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Villains Learn Faster

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A general rule of stories involving superpowers is that at some point, The Hero or their True Companions will need to acquire new superpowers when the story calls for it. And of course, the villain will need to develop new powers of their own so they can attempt to fight the hero's new powers (or to even be a villain - you have to start somewhere after all).

In situations like this, the general trend is to have the villain master their new abilities at a much faster rate than The Hero ever did. While an in-story reason for this phenomenon is rarely (if ever) bothered with, the out-of-story reasons are simple: instant mastery of their powers makes the villain an immediate threat meriting The Hero's attention. Furthermore, if The Hero were to gain mastery of their powers as quickly as the villain, they'd be able to defeat the villain easily and there wouldn't be much of a story. This trope is the reason we often see the hero struggle to learn how their powers work and get beaten up by the villain during the initial stages of the story.


In games, this trope probably overlaps with The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard.

Note that The Hero and the villain don't have to be working with the same abilities, although that is a good way to demonstrate this trope.

Possibly because Brains Evil, Brawn Good or Hard Work Hardly Works or there are No Delays for the Wicked. Related to Villains Blend in Better. Contrast Villain Forgot to Level Grind.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Team Rocket are usually Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains in the Pokémon anime, though master the use of Z-Moves instantly on their first chance, while the heroes have recurrent teething troubles using some of their own.
  • Demonstrated in Battle Royale in the climatic fight between Kiriyama and Hiroki. Despite Hiroki spending years training in the martial arts and even using a new Ki Attack out of the blue as a last minute blow in their fight, Kiriyama gets up and perfectly uses Hiroki's just learned technique after seeing it once and uses it to easily trounce and kill Hiroki.
  • Done and used as a Justified Trope in One Piece after Blackbeard steals Whitebeard's Devil Fruit powers upon his death and uses them suitably to cause destruction across the Marine Headquarters and dueling Sengoku to a standstill. Due to spending years as one of Whitebeard's crewmates, he's apparently seen how to use Whitebeard's powers and can apparently understand how to use them in short order despite Whitebeard having such powers for much longer. By the the time of Time Skip, he's apparently mastered the powers to a level where he became a Yonkou using them in a two years time.
  • Demonstrated thoroughly in Kill la Kill by Satsuki Kiryuin with her own Kamui, Junketsu. Junketsu, like Ryuko's Kamui Senketsu, has an insatiable craving for blood and feeds on its user over time, something Ryuko struggles with when dealing with Senketsu in every fight at first. Despite this, Satsuki wields Junketsu excellently during her first match with Ryuko and displays no problem using it to deal out a vicious Curb-Stomp Battle to illustrate her superior combat ability. This is doubly impressive since Satsuki is fighting with a severe handicap. Junketsu is shown to be more feral and blood-thirsty than Senketsu, requiring more blood to keep it satisfied and strongly implied to have its ferocious nature subdued by Satsuki's sheer willpower.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Alex managed to master Chase's Fistigons and Nico's Staff of One within minutes of stealing them, and had little difficulty taking control of Old Lace once he interrupted her connection with Gert, whereas all three were still learning to use their respective inheritance at that point.
  • Demonstrated by Emma Frost in Uncanny X-Men, where she manages to take control of Iceman's body after being rendered comatose to escape the X-Men and proceeds to use Iceman's abilities better than he ever has after having them for no more than half an hour.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Demonstrated by Victor Von Doom in Fantastic Four (2005) where he gains electromagnetic powers and a Nigh-Invulnerable metal body from his cosmic accident. Unlike the Fantastic Four, who end up haphazardly using their powers and can barely use them properly throughout the film, Victor displays superior control over his own despite having them for the same amount of time. Doom overwhelms the Four in their big fight until they manage to work together and implement an incredibly risky plan to take him down.
  • Iron Man: Tony Stark spends the entire movie building his Powered Armor and learning to use it properly, while Obidiah Stane has someone else build his version and just hops inside without issue. Justified; Tony was building a personal tool that he didn't want anyone else to use, while Stane was trying to build a weapon to be sold to the highest bidder. The disadvantages of Stane's haste are made clear when Tony understands every part of his armor and is able to take advantage of weaknesses Stane didn't even know about. Meanwhile, once Stane loses his targeting system he can't hit someone standing still ten feet away.
  • A major plot point in Man of Steel is that Clark took years adjusting to how his Kryptonian physiology is affected by Earth's atmosphere and sun, honing his powers and dealing with Sensory Overload. In the climactic battle, he tears Zod's containment suit and while the latter's addled at first, Zod quickly figures out his powers and overcomes his sensory overload to fight Clark on even footing. Zod rants about how as a soldier, he's always going to be a better fighter than some boy from a farm.
  • Demonstrated in The Rocketeer. During his first flight, Cliff Secord has quite some trouble figuring out how the jetpack works, resulting in several amusing scenes like him buzzing too close to the ground and plowing through (rather than flying over) obstacles, and finally crashing into a body of water. In the movie's climax, Big Bad Neville Sinclair gets hold of the jetpack and flies away with it without any trouble, even though (as far as we know) he has no experience with it either. He is only stopped because Cliff removed the bubble gum that was covering up a leak in the jetpack's fuel tank, resulting in the jetpack exploding mid-air.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In H₂O: Just Add Water, Charlotte mastered her powers in the space of a few episodes, when it took Rikki, Cleo, and Emma a season (and counting at the time) to have full mastery of the same powers.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 3: Troy murders Maya and steals her Siren powers. The next time you meet him (implied to be a few days later at most) he has complete mastery over them and is already using them in ways Maya never could, despite her having trained for her entire life.

  • Lampshaded in Order Of The Stick. In comic 581 Haley Starshine notes that Crystal is a personal rival of hers, and as such will always be equal to her level or better. Queue Crystal sitting at a table leveling up automatically. Ding: "Sweet. Looks like Starshine leveled". Xykon also notes that as a lich, he doesn't have to bother sleeping or eating and as such could level himself much faster than the living heroes could. Most of the time, he doesn't really bother because he's Brilliant, but Lazy and being an epic-level lich is already enough to handle most challengers.

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom:
    • Demonstrated by Tucker Foley in the episode "What You Want" where Tucker is granted ghost powers by the Jackass Genie Desiree and proved to be much stronger than Danny despite having the powers for only a few days.
    • Inverted: Danny masters the ghostly wail almost instantly, while his evil future self claims that it took him another ten years to get and master the ability. This becomes further demonstrated when Danny learns a variety of new skills in short time that even Vlad Plasmius, another half-ghost with two decades of experience, failed to use as a way of closing the power gap.
  • Demonstrated in the Justice League Unlimited episode "The Great Brain Robbery" with Lex Luthor. After his mind is accidentally switched into The Flash's body, Luthor quickly makes use of the Flash's abilities against the league, even using techniques the Flash wouldn't normally use due to collateral damage.
  • Demonstrated in Legend of Korra with Zaheer. Due to Harmonic Convergence, Zaheer gained Airbending and incorporated it with his already present mastery of the martial arts and brutal willingness to kill to use Airbending at a level far greater than Korra or any of the other Airbenders on Air Temple island short of Tenzin himself.