While reading the Drops of God recently. I took notice of the supporting character Miyabi, a sommeliere-hopeful who assists the hero Shizuku, bolstering his seemingly supernatural sense of taste (literally tasting things with his mouth) with a larger knowledge of the wine world. In this setting, Shizuku’s genius, though achieved through years of work and forced training, comes across as of a deeper quality than Miyabi’s superior book smarts.
Miyabi falls into a character type I might refer to as the “Knowledgeable Girl,” a trope I see most often in shounen manga. This character is different from someone who’s simply smart or studious or is a bookworm. Instead, it is the character who seems to play two roles: the first is to have a solid foundation of knowledge so as to be useful when exposition is necessary, and the second is to have that knowledge contrasted with the hero’s more impressive abilities, as if to say that, while the hero lacks conventional knowledge, he is such a radical that he can overcome it, or that it’s only a matter of time before he picks up that knowledge as well. In a way, she is meant to be surpassed.
Probably the most prominent example I can think of is Sakura from Naruto, who, like Miyabi, criticizes the male hero for not knowing the basics, and whose book smarts are ultimately shown to be less powerful and important than the unique flavors Naruto himself provides. I bet you can think of many others as well.
I don’t think this is a character type doomed to mediocrity, as the key, I feel, is to actually give a true advantage to book smarts, something that just isn’t waiting to be trivialized. Female coach Riko from Kuroko’s Basketball (AKA THE BASKETBALL WHICH KUROKO PLAYS), for example, while very much in that supporting role, at least shows a strategic knack owing to her intense study lacking in the players. Tokine in Kekkaishi, more knowledgeable than her counterpart Yoshimori, is better at refining her abilities than at simply making things bigger and more powerful.
I wonder if it’s possible to argue that no character type is truly terrible and that it’s all in the execution? I’m sure I’ll be corrected rather immediately.