Not Growing Up Sucks

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Sorry, Baby Doll, but you're stuck on this side of the mirror.

Oskar: Are you really my age?

Eli: Yes, but I've been this age for a very long time.

Some (well, many) kids think Growing Up Sucks. Then there's this. It turns out Immortality Begins At Twenty is only true for a lucky few, because due to some form of Phlebotinum, this child can never grow up. They are forever frozen in their preteens or early teens. If still organic and biologically alive, they will never mature enough to even seem close to becoming Legal Jailbait to the opposite (or same) gender, even if they're not so physically immature as to be entirely incapable of having sex. Thankfully, this usually doesn't come up. Interestingly, their intellect will very likely keep growing throughout their lifetime, but their emotional maturity may or may not undergo a similar growth. They may forever throw tantrums and sulk, or they may well develop an adult mindset or even go beyond it. In any case, expect this thwarted love life to cause them a great deal of frustration if not outright Wangst.

Oh, and in live-action television, there's one more thing to worry about. The actor who plays you is going to keep on aging, so sooner or later they'll probably kill you off. Vampire children are especially susceptible to this.

Common causes for not being able to grow up include but are not limited to: Being a robot, virtual copy, magically animated puppet, being cursed or an Undead Child.

May or may not overlap with Who Wants to Live Forever? and I Hate You, Vampire Dad. Sub-Trope of Blessed with Suck. Not to be confused with Not Allowed to Grow Up, which is about live-action characters being forced to remain the same age via Executive Meddling, not any in-story reason -- despite their actors growing up in the roles. Closely related to Never Grew Up (which is a voluntary decision by the child to not grow up).

Contrast Elderly Immortal.

Examples of Not Growing Up Sucks include:

Anime And Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Dance in the Vampire Bund, humans turned vampires don't grow any older than they are. The queen is stuck in a constantly childlike state.
  • Czeslaw Meyer from Baccano!! has an implied form of this, although that's not as big a problem as being a Guinea Pig.
  • Wynn in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy For the Devil."
  • Evangeline A. K. McDowell from Mahou Sensei Negima. However, she can alter her appearance to look adult.
    • It has been stated in chapter 342 that Negi is now the same as Evangeline and will likely be stuck at a young age forever, with the possibility of growing a few years more.
    • In the sequel UQ Holder!, Evangeline routinely goes around in her adult form, and discovering she can look like a 10-year-old is a major shock for the main character, whom she raised.
  • V.V. from the anime Code Geass is a perfect example, It seems that the immortality in the Code Geass world works keeping your body unchanged so if you receive it being a 10 years old boy you'll be a 10 year old boy forever.
  • For the first 900 years of her life, manga Chibiusa of Sailor Moon is magically kept at the physical age of five until her powers kick in. This is stated to be unnatural even considering the extremely long lifespans of the citizens of crystal Tokyo (such as her twentysomething-looking parents), because of how early it kicked in, but is never fully explained. The television series, unsurprisingly, avoids the weird subplot entirely.
  • Konata and Yutaka of Lucky Star, paternal cousins, were frozen in their early teen bodies. While Yutaka complains it makes it difficult to find a boyfriend, Otaku Surrogate Konata pragmatially assures herself that many of her fellow otaku would have no problem with it.
  • Angela from Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is several hundred years old but perpetually stuck in the body of a 12 year old girl. She angst about her immortality all over the place but also shows a bit of jealousy toward more developed women.
  • Rika from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Though she'll probably be able to get past it now.
  • In Black Blood Brothers, there is a possible aversion; the younger brother is childlike and innocent, and still loves sweets and toys (and doing silly things, like wall graffiti).
  • Thanks to being what amounts to a collection of organs put into a childlike artificial body, Pinoko from Black Jack is stuck looking like a three-year-old. (Technically, she's eighteen... or one, depending on how you count it). She doesn't gripe about it too often, but it comes up now and then (one story shows she has a fun house mirror in her room so that she reflects as an adult).
  • Astro Boy is a Replacement Goldfish permanently frozen at the age his human counterpart Toby died, which was nine-ish or so. Though, in most of the incarnations, Pinocchio Syndrome (and the negative aspects of this trope) is at most brief and sometimes skipped over, because Humans Are Flawed, who wants to be one?
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Alphonse Elric is 14 years old, yet has the voice and mentality of a ten year old.
    • That's because he's been nothing but a soul attached to a suit of armor since he was 10.
      • It is also subverted a bit. He matures over the series, at least emotionally and mentally, without ever losing all of his naivete (come on, he's 14!). At the end of the series you can easily believe he's a teen.
    • In the 2003 anime version, however, after Edward sacrifices himself to bring him back in one piece, Al is physically a ten year old. Additionally he lost his memories of the time he spent in the armor. In the movie we meet him again, three years later as a early teen both mentally and physically. And then it is a slight subversion, since after he decides to stay with Edward in Germany he slowly starts regaining his memory, which implies him maturing on his actual age. More a case of Older Than They Look
  • In the Mermaid's Scar story of the Mermaid Saga, Masato has been an immortal child for 800 years, and he quite resents it. The only way he can get by without arousing suspicion is by tricking kindly women into loving him, then feeding them Mermaid Flesh so they become his eternal caretakers. If the Mermaid Flesh turns them into Lost Souls instead, or the current caretaker kills herself just to escape him, well, too bad. Time to look for another kind-hearted girl.
  • Presents stars a girl named Kurumi, who after falling asleep at the table on her birthday one night, without receiving presents from her classmates or parents, found herself suddenly far away from home, and unable to age past 10. Now she's an old woman in a child's body, who searches for her missing birthday present.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha gives us Vita, starting in A's. Though it doesn't often come up in the main series, supplementary materials indicate she isn't happy about it. Striker S's supplementaries suggest this may eventually change. Or maybe not.
  • The driving force behind the plot of Petite Princess Yucie, the anime result of combining the settings, characters and story elements of several of the Princess Maker games. Here, an artifact called the Eternal Tiara exists, capable of granting any wish, and several girls of about ten years coincidentally end up trying to prove themselves true princesses (and thus able to use it without getting killed) in order to be worthy of using it. The twist comes when it becomes clear that all of the girls are about 15, and none too pleased about having stopped growing at ten. The reason? A cosmic ploy to give the winner something to wish for when their friends are sacrificed to power the tiara, since it tends to destroy the world its currently in if it isn't used regularly.
  • In an odd case, Hinako Ninomiya from Ranma ½ (manga, but not anime) isn't able to stay grown up. Due to a cure for an illness when she really was a child she periodically reverts back to a preteen state until she absorbs enough ki to temporarily age up again. This makes it rather difficult to be taken seriously as a teacher, or woo a potential suitor, since she spends most of her time looking and acting like a 5 year old.
  • Ohno Kei from Take On Me provides a mundane example. She is 26 years old, but due to a genetic disorder looks half her age and thus has trouble finding fellows her age that are willing to date her and she is willing to touch.
  • A bit of a supernatural case in Spirited Away where Yubaba's coddling and spoiling of her son Buu made him physically and mentally a child.
  • Pinoko from Black Jack. Her ectoskeleton (which keeps her almost entirely artificial body from collapsing) prevents her from growing, a fact that often upsets her, especially because having the appearance of a 6-years old girl prevents her from living out her romantic feelings for the protagonist the way she would like to.
  • The middle child among the Kuonji sisters in They Are My Noble Masters physically looks like a child younger than the youngest sister but she's already an adult.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In a departure from the source material (see Literature below), Pinocchio in Fables had to deal with this. The Blue Fairy was, due to her fairy mentality, a Literal Genie when he asked to become a real boy. He got to be a real boy, but he was stuck as one, forever.
  • Lenore from Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl. A 10 years old girl, dead for 100 years.
  • Marvel Comics' Agamemnon is immortal but never physically aged beyond 16. There was some Wild Mass Guessing at the time that at one point in the past he was Bucky.
    • Also in Marvel Comics, there's the Eternal Sprite. He was so frustrated at seeing his fellow Eternals do adult things, and always being considered a child, that he masterminded the lobotomized resurrection of all of his peers in order to have access to the power of the Sleeping Celestial and become a human boy. It worked. He got caught. He was killed. We cried.
  • The modern-age Superboy was afflicted with this; a disease that affected only clones was killing him, and the only way Cadmus's scientists could stop it was to halt his aging at 16 years old. After they cured the disease, they couldn't find the aging genome to turn it back on until some time later, during the Young Justice Crisis Crossover "Sins of Youth," when the spell that aged the rest of his teammates to adults started tearing him apart at the genetic level. Cadmus reactivated Superboy's aging, only to have him lose all his powers when the aging spell was lifted. Superboy just could not catch a break back in the day.
  • In the DC Comics story "Generations" Superman's great granddaughters become this due to an accident. After a century like this, one of them falls in love and decides to give up her powers so she can grow up. She gets them back eventually and then falls under Immortality Begins At Twenty like with normal Kryptonians.
  • One album of the Belgium comic book series Urbanus featured a sorceres who was cursed by her master/mentor to remain a child forever because she abused her powers to turn her brother into a crow. She desperately wants to break the curse because she mentally did mature and now wants a steady relationship, but because of her body still being that of a child she can't get one.
  • In Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol run, a sect of the Cult of the Unwritten Book are kids who are given surgery to attain eternal youth. The surgeries are quite painful and mutilates the kids severely, and then they start to realize that staying young isn't as great as they thought. So they become the Little Sisters of Our Lady of the Razor, and walk around brandishing knives.
  • One issue of 30 Days of Night had a vampire INFANT that would never be able to grow up.


Fanfic[edit | hide]

  • Detians in Undocumented Features can sometimes, if their immortality is activated by traumatic injury, be frozen in their current ages. This is called Edgerton's Syndrome, after the guy who took high-speed pictures of fast-moving objects, freezing the images forever in time.
  • Most people agree that the teenage years suck. Now, imagine if you became undead while a teenager, and were more or less stuck that way forever. This is what happened to Adrius, a Forsaken teenager encountered in Travels Through Azeroth and Outland.
  • Bit of Fridge Horror used in a few Axis Powers Hetalia fics. Nations only age when their countries develop; the Italy brothers were stuck as prepubescents for two hundred years when under the thumb of Austria and Spain. In the 21st century, Sealand is personified by a twelve-year-old boy. He is eternally optimistic about his future, hoping to grow up and become a great empire, but since he has an official population of four people and his "land" is an old World War Two fort, this is unlikely. His human name is Peter, which may or may not be a Shout-Out to Peter Pan; either way it's been used as such in fanfic, since he'll presumably be twelve forever.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the opening of Daybreakers in a world where nearly everyone on earth has been an unaging bloodsucker for about a decade, a girl vampire leaves a suicide note and sits outside to be kiled by the dawn. Her note describes how she can't take eternal puberty anymore.
  • The child vampire Homer in Near Dark is considerably pissed off by his condition.
  • The boy in The Tin Drum stays a three-year old until he's well into his twenties. He does this out of his own free will, although changes his mind later when he makes this realization.
  • Baby Herman in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? smokes humongous cigars, and has "a fifty-year lust and a three-year-old dinky" concerning his nurse. That's not his only problem, as seen in the comics.
  • Let the Right One In is a film about a 12 year old boy's friendship with a vampire who was turned at about the same age.
  • Claudia in Interview With a Vampire felt the pain most keenly.

Louis: You see the old woman? That will never happen to you. You will never grow old. And you will never die.
Claudia: And it means something else too, doesn't it? I shall never, ever grow up. Tell me how it came to be that I am this...thing.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Short story: "Child of All Ages" by P. J. Plauger.
  • Josie in Lois Duncan's Locked In Time has to live forever as a preteen.
  • Ditto in The Supernaturalist, who is a 30-year-old genius with a 6 year old's body.
  • In Tuck Everlasting, Winnie is harshly warned not to drink from the fountain of immortality until she grows older. However, the villain threatens to force her to drink from it so that he can use her as a demonstration for whatever business plans he can concoct.
  • Claudia from The Vampire Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire.

Louis: You see the old woman? That will never happen to you. You will never grow old. And you will never die.
Claudia: And it means something else too, doesn't it? I shall never, ever grow up. Tell me how it came to be that I am this...thing.

  • Ben from Castaways of the Flying Dutchman is stuck at about fourteen: just old enough to fall in love, but still young enough that if he stays in one place too long, it will become obvious very quickly that he's not aging.
  • Ysabell in Mort.
  • The Little Vampire: Rüdiger (Rudolph) and his siblings Anna and Lumpi. Lumpi became a vampire while in puberty and will never grow out of this difficult phase. Rüdiger and Anna still seem to be children at heart, despite the fact that they have been vampires for at least 150 years.
  • Seria Mau in M. John Harrison's novel Light. Her physical age is around 30, but her mental age is still around 13; the age when she was voluntarily imprisoned as a K-ship. She is shown to have tantrums and not have the understanding one would expect of a sane, unbroken adult; her body is also unable to grow past the age she was when she merged with her ship.
  • Oskar Matzerath, protagonist & narrator of Günter Grass's The Tin Drum.
  • Vampires Nikolaos, Bartolome, & Valentina in the Anita Blake series.
    • Nikolaos may have been turned as an adult by the standards of her (thousand-plus older) time; at least, she doesn't display any of the mental traits or treatment from others which define this trope. (The other two do... very thoroughly, on all counts).
  • The novel Vamped is set after virtually the entire population of the world has been turned into vampires. Many who were turned as a child have essentially gone insane from the change, or because they have an adult's mind trapped in a child's body. They are known as "Screamers" because of this.
  • Peter Pan sometimes, ever-so-briefly, laments that he can never have a family or know love because he can't grow up, as seen at the end of the story after he drops Wendy and the Lost Boys off at Wendy's home and watches them through the window. Hook later took this and ran with it.
  • In chapter 25 of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio's desire to Become a Real Boy comes from a desire to grow up.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • A Monster of the Week in the final season of Forever Knight was Lucien LaCroix's step-daughter Divia, circa eight years old when she was turned (and who in turn sired LaCroix into vampirehood). In life, LaCroix was Roman general Lucius from Pompeii; Divia turned LaCroix the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted. She was a "child" for over 1900 years.
  • In Highlander there was the child immortal, Kenny. He would never age, and as such had difficulty creating new identities for himself, getting work, would never be able to date. He had severe physical disadvantages compared to other immortals as well. He allowed his frustration over all of this to send him over quite a few Moral Event Horizons. He learned to convince powerful immortals to 'adopt' him, and then slayed them when they were vulnerable, such as being asleep. In one case, due to the interference of an immortal's mortal wife, he slew her. The widower then hunted down the child immortal, until he met Duncan MacLeod, the child's current protector. Duncan managed to create mental justifications for the child until he found out that the innocent that had been slain was mortal, and thus not a valid target for the mutual immortal hunt.
  • There was a Monster of the Week on Moonlight who was a vamp stuck in puberty for a hundred 200 years.
    • Even better, he's been channelling his rage into killing prostitutes.
  • In So Weird episode Rebecca, an old friend of Fiona's mother bumps into her again- not that she would recognize her, as Rebecca looks exactly the same as they did 30 years or so ago as teenagers. Turns out she's not trapped in time, it just takes her 100 years to age a normal person's one year. Go figure.
  • Vampire series True Blood has Jessica, recently turned into a vampire, who now lives with her "maker" Bill instead of her uptight Christian family. Now she has the freedom to do almost anything she wants, including getting a human boyfriend; but to her dismay she has to discover that after sex her hymen grows back. Every time. Seriously.
    • There is also Godric, Eric's maker, who is over 2000 years old, but looks like roughly 16. It's not really clear if his apparent age has any disadvantages for him, although Eric did complain at first (he felt that "Death" should look more impressive).
  • The Vampire Diaries has Anna, a girl who looks about 15, but is really the same age as the Salvatore brothers. At least Stefan might count, too, being eternally stuck at 17.
  • Truth in Television example: Law And Order Special Victums Unit did an episode about a young woman, chronologically an adult, whose rare medical condition kept her permanently looking about 11 years old. Her consensual relationship with an adult man caused a lot of Squick, the more so in that he's implied to be a pedophile who only likes her because she looks prepubescent. Her parents, naturally, want him busted for rape because they think of her as a child.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer briefly featured a child vampire known as The Anointed One.
  • Being Human (UK)'s third season had an episode with a forty year old vampire who was still stuck as a teenager. He had been taken care of by his family, but when they died of old age he was left alone to fend for himself. Complicated by him still being mentally 14 as well as physically.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • Aion has a Daeva in Sanctum explain that she became a Daeva at a very young age, and so still looks very young (the player has the option of making a childlike character as well). This could be a subversion, as she doesn't seem troubled by it at all, but it provides some Fridge thinking on the subject.
  • Porky in Mother 3 - and is also a Time Abyss.
  • The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time has a race of forest-dwellers called the Kokiri, who are born directly from the Deku Tree somehow... Only one of them seems to care about the fact that they can't grow up, but their physical deficiencies are a big deal when monsters move into the forest. This trope is more seen by Link (and the player,) because it comes as a surprise to him when the Kokiri children he was raised with haven't aged a day after seven years.
  • In Aoi Shiro, we have the oni Kohaku who got frozen in age as a young teenage girl. Kohaku resents this mostly because being stuck in the body of young teenage girl makes her a worse fighter. Aoi Shiro also has Yasuhime and Nami stuck in young girls' bodies although they don't angst about it during the game.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Presea Combatir was subjected to an experiment when she was a child, giving her immense physical strength but severely suppressing her emotions and stopping her from aging. After regaining her emotions and learning of just what she has been made to do all these years, she has a breakdown. In the ending, it's revealed that she's actually 28 years old chronologically, yet still looks no older than 12.
  • Ilya from Fate/stay night is about twenty. While not on business, she appears to be quite a Cheerful Child, but there's a ruthless, realistic side hidden under the Cheerful Child facade, one that will break through nearly anything to accomplish what she wants. It's not really surprising, since she is Kiritsugu's daughter. She doesn't mind looking so young, and her eventual early death from Clone Degeneration is something that she accepts with only mild feelings of melancholy.
  • Babette from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a 300+ year old vampire who was turned when she was a child. She puts the Cheerful Child facade to good use on her assassination missions for the Dark Brotherhood, but she's pretty straightforward about not really being kid anymore. As she puts it, she's no more a child than the protagonist is. She looks and sounds exactly like other little girls in the game (except for the telltale red eyes and fangs) but comes across as one of the most mature and level-headed members of the Brotherhood (which admittedly isn't that much of an accomplishment since they are a cult of death-worshippers). Babette doesn't really seem to mind her condition—most vampires in the series are evil/sociopathic and don't really care about little things like "love", so no "never being able to grow up and marry someone" angst for Babette.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Robert from the webcomic Eros Inc. isn't human, but he looks and talks like a human baby (gun obsession notwithstanding).
  • Avatar from Far Out There deals with this as part of her indestructibility (among other inconveniences).
  • In the Jack arc "Megan's Run," Susan Lancaster and Megan Fairchild are not only not able to die, get sick, or remain injured, but neither will grow old or mature any more than their current state.
  • Forever Boy from Sidekick Girl. He was a forty-something who stopped aging around age 12. It eventually drove him insane.
  • A slight variation: Chibi Sue of Ghastlys Ghastly Comic is the only Super-Deformed person in her hometown, and perpetually looks like a child to the normal human populace, despite being thirty-six. Thanks to this, she's still a virgin because she's creeped out by the idea of pedophiles using her as a substitute (one could argue it's preferable to the alternatives, but the poor woman's allowed her squicks). Cybersex doesn't work either, as she has no fingers and can't type properly.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Timeless and his kitten Whiskers from Whateley Universe both never aged since his powers manifested, and worse yet most people aren't comfortable in his aura that drains energy from several sources.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

"So you'd be 16 forever. You'd have zits, no car, and no-one would ever date you"

  • Batman: The Animated Series had "Baby Doll," an actress who played The Cutie in a sitcom and had a medical condition that stunted her physical growth, thus giving her the appearance of a child despite the fact that in the series she was in her Thirties. (No celebrities named Gary or Emmanuel were harmed). Her inability to gain a legitimate career after her show was canceled made her obsessed with the show, resulting in her kidnapping the cast so that they could re-enact their "family." In the end however, she's treated as The Woobie.
  • Tutenstein features the Undead Child version. Since boy-king Tutankhensetamun died at the age of ten, his reign was cut short and he never had the chance to do great deeds and make a name for himself as pharaoh. Once he's resurrected as a mummy, he tries to make up for lost time, and Hilarity Ensues (as well as Fridge Horror, since Tut gets several chances to escape the trope and grow up, but always ruins them through childish mistakes).
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: According to Edward Kay, Heloise will "always be fourteen-ish." He, however, refuses to say exactly why.
  • After the five year Time Skip in Young Justice, Superboy still looks the same. One of the side effects of the cloning process that created him is that he will never age externally. Superboy clarifies that he's not immortal since he still ages internally. This is apparently one of the reasons he broke up with Miss Martian some time during the Time Skip.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Brooke Greenberg still has the body and mind of a toddler even though she was born in 1993.
  • Turner's Syndrome is one of a number of genetic disorders that can result in the appearance of extreme youth.
  • Many low-functioning, non-verbal autistic kids (which make up less than 10% of all diagnoses) have this issue. Those with higher-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome can, and very often do, function as adults without insurmountable problems. When they can't, it's usually a case of My Beloved Smother and/or Meddling Parents, though this is rare.
  • Bart de Graaf was a well known Dutch television presenter who suffered a growth disorder which caused him to look and sound 12 for most of his life.
  • Would you believe Andy Milonakis is 36 years old?