guardian of sorts for other Heroes hoping to become S-Class, as he does not want them to make the S-Class look bad.
      • While she can't possibly be promoted, Tatsumaki, the strongest member of the S-class, fits the trope as well: her telekinetic powers are immense, to the point that when an alien warship tried to bombard the area she was in she casually stopped all their projectiles and sent them back much faster, but even she is outclassed by Lord Boros, Garou at his apex, and especially Saitama.
    • The S-class itself is the result of this trope: when the Hero Association was founded, they only had C, B, and A-classes; but then a number of heroes proved themselves vastly superior to even the A-class, despite doing things at their own pace and not caring about recognition like the heroes in the other classes, who even with team-ups among themselves could not be as strong as them. Seeing their sheer power and skills, each of them comparable to a military division, and thinking it'd harder to secure talent otherwise, the Hero Association created the S-class just for them.
  • Overlord:
    • This applies to Momonga upon his arrival to the New World. In YGGDRASIL, the MMO he was transported from, Momonga was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of players to reach the level 100 cap, and he himself specifically mentions that his current build was designed more for roleplaying than for PvP purposes (although he does have more than twice the standard maximum amount of spells thanks to a Prestige Class). Against a foe with a similar level and a more PvP-focused build, he would find himself severely outclassed (though not entirely without a chance of victory, such as against Shalltear). Once he shows up in the New World where the level cap is much lower and his instant death spells that would normally be ineffective against other players work just fine against just about anything this world has to offer, suddenly there's a nigh-unbeatable lich overlord stomping on everything left and right.
    • Quickly subverted when it's revealed Momonga was (and remains) in control of a top ten guild from YGGDRASIL, which had (and still has) possession of the most World-Class Items. Momonga was also an excellent strategist who knew how to get the most out of his unique character build. He led his guild on several Defeating the Undefeatable quests without suffering a single loss, and regularly defeated much stronger opponents in PvP because of his intricate knowledge of game mechanics... plus a few hundred dollars in cash items. In fact, Momonga renames himself to the guild's name because it was so famous in YGGDRASIL that ANYONE who played it should immediately recognize it. Such fame was intended to help him reunite with his former guild mates if they traveled to the fantasy world. Momonga, however, does not believe he is the strongest in the New World and spends much of the series trying to expand his power base in preparation for future foes who may be able to challenge him.
    • He's able to go around in disguise as a warrior because his strength stat is so high. He has no technique, and the Martial Arts people use (sort of like an extensive Status Buff system) can't be learned by YGGDRASSIL-ians. He even manages to hug a Smug Snake rogue to death with one arm thanks to the difference in levels.
    • The Light Novel goes into further detail via Power Levels, showing that even Nazarick's guardians and lesser NPCs (with appearance and abilities originally created by his guild mates, but their personalities only manifested after their arrival) are about one-and-a-half times the level of most heroes and legendary adventurers.
    • Magic is divided into ten tiers. A human able to cast 2nd-tier spells is considered an accomplished mage and those able to cast 3rd-tier magic are mages to be taken seriously. In fact, most people cannot learn anything higher due to their low level cap. The 4th-tier is very rare and the expectation for the handpicked students of The Archmage, and 5th-tier being the domain of legendary heroes. The only living person even known to cast 6th-tier magic is said Archmage himself, the hundreds of years-old Fluder Paradyne. 7th-tier magic is only known to be cast by the highly advance Slain Theocracy in massive city wide rituals. 10th-tier magic is entirely hypothetical, as it's only known through a Tome of Eldritch Lore. For the serious Yggdrasil PvPer such as Ainz, magic below the 8th-tier was broadly considered too weak for any real combat. Ainz can cheerfully cast 10th-tier and above (called Super-tier, which can only be cast a few times a day) spells, and many times he obliterates the opposition by overestimating them and breaking out the big guns.
    • In short: Imagine starting a New Game+ with an epic-level Dungeons & Dragons character, gear, loot, levels and all (DnD being a strong influence on the world's mechanics).
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash's Charizard is, for most of Kanto, the Orange Islands and the first part of Johto, the strongest Pokémon on Ash's team. Then they come across Charicific Valley, which houses the strongest Charizard on the planet. Charizard learns the hard way that he isn't nearly top-class within his own species, and decides to stay in the valley to train. He then averts it increasingly during every following appearance, growing visibly larger and more powerful and, by the time of the Battle Frontier season, he can throw down with legendary Pokémon.
    • The original head writer's personal notes and bible of the series, Pocket Monsters: The Animation, has this in play. Pallet Town, Masara Town in Japanese, is named after Masara Oak, the most skilled trainer to ever have come out of Pallet Town. The town was renamed in his honor, he had a statue placed for him in the center of town, and his grandsons became the town's mayor, postmaster, and famous Professor/local eccentric scientist. His ranking out of a thousand: 921. The conflict between the higher executives' vision and the vision of Shudo, said head writer, never did get to a point of addressing if Ash or Gary ever ranked higher than 921, and if such the town would have been renamed Ashburg or Garyville.
      • Although it's notable Pocket Monsters: The Animation breaches heavily into alternate continuity, as well as being far more cynical than the anime, basically to the point of deconstruction. Among massive changes are Pallet Town's visible poverty and criminal problems, Gym Leaders losing their license after any 4 consecutive losses to challengers, and Gym Leaders bribing challengers to not lose (greatly contradicting how Misty's sisters basically gave up badges without any worry), Brock's father not appearing, and his siblings having various fathers, Ash never getting a Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. So it's doubtful how canonical to the anime concepts in the Pocket Monsters: The Animation light novels are, if at all, especially seeing Takeshi Shudo himself used Charmander/Charmeleon/Charizard in multiple episodes and movies he directly wrote. So the revelation of the strongest trainer to ever come out of Pallet Town being quite weak in the grand scale just seems to be another part of the light novel being more cynical and deconstructive toward the anime and the franchise.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Saito points this out in regards to Sanosuke, stating that while his abilities may make him one of the strongest fighters in Tokyo, he doesn't match up to either him or Kenshin (who are some of the strongest fighters in Japan due to their experiences in the Bakumatsu). It's eventually subverted, as Sanosuke becomes strong enough to hold his own even if he's not quite as powerful.
  • Hawk from The Seven Deadly Sins is a creature from purgatory. He is not particularly strong, but very resilient. Two holy knights cannot injure him with their attacks. When Meliodas and Ban get into purgatory much later in the anime, they meet Hawk's brother. His species is very weak compared to the other creatures of Purgatory.
    • The first season featured monstrous looking demons that were either red or gray. It was an uphill battle for the heroes to defeat even one of them. When the gate to purgatory is opened later, the heroes quickly realize that these two demon species are absolute weaklings compared to the other demons.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What?, the reincarnators aside from Kumoko are all born with thousands of skill points to spend, where most children in the world are born with none. Rather than another perk given to them by Evil God D, this is the result of the System having exhausted the souls trapped on this planet. The reincarnators have "fresh" souls with plenty of energy for the System to mold into new skills. And the reason why Kumoko has so few? Because while she is a "fresh" soul too, her soul is that of a simple spider with her "memories" being implanted by Evil God D that gave her sapience.
    • Initially, Kumoko has to fight against a giant snake that turns out to be her most powerful enemy to date, to the point that she only manages to defeat him with a combination of strategy and luck. When Kumoko accidentally falls into the second-lowest layer of Great Elro Labyrinth, it turns out that the same snake is treated like a normal Mob.
  • This trope is half the primary joke of the light novel/manga series Suppose a Kid from the Last Dungeon Boonies Moved to a Starter Town. Lloyd Belladonna is the weakest man in the village of Kunlun, and knows it. But when he leaves his small mountain town and moves to the big city, it turns out that he's only weak by the standards of Kunlun. In RPG terms, he's level 60 and thinks he's weak because everyone he grew up with has already reached level 75 or higher, and now lives in a place where the previous strongest man in town was level 10. The other half of the primary joke is that he honestly doesn't understand this, and thinks that the incredible feats he's able to pull off from being so overpowered for the area are just routine tasks, to the amazement of everyone else who sees him.
  • In Tenchi Muyo: War on Geminar, Kenshi Masaki says he was a weakling and idiot compared to his more famous brother Tenchi and Tenchi's Unwanted Harem...which is true given that some of them are Physical Gods. On the planet Geminar, Kenchi's strength, speed, and skills are vastly superior to most of the people there. He can casually lift a concrete slab with one hand that two workers couldn't budge.
  • In Toriko, the chapter that introduced the Four Beast explained that some of the Human World's most dangerous beasts are merely the ones who were too weak to compete in the Gourmet World. The text then mentions that the Four Beast is an exception, since it came to the Human World because it preferred to eat humans.
  • In The Useless Senpai and The Talented Kouhai, Tsukioka, the eponymous taleted kouhai, is a downplayed case of this. She's a talented basketball player, but Ochiai, the useless senpai, remarks that their school's team is rather weak, so Tsukioka stands out all the more easily.
  • Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon has Towa. Towa is a half-demon who grew up in the modern age, in which, for unknown reasons, there are no more demons and half-demons. Stronger than a human could ever be, she had to promise Sota, her adoptive father, that she would never use her true strength against an ordinary person. But even if she is very reserved, she is still extremely strong, so she could defeat a whole group of gangsters without even having to make an effort. She has also collected a lot of sports trophies. When she travels through the magic tree into feudal times, she is no longer so impressive there. Of course, Towa is one of the strongest characters there, too, but in a world where there are many superhumanly strong persons, she is just a lot less outstanding.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! A filler episode had a guy in the arcade named Johnny Steps getting angry because Tea was handing his ass to him in a dancing game. He got aggressive because of this, and eventually challenged Yugi to a duel, with predictable results. When he complains about how easy Tea had it, being talented, she points out that the difference between them is this trope. While the guy gave up once he faced the bigger world and found out his limits, Tea was aware she had to grow, and instead of giving up took her failures as a motivation to grow and a way to see her shortcomings.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX gradually deconstructs this with Zane. In Season One, Zane is considered the best duelist at the school, to the point that dueling him is itself considered a privilege. As a result, Zane had no one to challenge him as a duelist, and thus he never had any need or reason to evolve his deck or change up his strategies. He also never needed to learn how to deal with failure, and it's this point in particular that sends him spiraling off the deep end in Season Two, when he becomes a professional duelist and subsequently finds himself on a losing streak for the first time in his life.
    • The deconstruction continues more subtly in later seasons. Zane never actually loses the attitude he got in duelist academy. Even though he becomes a more powerful duelist, it's mostly because he gets a forbidden deck, but unlike the other duelists he doesn't keep curating it but just swaps for that one and keeps it, looking not for growth but for a perfect, final duel. He got big in the new pond, and settled. This lead his deck to actively revolt against him to the point of physically hurting and almost killing him because they wanted to keep growing. On the other hand his brother, who didn't have the same raw talent, but learn to challenge himself, manages to create an evolved version of that deck and surpass him.
  • C- and B-class demons in YuYu Hakusho, for the standards of the demonic world, are simple middle class demons. But being the strongest demons that can cross the Kekkai barrier, means that they are the most dangerous threats that can be found in the human world. (Not counting Sensui.) Yusuke is shocked when he learns that Toguro was only in the B-Class.
  • In Zipang, a Japanese Aegis destroyer gets sucked back in time to WW2. In our time, an Aegis destroyer is merely a small part of the war machine. In WW2, it's powerful enough even by itself that it can change the course of the war. Similar to The Final Countdown, the key moral question is whether it should.

    Comic Books 
  • Part of the driving force behind Aquaman's ascent from maligned third-stringer to one of DC's heaviest hitters (literally!) was people realising that the Required Secondary Powers that enable him to swim at high speeds and throw a worthwhile punch under several hundred atmospheres of pressure would turn him into a standout example of this trope, granting the kind of Super Strength and Super Toughness that puts him in the same league as Kryptonians and Themiscyrans when he's on the surface.
  • Booster Gold was originally less than a muggle, he was a total loser: an ex-football player from the 25th century disgraced by betting on his own games, who ends up as the security guard of a museum. He steals a time travel device, a Force Field, a Legion Flight Ring, and a Robot Buddy and transports himself to present day...and has surprisingly become a great hero despite himself.
  • Captain Atom is generally considered a second-tier hero at best in the mainstream DC Universe, however, when he is transported to the WildStorm universe, he proves to be almost unstoppable, all but casually walking through The Authority, that world's mightiest "heroes". Of course, part of this is that Captain Atom holds back a lot.
  • This effect is used to great extent in Gotham Central, which typically has normal Gotham cops going against normal Gotham crooks. Even D-List Batman villains are a big deal whenever they appear, and when a true A-lister like Mr. Freeze or The Joker appear, they are story-arc villains that the police are as powerless to stop as if they were Cthulhu.
  • Inverted with Hunter Rose, the Genius Bruiser Diabolical Mastermind who is the original Grendel. In his own universe, he's so powerful a Badass Normal that only a superstrong werewolf has a chance of beating him. However, in the crossover series with Batman and The Shadow, he provides a decent challenge to both of them but ends up getting his ass kicked both times, as they're used to fighting high-grade Badass Normal costumed villains.
  • There was a series of one-shot comics in the late 1990's called Just Imagine... Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe. The "Superman" adaptation was an alien cop named Saldan, a normal guy who ended up chasing a serial killer into an experimental spacecraft and ending up on Earth. Saldan discovered Earth's gravity was absurdly weak and human language was childishly simple, allowing him to settle in pretty effortlessly as a popular superhero. Solar energy wasn't a factor — like Siegal and Schuster's early concept of Superman, Saldan was just built for a much harsher world in which he was considered normal.
  • Played incredibly straight by Colossal Boy in the 2004 version of Legion of Super-Heroes. At first glance he has the power to grow to gigantic sizes, but in reality he’s a member of a race of giants who live in an isolated city in Antarctica, and his actual power is the ability to shrink to a “mere” six feet tall. Back home they call him Micro Lad.
  • Martian Manhunter is a completely normal Martian... which means he's a shapeshifting psychic who's as strong as Superman.
  • This is essentially the premise for Mark Millar's Marvel 1985, in which Marvel supervillains begin appearing in our world—but no heroes. In a world without super-powers or super-science, even a guy like Stilt-Man can be a terror.
  • Spider-Man villain Shocker attempts to invoke this in Ms. Marvel (2014) when he moves to New Jersey, reasoning that while he is not high on the totem pole in New York, which is filled with superheroes and villains, in Jersey there is so little of either he will easily become king of the hill. However, when he fights Ms. Marvel, he fares little better than a normal Villain of the Week, and Kamala struggles more with her powers going on the fritz at the time.
  • Nemesis the Warlock is well-respected among his race, but is not portrayed as being extraordinarily powerful. In fact, his crazy uncle Baal is said to have much greater power than him and he can be put on a spell even by young and inexperienced female Warlock (as they are by default more powerful than males) and the only thing that makes him special is being in the possession of the Sword Sinister, through it's unexplained why. Compared to humans and other races he is however seen almost as a godlike being and Galaxy's only hope against the Termight Empire.
  • Mister Miracle is generally depicted as a Gadgeteer Genius and Technical Pacifist Guile Hero. He’s nowhere near as strong as more martially-oriented New Gods like his wife Barda, Kalibak or Orion, all of whom can take Superman and Wonder Woman in a straight fight. Nor does he (usually) have the flashy energy powers some New Gods have, physically he’s just an average New God. Which means he could rip the average human apart like damp cardboard if he wanted to.
  • The Punisher has a huge bodycount for a non-powered hero. However, this is mostly because he deals with street-level criminals, non-powered ones and low-powered ones— they have just enough guns and muscles to intimidate civilians and run rackets, but are completely out of their depth against a trained soldier who hates them personally. This applies to both the superhumans he kills (e.g. one of the Vultures, who was strong but not Immune to Bullets... or knives) and the regular thugs (who are unarmored, usually only carrying handguns, and have no combat training or relevant experience). When higher level superheroes/villains get on his case, his plan almost always involves distracting/hobbling them so he can run away, having no chance against them (though he does try to kill the villainous ones). That said, The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe exists...
    • "The Slavers" arc from the MAX imprint is a good example — having just dumped his latest victims' automatic weapons into a lake, he's nearly defenseless when a bunch of Bosnian Serb (war) criminals show up. Where gang bangers and mobsters start shooting at random with their handguns Gangsta Style, these guys just slip back into the habits that kept them alive and victorious in the Balkans, forcing Frank to flee.
  • Spider-Man:
    • For Marvel world standards, Spider-Man is not that special, being overshadowed by many superheroes like Thor, Hercules or The Incredible Hulk. But by street-level standards, Spider-Man is one of the most powerful heroes, being a Lightning bruiser capable of lifting tanks and surprising Daredevil with his speed.
    • In Spider-Man 2099, this is how Lyla describes herself. In 2099, she is commonplace, but in 2015 she is beyond cutting edge and can hack absolutely anything.
    • Venom:
      • As Venom, Brock never fared that well when he branched out and fought other heroes (Darkhawk, Daredevil and Seige, Iron Man, Quasar, etc.) besides Spider-Man, who he was a nightmare for due to being more powerful, knowing his secret identity, and being immune to his Spider Sense. The Amazing Spider-Man #317 includes a scene where Eddie visits an oblivious Aunt May as a means of intimidating Pete into no longer asking for help from any of his superfriends like the Fantastic Four, making it clear that if Pete won't keep their feud just between the two of them, then he won't either. Averted during his stints as Toxin and Anti-Venom, where he can kick a lot of ass. Mac Gargan and Flash Thompson also never ran into this problem, presumably because they already were an experienced supervillain and soldier, respectively. In his second stint as Venom, he has so far not really run into this problem, presumably owing to the Symbiote being more powerful and Brock being more experienced.
      • Lampshaded in Venom Annual #1, where a group of villains at the Bar with No Name tell each other Venom stories. Black Cat speaks of how she once got the jump on him and kicked him into an exploding car, the bartender speaks of how Venom once fought Wolverine, who mocked him for picking only on Spider-Man and got the better of him in that particular bout, and lastly a third patron speaks of how Venom once went toe-to-toe with Juggernaut - while claiming the entire time that Venom was out of his depth and got curb-stomped, although the actual flashback shows Venom fending him off. Mac Gargan — who once was Venom himself, mind you — starts outright mocking Venom and asking why anything he just heard should give him the scares. Then it turns out the third patron was Venom in disguise and he sends the bar's entire patronage running for their lives. Mac Gargan is not amongst the lucky ones, with the ending of the issue implying that Venom ate him, though later it would be revealed that he survived.
  • Superman:
    • The Man of Steel himself looks at first sight like a prime example. He's a completely normal Kryptonian, but the completely normal ability of Kryptonians to absorb solar energy makes him on Earth, well, Superman. Then averted in the (many) instances when he loses his powers or fights against other Kryptonians or overwhelmingly god-like beings, showing him to be a resourceful, intelligent and absolutely relentless warrior and leader ready to face the apocalypse and save the world no matter what.
    • Back in the Golden Age the ultimate source of his powers was that he had the body of a man meant to live on a high-gravity world like Krypton while actually living on the relatively low-gravity world of Earth.
    • The same principle was used in Stan Lee's version of Superman.
    • Supergirl comes across as a Physical God as well as a super-genius to Earth people, but back in Argo City, she was a normal, ordinary Kryptonian girl. The only thing remarkable about her were her parents (or, depending on the version, only her father).
    • One story in the Silver Age had Jimmy Olsen go to another world, where the low gravity meant he had the equivalent of Superman-level abilities.
    • Mr Mxyzptlk, the imp who occasionally pops over from the Fifth Dimension to bug Superman, was said in his first appearance to be a nobody in his home dimension, where his powers are nothing out of the ordinary.
    • In the Superman/Batman story "Torment", The Scarecrow betrays Desaad and sprays him with fear toxin, but it has no effect. Desaad angrily points out that just because he's a wimp compared to most superheroes and supervillains doesn't change the fact that he's a god. He proceeds to beat the crap out of Scarecrow and strap him to a table for torment.
    • Superboy Prime is an interesting example. Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, he was just one among the many versions of Superman across the multiverse (all of them with Silver Age-level power - through, Prime had no weakness to Kryptonite and magic). But, when he emerged into the DC Post-Crisis universe in Infinite Crisis, he effectively became the strongest Superman of them all, since he retained his pre-Crisis power level - whereas the newer versions of Superman could withstand supernovas, Superboy Prime could withstand Big Bangs.
  • Thunderbolts showed Baron Zemo, who has no superpowers, being a great fighter. Kurt Busiek answered inquiring readers that being good enough to last a few minutes against Captain America ought to mean you can wipe the floor with most other people.
  • Inverted in Tim Boo Ba, a pre-Fantastic Four monster story from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. TBB is the absolute monarch of his world, brought down by a drop of water spilled by a preteen boy on the model world he lives in.
  • In Vampirella's Warren years she was an inhabitant of the planet Drakulon and never said to be particularly powerful for one of them. That still made her superpowered compared to humans.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Special Kind Of Magic, Noafumi is indicated to be an average sorcerer in the MCU, but this still puts him above all the other heroes by a lot, due to all the weird things that happen in the MCU.
  • The Rise of the Enclave sees the Farsight Enclaves from Warhammer 40,000 get transported into the Mass Effect universe. By the standards of 40k, the Farsight Enclaves are one of the weakest factions in the galaxy. They are a small splinter group of the Tau Empire (arguably the least powerful of the major factions). However, in the Mass Effect universe, the Farsight Enclaves are seen as a Galactic Superpower, with their technology and warships being far beyond anything the Citadel Council has.
  • This is hilariously shown in Dragon Ball Z Abridged's "Cell vs" shorts. Various characters such as Yusuke Urameshi and Ash Ketchum show up to try their hand in the Cell Games. The results are predictable. Mostly.
  • In My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, Dementia, Mysterious and Rep-Stallion have lost to Starfleet several times. So, they travel to Equestria. Since the story is a Hate Fic, the Equestrians are portrayed as too weak to fight back and get enslaved, making Equestria the tiny pond.
  • Stormwolf Adventures has the vampires. They think they are the supreme race and are used to nobody being able to fight back against them. Then they meet the Jedi, who can and do cut them down en masse, and the demons, who are far more dangerous monsters.
  • At the end of Thousand Shinji, Shinji unleashes four Chaos Space Marines against NERV special forces. While normal for Warhammer 40,000, a Space Marine against normal humans is downright overkill.
  • A Gamer In South Blue: The Grand Line may be on the same planet as the four Blues, but the power difference is easily enough to count for this trope.
    • "Oaken Fist" Kowalik journeyed through the Grand Line twice in his life. Both trips were disasters, so he invoked this trope by using the powers and the strength that he gained to make a living in the South Blue instead.
    • Protagonist Jack also counts, as his Gamer powers have allowed him access to some techniques that only Grand Line elites can learn, like the Six Powers and Life Return.
  • Example related to the above; in The Mission Stays the Same, Captain Gallardi starts off as an Elite Mook with a slightly better than average gun, and Maeteris is young for an Eldar Farseer. Once they arrive in the Mass Effect universe, though, Gallardi's lasgun can punch through most armor and shielding with little difficulty, and Maeteris' abilities allow her not only to see upcoming danger, but destroy multiple squads of enemies by herself.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fires That Weren't All My fault, Harry Dresden is this in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. Dresden is, in his world, a supernatural middle-weight. While he's got a lot of raw power for a human wizard, he's half a century or more from his magical prime, there's a lot that he doesn't know, his magical stamina is likewise a work in progress, and in his world, human wizards are hindered by the Laws of Magic and are nowhere near the top of the tree for raw power (they tend to do their best work when they have time to prepare). However, he's now in a Low Fantasy world where his abilities make him a fully fledged Person of Mass Destruction - and that's before his powers as the Winter Knight re-emerge, and make him a Magic Knight. Consequently, the only thing that has a prayer of taking him on anywhere close to evenly is a full grown dragon - which, understandably, are in rather short supply when the story begins (though that changes as time goes on).
  • Inverted in Sleeping with the Girls as the protagonist finds himself suddenly far more fragile in other universes due to them involving over-the-top Slap Stick violence with everyone trying to give him a Megaton Punch and him just being a normal human. This trope is also played straight, though, as the protagonist comes from our world, which has no magic. Thusly, when he goes to other worlds that do have magic, he isn't hurt by magical attacks at all. He can still be hurt or killed by magical side effects, such as the heat of a fireball causing his clothes to burn or to boil water he's drinking.
  • Darth Vulcan in The Rise of Darth Vulcan finds himself transported to the world of Equestria and sets himself up as a Villain in order to survive long enough to find a way to remove the Alicorn Amulet from him and return home again. Due to him being a closet-geek-turned-bully that had plenty of experience playing Strategy Games, reading over the Villains' Handbook for the Do's and Don'ts of being an Evil Overlord, and general savviness: he easily runs entire circles around the Princesses, Element Bearers, and the Royal Guard who before were only used to dealing with posturing villains like Discord and Queen Chrysalis that were easily defeated. And he does all this without incurring any fatalities on either side due to his adherence to Thou Shall Not Kill as a cardinal rule to his mayhem, with the only actual people that Darth Vulcan had confirmed to have killed were other Villains and their minions. When he makes his big escape from Canterlot after being captured as the city slowly threatens to fall off the mountain because of Luna's actions in trying to catch him, he just leaves them to their fate so he could escape, and was called out on this by Princess Cadence who referred to him as a Monster. The trope kicks into full-gear as Darth Vulcan stops to explain to Cadence that his own world is filled with lying, cruel, and despicable people that do far worse things than he has done, things which by all accounts would make Ted the closest thing to a saint in his world.
    Darth Vulcan: I'm a monster? There's a thousand monsters, from least to greatest, where I come from. I'M NOT EVEN ON THE LIST!
  • The Thessalonica Legacy: Ramirez's Valkyrie is a Light 'Mech, bottom of the totem pole, and not even the best of that bottom-dweller pack. Without any other 'Mechs in Equestria to compete with, though, it is the absolute sovereign of the battlefield.
  • In the Ranma ½ fanfic, Akane's Terrible Day, in response to suggestions that Akane is weak, the author points out that while nowhere near Ranma's league, Akane is far stronger than most "normal" people in the setting.
  • Harry Potter appears to be this in The Wizard in the Shadows, until it is quite spectacularly established that he is crazy powerful even by Potterverse standards.
  • The Nations in Hetalia: Axis Powers come across as rather powerful beings when compared to humans in some fics, although among themselves they think each other as somewhat normal.
  • Milo from Harry Potter and the Natural 20 isn't a particularly powerful Wizard by D&D standards, but he can pull things that the Potterverse can't, which sorta makes up for what the Potterverse wizards can do but not him. On the other and substantially more frightening side of the equation, there's the witch who got sent over, strongly implied to be Bellatrix Lestrange, who is not bound by The Rules of Milo's world and stomps his old party with ease.
  • Enforced in one Naruto fic. After the Fourth Shinobi War, Naruto is given a mission to beat the chuunin exam "like a rented mule. Like it owed him money. Like he wanted revenge." After all, when it comes to ringers, it's hard to beat an S-Rank genin.
  • Tatsuki in After The Fairy Tale Ends. She's one of the strongest students at the shinigami academy and is receiving hakuda training from Soifon and Yoruichi. However, despite what she thinks, she can't take Ichigo (sneaked into the academy by his friends) in a strictly hand-to-hand fight. As Ichigo put it, "Come back when you've got a captain's haori. Matter of fact, come back when you've got a captain's haori and two friends that also have captain's haoris. No, better make that ''three'' friends, because by the time you're at that level it will take at least ''four'' captains to hold me back."
  • In Gray Morality, Sakuya Izayoi is summoned to be Louise's familiar. While Sakuya is rather powerful in Gensokyo, several characters like her mistress Remilia Scarlet are magnitudes greater than her, and most inhabitants can survive a knife to the gut. She's practically invincible in Halkeginia, especially since she's no longer restricted by the spell card battle rules.
  • Mass Effect: Clash of Civilizations: Many of the technologies that the UNSC take for granted, such as artificial gravity, slipspace, and crystal computational devices, are utterly amazing to the Citadel Races, largely because they did this without any Element Zero, which was thought to be essential for the first two technologies, at least. That being said, the UNSC has no knowledge of Biotics, Mass Effect weapons, and many other advances the Citadel takes for granted.
  • The Light of Remnant establishes that the heroes and villains of RWBY may be among the most powerful fighters in Remnant, but most of them are small-fry compared to the main heroes and villains of the Kingdom Hearts universe. In one scene, Mercury kicks Sora in the head, and is shocked when it doesn't snap his neck or even knock him unconscious. Sora remarks that his kick is strong, but nothing compared to a kick from Larxene.
  • In Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto, Naruto is S-rank by graduation. However, the weakest of his major enemies are also S-rank. At one point, Shizaru beat Naruto so badly that when Yugito brought him to the hospital, the medics mistook him for a mangled corpse.
  • Naruto in Just A Boy in a Ninja Mask ends up in the Sailor Moon world. Despite being the dead last in all aspects and rather short compared to his old classmates, in Japan he's smart enough to skip two grades on top of being taller along with far stronger and faster than any of his peers.
  • In The Watchman, Warren thinks that because he has magic orbs that allow him to fight a Slayer evenly, he's invincible. Unfortunately for him, Warren seriously pissed off Xander who's become The Sentry. Xander makes an example of Warren by ripping off his head, vaporizing the body, then dropping his severed head off at a local demon bar as a warning.
  • In Emergence, Team RWBY are decent fighters in their native Remnant, able to handle the average mook with ease, but still outclassed by graduated Huntsmen and those who can fight them equally. On Earth, they're virtually Goddesses of War - one character is told that should they go berserk, he has to go for the anti-tank weapons, because our standard bullets sting at best.
  • In A Thin Veneer, the Minbari have to face 2293-era Starfleet and Klingon warships. The Minbari soon find themselves outclassed hard.
  • Gets even worse in Shielded Under the Raptor's Wings, a fanfic with the same premise but a different interpretation of ST canon, as the Romulans gets involved too... And their older fusion-powered warships prove almost as formidable as their newer antimatter-powered ships (derived from Klingon designs) and the Klingon and Federation ships, while not having the logistic constraint caused by needing antimatter.
  • Venus Flash, a crossover between the manga versions of Sailor Moon and Cutey Honey, portrays accurately the difference in power between the members of the revived Panther Claw and Sailor Venus (who is still having troubles with her full power of the first story arc and thus is far weaker than how she would be when she finally showed up in the manga) and the Dark Kingdom, as best shown when Honey threw a nytroglicerine bottle on a strong youma's face and barely harmed it (in the manga a nytroglicerine spit had killed a Panther Claw kaijin), but surprisingly averts it with Honey herself: while her physical abilities are still far behind what the Dark Kingdom's youma have, her having modified the Airborne Element Fixing Device (the device that grants her transformation powers by rearranging atoms from air and her own body) to work with everything is a Game-Breaker, as she can disintegrate the enemy and turn them into food (or whatever she wants. She prefers food because her powers are recharged by eating). Sailor Venus herself was pretty scared when she saw her doing it the first time...
  • In Opening Dangerous Gates, an "average" shinigami or arrancar from the Bleach universe is many times more powerful than all but the most top tier characters of Fairy Tail.
  • Mass Effect: Human Revolution: Marcus is young and weak for a roegadyn, which means he is still stronger and tougher than most other races. In his introductory chapter, he grabs a knife by the blade with his bare hand and isn't even cut.
  • Happens in the remake of Battle Fantasia Project: as soon as the Veil is deactivated, the various different magical groups get exposed to each other, with some finding themselves badly outmatched:
    • Upon remembering of his encounter with Altrouge Brunestud, Phobos, a powerful mage in his own right and a capable Chessmaster, cries out in terror, reveals to Kandrakar the plan that would have allowed him to sneakily take over, and returns to his cell (to be fair, once he doesn't have a whole planet supplying him with magic Phobos isn't particularly dangerous in combat even for W.I.T.C.H.'s standards, and it's implied the only reason he was still around was that he reincarnates with all his memories every time he's killed and did not let himself get caught alive until the current generation of Guardians managed to get the drop on him);
    • Enhance is explicitly the weakest of the Dead Apostle Ancestors, and to fight the others he has to rely on them being Squishy Wizards. Trhvmn Ortenrosse is a stronger Dead Apostle Ancestor, but isn't comparable in power to the top 10 (his strongest point being he's not a Squishy Wizard like most other Dead Apostle Ancestors). When they find themselves together fighting against a Nightmare Factory branch, they casually tear through their forces without even trying. Then the Nightmare Factory tries his Heroic BSoD-inducing nightmares... At which point Ortenrosse takes offence they tried to scare those who cause nightmares to the scariest things on the planet, and wipes them out. Remember, neither of them is even close to be the strongest or scariest of the Dead Apostle Ancestors.
      • It's worth pointing out that when the bullet above says that most Dead Apostle Ancestors are Squishy Wizards it says it for Dead Apostle Ancestors standards: every single Dead Apostle Ancestor is hellishly difficult to damage for anyone who is not in their league thanks to their enormous magical power, and even then they have an absolutely ludicrous Healing Factor (whenever they're wounded, their Curse of Restauration turns the body back in time to just before they were wounded. The strongest the Dead Apostle or similar vampiric creature is, the greater the damage they can heal this way). The reason Enhance and Ortenrosse make the others look Squishy is that they were very physically strong to begin with before being turned, what with the former being former military and the latter being from the Greece of the Heroic Age (when everyone had an Heroic Build and knew how to use it).
    • The opening fight of the story has a powerful Nightmare Factory group facing off against Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa, Cure Black, Cure White and Shiny Luminous, and get annihilated. At the same time, Minako Aino muses that Sailor Moon at her first outing could have fought a dozen of the Mooks and won, and that she alone would have probably wiped them out.
  • In Harmony Theory, while Rainbow Dash and the other members of the Mane Six are pretty powerful, they are still within the normal abilities of their races. Then Dash finds herself 1000 years in the future (eventually followed by the others), where ambient magic has been reduced and much knowledge has been lost, making the inhabitants a lot weaker. For instance, Pegasi have forgotten how to walk on clouds, control the weather, can't fly very fast, and are not strong enough to fly while carrying another pony. Earth Ponies have lost a lot of their strength and speed and their connection with the earth and plant life. Unicorns have relatively weak telekinesis and can't manipulate a lot of objects at once or with fine control. The inhabitants tend to see the ponies of the past as Super Soldiers. Also, the inhabitants are Made of Plasticine compared to the ponies of the past. When Rarity gets shot in the head, the impact of the bullet only knocks her unconscious, while everyone is shocked that it didn't make her head explode.
  • Subverted in The Illusive Emperor. Miranda Lawson thinks that John Shepard must be the only competent member of his class to receive every single award at graduation. When she sees John duel another student, she realizes that all of the graduates are highly skilled; John's just that good.
    • Britannian biotics in general are considerably more powerful and far more dangerous than Terran Systems Alliance ones due to the Turians culling 90% of TSA biotics. Because they can afford the losses, Britannian biotics are encouraged to experiment with their powers rather than sticking to the standard attacks other biotics use, resulting the creation of Flash Step, Teleportation, and the strongest can perform biotic artillery strikes.
  • Lampshaded in A Different First Crewmember when Shanks (who is not yet a Yonkou) can use his observation haki over the entirety of the East Blue specifically because it's so weak that no one else's haki causes interference.
  • Inverted in Nanosuits And Soul Magic. On Crysis Earth, Alcatraz was the most powerful soldier Mankind had. On Remnant, even basic Grimm mooks and Squishy Wizards like Velvet give him a run for his money.
    • Although in some ways played straight and zig-zagged, as he is stated to still be leagues above the average soldier on Remnant, and he is highly skilled and versatile, so while in some ways he is weak compared to the average Hunter, in other ways he exceeds them (can turn invisible and walk silently, has far better senses and reflexes, has a supercomputer for a brain, is still able to run faster than many Hunters, can tell when someone is lying), and it is balanced out by Aura only protecting people if they consciously raise it and keep it active (meaning he can defeat even the strongest Hunter if he manages to sneak up on them). This is shown when he is able to spot an assassin, calculate the trajectory of the assassin's bullet, and knock the bullet off course within the span of four seconds, then is the only one besides Ruby able to keep up with him, and is able to tell the assassin is playing dead by reading his biometrics.
  • In Zero no Tsukaima: Saito the Onmyoji Saito is only a newly-accredited Onmyoji. However, due to a number of different factors, he's able to go toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful and skilled Halkaginian mages.
  • Downplayed in Supernova (One Piece) where Luffy is a large fish in a tiny pond. In the Grand Line, his logia powers and skill with Rokushiki make him a highly dangerous fighter, but in the East Blue no one can even attack him without hurting themselves ever since he became a sun man.
  • Zig-zagged in Memoirs of a Reality Jumper. Alex isn't anywhere near as strong as a pony, but notably has far better senses. Whereas a playful punch is actually rather painful to him and he's only as strong as Apple Bloom (a very young foal), he can tell his roof has been fixed before Rainbow Dash or Applejack can even see his house and when Twilight thinks he smells "a little sweaty", Alex absolutely reeks to his own nose..
  • An odd variation comes up in Clockwork and a Teacup where the Self-Insert replacing Sakura is an incredibly potent chakra sensor due to being from a universe without it. Not only is her sensor ability passive (considerably rarer than active), but her range covers over a mile with near perfect details and she can recognize roughly 90% of the village by chakra alone.
  • This is a Fandom-Specific Plot for The Rising of the Shield Hero crossovers, where Naofumi is replaced by someone who in his home universe was far stronger and more competent as a hero but had competition while he's far more formidable in Melromarc. Brought to the (il)logical extreme with The Hero Melromarc Needs and Deserves, as Cancer Deathmask, in addition to be a Sociopathic Hero at best, can move at the speed of light and cause enormous destruction with a punch among his many powers.
  • The German booklet series Maddrax has the hydrites. They are physically weaker than humans, and also not so resistant. However, they can have progeny along with humans, which are called mendrites. Mendrites are stronger in their physical abilities than hydrites. And while, according to the standards of hydrites, they are really strong and tenacious, they are on average strong and resistant according to the standards of humans.
  • Luffy and Makino in Stallion of the Line end up this way to varying degrees. Both have some level of skill in the main variations of haki along with rokushiki while still sailing in the East Blue. Even though Makino only has enough haki to coat her hands and only for a few seconds, and is nowhere near as skilled with rokushiki as Luffy (or any of CP9), she's still pretty much unstoppable in the East Blue while being a decent fighter in Paradise. Luffy on the other hand is far more skilled with armaments haki (though he has little skill with observation) and conqueror's haki on top of using all of the rokushiki with ease. All of that on top of being a sorta reincarnation of Ranma Saotome (and thus knowing all his techniques) puts makes Luffy incredibly dangerous even in Paradise, though he has to actually work for his victories.
  • Fates Collide: Before Jaune Arc came along, Okita Souji was considered the weakest Saber in Chaldea Academy. She's still a master swordswoman who overwhelms Blake Belladonna in combat.
  • Service with a Smile:
    • Huntsmen in training like Russel, Velvet, and even Pyrrha seem superhuman to civilians but veteran hunters would have no problem taking them down. Pyrrha herself notes that while she can take on an entire team in school, a veteran would easily bend her over their knee.
    • Alexander Sterling is a fairly important business man in Vale, especially in the coffee industry, but to someone like Jacques Schnee, he's no more important or influential than someone selling hotdogs out of a cart. This becomes a major problem for Stirling when he unwittingly insults the Schnee name.
    • Sterling's bodyguard/thug is pretty tough compared to a normal civilian, but is helpless before Velvet, Huntress in training.
  • In canon, Gow gave Zuko a difficult fight until the latter broke out his firebending. In Avatar: Flare of Redemption, he's shown to be completely outclassed by an actual earthbender soldier with real combat experience.
  • Dekiru: The Fusion Hero!:
    • Subverted with Katsuki Bakugo, whose ego, while big, is much more manageable than it is in canon due to his friendship with Izuku having never fallen apart. While Katsuki still thinks very highly of his Quirk, he's perfectly aware that he still has far to go and strives to be the very best he can be.
    • Played straight with Shoto Todoroki. While his Quirk is still the most powerful in Class 1-A in regards to raw power, it lacks the natural versatility that his classmates' Quirks have making it unsuited to certain aspects of hero work. Then there's Izuku's Human Fusion technique, which takes said versatility, dials it Up to Eleven, and then combines that with the raw power of One for All. Needless to say, those fusions blow anything Shoto can do completely out of the water, much to his frustration.
  • Man off the Moon: Emiya is mediocre for a Heroic Spirit, but that still leaves him physically unrivalled amongst the mortals of the galaxy, and even as very narrow and specialised his grasp of magic is, it still is an Outside-Context Problem.
  • Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!: Izuku Midoriya, being a Composite Character with Superman, one of the most overpowered characters ever created in fiction, tends to induce this among his classmates in UA.
    • Subverted with Katsuki Bakugou; thanks to being Childhood Friends with Izuku and thus living in his shadow all their lives, he is perfectly aware of how far he still needs to go as a hero. So, while his ego is still sizable, it's mostly under control when he finally starts at UA.
    • Played straight with Shouto Todoroki. As the son of the Number Two hero and having been bred specifically to have a Quirk that would allow him to surpass All Might, Shouto's ego has swelled significantly, much to his detriment. When he enters UA, that ego receives repeated beatings due to his classmates having high-level superpowers as well, with at least two explicitly more powerful than himnote . This is especially prevalent with Izuku, who outstrips Shouto without even trying. As a result, this causes him to act recklessly in numerous instances to prove himself better than Izuku and reassert his superiority.
  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: Angra Mainyu is considered one of the weakest Servants, but on Remnant, he is very powerful by their standards. What helps Angra is that the Grimm actively supercharge his powers, making him a Man of Kryptonite to them.
  • My Heroes Reborn: Downplayed with Izuku after he awakens Past-Life Memories and abilities as "Black Leg" Sanji. Since this is a theoretical Sanji from post-One Piece canon, in the Grand Line he was a "one step below uber-tier" combatant. Powerful, but not the most powerful. In My Hero Academia, the only thing stopping him from curb-stomping everyone short of All Might and All For One is Sanji's personality flaws (specifically, his Wouldn't Hit a Girl tendencies) and Plot Armor.
  • In crossover fanfiction Point Me at the Skyrim:
    • Victoria, while a powerful cape, isn't even close to being the strongest one from her universe. To the inhabitants of Skyrim, her powers come across as incredible mastery of multi-casting without the use of hands, nor any apparent exhaustion.
    • The reverse is also true, with Victoria finding Skyrim's magic an ability to be freely learned and even taught in to be beyond comprehension, since she comes from a world where superpowers are given randomly by Eldritch Abominations.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl is getting sick of getting nearly killed every week and expresses the desire to become a normal girl again, how she used to be back in her Kryptonian hometown. Superman argues that they can't retire so easy like that because, even though they were average kids on Krypton, "No one on Earth can do what we can". Hence, other heroes will keep asking them for help every time some cosmic horror drops by Earth.
  • The Fifth Act: Cloud saw himself as strong but relatively normal (though part of that is Selective Obliviousness as he's one of the strongest people in the world). In the new timeline, Cloud is considered the World's Best Warrior and could take on Sephiroth and win easily.
  • In Justice League: Thunderer, Thor states that this is the reason he and Loki took Baldur on a hunting trip to Earth. Since creatures and animals on Earth are far weaker than the rest of the Nine Realms, it would be easier for Baldur to hunt them, as he was rather frail by Asgardian standards in their youth.
  • In Abyssal Plain, The Undersiders and Breakthrough are powerful cape teams, but far from the most powerful in their superhero setting. In the Abyss, their super-powers and experienced teamwork allow them to fight small armies of Others (Boogeymen) as they retreat to perceived safety, while the Others are left battered and fighting amongst each other.
  • Wilhuff Tarkin, Hero of the Rebellion:
    • Owen Lars is actually rather well off for a moisture farmer and on his way to being considered rich, but only for Tatooine. Notably, his family is considered well off because they have enough water to spare for showers if they wished rather than rely on sonic showers.
    • Jabba the Hutt basically rules Tatooine but when he tries to "collect taxes" from a relief effort, Grand Moff Tarkin has his men stripped naked and hung out to die in the desert suns to teach the Hutt a lesson.
  • The Scattering: Battlestar Galactica (2003) is generally regarded as low-end for starfaring, combat-heavy scifi, but they are still so far ahead of 1980s Earth that a troop lander so expendable it doesn't even officially get a name, only a numerical designation is, by the other faction's standards, bigger than a seafaring frigate, better-armored than a battleship and capable of flying down from and up to orbit under its own power.
  • Along Came a Spider: Trifa is a decent fighter and armed with a knife, but against a huntsman, she's completely outclassed. Jaune manages to easily defeat her without causing a ruckus while in his pajamas and armed only with a box of cereal.
  • For Earth and Her Colonies: By Halo standards, a UNSC light frigate is utterly expendable, needing a numerical advantage to even have a chance against an equivalent Covenant subcapital starship. Compared to the World War II-level capabilities of KanColle shipgirls and their abyssal foes, her MAC is powerful enough - albeit with substantial charging time - to One-Hit Kill a Re-class, she's physically strong enough to shove Nagato aside, can fly on her own power, and enough food for a normal destroyer shipgirl only replenishes one Archer. Not one Archer pod, one missile.
  • In The Weaver Option Lelith Hesperax chose to master the sword because in the ancient Aeldari Empire her psychic potential was considered unimpressive. After her race began its decline into excess, the general psychic strength of the Aeldari lessened with each generation until Lelith could be considered "exceptional". In essence, she's a normal fish whose pond shrank around her.
  • Inverted in A New World on her Shoulders with Ciel. She's revealed in Chapter 2-5 to have a lot of self-worth issues about how she Can't Catch Up to her teammates and she states that this is part of the issue. Had she been put on any other team, she'd have fit in great and would be able to make strong contributions to the group effort, but she ended up on the team with a grade skipping prodigy, someone who has one of the most powerful Semblances in the world, and the first ever mechanical life-form capable of generating Aura.
  • The Endbringers in Worm are unstoppable monsters that cannot be defeated and can only be pushed back by the strongest heroes on their world. In A Different Kind of Justice, while they are a threat and kill many heroes and civilians, they are defeated and killed by the Justice League, who have contended with their kind so often that such monsters are practically a dime-a-dozen. Taylor is outright shocked and disbelieving until she's shown proof of this.
  • Glorious Shotgun Princess:
    • While Exalted are not quite the ordinary people, they are still the starting level player characters in the native game. When Shepard manages to catch a Solar Exaltation, she immediately stands on a power level defying understanding in the Mass Effect setting. The only thing that stymies her is the inability to get off the planet she's stuck on after her Exaltation, as she keeps accidentally destroying the ships that Cerberus agents show up in while attempting to capture her. Surviving in the frozen wasteland with ammonia for atmosphere was a non-issue, and once she gets off the planet, her powers quickly start turning the plot of Mass Effect 2 upside down.
    • However, she eventually starts encountering other Exalted beings. Most of whom either were mentored in their new powers and nature or survived long enough to surpass Shepard's limited experience, requiring her to get actual training in Solar fighting arts to keep up. Among those that can counter her are the Reapers themselves, who can threaten her one on one due to being Exalted themselves - they are rogue Alchemicals.
  • Boldores and Boomsticks: Happens on both sides of the crossover:
    • Yang is the most skilled human Aura-user Riley has seen, despite only being a second-year student.
    • Absol is considered to be as skilled with Aura use as veteran Huntsmen, even though she hasn't used any particularly powerful moves.
  • Fate: Kill: As a teenage girl, Selka is considered one of the weakest members of the Heiwa tribe, whose hat is Super Strength. Outside her tribe, she is one of the strongest people in the world, able to break stone and send people flying. Only people like Shirou, Leone, and Bulat can rival her.
  • Ruby in Light, Darkness and Paradox is just a huntress-in-training in her original world, but when she arrives in the Paradox world, most of the people around her are notably weaker than her. An exception is the Queen Harpy Lucretia, who effortlessly defeats Ruby and her friends.
  • Fate DxD AU: Ritsuka Fujimaru constantly looks down on himself as a weakling and an amateur magus. This is because the only people he had to compare were Servants, who are vastly superior to humans. When he lands in the DxD world, he becomes almost unstoppable due to his fighting experience and the magecraft he does know. It helps that he has Class Cards that let him emulate Servant abilities, but even without them, he can hold his own.
  • Kimi No Na Iowa takes the basic KanColle conceit of warships incarnate as human(oid)s and subjects it to Surprisingly Realistic Outcomes, with this as the result - guerillas and other conventional forces resisting the abyssal invasion are straight up not having a good time. The lowliest abyssal unit, PT Imps, are based on PT boats, which aren't powerful enough to face even the weakest true warship in a direct engagement. Compared with an American in Vietnam or a Russian in Afghanistan, however, that makes them Immune to Bullets and universally in possession of heavy weapons that will tear a tree in two, to say nothing of an ordinary man. Yet they are still so numerous as to have more in common with sailors than the ships on which they serve. The next step up the abyssals have, destroyers, are each an artillery battery unto themselves, and things only get worse for the Puny Earthlings from there. The same also applies to the shipgirls opposing them; Missouri casually remarks at one point that no amount of fancy grappling skill can let a wannabe sexual predator prevail when even a destroyer has orders of magnitude the strength of any human.
  • There Was Once an Avenger from Krypton:
    • The Milky Way's local powers like the Kree and Nova Corps are pretty powerful by Earthly standards...but the Milky Way is actually a bit of a cosmic backwater. The Diamond Authority is reportedly bashing the Kree hard, for example, and even the Galra are hard-pressed to deal with Gem forces, let alone Yellow Diamond. The epilogue of Close Encounters of the Gem Kind has Moonstone note that the Kree and Novans are both in denial over how powerful the Gem Empire is, since they both like to think of themselves as the top dog in the universe. They're apparently almost entirely unaware of the even more expansive Galra, and Moonstone notes that they're going to be rather shocked when they eventually find out about how they're not even the biggest force in the local cluster.
    • Horde Prime's claim of being "Emperor of the Known Universe" is put in perspective in Eternity in Promise, when Allura hears of him and declares that he was just filling a gap in one of the spaces left by the Galra's universal overextension.
  • In The Silmarillion fanfic Captain Tinkerbell, Maglor was a mere High Elf in the First Age, a middleweight with few martial deeds to his name. During World War I (during which he meets the man who creates him, J. R. R. Tolkien), he's a borderline Implacable Man. For example, the man next to him was blown up by a shell and Maglor kept walking, he's not affected by Deadly Gas, doesn't get trench foot, and was only laid up in the infirmary for a month after being bayoneted.
  • In the one-shot fanfic Luea vs Equestria Girls, Luea walks into the human world of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls and gets transformed into her human form upon arrival. Unlike when this happened with Twilight Sparkle, however, Luea does not lose her magic in human form and instead gains increased physical stats and stronger magic. Luea then one-hit-KO's the defenseless Twilight with a roundhouse kick. When said kick proves so hard that Sunset Shimmer feels it, she skips the high school drama, transforms into her demonic form, and zombifies Canterlot High's entire student body which Luea then disintegrates completely by snapping her fingers. Luea then reverts to her normal form (from using up all her human form's energy), dodges the fireball Sunset throws at her, one-shots Sunset, destroys the Element of Magic, burns down Canterlot High, and forces Sunset to unwatch the entire Equestria Girls franchise by rewinding its footage out of her eyes.
  • Myrtle Warrens undergoes a cultural case of this in If Wishes Were Ponies. Having spent the better part of fifty years as an incorporeal unfeeling ghost saw the titular Moaning Myrtle using her powers to spy on burgeoning couples that had entered and left Hogwarts over the decades, including developing an inclination to various fetishes and kinks that she was privvy to. After she was revived by the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and given acne treatment, Myrtle was quite the stunner that many of the male students couldn't help but be enamored by her, enough that Fred and George Weasley both started up betting pools to determine not only when she would finally get laid but which couples would end up breaking up because of Myrtle, and that she has no biases against flirting with girls. When Myrtle went to spend the Winter Hols in Equestria with her new friends, she quickly learned that all of her antics that had been considered very lecherous while in Hogwarts was considered to be tame in Equestria; with the various antics displayed by the residents of ponyville causing Myrtle to be the one to blush in profound embarrassment.
  • Tenten is considered the most lackluster member of the Konoha 11, but when she gets transported to Westeros in the crossover Of Steel and Chakra', she's pretty much able to demolish canon all by her lonesome. It should be noted that that Tenten was deliberately chosen because of this trope, the author stating that a competently trained shinobi could take down anyone from Westeros in a fair and not-so-fair fights. It also serves to highlight the sheer power difference between a Shonen manga and a setting like A Song of Ice and Fire that relies on relatively more realistic phsyical capabilities.
  • Knight of Salem: The fic starts with Salem losing her immortality and Grimm powers, leaving her as a normal human. A normal human from a time where every single person alive had enough magic to make them godlike to modern humans. Despite Salem being centuries out of practice and rather average even at her peak, in the modern world she is able to outmatch literally everyone she meets. Most people assume she's insane because she walks around like she owns the world and doesn't care who she offends. Jaune spends most of his time trying to keep her from getting annoyed so that she doesn't nuke whatever city they're in.
  • Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse: Played with. Ranma Saotome and his close circle are actually pretty impressive specimens in their own right, so when transported to the East Blue, their domination is quite natural. However, there are much nastier pirates, marines and other threats in the other parts of the world, especially the Grand Line.
  • Fear The Superhero: Karasuba has spent her life, bored with being the strongest Sekirei, with no knowledge of anything else. Once she learns of the moonlit world, she discards her plans for omnicide and desires to travel the world with Shirou, killing the strongest things they can.
  • Justice: While Nami and Usopp are the physically weakest of the Straw Hat pirates, that still leaves them as members of one of the strongest crews in a World of Badass. As such, they are leagues above the average person in the DCAU, and can actually go toe-to-toe with more basic metahumans.
  • A Light Against The Darkness, a crossover between RWBY and Warhammer 40,000, sees the world of Remnant, where humanity is under constant siege from murderous monsters, visited by an Imperial fleet. And even among the Imperials, all of whom are familiar with dealing with threats to humanity, none feel quite as at home as the Cadians on board, who have spent all their lives perfecting the art of defending humanity from murderous monsters.
    • Taken a bit further in the second non-canon omake bonus chapter, where the Imperial fleet decides to demonstrate their most effective way of dealing with these kinds of threat by effortlessly leveling the Land of Darkness, an entire continent filled with Grimm, with orbital strikes.
  • Back at his home village, Bruno in where the dandylions play was feared and disliked because his gift made him out to be a Harbinger of Impending Doom. After moving away, the village he settled down in came to look to him with less vitriol, Bruno being able to make an honest living as a fortune-teller and patron of his own Botanica, his daughter living a relatively normal life. He was even invited to a wedding for a couple who's marriage was confirmed to be a success from one of his visions.
  • Crossover fics Dimensional Gate Screwover and its sequel, RWBY: Dual Eclipse both feature this in spades:
    • In the former, several demons and angels from Disgaea found themselves transported to the world of the Monster Girl Encyclopedia, and given they favor direct combat over the latter's seduction-based materials, the Disgaea people, for the most part, easily trounce any monster-girl. While both the Order and the Demon Lord think to recruit them, their offers are declined, as the Disgaea people simply want to return home. This trope turns ugly when Asagi Kurosugi, the Evil Counterpart to Asagi Asagiri, is revealed to have teamed up with a former Demon Lord, and the pair easily run roughshod over the monster-women, their combined efforts nearly killing the new Demon Lord.
    • In the latter, central character Nelius Raoul is easily miles ahead of even the best Huntsman, but for the most part Nelius simply keeps to his own devices. That said, he took to heart multiple lessons about the prior story, and keeps up his training, expecting to run into another person from his side of the universe. This ends up coming true when he finds The Unlosing Ranger also on Remnant, whom also proves incredibly powerful.
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    Films — Animation 
  • The bird in A Bug's Life is a comparatively small songbird that humans wouldn't consider a predator or even a carnivore when next to the rest of the raptor species. To literal bugs it's a T. rex with wings, and when confronted with it Big Bad Hopper is snatched up in seconds and Eaten Alive by the chicks. Even better, a bird enthusiast would tell you that the bird's yellow and red plumage is actually indicative of a juvenile. It's basically a housesitting teenager.
  • In Hulk vs. Thor, Loki is an Evil Sorceror and not a warrior like Thor. Physical combat is not his strong suit. Nonetheless, he's still a Physical God. When he kidnaps Bruce Banner and casually swats him around a room to make him transform into the Hulk, Loki casually remarks that he forgot how fragile mortals are.
  • The world of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls has no magic, leaving them defenseless against the likes of Sunset Shimmer or the Dazzlings, who are somewhere above average compared to the usual threats the heroes have to face in Equestria (at least until they go One-Winged Angel). When the alternate versions of the Mane Six gain Equestrian magic, they become strong enough to match them, and it makes them immune to the sirens' Hate Plague. Midnight Sparkle, on the other hand, is a subversion; her powers are a sufficient threat to endanger both worlds and are on par with the likes of Discord and Tirek in destructive potential.
  • The eponymous ogre of Shrek is pretty standard for his kind. He still manages to fight off a dozen armed guards and take on a dragon, and he regularly sends thugs running. The fourth film shows he isn't a particularly strong, large or well-trained ogre — in fact he's actually smaller than most. He is, however, a great deal more intelligent than any ogre in the movie except Fiona, who are almost all depicted as Dumb Muscle. The second movie has shown Shrek having more up his sleeves than just his race. After turning into a human, he still shows to be intelligent, resourceful and determined, and the transformation only manages to bring him down to badass.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the original Alien, the titular xenomorph is a nigh-unstoppable murder monster... to the civilian crew of the Nostromo. It's actually just a basic drone, hatched from one of the many eggs the crew found in a derelict spacecraft. Aliens shows that not only are professional soldiers able to blow away such drones in a single burst of pulse rifle fire, but those basic aliens pale in comparison to the threat of their species' queens.
  • Vector from Alita: Battle Angel is the supervisor of the Factory and the Motorball tournament, effectively making him the ruler of Iron City... but he’s just a low-level crime boss at best, a glorified Puppet King at worst. He’s only a big deal because Iron City is a post-apocalyptic Scavenger World where anybody with significant resources is a major player by default, and he only has those resources to begin with because of Nova’s backing. Vector actually lampshades this and reveals it’s partly why he’s never tried to get to Zalem; up there, where society actually approaches a semblance of what it was like before the Fall, he’d be at the bottom of the food chain. In Iron City, he can be a king, or at least pretend to be one. Just to drive it home, once Alita cuts through all his Mooks, she finds that Vector himself is just a normal guy who she cuts down with one hit; Nova manages to be a far bigger threat without even physically being in the city.
  • In the Robin Williams and Kurt Russell movie The Best of Times Reno (Russell) is considered a legendary Quarterback by the townspeople. However he knows that he was pretty good at best, he just happened to be the best that ever played in their small town.
  • Played for Drama during the surrender in Captain Corelli's Mandolin where the Greek cabinet in-charge of the small island of Cephalonia refuse to surrender to the invading Italians and list in their demands to "surrender to a German Officer of significant rank" instead. The Italians then bring in Günther Weber: a mere Captain.
    Mayor: Captain is not what we would call a "significant rank".
    Antonio: There are only 200 Germans on the island, and Captain Weber is the highest-ranking officer amongst them.
  • Demolition Man: Simon Phoenix, already a dangerous lunatic in the 1990s, becomes unstoppable in the future year of 2032, where society has become so passive that graffiti is considered scandalous. Likewise, Edgar Friendly is set up to be a violent resistance fighter and his Scraps as a major threat to Los Angeles, but he turns out to be a reasonable (if a little foul-mouthed and red-blooded) anarchist-kinda guy and the Scraps turn out to be moderately-armed hobos who use their guns to conduct harmless food robberies.
  • Elf: Buddy (Will Ferrell) was an orphan baby who crawled into Santa's bag of toys and accidentally got taken back to the North Pole, and taking pity on him, they decided to keep him and raise him as an elf. As an adult, he's the least productive worker in Santa's workshop - because elves are magic, they can work faster than it is physically possible for any human to ever be. Buddy is ashamed that he is only capable of making 85 Etch-a-Sketches by hand in a single day, when the normal quota for a (real) elf is one thousand a day. Nonetheless, all of the training Buddy got from the elves made him the best human toymaker on the planet: when he travels back to Manhattan, everyone is stunned by his near-superhuman skill level (able to decorate an entire department store into a winter wonderland in a matter of hours with nothing but scissors, tape, and construction paper).
  • Essentially the premise of Idiocracy: The soldier who was frozen was chosen specifically for being perfectly average in every way, but humanity "evolved" to be stupider, so when he wakes up, he's the smartest man alive, and the person who was frozen with him is the smartest woman alive. And at the end the smartest pimp alive wakes up.
  • John Carter has this as a plot point: as Earth's gravity is stronger than that of Mars', John can make incredible leaps and bounds, giving him an advantage over his enemies. He's also physically stronger and tougher, due to his body and bone structure being adapted to, from a Martian standpoint, a heavy-gravity world.
  • In Kong: Skull Island all the extraordinary and near invulnerable lifeforms may be daunting to all the humans on it, compared to the titans in the other Monsterverse movies they are unimpressive in comparison. A skullcrawler, the biggest, most dangerous creatures on the island save Kong, even larger then Ramarack shows up in Godzilla vs. Kong. It's killed in seconds at the hands of Mechagodzilla while it is still underpowered.
  • The Legend of Tarzan: As a result of being raised in the jungle by apes, Tarzan is much stronger and faster than ordinary humans and easily beats up dozens of soldiers even though they were armed with guns. However his strength and speed is nothing compared to an ape, and his ape brother beats the shit out of him when they fight.
  • In Lottery Ticket, old Mr. Washington (aka Thump) is a no-name ex-boxer. He often sparred for money, but had no actual matches. note  So when the old-timer fights the fearsome neighborhood bully Lorenzo who's wasted everyone else he's fought... he one-shots him. Because Thump is a former pro boxer, even if he was a nobody.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Although Spider-Man has a wide variety of powers, by Avengers standards, he is overshadowed by guys like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Doctor Strange. By street level standards he is a powerful Lightning Bruiser. As he gets older and more experienced, he grows out of it, and even manages to hold his own quite well in a Let's You and Him Fight with Doctor Strange.
    • When Doctor Octopus (from the Raimi-verse) is carried over into the MCU in Spider-Man: No Way Home, he suffers a downplayed intellectual version of this trope. While still highly brilliant to the standards of the MCU, Otto in his home series was arguably the most outright accomplished scientist in the world, developing AI, creating advanced robotics in the form of his tentacles, and being on the crusp of perfecting clean nuclear energy. However, he still came from a more mundane and grounded world that's year-to-year behind the MCU, and he in particular got pulled from two decades in the past. As such, the new world he finds himself in is rife with technology capable of matching and surpassing his own- his arms are easily overtaken by the Iron Spider Suit's nanites, and the Arc Reactor is essentially a safer, completed alternative to his own Nuclear fusion Machine.
    • All of the multiversally transported Spider-Man villains during No Way Home also run into this to some extent; while still formidable threats, they were some of the only superhumans in their own world, whereas the MCU has plenty of superhumans, gods, and sorcerers running about. Electro and Sandman, however, still seem to be very formidable even to the standards of the MCU. In the formers' case it helps that he Took a Level in Badass twice over the course of the movie.
    • Most Badass Normal superheroes are this pretty much by default, as while they are formidable crimefighters in their own right who can take down scores of mooks in one go it can be hard for them to constantly be compared to more powerful Superhumans. Hawkeye and Black Widow, who are on a team with Hulk and Thor, lament this on more than one occasion.
    • Loki Zig-Zags this trope. He actually is a formidable physical combatant even to the standards of other Asgardians, but since he is a member of the Royal Family he always finds himself overshadowed by Thor, which is a large part of the reason he has an Inferiority Superiority Complex and focuses on magic and deceit instead. Conversely, while a Squishy Wizard compared to Thor, Loki is more than capable of slapping mortal superheroes of Captain America's level around with ease.
  • This is a major premise in the Men in Black series. Our race is considered to be extraordinarily weak compared to some alien races, and extraordinarily strong compared to others.
    • In Men in Black, an entire galaxy of intelligent beings is so small that on our world it is a pendant on a cat's collar. At the end of the movie, however, a pan-out sequence reveals that our own galaxy fits into a mere marble that is used for games by aliens with a similar difference in size.
    • In Men in Black II, an entire species of aliens fits into a train station locker. They revere the main characters as gods; they see a light-up watch in the locker as a holy light, and they consider a business card that was put in there to be a religious text. As in the first film, this situation is turned around, as it is revealed at the end of the movie that an entrance to our world leads to another processing station... for aliens as big as skyscrapers. The second film also contains this exchange:
      J: While you were licking stamps, I saved the world from a Kreelon invasion.
      K: The Kreelons are the Backstreet Boys of the universe. What'd they do, throw snowballs?
  • Dick and Marge from Mom and Dad Save the World are completely unremarkable suburbanites. However, on a planet full of idiots, their common sense becomes a game-breaking weapon.
  • The titular Predators from Predator are all regular members of their species that quite literally consider Hunting the Most Dangerous Game a way of life. Creepily shown in the first movie when a spaceship drops off the Predator in the rainforest. This guy is a big game hunter tourist at most and he still slaughters the most well trained and equipped soldiers around like it's nothing.
  • In the Star Trek (2009) reboot, Nero's ship, the Narada, is simply a mining vessel in his own time. 100+ years in the past, however, and it's The Juggernaut, capable of laying waste to anything the Federation or the Klingons can throw at it.
  • The T-800 series Terminator from the Terminator franchise is a mass-produced infiltration unit that, while dangerous, the human resistance fighters of the post-apocalyptic future have grown adept at detecting and destroying. But in the decades before Judgment Day, where there's no such thing as a "phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range," just a single Terminator is a Nigh-Invulnerable Implacable Man that in the first movie marches effortlessly through an entire police station and murders 17 armed officers without even slowing down.
    Sarah: Can you stop it?
    Reese: I don't know. With these weapons... I don't know.
  • In Venom (2018), the titular symbiote tells Eddie that he was a loser compared to other members of his race, but he is a badass killing machine on Earth. One of the reasons he chooses to remain on Earth and stop Riot from attracting more symbiotes is because he feels unique here rather than on his home world.

    Literature 
  • It's the Basic premise of the 1632 series. An unremarkable Appalachian town is sent back in time nearly 400 years. This goes about as smoothly as one would expect.
  • In the Robert Sheckley short story "All the Things You Are", a human expedition visits an alien planet, only to discover to their horror that bizarre and unpleasant maladies are inflicted on the natives every time the humans interact with the environment, to the point that even breathing causes problems.
  • In Animorphs, though the heroes are technically super-powered with alien technology, in morph they're only as powerful as whatever they're transformed into.
    • When the heroes go to Leera and morph into hammerhead sharks (the Yeerks had previously planned to infest hammerheads and use them as shock troops on Leera), they turn out to be this. The Leeran Controllers shoot them with "deadly" spears... that are mere pinpricks to dolphins and sharks. Turns out Leera never evolved the concept of predation, so their life forms are much more fragile than Earth's.
    • When Elfangor decided to live the rest of his life as a human, he found it hard to pretend not to know the subject matter of his college lectures better than the professors. He had to pretend to struggle with concepts he'd learned and memorized since childhood (standard Andalite education). Both he and his younger brother have this problem, and they are implied to be bright, but not overly so by Andalite standards.
  • A technological version of this drives the plot of Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code. Artemis has constructed a minicomputer from technology he stole from the People back in the first book, which is decades out of date by their standards, but at least fifty years ahead of human technology. He tries to blackmail the book's Big Bad with this, but gets Out-Gambitted and the computer is stolen — which is a major problem, as even this outdated fairy technology can completely ignore the People's defenses against exposure to humans. And Artemis just let it fall into the hands of possibly the single greediest human on the planet.
  • In Isaac Asimov's "Azazel" stories, it is implied that the title character, a demon, is comparatively weak and unimportant in his own plane of existence, which is why he likes to entertain himself by granting wishes for people on Earth. It's also suggested that the way one becomes more important and powerful in his plane is by helping others — another reason he grants wishes — and the fact that a combination of his own vague-at-best understanding of humanity and his incompetent intermediary leads to his "boons" only causing trouble ensures he'll stay weak and unimportant for a long time.
  • Lorcan in Brimstone Angels is introduced as the enigmatic, manipulative, powerful devil who convinces heroine Farideh into entering a pact with him to acquire magical power. All around, he comes off as an extremely impressive, charismatic, frightening guy. Then we see what his home life in Hell is like, and it turns out he's the youngest and weakest of his family and pretty much a complete nobody as far as the cutthroat devil hierarchy cares- to inexperienced mortals he may be a big deal, but at home, he's near the bottom of the food chain and is painfully aware of that fact.
  • Averted in The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells. Wells took the Erasmus quote and completely flipped it around. In this case, a sighted man stumbles into a society composed solely of blind people (their blindness is congenital and the society has completely forgotten what sight is). The sighted man expects to be able to awe the blind natives and rule over them, unfortunately, in a society built by and for blind people, sight is actually a disadvantage (everyone works at night and houses have no windows, for starters). The sighted man is shunned until he considers blinding himself to better fit in.
  • Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen starts with the USS Walker, a World War I-era destroyer, running away from the powerful Japanese fleet at the height of World War II. Even the US Navy considers destroyers of her class little more than Cannon Fodder. Then a freak squall takes the Walker to an alternate Earth where evolution took a different path and end up fighting ships straight out of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Suddenly, the Walker is not only the most powerful ship in the world but also able to run circles around any other ship (until the Japanese battlecruiser Amagi shows up).
  • Donal Graeme, the protagonist of Dorsai!, grew up among people who had selectively bred as warriors for generations, ending up with the average man a seven-foot hulk with a powerlifter's build. Donal, being only half-breed Dorsai, spent his youth focusing on his strategic and marksmanship skills, because he couldn't compete in strength or toughness. Then he ventured out into the wider galaxy, where he discovered that his one failing — his "puny" physique — was still exceptional among the non-Dorsai masses.
  • Dragonlance: The Dragon Overlords of the War of Souls trilogy, dragons hundreds of feet in length, came from a world near where Takhisis moved Krynn to so she could be the dominant goddess. They came to Krynn because they were weaklings on their planet of dragons. Scary place.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry has power that to humans seems amazing, but as wizards go he's fairly young and not considered particularly powerful by the white council, with Harry himself admitting he'd be outright no match for Morgan, to say nothing of the senior council members.
    • On top of this there's fairies and other supernatural creatures whose innate power is beyond (presumably) any wizards.
      • To elaborate, there's Mother Summer and Mother Winter, the latter of which has magic powerful enough to craft a spell the entire white council combined couldn't create, even when she was at her weakest, and with no effort. There's Mab and Titania whose true forms nearly broke Harry's mind (and he himself called his power a speck of dust compared to theirs), there's Odin and the Erlking who are on par with Mab and Titania, there's the Eldest Gruff who has killed at least 3 senior council members, and that's just the Fairy Courts. There's also the forest people, one of which compares human wizards to "children waving around handguns", Ferrovax, a Dragon whose will alone crushed Harry into the ground with no effort, and the archangel Uriel who apparently has the power to destroy galaxies! Overall Harry spends most of his time in over his head power wise, and has to rely on his clever plans to succeed more than his magic.
  • In Flatland, this is how higher-dimensional beings appear to lower-dimensional ones. From the eyes of the 2-D main character, the 3-D sphere appears like a sorcerer, able to phase in and out, change shape, and see everyone's internal organs. The sphere is not particularly special in his own world, but his ability to intersect himself with Flatland quite easily makes him a god there. It's taken up (or perhaps down) to its logical extreme in the 0th dimension: It's infinitesimally small, so the Point is the only being that can fit in it. Such that the Point has no concept of other beings than itself, so they can't even communicate with it— anything it hears from other beings, the Point thinks it's hearing itself.
  • There is a story titled "Gift of a Worthless Man", written by Alan Dean Foster for the ...Who Needs Enemies anthology, where a low criminal crashlands on a planet inhabited by sentient roach-like creatures stuck in Ancient Ages. He teaches them agriculture and basic craftsmanship and essentially uplifts their society, so that 100 years later, they already have industry.
  • Older Than Radio: In Gulliver's Travels, the title character is a classic example among the Lilliputians: Gulliver is a fairly normal human, but because the Lilliputians are about six inches tall he becomes like a One-Man Army (or more accurately Navy) for them.
  • The Guns of the South: Though the AK-47 is still a respectable rifle in its own right, especially given the age of its design, there are definitely deadlier weapons of war available by 2013. But it's cheap to produce and easy to maintain, and when supplied to a Civil War era army, is enough to overwhelm all opposition of the time period.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Hagrid's full giant half-brother Grawp is much larger than Hagrid and is pretty much the biggest thing in the Forbidden Forest. In the giants' homeland he's a runt among the other giants. In the final book, Harry finally sees a full-sized giant and realizes that there's big and there's big.
    • Hagrid himself is much bigger than any human, impervious to most spells, and has borderline super strength... but he's even smaller than Grawp, let alone a true giant.
    • This is presumably why young students are forbidden from doing magic outside of school, as even a young and untrained wizard would still be incredibly dangerous to a ordinary person, especially when they don't yet know how to fully control their spells.
  • Discussed in The Horse and His Boy, where Bree (a horse with human speech and intelligence) has an overinflated opinion of his own importance and intelligence after growing up surrounded by ordinary Calormene horses. Several characters remind him that when they finally return to Narnia, he'll be just like all the other Talking Animals who live there.
  • Maxim Kammerer in "Inhabited Island" (Aka "Prisoners of Power") by Strugatsky Brothers. For Earth, he is ordinary, but on Saraksh, his Bullet Time capabilities and ability to survive heavy wounds make him very powerful. Even more important, however, is that being a non-native, he is immune to the mind-control beams...
  • The Jenkinsverse: Due to Earth being a high-level Deathworld, an average human has a pretty good chance of being the single most dangerous thing on any planet, spaceship, or space station. The series kicks off when an unarmed human bartender with no combat training and suffering from muscle degeneration from months in low gravity easily slaughters the most dangerous aliens in the galaxy. This terrifies the rest of the aliens so much that they almost hit Earth with a kinetic bombardment right then and there. A nameless human who claims his only skill is winning Drinking Contests (and he was abducted after he lost one of those) becomes a One-Man Army in the Dominion-Alliance War while revolutionizing their strategic thinking, a random IT tech becomes a badass pirate queen, and one man broke out of his cell in order to help his captors with their experiments because he decided they weren't imaginative enough. Even the weakest diseases from Earth are stronger than the most horrifying bio-engineered plagues the rest of the galaxy has ever cooked up; any human in the broader galaxy has to have an immuno-suppressor implant just to keep from killing everyone on the planet.
  • In John Carter of Mars, the main character is a random American soldier note ... who ends up one of the strongest guys around on Mars because of that planet's lower gravity.
  • The Lost Fleet: In his own time, Commander John Geary is an average cruiser commander in a fairly peaceful 'verse. Then the convoy he's escorting ends up being ambushed by the Syndics. He ends up pulling a Delaying Action to allow the convoy to escape, and puts himself into cryosleep, after the cruiser has been pounded into scrap. A century later, he's discovered and awakened by The Alliance, who has been engaged in a nonstop war with the Syndics since that day. With the horrendous attrition rate among the fleet officers, all the knowledge of fleet tactics has been lost, and concepts like honor have degraded into an unrecognizable state. Modern ship commanders rush into battle individually, relying on their "fighting spirit" to win the day. Admirals have little authority and mostly play politics to get their way, while scheming to topple the Alliance government. Now, Geary (promoted to Captain after his "death") turns out to be the best tactician alive by virtue of no one else knowing how to properly fight with a fleet and also remembering what honorable behavior should be.
  • The German SF series Maddrax shows the taratze king Groooar. Through a journey through time, he gets from the post-apocalyptic year 2549 to the year 1947 (actually it is more of a journey into a parallel world, which only resembles the real year 1947 almost exactly). While Groooar was quite strong for a member of his species, he was no comparison to the other mutant creatures (six-meter-tall mutated owls, four-meter-tall crossbreeds of shark and snail, and so on) pretty much at the lower level of threat. In a world in 1947, however, he's an almost unstoppable Alpha Predator.
  • In The Magicians, Josh is undeniably the comic relief of the Physical Kids, an Inept Mage and a Ditzy Genius; though his spells are incredibly powerful, he has trouble getting them to work consistently and he barely managed to graduate from Brakebills. In The Magician King, Josh turns up as a very important figure among the hedge magicians living outside legitimate magical society, for though he's still on the bottom of the Brakebills food chain, his comprehensive education at Brakebills has made him more powerful and more knowledgeable than most of the underground community put together.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, demigods in general are stronger or more skilled than regular humans, such as children of Athena being incredibly smart or children of Apollo being great healers and/or archers. However with few exceptions, most children of a particular god are no stronger or weaker than their siblings and almost all of them are weak when compared to children of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, who can hold their own against even some Olympian gods.
    • In the Sequel Series, The Heroes of Olympus, Percy is easily defeated by (fellow Poseidon son) Chrysaor during a sword battle despite Percy up until that point being considered one of the best swordsmen in the past hundred years.
  • The phenomenon mentioned below under Sports also shows up in Playing For Pizza by John Grisham. The protagonist, a has-been NFL washout Quarterback who as a third string replacement who "wasn't even supposed to be on the game" lost an important game for the Cleveland Browns (naturally) comes to play in Italy in a league where most players play for the love of the game and for the titular pizza and he quickly shows that there is some talent in him, after all and while he may not be worth NFL money, he clearly earns all of the couple thousand dollars his team pays.
  • The thirteenth Skulduggery Pleasant begins with a Satanist cult, led by a man called "The Master", preparing to sacrifice a young girl to Satan. The Master has the ability to summon fire with a snap of his finger, and move objects without touching them, which greatly impresses his followers - until the girl they're sacrificing reveals that The Master is just an ordinary low-level sorceror, and there's a whole hidden civilization of people with similar powers.
  • Skyward: M-Bot was a more or less normal design for pre-war humanity, but compared to the centuries-old Defiant tech and the reverse-engineered Krell ships, he is almost godlike in his capabilities.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The backstory explains that the Targaryens, the legendary house of dragonriders from Old Valyria with magic in their veins, were a mere minor noble house in Valyria (they were one of the forty dragonlords, but far from the most powerful). They just happened to be the only ones lucky enough to escape the Doom of Valyria. Fortunately for Aegon and his siblings, the people of Westeros were totally unprepared to face the family dragons. This also applies to their ancestral seat of Dragonstone. Before the Doom, it was a backwater colony in a distant land, basically a Place Worse Than Death. Afterwards, however, it became an important fortress and refuge, and was used as a launching point for Aegon's Conquest.
    • Daenerys Targaryen's capture of the Slaver Cities invokes this as well. While the Old Ghiscari Empire eventually yielded to Valyria's might, it took five wars to bring them to their knees, even with the help of many dragons, since they were commonplace at the time. In the present, however, dragons have not been seen for over a century. People became complacent, and they have no preparations whatsoever when an aspiring conqueror with three small dragons come roaring out of the gate to attack them. In less than a year, all three Slaver Cities yield to Daenerys.
  • The protagonist of the first three books of the Spellsong Cycle is an opera singer Trapped in Another World in which music is literally magic — sing something, and it happens. Because being a musician in that world makes you a Person of Mass Destruction, knowledge of music theory never got very far and much of the world is locked in Medieval Stasis. Her real-world education ends up making her an extremely dangerous and powerful individual.
  • In Cixin Liu's hard sci-fi The Three-Body Problem, the alien Trisolarans have an immense technological advantage over 1970s Earth, but their invasion fleet will take 450 years to arrive — and considering humanity's rapid rate of scientific progress, Trisolaris fears that Earth will have far surpassed them by then. So to enforce Earth's status as a tiny pond, they send sophons to disrupt all research into subatomic physics, preventing humanity from ever attaining Trisolaris's level of technology. And, true to this trope, later books reveal that Trisolaris is a tiny blip in a big galaxy, and deathly terrified of being noticed by the galaxy's real heavyweights, who routinely annihilate civilizations like theirs offhandedly.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The biggest powerhouses - Sauron, Sauruman, Gandalf, Smaug, and the Balrog - all fit this trope. As Maiar (lesser angels) and a Dragon, they are relics of the First Age, which fielded armies of Balrogs and Dragons and where Sauron was merely a servant of the Valar (Archangel) Melkor (who was renamed "Morgoth" when his evil nature was fully revealed). While they would have been significant, powerful players in the First Age, in the Third Age, the Balrog alone would have easily defeated the rest of the Fellowship, a hand-picked group of the greatest heroes Middle Earth could muster, and Sauron managed to maintain his position as the Big Bad despite being severely weakened due to the loss of the One Ring and destruction of his physical body.
    • Smaug the Magnificent is The Dreaded in the Third Age. However, he's much smaller and weaker than Ancalagon the Black, a Giant Flyer Kaiju who died in the First Age.
    • Shelob the Giant Spider, who acts like Sauron's uncontrollable pet, is just one of the countless offspring of Ungoliant, an Animalistic Abomination that looks like a Giant Spider who mated with many spider creatures of Ered Gorgoroth (including her own offspring). Compared to her Animalistic Abomination mother, Shelob is "only" a half-demon/demigod, as her father is just an "ordinary" Giant Spider. But after many of Ungoliant's other spawn and descendants either died or disappeared over the ages, while Ungoliant herself disappeared elsewhere and never to be seen again, Shelob becomes a more serious threat in the Third Age. Shelob herself produces many progeny that are smaller and weaker than her, though just as nasty as their mother and grandmother.
  • Several of The Forsaken from The Wheel of Time series have shades of this. In The Age of Legends, when the Forsaken were born, Traveling (the ability to cross great distances in a single step) was commonplace and Balefire (a spell that destroys a target then erases their actions several moments backwards in time) was used as a tool of war by both them and their enemies. Fast forward 3000 years and several nigh-apocalyptic wars, and Traveling and Balefire are both mostly forgotten skills. When The Forsaken step back into the flow of time, these abilities which they take for granted suddenly make these channelers (all of whom were the most powerful of their day to begin with) into extremely powerful and dangerous individuals. Of course, Balefire is so dangerous that even the Forsaken use it sparingly.
    • It's also mentioned that channelers are born weaker and in lower numbers with each generation following the Age of Legends, believed to be a result of those that are born failing to breed (because the men go insane and either kill themselves or get hunted down, and the women get whisked away to the all-female Aes Sedai and don't have kids). Most Aes Sedai in the modern age would have been unexceptional in the past, save for those born in remote, neglected areas where the old blood runs stronger. Nynaeve would have been exceptional even for a female channeler in the past, and is capable of going toe to toe with many of the Forsaken.
    • Another aspect of the apparently lesser power of modern channelers is that female channelers tend to be much weaker than male channelers, much as women tend to be much less physically powerful than men. As all modern male channelers go insane at a fairly early age, channelers mostly appear to be much weaker. Male channelers tend to be horribly powerful by comparison, and only a few women, such as Nynaeve, stand any chance against them— and a strong male channeler like Rand makes even her feel like a kitten in comparison.
  • In the William Barton military science-fiction novel When Heaven Fell, The Master Race have conquered almost the entire galaxy (including Earth) in a series of curb-stomp battles using only their second-string technology and slave races; in fact, they only have to bring out their most advanced weaponry when the Hu start causing trouble. At the end of the book it's revealed the Masters came to the Milky Way while running away from an even more powerful adversary from Andromeda, and they've caught up with them and begun to take apart their own empire just as easily.
  • There's a variant in the Whateley Universe— Whateley Academy is a school full of Exemplars, impossibly beautiful people who look hotter than supermodels and actors put together. However, compared to the Exemplars, the normal students are hideous, and many develop severe problems with their self-image and self-esteem as a result. However, once they leave the campus, whether it's for holidays or when they graduate, they're often quite surprised to find that other people think they're legitimately attractive.
  • In the A Wizard in Rhyme novels by Christopher Stasheff, the hero Matthew Mantrell is, in his original reality, simply a man who has made an extensive study of English literature. After he is transported to a reality where poetry literally works magic, he becomes a Reality Warper.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: Dick Solomon is quite average intellectually by the standards of his own family, but by Earth's standards his physics and mathematics knowledge is genius level. All of the Solomons appear to speak several languages fluently.
  • The TV side of the MCU contains multiple examples:
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: In "Books From Beyond," Eligos is explicitly mentioned to be the weakest demon that Lionel could find to summon in the Necronomicon, and he still proves to be too much for Ash to handle, using Teleport Spam and nearly killing him.
  • The Battlestar Galactica (1978) episode "The Lost Warrior" features a Cylon Centurion named Red-Eye. He's only a mere Mook, but on the planet Equellus, whose technology is akin to Earth's The Wild West, his armor makes him Nigh-Invulnerable.
  • One episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century features a assassin with super strength due to his homeworld having different environmental conditions compared to most human-adapted worlds. He was, in fact, a cripple by his own people's standards, and decided to make a better life for himself off-world rather than get a job as a librarian.
  • In the Dinosaur Planet episode "Pod's Travels" a normal-sized raptor washed out to sea ends up on an island of dwarf dinosaurs where he is the same size as the dwarf allosaurus, the island's alpha predator. Due to his experience and speed giving him an edge over the allosaurus, he becomes the new alpha predator.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is unique amongst their species in terms of their eccentric political opinions and the breadth of life experiences they obtained as a result of those, but they also struggled in school and their powers (regeneration, some Psychic Powers, two hearts, physical resilience, a "respiratory bypass system", "time sense" and slowed aging to name just a handful) are either standard-issue Gallifreyan or just part of the "Time Lord" ruling class. However, amongst humans and most other species, the Doctor comes off as an Impossible Genius and their powers range anywhere from unusual gifts to utterly godlike.
      • This is, however, subverted the longer the series goes on. The third regeneration, through his confrontations with the Master, managed to outwit particularly clever and nasty Time Lords. Then he gradually ascends among the ranks of their society and proves to be an exceptional individual among Time Lords, facing (and defeating) universe-level threats and physical gods. The revival series ramps it even higher, showing the Doctor being considered a mythical figure around the universe, to the point that he can convince entire armies to stand out for fear of his reputation alone. And then the twelfth season reveals that the Doctor wasn't a simple Time Lord at all, but an exceptional and mysterious being that the entire Time Lord race descends from.
    • The same goes for the Doctor's TARDIS, a Bigger on the Inside time machine that comes off as the "technology of the gods" to most of the universe. Back on Gallifrey, it was already a museum piece when the Doctor stole it.
  • Emerald City: Well, both characters are slightly above-normal in intelligence, but they still fit.
    • The Wizard was a shy lab tech named Frank Morgan in our world, who hadn't achieved anything in his life. After his clumsy attempts to impress his superiors result in the death of Dorothy's father, and when Frank, Karen, and Jane end up in Oz, he sees a golden opportunity for himself to impress the locals with his science and refuses to go back to Earth.
    • However, fast-forward a few decades, and the city of Ev appears to have tech that's even more advanced than what the Wizard has. This is implied to be because Jane, the inventor who created all of Langwidere's masks and devices, was one of the lead scientists of the project Frank was working on.
  • An early 1980s made-for-TV movie, The Final Countdown, involves the USS Nimitz, a post-Vietnam supercarrier, being transported to December 6, 1941. While far from a Red Shirt in its own time, neither is it some particularly spectacular Super Prototype, especially without the battlegroup that normally defends it. Nevertheless, its combat power is depicted as being such a huge spoiler that the crew considers it no particular challenge to destroy the entire Japanese attack fleet targeting Pearl Harbor, and the only debate concerns the ethics of changing history.
  • The Mandalorian:
    • Imperial AT-ST walkers are light scout tanks, designed to support a larger and more impressive mechanized force. To any competent military, they are simply not a real threat. To a peaceful farming village that can barely scrounge up a couple of blasters, even an old and run-down AT-ST is an invincible juggernaut that they are only able to defeat with a great deal of luck and preparation.
    • TIE fighters are probably the smallest and most fragile Space Fighters in the 'verse, but against a group on the ground with no anti-aircraft weaponry, just one is terrifying.
    • Dark Troopers are introduced in combat by nearly killing The Mandalorian in one-on-one combat, they're nigh-indestructible combat droids made of blaster resistant, fire-resistant materials. Going up against one was a fight Mando won only by sheer luck, and the entire team is readying up for a Last Stand when the entire armory of them activates. Cue Luke Skywalker showing up and tearing the platoon apart with an unbreaking stride like they were made of plastic. For all of the badasses the main team are, a Jedi Master is multitudes more dangerous than all of them combined.
  • The Orville: Xelayan Lieutenant Alara Kitan is a Cute Bruiser who can tear airlock doors off their hinges and crush blocks of steel with her bare hands, thanks to coming from a high-gravity planet. She's actually not very outstanding among her people, who tend to go into academics and the arts; her parents consider her a bit of a disappointment who never realized her real potential. Nevertheless, the rest of the crew are very much impressed with her abilities, and when she leaves the crew, Mercer requests another Xelayan as replacement (Lieutenant Talla Keyali, who is similarly gifted).
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
    • In his first episode, Spartacus seemed to be an elite warrior when defending his village against raiders and then holding his own in the gladiator arena. Then he is cruelly lectured by his trainer and fellow gladiators that the only reason why he looked so strong was that his fellow villagers, the raiders, and his handpicked opponents were weak, and he is shown his place in the pecking order by Crixus beating the snot out of him. Spartacus slowly improves his strength and skill through grueling training and experience in the arena, until he is no longer this trope and is truly an elite warrior.
    • When Ashur joins the Romans, he proves a point about the Romans underestimating the Rebels by admitting that he was mocked as the weakest of the gladiators, yet he is able to beat four Roman soldiers to near death.
  • In Supernatural, the angel Castiel is powerful enough that he's often sent on a mission during Monster of the Week episodes so as not to be available to solve all the Winchesters' problems with his scale busting angelic powers. He's far more powerful than the brothers are, and can easily kill humans, demons, and monsters alike, but he's actually evenly-matched if not low powered when compared to his fellow angels, particularly the archangels, who have killed him on more than one occasion by exploding his vessel with a snap of their fingers.
  • On Ted Lasso, Jamie Tartt is quite obviously the most talented player in AFC Richmond's submediocre roster, and he both acts like and is treated like their star. However, he was sent there on loan from Manchester City, because they don't consider him good enough to start for their own squad, and when he returns to them after his loan expires, he spends most of his time on the bench.

    Radio 
  • In The Adventures of Superman, his abilities were the norm on Krypton, even though since it was the golden age, that's just superstrength and limited invulnerability— no heat/x-ray vision, and technically no flight (but they could "jump hella high"). One of the first scenes is Lara and Jor-El marveling that humans have to take hundreds of steps to get around.

    Roleplay 
  • Panopticon Quest:
    • The stuff used by the Iteration X personnel from 1999 is incredibly potent compared to Earthside post-1999. When looking at what the former consider a hostile environment suit only rated for backblast, Serafina remarks that it's stuff that Progenitors would regard as full combat gear.
    • Technocracy stuff in general compared to what Sleepers have. Partway through, Jamelia and co investigate several companies that used to be Technocratic assets but were left out in the cold, reduced to working with stuff behind the curve. Even 70s or 80s Technocracy hypertech is still comfortably beyond what 2010s Sleepers have access to.
    • The SPD forces guarding LaCroix's hideout get shredded by Juliet and Rose, who are merely medium-high end combatants, but they themselves are more than potent enough to deal with werewolf raids or stomp Sleeper special forces.
    • Anathema-class Aspects are stealth and infiltration rather than dedicated combat platforms, "only" the second smallest and weakest of the classes of Aspects. That still leaves them resistant to anti-tank weapons and magic, tank killers both at range and in melee, superhumanly intelligent... and that's before they start throwing around Enlightened Science procedures. A grand total of one appears onscreen in the story and is still a massive threat anytime it's in the picture. One shudders to imagine what kind of Person of Mass Destruction the top-class dedicated combat Aspects are like.

    Sports 
  • Sports which have a notable "diaspora" often have this. From "has been" European soccer stars who still draw crowds and play at least okay compared to the MLS fare (though US talent is catching up), to American Football players who went through the NCAA college football system and come to play in Europe, to Handball players outside Europe. A middling player at a small time program on one side of the pond might be a first division allstar and Game-Breaker on the other.
    • To give just one example, Trevar Deed, formerly of Delta State — an NCAA Division II program in Mississippi, making it the third level of NCAA footballnote  — came to play in the German Football League after his college career, and in the 2013 season alone, he racked up 3623 yards rushing in 17 games (playoffs and regular season combined), which gives an average of over 210 yards per game and over nine yards per attempt. He also scored 57 Touchdowns (53 by running) for over 20 points per game. Game-Breaker indeed.
  • At the team level, the champion of a league division is the team with the best record in that division. But depending on the overall quality of the division, best in the division could be well below average by the standards of the league as a whole. The reason wild cards were introduced to playoffs was to address the unfairness of a great team potentially being denied a playoff slot because someone else in their division was even better, when a mediocre team in a different division got a slot because everyone else in the division was awful.
  • In sports that use a promotion/relegation system (particularly soccer), a team that performs extraordinarily well at a lower division will often find themselves struggling once they are promoted to a higher division where the teams are at a minimum equally as talented. Such clubs are often referred to as Yo-yo Clubs or Lift Clubs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • The Taurian Concordat, and to a lesser extent the Magistracy of Canopus. They're major powers compared to the other Periphery systems, but neither can hold a candle to the five Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. The Taurians in particular spend a goodly chunk of the setting's extensive history in a state of Space Cold War with the Federated Suns that only lasts as long as it does because while conquering the Concordat is eminently possible for the Feddies, they'd have to invest too much resources, making them vulnerable to their Great House enemies, while being all but guaranteed to get nothing useful out of it in return. This is masterfully illustrated in the 2018 computer game in which the Taurians getting involved in the main campaign's Succession Crisis in the Periphery realm of Auriga is treated as a massive Oh, Crap! moment despite their marginal status in the main tabletop game.
    • Wolf's Dragoons. Intended as a vanguard intelligence gathering unit by the Clans, the Dragoons were a fake mercenary company made out of washed-out warrior caste failures, freebirths and volunteers who were given 200-years-out-of-date military training and machinery that would serve as a plausible cover story as some backwater yokels who accidentally stumbled upon an SLDF weapons cache. To the war-torn Inner Sphere, which had long since devolved into After the End neo-feudalism and backstabbing, the Dragoons were five regiments' worth of highly professional and drilled mercenaries with their own logistics corps, using pristine battlemechs models that had in many cases been extinct for over a century. Taken out of a Clan context the Dragoons were the equals of the Praetorian Guard of any of the Successor States and instantly found themselves under intense scrutiny by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: This trope usually applies with sixth and seventh generation vampires; by vampire standards they are only middle class and are not really special in the grand scheme of things, but since lower generation vampires tend to be incredibly rare even to the point of being considered legends, sixth and seventh generation vampires are usually the strongest and most influential vampires that most people can come across.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay features this as part of its generally Low Fantasy setting. Your characters go on relatively low-scale adventures and start out as nobodies; and due to the way combat works, even after a good amount of progress, they will never be that much more powerful than a common soldier. Thus, what would normally be an Elite Mook in the war game (which is meant to model battles involving hundreds or thousands of troops)note  is often a dangerous boss fight to your party.
  • Warhammer 40,000-based media can invoke this easily, considering that the setting includes rules for everything from gang warfare to city-sized starships.
    • An Imperial Guardsman's basic equipment is derided as a "flashlight and T-shirt" by the fanbase because of how it stands up to other armies' line infantry. After all, in a game of 40k a lasgun has no armor-penetrating power whatsoever and at best has a 50-50 chance of wounding even a weak enemy, and Frickin' Laser Beams are pretty lackluster compared to a Space Marine's bolter, which fires bursts of rocket-propelled, armor-piercing, explosive rounds. Likewise, a Guardsman's flak armor is functionally useless against the weapons carried by the majority of their opponents. But in games like Necromunda, whose gangers are scrabbling for any weapons and armor they can find, or Dark Heresy, where some characters are former civilians roped into Inquisitorial service, lasguns and flak armor are rare and top-tier equipment.
    • Similarly, a "standard" Space Marine is a basic infantry unit in a normal game of 40k, and a given battle involving them will see Astartes dying by the dozen. In a game of Inquisitor, concerning exceptional humans and their retinues of specialists and oddballs squaring off against each other, a single Space Marine is Purposefully Overpowered, able to shrug off most attacks, outperform everything else on the table, and annihilate anything he fights.
    • Any technology used in the 41st Millennium is this compared to when most of it was developed, during the lost Dark Age of Technology. A Baneblade superheavy tank is a rolling bunker bristling with heavy weaponry that can annihilate whole squads of vehicles and infantry, and is rare enough that many Guardsmen will never see one during their lifetime of service. According to its blueprints, which predate the Imperium by millennia, the Baneblade is listed as a light battle tank.
    • It's often commented that the Tau went from having little or no advanced technology to be a space-faring race with Humongous Mecha in "only" six-thousand years, reaching a point where they can hold their own in a battle with humanity or the Craftworlds, both of which have tens-of-thousands of years behind them. What people often forget is that most of the races in the Warhammer galaxy are technologically stagnant and have been for some time; the Imperium of Man literally considers the very idea of developing new technology, instead of maintaining their millennia-old "holy relics", to be a form of heresy punishable by death. While they aren't as extreme about it, neither the Aeldari nor the Necrons seem very interested in advancing their already hyper-advanced ancient tech. So of course the Tau's progress looks impressive in this setting: they're the only ones trying!

    Video Games 
  • In Albion, there is the pistol from the prologue which is just an ordinary sidearm on the human spaceship it's found on that's only remarkable because of the circumstances it's found in, but on the titular primitive planet it's a Too Awesome to Use Disk One Nuke that's deadlier than the Infinity +1 Sword. A downplayed example would be the stimdrinks also found in the prologue which are considered potent but still ultimately unremarkable painkillers in space, but are serviceable substitutes for expensive magical healing potions planetside.
  • BattleTech:
    • By the standards of the larger setting, the Magistracy of Canopus and the Taurian Concordat are second-string powers. The Magistracy has maintained its independence mostly on the back of its skilled diplomats, and the only reason the Federated Suns haven't stomped the Concordat flat is that a full attack would divert resources away from its real enemies, most notably the Draconis Combine. By the standards of this game's Periphery-focused setting, the Magistracy and Concordat are major powerhouses, and their respective involvements in the Aurigan Reach conflict are major Oh, Crap! moments.
    • Related, Samuel Ostergaard's Fortress-class DropShip Iberia is, by Inner Sphere standards, a significant but not particularly remarkable projection of military power. By the standards of the Aurigan Reach, its heavy armor, huge artillery armament and the combined arms battalion it carries make Iberia an "I win"-button in any conflict Ostergaard cares to intervene in.
  • Frank Fontaine in BioShock was just some lowly racketeer/conman back in the United States, but emerges as the terrifying Diabolical Mastermind of Rapture, in no small part to the lack of competition and exploiting the citizens' gullibility/desperation, allowing him to scam his way into becoming one of the most powerful figures in the underwater city. At the end of the day, he is nothing more than an opportunistic crook that lucked out due to being in a city of suckers with no other options.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: The Basilisk armored hover-transport the Aldecaldos steal from Militech. By the standards of actual military hardware, the Basilisk is an obsolete light cargo hauler, with just enough cargo capacity to be useful, but woefully underarmored and undergunned, and only really good for sale to third-tier militaries who can't afford better. By the standards of Badlands nomads, the Basilisk (especially after being repaired and upgraded by Aldecaldos mechanics, a few of whom are Militech tank division veterans themselves) is an unstoppable Lightning Bruiser, which can tear through anything the Raffen Shiv can field like a fat kid through cake, sail effortlessly across any minefields corporations and governments set up to make life difficult for smugglers, and carry huge amounts of goods.
  • Certain powerful enemies in Dark Souls and Demon's Souls like the Red Eye Knights from the latter and Silver Knights in the former are just the regular Mooks of their day. Well they were, until the Apocalypse How took out most of the stronger beings, leaving the various Knights as strong contenders wherever they are.
  • This trope is used as a plot point in Disgaea 5. Demon General Bloodis, aka Goldion, was believed to have died at the Rebel Army's hands before they do battle with Void Dark. However, the Attack of the Carnage Dimension postgame arc reveals that he was saved from death by several of these Carnage Demons, whom began training him once he was able. Originally, Goldion was the one whom took down Tyrant Overlord Killidia with ease in Killia's backstory. As Bloodis, he was able to fend off multiple Overlord-class demons with little issue. In the Carnage Dimension? Little more than a lowly grunt whom had to fight for his life every day in order to survive. Further driven home with the final battle against him, where he is easily hundreds of times stronger than he was in the campaign. Once he's been recruited, a skit opens up where he shares some of his experiences within the Carnage Dimension.
  • In Doom, the Wolfenstein SS are this. They were fearsome in Wolfenstein 3D, where you had just bullets, but when you get shotgun shells and rocket launchers they become pushovers.
    • Also, the Barons of Hell. Rockets, the Plasma Gun and the BFG can trivialize them. However, in Phobos Anomaly, you will have no plasma cells and five rockets at best, so two Barons become fearsome bosses.
  • Someone with rudimentary explosives training can awe the citizens of Megaton in Fallout 3 by defusing a bomb.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has Blanstyr in the Armorer storyline, who's such a perfectionist in the smithing world that he drives out most potential recruits and is constantly at odds with guildmaster H'naanza over it. It isn't until the player character comes along that he realizes he actually has a ways to go to call himself the best armorer in Eorzea. The other expansions serve to show that while he might be the best armorer in Limsa Lominsa, he's considered a small fry to the rest of the armorer world.
  • This is how Sothe's Crutch Character status works in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. As a veteran of the previous war, his skill and strength far exceed the local inexperienced freedom fighters and the weak soldiers Begnion bothered to occupy Daein with, which manifests in gameplay as him starting out as an already promoted unit with high base stats while he is fighting amongst a bunch of unpromoted units with comparatively weak stats. His class line of a thief, though, means that he is rather weak compared to trained soldiers, and as such his class has substantially worse stat caps and combat abilities than other class lines, which has him fall off significantly later on in the game when fighting against elite armies in all-out war and goddess-powered enemies. He even lampshades that he doesn't really belong when fighting the endgame bosses.
  • God of War:
    • Kratos is infamous for killing gods and titans from the Greek pantheon on regular basis. When he is thrown into Norse mythology in the 2018 PS4 game, his primary rival is Baldur who pushes the Spartan warrior to his limit and puts up a fight almost as savage as Zeus, the Final Boss from the previous game. Keep in mind that he is a relatively lesser god known for being a tracker rather than being a warrior. Imagine how much more powerful the likes of Odin and Thor are like...
    • It should be noted, however, that Baldur is Blessed with Suck in such a way that he has been rendered impervious to all forms of harm until the final boss fight where he has been rendered vulnerable by mistletoe, regardless of whether Kratos still has the god-killing power of previous games. Kratos fights and snaps his neck several times in the story to no avail. Magni and Modi on the other hand put up far less of a fight, though. It's also implied that it's more that Kratos is out of practice from centuries of quiet living and the events of the games help get him back into the swing of things.
  • I Am Alive brings this into play with the rare and difficult to obtain... bullet. Just your Weapon for Intimidation is enough to make you a major threat to any NPCs you encounter.
  • Many zombie games (such as Left 4 Dead or a few of the Resident Evil titles) invoke this as well. The player might be an average person but they're the only one still smart enough to use firearms, be stealthy, or use tactics other than "stumble forwards".
  • The people you invite to the newly established Tarrey Town in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild mostly weren't very notable in their original homes but are indispensable in their small yet booming new town. This is most explicit with Greyson, who states that he wanted to leave his old job at the Goron Mines for Tarrey Town because he felt more appreciated for his mining skills in the latter than the former.
  • Sovereign in Mass Effect, as revealed in the third game, was basically a single unremarkable military android to the civilization that created him. To the civilizations of Citadel Space, on the other hand, he's a mysterious and nigh-unstoppable space-faring techno-organic Eldritch Abomination who can subjugate planets casually, bulldoze entire fleets of high-tech warships (sometimes literally), and is Nigh-Invulnerable on top of causing insanity with his mere presence. Oh, and by the standards of Citadel Space's science, he's also a physics-defying Perpetual Motion Machine. This is further proven in the third game; when an entire armada of "Sovereigns" (tens of thousands of them) descend on the galaxy, all of galactic civilization falls in less than three months, necessitating a Deus ex Machina super weapon for the protagonists to have a chance.
  • Monster Hunter: World: the two crossover monsters, the Behemoth from Final Fantasy and the Leshen from The Witcher, both qualify. In their home universes, they're considered powerful, but not overly so; upper-mid-tier foes, perhaps. In Monster Hunter, they're treated as top-level threats that require multiple elite hunters to deal with, largely because the hunters have no magical abilities and have no experience fighting beings that can command magic. And in the Leshen's case, it's stated that the Monster Hunter world has a far greater amount of Life Energy, meaning the Leshen, as a nature spirit, is much more powerful there than it is in its home universe.
  • M.U.G.E.N has many platformer characters (both players and bosses) with their original mechanics intact. They tend to have Mercy Invincibility, nullifying combos, and have unblockable attacks that conventional fighters cannot dodge as well as platformer player characters can...
  • In the early parts of Neverwinter Nights 2 you keep hearing about two legendary men from your home town who both outgrew the place and moved on to bigger things when your character was a child. You run into both later on, and while both achieved some measure of success it's more "middle management" level than the greatness everyone expected.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the extra-dimensional Ultra Beasts are considered a serious threat to both people and normal Pokémon (Celesteela, for example, is capable of burning down entire forests), but in their home dimension, each type is quite common and they're one of the few Olympus Mons to explicitly avert Single Specimen Species. Some are even explicitly said to be starter Pokémon for beginning Trainers.
    • Throughout the series, many single stage Pokémon have gained evolved forms in later titles. Most of these had fairly unremarkable stats and abilities standalone, but as pre-evolved forms came off as rather powerful Crutch Characters. Sneasel and Murkrow for example were fairly weak single stage Pokémon, but after Gen IV introduced Weavile and Honchkrow respectively, they became pre-evolutions with incredible speed and attack stats.
    • Gym Leaders' signature Pokémon, especially for early game bosses, tend to be major roadblocks that you have never seen before. Later, you will find the same specimens at much higher levels. For a classic example, Brock's Onix is the toughest mon you will have faced up to that point. After you get to the Rock Tunnel, though, Onix are common, and they're all higher level than Brock's.
      • Later games and other media suggest that Willfully Weak is likely in play. HeartGold and SoulSilver, for example, allow players to rematch all of the Johto and Kanto Gym Leaders, who use stronger teams with levels comparable to the Elite Four. Likewise, Pokémon Sword and Shield has the Gym Leaders ranked in order of performance with the better Leaders showing up later in the Gym Challenge with higher-level Pokemon, but for the final competition and the Galarian Star Tournament, their levels are all elevated into at least the 50's. Pokémon Origins, while not canon to the games, shows Brock selecting his usual Red/Blue team when he learns Red has no Badges, implying the Gym Leaders are playing down to their competition for the sake of fairness. Likewise, when Red challenges Giovanni but acknowledges him only as the leader of Team Rocket and not the Viridian City Gym Leader, Giovanni decides to use only his strongest two Pokémon and proceeds to steamroll most of Red's team in the process.
    • Pokémon Legends: Arceus has you playing as a child from the modern Pokémon world who is transported to the past and finds themselves in a time and place where partnerships between humans and Pokémon are still uncommon and the average person still fears Pokémon greatly. It quickly becomes clear that in this scenario, a person who can not only approach Pokémon without fear but can also defeat or capture them with a reasonable success rate is an invaluable asset.
  • In Resident Evil, the Tyrant is the Spencer Mansion's darkest secret in its deepest depths and is so inhumanly strong and durable nothing the characters have can kill it, requiring Brad to drop off the 11th-Hour Superpower rocket launcher to defeat it. Later entries in the series like Nemesis, 4, Village, etc. reveal that even stronger monsters existed at the time of the original game; we just lucked out that those things weren't what was trying to kill us at the time.
  • In South Park: The Stick of Truth, since the game is a LARP, all weapons are repurposed household objects. The Sweet Katana is the only real weapon in the game and thus it serves as the game's Infinity +1 Sword.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: Cal Kestis can be a formidable warrior on his own, but as a Jedi he has a lot to learn. This is demonstrated by the fact that Inquisitors are considered very serious threats, a fallen Jedi Master would have killed him were it not for outside help and a Sith Lord is considered unstoppable.
  • A cross-game example from the Total War series: in Napoleon, the civilian Merchantmen is the weakest ship in the game, with a mere 12 guns compared to the 18 borne by the Sloop, the most basic dedicated combat vessel. A downgraded version of the Merchantmen (with only 10 guns) appears in Shogun 2 as the "Nanban Trade Ship," available only to Japanese clans that have Christianized and built top-tier port infrastructure... and since that game is set in the Sengoku Period, where naval warfare consists of wallowing bune loaded with archers or boarding parties, those simple foreign merchant ships dominate sea battles. And the Black Ship, a rare Western trading vessel with a full 20 guns that occasionally appears on the world map, is practically The Dreaded Dreadnought able to sink entire fleets by itself.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Sanae Kochiya is descended from a goddess, and her power to create miracles led her to be recognized as a Deity of Human Origin in her own right in the outside world. Then she moved with her goddesses to Gensokyo, where deities are a dime a dozen, just about Everyone is a Super, and most of the locals are much more powerful than her.
    • Cirno boasts of being the strongest fairy, but unfortunately fairies are essentially Cannon Fodder in Gensokyo. That said, Cirno also has a habit of winning fights she has no right to, or using her ice powers in unexpected ways, to the point that one character has warned that Cirno is getting too powerful and becoming something other than a fairy.
    • The Earth soldiers sent to the moon in the Apollo 11 incident were able to inflict severe losses on the technologically advanced Lunarians' army by virtue of having actual combat experience as well as the passive condition that any prolonged contact with them risked dispelling the latter's immortality. The latter point is later used again by the fairies in Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom, propelling them from being Red Shirts from the heroines' perspective to effectively stalling the entire lunar military.
  • Undertale:
    • As they are beings literally composed of magic, monsters are extremely vulnerable to Killing Intent, from other monsters and especially humans. Because of this, even a small human child with enough EXP and LOVE (i.e. the willingness to inflict violence) can slaughter hordes of monsters.
    • Because of this, most weapons in the game are either usually harmless items (Toy Knife) or household items that are dangerous yet would be relatively ineffective (Burnt Pan, Worn Dagger). At the end of the Genocide Run, you find the "Real Knife", which being an actual weapon, serves as the Infinity +1 Sword due to it amplifying the protagonist's homicidal intent.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine has Chaos Space Marines (Devastator, Tactical, what have you) serving as high-level mooks with lots of health and heavy weapons. While not weak at all in the Fluff, they're a standard Troops choice for a number of factions in the tabletop wargame to the point Marine Equivalent is a unit of measure for how effective a unit is (in terms of how many Marine Equivalents it can shred before going down). Of course, your own character is also a marine...
  • Downers in We Happy Few aren't inebriated on Joy like Wellies or driven insane by it like Wastrels, effectively turning them into One-Man Army manipulative Stealth Experts by comparison. One character even jokingly asks if Arthur is a Downer after witnessing him figure out how to fix a machine that had an entire engineering team baffled by it. It's not that they're particularly clever or skilled, but when faced with forgetful citizens obsessed with self-delusion or rambling paranoid schizophrenics pretty much anyone could fight and sneak their way through the dystopian Wellington Wells. Even minor character Prudence Holmes, whose corpse is found literally minutes away from the end of Arthur's campaign having expired in the Motilene Mines.
  • World of Warcraft gives us N'zoth the Old God. On the relative scale of power it's stated outright that N'zoth is the weakest of the old gods compared to the others, but he's still an insanity-causing extradimensional monster, one who makes up for his lack of strength by being smart. At the end of Battle for Azeroth his manipulations result in him being set free entirely, meaning that "weakest" becomes just a matter of pedantics, as being unsealed and at his full power means he's far more lethal and dangerous than C'thun (half-dead and still recovering when players finish him) and Yogg-Saron (still bound in his prison, if only just, and fought with the aid of four demigods who were made specifically to seal and - if necessary - destroy him). It's considered nothing less than a miracle that the players emerge victorious, and beating him required a Kill Sat that was originally intended to sterilize a planet directly on top of him to destroy his physical form.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X has the Ganglion. They were one of the two factions that destroyed Earth and continue to aggressively hound human refugees on Mira. Fighting them off is a struggle and they're easily winning a war of attrition for most of the game. It's later revealed that the Ganglion are actually a criminal syndicate — and not even a major one, they're the space equivalent of thugs the real players use as hired muscle. That's just what happens when a Higher-Tech Species decide to pick on a race still figuring out spaceflight.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Agent Washington is a complete badass compared to the regular Blood Gulch crew. However, among the Freelancers, he was only the sixth best, and the leadership board therefore considered him the "weakest" member of their group. This is primarily because each of the top five had exceptional specialist abilities they were known for, while Washington didn't. Instead, he was a solid all-rounder and generalist, able to play back-up to anyone, but unlikely to ever lead. In fact, his first taste of leadership comes when he joins the Blues as their leader, and has to learn as he goes how to do it.
  • RWBY: With intensive training, people can use Aura, Semblances and Dust to produce powerful, magic-like effects. However, certain characters have the ability to circumvent these rules and wield true magic. Despite that, this is but a fraction of their powers' origin. The Four Maidens wield true magic, making them much more powerful compared to modern humans. Humanity once wielded true magic until stripped of it by the gods; tasked with redeeming humanity, the Big Good retained his magic, and was easily mistaken for a god by modern humans. He sacrificed much of his power to create the Four Maidens, de-powering himself in the process. Each Maiden is therefore only wielding a fraction of the Big Good's original might.

    Webcomics 
  • In Bob and George, the title characters are originally from a Superhero-esque webcomic universe, however, once they enter to the Mega Man Universe, they are considered Sue Tier (Bob even lampshades this on one occasion). Also, since time and interuniversal travel are common topics here, we've only seen one "native" (from the Mega Man Universe) big bad invasion (two if you count the whole "X going rogue" incident) and on top of that, he was the local version of a previous big bad who attacked first.
  • At one point in Captain SNES: The Game Masta, Crono is transported to a Final Fantasy airship. Where FF's battles start with a Fight Woosh, CT's battles take place on the overworld, meaning he can attack them with total impunity.
  • In Dragon Ball Multiverse, this is suggested to be the case for the sole fighter of Universe 15; the unborn fighter I'k'l. He comes from Cell's original timeline... a time where all the Z-Warriors are dead, Trunks is dead, the Androids are deactivated, all the major antagonists have been killed, the Earth is now a smoldering ruin, and Cell himself time-traveled to the main timeline years ago. It's suggested that he's the strongest person in his universe not because he's insanely powerful, but because there simply isn't anyone left in his universe with any kind of significant power.
  • In a side story of Drowtales the Highland Raiders overhear several humans talking about "The Dark Knight" a drow who terrorizes local villages, kidnapping women and bringing dread with him. The Raiders immediately realize that it's a guy they refer to as "Val'Doomed" and speak of derisively since he ran off to the surface and started a harem of human women (something the drow consider akin to bestiality) and whom they beat up whenever they get the chance, since due to being on the surface he suffers from rapid aging due to mana deprivation and is pathetically easy to knock over.
  • In Homestuck, Karkat was the weakest of the protagonists by far, neither reaching the God Tiers like the human players nor possessing the super strength or psychic powers of his fellow trolls. However, in The Homestuck Epilogues and Homestuck^2, the fact that he managed to win a session of Sburb as well as being one of the few trolls on Earth-C to actually grow up on Alternia makes him one of the planet's most seasoned fighters, with his Candy self acting as the Big Good in the war against Crockercorp.
  • Kid Radd:
    • Radd is a Four Hit Point Wonder from an 8-bit game, but when he visits a fighter-game universe, it's noted that he gets Mercy Invincibility when injured. And since the fighter-game characters rely on combo moves...
    • Radd's exactly four hit points actually make him incredibly resilient. He can withstand four attacks before dying, but he registers all forms of physical harm, from a punch to the face to a world-destroying explosion, as equal. In his home game, this made him a Glass Cannon, but in other games he can absorb an opponent's most powerful attacks without significant injury.
    • His girlfriend is an NPC (at least initially) meaning that she doesn't have a health bar to be taken away from, so she is effectively invulnerable to any attacks. She takes a job with the Moderators in which she evacuates sprites from video games, and her ability enables her to avoid coming to harm if they attack her by mistake, regardless of how dangerous their attacks are meant to be.
    • Also, Radd has a Charged Attack that's only limited by the word size of the system he's in. In his original 8-bit game, he is able to do a max of 255 damage, a 16-bit video game allows him to do 65,535 damage, and in the 32-bit Internet he's able to cause The End of the (Digital) World as We Know It if he spends enough time charging; not only does charging longer increase the damage and area of effect of his attack, but at a certain level, it destroys code. Mercifully, 64-bit systems weren't yet widespread when the comic had its run...
  • In the Love and Capes webcomic, Amazonia is this. She's one of 12 sisters in a dimension where everybody has powers like hers, and she likes the fact that on Earth, she's something special.
  • Discussed in Magellan during a support group for extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional students.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In "Kesandru's Well", the main characters all get transported into a hellish alternative dimension called the Never. While they don't exactly have fun there, they discover that being material in a place where spirits are as good as material makes them stronger than the inhabitants because they're sort of double real or something. Torg thinks for a moment that he's developed superpowers (and dons a cape) when easily fighting the god-hounds. Unfortunately, there are also some inhabitants that are powerful way beyond the advantage given by materiality.
    • One story features Blinky and Clyde transported to fantasy stereotype alternative dimension. They are a pair of bumbling idiots in their own world, two faceless expendable footsoldiers for Hereti-Corp. But in this world...well, they're still a pair of bumbling idiots, but they're a pair of bumbling idiots with a fully-armed War Mech in a world where Dakka does not exist.
  • Tailsteak illustrates the well-known example of Superman.
  • Three Panel Soul points out this trope (and its use in the Super Hero genre) in the comic "On Remote Tasting," going one step farther and suggesting that humanity sense of smell could be considered a superpower in a society of aliens that lacked it.

    Web Original 
  • The Death of Basketball focuses on a basketball game being forced to simulate a few decades of its drafts being flooded with "doomsday players"—players with bottom-ranked stats in every conceivable skill, meaning they're short, weak, clumsy, stupid, half-blind, and barely know the rules. As a result, after about twenty years, the best players remaining active are coming up on forty and would be considered aging liabilities on any modern NBA team. Next to the doomsday players, though, they might as well be superhuman.
    [recapping the in-game 2032—33 season] "Anthony Davis is in pursuit of his third ring. He is 40 years old, and his overall rating of 72 is a far cry from the 95 rating he enjoyed a decade ago. He remains a god among men."
  • Hard Drive has a satirical article about the tragic fate of a fighting game enthusiast who can't hack it against other competitive players, and never gets beyond preliminaries in the fighting game tournaments—but he's still far better than any of his normal friends, to the point that he can't enjoy playing against them casually, either.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Steve is a Hollywood Nerd who's constantly bullied by every Jerk Jock at his school, alongside his friends, but within their group, he's generally shown as the leader and the one person who has anything resembling social skills and charisma. When a plan to cheer up Snot after Haley firmly rejects him leads to him seemingly losing his virginity (actually faked by Roger under one of his personas, "Jenny Fromdablock"), he's elevated to the new leader of the group, and Steve quickly sabotages him. Roger accuses Steve of this trope, claiming that he did it just because he likes being the "king of the nerds".
  • Beast Wars has Megatron, the Big Bad himself. On Cybertron, he was just a renegade with delusions of grandeur, but on prehistoric Earth, he's the biggest threat to Optimus Primal and his Maximal crew, thanks to getting his hands on the Golden Disk.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: Blukic and Driba are Galvans, which makes them technologically savvy enough to get by as Bungling Inventors on Earth, but by standards of their own planet they're complete idiots.
  • Big Mouth: Jessi is portrayed as one of the top students at Bridgeton Middle School (the actual top spot goes to Missy), but when her mother relocates the two of them to New York City itself, she's transferred to Darlington Pierce, an all-girls private school that turns out to be light years ahead of Bridgeton, to the point that Jessi can't even answer any of the questions. This is one of several factors that ends up plunging her into a depression.
  • In his episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Robot Randy is an outcast among his peers due to his relative weakness, lack of interest in conquering worlds and fixation on carving wooden reindeer. That said, when he arrives in Nowhere with intent to conquer, he is still a sapient Humongous Mecha with laser weaponry.
  • Played with in Darkwing Duck in the episode "Planet of the Capes." Darkwing Duck is taken to a world where he must use the standard-issue Earthling super-power of... not having super-powers. The entire planet is populated by superheroes, and their society will fall apart without a powerless "normal guy" they can save.
  • At the end of the second season of The Dragon Prince, a red dragon attacks a city on human territory. Several soldiers armed with balists can hardly cause him any harm. Even Claudia's dark magic only weakened him. The third season shows that this dragon is a joke against Sol Regem and Azimondias. He was almost unstoppable in the human kingdoms, but in Xadia he is way below the other dragons.
  • Family Guy: In "Dr. C and the Women", Meg (who is Hollywood Homely at the least but treated like an abomination at worst in their world) gets a job at the TSA where most of the people are very fat (with no necks or wrists) and she is regarded as the hottest girl working there.
    Male TSA Employee #1: Wow look at the new girl, she's so hot!
    Male TSA Employee #2: Yeah her breasts and her stomach are different parts of her body!
    Female TSA Employee: I think she looks weird. How come she's not shaped like a potato? That's part of the interview and everything.
    • Brian is smarter and more cultured than the rest of the Griffin family (except Stewie) and Peter's circle of friends, who are all crass idiots. However, he is shown to be thoroughly mediocre and lacking in talent, and any time he encounters an actual smart person or attempts to pursue writing at a professional level he is humiliated.
  • Futurama:
    • The episode "The Duh Vinci Code" reveals that Leonardo Da Vinci was actually an alien. Amongst his own race he was considered to be a dunce, but amongst humans he was one of the most intelligent people ever to live.
    • The episode "Why Must I Be A Crustacean In Love?" focuses on Fry trying to mentor Zoidberg to woo his old flame Edna. Fry is a very long way from The Casanova, and nobody bar Zoidberg is expecting this to work. As it turns out, though, the Decapodians are a race with no real concept of romance (their mating ritual is based on who can do a silly-looking display the best), and so Fry's advice like "tell her she looks thin" and "pretend to listen when she talks about her day" is enough to make Edna go mad with love.
    • "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" has something similar with Fry, where he's revealed to be the only one immune to the Brainspawn's intellect-draining. Fry is quite dim, but compared to the drooling simpletons of the rest of humanity, he's the only one who can save the world.
  • The Galaxy Trio: In "Cavemen of Primevia", a gang of criminals from Vapor Man's home planet conquer a planet and boast that their powers make them seem godlike to the natives. Vapor Man scornfully notes that they are about average in power for a member of his race and defeats them with ease.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Scary-oke," Soos is turned into a zombie, and quickly gains a reputation for being a genius because he isn't completely brain dead.
  • In Mega Man (Ruby-Spears), there was an episode where Mega Man X chases Vile and Spark Mandrill back in time. Though being relatively equal in strength to each other, just as Mega Man is to his own adversaries, all three are from the future and thus vastly more powerful than anyone in the present; Mega Man's shots simply bounce off their armor, and X makes giant explosions with each shot.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Close Encounters of the Rick Kind", we're introduced to the Council Of Ricks, an organization consisting exclusively of alternate reality versions of Rick and their respective Morties. We're also introduced to "Doofus Rick" (actual title: Rick J19Z7), a version of Rick that's constantly mocked and bullied by the rest of the Ricks for being relatively dumber than them (and because, allegedly, he comes from a reality where people literally eat their own shit), and it's implied he's THE dumbest Rick in the whole Council. However, this being Rick we're talking about, he is still a genius scientist with intelligence far above that of the human average. This is best shown when he shows Jerry, a character whose intelligence is average at the very best, how to make instant, oven-less brownies.
    • However, it turns out the Ricks are kinda wrong, as shown in the comics. J19Z7 Rick does not come from a "doofus" universe, but some sort of opposite universe, hence why "Doofus Rick" is the only nice and non self-loathing Rick. Compare this with J19Z7 Jerry. This being the mirror verse, this Jerry is a ruthless, ambitious, intelligent and powerful man who is the richest of the world, practically controlling it, and upon discovering the multiverse, proceeds to beat Ricky and Morty multiple times and takes over the Council of Ricks with the intent of multiversal conquest. As a Rick puts it, in that verse, Rick was the prey and the predator is Jerry.
    • The season 5 finale reveals that all Ricks are ultimately this. In an infinite multiverse of infinite variations, isn't it strange that every single one of those universes has a Rick who is the smartest person in that universe? The Citadel has artificially walled of a small segment of the multiverse known as the Central Finite Curve. The only thing these universes have in common is that Rick is the smartest guy in each of them, meaning that nothing (save another Rick) can challenge the Citadel's power and authority. For all we know, there are just as infinite universes where Jerry discovered multiversal travel, but the Citadel don't want to face the fact that they are not all that special in the grand scheme of things, or face the realities where even in external universes where Rick is still as smart as expected, still loses out to someone else. Ironically, the entire purpose of the Central Finite Curve is soundly defeated by the emergence of Evil Morty, who outsmarts virtually every Rick in the curve.
  • According to Robot Chicken, E.T. is actually a retard when compared to his people (who intentionally dumped him on Earth to get rid of him); he has a stunted body, can't speak properly (the others use proper English) and "only has one glowing finger".
  • This seems to be the case for "Da Samurai" from the fourth season of Samurai Jack. While The Reveal at the end of the episode is that he's actually a scrawny guy with a beer gut wearing a muscle suit to look stronger than he is, he is still strong enough to take out a pair of robots with relative ease. His problem is that he's completely full of himself; since he's the strongest person in the area he lives in, he let his ego soar to the point he believed he's the strongest in the world. His first inkling that this isn't the case is when he challenges Jack, who is so much stronger that, even simply using a bamboo stick in their duel, he still completely outclasses Da Samurai in, effectively, just two moves.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa is a smart kid, certainly, but only brilliant by comparison with Springfield's stupid children and horrible school system. When she gets the opportunity to study at Waverly Hills, an elementary school with actual standards and quality, Lisa is traumatized to learn that she's really only a B student, as opposed to the straight A's she got at Springfield Elementary. In another episode, she gets to skip to the third grade early, but finds it difficult. Further demoralizing her was Bart getting demoted back to the third grade alongside her as a punishment and proceeding to effortlessly score top marks in everything since he could memorize the answers the teachers were too lazy to change. Lisa eventually decides she likes being the smartest student in a class that's too easy more than she likes being an average student in a class that's at her level.
    Principal Skinner: Lisa, you have a choice: you may continue to be challenged in third grade or return to second grade and be merely a big fish in a small pond.
    Lisa: Big fish! Big fish!
  • The original premise of Star Wars Rebels was that it was following a single rebel cell on the backwater planet Lothal, to show a microcosm of how the rebellion against the Empire is playing out at the local level. Season 1 takes place about five years before A New Hope, so there is no formal "Rebel Alliance" yet. The group we follow is really just four or five people on one ship...one of whom was a former Jedi Padawan who managed to escape Order 66 by luck. Given that this is just a backwater planet, however, the local Imperial garrison doesn't really have that much to throw at them: it's considered significant when a light escort cruiser attacks them, and it's a season finale cliffhanger when an Imperial-class Star Destroyer shows up. This element of the show was gradually lost as each season advanced, though justified in that the war was escalating: by the final season they were having full scale fleet battles.
  • Steven Universe:
    • On Earth, the Crystal Gems are nigh-immortal alien warriors with advanced technology and magical artifacts, all of which is completely standard for their society... at least, it was standard thousands of years ago. All their technology is now wildly obsolete by the standards of modern Gems. The Crystal Gems are also on the weak side of average when it comes to physical power (as the only remaining members consist of a glorified servant, a defective, runt-sized warrior, and a fusion whose component parts are an average Mook and Seer), compared to proper warriors from the Homeworld.
    • Garnet in particular, despite being more powerful and well-adjusted than the others, is only this precisely because she's a fusion. Compared to other two-gem fusions, such as Opal or especially Malachite, Garnet comes out as rather unimpressive and is probably one of the weakest fusions in the show. As for being more emotionally well-adjusted, that's also purely because she's the fusion of a romantic relationship; her component parts spend most of the series so co-dependent that it takes until the sequel series for them to spend more than five minutes apart without becoming emotional wrecks.
    • The source of Rose Quartz's extensive list of powers is eventually revealed to be because she's actually Pink Diamond, the weakest member of the most powerful class of Gems. White Diamond specifically calls her (or rather, Steven) out on this as part of her Hannibal Lecture, deconstructing Rose/Steven's usual Be Yourself moral:
      There you go again. Do you understand why you defend their flaws? I know why, Pink. You like surrounding yourself with inferior Gems. You enable their terrible behavior so you can be the best of the worst.
  • Storm Hawks member Junko is a Wallop, a species known for being big and strong. However, Junko himself is actually weaker than your average Wallop, being a nerd to his peers. All told, he's still stronger than most humans, being able to take down Snipe when sufficiently incensed.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Donatello gets hit with this during the space arc in the fourth season. While on Earth, Donnie's a Gadgeteer Genius and Omnidisciplinary Scientist, he soon finds himself overshadowed by Professor Honeycutt, discovering that Earth is about 3000 years behind the standard transdimensional concepts of physics and he's effectively a "galactic idiot" in comparison.

    Real Life 
  • In a sense, The Roman Empire was this in terms of civilization after they had successfully conquered all land around the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea was a cradle of countless civilizations prior to Classical Antiquity and by extension the Middle Ages. However, when compared with the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it simply isn't as valuable an economic hub on a global scale. So in essence, the Mediterranean sea was the Tiny Pond compared to the Atlantic and Pacific's Normal Pond.
  • Ecologically, this trope occurs a lot with invasive species. When an organism is suddenly placed in an environment similar to its native range, but without any of the natural predators, competitors, and illnesses that normally kept it in check, it will end up dominating the new region, generally at the expense of many native organisms which have never encountered this species before and therefore have no defences against it. This is particularly common on island ecosystems, where regular animals like cats, toads, goats, or ants can become incredibly destructive.
  • Small numbers of soldiers from advanced civilizations, forces that wouldn't really be considered relevant in wars against peer adversaries back home, can easily end up conquering entire states of less advanced civilizations despite numerical inferiority thanks to their superior technology and organization. A prime example is the Portuguese wars in India. At the 1511 conquest of Goa, for instance, a Portuguese force of 23 ships (mostly converted civilian vessels) carried a ground force of 1,500 Portuguese soldiers to assault the heavily fortified city, defended by 40,000 troops of the Bijapur Sultanate. The Portuguese took it with only 50 deaths; the Bijapur had lost over 6,000 men.
    • In the same year, another Portuguese force of 19 ships and 1,400 troops basically destroyed the Sultanate of Malacca (in modern Malaysia) by routing a Malaccan army of 30,000. This only costed them 28 men killed in battle.
    • A couple years before either of these incidents, there was the Battle of Diu in 1509. A combined fleet of the Indian Gujarat Sultanate and the Kingdom of Calicut, supported by Egypt and Venice, gathered in an attempt to halt Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean. The Indians had 46 ships, ~120 warboats, and ~5,000 marines, and cornered a Portuguese force of 18 ships and 800 marines... only to get utterly annihilated. The Portuguese lost 32 marines dead and no ships; the Indians lost 1,700 marines dead and nearly all of their ships and crews. Each Portuguese ship had far more firepower than its Indian equivalent owing to its superior guns, they could engage well beyond the Indians' effective range, and even in boarding actions that you'd figure would be favorable to the Indians, the Portuguese dished out a curb-stomp as the Gujaratis had absolutely no answer to the plate armor, arquebuses, and hand grenades of the Portuguese marines.
    • The Spanish pretty much conquered the entire modern Philippines (bar the Sulu Sultanate) with a few hundred men and a handful of ships, despite also being actively harried by Portuguese and Japanese raiders. Keep in mind that A. the Filipinos had gunpowder and steel (unlike the Aztecs or Incas), and B. the Spanish army as a whole exceeded 150,000 in the 1570s, when most of the conquest happened.
    • Italy, despite being considered the Butt-Monkey of the Great Powers and having to push its resources to the limit to defeat minor European states like Greece, was able to conquer Ethiopia in about six months with a relatively small force of 100,000 men (mostly askaris). The best Ethiopian formations had WW1-era artillery, machine guns, and rifles; the vast majority of them didn't even have that.note  The Italians had then-modern tanks, airplanes, artillery, and poison gas. The Italians lost under 10,000 dead compared to over 275,000 for the Ethiopians, and the country only lasted as long as it did thanks to the ramshackle state of Italian logistics preventing faster advances.
  • The Opium War of 1839-1842 is another great example. 12,000 British soldiers and sepoys, supported and ferried by a force of 25 warships (mostly light sloops) and 12 other ships, themselves crewed by some 7,000 sailors and marines, took on local Qing Chinese forces numbering around 200,000. Despite none of these troops being considered great by European standards, and the force itself being tiny by those standards,note  they won handily. While Chinese disunity and superior British planning played a big part in the crushing victory they obtained, an equally important factor was their technological advantage. To give the long and short of it:
    • First and foremost, only 30-40% of the Chinese troops had guns- the rest being equipped with spears, swords, halberds, and bows. This would have been fine in the 16th century, but was untenable in the 19th given how accurate and deadly firearms had become.note 
    • Second, the Chinese troops that did have guns had drastically inferior ones. The most common Chinese firearm was the “bing-ding” matchlock musket (and their soldiers used no types of firearms other than matchlocks in general), which fired a 4 gram ball with a maximum effective range of 100 meters (330 feet), at a rate of 1-2 rounds a minute. This already would have been considered somewhat deficient in the Europe of 300 years prior, where matchlock arquebuses generally fired 10-12 gram balls (and proper muskets 40-60) and were complemented by wheellock/flintlock firearms for elites. By the mid 19th century it was an outright joke. The standard British firearm was the Brunswick rifle, a percussion cap weapon that fired a 53 gram ball with a maximum effective range of 300 meters, at a rate of 4 rounds a minute. In other words, not only were the British weapons much deadlier (over a dozen times the mass per shot), but British troops could engage the Chinese far outside of their effective range (100m v 300m) and put out two to four times as many shots to boot.note 
    • Third, the disparity was even worse when it came to artillery. Not only did British cannons fire larger shot than Chinese cannons and have thrice the range, but they were also lighter and easier to maneuver. Any artillery duel therefore turned into a one-sided massacre.note 
    • Fourth, to an even greater degree than their land forces, China's navy was terribly outmatched. Most of their ships were junks with only a few of the aforementioned inferior cannons each, which posed no threat to the Royal Navy. A British frigate was effectively a One Ship Navy by Chinese standards... and the British brought dozens of them.note  Predictably Brits had total naval superiority nearly from day one, giving them free reign to bombard Chinese cities and forts (from beyond their effective range, of course) and transport and disembark their troops anywhere they wanted using both the coast and the river network.
    • Combine all of the above and you get: the British holding the initiative in every engagement allowing them to destroy the Chinese piecemeal, and being able to shred most Chinese formations in pitched battles before they could even get close enough to engage. Now remember one other thing: Qing China was probably the most advanced of the non-European powers. With that in mind it's no wonder that most of the world was subjugated by the Great Powers of Europe for hundreds of years.
  • The entire Atlantic Ocean became this for World War II, featuring the sinking of the Bismarck, an undergunned fast battleship who earned her legend by sinking underarmored, outdated Hood and was in turn brought down by torpedoes launched from biplanes and 14 inch shells from unreliable quadruple mount guns, while in the Pacific, American and Japanese fleets dueled with the deadliest naval bombers in history (respectively the Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber and Nakajima B5N "Kate" Torpedo Bomber), fleets of aircraft carriers backed by battleships armed with proper 16-inch triple turrets and vast fleets of supporting ships.
  • This is basically the point of weight classes in combat sports like boxing, wrestling, and MMA. For example, since Muscles Are Meaningful, even a less skilled 6'0", 200-pound boxer could destroy the best 5'7", 140-pound boxers. So sanctioning bodies declare that fighters can only have matches against opponents with sizes relatively close to their own, ensuring everyone within those classes has to be Strong and Skilled.
    • Professional boxing is a strange exception in that the major sanctioning bodies have no rule specifically against fighting above your weight class. Unlike amateur boxing (where a minimum weight is required to fight in a particular weight class) professional boxing only regulates the upper limit of each weight class. For instance, Roy Jones Jr. challenged for the heavyweight title while weighing less than most cruiserweights.
      • In addition, the heavyweight division has sometimes had fights with massive weight differences. This was especially true before the cruiserweight class was established in the 1980s; the historic lower limit for heavyweight was a mere 175 lb (80 kg). Jack Dempsey fought Jess Willard with a 25 kg weight disadvantage, with Dempsey winning by technical knockout in the third round. Joe Louis fought against Primo Carnera with a 30 kg weight disadvantage, winning by knockout. In the modern era, David Haye and an old Evander Holyfield both fought against Nikolai Valuev with a 45 kg weight disadvantage (note also that Valuev was a legitimate 7-footer); Haye won and Holyfield lost, both by decision.
  • This is the experience of many high school students, especially smaller schools in rural areas, and realizing this is a substantial part of the college experience. A fairly bright student finds themselves valedictorian of their small high school, just to go to college and find themselves struggling to make Bs in competitive majors like engineering. Similarly, almost every communications major was previously the editor-in-chief of their high school newspaper, a star of the debate team, or the like. Almost every college football player used to be the star of their high school football team.
    • Much the same applies in graduate degree programs, especially in professional programs such as law, medicine, or dentistry. Pretty much everyone who gets into such programs was among the brightest at their colleges, but now they're surrounded by people at least as bright, if not more so.
  • Elephants, rhinos, hippos, bison, giraffes, bears and others are only considered big now because the numerous larger mammal species are now extinct. If these animals had survived, elephants and the others would still be big in relation to humans, but they would fall under small when compared to other mammals.
    • And this is without comparing them to the dinosaurs, many of whom were capable of reaching utterly gargantuan proportions that land mammals simply aren't able to match thanks to differences in anatomy. Animals like elephants and rhinos are viewed as special due to their size exceeding most other animals but such sizes were fairly standard for herbivorous dinosaurs with sauropods being the largest land animals to ever exist. It's also notable with the predatory dinos. The biggest mammalian land predator in modern times is the polar bear with the largest individuals reaching around one and-a-half tons in weight, this would put them about on par with theropods like Utahraptor which would have been considered mid-sized at most.
  • Michael "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards became the British Olympic competitor for ski jumping in 1988 despite having no competitive training and only starting ski jumping two years prior. How? At the time, countries were guaranteed spots in each Olympic event, and he realized there were no competitive British ski jumpers. So he was the only fish in the British competitive ski jumping pond, making him possibly the ultimate example of this trope. He of course placed last in the actual Olympic competition, but managed to get some celebrity out of the whole thing.
    • The IOC (Olympic organising body) then instituted a series of rule changes regarding Olympic qualifications. Nowadays countries are not guaranteed spots in the Olympic events, but must earn them through athletic success in other international competitions. Additionlly all athletes must be "adequately prepared for high level international competition" as evaluated by the IOC, which reserves the right to reject any entrant at will. So it is unlikely we will ever see another of Eddie's ilk.

 
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The Central Finite Curve

We finally learn exactly what it is from Evil Morty.

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