The Light Novel counterpart to the Stock Shōnen Hero. Since this archetype also comes from Japanese Media, it shares a lot of overlap but also plenty of differences. In fact, the Stock Light Novel hero would probably be the Stock Shōnen Rival in another series, except in this case, we're seeing the story through his eyes.
While the Stock Shōnen Hero is Hot-Blooded, Book Dumb, and usually starts off at the lower end of the Power Level food chain, the Stock Light Novel Hero is typically an Unfazed Everyman, Genius Bruiser, Deadpan Snarker or Stoic badass (except when he isn't) with power, skill, ability, or moral character that puts most other characters to shame. Further, very few shonen heroes are a Chick Magnet, and usually only have one "serious" Love Interest. The Light Novel hero commonly gains a harem, wanted or otherwise, without fail.
Appearance-wise, shonen heroes typically have outlandish costumes, bright and/or spiky hair, and rough facial features. The Light Novel protagonist is, more often than not, an Ordinary High-School Student, a NEET, or some other kind of Ridiculously Average Guy with dark and/or neat hair and soft facial features. Even in a fantasy setting, he'll probably be an attendee of the local Extranormal Institute or just your average blue-collar joe taking jobs at the Adventure Guild. Costume-wise, the Light Novel protagonist wears either an ordinary high school uniform or some other simple outfit, often equipped with a Badass Longcoat.
While shonen heroes focus more on "power growth" (training hard, and gradually strengthening their abilities to prove their worth), the Light Novel protagonist is focused more on "power acquisition". Rather than training to improve their abilities, the Light Novel protagonist usually starts out already nigh-unbeatable, and typically "unlocks" new abilities as the story goes on. Not through training, but merely as a consequence of adventuring or overcoming the Monster of the Week. If the hero is a Non-Action Guy, then his growing Battle Harem is often how he faces the Sorting Algorithm of Evil.
Another way to put this is comparing the powers of a shonen battle manga hero to a muscle that has to be trained and developed, and the light novel hero to a toolset required to progress the story. In fact, they may already have everything needed to succeed in the first place, but simply become a lot more stylish at it.
The light novels are markedly influenced by video games and mix in Dating Sim and Visual Novel elements, such as the most common "acquisition" that the light novel hero makes being new members to his harem. The very act of romancing the harem may also be how power is achieved.
- Standard Japanese Fantasy Setting
- Extranormal Institute
- Summon Everyman Hero
- Trapped in Another World
- Reincarnate in Another World
- New Life in Another World Bonus
- Stock Light-Novel Everyman
- Stock Light-Novel Calamity Princess
- Hero's Slave Harem
- Next Life as a Fictional Character
- "Reborn as Villainess" Story
- Slow Life Fantasy
- The Everyday Hero: This guy lives in a world that's Like Reality, Unless Noted. If he goes to school, it will be on the more mundane end, if a bit quirky. Should this guy be an adult, he'll usually be stuck as a Salaryman or a freeter, or in some more unfortunate cases may become a Hikikomori or a NEET due to pressure. His special skills tend to focus around social talents, such as Awesomeness by Analysis or being The Heart of the group. Sometimes, he'll be a light novel author or videogame creator himself. The Trope Codifier of this variant is Kyon. See the full trope at Stock Light-Novel Everyman.
- The Fantasy Hero: This type of hero lives in a Standard Fantasy Setting, a futuristic setting, or an Urban Fantasy that is almost like our own, except with magic. As a young man, the schools he attends are, at the very least, Extranormal Institutes. If he lives in (or becomes trapped inside) a fantasy world, he can be anything from a complete nobody to a nobleman or even royalty. Where he begins doesn't usually matter much, though, because when his special ability awakens, it'll likely be some sort of Story-Breaker Power that instantly shoots him to the top of the social sphere, and even if his power level is rather mediocre, his pragmatism will see that he can apply his abilities in ways that others have never thought of. The Trope Codifier of this archetype is Touma Kamijou, who still possesses some unique traits that reflect how this character archetype developed from the Stock Shōnen Hero in the early days of light novels.
- The Isekai Hero:note An extremely popular subtype which falls into the Isekai genre. Isekai protagonists usually reach the other world through being summoned or reincarnation, where you can expect them to have a New Life in Another World Bonus. If said world is an RPG Mechanics 'Verse then they will likely be a Godlike Gamer. In practice, these guys are pretty much a fusion of Everyday and Fantasy types: all the upbringing and modern knowledge of a mundane protagonist, plus the supernatural abilities and skillset of a fantasy one. Some may even involve a creator of a game or story being drawn inside their own creation. The Trope Codifier of this archetype is Kirito, while that of the Reincarnate in Another World variant is Rudeus Greyrat.
- Slow Life Hero: A blend somewhere between the "Everyman" and "Hero" variant. The "Slow Life" protagonist is usually a very gifted, talented or even powerful individual who has retired from (or actively avoids) an action-oriented, adventurous life. All they want is to live a quiet, comfortable and hassle-free life, despite possessing more than enough power or skill to be one of the strongest or most useful adventurers around. Any Big Bads or Demon Lords that need defeating are Someone Else's Problem. Inevitably, this character will still wind up caught in the middle of conflicts and have to save the day completely by coincidence, much to his or her chagrin. Satou is the first example of this character type to gain large-scale prominence and is the Trope Codifier of this archetype—and as he possesses many of the traits of straight Isekai Heroes, he also shows how this archetype evolved from it.
- The Loser Hero: A particular form of deconstruction of the Invincible Hero often associated with this genre. Usually present in isekai stories, this hero finds that they have been dropped off in the fantasy world, but either has not been given any of the power typically expected OR the powers they are given are Awesome, but Impractical. This hero will find themselves struggle early on in the story, being on the lower end of the hero foodchain and have to slowly work their way up by gradually amassing power or skills (not unlike a Shonen hero). Typically comes in two different flavors: a lighthearted comedic tone where the hero's lack of resources often leads them to be treated as a Butt-Monkey, while the second is a Darker and Edgier take where the hero's disadvantage in this world subjects them to a long string of brutal hardships. The two most famous examples of this archetype are Kazuma Sato as the comedic variant, and Subaru Natsuki as the serious variant.
- The Revenge Hero: A Darker and Edgier counterpart to the Fantasy Hero who usually possesses many of the same traits: being summoned or reincarnated, having a New Life in Another World Bonus, and possessing a Ridiculously Average Guy appearance. However, this hero has been severely wronged in some way by one (or several) vile antagonists and the story revolves around him using his powers to pay back their evil. In contrast to the usual idealism, this hero has a deeply cynical view of the world and is likely to engage in morally-dubious behavior himself — for example, the members of his harem are likely to be slaves. The only thing preventing him from being an outright villain is antagonists' complete lack of redeeming qualities. This archetype was first popularized by the titular Goblin Slayer and Naofumi Iwatani of The Rising of the Shield Hero, being cynical takes on the Fantasy Hero and the Isekai Hero, respectively. Later imitators continuously up the ante, exploring how reprehensible they can make their heroes' actions while retaining the Power Fantasy.
- The "Princess" Heroine: The Distaff Counterpart subtype, introduced in the late 2010s and early 20s, being an opposite-gender counterpart of the stock fantasy and isekai protagonist. As the name would suggest, this type of protagonist is Always Female and shows up in light novels aimed at women. While, like her cousin the Stock Shoujo Heroine, she's not likely to be a fighter (or, if she is one, is usually a ranged magician or marksman), her knowledge and interpersonal relationship skill are her greatest power.note While this archetype had existed for quite a while in niche light novels, Myne was the first example to gain widespread prominence.
- The Otome Heroine: This type has also developed its own subtype in which the heroine is reincarnated as a character from an otome game that she has played in the past. The variance typically lies in exactly which character she's become. The character often takes the role of a Blithe Spirit that changes the hearts and minds of several other important people within their new world or someone considered a genius for bringing new advances from the modern world.
- The Otome Villainess: A popular variant of the Otome Heroine, in which the protagonist, or central character, is the game's "villainess". Usually this means, in order to avoid a Downer Ending for herself, she has to take the story Off the Rails. The Trope Codifier of this variant is Catarina Claes, who, ironically, was conceived as a parody of this archetype.
While this is not quite the Omnipresent Trope that its shonen cousin is (due to being newer), it's getting there. See our Analysis Page for a quick explanation on why this trope became so successful, so quickly.
- Dog Days: Cinque Izumi is a near perfect example, even though he's one of the rare cases where he isn't from a light novel. He starts off as an Ordinary High-School Student where he was an ace athlete before abruptly being summoned to another world inhabited by animal people. In that other world he's The Chosen One and becomes The Hero with a very large Unwanted Harem comprised of the many girls there. He's the World's Best Warrior and is on the verge of becoming an Invincible Hero, being gifted with a Legendary Weapon and an assortment of powerful skills. Though personality wise he's quite cheerful and fun loving which is more in line with a Shonen hero.
- The Dungeon of Black Company: A comedic take on the genre, Kinji Meiyuu is a shrewd, selfish businessman who managed to finally build his ideal lifestyle by accumulating a massive sum of wealth and power which allow him to live forever as a NEET and avoid the trap of being a salaryman. However, he is then whisked away to a fantasy world run by greedy and abusive corporations that force workers to toil in dungeons for rare materials. Refusing for this to be his new lot in life, Kinji begins hatching zany and risky schemes in order to be the one at the top of the hierarchy. Unlike most characters of this type, Kinji is definitely a Nominal Hero; there is very little difference between himself and the people he's up against. Also, while Kinji's fighting skills are practically non-existent, he's still crafty enough to be able to outsmart most threats he faces, and also gains a gang of loyal "friends" and powerful weapons to help him out.
- Kemono Michi: Animal Mask is a powerful pro-wrestler who also happens to adore animals way too much. He is summoned to another world to fight the vicious, carnivorous demon beasts plaguing the world, but refuses to harm any "beast" or "beast person" and instead begins to tame them for his dream of opening a pet shop. Later his rival, Manchurian Ogre (nicknamed "MAO") is summoned to oppose him. The show takes the standard isekai tropes and mercilessly parodies them, with Animal Mask being exceptionally strong but considered a pervert and weirdo for how much he loves animals and beast men (to the point that the latter is comedically compared to sexual harassment).
- Yoshichika Tsurugi of Luck & Logic basically fits this trope dead-on. He's the most powerful Logicalist in the country if not the world and a seasoned combat veteran, has the standard light novel protagonist appearance, and gets assigned to a squadron made up of nothing but cute girls (with one token guy). He immediately and effortlessly takes command from their leader (who's implied to have held the position for a very long time), and despite the girls being presented at the start of the series as capable fighters, they start needing to be rescued by him more and more the further the series goes on. In fact, this is lampshaded as the Rival Turned Evil (the aforementioned token guy)'s justification for his FaceHeel Turn is his jealousy that Yoshichika arrived and almost effortlessly managed to do everything that he himself had been working hard to do on his own, but never quite got there, which made him susceptible to being taken over by the Big Bad.
- Parallel Paradise: Youta is a unique example of the Isekai Hero, an Ordinary High-School Student who violently enters the world (via falling from a third story building window) he is the only male human being in the parallel world whose touch can cause Fantastic Arousal to any female character in the world. Unlike most examples while he isn't a bad fighter, most of the female characters are much more skilled in combat than he is. Moreover, Youta Really Gets Around, but in the context of the world this is also justified because most of the female characters cannot live past 19-20 unless he sleeps with them.
- Sword Art Online Abridged: Kirito is a deconstruction given that it's an Abridged Series that pokes fun at the genre. He's far from the Nice Guy Hero that are common to the genre, being a sociopath who holds little regard for human life and part of his Character Development being learning to care. While he's similarly overpowered, he's also a Smug Super who loves rubbing it in everyone's faces. He starts off as a Chick Magnet who attracts girls, but his obnoxious personality always repels them away before he acquires his Unwanted Harem, with only Asuna so far being able to remain romantically involved with (Lisbeth gets over her feelings for him, but they remain Vitriolic Best Buds). He also learns his skills along the way rather than being given them with no explanation.
- Fate Revelation Online: Subverted with Kirito. He's one of the front-line players, but he's Overshadowed by Awesome by most of the other people in the guild he's not-quite joined. Illya is the best mage in the game bar none (and a decent warrior besides), Shirou is the best warrior in the game bar none (and a decent mage besides), Asuna is universally well-rounded, and everyone else has a Rare Element that helps them stand out from the crowd. Kirito, by contrast, merely has the Ether element, which works best when you have another element paired with it. This isn't always a bad thing—since Kirito isn't trying to hide his strength, he's able to give the Moonlight Black Cats a lot more help than canon, and they don't get slaughtered when they face an unexpectedly powerful enemy. Likewise, he never really gets a harem because all the girls are helped by other people instead of him. His only love interest is Asuna.
- Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus has Augustine Sycamore become one of these as he's a dark haired Hot Scientist who get transported onto the Infinity Train, has an advantage because he has a Garchomp with Mega Evolution and later obtains his own Persona. He also is an All-Loving Hero and later a Genius Bruiser after some Training from Hell in the Monster City Car (ruled by another light novel hero in Rimuru Tempest). He even gets a Badass Longcoat that, through the author notes, is to reflect that he's essentially an isekai protagonist.
- The King's Avatar: Ye Xiu is acknowledged as a Living Legend for the In-Universe Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game "Glory" and its eSports league, having won multiple championships and earned dozens of accolades to his name for years. He's so knowledgeable and skilled at the game that some of his epitaphs include "Battle God", "Glory Encyclopedia/Textbook" and "Master Strategist". Despite being forced to retire from the competitive scene at the start of the story, he winds up coming back to the league by forming his own team of like-minded talent, all whom defer to his leadership, winning another championship after their debut. Downplayed when the series has no Fantasy, isekai or Science Fiction elements at all; Glory is simply a video game and The King's Avatar dives into the Real Life aspect and environment of eSports as its primary narrative. While Ye Xiu is certainly touted as one of the best players of the game, there are just about as many equally talented players like him, who have also won championships, earned accomplishments and titles that he does not have. Furthermore, a single person cannot hope to win competitive Glory when it's a team sport, thus group effort is necessitated, particularly when his team, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, struggles to even make it into the playoffs upon joining the league. Finally, The King's Avatar has no notions of romance due to an explicit No Hugging, No Kissing policy - despite being close with female characters, the most Ye Xiu's chalked up to is Like Brother and Sister with the Childhood Friend, Vitriolic Best Buds to his employer and serving as The Mentor for a co-worker, negating any harem element at all.
- Wade Watts from Ready Player One is almost a complete Western example. He's already acquired a formidable amount of skills and abilities in the OASIS by the time the story begins, and his quest to find the MacGuffin central to the plot is accomplished through power acquisition. In particular, he bears a distinct resemblance to the "Isekai hero" sub-trope. He even nails several aspects of the stereotypical light novel hero personality, being a Deadpan Snarker, an Unfazed Everyman, and a Genius Bruiser. His backstory— a NEET Ordinary High-School Student who becomes trapped in a video game world— also matches the trope perfectly. The main difference, though, is that he only ever has one love interest, Art3mis.
- Kagerou Project kicked off its plot with Shintaro Kisaragi, a dour loner and the newest member of the Mekakushi Dan. He starts the story as a Hikikomori and skips school constantly, but back when he went he found the material to be too easy. It takes him meeting the rest of the gang to start opening back up and understand the eye powers they've all been given. He also has some of the most significance in the story: he was personally friends with Ayano before her passing, of which drew him into being a hikikomori in the first place, it's his actions in Route XX that inadvertently doom the timeline, and his eye power, "Recording Eyes", has been secretly aiding him in each timeline and is critical to ending the loop once and for all.
- Tokyo Xanadu: Kou Tokisaka is a downplayed version of the trope. While he fits most of the criteria of being a typical light novel hero; a Stoic Ordinary High-School Student who is also a Ridiculously Average Guy and an everyman who likes to help out people in need, even if it isn't his own business, and obtains his Soul Device through "power acquisition" to defeat otherworldly monsters called Greeds, that's where the similarities end. When it comes to his actual combat skills in the Eclipse, he is far from being an Invincible Hero, and this is demonstrated by his amateur fighting style and lack of understanding of his own Soul Device when he first obtains it, in contrast to his classmate Asuka Hiiragi, who is far more powerful and experienced than he is. Kou's growth throughout the game is instead the result of him working together with his friends and fellow X.R.C. members as part of his Character Development. In addition, he has no harem to speak of. The closest thing he has to harem are his female allies; Asuka, Sora, Mitsuki, Rion, and even his Childhood Friend Shiori, but with the exception of the latter, the other girls show very little romantic interest in Kou, and they consider him more of a friend than anything (and in fact, Sora and Mitsuki get Ship Tease with other male members of the party). Not to mention that his group is balanced out by an equal amount of male students as well, who can equally bond with Kou in friendship events just as much as the girls.
- Rean Schwarzer from The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel posseses an array of cliches that fit this trope. He's The Leader of Class VII, Chick Magnet extraordinare that as of Cold Steel IV has up to eleven women all vying for him romantically, a Super Robot that only he can pilot, is adopted to a noble family, has a Superpowered Evil Side with no idea how he got it, is an overall Nice Guy and polite to other people, and is considered The Chosen One by a lot of characters (his master names Rean the one true successor who will learn the true meaning of the Eight Leaves One Blade sword style, his biological father names Rean the national hero of Erebonia, and Ishmelga), along with other characters from the Liberl and Crossbell arcs, believe that he's the center of everything. Unfortunately, even all these tools are not enough for him to win the day. In fact, he's on the losing side at the end of three games and things go From Bad to Worse for him. It literally takes a Deus ex Machina on top of a time travel plot to actually make him win the fourth game in the Erebonia arc.
- Hyde Kido from Under Night In-Birth hits a few ticks from this trope. Namely, he's a rather plain looking high schooler who awakens to a powerful ability and has quite a few girls implied to have deeper feelings for him. He does however subvert the usual personality traits, being an Idiot Hero. While he does acquire a powerful ability, he's considered a complete greenhorn compared to the more experienced cast members and he's firmly Unskilled, but Strong. Makes sense given the developers being the ones who made a spin off to a visual novel.
- Itsuki Aoi of Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE not only ticks nearly all the criterias of this trope, it is taken to the extreme. He is simply an Average Joe with short black hair who gains super powers and is then given the job as an idol, something that he has no interest in from the beginning, let alone experience. In fact, he is quickly given the role as team leader despite being the latest member of the party and his lack of experience in fighting. Despite his plain looks, all the girls in the company are in love with him but he is too dense to see it. Character Shilling also plays a factor as he is praised non stop for being a man with no flaws and the glue that holds the team together, when he has zero personality, ambitions or even Character Development when compared to the other party members. He then becomes a Showy Invincible Hero at the climax of the game when the Mirage of Marth saves him from death and giving him a new Carnage form, the only person to do so, to defeat the final boss.
- An early but very influential example is Shiki Tohno, a seemingly normal teenage everyman with short black hair... and the ability to permanently kill anything, a Superpowered Evil Side, and extensive childhood training in assassination that lets him instantly detect supernatural beings and kill them easily.
- This is a Nasuverse staple, with Shirou Emiya following right after Shiki, though his orange hair stands out more. He's also an everyman - just one who happens to be a magus with the power to copy any weapon he sees. While initially incompetent, unlike most modern examples, he learns fast and is deceptively intelligent.
- Grisaia Series: Yuuji Kazami is a Decon-Recon Switch of the trope. He fits most of the criteria: incredible skills, a growing Unwanted Harem, a stoic persona, a compulsion to help others, and an average appearance. However, his backstory reveals the circumstances under which he gained most of these. He suffered years of Parental Neglect in favor of his far more intelligent and talented older sister, which turned into Parental Abuse from his father after their cash cow died, culminating in his mother's murder. Yuuji killed his father in retaliation before being picked up as a Child Soldier by a terrorist who also sexually abused him. Some time later, he was then trained and raised by a female mercenary, who also took him as her lover before she, too, died and left him all alone. By the time the series begins, Yuuji is a suicidal, broken shell who wants to lead a "normal" life for a while and only helps the girls that eventually form his harem because he promised his deceased master that he'd help five people in need before he killed himself. However, the various games and the anime have numerous ways that Yuuji can finally earn his happy ending and live happily with some, or all, of his harem.