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Weak Boss, Strong Underlings

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The exact opposite of Rank Scales with Asskicking; this is when somebody who isn't physically intimidating, or who's even outright weak, has at their disposal plenty of people who are. Call them what you will: goons, thugs, hired muscle, bodyguards, the long and short of this is they're suddenly a lot more intimidating because even if they can't hurt you themselves, they can give somebody much stronger the order to do so.

Supertrope to Mister Big. Can overlap with Evil Cripple and Dark Lord on Life Support, but the boss doesn't have to be disabled or even all that weak, just physically less intimidating than who they have at their command. Compare with Strong Empire, Shriveled Emperor and The Alleged Boss. Contrast Bodyguarding a Badass.

Not to be confused with Hard Levels, Easy Bosses, though the two can occasionally overlap. A Non-Action Big Bad is occasionally this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!:
    • Fat Bastard Prime Minister Honest is not a great fighter in the anime but has generals who can fight much better than him, among them the strongest woman in the Empire — The Baroness General Esdeath. Averted in the manga since he is noted to be stronger than his son Syura and goes toe-to-toe with Leone all on his own.
    • Above the Prime Minister is the Emperor himself, a naïve boy who gets manipulated by his evil, adult, and definitely more political-savvy underlings. He is only a threat because of his powerful mech.
  • Area 88 has Giuseppe Farina, an extremely elderly, wheelchair-bound, blind, or nearly blind mafia don who nonetheless has an enormous amount of influence and connections.
  • Black Butler: Ciel holds the highest rank in the Phantomhive Household, but he's also a bit of a pansy, and likely the most physically incapable in the entire series. Meanwhile, his servants are a demon, an escaped human experiment with Super-Strength, a sniper, and a veteran soldier.
  • Black Cat: Willzark commands one of the best Badass Crew in any manga, but displays no fighting skills whatsoever.
  • Code Geass: The rulers of the Britannian Empire are your average nobility — political-savvy and born wildly privileged in terms of money and influence. Barring some members of the family, they are all just normal humans. They all have under their command the Humongous Mechas known as Knightmares as well as a massive military army.
  • Danganronpa: Downplayed. Enoshima, the series' Big Bad, is mainly an intellectual mastermind, but her execution in the first game shows that she's surprisingly durable. However, she can't defeat more skilled opponents like Ikusaba or Kamukura in direct combat. Luckily, she has quite a few strong underlings at her disposal, like an army of Monokuma robots or the Warriors of Hope (who have giant mechs with which to kill adults).
  • The Demon Girl Next Door: Delicate and Sickly high schooler Yuko Yoshida is Big Good Sakura's successor as the protector of Tama Town, but nearly every other character around her is stronger than her. Momo points out it's only natural for the self-stylized "Shadow Mistress" to fight with underlings. Her primary demon power, Dream Walking reinforces this.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon Adventure 02: Archnemon is no total weakling, but never lasts long in direct combat against an opponent of the same level as her. Her true power is her Spirit Needle ability, which lets her create false Digimon that can hold their own against the entire team if need be. She's also backed up by her Dragon, Mummymon, whose powers are much more combat-oriented.
    • Digimon Ghost Game: Downplayed. As an angelic Digimon, Darcmon is certainly stronger than others of her level, but she is still just an Adult level. Her servant/pet, however, Manticoremon, is at the Perfect level and is able to quickly defeat both BetelGammamon and Thetismon, requiring the debut of The Berserker Lamortmon to take it down. Justified in that, on their own, Manticoremons are mindless savage beasts and require angelic Digimon like Darcmon to keep them in control and give them direction, lest they attack everything around them in their hunger for Virus Digicores.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Majin Buu Saga: While Babidi is very weak, what makes him a threat is that he can easily mind-control very powerful fighters, which he ends up doing to Vegeta. He also used to command the all-powerful Majin Buu, who could and did easily destroy him.
    • Dragon Ball Z: Bio-Broly: Fat Bastard Baron Jaguar Badda is a normal human that controls, or attempts to, a group of very strong Bio-Warriors, including Bio-Broly. It should cue you that he is Small Name, Big Ego Mr. Satan's rival, another utter fluke of a warrior.
  • One Piece has a few examples:
    • Spandam, leader of the secret government agency Cipher Pol 9. While his subordinates are all trained assassins and spies with superpowers, he himself is weaker than even a common low-rank Marine troop; Spandam's power level is 9, whereas Kalifa (the weakest CP9 agent) has a power level of 630, and Lucci (the strongest agent) has a power level of 4,000. He does have the "elephant sword" Funkfreed, but what should be a potentially powerful weapon is little more than trash in his hands, which Franky demonstrates. This is inverted after the Time Skip, as Lucci is now the boss of CP0 and Spandam a subordinate.
    • While Admirals are the opposite of this trope, they still have someone above them, the Celestial Dragons. If a Dragon is attacked, an Admiral has to intervene. The Admirals are the real threat, the Celestial Dragons themselves aside from the Five Elders are even weaker than Spandam.
    • Buggy the Clown is one of the first arc villains in the series, whom Luffy defeats somewhat easily early on. Buggy continues to serve as a recurring minor antagonist despite how weak he is, but after breaking out of Impel Down with Luffy's help, he manages to gain the loyalty of some of the other escapees by virtue of having once served on Pirate King Gol D. Roger's crew. Because of his underlings' strength, Buggy becomes a Warlord of the Sea over the course of the Time Skip, and later, one of the new Four Emperors after the dissolution of the Warlord system and the defeat of Big Mom and Kaido who has also managed to recruit former Warlords Mihawk and Crocodile into the Cross Guild (though in actuality, Mihawk and Crocodile were the actual founders of the Cross Guild and simply kept Buggy as a Puppet King when he was erroneously credited as the leader).
    • Despite his Mythical Zoan fruit, Kurozumi Orochi is this. On paper, he is the Shogun of Wano and an equal to Kaido. In practice, despite his impressive durability, he has no skills whatsoever, and his personal guard, as well as the Animal Kingdom Pirates, are stronger than him, and Kaido attempts to get rid of him easily once he has no more use for him.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: Zigzagged. Hayate has by far the highest power level of all known mages in the series, an SS-rank, but specializes in wide-area bombardment spells that, while as powerful as they sound, are difficult to aim. She claims that Caro, the only Forward who was at C-rank as of joining Hayate's division, could defeat her in one-on-one combat without the dragons that serve as the source of her offensive power.
  • My Hero Academia: Nezu is an indeterminate small animal whose Quirk is Super-Intelligence. As such, his value mostly resides in being The Strategist rather than a frontline combatant. Nezu is the principal of Japan's best hero school, so his employees and students often possess Quirks with more obvious offensive potential. One of the teachers is the current number one hero and Big Good, All Might.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Due to NERV's military-like hierarchy, this trope comes in layers and could be seen as an inversion of Rank Scales with Asskicking. First, we have the Children: teenagers with no military training who synchronize with and pilot Humongous Mechas known as Evas — the Evas are kind of sentient and contain the souls of the Children's mothers and that's why only the kids can control them. Then we have Major Misato, the children's tactical commander in battle and the tutor of two of them as well as an accomplished Action Girl. So, she is only stronger than the kids when they aren't piloting the Evas. Above them are NERV Commander Gendō and his Deputy Fuyutsuki; neither of them is an action guy and their strength lies on respectively being The Professor and The Chessmaster. Finally, there's SEELE, the shady global organization funding and overseeing NERV. SEELE's Cosmopolitan Council comprises regular politicians with a penchant for theatrics.
  • Symphogear G: The elite fighters of the "Finé" terrorist organization (aka F.I.S.) are this compared to their leaders. Professor Nastassja and Dr. Ver only have for themselves ample scientific knowledge about the Symphogears, relics, and Noise. Neither is what you call athletic and Nastassja, despite knowing how to fire a gun, is terminally ill. By contrast, their elite fighters are Maria, Kirika, and Shirabe — a trio of young, physically-trained women capable of wearing a Symphogear, i.e., a music-fueled Powered Armor (three of these things' Finishing Moves can destroy a big chunk of the moon).

    Comic Books 
  • Robin (1993): While the General does eventually bulk up, he starts out as very Young and in Charge. He's an eleven-year-old bossing around gangsters and other criminals and for a short time, the army of a small foreign country, who are willing to listen to him because his brutal plans and strategies tend to work. The General sometimes appears in the Batman comics as well.
  • Watchmen: Big Figure, the mafia boss that threatens Rorschach in prison, barely comes up to the waist of the two thugs he's with. Rorschach easily overpowers him and dunks him into the toilet.
  • X-Men: Downplayed. Depending on the Writer, Professor X alternates between Genius Cripple and Handicapped Badass. After battling a Human Alien, his spine takes a severe injury that prevents him from walking. He, however, keeps his mighty telepathic powers, so he serves as excellent support for the other mutants, especially in finding new recruits. Offensively, he can brainwash people. Professor X is the Big Good of the X-Men franchise and most mutants training under his Super Hero school look up to him for advice or as a parental figure. Amongst his pupils, we can count several combat-adept people and a handful of overpowered mutants (some able to control climate change and one that gets a universe-destroying power at some point).

    Fan Works 
  • Dark World Role Play: Downplayed. Navy can't be entirely classified as weak. However, he still once uses B.T., Bolt, Beta, and Bits as weapons. The first three of them are very strong and could outnumber him if they weren't held under the control of the Blue Teeth at the time.
  • Fury and Flame: Unlike her namesake, Azula the second was kind, gentle, and adverse to violence. However, like her namesake, she was very smart. She made up for her shortcomings by having a stable of strong defenders: Ursa (before she disappeared), Stannis Baratheon II and Urson Baratheon, Lyarra Stark, and Lorgan Baratheon.
  • I Don't Run An Orphanage!: Exaggerated. Izuku Midoriya is a Quirkless, non-athletic fifteen-year-old boy who runs a foundation meant to house and contain children with overpowered Quirks. Most of the younger kids view him as their father figure, while the older ones regard him as some sort of older brother. They are all extremely loyal to Izuku because he adopted them after their progenitors abandoned them out of fear of their Quirks. As a result, while Izuku is the one to provide for and look after them, the children tend to be the ones actually protecting themselves and Izuku when a villain attack occurs. For example, Yami's Grimm monsters are a Quirk-made Red Shirt Army tasked with protecting and surveilling the house. Later on, Izuku starts hiring help for his numerous tasks — first off, the UA 1-A class, comprised of some of the most talented heroes in training in Japan. Then, Izuku gets a pair of bodyguards — Saber, a former pro-hero who summons infinite swords from a pocket dimension and was a Child Soldier, and Sori, who was bred the be the strongest Cat Quirk fighter. Any of the people who are under Izuku's charge or call him boss range from easily taking him out in a fight to outright killing him if they lost control of their Quirk.
  • Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus: It's not that Benevolent Boss Professor Sycamore is an utter weakling, especially after his training at the Monster City Car. However, compared to the other members of the Windchasers —a giant hammer-headed dragon-shark, a Master of Illusion who also happens to be a werewolf, and a tech-savvy kid who can pilot giant robots—, it's clear he's not the top dog, just a Badass Normal.
  • Paradoxus: General Darko Laurent of the Tyrannus Division is not someone to scoff at. It just happens that his subordinates include the Winx Club (also known as the most powerful fairies of the dimension) and their daughters. It doesn't help that he's in a universe where women are more attuned to magic-wielding than men.
  • Platinum Pirate: It's pretty likely that every last Marine at G-4 could beat Saint Rhode in a fistfight, but he's a World Noble, so they're duty-bound to obey him or be charged with treason.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K:
    • While not entirely helpless as evidenced by the fact that he survived close-range encounters with the Orks in the past, Captain Yorran is still a Muggle in a fancy uniform fighting against the Jedi, an order of psychic warrior monks with laser swords. It goes without saying that his chances of defeating a Jedi in combat are next to none. Fortunately for Yorran, he has a Space Marine Librarian and thousands of naval armsmen who are much stronger and more capable than him to keep the Jedi boarding his command ship busy.
    • When she first appears in Episode 27, Canoness Superior Ishtara Ordane is an extremely elderly woman who can barely stand and needs to be carried around everywhere on her Cool Chair. She is commanding the Sisters of Battle, an Amazon Brigade of elite warrior nuns wearing power armor who are shown giving even the Jedi a challenge. This gets subverted at the end of Episode 34, where Ishtara stops being idle, dons a Paragon Warsuit, and then spends the next two episodes tearing through the Clone Army and fighting Jedi Council members to a standstill.
    • Marshal Doven is your typical armchair general and is a normal human who has displayed zero fighting skills. He is commanding the army occupying Axum, which has some of the most elite regiments in the entire Imperial Guard including the Cadians, Kriegers, Colambians, and Karkosans as well as Badass Normal commissars like Terrandor and Leerose.
  • Stormwolf Adventures:
    • Nessie is pretty weak for a dhampire, but she has enough money to fund the Legion and have a personal army. Her gift also is only good for leading.
    • The Force Hunters are abominations so strong that it takes several heroes just to defeat one of them. Their creator, Emil Kudos, is not a great fighter.
    • Subverted with Al Astor. He looks like an ordinary propagandist who relies on his bodyguards, two powerful Vampire Lords. In reality, because the propagandist becomes a target fast, this is a bluff: Al is one of the strongest members of the Legion, and he was chosen in his perilous place for his strength.
    • In a Brains and Brawn duo, Talon Ted is much weaker but way smarter than Rhymey. It's on account of this latter trait that he can order Rhymey around.
  • The Terminators: Army of Legend: Alpha Company tears through a crapload of tough enemies and generals only to find President Barry Mabao, who goes down mere minutes after coming face-to-face with them.
  • This Bites!: Spandam is the Small Name, Big Ego, Smug Snake leader of Cipher Pol No. 9. He is only a threat to the weakest members of the Straw Hat Crew and isn't even respected by the assassins at his command. They just tolerate him and do his bidding because Spandam is their superior. While everyone gets big moments in this story, Spandam's only one is nearly killing Robin, who is restrained, forcing Vivi to awaken her Haki to stop him. He is also easily beaten by Cross, who is not physically strong, just very smart and full of knowledge.

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Exaggerated. Kashekim Nedakh is a centuries-old Blind Seer and the king of what remains of Atlantis. He's physically frail to the point that a punch turns out to be fatal. As a king, Kashekim commands an army of deadly warriors, including his daughter Kidagakash, who is their general but still has to obey him. A tad zigzagged later on because while Kida becomes a MacGuffin Super-Person by merging with the crystals, her father is dead by that point.
  • Bolt: Played Straight in the TV show Penny and her dog Bolt star. There, she's a normal girl who owns a superpowered dog on whom she depends for protection against the villains. However, it's actually subverted when they are out of the set because, contrary to what he believes, Bolt is just a regular dog.
  • The Emperor's New Groove:
    • Kuzco is an eighteen-year-old Incan emperor who is very skinny and never has had to lift a finger to get what he wants. His castle guards, by contrast, are buff top-heavy guys carrying spears.
    • Yzma, Kuzco's political advisor, has a minion of her own: Kronk. Yzma is an elderly, skinny Evil Genius. Kronk is a muscly young man who carries out all sorts of grunt labor for her, such as getting rid of a corpse and transporting her around in a backpack-like tent. When everyone thinks Kuzco is dead, she's named Incan empress and gets to order around the castle guards.
  • Encanto: Justified. Abuela Alma is the matriarch of a family born with magical gifts that include weather control, super strength, and shape-shifting. Abuela herself wasn't exactly granted a gift by Casita (the house they all inhabit) because her pleas for protection are what caused the building to magically appear. Consequently, Alma just has a very strong connection with Casita and is otherwise a regular old lady.
  • Home on the Range: Pearl Gesner has been a farmer her whole life, so she's rather fit for an old lady. Proof of this is that she has run a farm all on her own, which involves doing heavy labor such as raising animals and harvesting crops. She still manages to fall under this trope because, well, she owns a trio of very determined and loyal cows. Cows are way stronger than any human being.
  • Zootopia:
    • Dawn Bellwether is a tiny, non-threatening sheep who happens to be Big Bad of the story and establishes an anti-predator conspiracy. She employs a number of large rams as her goons.
    • Mr. Big, a tiny Arctic shrew who happens to be a mob boss who employs a gang of polar bears. Subverted in that the size difference makes Mr. Big appear weak but the directors have said they intentionally chose him to be an Arctic shrew because they are the most vicious predators for their size in the world. They need to eat three times their body weight daily and have no qualms about eating other Arctic shrews to achieve this.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor is a young, skinny Evil Genius who uses Anatoli Knyazev and his mercenary team as muscle.
  • The Netflix exclusive Bright has Poison, an Evil Cripple bound to a wheelchair but surrounded by a couple of trigger-happy cholos.
  • Charlie's Angels (2000): Compared to the original series, this trope gets taken to the next level. The Angels now perform more dangerous (and cool) stunts while in combat, meaning that they are at Olympic athlete level in terms of physical prowess instead of the reasonably athletic they are in the original. Also, the films have them efficiently use guns of greater caliber and bladed weapons as well as more acrobatic martial arts. Their boss Charlie, by contrast, is still the old Retired Badass he's always been.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Black Widow (2021): By virtue of his advanced age and lack of combat prowess, Non-Action Big Bad General Dreykov can barely throw a punch. Luckily for him, he has an army of Widows as well as the Taskmaster at his disposal.
    • Pietro and Wanda Maximoff both serve as the Strong Underlings to Baron Strucker's Weak Boss, as they are both enhanced individuals capable of taking on the Avengers, while Strucker is an older scientist with no combat skills who doesn't even try to defend himself when Captain America comes to capture him.
    • Due to his old age, General Ross isn't much of a physical threat to any of the heroes. Which is why he has to rely on his soldiers, especially Emil Blonsky, who was a skilled fighter even before he took the Super-Soldier serum.
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series: Downplayed. Davian has Stout Strength, but he's untrained and mildly overweight. His henchmen are all highly trained, heavily armed, and essentially a private army.
  • Guy Ritchie was particularly fond of this trope:
    • In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Harry has Big Chris and Barry the Baptist at his disposal (but Harry's not above getting physical himself, even if the only weapon available is a 15-inch black rubber sex toy)
    • Snatch. features this quite a lot; Bricktop has his thugs (most prominently John and Errol), Turkish and Tommy used Gorgeous George for that purpose, Doug The Head hires Bullet-Tooth Tony both for this and for his abilities to find someone, and Avi has Rosebud.
  • Star Wars:
    • Subverted in regards to Darth Vader. Despite being a Dark Lord on Life Support, Vader's mastery of the Force allows him to easily overpower all of his subordinates, no matter how badass they are or whether they are Force-sensitive too.
    • The Emperor looks so fragile, ill, and old compared to the imposing looks of his Dragon, Darth Vader. Moreover, Vader himself is the one to defeat him in The Climax, even if just by virtue of exploiting the weakness of the Emperor's Force Lightning technique. However, this is also a subversion. In terms of Force powers, Palpatine is way superior.
    • In the prequels, Nute Gunray is one of the official leaders of the Separatists, and while he is nothing but a Corrupt Corporate Executive, he has several types of Battle Droids, including some that can fight Jedi, working under him.

  • Dune: The Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is cunning and clever, but he's too overweight to ever pose an effective threat. His underlings Rabban and Feyd are much stronger and more physical opponents, particularly the latter.
  • Guards! Guards!: Sam Vimes is first seen as a hopeless alcoholic shunted sideways into commanding the Night Watch, a laughable Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in the City Guard. Vimes ends up taking several levels in badass, but not before he recruits the terrifying troll Detritus and the very keen Constable Carrot, a man who can knock out a troll in a fistfight. When Vimes is menaced by two of the much more reputable Palace Guards, he considers and says "You're right. This is not a scary uniform."
    [Constable Carrot steps forward]
    Vimes: This, on the other hand, is a scary uniform.
  • Harry Potter: Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge is described as, at best, an average wizard and, at worst, magically incompetent. By virtue of his charge, the entire Auror force and the Unspeakables answer directly to him. While not every Auror is Tonks, Kingsley, or Scrigmeour-level of talented, the career is one of the most course-heavy in Hogwarts and requires further training at an Academy. On the other hand, the Unspeakables are the ones tasked to unravel and deal with the mysteries of magic, so they must be very proficient at it.
  • Serge Storms: By the time of Mermaid Confidential, long-time drug cartel leader Raffy Benzappa is a senile old man who is preoccupied with watching 1960s sitcoms, has his sons (who he rarely recognizes anymore) handle the family business, and, during his lucid moments, displays occasional disappointment at how violent the escalating cartel wars are. His younger son Mercado is Good with Numbers but a Non-Action Guy who rarely even talks about the cartel's killings. On the other hand, the family's scores of fiercely loyal enforcers are skilled gunfighters and strategic assassins who are merciless to their enemies.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Most of the Tully's bannermen have more wealth, larger armies, and wider territories than them. This makes House Tully potentially the weakest of the great houses.
  • Tricky Business: After Manny Arquero humiliates Bobby Kemp in front of his date (well, remains calm while Kemp looks like the whiny little bitch he is), Kemp buys the ship Manny works on and fires him. Unfortunately, Manny actually works for the mob and is very quickly rehired (and Kemp informed of how things work from then on).
    The first thing he did, as owner, was go to the ship and personally fire Manny Arquero, from behind two bodyguards. Arquero did not seem troubled at all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charlie's Angels: Charlie Townsend is an elderly Retired Badass who runs a private detective agency. At least, going from the fact that he fought in World War II (the show is set during the late 70s). Meanwhile, the trio of young women he employs to work as his field agents is made of Action Girls who can hold themselves in a fight and know how to make good use of guns.
  • Sadakatsiz: Corrupt Politician Haluk Güçlü is a fat, elderly man who has built his great wealth with lots of cunning, networking, and a heaping of not-so-legal business deals. Whenever he needs some physically-strenuous task to be done, he sends grunts to do it for him — be it scouring Tekirdağ to search for his missing daughter or threatening someone into submission. The dynamic is zigzagged with Volkan, his son-in-law, who works for him and is generally obliged to Haluk's bidding; either through manipulation, force, or those rare instances where they actually agree. The thing is, Volkan is not loyal to Haluk and, most of the time, neither he is to Derin, his wife. Volkan is, however, a middle-aged man still very capable of beating the shit out of people and has plenty of aggressiveness in need of release.

  • Rosendale: In "The King", the titular character boasts magnificent riches which allow him to neglect his own people without an ounce of care. They beg outside of the castle but are impotent to revolt because of the castle guards. As the king ages, his health declines to the point that when his son is of age, he's swiftly deposed. The newly-crowned king is certainly younger and physically stronger but given that history repeats itself with him, the reason why he's noxious to the kingdom is his charisma and wealth rather than whatever combat prowess he might possess.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Eric Bischoff is much, much weaker than most of the wrestlers he antagonizes and goes down pretty easily in a fair fight. As such, he has to rely on goons like 3 Minute Warning and certain nWo members to protect him from harm and win matches on his behalf.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chess: The King is the ultimate authority: if he is captured, the game is over. While he is stronger than a pawn and can move in any direction, meaning he can catch most pieces from their blind spots, he can only move a single square each time, which makes his moves very limited compared to most pieces since they can cover long distances.
  • Red Dragon Inn has Torglesnarf Duncleton (First of His Name), the self-proclaimed goblin king of small stature surrounded by minions who definitely aren't tiny.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 2: "Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep" DLC features a sidequest that is acknowledged In-Universe as a Shout-Out to the Borderlands equivalent of Game of Thrones, featuring an expy in the form of "Prince Jeffery." Jeffery taunts you from his iron throne made of guns while his two bodyguards fight you. After you finish them off, Tina (the DM) admits that she can't allow you to kill a minor, but your character can go up and smack Jeffery around and reduce him to a quivering mess with a melee hit. You can do it as many times as you desire, but Tina eventually states that she can't think of any more dialogue for the character to say.
  • Criminal Case: World Edition: Conversed in the ninth case, "Killing Spring". Omar Bahir, aka The Sword, accuses the victim Hamza Bousseif of being this trope — that Hamza can put at risk the life of the protestants he leads in order to overthrow the Sultan but is too cowardly to do the same with his own life. Omar also encourages Hamza to become Cannon Fodder to demonstrate what a great leader he is.
  • Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course: "Bootlegger Boogie" consists of fighting against the Moonshine Mob, a gang of bugs that fight the local ant police with your characters caught in between. The first in line is the spider, a big and tough mobster in charge of the goons who can call in backup and bombs. The second is a seductive lady insect who places down and dances to a gramophone that emits killer sound waves. The Mob's Secret Weapon is a giant anteater who eats scores of ant police and fly mobsters then spits them out as a Big Ball of Violence. The mob boss is a small snail who's seen in the fight intro and has a single, easily-avoided attack and far less health than the first three, with his only threat being the element of surprise after the anteater goes down.
  • Dave.EXE: For being the evil leader and Big Bad, Edgy Dave is actually not that strong. He has the slowest chase speed out of any killers in the game, and his ability, Combat Tentacles, is quite tame. By contrast, his underlings include but are not limited to a chainsaw-wielding monster, a teleporting arcade virus, a boxing robot, a killer spider, and a horde of exploding ducks.
  • Digimon Survive: Exaggerated. The ones leading the attacks against Garurumon might be just Gazimon, but for some reason, they bring several Mega-level monsters like Plesiomon and Magnadramon with them.
  • Earthworm Jim has a character called Bob the Killer Goldfish who is a Zero-Effort Boss both times he shows up. His feline minions on the other hand pack quite the punch, literally as one punch from them deals quite a lot of damage to Jim.
  • Expeditions: Conquistador: Unlike Moctezuma, Tepictoton, the ruler of the Totonac, is far weaker than his guards — the game treats him as a mere Civilian, meaning he has pathetic stats and equipment, no special skills, and will usually try to run and hide rather than fight.
  • Fallout: Jackson, their "leader", is the weakest tribal there is.
  • Fate Series:
    • Usually, Masters are human mages of variable magical prowess, although there have been cases of normal people being able to summon Servants. However, no matter how strong the Master is, their Servants will always be stronger by virtue of being a suprahuman Heroic Spirit. Pretty much any Servant can butcher the Squishy Wizards that the Masters are. Masters only control their Servants because of the contract both parties signed at the moment of the summon, which grants Masters Command Spells to force the Servants into doing their bidding.
    • Fate/Zero: Exaggerated with Kariya Matou and his Servant. While having been born with an affinity for magecraft, Kariya never received any training. Consequently, when he wants to participate in the Fourth Holy Grail, he's forced to let Crest worms inhabit his body so he can output enough prana to maintain a Servant, with the downside of the works severely debilitating his health. Therefore turning him into the weakest Master in the war. The Servant he summons is a Berserker, a class known for consuming an obscene amount of prana just to maintain in exchange for greatly boosting the Servant's stats. Now, this Berserker in particular has retained his ability to wield weapons (which he's very skillful at) and has three Noble Phantasms — one to obscure his stats, another to appropriate weaponry, and the last one to further boost his abilities. All in all, Berserker is one of the most powerful Servants out there.
    • Fate/Grand Order: Jason of the Argonauts is portrayed as an incredibly weak Servant who managed to assemble a crew of some of the greatest heroes of Greek Mythology and whose talent is that of a tactician capable of squeezing out a victory when his back is against the wall. This is shown by how in-game he's of the lowest rarity while his attacks have him calling upon Heracles, Atalante, and Medea (all of whom are of the second-highest rarity in the game) as well as having a largely support-focused move set.
  • Gradius: Most final bosses in the series are laughably easy giant brain organisms that are sorely lacking in health and firepower, if they even have any at all. The minibosses encountered on the way to them are much more dangerous opponents, with one usually being a deadly wall of guns and another usually being a completely invincible multi-legged mech. To say nothing about the brutally difficult Boss Rushes present in almost every game in the series, all of whom are the minions of the final boss.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: Reginald is not a fighter, instead he relies on trickery and manipulation to get the upper hand. By comparison, his right-hand man is more capable physically.
  • Hi-Fi RUSH: Physically, Zanzo is nothing, and Chai takes him out in a single hit. However, his creative vision has him make mighty robots that surpass anything Chai can throw at him in sheer brute strength twice. The first time, Chai loses and Macaron has to help him out against similar enemies. The second time, his ultimate machine would be too much for Chai again if Zanzo was not defunded. When Kale finishes the project, it takes abilities above what Peppermint's crew have then to take it down.
  • Infernax:
    • Cutscene Boss Mayor Edgar drops his sword once confronted by Alcedor. His goon is about twice as strong as the normal cultists.
    • Remus is much weaker than Brutus, as the former goes down in a single hit and the latter is probably the strongest skeletal enemy. However, the former gives him orders because he is far more calculating, while Brutus is destructive and just smart enough to set traps.
    • Played with with Robert. His fighting skills are nonexistent, while the cultist leaders working for him put up more of a fight. However, his summoning skills are the strongest, as his officers needed rituals to summon one demon, while Robert can summon a whole army of skeletons without rituals.
  • Knight Bewitched 2: Lissandra is the current leader of the Cult of Drakon, and she has many demons and at least one boss-tier warrior, Strife, under her command. She's not that powerful herself though, since Rae easily defeats her in a cutscene.
  • Koihime†Musou: The rulers of the Kan Empire are not fighters, but they have powerful generals under their command, with Chouryou and Ryofu among the most powerful. Downplayed in regards to Kashin, who's one of the rulers but also a warrior.
  • Legends of Runeterra: Halfway through the Path of Champions, the player encounters Azir, whose entire deck revolves around summoning underlings, the Sand Soldiers. When Azir activates a certain boost card, his ephemeral armies get stronger than him, particularly if he summons a handful of them.
  • Persona 5 has two examples among the Palace Rulers.
  • Metroid: Other M: Invoked in the final confrontation with MB. The confrontation is designed to trick the player into fighting the endlessly regenerating Desbrachians she summons when you're actually supposed to just shoot MB, who goes down with one shot. Many a player won the fight by accident by just firing blindly all over.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All: Shelly de Killer is possibly the strongest individual in the series and very loyal to his client. His client is good at scheming, but attempting to backstab Shelly was his downfall, as Shelly could easily kill him.
  • Princess Connect! Re:Dive: Illya has two modes: the menacing Evil Overlord and the Sleep-Mode Size. Whenever she steps out of her crystal container, she reverts back to the latter and is considerably weaker than her bat minions. Much to her chagrin, the bats sense the power gap and start attacking her. Played for Laughs when Yuuki tries to help Illya and then carries her in bridal style.
  • Rune Factory 5: Played With. Lidia, field captain of Rigbarth Outpost, is aware that her human form has no strength at all; she mentions that even Julian is stronger than her. Nonetheless, she can transform into her dragon form which it's implied to be much more powerful than Radea's despite quickly draining her stamina. She leaves most of the fieldwork to Ares/Alice, Scarlett, and the other rangers and only jumps into action when there's absolutely no other option.
  • Skylanders: Trap Team: Dreamcatcher has, second after Gulper, the easiest boss battle of all the Doom Raiders. Her attacks are easy to dodge or repel and the difficulty of her battle comes more from avoiding standing on falling platforms. In comparison, Hood Sickle and Pain-Yatta, the other two villains in Telescope Towers, have much stronger attacks and you also fight them in tighter arenas.
  • Spellstone: In a one-on-one fight, Big Bad Remi needs to rely on traps, tricks, and Teleport Spam to gain the upper hand, while his Void minions have no such problems. However, this is averted with his card, "Remi, the Banished", which has a useful combination of skills and can easily stand toe-to-toe with some of the game's strongest Champions.
  • Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism: Satori isn't very strong despite her seemingly lofty position as the mistress of the Palace of the Earth Spirits, described as a pushover in a direct fight both In-Universe and by Word of God, and relies on her mind reading and power copying to pull an endless amount of tricks from her hat when in a fight. Her pets are another story. Orin has the power to communicate with and control spirits, Okuu is a contender for one of the most powerful characters in the entire franchise, and due to her abilities as a satori, all of her pets have the potential to become powerful beast youkai in their own right. So while Satori herself isn't very strong, she wields a deceptively vast amount of power through her subordinates.
  • Tower Of The Sorcerer: The Golden Knight is very beatable even at the start of the Knight Zone, and when he's exactly the same strength at the end of the zone, after all the power-ups you've collected, he's a push-over. But first, you must deal with his army of soldiers, knights, and swordsmen, who each get a free shot at you, with no breaks in between. Ouch.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Lucifer is the weakest of the demon sisters, but still their leader.
  • Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider: The leader of the Commission is a mere human with authority and the powerful Guardians (bio-mechanical ninja robots with Elemental Powers) at his disposal. After the Guardians are taken out or go AWOL, he goes down effortlessly when the revolutionaries storm his office and shoot him dead.
  • West of Loathing: For a large portion of the game, you hear about The Necromancer and see his handiwork in the many skeletons you fight. After finding a bunch of clues, you locate the tower. You fight your way to the top of the tower through hordes of skeletons. Then, you finally reach the Necromancer. It turns out that all that dark magic did a number on him, and the Necromancer turned to dust if you just breathed on him hard enough.
  • Yakuza:
    • Yakuza: Sohei Dojima is a short, pudgy, physically unimpressive Non-Action Big Bad who's easily taken care of in the ending of 0 once he's completely run out of cannon fodder with no way to escape. His success as a yakuza is owed primarily to his ruthless ambitions having at some point or another the support of some of the most powerful figures in the Tojo Clan's history. To name a few we have Shintaro Kazama, Futoshi Shimano, Daisaku Kuze, Hiroki Awano, and Keiji Shibusawa.
    • Yakuza: Like a Dragon: Ryo Aoki is a Corrupt Politician out to gut the Japanese criminal underworld and rebuild it in his own image. His chosen instrument for this is the Omi Alliance yakuza, and notably, Ryo's boss battle is much easier than the preceding one against Yosuke Tendo, a former boxer built like a truck and about as hard-hitting as one to boot.

    Web Animation 
  • Phase-Connect: H2oSakana is definitely more soft-spoken which creates an image that he is meeker than the likes of Tenma and Pipkin Pippa who has the reputation of being much more intimidating than typical VTubers.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane:
    • Diabolical Mastermind Silco can hold his own with a dagger but lets the fighting to his minions more often than not because, other than his hideous facial scarring, he's not physically imposing at all. In fact, he has to inject a dangerous drug into his left eye to keep his chemical pollution-induced illness to spread out. Silco's power comes from the criminal empire he's slowly built. As such, his minions include the two most dangerous women in the Undercity —Mad Bomber Jinx and The Brute Sevika—, as well as other muscly grunts. Later, he starts enhancing his enforcers with Shimmer, an addicting substance that leads to mutation and gives the user a great boost in strength, reflexes, and speed.
    • Piltover's Council is generally made of people who have no combat training and, in most cases, would have a hard time defending themselves. There are the mandatory Fat Bastard as well as a couple of elderly councilors. They have the Piltover Enforcers at their disposal, who are essentially the city's police force and are often used to violently oppress the Undercity with fire guns and bombs. This gets subverted when Jayce, the newest councilor, builds his iconic hextech hammer, which makes him way stronger than the Enforcers.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Alistar Krei is a morally gray corporate executive who tends to let his ambition get the better of him. Whatever promising technological invention that picks his attention must be his, either by legally buying its rights or resourcing to questionable methods such as stealing it or blackmailing its creator. The thing is, Krei doesn't possess any superpowered, robotic armor nor he is shown to be adept at fighting. As a result, he almost always employs hired muscle to do this, even the titular superhero team (he's great at exploiting their strong sense of justice).
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • From an aesthetic point of view, the Big Bad Hawk Moth's character design looks very unthreatening compared to that of the colorful, wacky akumatized villains he creates. He wears a dark purple two-piece suit and a gray Luchador mask while his underlings range from giant robots to dark knights and everything in between. In terms of the logic of the plot, that Hawk Moth needs to create them in the first place drives the point home. The Butterfly Miraculous, which he uses, is a support type and not truly suited for direct combat. The only reason why he is able to overpower Ladybug and Chat Noir is that he is an adult and far more ruthless than them. Several of his own minions could take him in a fight; a few of them can even overwhelm the aforementioned heroes, prompting them to rely more on cunning and less on raw power.
    • The Peacock Miraculous fulfills a supporting role as well (creating minions to aid in battle), but this trope is accentuated by the fact it is damaged, which aggrieves its user with a debilitating, gradual illness. Again, The Dragon Mayura being an adult is the only reason she's not entirely helpless. Fortunately for her, her control over her sentimonsters is more complete than Hawk Moth's over his akumas because she akumizes objects, not people.
    • Big Good Master Wang Fu cannot take the physical toll of using a Miraculous due to his old age (he's well over 100 years). This forces him to Recruit Teenagers with Attitude by giving them Miraculous jewels, so they can go and fight the evil Miraculous user Hawk Moth for him. The younger heroes are inexperienced, though, so Master Fu remains the Guardian of the Miraculous and the titular character's mentor.
  • The Simpsons: Exaggerated. Mr. Burns may struggle to crush a paper cup and in one episode had his foot pushed away by an ant he intended to step on, but he is still widely feared because he has a private army of security guards, hired goons, and lawyers in his personal retinue.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Ludo Avarius inherited his title as king of monsters from his family — as well as a castle and riches he uses to respectively house and hire an army of physically-imposing monsters to fulfill his dimension-conquering dreams. Ludo himself was born the runt of his litter, not having the ability to fly (he is a bird-like monster) and being weak due to his small size. Because of this, he's a Dirty Coward who treats his minions like trash and flees when his army is defeated. This is Double Subverted when half a magical wand gets embedded in his hand, which makes him a substantial threat. However, it turns out the hand doesn't actually belong to him but to his Dragon with an Agenda, who then regenerates himself, leaving Ludo as ineffective as he was before.
  • Teen Titans (2003): Subverted with the titular heroes. On paper, Robin, The Leader and a Badass Normal, is this compared to his True Companions. His team includes one magic user, a shapeshifter, a cyborg, and a superpowered alien. In reality, however, Robin can go toe to toe with any of them thanks to his superior fighting skills — he might not be as strong or capable of shooting beams but his martial arts training and Plot Armor means he can outmaneuver them.
  • Winx Club:
    • As the titular characters earn more powerful transformations each season, they become the strong underlings for Faragonda's weak boss. Faragonda, a Retired Badass in her own right, is the elderly Headmistress of the fairy school the Winx attend and the one who assigns them missions. It's unclear the exact point when their dynamic shifts but given that Faragonda is unable to call on her fairy transformations, it's probably fairly early on.
    • Selina, the sixth season's Dragon with an Agenda, is at the same time an inversion and a straight example of this trope. She's a fairly inexperienced witch who, while very cunning, has to rely on her summoned creatures to pose a threat to the Winx Club, a sextet of powerful fairies. Left hanging is the implication that her summons could take her in a fight. On the flip side, her ability to materialize dangerous monsters from the Legendarium is what compelled the Trix (accomplished witches on their own and the season's Big Bads) to adopt Selina as their minion. Up until this point, the Trix have been steadily defeated by the Winx. Therefore, the summons are stronger than the trio of witches even if Selina herself is not. The same case repeats with Selina's true master, Acheron. It's even more glaring because, while all the magic Selina has gathered allows him to summon a gigantic hydra, the hydra causes far more havoc than he. In fact, Acheron is defeated rather easily by just one of the Winx.