Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist
The Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist represents the law, who is intent on capturing a criminal. It just so happens that the viewpoint character of the work is a Lovable Rogue or some other criminal. The Inspector must be sympathetic, unlike the Inspector Javert. He believes in the law, but won't sacrifice his humanity at its feet. He's doing exactly what he should be doing, and even doing it fairly well, but never quite as well as the protagonist is doing his job. As a series goes on, chances are he'll develop a great deal of respect for his quarry, and may be quite prone to teaming up with the protagonist. He also does not chase Wrongly Accused criminals. Don't try to fake being a victim of his target; the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist knows his quarry, and can often tell right off "That's not his style." Likewise, he can often figure out pretty quickly if an innocent target is being framed by his archnemesis. This sympathy can be played for laughs, and humiliated left and right by the hero. Thus, this character runs a risk of becoming a joke among fans (or even in-series) if he never has any on-screen successes, especially if Flanderization sets in. A common way of preventing this is to have the character be a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass against lesser crooks, thus racking up an impressive career record of arrests even if it is primarily cleaning up after his main quarry has defeated them. Perhaps he even deliberately lets the main villain go because the alternative is letting more vicious ones escape. Occasionally, he may even catch him, only for the criminal to escape other, more foolish characters, or receive The Pardon. Regardless, when his superiors try to replace him, that replacement usually finds himself totally outmatched by the rogue and humiliated to the point where the Inspector is replaced as the only police officer who has a decent chance of capturing the quarry. More likely to be Lawful Good than Inspector Javert, because he has the answer to the question "To Be Lawful or Good". Many times, it is also revealed that he is VERY good at his job... but that his elusive quarry is SO good as to make him look foolish. Spotlight episodes might even prove him to be quite formidable. The protagonist himself may even praise him, and usually enjoys getting chased. This character is also always considered an important one in the series, even if he is secondary to the protagonist: the series would just not be as interesting without a foil for the hero. Expect him to have a few episodes dedicated exclusively to him, like showing his point of view for an entire episode or showing his life outside chasing his prey. Can easily become an Ensemble Dark Horse if he's likable enough (which he usually is). A subtrope of Hero Antagonist. See also The Rival. Compare Determinator, Meddlesome Patrolman. Contrast Inspector Javert (who may be villainous, though rarely actually evil). Simple inspector identification test: if it would be unjust for the inspector to actually arrest the hero, but the inspector doesn't know or doesn't agree, he is Inspector Javert. If it would be just to arrest the hero (a Gentleman Thief is still a lawbreaker) but it never seems to happen or stick, despite him being good at his job, it's Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist.
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- Old Cookie Crisp commercials, which replaced the ones about their old mascot, Cookie Jarvis, had Officer Crumb chasing after the Cookie Crook and Chip the Dog for stealing Cookie Crisp. He never succeeded... until they changed the commercials to have Officer Crumb catch them in the end. Later the Cookie Crook and Chip the Dog were scrapped entirely for Chip the Wolf.
Anime and Manga
- The former Trope Namer is Inspector Kouichi Zenigata from the Lupin III series. He set the standard for a whole host of wacky detectives following in the example of his relentless pursuit of Lupin. By this point, he's come to admit he wouldn't have any idea what to do with himself if he did catch Lupin. He's also very much in the "good, just not as good as his quarry" column - he gets closer to catching Lupin than anyone who tries to replace him, he's a one-man police force against any lesser criminal, and can have quite a good time beating up an entire gang of muggers barehanded. It's openly stated that his stellar arrest record (i.e. cleaning up after Lupin) is what lets him stay on the Lupin case.
Zenigata has also actually been able to catch Lupin clean a few times. In the original manga and anime, he caught him with a VERY cleverly laid trap, and kept him behind bars FOR A YEAR. It took Lupin a VERY clever Batman Gambit to escape that time. The bottom line is Zenigata IS capable of catching Lupin from time to time. Lupin STAYING caught? Ah, now that's the tricky part, ain't it?
He's also let Lupin go more than a few times, too. While Lupin is his archenemy, it's a matter of the two being on reasonably good terms with each other, and he'll stop chasing Lupin if there's a worse villain to be caught, even to the point of ignoring Lupin escaping if the badguy is bad enough (sort of a reward for helping stop him).
- In Gunsmith Cats and its pilot of sorts, Riding Bean, Percy is the head investigator, obsessed with catching Bean Bandit the legendary Road Buster. Bean finds him most amusing, even though at one point he frames Bean for a murder so he can squeeze favours from the mobster who actually committed it. He's less sympathetic in Gunsmith Cats: Burst, where Percy tries to have him assassinated and will happily put innocent lives at risk, order his men to near-suicidal maneuvers and let far more dangerous criminals get away if it brings him closer to catching Bean.
- Sherlock Hound's portrayal of Inspector Lestrade has elements of this, when chasing Moriarty. Ironically, Hayao Miyazaki, one of the directors also directed The Castle of Cagliostro.
- Kaitou Saint Tail has the Amateur Sleuth Asuka Jr constantly trying to foil Saint Tail. Of course, complications arise from Meimi's on-off crush on him outside her alter-ego, eventually leading into Dating Catwoman.
- Magic Kaito
- Hakuba Saguru from can be seen as a serious version of this or, in his worse moments, a genuine Inspector Javert. However, he does do a fair bit of good despite his attempts to catch the gentleman thief protagonist, and views him as a Worthy Opponent. Also notable for the huge amount of Ho Yay his obsessed chase produces.
- Don't forget Inspector Nakamori, who is pretty much exactly Zenigata. He's an actual cop in charge of an entire division devoted exclusively to catching Kaitou Kid. He's also totally, unhealthily obsessed and does not even approach being smart enough to beat Kid, instead getting taunted and gently humiliated whenever he faces off against the thief. (Though he is more competent when not dealing with Kid.) And ironically, Nakamori's daughter Aoko is the closest to Kaito's love interest.
The Magic Kaito manga was arranged with a lot of homages to the original Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Burglar, so that Nakamori is a clear Expy of the much-toyed-with Ganimar, and Hakuba Saguru's original arrival is timed and delivered to be reminiscent of 'Herlock Sholmes' in Lupin. He's even wearing Holmes cosplay.
- Eventually, he gets yet another Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist... Conan from Detective Conan. Kid has actually had much more success as a guest star on Conan than he did with his own comic.
- Detective Leon Orcott of Pet Shop of Horrors. He finds Count D to be a threat to humanity. Count D finds him to be endearingly/irritatingly thick-headed. Both are correct in their assessment. This doesn't stop either of them from having tea with one another several times a month.
Leon also finds himself disturbingly attracted to D (disturbingly so because D is male - sort of), just as D finds himself disturbingly drawn to Leon (disturbingly so because Leon is human). Eventually, as Leon really begins to trust D, he lets his little brother live in the titular Petshop because he feels it would be the safest environment for the kid. ... And he still tries to arrest D occasionally after that.
- My Bride Is a Mermaid has Zenigata Mawari, a policeman's daughter obsessed with enforcing rules with all her might. Comes with a Catch Phrase: "Must Mawari teach you the rules of..."
- Inspector Saehara from D.N.Angel falls into the comic side of this trope due to Dark already having a rather more competent nemesis. He does realise it would be out of character for Dark to kidnap someone though.
- One Piece
- Captain, later Commodore, even later on, Vice-Admiral, Smoker. He's a marine, and catching pirates is his job - not wrongly so, since a lot of Pirates really are terrible criminals in this world. It just so happens our hero is also a pirate, if a really nice one that never pillages or hurts innocents. He catches plenty of other, less nice pirates along the way and actually helps with foiling the plans of the Big Bad in the Alabasta arc. Also notable in that Luffy stands no chance against him in a fight and Smoker would have absolutely no problem taking Straw Hat in if not for dumb luck, circumstance, or help from allies always getting Luffy out of Smoker's grasp. Well, at least until Luffy learned Haki. These days, their relationship is this and Worthy Opponent.
- Ironically, this was the relationship that Luffy's grandfather Garp had with the previous Pirate King. So much so, that Roger, recognizing that they had pretty much become friends to the point that he trusted him as much as he did his own crew, entrusted Garp with his unborn child. The fact that Luffy and Smoker's relationship is so similar to their respective predecessors makes it more symbolic.
- L from Death Note would qualify as a more serious and less hands on example. As the worlds greatest detective, he early on (correctly) fingers out the main protagonist as the most likely candidate to be the notorious serial killer known as "Kira" and continues to pursue his hunch for the rest of the series, even when circumstances (orchestrated by Light of course) seem to disprove this. It's also a rare example where the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist's opponent ends up losing because of his hard work, albeit through his successor
- Misaki Kirihara of Darker Than Black manages to be one of the most sympathetic characters in the series despite spending most of it working against the (amoral, but generally also sympathetic) main characters. It helps that the series runs on Grey and Gray Morality.
- Cats Eye: Inspector Utsumi will never, ever catch the three Classy Cat Burglars. Because they're the protagonists, and because his girlfriend is one of them.
- Several police persons appear in Hana no Ko Lunlun, ranging from this trope to Inspector Javert. The most archetypical Sympathetic Inspector Antagonists are the policeman who chased after Sayid and Scharo in the first part of the Morocco miniarc, and the inspector form the Egypt episode who pursues a Gentleman Thief that Lunlun has befriended and actually succeeds in catching his target. Poor Lunlun never knew she was aiding an outlaw, tho.
- Bright Honda in Shadow Lady is a skilled detective and a wizard with gadgets, but he's trying to take down a supernatural cat burglar.
- Meguro from MW. Like L, he guessed right who the bad guy is but lacks evidence.
- Kotarou Amon from Tokyo Ghoul, having been shaken out of his black-and-white view of the world after encountering Kaneki. He remains determined to fight Ghouls and stands in Kaneki's way, but also considers him a Worthy Opponent that he desperately wants to learn more about. Roughly half of the series follows him, making him the secondary protagonist for chapters focused on the human side of the story. The second time they face each other in battle, he even allows Kaneki to escape while insisting that tending to the wounded is more important. In their final showdown, he finally gives his name to Kaneki and both mentally beg the other not to die. Even after he loses his right arm to Kaneki, he insists that he can't die, because then it would make Kaneki a murderer — the very thing he begged Amon to not make him, during their first encounter.
- Batman from the perspective of the Classy Cat-Burglar Catwoman. He is dedicated to justice and she plays loose with the law, but they bail each other out on occasion.
- Inspector Ginko in the Italian series Diabolik. He's just as good as his quarry... And, being that good, he has already taken down a few mob bosses with the entire organization and, in collaboration with Diabolik, crippled a terrorist organization. The only reason Diabolik usually wins is that, being a cop, Ginko is more restricted in the actions he can take, while Diabolik and Eva can do whatever they want.
To show how good is Ginko: in the very first story, Ginko succeeded into identifying Diabolik, expose his use of Latex Perfection, and nearly caught him, with Diabolik escaping with the loot only because he didn't cry in pain when Ginko shot the scarecrow he was hidden in, making Ginko believe he had already ran away. A flashback in a following story shows that Diabolik had already tried to steal the target of his first story, but Ginko managed to arrest him (Diabolik evaded only because he was wearing a mask at the moment of capture, and managed to change identity the moment the prison guards looked another way).
- Finch in V for Vendetta is an effective and honorable detective, it's just that V, his opponent, is a master of Batman gambits. You could argue that this trope is subverted in the end, as Finch manages to find and kill V, but the comic strongly implies that V wanted this to happen, making it his ultimate Batman Gambit.
- In The Incredible Hulk comic books, Doc Samson kept trying to stop the Hulk when he was savage or grey. He ought to be good at it, since he's almost as strong as the Hulk, but as the grey Hulk put it: "You know what [being almost as strong as me] means? NOTHING!"
Doc Samson's origin story pointed out that he got his powers by draining them from the Hulk, but that the Hulk was (relatively) calm at the time ... and Hulk gets stronger as he gets angrier. Of course, since the Hulk's baseline is still pretty darn strong, Samson is no slouch against most opponents.
- In the Kaitou Kirameki Man series of the Time Bokan franchise, the iconic Terrible Trio were bumbling cops who always failed at catching the Gentleman Thief protagonists.
- In the 1970s both Man-Wolf and Morbius headlined their own series in monster anthologies. Their shared Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist was Simon Stroud of the "Special Police Task Force". He was an honorable man who tried to capture them alive, and used lethal force only against truly "inhuman" foes. He made his last appearance as a genuine hero in 1980. After several years Out of Focus, Stroud resurfaced in the 1990s Morbius series as a man utterly obsessed with killing Morbius. He had long since abandoned his career, alliances, and much of his morality in favor of hunting his vampire. In one story arc of this later series, Stroud briefly ends up in a Mental Institution. It is mentioned that the other patients live in fear of him.
Films — Animated
- Tangled: Parodied by Maximus, a royal mount that got separated from his rider but still kept trying to bring Flynn in. He eventually warms up to him.
Films — Live-Action
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Norrington. He's definitely not the bad guy, and is pursuing Jack out of duty and orders. Jack is, after all a pirate, and piracy was a huge threat to settlements.
Several of the deleted scenes feature Pet the Dog moments for Norrington. Notably, he tells Governor Swann that whatever his personal feelings towards Will, he's duty-bound to try and rescue him from Barbossa. He also has a moving heart-to-heart talk with Elizabeth after she "accepts" his proposal. Even Jack admits that he respects Norrington as "a man who knows what he's after."
- Willem Dafoe's character in The Boondock Saints hits this trope. Perhaps averted later when he attempts to imitate the Saints, and again when he flat out joins their cause..
- Kenneth Williams' characters in the Carry On movies with Sid James as the Gentleman Thief outlaw (Carry On Dick and Don't Lose Your Head).
- Inspector Jacques Clouseau of The Pink Panther fame started out as this in the very first film pursuing the Phantom, who was the original protagonist. Clouseau became the Ensemble Dark Horse the subsequent films focused on, and he never gave up his determination to capture villains. This, combined with his chronic ineptitude, is what drove his superior Chief Inspector Dreyfus to madness. On the other hand, in Trail of the Pink Panther, Charles Lytton (the Phantom himself) saw that determination as the secret to what success Clouseau had.
- Tom Hanks's character Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can hunts down a very skilled conman/forger.
- Detective Martin Prendergast in Falling Down is the Hero Antagonist. He opposes and tries to calm down the rampage of the Villain Protagonist.
- Keyes' job in Double Indemnity is to sniff out insurance fraud like what Walter and Phyllis are doing by murdering Phyllis' husband for the insurance money she would get upon his death.
- Shinjuku Incident has detective Kitano, playing the role to its extreme. He's a bit of a jerkass for parts of the film, but he is nonetheless shown in a positive light, in a sense even more so than Jackie Chan's character. Subverted/played with, though, in that rather than chase Steelhead to the ends of the earth, he agrees not to do just that...after he almost dies chasing Steelhead to the ends of the earth.
- The nameless LAPD detectives of 1-Baker-11 in Gone in Sixty Seconds (1974) are a perfect example of this and Hero Antagonist. Maindrian Pace has been stealing cars, then, after being tipped off to his final theft and instituting a stakeout, Pace rams their car and flees from the scene after being signalled to stop. They are the only police car to chase Pace the entire pursuit, from beginning to end.
- Inspectors Castlebeck and Drycoff in the remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000).
- Sue Shiomi in the role of Huo Feng in The Street Fighter's Last Revenge.
- Inspector Kong from So Close begins the movie as this. The protagonists are a pair of professional killers. Once they're betrayed and Kong is framed, however, she joins the remaining hitwoman to clear her name.
- Paul Giamatti's chief inspector in The Illusionist sympathizes and even admires the hero, but works at the pleasure of the villainous aristocracy. He ultimately allows the hero to get away with his master plan.
- Fear City: Detective Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams) is a legitimate good guy who wants to catch the killer as badly as Rossi does, he's just at odds with the adult club owners because he's a stickler for the law. By the end, Wheeler does gain a bit of respect for Rossi and lets him go after he single-handedly defeats the killer.
- NYPD Chief Rotzinger in Quick Change, who diligently hunts the bank-robber protagonist Grimm and his two accomplices; he and Grimm share more than few traits and you get the definite impression the two men could have been friends were circumstances different.
- In Mortdecai, Scotland Yard Inspector Martland turns into one as the story progresses. At the start, he serves as Charlie's ally, partly because of his attraction to Johanna, but later he gets more and more in the way of her and Charlie's own goals, such as by burning the (fake) painting when he finds it and intervening in the auction near the end.
- Death Hunt: Sergeant Millen knows that the local mob antagonized Albert Johnson to begin with and are asking for his head. He offers Johnson safety if he'll come down to the station with them, but this is ruined by a member of the mob opening fire unprovoked. Millen knows that there's nothing for him to do but kill or take in Johnson from there, even if he doesn't enjoy it.
- The original Arsène Lupin had Ganimard, the original Zenigata. Lupin himself admits that even though Ganimard doesn't have his or Holmes's intellect, he made up on pure tenacity and determination. Not that Lupin ever had any qualms on making him look like a fool though. Notable for being the first one ever to arrest Lupin.
- In the Moist von Lipwig POV Discworld novels, Vimes is this, though an unusual case as those who've read the whole series will be familiar with him as a protagonist.
- Most of the police officers who pursue The Saint fall into this category, especially Chief Inspector Claud Eustace Teal of Scotland yard and Inspector John Henry Fernack of the NYPD. Teal was so important to Simon Templar's early adventures that two collections were named after him. He also saved the Saint's life at least once.
- Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment is probably this; subverted in that he succeeds, hence the second part of the title. What's so impressive about Porfiry is that the protagonist, while guilty, just manages through a combination of luck and Xanatos Speed Chess to make it so that there is very little evidence against him; the only way he could be convicted is if he confesses. Porfiry, knowing that the protagonist is guilty but not possessing enough evidence to convict, manages to hound and mess with him enough to convince him to confess.
Interestingly, even while he was messing with the protagonist with such ideas as reduction of sentence and suicide, he seemed genuinely concerned for the protagonist's moral welfare. (Only after, however, he is utterly certain that the protagonist will confess. Knowing he's caught the right guy and clinched the case, he takes some time out to feel sorry for him.)
Live Action TV
- The various Army commanders (of which there were five or six) who pursued the The A-Team flip-flopped between this and Inspector Javert depending on the script & characterizations. Colonel Decker managed to embody both tropes, being a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- Paul Ballard on Dollhouse spends most of the first season trying to uncover the titular operation. Many would consider him the true protagonist of the show, apart from Echo who is a victim he is trying to save.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus:
- Jim Sterling on Leverage, except he never looks foolish and the protagonists never manage to humiliate him, even when they get away, because he always manages somehow to get promoted after every encounter with them.
Sterling is also an interesting example because he doesn't actually care all that much about capturing Team Leverage unless it somehow serves his own purposes and ambitions. Most of the time, he just leaves them alone.
- Hank Schrader of Breaking Bad diligently hunts an elusive crystal-meth manufacturer known to him only as "Heisenberg." Little does he know that "Heisenberg" is actually his brother-in-law Walter White, the Justified Criminal (at first) protagonist of the series.
- Peter Burke of White Collar was this pre-series - by the time the show starts he's already caught Gentleman Thief Neal. Then they end up on the same side, and he still plays this sometimes, considering Neal has some trouble letting go of his former conman ways.
- Doakes serves as the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist in Dexter until he's killed in a fire.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Planet of the Dead", the detective pursuing Lady Christina is mostly played for laughs, ignored by UNIT and other authorities, and in the end, the Doctor helps her escape as he watches in futility. Some people have criticised this, considering Christina can come across as a rather selfish Designated Hero and the cop was completely justified in arresting her.
- Detective Carter in Person of Interest is a serious version, pursuing the vigilante protagonist. She does occasionally team up with Finch and Reese, the frequency of such team ups increasing up until the season finale, where for the second time, she (along with her partner, Lionel Fusco, who was initially blackmailed into assisting them unbeknownst to Carter until she tracked him down) helped Reese evade the CIA. Finch will occasionally contact Carter for information that the NYPD may have on a POI.
- Firefly gave us a single-episode example in the form of Sheriff Bourne in The Train Job. He nearly catches Mal early on, except for the intervention of Inara, and after cornering Mal, decides to let him go when he sees that Mal was in the process of returning the stolen cargo, having learned that it was actually medicine needed to alleviate the villagers debilitating lung-disease.
- Detective Quentin Lance on Arrow zigs-and-zags as an example. When he is first introduced, he is an enemy of both Arrow and Oliver. He hates Arrow because the vigilante kills other criminals, preventing the process of government justice. He hates Oliver for cheating on his daughter Laurel and blames him for his daughter Sara's death. As Oliver tries to atone for his sins and the sins of his family, Det. Lance becomes Arrow's Commissioner Gordon, helping Arrow arrest criminals instead of killing them, and inadvertently proving Oliver isn't the Arrow. As Oliver becomes more involved with the League of Assassins, Det. Lance becomes more distant. His grudge against Arrow and Oliver increase, becoming convinced of the connection by Ra's Al Gul. Oliver is working hard to atone for his sins, but remains a criminal in the eyes of the law, and Detective Lance has teams of police working overtime to arrest the Arrow.
- Police in general in Covert Affairs on several occasions. Both Annie and the Police of the countries she is working in are doing their respective jobs.
- Chloe O'Brien becomes this in the final season of 24 when Jack undergoes a Face-Heel Turn in his quest to slaughter the mastermind of the attacks on New York whose actions lead to the death of Renee Walker. Chloe wants to expose them, as opposed to Jack who just wants to kill them regardless of who gets hurt in the process.
- Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez in From Dusk Till Dawn is determined to hunt down the Gecko brothers, the protagonists of the series.
- Officer Bullocks from one episode of Lost in Space was hunting down Gentleman Thief Ohan. Bullock's harshness compared to Ohan's politeness caused the Robinsons to prefer and help out the latter.
- At the start of Burn Notice season three, Team Westen tangles repeatedly with Detective Michelle Paxson from Miami-Dade PD, who is investigating their definitely well-intentioned but technically illegal activities. They toy briefly with getting her arrested, but balk at the idea because she's an honest cop. Michael eventually convinces her that he and his team really are the good guys and that she can safely back off by helping her make a major arrest and pinning some of their own stunts on the perp.
- Carmelita Fox from the Sly Cooper video game series. She's one of the most respected cops in the world, perhaps thanks to Sly's MO of only stealing from other criminals: even though she usually fails to catch Sly, she can always bring in his victim. Sly also tends to flirt with her whenever they clash, which eventually evolves into Dating Catwoman.
Carmelita is unique among Sympathetic Inspector Antagonists in that at the end of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, she DOES capture Sly...in a manner of speaking. The two of them end up romantically involved and Sly quits the thief business so they can be together. Of course, he does this by faking amnesia, so it's hard to say who really ends up on top here. As of Sly 4, after figuring out that Sly was faking amnesia and getting mixed up in the Cooper Gang's latest mission, she finally has the epiphany that she and Sly aren't so different. They both stop real crooks, just from different sides of the law. The ending implies that she's now on relatively good terms with the gang.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Hieronymus Lex - one of the Imperial City's Watch Captains - is the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist to the Gray Fox, leader of the Thieves' Guild in Cyrodiil. In fact, he is one of the only members of the Imperial Watch who even believes the Thieves' Guild exists, and has dedicated himself to becoming a perpetual, overzealous thorn in its side. He mellows considerably after you inform him that he's been reassigned to the city of Anvil... although not without a brief rant about how the Gray Fox must have been behind that, too. He's right. Although for fun, once you get the Gray Fox cowl, you can put it on in front of him and have him sputter in disbelief at finally catching him.
So many layers of irony were in that 'reassignment'. On one hand, Lex is now unwittingly working for the Gray Fox. On the other hand, it was the Gray Fox who, after so many years of cat-n-mouse evasion between them, hand-picked him to be the new captain of the Anvil city guard. This actually reveals a huge respect for the man.
- Officer Denise Marmalade in The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.
- Captain Leblanc of the Schwann Brigade in Talesof Vesperia. In a final side quest with him before the final dungeon, after Yuri escapes from him one final time, he even laughs and says "I wouldn't have it any other way".
- Ace Attorney:
- Luke Atmey plays the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist to Gentleman Thief Mask*DeMasque in Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. By which we mean he's blackmailing DeMasque into committing the thefts to make money and get attention.
- And in Ace Attorney Investigations Detective Badd's spent ten years chasing a vigilante thief called the Yatagarasu and has become an expert on his techniques. By which we mean he is the Yatagarasu, or at least one of the three people in the Yatagarasu group. Since he's the main detective on the case he can easily erase all evidence of the Yatagarasu's identity.
- Dick Gumshoe is usually this, but even moreso in Investigations, where he's Edgeworth's assistant/sidekick. Though he's most used for comedic purposes, he has shades of Inspector Lestrade, Determinator, and Dumbass Has a Point. Notably, in the last case, he was able to deliver all the remaining evidence needed to incriminate the suspect without even being told what to look for. If he pays more attention to Edgeworth, he could easily take a level in badass in sequels, but this is unlikely, since now he's more of a The Watson, but at least it's a step up from Butt Monkey.
- Bobby Fullbright plays this role very straight, often finding himself conflicted when dealing with the protagonists at the crime scene, frequently being torn between his duty of guarding the crime scene from the defense side and helping them getting to the bottom of the case as to not stand in the way of justice. At least, that's what we're led to believe the actual Fullbright's personality was like if the Phantom's impersonation of him in Dual Destinies is anything to go by...
- Spectre Jondum Bau from Mass Effect 3 is a downplayed example. He's not against Shepard, but he is trying to hunt down one of Shepard's friends, Kasumi Goto, Classy Cat-Burglar extraordinaire. Both Bau and Kasumi have great respect for each other. He does however look the other way after realising Shepard has been secretly aiding and abetting Kasumi the entire time. It helps that Kasumi apparently died trying to save the hanar homeworld. That plus Shepard's trust in her would be a potent argument in favor of "cleared of all charges." And no, this is not a spoiler, Shepard guesses she's still alive if she's loyal.
This seems to be typical of Spectres in general though they're in danger of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope when they do, because Spectres are given broad authority to violate lesser regulations in service of the greater good of the Council, which allows them to work with mercs, thieves, and assasins. A Spectre in the second game works with the Shadow Broker because of the useful intel she gets. Shepard himself is willing to work with Cerberus in the second game.
- In Love Letter From Thief X, Tatsuro Togoshi is a police detective assigned to catch the main characters, who make up a group of Phantom Thieves called the Black Foxes. He's also the protagonist's childhood friend, which makes things complicated for both of them after she becomes involved with the Foxes, and on a couple of occasions he ends up turning a blind eye and letting them go rather than be forced to arrest them.
- Inspector Paul Vergier in Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure spends much of the game unsuccessfully trying to catch Phantom R, although he's very good at predicting where Phantom R would be next. When Napoleon Bonaparte goes after Vergier later on (It Makes Sense in Context), however, Vergier guns down Napoleon's Mooks with little effort.
- Detective Leon Williams in Angel Of Death is assigned to discover the identity of the titular serial killer, our protagonist. He has a very low opinion of the Angel, but only because he does not know that he has to kill to survive, and when Valthakar kills a woman on camera, attempting to frame the Angel of Death, Det. Williams instantly sees through it and deduces that another killer is behind this. This is doubly impressive when you consider that the Angel of Death has powers which everyone involved had a hard time accepting were real in his case, let alone in another.
- In Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo, Commander Daizo is another serious form of this, sternly chasing Robin once he "kills" one of Brushogun's ink constructs. He even looks like Zenigata - intentionally so, given the setting and nature of the film. But in a twist, he's revealed to be the villain of the piece, using Brushogun as a slave to create criminals for him to capture.
- Commander Ulysses Feral will not stop before he's caught those SWAT Kats for the destruction they inflict on the city! ... Usually. His real sympathetic part is that more than once a bad guy he's captured will try to use his mutual hatred of the SWAT Kats to get favorable treatment, only to be promptly reminded that Feral does not make deals with criminal scum.