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"Being the best isn't all it's cracked up to be. When you have power, you become arrogant and isolated from the world no matter how coveted and sought after you are in the beginning."
Itachi Uchiha, Naruto

Some people are just better than others. It's a shame that most of these people will inevitably turn evil at some point, not to mention be prone to engaging in vast amounts of Angst as they do it.

Beware of anyone who is described by his masters as possessing The Gift, in this case meaning a near instinctual grasp of the techniques the show is built around, often alongside some sort of quasi-supernatural physical or mental ability. Naturally his teachers will near worship his strength and fall over themselves to teach him new techniques, completely ignoring that the student in question spends his time pondering questions like "Is it wrong for me to rip out this person's liver and wear it as a hat?"

Yes, perhaps due to a respect for honest, hard work over freakish talent within most Eastern cultures the guy who gets it easy has a disturbing tendency to be evil. Even the good ones lean towards angsty Ineffectual Loners. To make it worse the Hero often admires their strength at the start or looks up to them as a friend or teacher, precluding their transformation into an Aloof Big Brother. Maybe it has something to do with the tendency of people to not value something they didn't have to work for? Maybe it's sour grapes and jealousy? Any combination of the two?

Many Arrogant Kung Fu Guys fall into this; the Social Darwinist is near defined by it. The Smug Super flaunts it. Beware the Superman when enough of them gather and cause collateral damage in their fights or take over the world.

If the person with the gift is the protagonist, it is often an example of Hard Work Hardly Works, though it also tends to be just as sucky (the underlying message seems to be that it's best to be unnoticeably average). Those with The Gift are frequently Born Winners, especially if they manage to avoid becoming evil.

Sometimes, to even things out, someone with the gift drops out of their training for some reason, leaving them Incompletely Trained and thus Unskilled but Strong. See also The Paragon Always Rebels.

For literal gifts, see It Was a Gift. Not to be confused with the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, the Fanfic "The Gift", the book by James Patterson or the short story/jam by The Velvet Underground.

Examples of The Gift include:

Anime and Manga

  • Most of the main characters in Naruto, starting with the Uchihas (yes, all of them) and former Big Bad Orochimaru and working from there. It's really more notable when characters considered "geniuses" don't turn evil than when they do. Kakashi, Shikamaru, and the Fourth Hokage are about it.
    • Neji.
    • Itachi turned out to be on the good side all along even though he is arguably the most gifted.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Period. The better your skills, the deeper and more painful your inevitable fall to The Dark Side.
  • In Princess Tutu, the character Autor thinks he has powers to "bend reality to his will with pen and ink". Turns out he's mistaken, and the true prodigy of this power is Fakir. Autor even notes that they've "been chosen" in one particular scene. Fakir himself isn't a villain, but he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, so he fits the personality type for this trope well.
  • Kongo Agon of Eyeshield 21 is another advanced example. He's described as a once-in-a-century football prodigy, capable of reacting in 0.1 second to any move the opposing team makes, as fast as physically possible. He never goes to practice and never exercises, at all, in sharp contrast to his brother Unsui, who trains tirelessly every day but can't keep up with him. Deimon managed to throw Agon a loop by sending in benchwarmer Manabu Yukimitsu, who managed to overtake Agon through sheer determination and tenacity. Oh, and he's practically the Anthropomorphic Personification of the Opposing Sports Team.
  • Brooklyn of Beyblade fits this to a tee. Thanks to a savant-level natural talent at playing spinning tops, he's never had to try in his entire life. On the one hand, far from making him an Arrogant Kung Fu Guy, he's actually a pretty nice guy who approaches the game with a zen-like calmness. On the other, when he's finally defeated for the first time, he actually starts trying... and the results are not pretty at all.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima:
    • Negi Springfield is often called 'Prodigy' or 'a Genius' thanks to his ludicrous growth, amazing smarts and innate ability to master many fighting styles. Neither brash nor overconfident, he's instead insecure, self-sacrificing, somewhat power-hungry with a noted inferiority complex, which eventually causes him to choose the powers of darkness to prevent harm to his students, in that sparing himself unnecessary pain at losing more loved ones. His lonely disposition has yet to be fully confronted, though he occasionally gets accused of being a Martyr Without a Cause.
    • Later on we get introduced to Kurt Godel, who's also described as a prodigy/genius. Unlike Negi, he's something of a Smug Snake (although with the ability to back it up), and is the epitome of the Wild Card.
  • Madlax features an extremely rare gift called, well, The Gift (Jap. shishitsu). It allows people to screw with minds and reality.
  • Berserker of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple poses the danger he does entirely because of this. Berserker is so naturally talented in fighting that he can defeat the best of his peers despite not having had any formal training whatsoever. His defeat requires a massive aversion of Hard Work Hardly Works, with Hermit claiming to have put in 10,000 times the normal effort. Unfortunately, a recently released chapter of the manga suggests he has since received that formal training.
  • Medaka Kurokami from Medaka Box is better at everything than everyone. If she sees someone do something or even hears about it, she will quickly become better at it with no effort.

Comic Books

  • Inverted in Marvel's G.I. Joe continuity. Snake-Eyes, a white friend of the family, is regarded by the masters of the Arashikage ninja clan as being their most gifted and promising student. He stays good (probably partly because the masters don't tell him this to his face), but his friend, Storm Shadow, a blood member of the clan who had trained with them since childhood, becomes embittered at being constantly thought of as coming up short compared to his friend.
  • Moondragon is a classic case of this. Orphaned by the renegade Thanos of Titan, she was brought up on his homeworld and instructed in physical and mental disciplines for which she proved to have considerable talent. She got proud enough to challenge the Dragon in the Moon and apparently proved good enough to destroy it, which did not help. At her best she is insufferably arrogant (being almost That Damned Good to boot), and when the DitM's influence surfaces she lapses into full-blown Megalomania. Life with her new girlfriend seems to have mellowed her... somewhat.
  • The Gorgon, of Marvel Comics, is a ridiculously advanced case. He could read and write by his first birthday. By four, he was one of Japan's most acclaimed artists. He composed his first opera at age six. At twelve, he wrote a mathematical equation that proved the existence of God. He became a ridiculously-skilled martial artist in adulthood, as well. He's also one of the most bugfuck insane guys out there, and is fanatically devoted to the evil Hand. Oh, and he can also turn you to stone by looking at you. His actions so frequently cause "WHAT NOBODY IS THAT [good/fast/strong/silent]!" reactions that "Wrong. The Gorgon is that [whichever previous adjective]" is practically his Catch Phrase.
    • As one of the most extreme example of this gift; The Gorgon is, for all his gifts, a Badass Normal. In Secret Warriors, He manages to block and cut the arms off of a super-speedster faster than she could react.

Film - Animated

  • There are more than a few echoes of this in how Master Shifu treats Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda--and true to form, seeing only the snow leopard's incredible natural talent for kung fu (he was after all the only one to master all one thousand scrolls) the guy proudly pumps him up to be the Dragon Warrior, all without seeing the darkness that was growing in his son's heart. Though Tai Lung turned evil, he luckily didn't indulge in a great deal of Wangst. You can guarantee, though, that if he didn't die in the final battle, shows up in the sequel, and does a Heel Face Turn, he will become either an Ineffectual Loner (which he may well have been before his Start of Darkness) or thanks to Defeat Means Friendship, an Aloof Big Brother to Po.
  • Remy is something of a subversion: he possesses the gift of incredible cooking skills, but unlike the examples here nobody looks up to him or is envious of it because he's a rat, who don't need to cook and aren't allowed in kitchens anyway. When he's able to express his gift by being The Man Behind the Man of a human, he gets taken advantage of: his rat clan uses him to steal food from the kitchen while his human "puppet" (who couldn't boil spaghetti without Remy's help) takes all the credit.

Film - Live-Action

  • Luke and Anakin Skywalker in their respective Star Wars trilogies. The Force was strong with those ones.
  • Sing, the eventual protagonist of Kung Fu Hustle, had tremendous chi reserves in his body for his entire life, which he subtly sets up for the climactic fight scene by recovering from a serious stab wound, concussion and poisoning, in the span of about an hour, then casually mentioning that he's never had to go to a hospital in his life. Only after a near-death experience (that is to say, the Big Bad delivered sufficient damage that the surprisingly powerful Obi Wans had to mummify him) was he able to use it consciously.


  • In the Tortall" books, there is a subversion on two levels. In the first, just about half the population has "The Gift", and it's actually called that. What it is is basically the ability to use magic - and that's it. Some of them do think they're better than everyone and two are the Big Bad of their series, but most are decent and nice. The second subversion is closer to the trope idea are wild magic; a much rarer 'gift' which has specific abilities. The only characters to have this (Daine and Tobe) are The Hero and a different hero's Sidekick.
  • Lord Voldemort of Harry Potter. From a very young age, Tom Marvolo Riddle was treated as an amazing prodigy and given special preference and instruction. Dumbledore likewise. Voldy just chose a very different path than Albus.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, some channelers require training and others have The Gift, such as Nynaeve.
  • Flipped in Thief of Time with Lobsang Ludd, who is naturally great at both the theory and practice of time manipulation. None of the teachers among the History Monks like him, because you can't teach someone who already knows everything.

Live-Action TV

  • Sylar of Heroes has the power of "intuitive aptitude", and thus is able to rapidly master new superpowers over the course of a few days, whereas the people he takes them from tend to suffer from How Do I Shot Web? or Superpower Meltdown even after living with their powers for several months. Then again, he has to crack open people's skulls and take their brains to get the powers in the first place, so the "evil" part is kind of a chicken or the egg thing with him. Compare the heroic Peter Petrelli, who also can absorb powers (without stealing brains) but is pretty incompetent with them and needs to spend considerable time training to get them to work properly.
  • River Tam of Firefly is a genius prodigy who can basically do anything she puts her mind to with incredible ease, and was already in some form of college by the time she was 14. As her brother Simon puts it, "River wasn't just gifted... she was a gift." After her Mind Rape, she is still extremely intelligent and talented, but it's often hidden behind many layers of insanity.

Tabletop Games

  • Ars Magica has this at the center of its premise. Magical ability (literally referred to as The Gift) instantly puts the primary player character class, magi, above the rest of the mundane world. This is reasonable enough; its setting, Mythic Europe, is a world of medieval beliefs after all. However, while the magi of the Order of Hermes swear an oath not to do anything that deprives another magus of his right to arcane power, or brings the ire of the mundane authority on the Order as a whole, any given mage is perfectly within his or her rights to abuse anyone who isn't a mage at their leisure, including their own apprentices. A particular list of legal cases includes the case of one mage who tortured several of his apprentices to death and was found to have committed no crime.
  • As with the above, Unknown Armies has the gift of magic being incredibly rare. The thing is, it tends to cause Adepts to become... well, insane. The technical definition is that they become obsessed with things like taking risks, cutting themselves up, or saving money, to the exclusion of all else. Oh, and the only reason mages aren't ruling the world is because they're terrified of what could happen when the world finds out about magic. Otherwise, their obsessions and magic cause them to look down on normal people, referring to them as sheep.

Video Games

  • Nearly every single player video game falls under this trope, as the main character (played by you) is in some way 'special'.
    • Fridge Brilliance when you realize that you ARE special, because no-one else has access to the save/load feature.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics a 2, Adelle is one of "The Gifted", which grants her such boons as an extremely extended lifespan, unique abilities and near-instant mastery of (non-combat) skills. While she never falls into outright evil (except for a brief moment when she is Brainwashed and Crazy), The Gift causes her a large amount of angst towards the fact that it makes her "different".
  • Knights of the Old Republic plays with the trope, but it still ends up used straight: the player character learns the ways of the Force very, very quickly, "learning in weeks what has taken others years". Later in the game, there turns out to be an explanation for that - but that explanation means that the player character is Revan, who before that revelation had been described as a bit of a prodigy, and rather powerful.

Web Comics

  • Order of the Stick's Start of Darkness for the lich villain Xykon revealed that one of his earliest conflicts was with the hard-studying wizards who looked down on him for the natural gift of sorcery he possessed.

Western Animation

  • In the Dilbert animated series, he tells Dogbert that he has "The Knack" (for engineering.) He accidentally drinks his boss's coffee, gets 'management germs,' and loses it for an episode. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender Azula and Toph are both among the most naturally gifted/talented characters in the series. Azula was born as a child prodigy but Toph is blind and learned how to depend on other senses, which just made her an unnaturally good earth bender. The former is Daddy's Little Villain and the latter is a loner who requires an entire season to soften up to her True Companions. Katara is a subversion; she taught herself waterbending and became a master soon after finding a master to formally train her. Aang is a inversion. His gift means is his job to saves the world.
  • Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is a unicorn whose unique magical talent is magic. Princess Celestia — a millenia old Physical Goddess — says that Twilight has the greatest magical potential she has ever seen in a unicorn. In the pilot Twilight does come off as slightly arrogant and dismisses the future members of her Nakama as silly fillies who are getting in the way of her efforts to stop Nightmare Moon. Much of the series is devoted to Twilight coming out of her sheltered bookworm lifestyle. A few episodes also deconstruct The Gift by showing that Twilight can't always control her vast magical power.