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Skilled, but Naive

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They don't call her Wildfire for her surgical precision.

"Old age and treachery will beat youth and skill every time."

You get a young character who is pretty awesome at what they do. This person out-performs the grizzled veterans at nearly everything, whether it's bringing down the Monster of the Week, commanding the Redshirt Army into battle, or solving the murder. A few years older and they will be a total badass.

There's just one problem: their complete lack of real-world experience.

This character's talents may serve them well in a professional context, but they still find themselves running into trouble by doing things the superior experience of their less talented predecessors would tell them to avoid. This is often exacerbated by arrogance and Pride from the rookie who finds themselves outperforming people who have made kicking ass their career. Sometimes they will have a sense of responsibility to use their new abilities to the fullest (not having the patience and foresight more experienced characters have in knowing you can't help anyone if you are dead, of course).

Many, many heroes start off this way. The Hero often starts off as the least experienced member of the Five-Man Band, giving them room to grow as a character while tending to ultimately be the most powerful member of their team. Main characters in general have a nasty habit of going beyond their experience levels and relying on raw talent and bravado, which frequently gets the rest of the group into trouble as well. In particularly tragic circumstances, such impetuosity can get a character or their allies killed, with all the emotional torque and lessons about the fragility of youth and the dangers of overestimating talents. It's a frequent source of the Mentor Occupational Hazard.

Kid Heroes, such as Young Guns, Kid Samurai, and Cute Bruisers, can find themselves falling into this. Add Hot-Blooded into the mix and you're asking for impetuosity combined with incompetence. In a military setting, this can be one of the defining traits of Ensign Newbie.

This trope is very closely related to Idiot Hero, to the point where the two tropes look identical at first glance. There is a subtle difference however. While Idiot Hero refers to a character who is genuinely intellectually challenged but whose other strengths (Heroism, personality and morality) make them a hero, characters of this trope may be very intelligent, possibly even geniuses, but they don't have enough experience, both in life and in their chosen fields, to make the best of that talent. It's a subtle difference, but an important one. However, an Idiot Hero can also be Skilled But Naive if their usual line of work tends to rely more on instinct and moral certainty than on abstract intelligence, and naturally the lack of intelligence will tend to exacerbate their naïveté.

If they do evolve, they are rather malleable. A bad shock may send them into themselves, creating a Zen Survivor or Knight in Sour Armor, a character who feels cynically about issues but still can't stop the bold idealistic tendencies from showing through when the chips are down. Or constant steady success may create a full-on Action Hero or All-Loving Hero. They can easily become a Future Badass in cases of Sacrificial Lion or an earlier Downer Ending where this character survives. Compare Innocent Prodigy. See also Well-Trained, but Inexperienced, a character that is well trained but has little to no actual combat experience.

Note that to fit this trope characters have to be:

1) Just as powerful or more powerful than more experienced characters.


2) Noticeably remarkable in their skills for their experience level.


3) Naïve when it comes to comprehending the world around them, subtle meanings of things, and the like. (These characters are likely to be Wide Eyed Idealists and believe in Honor Before Reason. They are excellent candidates for believing in Black-and-White Morality in a more realistic setting where shades of grey are the norm.)


4) While being excellent technical fighters and academically very capable at what they do, they are vulnerable to tactical oversights that only a more experienced character could possibly pick up on.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Tamaki of Bamboo Blade. Absolute prodigy at swordplay, hopelessly naïve in other situations.
  • Sensei from Barakamon. While a genius in calligraphy, lacks social skills and gets easily flustered when interacting with others, accidentally saying that his piece for a contest was a test piece and forcing him to come up with a new one at the last minute. Similarly, he constantly acts childish, gets outsmarted by 6 year olds in social interactions and has no idea about romance. Still he helps his students win calligraphy contests and always places high in them.
  • Shierke from Berserk is a very skilled witch (and arguably the most useful character to have in a fight after the main three), but her youth and relative inexperience leads her to overestimate her abilities and make several ultimately avoidable mistakes due to recklessness.
  • Bleach: It might surprise you to know that Orihime is actually a theoretically superlative fighter; she's a black-belt martial artists, and her spiritual powers allow her to block any attack, heal any injury, and potentially One-Hit Kill any opponent. She still struggles in battle and has to be protected because for all her power, she's still an Actual Pacifist high school student, not a Blood Knight like Ichigo or a trained warrior like the Gotei 13. She spends most of the series working to overcome her own hesitance in battle so she can stop being The Load.
  • Priscilla from Claymore fits this with tragic consequences. She hadn't been on the job for long before she was promoted to number two in the organization, and she was truly skilled at what she did. However, her big flaw was that she lacked experience and tended to see everything in black and white, even when fighting yoma. Both Teresa, who she was hunting, and Illena, who was really in control of the entire assassination task force (albeit it was technically Priscilla since she outranked her), called Priscilla out on her naïveté, but seeing that Priscilla was also emotionally unstable do to her traumatic past - you can guess where everything eventually led to.
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer!: Emilia Justina/Emi Yusa is very powerful and charismatic, but is genuinely shocked to discover that the Church of Ente Isla, which she had been fighting for her entire life, is corrupt; her friends, Albert and Emeralda, are not too surprised to discover this themselves. Furthermore, she is unaware that Suzuno is another Ente Isla native, something that Maou and his group knew from the minute she saw them, until Suzuno explicitly told her so to her face; Suzuno herself is absolutely shocked that Emi didn't figure it out herself.
  • Goku from Dragon Ball spent most of his childhood on his own after his adoptive father died, so at the start he lacks even the most basic skills, such as personal hygiene, maths, social skills and the like... he gets better along the story but remains naïve enough to fall for the oldest and dumbest tricks in the book (for example, he's fooled when Raditz tells an obvious lie, and is shocked that he would lie)... he's also a powerhouse of brute strength, agility and endurance AND he's a genius in all things related to martial arts. Clearly Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training.
    • It's even Invoked during the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. At one point during his fight with Goku, Jackie Chun switches to Drunken Fist specifically because Goku is too young to understand how a drunk person moves, giving Jackie an edge (albeit temporarily).
  • In Gamma, Blue Train isn't just a Lightning Bruiser, but also a Gadgeteer Genius who designed a costume that enables him to use his superpowers to his full potential, as well as a voice changer to disguise his voice while in costume. Unfortunately, he's a rather gullible hero who firmly believes in Thou Shalt Not Kill to the point of it being a fault, so he's rather ineffective until he's forced to realize that hesitating against a dangerous villain likely cost many innocent people their lives.
  • Pick a Gundam protagonist. Amuro, Kamille, Kira, Shinn, even the supposedly cynical Setsuna all start out pretty naïve. Then they get caught up in the war and, in one way or another, all break. In Shinn's case, the clever Big Bad exploits this, manipulating him into becoming one of the Co-Dragons without Shinn even realizing it until the end.
  • Hajime no Ippo:
    • Woli is absolutely made of this trope. That's what you get from being a divine boxing genius who got the Indonesian title after three fights. He's a happy-go-lucky monkey boy who makes stupid moves such as talking to his opponent during the match and eating bananas before the match, yet is basically the Takamura of feather-weight in terms of natural talent and fighting instincts. The only reason he lost against Ippo was due to lack of experience. Even Coach Kamogawa admits that Ippo couldn't win against a Woli with more boxing experience.
    • Itagaki Manabu is a good example as well, albeit not as extreme as Woli.
  • Mizuki from Kamisama Kiss knows quite a bit of magic and is far tougher and stronger than any ordinary human. However, he has lived a very sheltered life and when he is suddenly dropped into modern day Tokyo it really shows.
  • Shichika of Katanagatari: He's spent his entire life on a remote island cut off from civilization with only his sister and his father. He can't even tell other humans apart from each other by sight alone. While he did receive 20 years of training in Kyotoryuu, a powerful fighting style that is essentially "swordsmanship without a sword", he lacks actual battle experience. This actually cost him a quick victory in Episode 2 when he was caught off guard by his opponent's sword pressure and inadvertently held back on what would have been a decisive blow. Fortunately he had a backup plan in that case.
  • Teana Landstar of Lyrical Nanoha fame not only possesses shooting magic that doesn't have all that much raw power, but can be devastating if properly aimed, as well as illusion magic. Unfortunately, she's desperate to prove herself in order to show the Bureau that her family's magic isn't useless, and feels outclassed by those with raw power like Subaru, talent like Erio (who achieved B rank at a younger age and earlier than she did) and rare skills like Caro's Summon Magic. Her Character Development is chiefly about getting over herself and learning to be a team player.
  • Dr. Tenma in Monster. He's a surgical prodigy and an excellent doctor in general, but he's completely oblivious about Dr. Heinemann's political games, and that costs him the life of a patient he could have saved. After that, he gets better and evolves into an All-Loving Hero.
  • My Hero Academia features a large cast of young heroes-in-training, so this comes up from time to time, but particularly in the case of Momo Yaoyorozu early on. Gifted with the incredibly versatile ability to create any non-living object she can envision and the genius-level intellect required to use it quickly, she nevertheless struggled during the Sports Festival arc. Part of it was that she lacked the confidence to assert herself during team activities, and when the time came for her to partake in one-on-one combat, she spent so much time thinking about how to counter her opponent that she got pushed out of the ring before she could enact a strategy. Her Character Development in subsequent arcs has revolved around addressing these weaknesses.
  • Naruto:
    • Itachi Uchiha claims that his younger brother is one of these (Hence the manipulations of Orochimaru, Madara/Tobi and to some extent Itachi himself.)
    • Sakura had some of these tendencies as well; despite having excellent chakra control, and potential for genjutsu, she had even less fighting experience than Naruto, and tended to be useless in fights for a good chunk of the series.
    • The 1st Hokage is considered to be this by his younger brother, the 2nd. While Hashirama is unquestionably one of the most powerful shinobi to ever live, he had the rather naïve idea that all of the clans (who had spent generations killing each other) would all of a sudden get along after he founded the village. Likewise he distributed the tailed beasts among the ninja villages, hoping that this would balance things out and prevent war. It didn't.
    • Nagato. As Pain, he is/was an indomitably powerful ninja, but his ultimate goal was to end all war with the threat of the use of an incredibly powerful weapon. This sentiment has been expressed by many inventors in the past, who believed that the weapon they created would be devastating enough to end war forever (the Gatling gun and dynamite to name two) and without exception they have been sadly mistaken.
    • The legendary Sage of the Six Paths seems to have been this during his life as well. He was probably the strongest ninja in history (other than his mother). Even so, he honestly didn't think people would abuse the powerful techniques he passed down to them, and was surprised that his older son became resentful when he named the younger his successor.
  • Negi Springfield from Negima! Magister Negi Magi, a highly talented mage who at 10 years old has the sort of power and skill that most don't get even after decades of study and training...but he's still a ten year old and he thinks like one. As a result, a good chunk of his training involves getting the naïveté beaten out of him.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy is a strong and determined character who is made of rubber... who also goes "WOOOOOOOW" at every little thing along with Chopper, and who lacks common sense in many (most) occasions... like Goku above, he also gets better, sorta, as the story progresses.
    • The Zou arc introduces Carrot, a Little Bit Beastly young rabbit girl who is an acknowledged warrior in her homeland but has no idea of anything outside of it. While even Chopper and Luffy understand what a big deal going to sea is, Carrot thought stowing away on the Thousand Sunny to join a rescue mission would be a simple day trip and is amazed that the trip to their destination would take several days.
  • For all his cynical pragmatism and perfect social control within his normal sphere of influence, Kyouya Ootori from Ouran High School Host Club shows signs of being just as much of a teenage Sheltered Aristocrat behind those Stoic Spectacles as all the other students except Haruhi. Shows up most prominently in his Day in the Limelight episode, "Kyouya's Day Out!", and some of the more Kyouya-focused manga arcs that never made it into the anime.
  • The Prince of Tennis: Kabaji Munehiro is one of the most formidable players due to his Power Copying abilities coupled his physical power. However, he often lacks experience with the techniques he copies from opponents, which allow both Kawamura and Tezuka to exploit this.
  • Shinji Ikari in Rebuild of Evangelion. He's shortly established as the most competent and skilled EVA pilot, beating out the much-more-experienced Asuka while in an EVA he's unfamiliar with, but is easily manipulated by Gendo into accomplishing his goals and triggering a Fourth Impact.
  • Rebuild World:
    • This is how Reina is introduced, being completely naïve about how her lambasting fellow hunters could get her into a fight with them, which is called out with Brutal Honesty by Akira. Meanwhile, he's actually really impressed with her fighting skill. But she still falls for a Wounded Gazelle Gambit after that, and it takes a while for her to stop being Willfully Weak by wearing cheaper armor than she can afford simply to prove herself. Reina eventually grows out of this and into a Guile Hero.
    • The Rival Katsuya, on the other hand, despite being talented, never seems to learn. He just keeps on repeating the same mistakes, getting his subordinates killed, and being easily manipulated (especially if said lies make Akira, the one he's a Green-Eyed Monster of, look bad).
  • All of the Heroes start out as this in The Rising of the Shield Hero. Naofumi sees the truth after he is falsely accused while it takes the other three for the Church to try to kill them before they realize something is up.
  • Romeo X Juliet: Juliet, oh Juliet. You're a total Badass Adorable, but you should've known better than falling for the cute guy in a Cool Horse...
  • This trope is addressed in Samurai Champloo: One of Jin's early opponents, Inuyaka, notes that while he's a very skilled swordsman, he hasn't had enough outside experience to fight him in an unfamiliar environment, as he's spent his entire life training in a dojo. (By contrast, his counterpart Mugen wouldn't know formal fighting if he was presented with an instruction manual.)
  • Sonic X: While an exceptionally skilled fighter, a cunning Trap Master on his home turf, and possessing ancient knowledge not known to many, Knuckles also lacks social tact and is Super Gullible to the point of repeatedly falling for Eggman's Blatant Lies and claims of changing his ways; while he grew up believing in honesty and the inherit goodness of people, he can't seem to comprehend that with Eggman, there's just no "good" to see.
  • In Violet Evergarden, this was Violet's initial problem when it came to writing letters as noted by the Doll teacher. She was the only one in her class to attain perfect grades in vocabulary and grammar, as well as having excellent typing skills, but Violet simply lacked the social skills to accurately decipher a person's true letter and express it properly in a letter.
  • Haqua du Lot Herminium of The World God Only Knows was a brilliant student, whose hard work and talent were so undeniable that she broke through the glass ceiling and became the first student from a lower-class family to ever be awarded the Scythe of Testament, signifying her place at the top of her class. Once put in the field, however, she causes trouble by losing patience with her human partner, due to her need to prove herself. Then, when Vintage rears its head, she proves to be woefully naïve when it comes to reading people, requiring the help of her more worldly acquaintances on numerous occasions.
  • Azuma Kazuma of Yakitate!! Japan. He's an excellent baker (and is later to be incredibly good at math), but has little experience due to growing up in a remote rural area. He didn't even know what nan bread was, "inventing" it himself without realizing it had already been invented.

    Comic Books 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Silver is good with his powers and fighting, but not so good at getting facts and interacting with people. He's trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong by hunting down and stopping a traitor in the Freedom Fighters, but he's terrible at identifying said traitor and keeps running off half-cocked with little-to-no evidence; it takes him getting it wrong three times and pushing Sonic to the point he physically assaults him for Silver to realize he's going about trying to find the traitor the wrong way.
  • In a huge departure from her original characterization where she was savvy and skilled and easily outsmarted a con artist in her first foray off Paradise Island in George Perez's reboot of Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman Vol. 2) he mixed this with Good Cannot Comprehend Evil when Diana was fresh off Themiscyra. In her late teens, she had been endowed with great intelligence, but she struggled with the concept of Barbara Minerva being deceptive and wanting to steal her lasso, or Myndi Mayer unable to break her cocaine addiction, leading to her drug-induced suicide. Those things were utterly foreign to her, though they helped her become Older and Wiser.
  • The titular character from the Lucky Luke album The Tenderfoot is an English gentleman who inherited a ranch in the American West from his Remittance Man uncle. The comedy in the album mostly comes from the tenderfoot's effortless ability to outdo the rough-and-tumble cowboys at their own games (He was, among other things, school boxing champion at Oxbridge, an excellent equestrian and marksman due to his interest in hunting, and effectively inured to hardship after growing up in a Boarding School of Horrors) and his Upper-Class Twit mannerisms.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate Spider-Man are examples, both Peter Parker and Miles Morales. They have a defined sense of good and evil and no accountability, and were just teenagers. The politics behind what SHIELD and The Ultimates do and don't do is usually news to them. They also frequently fall into Destructive Saviour mode, and SHIELD has to clean up behind them.
    • All-New Ultimates: The new team is not exactly sure how to work as a team in the beginning as they no longer have SHIELD or government backing since SHIELD was shut down. They have only worked together twice prior to becoming an official team and both situations pail in comparison to what they face as a formal team.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Uhtred is initially this; he's a talented enough young warrior to be Sif's protege, and he's not only unusually strong, but very fast for his size. He's initially facing Harry, who is barely trained, but a Combat Pragmatist who's relatively experienced in life or death fights, and quite willing to do something ridiculous to win, and practised at pushing through his already ludicrous pain threshold. Guess who wins (though it is noted that it's not exactly a trick Uhtred will fall for twice).
    • Hermione - she's got a vast and encyclopaedic knowledge of magic, along with many other subjects, and later develops exceptionally powerful chaos magic. However, she simply doesn't have the kind of reflexes or combat mentality that Harry does, and is unfortunately prone to assuming that Magic A Is Magic A (which with chaos magic it is very much not). However, when they end up psychically linked for a battle (or rather, she literally ends up inside his head while her body undergoes Demonic Possession), they make for an utterly lethal combination.
  • In Game Theory, Nanoha is this. She's amazingly talented with magic, but unaware of her limitations, and her childish outlook sometimes causes her to make mistakes in a fight and allows Precia to play her like a fiddle.
  • Green Tea Rescue; Izuku can talk for hours about Quirks and the best ways to use them for superhero work, has great control with his own Quirk, and can hold his own in a fight. Everything else he's completely helpless with; he's oblivious to the fact he's the Archie in a rather heated Betty and Veronica love triangle between Ochako and Toga, will let more intense people like Bakugou walk all over him, and when he stumbled across Shigaraki infiltrating U.A. he took the villain's cover story of being a lost sidekick at face value and never questioned if he was out of place.
  • The Legend of Genji: Kalsang is considered a prodigy amongst the next generation of airbenders and earned the rank of master at the age of fifteen. However, he lacks anything even resembling street smarts since he spent his entire life being sheltered in various Air Temples by his overprotective mother, who felt he wasn't ready to face the real world.
  • Joyous Release from A Mark of Appeal is the daughter of two weather surveyors and spent a good chunk of her formative years hiding on the edges of the wild zones due to her malfunctioning cutie mark talent. As such she is a prodigy at wilderness survival and pegasus magic, but ignorant of all but the most basic aspects of how to exist in civilized society.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Tatsu Yamashiro, better known as Katana, is a skilled warrior who can easily carve through combat robots like tofu. But she's totally out of her element in a classroom setting and freezes up in front of a class full of students, forcing her to read off flash cards. She can't hold a conversation to save her life and is constantly getting lost in U.A.'s hallways.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • Rason is a talented fighter and easily acclimates with Tsukune's group, but in Act II, he has to be specifically told that no matter how strong the Dark Lords are, Fairy Tale's usage of human weapons and technology still makes them a serious threat.
    • Akua and Kahlua are the beautiful and powerful eldest daughters of Issa Shuzen, to the extent that they can effortlessly defeat Inner Moka and Tsukune in their first fight, but in Act III, they're genuinely shocked that Kiria's plan to Time Travel for Fun and Profit, which they helped him with in hopes of giving their father a place in the new world he hoped to create, would have been entirely for his own benefit, and part of said plan was killing their father.
  • In The Universiad, Celestia was this back in the Black Queen War. Her younger self, while still stupendously powerful, naïvely held out for a cure to the Plague where far more experienced and hardened Forumers had established the impossibility of doing so. Reactions varied widely from admiration of her tenacity to derision.
  • one day at a time: This is why Jason refuses to let Cass help with the search for the Joker in the latter half of the story. While she is easily on the same level as Bruce in hand-to-hand combat, it takes more than martial prowess to capture the Joker, and Cass still has very little knowledge of the outside world and experience as a vigilante.
  • In the W.I.T.C.H. fic Stirred (sequel to Ripples), the Guardians are portrayed as this at the start of their tenure, as they have the strongest magic around, and absolutely no clue how to be adventurers. Several characters comment on just how incompetent their rescue party of Caleb on their first mission is — yet they still make it out against unbeatable odds (with a little secret help from Vathek and Narissa).
  • Through Her Eyes:
    • Weiss is this, as in canon, having never really faced any actual Grimm before. She also gets distracted and emotional easily, hindering her.
    • Ruby is also this, as Pyrrha notes at one point. She's legitimately skilled with Crescent Rose, especially when fighting Grimm, but she tends to hesitate before attacking too much when sparring, focuses on defending her teammates to the point that she leaves herself vulnerable, and sometimes is less than fully aware of the positioning of nearby walls. Later, she assumes that someone trying to sell her and Blake drugs was attempting to sell them Ice Dust, and didn't realize it until Blake said that she was reasonably certain that he was a drug dealer.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The team in Anaconda The Hunt For The Blood Orchid are brilliant in their academic fields of biology, chemistry, and pharmacology, but don't appear to have spent a single night in their lives camping before venturing to Borneo in search of the titular flower.
  • Colossus in Deadpool 2 might have more experience than the usual examples of this trope, but he still falls into it, as his idealistic and empathic personality leaves him far too trusting for his own good (he never realized something was off with Essex until Deadpool brought the place into the light) and makes him something of a doormat.
  • Revenge of the Sith: Chancellor Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious seems to think that way of his late master, Darth Plagueis, who possessed great abilities but was uncharacteristically altruistic for a Sith, enough to teach his apprentice how to create life, and trust Palpatine not to kill him.
    Palpatine: He had such a knowledge of the Dark Side, he could even stop the ones he cared about from dying... [sic] Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew, then his apprentice killed him in his sleep. Ironic... he could save others from death, but not himself.
  • The ISOs from TRON: Legacy. Femtoseconds after they form, they are able to communicate clearly, and learn damn near anything.
    Flynn: Profoundly naïve, yet unimaginably wise.

  • The Asterisk War: When protagonist Ayato Amagiri faces minor recurrer Elliot Forster in the Phoenix Festa semifinal, he comments in his Internal Monologue that, given time and practice, Elliot might become better with the sword than himself. Until then, though, despite only having his backup weapon instead of his usual Orga Lux Ser Veresta, Ayato's greater experience and physical strength from being a few years older give him enough of an edge to win.
  • Garion, the titular hero of The Belgariad, is said to have the potential to be one of the most powerful sorcerers that ever lived - something later demonstrated in the sequel series. He has performed several feats that other sorcerers regularly defied as being outright impossible, such as resurrecting a dead horse, simply by not being aware that it shouldn't have worked. And yet, even after overcoming the trials on his initial Coming of Age Story and becoming a skilled warrior and respected king as of The Malloreon, he still has a tendency to play fast and loose with his powers in ways that could have grave consequences for hundreds of years. Fortunately his grandfather and aunt have (respectively) seven and three thousand years of experience with which to guide him.
  • In the second A Dawn of Fire novel The Gate of Bones, the highly idealistic Shield-Captain Achallor of the Adeptus Custodes is an amazing fighter and diplomat. He's had thousands of years of training and combat experience but almost all of his life has been spent in isolated guard duty. As such he's largely ignorant of the fanaticism and social decay that's happened to the Imperium. The pilot of his ship is an old lady who surprises herself at having maternal feelings for the ancient bio-engineered warrior because of his naivety.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, for all her youth, Melodía is actually brilliant and very well educated in matters of warfare, but woefully lacking in practical experience, way too idealistic and too used to having everything served to her on a silver platter, leading to more than a few stumbles before she takes a level in badass.
  • Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson in his first two appearances in Discworld is naive, but he's not stupid. He adapts to Ankh-Morpork really quickly, mostly due to being smarter than he looks, but also due to Plot Armor and people liking him.
  • Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files takes this trope and runs with it. Until he starts offing gods and species and learning about the underlying conflicts in the series, he has a reputation as a magical thug. In the early books, it's a regular occurrence for someone with more experience to tell him that's he's in over his head. They're right, though Harry usually won't or can't back out at that point. Even he admits that his continued survival is as much luck as anything else. However, as time goes on, he uses the reputation as a magical thug to out-manoeuvre some exceptionally scary opponents, who persist in underestimating him.
  • In Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust, Mario is hired to assassinate the Emperor because he fits this trope. He's being set up to fail; he doesn't. In all the other books where he appears or is mentioned, it's enough later that he's become an Old Master.
  • Shannon Foraker of the Honor Harrington series is this. She is a phenomenally competent Tactical Officer, earning the nickname "Tac Witch" because of her nearly magic ability to work out problems. She is so focused on her work, however, that she pretty much ignores everything else. Unfortunately, during the 7th and 8th books, several events yank her into the real world and cause her to become much more introverted... and possibly dangerous to herself and those around her. One of her superior officers notes her loss of naïveté with regret, as it was one of the things that made her so likable - if occasionally exasperating.
  • Parzival in Parzival is this for the first half of the poem, before gradually coming to self-awareness.
  • Six of Crows: Before arriving in the Barrel, Wylan had spent the past sixteen years as a wealthy merchant’s son, and is newer to crime than any other main character. He’s also a Demolitions Expert who’s absolutely brilliant at chemistry.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Brienne is a woman in a male-dominated society and is able to fight on equal level with many of them in a stand-up fight—the first thing she does on screen is defeat Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, who is widely agreed to be one of the greatest fighters alive. Even Jaime "Kingslayer" Lannister admits she's stronger than him, though he also says she needs more experience to be truly deadly. Unfortunately, Brienne is a Wide-Eyed Idealist in a Crapsack World where Anyone Can Die. This doesn't work very well for her.
    • Robb Stark is an incredibly skilled battle commander despite being only 16 and never going to war before. He wins every battle he commands in and shows exceptional cunning in his strategies. But his inability to fully grasp the bitterness and potential for treachery in the likes of Walder Frey and Roose Bolton, utter naïveté about Greyjoy and Iron Island family dynamics, and his insistence of Honor Before Reason regarding Jeyne Westerling led to him losing the war and his life.
  • Matteo Ta'anari of Someone Else's War is clever and tenacious, but completely unprepared for military life. Which, as a newly conscripted Child Soldier, may not be in his favor. On the other hand, it's what motivates him to organize a grand escape.
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon: Raseed is a young dervish with Knight Templar attitudes towards personal conduct. His mentor, a worldly old sorcerer, is constantly criticizing him for only caring about fighting and knowing nothing about life. He's constantly saying and doing things that cause problems, forcing his friends to rein him in.
  • The Wheel of Time plays with this a bit. Most of the main characters start out as Unskilled, but Strong. When they start to get some training they transition to Skilled But Naive, and then as the series progresses they mostly lose their naivete (except for Elayne who remains somewhat spoiled and naive throughout the whole series, right up until the end, when she learns several hard lessons).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds fits this trope. His extraordinary intelligence makes him a valuable asset to the team but it is frequently mentioned that he is naïve and maladjusted.
  • Kate Bishop in Hawkeye (2021) is a highly skilled and gifted young martial artist and archer, but she's also from a privileged background and is used to honing her skills in a structured and controlled environment. When she tries to utilize her skills out of those environments, she habitually creates huge messes and winds up in situations that are way out of her depth solely because she lacks the practical knowledge and experience to know when something is a bad idea, how a situation could conceivably spiral out of control, and how many variables and moving parts exist in street-level combat situations.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: Takatora Kureshima is the strongest of the series' rider ensemble, capable of beating any of them in fight with just pure skill, obsolete driver and normal Lockseed. Unfortunately, he has serious case of Horrible Judge of Character and Wrong Genre Savvy among others. His unability to understand that not all people are after as noble causes as he is becomes his undoing.
  • Legion: Charles Xavier is much younger and inexperienced compared to Amahl Farouk, and the former is even a newbie to the astral plane when the latter introduces him to it. Charles is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who's far too trusting, so Farouk is able to manipulate him at first. Yet Charles is such a gifted telepath that when they brawl in a psychic battlefield, Charles trounces Farouk quite handily, tearing the Shadow King's consciousness away from his body.
  • Star Trek:
    • Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is, in his words, "designed to surpass humans both mentally and physically". He can perform complex calculations in his mind in mere milliseconds. But when it comes to interacting with people...
    • Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is this trope in the first few seasons — he's a brilliant physician but fresh out of medical school (where he graduated second in his class), and thinks of his posting to DS9 as an adventure in "frontier medicine" (something that doesn't please Major Kira, who's native to the region, at all). Actor Alexander Siddig deliberately played him as very, very annoying. He grows up as the series goes, though, and in later seasons it's revealed that he's been hiding a big secret all his life, and so has probably never been quite as naïve as he seemed.
  • Supernatural resident angel Castiel is a case par excellence. Angels are amongst the most powerful beings in the series, but Castiel's inexperience dealing with humans and (initial) belief in his angelic superiors mean that he often trusts unwisely.

  • Many Outsider Music artists fall in this trope. Some are quite naïve people who nevertheless make highly unique and original music.
  • Willie Nelson actually has a song titled "Old Age and Treachery", with the chorus continuing "always overcomes youth and skill".

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Advance Wars has Colin, who is introduced in the second game as having just become a CO of Blue Moon. He's obviously very skilled as a CO, able to keep up with the far more accomplished Grit and Olaf, but lacks the confidence and experience to use his troops as effectively as they can. In terms of gameplay, this manifests as his troops being weaker than average, but his ability to Zerg Rush his foes into submission makes him one of the most formidable commanding officers in the game.
  • Dawn of War II: Thaddeus, the youngest of the Space Marine cast is a bizarre case. Despite being a Space Marine sergeant, which in 40K involves decades of reconstructive surgery, indoctrination, and Training from Hell before you can advance to the lowest rank (case in oint: Thaddeus being the youngest at a mere 75 years old), he displays a remarkable lack of savviness regarding the nature of their service, or that they are no longer part of humanity (he keeps insisting that the Blood Ravens should save his homeworld Meridian before the other planets due to its greater value to him and him alone).
  • Merrill of Dragon Age II is a young Dalish elf who happens to be a brilliant mage and excellent historian. Aside from a mage Hawke, she's the single most powerful member of the party. Unfortunately, she's had next to no life experience and, as a result, she's a gullible, distracted ditz with almost no common sense. If it weren't for the fact that half of the party looks out for her, she'd probably never have survived her first year in Kirkwall.
  • In a strange way, the Brotherhood of Steel in Fallout: New Vegas. The Brotherhood is the single oldest organization in the Western U.S., and their access to pre-war technology and military-level training gives them enormous power, but their close-mindedness and isolationist policies have led them to lose contact with reality. The Brotherhood simply refuses to see that their advantage in quality, in all aspects of society, is shrinking daily, and their disadvantage in quantity grows even quicker.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fir, from Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, is skillful as she tries to chase her mother Karla's legacy as a swordmaster. But she recklessly challenges the first fighter she sees at an arena, not considering that these are to-the-death affairs, and lucks out in picking Nice Guy Noah. Later she is easily hoodwinked into lending her blade to some pirates who are obviously out for her Infinity -1 Sword when they tell her that Roy's group are the bad guys—she's shocked when she sees Noah among them and almost attacks when he says hello.
    • Princess Tana from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones starts like this. She is a Plucky Girl with quite the talent to ride pegasi and use a Blade on a Stick, but she's also very sheltered by her brother and has just finished her official training. This leads her to catch a huge Distress Ball in Ephraim's route, but with some training, she can become quite the powerhouse.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Liara in the first game. Young by asari standards, inexperienced, and will fry your brain or throw you across the room if you piss her off. Not anymore in Mass Effect 2, as the Shadow Broker's attempt to do Shepard harm two years before have turned her into a character hellbent on getting revenge.
    • Tali is also an example: While not as naïve as Liara, she did go to the Shadow Broker for protection, which everyone knows is a bad idea. This almost gets her killed twice over (the Broker told Fist to kill her when she turned over the data, but Fist had gone over to work for Saren and thus wanted to kill her before Saren could be implicated).
  • Mega Man X is shown to have been very naïve when he started out as a Maverick Hunter, especially in the X1 remake Maverick Hunter X and its OVA prequel The Day of "Sigma", though he's also stated to have limitless potential.
  • N of Pokémon Black and White is very good at his job (as an extremist semi-cult puppet leader) because he is a VERY naïve person. It's even mentioned in-game.
  • Sanada Yukimura from Sengoku Basara is this trope personified. He's Hot-Blooded and impulsive, doesn't know the first thing about strategy but is skilled enough to take down most enemies, and those he can't he takes down through sheer determination. It's also implied that he has a great deal of potential that hasn't been unlocked yet, mainly due to his lack of experience, forethought and gullible personality.
  • Undertale: Papyrus is implied on more than one occasion to be remarkably powerful among monsters, due to his ability to manipulate battlefield conditions, his incredibly precise control of his powers, and his brother Sans being absurdly strong when going all out, with some indication Papyrus is at least as powerful. However, as Undyne believes, he is far, far too nice for his own good, and would likely die if sent into battle. The player can confirm that on the Genocide route, as Papyrus dies firmly believing you can change for the better and never fighting with all he has. That said, many players gave up a Genocide run when confronted with Papyrus' belief in the player, so it's a little debatable how naïve he is.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon has a more down-to-earth version of this with Ikari, a guy with multiple certifications from a Vocational School that makes him highly qualified on paper but is unable to land a job due to his lack of confidence that causes him to botch interviews. Specifically, he tends to default to desperate groveling during interviews.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Pearl Fey is a prodigy spirit channeler, but she's still an 8-year-old girl who doesn't get family politics. She absolutely adores her cousin Maya and her mother Morgan... unaware that Morgan is actually plotting to kill Maya so Pearl could take her place as Master. She in fact serves as a Spanner in the Works to Morgan's plan to frame Maya for murder by retrieving evidence and proving that Ini Miney's testimony was false.
    • Klavier Gavin at age 17 was a legitimately talented prosecutor despite his Improbable Age, but his lack of experience meant he never realized when he was being used as an Unwitting Pawn in a Frame-Up. Albeit that the framer was his brother Kristoph, so it's understandable that he didn't want to consider that Kristoph might be lying.
    • Vera Misham is an excellent artist, but her age and trauma regarding being kidnapped because of the extremely accurate forgeries she made (the kidnapper thought her father Drew was the forger, but kidnapped Vera anyway to get to him) mean that she's also a shut-in with No Social Skills, and she easily falls prey to Kristoph's charms and allows him to almost kill her by giving her poison under the guise of a good luck charm that would protect her if she ever left her house.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney: Resolve, Susato Mikotoba is an expert judicial assistant and the very reason Ryunosuke Naruhodo became a good lawyer. However, due to leaving Great Britain momentarily and alone at her father's behest to check up on his condition, she is left with no choice but to defend her best friend Rei Mambani from murder charges by herself. Susato pretends to be a man in order to act as her lawyer (as female lawyers are unheard of and prohibited to practice law). To her dismay, she realizes the pressure of being a defense lawyer is much different than her usual role by freezing on the spot in complete shock and acting very much like Ryunosuke under pressure (except sweating bullets of stress).

  • Seonga Yoon from Dr. Frost. She's still a student, so her counseling skills aren’t exactly the best, as she tends to either overlook things or be too by the book, and she needs a lot of help. However, it's made clear she has a lot of intelligence and potential. As the series goes on, we see her develop and begin the process of becoming a great counselor.
  • Grace from El Goonish Shive has a bit of this. She's becoming a bit less naïve, but not much.
  • Yuri of Exterminatus Now is a prodigy with her dual beam swords, able to cut in half a speeding vehicle with a single slash. Unfortunately, she's not very good at listening to orders or thinking things through, having been raised as a demon hunter to... you know, slay demons. So she's not so great at dealing with the more subtle approach the inquisitors have to adopt. (Not that the inquisitors she's assigned to are exactly great at it.) Not to mention that in the incident mentioned above she got chewed out immediately afterwards for destroying the very evidence that they were trying to secure by stopping the vehicle.
  • In Moon Crest 24, Drake's got the skills, Derek's got the naïveté.
  • On Or Off: Kang notes that Yiyoung has a natural talent as a businessman, being capable to charm and befriend others, as well as lead and motivate his team into doing amazing work, but he is naïve and doesn't understand the corporate culture he now founds himself submerged in, nor how he can be easily manipulated or fail to demand respect from the people around him.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil is good at his Demolitions Expert job, but has been doing it for less than two years when he joins the expedition and before that was a rich kid on an education track that was intended to make him an academic. His first face-to-face confrontation with a Plague Zombie, which he is expected to see a lot of during the expedition, happened in one of the early arcs of the story.
  • Unordinary: Despite her investigation skills, Remi seems to remain oblivious to all the bullying that goes on at Wellston. This is mostly a result of the bubble she ended up in amongst the Royals where she knows very little of the outside world beyond her friendships with Arlo, Isen, and Blyke.

    Web Original 
  • Red Panda Adventures:
    • The Red Squirrel, the Red Panda's and Kit Baxter's Great-Great-Grandkid From The Future, is an established superhero in her era. She has a Rogues Gallery of her own, at least one of which is so determined to get rid of her they use time travel to try and prevent her rise as a superhero from ever happening. However, she easily falls for a trick the Red Panda uses to get her to reveal herself and, while she has enough hypnosis to put crooks to sleep, it's not enough to resist the Red Panda's attempts to get into her mind. The only thing that saves her then is the Red Panda's removing her mask and seeing how much she resembles Kit.
    • "Thirteen at Table" introduces the Danger Federation, a group of young superheroes set to be trained under the Red Panda. They're all fairly impressive in their own right, but other than the second Molecue Max, most aren't too sharp on the ins and outs of crime fighting and superheroics. Fortunately, that's what the Red Panda is there to teach them.
  • RWBY: All of the teenage characters, most of whom are skilled fighters but have yet to make use of them outside of a school or teaching environment. Weiss Schnee, in particular, has to mentally go through the motions of properly adopting a fighting stance in early episodes. Justified, since they're all students at a combat academy who have yet to be taught the skills needed in order to apply their talents in unmonitored field situations. Which unfortunately goes on to hit them really hard when the school and the surrounding city is destroyed in a terrorist attack and they're forced to do so years earlier than expected.
  • Parian in Worm is highly skilled with her cloth-kinesis at the start of the story, but none of her training or experience covers combat.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: As an Enforcer, Caitlyn accurately claims that she is an "excellent shot" and she does a solid job of looking for evidence at a crime scene and turns it into a good working theory. But she doesn't know much about the criminal underworld or how justice really works in Zaun.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise:
    • Aang the Avatar is like this in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He's so naïve and kinda ditzy that characters easily forget that he's already a master-level Airbender when the show begins. The fact he's a 12-year-old kid doesn't help, either. Thankfully, none of that gets in the way of him learning everythingFAST.
    • Korra from The Legend of Korra is skilled in three of the four elements, but due to her sheltered upbringing, she's socially inept when she goes to Republic City and discovers the enemies that call it home.
  • Rook Blonko in Ben 10: Omniverse. A highly-skilled Plumber, he is often mystified by Earth customs. Word of God mentions this was fully intentional, so he'll balance Ben's status of being roughly self-taught, but very experienced.
  • In the Venture Brothers episode "The Lepidopterists", 21 and 24 are accompanied by Henchman #1, a totally by-the-book henchman who's clearly never been on a single mission. While 21 and 24 infiltrate JJ's museum with carefree abandon (due to their Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder status), Henchman 1 continually runs into problems and is eventually hunted down by Brock Samson. Throughout their mission, 21 and 24 attribute Henchman 1's difficulties to him being a newbie and not actually knowing what he's doing and tell him exactly how he's going to die (at Brock's hands).
    • Interestingly enough, it's Henchman 24 that dies, prompting 21 to Take a Level in Badass while Henchman 1 returns later on as Zero a couple times, most latest as part of Phantom Limb's Revenge Society.
  • Omi of Xiaolin Showdown is one of the more skilled Xiaolin Dragons, but his sheltered upbringing gives him No Social Skills, and makes him an Unwitting Pawn on more than one occasion as well as an Unwitting Instigator of Doom. His naivete is only enhanced by his arrogance, which causes him to overestimate his abilities.

    Real Life 
  • This can happen in educational tracks that go from high school to university to post-graduate degree without including practical applications of theory driven work. Particularly jarring with some technical occupations, for example software engineering. There are people who can explain to you in detail the theory on data structures and such, but will have a hard time writing a simple function to solve a simple problem.
  • This is sometimes the case with Military Officers. Take a newly minted Officer from West Point. He's attended Airborne School, Air Assault School, Ranger School, and had four years of Officer training, but when he's put in charge of a platoon of combat-proven soldiers, he will be a bit naïve. The Navy, Air Force, and Marines are no exception. Just about every military novel, ever, will mention how a green Lt. (or equivalent) needs to be paired with an experienced NCO in order to not screw up.
  • This New York Times article claims that, at least in the USA, law school teaches you a lot about the law but nothing about how to actually be a lawyer; practical details like the paperwork that needs to be filed with a government department have to be learned on the job.
  • There is an old saying in Spanish-speaking countries: Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo. Roughly: "The Devil knows more from being old than he does from being the Devil."
  • This is often a consequence of homeschooling. One-on-one teaching allows for personalized attention and customation of curriculum, which can be very effective if the parents are good teachers and thus result in a well-instructed and intelligent child. The downside of course is that without the socialization of public schooling the child won't learn proper social and emotional skills. It's highly advisable to make sure a homeschooled child has an active social life and/or is in extracurricular clubs to learn proper social skills to overcome this.

Alternative Title(s): Naive But Skilled