Younger Than They Look

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Many of the examples in the Real Life section are firmly nailed to a year somewhere in the 2000s. Specific ages should be replaced where possible with the {{Age}} template so that they auto-update.


"If a girl says she's 20, and looks 16, she's 12."[1]

Chris Rock"No Sex (in the Champagne Room)"

Some characters are Older Than They Look. Some, meanwhile, are younger. Maybe they're robots, clones, some other kind of artificial construct, or just unhealthy. Maybe there's a superficial reason, such as a curse. Or they're just overdeveloped. One way or another, this character may look like an adult(/teenager/older child), and even act and talk like one, but chronologically speaking, they aren't.

Other times there may be a young adult with the appearance of a middle aged or even older man. Gray hair, a prematurely receding hairline, generally cause someone to look older. Certain types of facial hair also can make a younger man seem older.

Subtropes include Older Alter Ego, a magical ability for younger kids to temporarily turn into adults and back, and Plot-Relevant Age-Up, the same permanently.

Similar, but not to be confused with Artistic Age, where this is due to art rather than in-story causes. If, in live-action, their age is surprising to the viewer but not anyone in story, it's a bad side-effect of Dawson Casting. An effort to force this trope into being upon a child actor and the character they play will result in Not Allowed to Grow Up.

Often found to be a Truth in Television, with many potential factors that can result in premature "aging".

Compare Compulsory School Age, Mistaken Age, Age-Inappropriate Dress. In extreme cases you get Really Seven Hundred Years Old

Contrast Animation Anatomy Aging.

Examples of Younger Than They Look include:

Anime and Manga

  • It is revealed that Maria in Hayate the Combat Butler is only 17, but she is incredibly mature and everybody mistakes her for a beautiful woman in her mid-to-late-20s, leading Hayate to believe that he likes older women. It also becomes a Running Gag that Maria is irritated when people mention "young girls" as if she doesn't fit into that group.
    • Specifically, she keeps saying "I'm 17-years-old" with increasing irritation. It's also a Shout-Out to Kikuko Inoue.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has Seira, a baby that looks and acts about ten.
  • Downplayed in Bubblegum Crisis: given how long ago sexaroids were labeled as illegal by the series start, we get the implication that while Sylvie and Anri may not be as old as they look (Sylvie appears in her mid-twenties while Anri looks to be the loli model), they're not single digit ages.
  • The manga adaptation of Battle Royale has bizarre character designs; a small amount of the characters look their age, while the rest look much, much older. Mitsuko and Shogo come to mind.
  • Zelgadis the chimera of Slayers is twenty at the start of the Light Novel series, and his appearance appropriately matches his age. In the anime, his age is bumped down to sixteen (a Word of God statement in a film book), making him fall under this trope. It doesn't help that his voice is noticably deep, especially in the English version. More often than not, Gourry (who's older and taller than Zelgadiss is; in the anime, he's the only protagonist who's in his twenties) is referred to as a boy.
  • Just about everyone in The Prince of Tennis fits this trope. They're middle school students. Or high school students. Really.
    • Lampshaded more or less often. Specially in the case of Tezuka and Sanada, who happen to be Wise Beyond Their Years as well.
  • In Excel Saga, a pedophile takes a nine-year-old to a love hotel, only to learn that she's, er, "prodigious".[2] The episode in question was making as many jokes that couldn't be aired on TV as possible (it didn't, which was what the creators wanted), but everything was still played for laughs (pretty much all black laughs), which meant the pedophile left the under aged girl broken hearted when he saw what she looked like, before anything awful happened. Yep.
    • Well, when the episode is titled "Going Too Far", what did you expect?
  • Harumi in Irresponsible Captain Tylor appears to be in her mid-twenties, but viewers who have a quick enough eye to catch her character stats just before the commercial breaks will be surprised to realize that she's only three years old. Of course, it turns out that she's an android, so don't worry too much about it.
    • A more mundane example in the same show would be Dr. Kitaguchi, a thirty three year-old doctor who looks like he's somewhere in his fifties. Of course if his self-proclaimed thirty-year drinking habit isn't an exaggeration, you can probably figure out why.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has Professor Banner, who looks like he's in his mid-20's, but he's actually 18. It's because that at 18, he contracted a terminal disease while doing alchemy research, so he made a second body to continue research and stop the funder of his research, Kagemaru.
    • Also, Sartorius, the Big Bad of the second season, is only 17/18 years old, though he looks like a full-grown adult.
    • The original series gives us Pegasus. All fan estimates peg him at in his mid 40's due to the grey hair. He's 24.
  • Yuki Nagato and her associates in Suzumiya Haruhi appear to be about fifteen, but as constructs of the Data Overmind, their physical bodies at least are only up to three years old. It's somewhat debatable since it isn't known how the whole system works, but with Nagato getting trapped in a time loop for hundreds of years (and mentally aging, as she alone retains full memories of the repetitions) the fifth novel inverts this and makes her Really Seven Hundred Years Old.
    • An alternate theory mentioned in the show is that the whole universe was recreated three years earlier, so * everyone* who thinks they're older than three is actually Younger Than They Look.
  • Yoko in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is actually 14, the same age as Simon. However, since humans had been living underground for generations, without a sun or anything, they probably couldn't tell time as accurately, so who knows.
  • In Planetes, a minor character is twelve years old, but since she grew up on the Moon with it's lower gravity, her size makes her look like she's in her early twenties. This causes the twenty-something main character to be really uncomfortable when he discovers her true age... especially since he'd been hitting on her.
  • In Bludgeoning Angel Dokurochan, the title character has a nine year old sister that looks about nine years older than her.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, two of the Huge Schoolgirls are forced to pay full price for movie tickets, even though they're only 14–15 years old. One of them gets so mad, she uses magic age-reducing pills to turn herself into a small child, until she realizes (too late) that the cost of the pills combined with the ticket come out to more than she would have had to pay normally. The other, being a Ninja, just Henges herself younger for free.
    • There's Chachamaru, who has been built two and a half years ago, but looks like a teenager.
  • Jet of Cowboy Bebop looks like he could be in his fourties or fifties, but is only thirty-six. This is lampshaded in the preview for "Waltz for Venus" where he tells us this, and says you shouldn't judge people by how they look, or how much hair they have.
  • Most of the cast of Eyeshield 21 qualifies, but the one that takes the cake is Rikiya Gaoh: He's two meters tall (6'7"), square-jawed, musclebound, capable of bench-pressing over 200 kg (over 440 lb)...and we're supposed to believe that he's a high school freshman. Of course, some of the other characters don't believe it either ("There oughta be a law against players like him!").
    • All the "manly" (which is most of the cast) football players of Eyeshield 21 look like more pro-football players in their 20s and 30s rather then a bunch of high schoolers playing youth football. Though it does explain how they manage to get away with gambling, smoking, and drinking when they aren't even 20 yet.
    • That's not even getting into Atsushi Munakata of the Amino Cyborgs, whose tremendous musculature and broad, dashingly handsome face make him look over 30, a fact that is actually commented upon. One Omake chapter shows that he actually looks exactly like his father... and his mother.
    • Pictured above: Lampshaded when Sena and Monta discover the identity of Musashi, who they only knew as the middle-aged looking construction guy who worked on their ever expanding clubhouse. They cry out in unison "you're seventeen??!!"
    • Similar to Musashi, Yamabushi from Shinryuuji looks much older than he is due to his half-grown in beard. He's even charged with pumping up the Japanese youth cup team before the game against America because he looks the oldest. When he gets too emotional, the similarly adult-looking Mamoru Banba steps in to offer his own uplifting words.
    • Mr. Don, Gaoh's opponent in the American game, is supposed to be 18, but looks closer to sixty with his white hair, massive stature, and heavily-wrinkled face.
    • Lampshaded in a chapter where we learn they even have rankings for who has the worst case of "old man" face.
    • It'd be easier to name the people in this show who DO look their age.
  • You would never, ever know it by looking at him or hearing him talk, but Piccolo at the beginning of Dragonball Z is only eight years old. Nobody remembers this, for good reason.
    • When he was born he was supposed to be a demon. He actually takes much longer to reach maturity than Piccolo Daimaou's other "offspring", who are full-grown when they hatch.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, there is an extreme case of this in the Shadow Dragons, who, though mature as any other Dragonball villains, are, by technicality, newborns, spawned from the dragonballs' misuse.
  • Yasutora "Chad" Sado from Bleach is in high school but looks like he's in his late twenties (which is even older than his friends look). At one point Kyoraku asks him to give up their fight and have a drink with him. Chad refuses - "It's illegal for minors to drink."
  • Trigun's main character Vash starts out in Younger Than They Look form, seeing as he's really a plant-like alien who matures into a young child far more rapidly than a human would; when the series opens, however, he's Older Than They Look, seeing as he's existed since before the incident that initially colonized the planet.
    • However, Wolfwood in the manga does have a Lampshaded case; The experimental treatments his Evil Mentor used to give him superhuman capabilities and Healing Factor also caused him to age faster; while he looks in his mid-to-late 20s, he's probably sixteen or so when we meet him. His former guardian at the orphanage doesn't recognize him until Livio's about to kill him.
  • Guts from Berserk should be in his mid to late twenties, but because of extreme amount of physical and mental stress looks to be about 30 or 40.
    • If you pay attention, you'll be surprised to learn that Guts is around 22.
  • Umehachi, male protagonist of the manga Tende Freeze, is 17, but looks like he should belong in junior high. (Admittedly, he regularly acts that age, too.) This is repeatedly lampshaded with people who get it wrong; his brother is in junior high but looks far more grownup than his brother (and, again, acts the part too...); when they go to the movies, they buy each other's tickets to avoid lengthy explanations.
  • While Satella of Chrono Crusade looks somewhere around her late twenties or early thirties, she turns out to only be nineteen years old much to the surprise of Rosette.
  • One of the students in Doki Doki School Hours looks and acts like a middle-aged man even though he's still in high school. They even call him "Oyaji" (i.e. "Geezer" or "Pops").
  • In Slam Dunk, Shinichi Maki, the captain of Kainan team, looks like he was over 35 but he is only 17. After learning it, Hanamichi immediately nicknames him "Middle-aged Man" and never calls him by his real name. Maki retaliates by pointing out that Akagi, Shohoku's captain, looks even older. And later on in the series, Uozumi (whose the same age as Akagi), is mistaken for Akagi's father.
  • Reinforce Zwei of Lyrical Nanoha, Hayate's Unison Device, joined the Space-Time Administration Bureau when she was 1 year old, looking much like she does now.
    • Arf is another example. She looks to be in her mid twenties or so, but in reality is probably only three or four years old tops considering Fate created her, and Fate herself is a another example as a clone with a copy of the memories from the girl she was cloned from.
      • By extension, this trope applies to Erio and Zest for the same reasons as Fate.
    • Sette looks like an adult woman, but is the last of the Numbers to have been activated, and thus younger than any of the others (particularly Cinque, who is a direct inverse: looks like a kid, has the mind and skills of a seasoned commando).
  • Occurs with the all young girls in Junko Mizuno's Pure Trance manga; they appear to be about three when they're born, and one quickly ages about 16 years in a matter of months due to her ability to shed her skin like a snake.
  • The silpelits from Elfen Lied Age at about double the rate of normal humans. Nana looks 14-15 and is really around seven years old. Similarly, Mariko is really somewhere around three years old.
  • Naruto's Tsunade manages to be both Younger Than They Look and Older Than They Look: in calendar years, she's about fifty or sixty, the same as Chivalrous Pervert Jiraiya. However, she uses a powerful genjustu round the clock to make herself look like a twenty-year-old (or however old she needs to be to escape her creditors.) However, her most powerful jutsu of her own invention heals any wound she may receive, but at the cost of aging her far faster than her contemporaries. So without the genjustu, she is younger than she looks. (whew!)
    • Also, Kimimaro is thought by many to be a young-adult man, mostly due to his looks, his personality, and his condition. Yet official databooks reveal he was only 15.
    • This applies the Sound Four who were all only 14. It was probably deliberate so their progressively unmerciful deaths didn't disturb readers.
  • Hana-chan in Ojamajo Doremi Dokkan having aged herself magically from a baby to a tween.
  • Primula from SHUFFLE! appears to be around eleven or twelve years of age. She's actually younger, since she's the most recent test subject of the Yggdrasil Project.
  • Another Artificial Human example of this trope is Abe no Yasuaki of Harukanaru Toki no Naka de. The manga mentions that Abe no Seimei created him two years prior to the start of the story; Yasuaki's official age is 21.
  • Isabella from Paradise Kiss is high school age, but dressing like a middle-aged Victorian lady makes her look remarkably older. Her very mature and composed attitude only add to it, as do her knobbly, slightly manly hands.
  • In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, 15 year old Lambo (after being shot with the 10 year into the future bazooka)... really does not look 15.
  • Mahoromatic, being about androids, has an alien android who poses as a school teacher. When asked over the course of the series about age-related issues, such as if he would go drinking with a group of other teachers, he always replies, " That would be illegal, as I am only three years old." For some reason, nobody bothers to question him on this.
  • Otaku no Musume-san: Taeko, a high school student who also happens to be a landlady, often is assumed to be a lady cosplaying as a high school student (mostly because the tenants are generally otakus themselves, so it's not a big leap). Amusingly, her mother actually works at a Cosplay Cafe and was mistaken for Taeko's friend when she turned up in her work uniform. The combination of the two tropes lead to Taeko looking older than her mother.
  • Ling Yao of Fullmetal Alchemist is a mild case. He's 15, but he looks like a fully-grown adult. This is used for both a joke about him being much taller than Ed (who is slightly older) and a plot point when he's arrested as an illegal immigrant and the authorities don't believe he's really a minor.
  • Hibiki no Mahou has Asuma, a wizard who ages much more quickly than normal as a price for using magic. In reality, he's probably at least in his late teens, but he looks to be about in his late 20's/early 30's.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Rei and Asuka occasionally fit this trope. Most of the times when they're actually drawn like 14 year olds, it's because they are meant to look unsexy. Some fans have joked that the size of Asuka's breasts seems to change depending on how far they are from Shinji's face.
    • Misato, on the other hand, follows the opposite of this trope. Despite being taller than her younger charges, she's drawn pretty much the same way, even though she's in her late 20s.
    • As for in-series examples, it's implied that Rei is in fact a four-year-old with the mind of a fourteen-year-old as a result of being a clone.
      • On the other hand, there's no evidence the clones haven't been growing at a normal, human rate, so physically they could all be 14. It all depends on how you interpret what counts for age: mind, body, or soul? How much are Rei I, II, & III the same person?
  • Some, if not all, Sekirei fall under this. Apart from 00/01, the absolute eldest is 20 years old. While some Sekirei do appear to be teens or younger, the majority look like fully mature adults, and not teenagers like they should be. An example would be Kazehana and Matsu, who do not look 20.
  • Yukio Oikawa of Digimon Adventure 02 would be in his early thirties, but you'd never know that by looking at his grey skin and sunken eyes.
  • Masaru and Touma of Digimon Savers are both fourteen, but look like they're in their late teens at the very least; this is especially emphasised when they're compared to Yoshino, who like them looks like a young adult because she is a young adult.
  • Most people assume Baccano!'s Luck Gandor to be somewhere in his late twenties. Delving into the light novels and doing a little rough math, however, will reveal that he's only in his late teens.
  • Air Gear stars Ikki, a 13 year old who looks and sounds like he's 20. To say nothing of Ringo, who might be the most well endowed 14 year olds in anime.
  • In Sailor Moon, Usagi and the Inner Senshi look to be high-school-age, even though they are in junior high. The Outer Senshi, who are high-school-age, look like 20-somethings. Also, when ChibiUsa and Hotaru are possessed, they take the forms of adult women, though they both are children younger than any of the other characters.
  • A favorite topic on the Pokémon fansite Pokemopolis is how certain characters, particularly May, fit this trope.
    • Professor Oak fits as well. Sure he looks super super old, but in the animeverse he can't be much older than 50. Which means he became a grandfather around 40.
    • According to Word of God: Brock, who looks like a 18 year old, is actually 12 and Misty, who looks 15, is actually 10. Oh, and Jessie and James, who look to be in their 20s, are 15. Your head may now explode.
    • The dub changes it around apparently to make more sense: Misty is 12, Brock is 15, and Jessie and James are 17.
    • It seems like there's no two sources that say the same thing about characters' ages. Some official Japanese sites have different characters listed as different ages within the same site. Jessie and James are usually the most ambiguous, and often are listed as being around 22 years old, especially if one goes by the timeline established in the CD dramas.
  • Pinoko of Black Jack depends on how you count it. She started life as a teratoma (a form of tumor) that had grown everything but a body while attached to an eighteen-year-old woman. If you count her life starting with her "sister", she's eighteen and Older Than They Look; if, like Black Jack, you count her life from when she was removed, she's less than a year. Either way, her artificial body looks about six.
  • Stiyl Magnus of A Certain Magical Index. You know, this red-haired guy who's smoking all the time and at 2 meters quite tall. Believe it or not, he's just 14.
    • Kanzaki and Oriana also looks around 20-25 when they're both only 18.
  • George of Dragon Crisis, despite looking about thirty, actually turns out to be 19.
  • Honey Kisaragi passes for 16, but since she's actually the transforming android Cutey Honey, she was probably built more recently than that.
  • Gareki from Karneval looks in his early twenties but is actually only 15. He's only a little bit shorter than Yogi, who's 21, and he acts as a guardian/big brother to Nai which doesn't help.
  • Akagi: Shigeru is only 13 pre-Time Skip but looks considerably older in the anime (he's more plausible in the manga). A line referring to his age was even changed from "Yeah, you look it too" to "Really? You don't look it" in the adaptation.
  • Leorio from Hunter X Hunter looks like a businessman in his thirties or early forties. He's nineteen. It was even Lampshaded when he tells Gon and Killua, who are more than shocked.
  • Lady Kayura in Ronin Warriors/Yoroiden Samurai Troopers is physically 12 years old despite having lived for centuries and appearing to be in her late teens.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho has an early joke about this—a creepy one-shot youth gangster who kidnaps Keiko in the manga, who has an oversized head with overdeveloped bone structure and a load of stubble. In an early panel where he's perving on Keiko his face is labelled, 'fourteen years old.' I.e., in his last year of middle school.
    • Kuwabara falls into this a little, too. He doesn't look fourteen. Then again, he doesn't look Japanese.
    • Really, the entire middle school system in the story acts more like a high school system, what with it's various gangs and all.
  • Shinonome Nano from Nichijou looks and acts like a high schooler but she is actually only a year old at the beginning of the show. Of course, she's a robot (with a wind-up key, natch).
  • Recorder and Randsell has Atsushi Miyagawa the impossibly 180 cm/5'9 tall 11-year old.
  • Saint Seiya: Ok, so we know already about the main characters but when you think that the Silver Saint are in their teens while looking like 30-somethings it start to get weird.
  • Sanada North High's Student Council Vice-President's case of Face of a Thug may make him look like in the thirties, but he's aged like any Second Year Protagonist in the series.
  • One story of Himitsu Kichi has the protagonist dating a 6th grader who looks like he could be in college. He's taller than her and stands out around his classmates.. He does have childish antics though.
  • The protagonist of Accel World is 13 years old but looks at least 2 years older.
  • Kyouichi from the first chapter of Himitsu Kichi looks like a 20 year old when he's no older than 10 or 11.

Comic Books

  • Many comic book characters get this, usually when a character transfers to a more respectable team. For example when Alex from Power Pack joined the New Warriors he was drawn like he was in his late teens despite being around thirteen.
  • Many X-men are susceptible to this, Iceman when just starting out was sixteen but looked identical to his teammates.
  • Magneto is old enough to have lived through the Holocaust, but has been de-aged and re-aged back into his 20s/30s. You'd never expect he and Xavier are the same age.
  • Sometimes characters are drawn older to reflect new roles, In the second New Mutants series Dani Moonstar becomes a teacher and is depicted like she's in her mid to late twenties despite only being twenty one. Everything from her hair style to her posture to her personality is changed to reflect her being older, she even adopts Elixir who is only six years younger. However in the third series all this is scrapped, she's a student again and is drawn around her age.
  • Bart Allen (aka Impulse, then Kid Flash, then The Flash) in The DCU aged unusually quickly for the first few years of his life due to an exceptionally fast metabolism. The reverse is true for his Evil Twin Inertia, who took over 50 years to develop to the physical age of 15.
    • As indeed is Superboy (as in the Superman clone introduced in Return of Superman), who's presumably even now well under ten comic years old, but looks at least fifteen. He was supposed to look even older, as his growth was being accelerated to the point where he could replace the original Superman, but he was broken out before he was ready.
  • Victor Mancha of Runaways. He's a cyborg implanted with false memories. He was built as a teenager, so he's approximately 15 years younger than he looks. Molly even comments that she forgot that he's younger than her.
  • Representative Joshua Freeh, of Transmetropolitan, is the product of a "Bastard Farm" given a wetware upgrade so he has full higher brain functions, created so the Big Bad would have a running mate with a clean-slate past.

Spider Jerusalem: Josh Freeh was the perfect running mate. He had no skeletons in his closet. Hell, he's only two years old!

  • Both Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, thanks to Older Alter Ego. Lampshaded in Formerly Known as the Justice League. At one point Captain Marvel had to break up with the teenaged superhero Stargirl because even though they were the same age, it just looked really creepy.
    • It used to be even more extreme; Billy and Mary had the exact same superhero forms when they were pre-teens. Though Comic Book Time makes this a very slow process, they're narrowing the age gap with their alter-egos. Given Black Adam's example, eventually they'll be Older Than They Look, as their Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel forms don't age at all.
  • Like Billy and Mary, there's Colin Wilkes from Streets of Gotham. With the Venom in his sytem activated, he's as brawny as Bane and looks completely like an adult thug. He's a hero and around the same age as Damian Wayne, who he (sort-of) befriends.
  • Snowbird of Alpha Flight was a fully grown woman at the age of six.
  • Prime of Ultraforce is really a thirteen-year-old boy who takes on an adult appearance when powered up. Makes for some raised eyebrows when he proudly announces that the thirteen-year-old girl he has a crush on is his girlfriend.
  • Magik of New Mutants fame spent half her life in a realm of Limbo outside the normal timestream. As a result, she was a teenager despite technically being born six years prior to her abduction, much to the X-Men's shock, since literally seconds passed on Earth for them.
  • Jenny Quantum of The Authority looks about 14 or 15. Actually, she was born at the turn of the century - she was just really sick of being treated like the little kid she was, and had the reality-warping power to change that.
  • The Children of Mother of Champions, of the DC Comics Chinese superhero team The Great Ten, age 10 years every day. Between this, the fact they all have Super Strength, and the fact Mother can produce a new batch every three days, they are considered cannon fodder of the finest kind.
  • Eisenstein, a minor-ish character in Preacher (Comic Book), has "looked over a hundred" since he was 12.
  • Marvel Comics hero Rage was about 14 when he started his superhero career, but looked like he was at least 30 due to his gargantuan size and muscles. Of course, prior to getting his powers he looked like a regular kid. In any case, this gives him the distinction of being the youngest Avenger ever - so young that when the team discovered his true age they sent him to the New Warriors and told him to come back when he was 18.
  • When Helen goes on her first date with Atomic Robo in The Deadly Art of Science, she does not react well to the discovery that Robo is only seven years old.

Robo: Intellectually I'm twenty to twenty-five. It's not that bad.
Helen: I need... I think what I need is a drink. And what'd going to the movies have to do with solving this case anyway?
Robo: Well, sometimes it helps to step away from a problem.
Helen: And sometimes you realize your boyfriend is eight years old.
Robo: Seven. But, hey! Now "robot" isn't the weirdest part of our relationship.

  • Master Splinter, the aged mentor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is younger than you'd think. Rats generally live less than three years (five is exceptional, and seven is the record). When the series begins (about fifteen years after his mutation) he'd still be less than twenty years old.
    • Taken even farther in the IDW comics, where the story begins only 18 months after their mutation, making them all less than 5–7 years old at the most. Justified in that Splinter, and the Turtles to a lesser extent, have some memories of a past life.


  • The concept to Jack starring Robin Williams was about a boy that ages four times faster than normal, with him having the body of a 40 year old with the mental age of 10.
    • If you watch the movie, you would assume the mental age of 5.
  • A deleted scene in Napoleon Dynamite has the mustachioed transfer student Pedro exploit this to buy a lottery ticket.
    • Peluca, the short film on which Napoleon Dynamite is based, has this scene as part of its central plot. The lottery scratcher gives the characters just enough money to buy a wig for another character who had shaved his head.
  • The Island has clones that appear to be various ages, from thirties up to their sixties. It turns out that oldest ones are no more than four years old.
  • One horror example exists in Warlock, in which the title character curses the female protagonist to age 10 or 20 years for each night that passes. She remarks to Redfern, "This is worse than death", to which he replies, "That's what he had in mind."
  • Seeing Double had clones of S Club and various other celebrities that were artificially aged so they could take their places, but kept in a childlike state.
  • In Star Wars:
    • The clones are altered to grow twice as fast in order to be battle-ready sooner. The Star Wars Expanded Universe features a Jedi being confused because she senses a child in the Force, but sees a grown man.
    • In Episode III, the soon-to-be-Emperor Palpatine ages a few centuries in a matter of seconds. The Expanded Universe came up with the idea that it was his normal appearance (after years of Dark Side corruption), but he was disguised in some way, and the stress of his battle with Windu broke that beyond repair.
    • Padme in The Phantom Menace is a fourteen year old queen wears a lot of ceremonial makeup and elaborate costumes, apparently to disguise the fact that she's so young. Even still, she's actually the elected leader, so the people must be well aware of her age.
    • There was a point in the Clone Wars where some Separatists were cloning Nikto, presumably to supplement the droids. The facility was discovered and went under seige, and the cloners decided to respond by bumping up the growth rate to get as many new adults as possible. This didn't work out too well in the end.
  • The titular character of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, who starts life looking as an old man and dies as a baby, so as a child looks like a small eighty-year-old. He even says to another character early in the movie, "Seven. But I look a lot olda."
  • J F Sebastian in Blade Runner is in his twenties, but he looks around fifty due to an aging disease (most likely Werner's syndrome). The Replicants are created as young adults and have a four year lifespan.
  • Tom Hanks's character in Big is a child in the body of an adult, thanks to a magic wishing machine.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, 16-year-old Frank Abagnale is played by 28-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio. This is justified by the fact that the real-life Abagnale also looked much older than he was, and in fact, his deceptive looks were a key part of how he was able to pull off his scams.
  • Martin Brundle in The Fly II grows to physical adulthood by age five due to the fly DNA he inherited from Seth Brundle. Then his condition takes a turn for the much, much worse.
  • Maruti in The Return of Hanuman grows to be a primary school student by the age of 3... months.
  • Animal House: "I'm only thirteen!"
  • Ree's mother in Winter's Bone. She's probably in her late 30's but looks more like 60.


  • In Brave New World this is mentioned as an attempt to create lower-caste proletarian workers who efficiently skip all those useless developmental years, but the six-year-old men and women are too mentally under-developed, and the program fails.
  • Somewhat subverted in The Catcher in The Rye. Holden Caulfield's hair is starting to grey on one side as a teenager, and he claims several times that looks more mature than he is, but hardly anyone is fooled when he tries to pass for older.
  • Ever see the original illustrations in Neil Gaiman's Coraline?
  • The "old man" in A Descent Into the Maelstrom by Edgar Allan Poe is this as well as Locked Into Strangeness.
  • Wilbur Whateley of H.P. Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror grew unnaturally quickly—he could speak like an adult and read books by the age of one year and seven months, and was adult-sized by the age of ten.
  • In Stephen King's The Green Mile, a supposedly elderly couple turned out to watch John Coffey's execution. They turn out to be the 30-something parents of the two dead girls that drove the story.
  • One character in Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted has progeria (which makes him look like an old withered man), and lives in a nursing home. He tells his nurses that he's 18 and wants to experience sex just once before he dies. After they fall for his con, he tells them the truth: he's 13, and he'll report them to the authorities if they don't give him all of their money.
  • In Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie is a teenager who ends up trapped in the body of an old woman because of a curse.
  • Phereniq Kala and Augon Hunnamek in Infanta are supposed to be of an age. However, Phereniq's work to further Augon's ambitions has aged her before her time.
  • In Mary Renault's The King Must Die, Theseus says he is 19 because he worries that people will think 16 is too young for a king.
  • Played with in the Old Kingdom books. In order to get Sam to leave her alone, Lirael lies and tells him she's a very young-looking 30. She's 19. He believes her.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Although it's not emphasized as much in the books (and is dispelled somewhat by the later novels), the popular image of Severus Snape falls into this trope. Partly due to Adaptation Displacement by the much older Alan Rickman's brilliant performance as Snape in the movies, partly due to his being a peer to much older characters like Dumbledore and McGonagall, and partly due simply to Snape's own scowling personality, it's very easy to forget that he was barely in his thirties when the series began.
      • Same with Lily and James (and the rest of the Marauders). It's very easy to forget Lily and James were only 20 when they had Harry and 21 when they died. Of course, the films didn't help this; the flashback clips of Lily and James look more like a couple in their 30's or 40's. That wasn't really the fault of the movie makers, though, as their ages weren't given until the seventh book, six years after the first movie had been made.
    • Although Lupin is prematurely lined and greying (implied to be a side effect of his lycanthropy), he still apparently looks his age, somehow:

Though quite young, his light brown hair was flecked with grey.

  • In Star Trek: New Frontier, Xy, the son of Burgoyne and Selar, is the chief science officer of the 5 years old. He's cursed to rapidly age and die very young thanks to the intermingling of Hermat and Vulcan DNA until his mother gives her life to find him a life-extending drug.
  • In another Star Trek Expanded Universe novel, "Immortal Coil", Rhea McAdams becomes the new security officer of the Enterprise...despite being a barely two-week old android.
  • Of all places, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles gives a passing mention to how Tess, at fifteen, possesses a "fullness" (Is That What They're Calling It Now??) that suggests that she appears much more mature, physically and emotionally, than she really is. Thomas Hardy therefore makes this trope Older Than Radio.
  • In Twilight Edward and Bella's daughter Renesmee will look like she's 17 at the age of seven due to her being a hybrid.
  • In Teacher Trouble by Alexander McCall Smith, the 12-year-old heroine looks so mature for her age that on her first day of high school she is mistaken for a teacher and left in charge of a class.
  • In The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Archdeacon Claude Frollo is only 36 years old, but is almost bald due to stress.
  • There's a curious version in Ansen Dibell's Summerfair (third of a trilogy). Sualiche, Sua for short, is ten years old, but her mother is of a rapidly-maturing species[3]. Sua's one of quintuplets; three of her sisters are maturing at the human rate, another looks like a ten-year-old but is in emotional terms much more developed, and Sua is both physically and emotionally equivalent to a late-teens human.

Live-Action TV

  • Little House On the Prairie: The 1981 episode "Sylvia" was about Albert's friend (and very quickly, girlfriend), a 14-year-old girl who matures early and as a result, faces ridicule from the school. She will quickly become the target of a child rapist (a man wearing a metal clown mask) and — after the rapist impregnates her — the subject of both scandal (thanks to Mrs. Olesen spreading an outright lie that Albert had done the deed) and being callously cast out by her cold, uncaring father. In the end, Sylvia has another run-in with the rapist, and is killed after falling from a rickety ladder trying to escape.
  • The Electric Company: In the original 1970s incarnation, the members of The Short Circus, the show's quintet of youths, were teenagers playing (or intended to play) 8-10 year-old children. June Angela, the lone member of the cast who lasted all six seasons (known by all as "Julie," a name Angela picked to pay homage to Julie Andrews), was 16 when the last shows were taped in early 1977, and could still pass for 12 due to her tiny size. In addition, each of the adult characters have played children in various one-off and recurring skits, with Rita Moreno's Pandora character—a brat with a bow in her hair, much in the vein of the later Nellie Oleson—the most common.
  • Diff'rent Strokes: The 1981 episode "The Older Man" – a crossover episode with The Facts of Life due to appearances by Lisa Whelchel and Mindy Cohn (as Blair and Natalie, respectively) – sees 15-year-old Kimberly pout over having to be a young teen-ager and unable to land a desirable date. Blair agrees to give Kimberly a wig and puts on makeup that makes her look like she's in her early 20s. This has unintended consequences when she lands a date with a 25-year-old man named Mike. Arnold and Willis know what this means and try to disrupt the date at the movie theater. Fortunately, Mr. Drummond finds out and intervenes before Mike even thinks about his next move – and even Mike seems genuinely surprised (and aghast) when he learns he was dating someone who was in her mid-teens. (Fortunately for Mike, Drummond lets him off the hook because of Kimberly's deception, particularly because he could have had him arrested for any number of sex-related charges and caused him a lifetime of negative consequences.)
  • Elizabeth, the half-human half-alien "starchild" from the Sci-Fi series V (1983–85). Like scores of other "magical" children in TV-land, she grew rapidly after conception (the typical TV Express Delivery) and after birth, becoming first a pre-teen girl and then undergoing a metamorphosis blatantly scripted so that they could swap the girl actress for a 20-year old actress in a white dress. And of course she, being a starchild, had mystical healing powers! Even though neither of her parent races had such powers. Gah.
  • In The 4400, Isabelle Tyler, the toddler daughter of two adult characters, ages herself to an adult, killing her mother in the process. As a three-year-old in the body of a twenty-something, she seduces a male character, has a sexual relationship with him and then blackmails him into staying when he threatens to leave her, because she's psychotic and murderous in addition to being really three years old. Squicky much?
  • Luke Smith, who is grown in an alien laboratory, from The Sarah Jane Adventures is born in the first episode ("Invasion of the Bane") as 13/14-ish year old boy who is as capable as your average teen... in fact more. But he acts naive and innocent as he has no life experience.
  • In the TV adaptation of 10ThingsIHateAboutYou, the character of Patrick Verona looked like he was around 19–21 years old, but was actually a high school junior. The actor who played him was only slightly older than he looked, being 22-23 when the series was shot. Walter even points this out to Kat, calling him her 'friend with the disturbingly deep voice who looks much older than 17.'
  • Doctor Who
    • One episode ("The Doctor's Daughter") has a planet where everyone is born as an adult and with all the knowledge they need downloaded into them. The titular daughter, Jenny, is an example.
    • The Sontarans, a mass-produced clone race engaged in an unending war, are similar:

"I've had a good life. I'm nearly 12."

  • Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who is created fully formed at age 14. On the other hand, she is also the Key, which is nearly as old as the universe.
  • Kes in Star Trek: Voyager looks like a 20-something... but she's not human; she's actually about 2 years old when she joins up. Her species has an average lifespan of about 9 years, with the idea of making it to twelve being shocking.
    • Also, 20-25ish year old Seven of Nine has the emotional age of six when she joins the series, thanks to living as a Borg drone since that age. Her initial mannerisms and speech don't suggest it, but especially once you get to "The Raven", it's clear just how badly assimilation hurt her and how she hasn't been able to move on.
    • The Jem'Hadar of Deep Space Nine are able to fight within hours of being born from their test tubes. While no maximum age is given—they may even live as long as humans—they're considered "honored elders" by the age of twenty because they were created with almost no survival instinct to be soldiers and/or cannon fodder for the Dominion.
      • Many Vorta, being clones, are also younger than they look. Consider Weyoun, who has a propention for getting killed (often). Many of the Weyoun clones are merely months or even weeks old when we meet them, and *some* have lifespans shorter than a year.
  • Another case of magical (or close enough) rapid aging is Adria from Stargate SG-1, born from a regular character and aged into her apparent 20s in a matter of days.
  • In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron can easily pass herself off as a teenager or twenty-something, but she is nowhere near as old, having been modeled to assassinate John Connor in the future by assuming the form of a woman he knows.
  • The In Vitroes of Space: Above and Beyond are decanted from their tanks with the apparent physical age of 18. Cooper Hawkes is just six years old at the beginning of the series, with T.C. McQueen being considerably older, but still younger than his middle-aged appearance would indicate.
  • Liam Kincaid, one of the revolving door protagonists of Earth: Final Conflict, is born at the beginning of Season 2 and almost immediately grows to adulthood, both physically and mentally.
  • Mackenzie Hartford from Power Rangers Operation Overdrive looks like a 17-year-old when he first appears. Later in the series, he is revealed to be a 2-year-old android, which makes him the youngest ranger, even younger than Justin Stewart from Turbo.
  • On Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm and his Dad got in trouble because of this trope. Malcolm beat up a kid who was bullying him but was really 7 years old. The kid's brother picked a fight with Hal. Hal was arrested for beating up a 15 year old.
  • An episode of Sister, Sister featured one of the teenaged twins falling for a cute boy on her bus, who invited her to his birthday party. To the older girl's horror, it was his 12th birthday (boy's mom: "Who wants to watch Aladdin?").
  • Similar, but slightly Squickier, in Greek, Casey brings a date to show up Rebecca (who's with Cappie at the time) at a double date sorority party. Cut to her in bed with him...and his mother waking him up to go to school. To high school. He's 16.
    • Also, Heath's sister...does not look 15, much to Beaver's dismay when he hit on her during Parents' Week. Although you do have to Take Our Word for It...
  • An episode of The Inbetweeners had a mechanic who was really fifteen but looked to be in his mid-thirties.
  • The Brother Cavil/Number One model of Cylon in Battlestar Galactica looks like an old man but is 30-40. No doubt being permanently old is one of the reasons he's so cranky, along with removing his own need for sleep.
  • Mork and Mindy: Orkans are born looking old and grow younger looking as they age, so when they're old they look like babies. Jonathan Winters plays M&M's son in later seasons.
  • A Law and Order episode had two fashion models, one the Victim of the Week and her "workmate" who both had a few racy photoshoots. The victim was 14 and her acquaintence is in the eighth grade.
  • In an early episode of Hannah Montana, a boy had a crush on Miley. The boy looked like he was around 13 or 14, which at the time was the same age as Miley. Eventually, he invites her to his birthday party, which to her shock had balloons and other party accessories like confetti. The boy was 11.
  • In Good Luck Charlie, Spencer (Teddy's boyfriend) is supposed to be a high school sophomore (young junior in the later episodes), but looks at least 17 or 18. The actor who plays him, Shane Harper, actually is 18, and still looked roughly the same in the early episodes, when he was 16. How many people really look like this at 16? It doesn't help that Teddy's actress actually looks (at least) her character's age.
  • iCarly did this pretty bad. Griffin, Carly's love interest in the iDate A Bad Boy special, was played by a 23-year-old who could've passed for his age and looked like a college student. The character was supposed to be a high school senior. In this case, the whole Dawson Casting thing didn't really work out.
  • Jan and Peter Brady went from looking their ages (14 and 15) in the fourth season of The Brady Bunch to looking 18, just a year later.
  • All the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were supposed to be in high school, but all of them, especially the guys, looked like college students. Strangely, some of the actors actually were in their late teens during the filming of the first season, with Austin St. John being the only one still high school aged at 18. While high school students can be fairly close to college, what makes this trope stand is that the characters were supposed to be 15 year-old freshmen.
    • Bulk and Skull were the worst; they both looked to be around 22-23, but were implied to be the same age as the rangers.
  • A B-story on an episode of CHiPs contains Ponch becoming fixated over a model on a billboard. By the end of the episode his fellow officers finally give him a chance to meet the young woman, who turns out to be very young - 14 to be exact.
  • The New Girl episode "Kids" contains Jess taking care of her boyfriend's 14-year-old daughter, who is also one of her pupils, and begins to fall hard for Nick. Meanwhile Nick himself brings home a woman he meets in an art museum, and we later find, she isn't that much older than the little girl Jess is taking care of.


  • The Greco-Roman goddess Athena/Minerva was born fully grown (most images depict her as being in her mid-twenties at the time of her birth). It's very telling that this is one of the less incredible aspects of her birth story.
  • The Tain Bo Cuailnge of Celtic Mythology suggests that Cu Chulainn matured quite a bit earlier than most people do - he apparently wooed Emer and took up training with Scáthach at age six.


  • Adventures in Odyssey had an episode where two boys get stuck inside a computer and meet a boy named Gregory who despite looking like an old man of 70 was in fact 12 due to having his life sucked away by playing computer games. Of course the entire adventure (along with Gregory) was just a virtual reality simulation.

Video Games

  • Dizzy from the Guilty Gear games has the appearance and much of the maturity of a fully grown woman, but is actually only three years old, and has the innocence to match.
    • Also, Ky's son Sin... who is probably at maximum, five years old. At minimum, two.
  • Teira, one of the female companion choices in the Shadowlords series (fan-made expansion for Neverwinter Nights) is nineteen. Due to the side effects of a dangerous spell she was forced to use to escape a prison before the game begins, she looks like she is twenty-five or thirty.
  • Similarly, the Numan Rika in Phantasy Star IV looks to be in her late teens/early twenties, but is really only a year old. Nei and Neifirst from Phantasy Star II also fit into this category only having existed for one and two years respectively.
  • Amoretta the Homunculus of Grim Grimoire measures her lifespan in days (about 3 months), despite having the body of a young woman.
  • Jack in BioShock (series) is implied to be only a couple years old, yet he seems to be an adult.
    • You find an audio diary describing the progress of an accelerated growth treatment, but you may not immediately realize who the unnamed test subject is.
  • Auron of Final Fantasy X could easily pass for someone in his late forties or fifties, despite only being 35. This could be justified when it is revealed that he's actually Dead All Along, except for the fact that other Unsent, such as Seymour or Yunalesca don't seem to be similarly affected. Yunalesca in fact has kept the same lithe figure despite being dead for a thousand years.
    • This could be explained by the fact that he was in Zanarkand where everyone keep aging normally, even if they all are dead. For example Tidus started as dream (ghost) before becoming 'real' upon arriving to Spira, and he is shown to grow up normally in the flashbacks. But this still doesn't explain why he looks so old. One theory would be to assume that griefing over his friends and general stress took its toll over the years, as he arguably looks less old than simply careworn.
      • Or that he somehow altered his appearance in order to seem older so that people wouldn't realize what had happened to him.
  • On the other side of the gender line, female characters in the earlier Final Fantasy games generally looked and acted a bit older than they were. In Final Fantasy VI, Terra and Celes were both a mere 17 years old, and 10-year-old Relm is developed enough that Edgar tells her to get in touch with him in a few years. And in Final Fantasy V, since Kara/Krile/Kururu is younger and still "mature" for her age, it makes you wonder what Yoshitaka Amano was up to...
  • Every replica in Tales of the Abyss, the main examples being Luke, Ion and Sync.
    • It's even pointed out that Luke is essentially only seven years old.
    • Replicants? Just by looking, it's hard to put Tear and Asch as being only 16 and 17, respectively.
    • Depending on how you look at it, every character in the the game considering Auldrant's year is twice the length of Earth's.
    • Van comes off as a middle-aged man, at least in the English version, but according to his bio he's only 27. It doesn't help that his hair color makes it look as though his hair is graying.
      • It's suggested that he invoked this trope in the skit "Brother And Sister", as Tear tells Luke that he grew a beard to seem older in response to other members of the Order being jealous of his rising so high so quickly.
  • Tiesel Bonne in Mega Man Legends has his age given out as 29. His grey hair and rough face make him look to be in his forties or over.
  • Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4 is in his early forties, but looks like he's in his eighties because he was genetically altered to age prematurely and die as a form of planned obsolescence. To rub it in that much more, his codename on his final mission is "Old Snake", though no one ever vocalizes the "Old" part.
    • Meryl does, as an insult. It even makes his Psyche gauge drop.
    • And Otacon affectionately calls him "Old Snake" in Gratuitous English in the Japanese version, although it was removed from the English one.
    • His younger brother, Solidus, looked a lot older than him in MGS2.
  • Oswin in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Swords, as his B Support with Hector summed it up:

Hector: Grr... you ill-hearted old man!
Oswin: Not that I'm correcting you, but I'm only in my thirties... I would say that 'Ill-hearted Gentleman' is more appropriate.

    • Wallace from the same game also counts. He's completely bald, but his supports with Renault confirm that he's only about 40.
  • Team Galactic leader Cyrus in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, and Platinum looks middle-aged (in his artwork, his face looks a bit wrinkled and his hair is a somewhat pale shade of blue), but in Platinum his age is given as 27.
    • This is likely due to the extreme degree of overwork and stress he's put himself through since he was a child, as his grandfather explains.
    • The player characters could qualify too, since they're supposed to be 10, but could pass as teens.
  • Fulgore, in the first Killer Instinct game, is only 1 year old.
  • Would you believe that, according to the official tie-in manga, Samus Aran is only 17 years old during the events of the first Metroid game?
  • Rouge the Bat from Sonic the Hedgehog is only eighteen years old. She neither looks nor acts like an 18 year old.
  • The main character Vayne of Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, being an artificially-made Mana, looks like any normal 16-17 year old teenager, except that he was actually around six years old.
  • Angela Orosco from Silent Hill 2 is only 19, but looks at least in her 30s. This was done intentionally by the animators, to show how her past of sexual abuse and killing her abusive father has prematurely aged her and taken a physical, as well as emotional, toll on her. It was also done to separate her from young and supposedly innocent characters, like Laura, and to emphasize that she isn't to be sexualized in any way, as much of the symbolism in the game places emphasis on sexuality. Originally, the character was conceptualized as 15 or 16, but the voice actress chosen to portray her gave her an older-sounding voice, and the design team changed her accordingly.
  • Chuck Downfield of Backyard Football looks like he's in his 20s. His age? 9. He just knows the game so well and dresses like an adult.
  • Fate/stay night - Token Loli Ilya's maids and apparent caretakers appear to be around twenty and are a bit... strange, and have about five minutes total screentime. They're actually two year olds. They're also fairly lethal combat homunculi, whom Ilya made.
  • Tsukihime: While the 800 year old Arcueid only looks like she's in her late teens to early twenties she may well be much younger than that, mentally, as she was put into sleep mode when she wasn't killing Fallen True Ancestors, and after the True Ancestors died out, whenever Roa's incarnations were inactive.
  • The vat-grown people from Shin Megami Tensei II (that is, Aleph, Beth, Daleth, Gimmel and Zayin) were grown to adulthood in a single day. This means that the main character is only a few days old from the start.
  • Ramon Salazar of Resident Evil 4 looks like a man in his seventies, but is actually only twenty years old.
  • Ryu in Breath of Fire IV is LITERALLY a newborn...who looks to be in his late teens. Justified as he's a Literal Split Personality of a god that was split in two and temporally displaced to boot (split six hundred years across time and space, at that) thanks to a botched summoning. (The other half of the god in question, Fou-lu, is not only a case of Older Than They Look but is Really Seven Hundred Years Old to boot.)
    • And for much of his life (until he went into torpor for 600 years and became the Fou Empire's King in the Mountain) Fou-lu himself would be an example of this trope—only finally "catching up" after unifying the future Fou Empire in a single generation. It's implied in the game (and overtly depicted in the Comic Book Adaptation) that Fou-lu, much like his Literal Split Personality Ryu, ended up being summoned into the world looking like a young adult.
  • Mass Effect 2 has Grunt, who is within a week old when you "recruit" him. Despite him looking like he's weathered at least a few years of life, or maybe a couple of month's worth of battling. (Still, compared to other Krogan, he's pretty "smooth-as-a-baby's-behind" material.)
  • In Dragon Age Origins, Alistair is around 19 at the beginning of the game, and 20 at the end, even though he looks to be around the age of 25.
  • Technically, while the other Nobodies may be Older Than They Look, Roxas, due to his amnesia and lack of connection with his other, is about a week or two old at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days.
  • Astaroth, the hulking bruiser of the Soul Calibur series? 7 years old in Soulcalibur II; not much older in more recent games.
  • Adult Link. In both The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess looks like he's around 20–22 years old. He's 17 in both cases.
    • Made even worse in OoT by the fact that he's actually a 10 year old who's been asleep for seven years.
    • It was also a little bit inaccurate to make him 17 in the first place, as he has the title of 'Adult' Link. It would have made more sense if they actually listed his official age as around 20, regardless of how he looked. It would not only be more believable to those who look at him, but also in context.
    • In The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword he actually does look like he's around 17, but he's really supposed to be 15.
  • In Warcraft, some orcs, including Rend and Maim Blackhand are artificially aged, and thus become adults years before they would naturally grow to that point.
  • Arthur from Ghosts N Goblins is only 28 years old, according to his profile in Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
  • Super Macho Man in Punch-Out!! is 27, but due to overtanning leaving him with leathery skin and Hair Color Dissonance (silver-blonde, but looking white), he's frequently mistaken for 50 or older by players.
  • Persona 4 has Kanji Tatsumi. He's the tallest and appears to be the oldest of the group. However, he's a first-year student and (once you look up the characters' birthdays) actually the youngest of the human characters on the Investigation Team.
  • Sengoku Basara's incarnation of Date Masamune looks like he's well into his twenties...when he's actually 19. To a lesser extent Sanada Yukimura as well, who is only 17, but looks older in most of his Basara incarnations.
  • Jak and Daxter's Jak, from the second game on. According to his bio on the official Jak X site, the 18-year-old "is a seasoned hero, with etched lines on his face that show the many challenges he's overcome, and the many adventures he's had to endure."
  • Kaine of NieR is actually seventeen. She doesn't look a day younger than 20.
  • Mario looks around 40 years old, but the ages of other characters would put his age closer to 20.
  • Kreia from Knights of the Old Republic II looks to be in her 70s. However, according to her creator, Chris Avellone, she's only around 50. The reason for her older appearance is likely due to her heavy use of Dark Side powers since the Mandalorian Wars.


  • MAG-ISA: Kyle looks old for a 23 year old. Must be all those damn steroids...
  • Molly the Peanut Butter Monster in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob has yet to celebrate her first birthday. Her recently generated sister Galatea is even younger.
  • One could make a case for Gordito from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, who looks older than his actual age of 12 due to his extreme Badass Mustache.
  • Page 78 Two Kinds shows this trope with a whole race. Flora, one of the main characters, who looks and acts as if she is in her early twenties, is only 11 years old. However, her kind only DO live into their early twenties. Late twenties at best.
  • Dr. Schtein from String Theory is apparently only 34 despite the lines on his face and his completely white hair.
  • In Nectar of the Gods, Bacchus' father, Apollo, is MUCH younger than he looks, he has the goatee, the benjamin franklin hairdo, the old man glasses, the wrinkles and near white hair to make it almost obvious he's in his mid 70s.... he's actually 46
  • Kit from Fey Winds has this. she's a fox turned girl and fox age doesn't equal human age so she looks early 20's but is actually not anywhere near that. she acts accordingly though with a childish but quirky personality and can be very naive. She basically looks like an adult, age wise is a child but has the mentality of a girl in her mid to late teens, albeit a clueless one. Though the author of the comic has said she likes us to not think about how old the character actually is.
  • Cole Richards from Pv P looks like he's in his mid-40s, but he states in an early strip that he's about to turn 30. Moreover, he was college roommates with Brent, Robbie and Jase, who look about right for being in their late 20s.

Web Original

  • The Whateley Universe does this:
    • One of the school psychiatrists at the Whateley Academy is in his mid-thirties (or so, based on author descriptions) but looks like Dr. Bellows from "I Dream of Jeannie", so he appears to be 55 or 60. One protagonist has even researched the psychiatrist, and has Lampshaded this.
    • Fifteen-year-old Chou Lee (Bladedancer) apparently looks like Zhang Ziyi.
    • Belpheobe is a clone of Jobe's ideal girlfriend with the memories of Belphegor. Pheobe is then legally entered as Jobe and Belphegors' daughter, with Jobe the mother (as he is turning into his ideal drow girlfriend. Pheobe is therefore "0 going on 16"
  • Robert "Bobby" Jacks, Adam Dodd, and Nicole Husher from Survival of the Fittest are all teenagers, yet they look like young adults. Bobby is a large, muscular, professional boxer who has spent almost his entire life devoted to the sport, causing him to look much older; Dodd had always looked a bit older than he actually was, but the horrors of the first game added a great deal to that; Nicole, meanwhile, developed very quickly due to an early onset of puberty, causing her to appear to be a few years older than she actually is, with predictable results when she reached middle school-age.
  • In Super Stories, Veldron's robot duplicates are always built to look older and less attractive than him. This is because, when given the opportunity to make a false image, most people would assume the opposite.
  • In Darwin's Soldiers, most Pelvanida experiments are much younger than they look. This is totally justified because they were grown with accelerated growth chambers.
    • Neku looks and acts like a seventeen year old but is six.
    • Snow looks and acts like a twenty year old but is the same age as Neku.
    • Chase looks and acts like a twelve year old. He is two years old.
    • John "Johnny" Smith is an extreme case. He looks and acts like a thirty four year old. He is seven.
    • Sabre 9 looks and acts like a thirty one year old. He is eight.
    • Ice looks and acts like like a thirty two year old. He is the same age as Sabre 9.
    • Walter "Wally" O'Pierce looks and acts like a thirty four year old. He is ten.
  • Now much Older Than They Look, The Nostalgia Critic looked about fifteen years older than he actually was when he first started his reviews, thanks to shitty lighting and baggy clothes.
  • From the same website, The Rap Critic was born in 1992 and is the youngest of the That Guy With The Glasses crew, but could easily pass for his mid-20s or early 30s.

Western Animation


Kindergarten Teacher: High school is for much older children, dear. According to this, you're only five-years-old.
Jenny: Yes, I was made five years ago, but I was designed as a teenager. I belong with other teenagers, in high school.

  • Ms. Censordoll from Moral Orel looks like she could easily be in her seventies or eighties, but when someone calls her a senior citizen she shows her ID and it turns out she just turned forty. It's heavily implied and confirmed by Word of God that this and her obsession with eggs comes from her mother having her ovaries removed at a young age.
  • Bender of Futurama, despite being a chain-smoking alcoholic reveals in one episode that he was built only 4 years ago. Though in a later episode a time travel incident renders his head is well over 1,000 years old meaning he is also Older Than He Looks. And when you take into consideration that parts of his body are routinely destroyed and presumably replaced with new parts, his actual age becomes pretty hard to calculate.
    • In "Bender's Big Score", he goes back in time repeatedly in order to steal every valuable item ever created. However, the time-travel is one way only, so after each score he must wait until the year 3007 to deliver the item, before going back in time again for the next. By the end of this, Bender must be millions of years old.
    • Every living being has parts of its body destroyed and replaced all the time, just more gradually and less tangibly; the human body is essentially brand new about every seven years.
  • Hans Moleman on The Simpsons: even though he looks like an old man, he confessed during the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the Season 4 episode "Duffless" that he's really 31 years old (and looks like an old man due to his alcoholism). Of course, this has become a one-off joke, because in later episodes, Hans Moleman is usually seen at the Springfield Retirement Home.
    • In one of the new episodes though there's an even older Moleman who he's the son of. They even participate in a father-son wheelebarrow race at the home. It may be possible he's just visiting him all the time. Maybe?
    • Also Homer Simpson is younger than he looks, according to the Season 4 episode "Lisa the Beauty Queen". While at a carnival, Homer tries his luck at the "Guess Your Age and Weight" booth. The mind reader guesses that Homer is 53 years old and 420 pounds. Homer then laughs at him and reveals that he's 36 years old (though later episodes have him as 38 or 39, depending) and 239 pounds, which disturbs the mind reader.
    • Before Flanderization, Mr. Burns was only 81, but looked older because he went bald during his college years, according to the Season 2 episode "Simpson and Delilah". The later episodes have Mr. Burns as somewhere in the 100s ("Homer the Smithers" confirmed that he was 104; "Goo Goo Gai Pan" had him as 109). That said, in "The Regina Monologues" it's learned he uses his age as his ATM code. Which has four digits...
      • 0109?
  • Thailog, of Gargoyles fame, being a clone who's been artificially aged, reached the end of Gargoyle adolescence after a mere nineteen weeks. Especially impressive, when you consider that Gargoyles live longer and age slower than humans as it is.
  • Sparky from Atomic Betty sounds like an adult, making him look like a short adult to some viewers, but he's actually a kid like Betty. Not knowing he's a kid may result in Squick for some viewers when they see him hitting on girls around his own age.
  • In an episode of The Ren and Stimpy Show, "Fake Dad", a six-foot-tall, overweight convicted criminal with hairy arms and 5 O'Clock shadow, who calls himself Kowalski, is 10 years old.
  • Joseph Gribble in King of the Hill. He hit extreme growth-spurt puberty before turning 13, before Bobby gets a chance and he's older (despite being late-bloomer). He was given an adult menu at a restaurant and even assumed of wanting a beer like the parents.
  • In Galaxy Rangers, Shane Gooseman looks about 25, but the second-to-last episode reveals he is nineteen, meaning he was 17-18 as of the pilot episode. As he is also stated to be the "youngest" of the Super Soldier project that created him, the other Supretroopers can't be any older than thirty.
  • Azula, the magnificent bitch vamp could easily pass for a girl of 17 or 18 years old. Her actual age? 14.
    • Zuko too, to some extent. He's really 16-17, but appears about 19-20.
      • Katara as well looks alot older and more beautiful than 14, which is one of the contributing factors to the popularity of "Zutara".
  • Superboy in Young Justice, having the appearance and mentality of a sixteen year old, but is actually sixteen weeks old having been born in a test tube.
    • Also Captain Marvel who is actually an eight year old kid with his powers helping him to appear like an adult.
  • Smurfette in The Smurfs, despite being an adult Smurf, is really only about a few years old, being a magically-created Smurf.
  • DJ, Alejandro, Sierra, Leshawna and Trent from Total Drama Island look like adults in their late twenties-mid thirties, despite their real age being 16-18.
    • In Revenge of the Island, Brick and Jo look older than their actual age of 16.
  • Cheerilee from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. She seems older then the cast, but a flashback to Rarity's past shows a filly that looks just like her and is the same age as Rarity. Rarity is a victim of Vague Age, but she appears to be in her mid to late twenties at best (or the Pony equivalent).
  • The principal in Alvin and The Chipmunks Meet The Wolfman. Dave mistakes her for being over-fifty, when she's really only thirty. She still has her Hair of Gold though. Her (apparent) early aging is due to how stressful her job is; she's getting an early retirement.
  • In the original 1985 Thundercats, Lion-O appears 20, despite really only being about 10-11 originally. Thanks to a faulty cryosleep chamber, his aging wasn't as delayed as the other two young Thundercats, WilyKit and WilyKat.
  • In Pepper Ann, P.A. befriends Effie Shrug, a new student who is exceedingly intelligent and taller than she is. The two get along well, although the viewers learn that Effie can be quite threatening to get what she wants. She's something of a Social Darwinist. Pepper Ann invites her over to her house, Moose sees Effie and is immediately horrified. Effie reveals that she was previously an elementary school student. She'll be nine next month.

Real Life

In General

Place information about specific people in the category below this one.

  • In general, children who go into puberty at an early age can look older than they are, especially if those signs of puberty are visible, such as height and voice deepening (in both genders), muscle development (in male-bodied children) and breast growth (in female-bodied children)
  • Hard living in general can make you look older. Homeless people often look middle-aged in their late twenties, due to poor health practices and chronic stress. Back when it was common practice for women to have 10 or more kids while living on a fairly poor diet, they aged pretty fast too. And people who do very hard labour that's risky to your health, such as coal mining, often end up Younger Than They Look as well.
  • Anyone born with progeria, a disease that causes rapid aging; sadly, sufferers never become As Old As They Look, rarely living past their teens. The disease was the basis for Jack, as seen above.
  • Some drugs in Real Life can do this, too. Heroin addicts in their early 20's can easily appear 35–40 years old.
    • True for most drugs. Substance abuse is notorious for rapidly accelerating the accumulation of cellular damage and decay we normally identify as "aging".
  • This is generally true for most people in extremely stressful jobs. Most American Presidents seem to age around a decade for each term. Just look at pictures of George W. Bush before and after his term. Hell, look at pictures of Barack Obama before his term and during his term.
  • Anorexia can cause this-the starvation causes muscle to waste away and skin to become looser, creating wrinkles. The lack of nutrients also thin the hair, making it look older. Marya Hornbacher talks about this in her memoir Wasted-in her late teens/early twenties, a barman guessed her age at thirty-six because the wrinkles made her look much older than she really was.
  • Heavy smoking can also cause skin and hair to age by both drying them out and by restricting the amount of oxygen they get by constricting blood vessels with nicotine and by blocking oxygen transport with carbon monoxide. This makes hair brittle and likely to gray sooner, and it makes skin lose its elasticity, causing it to wrinkle early. (Not to mention its effects on how "young" you are on the inside!)
    • It also makes your voice sound raspier and, thus, "older." Many 20-something year old women who are heavy smokers sound more like they're in their middle ages.
  • The stress from playing a role in Military Command (i.e. sending hundreds of soldiers to their deaths) will age you majorly.
    • It ages those involved psychologically - so their facial expression changes in regards to this, they adopt nasty little habits which are a trademark of old men, and so on. But military men are bodily very fit, in many cases stronger and quicker than men of the same age or younger.
  • Most college (and in some cases, high school) athletes tend to look at least 2–3 years older than they are. This is mainly because they are rather built, especially if they are a football player, and are often taller than the average male height (the average male height is 5'10'). For example, an 18-year-old freshman basketball player may look like he's around 20–21 years old.
    • A great example of this would be Greg Oden of the Portland Trail Blazers, who looks like he's in his 30s despite being just 24 years old.
  • Teenagers or pre-teens who develop early can easily be mistaken for a young adult, depending on where they are, what they're doing, and what they're wearing. (For instance, a 14-year-old wearing a nice shirt and a backpack walking through a college campus will likely be thought to be a student.)
  • Some people with giantism can fit this because of their rapid growth. This was happened to be the case for Brenden Adams who was born in 1995, yet he's called "Tallest teenager in the world" for a reason, even bigger the The Great Khali... the tallest in current WWE roster.

Specific People

  • Mila Kunis got her first major role playing Jackie on That '70s Show when she was just 14, even though everyone auditioning was required to be 18 or older. When Mila was asked if she was 18, she said that she would be, but didn't specify when. Eventually she was found out, but was still considered the best fit for the part.
  • There's a 1979 WPIX (CW affiliate in New York City) clip on YouTube of their newscast where one of the anchors is a man named Bill Jorgensen. Watch the clip and try to guess how old he is. He's 52 in the clip, which would make him around 95 right now (and as of July 2020 Jorgensen is still alive).
  • Hollywood lore has it that three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan's career took off after he lost his teeth in a fight and found that without them he could play old men.
  • Florence Thompson, the woman in this famous photograph by Dorothea Lange was thirty-two when it was taken. It showed the devastating effects of The Great Depression more than words possibly could.
  • The famous picture of the Afghan girl from National Geographic has many people wondering if she's really a "girl". She was 12 years old when the picture was taken, but because of the stress of being a refugee, she looks to be in her mid-20s.
    • And when the photographer (Steve McCurry) met her again, this is how she looked at 35 years of age.
  • In 1970, the much-older-looking Mary Ann Vecchio was, in fact, a 14-year-old runaway. Jon Filo's photograph of her crying over Jeffry Miller, who'd been killed in the Kent State shootings, won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1971.
  • David Gregory of MSNBC appears to be in his early 50s, mostly because of his silvery hair and slightly aged face, but he's almost 40.
  • Nobody could tell how old Michael Jackson was in his later years, mainly because he barely looked human. When he was young, however (Thriller and before), he looked a bit old for his age, particularly when he was a kid, looking to be around 11 or 12 when he was just 8 or 9.
  • Michael Gross (Steven Keaton from Family Ties) shares the same birthdate with Meredith Baxter (Elyse), but while Baxter looked her age when she was cast for the series, Gross looked about 5–10 years older largely thanks to his thinning, prematurely gray hair.
  • At the age of 15, Traci Lords claimed to be 20, used a fake ID, and started appearing in porn magazines and films. Authorities only caught on three years later.
    • Some rumors claim that she tipped off the authorities herself to force the issue so she could get out of the business without having her work follow her. Since she only did one film after she was 18, everything else is illegal in the US.
  • Hitler was said to have aged rapidly in appearance during the final years of World War II, after having held uncannily the same appearance from the mid-1920s to 1943.
  • This is Antonin Artaud, surrealist, not yet fifty years old.
  • Metal singer Ivan Moody, vocalist for Five Finger Death Punch. Take a good long look at this photo. And this one. He's only 31. He looks at least 15 years older than that. This is especially strange because he was 27 when his band's first album released, and looked that age.
  • Ritchie Valens practically defines this trope. He died when he was just 17 years old. Seriously, look at this dude. Who the fuck looks like that at 17?!! Twice that age, maybe.
  • R. Lee Ermey looked to be a mid-50s gunnery sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. He was only 42 when the film was shot. His look has changed incredibly little since then.
    • Ditto for Tommy Lee Jones; he falls squarely into the trope due to his signature craggy facial skin which appears to make him look older than he is. To put this in perspective, the ages of the four leads in Space Cowboys: Clint Eastwood (70 during the film's shooting), James Garner (72), Donald Sutherland (65), and Tommy Lee Jones (54). Jones is 11 years younger than Sutherland and nearly 20 to the others, yet he is portrayed as being around the same age as his co-stars in a film where a running gag is that many of their peers from their training days decades ago are all dead from old age (and Jones was fifty-four!).
  • John Carpenter was only 51 when this picture was taken. He looks some 20 years older than that.
  • Sir Patrick Stewart started going bald when he was nineteen and was Younger Than He Looked for much of his life.[4] Nowadays he's Older Than He Looks.
  • Zara is a 13 year old girl from England, yet she looks she's pushing 60. That's because she has a rare condition know as Congenital Generalized Lipodistrophy, which causes the supporting fatty tissue under the skin to crumble while the skin continues to grow, making her appear older.
  • Ryan Clark, the lead singer for the heavy metal band Demon Hunter. The music video for his band's 'Infected' was shot in 2002, when he was just 23. But due to the large beard he had and his lack of hair (not to mention he's a little fat), he looked to be around 10 years older or so. He's now at the age of 32 and looks that age, though.
  • Whitman Mayo was only 40 when he portrayed Grady Wilson on Sanford and Son.
  • Steve Martin's hair began to grey at an early age. Because of this, even in his twenties, he looked like he was much older.
    • George Clooney had a full head of grey hair before he hit the half-century age in 2011.
  • Maria Teresa Goretti had the bad luck of being a Huge Schoolgirl without the "school" part, looking at least 14 years old when she was just 12. Due to this, she caught the eye of the local Jerkass Alessandro Serenelli, who first started making lewd jokes around her, then became a Crazy Jealous Guy... and stabbed poor Maria to death when she refused him for the last time.
  • Leon Botha, who had the aforementioned genetic disease Progeria [dead link], lived to be 26, but looked like he was over 100 years old. Sadly, he was the oldest person on record to have had the disease.
  • Some of the people on Intervention who are hard into drugs may be in their early 20s, but look like they're an average 30 something.
  • Stephanie Cole has specialized in playing women much older than she is. She was the elderly Mrs. Featherstone in Open All Hours in her 40s, and the retiree Diana Trent from Waiting for God when she was in her 50s (opposite Graham Crowden, who was born 20 years earlier).
  • John Thaw would have been between 33 and 37 when he played Jack Regan in The Sweeney, but looks well into his forties- partly reinforced by the way he acts as well. Thaw himself apparently said "I was born looking 50".
  • On a lighter note, Saoirse Ronan is seventeen, but looks like she's in her twenties. This is especially strange since only two years ago, she played a fourteen year old in The Lovely Bones, and looked that age.
  • Dioxin poisoning causes serious acne problems, which causes rapid aging. Victor Yushchenko, then in his late 40s, underwent this during a bitter campaign for presidency of the Ukraine, as seen here
  • Seth Rogen especially in his earlier films looked like he could easily be in his mid thirties as of this writing he is currently 29.
    • In Superbad, He looked like he was well into his 40's.
    • It's also worth mentioning that Rogen is pretty well aware of his "old" looks. He occasionally jokes about it in interviews.
  • While we're at it, Bill Hader in some of his films (namely Superbad and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) looks considerably older than he really is.
  • Ditto to Jason Segel. Awww, hell. Pretty much all of Apatow's "stock actors" (with the possible exception of Jonah Hill) look older than they really are.
    • This is especially odd to see in Freaks and Geeks which famously averted Dawson Casting. A casual viewer may think that Rogen and Segel are simply actors in Their twenties playing teenagers when They actually were teenagers who were in or just finished high school and were the youngest of the cast.
  • When jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker died at age 34 due to heavy substance abuse, the coroner mistakenly estimated his age at between 50–60 years old.
  • This photo of George Orwell had been taken when he was 30 years old. He could have been anywhere from 45 to 60 by looks only. 7 years later he still looked like a grandpa. 12 years later and suffering from tuberculosis, he was still unchanged, so it could not be blamed on poor living conditions only.
  • John Lennon looked around his age right before his death, but the beard he had in his mid-to-late 20's made him look at least 10 years older.
  • Frank Oz, famous for voicing Yoda from Star Wars, Grover from Sesame Street, and Miss Piggy from The Muppets among others, is in his 60s, but looks like he's in his 70s. YMMV on this one, though.
  • Many of the WWE wrestlers. For example, Wade Barrett is only 31. He looks more like he's in his early-40's.
    • Stephanie McMahon, after her voice went through a radical change in 2002-2003 (most likely due to all the screaming she was doing before then), definitely sounded much older than she really was.
  • George Michael seemed to have aged rapidly since he hit his 40s.
  • Don Rickles unfortunately looks like he's in his 80s, but he always looked unmistakably old for his age until at most 20 years ago. Which is kind of funny, since he still possesses the voice of a 20-something guy from Boston.
  • Jeremy Clarkson has consistently looked at least ten years older than his real age for some time now. It's a little hard to believe he's only nine years older than Richard Hammond.
  • Robin Williams looks his age, if not a little younger, but he seemed to have aged badly as a young man. He was in his late 20s when he was on Mork and Mindy, but looked like he was in his 40s.
    • Williams was into drugs and heavy drinking during his early career, which could have contributed to this.
  • Max Von Sydow has looked about 75 since the day he was born. When he did The Exorcist, he was 44, looked absolutely ancient. Of course, now he is 82, and looks rather spritely.
  • Ernie Pyle, American journalist and World War II soldier was 44 when he died. When he died he looked like he was in his 60s or 70s.
  • Ben Stiller, in the late-90's, looked about five or six years older than he really was.
  • Austin St. John (a.k.a. The Red Ranger) was only 18 years old when he first started playing Jason Lee Scott. He looked more like he was about 20-22. It didn't help that his character was supposed to be 15. He sometimes looked age appropriate, but his build made him seem older.
  • Adele is 24. Some pictures make her look at least 30.
  • Dutch footballer Arjen Robben looks far older than 28. He looks like he's about 35 in that photo, while most photos make him look about 40.
  • Wilford Brimley (the "diabeetus" guy), for years, was a shining example of this trope. To wit: He was only 50 years old when he was cast in Cocoon, but was able to portray a convincing elderly man with just his hair whitened. And this is how he looked when he was in The Waltons. He was in his early 40s at the time.
  • It's amazing how many people are shocked to discover that swimsuit model Kate Upton isn't even 21 yet (she was born in 1992).
  1. The following line is "If she tells you she's 26, and LOOKS 26.. she's damn near 40."
  2. meaning she was able to completely hide away her triple-g cup breasts
  3. Originally nonhuman but genetically-engineered to be capable of reproducing with humans, although most of them aren't interested.
  4. He was forty-six when he started filming Star Trek: The Next Generation: Jean-Luc Picard was 59.