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She isn't even in some of them.

"Michael Corleone is The Godfather’s protagonist. The Don gets shot about 40 minutes into the film’s three-hour running time, and while he survives and has a few scenes thereafter, virtually everything memorable about Brando’s performance occurs within the first couple of reels."

It's common for a series to be named after one or more of its main characters. Either the series title and the star's name are one and the same (as in Jane Eyre and Indiana Jones) or the names of more than one protagonist will appear in the title (as in Romeo and Juliet and Tom and Jerry). Occasionally, though, the title comes from the name of a character who is not the main protagonist, which may cause some confusion about who's who. Usually, this character is pivotal to the plot or sets the story in motion. It still can cause confusion, especially when the actor playing the protagonist is billed directly above the title.

This trope sometimes leads to I Am Not Shazam, when people think the title is the protagonist's name. On the other hand, when the eponymous secondary character is mistaken for the protagonist, someone has committed the Protagonist Title Fallacy. Often takes the form of P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl, especially in Japanese media.


Sub-Trope of Character Title. Compare Villain-Based Franchise, Antagonist Title, Supporting Protagonist, and Deuteragonist. May overlap with Trivial Title if the secondary character is especially unimportant to the story.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • AKIRA spends the entirety of the film version in a glass jar. He's somewhat more active in the manga version, but while plot-relevant (being a young psychic Person of Mass Destruction who destroyed Tokyo), isn't much more than tertiary as a character.
  • Attacker You!: This trope applies to the title in foreign adaptations, specifically European, where Name and Name titles were very common. In Italy, the anime is known as Mila and Shiro, the "Italian" names of You and Sho. Even though he is You's Love Interest, Sho is a minor character at best and his name certainly doesn't deserve to be in the title along with the protagonist.
  • Bleach: The first movie, Memories of Nobody, refers to Senna, a girl who has multiple memories that weren't really hers to begin with due to being an amalgam of different souls.
  • Captain Tsubasa. Even though the series is only Tsubasa-centric, in many European adaptations the anime is known with a Name and Name title that makes it look like that Tsubasa and Genzo Wakabayashi are both equally important protagonists (evidenced also by the theme songs). While still a major character, Wakabayashi is often kept Out of Focus (or even Put on a Bus) due to injuries or other reasons.
  • A Certain Magical Index: The title character is only the second most important character in the series; the main character is Touma. Though the first story arc revolved around her, Index rarely even makes an appearance in a lot of later story arcs.
  • Chibisan Date: Despite the title, Seiji is the real main character; Chibisan is more of a mascot than anything.
  • Doraemon: Nobita is the main protagonist in virtually most stories/episodes of the series. Actually, most of the movies have Character Name and the Noun Phrase titles like "Nobita and..." or "Nobita's..."
  • Dororo: Hyakkimaru is really the main protagonist. The original anime is titled Dororo to Hyakkimaru.
  • Doctor Slump was originally supposed to be the story of the wacky inventor Senbei Norimaki (AKA. The eponymous Dr. Slump), however, Robot Girl Arale ended up taking center stage, to the point that the Animated Adaptation was actually called "Dr. Slump: Arale-chan".
  • Fuuka offers an ambiguous example; technically, the main character is neither Fuuka Akitsuki nor Fuuka Aoi. Even more so after Akitsuki dies.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya: At first glance, it may look like Haruhi is the main character (she is after all the poster girl) but she's not. Kyon serves as the narrator and POV character for the entire series, becoming more and more clearly The Hero as events progress. He is only the Supporting Protagonist in the sense that many of the events that occur are a result of Haruhi's actions or emotional state.
  • Despite being the titular High Score Girl who drives much of the plot, legendary arcade gamer Akira Oono isn't the main character of the series. That honor goes to Haruo Yaguchi, who befriends her.
  • The main protagonist and POV character of Inuyasha is actually Kagome, though the titular Inuyasha gets almost as much screen time and serves as the deuteragonist.
  • Lu Over the Wall: The titular character is the second most important character in the film. The main character and the one whose character development drives much of it is Kai.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid and Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, the two fourth season manga of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, still keeps Nanoha's name in the title even though her main character status has been taken by Vivio and Thoma respectively. This is especially noticeable in ViVid, where multiple volumes could pass with Nanoha barely appearing on page.
  • Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit: The title "Guardian of the Spirit" actually refers to the young Prince Chagum, not the main protagonist Balsa. This is easy to mistake, as Balsa is Chagum's bodyguard, making her the Guardian of the Guardian of the Spirit.
  • My-HiME: After being the main character, Mai Tokiha barely appears in the Elseworld spin-off Mai-Otome, relegated to a supporting role near the end. Also an example of Artifact Title.
  • Pokémon: Ash, first and foremost, is the main character of the series rather than the titular creatures, with Pikachu as his sidekick. In fact, as with the Transformers example below, the Mons in general take a backseat to the humans. This is somewhat true of the game series as well, but to a lesser extent due to how much the gameplay itself revolves around the titular Mons.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion has the titular character fall to a supporting role with the story being told from Homura's perspective.
  • Reborn! (2004) has Reborn, the hitman who is the tutor to the main character Tsunayoshi Sawada. Reborn does nothing except making Tsuna stronger and stronger, so the latter can beat the crap out of the enemies.
  • Sankarea: The plot mainly follows Chihiro Furuya, although Rea Sanka is pretty much the central character to the plot.
  • Tensai Bakabon is initially a gag manga about a little boy named Bakabon and his adventures with his pals, focusing so strongly on his point of view that his parents don't even get names, referred to only as "Papa" and "Mama." Over time, however, Bakabon's troublemaking father becomes the Breakout Character, to the point that the series soon revolves around him and his various schemes. Bakabon himself is demoted to his occasional sidekick. Despite this, the dad is still never given a name, and is called "Bakabon's Father" on merchandise.
  • Violet Evergarden starts out as an example of this. In the first 4 chapters, Violet's clients are the main characters of each short story. Violet didn't become the protagonist until Chapter 5.

    Asian Animation 
  • Guardian Fairy Michel largely focuses on Kim White, an Ace Pilot who meets the titular Michel and ends up traveling with him when her old enemies kidnap the rest of the fairies. Although Michel can do a Fusion Dance to merge with any rescued fairies and gain their powers, it's Kim who does the final blow to most monsters they fight.
  • In Waltz with Bashir, President Bashir is referred to but doesn't actually appear in the movie except on posters.

    Comic Books 
  • Most comic book series starring DC Comics' Captain Marvel are named Shazam, after Captain Marvel's wizard mentor, or, more specifically, the often conflated word Billy Batson says to transform. This is actually due to an agreement with Marvel Comics over the use of the name "Captain Marvel"—it can't be used in the title of a DC book. At least it was the case, since in 2011 Captain Marvel was officially renamed Shazam.
  • The main character of Convergence: Adventures of Superman is the Pre-Crisis Supergirl. Superman himself is the Deuteragonist.
  • Gear. The title character doesn't show up until the second-to-last issue. The word "gear" isn't even mentioned by name until then. The main characters are actually Waffle, Gordon, and Mr. Black.
  • X-Men: Noir, an Elseworld miniseries set in a version of 1930s New York without any superpowered heroes, is an example of this, oddly enough. Its protagonist is actually The Angel,note  a mostly-forgotten Timely Comics character who spends the story investigating the murder that kicks off the plot. "The X Men" are a fugitive gang of teenage criminals who are suspected of said murder, and end up helping The Angel take down the real criminals by the end.
  • In Tintin story "King Ottokar's Sceptre" is a tertiary character title where one might expect a secondary: the king in the story is named Muskar. (The eponymous sceptre was named for his ancestor Ottokar).
  • Sha: The main character is a witch named Lara; Sha is the protector deity of witches who makes Lara remember her past life.
  • Elfes et Nains: Derdhr of the Talion is actually a direct sequel to Ordo of the Talion focusing more on the latter than on the title character.
  • Barbe-Rouge: The actual protagonist of the series is Eric, Barbe-Rouge's adopted son. Barbe-Rouge himself is absent from half the stories.

    Comic Strips 
  • Polly and Her Pals ultimately became this. Initially, Polly was the main character, until Cliff Sterrett (the artist) decided that her father, Paw Perkins, had more comedic potential and made him the star of the strip.
  • In a similar vein, Funky Winkerbean really did once star the title character, but as time went on, he was Demoted to Extra.
  • Blondie is the wife of the main character, Dagwood, though (similarly to the above example) she was the lead during the strip's start.
  • Another old strip where this happened was Barney Google, which after some years focused on Barney's hillbilly cousin. Eventually, the series was renamed after the latter, Snuffy Smith.
  • In some countries, Peanuts is known as 'Snoopy', because 'Peanuts' sounds silly when translated and Snoopy is probably the most marketable character for merchandising, even though Charlie Brown is clearly the protagonist.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • The Boss Baby: The Boss Baby is the title character, but his older brother, the Unreliable Narrator Tim, is really the protagonist.
  • Corpse Bride: The real hero is Victor. Emily, the titular "Corpse Bride", is the Romantic False Lead.
  • Finding Nemo: The main character is Marlin, Nemo's father, with Dory as the Deuteragonist. The titular Nemo is actually the tritagonist.
  • Gisaku: The main character is actually Yohei. Gisaku is little more than a pet for most of the film.
  • A Goofy Movie: The story of the film focuses more on Goofy's son Max than it does on Goofy. It shows Max's premonition of taking after his father, trying to become popular, attempting to get the girl of his dreams to notice him, and struggling to cover up his lie to both Roxanne and Goofy. The one time we actually get to see a scene that focuses on Goofy's perspective alone is when he discovers that Max changed his directions on the map.
  • Leroy & Stitch: The more marketable Stitch has more of a supporting role in this film than a leading role, and fellow title character Leroy is only a secondary antagonist who gets cloned in short order. The film is really about Lilo having to come with terms that she needs to say goodbye to Stitch, Jumba and Pleakley after they persue their apparent dream jobs (or, in Jumba's case, return to his old job), only to reunite with them when main Big Bad Hämsterviel is broken out of prison by Gantu and forces Jumba to create Leroy. She also gets the help of Experiment 625, who she finally names "Reuben", after he was abandoned by Gantu.
  • Meet the Robinsons: None of the Robinsons is the main character. But they do welcome the actual orphaned protagonist—Lewis—into their family. This is technically a subversion since a future version of Lewis is the Robinson patriarch.
  • My Neighbor Totoro: The titular character refers to the creature the main characters, Satsuki and Mei, meet after moving to their new home.
  • The Pagemaster: The Pagemaster is the all-powerful wizard who sends Richard on a journey to overcome his fears. While he sets the plot in motion, he only appears in two brief scenes.
  • Princess Mononoke: Not only is the main protagonist not the character referred to by the title (it's Ashitaka), the name "Princess Mononoke" itself is only used once in the film to refer to San, as it's a nickname given to her by the residents of Irontown.
  • Sleeping Beauty: "Sleeping Beauty" refers to Aurora, but she's just a Decoy Protagonist and the real protagonists are the three fairies. Aurora has a total of eighteen lines of dialogue in the entire movie and the shortest screentime for any Disney heroine. The fairies, despite being treated as if they were sidekicks, have much more screentime (and dialogue) than Aurora and basically, do everything for both Aurora and Phillip.
  • Waltz with Bashir: President Bashir is referred to but doesn't actually appear in the movie.note 
  • The Iron Giant is the Deuteragonist.
  • Coco: The protagonist is Miguel, Coco is his great-grandma.
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham focuses on the Suicide Squad more than Batman.
  • Superman/Batman: Apocalypse would have made more sense if it were called Superman/Supergirl: Apocalypse. Batman gets nowhere near as much screen time and Wonder Woman appears as often as he does.
  • When Marnie Was There is about a girl named Anna who befriends the titular Marnie.
  • The Prophet: "The Prophet" refers to Mustafa, and while he's the primary focus, the protagonist is Almitra.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Roger Rabbit is not actually the main character of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He's just the one who solicits the services of the story's actual protagonist, human detective Eddie Valiant. Roger steals every scene he's in and is pivotal to the case, though.
  • Beetlejuice has less screentime in his own movie than any of the other characters. This is not the case in the animated series that followed, though, where he is undoubtedly the star.
  • The titular Bride of Frankenstein doesn't appear until the last four minutes of the movie.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Extra points for sounding like a Word Salad Title, rather than anything to do with the characters at all, to people who aren't very familiar with the plot.
  • The title character from 1991 film Oscar doesn't actually show up until the last minute or two of the movie. While some of the earlier events of the film do revolve around him in some way, the real point of the title is as a nod to Oscar Wilde; both the film and the play on which it's based pay homage to his style of humour.
  • The protagonist of The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is the young son of a Nazi officer who becomes acquainted with the boy of the title, who's a prisoner in a concentration camp. Some people were annoyed about this.
  • The Big Lebowski refers to Jeffrey Lebowski, a millionaire for whom the protagonist (also christened Jeffrey Lebowski, but goes by "The Dude") is mistaken. Walter refers to the former as "the other Lebowski, the Big Lebowski" in one line. This one gets it bad enough that even fans of the film who know there are two Lebowskis and that Bridges's character is primarily called the Dude, still talk about Jeff Bridges being "The Big Lebowski".
  • TRON and TRON: Legacy are about Kevin Flynn and his son. Tron is a minor character in both of them.
  • There no panthers, pink or otherwise in The Pink Panther, or any of its sequels, outside of the animated opening credits, which are not part of the plot. The title especially does not refer to Inspector Cluseau, the moronic detective central to (most) of the films' plot. The title refers to a giant pink diamond with a panther-shaped flaw, and even the diamond only appears in two films: The Pink Panther and The Return of the Pink Panther.
    • The second film in the series, A Shot in the Dark, shows that the Panther was not intended to be the series' title, but the third film features the return of the diamond, and thus uses the Panther in its title. After that, it was inescapably known as the "Pink Panther series", and thus, each subsequent film used the name in their titles, even though the diamond never appeared again.
    • While most of the titles are just nonsensical and could refer to anything (The Pink Panther Strikes Again could even refer to Dreyfuss, the film's villain), the final title, Son of the Pink Panther seems to overtly suggest that Cluseau is indeed who the name "Pink Panther" refers to.
  • In all three Re-Animator movies, the main character is Herbert West's protege, not Dr. West himself.
  • The live-action Transformers movies. The fact that the Transformers are secondary characters in the movies named after them is a frequent subject of mockery, due to the fact that they were the main characters in other incarnations of the franchise.
  • Golden Swallow: The titular heroine in this sequel to Come Drink With Me has been greatly Demoted to Extra, playing second fiddle to the new hero Silver Roc.
  • The title character of Johnny Guitar played by Sterling Hayden is the Deuteragonist, and in narrative terms the third most important character after The Hero Vienna and the Big Bad Emma Small.
  • The Last Samurai does not, as many people seemed to think, refer to the main character Nathan Algren, but to the rebelling group of samurai led by Katsumoto. This is not helped by the fact that "samurai" can be either singular or plural in Japanese.
  • John Tucker is not the main character in John Tucker Must Die. Kate is.
  • Amy is only mentioned off-screen in Chasing Amy as the ex-girlfriend of another secondary character.
  • The protagonist of Rachel Getting Married is Rachel's younger sister Kym.
  • My Week with Marilyn is told from Colin Clark's perspective.
  • The protagonists of Horrible Bosses are their respective employees.
  • Paul is a CGI alien. The protagonist is the Graeme/Clive duo.
  • The Focker children in Little Fockers have neither many lines nor much screentime.
  • The protagonist of I Love You Phillip Morris is Steven Russell, who loves Phillip Morris.
  • The titular character of Rebecca was already dead before the movie even began; however, the disproportionate influence her memory still has over the other characters is central to the story.
  • The Bourne Legacy. Jason Bourne is only be mentioned off-screen as the movie leaves the main character's seat to (who else?) his legacy.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme's character is not the eponymous Cyborg (1989), it's the woman who was taken captive by the bad guys.
  • The Thin Man: The man of the title is the victim, not one of the protagonists or the villain. This didn't prevent the sequels from using him as an Artifact Title, even though his deceased character has nothing to do with their plots.
  • Harvey does not even conclusively establish Harvey's actual existence until well into the film, though he does drive a lot of the plot.
  • In Laura, Laura is the name of the woman whose murder the detective is investigating.
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall: The titular character is the ex-girlfriend of the protagonist, who spends about a quarter of the film trying to get over.
  • In The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow Johnny Hollow is unseen, as the photographer who took the photo that's the subject of the film. His only "appearance" is via the text of a letter, warning the recipient, an Occult Detective viewpoint character, to "look closely."
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Although not the case in the original book (which had a different Protagonist Title), in the 1971 film, the titular Wonka, though an important character, is still just the owner of the titular factory to which the main protagonist Charlie wins a trip.
  • Ironically, the book's second adaptation Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also an example because it kept the book's original title but changed the focus so that Wonka now is the main character.
  • In Mon Oncle Antoine, Antoine is a significant character, but the protagonist is his nephew Benoit and the story is told from Benoit's perspective.
  • The protagonist of The Strong Man is Paul, Zandow the strong man's bumbling assistant, who has a series of misadventures while trying to find his pen pal girlfriend. Zandow is only in four scenes.
  • Ken Park kills himself at the start of the movie. The rest of the movie is about his classmates.
  • In Shaw Brothers' take on Marco Polo, Marco Polo is a spectator at most. The main heroes are the four brothers defending the Shaolin temple from Mongols, whose heroism are noted by Polo on his journey to China.
  • Ruby Sparks is the girlfriend of the main character Calvin who made her from his imagination.
  • (500) Days of Summer follows Tom, the main character, as he tries to get over the fact that he and the titular character is/was never meant to be.
  • In Fido, the titular character is the zombie butler of the main character and his family.
  • The Princess Bride: Buttercup, the titular bride, is the Love Interest of both The Hero Westley and the Big Bad Prince Humperdinck.
  • In Mud, the titular character is only the Deuteragonist who is hiding from mercenaries/bounty hunters and is found and befriended by the Kid Hero protagonist and his Lancer.
  • The Kids Are All Right: The Kids refers to Joni and Laser, but the story focuses on their mothers and their Glorified Sperm Donor.
  • Junebug is the name the Supporting Protagonist's pregnant sister-in-law wants for her child once she gives birth. She suffers a miscarriage.
  • Marketa Lazarová doesn't play very large role in the plot. Mikoláš is the actual protagonist.
  • In Roberta, Stephanie is the main character. Her boyfriend's Aunt Minnie is the original Roberta, but she dies not long into the movie.
  • Dr. Strangelove is only in two scenes. Doesn't mean he didn't make a hell of an impact.
  • Trancers: The protagonist is Jack Deth. The Trancers are the Big Bad's mind slaves.
  • Children of the Night refers to the kids the villain used to feed while he was imprisoned.
  • While several James Bond movies have a title in connection to the main villain, Octopussy has the distinction of being the only one named after the Bond Girl.
  • Waking Ned Devine is a pretty interesting example, considering the only time Ned actually appears on screen, it's his dead body, having died from shock after learning that he won the lottery. The rest of the movie is about two old men pretending he's still alive to collect this winnings.
  • In Claire's Knee, Claire doesn't show up until about halfway through and she's the least developed of all the major characters.
  • To the extent that there is a main character in The Baker's Wife, it's the baker himself. His wife kicks off the plot by running off with another man, and the film doesn't focus much on her afterwards.
  • Tumbleweed is named after the horse Jim Logan is loaned when he sets off on his Clear My Name mission. It avoids being a Trivial Title because Tumbleweed's talents prove vital in allowing Jim to survive and succeed.
  • Heathers: The three "Heathers" (Heather Chandler, Heather Duke, and Heather McNamara) who lend the film its title are actually supporting characters, as Veronica is the protagonist and J.D. is the antagonist.
  • The People Under the Stairs: The titular people are the Robesons' previous victims, trapped under the stairs after being mutilated.
  • Gord's brother Freddy doesn't appear much in Freddy Got Fingered and Gord's pretense that their father molested him is only a minor plot point.
  • The General's Daughter: Captain Elizabeth Campbell is the impetus for the plot, but since it revolves around the investigation of her murder, she's neither one of the leads (Brenner, Sunhill), nor one of the bad guys (Kent, General Campbell).
  • The Last Jedi: The title refers to Luke, but the film very much belongs to his nephew Kylo Ren.
  • Mr. No Legs is titled after the main villain's enforcer, who is killed just before the climax.
  • The identity of The Third Man is itself a mystery for much of the film; it refers to an unidentified third person a witness claims he saw carrying the protagonist's dying friend Harry Lime away from a car accident, while the other two men insist they were alone. But it's all a coverup; Lime is alive, and is the person the witness saw; the body was another victim entirely who is now buried in Lime's grave.
  • Birds of Prey was more of a Harley Quinn movie with the rest of the Birds being minor characters.

  • Moby-Dick is really about Ishmael and Captain Ahab; the eponymous Moby Dick is an enormous sperm whale that serves as Ahab's Animal Nemesis.
  • The Three Musketeers is about D'Artagnan, the fourth musketeer.
  • Alexander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter is named after the main character's love interest.
  • The Giver is about the boy who's been selected to replace the Giver.
  • The Indian in the Cupboard is about the kid whose cupboard the Indian is in.
  • Flowers for Algernon refers to the protagonist's fellow test subject—a white rat. Perhaps to avert the trope, the film adaptation was renamed Charly.
  • The protagonist of Daisy Miller is Frederick Winterbourne, who falls in love with Daisy.
  • John Dies at the End: Dave is the narrator and central character. John is his Cloudcuckoolander best friend.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda: The protagonist is the man attempting to rescue the prisoner, who barely features.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel: The protagonist is the eponymous hero's wife Marguerite.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe pulls a trifecta by being titled after a secondary character (Aslan), the villain (Jadis the White Witch), and a gateway to another dimension.
  • The protagonist of Rebecca is the second Mrs. de Winter (whose first name is never given). Rebecca herself is a Posthumous Character.
  • The protagonist (and narrator) of Lorna Doone is her love interest John Ridd.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Lord of the Rings is the villain. The volume Return of the King refers to the Supporting Leader Aragorn.
  • The protagonist of Aimee is not Aimee but her best friend who is accused of killing her. In fact, the protagonist isn't named until the end of the book. Her name is Zoe.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was never the protagonist, but he is an important character who helps actual protagonist Dorothy get home (just not in the way Dorothy expected). He becomes a very minor character in later books in the series.
  • Looking for Alaska. Whilst Alaska is a main character, the focus is more on Pudge.
  • In Saving Zoë, Zoë is the main character Echo's late sister, who was murdered. The book revolves around Echo finding Zoë's diary and reading it.
  • The Thin Man is not detective Nick Charles, but Clyde Wynant, the man he is looking for. The confusion was not helped by the fact that the movie version spawned a series of sequels, all of which included "the Thin Man" in their title.
  • The unfinished epic Titurel by medieval poet Wolfram von Eschenbach was named by scholars after the first name mentioned in the surviving text. Titurel does not actually appear in the story, he is merely one of the protagonist's ancestors.
  • Constance Greene's young adult novels in the "Alexandra" series (such as Al(exandra) the Great) are all named after the narrator's best friend. The narrating character is never even given a name.
  • George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series has Lt. MacNeill as the protagonist, and there are stories where McAuslan plays only a minor role at best.
  • The Skulduggery Pleasant books are mostly told from the point of view of his protegee, Valkyrie Cain.
  • The young adult novel Amandine by Adele Griffon is named after the protagonist's eccentric (and later somewhat antagonistic) friend.
  • The Millennium Trilogy: Regardless of the title of each installment, the protagonist of the series has always been Mikael Blomkvist.
  • Hawthorne Abendsen, The Man in the High Castle, is a minor character.
  • Gives Light is the surname of the main character's best friend and love interest, a Plains Shoshone boy. It's also the surname of his father, a serial killer who murdered the main character's mother years ago.
  • The bride in Bride of the Rat God refers to the actress Christine, but her cousin Norah is the central character.
  • The Butterfly Kid is named for a very minor secondary character—albeit one who gets the plot rolling. Its sequel, The Unicorn Girl, is also named for a secondary character, though a much more important one: the hero's potential love interest.
  • Several of H. Rider Haggard's novels are named after the hero's love interest, even if she is not the main focus. For example, Nada the Lily is about the hero Umslopogaas, the illegitimate son of the great Zulu king and general Chaka.
  • The Red Vixen Adventures: The series as a whole and half the individual titles refer to the Red Vixen, a character with very little actual screen time (and most of that is spent as her Secret Identity, Lady Melanie) and the story is never told from her perspective.
  • In Dear Mr. Henshaw, Boyd Henshaw is more of a plot device than an actual character; the real protagonist is sixth-grader Leigh Botts.
  • Neuromancer, to the extent that we don't even find out that "Neuromancer" is a character until late in the final act. It turns out that Wintermute's mission to infiltrate the Villa Straylight has actually been part of its attempt to merge with Neuromancer, its twin A.I., to become capable of growing past the limits of its programming. Also a case of Small Role, Big Impact.
  • Frankenstein. The focus is not on the scientist Victor Frankenstein but on his creation "Frankenstein's Monster". Of course, many people think "Frankenstein" is the name of the monster.
  • The Chronicles of Prydain are about a young man named Taran and the adventures he experiences on the path to adulthood in the country of Prydain. The final book in the series, The High King, refers to the ruler of the country. This is ultimately a subversion of the trope, however, because Taran himself is named High King of Prydain at the very end of the story.
  • The Crippled God, the last book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, is named after an important but rarely seen character. For most of the series it actually looks like it's going to be a case of Antagonist Title as the Crippled God is the instigator and Man Behind the Man of most of the conflicts within the series, but then turns out to be a little fish in the pond of the Big Bad Ensemble and himself in need of rescue.
  • The first of the Tiffany Aching books in Discworld is called The Wee Free Men, after the Nac Mac Feegles, a group of rebellious "pictsies" (NOT "pixies") who assist Tiffany, but she's the main protagonist. The Feegles ARE quite memorable, however.
  • Dr. Seuss:
    • The Cat in the Hat is the tritagonist: the protagonist and deuteragonist are the boy and girl he visits.
    • The Lorax: The focus in on the Once-ler, not on the Lorax.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Feminine Intuition": The 1970 German translation, "Jane 5", prompts the prototype robot to titular importance, despite not ever speaking on-screen.
    • "Galley Slave": The title refers to robot EZ-27, constructed to do proofreading, grading, and the other miscellany mental drudgery that occurs in universities.
    • "Lenny": Lenny, the In-Series Nickname for LNE models, was built for mining boron from asteroids. However, due to an accident during the initial planning, it doesn't work correctly.
    • "Sally": Sally is Jake's favorite self-driving car, but he's the viewpoint protagonist and the one who changes over the course of the story.
    • "The Ugly Little Boy": Both versions of the title refer to Timmie, whose role in the story is to be cared for by Edith Fellowes. The story follows her perspective and actions, her role within Stasis Incorporated as Timmie's caretaker. Usually, we only discover what Timmie is feeling based on what she's telling the other characters.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's The Norby Chronicles: The main character is Jefferson Wells, a cadet in the Space Academy. The title character is Norby, who was purchased to be Jeff's teaching robot. Instead Norby tends to drag him into insane adventures involving aliens from other times and other dimensions.
  • The narrator of Walter Scott's Rob Roy is Frank Osbaldistone.

    Live-Action TV 

  • "There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" by Kirsty MacColl. The protagonist is the narrator's probably unfaithful lover; the guy down the chip shop ("he's a liar") is just someone the real protagonist gets compared to.
  • It wasn't uncommon at all for rock bands in The '60s to be named after the founding member, even if, instead of being the lead singer, they were the guitarist (Spencer Davis Group, Jeff Beck Group), the keyboardist (Manfred Mann, Paul Revere and the Raiders) or the drummer (The Dave Clark Five).
  • Vengaboys can somewhat be applied to this trope, due to the fact that the lead vocalists of the group are female, and the other two members are male.

  • Waiting for Godot: The main characters are Vladimir and Estragon, who are waiting for Godot. Godot doesn't even appear in the play.
  • Bye Bye Birdie: The title refers to rock star Conrad Birdie, who plays a major role, but Conrad's manager, Albert, and his secretary are the main characters.
  • Gypsy refers to Gypsy Rose Lee, the stage name Louise acquires halfway through the second act. Her mother is the principal character.
  • Several Shakespearean examples, because in his day usually the character of the highest rank, not the main character, got the title (but not always, vide Hamlet).
    • Cymbeline: The main character is Imogen.
    • Henry IV parts 1 and 2: The main characters are Prince Hal and Falstaff.
    • Julius Caesar: Caesar dies less than halfway through; the main character is Brutus.
    • The Merchant of Venice: Most people assume that the title refers to the villain, Shylock, but it actually refers to Antonio. The actual protagonist of the play is up for debate.
  • Marvin's Room. Marvin has absolutely no lines (he's senile and bedridden, you see), and the story is about his two daughters and one of his grandsons.
  • Victor Hugo's Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia is at most a deuteragonist. The main character is Genarro, her abandonned incest-born son.
  • The title character of Fiddler on the Roof never speaks, and only appears a few times in the show. Tevye is the main character.
  • The Barber of Seville also applies. Figaro is a relatively major character, but Almaviva is the protagonist.
  • The principal characters of the ballet Don Quixote are the young lovers, Basilio and Kitri. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are secondary mime parts. Not surprising, as the adaptation is In Name Only, anyway.
  • The opera Paul Bunyan introduces Paul Bunyan as the hero of its story, but he remains Shrouded in Myth and never appears onstage. The real protagonist is Hel Helson.
  • Iolanthe gives the titular character less to act and sing about than other major characters, despite her importance in the plot. The protagonist is her son, Strephon.
  • In The Mikado, the title character doesn't make his entrance until well into the second act. The protagonist is his only son, Nanki-Poo.
  • The Nibelung in Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung is Alberich, but the central character of the tetralogy as a whole is Wotan, even though there is no character who appears in all four parts. Brünnhilde, the titular character of The Valkyrie, is also probably an example as the opera is mostly about Wotan and his mortal children Siegmund and Sieglinde (the latter is the only character who appears in all three acts), while Brünnhilde in this opera is primarily defined as Wotan's alter ego—she tries to do what he can't because he is constrained by his obligations to treaties and the law.
  • Slowgirl has one that may be regarded as especially trivial. "Slowgirl" is the nickname of Becky's classmate Marybeth, who never appears in the story (as there are only two characters, Becky and Sterling.) Becky talks about her a lot and she is an especially important part of Becky's backstory, but she's actually Dead All Along and an ultimately fairly minor character.
  • The main character of Mikhail Glinka's A Life for the Tzar, a name suggested by Nikolai I, is in fact Ivan Susanin. The title was changed under Soviet rule to that of its hero.


    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda: The ultimate Trope Codifier to point that the true protagonist is Link.
  • The Immortal (obvious, since there's Everything Trying to Kill You)
  • Lufia. Even worse in the sequels, where Lufia isn't even in the game. At least, not under that name.
  • Metroid:
  • Sonic Battle: Despite his name being in the title, Sonic only does two major things in the story. Discovering Emerl, and destroying him when he goes haywire. Instead, much of the focus is on Emerl developing into a sapient individual.
  • As mentioned under Film, this is something in the Tron series.
    • In TRON Maze-a-Tron, Flynn is the main character.
    • In Tron 2.0, it's Jet Bradley as the main character. Tron himself is completely absent, having disappeared years before the game begins, but his legacy code still plays a part in the story.
    • TRON: Evolution only has Tron in the opening. He's shuffled out of the plot after the first chapter, due to the film, TRON: Legacy, mentioned above.
  • A common gripe about the "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion for World of Warcraft was that the titular villain got very little screen time and spends pretty much the whole expansion as Orcus on His Throne.
    • Another common opinion is that he got too much screen time and popped up everywhere, so that when you faced him in the final battle, he had lost much of his effect as a godlike entity who would be impossible to defeat, you had simply gotten too familiar with him letting you run off after killing a boss.
  • You'd be surprised how little Anna actually features in her own game. In fact, it's debatable if she appears at all (because True Art Is Incomprehensible).
  • The Arkham Knight from Batman: Arkham Knight, while still extremely important, is The Dragon to the game's real Big Bad, Scarecrow.
  • Cross of Xenoblade Chronicles X serves as a witness to the plot which is about humanity's survival with Elma at the helm, although symbolically, the "X" represents alien life of the unknown which Elma is an alien herself.
  • Seen in a few installments of the Dark Parables; the fourth game is called The Red Riding Hood Sisters and the fifth is The Final Cinderella. The actual protagonist of all of the games is a woman known as the Fairy Tale Detective.
  • LISA: Lisa herself only appears in one of the games, outside of as a hallucination. Her death, however, kickstarts the plot of all games onward.
  • In Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom, the protagonist and player character is Sir Cucumber, who must rescue the eponymous princess.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

  • Rusty and Co.: A party member, but the lead character is clearly Mimic.
  • Zelfia: The character Zelfia has appeared exactly three times. The title refers more to the series' Arc Words
  • Unicorn Jelly: The real main character is arguably Chou, who does most of the heavy lifting and gets most of the focus, especially towards the end. The POV character is Lupiko (most of the time). Uni, the title character, is just the supporting Team Pet.
  • Kurami: Ana Kirkland is the main character, while Kurami is the infant cousin whom she is raising. To avoid confusion, author Deon Parson announced in January 2016 that he'd be changing the strip's name to Life With Kurami.
  • Oglaf: The titular Oglaf has shown up maybe a handful of times in the entire comic.
  • Lotus Cobra Is Evil: With the One-Word Title "Gary" strip, named for the character who's being posed questions.

    Western Animation 
  • Half true for The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. Charlie Chan only would appear at the beginning and end of the episodes which mainly dealt with his kids engaging in Scooby-Doo antics.
  • Timmy Turner is the main protagonist of the The Fairly OddParents. The title characters grant his wishes, teach him lessons, and generally serve as parental substitutes, since his actual parents constantly neglect him.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Bloo & Mac are the protagonists. Neither of the Fosters are the main character: Madame Foster is the owner of the titular home that takes in "abandoned" imaginary friends (including Mac's friend Bloo), while her granddaughter Frankie is the caretaker. Out of the titular imaginary friends, Bloo is the Deuteragonist.
  • In Gawayn, the heroes are searching for the crystal of Gawayn in order to break the curse on Princess Gwendolyn, but it is not clear who Gawayn actually is (or was), though presumably he's meant to be the one from Arthurian legend.
  • Pixel Pinkie: Nina is the main protagonist while the titular Pixel Pinkie is the deuteragonist
  • TRON: Uprising is about Beck acting as Tron under his order, not about Tron himself.
  • Wat's Pig: Wat is the protagonist, his brother the king is the deuteragonist, and the present.
  • Wildfire is about a young girl, Princess Sara, and her efforts to reclaim her rightful throne. The title refers to a magical talking horse who is sworn to protect her..

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