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Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain / Western Animation

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  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: Cruella is downgraded to one for the more slapstick tone of the show (Jasper and Horace are even worse). Several other one-shots are also added to the mix.
  • Adventure Time
    • Ice King plays this as a Deconstruction / Zig-Zagging Trope: he wants to force a princess into marrying him, but he comes across as sincerely lonely and desperate for love. At some points, however, he'll wind up saying or doing something really messed up, cluing the viewer in that he's really just a sociopath.
      • Of course this all gets flipped on its head once we learn his Backstory Horror. At that point, not only is the sympathetic part taken to whole new levels, but the protagonists start treating him better and he develops into the Token Evil Teammate.
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    • The Cute King and his subjects are trying so hard to be threatening in spite of their inability to charge down a hill without literally coming apart. Finn and Jake take pity on them, on the basis that they'll either win or die, and they're not going to win, and convince a bunch of people to let themselves be "killed", using ketchup to fake the wounds.
  • Jack W. Tweeg and his sidekick L.B. from The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin.
  • In Disney's Aladdin sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar and the TV series, there's Abis Mal. His patheticness is particularly compounded by being an expy of the legendary loser, George Costanza, on Seinfeld, since Jason Alexander plays both roles. He does get at least one Not-So-Harmless Villain moment in the series, in which he gets a hold of another lamp and wishes that the protagonists get smashed like bugs. When told that genies can't kill, he has a moment of brilliance and asks for the protagonists to be turned into bugs so that he can smash them like bugs. He also went back in time and rewrote Agrabah's history in one episode so that he could be Sultan.
    • Aladdin also occasionally had to deal with an inept thief named Amin Damoola (nicknamed "Butterfingers"). The only time Butterfingers was a serious threat was when he was using magical artifacts supplied by Mozenrath, who had essentially replaced Jafar as Aladdin's main nemesis. Made even more pathetic by the fact that, in order to get those magical toys (which Mozenrath actually refers to as junk from his closet), Butterfingers has to deliver the Sultan-Turned-Gold-Statue by a timed deadline or become Mozenrath's slave. The kicker is, as stated during one of Mozenrath's scenes in the episode, the evil wizard doesn't really care which scenario happens. This is just spring cleaning for him.
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  • Angela Anaconda: Nanette Manoir may come off as this, since, while she is an Alpha Bitch, her actions are rather tame and in-line with what would be expected of kids her age. Angela, meanwhile, practically Once an Episode, fantasizes about humiliating her, tormenting her, or even sometimes killing her in the most brutal ways she can think of.
  • Prince Zuko in the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The second season puts him in Anti-Villain status, with him and his Uncle spending more time being fugitives from the Fire Nation than trying to capture Aang, along with having Character Development and Enemy Mine "moments" as sprinkles. And then, about halfway in the final season, said "moments" are what causes Zuko to become Aang's ally. Then, in the series' ending, he becomes the new Fire Lord, with things getting better and better for him, effectively inverting this trope at that point.
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  • Killer Moth from The Batman is given this treatment when he joins "Team Penguin". All he's ever shown doing is using a cocoon gun that continuously backfires on him and making coffee for the Penguin. This changes however when some chemicals change him into a giant moth mutant.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Harley Quinn tended to fall into this trope, especially when she caught on as a popular character. She was often treated as genuinely misguided, so the audience sometimes forgave her for her more violent behavior depending on how softening a particular episode was.
      • In the comic-turned-episode "Mad Love", Harley did manage to succeed in trapping Batman. Batman's only hope was to have her inform the Joker, who he knew would free Batman because it wasn't HE [the Joker] that defeated Batman! Batman even admitted that Harley came closer to killing him than the Joker ever did. Harley also suggested just shooting Batman, instead of elaborate death traps. Ironically, at the end of the episode, Harley almost succeeded in killing Bats with an elaborate deathtrap, while the Joker, who previously slapped Harley for even suggesting such a thing, tried simply shooting him...and failed.
    • "The Man Who Killed Batman" was focused on Sidney Debris AKA "Sid the Squid", a nebbish and meek bumbling mob underling who dreams of being a bigshot. He gets his wish when Batman is apparently killed and his gang believes Sidney did it. Unfortunately, as Sid finds out, that reputation comes with a price... The episode has a happy ending for Sid, however. He still goes to jail, but Batman lets everyone keep believing that he almost killed Batman and made a fool out of the Joker, turning Sid into a celebrity in prison.
    • All of the "villains" from "Make 'Em Laugh", though they're only villains because they were brainwashed by The Joker. They're all pretty ineffective, but most notable is the "Condiment King". Even Batman takes pity on the guy.
      Police Radio: Suspect is a male costumed extremist armed with what appears to be a... ketchup gun.
      Batman: It's gonna be one of those nights.
      (Later, after effortlessly taking him down with a single gut punch)
      Batman: Listen, Mustard Man, or whatever your name is, you're obviously new at this so I'm willing to go easy on you if you return the loot and never even think about doing this again!
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Though he does becomes a threat on occasions (he was actually dangerous in his first two appearances), Albedo was this from the beginning and becomes more so as the story goes on. He is doomed to be trapped in a human body he despises, and all he wants is getting his original form back. As a matter of fact, when he finally gets his form back in one episode, Albedo makes it clear he has no more reason to fight Ben, and prepares to leave Earth... but immediately reverts to human form.
  • King Max from The Biskitts, is like a royal version of Gargamel.
  • Captain N: The Game Master: Mother Brain's two henchmen, Eggplant Wizard and King Hippo, suck at their jobs and constantly screw up. At one point she even fires them. Averted by her two other henchmen, Dr. Wily and Dracula, who, while still not that tough, are at least a step up- fitting, since compared to the other two, they’re both the Big Bad of their respective games.
  • Grizzle of Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot.
    • Of the primary villains of the earlier series, No-Heart and his niece Shreeky don't count. No-Heart was a legitimately powerful and evil sorcerer who had a habit of blasting Beastly with lightning bolts whenever he screwed up; and while Shreeky never actually did anything evil, she was a Spoiled Brat with a voice so loud that she made No-Heart wince. Mr. Beastly, No-Heart's primary lackey, definitely fits somewhere between here and Butt-Monkey. In the one episode that Beastly had, with him in the spotlight, him infuriates No-Heart by breaking No-Heart's crystal amulet (which is the source of his shapechanging spells), then breaks No-Heart's throne (something he knows No-Heart will be livid about), get turned into a horrific mishmash of animals while using No-Heart's broken amulet to catch some of the Care Bears, then be blackmailed into letting the Care Bears go after they tape-record him chanting a litany of "I care" to break the broken spell and be turned back to normal, and then, when No-Heart arrives, having calmed down due to finding an even more powerful crystal, he sits on his crudely repaired throne...and it breaks to pieces. Meaning more electroshocking for Beastly.
    • Dark-Heart from the second Care Bears film could qualify, too. While he was an effective villain at first, all that went out the window when he almost fell on the side of the boat as a human. Then later on he was little more than a generic Smug Snake who was won over by The Power of Friendship. The Nostalgia Critic said it best.
  • Pretty much the entire Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers rogues gallery is quite harmless. And probably the whole reason that only a bunch of rodents are even bothered to take the time to deal with them. Case in point: inventing a self-propelled walking laser cannon capable of cutting up a glacier, (those things aren't exactly "just" a big ice cube) and only using it to warm up a giant vat of jello used to create an earthquake machine to break open a gold depository. Instead of, y'know, blasting your way in with said self-propelled walking laser cannon.
  • The Toilenator from Codename: Kids Next Door badly wants to be a villain, but is far too wimpy and incompetent to pull it off. He's a minor inconvenience to the KND, and most of the bad guys try not to be seen with him because of his clingy Bumbling Sidekick personality.
  • The Box Ghost of Danny Phantom draws the line between this and Harmless Villain. He has the potential to be a great baddie (if one episode and his badass future self is any indications), but he just never makes it. Out of all the ghosts Danny has fought, Box Ghost is strictly in the "Who Cares" category, but he tries, he oh so tries.
  • Dr. Reginald Bushroot of Darkwing Duck. He mutated himself in an attempt to impress a girl. When that went about as well as expected, most schemes throughout the series involved trying to grow a companion or feed his plants. He certainly seemed like a nice enough guy most of the time, only turning violent when Darkwing tried to stop his plans. It should be noted though that for all his sympathetic qualities, Bushroot is one of the few villains who is known to have successfully committed murder. Granted his victims were the jerk doctors who made fun of him, but as the other prominent villain in this category is Knight of Cerebus Taurus Bulba, this is still a rather shocking feat.
  • The Tyrannos from Dinosaucers are extremely gullible, and it's more or less stated that the Dinosaucers were sent to Earth just to keep a spare eye on them. Of all the groups, only Quackpot has shown instances of competence, and it didn't really stick in the long run.
  • Captain Widdimir in Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds is this. No matter how hard he tries, he's just no match for, well, anyone.
  • Donald Duck can sometimes come off as this, especially when he crosses paths with Chip 'n Dale. Sometimes Donald does start the fight, most of the time, by affecting their natural environment and being insensitive to the problems that this causes them, like trying to cut down their tree-house or taking away all their food provisions, other times he just ends up getting picked on and losing.
  • Zordrak's minions, the Urpneys (and sometimes even the former himself) of The Dreamstone, are a mix of this alongside the Minion with an F in Evil category. The fact that their overall goal usually amounted to little more than giving people scary dreams didn't help much. Granted since Rufus and Amberley are often Ineffectual Sympathetic Heroes they do at least briefly get the upper hand every now and then.
  • The titular organization of Evil Con Carne. While Hector's plans are genuinely evil and often threaten lives, they end up being utterly pathetic when acted out. In fact, in one episode, Hector and his army are defeated by angry children and a Fred Rogers Expy.
  • Death itself is a bitch indeed in Family Guy. The poor guy is despised and treated like shit by everyone for doing his job and can't form a good human relationship (even though he admittedly doesn't think too much about taking a few initiatives with people that frustrate him, or with people who have already passed on). Even Peter takes pity on him.
  • The Professor from the TV Felix the Cat cartoons. While he's a crook, he's also one of the most pathetic villains in all of western animation. In over 120 episodes of his series, he never earned a single victory over Felix the Cat and almost never even comes close, and couldn't have won anyway since the Magic Bag of Tricks won't work for him. Personality-wise, he's a petulant Manchild who throws tantrums and literally tortures himself over his failures. His crimes also tend to be really petty misdeeds like cornering the market on rubber for toys. On top of that, Felix himself rarely even takes him seriously as a bad guy, just seeing him as a friendly enemy or nuisance at worst.
  • The Lobe, archnemesis of the titular character in Freakazoid! Despite being fiendishly brainy (quite literally - pretty much his entire head is made up of brain), he's extremely sensitive and insecure, and Freakazoid was once able to defeat him with nothing more than some harsh verbal criticism of his scheme.
  • Killface of Frisky Dingo is a pseudo-cultured, incompetent supervillain whose plans are often derailed by trivial matters and lacks knowledge of common subjects (it's a revelation to him that P.C. stands for "personal computer"). He's still more likable than "hero" Xander Crews, though.
    • Killface is so sympathetic, especially when compared to Jerkass Designated Hero Xander Crews, that it's easy to forget that he brutally killed two people in the pilot and has added to his body count throughout the series. It helps that some of the other members of the cast have committed similar misdeeds and/or are Asshole Victims.
  • G.I. Joe: Cobra Commander, who was constantly mocked, ignored, or pushed aside not only by other would-be world conquerors but by his own minions.
    • Many times he sabotaged his own victory with poor impulse control and temper tantrums; for example, he once nearly conquered the entire world only to overreach himself entirely because he was bored by winning too easily so "I'm not enjoying myself!"
    • Of course, he was never anything but effective and unsympathetic in the comics, where, among other things, he killed his own son. Oh, and he used to be a used car salesman, the fiend!
      • He does get the ineffectual part still - sometimes as part of a plan, sometimes because it's an imposter performing poorly. And sometimes, Destro just plain doesn't like him and is willing to take the loss just to make him look bad, mostly because of his 'thing' for the Baroness.
    • The miniseries G.I. Joe: Resolute is also a subversion. Cobra Commander actually has a speech where he claims his previous incompetence was just an attempt to force his minions to think outside the box. He wipes Moscow from the face of the Earth just to prove that he could, and by the end of the series, he's so unhinged that he's hacking his own men apart with a sabre. His plan still failed, of course, but holy shit was he badass.
  • On Goldie & Bear, The Big Bad Wolf, a.k.a. "Big Bad", is this with a heavy dose of Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Sure, he's regularly a pest to both the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. However, he schemes are rarely effective and when they do work, he's often regretful. He's also shown several redeeming qualities, including being willing to try niceness and being apologetic and helpful after realizing that he's acted like a jerk.
  • Gravity Falls has bumbling time traveler Blendin Blandin, who in his second appearance was a villain. Made more sympathetic by the fact that he's mostly right: the kids did ruin his life and stealing the time machine and intentionally ruining the past were objectively crappy things to do.
  • Skeletor in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), despite having a face that Standards & Practices must have had fits over, was so ineffective that the writers felt sorry for him. One stated in an interview that part of the reason they wrote a few Enemy Mine episodes was that it was the only way they were allowed to have Skeletor come out ahead for once. He was so feeble at villainy, in fact, that the show resorted to two replacement villains: King Hiss of the Snake-Men, and Hordak, who suffered severe Villain Decay after his introduction. Neither were exactly scary themselves, but miles ahead of Skeletor.
    • Subverted in the 2000-era re-imagining. While Skeletor's still a Card-Carrying Villain Surrounded by Idiots, and Evil-Lyn is clearly his mental superior, Skeletor's clearly a threat this time around and every bit as powerful, terrifying, and evil as he claimed to be, having destroyed half of Eternia before the show starts, and twice defeating the Big Bad that the heroes themselves could not. While still sometimes played for laughs, and never shown as even 1/10 as threatening as Hordak, Skeletor crossed the line, at least.
  • Invader Zim qualifies for this trope most of the time; more often than not, his schemes are thwarted by the Ditz portion of his Genius Ditz personality, rather than by his arch-nemesis or his Cloud Cuckoo Lander robot. Of particular note is the episode where he survives a Training from Hell in order to receive some Humongous Mechas from his leaders, only to be shot into a sun for his troubles.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the Dark Hand Enforcers are a bunch of incompetent gangsters who repeatedly get their butts kicked by the good guys, while constantly being forced by greater and more sinister villains to do their bidding.
  • Lucius Heinous VII on Jimmy Two-Shoes. Despite ruling Miseryville with an iron fist, the main characters either don't fear him or don't respect him. He desperately tries to be the Big Bad, but fails horribly. He is pretty much an incompetent version of Satan. That said, he does occasionally get to demonstrate why he hasn't been overthrown yet.
  • Tabaqui from the 2012 CGI adaptation of The Jungle Book fits this like a glove. He's Shere Khan's faithful henchman who often tries to trick and manipulate Mowgli in hopes Shere Khan will eat him and give him scraps but he's such a Nervous Wreck and the butt of slapstick humor that more often then not, he comes across as a Jerkass Woobie.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Dr. Drakken never gets the respect he thinks he should have; he always fails his capers, sometimes even without the help of Team Possible. He often gets mistaken for the more respected Dementor and, at the end of the series, he is outright told how much of a failure of a villain he has been (despite having come closer to taking over the world than any of his peers and ending up with much of the credit for saving the world from the Alien Invasion). If it wasn't for his Dragon, Shego, he wouldn't be a villain at all.
    • Arguably, every villain in Kim Possible is like this (except for Lord Monkeyfist, who is also the only villain to die in the series), aside from Shego, who's the only one with any amount of competence or fighting ability.
      • Keeping Shego on HIS payroll should be considered extremely competent, especially when there are villains like Senor Senior Senior, who has Scrooge McDuck levels of moolah.
    • Senor Senior Senior and his son, Senor Senior Junior probably count as this as well. After all, they only got into villainy because Ron told them their island home would make a great lair, Senior insists on doing things a certain way merely for the sake of villain tradition, and it is said devotion to tradition that keeps leading to their defeat.
  • While he started off as a badass, by the end of Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung had become this due to a combination of Freudian Excuse, Sympathy for the Devil, revealing his Start of Darkness and "Well Done, Son!" Guy status, and an Et Tu, Brute? from his past. This may have something to do with the Humiliation Conga and Kick Them While They Are Down which some viewers see in the final battle—it certainly can't be denied that what had once been a chillingly effective villain seemed rather pathetic and easily defeated, Po's understanding of the Dragon Scroll notwithstanding.
    • Of course, after his Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy resume is firmly established and he has shamelessly brutalized the entire rest of the cast, others see this as simple karmic retribution. Pride goeth before the fall, after all, and a Humiliation Conga was really no less than Tai Lung deserved at that point.
  • Voltar and the League of Super Evil. The guy is just so very motivated and happy about every plan or scheme he thinks up, no matter how trivial, that you just have to root for him. I mean, how many villains are ecstatic about throwing an 'EVIL' barbeque and not inviting their uncaring neighbors?
    • One of the episodes involves a highly convoluted plot by the make the pizza delivery boy late so that their food will be free! Apparently, this is one of the few things they’re actually good at.
  • Many Looney Tunes villains:
    • Elmer Fudd, who was so ineffectual that Bugs Bunny sometimes came off as a bully when beating him. Because of this, Yosemite Sam was introduced as a more threatening and less sympathetic foe. Though less sympathetic, Sam wasn't that much more threatening after a few cartoons. Following this, Marvin the Martian was created, who, despite having super-advanced planet-obliterating technology at his will, was only slightly more formidable.
    • All of them, however, have to be topped by Wile E. Coyote, the epitome of the villainous Butt-Monkey. In fact, one of the laws of the Road Runner cartoons is "The audience's sympathy must remain with the Coyote." For a coyote to want to eat a roadrunner is perfectly natural in the order of things, and to top it all off, he was regularly portrayed at the beginning of an episode as rib-thin and starving.
    • And Sylvester was usually depicted as one of these.
    • Yosemite Sam was actually a deliberate subversion of the trope because audiences were starting to favor Elmer too much. The idea was to feel sorry for the guy, but it was getting to the point where Bugs was starting to look like a relentless bully instead of a wiseacre outwitting the buffoon who was trying to victimize him. Sam was both smarter and more belligerent than Elmer, meaning that Bugs was free to lead him on all he wanted. But even Yosemite Sam, while pretty dark for a Looney Tunes villain, was still fairly ineffectual compared to the average non-Looney-Tunes villain.
    • Daffy Duck, initially just a Jerkass or Anti-Hero, eventually evolved into one for Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales.
    • Nasty Canasta and Rocky the gangster, initially more fearsome subversions of this trope, eventually devolved into hopeless foils for Bugs as well.
  • Killgore from My Life as a Teenage Robot is an odd example, in that he's ineffectual because he's so sympathetic. People are finding him too cute (being that he is a wind-up toy) to see him as a threat, including his self-declared nemesis Jenny. However, he also proves to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain, as he's quite capable of going to extreme lengths, such as somehow managing to rebuild the deadly Armageddroid, to prove he's dangerous.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode "Owl's Well That Ends Well" involves the usually-good dragon cub Spike temporarily becoming a villain, but definitely of the "ineffectual sympathetic" variety, with the emphasis on "sympathetic". For context, when an owl named Owlowicious shows up to do some of the work Spike had been typically doing for the girls, Spike ends up getting less attention from them than before, and in turn, resents the owl a fair bit. After being scolded by Twilight for lying about a book not being there, he thinks the owl set him up, and in turn, tries to do the same to the owl, by planting a fake dead mouse with ketchup blood in Twilight Sparkle's room; he gets caught in the act. After running away, ending up encountering a dragon while gone, and then being saved from the dragon by Twilight and the owl, he apologized for the way he was behaving and is back to being one of the good guys.
    • In part 2 of "The Crystal Empire", his reason for his actions is put in a new light as we learn his greatest fear: Twilight no longer needing him.
    • Except in the episode "Secrets of My Excess", however this time, Spike is transformed into a gargantuan rampaging beast that almost completely demolishes Ponyville. Even then he may lean into this since it's all for the sake of hoarding "gifts".
    • Most of the Rogues Gallery for the show act as this or mere petty bullies. The foes used in the two-part specials are the only notable exceptions, and even then their detrimental arrogance and the often humiliating manner they are taken out almost makes you pity them.
  • Rippen in Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero is a bitter, misanthropic man who both acts as a Card-Carrying Villain in his part-time job and calmly terrorizes children as an art teacher. He also has a ridiculously awful daily life, a genuinely pitiful family background, and a few rare but poignant moments of petting the dog that make him surprisingly likable, or at least kind of pathetic.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz is a self-proclaimed evil scientist whose endless string of [something]-inators are perpetual failures. He also had a ridiculously terrible childhood, never wins any of his battles, seldom gains any lasting happiness, and once lost a fight with a potted plant. The only thing saving him from complete Woobiefication is that he's always back the next episode, enthusiastically hatching yet another evil scheme.
    • On the other hand, his alternate-universe counterpart, with just one more humiliation during the Trauma Conga Line that was his childhood, was a genuine threat and not sympathetic at all.
  • The wolves Huff and Puff from Piggsburg Pigs!. They're always trying to catch and eat the main characters, but they're nothing compared to all the swamp monsters, demons, and undead beasties lurking in the Forbidden Zone outside town.
  • Leonard McLeish from The Hub's Pound Puppies series. He's self-centered, short-tempered, and clearly more concerned with impressing people and getting promoted than actually doing his job as head dog catcher, but he's not really a bad guy.
  • The Amoeba Boys in The Powerpuff Girls. While the Powerpuff Girls are out beating up real criminals, the poor Amoeba Boys can't get the girls' attention, despite committing "heinous" acts such as littering, jaywalking, and disobeying a "Keep off the grass" sign.
    • In one of the early World Premiere Toon shorts, the Girls actually commit a bank robbery solely to show the Boys how it's done. When the Girls are brought in for the crime, the boys turn themselves in, in an attempt to appear "big time".
    • In another, during the actual series, the Boys stumble upon Mojo Jojo's Deathtrap plans, and they, along with the Girls, mistake it for a "scavenger hunt" — so they find all the things it calls for and put it together, and once it's assembled, the Girls think it's a theme-park ride, so they willingly submit to the plan intended to destroy them.
    • In another episode, the Boys catch a cold while loitering on the grass in yet another attempt at crime. Even though they end up unwittingly mutating the cold into a deadly strain of virus and even more unwittingly starting an epidemic in Townsville, the viewers still can't help but feel sorry for them.
    • And in another episode, they manage to actually succeed at stealing an orange, for once, and when it splits apart, are reminded that, as amoebae, they are capable of multiplying. There is quickly an army of them, and the only thing they can think to do is to steal all the oranges in Townsville (although this does cause the citizens to contract scurvy).
    • The Gangreen Gang can also qualify as this. While they're not anywhere near as incompetent as the Amoeba Boys, it's pretty hard to take them seriously as actual villains since their crimes are really based on typical bullying, prank-calling, vandalism, etc. In fact, in the episode "Aspirations", the girls couldn't even take them seriously as a criminal element and called them nuisances. It also doesn't help that they're teenagers, making them younger than most of the other villains the three superheroes fought.
  • Hack and Slash, the bumbling minions of Megabyte, in ReBoot. In fact, they are justified in being bad guys by the fact that the heroes always stop them before they could do anything really awful. When the heroes fail to arrive to stop them from killing a traitor to Megabyte, they let him go off on their own and undergo a Heel–Face Turn.
  • In the The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob also frequently veers into this territory. The poor guy can't even win against a rake.
  • Gargamel in The Smurfs (and pretty much most Smurfs villains except Balthazar and Chlorhydris).
  • Dr. Ivo Robotnik and his henchmen from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. While Robotnik often tries to do something rrrrotten, he ALWAYS fails horribly, and Sonic torments the doctor so sadistically, that it becomes hard to sympathize with the heroes. He makes incredibly inept robots, repeatedly has crying fits, and is sometimes too distracted with himself to notice that his plan isn't working.
  • Note that in the Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) series that was aired around the same time, Robotnik is...very much not harmless. At all. Snively though is a reedy and sneering little man who is always consumed by his Uncle Robotnik's quite massive shadow. Also, he's a baldy. However, he turns out to be a Not-So-Harmless Villain when he manages to slip out before his uncle is killed, and return as a The End... Or Is It? cliffhanger for a season that we will never receive. In one interview with screen-writer Ben Hurst regarding the third season that never arrived, it was revealed that Snively was going to take a shot at becoming the new Big Bad, only to be shortly upstaged by Ixis Naugus, and would later make a Heel–Face Turn and join the Freedom Fighters.]]
  • Dr. Eggman on the self-parody series Sonic Boom takes this trope and runs with it at...uh, "sonic" speed, to the point where Amy actually pities him., now being a villain who is Affably Evil and has civil interactions with Sonic and company when they're not fighting, every other episode he's in an Enemy Mine situation with them, and he now has his Card-Carrying Villain tendencies exaggerated. Similar to his Adventures of Sonic counterpart, he does almost outwit Sonic on a few occasions though, keeping him Not So Harmless.
  • From South Park, Professor Chaos/Butters is so inept that it's cute.
  • Sandman in The Spectacular Spider Man can never quite get his big score. Before his superpowers, Spider-Man jokes about how many times Sandman has been caught. After all, he can actually fight Spidey but then proceeds to forget or be unable to keep his take when he escapes down the drain. He also gets a couple of Pet the Dog moments when it's revealed that while he cares a lot about the Big Score, he doesn't really want to hurt anybody (other than Spider-Man, of course).
  • Mister Smarty Smarts from Spliced is best described as Dr. Doofenshmirtz as a dolphin-chimpanzee hybrid. While many of his schemes are genuinely threatening to Keepaway Island and its inhabitants, his ego, lack of common sense, and Didn't Think This Through tendencies ensure that he's as likely to foil his own plans as anyone else is.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants. After a while, you just start to feel sorry for the guy, especially when compared to how heinous Mr. Krabs' actions to get more money have become. It's more prominent in the post-movie episodes, where he could easily be one of the Trix Rabbit's drinking buddies. Granted, he gets a Not-So-Harmless Villain moment in the movie, but still. Most of the time, it seems that he just wants some manner of success. In the cruel Yank the Dog's Chain episode "Plankton's Regular", after getting just one regular customer, he immediately stops trying to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. Mr Krabs and Spongebob still found it necessary to "thwart" him.
  • The battle droids in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an entire army of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains. Until they start gunning down unarmed pacifist, cracking open escape pods so the helpless people on board will die in space, and Zerg Rushing that is.
  • Aresko and Grint from Star Wars Rebels are perhaps the two least competent Imperials on Lothal—until Tarkin has the Grand Inquisitor execute them for their failures.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Despite her first few appearances striking absolute horror into the Crystal Gems, Peridot amounted to this immediately upon entering a combat situation, being not much of a match for the Crystal Gems even with substantial technological advantages. And without anything to hide behind, all of her revealed abilities are mostly there to help her run away. She also has the attitude of a high-strung desk worker more than a potentially world-destroying supervillain, which made even her moments of Not-So-Harmless Villain prior to her Heel–Face Turn hard to take seriously.
    • Jasper starts out as one of Yellow Diamond's high-ranking officers. Even though she is considered one of the greatest soldiers made on Earth at the Kindergarten, she still feels held back with the need to go further to get ahead, oppressing, and bullying other Gems. Even though she considers fusion a despicable action on Homeworld, she is ready to abandon this in order to gain a victory and come out on top, After the Jasper-Lapis Lazuli fusion results in Malachite, with Lapis attempting to maintain the fusion to prevent Jasper from gaining the upper hand. After Lapis is rescued, she later fuses with another Jasper, becoming corrupted and mutated. In "Change Your Mind", Jasper joins the other Gems at Rose's fountain and accepts healing.
    • There's also the Ruby Squad, who really, really aren't cut out for being enforcers of Homeworld's fascist regime. They're small, adorable, not that bright, and in over their heads. Though two later episodes show they're dangerous in their own way.
    • Emerald, the Large Ham authority gem who has a laundry list of humiliations at the hands of Lars and the Off-Colours. She's meant to be dangerous but given how excited she gets, while being constantly outwitted, it's hard not to love her.
  • Arktos, the evil snowman, from Tabaluga. He is really silly and his evil antics always end in disaster. And during season 2, he even sells ice-cream to his enemies and spends half-his time whining about not being able to conquer Greenland.
  • Bull Gator and Axl in Taz-Mania. In the very meta episode "Retakes Not Included", Bull even observes that they are what passes for villains on the show.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Baxter Stockman jumps between this and Not So Harmless villain. In his first episode, Mikey asked the other Turtles if they should just go buy him ice cream rather than beat him up.
    • In the original cartoon, Arch-Enemy Shredder was many times this, particularly in later crossover after the initial story arc of the first season. Only in that one though; the other media tends to show him as a real threat. Turtles Forever.
  • Control Freak from Teen Titans. Despite being able to animate the inanimate to do his bidding and inadvertently altering television frequencies to literally rot people's brains, he STILL didn't get on the Titans' list of main villains.
    Control Freak: The Puppet King?! They fought him ONCE!!
    • In later seasons, Dr. Light is similarly ineffectual. Though he does get one major Not-So-Harmless Villain moment.
  • Tom, from Tom and Jerry, is so ineffectual and sympathetic that, in some cartoons, Jerry seems Unintentionally Unsympathetic. Particularly egregious in some of those is that Tom would leave Jerry in peace or ignore him, and Jerry would antagonize him and try to ruin his life. The shorts sometimes start with Jerry trying to steal Tom's milk, break into a safe/refrigerator/ship that Tom was guarding or even picking on him unprovoked. Sometimes Tom's methods can get a bit extreme, but he's mostly just trying to protect his property or doing his job.
  • Waspinator from Transformers: Beast Wars is one of these, being a Chew Toy on the side of the bad guys.
    • Ditto for Sky-Byte and his Team Rocket in Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Except that Sky-Byte would actually be leadership material if only a few things were different. It's just that he lacked the only two qualities that really mattered for a leader: aptitude and intelligence.
  • On Ugly Americans, there was Twayne Boneraper, a demon who has only managed to claim one soul his entire career, that of a sick cat. His crowning moment of incompetence came when he ensures an utterly incompetent and unelectable politician to become mayor in return for his soul. It's such an Epic Fail that he winds up in an infernal court, accused of not worthy of being a demon. (Although, as Laughably Evil as he is, he did murder all seven of his brothers, one of whom was the general of Hell's army, so he may have a darker nature underneath than his behavior suggests.)
  • With one exception (The Phantom Limb) and, in later episodes, The Monarch, all the villains on The Venture Bros. are of this nature.
    • Most of them are of the Not-So-Harmless Villain type. It's shown that the reason OSI and such tolerate the supervillains' stupid games is that it keeps them from committing real crimes or blowing up cities. (Those who don't play the game have to deal with SPHINXnote .) The Monarch, in particular, is a special case. When he was taken off of Dr. Venture, he was unhappy with the normal game and proceeded to kill 5 heroes in a short time.
    • Doctor Mrs. The Monarch is the most competent villain and, quite possibly, the most competent character on the entire show. Even the Sovereign of the Guild respects her.
    • Doctor Killinger's entire reason to exist seems to be to snap out villains from this trope and into Not-So-Harmless Villain instead.
      • Doctor Killinger's fourth episode, The Doctor Is Sin, makes a pretty persuasive argument that Rusty Venture himself is this. Killinger spends much of the episode giving Venture Industries "efficiency" training, with the true aim of turning Doctor Venture into a real, Guild-bonded supervillain.
  • Wacky Races Dick Dastardly. It wasn't for nothing that he had a whole trope named after him. Nobody really takes him seriously. He couldn't beat himself in solitaire even if he cheated.
  • Wander over Yonder: Series "main" antagonist Lord Hater fell into this after the series premier, going from fearsome tyrant to whining man-child whose only major goals consist of being recognized by the people of the universe, for better or for worse, and destroying his nemesis, titular Wander. At his core, he just wants to be respected but is so distracted by Wander that he comes off as a joke to everyone instead. Come the second season and the series' true main antagonist enters the picture, and Hater embraces his role as this for the better...or not...
  • Odlaw in the animated series Where's Waldo? (Where's Wally?). As so many bad things keep happening to him in the name of comedy, and all he ever wants is to commit a single act of theft, you have to feel for the guy. Also, his determination is admirable!
  • From Yin Yang Yo!, Carl. The commercials for the next episode suggest he'll join the heroes so he can keep up with everyone else.
  • X-Men: Evolution: Toad and the rest of the Brotherhood, at least by Season two. At first, they were at least even with the X-Men and were able to overpower them in one episode, except for Toad. But slowly, each one got more and more Pathetic. Pietro became more cowardly, Blob became more dumb, and Avalanche went through massive character Derailment. In season 3, they were bested by only Two X-Men, one being the weakest member. It was why the Acolytes were introduced, who were definitely not this.
    • Usual, given that this is the reason why they're so popular, with people playing up the ineffectual sympathetic part, and ignoring the villain part.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, Jack Spicer, despite being the main villain in some cases, is usually an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, especially in the later episodes.
    • This is reinforced by Jack being probably the only fictional character, let alone villain, to have a breakdown failing to interrogate a parrot that simply repeated everything he said.
    • The problem is that Jack is 'trying' to be a villain yet is fairly bad at it. When he turned to good for a while before returning to evil, it wasn't that he was planning to betray them from the start, he 'did' try to be good but was afraid he would fail at being good just like he failed at being evil.


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