When the heart of a story is the hero's strong objective, the story usually isn't a Heroic Fantasy. It's comedy, romance, Slice Of Life, voyages, Rags To Riches... Villains and antagonists that exist are hindrances that challenge the hero to rethink themselves or overcome a personal weakness. If it’s an Action Adventure, then the enemies are Plot Irrelevant Villains who coincidentally meet and antagonise the main character without having anything to do with the cause of the journey itself. Contrast Villains Act, Heroes React.
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Anime & Manga
- Most Shoujo comics, being a mix of Slice of Life and romance are about the heroine finding love while becoming a model/mangaka/singer/circus clown and there are a shitload of mean students/coworkers, Alpha Bitches, Jerk Jocks, and rivals keeping her from doing it. Really, you start thinking everyone's out to get you reading these stories.
- Code Geass: Lelouch wants to destroy Britannia and liberate the Japanese, and Britannia fights against him.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: In the second half of the part, Giorno and his gang try to find the Boss' identity in order to take control of his empire. Naturally, he sends agents to try and stop them.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: The first season has Tekkadan escorting Kudelia Aina Bernstein to Earth so she can rally support for Martian independence, something which leads to Gjallarhorn trying to stop them.
- One Piece practices both this trope and Villains Act, Heroes React. The story revolves around the Straw Hat Pirates' adventure across the seas, with their ultimate goal being to find the eponymous One Piece treasure. On their way, they stumble onto all sorts of villains with their own objectives. In some arcs, like Alabasta, the villains are trying to enact some evil scheme that the heroes throw a wrench in. In other arcs, like Dressrosa, the heroes are the ones actively disrupting things while the villains are trying to keep themselves in power. The wider context of the story, however, very much plays into Heroes Act, Villains Hinder, as the Straw Hats' actions indirectly cause the setting's entire power structure to get thrown out of whack while the World Government tries desperately to keep them in check.
- Sin City: In Hartigan and Marv's stories, the main characters respond to crimes that happen off-screen to people they have little connection to. Because they decide to act, this leads them to make more decisions and the plot follows them. Dwight is an even greater example. He starts off reacting to Jackie Boy being the plot driver but he takes over the plot when he decides to chase Jackie Boy into Old Town and from there, his actions led to trouble from different directions. The main villain of that particular story doesn't have a part in the plot until the mid-way point.
- There was a Superman story arc called Panic in the Sky! which was written specifically to avert Villains Act, Heroes React. Superman and a team of heroes purposefully go after a villain instead of waiting around for the bad guy to act first.
- In Breath of the Wild, an adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this happens in two different ways.
- Counting the story arching from 100 years before the Calamity, the heroes were the ones who took the initiative to try and combat Calamity Ganon, using their ancestors' powerful technology to get the job done. Unfortunately, Calamity Ganon was very good at hindering them.
- In the present day, though the entire story is a reaction to Calamity Ganon's victory 100 years prior, it still centers more on Link journeying around to gather the resources to fight Calamity Ganon, gathering the help of the various races across Hyrule, and the villainous Yiga Clan's attempts to stop them.
Films — Animation
- Beauty and the Beast would essentially have no central conflict if not for the Beast's overreaction to EVERYTHING- most importantly, throwing Maurice into a dungeon just because the poor guy sheltered from a blizzard in the Beast's castle. Although he is something of antagonist at the start of the movie, from Belle's perspective if nothing else so it's a zigzag.
- At the start of Incredibles 2, superheroism is outlawed and those with superpowers are forced to hide them. So the Parr family and Frozone team up with an eccentric billionaire to restore the supers' public image and make superheroism legal again. The villain, the Screenslaver, appears to be some kind of visionary as well, and makes vague monologues about modern society, but this is ultimately just a distraction. Her real goal is merely to entrench the current status quo, and turn the general public further against supers.
Perhaps this is unintentionally an example of why proactive heroes and reactive villains aren't more common in superhero stories: Since the villain already had what they wanted at the beginning of the story, and their plan involved playing along with the heroes before betraying them in the third act, a lot of viewers came away with the impression the villain would have won if they had just done nothing at all.
Films — Live-Action
- Mad Max: Fury Road: Furiosa liberating Immortan Joe's harem girls sets off the events of the film.
- The plot of Happy Gilmore is the titular character entering a golf tournament to earn the money to pay his grandmother’s enormous tax debt so she won’t lose her house. The sadistic orderly at the nursing home exists so Grandma Gilmore has a reason to want Happy to win the tournament, while Shooter McGavin is one of Happy’s many tournament rivals.
- Fairy tales where the child has a goal at the beginning, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, Aladdin, etc.
- The Odyssey: Odysseus wants to get home. Every monster and god on the Great Sea is hindering him.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Dorothy wants to get home. The Wicked Witch stalking her for her shoes is hindering her.
- Alice in Wonderland: Alice wants to get home. The sheer craziness of the world she's in is hindering her.
- Most Romantic and Tragic Comedies are boy and girl wants each other and their jobs, jealous rivals and social statuses are keeping them apart.
- In the Firestar Series, the protagonist is an industrialist who, since she was a teenage girl, has been throwing everything into a space program so that humanity can incinerate any threatening asteroids. Her antagonists are surprisingly sympathetic Luddites, competing business interests, and people who have a grudge against her because of all the control issues she's gotten from decades believing the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders.
- In Tower and the Hive - Pegasus in Space, the main plotline is the development of Peter Reidinger's abilities and the science behind Talent, culminating in the creation of FT&T and humanity's march to the stars. The villains are various people who the Talented have cheesed off in previous books; the only villain whose goals aren't specifically related to destroying Peter is Ludmilla Barchenka.
- Theirs Not to Reason Why is a rare Action/Adventure example. Technically, Ia is reacting, but the villains she's reacting to won't show up for centuries after her death (she's a precognitive). In practice, she sets out to rearrange the galaxy so that the peoples of it will be ready when the apocalyptic threat arrives, and her plans for this drive the entire plot.
- This trope is a source of unending frustration for A Practical Guide to Evil's Black Knight because he is stuck in a reactive position. All he can do is stomp out potential heroes soon as his network spots them. Also the reason he wants to "edit" the way Names work, especially since Angels and Demons can only be Order or Chaos respectively, leaving no room for grayer tones.
- The Lord of the Rings may be one of the most famous subversions, as Frodo sets out to destroy the One Ring and is hindered by Sauron's forces. More specifically, it is a pre-emptive attempt to weaken Sauron before he invades good guy territory (again), so it is still kind-of reaction to a villain's plot.
- Subverted in Night Watch (Series): The Light Others are fond of social experiments attempting to cure the human condition. Fascism and communism are both explicitly mentioned to be Light social engineering projects Gone Horribly Wrong. However, the Dark doesn't see the need for hindering (much), banking on human nature to screw up any Light interference for them. So far, it seems to have worked for them.
- The Prisoner (1967): Number Six wants to escape The Village. The new Number Two wants to keep him there.
- Breaking Bad is defined by the attempts of protagonist Walter White to make meth and build a fortune for his family, while the antagonists all threaten that goal. During periods where Walter has (at least temporarily) neutralized all of his antagonists, the show will skip through weeks or months at a time in a single montage as Walter simply goes about his drug manufacturing unhindered. When Walt himself becomes the Big Bad, the story then becomes the struggle between Skyler and Hank's attempts to stop his meth empire expansion, and Walt's attempts to continue it and evade justice.
- Kamen Rider:
- Kamen Rider Decade has little in the way of a real antagonist of his own, but rather each of his story arcs is about wandering into someone else's story and becoming an Outside-Context Problem that the villains of that story have to react to.
- Kamen Rider Gaim is an exceptionally serialized narrative that brings the Beat Riders into more and more of a proactive role as it progresses and they seek to uncover the mysteries of the Helheim Forest, hindered in their explorations by a myriad of other forces seeking to profit off the crisis.
- Kamen Rider Ghost is proactive for the first third of his show, as he tries to find the fifteen Heroic Eyecons he needs to retrieve within 99 days so he can wish himself back to life, which happen to also draw him into conflict with scouts from the Gamma empire. Once he actually has them, this premise takes a backseat to Ghost and his friends reacting to the schemes of the Gamma's main invasion force, comprising the bulk of the rest of the series.
- Kamen Rider Ex-Aid takes the opposite route of Ghost, beginning with the doctors at CR reacting to the Bugster virus outbreak and eventually leading to them attempting to follow the necessary steps to win and shut down the Deadly Game Kamen Rider Chronicle, with the game's runner doing everything in his power to stop them.
- Kamen Rider Build has a very proactive pair of protagonists, with the first arc being about Sento and Ryuga searching for answers as to mysteries of the setting and the villains trying to stop them, to the point where the Monster of the Week formula typical to the Kamen Rider franchise gets almost immediately sidelined.
- Kamen Rider Zi-O zigzags, as most of the cast are time travelers proactively trying to stop the title character from becoming the Evil Overlord of their future, but doing so primarily by reacting to the monster attacks meant to spur him along this path.
- LazyTown: Stephanie and Sportacus want the residents of LazyTown to be proactive and healthy. Robbie creates schemes to hinder them.
- Super Sentai:
- Most episodes of GoGo Sentai Boukenger invert the franchise norm by beginning with the heroes seeking out a powerful artifact so they can lock it up safely, and the villains trying to stop them so they can claim the artifact for themselves.
- Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger is another one where this applies, as it takes place in a Bad Future where the villains have already ruled the universe for generations. Any given episode focuses on the heroes planning to reclaim an important piece of territory or seek out a vital artifact to overthrowing the Jark Matter empire, only to be hindered by whatever local commander happens to be in that area to serve as the Monster of the Week.
- This is pretty common in professional wrestling. A wrestler wants to form a team (Samoa Joe with Jay Lethal) or pursue a title? (Jay Briscoe and the Ring of Honor World Championship belt) Another will act to sabotage, especially if they are going for a title the heel has, wants to have, wants to keep around the waists of their friend or doesn't like anyone of said proposed team(thus Low Ki and Homicide try to end Lethal's career and Rhino gives Briscoe his first injury to protect Kevin Steen). The faces are throwing a party?(Daffney Unger for Nikki Roxx's birthday) Someone uninvited(or only thinks they were uninvited in the case of Mercedes Martinez) is likely to ruin it. Someone is receiving an award?(Kurt Angle into the Impact Wrestling Hall Of Fame) They must be put in their place(thus the Extraordinary Gentlemen Organization forms to protest). Someone is giving out props to the fans(Eugene has a t shirt gun)? Don't be surprised if that is interrupted either(because Armando Alejadro Estrada and his Samoan Bulldozer apparently hate fun). The reasonable authority figure is trying to enact something new in the name of entertainment, safety and or fairness(The Tennessee state commissioner banning the pile driver)? Expect them to be fought every step of the way(Paul Orndorff is piledriving anyone SMW puts him in the ring with, then Al Snow decides it will be a good way to end the career of Ricky Morton).
- A rather infamous example came from Full Impact Pro, when CM Punk stomped on the head of Homicide while Homicide was watching a strip tease
- Another CM Punk example came from the Second City Saints vs Prophecy feud when BJ Whitmer interrupted Punk and Colt Cabana's attempted execution of Christopher Daniels. Although given the "heroes" had gone to such extremes in their vigilante justice and Daniels, while accomplice to Whitmer, wasn't actually guilty of the crime he was being punished for, this wasn't quite so bad.
- EVOLVE had a case where the initial "hero" Mercedes Martinez did not even need to react when Brandi Lauren tried to undo her efforts to bring women into the company. The wrestlers, Shotzi Blackheart in particular, were able to handle themselves, making this look like Villains Act Heroes React if you were unfamiliar with the promotion's history.
- Exalted gives us the Ebon Dragon, a Yozi who often acts as one of the principal antagonists of the setting. As he represents the cosmic principles of betrayal, villainy, and spite, it's very, very hard for him to act proactively. In fact, most of his powers rely around crushing or spiting others instead of pursuing his own direct goals, and the main reason he created the Unconquered Sun was because that way, he could actually do something.
- Dragon Age: Origins: The Grey Wardens (and their newest member, you) need to stop the latest Blight from destroying Ferelden, but Teyrn Loghain (who doesn't believe in Grey Wardens or the Blight), does everything in his power to try to stop you. In this case, the heroes are 'reacting'' to the Blight but a separate, different villain is hindering them.
- Undertale: You play as a child who fell underground, and wants to return home. Thing is, everyone and everything underground wants you to stay, or wants you dead.
- Life Is Strange 2: Sean and Daniel's main goal is to make it to Puerto Lobos so they can escape punishment for a crime they didn't commit. The story does not have an arching villain, but the brothers have to deal with several unsavory figures, such as a racist convenience store owner, the leader of a marijuana planting operation, and the insane leader of a cult-like church.
- DuckTales has Scrooge seek out five Lost Treasures to further solidify his status as the Richest Duck in the World, fighting enemies along the way.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! is about a male high school student who joins a literature club with four other girls, leading him to attempt to romance one of them. Unfortunately, the club president, Monika, intends to bend the world around her so that the player themselves has no choice but to pursue her.
- Hurricanes: In "Around the World in 90 Minutes", the protagonists organize a series of soccer matches to be played at an aircraft carrier. The villains seize the carrier and stop the matches out of spite.