Heroes Act, Villains Hinder
When the heart of a story is the hero's strong objective, the story usually isn't a Heroic Fantasy or Action Adventure. It's comedy, romance, Slice Of Life, voyages, Rags To Riches... Villains and antagonists that exist are hindrances that challenge the hero to rethink themselves or overcome a personal weakness.
Contrast Villains Act, Heroes React
Anime and Manga
- Most Shoujo comics, being a mix of Slice of Life and romance are about the heroine finding love while becoming a model/mangaka/singer/circus clown and there are a shitload of mean students/coworkers, Alpha Bitches, Jerk Jocks, and rivals keeping her from doing it. Really, you start thinking everyone's out to get you reading these stories.
- Code Geass: Lelouch wants to destroy Britannia and liberate the Japanese, and Britannia fights against him.
- There was a Superman story arc called Panic in the Sky which was written specifically to avert Villains Act, Heroes React. Superman and a team of heroes purposefully go after a villain instead of waiting around for the bad guy to act first.
- Fairy tales where the child had a goal at the beginning, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, Aladdin, etc.
- The Odyssey: Odysseus wants to get home. Every monster and god on the Great Sea is hindering him.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Dorothy wants to get home. The Wicked Witch stalking her for her shoes is hindering her.
- Alice in Wonderland: Alice wants to get home. The sheer craziness of the world she's in is hindering her.
- Most Romantic and Tragic Comedies are boy and girl wants each other and their jobs, jealous rivals and social statuses are keeping them apart.
- In the Firestar Series, the protagonist is an industrialist who, since she was a teenage girl, has been throwing everything into a space program so that humanity can incinerate any threatening asteroids. (Or get out of the way.) Her antagonists are surprisingly sympathetic Luddites, competing business interests, and people who have a grudge against her because of all the control issues she's gotten from decades believing the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders.
- The Heritage of Shannara has a dark take on this. Our heroes are on a quest to gain the various talismans that they will need to stop Rimmer Dall and his Shadowen. Rimmer Dall for his part seeks only to delay them, because if his final plan succeeds it won't matter what they do. In the individual books this is also true, with Walker Boh seeking to gain the Black Elfstone, but Uhl Belk, The Maw Grint, and Pe Ell hindering him, and Wren trying to get the Elves home, but The Wisteron and every other monster on Morrowindl delaying her.
- In Pegasus in Space, the main plotline is the development of Peter Reidinger's abilities and the science behind Talent, culminating in the creation of FT&T and humanity's march to the stars. The villains are various people who the Talented have cheesed off in previous books; the only villain whose goals aren't specifically related to destroying Peter is Ludmilla Barchenka.
- Theirs Not to Reason Why is a rare Action/Adventure example. Technically, Ia is reacting, but the villains she's reacting to won't show up for centuries after her death (she's a precognitive). In practice, she sets out to rearrange the galaxy so that the peoples of it will be ready when the apocalyptic threat arrives, and her plans for this drive the entire plot.
- A source of unending frustration for A Practical Guide To Evil's Black Knight. Also the reason he wants to "edit" the way Names work, especially since Angels and Demons can only be Order or Chaos respectively, leaving no room for grayer tones.
- The Prisoner wants to escape The Village. The new Number Two wants to keep him there.
- Breaking Bad, notably, is all about how its main protagonist, Walter White, takes initial actions that wreak unexpected consequences. Though Walt is admittedly an Anti-Hero (who eventually becomes an outright Villain Protagonist), he does face actual antagonists throughout the show, all or most of whom would have left him alone had he not made the first move.
- Exalted gives us the Ebon Dragon, a Yozi who often acts as one of the principal antagonists of the setting. As he represents the cosmic principles of betrayal, villainy, and spite, it's very, very hard for him to act proactively. In fact, most of his powers rely around crushing or spiting others instead of pursuing his own direct goals, and the main reason he created the Unconquered Sun was because that way, he could actually do something.
- Undertale: You play as a child who fell underground, and wants to return home. Thing is, everyone and everything underground wants you to stay, or wants you dead.
- The protagonist of an "escape plot" gets their own ball rolling by trying to escape their personal prison.
- Rags to Riches which specifically invoke Self-Made Man.
- Many Action Adventure and disaster films don't really have a villain, just obstacles to be overcome.
- War movies and Video Games in which the heroes are on the offense. The mooks' goal is just to wait for you to come to them, and then kill you.