Non-Video Game Examples:
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Anime and Manga
- The Emperor of Darkness was Bigger Bad from Mazinger Z and Big Bad from Great Mazinger. The second series ended up with the heroes killing his Co-Dragons and annihilating a large part of his army, but they never fought him. Outside of an episode of one of the manga versions of UFO Robo Grendizer and the Super Robot Wars Alpha games he has never been fought (and in Mazinkaiser he is not even mentioned).
- In the episode "Battle of the Badge", viewers expected to finally see Ash come face-to-face with Team Rocket's leader...only to be disappointed when Giovanni left the building and Ash had to instead fight his Terrible Trio for the Earth Badge instead. Ash finally came face-to-face with Giovanni in Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns, but with no battle, and Giovanni doesn't remember Ash anyway. His companions do face Gio's forces, but that happens offscreen. Finally, Ash and Giovanni meet and battle in the Meloetta arc of Best Wishes.
- In the Best Wishes series, Drayden from the Opelucid Gym and Marlon from the Humilau Gym become The Unfought to Ash, since they battle against Iris and Cameron, respectively, and don't appear until after Ash has already won eight badges. There's also Virgil, who stands as the only Major Tournament Rival in the series Ash has never faced.
- A lesser example is Gary Oak, Ash's rival from the early years. The anime's original intended Story Arc (Kanto) centered around their rivalry, building up to a final confrontation between them... but Executive Meddling meant this didn't end up happening until five years after the series began (Johto). Gary didn't even appear that much in the series proper.
- While the entire "genome digimon" plot line was scrapped from Digimon V-Tamer 01, fiveof them do manage to appear on panel. Of these, only NeoDevimon and Callismon are fought, Lycamon, Hermmon and Panimon only getting a fearsome reveal in front of the protagonists at their most vulnerable but never appearing again after departing with The Dragon's army with the promise to slaughter all their friends, aside from a Super-Deformed intro where the mangaka apologize for their absence and ask the fans to come up with their own story to make up for it.
- In the Fortune Cup arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Godwin hires a duelist assassin named Shira to duel Yusei; Shira has a reputation as being so intimidating that some pro duelists are known to give up the game out of fear after facing him. However, Jack Atlas' rival Mukuro Enjo crashes the event hoping to win it in order to get a rematch with Jack, mugs Shira, steals his costume, and takes his place when the duel with Yusei is about to start. Neither Yusei nor Godwin have a problem with Enjo taking Shira's place, so the fight card is quickly changed.
- Despite being the Big Bad of Lyrical Nanoha's first season, neither one of the main heroines ever got to battle Precia since she fell to her apparent death before this could happen. This is why many fans wish Precia survived, so she could get her butt properly kicked.
- In The Movie version of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro never gets to settle his old rivalry with Shin like he does in the manga and TV series. When he eventually arrives at the city of Southern Cross to fight Shin, he finds the place in ruins, and while he does briefly face Shin, Shin ends up dying instead from previously inflicted wounds he suffered from a prior off-screen battle he had with Raoh.
- In Vinland Saga, Thorfinn's entire reason for living is killing Askeladd, who dies at the hand of Canute in front of his eyes. Played with in the sense that Thorfinn actually fought under Askeladd's command for years and dueled him several times, just never getting the result he was after (which was defeating and killing him in a fair duel). He didn't take it well.
- Dante from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. Despite being a highly powerful alchemist in her own right, she flees from a direct confrontation with the Elric brothers at the end and ends up devoured offscreen by Gluttony after she had erased his mind.
- Variable Geo: Miranda Jahana's spirit is contained within the cyber drive, which allowed her to gradually superimpose her consciousness over Satomi's. After Yuka frees her from Miranda's control, her spirit remained trapped in the cyber drive, preventing Yuka and Satomi from attacking her directly. But it also left her utterly defenseless. So when they unleashed their combined fury on it, Miranda and the cyber drive went up in flames together.
- In Clash of the Elements: The inner guardians of the Terra Cave, Frozen Palace, and Ignitor Cave count for this trope. Though their powers are given to the people who merge the Elemental Stones with themselves. This also counts as an example of The Unseen.
- In the Dark World timeline of the Pony POV Series:
- Discord is ultimately never fought by the Elements of Harmony — when they finally confront him, Rancor literally stabs him In the Back, mortally wounding him. When the Elements find him again after that, he's on his deathbed and not a threat anymore; he dies minutes later.
- Mad Tiara and Screwball (Diamond Tiara and her mother who became Discord's Co-Dragons before he finished corrupting the Mane Six into the role) are also never fought, as Discord sends them away and tells them not to fight the heroes period because he knows they can't beat the mane cast and Nightmare Eclipse would make sure they die just to hurt him, and after Eclipse's defeat, perform a Heel–Face Turn and become good guys.
- In Discord's Decision, a What If? scenario of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic season five finale in which Discord rejected Tirek's offer to go bad again, Tirek ends up being this to the Mane Six, with Rainbow Dash grousing about it, as they always take on the main threats to Equestria.
- In The Fifth Element, the hero and Zorg never fight or even communicate directly in any way (even though at one point they are mere meters apart). He does encounter the Action Girl, but at this point she's outgunned and has to retreat.
- The main character in Jarhead is a sniper who never gets an order to fire a single shot. At the movie's climax he is finally ordered to target an enemy officer, and has him in his sights... when Command decides to just bomb the place instead.
- In The Final Countdown, a strike group of U.S. Navy fighters from the carrier Nimitz are within sight of stopping the Japanese task force from attacking Pearl Harbor, but are ordered to abort the mission at the last moment.
- Happens in Street Fighter. Blanka is barely fought, Cammy only takes down a mook or two and Dhalsim never does anything violent. Subverted with Ryu/Vega: It definitely builds up to it, and just as it's about to happen, Guile knocks down the wall with a tank and arrests everybody. Then, near the end of the film, Ryu+Ken/Sagat+Vega, complete with a hadouken reference.
- Evil Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride. Not only is he subdued with a bluff, none of The Hero Westley's fight scenes are with true Villains, but with Anti Villains who join his cause.
- In The Hunger Games. Katniss never kills President Snow directly. Instead she kills Rule Of Escalating Threat leaving Snow at the mercy of the people. Sure, he died anyway but many people wanted it to be at her hands.
- In Episode IV of Star Wars, A New Hope, Luke Skywalker never directly fights this film's Big Bad, Grand Moff Tarkin (Darth Vader was The Heavy in this film); he simply dies after he refuses to evacuate the then-collapsing Death Star.
- In Dragon Bones, the heroes never fight the main villain. When they find out who he is, they are already his captives, and vastly outnumbered. They manage to escape, but are still outnumbered, so they have to employ a non-fighting method of winning.
- In Iain M. Banks's The Algebraist the hero and the big bad are never even in the same star system for entirety of the book.
- In The Dresden Files book Changes, the Eebs (Esmerelda and Esteban) are two ancient vampire hitmen built up through about 3/4 of the book. Finally, when it comes down to a Combat by Champion between Harry and Susan vs. the vampires' side, they fight...the Eebs' pet monster, and a random mook who gets pounded into dust in the first few seconds of the fight. And when those lose, the Eebs are killed by goblins. Given that they knew this would happen, they might have taken it a bit more seriously.
- In the main action of Lord of the Rings (both the books and the Peter Jackson movie trilogy), Sauron himself never appears on any literal battlefield, although his Dragon the Witch-King of Angmar does. Justified by Denethor, who tells Pippin (who fears the imminent arrival of Sauron) that all great lords use others as their weapons, if they are wise. Sauron was also subject to multiple humiliating defeats whenever he fought personally, which is probably how he learned this wisdom. Ultimately, he is destroyed by action from a distance although never directly confronted. Indeed, the character who comes closest to directly encountering Sauron is Pippin, who suffers a brief Mind Rape through Sauron's Palantír. In the movie trilogy, he was planned to appear in the Battle of the Black Gate, but dropped for not fitting with the tone of the films or Tolkien's vision. He was replaced with the armoured troll Aragorn fights instead.
- In the climax of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, one of the challenges to get to the Philosopher's Stone was supposed to be defeating a troll. However, the troll has already been knocked out before the heroes get there, so they just walk past it. They had already fought a troll earlier in the book, though.
- In Mistborn, Lord Tevidian is High Priest of the Corrupt Church, one of the chief lieutenants of the Lord Ruler, and the father of heroine Vin. He is, in other words, exactly the kind of character you'd expect a dramatic confrontation against, but when he does show up it's only for his political rivals to frame him for treason, at which point the Lord Ruler gives them permission to kill him off messily. He never even speaks to his daughter, much less has any sort of confrontation with her.
- In His Dark Materials, the Authority is set up as the ultimate source of the problems of society and the plot. But late in the series, it becomes apparent that Metatron is really calling the shots, while the Authority is the victim of a carriage crash, a stiff breeze, and his own old age.
- The Council of Thirteen are the ultimate heads of the Yeerk Empire in Animorphs, but they're a mostly off-page Bigger Bad, with Visser Three (and to a lesser extent, Visser One) being the actual main enemies the Animorphs have to contend with. The Thirteen themselves only appear in one book, where they're more concerned with investigating potential treason on the Vissers' parts than actually confronting the protagonists.
- In First Test, Page, and Squire, the first three books of the Protector of the Small quartet, the closest Kel has to an enduring enemy is Joren. Kel gets into fights with Joren while they are both still pages, but when he becomes a squire he stops and finds other ways to hassle her. He never challenges her to combat. According to Word of God:
If he challenges her, he admits she is entitled to equal treatment as a warrior and as a noble. He tells the world "I accept her on her terms." That he would never, ever do – and that rigidity is why he dies in the Chamber of the Ordeal. He’s so rigid in his beliefs that he can’t bend, and the Chamber breaks him.
- In The Wheel of Time, Shaidar Haran is a recurring villain in the later half of the series of unknown but tremendous powers. Many fans anticipated a showdown between him and Rand at some point. But when Rand arrives at Shayol Ghul in the last book, he finds Haran already dead. It turns out that Haran was less a person in his own right and more a vessel for the Dark One's will, and at this point the Dark One's prison had been weakened enough that such a tool was no longer necessary, and Haran was discarded. Furthermore, Word of God indicates that Shaidar Haran's ability to harm those not sworn to the Dark One was always extremely limited, to the point that he might not even be able to physically touch those not so sworn, and therefore a physical confrontation with him was never really in the cards anyway.
- In The Dark Tower, Roland and his ka-tet never get the final confrontation with The Dragon and King's Big Bad Flagg (Roland meets him at the end of the first book, and they have a brief encounter with him in the beginning of the fourth book). He's killed off by Roland/Crimson King's son Morded in the seventh book. Additionally, Roland doesn't really physically interact with the Crimson King at the end either, he's erased out of existence by Patrick.
- The Age of Fire series has King Gan, the leader of the snake colony in the cavern where the Copper first meets his bat companions. While he appears as though he's being set up as the Big Bad of the hatchling portion of the Copper's story, they only have two brief encounters (neither of which really counts as a fight), followed by the Copper fleeing further into the Lower World, after which Gan never shows up again.
Live Action TV
- Bones: After Pelant's death early in season 9, the only recurring villain becomes The Ghost Killer. She reappears by the end of the season, in which she is the victim of the week, never being convicted of anything, since they only realize The Ghost Killer is Stephanie McNamara after she is already dead.
- In Breaking Bad, the Salamanca twins are introduced in Season 3, coming after protagonist Walter White in revenge for the death of their cousin Tuco. Thanks to some manipulation by Walter's boss Gustavo, they end up being diverted to Walter's brother in law Hank, who actually pulled the trigger on Tuco. He kills one twin and cripples the other. Walter only encounters either of them when he sees the legless surviving twin in his hospital bed. This remaining twin is soon dispatched by Gustavo as well.
- This happens on 24 on its first season. After the first hitman hired to kill Palmer fails, a lot of build-up is given to this new hitman hired to do the job, Alexei Drazen, he's both given a climatic entrance at the end of an episode, and is given a lot of build-up as to how well trained he is on special forces. He's taken out by his girlfriend via a stab wound in the stomach, and spends the rest of the show either unconscious or in a hospital bed. Eventually he dies without having fought anyone really.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers:
- The Power Rangers never fight Rita Repulsa personally, with her eventually getting kicked out alongside Lord Zedd by the Machine Empire and giving up on conquering/destroying the Earth.
- An even bigger example is Dark Specter from Power Rangers in Space. He's the Man Behind the Man for all of the Power Rangers villains up to that point, but does literally nothing throughout the season and proceeds to get killed off by The Starscream early in the Grand Finale. His Dragon-in-Chief ends up taking over.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- The Anointed One was killed by Spike due to the actor aging out of the character (The
AnnoyingAnointed One was a kid vampire). Buffy never fought him and he never had any real plot importance.
- Drusilla, unless you count her really brief skirmish with Kendra.
- The Anointed One was killed by Spike due to the actor aging out of the character (The
- Narutaki, technically speaking the main enemy of Kamen Rider Decade note , never directly fights Decade or any of the KR allies he has made. Even in the Final Chapter movie, where Narutaki basically reforms The Remnant of Decade's old Dai-Shocker army into Super Shocker, with the help of a brainwashed Dr. Shinigami. Basically, as its top officer, Narutaki turns into what is presumably his true persona, Colonel Zol. Even in that guise, Narutaki remains in the sidelines, only ordering his troops around instead of fighting Decade. And then he apparently gets killed when the Neo-Organism Doras is released. Which he still manages to blame on Decade. This is finally subverted in Super Hero Taisen, where Narutaki takes the form of Destron commander Doktor G, revealing that this and his previous Colonel Zol form are mere disguises rather than true identities. While Narutaki did not assume the Werewolf form of the original Colonel Zol in The Last Story, he does here assume Doktor G's Kani Lazer form, which is actually a whole new costume and much more powerful than the original. In this form, he is seen being easily able to hold off around a dozen Kamen Riders via, you guessed it, lasers. He is only defeated when the Tensou Sentai Goseiger lend their new reflect cards to Decade with Blade and Ryuki, allowing them to deflect Doktor G's lasers allowing them to finish him off with their respective finishers.
- Super Sentai has three ultimate Big Bads who did not receive a proper final battle: Great Doctor Lee Keflen of Flashman (the heroes caused a chain reaction that destroyed his base, killing him), Great Professor Bias of Liveman (Non-Action Big Bad who never really got a chance to fight), and Captain Ryuya of Timeranger (The Chessmaster who did nothing directly; one of his pawns, Gien, became the Final Boss)
- This happens many times on Merlin, most notably between Arthur and Cenred, the antagonistic king of a neighbouring kingdom. After being set up as a Worthy Opponent throughout the course of series three, Cenred is killed off by one of his own allies in a case of You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. They do have a brief scuffle in a Deleted Scene, but it still feels a bit of a waste. Arthur never gets to confront his uncle Agravaine either after he realizes that he was in cahoots with Morgana. Instead, Merlin dispatches him in a tunnel, and it's unclear whether Arthur is even told whether he's alive or dead.
- Tower of God:
- At the climax of the storming of Zahard's castle by Phantaminum, Phantaminum faces off Zahard… and just leaves. Fan speculation has it that it had something to do with the fact that Zahard stopped climbing the Tower at some point.
- The Chessmaster Yu Han-Sung from Season 1 is never fought. The characters just keep on climbing while he just stays on the second floor, he even bids them farewell, though there must be something with those rings he gave them.
- Awful Hospital: The Revourer, possibly because its maze gets overrun by ravenous corpses.
- The Captain Teneille imposter in Vaguely Recalling JoJo because he died when his ship was rammed by the plane sunk by Grey Fly.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged Vegeta is stunned to realize he never actually fought Piccolo-Nappa had. What's worse to him is he was Late to the Realization: even Goku had realized it before him.