Created By: HandsomeRob on June 8, 2011 Last Edited By: HandsomeRob on March 16, 2015

Asymmetric Equals

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Page Type:
Trope
Needs a Better Name

During a fight scene, you will see many different styles of battle. You have your Fragile Speedster, your Mighty Glacier, you Weak, but Skilled fighter, and your Unskilled, but Strong fighter. When two fighters with the same kind of technique face each other, Fearful Symmetry ensues, as they are so similar, they counter each-other's moves and end up evenly matched. It's assumed however, that if one fighter was slower, or if the other dude was a bit weaker, the tides would tilt in their opponents favor.

Not always though. Sometimes the Fragile Speedster fights the Mighty Glacier, and they can't do a thing to each other. The strong guy can't lay a finger on the fast dude, because he's not swift enough. Likewise, the fast one can't hurt the big fighter, no matter how many times he hits him, because that guy is built like an impenetrable wall.

This is when two fighters are so far on one end of the spectrum in terms of fighting styles, that they end up evenly matched anyway. This can also apply with Weak, but Skilled vs Unskilled, but Strong, if said characters are skilled enough, and strong enough.

In situations like this, the fight will have to be won either by outside interference, luck, intelligence, or just doing something completely unexpected.

Video Game designers have made it a point for years to try and balance very different character types and play styles. They've also made it a point to try and design maps so that multiple play styles can succeed or support one another, even if not all are viable.

A Sub-Trope of Fearful Symmetry, and the Inversion of Mirror Match (I think), and also related to Mutual Disadvantage. Also see Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Action Girlfriend Miu battles Elegant Gothic Lolita and Fragile Speedster Rimi. Miu is not exactly slow, but early in the fight, it is established that Rimi surpasses her in speed. Miu is able to match her however, due to superior technique and experience. She even states this out loud at different points of their battle.
  • In Samurai Champloo, Jin and Mugen are practically perfectly balanced in swordfighting (it's unknown if this extended to fisticuffs as well?) — Jin practises a very disciplined school style, Mugen goes with a chaotic rogue "style".
  • In Bleach, when Ichigo and crew first get into Hueco Mundo, Chad and Ishida fight two Hollows together to show off their newly gained powers. Aisslinger Wernarr the fast Ranged figher and Demoura Zodd the slow heavy hitter. During the battle, originally Ishida takes Demoura and Chad Aisslinger and while they are fighting their opposites, they are Evenly Matched Asymmetric. To get past this the two heroes switch partners and proceed to win.
  • Fairy Tail
    • Natsu Dragneel and Gray Fullbuster are Asymmetric equals. One being a fire wizard and the other an ice wizard. This also plays on opposing elements.
    • During the last leg of the Grand Magic Tournament, we have long time character Juvia Locksear(whose ability to turn into water makes her Nigh Invulnerable) vs Chelia Blendy (The Sky God Slayer who heal from any injury near instantly). Their battle hasn't been focused on, but their respective abilities would make them this. It implied Juvia was chosen to fight Chelia for this exact reason.
  • In Buso Renkin, when Captain Bravo and Moonface fight, it is essentially a battle of unlimited endurance versus unlimited regeneration.
  • In S-CRY-ed, Kazuma and Ryuho are shown evenly matched from the moment they met to the end of the series. When one gets a power upgrade, the other will too. We see one has finally emerged victorious at the end, but it is unknown who. Kazuma fights using a rocket-propelled arm; Ryuho summons a humanoid being that can launch razor-sharp ribbons.
  • Durarara!!. This is the reason Shizuo and Izaya never manage to kill each other, no matter how much they wreck Ikebukuro in the process - Izaya is never any fewer than ten steps ahead of Shizuo at any time, literally and figuratively, and Shizuo can take anything that Izaya can throw at him.

Comic Books
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman and Superman fight to a stand still thanks to the moral conviction and strength of the one and the moral conviction and strength of the other. Totally different convictions and strengths, but totally cancelled.

Mythology
  • There's a Greek myth about a fox that can't ever be caught, and a hound that can't ever lose its prey. Naturally, the latter is set after the former. Unable to allow such a paradox to continue, Zeus Takes a Third Option and turns them both to stone.

Literature
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Tyrion's trial by combat, which was resolved by a duel betweed Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane and Oberyn Martell. The former was a Mighty Glacier, the latter a Fragile Speedster. The duel ended by both dying: Gregor killed Oberyn, but was fatally poisoned by Oberyn's poison-coated spear.

Tabletop Games:
  • The Blood War, a conflict between the Lawful Evil devils and Chaotic Evil demons which appears in some Dungeons & Dragons settings, plays out like this. The demons have the advantages of sheer numbers and combatants with immense individual power, but they don't care for advanced tactics, and they spend as much effort fighting each other as they do the devils because their forces lack unity. The devils are frequently outnumbered, but the soldiers they deploy are disciplined, regimented and well-trained and their leaders are ruthless tacticians. This balance meant neither side could gain a clear upper-hand over the other for millennia, although in 4th Edition Forgotten Realms, the Archdevil Asmodeus has brought the war to a stale-mate by separating Hell and the Abyss so the two races rarely encounter each other any more.

Video Games

  • In Exit Fate, the wandering martial artist Tong Wu (a Fragile Speedster) challenges the famed monk Shadfork (a Mighty Glacier). In the resulting fight Shadfork doesn't manage to hit Tong Wu, but Tong Wu cannot deal any damage to Shadfork either.
  • In BlazBlue, Ragna the Bloodedge and Jin Kisaragi have been fighting on and off ever since they were kids, and neither has been able to get a decisive victory over the other. Aside from both being swordsmen, they are totally different: Ragna carries a BFS and can absorb life force; Jin carries a sliver-thin blade that freezes people in solid chunks of ice. This is reflected in high-level play: Until recently, a match with a Ragna player facing an equally skilled Jin player would be a total toss-up, with a precisely 50-50 shot of either player winning.
  • Long touted as one of the defining traits of the three largely different races in StarCraft. Some races have some advantages at some skill levels and on certain iffy maps, but overall in both StarCraft I and StarCraft II at the highest levels the races are almost perfectly evenly split in wins (StarCraft I moreso, but StarCraft II is remarkably close and trending closer all the time).
  • This can often happen in Fire Emblem games; sending a high-level Swordmaster (notorious for their speed and crithax against a high-level General (Ultimate defense, but really slow) generally results in the Swordmaster hitting twice for no damage, and dodging all of the General's attacks.
Community Feedback Replies: 62
  • June 9, 2011
    Octagon8
    • In Exit Fate, the wandering martial artist Tong Wu (a Fragile Speedster) challenges the famed monk Shadfork (a Mighty Glacier). In the resulting fight Shadfork doesn't manage to hit Tong Wu, but Tong Wu cannot deal any damage to Shadfork either.
  • June 9, 2011
    Bisected8
  • July 22, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    Bumpity bump
  • July 22, 2011
    peccantis
    • In Samurai Champloo, Jin and Mugen are practically perfectly balanced in swordfighting (does remember if this extended to fisticuffs as well?) -- Jin practises a very disciplined school style, Mugen goes with a chaotic rogue "style".
  • July 23, 2011
    HapaxLegomenon
    This doesn't seem like a subtrope of Fearful Symmetry, but an inversion. As such, what about Fearful Asymmetry for a name?
  • July 23, 2011
    Agilethief
    • In Bleach, When Ichigo and Crew first get into Hueco Mundo, Chad and Ishida fight two Hollows together to show off their newly gained powers. Aisslinger Wernarr the fast Ranged figher and Demoura Zodd the slow heavy hitter. During the battle, original Ishida takes Demoura and Chad Aisslinger and while they are fighting their opposites, they are Evenly Matched Asymmetric. To get past this the two heroes switch partners and proceed to win.

    • Natsu Dragneel and Gray Fullbuster of Fairy Tail are Evenly Matched Asymmetrically. One being a fire wizard and the other an ice wizard. This also plays on opposing elements.
  • July 23, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    The name makes it sound too much like Fashionable Asymmetry
  • July 24, 2011
    peccantis
  • July 24, 2011
    SalFishFin
    This can often happen in Fire Emblem games; sending a high-level Swordmaster (notorious for their speed and crithax against a high-level General (Ultimate defense, but really slow) generally results in the Sowrdmaster hitting twice for no damage, and dodging all of the General's attacks.
  • July 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
  • July 24, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Using the word "asymmetry" in any context makes me think of Fashionable Asymmetry.
  • July 24, 2011
    NoirGrimoir
    Not to mention symmetry is mostly used for aesthetic descriptions, not more abstract things like ability/power, even if it can be.
  • July 25, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Fashion itself being a largely aesthetic context....
  • July 27, 2011
    EmbracingShadows
  • August 5, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    Bumped, and I work on the name as well.
  • August 25, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    How about Asymmetrical Equals for a new name?
  • August 25, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    • In Savage Dragon, the titular hero faces his Evil Counterpart from another dimension. They are stated to be exact equals and it shows in their fight when they begin to use the same moves against one another.
  • August 26, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Video Games: In Blaz Blue, Ragna the Bloodedge and Jin Kisaragi have been fighting on and off ever since they were kids, and neither has been able to get a decisive victory over the other. Aside from both being swordsmen, they are totally different: Ragna carries a BFS and can absorb life force; Jin carries a sliver-thin blade that freezes people in solid chunks of ice. This is reflected in high-level play: Until recently, a match with a Ragna player facing an equally skilled Jin player would be a total toss-up, with a precisely 50-50 shot of either player winning.
  • August 26, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    ^^ Not sure about the Savage Dragon example. That sounds like regular Fearful Symmetry / Mirror Match to me
  • August 28, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    In Scryed, Kazuma and Ryuho are shown evenly matched from the moment they met to the end of the series. When one gets a power upgrade, the other will too. We see one has finally emerged victorious at the end, but it is unknown who. Kazuma fights using a rocket-propelled arm; Ryuho summons a humanoid being that can launch razor-sharp ribbons.
  • August 29, 2011
    IntentionallyIncohesive
    Starcraft comes to mind with all three sides having totally different units. Granted, the game is still really well balanced.
  • August 29, 2011
    Statalyzer
    Already tropes for this.
  • August 29, 2011
    CommanderPanda
    In Buso Renkin, when Captain Bravo and Moonface fight, it is essentially a battle of unlimited endurance versus unlimited regeneration.

    Might be a Fearful Symmetry or Mirror Match.
  • August 29, 2011
    Statalyzer
    Already tropes for this.
  • August 30, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    ^ We do? I know there's Fearful Symmetry, and Mirror Match, but what is this?
  • September 22, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    Another Bump
  • September 24, 2011
    surgoshan
    I think this merits consideration: video game designers have made it a point for years to try and balance very different character types and play styles. They've also made it a point to try and design maps so that multiple playstyles can succeed or support one another, even if not all are viable.

    And it's not just video games. In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman and Superman fight to a stand still thanks to the moral conviction and strength of the one and the moral conviction and strength of the other. Totally different convictions and strengths, but totally cancelled.

    I like the Asymmetric Equals title.
  • November 12, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    ^ yeah.

    Also, bump.
  • December 18, 2011
    Octagon8
    bump
  • February 5, 2012
    Octagon8
    Yet another bump.
  • April 25, 2012
    HandsomeRob
    This trope just got (Puts on Shades) BUMPED.
  • April 25, 2012
    Bisected8
    If you want to bump a YKTTW you can just edit it and save it without making any changes....
  • April 25, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^^ Close, but no CSI One Liner.
  • May 19, 2012
    HandsomeRob
    Bump
  • October 21, 2012
    Damr1990
    can i has a bump?
  • December 22, 2012
    KarmaMeter
    Another 'like' for the title "Asymmetric Equals." It got me interested in seeing what the trope was about, and I wasn't disappointed. I was kind of expecting it to be a personality trope, though. That may be something to keep in mind, but something like "Asymmetric Combat Equals" might be a tad bit of a mouthful for a trope name (as might "Asymmetric Equal Combatants", "Asymmetrically Equal Fighting" etc.). So yeah, I like the title.
  • December 22, 2012
    HandsomeRob
    There's a Greek myth about a fox that can't ever be caught, and a hound that can't ever lose its prey. Naturally, the latter is set after the former. Unable to allow such a paradox to continue, Zeus Takes A Third Option and turns them both to stone.
  • December 22, 2012
    Stratadrake
    I don't like the title of "Assymetric Equals" because I keep reading "equals" as a verb (e.g. X Equals Y snowclone family) and not a noun.
  • December 22, 2012
    Cider
  • December 22, 2012
    HandsomeRob
    Not quite. It's similar, but with the caveat that the two characters don't necessarily have the same abilities, but opposite abilities that end up cancelling each other out.

    It could be called a Sub Trope really.
  • March 2, 2013
    HandsomeRob
    Bump
  • March 2, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Similar in theory to the idea of Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object.
  • March 2, 2013
    HandsomeRob
    This is the reason Shizuo and Izaya never manage to kill each other, no matter how much they wreck Ikebukuro in the process - Izaya is never any fewer than ten steps ahead of Shizuo at any time, literally and figuratively, and Shizuo can take anything that Izaya can throw at him.
  • March 5, 2013
    Guyven
    Long touted as one of the defining traits of the three largely different races in Starcraft. Some races have some advantages at some skill levels and on certain iffy maps, but overall in both Starcraft 1 and 2 at the highest levels the races are almost perfectly evenly split in wins (Starcraft 1 moreso, but 2 is remarkably close and trending closer all the time).
  • October 21, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized work names, corrected an improper Example Indentation, de-Pot Holed a work name as per How To Write An Example - State the source and moved a Video Game "example" to the description as per How To Write An Example - Keep It An Example because it was a blanket statement about Video Game designers, not about a specific work.
  • October 22, 2013
    DAN004
    So this is like Red Oni Blue Oni that are equal in overall power yet opposite in abilities?
  • October 22, 2013
    m8e
    I think this might do as a page quote. A little long perhaps...

    Jin: Your stance leaves you wide open, and your movements are completely inefficient.
    Jin: Everything about the way you fight is a total mess.
    Mugen: You son of a...
    Jin: I swear, I've never fought anyone as wild as you.
    Mugen: Are you trying to piss me off?
    Jin: You're also the first person I wasn't able to kill.
  • October 22, 2013
    DAN004
    I kinda worried this would be covered by Yin Yang Clash.
  • October 22, 2013
    Astaroth
    • The Blood War, a conflict between the Lawful Evil devils and Chaotic Evil demons which appears in some Dungeons And Dragons settings, plays out like this. The demons have the advantages of sheer numbers and combatants with immense individual power, but they don't care for advanced tactics, and they spend as much effort fighting each other as they do the devils because their forces lack unity. The devils are frequently outnumbered, but the soldiers they deploy are disciplined, regimented and well-trained and their leaders are ruthless tacticians. This balance meant neither side could gain a clear upper-hand over the other for millennia, although in 4th Edition Forgotten Realms, the Archdevil Asmodeus has brought the war to a stale-mate by separating Hell and the Abyss so the two races rarely encounter each other any more.
  • October 22, 2013
    m8e
    ^^Not really seeing that. This trope requires neither "undefeatable" nor "absolutes". They are unable to defeat each other, other people could defeat them.

    For example in Samurai Champloo. Jin and Mugen are equals, but Kagetoki Kariya is better than Jin in almost every way (skill, discipline, strength...). Denkibou and Umanosuke wields odd weapons,(Double sword/Wolverine Claws, and a chain-sickle thingy) that make Mugens usual Dance Battle style useless.
  • May 27, 2014
    HandsomeRob
    ^^ Where does this example go under: Video Games or Table Top Games?

    I'd assume the latter, but I'd like to be sure on that.
  • May 27, 2014
    Astaroth
  • May 27, 2014
    HandsomeRob
    Alright then. Consider it in.
  • May 27, 2014
    Paradisesnake
    I assume that this was previously named Evenly Matched Asymmetrically, since some of the examples refer to such a thing, and I've never heard of it.
  • May 27, 2014
    DAN004
    This trope is the point behind Competitive Balance.

    Compare Yin Yang Clash when this is taken Up To Eleven.
  • May 27, 2014
    aurora369
    A Song Of Ice And Fire has Tyrion's trial by combat, which was resolved by a duel betweed Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane and Oberyn Martell. The former was a Mighty Glacier, the latter a Fragile Speedster. The duel ended by both dying: Gregor killed Oberyn, but was fatally poisoned by Oberyn's poison-coated spear.
  • May 28, 2014
    DAN004
    Explain how this is distinct from Mutual Disadvantage.
  • May 30, 2014
    HandsomeRob
    ^ With Mutual Disadvantage, the reason they can beat each other is because their abilities are too identical.

    In this case, the deadlock comes from their abilities being so different they cancel each other out anyway.

    I think. I'm finding it harder to explain than I expected.
  • May 30, 2014
    HandsomeRob
    ^^

    Double post since I added a spoiler space for the A Song Of Ice And Fire example. The corresponding episode of the tv show for the part you just mentioned is airing this sunday, so in the event this goes up around that time, I'd rather not spoil it.
  • May 30, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Implied, but not actually seen, in Golden Sun. Two warriors on the ship to Tolbi can be mind-read, showing that one is a Mighty Glacier and the other a Fragile Speedster, planning to cooperate until the finals and then fight each other as evenly matched.
    • In Berserk, Serpico's first fight against Guts starts like this, a clothed fencer with a rapier against an armored warrior with a seven-foot iron slab. Until Serpico realizes Guts is very much a Lightning Bruiser and retreats (by stealing one of Guts' bomblets, impressing him).

  • March 15, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump, I wanna see how this turn out
  • March 16, 2015
    NemuruMaeNi
    No Laconic? 0.o
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