In Magical Project S Sasami doesn't want to be a magical girl. Too bad her enemy Pixy Misa knows her secret identity and tortures her wherever she is.
In the Stardust Crusaders part of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure, Jotaro's mother develops a Stand that's slowly killing her; the only way to save her is to destroy Dio.
Mahou Sensei Negima!. His parents' actions during the Great War (not either of the historical ones, but an In-Universe conflict) made enemies with two Ancient Conspiracies—the Cosmo Entelechia and the Megalosembrian Senate—the latter so bad that his mother was scheduled for execution and his father had to bail her out and fake her death. It's no wonder that they decide to leave the boy to some relatives in a village on a different planet inhabited by mages. Unfortunately, the senate managed to get the intel on his whereabouts and send a demon army to wipe them out. The destruction of the village would define Negi's character for years to come.
A lesser example in Chisame Hasegawa: A girl who most definitely wants a normal life (Double life as a Net Idol notwithstanding), but happens to be in the one classroom the Call has on Speed Dial.
Gundam SEED: Poor Kira Yamato... this happened to him twice. The first time he Falls Into The Cockpit and reluctantly joins. By the second season, he's taking care of orphans with his girlfriend, when Durandal's assassins come and blow everything up.
In InuYasha, after returning to her time after her first trip to the feudal era, Kagome assumes the whole experience was a dream and proceeds to forget about the whole thing... until Inuyasha barges into her house while her family is having dinner. She still tries to rebuff him, but one of the villains seeking the Jewel of Four Souls begins reaching through the well shortly after, quickly settling the argument.
In Attack on Titan, not only does the Call know where you live...it will probably make certain that your hometown is destroyed and everyone you love is Eaten Alive.
Eren Yeager wanted to answer the call, and had argued with his mother over this. Cue the Colossal Titan kicking in the Wall, and a chunk of debris landing on the Yeager house. Eren and his foster sister, Mikasa, are forced to helplessly watch their mother be Eaten Alive by a Titan.
Jean Kirstein spends a good amount of time talking about his intention to join the Military Police Brigade and live a comfortable, completely Titan-free life. Then, the day after graduation, his hometown becomes the site of a major battle and he is forced to step up to the plate and take command of the other stranded Trainees. And just to make sure he doesn't reconsider accepting the Call, in the aftermath of the battle he discovers the mangled corpse of his best friend, Marco. Even so, people are genuinely surprised when he decides to answer it and abandon his selfish ways.
Without a doubt, the original example for this trope when it comes to comic books is Batman.
Most conspicuous in Born, set during Castle's time in Vietnam. Castle is seen having an internal monologue with himself, pushing him towards violence and guaranteeing that he could keep Castle's war going on forever. Towards the end of the book, Castle is in the middle of a truly hopeless battle, alone versus a massive amount of VC. The voice says that it will let Castle live and continue to fight... if he pays a price. Castle agrees, goes on to murder the entire enemy force alone, but promptly leaves the service, planning to live in peace with his wife and children. The voice then reminds him, there's a price to be paid.
In Joss Whedon's comic Fray, new slayer Melaka Fray drags her heels over her destiny until her young friend Loo - The Cutie - is murdered. The really awful twist is that she wasn't killed by vampires, but by Mr. Exposition Urkonn, specifically in order to motivate her.
A variant is used in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Origin comic. Buffy's family does not come under attack, but her school does - The Call Knows Where You Go To School, perhaps? Later, a character tells Buffy that she is a creature of destiny - in other words, her school wasn't attacked by Lothos because she went there, she went there because it was under attack by Lothos.
Which likewise happened when she moved to Sunnydale hoping to start a new, monster-free life. Hehe tough break kid.
This trope is pretty much the entire point of the supervillain Zoom. He thinks that by killing off any surviving relatives or friends of a superhero that they have, they'll have more time to devote to hero-ing and will have nowhere else to turn to.
Justice Society of America. Vandal Savage gets pissed off about legacy heroes and decides to bump off entire blood lines. Works in some cases, creates new heroes in others. Try not to send the guy powered by steel to kill the relatives of Commander Steel.
The Filth revolves around this trope — although Greg Feely, the main character, was always an Agent. Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe it's all a lie. Maybe Greg's gone crazy.
Happens in 2011's Incredible Hulk. Whereas Hulk, after separating himself from Banner, has finally found peace and acceptance among a community of Moloids, Banner has become a Mad Scientist obsessed with recreating the Hulk. When a Mad Scientist-hunting agency tries to recruit Hulk to go after Banner, he initially declines, but then some of Banner's gamma-mutated monsters, viewing Hulk as a rival for their creator's attention, attack the Moloids.
Pity poor James Proudstar, AKA Warpath. When Cable tried to recruit him into X-Force, James turns him down to go home and live a normal life. A few pages later, he discovers his entire reservation has been massacred.
In the Buffy / Stargate Fan Fiction Trick or Treat, Xander is told point blank by an agent of the Powers That Be that he is going to go along with their plan, one way or another. Subverted in that once his girls are attacked, he dedicates a remarkable amount of insight into derailing not only their grand plans for him, but a for few of their favorite champions as well. He succeeds.
In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke is obliged to become a Jedi when his home is burned down with his aunt and uncle left as charred remains outside. However, he wanted to help fight the Empire in the first place but his Uncle and Aunt wouldn't allow it. So it was more their refusal than his. (Note that the scene where he says "That would lead them...Home!", and the scene after it (see the page image) are based on a sequence from The Searchers, above.)
The beginning of Mel Gibson's The Patriot fits this to a tee. Benjamin Martin is a dedicated pacifist, arguing against going to war in the State Assembly and refusing to let his sons join the Continental Army. It's not until the British Col. Tavington burns down his farm, kills his second son, and drags his oldest son off to be hung as a spy that Martin joins the fight.
This also happens in Braveheart — William Wallace just wants to 'till fields and maybe raise a family.' Guess what happens to his new wife?
Mel Gibson is good at roles like these. In Mad Max, his very first action movie, the killing of his partner drove him out of the force. The killing of his family drove him to vigilantism. In the sequel, he wasn't about to help the refinery people, but unfortunately for him The Call Knew He Lived In His Car.
In a literal case, in Bruce Almighty, Bruce finds a pager which he cannot lose or destroy with a number. When he calls the number, he is told to go to a certain address "or we'll just keep beeping you."
Which is a rip-off of the memo John Denver gets from the Almighty in Oh, God!, which he throws away over and over again only to have it keep resurfacing, even when he's at home in bed (it's under his pillow).
And Click, in which the protagonist is repeatedly given a remote.
Anti-hero Josey Wales is content to be a poor dirt farmer in Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales; until the Union's brutal "Red Legs" militia burned his farm and murdered his family, which he barely survives. After he's had time to recover, he's met by and joins up with a Confederate guerilla band; achieving notoriety as a skillful and unrelenting fighter, and a substantial bounty is placed on his head by the Union. After the war, he ends up defending several First Nations individuals from brutal exploiters, and an innocent homestead from former Union Red Legs turned bounty hunters and bandits.
Played with a little in Tombstone. Wyatt Earp leaves Dodge to have a normal life, only to wind up living and working in a town where a gang of lawless thugs are running things. His brothers answer the Call and become lawmen, but Wyatt keeps resisting... and then the bad guys start targeting his family. Cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
In Space Cowboys, the call literally knew where Frank Corvin lived. It caught him fooling around with his wife while stuck in their garage during a failed garage door opener replacement.
It would've made for a great Cialis commercial if you replaced the two NASA employees with two bathtubs.
As mentioned above, Serenity — several times, in fact. The crew and River are reasonably content in their lives flying under the radar until the Operative remotely triggers River's Psycho Waif-Fu mode with a subliminal broadcast. Then, the crew is fine with going to ground until the whole thing blows over, except that the Operative's men destroy nearly all of their safehouses, including killing dozens of innocents and their personal friend Shepherd Book. Hell, Mal was ready to turn them out (he did, in fact, for a very brief period) until the severity of the situation pushed all his loyalty-to-the-crew buttons. In short, Serenity is a tale of eight friends (and a dead black guy) who the government just plain won't leave alone, to its own (eventual) peril.
In Pacific Rim, after his retirement due to his brother's death, Raleigh was specifically sought out by Marshall Pentecost because he is the only Mark-3 pilot still alive.
Inheritance Cycle: Eragon finds his uncle's house blown up and his uncle dead; abruptly he realizes that dragon ownership comes with responsibilities.....
To add insult to injury, when he and Brom are discussing the situation later, Brom remarks that Galbatorix would probably be mad at the Razac for killing his uncle for no reason and making Eragon into an enemy. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!
In Animorphs, Marco was reluctant to involve himself in fighting the good fight — until he discovered that his mother was also controlled by one of the brain-stealing aliens.
Also, Jake and Elfangor.
Rand al'Thor and friends in the Wheel of Time have their village attacked not once, but twice, because the Pattern is calling them into service.
The first attack is to force the boys out into the world. The second forces the mantle of leadership onto Perrin.
In Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins never actively resists the Call, but he drags his feet about leaving the Shire to the point that he just avoids meeting a Nazgūl on (literally) his front doorstep. (And it turns out that, at the same time, Saruman's thugs were invading the Shire from a different direction...)
You could say that this happened literally to his uncle Bilbo in The Hobbit, since Gandalf invited the dwarf party, which provided the Call, right into Bilbo's house (without Bilbo's permission). It would've been tough for Bilbo to refuse the Call without injuring his pride or insulting his (unexpected) houseguests.
The Name of the Wind: Kvothe leaves to gather firewood for five minutes, and comes back to witness the (supposedly fictional) Chandrian kill his entire acting troop, family included.
Hogwarts sent Harry Potter a series of acceptance letters, pinpointing his near-exact location at the time the letter got there. Uncle Vernon went to great effort to keep Harry from getting the letter, up to moving the entire family to a small shack on a rain-swept island - where Harry got the call in the un-ignorable, unavoidable form of Hagrid.
Destiny seems to have a thing against Harry, since it seems to kill a lot of the people he loves.
At least the bad guys don't know where he lives until he's 17, thanks to the Blood Magic Dumbledore invoked.
Children of the Night: Di Tregarde, refusing the call to use her Guardianship, ignores an inept sorcerer's plans to summon an inhuman demon that was too strong for him, thinking it's not her problem. Naturally he summoned the thing, it killed him and was wounded in the process, and it then went after Di, because even if she wasn't doing anything with it Guardianship sticks around. She beat it, but the panic attacks triggered by anything that reminded her of it lingered, as did the lesson that ignoring these things, on a purely selfish level, meant that they would meet her on their terms.
Sherlock Holmes overworked himself on more than one occasion, which usually prompted Dr. Watson to take him on a vacation so he could relax. Unfortunately, no matter where Watson seemed to choose as their vacation spot, there would inevitably be a mystery and people seeking Holmes' help. The good Doctor was never very happy at this, but ironically enough Holmes' investigating the problem actually seemed to revitalize him. See The Adventure of the Reigate Squire, The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, and any number of pastiches as examples of when Watson and Holmes try to relax on vacation, only for Holmes' reputation as a detective to precede him.
At least in Watson's case, we can guess he just didn't write about the times when they went on holiday and there wasn't a murder.
In The Silver CrownThe Call not only knew where the heroine lived, it firebombed it. If she'd not opted to go on an early-morning stroll, it'd have been a rather different story.
In the Sword of Truth, Richard has one of these. In an unusual example, three weeks before the events of the book, in the form of his dad getting gruesomely murdered. He's essentially been wandering around trying to deal with it until Kahlan shows up.
It's the job of the Sisters of the Light to be the call.
The Chimes cause this in Richard. No matter how hard everyone else tries to convince him otherwise.
The Temple of the Winds does this. It's possible to refuse that call, but the Temple wont help balance out the situation if you do.
Chainfire is this, just like the Chimes. Only here, his allies are justified in not believing Richard because that's the point of the spell.
This is part of the recruitment process for Mord-Sith, but that's a much darker example.
In the Keys to the Kingdom series, not only does the call know where Arthur lives, it keeps coming back until the end of book three, when he decides to hunt it down and kill it until it leaves him alone. The villains' very first action was to put the lives of his family and half the town in jeopardy from a Nothing-fuelled disease, before trying to bankrupt them in Grim Tuesday and insert a mind-controlling doppelganger into the area in Sir Thursday.
In the Rainbow Magic series, Rachel and Kirsty are often told that the magic will come to them.
Gregor The Overlander never wants to fulfill the prophecies that Sandwich set down for him, but they always find a way to rope him in. Particularly in the third book, his Grandma tells him "You can run away, but the prophecy will find you somehow." A bit later Gregor's mother is infected with a deadly plague forcing him to go after the cure. The call metaphorically hits him right where he lives.
Ripred's "escort" for Gregor is a much more literal example from the same book.
In Of Fear and Faith, after Kavik rejects Noble and Augusts offers to join their journey, another feralFionbri meets him after he collapses drunkenly into an alleyway, and convinces him to change his mind.
Live Action TV
In Smallville, Jor-El knows more than where Clark lives. He is perfectly fine in (usually indirectly) harming his loved ones if it drove him to fulfill his destiny. Like freezing Chloe half to death in Arrival and intending to trap Clark in the Fortress until everyone he loves is dead in Gemini''.
Happens twice in Supernatural's pilot episode for Sam. First, his Dad goes missing and Dean comes to get him. He refuses that after killing the Monster of the Week, but watching his girlfriend burn up on the ceiling like his mother finally forces him to take the call for good.
In fact, any time either boy starts thinking about getting out of the business, they're dragged back in by rather brutal means. The Call doesn't just know where you are, it will stalk you from Hell and back. Literally. As in, angels besieged Hell and dragged Dean out because they had work for him. They dragged the brothers back from Heaven, too.
In seasons four and five and most of three, The Call is in fact semi-omniscient beings, requiring them to travel under a couple different types of mystic shielding. It steps up from hex bags to ribcages engraved in Enochian so Heaven and Lucifer wouldn't turn up and explain with nasty graphic examples why You Can't Fight Fate.
The other Call instances are mostly equally engineered, although the menace that sends soulless Sam into Dean's neighborhood in season six, dragging him slowly back onto the road after over a year of retirement, was just a monster seeking revenge on them for an earlier kill.
Often occurs in Ace Lightning. Fortunately for Mark, it's not a very competent call.
In Heroes, Destiny seems to follow Hiro and Ando around like a puppy dog. At one point, Ando says "I wish destiny would lose our number".
In Legend of the Seeker, Richard displays a significant amount of sense in being completely weirded out by Kahlan and Zedd trying to name him Seeker. Meanwhile, his dad is being killed, his house burned, and his brother set up against him. Contrast it to the less cinematic example in source material.
On Leverage, Nate was wanting to get out of his life of crime, of his variety. This changes when the Irish mob attempts to kill a man in front of him while he is going about his normal life.
A less tragic version of this trope occurs in the pilot of Merlin. The eponymous character is scornful of his destiny to protect Arthur, wanting nothing to do with him. The next night, an enchantress makes an attempt on Arthur's life and Merlin pulls him out of the way without thinking. As a reward, Uther makes him Arthur's manservant, so he's going to have to deal with him full time now.
Another episode has this trope played as tragically as possible. Merlin falls in love with a fugitive Druid named Freya. After a few days with her, he knows he needs to get her out of Camelot, and decides to leave with her. The night they're supposed to leave, the men hunting her catch up and stab her, causing her to bleed to death in Merlin's arms. It's sad enough, but the man who stabs her is Arthur(albeit in self defense), the destiny Merlin was running away from, and you can't help but feel that this was a case of fate saying They Were Holding You Back.
Occurs repeatedly in The Bible, as one of its central themes is that God's will reigns supreme:
God wants Jonah to deliver a message of damnation to Nineveh. Jonah says no, because he thinks that if Nineveh will repent, God won't destroy them, and Jonah wasn't a fan of Nineveh. Jonah attempts to flee God. Cue big storm and great fish. Ninveh did repent. God was pleased. Jonah wasn't.
Jeremiah and Moses also both attempt to resist their calls to become prophets; the text Jeremiah in particular has passages making it clear that he had no choice. Unusually, the book of Jeremiah explicitly has sections where Jeremiah is speaking for himself, where he condemns the things God is forcing him to say and the message God is making him convey.
Nobody knows better about the irresistible will of God than Paul, who got his call to serve while on the road to persecute God's new people. Paul would then go on to be a staunch proponent of the doctrine of predestination.
The Buddha was destined to be either a great ruler or a great teacher. His father was a king and, wanting his son to follow in his footsteps, strove to keep the child from learning anything about suffering and death, as they would tempt the greatness in the child's nature toward compassion and thus the teaching path. But a god is more powerful than a king, and the gods themselves took the forms of beggars, sick men, and corpses in order to drive the Buddha onto the path to enlightenment.
Scion. Your life will become a legend, whether you want it or not. Fate makes sure of that.
Geist The Sin Eaters has elements of this. It's not just that you have an incarnation of death attached to your soul and whispering in your ear. You can see dead people... and the dead people know you can see them, and will seek your help any way they can.
The Chronicles of Amber: Amber Diceless also operates on this assumption, since your allies and your enemies tend to have many powers, including that of walking between dimensions: trying to dodge your problems by laying low in one of the game's many universes is just liable to cause an enemy to destroy that entire universe just to smoke you out.
The title character of Max Payne initially refused Alex's offer to transfer to the DEA and work for him ("You'd make me work undercover in some hellhole. Sorry, Alex. Michelle and the baby come first."). But all that changed when three murderous junkies hopped up on a new designer drug called Valkyr broke into his home and killed his wife and baby girl.
And, literally enough, the Big Bad phones Max's house as this happens to see if her hit worked.
"Is this the Payne residence?"
In Lost Odyssey, the call most definitely knows where Kaim lives. In fact, the call essentially comes (for all the immortal characters) in the form of the main villain, who, years ago, inflicted tremendous emotional pain to the point that the damage to their psyche was literally a fate worse than death, then subsequently sealed off their memories and left them to become walking corpses, eternally (but NOT desperately) searching for their purpose in life.
Happens twice in Baldur's Gate. First, the protagonist's foster father is killed. Later, almost everyone in your entire home town is killed and replaced by evil shapeshifters loyal to the Big Bad.
There is some ambiguity over whether the 'almost everyone is killed' bit is true, but it's not really all that important. Seeing as even if most of them still live, you're not really welcome home anyway, and by that point it's already been indicated to you that the Big Bad's plan has killing you as a fairly important part.
Fei from Xenogears, not only is his mother (who was taken over by one of the Big Bads) is killed by his father (who is taken over by a previous incarnation of Fei). Then, his adopted hometown is burned to the ground by a battle from the ongoing war.
Of course, a great deal of the damage to the town was done by Fei himself!
inFAMOUS: To be honest, there was no way Cole could have possibly avoided The Call. Kessler knew where he worked, asked for him to deliver a package by name and took him to an area with a large number of people before having him open it, so he could absorb plenty of neuro-electric energy to make him as powerful as possible. Kinda hard to avoid The Call when the guy who's making it is you from the future and knows pretty much all there is to know about you.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor somewhat inverts this; your character has a mighty destiny that he can take hold of in any way he wishes. However, he also has the option of running away from it all; the result of this course of action, however, is that the huge majority of his friends, along with hundreds of thousands of other innocent people, die in a manner so horrific that it will Squick you out if you think about it too hard; it's so bad that the top Seraph of Heaven comes to bitch you out for being a coward... and the player knows this is how things will play out before committing to the option.
Dragon Quest IV has a variation where the villains are shown searching for The Chosen One long before you actually get to play as the chosen one. Instead, the first several chapters are spent controlling the hero's future companions and seeing some of their adventures before meeting each other. This also allows the player to see some of the effects that the villains' global search for The Chosen One has. And, of course, once they find out where the chosen one is growing up...
This happens to poor old Banjo in both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie with the kidnapping of his sister and the death of a dear friend, respectively.
Desmond Miles ran away from home when he was 16 because he wanted to see the world outside of Assassin training. Then the Templars' modern incarnation Abstergo Industries found him when he tried to apply for a motorcycle license, kicking off the main plot of the games. Realizing that the Templar threat was real all along, Desmond finally embraces his calling as an Assassin.
All his ancestor Ezio Auditore wanted to do with his life was jump and skip across the rooftops of Florence, screw the most beautiful women in Italy, and loot small chests of their money content. Then, his father and brothers are arrested by the Big Bad, betrayed by their close friend, and hanged in the public square.
Summoner is funny because it unites Jumped at the Call, Refused The Call, and The Call Knows Where You Live: Joseph is identified as a summoner by a passing monk, who offers him a summoner's ring and to help him study his power. Joseph gladly takes the offer. Raiders attack the village, and Joseph calls forth the demon of darkness that resides inside the ring. The demon slays everyone in town, raider & villager alike, except for Joseph and the monk and one other guy. Joseph decides he wants nothing to do with the summoner's legacy and tosses the ring down a well, fleeing to live as a farmer in another village. Then The Empire attacks the village, looking for the one with the mark of the summoner, who is prophesied to kill the emperor. Joseph has no choice but to take on the legacy he threw away earlier if he wants to live and save The Kingdom.
In Final Fantasy XIII, Vanille attempts to avoid her Focus, which inadvertently causes the horrible things that happen to the cast throughout the game.
Hope also isn't very keen about the whole fighting the Sanctum thing, but changes his mind after his father's home gets demolished by a strike team.
In Homeworld, the newly-finished mothership is sent out on a mission to test its hyperdrive by jumping out a distance, then back to the home planet. Oops, someone destroyed the home planet. It's not like they weren't already planning on embarking on the trip across the galaxy in the first place, but there's certainly no turning back now.
In Red Faction Guerrilla, Alec Mason initially declines his brother Dan's offer to join the eponymous Red Faction, until the EDF decide that gunning Dan down and trashing their shack would be a fun thing to do. The Faction show up to rescue Alec from certain doom, with the side effect of having him labelled as one of them by the EDF.
In Thief, Garrett refused to become a Keeper (an agent of "Balance" in the City) and started life as a thief for hire. This doesn't stop him from being dragged into various missions to preserve said Balance in all three games. In the end, he finally accepts the mantle of Keeper — indeed, he ends up being the last true Keeper.
In Dragon Age: Origins, every Origins story ends with you having to conscript to the Grey Wardens to escape jail or death giving you little choice in the matter. In many of these events people close to you get hurt or killed. Then at Ostagar every Grey Warden in Ferelden gets killed by betrayal and a lot of Darkspawn, except for you and Alistair.
The King of Fighters: Poor Gaidel. The man thought that living in a small Brazilian village with his family would be enough to hide from the other Orochi warriors, but it wasn't. Goenitz brutally proved him wrong via dropping by... and brainwashing his pre-teen daughter Leona into killing him and everyone else.
In Penny Arcade Adventures, The Call smashes your house. Twice. The second time it literally knew where you lived and was going there to pick you up.
In Peasant's Quest, Trogdor burninates Rather Dashing's thatched-roof cottage, thus motivating him to liberate the peasant kingdom of Peasantry from the Burninator's influence forever.
This was Standard Operating Procedure for the Scions, a group of evil telepaths in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe. When they detected the development of a young new telepath, they'd approach the child's parents in the guide of a Super Hero School that would train the child in the use of their new abilities. If the parents agreed, all was right with the world. If the parents didn't agree, they'd mentally manipulate the parents into some sort of fatal situation (murder-suicides were popular) and then manipulate whoever they needed to get the kid anyway.
Active in Dept Heaven Apocrypha, where fate was so insistent that Nessiah wind up exactly as messed-up as his canon self, his only place of sanctuary—his previous school—was destroyed when his unstable magic went out of control.
Bladedancer of the Whateley Universe. When she didn't really get with the program, a demon-lord from a fiery hell invaded her home, killed her father, burned down her house, destroying the magical artefact that allowed her to resume her natural form, and chased her halfway across the country to sanctuary at Whateley Academy.
Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond had his father murdered, which made him steal the batsuit and set him on the path of a new Batman. In Justice League Unlimited, it's revealed that Project: Cadmus was planning to have his parents murdered in a manner similar to Bruce's to inspire him, but scrapped it due to moral restraint... Only to have some villain do their job for them eight years later. Didn't they get lucky?
Aang finds out he is The Chosen One. Aang runs away. His entire race is exterminated and himself encased in ice. Aang wakes up, and proceeds to hang out with the Southern villagers, incognito. Aang finds out about the war. Continues to be incognito, does not have any idea how to cope. Unfortunately for him, Prince Zuko is in the neighborhood, and everything gets busted wide open. Zuko's continued pursuit motivates the first season in a way 'stop the world war' just couldn't for a bunch of kids, especially a kid like Aang. Many fans, and possibly Iroh, consider Zuko to be the long arm of Aang's destiny, prodding him in the butt. It's not a dignified position.
In Transformers Super God Masterforce, Hydra and Buster start killing truckers in order to eliminate Ginrai; since most of their victims are Ginrai's friends, this results in Ginrai being motivated to actually get involved in the fight.
In Conan The Adventurer, the eponymous hero gets started on his adventure when his parents and grandfather are turned into stone by the Big Bad.
During World War II, the US public was reluctant to enter the conflict, instead aiming for a peaceful resolution (meanwhile, the government was already participating via the Land Lease program and American ships were shooting at German ships and vice versa). The bombing of Pearl Harbor pushed them over the edge and precipitated the US's active involvement in the war.
A LOT of neutral countries got this in spades during WWII. In sequential order: China, (arguably) Czechoslovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Yugoslavia, and the Philippines, either by being ripe pickings for the Axis powers or strategic staging grounds for Allied ones.