"Sheldon, is proving that you're single-handedly smarter than everyone else so important that you would rather lose by yourself than win as part of a team? "Your super team has a habit of getting into trouble - they're too naive, too inexperienced, and may want to hug the Monster of the Week instead of hurt it. You could send in a Mysterious Protector to help them out, but you've either done that already or you're saving it for later, and besides, you haven't even filled up all the slots in the team yet! But wait — what if you could send in your occasional cavalry and use those character slots? Enter the Aloof Ally. This ally is explicitly going after the same thing as you for the same results, and shows up to help you, being initially stronger. Don't confuse that with being "on your side", though. When the heroes ask them "Why aren't you joining us? We're teammates!", they'll snap and brush them off for being too naive, trusting, and comparatively useless. The Aloof Ally may reject The Power of Friendship now, but later — because the heroes keep trying — they'll end up reevaluating their position and join up with the team anyway. Sadly, this usually involves a usefulness drop similar to Good Is Dumb. Though if not they may become The Lancer to the main character. Stock Phrases for the Aloof Ally include 'I Was Just Passing Through' and 'I Did What I Had to Do'. A standard pose would be the casual Bad Ass slouch. May also be The Rival. Compare with the Enigmatic Minion, a villainous version. For attitude, compare to Tsundere. If the "initially stronger" part is badly done, it may result in a God-Mode Sue. Compare to Who Needs Enemies?
— Leonard, The Big Bang Theory
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Anime And Manga
- Uranus and Neptune from Sailor Moon (and later the Sailor Starlights), whose main issue with the Sailor Team was that the latter were too idealistic and refused to use lethal force. In both cases, they devolved into Grumpy Bears due to the idealistic nature of the show itself and the fact that any character's effectiveness against a monster tended to be plot-controlled rather than skill-controlled.
- Tuxedo Mask in the first season. Especially because they didn't even know if he was an ally or an evil 3rd party much of the time. He would show up, briefly fight the Monster of the Week and leave often not even bothering to see if the Sailor Soldiers lived or not. Until the ball where he and Usagi rescue each other when he finally admits he's searching for the Silver Crystal for altruistic purposes (to rescue the princess of his dreams) they don't trust him.
- Mew Zakuro from Tokyo Mew Mew, for all of two episodes before her issues were sorted out.
- Caren from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch refused to join with the Power Trio because she was bitter about a rumour that Rina had abandoned Caren's sister Noel when they were in danger. (In fact, Noel had made a Heroic Sacrifice for Rina to escape.) Between random rescues, she sabotaged their civilian lives, interrupting Lucia's love confession to Kaito and leaving the three of them with a giant food bill.
- Rina herself was like this for an episode or two before joining the Power Trio.
- Kurama and especially Hiei of YuYu Hakusho.
- Subverted with Milky Rose from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO!. She starts out exactly like this, saving Pretty Cure at the last minute with her awesome power and showing them up in everything at school. Then, when it turns out she's actually just the Bratty Half-Pint mascot creature in humanoid form, she reveals that she only acted that way because she'd seen it too many times on TV. From then on, she reverts to her original personality, though not to her original level of usefulness.
- Cure Muse masked herself with a black costume and occasionally helps the other Cures to fight the villains from Minor Land. In speaking of helping, she really only helps them, but never finishes any Monsters of the Week off, claiming that she's not on any side. The reason is that she hasn't the courage to fight Mephisto directly who is her Brainwashed and Crazy father. After revealing her true identity as Ako Shirabe and rescuing Mephisto, she becomes a regular main character.
- And while we're on the topic, we have Makoto Kenzaki/Cure Sword from Doki Doki Pretty Cure - mostly because of her personal issues. She gets over it quickly.
- Likewise with Cure Ace. She actually wants to join them at first, but she uses Secret Tests of Character to strenghten before she finally joins them. Her Stealth Hi/Bye is also justified by having a time limit for using her powers.
- Cure Fortune of Happiness Charge Pretty Cure is this, too, due to the fact that the Phantom Empire took her family and she doesn't trust Cure Princess because of her Dark Secret. When she decides TO gain allies, it's less because she's accepted The Power of Friendship, it's because she wants to use them so that they can protect her while she grows stronger. Things seem to hint that that's going to be her Hoist by His Own Petard moment.
- Piccolo and Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z. Though they get less and less aloof as the series goes on, though. It eventually gets to the point where they're hanging out at parties and playing karaoke with the other fighters.
- Angel Salvia of Wedding Peach.
- Nao from Mai-Otome. It's not so much that she doesn't want to fight evil - she dislikes Nagi's evil and ambitious nature as much as Natsuki does - but that doing so takes away from her "Nao" time. She still complains after her rapid promotion to Pillar late in the original series, but tends to have a lot of fun beating up on the Slaves when it's time to throw down.
- Saito Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin would be a non Magical Girl example.
- Kaze in Final Fantasy: Unlimited. Sure, he "just happens" to arrive just in time to help the protagonists in practically every episode.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn! this is actualy Kyoya Hibari's job description as Tsuna's Cloud Guardian.
Reborn: To be the aloof, drifting Cloud that protects the Family from an independent standpoint, and whom nothing can ever bind
- Uryuu Ishida likes to pretend he's this. From the moment he and Ichigo first stop being enemies, their classmates notice just how compatible and alike they are. Later on the manga, the Vitriolic Best Buds situation between Uryuu and Ichigo becomes a great source of amusement for everyone. Uryuu hates having Orihime point out just how close he and Ichigo have become.
- Byakuya becomes this in the early phase of the Arrancar Arc. On the surface, he follows Yamamoto's orders, but secretly exploits a loophole to ensure Renji and Rukia can get to Hueco Mundo to help Ichigo rescue Orihime which is technically in defiance of Yamamoto's wishes. It also allows Byakuya to maintain his distance from Ichigo (although much later in the manga he doesn't mind admitting how important Ichigo is to him).
- Corrector Ai, in Corrector Yui. Mainly because she has her very own personal issues, though.
- Code Geass: C.C. had elements of this, particularly in the beginning of the series, in regards to our Byronic Hero, Lelouch. According to her, "their relationship is strictly a contract", although she defrosts as the show continues.
- Wolfwood in his first few appearances in Trigun. It's likely Chapel the Evergreen intended to carry out his mission this way. But he had far too much in common with Vash; that and circumstance led to them becoming virtual blood brothers.
- Pokémon. Some of Ash's more powerful Pokémon such as Charizard have had phases like this.
- D-Boy from Tekkaman Blade almost fits with the description words for words, being initialy stronger tha everyone else, want to defeat the Radam, and don't really join forces with either the Millitary or the Space Knights in the friendly sorts of way. The catch is, his reason to not join forces with either side is a bit complicated.
- Transformers: Robots in Disguise has Ultra Magnus. Jealously over his brother Optimus Prime being the one to be given the Matrix and command of the Autobots keeps him from fully joining the team (and thus being under Prime's direct command) and he's got a bad case of I Was Just Passing Through. Yes, Magnus, you just happened to be wandering through the Sahara Desert at the right time to save the team. A Jerk with a Heart of Gold, he goes from "hates the 'cons a little more than he hates Optimus" to series regular who helps out in every episode but makes sure to remind everyone that he was just in the neighborhood and is not part of the team, really. As TF Wiki puts it, "This is either because Magnus can't deny his (somewhat buried and tarnished) noble Autobot nature, or because if Prime gets blown to tiny bits, the Matrix could get blown to tiny bits with him."
- Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! ends up being this, even though he'd rather not be.
- Knuckles in Sonic the Comic. Of course it doesn't help that Sonic's so arrogant he always puts off new allies anyway.
- Bloodhawk in X-Men 2099 was an occasionally ally of the X-Men, but initially declined offers to join the team for reasons of his own. He did eventually join up, though.
- In Death of the Family, Batgirl acts like this to the Teen Titans. Kid Flash even tries to hug her...only to find out that she has devices on her suit to give people a shock!
- Xadhoom starts out this way in Paperinik New Adventures,only caring about the hero as someone that could help her kill more Evronians. They became closer over time.
- Tatl Beryllia in The Blue Blur of Termina. Initially, she only teamed up with Sonic because the Skull Kid abandoned and (indirectly) injured her. In fact, as shown by her letting Sonic fall in the Subterranean Forest, she makes it clear that she couldn't care less about his safety.
- Tuxedo Mask in Cosmic Warriors. He's appeared in the nick of time to save Usagi twice now.
- In Blood's Pride, the mercenary called the Mongrel has been hired by the Shadari rebels to lead their uprising, but although the rebellion is indeed successful, she certainly didn't work closely with her employers in the course of achieving it (to the point where they often thought she'd betrayed them). She is contemptuous towards the self-appointed rebel leader who hired her, and has no particular interest in whether he and his gang survive to see the fruits of their rebellion. In fact, nobody is quite sure what she actually wants, and she deliberately keeps it that way.
Live Action TV
- Angel: One can never predict when Illyria will assist Team Angel, or why. At one point, she rescues Gunn from a torture dimension just so she can throttle him in front of Wesley, apparently to play the You Owe Me card.
- Wesley himself qualifies for the majority of season four. He rescues Angel from the bottom of the ocean, and even allows Angel to feed on him when he realizes that pig's blood is not enough for the severely malnourished vampire. Wesley's motive in all of this is not to earn Angel's forgiveness and get back on the team; he simply does it because he recognizes Angel's importance as a force for good in their ongoing struggle against evil. Angel actually does forgive him and offers to let him back on the team, but Wesley responds coldly and still stays the hell away for a while. When he does eventually rejoin Angel Investigations, it's more out of mutual necessity than anything else, and there's still a lot of tension between him and the rest of the group (namely Gunn).
- Sailor Mars and, later, Sailor Venus from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, which is part of the reason that they grow to become friends after a long struggle of the former trying to get the latter to join the Sailor Team.
- The Go-On Wings from Go-onger. Fortunately, once JumboWhale shows up, he's much friendlier and manages to talk them round.
- Power Rangers has a number of examples:
- The big mystery for a good deal of Power Rangers Zeo was "Who is the Gold Ranger?" The Badass with his own Theme Song would appear in a golden streak of energy, save everyone's butts, and then vanish. He eventually said that he'd lose his powers if he revealed his identity. We found out who he was after he lost them anyway due to his three souls coming apart. Eh, It Makes Sense in Context.
- It worked well enough to be repeated next season. Who is the Phantom Ranger? We never found out his deal, and when asked about it later, different writers have different ideas and all will say "Well, that's what I think it'd be cool, but nothing like that was anything like official."
- The Magna Defender from Lost Galaxy was against the bad guys, but out for revenge and viewed the Rangers as being in the way. He eventually had just enough of a Face Turn to make a Heroic Sacrifice, and his successor was a proper Sixth Ranger.
- The Lunar Wolf Ranger from Wild Force is a partial example: he liked the main team well enough, and was totally on their side, but he wasn't a very social guy and felt kinda guilty for making their lives difficult while he was Brainwashed and Crazy, so he didn't hang out with them much outside of battle.
- Time Force's Quantum Ranger, on the other hand, tended to treat the main team with a bit of bitterness, occasionally bordering on outright contempt... Especially toward the Red Ranger.
- The Omega Ranger of SPD started out this way (being from the future, he thought their gear was So Last Season) but got better quickly. The Shadow Ranger, on the other hand, kind of had to be aloof as he was the team's commanding officer, and he made perfectly clear that he wouldn't bail them out of every little scrape they got in.
- The Robo Knight from Megaforce. Justified, as he's a superpowered, emotionless robot programmed to protect Earth and its evinronment: while he's aware that his programming overlaps with the Megaforce Rangers' main mission, he still believes that, since humans are inefficient beings. inherently fragile and valuing more other humans than their mission, he would be more efficient by working alone, and more useful to the mission and the team by being the Aloof Ally.
- Yuto Sakurai/Kamen Rider Zeronos in Kamen Rider Den-O, who works towards the same goal as Ryotaro/Den-O, but chastises his fellow Rider for thinking that protecting the timeline is the same thing as protecting people. He does eventually mellow out, though.
- Noah Bennett can be like this in Heroes whenever he's working for the latest Big Bad. For example, when he joins Danko in Season 3 he's doing it to protect Claire and moderate Danko, though he actively works against the heroes.
- Etna in Disgaea 2. Like you, she is also out for Overlord Xenon's blood. Unlike you, who is doing it for the good of the world, Etna's just doing it for the bragging rights and doesn't want your woefully underleveled ass stealing her thunder. She does eventually join you. However, it's not because she's warmed up to you or learned the the meaning of friendship, but because you accidentally depowered her and now she needs a meatshield until she's back up to snuff.
- Midna in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess starts out as a version of this, but has a gradual change of heart.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
Shadow: Don't expect me to join in on your group hugs and picnics!
- Shadow the Hedgehog. He helps out every now and then, but he's a pretty standoffish individual, even to his own friends. He lampshades this in Sonic Chronicles:
- Knuckles the Echidna prefers to work in a solitude and keeping his distance from the others. But that's understandable since he is destined to live alone, guarding the Master Emerald.
- Judas from Tales of Destiny 2 is one for a short while in the beginning of the game, but he eventually comes around and agrees it would be easier for everyone to just travel together. There's several good reasons he was reluctant to join, including a poor reputation and the fact that he ended up betraying his last group of friends.
- Yuan from Tales of Symphonia seems to flip between this and Enigmatic Minion. Ultimately, he's an Aloof Ally who fully supports the heroes, though he never joins the party itself.
- Asch, Luke's original from Tales of the Abyss fits this trope perfectly. While he does join the party sometimes and is on their side, he mostly does his own thing off the side and has an Oranyan attitude towards the party and outright refuses to join them most of the time, mostly because of his resentment towards Luke. He also acts like a Jerkass to everyone that's not Natalia.
- Fallout's Mysterious Stranger perk gives the player one, albeit one who never gets Character Development. As does Fallout 3 (which has him turn up randomly to kill any enemies you targeted in VATS).
- Advanced V.G.: While the other girls befriend Yuka soon after their defeat, Reimi regards her as a Worthy Opponent, rather than a friend. But she isn't completely without feeling for her and has used her status as Chairwoman of the Jahana Corporation to conduct investigations of Section-9, on Yuka's behalf.
- Super Robot Wars Original Generation: Axel Almer becomes this after his Heel-Face Turn. He makes sporadic appearances In OG Gaiden, aiding the heroes during tough fights, then leaving after the fight's over. He becomes a permeate ally in 2nd Original Generation but admits that he feels uncomfortable being around them because of the bad blood between them. (the fact that one of them is the Good Twin of his Arch-Enemy doesn't help in that regard.)
- In Final Fantasy Tactics: Orran is this regarding Ramza, also the trope arguably may fit for Delita.
- In Lords Of The Realm 2, any nobles you ally with will typically not send help to you when you ask, especially the Bishop. The only practical use for an ally is to prevent them from openly attacking you, so it's often wise to ally with whichever noble is closest to you so you can build up your forces and take them down when they eventually call off the alliance.
- Eriko in Yu No has goals that seem to match up with Takuya's and is perfectly trustworthy, but she's rather distant and doesn't feel like lending Takuya much direct assistance if she can help it.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Ange kind of walks the border between this and the Mysterious Protector. She has all of the attitude of this trope ("Leave the jokes to your hairstyle," was her response to Battler claiming that he was trying hard to beat Beatrice) with the aims of the other.
- Bernkastel appears to be this but from the end of EP4 onwards, it's made clear that she is most certainly not Battler or Ange's ally.
- In Survival of the Fittest version three, Dominica Shapiro's part in SADD was very much one of these, although she was slowly becoming more and more of a part of the team.
- Batman likes to think he is one of these for the Justice League, but let's be honest, he's just fooling himself. He's a part-timer, you know.
- Justice League's real example is Aquaman, who'll generally help out when called on, but isn't actually a league member and is more concerned with ruling his kingdom than doing good.
- Nightwing in episode of The New Batman Adventures, "You Scratch My Back".
- Red Arrow fills this role early in Young Justice. This turns out to be justified by the fact that Red Arrow is a clone who was programmed to get into the Justice League, and going solo achieved that goal faster than joining the team would have.
- In the ThunderCats (2011) episode "The Duelist and the Drifter", when young hero Lion-O stops at the Swordsmans' Town, an eccentric, rabbit-like drifter appears to deliver several suspiciously ambivalent Adventure Rebuffs. He warns against getting involved in the Sword Fight culture there, and notes repeatedly that he will not help, and does not care what happens to Lion-O should he fail to heed him. He cares so little, in fact, that he keeps showing up where ever Lion-O happens to be, full of advice.
The Drifter:: "...if you expect me to help, you haven't been paying attention."
- In any X-Men cartoon, pretty much any character who's a member of the team in the comics but not the cartoon fills this trope, helping the X-Men on occasion but declining to officially join for one reason or another.