Spirited Competitor

"These fellas won't ever get it. Winning's never been the real reason I fight him."
Kuwabara, on fighting Yusuke, in YuYu Hakusho

A character who lives for a challenge. It doesn't matter where they are or what lies at stake, what they really love is the battle, the challenge of going against someone who is a Worthy Opponent, no matter what the venue or the game is. Usually they hold no grudges, and have no one they'd consider their enemy (their rivals, on the other hand...). Instead, they have those whom they relish challenging again and again, so that they can enjoy themselves.

These characters are mostly heroes, but, if they are antagonists, they are usually Punch Clock Villains and, even without that, they are almost always Friendly Enemies. They certainly make the best rivals.

These characters' main motivations are usually to find the ultimate challenge, the one who can truly match their skills, and sometimes, taking that to the extreme, their motivation is to find someone who can finally defeat them. Sometimes, they have no motivation other than to fight/have a challenge. In any case, they certainly don't mind losing.

Any series where the main focus is a form of competition, from martial arts to chess, has at least one of these.

If this character is really in it for the brutality and/or rush of a physical fight (and who will thus rush into any fight, big or small, just to get their jollies, and never back down from a fight), not the challenge, then he is a Blood Knight, not a Spirited Competitor (a Spirited Competitor will probably avoid a conflict that wouldn't challenge them or doesn't involve someone they feel is worth it). If he's in it for sadistic pleasure, then you've got a Psycho for Hire (or a Combat Sadomasochist, if he also gets off on receiving injuries). If the character wishes to face challenges while striving to be the best, then he wants To Be a Master (usually such characters become these after a while). If the character is completely laid-back or carefree about the challenges, or even nonchalant about them to the point of cockiness, then he's a Cavalier Competitor.

Subtrope of In Harm's Way.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Quintessential Example: Goku, which extended into Dragon Ball Z. Most of the other characters love to fight, but not the way Goku does. He's the only one who would resurrect the most evil adversary he's ever known (don't worry, he resurrected him as a good soul) in order to fight him again.
    • On the other hand, Cell, after gaining his Perfect Form, constantly states that he is one of these, and wishes to find something that will finally challenge his power. After encountering such power, he immediately becomes a sore loser and desperately tries to find ways that he won't lose, including blowing himself up to spare a defeat and turn it into a draw.
    • Majin Buu in his Fat and subsequent Good Incarnation is a prime example of a spirited competitor. He enjoys fighting almost as much as Goku himself, and even goes so far as to say that Goku is a strong fighter, and that he is having a fun time, and actually wants to continue their fight long after Goku runs out of time. Even when he becomes the incredibly evil Super Buu he still waits for Gotenks to show up instead of blowing up the planet. Though he does kill nearly every human on Earth with a single attack to kill time.
    • His evil form, on the other hand, is much like Cell. Claims to be looking for a challenge from a strong fighter, but upon getting overpowered immediately freaks out and becomes a sore loser. In his case "strong fighter" apparently means someone he could beat up on for awhile without dying instantly, rather than someone that actually stood a chance at defeating him.
  • Many characters from YuYu Hakusho, especially Yusuke and Kuwabara. The number of such characters goes way up in the Dark Tournament Saga, where each team has at least one (for example, Chu, Jin/Gin, and Younger Toguro, who doubles as a Death Seeker).
    • The last saga, which deals with Demon World Tournament, has a ton of these. Both Raizen's old sparring partners and Yusuke's old enemies share this love of a challenge, the latter thanks in no small part to Yusuke's influence. In fact, this mindset is the subject of an entire episode in the anime, and it's inferred that such an attitude could actually bring in an era of honor and sportsmanship among demons, replacing bloodlust with a love of a challenge.
  • Ikusabe from Busou Renkin is one of these. When his likes are listed as "winning battles, losing battles," you know the guy loves fighting.
  • The same can could be said for fellow Blood Knight/Sociopathic Hero Alucard from Hellsing, though he may be in it for different reasons.
  • Gao from Eyeshield 21 could easily be considered a football expy of Kenpachi. Although violent and merciless, his true objective is simply to find a worthy opponent, god help any person who gets in the way of that. In fact, he's actually quite honorable, freely praising and admiring those he considers strong and brave even after he defeats them.
    • He'll also viciously attack ANYONE who insults his fallen opponents, whom he'll consider a comrade. Apparently, challenging the strong is Gao's way of making friends.
    • Not to mention, the thought of possibly being killed by Kurita makes him SMILE, much to his teammate's horror.
    • Though he describes being defeated by Mr. Don as being humiliating and swears revenge. However unlike other opponents, Mr. Don WAS a racist jerkass so it's understandable why Gao treated his battle with Mr. Don with equal parts spite and excitement.
    • Yamato Takeru of Teikoku is very competitive, loves 1 on 1 battles, and will go at anyone with his full strength, regardless of how strong they are.
    • Basically, most featured players are like this, especially Sena's rival with notable exception is Agon. Considering this is a manga about football, it's kinda expected.
  • Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, though as a knight, she doesn't let it get too much in the way of her duty. When she found out that the enemy she had soundly trounced before had gotten a Bigger Stick and can match her blow per blow, she reacted with sheer joy, and more than a twinge of regret that she can't let her heart out to play in the battle since she had a goal to achieve.
  • Kotarou of Mahou Sensei Negima!. His reaction when he learned that The Rival who had beaten him before could now do martial arts and match him in melee too?
    Kotarou: Ahahaha... Chinese Martial Arts? That's nice!!
  • Light from Death Note is like this. While he'll bang on about how he's going to be a god, and how the world will be far better happier newer under his divine guidance, what really drives him is the challenge from people who can match him. Watch and see.
    • But he takes losing horribly, and reacts in the most pathetic way possible. On top of that, when he manages to kill L, he isn't exactly a graceful winner either.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Kaiser Ryo and Judai are both like this, but in different ways.
  • Many characters in Hikaru no Go, but the strongest example would be Sai, who has been a ghost for centuries, striving to play the greatest game of Go ever ("the Hand of God", as he puts it).
  • Hajime No Ippo: David 'Golden' Eagle is a good example of this as well, his main motivation in his fight with Takamura was to fight someone fun. He was also looking forward to fighting Bryan Hawk for the same reason. After losing he grinned and shook Takamura's hand, overjoyed he'd finally fought someone stronger than him. He is also fits the anti-villain mold of typical Spirited Competitors in that even though the series usually has the enemy boxers be non-villainous, Eagle stands out as being so honourable and likeable he actually got considerable support in Japan.
  • Zangulus from Slayers, one of the mercenaries and bounty hunters who tried to capture the party. After the first encounter with Gourry he flatly stated that for him it's about the challenge and his fee and his employer's orders don't matter much. He just wanted a duel to see who's the best swordsman out here, that's all, and reappeared as a Worthy Opponent until he got his final fight. Also, once he was persuaded to join the party just by mentioning that there's a strong opponent for him. Naturally, in such circumstances he didn't use underhanded tactics.
  • Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Only exception is that she does mind losing.
  • Subverted in Slam Dunk by the coach of Kainan. Having deduced that The Hero gains his strength from playing against the best, he intentionally marks him with a player with a less imposing disposition. Feeling he's being mocked by a seemingly inferior player being assigned to him, The Hero loses focus and his game becomes sloppy.
  • One Piece: Roronoa Zoro is definitely of the Spirited Competitor mold, always on the watch for worthy opponents, and seemingly bored when not fighting and/or drinking. His ultimate goal is to become the world's strongest swordsmen, and he plans to beat every single opponent that challenges him.
  • Deconstructed in Muteki Kanban Musume, a hiliarious deconstruction of the Fighting Series: Miki is a Kanban Musume, a delivery girl for her motherís ramen restaurant, who never manages to deliver the food on time because sheís always picking fights, especially on those opponents who are worthy. So, she fights with an Angry Guard Dog for hours just to make a delivery, despite the owners telling her that she could yell their names and they'd go out, just for the chance to fight it.
    Mikiís mother: Well, what's your excuse this time? For only a delivery, you have taken a long time.
    Miki: Yes, I did take a long time... but thatís because I had the determination not to lose. To trade work hours for my victory, it was worth it.
    Mikiís mother: Shut up!
  • Variable Geo: Yuka Takeuchi has been a practictioner of Kyokushin Karate since childhood and firmly believes that bonds can be formed through competition with strong opponents. Her fighting style has even evolved to center around this concept, by quite literally allowing her to empathize with her opponents through combat and purge them of any negative emotions with her ultimate attack: Kyuukyo Kikou Dan.
  • Pokťmon: Ash Ketchum is a prime example, travelling anywhere and battling anyone on his quest To Be a Master.
  • Musubi from Sekirei loves to fight, whether a serious life-or-death battle or a friendly sparring session. The Sekirei are essentially a Proud Warrior Race, with quite a few enjoying facing a strong opponent and forging unlikely friendships through facing each other in battle. Musubi serves as a Morality Pet to Blood Knight Karasuba, with their friendship centered around their promise to become the strongest Sekirei and one day face each other in the final battle of the Sekirei Plan.
  • Gundam Build Fighters and its sequel Gundam Build Fighters Try have a lot of these for two main reasons: Gunpla Battle attracts people with similar personalities (and who already have a shared love of the Gundam franchise to bond over), and the battles' stakes are relatively low. The only characters who don't really qualify as this trope are those who take the game way too seriously like the Renato Brothers in the first series (who act like they're participating in an actual war) and their spiritual descendants the Toritsu Academy team from Try (who gleefully discuss how to take advantage of the fact that Sekai suffers sympathetic damage from his Gundam.

     Comic Books  
  • Batman
    • The Riddler is a partial example; he lives for the mental challenge of his and Batman's battle of wits, but he also hates to lose. The Joker is a better example, and is one of the few examples of this kind of character who is also actively cruel.
    • Paul Dini's character Roxy Rocket is one as well, really only liking the thrill of flying around on a rocket, stealing, and challenging guys whom she flirts with even as they are arresting her.
  • ElfQuest: At one point in The Rebels spin-off, the main characters, still on the run from military agents due to their desertion and stolen spacecraft, drop by their home world of Abode to get some rest-and-relaxation. Scorch ends up participating in a major televised car race, and the Spirited Competitor here is the nephew of the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist on their tails, who ends up helping Scorch out in multiple ways because he wants more than a mere race: He wants to beat the very best name in the sport.

     Film  
  • Jean Girard from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is this. He is simply looking for a Worthy Opponent.
  • The Beast in Kung Fu Hustle fits this trope, partially, but whenever he finds the challenge he says he's looking for, he resorts to cheating to win instead of losing gracefully, as most examples of this trope would. Interestingly, when he tries to cheat in the climactic fight, and Sing thwarts him, he immediately bows down and calls him master, apparently with complete sincerity. It seems that The Beast considers cheating to be a valid combat tactic, rather than, well, cheating.
  • Ryan from Never Back Down was a mixture of this and Blood Knight, possibly with a touch of Psycho for Hire. Although Ryan was looking for a worthy opponent, he would happily beat anyone within an inch of their lives. At one point he nearly killed the main character's best friend in a fight just to intimidate him into fighting.
  • Predator: The Predator is a creature that travels the galaxy looking for the best of the best to fight and kill. It lives off combat and is steeped in a code of honor so great that it would rather die then cheat or dishonor itself.

     Literature 
  • Song at Dawn: Dragonetz hates fighting but he loves competing. Whether it's his Number Two or a visiting viking prince he has to face them and defeat them. The prize, if there is one, doesn't matter. Most likely he won't want it.
  • Sherlock Holmes. When he doesn't have a problem to solve to occupy his mind (or even better, an antagonist to match wits with) he becomes lethargic and turns to drugs. Some adaptations play up this aspect by suggesting Holmes is amoral, uninterested in justice and only cares about crime as an intellectual exercise - which was not the case in the original. Well, particularly the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce version.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Booker T, the Five time(five times) WCW Champion. He enjoys a good, fair contest and is always looking for another. There were some periods where this wasn't true, such as in WWE when he thought he was too good for the Smackdown brand, but even that came to an end when he decided the WWE Championship was a worthy title to pursue.
  • Ron Killings, provided he doesn't perceive some injustice being done against him, is more than happy to find the biggest, scariest looking dude on any given roster and offer them a match.
  • Low Ki is never completely content with his victories. He's always looking for something new to do, someone new to wrestle, some new challenge to conquer, someone's respect to earn...
  • Mercedes Martinez behaves this way on a good day, actively seeking out new people to wrestle. (On a bad day, well, she isn't spirited about competition because she believes there is no one worthy to compete against)
  • As much of a girly girl Melina is, she equally lives for a fight. In a less positive example, she invites threats and dares opponents to do their worst just so she will have more motivation to kick their asses.
  • The World's Greatest Tag Team had this attitude toward Ring of Honor, wanting to fight every tag team there available in the belief they were all great. This attitude changed somewhat after the Briscoe Brothers went on an anti WWE rant though.

     Video Games  
  • Ryu, Ken, and Akuma from Street Fighter. Akuma, in particular, is a prime example of the Anti-Villain version. Other examples of such characters from Street Fighter include E. Honda, Alex, Sakura, and Makoto.
  • This is Wolfgang Krauser's motivation for hosting the second, international King of Fighters tournament in Fatal Fury 2; he'd become bored after beating so many challengers that he finally decided it was time to fight the best in the world. Rugal Bernstein also hosts the tournament in '94 for the same reasons, but unlike Krauser (who is brutal in the ring but a nice guy otherwise) he just wanted to stroke his ego and maybe add a few more statues to his...collection.
  • Advanced V.G. has several among itsmain cast, with Yuka Takeuchi being the primary example:
    • Yuka is often considered to be Ryu's Distaff Counterpart. She has the same mentality - caring only for testing herself against worthy opponents in order to learn more about herself as a martial artist. Which has rubbed off on several of her friends.
    • Satomi grew up together with Yuka and trained alongside her at the Kyokushin Dojo, so she's been sparring with her since childhood. Though lately, she hasn't had the time, due to having to support herself and her brother.
    • Tamao Mitsurugi is a huge fan of Yuka's and sees her as a role model. Therefore, she's chosen to emulate her; including Yuka's fighting style and refers to her as "sempai" (or "Yuka-sempai"). So she entered the tournament, not to win, but to finally meet her heroine.
    • Jun Kubota is a former Olympic wrestler, who's also become close friends with Yuka and moreso with Erina Goldsmith. They've competed directly with each other in nearly every game, which is even seen briefly during the intro for Advanced V.G. II.
  • Fate/stay night: Helllloooo Lancer! He intentionally gimps himself down to match his target instead of killing them just to make the fight last longer. When questioned about fighting Assassin, though, he gets somewhat irritated because while Assassin is very good and would be an excellent challenge normally, he's just not the sort of opponent that Lancer is suited to fight. He recommends sniping him instead. Boooooring.
    • Assassin himself. He wants to challenge Saber to a swordplay duel, and takes winning and losing in equally calm measure. Simply 'fighting' anyone else doesn't seem to get his interest in the same way.
  • Persona 3
    • Akihiko Sanada embraces every dangerous new challenge as an opportunity to push himself to become stronger. At least three characters call him out on not taking the dangers of the Shadows seriously enough and not caring what secrets are being kept from the heroes as long as he gets to fight; it's a mark of newfound maturity when he starts taking the team's battles more seriously, although he's still resolved to meet all challenges - up to and including The End of the World as We Know It - head-on.
    • A slightly less extreme example is Mamoru, the Star Social Link—a track star who really just likes to test himself. His Social Link concerns how to maintain this in the face of ever-growing family troubles.
  • This trait is the trademark of Gilgamesh in the Final Fantasy series, where he's always ready for a brawl with a Worthy Opponent. In Final Fantasy XII even after beating him twice and sending him running, he refers to the party members as his friends, and laments he doesn't have time for a third round. In Dissidia: Final Fantasy he's on the lookout for The Rival Bartz, and makes mention in a few of his battle quotes that he likes the idea of a challenging opponent.
  • Shizune Hakamichi of Katawa Shoujo likes to take everything from schoolwork, to recruiting people for the Student Council, to carrying a box up a hill or deciding what to do with a piece of veal cutlet bread a contest or a game. The fandom is split on whether this makes her charming and endearing or obnoxious and annoying.
    • This is ultimately deconstructed, as this part of her personality drives away the rest of the student council, including her own cousin Lilly. In the bad ending, Shizune believes that this part of her is why Hisao and Misha are avoiding her, and breaks up with Hisao, but in the good ending, she recognizes the error of her ways.
  • Morrigan is portrayed like this occasionally, especially in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, where her dialog is loaded with many a Double Entendre and other suggestions that she likes fighting an awful lot. This makes even more sense if you factor in her original canon, which not only establishes her as powerful enough to curbstomp the Final Boss if she cared to, but also states that it's the intensity of physical sensations that feeds succubi, not necessarily their nature. For her, a good fight is just as satisfying as a good fu- seduction.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog loves to race others to prove that he's the fastest.

     Web Comics  
  • Misfile: Kate is like this with racing. So is Ash.
  • The Jšger Generals in Girl Genius. They even argue with each other over which kills "counts". And request Combat by Champion as an alternative to surrender.
    General Goomblast: (to half a dozen of Wulfenbach's spec-ops with poisoned dirks) Feh. Diz hardly seems fair...
    Wulfenbach Commander: C'est la guerre, General.
    (dying screams)
    General Goomblast: Hy dun mean for me.

     Web Original  
  • Stinkoman from the 20X6 Alternate Universe of Homestar Runner is a parody of this kind of Battle Junkie character. His main (and only?) hobby seems to be going around looking for "A challenge!"
  • Chaka, in the Whateley Universe. She's always looking for anyone who can give her a good fight and stretch her abilities. She mostly keeps it to her martial arts classes.

     Real Life  

  • Some chess players are like this.
  • Similarly, if a fencer isn't like this he won't last long in the sport.