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Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training

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Worth it.

"You know why he's so awkward when he's so smart? It's because he took all his talent and poured it into places that have nothing to do with living a normal life!"
Graham Spectre, Baccano!

There are characters who as a result of their lifestyle or education have one area of great strength while being weaker in another. Some people might just have been born that way, but these guys sacrificed a basic skill for awesome training. Whether from lifestyle, schooling, or personal preference they have grown up without learning a very basic skill. It can be a chore like cooking or laundry, to more important things like reading and dating, or downright essential like dressing oneself and social interaction.

As a result of a sheltered and highly structured lifestyle where their education and training was tightly controlled, they become so that a key part in their upbringing or skill set is completely ignored, sometimes purposely by their teacher as "unnecessary" or distracting. Before long, they become something of an idiot savant: an expert artist that is nonetheless unable to carry out a basic ability. In extreme cases, they may not even understand it.

This trope has two different setups. The more common one involves a character who spends their formative years in a convent, school or sequestered in a family home and trained in the "family ways". Usually, these involve warfare, magic, or assassination. Expect there to be Training from Hell and The Spartan Way especially that is so highly specialized it leaves no room for anything else. So instead of Home Ec 101, they're getting Tundra Guerrilla Tactics 101. The children who "graduate" are usually Tyke Bombs, in which case it was probably done purposely by their teacher. They might have considered it "unnecessary" or distracting, or useful to exclude both to make their job easier and keep the student tightly controlled. In the case of a school or the like, the students are likely so rigorously policed and kept apart that they don't interact enough to learn basic social skills.

The other set up is perhaps more alien: a character purposely ignores the basic skill because he or she considers it "wasteful". This isn't just a Spoiled Brat forking off laundry to a maid, but usually a highly focused (or at least willful) character who purposely avoids all knowledge in that field in favor of more interesting pursuits.

Cue Fish out of Water moment when the princess is dumped on the street or the chaste assassin rebel starts interacting with the (very sexy) opposite gender. Usually they'll make a friend (or partner) who can help them with the missing skill.

If there is a whole team of people with the same absent basic skill, expect them to panic and try their best to do the job themselves. Understandably, you can expect hilarious results.

If the character has developed awesome abilities and lacks important skills due to a mental difference rather than Training from Hell, they may be an Idiot Savant. When what is sacrificed is common sense or social skill, it may lead to the creation of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. Compare Unskilled, but Strong. See also Crippling Overspecialization.

Infamously used when Min-Maxing roleplaying characters, whether it makes any sense or not.

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    Comic Books 
  • Batgirl (2000): Cassandra Cain was trained from birth to be the perfect assassin and martial artist, with the ability to read body language so well that she can predict how her opponents will move. The method of teaching her this incredible understanding of body language? She was raised with absolutely no exposure to language of any other kind. She was seven or eight before she even heard speech for the first time, and only telepathic intervention well into her teens enabled her to understand it.
    • Which destroyed her intuitive combat abilities. Only after a lot of training and a lethal ordeal (being killed, then revived by Lady Shiva) does she begin to regain her talents.
  • Bruce Wayne, more commonly known as Batman, occasionally falls into this, with Alfred as his occasional voice of reason. Sometimes Bruce needs reminding to do everyday activities or at least do stuff normal people would expect of a Millionaire Playboy.
    • Like sleep.
    • He is at least aware of his limits when it comes to his cover: "What does somebody like me do?"
    • Also Bruce Wayne absolutely cannot cook, though that's mostly because he's had such an excellent chef available to him his whole life. Depending on the Writer.
    • Speaking of food, in some depictions, Bruce has no idea how to eat normal-people food. One time has him eat a burger with a fork and knife.
    • Also, for all his crime-fighting abilities, he has absolutely dismal social skills. It's telling the guy's best friend is Superman, whose patience and understanding are as limitless as his strength.
    • It's made clear in several books that the facade of the rich, ditzy Bruce Wayne is only maintainable by Alfred's instruction in acting. In some stories, he was against this idea from the beginning until Alfred pointed out that Bruce behaving the way he normally does would mean he'd be fingered as Batman within a week.
  • His son Damian Wayne is even more socially inept, having been raised by the Society of Assassins. He started ninja training at the age of three, and at the age of ten, he has never even been in a bounce house.
    • This comes up a lot in Li'l Gotham, where each issue is set around a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. He spends a lot of time puzzled or offended by whichever holiday is going on at the time.
  • Threeboot Titanians, such as Threeboot Saturn Girl from the Legion of Super-Heroes fall into this. Titanias are a highly evolved race of telepaths, highly skilled in mindreading, thoughtcasting, and ESP. However, over generations this faculty caused their offspring to born with underdeveloped, if not nonexistent, voice boxes. If not for telepathic speech, every single Titanian in existence would be a mute.
  • Taskmaster's ability to memorize fighting techniques simply by seeing them also has the downside of making him forget things unrelated to combat such as his memories or basic information. This ability and its related downsides are passed onto his alleged daughter Finesse.
  • X-23 was raised from birth to be the perfect assassin and kept isolated from the rest of the world (except for assassination missions). Because of this she does not understand emotions and has no clue how to interact with other people.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Maddie Pryor a.k.a. Rachel Grey in the sequel. Having been raised as a Living Weapon, she's an extremely powerful psychic, and an expert in efficiently using her powers to track others and in combat, as well as being highly intelligent, and on a technical level, very well educated. She also has next to no actual life experience and is bemused by fairly basic concepts, including, heartbreakingly, being shown basic decency.
  • Amalia in City of Chains, a Dragon Age II fanwork, is a Ben-Hassrath, a Qunari infiltration agent/spy/assassin type, and exceptionally good at it. She also has serious trouble understanding things like how money works and what families are, and why it might not be a good idea to tell people exactly what you really think whenever prompted.
  • A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor has Arturia Pendragon; the most iconic example of The Good King in our world's history and has been smoothly adapting to Thedas despite it being a completely different setting. Yet, she REALLY struggles with just simply, you know, interacting with her peers. To her credit, Arturia is fully aware of this personal problem of hers and does her best to rectify this... with mixed results.
  • Defied in MHA - An Asura is Born. Niko makes it clear Izuku needs a proper education and he cannot shirk it to focus on martial arts.
  • The Kim Possible/Heroes crossover "The Not-So-Average Girl" makes Kims power of enhanced survival instincts a loose example of this. Experts explain that while Kims power makes it easy for her to pass various academic classes, her mind is basically focused on learning skills she would need to survive, which is essentially the reason she has trouble in Home Economics. Classes such as English or Geography give her useful knowledge about how people will react to things or how to find her way if shes lost in the wilderness, but there are no circumstances where she would need to know how to cook to survive; either shes in a city and can buy food somewhere or shes out in the wild and just needs to know what wont kill her.
  • The Alternative Character Interpretation of Avatar Korra in Project Voicebend shows her being a great bender, but having no clue about money, sex, or basic math. She's also barely literate.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hanna was raised to know how to fight in an instant, but never learned basic social skills or how the real world works. This becomes a problem when she is separated from her dad and enters the real world.
  • The first Hitman movie shows 47 to be worldly enough to function on his own just fine, but he's asexual, almost robotic in terms of personality, and unable to relate to people in a benign context. It's consistent enough with his characterization in the source material, but the games don't really delve too deeply into his personal dealings off the job (and in all media, much to his benefit, people rarely seem to take special notice the silent, imposing bald chap with the nice duds and visible barcode on back of his head).
  • In Hot Pursuit, the degree to which Officer Cooper can be considered 'awesome' may be debated, but she possesses a virtually encyclopaedic knowledge of police procedural codes, while lacking various social skills such as an ignorance of the meaning of the term "I call shotgun", as well as coming across too strongly during dates.
  • The only interest the titular Major Payne has that isn't related to the military is dancing, and he can't even tell a bedtime story to a 6-year-old without it degenerating into the tale of how 'Bubba' lost his legs.
    Payne: To be continued. When I get back, I'll tell you what Bubba used as a penis.
    Tiger: Eugh...
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe interprets Tony Stark as a guy smart enough to build the world's first function suit of Powered Armor, but simultaneously too dumb to know his own social security number and too dense to buy remotely acceptable Christmas presents for his own girlfriend (as another example, when trying to apologise to her he brought her strawberries, which she was deathly allergic to, and attempted to atone for this gaffe by noting that at least he remembered strawberries were 'important' in some way). In general, the films play up his total lack of normal human skills a lot more than the comics do, where he's brilliant but just an asshole.
  • Kurt Russell's character in Soldier, along with everyone else in his unit, was taken by the military as an infant and raised to be little more than an obedient weapon. He has no social skills whatsoever, and barely speaks except when giving a one or two-word reply to someone else. He addresses everybody as "Sir" no matter who they are, because that's all he knows. While waiting for orders, his entire platoon sits bolt-upright on their beds in the barracks doing absolutely nothing. Flashbacks to their training days showed that any one of them that couldn't be turned into a human robot that did nothing but follow orders was summarily shot by an officer or beaten to death by his comrades.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022), Knuckles the Echidna spent his whole life training his powers and fighting skills to be the greatest echidna warrior and achieve his people's dream of reclaiming the Master Emerald. This also left him with No Social Skills, a tendency towards taking everything at face value, and never having had any real fun in his life.
  • Julius Benedict (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the movie Twins (1988) learned to speak 12 languages, and excelled in mathematics, history, science, and literature. Highly intelligent, but extremely naive about the real world which his more worldly brother inhabits.
  • Polish trilogy Wściekłe Pięści Węża features Roman Niemowa — a mad Romanian martial artist. Despite his name, he is not mute; his father instead of teaching him how to speak instead taught him how to fight.
  • The Princess Bride: Inigo can do three things, fence, track, and drink. While he is near-supernaturally good at all three of these, he has no other skills whatsoever. His social skills are poor, and he struggles with basic arithmetic.

  • In Barry Louis Polisar's "I Can't Tie My Shoe", the narrator can cook expertly and write poems to operas, but never learnt how to tie his shoes.


    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Illya was raised as a Tyke-Bomb by the Einzbern family to win the Holy Grail War. She went through Training from Hell in order to be able to summon and control the Berserker-class servant Herakles, and probably has the strongest magical power of any master in the Fifth Grail War. The downside is that her isolated and torturous upbringing turned her into an unstable Yandere, who also shows poor people skills and a lack of maturity considering she's Older Than She Looks.
  • Masaomi Hibiya of Serendipity Next Door, aka the famous musician OMI, is of the opinion that people shouldn't bother expending their energy on doing things they're not good at. Mostly what this means is that Masaomi spends all of his time on his music and nothing else, to the point that he's only barely capable of taking care of himself and lives entirely on energy drinks, nutritional supplements, and beer because learning even a minimal level of cooking ability would be too much trouble.

    Web Comics 
  • This is Pete's rationalization for his ludicrous Min-Maxing of R2-D2 in Darths & Droids. He lacks the ability to even speak to other characters (in-character anyway), but consequently his mechanical and hacking skills are through the roof. Bizarrely, this makes sense in-universe. Mech droids can't speak to humans specifically because they're over-optimized for their job of fixing things. Their "droidspeak" is much more efficient than human speech... for communicating with computers, so it's higher priority than being able to speak human languages.
  • The early strips of Goblins have Minmax the Unstoppable Warrior, who lives and breathes this trope. He's a low-level fighter with stupidly high combat-related stats and abilities, but completely lacking in other abilities (and stats; it's quite obvious that he used both Wisdom and Intelligence as "dump stats"). He has sacrificed everything for maximum combat ability. An Alternate Universe version even sacrificed his ability to speak for more bonuses. The current list of Minmax's sacrificed skills includes starting fires, literacy, the ability to rhyme on purpose, the ability to wink, and even the skill to dress himself. Readers tend to find them out along with other characters when Minmax does something that should have been impossible; someone will look at him incredulously and say "How...?" and Minmax reveals what he traded for the ability just demonstrated. Minmax knows 38 ways to kill a man with his thumb, but doesn't know what chess is.
  • In The God of High School, Jin Mo-Ri is extraordinarily talented at martial arts to the point of copying most techniques with a single glance and gifted with ridiculous physical prowess. Unfortunately, a life spent secluded in the mountains with his grandpa whose motto is "Do what you want!" has left Mo-Ri a bit of a Manchild who lacks common sense and is innocently honest to a fault.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: In-universe, there is a story about a Prince Kassardis fleeing from his warlord suitors, who are nigh-undefeatable and conquer everything Kassardis throws in their path. Unfortunately for them, they've been so accustomed to getting what they want through violence that they cannot do anything remotely peaceful, such as simply bringing themselves to share the prince and his kingdom instead of mutually murdering each other in a rock-paper-scissors standoff.
    • This also applies to the goddess of humanity, Aesma, who has powers that are supernatural even by god standards due to her short temper and lack of people skills causing her to pursue things the hard way at all times. This causes her to get duped, conned, and abused by her own boyfriend. Who she then murders with the force of a thousand planets.

    Web Original 
  • In Clickhole's quiz, Which One of the Kids Who I Sell Samurai Swords to Are You?, there's the Shadow. The author theorizes that the Shadow once had a sensei that taught him absolutely everything there was to know about swordsmanship, but forgot to explain anything else, resulting in a kid who has to ask strangers incredibly awkward questions about puberty at sword-point.
  • Sylvester, in Twig, is this thanks to the Wyvern formula that's regularly injected into his brain, which increases neural plasticity to allow him to rapidly learn new skills to the point where he can become a knife-throwing expert after a few throws. However, the rapid memory degradation that comes with Wyvern means that he can only maintain these skills with constant practice at the cost of his other skills. He mainly focuses on social skills, since he can constantly practice them for his Awesomeness by Analysis role, but of course this makes him less than useless in a fight.
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe. Filthy rich. Trained from birth to be the ultimate financial wizard, so he could one day be one of the rulers of the Goodkind empire. Unfortunately, that means he doesn't know how to do things like use a can opener or do laundry. That would be fine, given how much money his family has, but then he gets kicked out of the family and disinherited... The relative pittance his family eventually basically bought him off with to avoid future trouble still makes him one of the richest kids at Whateley, and the same "financial wizard" training is helping him build on that even with him spending money left and right to simply buy even fairly exotic equipment at fair prices or hire competent help as needed. That said, the struggle between his refined palate and common cafeteria food (to say nothing of his shock at the first time he ever saw the inside of a common supermarket) remains fun to watch.

    Web Videos 
  • There's a fan theory regarding To Boldly Flee that while other Psychlos were learning how to SPELL THEIR NAMES, Turrell was being trained to conquer galaxies. This has the reverse implication that Turrell was so busy learning how to conquer galaxies that he doesn't actually know how to spell his name (it was "Terl" in the original). The sad thing is, he's not even all that good at conquering galaxies. As the Nostalgia Critic put it, he couldn't even conquer Rhode Island. The real reason was copyright concerns, but the reviewers have heard of the theory and were amused by it.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • Azula, having grown up in the midst of a cutthroat royal court that heads a nation that instigated a century-long war, has manipulation, Firebending, and intimidation down pat. When it comes to associating with people on equal terms to her, it ultimately doesn't go well. The third season Beach Episode is a Villains Out Shopping episode on the beach, with the Gaang relegated to B-plot. Azula's attempt to flirt normally deteriorates into a declaration that their children will conquer the world, thoroughly weirding out Normal Guy With Beach House, who has failed to recognize his Princess.
      • Likewise, Zuko, who grew up in the same circumstances and spent three years at sea. He's a good Firebender and a good martial artist but when he has to help re-shingle a roof, he's awkwardly holding a hammer with two hands and bending all the nails. He also is significantly lacking in social skills, such that his first reaction to seeing a girl his age frequently coming to the tea shop to watch him is that she's a spy or assassin who has figured out their identities, until Iroh points out the much more likely (and correct) assumption that she's attracted to him. At least he usually has his down-to-earth uncle to help him get along...
    • The Legend of Korra: Korra herself has this, but also somewhat involuntarily imposed on her. Because the White Lotus took Aang's dying wish to "keep his next incarnation safe" a bit too much to heart, Korra pretty much grew up in a Gilded Cage, practicing only bending. Once she debuts in Republic City, it is plainly obvious that she's quite lacking in social graces and discretion.
  • Webby Vanderquack in DuckTales (2017) was raised by an overprotective grandmother who is also a retired superspy. As a result, she has been trained in martial arts, stealth, and other skills that serve her well when she's on adventures with Scrooge McDuck and the triplets, but has been sheltered in McDuck Manor all her life so she's never had any exposure to anyone her own age or related activities. The second episode, "Daytrip of Doom!", has this on full display as Webby goes with Huey, Dewey, and Louie to the resident Suck E. Cheese's and doesn't know what some of the attractions even are, but later single-handedly captures Ma Beagle in the ball pit.
  • Agram, the Big Bad of Magi-Nation long ago traded his sight for power over Void Energy. After Orwin is brainwashed into his service, Agram uses his staff to restore it, but the staff is broken as the episode goes on, rendering him blind once more.
  • This is actually the point of the first three seasons of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Twilight Sparkle is the personal apprentice of Princess Celestia and is a wildly powerful and talented magic-user in her own right, but she has almost No Social Skills because she's a snarky introvert who spends too much time studying. Celestia takes it upon herself to do something about this before it's too late, with Twilight learning various friendship lessons and reporting them to Celestia being a framing device for those initial seasons.
  • The Daughters of Aku introduced in Season 5 of Samurai Jack are a team of deadly assassins born and raised for the sole purpose of killing Jack. All of that training came at the expense of basically any knowledge of the outside world. They don't even know what a deer is and are completely baffled (and upset) by displays of affection. It gets all but one of them killed.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Adora is a Tyke Bomb raised from infancy to be a soldier of the Horde, meaning she's a fantastic fighter and tactician. The tradeoff is that she has no understanding of things that aren't military, like horses, parties, soft beds, or the concept of aunts. When invited to a prom, she prepares like she's planning to invade a country. Notably, this is limited to Adora. The rest of the squad she grew up with are fully aware of these things, even if they never got to experience some of them; the aforementioned prom example has her Evil Former Friend be aware that its simply a fancy social event without it having to be explained to her.
  • Steven Universe does this a bit. On one level, there's the Crystal Gems. They are millennia-old protectors of Earth, and are very good at that job, until Steven's father Greg entered an actual romantic relationship with their leader, they never felt a need to actually interact with humans or study what it has to offer on a regular basis; they suck at both human interaction (less so talking with them as it is treating them with respect when doing so) and understanding human cultures. On another, the caste system of the species means that pretty much every Gem is like this when it comes to things that fall outside what they were specifically created for (such as Peridot, whose Gem type is dedicated solely to engineering).
    • Peridot is probably the best example in the series, as in addition to being completely new to Earth, her dedication to her work means that she also completely lacks the social skills that even other Gems have. So her redemption arc has her both struggling to understand how to process the emotions of herself and others on top of adapting to things like "rain" and "teen dramas".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sacrificed Basic Skill For Awesome Ability


The Foolish Samurai Warrior!

"My twenty-year education was purely learning how to whack this stick around. There was no math."

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