Do not mistake kindness for weakness.
The character isn't necessarily an Anti-Hero, Vigilante Man or may not even be portrayed as Good Is Not Nice. He could be a genuinely friendly, sociable, caring person, always looking out for his friends and family and trying to do the right thing. Such a character would have to be compassionate to his enemies, right?
Actually, no. Unlike the Good Is Not Nice character, someone who falls under this trope actually is an amicable and affable person. It's just that this niceness doesn't extend to giving free passes to the truly vile and horrific among their enemies. They are the reason why the villain should Beware the Nice Ones, especially since they aren't gonna wait to be angered or snap before the inevitable beatdown/killing begins. The Good Is Not Soft character will find them, will stop them and (if they're lucky) will kill them before they can hit that Berserk Button. Then they'll (usually) go home to enjoy dinner and settle in for a good night's sleep.
Maybe The Hero knows that the criminal will break out of the Cardboard Prison. Maybe the villain has placed the Ideal Hero in a kill or be killed situation and the hero kills for the greater good, taking on the moral consequences of their actions. Or it may simply be the Well-Intentioned Extremist needing to Talk to the Fist before they cross the Moral Event Horizon.
This trope has the potential to slide into or be interpreted as Pay Evil unto Evil, if the hero's method of ending the villain's threat is excessively cruel. Different viewers will have different ideas about what qualifies as being excessively cruel to a villain. Even so, this trope will most likely lead to him being just as bad as the villain if taken too far.
This isn't an unusual trait of the Technical Pacifist; the Gentle Giant won't have an issue with it, either. Common in Good Is Not Dumb works. If the character is a Jerkass rather than a Nice Guy, then they fall under Good Is Not Nice. Compare/contrast Beware the Nice Ones who are reactive rather than proactive. Lawful Good characters fit this trope perfectly, especially if their duty is to reward good and punish evil. See also Anti-Hero and Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. Compare Affably Evil where a villain instead of a hero has these personality traits. May result in the villain calling out a Not So Different speech when lampshaded. Also can tie into It Gets Easier if the character is enough of an experienced killer that they are able to get on with a relatively normal life after they've pulled the trigger.
- Anime & Manga
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- In Les Misérables, Les Amis's response to Javert being a spy is, depending on the production, knocking him out, tying him up, or both. After Eponine dies, they are even more set against the military (and, presumably, Javert), and when Valjean arrives, they essentially force him to help them fight off the First Attack on pain of death.
- In World War II, right after the fall of France, Adolf Hitler was certain that Britain, whom he considered fellow Aryans he didn't want to fight anyway, would fold up after that defeat and surrender. However, Prime Minister Winston Churchill not only gave powerful speeches that his nation was not going to give up, but did more. Namely, he ordered British forces to sink idled French warships at Mers-el-Kébir, killing 1,297 French servicemen, to make sure Nazi Germany could not use them against Britain. In doing that, Hitler was shocked to realize Churchill was not only talking tough, he also wasn't kidding around at how far he would go to fight the Nazis.
- In this day and age when a world power can project itself, many terrorist groups and dictators have learned that countries who are dedicated to maintaining order in the world are not going to just sit idly by and let them get away with things, such as Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait and getting smashed by the UN for it, or Gaddafi's Libya and the terrorist group ISIS getting smashed by UN air power when the world took action.
- Really, most people in real life are like this to some degree. Would you be compassionate towards someone who tried to hurt your kid? Or another family member of yours? Or even one of your friends?
- In 1990, children's television host Fred Rogers sued the Missouri chapter of the KKK. They had made a series of recordings imitating his voice and his television show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, but with racist content. He won.