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Talented, but Trained

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Sumia: I wish I was as strong as you, Cordelia.
Cordelia: How so?
Sumia: You have so much confidence in yourself, you actually think you can control even fate. I'm just thrilled if I can walk through camp without tripping on a stool.
Cordelia: Our only limits are the ones we place on ourselves.

When it comes to everyday life, there seem to be two ways to get ahead in life. In one corner, you have those that lack talent or innate ability but manage to achieve their desires and goals through sheer perseverance. In the other, you have the gifted prodigy who uses their boundless talents and skills to conquer any problem they face. Both types of people wow the masses at their amazing abilities, yet both send different types of messages. The first is that anything can be achieved through hard work and determination. The second is that some people are just born with it but are lazy about it. How realistic they are most likely depends on personal experiences. If these ways are or become foils, it's likely to be a Technician Versus Performer contrast.

Then we have these types. They have special attributes, be it art, math, or problem-solving, that most probably would give their eyeteeth to have. At the same time, they develop these abilities through research, practice, and failure like an average person. This person is the intermediary between the extremes and is often viewed as the most grounded in reality. Most people in the world have at least one great quality about them, but for it to be of use to themselves or those around them, he or she must work on it, or else it becomes a total waste.

These kinds of people tend to showcase a certain Aesop — everyone has something in them that must be honed — but isn't necessarily required to be an example. This trope is more about the kind of individual a person is, not an ideal; therefore, it is very much possible for the Talented But Trained to lose out to other kinds of people, because nothing is assured and not everyone is perfect.

While this trope can be seen as harping on just the talented, it examines the workers just as hard. There must be a point to all that practice and training. Wasted effort and time is just as, well, wasteful as sullied talent. Sure enough, if you wind up achieving the impossible, congratulations — "working hard" is your special talent, and you just saw the fruits of your labor.

Sadly, a person who is Talented But Trained can be easily mistaken, both by the audience and other characters, as just working really hard or being extremely talented. This often leads to them facing claims that their talent/power is their only strength, or inspiring unreasonable expectations in others. Conversely, less sympathetic examples may themselves overestimate how much ability comes from talent or hard work, and view the less talented as simply being lazy or view their superiority as inherent and become complacent.

Boxing Lessons for Superman is one way for someone to become Talented but Trained. Those Weak, but Skilled also tend to be this, unlike their counterpart. The Perfectionist would love to be this at worst or The Ace at best.

Forms of a trifecta of effort/aptitude combinations with Brilliant, but Lazy (all talent, no effort) and High Hopes, Zero Talent (all effort, no talent). Contrast Underdogs Never Lose, in which the "trained" part trumps all else. Has a mixed relationship with Hard Work Hardly Works, as one character will surpass those who don't train as much, but also those who do.

Compare the Japanese Spirit (success goes to the person who has superior talent, training, and morals), but neither success nor a strong moral compass is needed to be an example.

Compare/contrast to Training the Gift of Magic, which is when the talent is something supernatural or paranormal which has to be trained to function effectively. Sister Trope to Strong and Skilled, the difference being that trope is about a combination of abilities (power and technique) regardless of how they were obtained.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yuno of Black Clover was born with immense magical potential and even as a child he had a talent for magic. Despite this, as shown in flashbacks, he trained very hard to meet others' expectations for him, and like Asta he trains rigorously for six months to prepare for the Magic Knights Exam.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • It's often shown that Gohan has far greater natural potential than his legendary father, Goku, and sure enough he does briefly surpass his dad at the end of the Cell Arc. However, Gohan has a tendency to skip out on training — Goku lives for challenging fights, and Gohan has nowhere near the same enthusiasm for it —, which winds up causing his power and fighting ability to drop considerably by the next arc and cause several other characters to surpass him in strength. It was noted in Dragon Ball Super that, had Gohan continued to train consistently up to that point, he would have been undisputedly the strongest fighter in the universe. The events of Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' serves as a wake-up call to Gohan, causing him to start taking up training again, allowing him to become a powerful contender by the time of the Tournament of Power.
    • As revealed in Resurrection 'F', Frieza was born as powerful as he is, and never had to train a day in his life to become the most powerful being in the universe. Upon his resurrection and the discovery that Goku has become strong enough to defeat Majin Buu, Frieza opts to train for the first time in his life, and in a mere four months, he unlocks his Golden Super Mode and obtains near-godlike power, the likes of which Goku and Vegeta took decades to obtain. Afterwards, leading into the Tournament of Power, Frieza spent his time in Hell meditating, which enabled him to completely master his Golden form.
  • Food Wars!:
    • Everyone acknowledges that Hayama Akira's nose and Erina Nakiri's tongue are amazing talents, but both of them are shown training and honing their skills constantly. Hayama is quite blunt about the fact that before Jun Shiomi found him and gave him the opportunity to train at Tootsuki, the talent that, after training, made him a culinary powerhouse in his teens, was good for nothing more than pissing off spice vendors.
    • Souma's talent is less obvious, but it's there. Souma has the ability to honestly evaluate his own skills. This, coupled with his amazing persistence and complete lack of ego when it comes to losing as long as his opponent is legitimately better, make him more than a match for people with more obvious talent.
    • Deconstructed again by Jouichirou. People who saw him cook assumed that he was simply a genius (Jouichirou was extremely talented, but nowhere near enough to be able to coast on that alone), and never saw the huge amounts of training and work he put in to reach the heights he achieved. In the end, this drove him to a near-complete breakdown, and he left Tootsuki in order to maintain some semblance of sanity.
  • Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin: Gin the Akita dog is born as naturally stronger and more intelligent than his brothers, but he still has to go through vigorous training to become a skilled bear hound.
  • Haikyuu!! has Kageyama, a volleyball prodigy, who's depicted as possessing a natural talent for the sport and is even resented for such by his rival Oikawa. However, several instances of the anime/manga make clear, that his skills are mainly a result of his hard work and dedication to what seems to be his only real hobby. Chapter 387 further confirms this by showing him getting hooked on volleyball at the age of three (if we don't count him stealing his sister's volleyball and chewing on it as a baby) and putting in many hours of practice just because he loved it so much.
    • Hinata, though generally athletic, starts out as relatively unskilled at volleyball due to the fact that his middle school didn't have a boys' volleyball team. He's able to make up for his lack of experience (and height) with his natural speed, great reflexes, and stamina, and the help of his setter (Kageyama), but that has its limits as there are a lot of things he has to work on in order to become a more versatile and independent player. Eventually, through a lot of hard work and determination, he ends up becoming a professional volleyball player just like Kageyama and even competes with him in the Olympics.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Natsu Tanimoto (aka Hermit) cites the trope almost by name when he fights Shougo Kitsukawa (aka Berserker). While the latter has no formal training but is extremely gifted at fighting, the former claims that "Hard work will always trump over natural talent", while also adding that he has the talent and puts the effort into honing it on top of it.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • When one of the school's Big Three, Mirio Togata, does a demonstration for Class 1-A, they all marvel at his strong Quirk. Another Big Three member, Tamaki Amajiki, responds that they're looking at it all wrong, and what's really impressive is the carefully-honed technique that he uses to take advantage of his powers. Mirio himself then explains the many drawbacks of his Quirk and tells how hard he had to work to make it useful.
    • Katsuki Bakugo is naturally talented at almost anything he does, be it his Quirk, hand-to-hand combat, cooking, or drumming. But the reason why Midoriya admires him is that he takes these talents and hones them through constant hard work and practice. He even goes on to say that Bakugo's desire to become a hero is even stronger than Midoriya's own.
  • Often the case in Naruto as many work to hone the abilities that they are born and or raised with. However, two characters stand out the most, mainly because many people forget the training they put in:
    • Naruto believes himself to be a bit of a loser when he started out and seeks to beat those like Sasuke who are considered "geniuses" through his own hard work. However, this is mitigated by several things, namely he descends from the Uzumaki clan, later revealed to be a formerly prestigious clan known for their sealing techniques and very long life span along with his dad being the Fourth Hokage and of course having the strongest of the Tailed Beasts inside of him, the Kyuubi no Kitsune. On the other hand, the Kyuubi's presence was more of a hindrance than benefit for Naruto (especially in the indirect sense as the stigma denied Naruto many things as a child) with the only initial benefit was large chakra reserves, a Healing Factor that Casts From Lifespan and that it'll somewhat take over when he's in danger to bail him out. As such, Naruto had to learn and master several things like his clones, summoning, the Rasengan, Sage Mode, and more so through his own hard work and training. Even mastering the Kyuubi's chakra required Character Development to overcome the hate in his heart he had and move on from it. In fact, it was likely this discipline and attitude for friendship that let him utilize the Tailed Beasts' chakra and that of the Rikodu Sennin that turned him into a Physical God well enough to beat the Final Boss.
    • Sasuke's a genius in every sense of the word and has the amazing Kekkei Genkai, the Sharingan, and all of its potent abilities. Yet, he's been training constantly since childhood, both to surpass his brother and because it was expected from being his father (the clan head)'s son. He trains just as hard as Naruto, but replaces Naruto's blunt force approach of shadow clones with being more intelligent and calculating in his approach (his battle with Deidara shows just how intelligent he actually is). People forget the training aspect due to the sudden developments of the Sharingan though at the same time, we also see what happens when he goes overboard because of his inexperience (he nearly goes blind, only for it to be entirely mitigated by surgery with his brother's eye).
  • Saitama of One-Punch Man has incredible speed, flawless reflexes, and the ability to take out any foe with one punch, all while taking no damage to himself. Whenever a baffled enemy demands to know how he became so strong, he answers honestly: he worked himself to the bone every single day, training...even when he wanted to die due to exhaustion, he kept going without fail. No other character believes it's just the training, which was completely humanly possible, but the effort was still there.
  • In Sailor Moon, Minako Aino (Sailor Venus) is this twice over:
  • Maka from Soul Eater is shown to be skilled as a Scythe Meister and as an EAT Student, she's a cut above the rest. But there were times where she had to develop her scythe-handling skills by herself because her partner, Soul, used to do all the cool stuff, not her. When she discovers she has a Grigori Soul, it took some time to master, even if it's an innate and rare type of soul. Most importantly, Maka's intelligence is her greatest asset and she has several academic feats to her name, like getting 1st on the Super Written Exam, but that doesn't discuss the fact she studied voraciously weeks in advance to make it happen. Fittingly, she strikes the midline between Death the Kid and Black*Star.
  • Rinne Berlinetta from ViVid Strike! was shown to be a naturally gifted athlete but only became a top tier fighter after going through some Training from Hell set up by her coach, Jill Stola. Interesting enough, Jill believed that Hard Work Hardly Works when up against those who were inherently strong or powerful.
  • Deconstructed in Your Lie in April with Kousei. Seeing his incredible natural affinity for the piano, his mother sought to make a professional out of him... and put him through Training from Hell that made him both an unbeatable pianist and horribly traumatized.

    Comic Books 
  • An essential part of the premise of X-Men is that mutant powers require training to use effectively and safely (which is why they spent so many years based in a school). Most members of the X-Men combine a superhuman talent with extensive training in its use — and many of them add other useful training on top of that. A few examples:
    • Cyclops' power is that he can fire force blasts from his eyes. Long years of training have honed his marksmanship to the point that he can ricochet a single shot to destroy seven targets — or fire a blast to bounce around three corners and knock a man unconscious without causing serious injury.
    • Professor X is frequently cited as Earth's most powerful telepath — but Krakoa-era comics have made it explicit that this isn't because he has the most raw power (that title goes to Quentin Quire and Jean Grey), but because he combines his power with a lifetime of training and experience.
    • Wolverine's powers grant him feral instincts, claws, and greater than normal strength and endurance, which would be enough to let him win most fights against ordinary humans. However, he adds to that high-level martial arts training, to the point where he's often cited as one of the dozen or so most skilled fighters in Marvel.
    • Magneto's Extra-ore-dinary powers are already formidable, but what made him truly so dangerous in a fight is that he studied everything related to magnetism he could find. Rather than just move metal around, he can do things like generate force fields, shoot lasers, and tap into Earth's electromagnetic field.

    Fan Works 
  • Nimbus Llewelyn, author of Child of the Storm, seems to be quite fond of this trope.
    • Harry is progressing towards it-he's won the Superpower Lottery, but as his powers take a while to come in, he's being trained by the Avengers and given Boxing Lessons for Superman by Sean Cassidy in the first book, and the second book adds to his list of teachers Magneto, Doctor Strange, and Bucky, all of whom mentor him in different skills.
    • He's not the only one, either: Carol is a talented athlete with not-so-latent supersoldier genes, Jean-Paul has Super-Speed, Jean Grey has her (duh) Psychic Powers... all of them get training and learn how to use their abilities. The times that someone just tries to blast their way through an enemy with raw force usually do not go well - as demonstrated in Harry's first fight with Daken. The rematch, when he plays to his strengths (and to Daken's weaknesses), is a Curbstomp Battle that's over in seconds.
  • The titular character of Harry Tano is a highly dangerous opponent both because of his natural magical and Force powers, but is Strong and Skilled due to intense training with his adoptive mom, Ahsoka Tano, and sort-of Cool Uncles Sirius and Remus, amongst others.
  • In A Knight's Tale as Inquisitor, Arturia is presented as this. Thanks to the deal Merlin made with the Red Dragon, Arturia was born with its blood, causing her to have so many magic channels that she far surpasses all others (the average magus has about a hundred channels of average quality, while Arturia naturally has over a thousand channels of the highest quality) basically making her a dragon that happens to look human. Ever since she can begin to remember, Arturia has been training relentlessly in all sorts of areas that are necessary in order to become the perfect king.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku hit the Superpower Lottery as a Kryptonian, having Heat Vision, Super-Breath, and an entire array of Super-Senses on top of the standard Flying Brick powers that let him move at a fraction of the speed of sound. But due to swearing off becoming a Hero for ten years after his traumatizing accident with Katsuki Bakugou, he's Unskilled, but Strong by the time he decides to pursue his dreams again. Because of this, he heads to Korusan Island to train his abilities in secret in order to strengthen them and improve his fine control and precision, going from being unable to cut in a straight line with his Heat Vision to quickly slicing a block of ice into equivocal pieces. He also develops numerous special moves, like spinning rapidly and flying at something to act as a living drill.
  • All four of Kyril's apprentices from The Night Unfurls qualify. Each apprentice specialises on a certain asset used in combat: strength buildsnote  for Sanakan, skill/bloodtingenote  builds for both Hugh and Soren, and arcane buildsnote  for Lily. At the same time, the four of them still have to train in order to hone their respective assets, together with gaining more combat experience.
  • In Where Talent Goes to Die, Sae Edogawa is a naturally talented mystery novelist, but also one who spent years refining her writing.

  • In The Black Magician Trilogy, Sonea Invokes this: She has exceptionally powerful magical talent, but devotes herself to training and study in part to defy her aristocrat classmate's prejudice that she's an unsophisticated, Unskilled, but Strong peasant. This is demonstrated in a Wizard Duel that she wins with an extremely complex, technically challenging technique rather than overwhelm her opponent's defenses with raw force.
  • Chivalry of a Failed Knight has Stella Vermillion, who as a child was Unskilled, but Strong with fire magic to the point of burning herself. Through intense training, she eventually mastered her magic as well as swordplay, allowing her to become a powerful A-ranked Blazer. However, she's frustrated that most people attribute her success solely to talent rather than hard work.
  • In the Discworld, Granny Weatherwax is the best witch on the Discworld for this reason. Her sister became a fairy godmother and one of her cousins was Archchancellor of Unseen University so her family line clearly has magic in it, but the reason she's the best is that she wanted to be and worked for it, hard. It's implied by the author (and almost stated outright in the short story The Sea and Little Fishes) that the difference between Granny and her best friend Nanny Ogg is that while the latter had more inborn talent for magic, the former worked a lot harder at cultivating both it and most other aspects of witchery (Nanny is the better midwife and people-person of the two).
  • Harry Potter:
    • Inverted by Gilderoy Lockhart, who was apparently intelligent enough to get sorted into the intellectual Ravenclaw House, but in adulthood, his magic skills seem to have regressed into near-nothing from disuse (with the exception of Memory Charms, which he uses to follow monster hunters, learn their secrets, then take the credit for their deeds).
    • Dumbledore, The Archmage and Big Good, has not just immense magical power, but is also well over a century old, and has a lot of experience.
  • In His Dark Materials, Xaphania explains Lyra's lost innate alethiometer reading capacities as something which can be permanently regained by a lifetime of learning.
  • Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride dedicated himself to learning from every expert with the sword he could in order to be able to kill the six-fingered noble who killed his father, making him an absolute Master Swordsman (though he still loses to the Man in Black).
  • Horace Altman of Ranger's Apprentice is noted to have incredible natural ability as a swordsman, to the point where he can pull off moves completely instinctively, but in the first books, is relatively inexperienced. Training from Sir Rodney, Gilan, Shukin, and years of combat practice against everyone from Gallican bandits to Morgarath, turn him into a Master Swordsman, one of, if not the best in the series.
  • Sword Art Online: Kirito is established to be a gaming prodigy with natural talent when it comes to FullDive, but it really helps that he's had extensive experience to hone his skills with the sword, which he brings back with him to the real world thanks to muscle memory. If that wasn't enough, he's also received formal training from his kendo champion sister Suguha followed by training as an Integrity Knight from his time in the Underworld.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Episode #28 of Kamen Rider Zi-O reveals Oma Zi-O to be this. During a bus incident that resulted in the death of his parents and sending him into the future, ten-year-old Sougo Tokiwa showcased the ability not only to cause a Time Stands Still, but was already strong enough to completely disintegrate a Dai Mazine. And with over fifty years to hone and strengthen these powers to become what he is in 2068.
  • The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House: Sumire takes quickly to the geiko training and customs, and is described as a generational talent. However, she still works very hard to hone this talent, even getting up early every day to practice her mai. Observing her, Tsurukoma realizes that she doesn't have the same passion as Sumire despite being Sumire's senior, and decides to quit to find her real calling.
  • Satirized on Strangers with Candy when Jerri has a natural gift for the violin but is made to practice by Noblet every single minute of the day in order to compensate for his own lack of skills.
    Jerri: I have to go practice something I was already brilliant at without practicing.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy: This is often the case with the Charles Atlas Superpower martial artists. While considered the most talented fighters they more often then not are shown honing their skills constantly to be as great as they are.
    • Final Fantasy IV: Yang is introduced training in the mountains and promotes actively training to be as great as he can be. By the time the sequel comes around he has shown not to have skimped out in his old age and continues to train with his daughter.
    • Final Fantasy VI: Sabin left the life of a prince so that he could make his own life and was shown to have become Duncan's greatest student. He becomes so great that Duncan eventually bequeaths unto Sabin his greatest technique, if sheer training and Level Grinding doesn't mean Sabin already learnt it.
    • Compilation of Final Fantasy VII: Tifa is considered Zangan's most cherished student but he makes sure that she considers herself her greatest opponent above all. Considering that Tifa can fight alongside and against Shinra's Elite Soldier program that's pretty high praise.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Cordelia from Fire Emblem: Awakening would rather be called this than an outright genius. She even lectures to Sumia in one of their supports about limitations.
    • Subaki and his daughter Caeldori in Fire Emblem Fates are held as the pinnacle of perfection in the army, yet that disregards the amount of dedication they put into their craft, the latter especially, being a Cordelia Expy.
    • Lysithea from Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a prodigious magical talent, but also an extremely dedicated hard worker. She hates it when her ability is attributed solely to talent or especially her Crests, given the toll they take on her health.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Double Homework has a great talent for skiing, but the importance of a training regimen is underscored continually. His lackadaisical training during the summer means that he fails to qualify for the Olympics.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Princess Azula is a once-in-a-generation firebending prodigy, but she also constantly trains and practices like crazy.
    • Katara, while not as innately gifted as Aang, is still a prodigy who went from barely able to move water at all to an acknowledged waterbending master in a matter of months due to her sheer work ethic.
    • Toph is the greatest earthbending prodigy ever yet still trains and refines her abilities. Notably, she invented metalbending and mastered sandbending in only a few months, going from shooting blasts of sand blindly to creating a perfect miniature replica of Ba Sing Se in a single move.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Most unicorns can only get good at magic that's related to their "special talent", but Twilight Sparkle's special talent is magic itself. On top of that, she's one of the strongest unicorns in the world in terms of raw magical power, rivaling legendary wizards of history despite her young age. In order to realize her potential, Twilight spends a lot of time researching and practicing new spells. In particular, her teleporting gets more and more advanced throughout the series.
    • Rainbow Dash is a naturally gifted flyer who broke speed records even as a filly. She dreams of joining the Wonderbolts (a team of stunt flyers akin to the Real Life Blue Angels), so she practices often to make sure she's good enough to qualify. (It paid off in "Newbie Dash".)