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Stealth Mentor

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"I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will ever tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you when he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on, I am your teacher."

The polar opposite of the Treacherous Advisor, the Stealth Mentor is a Trickster Mentor who poses as an antagonist for much of the story but ultimately reveals that all of their actions have been a sneaky way of forcing the hero into becoming stronger. A subtrope of The Mole, can overlap with the Mysterious Protector or any variant of Wax On, Wax Off. This character type will inevitably be an Enigmatic Minion to the heroes at some point prior to their reveal. Any losses will be revealed to be intentional.

This can take a couple of forms: either giving the aspiring hero a taste of what they're going to be up against in the big leagues because that's The Only Way They Will Learn, or encouraging a budding rebel by giving them something to push against. If they help, it will be a Passive Rescue at best.

The Stealth Mentor's motives may vary: some genuinely have the hero's best interests at heart, while others may be grooming him as a Worthy Opponent — in the most lethal scenario this may be part of a plan in which My Death Is Just the Beginning. If he is a true villain and needs the hero to be more powerful as part of an Evil Plan, it's I Need You Stronger instead.

This is Training from Hell, and then some, because the hero really believes that this person is out to get them. If the Stealth Mentor's actions could plausibly have gotten the hero killed (and the Stealth Mentor cares enough for this to be a problem), this is a form of Gambit Roulette. Otherwise it falls within the Omniscient Morality License.

If a recurring antagonist or Aloof Big Brother is a popular character, expect lots of Fan Speculation to this effect. It also doubles as a convenient Hand Wave to the question of "if he's such a nice guy, why does he keep trying to brutally kill me?"

A lighter variant is the parent who encourages a romance by pretending to vociferously oppose it, as Prospero does in Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Opponent Instruction is a favorite of these mentors.

Compare the Compassionate Critic.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the 2003 Astro Boy anime, Mad Scientist Dr. Tenma creates a series of ever-stronger robots to push his estranged "son" to his physical and ethical limits, in order to make Astro into a worthy ruler for robot-kind.
  • Bleach: As an introduction to the Bount arc, three modsouls torment the main cast. They were constructed by Urahara to prepare the team for the appearance of the Bount.
    • Gin Ichimaru, too, though he wasn't intentionally trying to teach Ichigo. He only viewed Ichigo as his "successor" to defeat Aizen when he's about to die, way after he gave Ichigo that TheReasonYouSuckSpeech. Still, the speech helped Ichigo identify his shortcomings.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura it's a bit more complex because of Sakura's reaction. The basic trope is there: Eriol is a good guy and a mentor figure, but he creates trouble so Sakura will put her own magic on the Clow Cards (the Cards would die otherwise). On the other hand, Sakura has no idea that he is the one behind this, and treats him as just another of her friends.
  • Ovan from .hack Conglomerate is a Stealth Mentor of sorts to Haseo. All his actions in the story are directed at making Haseo stronger than himself so that Haseo can kill him. No Ovan isn't really The Atoner but his death would really set many things right. And he knows it. Too bad he is virtually unkillable... and that's where Haseo joins the game (pun unintended). Ovan was actually a straight up mentor for Haseo before their mutual (and very close) friend, Shino, fell into a coma.
  • A rather dark mentoring in Hunter × Hunter for Gon and Killua at the hands of Combat Sadomasochist and Evil Clown Hisoka, who does whatever he can to drive and move Gon to become even stronger, with the ultimate goal of waiting for him to become just as strong as he his, so he can fully enjoy killing him. To make this clear how terrible this will be Gon fighting him right now, when he's extremely weak, gives Hisoka boners.
  • Inuyasha: Once Sesshoumaru had undergone enough Character Development to learn he was meant to pass on Meidou Zangetsuha to Inuyasha, he made the decision to put Inuyasha into a Die or Fly test to prove Inuyasha's worth as Tessaiga's master once and for all. All he told Inuyasha was that he'd give up both Tessaiga and Tenseiga after the fight, regardless of whether Inuyasha won or lost, but that he'd kill Inuyasha if Inuyasha lost. Inuyasha didn't even realise he'd won (or what he'd won) until Sesshoumaru discarded Tenseiga and passed on Meidou Zangetsuha which forced Inuyasha to master Meidou Zangetsuha as fast as possible to save both their lives from Hell itself.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin of Kill la Kill forces the protagonist, Ryuko, to fight harder and harder battles with the promise that she'll reveal the full details of Ryuko's father's death should Ryuko manage to defeat all of Satsuki's minions and Satsuki herself. Episode 18 reveals that this was all to make Ryuko into a powerful ally against her mother and the Life-Fibers, while also weeding out the weaklings of her own forces and revealing the weaknesses of the Elite Four's combat uniforms so they could be strengthened.
  • Meta Knight in the Kirby anime counted as this early on (before he revealed himself to be good, of course), and was only working for King Dedede to stop the monsters ordered from Nightmare Enterprises/Holy Nightmare Company while keeping on the king's good side. Once Kirby came into the picture, Meta Knight also ended up training him. Of course, King Dedede was so stupid he didn't figure it out, even after The Reveal.
  • In Love Hina, Motoko's older sister initially appears to be downright antagonistic and unreasonable, but towards the end it's revealed that she's really just doing it to force Motoko to grow stronger.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Master Asia is a very fitting example, Schwarz Bruder probably qualifies as well, though he is hardly an antagonist most of the time.
  • Itachi Uchiha was apparently one for Sasuke Uchiha in Naruto. He made Sasuke hate him so much that he would spend his entire life training to get strong enough to kill him, and upon his death transferred his strongest techniques to him to protect him from Tobi. His methods were a little harsher than most of the examples on this page, but he got the job done... too bad what Sasuke decided to do with this power, really.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Chao Lingshen borders on this. While she does act as a true enemy in a Well-Intentioned Extremist sense, attempting an Evil Plan to stop a future disaster, some aspects of her actions and responses suggest that she at least believed that, if he could become strong enough to defeat her, Negi might be able to stop the catastrophe himself. She makes several moves to aid Negi and encourage him to grow stronger, and when fighting frequently tells him to push further and give everything he has to beat her.
  • It's speculated that the crux of Gendo's plan in Neon Genesis Evangelion was to get Shinji to hate him in order to synchronize with Unit 01. Of course, this is heavily debated, given that much is left ambiguous by the Mind Screw. A much straighter example is in Rebuild of Evangelion.
    • This theory implies that Gendo believes Unit 01 hates him. Unit 01, the one with the soul of his dead wife, Shinji's mother. To be fair, it's not an entirely unreasonable belief.
  • It's possible that Bartholomew Kuma in One Piece may be this and not as Lawful Neutral as he lead you to believe. It wasn't so much that he spared the Straw Hats, but his next encounter with them, which wasn't too long after their first battle with them, he teleported all of them to different islands where they could learn and/or improve their skills. Confirmed in Chapter 591.
  • The Promised Neverland has a variation of the trope. Emma, Norman, and Ray have discovered that their idyllic orphanage is, in fact, a People Farm. Their hope to get everyone out is hampered by the fact that some of the children are infants and toddlers, and even the older ones aren't well suited to a life on the run. They also have to execute their plans without alerting their "Mom" Isabella or her assistant, Sister Krone, who are already suspicious. Finally, they can not tell the other kids what's going on either, since they may not be believed or get turned in since they trust Isabella. In order to prepare everyone for escape while letting none of them know what's going on, the protagonists train the kids without their knowing it via games of tag, hide-and-seek, and so on, making sure as many as they can teach learn the basics of how to run and hide without even them being aware of it.
  • Some fans of Ranma ½ might argue that Genma Saotome is one of these who hasn't gotten around to the "big reveal yet", claiming that his various "mistakes" (which include getting his son a Gender Bender Curse while under a Seppuku contract binding him to be a paragon of manliness and trapping him as part of a Love Dodecahedron) are actually very (very) tough love training exercises intended to teach Ranma more cerebral skills. Many more fans, however, would claim that Genma is just a short-sighted, impatient, impulsive, greedy nitwit of a Sink or Swim Mentor who just so happens to have a student that's learned to thrive on Training from Hell and is a born prodigy at Martial Arts and Crafts.
  • s-CRY-ed features a deathmatch near the end of the series between Ryuho and Jigmar. When he loses, Jigmar confesses that he only fought in order to make Ryuho realize his full potential.
  • Shina Dark has the rare protagonist Exoda acting like this to the entire citizens of Shina Dark. The only one however who could see what he really was trying to do is his butler.
  • In Soul Eater Dr. Stein is originally posed as a villain who resurrected their teacher, Sid, for experimentation. By the end its all made clear that the plot is part of a remedial lesson.
  • Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Most of his Hot-Blooded Idiot Hero moments are done to encourage Simon to man up.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Kishou Arima and Eto both are this to Kaneki in the long run. Eto/Sen is a more straight-forward, albeit malevolent, example, tormenting him repeatedly until her true plan for him is revealed. Less straight-forward is Arima, who begins the sequel as his mentor and Parental Substitute. But he turns out to have a hidden agenda in training Kaneki, which is only revealed after a brutal confrontation between mentor and student. Arima had been grooming Kaneki to kill him, as part of a decade-long alliance with Eto intended to produce a Messianic Figure capable of taking down V. After Kaneki defeats Eto, the partners begin the final steps of their plan, but it's only after Arima dies that Eto reveals the truth to Kaneki and entrusts him with leading their revolution and taking down Furuta.
  • Scavenger takes this role in Transformers: Armada: while undercover among the Decepticons, he puts on a big show of taunting Hot Shot for the latter's lack of skill. This turns out to be a way to sneak him some combat tips.
  • Vinland Saga: In the first arc, after the Viking captain Askeladd kills Thors he conscripts his son Thorfinn into his crew, training the boy in combat and offering him regular chances to kill him and take revenge. While Askeladd claims that he's manipulating Thorfinn for his own benefit, it's strongly implied that he resents having to take a hit on a man as noble as Thors, and is trying to help Thorfinn by stepping into his dead father's shoes as best he can - both toughening him up and giving him some kind of goal in life to aim towards. After Askeladd's death, Thorfinn finally realises what he was doing and comes to see him alongside Thors and Leif as one of his father figures.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Amnael/Professor Daitokuji acts this way to Judai in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, dueling him to test his skill and make sure he's ready for the final battle against Kagemaru. In the dub, Yubel also acts this way to Jaden (in her/his/its own twisted way), believing Jaden tormented Yubel to make her/him/it stronger and doing the same to him. Compared to Amnael, Yubel's mentorship has much more dramatic consequences.
    • Antinomy is this towards Yusei in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, acting like he's on Z-One's side so that he could duel Yusei and teach him the Delta Accel Synchro technique required to beat Z-One.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Hiei, a Noble Demon who tries to keep his true loyalties ambiguous, has a tendency to greet Yusuke by randomly attacking him — to test how strong Yusuke has become. Since Hiei was originally recruited into Team Urameshi through a forced Defeat Means Friendship, the first few times he does this Yusuke can't quite be sure he isn't actually trying to kill him.
    • A less benevolent example is Toguro, who has an obsession with making Yusuke stronger in their fights because he wants an opponent against whom he can use 100% of his power. He goes so far as to make Yusuke believe he has killed Yusuke's best friend so that Yusuke's grief and rage will make him fight harder.
    • Genkai set up three Territory Masters to seemingly attack his friends, in the hope that they'd learn how to deal with Sensui's Seven.

    Comic Books 
  • This is allegedly Zoom (the second Reverse Flash)'s modus operandi. He claims that he wants to make the Flash stronger. Mostly he just goes around killing people — which is, as luck would have it, exactly what his philosophy calls for. Zoom wants to, as he would put it, "make Walllllly abetterhero thrrrrough tragedyyyy", or by forcing him to deal with tragedy.
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths revealed that the Monitor had been acting as this, to explain the drift of his characterization between his first appearances when Crisis was being planned (person gathering information on heroes and passing it on to villains) and when Crisis was actually written (the Big Good).
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk, reality warping enemy of Superman, is sometimes implied to be one of these, Depending on the Writer.
  • The vampire lord Drago served as one to Vampirella. After she became infected with a demonic entity that threatened to possess her, he instructed her to seek out and feed on powerful demons to get cured even though he considered her his enemy. When the deed was done, she thought she was sent on a Snipe Hunt by Drago, but then he challenges her to a fight and reveals the demonic blood was necessary so she could fight him. Vampi defeats him and he allows her to feed on his blood so she could purge the entity of her body which was his plan all along.

  • In Fate Revelation Online Kayaba implemented the Death Game setting and Thaumuturgy Patch so players would be forced to learn magecraft and the proper mindset for practicing it.
    • In a more direct example, Kayaba poses as the NPC Ellis Bell to personally mentor Kirito.
  • In The Pirate's Soldier, when Heero and the alien girls move to the retirement house in the mountains, he ends up meeting Katsuhito Masaki, who invites him to spar with wooden swords to pass time. Much later, when Katsuhito reveals he's actually Yosho, as well as Heero's biological grandfather, Heero learns he was being secretly trained in Juraian swordplay, to help him tap into his hidden powers for when the time comes and he needs them.
  • Deconstructed in the Sleeper Hit AU: "Eraserhead" Aizawa kicks Izuku Midoriya out of UA in the very first day of school (the Quirk Apprehension Test) justifying it as Izuku being Quirkless and then he secretly helped Izuku enter another Hero school where he obtained his license and hit the ground running on the Hero ratings list. Aizawa's idea was to give Izuku’s place to his protege Shinzou, who is most definitely not happy to discover that Aizawa demolished a kid's dreams out of some misplaced belief that he did not deserved to be a hero, yet recognized enough potential to try to help. As Shinzou puts it, Aizawa just did not want to bother with being Izuku's teacher.

    Films — Animated 
  • Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk as he appears in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at first appears to simply be little more than a Commander Contrarian who rebels against too many things for anyone to take him seriously, but that's all an act to hide his true cunning nature. From the moment he meets Miles, Hobie subtly guides him along, first by giving him tips on using his Venom powers ("use the palms, not just your fingertips"), and then by disguising his genuine distaste for the Spider-Society's ideology behind his usual erratic behavior and rabble rousing. As a result, Miles successfully escapes the forcefield he was trapped in and incapacitates Miguel, both times using the advice for his Venom Blast, all while defiantly denouncing the idea of anyone else deciding how his story is going to turn out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Joker in The Dark Knight claims to be this to Gotham and more specifically, to Harvey Dent. But then again, he is The Joker.
  • In the intro sequence for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Fedora starts out as a Worthy Opponent for Young Indy, but crosses over into Stealth Mentor territory at the very end. When he sees the Sheriff take the Cross of Coronado and place it in the hands of Fedora's boss, Panama Hat, the other cronies whoop with victory, but Fedora approaches Indy when the others are gone, and passes him the iconic hat Indy is known for wearing.
    Fedora: You lost today, kid. But that doesn't mean you have to like it.
  • Mr. Miyagi's training in The Karate Kid has been moved to the discussion section; don't think we haven't thought of it.
  • Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean tend to agree that Will Turner unknowingly picked up almost every trick he knows from Jack Sparrow, who's been stringing his student along since day one. Others observe a secondary case with Elizabeth Swann and Barbossa - except while he never knowingly tried teaching her anything, she's intentionally figured out his underhanded ways to help her stay alive and ahead of the game. In other words, Elizabeth is Barbossa's stealth apprentice.
  • Jigsaw from the Saw movies sees himself as this, more so for some individuals than others. It almost never works, and, except in some cases, he doesn't feel any remorse or disappointment when they fail and die.
  • Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) in Up in the Air seems to be the hero (or antihero) but he is in fact the mentor to the actual hero, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick).

  • In the earlier Discworld novels, Lord Vetinari was a Stealth Mentor to Sam Vimes, deliberately obstructing Vimes's investigations to make Vimes angry enough to try harder. He stopped after accidentally going too far one time.
  • In Ender's Game, Mazer Rackham does this to Ender, with the difference that he fully acknowledges his aim from the beginning in the page quote.
    • It's not just Mazer Rackham. Colonel Graff, who is the head of Battle School, uses this as standard operating procedure. He's specifically ordered all the adults in Battle School to do everything they can to make Ender as miserable as possible and never, ever come to his aid — even to save his life.
  • Mrs. Lorelei Granger, the strict teacher in the novel Frindle secretly encouraged her students to learn more through rebelling against her.
  • The Great Greene Heist: To Catch a Cheat: Lincoln Miller spends a lot of the book acting as a sounding board and Da Chief for Honor Board Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist Serena Bianchi as she tries to catch Jackson. The ending reveals that Lincoln has been helping Jackson trick Serena into busting the villains while also seeking to give the rigid Serena an unorthodox learning experience meant to let Lincoln observe how determined Serena can be and help her become more comfortable with trusting well-meaning rulebreakers as she seeks to become chair of the Honor Board.
  • In the Harry Potter series, Severus Snape displays elements of this, hating Harry but ultimately being an effective teacher. Snape taught Harry how to duel and Expelliarmus and the spell he's "most famous for", saved Harry countless times and inadvertently gave him the poison lesson that eventually saved Ron's life. Most notable is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where he teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts and provides a number of useful lessons to Harry and the others. It's often believed that Dumbledore was invoking this trope in that example, since he knew that he only had about a year to live.
    • Also (Sort of) inverted with the fake Mad-Eye Moody in Goblet of Fire.
  • In Logan's Run, the Sandman who has been tracking Logan and Jessica through their run turns out to be Ballard, the man who's "lived a double lifetime" and shuttles those who can survive away from Earth to Sanctuary.
  • A short story based on Magic: The Gathering featured a wizard who had fought a battle against another for time immemorial. When his opponent surrenders, he finds out that his opponent was his creator and had merely been training him to fight a battle that the creator found too frightening to even contemplate. The story ends with temporary peace having been found with the creator wizard's destruction, but the creation staring out and waiting for the new host to arrive...
  • Vergere, of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, trains Jacen Solo this way, while pretending to be working for the Yuuzhan Vong, setting up Jacen to bring about their downfall... then she turns out to be a Sith.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has Captain Holt challenging the goofy Detective Jake Peralta with bets to achieve certain tasks like stealing Holt's watch. When Peralta wins, it's with the help of his team and Holt is always happy because getting Jake to work in a team has been his focus since his first day in command.
    • In a slightly different way, he also does this for Amy Santiago. In this case it is actually by refusing to mentor her, in order to make her more confident in herself.
  • Chuck: Bryce Larkin.
  • Simultaneously inverted and played straight in Season 1 of The Flash (2014). Inverted because unknown to Barry Dr. Wells, the man responsible for teaching him to use his powers, is actually The Reverse Flash. However it's also played somewhat straight because while Thawne is actually Barry's enemy he's also seriously trying to train him rather than defeat him since he needs his help to return to the future.
  • Heroes has a literal stealth mentor: Claude, who teaches Peter how to fully use his power copying ability, has the power of invisibility. And whacking Peter with a broomstick, which is a power many fans wish they had.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O: The previous anniversary Rider Tsukasa Kadoya takes this role to Sougo early on in the show by acting as an enemy to hopefully guide Sougo to a better future. Every action Tsukasa took when acting as the Time Jackers' enforcer has ultimately helped Sougo in the long run, such as destroying Geiz's Ghost Ridewatch which forces Sougo to get his own Ghost Ridewatch, forcing Sougo to meet Ohma Zi-O and giving him a reality check, and telling Heure about the Mirror World which leads to Sougo gaining the power of Zi-O II.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger has The Dragon Wolzard do this subconsciously. Turns out he's actually the Magirangers' presumed-dead father gone Brainwashed and Crazy, and his suppressed good side is what forces him to act as a mentor to the Magirangers even as he tries to kill them.
  • Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, at least according to the last episode.
    • Also in the episode "Tapestry."
  • In Supernatural, the Yellow-Eyed Demon reveals that he has been manipulating Sam's life since he was an infant to make him strong enough to be a vessel for Lucifer, and the Trickster also tries to teach Sam and Dean that they must play the roles assigned to them for the apocalypse.

    Pro Wrestling 


    Video Games 
  • In Westwood Studio's 1997 game based on the film Blade Runner, Graf acts as one to the protagonist Ray McCoy.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow the Old God Pan, after aiding you throughout the game suddenly attacks you at the gates of the Land of the Dead. Throughout the battle he tests Gabriel's prowess and shows him the proper way to fight against another wielder of Light and Shadow Magic. All so that Gabriel will be prepared to face the true Big Bad Satan.
  • Devil Survivor: Gigolo, also known as Loki, takes on this role. He explains the situation with the Bels, tells you about the Devil's Fuge (indirectly saving your life) and explains the different paths and their outcomes near the end of the game. And while he pretends everything he does is because it amuses him, he gives the Player Character one hell of a What the Hell, Hero? if you decide to listen to Yuzu and run away from your responsibilities, disregarding all his good advice in the process. The fact that you can fuse him after you defeat him can be interpreted as his way of giving you even more help to not screw things up in your New Game Plus.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, Golbez is given this role, because it would be extremely awkward if after all that happened in his original game about him making peace with Cecil in the end of the game (as well as being revealed as his brother), he'd willingly turn his back and smack Cecil around For the Evulz. He's also implied to be the only Chaos warrior to survive the 13th Cycle, in that he doesn't vanish with dark energy after being defeated, but simply retreats.
  • inFamous: As it would turn out, Big Bad Kessler was actually Cole, who travelled back in time to prepare his younger self to fight an even worse villain in the future, he does this by destroying his own home city, killing the younger version of his own wife/Cole's girlfriend, and making Cole fight several post-apocalyptic factions.
  • Although his role varies from game to game, Meta Knight is sometimes implied to be this to Kirby — most notably in Kirby's Adventure, where he shows up to toss Kirby invincibility lollipops about as often as he sends his underlings to attack him.
  • In Lunar: Eternal Blue, Ghaleon plays this role. He's unable to directly oppose the Big Bad himself because he died 1000 years earlier, when he was the Big Bad of the first game of the series. Zophar's magic restored him to life to act as his Dragon, and Zophar can withdraw that magic at any time he chooses, instantly killing Ghaleon. Thus, his only option is to go along with Zophar's plans while providing enough covert training to the heroes that they can defeat his new boss. Once the heroes figure out what he's up to, he admits it, since they're now strong enough, happily fading away to join his long-dead best friend Dyne in death.
  • This is ProtoMan's MO in the original Mega Man games. In Mega Man 7 he even gives Mega Man his Proto Shield if he beats him, and admits that his brother has nothing left to learn.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Snake is sent to kill his mentor and mother figure, The Boss, who seems to have defected to the Soviet Union. However, throughout each encounter, she seems to continue mentoring him despite his mission to kill her. He improves in CQC bit by bit, she helps him multiple times throughout, such as escaping capture from the enemy, and continuously provides him greater philosophy about the nature of war, soldiers, duty to one's country and ideals, etc. In the end, it's clear that she's proud of who he's become. This is because it's her mission to be killed by him and she wants him to be able to live up to the title that he would gain by killing her.
  • Nero from My World, My Way is a mentor-in-secret to the game's Spoiled Brat protagonist. The player can even choose what type of "help" he gives her at the end of each level (usually in the form of a quickie boss battle).
  • Played with in Radiant Historia. Heiss thinks he's doing this, but he didn't count on his protege disagreeing with him once he revealed his real motives and continuing to oppose his plans.
  • In the first Super Robot Wars: Original Generation game, pretty much every villain is a Stealth Mentor. In particular, Sanger Zonvolt is particularly unsubtle that this is his plan, to the extent that none of his teammates ever really think he's betrayed them.
    • Ingram is another particularly interesting example, in that he actually begins as a mentor character before betraying the party and revealing that he only helped train the heroes so that they'd be more useful when they were brainwashed and integrated into the Aerogaters' army. He even admits that he's continuing to train them by being their enemy. Of course, he's actually counting on them winning.
  • Dimentio in Super Paper Mario. His early monologues and actions reveal that he is trying to secretly help Mario and the other heroes become stronger in order to defeat Big Bad Count Bleck. His motives, however, are less than pleasant.
  • The Black Chest Demons in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door make a huge show of being Sealed Evil in a Can and placing terrible curses on Mario when their chests are unlocked, but all of the "curses" in question are actually beneficial abilities that are necessary to progress through the game. The last Chest Demon pretty much gives the game away when Mario, by this point having caught on, asks him to stop putting up the pretense and just curse him already; he sheepishly admits that he's been rehearsing his schtick for the length of his confinement, and requests that he be allowed to perform it anyway, to which Mario agrees. Some in-game lore implies that the demons are, in fact, the spirits of four Precursor Heroes who defeated the game's Big Bad the first time around and trapped her soul; cursing their own souls to be sealed in chests after death was her last act of vengeance before she went dormant.
  • In Tales from the Borderlands, Vasquez claims that his horrible mistreatment of Rhys was all to motivate him to become better than his tormentor and groom him for the corporate world. He uses his own mistreatment at the hands of Handsome Jack as the basis for this, thinking that Jack was being a Stealth Mentor to him and had singled him out specifically as a protege when really Jack was just plain treating him badly, like he treats everyone else. Jack's own Virtual Ghost doesn't even remember Vasquez at all until he realizes that Vasquez was the bald guy he used to stick money to.
  • This is pretty much Kratos's main motive in Tales of Symphonia. And, to a lesser extent, Yuan's (although both have other reasons for acting the antagonist).
  • In Yakuza Kiwami, the first person to greet Kiryu after his 10-year prison sentence is Goro Majima, who's been waiting for a chance to fight him since his imprisonment. After he notices how rusty he's gotten since then, Majima decides that he will help him get back in shape by creating opportunities to fight him. Emphasis on the "Stealth" part of "Stealth Mentor", because the remake's "Majima Everywhere" system is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Majima is everywhere and will ambush you from anywhere.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The Uber-Ethereal reveals that the entire alien invasion was essentially a Training from Hell, preparing humanity to combat something even worse.
    • Subverted in that in XCOM 2, the Ethereals actually keep humanity happy and delighted while kidnapping multiple humans for experiments and preparing the said humans to be possessed by the Ethereals.
  • Grahf in Xenogears powered up lots of bosses and had them fight you in order to strengthen Fei up, but its averted when you discover that he was only making Fei strong enough so it could be worth taking his body to use for himself since Fei was his reincarnation.
  • Albedo in Xenosaga put Jr. (aka Rubedo) through all sorts of hell in order to force him to deal with and resolve his emotional issues and mend their tortured relationship. Though by mend, Albedo meant "provoke Jr. into killing him", since Albedo is otherwise immortal and Jr. is his only anti-existence. He basically spends the majority of Episodes I and II teaching Jr. exactly how to kill him, then prodding into a place where he's mentally-ready to kill him. And then with his dying breath he pretty much tells Jr. to go use what he's taught him against the real bad guys. Ah, brotherly love.

    Visual Novels 
  • Arguably, Archer from Fate/stay night is this to Shirou — in the anime at least, and in the visual novel. Even though he REALLY is intent on killing him so he won't repeat his own mistakes, he DOES give pretty helpful advice to him in the form of spiteful comments, and ultimately helps Shirou awaken his powers. No best stealth mentor than your aloof Future Badass self. It also should be noted that in one scenarios, he discards his personal vendetta in face of a greater threat, and because at this point Shirou will most likely never, ever, turn into Archer.
  • Kyousuke turns out to be a non-violent version of this in Little Busters!: his actions in preventing Riki from saving Rin in her route, even after Riki proves what an awful effect it's having on her well-being, turn out to be part of a plan to make Riki and Rin strong enough to take care of themselves after his death. In fact, these sorts of tests are scattered all through the game and form the reasons for the girls' routes, too. Though Kyousuke is much, much more benign than most examples in that none of his tests left Riki or Rin at risk of physical danger, the terrible happenings of Rin's route were a result of his plans backfiring and he's genuinely disturbed by them, and his tests weren't just general bad stuff that Riki needed to overcome but clearly focused around a goal that the game goes out of its way to show is very, very necessary.
  • Miles Edgeworth steps up to this role in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, where he subtly coaches Phoenix into learning what a defense attorney really fights for (without actually telling him). Many years later, in Dual Destinies, he's still trying to provoke Phoenix into being the best attorney he can be, up to and including quietly pulling some strings to help Phoenix (who was disbarred) get his license back.
  • Implied with Herlock Sholmes in The Great Ace Attorney. In both games, Sholmes will make a Dance of Deduction of a suspect and jump to a wrong conclusion with Insane Troll Logic, leading to the player (as Naruhodo) and Susato having to locate the actual clues with which Naruhodo and Sholmes will reach the true deduction from. However, during the final chapter of the second game, Sholmes and his old partner Yujin Mikotaba both work to deduce and locate the true murderer without any in-game course correction at all. This and Sholmes's own claim hints that Sholmes' incorrect first deductions are meant to refine and test Naruhodo's own deduction ability.
  • Beatrice turns out to be this for Battler in Umineko: When They Cry, despite spending the first half of the series as a sadistic Troll. It was all an act; she wanted Battler to win the game they were playing, but unfortunately he doesn't realize this until she's dead.

  • Parodied in Freefall when Sam Starfall tries to rip off some robots:
    Robot: That's your point, isn't it? No matter how much we produce, there are those who will never be satisfied. Our perspective is shifted when it comes to humans. We needed a Sqid to see this with lenses clean of bias. You are a very wise teacher.
    Sam: I appreciate that you think I'm deep and all, but really, I'm just trying to steal from you.
  • Vriska in Homestuck uses this justification to explain some of her eviller acts, like giving the main antagonist the powers of a god just so John, her student, would have to become stronger to beat him. Deconstructed in that it's shown to be the egotistical madness that it was, and none of the other characters approve of her actions.
    • Troll Blackrom (a mating relationship based on hatred instead of love) seems to sometimes contain elements of this.
      • Near the end Terezi explicitly says that one of the factors of blackrom is that much of the hate for your target comes from frustration at all the potential good things about them being covered by their disgusting flaws.
  • In Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki, Most of the attacking creatures turned out to have been sent by Odin as tests.

    Western Animation 
  • Angry Birds: Summer Madness: Mighty Eagle in "Chill Hard". Stella asks him to teach her how to not let her competitiveness get the best of her. Mighty Eagle agrees, but simply lazes around does nothing. Stella becomes so annoyed by this that she angrily quits... which Mighty Eagle reveals he was trying to teach her all along.
  • Danny Phantom: Clockwork leans rather subtly into this. The one lesson he most consistently tries to teach Danny is that "he always has a choice".
    • In The Ultimate Enemy, he is tasked with ensuring the Bad Future doesn't come to pass. He goes about this by sending ghosts from the future to kill Danny and eventually fighting him personally (though it's less of a fight than Danny would like). Danny ends up escaping from Clockwork by travelling to the future; once there he learns exactly how his actions will result in Dark Danny's birth, and after returning to the present with Vlad's help Danny defies his destiny and defeats his future self. As a reward for his efforts, Clockwork saves Danny's family and friends from dying, rewinds the timeline to the point before everything began to escalate, and gives Danny another chance to make things right, with the Observants accussing Clockwork of manipulating Danny into making the right choice. He doesn't bother to deny it.
    • Later, as Danny is trying to find a cure for ecto-acne, he tries to convince a reluctant Clockwork to let him alter the timeline so that Vlad doesn't become infected in the original accident. Seeing that Danny won't relent and cannot see another solution, Clockwork grants his request, pointing out that Danny can only "learn things the hard way". Indeed, as a result of Danny's interference, his father Jack ends up becoming a half-ghost instead of Vlad, who marries Maddie in Jack's place, meaning Danny and Jazz were never born. After Danny escapes from the resulting mess, he asks Clockwork for help once more, only this time Clockwork simply restores the original timeline while refusing further assistance, and tells Danny to cure the ecto-acne in the present rather than the past. As Danny watches the accident once more, he realizes that the cure's missing component is diet cola and rushes off home, leaving Clockwork to smile in satisfaction.
  • Proto Man in the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon might be considered one at few times but it's highly debatable (maybe if it would have been finished one could judge reliably).
  • Discord of all characters acted like one in the Season 4 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Whether he was just dicking Twilight Sparkle around for his own amusement or legitimately trying to help is up in the air, but he definitely did tell her exactly what she needed to hear to succeed. The season 9 finale deconstructs this: Discord's plan to bring back Equestria's worst villains and have them attack Canterlot in a genuine effort to boost Twilight's confidence backfires horribly as it leaves her thinking her previous achievements were all a lie. He doesn't get out without plenty of callouts.
  • Scavenger in Transformers: Armada takes this role for a while. During which he helps the Decepticons get their hands on a superweapon (and even makes sure Megatron will use it personally!), which is probably the only reason they believed he was on their side, given that his behavior towards Hot Shot would be downright bizarre if he wasn't secretly an Autobot. It was also pretty cleverly done in terms of the character's physical design. In the G1 series, Scavenger was a Decepticon and transformed into a green and purple construction vehicle. In Armada, Scavenger was a (fake) Decepticon and transformed into a green and purple construction vehicle. The denizens of the other side of the fourth wall would, of course, jump to the conclusion that he was a Decepticon in homage to the G1 character.
  • The Venture Bros.: Played with in the episode "The Doctor Is Sin". Dr. Henry Killinger turns it around by acting as a mentor for most of the story, then revealing that he's actually evil. Yet he's not a Treacherous Advisor because there is no treachery; it's as much the fault of Dr. Venture's Genre Blindness that he didn't catch on until the end that he was being transformed from a failing super-scientist into an effective super-villain. When he declines to go evil, the two part ways amicably.
    Killinger: Membership in ze most elite brozerhood, mit exclusive arching rights.
    Venture: [sigh] Didn't have to go through all this hooey to get my first arch-enemy, but what the hey. Did you pick me a good one?
    Killinger: No, you did.
    Venture: What? My brother?! [...] But he can't arch me; he's not even a superv— Oh, my God!
  • Chase Young in Xiaolin Showdown — but he's trying to convert Omi to evil, so he's not The Mole.

    Real Life 
  • In security parlance, a Red Team is a group that launches fake attacks against various assets in order to gauge responses and test security holes. What puts them in this trope is that the attacked group doesn't know that it's a fake attack until it's over (just as they would in real life). In this case, the Red Team often has a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card, granted by someone in charge of the target organization.
  • In computer security, a White-Hat hacker may occasionally pose as an attacker and attacks on a company's digital infrastructure to test the system's defense. This is also known as "penetration test", an authorized simulated attack on a computer system to look for the weaknesses. As in the above case, the person performing the test has a Get Out Of Jail Free Card.


Video Example(s):


Bandit playing Ragdoll

Bandit gets stuck at the bottom of the stairs while playing Ragdoll with Bluey and Bingo, trying to teach them the value of hard work. The girls are not impressed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / HelpImStuck

Media sources: