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Tiger Versus Dragon

A subtrope of Animal Jingoism and Red Oni, Blue Oni.

The Chinese have an interesting idiom; "the tiger and the dragon". This refers to two spirits so wildly different and yet at the same time similar, mortal enemies intricately linked together by destiny. Both the Dragon and the Tiger are Buddhist symbols, with the tiger lunging straight ahead to bulldoze through his opponents, while the dragon is revered more for patience and wisdom from which he then derives fighting power. With neither able to conquer the other, these kingly beasts represent a balance of power, "hard" and "soft" styles coming together to form a harmony between Yin and Yang. They can also be seen as the Dragon representing Spirit/Heaven, and the Tiger representing Matter/Earth. This is why you see lots of Dragon/Tiger tattoos. They're as Eastern as Yin and Yang. Bonus points if they're in the same picture as a Yin and Yang (which isn't Buddhist, per se, but Taoist).

This can be used either for depth, exploitation, or just because.

Whether it's just competing companies, martial arts, board games, or whatever, the dragon and the tiger will likely be used to represent these similar-but-different forces. The person representing the dragon will usually be wise, tempered, patient, humble, plucky, and/or any other traits usually seen as "laid-back". The person representing the tiger will probably be passionate, driven, enthusiastic, wild, and/or other traits seen as "Hot-Blooded". The dragon is almost always represented by the protagonist or by another good character if the tiger is represented by an antagonist.

Either way, once they work together or fight against each other, there will definitely be sparks flying.

Often manifests in an Animal Battle Aura. See also Red Oni, Blue Oni, for when the contrast is just contrast and not actually representing a Tiger/Dragon battle. See also Animal Jingoism, for when other animals contrast against each other. If it's just animal of the dragon by himself, then it's Dragons Up the Yin Yang. If there's also a snake/turtle and a phoenix it's The Four Gods; bonus points if the tiger is white and the dragon is blue or green with out the additional two however, as they also boast clashing elements due to symbolizing opposing Chinese elements, being Metal and Wood, respectively.

If the person representing the dragon is actually The Dragon, then, uh, something went terribly wrong.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! cut out the middle man: A single Tiger Dragon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: In an early season one episode, tiger and dragon images are shown behind Misawa and Juudai respectively. Later on, Misawa falls for Taniya, who actually is a tiger, and Juudai's past life love Yubel turns up: who was transformed into a dragon.
  • Yu Gi Oh ZEXAL had taken the aforementioned Tiger Dragon and made a baby version of it, Baby Tiragon.
    • In his duel with Tron/Vertix, Yuma equipped Hope/Utopia Ray with 2 Zexal Weapons: Lightning Blade (Tiger) and Tornado Bringer (Dragon)
  • Toradora! uses this as a frequently recurring motif. The characters are even named Taiga and Ryuuji!note 
    • In the first episode, Taiga gives Ryuuji (who is One Head Taller) a powerful uppercut. Is this a reference to Sagat?
    • The title uses the Japanese word for tiger, tora, and the Japanese romanization of dragon, dora(gon).
      • Very early on in the anime (about episode 3) Ryuuji explicitly states that the dragon and the tiger were the only two animals that could truly be equals. Indeed, the two spend much of the series as perfectly matched rivals or relying on each other. Incidentally, Ryuuji is tall and has threatening, delinquent's eyes, but is good at cooking and domestic chores (calm disposition), whereas as Taiga is tiny and unintimidating ... but has a fiery temper, is rude and willing to start fights or cause injury over the smallest conflict, and has certain subtlety issues (the tiger's bluntness and hardheadedness).
  • In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro and Raoh are sometimes represented by a dragon and a tiger, respectively. Kenshiro is stoic and does not seek power, Raoh is more hot-blooded and ambitious.
    • When Kenshiro and Rei are fighting in front of King Fang when he's holding Airi hostage, they use techniques from their respective schools to attack each other, but are actually moves that make them fake death. The name of these techniques? Hokuto Ryu Geki Ko(Dragon Attacks Tiger) and Nanto Ko Ha Ryu (Tiger Destroys Dragon).
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin and his master are repeatedly given dragon motifs. Most of their fighting style's moves have the word Dragon in the name. Later on, the final Big Bad Enishi shows up...and is given tiger motifs.
    • This is particularity referenced to their sword fighting style. Enishi uses a style with emphasis on a lower stance (earthly tiger), while Kenshin fights at a relatively higher stance (heavenly dragon). Enishi's style was also created specifically to oppose Kenshin's, with every one of its moves being a counter to one of Kenshin's.
  • In Ask Dr. Rin!, two of the people who are supposed to be Meirin's guardians, Tokiwa and Asuka, are reincarnations of Byakko the Tiger and Seiryuu the Dragon respectively. They are the two big competitors for Meirin's affections.
  • Subverted in Saint Seiya with the character of Libra Dohko. He is the master of Shiryu, and the one who taught him all of his Dragon attacks, which he of course can masterfully execute himself. However, his zodiacal sign is Tiger and he bears a tattoo depicting one, the same way Shiryu does. Interestingly, the Libra Saint is usually described as the "point of equilibrium" of the Gold Saints. It is quite obvious by the fact that he is one of the most badass of the characters that Dohko has achieved the perfect balance between Dragon and Tiger and that he draws enormous strength from it.
    • And played straight, at least in the anime, with the other candidate to Dragon Saint, a man named Ohko who follows a tiger motif. Doubling as Rival Turned Evil, but after a Duel to the Death with Shiryu he manages to make peace with him and Dohko before passing away.
  • How could anyone forget Shigurui. Kogan Iwamoto and after him Gennosuke Fujiki symbolise the Tiger while Seigen Irako symbolises the Dragon.
  • The Liger vs. Theropod-type rivalry in Zoids is likely intended to invoke this trope.
  • Hyakko gives most of its characters Eastern Zodiac associations. Torako and Tatsuki, don't get along initially and their personalities (chaotic and energetic vs. calm and dignified{ continue to be contrasted throughout the series.
  • Spoofed in Hayate the Combat Butler, with Nagi getting the Battle Aura of a dragon, and Ayumu countering with...a hamster. She never quite escapes the association with the little rodent.
  • When Junichi and Yuuhi of Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka square off in one episode, the dragon and tiger appear above their heads.
  • The World Nobles of One Piece are known as the Celestial Dragons. One of the greatest challenges to their authority, an attack on their lands and the freeing of all their slaves, occurred at the hands of a Fishman called Fisher Tiger. A rare case of the tiger being the good guy while the dragon(s) being the bad.
    • One could also say that Queen Otohime is the "dragon" to Fisher's "tiger". Otohime wanted that her folks could live peacefully with humans, while Tiger disagreed with her and fought the Marines because he's a pirate. He hated the humans which ultimately causes his death, but he knew that there were also kind humans and he wished that his hatred wouldn't become legacy to his folks when he died. Otohime was killed by a human, who turns out to be the Fishman Hody Jones, but she told her children not to hate neither the killer nor the humans.
  • Hajime No Ippo: Takeshi Sendo, the Naniwa Tiger versus Ryuuhei Sawamura, the Owari Dragon. Both were feared street fighters that have never lost a fight and possess incredible fighting instincts. And yet, their fighting style is very different, as is their personality. They eventually wind up in some kind of Vitriolic Best Buds relationship, which occasionally gives us funny scenes.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, Sousuke's Animal Motif is a tiger. Gauron's Animal Motif can be seen as a dragon (derived from his name, Gauron, meaning "nine dragons" in Chinese). Their relationship fits this trope description to a "T".
  • Subverted in Tenkuu Senki Shurato Ryuu-Oh Ryoma and Ten-Oh Hyuuga happen to be best friends, despite their armor motifs.
  • Subverted in SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors — the Three Kingdoms along with Toutaku Zaku's forces are based on The Four Gods, and the dragon- and tiger-themed factions Shou and Gou correspond to Shu and Wu in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, making them allies (or at least the factions that spend the most time not at war).
  • Seen in Naruto The Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow, where Nadare Rouga employs the jutsu called Ice Release: Tearing Dragon Fierce Tiger (Ice Style: Dragon vs. Tiger). Kakashi Hatake subsequently counters the attack with the Water Dragon Jutsu.
    • In the manga, Rock Lee and Gaara are seen as a tiger and a dragon respectively during their fight.
  • Tai Chi Chasers features this trope prominently, from the two major rival factions (Tigeroids and Dragonoids) to tigers, dragons, and the taijutu (yin-yang symbol) being displayed heavily in the main opening.
  • Seen in Sengoku Youko where two of the Four Beasts General are a tiger and dragon demon-human fusions, and the tiger - Douren - in this case has an ongoing rivalry with the dragon - Jinun - to the point that he believes that he would be the only one allowed to take down Jinun.
  • In the Soul Eater manga, Death The Kid references this as the main difference between his and Black Star's fighting styles. While Black Star prefers to simply use brute force against his opponents, Kid is more methodical and prefers using strategy.
  • Ranma :
    • episode "Genma Takes a Walk" has Sōun and Genma falling out, and fighting a duel at the end of the episode. Their first attacks against each other being Genma's "Wild Tiger Exploding Fist" and Sōun's "Flying Dragon Kick to Oblivion".
    • Otherwise averted with Lime and Herb of the Musk Dynasty. Despite having respective ancestry of a tiger and dragon through the magic of the Jusenkyō spring, Lime is Herb's underling and not a rival.
      • Another interesting inversion is that Ranma himself represents BOTH Tiger and Dragon as his two strongest moves, The Hryu Shoten Ha and the Moko Takabisha are patterned on the Dragon and the Tiger respectively.
  • In a series where nearly everyone is named after animals, the two main characters of Gakuen Babysitters are Ryuuichi (the dragon) and his toddler little brother Kotarou (the tiger). Subverted, however, since they get along very well, and their personalities don't exactly match the trope. Ryuuichi is a nice guy, Friend to All Children, and bordering on Team Mom for the other toddlers. Kotarou is an almost expresionless kid who doesn't speak much, although later on he began showing a lot more emotions.
  • In My Bride Is a Mermaid, Sun's dad and Lunar's dad have dragon and tiger auras respectively whenever they spar.
  • Ichiryuu and Midora from Toriko during their battle. Their names even translate as "First Dragon" and "Third Tiger".
  • In the Blue Exorcist Anime, this is Played for Laughs in the form of Ryuji "Bon" and Rin butting heads.
  • In Beelzebub, reflected in their Meaningful Names, Tatsumi Oga is the dragon and Hidetora Tojo is the tiger.
    • Oga gets another tiger, Izo Aiba, another child-carrying gang leader.
  • In Beyblade, Takao/Tyson has the blue dragon Bit Beast Seiryuu/Dragoon while Rei/Ray has the white tiger Bit Beast Byakko/Driger. It's subverted though, Takao's main rival of his team is Kai with his red phoenix Bit Beast Suzaku/Dranzer. It's less than a Tiger Versus Dragon motif than the Four Gods.
  • In B Gata H Kei, Yamada is the tiger and Kyouka Kanejou is the dragon. Interestingly, Yamada is a rare protagonist example of being the tiger.
  • In Campione!, when Erica and Mariya fight over Godou's affections, they have a tiger and dragon aura respectively.
  • In Cowboy Bebop major antagonist Vicious is the calm methodical bastard rising to the leadership of the Red Dragon Syndicate who still uses a katana in gun fights, while main protagonist Spike is a down to earth laid back but can act kinda dumb, jumps into trouble and identifies with a parable of a striped cat.
  • In a strange case, Rio Wesley from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid has both, dragons and tiger motives. Rio's shooting spells and bombardment spells are usually dragon-shaped, while most of her close-ranged spells are named after a tiger theme.

Film
  • Fighting Dragon VS Deadly Tiger, also known as Call Me Dragon.
  • Tiger VS Dragon, also known as Kung Fu, the Invisible Fist.
  • In Dragon Tiger Gate, Dragon Wong and Tiger Wong are brothers loyal to a fault, but they do end up getting into spats every now and then.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though In Name Only.
    • Mentioned during the Oscars by Steve Martin: he was wondering why there weren't any tigers and dragons. Then he understood it's because they're crouching and hidden.
    • Word of God suggests that the title is intended to refer to the obvious threat of Jade Fox (the 'crouching tiger') and the secret but far more significant threat of Jen (the 'hidden dragon').
  • In Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger, the spirit of Bruce Lee points to the Brucesploitation actor Bruce Li as his "successor", calling him the "Tiger" to Lee's "Dragon".
  • Possibly unintentional, but in Rocky IV, Rocky, previously represented by the song "Eye of the Tiger", faces Ivan Drago.
    • What's even stranger is that those roles are reversed in their fighting styles: Drago is hailed for his raw power and Rocky for his toughness.
  • The Kung Fu Panda series' Ship Tease with Master Po the Dragon Warrior and Master Tigress feels even more appropriate with this Chinese symbology in mind.
    • And of course there's Po, at the end the calm, collected Dragon Warrior, against Tai Lung, the brutal, aggressive Snow Leopard. Neither of them are EXACTLY Dragon or Tiger, but they're both close enough.

Literature
  • John Brunner's Telepathist has Howson, the therapeutic telepath, entering the absurdly detailed Oriental fantasy dream-state of a catatonic patient. After a series of events, he brings the patient out of the fugue by naming Tiger City as the tiger, and his sword, which had slain a dragon, as the dragon. Both objects then turn into their respective animals and fight. Howson wins because "the tiger is the second strongest animal", and the other man wakes up. Subverted, as the patient was also a telepath — he'd put such blatant weaknesses in it because he'd created the fantasy as a sort of holiday, and wanted to be brought out of it easily.
    • In at least one version of the book, printed under the title The Whole Man, the catatonic telepath is caught completely by surprise. He'd set up the laws of magic in his fantasy so that the above fight was possible with minimal Inception-style "cheating" on Howson's part, but he'd expected the people on the outside to send a less experienced therapeutic telepath, who would screw up and get noticed, at which point the catatonic guy would wake up on his own.
  • In David Brin's novel Earth, the on-screen representations of two software packages that end up fighting each other with the fate of the world at stake happen to be a tiger and a dragon.

Live-Action TV

Music
  • 8bitduane's rap rendition of the Bad Dudes video game says that the eponymous Bad Dudes are "...the tiger you cannot tame". The enemies are the Dragon Ninja.

Tabletop Games
  • In Eberron, dragons' main enemies are the Lords of Dust, a group of demons consisting mostly of tiger-headed rakshasas.

Video Games
  • In Street Fighter, Sagat's endless arsenal of Tiger-themed attacks prove worthless against a single Dragon Punch from Ryu. A massive rivalry ensues from then on.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has lots of explicit Tiger association with Travis Touchdown—which only further accentuates the duel between him and Ryuji. Spelling "Travis" in katakana gets you Torabisu, after all.
  • In Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, there is a level (set to Thrill) where you act as cheerleaders for the battle between a dragon-themed kid and a tiger-themed kid.
  • In Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright finds himself at particular odds with Furio Tigre. This becomes far more relevant in the Japanese version, where Phoenix Wright and his Japanese name ("Ryuuichi Naruhodo") represent the dragon rather than a phoenix.
    • If you look closely, you'll notice Tigre's shirt features a tiger chomping on a dragon's neck.
  • In The World Ends with You Mitsuki Konishi's noise form is a tiger, Megumi Kitaniji's is a dragon. Konishi plans to usurp Kitaniji as Conductor, or Composer, even.
    • Also, the brands Tigre Punks and Dragon Couture. The former is all about grunge and grittiness while the latter is more stylized, lofty and Eastern.
  • Art of Fighting has a rivalry between its two main protagonists: Ryo Sakazaki (the tiger) and Robert Garcia (the dragon). In fact, the Japanese name of the series is Ryuuko no Ken, or "Fist of the Dragon/Tiger". Their stances occasionally reflect their animal motifs, and they share a super move, the Ryuuko Ranbu ("Dragon and Tiger's Rebellious Dance"), that refers to the rivalry in its name. Ironically, Ryo is called the "Invincible Dragon" while Robert is called the "Raging Tiger."
  • Black Tiger involves a hero possibly of the same name fighting the Blue Dragon, the Red Dragon and finally the Black Dragon.
  • In Tiger Road, the hero can learn to shoot tiger shaped fireballs, the Big Bad shoots Dragon shaped fireballs.
  • Battle Arena Toshinden 3 makes an interesting take on the tiger versus dragon theme through Eiji and his evil foil Leon; where their birthdays are Dragon and Tiger signs, and where Eiji comes from Japan, while Leon comes from the US, this is used instead to highlight a greater theme of Tiger Versus Lion and a more intense East Versus West theming, as Eiji wields the Byakko Katana and is a Dragon Sign, and where Leon's name does literally mean lion.
  • Played for laughs in Kagetsu Tohya with Akiha and Ciel during a minor confrontation, where they verbally spar before turning on Shiki to force him to choose between the lunches they have made. And saying he can't choose between them is not acceptable.
  • In Jade Empire, Lord Lao's furnace has two buttons to activate the configurations, the tiger button and the dragon button, as well as respective configurations (stat increase recipes). The configuration of the tiger grants an increase to focus, while the configuration of the dragon grants an increase to body.
  • At the beginning of Shining Force III, when Master Gabrial asks you to name the three heroes, he compares them to animals. Synbios is compared to the Tiger, Medion is compared to the Dragon and Julian is compared to a Wolf. Synbios, the Tiger is a Knight of the Republic and Medion, the Dragon is a Prince of the Empire. Both are played against each other at one point by the Emperor.
  • In Sengoku Basara, eternal rivals Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura are known as the One-Eyed Dragon and the Young Tiger respectively. The anime makes this even more poignant by having them accompanied by apparitions of their animals during the Final Battle.
  • In King's Quest V the Final Boss battle is a Shapeshifter Showdown where Mordack at one point transforms into a insectoid dragon. Guess which animal form counters him?
  • The Ryu Oh Ki and Ko Oh Ki in Super Robot Wars Alpha and Super Robot Wars Original Generation series are the only two surviving examples of a series of ancient god-mechs patterned after The Four Gods. Rather than a rivalry, however, they are depicted as opposite sides of the coin, capable of forming a Combining Mecha that can transform between two forms: The Tiger-themed KoRyuOh is a physical fighter, using blades, nunchaku, and Rocket Punches to attack the enemy directly, while the Dragon-themed RyuKoOh uses magic, flames, and dropping mountains on the enemy to fight from a distance.
  • Catherine and Katherine from... Catherine.
  • In DJ MAX Technika, the music selection Dual Strikers is a reference to tiger and dragon, with the characters for them emphasized in opposite corners of the eyecatch image.
  • In the fourth installment of the Video Game/Yakuza series, Kazuma Kiryu and Taiga Saejima are Japanese gangsters that have, respectively, large tattoos of a dragon and a tiger on their backs. Naturally, they end up fighting shortly after they first meet. They later work together to defeat the Big Bad alongside two others without any motifs or even tattoos.
  • Blazblue has Ragna the Bloodedge (Tiger) vs. Hazama/Terumi (Dragon).
    • The rebellious, passionate and crass Ragna vs. the cold (in more ways than one), orderly and sophisticated Jin is a better fit.
    • Hakumen or Makoto (Dragon) vs. Terumi (Tiger) is also an example.
    • In Chronophantasma the Colosseum stage has two gates for competitors, one marked with a tiger and one marked with a dragon. Overlaps with Red Oni, Blue Oni, considering the former is coloured red and the latter is blue.

Webcomics

Web Original
  • The rival martial arts cliques at Whateley are the Tigers (whose members are all black) and the Dragons (whose members are mostly Asian, though they seem to accept other races more openly.

Western Animation
  • Very subtle, but in a Chicken Boo sketch. Chicken Boo was a in a karate tournament. He was disguised as "Moo Goo Gai Boo" from the Dragon Dojo, up against Gwai Yan Kee from the Tiger Dojo. The sensei even references the mythology: "The boastful tiger will yield to the serene whisper of the dragon".
    • Also a Bilingual Bonus: "Moo Goo Gai" is a Cantonese dish with chicken, so it ends up meaning "Chicken Boo" in Cantonese. "Gwai Yan Kee" means nothing. It just means "white yankee" (technically, "ghost yankee") in Cantonese, which could be a statement about "black belt" mills frequently being run by white guys with no real training. This is also strange because Cantonese don't fight with karate (Karate is Japanese); they fight with a style of kung fu called hakka kuen (which is where all those "Dragon style", "Mantis style", "Crane style", et al come from). Then again, it is Animaniacs we're talking about, so it's not like we should be expecting total accuracy.
  • The episode "Other Victories" is Transformers Beast Wars featured a battle between Megatron in his dragon form and Tigerhawk. At one point, a flash of lightning illuminates them black on a white background, a possible reference to this trope.
  • In Legend Of The Dragon (first season), the Tiger Warrior Bengial is the Action Girl Red Oni to the Dragon Warrior Ang's Martial Pacifist Blue Oni. She's also more likely to fight Yang's Evil Twin sister, the Shadow Dragon Warrior.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man's team includes White Tiger and Iron Fist, who has a dragon motif. White Tiger is a Spicy Latina By-the-Book Cop, a total Tsundere who often stresses over following the rules and gets easily aggravated. Iron Fist is a Stoic Nice Guy who never loses his cool and always just goes with the flow. However, they are both by far the most disciplined and responsible members of their team. It's never stated in the show, but in the comics, White Tiger's tiger amulet that gives her her powers is actually from K'un-L'un, where Iron Fist trained and gained his abilities.

Real Life
  • Famous samurai Uesugi Kenshin was called the Dragon of Echigo (Echigo was the province he ruled, now Niigata). His rival, Takeda Shingen, was called the Tiger of Kai (what is now Yamanashi). And yes, this was on purpose.
  • Symbolism with tigers and dragons are common in Asian martial arts, and one Shaolin myth has it that to prove themselves worthy of a black belt, students would have to fight their way through 100 wooden enemies and lift a 500 pound vase blocking the exit of the testing room. The vase was imprinted with a tiger and a dragon, and was hot enough that it would brand the symbols into the chest or shoulders of the student as proof of success.
  • A Dragon is commonly used to symbolise China. A Tiger is commonly used to symbolise India. Guess which two large Asian nations have rapidly developing economies and are seen as rivals for the post of "next superpower".

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alternative title(s): Tiger Vs Dragon
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