For most of the career of a student, The Mentor overshadows the student in terms of ability. This is certainly justified, since it is the intention of a student to become more skilled by learning from a more experienced mentor.
However, there often comes a time when the student surpasses the mentor in ability. It is at this point at which the student reaches his full ability and becomes a master of his trade. This may result in the mentor becoming an Obsolete Mentor. If the student is arrogant, when he proves he is superior, he often utters a Stock Phrase or some variation thereof from which the trope name originates: "The student has surpassed the teacher."
If the mentor is the nice type, he will often be highly proud of his student (though perhaps with a bit of ego-stroking about his own teaching skills). If the student has surpassed his mentor but hasn't reached his full potential, his old master may tell him to find a new master who will teach the student more.
If the mentor is the jealous type, he may be quite jealous and resentful of the student's ability, and in extreme cases, the mentor may become the student's enemy. When both the teacher and the student are evil, with the student learning the ways of evil from the teacher, the student often proves his superiority by killing the teacher.
- Lyrical Nanoha:
- Yuuno is technically Nanoha's teacher in magic. In practice, however, she learns everything he can teach her within three or four episodes of the original series. Hilariously, most people who know that he taught her but don't know him personally are unaware that this trope is in effect, resulting in him getting Mistaken for Badass.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono defeats Liesearia and Lieselotte, his combat magic instructors, and explicitly tells them that he has become stronger than both of them.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid, Teana beats Nanoha herself in a mock duel using long range bombardment—with Nanoha's own Starlight Breaker, no less! note
- As part of Jin's backstory in Samurai Champloo, Jin, prize student of the Mujuushin dojo, became a ronin after killing his teacher, Master Mariya, in self-defense. This technically makes him the 4th and final master of the school.
- Fatal Fury: Tung Fu Rue reunites with Terry and Andy on the ten year anniversary of their father's death, during which, he tells them their skills have already surpassed Jeff's. However, only one could become his successor. Adding that the one he chooses would have to surpass his own ability. Guess which one pulls it off?
- Dragon Ball
- Played With at the beginning of the series. Goku's mentor, Master Roshi, disguises himself to participate without getting known at a tournament. The viewer expects this trope to appear, as Goku manages to evade all of Roshi's tactics to defeat him. However, despite Goku having managed to succeed to all of Roshi's attempts, Goku lost to him after he was goaded into a final jump-kick, receiving the brunt of the injury. There's also the fact, because Goku didn't know he was fighting Roshi, he never knew how strong his master actually is. There were some hints that Roshi was much more skilled than he lets on in the series, though it became clear that Goku surpassed him by the 22nd World Tournament. This is Played for Drama in the King Piccolo Saga. After losing to Piccolo, Goku goes to Korin and asked him to train him again so he can become stronger than Piccolo. Korin can only tell him that he already surpassed him and he can teach him nothing. By the end of the original Dragon Ball, Goku surpassed all his teachers, including Kami. At the beginning of Z, he needs to become stronger than King Kai just to have a remote chance against the Saiyans since they were stronger than him.
- Played With in regard to Gohan as well. By the Cell Games, Gohan surpassed both Piccolo and his father, becoming the strongest characters in the series up to that point. After the seven year time skip, Goku surpasses Gohan since he slacked off and actually got weaker. After getting empowered by Old Kai, Gohan becomes the strongest hero in the series again. He slacks off, again, and Goku greatly surpasses him by a laughable degree by Resurrection 'F'.
- Rurouni Kenshin:
- Averted where the title character cannot surpass his mentor Hiko, because he simply does not possess the physique to fully use the Hiten Mitsurugi style. In fairness, Hiko is the strongest character in the series by a wide margin, so just being second to him means being extremely powerful. Also, when a Muteki style fighter whose sensei was killed by Kenshin showed up wanting to kill Kenshin for that, it was not for vengeance but because killing Kenshin would prove he surpassed his master.
- In the manga, Sanosuke Sagara upgrades Anji's finishing move, Futae no Kiwami or Mastery of Two Layers, which Anji had taught him, into Mastery of Three Layers and defeats him with it. This didn't make it into the anime, which turned their fight into a draw.
- Naruto perfected Sage Mode, which Jiraiya wasn't able to do. And in a way he surpassed Kakashi, because Kakashi, like the Fourth Hokage, wasn't able to add element manipulation to the Rasengan (which is why Kakashi made Chidori and later Raikiri).note
- Kabuto, after assimilating Orochimaru's remains into himself for a power boost and further successfully combining the DNA of Orochimaru's strongest subordinates to give himself their powers, eventually surpassed his master as well, perfecting the Impure World Resurrection jutsu and mastering Sage Mode, a feat even Orochimaru was unable to do.
- Domon Kasshu in Mobile Fighter G Gundam surpasses his teacher, Master Asia, in the final climactic battle of the 13th Gundam Fight.
- In Gate, Lelei reads textbooks on chemistry and physics and applies what she learned to her spellwork, which drastically improves it. Her magical teacher Cato is proud and admits she has exceeded his abilities.
- In Pokémon, Ash owns and trains a Froakie, a ninja-frog Pokémon. Over the course of his journey through Kalos Ash meets up with Sanpei, who hails from a Ninja Village and trains a Frogadier, Froakie's evolved form. Sanpei and Frogadier (who later on becomes a Greninja) take on the role of mentor to Ash and Froakie and help them learn new moves such as Double Team. By the time Ash's Froakie reaches it's Greninja stage, however, Ash's Greninja becomes The Ace of the Kalos series as a whole and even gets a powerful Super Mode because of his close bond with Ash, while Sanpei and his Greninja fall victim to The Worf Effect.
- In Tokyo Ghoul:Re, Haise Sasaki's task is to train an Investigator that will become a Superior Successor to the legendary Kishou Arima (his mentor). Eventually, a Gambit Pileup leads to student and mentor engaging in a battle to the death. This is all according to Arima's long-term plan to groom Kaneki into a person capable of not only killing him, but becoming the leader of La Résistance. However, Kaneki loves his surrogate father too much to finish him off, leading Arima to take matters into his own hands. He asks Kaneki to take credit for killing him, to complete the Klington Promotion aspect of his plan.
- In Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, Baul was a demon swordsman who was trained by Dante's father Sparda. Since Sparda is dead, Baul attacks Dante, both out of resentment for Sparda abandoning him, and because he believes defeating Dante will prove he had surpassed Sparda. He fails and Dante slays him.
- In Accel World, Scarlet Rain does this to her mentor and parent, Cherry Rook. He brings her onto Brain Burst, and she eventually becomes one of the Six Kings of Pure Color, replacing Red Rider. Unfortunately, Cherry starts feeling highly inadequate as a result, which, combined with the fact that he'll be adopted and move out of the orphanage soon, results in him being tricked into taking the Armor of Catastrophe.
- Wally West was once the first Kid Flash, the Sidekick to the second Flash, Barry Allen. After Barry's death, Wally was depowered due to events during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he eventually surpassed Barry in terms of speed and accomplishments, becoming the first speedster to enter the Speed Force and come back. All the Flashes have said it, but Wally West truly is The Fastest Man Alive.
- Many of Batman's protegés have surpassed him in some way. Nightwing surpasses him as an acrobat, a leader, and at maintaining relations with other superheroes, Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon) surpasses him in intel gathering, Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) surpasses him as a fighter, and Red Robin Tim Drake will eventually become a better detective than him.
- Robin Series: When Tim meets one of the earliest martial arts instructors he'd had while training as Robin a year later and the man assaults him Tim easily trounces him. Not only does this display his improvement, it demonstrates that his old instructor's ideology about fighting and martial arts is wrong which he'd kind of wanted to do since they first met but hadn't tried while studying under him.
- Matt Fraction's Hawkeye series has suggested that Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers has surpassed Clint Barton as an archer, being able to fire five arrows at once (after which he outright calls her perfect in his mind).
- The Transformers: Dark Cybertron: Shockwave, the prize student of Jhiaxus surpasses him in the present. Jhiaxus even acknowledges it seeing as how Shockwave is bound by only logic and no emotion, so Jhiaxus willingly follows him on his quest to control reality.
- Arachne Webber, a very incidental character in Snuff, is expanded upon as a student at the Assassins' Guild School in A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic There's Nothing Like A Fresh Pair of eyes, Is There. In which her mentor, Johanna Smith-Rhodes, notes with pride that her pupil's specialist knowledge of spiders vastly exceeds her own.
- In The Witch of the Everfree, Twilight eventually surpasses Sunset at magical theory. Unusually, rather than dropping out of their mentor-student relationship at that point, they just switch, with Twilight starting to teach Sunset instead of the other way around.
- Star Wars:
- A New Hope: Darth Vader claims that "When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master" when he confronts and kills his former master Obi-Wan. Subverted in that Obi-Wan's death is a Thanatos Gambit to merge with the Force and distract Vader from his children Luke and Leia escaping in the background.
- In Attack of the Clones, Dooku tries to pull this against his old master Yoda, but ends up retreating and distracting his former master to survive.
Dooku: I've become more powerful than any Jedi, even you!
[Yoda effortlessly blocks, absorbs, or deflects all of Dooku's Force attacks on him]
Yoda: Much to learn you still have.
- One of the last things Obi-Wan says to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith invokes this trope (and echoes what Obi-Wan's own master told him in The Phantom Menace), but it's later proven to not be the case when he defeats Vader in combat. Matt Stover doesn't refer to Obi-Wan as "the ultimate Jedi" for nothing.
- And speaking of Matt Stover, his Novelization includes a conversation between Yoda and the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn in which Yoda acknowledges that Qui-Gon was always the superior Jedi:
Yoda: A very great Jedi Master you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. A very great Jedi Master you always were, but too blind I was to see it. (bows respectfully) Your apprentice, I gratefully become.
- In The Last Jedi, Yoda (as a Force ghost) tells Luke that this is expected for all Jedi. (Specifically, he's speaking of Rey.)
Yoda: Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.
- Highlander did this, the end of the Training Montage with Connor and Ramirez has Connor finally besting Ramirez and disarming him.
- Chess movie Queen of Katwe: The exact moment that Robert realizes this comes when he believes that Phiona has made a mistake and failed to respond to his attack. She proceeds to show him an eight-move sequence in which she forks with a bishop and takes Robert's rook. Robert is astonished that she can see eight moves deep.
- The classic martial arts comedy The Last Dragon is about this. After his Kung-Fu master refuses to train him further, Leeroy goes in search of another master to further his training, not realizing until the end that he already surpassed his teacher, and became a master himself.
- In Wonder Woman (2017), Queen Hippolyta specifically tells Antiope, the Amazons' greatest warrior, to train Diana to be better even than her for her own protection. It's debatable as to how successful she was; even after decades of training, Antiope quickly gains the upper hand against Diana when she is distracted...until Diana unleashes her previously untapped powers and immediately overpowers her, shocking everyone present (including Diana herself). By the film's end, Diana clearly surpasses any of the other Amazons in power being half-god probably has something to do with it, though sadly Antiope does not live to see how great a warrior her niece becomes.
- Tyor surpasses Caedmon as a mage about a third of the way into Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2, although given that Caedmon was only chosen to be the mentor to begin with because he was the only one available, this did not take much effort. At the end, the Big Good decides to make it official and straight-up reverse the characters' positions.
- In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl learns the sword from a man also named Tarl, whom he refers to as "the Older Tarl." At every sparring encounter the Older Tarl beats Tarl and says "You are dead." At one point Tarl finally gets through the Older Tarl's defense; the Older Tarl cries out with delight "I am dead!" and clutches Tarl to his bosom, "proud as a father who has taught his son chess and has been defeated for the first time." Speaking of which...
- In Assassin of Gor, Tarl teaches a slave girl to play the Gorean equivalent of chess, which slaves are forbidden to learn. He finds that she's a natural, and stops giving her advice on her game in order to concentrate on not losing too badly.
- Mentor in Lensman flat-out says the Children of the Lens (the five Kinnison children) have gone beyond the Arisians.
- In Matilda, it is clear from very early in the book that Matilda has intellectual capabilities that are certainly beyond that of her teacher, Ms. Honey.
- Heck, Matilda has surpassed her teachers so far, she gains psychic powers, due to the lack of challenge. Once she's moved to a higher class, they quickly vanish.
- In the Discworld Witches series, it is hinted in Lords and Ladies that the one thing Granny Weatherwax fears is the emergence of a witch who is more powerful than she is, who will compete for supremacy - and win. In the Tiffany Aching trilogy, such a novice witch does arise. Granny realises this, and neatly aces the dilemma by taking on Tiffany's teaching herself. This makes the prospect of a fight between them absolutely unthinkable, and Granny realises that while Tiffany will inevitably eclipse her, this is so far in the future as to resolve the problem: Granny will be dead or "retired" by then and the succession of Alpha Witch is assured without bloodshed or catastrophic destruction. In the meantime, Granny is free to express occasional seemly pride.
- Granny Weatherwax herself claims that she got the local witch to take her as an apprentice by sheer determination and following her around until the old witch taught her everything she knew... which took about a week.
- In Pact, Jeremy Meath, High Drunk of Dionysus, demonstrates that his understanding of his god's will surpasses that of his teacher by making a formal challenge to the Magical Society of Toronto to claim his personal demesne before he's likely ready, trusting in Dionysus' appreciation for madmen to see him through. As a result, most of his teacher's followers defect to Jeremy's side, since Dionysus now favors him more.
- Journey to Chaos: In A Mage's Power, Eric is taught magecraft by Basilard Bladi and Dengel Tymh. Then he has a falling out with the later and spends Looming Shadow attempting to fulfill this trope so he can smear Dengel's fame. As his brush with the trope With Great Power Comes Great Insanity demonstrates, he still has a ways to go before he can say "I am a better mage than Dengel".
- Valhalla features a scene in which the protagonist bests her drill instructor by breaking his arm during what was intended as a flinch test. He's quite proud, though she still goes to the brig.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, Sith Order's philosophy of the Rule of Two is meant to lead into the apprentice betraying his master once he has learned everything that his master knows, ensuring the next Sith masters can only become stronger.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Giles worries about this from season four onwards, since Buffy's at college and he's no longer her Watcher officially or unofficially. He considers leaving Sunnydale entirely, but changes his mind when Buffy asks for more training. When he does leave in season six, it's for the opposite reason.
- Played with in late season 7; Spike directly confronts Giles with words along these lines, saying that one of the reasons he turned on Buffy was jealousy that Buffy had surpassed him in her abilities.
- JAG: In "JAG TV", Mac as trial counsel (prosecutor) in a televised murder case faces her old law professor Juanita Ressler as defense counsel. Ressler knows how use the media to her advantage, while Mac is utterly dismissive of interview requests and is overwhelmed and distracted by the sudden interest of the media in her as a mysterious sex object. Following words of wisdom from Admiral Chegwidden, Mac begins to spin-doctor the media to her advantage which brings forth new evidence from anonymous sources which helps to convict the defendant for murder.
- The X-Files: Implied in the episode "Grotesque". Agent Bill Patterson is one of the top criminal profilers and forensic psychologists at the FBI. He has a strange but understandable attitude towards Mulder who was once a part of his team, but unlike other young agents he didn't worship him and didn't want to be like him. Patterson on the other hand feels that Mulder threw away his amazing talent and instead of profiling criminals he chose to chase aliens and the paranormal. Mulder thinks that Patterson never thought highly of him. However, Patterson is probably a bit envious of Mulder's abilities and according to his team, he starts telling "Mulder stories" about him being "some kind of crack genius" when he's drunk. Sadly, Patterson also ends up being a Broken Pedestal for all involved.
- In Season D of Blake's 7, we're introduced to Soolin, the newest member of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
Dorian: Soolin was taught by the best.Soolin: The second best actually.
- On Sliders, Quinn Mallory surpassed Professor Arturo before the first episode by opening a vortex to another dimension. Quinn did it purely by accident (he was actually working on anti-gravity), and he doesn't fully understand what he's done even after some extensive study, but he still managed to do something that Arturo researched and was never able to do himself. Quinn even looked to his research when building the timer. The trope gets played in different ways. Arturo thinks of Quinn as his prized student and a surrogate son, so he is often quite proud of his accomplishments. On the other hand, the middle-aged professor holds back resentment over being outdone by someone who hasn't even graduated college yet, and it sometimes flares up. For his part, Quinn idolizes Arturo and always looks to him for guidance.
Fortuneteller: [to Arturo] You are a man who feels slighted, yes? Because you were never fully appreciated in your chosen profession. These are the invisible chains which you bear. You resent the boy because it comes so easily to him. You are Salieri to his Mozart, yes?
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Crassus is introduced sparring with his swordfighting coach, a slave. Crassus knows that he'll never know his full potential unless his teacher fights to win, so he offers the man his freedom if he can kill him. The teacher accepts and tries to kill Crassus, but Crassus defeats him with a Bare-Handed Blade Block.
- The Police: "Wrapped Around Your Finger", where the singer initially depicts his affair with a (presumably older) married woman as his being a student or "apprentice" to her teaching, who seeks the knowledge of "things they would not teach me of in college" and says that he will "listen hard to [her] tuition"—and that he'll be "wrapped around [her] finger". But then foresees that he will eventually turn the tables:
Devil and the deep blue sea behind meVanish in the air you'll never find meI will turn your face to alabasterWhen you'll find your servant is your masterYou'll be wrapped around my finger
- In Classical Mythology, the great inventor Daedalus had a nephew/apprentice named Perdix who was an even better inventor than he was (he invented the saw, among other things). Daedalus got jealous and plotted to kill Perdix and claim his inventions as his own. As it happens, one day the two were walking by a cliff when Perdix asked how Daedalus's son Icarus died. Daedalus responded by throwing a valuable object over the cliff, and Perdix, struggling to save it, fell to his death.
- The Chinese phrase "青出于蓝" literally means to make green/blue out of the indigo plant, but it also metaphorically means to surpass a teacher, like how one can refine a green/blue dye to make it more vibrant than the source of it.
- Confucius claimed this to be the mark of a good student; the ability to learn everything your master had to teach, and then add something of your own.
- A rare but possible result in Dungeons & Dragons basic set's weapon proficiency. By default, there's a 1% chance of doing so if you train with a teacher as skilled as you are. It's possible to boost it to 11% by training with another teacher, but it's more efficient to find someone sufficiently skilled.
- In The Elder Scrolls
- Daggerfall introduces skill trainers to the series. They are associated with each guild (Fighters, Mages, Thieves, etc.), who offer training services in any skill associated with the Guild. The cost of this service is dependent on your character level, 100 gold per level to be precise. However, they can only train a skill to a maximum of 50%.
- Morrowind has faction-associated trainers, but adds plenty of independent ones as well. Instead of all trainers training you to the same maximum, it varies depending on the trainer's level in that specific skill. Most max out in the 40s or 50s, while a few can train you to the 75-80 range. If you ask for training once your skill level has surpassed theirs, they will tell you that there is nothing more they can teach you in that skill. (Each skill also has a Master trainer who can train you all the way to 100, but the vast majority are extremely difficult to find.)
- Oblivion maintains Morrowind's system, but adds some additional restrictions. Now, each skill has a trainer for each rank of experience in that skill (Apprentice, Journeyman, etc.) and limits you to only being able to train you five times per level. If you ask for training when you're too high level, then they'll say something to the effect of this trope. Master level trainers still exist, but can only train you to 90 and will tell you that, beyond this level, you have to Figure It Out Yourself.
- Skyrim drops the "one trainer per rank", bringing back multiple trainers for each skill with a cap based on their skill level, similar to Morrowind. However, the "limit 5 times per level" restriction is still in place, as is the cap skill level of 90 for Master trainers.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you can undergo a minigame involving sparring with your former instructor in the art of swordplay. If you get a score of 1000 points, he responds in this manner.
- Achieving a "cool" ranking in any level in the Parappa The Rapper series amounts to this, as it leads to the level's instructor informing you that they have nothing more to teach you and leaving you to your own devices. If you can sustain this until the level ends, said level is marked with a crown.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake finally surpasses his former mentor The Boss in a final confrontation where he had ten minutes to defeat her or else the area would be napalmed. Amazingly Snake is able to actually defeat her despite earlier not even being able to harm her in hand to hand combat, for the first time in the game Snake can actually counter his mentor's CQC attacks and respond in kind showing a vast degree of improvement in his skills from earlier in the game when she handed his ass to him. For his efforts Snake is awarded the title of Big Boss, showing that in the U.S. military's eyes he had surpassed his mentor.
- In the Street Fighter canon, Akuma killed his master, Goutetsu, in a fair fight to show that he [Akuma] had truly mastered the power of the Satsui no Hadou. Goutetsu was actually proud of his student for having defeated him in battle.
- You better hope this is the case in Massive Chalice as it's directly linked to the level progression of the game. Children sired from high level parents gain a few free levels and with further training a couple more; this in turn allows them to level up past their parents and teachers, meaning that eventually their children will start with a higher level than their parents, and so on.
- In Fantasy Life, the player is mentored by a character with the rank of Master. There are however characters with the higher ranks of Hero or Legend, which the player can eventually reach also. The Downloadable Content adds yet an extra rank.
- In War of Omens Listrata's mentor, Regent Ashkar, attempts to her for her treatment of the Pheneketians. She beats him in the following battle and thanks him for the final lesson.
- Faraway Story allows Pia to challenge her teacher, Ellevark, to an optional Duel Boss battle. Winning will result in a non-canon alternate ending where Pia goes on to become the World's Best Warrior.
- Invoked directly in Assassin's Creed when Altair finally takes down al Mualim. al Mualim says the trope's name nearly word-for-word, and Altair simply replies with the titular creed.
- In this xkcd comic, Elaine the hacker prodigy trumps Donald Knuth, her mentor.
- Our Little Adventure: Thomas Stratus is a powerful and accomplished wizard in the RPG-Mechanics Verse. His much younger star pupil Brian Souballo, however, is an epic wizard beyond the usual Character Level system, an Evilutionary Biologist who's created entirely new life forms, and one half of the Big Bad Duumvirate. Thomas has no idea how he became as powerful as he has, and only escapes by sheer luck when Brian makes him An Offer He Can't Refuse.
- Invoked and subverted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when the Son, embodiment of The Dark Side of the Force, kidnapped and forcefully turned Ahsoka to the Dark Side, and made her fight her teacher, Anakin. After she momentarily knocked Anakin's lightsaber out of his hand, she exclaimed that "Now the student will kill the Master!". Anakin, of course, easily got back his lightsaber and blocked her attack, warned her that she was getting carried away, before easily disarming her.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Pinkie Pride", after The Reveal, it turns out that Cheese Sandwich has done this since Pinkie Pie was his inspiration for becoming a party pony, and the whole episode shows him able to trump Pinkie's antics.
- In the 90s X-Men, Jean Grey mockingly invokes this to Professor X while in full-on "Dark Phoenix" mode.
Dark Phoenix: You once told Jean Grey that the greatest joy a teacher has is to be surpassed by his own pupil. Enjoy!
- Amy spends the Sonic Boom episode "Fuzzy Puppy Buddies" teaching Dr. Eggman how to play the titular game. When he manages to best her, she declares this.
- In the Simpsons episode "Moaning Lisa", Homer (humorously) applies this to a parent-child dynamic:
Homer: I think the saddest day of my life was the day I realized I could beat my dad at most things, and Bart experienced that at the age of four.
- Can be Truth in Television: Due to poor teaching standards in some countries, it's common for the children to be better than the teachers. There was an incident in West Wales in 2005 where a child was told that he had got the answer to a question wrong, and he then managed to prove using basic mathematics that the teacher was wrong and his answer was actually correct.
- Medieval Christian cathedrals borrowed heavily from the architecture of Rome and the Islamic empire, both civilizations far more advanced. Despite this, the cathedrals ended up making made much of their inspiration look obsolete by comparison.