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Rescue Arc
Second in popularity only to the Tournament Arc, the Rescue Arc is one of the most popular plots for shonen series. It boils down to this: One of the hero's close friends, usually a main character themselves, has been kidnapped by some powerful force, so the hero gathers his True Companions, saddles up his horses, and heads off to get them back, (inevitably) beating the crap out of anyone who tries to stop him.

Usually, the villains of the arc want to use the friend for some higher purpose or task, but the hero's rescue effort is motivated solely by a sense of duty and friendship. Since friendship always wins out, this means that the protagonist usually ends up on the victorious side.

The rescuee is usually female and sometimes a love interest, but not always. A bizarrely common thread in these plots is that the rescuee doesn't want to be rescued (or believes they don't deserve to be), and has to be talked into returning by the hero. Expect lots of shots of them moping about in a cell, wangsting about their life.

Storming the Castle is usually the climax to this plot. Roaring Rampage of Rescue may happen on the way to the rescuee.

See also Tournament Arc and War Arc.


Examples:

Anime
  • Bleach is infamous for its lengthy rescue arcs. The first real arc of the series, the Soul Society arc, revolved around Ichigo and company's attempt to rescue Rukia from the Soul Society before she was executed, and introduced essentially the entire Shinigami society. The arc also included lots of infighting between the Shinigami captains, a murder mystery, and the revelation of The Man Behind the Man, but the main characters never had more on their mind than the rescue of Rukia. Later that year (in-comic), Orihime offered herself as a hostage to save Karakura town, and the Hueco Mundo rescue arc commenced. Notably, the rescue is far from the end of the arc (not even counting when another arc was started before the Hueco Mundo arc really ended).
  • Naruto has also been known to use them. The Sasuke Retrieval arc is a variation in that the principle was not kidnapped, but rather left of his own free will, and the heroes were not successful in bringing him back. However, the structure of the arc was the same. The first arc of Shippuden, the Rescue Gaara arc, was a no-frills rescue arc.
    • There was one slight frill, since Akatsuki succeeded in taking Shukaku, thus (temporarily) killing Gaara.
  • One Piece's Enies Lobby arc is a rescue arc, with the Straw Hat Pirates saving one of their own from the elite government force Cipher Pol.
    • Later on, the series actually manages to do a storyline that is both a Rescue Arc and a War Arc. Luffy storms the World Government's maximum-security prison in order to rescue his older brother Ace. At first it seems like a traditional rescue arc, but it turns out that Ace isn't even in the prison; his execution is already starting. Thus Luffy is forced to literally drop into the middle of a war zone and join up with Whitebeard's massive armada, who are also trying to storm Marine HQ and save Ace.
      • Perhaps the biggest departure from a typical rescue arc is that the rescue fails. Ace is freed, but is killed shortly afterward.
    • Movie 10 is a feature-length Rescue Arc, with a couple of subversions along the way. First, the rescuee manages to escape on her own before the rescue attempt even begins, but naturally the Big Bad can't have that so we get a "for real" rescue during the film's climax. And instead of simply waiting to be rescued the second time, the rescuee goes about trying to sabotage the Big Bad's plan.
      • The Arlong Park arc was the earliest one in the series, and while there's still quite a lot at stake (The freedom of Nami and the island she grew up on), its almost nothing compared to the more intense, world changing examples above.
    • The Dressrosa Arc is turning out to also be a Rescue Arc, at least partially. While the crew has various objectives, Luffy and Zoro's current goal is to storm Doflamingo's palace and rescue their recently beaten ally, Law.
  • The manga Wa Ga Na Wa Umishi is made up of one Rescue Arc after another, although it's almost never a human being being rescued.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Duelist Kingdom arc is a rescue arc for both Yugi, the main character, and Kaiba, his rival (although they're looking for different people).
  • The second half of Season 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
  • Magic Knight Rayearth. Sort of.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! interrupted its School Festival arc with a short Bad Future mini-arc inversion where the True Companions had to rescue the hero. Slight Subversion that in the Bad Future, most of the wangsting was from the jailers, not the captive; he was keeping a mostly level head while plot bombs were dropped.
    • Earlier had a straighter example with Konoka being kidnapped and used as a MacGuffin to unleash a Sealed Evil in a Can.
    • History repeats itself, as soon as they figure out that Asuna and Anya have both been captured by Fate.
  • The climax of the first and second halves of R.O.D. The TV Series.
  • The entire plot of Tokyo Underground is pretty much just one long rescue arc.
  • The reason for Kenshiro's Walking the Earth in the Southern Cross arc of Fist of the North Star was to rescue Yuria from Shin.
    • Kenshiro's objective during the later Shura arc is to rescue Lin from the Rasho.
  • Get Backers' anime-only final arc was about rescuing Makubex, who was kidnapped by Masaki and Brain Trust for knowing too much about the various secrets of the series. Ginji barely stopped him from making a Heroic Sacrifice. The manga has two arcs like this: the goal of the Eternal Bond arc was to rescue Madoka and goals of the final Lost Time arc included rescuing Himiko, Juubei, Toshiki and Sakura.
  • Aside from Hiei kidnapping Keiko for one episode, YuYu Hakusho has a short arc (about four episodes) about rescuing Yukina. Unusually, she wasn't a friend of the heroes at the time, but Yusuke's pretty much stuck doing what Koenma says to do and Kuwabara fell in love with her at first sight. (Coincidentally, he ran off and missed the biggest not-secret of the series: Yukina is Hiei's sister!!)
    • And in the Sensui arc, with Kuwabara
  • The second half of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, which also involved rescuing Nanoha and Fate's daughter as well as Subaru's sister in addition to stopping the Big Bad.
  • The Zoldyck family arc in Hunter × Hunter is about Gon trying to rescue Killua from his family. However, unlike most Rescue Arcs, the problem is resolved without much violence.
  • Most of the plot of Bt X works like one of these.
    • Saint Seiya, the series Kurumada made before Bt X, was what popularized this kind of arc.
  • A good portion of the Phantom Arc of Fairy Tail involves rescuing Lucy after she's kidnapped (twice), with the enemy planning to hold her for ransom for her family fortune.
    • The next arc starts off like this, but with Erza being... Erza, she doesn't play the role of the distressed damsel for very long.
  • The beginning of the second half of Digimon Tamers, where the Tamers go to the Digital World to rescue Culumon after he's taken by the Deva.
  • Flame of Recca does this twice, both times with Yanagi. And a third time in the Tournament Arc, because they had to bet Yanagi to enter, and had they lost, she would have been forfeit to the bad guys.
  • A common plot device in Ranma ˝. With most of the main cast falling victim to a kidnapping at some point, Fanon being what it is though has decided it is Akane who was the designated kidnap victim.
  • In the Yellow arc of the Pokémon Special, Red mysteriously vanishes with only his Pikachu returning, so a trainer named Yellow sets out to find him.
    • The Emerald arc is a rescue arc as well, though it's not made obvious right away.
    • And so is the Platinum arc, with the titular character seeking a way to save her bodyguards, who had been banished to the Distortion World.
  • The 'Salvage' arc in Soul Eater. The rescuee being Death the Kid, having gotten himself into something of a James Bondage situation after a series of foolish mistakes. The rescuers are Spartoi, with Maka as the de facto leader. Ultimately he manages to escape on his own, though it takes some convincing from Black Star to get him to actually come back to them. The Baba Yaga arc had the secondary objectives of getting back Kim, Jackie, and Crona from Arachnophobia. The first two were being held captive and brainwashed by Arachnophobia but left willingly in the first place, so they had to be talked into coming back to the DWMA. Crona was supposedly kidnapped by Arachnophobia to be a human sacrifice, but, as Soul had suspected, this was just Medusa lying and she already had Crona back at her base the whole time.
  • The latter half of the Conviction arc in Berserk centers around Guts looking for and rescuing his lover Casca from being executed as a witch by the quasi-Apostle Mozgus.
    • Berserk also has the Griffith rescue arc close to the end of the Golden Age saga. Guts had left the Hawks due to irreconcilable differences between him and Griffith. After Griffith was defeated in their second duel, Griffith, in the throes of Heroic BSOD, paid a visit to Princess Charlotte's bedchamber and had sex with her. This ROYALLY pissed off the King, who had him arrested and sent to the Tower of Rebirth to be put to the torture and had the rest of the Hawks declared outlaw. After the Skull Knight persuades Guts to return, he finds Casca in charge of the Hawks, and together with the Hawks, they head to the Tower of Rebirth to rescue Griffith. The state Guts finds Griffith in sends him into one of the greatest examples of Unstoppable Rage in the series, as he kills his way through every last Midland guard standing between them and the way out. Unfortunately for everyone, Griffith has grown to hate Guts during the year that he was in the Tower, and this, along with other factors, would ultimately lead to the events of the Eclipse.
      Notably, the format diverges from the usual Rescue Arc as they get Griffith relatively quickly, and most of the arc's action is centered on the remaining Band of the Hawk escaping from the forces the king sent after them.
  • In Märchen Awakens Romance season 4 also known as the Ghost Chess arc, Team MAR have to save Alviss from Phantom after he gets captured and forced to turn against them via brainwashing.
    • Before that, Team MAR had to save Snow twice. The first time was a minor plot at the beginning of the series and the second time at the end where she gets captured during the semi-finals because of letting her guard down against her opponent.
  • Rosario + Vampire has the Moka rescue arc in which they must break her out of Fairy Tale's flying fortress.
  • Guyver had a lengthy rescue arc from books 17-25 involving Sho gathering his one ally, rather weak Hayami, to help him rescue Aptom from Cloud Gate tower. It was a tad long because alongside the rescue arc was another storyline on the other side of the world but all ends well dramatically.

Film

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • The first half of Once Upon a Time's second season featured Charming, Regina, Rumple, and Henry trying to rescue Emma and Snow from the Enchanted Forest. The first half of the third season has the Charming family trying to rescue Henry from Peter Pan.

Video Games
  • All Save the Princess plots, obviously, by definition.
  • Skies of Arcadia's first arc, before its shift to a Gotta Catch Them All plot, involved Vyse and Aika sneaking into Valua to save Vyse's father and Fina.
  • Tales of Symphonia had several arcs where Colette had to be rescued, and one early one where Lloyd himself had to be (although it was still played from his perspective). Towards the end, whichever party member is Lloyd's closest friend is possessed by the Big Bad and has to be saved before the move to the endgame.
  • Maniac Mansion.
  • Halo 3: The level "Cortana" is a rescue mission to save the eponymous character.
  • The first three games in the Kingdom Hearts series. A lot of people forget that all the world saving, side questing, and philosophizing are just byproducts of Sora trying to rescue his friends.
  • The Megaman Battle Network series loves this trope. There's at least one or two of these arcs in each game. The last game is especially notable in having three rescue arcs that involve rescuing player character Megaman!
    • First arc occurs when Megaman is forced to seal either Gregar or Falzar (which one depends on the version) within his own body. Cue having to control a friend to find something that helps him fight off the sealed beast and retain control of his body.
    • Second arc occurs when some worshippers of Falzar and Gregar capture Megaman. Cue having to control a friend to storm their shrine and rescue him.
    • Third arc occurs when the Oddly Small Organization sets a trap for Megaman and captures him (again). Cue Megaman losing control to the sealed beast and escaping, with you having to control yet another friend to chase him down and hopefully Bright Slap him back into control before they find him again.
  • Rescuing the princess in Dragon Quest is one of the two main jobs you do in the game, but it's subverted that you can totally ignore her. Oops...
    • A part of Dragon Quest V is about your wife being kidnapped by bad guys.
  • The first half of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn is spent trying to rescue the player character's childhood friend Imoen after she's imprisoned together with the Big Bad for illegal use of magic. (For those protagonists who aren't inclined to such nice motives, there's the option of going after the Big Bad for revenge or to gain power from him, but that leads to the same direction.)
  • Chrono Trigger: After the Mammon Machine disaster, you may attempt a Rescue Arc to save Chrono(!). Or you can try assaulting Lavos directly, your choice. If you don't try to rescue Chrono, it's implied that Marle will try to save him herself after the Lavos matter is settled. Also, while you don't get to try rescuing Schala in the original game, you can try rescuing her in the remakes. You're bound to fail.
  • Final Fantasy IX: Two examples, and both victims happen to be the party healers!
  • Final Fantasy X: The first fight with Seymour, and the party's subsequent labeling as traitors begins one for Yuna. Your party is scattered all over a desert, sees the destruction of the Al Bhed's Home by the Guado, learn Yuna has been kidnapped by them, then you have to pilot the airship (infested with fiends, to boot) to Bevelle and rescue her. It leaves her relatively behind the rest of the group.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Chapter 9, which is dedicated to rescuing Sazh and Vanille from the Sanctum. In a subversion, they decide to stop being The Load, and manage to rescue themselves halfway through, and meet the party in the middle.
  • The rest of Beyond Good & Evil turns into a Rescue Arc (at least for Jade) after Pey'j is captured by the Alpha Sections at the Nutripils Factory, and even more so when they come for the children at the orphanage.
  • The heroic motivation for the first Golden Sun game is as much rescuing the hero's friend Jenna (who's been kidnapped by a group of Well Intentioned Extremists including her brother, thought dead) as it is about preventing the elemental lighthouses from being lit up. She won't be doing anything until the second game, when she's a party member.

Webcomics
Reluctant RetireePlotsRestart The World
Redundant RescueIndex to the RescueRescue Hug

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