Follow TV Tropes


Ineffectual Loner

Go To

"I need your help. I thought I could — I thought I needed to do this alone — a 'back to basics' approach. I was wrong. No one person can do this alone. No Man's Land is too big... too... dark. The only way to bring light back to Gotham is working together. All of us."

On the one hand, they’re a badass. They have cool clothes. They make a grand entrance. And they do it in half the time the hero does.

On the other hand, they’re a little (or a lot) less idealistic than The Hero. Maybe they're a Byronic Hero.

So, why are they a loner? Generally it turns out to be some kind of betrayal, or maybe they’ve been through some difficult times in their life and now they just want to be alone.

Unfortunately, they'll win battles but never win the war. If they're lucky, they might not get killed by The Dragon. They're also obnoxiously condescending because all Loners Are Freaks, and, if written badly, has only an Informed Ability.

The Ineffectual Loner does not understand Team Spirit, or just isn't concerned. The problem is this attitude makes someone pretty single-minded, and they're afraid to trust anyone as an ally, lest they be a liability/distraction. They're also extremely susceptible (if not outright gullible) to villains who know how to think this way. They may catch on eventually, but they'll be a tool (in several senses of the word) for a bit.

An Ineffectual Loner usually starts to catch on to their role the first time they get their ass handed to them, and the other heroes bail them out. This is often a tempting trap laid by the villain, who knows the loner has no friends to warn them about the obvious danger.

A forgiving lead hero will usually be sympathetic to their underlying issues, even if other characters regard them as an annoyance. Indeed, sometimes there's a specific character who does that intently — sometimes a little too much.

In short, an isolationist grump. If the story is on the idealistic side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, this character will generally only appear in any setting where The Power of Friendship has significance. If they're lucky, they'll be upgraded to Rival or Sixth Ranger. If not, they get served as a testimonial to going against the series Aesop. Some writers take the middle ground to be more fair, but that usually results in them conveniently being Put on a Bus until the writers need them again. In a more cynical story, they might be the main character.

A subtrope of The Stoic. See also Loners Are Freaks, In the End, You Are on Your Own, The Complainer Is Always Wrong. Contrast The Aloner, who is a Loner by (apocalyptic) force rather than choice.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bakuten Shoot Beyblade: Kai Hiwatari is this massively all the way through season 1 ("There's no Kai in team!", anyone?), is less obnoxiously so in V-Force (re. goes off to fight Jack's Scissorswing alone), reverts back to his season 1 persona in G-Revolution, and never beats Takao throughout. Bless. Downplayed at the end of G-Revolution, when he scares to death, defeats, and drives into madness the apparently invincible Brooklyn through determination alone.
  • Digimon generally has at least one of these per season, or at least an otherwise main character who decides for no apparent reason that they need to be a Loner. In the first season, Matt/Yamato can't be bothered by anyone but his younger brother, so he gets the Crest of Friendship to force him to be more powerful by working with others. Rika/Ruki in Digimon Tamers: at the beginning of the season she sees Digimon as soulless fighting machines, treats her own Digimon partner as such, and actively tries to destroy the Digimon belonging to the main character. She lightens up later, thanks to her mother and digimon partner. A lot of the loners are this way because of their Broken Bird origins.
  • Doki Doki Pretty Cure: MakoPi/Cure Sword originally prefers not to get involved in Mana's growing Pretty Cure team so that she can handle her own revenge for letting her home get destroyed. It isn't until all four Cures are trapped in MakoPi's world and seeing how big Mana's Balls of Steel are in mocking one of the Quirky Mini Boss Squad while powerless, she lets it drop.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Played straight, subverted as part of Character Development, and then sort of zig-zagged with Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. He always lives alone, constantly training himself mentally and physically. Even when he starts getting some concept of The Power of Friendship, he still prefers to do things his own way. Often times being the only one who can even remotely stand up to the Big Bad of the arc, up until around the time Cell finishes up becoming Perfect, but the only finishing blow he gets against a serious fighter requires a Heroic Sacrifice by his then-Worthy Opponent. The zig-zag comes around because, even though he (eventually) openly admits that some threats are simply too big to fight alone, the only time he's shown spending any time with anyone else is when they're in the middle of training to combat said big threat.
    • Jiren of Universe 11 from Dragon Ball Super is this due to his Dark and Troubled Past where his family, mentor, and many friends were killed by a villain and the rest abandoned him, causing him to view friendship and trust as fleeting and strength as the only true absolute in the universe. As a result, he's cold and aloof even to his fellow Pride Troopers and in fact only views them as tools to help him achieve his goals, and seeing The Power of Friendship at work is one of his Berserk Buttons, since it denies everything he's ever been or believed in. He goes absolutely ballistic on Goku during their final battle when Goku states the reason he can still stand against him is because of the Heroic Willpower he gains from fighting for the sake of his friends and family, causing him to try and kill them to prove his ideals are right.
  • Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA: Miyu refuses to befriend anybody and insists on going into battles alone, dismissing Illya as weak and naive. Eventually, Miyu gets into a few battles that cannot be won alone and Illya saves her. Miyu then becomes open to cooperation and accepts Illya, Chloe, Rin, Luvia, and Bazett as friends and partners, but only them. She still refuses to accept any of their muggle classmates as friends and calls them useless.
  • GaoGaiGar: Played with. Soldato-J doesn't fight alone, but he doesn't have the same kind of camaraderie with his partners that Guy and Mamoru have with theirs. Despite this, he's actually better at his job than Guy is, at least at first, and makes his entrance by curbstomping a trio of Robeasts moments after they'd beaten Guy to a pulp. He goes on to be Guy's rival for the rest of the series before apparently going out in a blaze of glory at the end of the TV series. FINAL plays this a bit straighter; while he remains as badass as he's ever been, J is also completely unable to do anything against the Sol Masters until the heroes show up (to be fair, he was outnumbered eleven to one), and can't even challenge his own Evil Counterpart until he teams up with Renais and gains a new Super Mode / Combination Attack with her.
  • Gunbuster: Jung Freud is introduced early on as The Rival hot "foreign" mecha pilot. She hangs around the edges of the main two characters, never quite getting to be the big heroine, or to save the day. To her credit, she gives up her seat in Buster Machine, to allow the classic pair to team up for the final mission. She is left behind near the climax, not even allowed to make the Heroic Sacrifice made by the two leads.
  • Gundam:
    • Captain, Zero, and Bakunetsumaru start out this way in SD Gundam Force. Captain shrugs off Shute's companionship at first because he has to maintain The Masquerade, but rethinks this when he realizes that the Soul Drive runs on The Power of Friendship. Similarly, both Zero and Bakunetsumaru when they first appear are disdainful of the Gundam Force, but come to recognize them as warriors of worth, and decide to help them protect Neotopia as they would their own nations. Gunbike actually lampshades this trope;
      "I know you, the proud, cocky type who likes to do things on his own, and gets the rest of his squad in trouble!"
    • Chang Wufei exemplifies this trope in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. Despite arguably being the physically-strongest warrior among the five Gundam pilots sent to Earth, he is both the one who spends the most time operating alone and has the worst success ratio of the five. For all his resolve and determination, most of Wufei's time is spent attacking enemy forces alone, doing as much damage as possible, and then retreating when the odds grow too far out of his favor (and in one case, being taken prisoner). It's not until he finally joins the other Gundam pilots as a team towards the end that he finally begins to make consistent headway towards victory, and all it took was a forced epiphany from piloting a machine best known for driving its pilots both insane and to their deaths.
    • Despite being The Hero, Garrod Ran has this problem at the start of After War Gundam X. Having lived most of his life as a lone salvager/thief with an inherent distrust of adults, there's a lot of friction when he joins the Freeden, leading to his 10-Minute Retirement and even more problems when his inherent mistrust causes him to draw a gun on Ennil El.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Subverted with Kurapika. He starts out working with the others well enough, but his progress and effectiveness accelerate dramatically when the team splits up for a few months to pursue their own goals. This is ultimately what convinces him to shut the others out of his life.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Jean-Pierre Polnareff starts out like this in Stardust Crusaders, as he was mainly driven by vengeance against J. Geil, the man with two right hands who killed his sister. He insists to do it alone when the gang arrives in India, upon knowing that he is there. He grows out of this after J. Geil and Hol Horse kill Avdol, and Kakyoin helps him track down J. Geil and give him the thrashing of his life, and afterwards, he's the one who's preaching about working together in order to defeat Dio.
  • Karneval: Gareki fits the first paragraph to a T, although he's a main character and too badass to fail (so far; being rational and aware of his lacking strength next to a Circus fighter helps too). Also, he's a Type A Tsundere, which goes along charmingly with the personality trait (badass; it's kept him from being Ineffectual thus far).
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: While Kobayashi isn't any ineffectual (in fact, she's quite the opposite as it's her workforce that's reliant on her as she's the most capable one), her meeting Tohru made her realize how empty her life was before she met her. Played straight in the household when Tohru was taken back to the other world, forcing her to take care of Kanna by herself on top of working full time, leading to the house becoming messier, making her realize that she does need Tohru.
  • Monster Rancher: After seeing his pack completely slaughtered, Tiger of the Wind is nursed back to health by Genki and the other Searchers, but is reluctant to join them at first, returning in time to bail them out in a fight. He then threatens to leave in the very next episode when told that they don't want him stealing anymore, though he ultimately sticks around... then tries to leave again after learning that his kidnapped brother has been brainwashed into becoming one of Moo's generals. This attempt winds up getting Holly shot when she shields him from a Black Worm's attempt to snipe him while he's distracted.
  • Muhyo and Roji: George Schyuter has a Freudian Excuse that because his assistants ended up dying so often, he attracted a bad reputation and decided to avoid causing or being blamed for others' deaths by practicing Magical Law alone with a special sword and envoy. He initially obstructs Muhyo and Roji's efforts to deal with Vector by threatening to revoke their licenses if they interfere, before setting out to deal with him alone. This doesn't go very well, and he ends up being forced to pull a You Shall Not Pass! in order to buy time for Roji to wake up Muhyo, who proceeds to finish the fight with Vector.
  • My Hero Academia: After the Paranormal Liberation War, Deku leaves U.A. and his friends behind out of fear that All For One will attack them due to him possessing One For All. He teams up with Endeavor and the rest of the remaining Pro Heroes to find AFO and Shigaraki in order to stop them while also dealing with the backlash of angry mobs due to the collapse of Hero Society. With the stress of how he's the only one capable of putting a stop to AFO, the villain's constant taunts, and with hero society in ruins; Deku runs himself ragged. While he was able to take down a few villains on his own, he had made no progress in finding AFO's location; leaving him exhausted with no time taken for rest. It took an intervention from Class 1-A, an apology from Bakugo, and Ochaco's speech calming down the angry mob keeping him from resting in U.A.; that convinces Deku that he can't do everything on his own and that he needs to rely on his friends in order to save the world.
  • My-HiME:
    • Nao Yuuki is mostly this, but not because she's ineffective. Rather, she's utterly disinterested in the battles the other HiME are involved in, preferring her own path of preying on creeps she lures to her via the internet. And when she works with the others to stop the Sears Foundation's invasion of Fuka Academy, she's just as effective there. However, almost immediately afterwards, she's framed for attacking another HiME and loses her eye in the ensuing battle, causing her naturally distrustful personality to blow into full-on paranoia, leading her to take out her feelings of revenge on everyone she almost trusted until the events of the Grand Finale.
    • Natsuki Kuga from the same series is a by-the-numbers case of this. Pretty much every solo action we see her undertake onscreen doesn't work or blows up in her face. Her attempt to dissuade any Hime from showing up to Fuuka in the first episode really sets the stage for this. From there, there's her plan to deal with the panty thief orphan, her discovering and attacking Alyssa Searrs, and her attempts to deal with the seemingly traitorous Nao. Ironically, this all leads up to her final confrontation with Shizuru, which she only wins because she acknowledges that she's not alone in the world, and thus super-powers up Duran to the same level as Shizuru's Kiyohime, allowing her to carry out her plan: eliminate Shizuru (and by extension, herself) in order to give Mai a clear shot at ending the entire Festival, thus sacrificing herself for the good of others. Quite the full circle of Character Development. Her special in the 25th episode even has her acknowledging the power of friendship and love.
      "The feelings Shizuru had for me and the feelings Mai and Tate had for each other made me realize people can't live alone. It might seem obvious to anyone else, but it was an important truth I discovered only recently."
  • My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected: Hikigaya Hachiman prefers to be left alone, but after his teacher forces him to join a club that helps other students with their problems, he has situations where helps people alone (even if almost the entire school hates him for it later on).
  • Naruto:
    • In Part 1, Sasuke Uchiha starts out as The Rival, but quickly descends to Ineffectual Loner. He is introduced as a grim and solitary prodigy at the Ninja Academy with a special inherited power that should make him all but invincible. Other characters admire and are intimidated by his skill, while women swoon over his good looks. He then goes on to get bailed out of every major fight by Naruto. With the start of Part 2, however, he has become something of a subversion — now that he really has split himself off from the protagonist he has become one of the most powerful ninja in the series, not through the power of friendship but through fighting alone (though his sanity has taken a nosedive).
    • He heads back towards being a straight example from about his fight with Itachi onwards, as he only got out of that because the fight was thrown, he goes back to being bailed out by his new team in his next fight though he fought Danzo alone, it was mainly thanks to Karin continually supplying him information through the fight that he won, and it generally seems as if he's never going to achieve anything he aims for.
    • Except then he promptly ditches his team, and gets another power upgrade. As with just about every other trope, Sasuke keeps us guessing on this one.
    • Though literally every single fight Itachi takes part in goes exactly as planned, his ultimate goal fails completely due to his belief that he was the only one who needed to suffer the burden of the Uchiha Clan's darkness. Later on, he admits to Naruto that if he had been willing to share the pain and let others help him, especially Sasuke, things would have worked out much better than they did.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Asuka Langley Soryuu is introduced in a manner very similar to Jung Freud (same director, same company). However, instead of fading into the background after her first (slight) comeuppance, she is promoted to love interest (a much more dangerous position in a Gainax giant robot story) and then to central cast member. She still suffers like most examples — it's just longer in coming and much nastier when it happens.
    • Shinji's also one despite being the main character. He beats more Angels than Rei or Asuka but just gets more traumatized each time.
    • To make the trio complete, Rei is also rather ineffectual whenever she fights alone.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Paul from the Sinnoh saga is an extremely harsh trainer with no comprehension of The Power of Friendship, fails to treat his Pokemon with love and respect, and doesn't take well to battling alongside others. This comes to bite him at the end when his former Pokemon Chimchar, now an Infernape, destroys his team at the end of the arc.
    • In the subsequent Unova series, Trip also falls into this. As he's rude and extremely arrogant, he vastly overestimates his own skills and assumes he's above all the Trainers around him. This repeatedly serves as his undoing, as he's almost always defeated in the first round of each tournament he enters.
  • Princess Tutu: Fakir starts off this way. As soon as the main heroine figures out he's not really that bad of a guy she tries to convince him to team up with her, but it takes until near the end of the season until he finally does, and even then it's reluctantly. In the second season, he doesn't mind quite as much, but he still maintains a bad habit of trying to do things on his own.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura Akemi has been going through a Groundhog Peggy Sue loop in order to save Madoka and prevent her from forming a contract. After being subjected to a Cynicism Catalyst, she stops trying to save the other Magical Girls in the series, and, in every single loop, either Madoka dies or she makes a contract.
  • Reborn! (2004) has Kyoya Hibari, the ostentatious head of the Disciplinary Committee (Although he is only ever seen with one of its members at any given time), doesn't like groups. He hates groups, and people who group, to the point of beating them senseless with the only warning being a derogatory "I'll Bite You to Death." He's considered invincible by his peers in the manga (most of whom are afraid of getting on his bad side) and has only lost one battle total due to a cheap trick pulled by the resident Manipulative Bastard Mukuro Rokudo. Despite this completely ridiculous winning streak, when it comes to the appearance of the Big Bad, he doesn't even try to pull a stunt, leaving it to the hero. (He is also the reference image for this page.)
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Heavily deconstructed (like almost everything) by Ren Amaki. From the start, Naofumi compares him to MMORPG players who like to play solo and thus have difficulty working with others, and he acts accordingly, preferring to train solo while leaving his party to their own devices. This translates in that he's not able to fight effectively with his own teammates or the other heroes because he acts on his own and expects others to know what he's doing, which results in his party being completely wiped out when he and the Bow and Spear Heroes decide to unseal the Spirit Tortoise, thinking they can defeat it.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune have a consistently condescending view of many of the other characters, despite being surprisingly useless when combating actual Dragons or Big Bads.
  • In Saint Beast, Kira's loner behaviour is largely due to Fantastic Racism, but never became good with people even after meeting angels who accepted him. However, the heroes aren't the kind of angels to leave him alone and his aloof behaviour never helps him.
  • Seraph of the End: The first chapters are essentially about beating The Power of Friendship into Yuu, who's afraid to get close to others after watching all of his loved ones be slaughtered (and that was after already going through the defrosting process once, due to a bitter relationship with his parents before the incident). In fact, his commander makes "making friends at school" a requirement before the kid can officially join the squad he wants to be a part of, knowing that an Ineffectual Loner will only get himself killed.
  • Shaman King: The X-Laws are an entire team of ineffectual loners. They are determinators to the point that they refuse to work with anyone outside of their team and have a consistently condescending view of such people. They even go as far as to kill indiscriminately to try and stop Hao. Needless to say, all of this ends up making Hao obtain the Shaman King title far easier than otherwise.
  • Barnaby Brooks Jr. from Tiger & Bunny begins the series as one of these. While he has a public front as being very friendly and charming, in reality, he's entirely too wrapped up in seeking revenge to form any sort of relationship with other people. It takes Kotetsu thirteen episodes and a flamebolt to the chest to drag him out of it.
  • Wedding Peach: Angel Salvia is this at first. Because of the nature of their powers and the enemies they fight, the four Love Angels aren't able to use the full power of the Saint Something Four until they all work together. Also, the part that made me think of this trope was where Salvia kept cutting a snow demon in her angry desire to get revenge, and even though cutting it was making the demon grow more each time, she wouldn't stop cutting it until Peach made her stop. Making that a rather literal example because her method (which she wanted to do by herself) was worse than just ineffectual, it was making the enemy stronger!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Former Idiot Hero Judai chooses to fully embrace this role right before his token female love interest feels like making her move. No one said Character Development was easy.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: No Man's Land: Batman becomes this by cutting himself from all his allies and forbidding them to help. Finally, he realized this approach was counterproductive and recalled them all. It's a cycle he regularly goes through. Attempt to drive away all the people he cares about, go darker and grimmer than usual, then realize/give in to the fact that he needs them.
    Batman: I want to thank you all for coming on such short notice... and... Before we get into why you're here, I wanted to say... well, I just... I... I know that I'm not an easy person to know. That's all.
  • X-Men: Taken to an extreme with the original 70s team; John Proudstar, the Native American mutant who was the first to take up the Thunderbird code-name, was a Jerkass who thought himself better than his teammates and actually was kind of racist against non-Native Americans. His attempts to be the badass solo warrior got him killed in his second outing with the X-Men, and he stayed dead for decades, reappearing only as one of Selene's undead slaves during the Necrosha arc in X-Force.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: Asuka had never been good at getting used to new people or working with other people. However, when she tried to work alone she often fumbled and screwed up missions. When she tried to collaborate with her teammates, she unleashed her potential.
  • Like in canon, Homura in Kwami Magi Homura Magica tries to do everything alone, and as noted in story there is a lot she can do alone. She can defeat pretty much any wish not named Walpurgisnacht, she could, in theory, decapitate the Magius if it ever was required, she even can kill Monarch and defeat Felix and Cat Noir on her own, but her ultimate goal of saving Madoka, either by stopping Walpurgisnacht or by defeating Ladybug to take the Ladybug Miraculous to use the Ultimate Miraculous power, is beyond her alone. The former is only able to be defeated with help, and the latter has the help of her various friends and allies to defeat Homura even with Homura having stolen all the Miraculouses belonging to Monarch, Felix, and Cat ahead of time to use against Ladybug. The only way that Homura is able to get a happy ending for herself and her friends is to work with Ladybug and find a solution that solves their shared and intertwined problems in a way both can accept, getting a happy ending as a result.
  • The Kamen Rider/Metroid crossover fic, Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations has Samus verge into this when she settles in the present time. Her encounters with different Kamen Riders made her earn their respect, as well as learning the value of teamwork; ends up with the company of Mitsuzane Kureshima (Kamen Rider Ryugen), who would later on become her Love Interest, and Gou Shijima (Kamen Rider Mach), who is more of a Tagalong Camera Fiend.
    • Depending on the Writer, Micchy himself in that same fic is a zig-zagged example. Due to him having PTSD, Survivor Guilt, and occasional depression, he could no longer reconnect to anyone he used to work alongside with (save for Kouta and Zack) before he betrayed his friends. He got better since he has Gou and Samus behind him.
  • Three's A Crowd (Naruto): Sasuke acts this way, being an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy who believes that the fact he was the Top Rookie in their class and the last of the Uchiha makes him automatically better than everyone else and "above" such pithy things as the menial labor of D-rank missions. His teammate Uo mimics this same attitude despite having been the dead-last in their class after Naruto's untimely passing. Naturally, having two out of three teammates acting like high-and-mighty Jerkasses who refuse to treat anyone around them with anything approaching respect does not help Team Seven function well...

  • Arnie, in Dr. Franklin's Island, is more independent and contrary than his two companions, and insists on his own plans. But he usually has to go with what Miranda says anyway since she's usually right and he needs that. His plans do not actually work out so well, anyway.
  • Westley is an interesting variant in The Princess Bride. Alone, he can out-duel the world's greatest swordsman, outfight the world's strongest giant, and out-think the world's smartest criminal — and it's still not enough to keep Prince Humperdinck from reclaiming his bride and imprisoning Westley and later killing him. It's only when he teams up with Inigo and Fezzik that he has the opportunity to save the day.
    • His status as a loner was really because this particular adventure was personal. He'd spent several years as part of a pirate crew and then as its captain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: Lord Bowler was an Ineffectual Loner in the early episodes, before entering into a profitable partnership with the protagonist. He then evolved into a Badass Longcoat.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Grant Ward is a hyper-competent field agent who initially fights hard against being recruited onto Team Coulson since he's both more comfortable and more effective working alone. It's actually taken to extremes in places since he's apparently cut himself out of the loop so badly that he didn't realise S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top scientist and his new teammate Fitz-Simmons was two people until he was introduced to them, despite the implication that everyone within the organisation knew them through their work by that point. He generally spends the first few episodes behaving as though having skilled back-up from the science and communications departments is hindering him as an operations agent before Defrosting Ice Queen kicks in. Though midway through Season 1 it's revealed that Ward was Evil All Along, and that his tough I-can-do-this-alone act was for show, to make himself into someone Coulson would want to take under his wing in order to "fix" his distrust of other people. Safe to say, everyone was fooled. In fact, he's been a very effective team player the whole time, just for a different team.
  • In Arrow, Oliver has fallen into this way of thinking more than once, thinking his friends are better off without him. Then either they'll rescue him at the last minute or something will happen to one of them that he might have been able to prevent had he been around.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): By the end of the series, Galen Tyrol has become this. But really, after discovering that he was a Cylon and never really picking whether he was going to identify as a human or a Cylon, then later finding out his half-Cylon son wasn't actually half-Cylon or his at all, then also that his wife was actually killed by a fellow Cylon, can you blame him for being disillusioned?
  • Blake's 7: Avon starts off with no choice in the matter, stuck on a spaceship and on the run from the Federation... but he somehow keeps finding reasons to not leave the ship and Blake, whom he professes to despise. After losing Blake he should have been free to go, but instead spends the remaining two years in command of the crew and looking for Blake.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy falls into this, at least once a season, before coming back to her friends for support.
    • The Slayers before Buffy would usually fall into this which tended to get them killed. Averting this trope is often lampshaded as the reason for Buffy's survival and success.
  • Doctor Who: Especially in the New Series, the Doctor likes to get in this mode after losing a companion. For example, the Tenth Doctor after he had to wipe Donna's memory after she became the Doctor-Donna. Another example is the Eleventh Doctor when Amy and Rory are sent back in time.
  • House:
    • Dr. Foreman quit and went to work for other hospitals, and attempted to run a drug trial, but pretty much always gets kicked back to working under House.
    • Dr. House himself, at least in recent seasons where the focus has been shifting from him getting away with crazy stunts to stick it to the man to him getting away with crazy stunts to distract from his crippling emotional issues while failing in any actual attempt to resolve them.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Played straight at first, but then subverted. Raelle starts out only wanting to die, depressed over her mother dying, intent on failing training since then she'll be used as cannon fodder. Then despite herself, she falls for another woman and gets some close friends among her fellow cadets. Because of this, Raelle shapes up and gets to be quite skilled with her magic.
  • Power Rangers Time Force:
    • Eric Myers, the Quantum Ranger consistently thought himself superior to the other Rangers (and, on paper, he was) and never actually joined the team in any real sense. He only actively works with the others in the finale, and then it's only by giving his powers to the Red Ranger, Wes, when he is incapacitated. (In Time Force's counterpart Mirai Sentai Timeranger, the equivalent character, Naoto Takizawa, actually experiences Redemption Equals Death).
    • Merrick, the Sixth Ranger of Power Rangers Wild Force very firmly told the team several times that he didn't want to be their friend and even got a job in a bar to give him an excuse to stay away. Didn't stop him from turning up at every single fight, and at dawn every morning to meet their mentor. By the last few episodes, some of his teammates are hanging out at the bar, and when given a chance to leave the team he refuses and runs off to join them.
    • Will, the Black Ranger of Power Rangers Operation Overdrive also starts out this way, going to ridiculous extremes to keep the team from helping out. He learns his lesson early into the series, at the end of the third episode ("The Underwater World")... and spends the rest of the season acting on his own in many episodes with everyone's blessing and being quite successful at it.
  • In Survivors (2008), Greg claims to want to survive on his own. He tolerates Abby's presence, who turns out to be a Team Mom and gathers a crew of seven. Despite mentioning leaving the group a few times, 12 episodes later, he's still there.
  • Uchu Sentai Kyuranger: Stinger/Sasori Oranger prefers to act on his own and mostly avoids his team unless necessary. This bites him on the tail hard at quite a few turns, the best example being when he fights his brother and nearly dies. He becomes more of a team player afterwards but still is probably the most aloof Kyuranger. Well, for most of the time.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Mercedes Martinez declaring open war on Daffney's All-Star Squad didn't workout so well for her. She could consistently beat most Squad members in one on one matches but any provocation beyond that led to her facing them 2 on 1 or even 4 on 1. Them being a baby face stable was probably why they didn't gang up on her from the get-go, as Valkyrie did to solve their Martinez problem much quicker. After returning from that particular failure, Martinez picked a fight with four members of VALkyrie, who backed off, then jumped Martinez from behind. After that Martinez joined with Thea Trinidad to fill in for the indisposed La Rosa in Ivelisse's SHINE Sicarias, then for good measure, brought in Shayna Baszler, who she had already swept up with Nicole Savoy for her own SHIMMER Trifecta, to act as a bodyguard when the other Sicarias weren't around.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Red dragons frequently clash with silvers, as the two breeds prefer the same environments to lair in, have thoroughly incompatible worldviews, and generally detest one another as a matter of course. Reds are larger and stronger than silvers but tend to lose in their clashes anyway because their pride prevents them from accepting or seeking out aid, while silvers facing a red will willingly work together or seek out non-draconic help.

    Video Games 
  • Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana: Arlin, the loner swordsman, leaves the party midgame to go hunting down his Evil Counterpart and Big Bad Mull on his own because the party doesn't make quick progress in finding him. It doesn't go well. He's turned in a stone by his nemesis, and he can't be cured until you beat the game once.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins is an exploration of this trope, as Batman realizes he needs Jim Gordon.
  • BlazBlue: This is the ultimate Fatal Flaw of the heroes, and is also the biggest reason for the villains being incredibly likely to succeed (on top of Poor Communication Kills). Most of the heroes constantly bicker and in-fight with each other and would rather mind their own businesses than realize the common threat and work with each other, which ends up leaving them surprisingly useless when dealing with people like Terumi and Relius because they tend to fight them alone. It's only after they start working with each other beginning with Chronophantasma that any meaningful progress is made.
  • Chrono Trigger: Magus is defeated twice by Lavos before figuring out he needs to join Chrono's party to destroy it, although he never quite buys in to The Power of Friendship.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Squall Leonhart is a hero version, and he never wanted to be the hero anyway.
    • Final Fantasy IX: The trope is borne out normally where Amarant is the Ineffectual Loner, and Zidane tries to teach him The Power of Friendship, or at least discretion.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics: Subverted with Delita, who exhibits the philosophy and behavior of the Ineffectual Loner, but proves not to be ineffectual at all. This can be attributed to the title's uncharacteristically (for Final Fantasy) heavy emphasis on the "cynical" end of the scale'The Hero Ramza would be Messianic Archetype if he could, but in Ivalice, it just doesn't work that way. But it could also be considered to be played straight anyways; for all his effectiveness, Delita never really gets what he was looking for and ends up alone and unhappy, while Ramza gets what he was looking for and lives his life free, with his sister.
    • Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light:
      • Brandt tries to go on his own, ditching Yunita so he can turn himself into a badass lone hero after feeling inferior to Krinjh. It lasts exactly until he reaches Arbor, whereupon the town's defenses turn him into a plant. (Fortunately, the little white cat following him was really Aire, who found a way to turn him back... after a few steps.)
      • Jusqua and Aire (which is to say, every single main character except for Yunita, who keeps getting ditched by her teammates) also qualify. A big chunk of the game's plot revolves around the team's inability to work together. For the first half of the game, they spend more time bickering and blowing one another off than acting like proper heroes.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: Kane insists on going through the enemy-infested temple by himself, and refuses to accept Spyro's aid even when he's clearly overmatched by the Apes, despite Spyro arguing that in some situations teamwork is more effective. At the end of the level, he comes around to seeing things Spyro's way.
    Kane: By the way, you were right.
    Spyro: About what?
    Kane: Maybe two heads are better than one. Even if one does belong to an annoying mosquito.
  • LunarLux: Although the Murk Slayer is justified in opposing Saros, he refuses to explain his motives to anyone else or accept Bella's attempts at negotiation at first. This is because anyone he teamed up with in the past was captured by Saros and transformed into Murks, making him scared to put any more potential allies at risk. He also has a deep distrust towards Lunex Force since he doesn't know which officers are directly working for Saros. He later admits that he can't beat Saros by himself and teams up with Bella and the Lunex Space Station crew.
  • Mass Effect 2: Garrus Vakarian starts out this way, causing trouble to the gangs of Omega. He worked with a team of 11 other people up until the gangs joined forces. The only reason Garrus is alone when you first meet him is that the rest of his team was killed. He's quite happy to join Shepard and, outside of a burning hatred for the man who sold out his team, is not bitter about the concept of teamwork.
  • Mega Man Star Force: Solo, thanks to his Freudian Excuse, believes wholeheartedly that only weak people form groups and develop friendships. He maintains this belief despite a huge number of inconvenient facts, such as his homeland of Mu being destroyed because nobody trusted anyone else, or the way The Hero uses The Power of Friendship to kick him around like a soccer ball on a regular basis.
  • Pokémon, being a franchise centered on The Power of Friendship, has a few. Silver from the second generation and its remakes is an abrasive, abusive, rather violent Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy of a boy with a massive Inferiority Superiority Complex. Another rival, Blue from the first generation, isn't a loner per se, but he also still doesn't understand the Power of Friendship and can't learn to love and respect his Pokémon. A sound butt-kicking from the player, who does understand the value of teamwork and friendship, is these rivals' typical fate.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Knuckles starts out as one due to being constrained in a solitary duty to guard the Master Emerald in Angel Island. After forging a friendship with Sonic and Tails, he has somewhat grown out of his shell, though he still sometimes has gruff and anti-social tendencies.
    • Blaze in Sonic Rush started as one. She rejects the help of Sonic and his friends, believing that she must find all of the Sol Emeralds by herself. By the end of the game, she begins to learn The Power of Friendship and accepts the heroes as her friends.
    • Shadow plays this straighter than the two above. He doesn't put a lot of value on teamwork and of the like when getting things done. It also doesn't help that he doesn't seem very fond of anyone's presence that much. However, he's also often seen in the company of Team Dark, made up of him, Rouge the Bat, and Omega, and actually works fairly well with them, even not minding their presence as much as he does anyone else's.
  • Sword of Paladin: Lancelot's main flaw is that he doesn't trust anyone but himself to save the world, leading to him joining Berienstahl in order to obtain the power of the Extra and Royal Gems. This is shown in his recounting of the time Berienstahl attacked Asgard. He notes that it was a team of weaker Einherjar who saved the day, but instead of accepting that the Einherjars can overcome powerful enemies together, he wallows in his own personal failure to defeat Berienstahl by himself.
  • Touhou Project: Fujiwara no Mokou fits perfectly into this type. Shortly after she killed Iwakasa and then tasted the elixir of eternal life, she spent the rest of her life in a form of solitude in a bamboo forest because she couldn't fit into society and couldn't die. Nowadays she spends her time taking on her rival's assassins and saving people's lives.
  • Valkyria Chronicles: Subverted. Through Nils Daerden and Marina Wulfstan, who actually get stat bonuses for being alone and penalties for being with others. In short, they actually DO work better alone. The latter is also considered by many to be the best sniper in the game.
  • Wild ARMs 3: Jet is called out on this by Virginia when she asks him what he'd managed to accomplish on his lonesome. Considering that the four of them managed to save the world three times, and save villages and towns many times more than that, together, she has a point.
  • The World Ends with You: Neku, main character, wants to find his way out of the Game by himself, but the rules of the game make this extremely difficult if not impossible.

    Visual Novels 
  • One of Yuuto's two big flaws in Aselia the Eternal - The Spirit of Eternity Sword is his inability to accept or ask for help. While he's competent and probably the strongest person on his side, he's just not good enough to do everything by himself. This does not just apply to fighting or being a general, however, as raising Kaori was far more difficult than it needed to be thanks to his stubborn refusal to accept any help after their parents died.
  • Subversion: In Fate/stay night, the Archer character is the Ineffectual Loner; this is a subversion as he is actually the disillusioned future self of a Messianic Archetype who realized at the end of his life that trying to save everyone was an impossible goal. Plus he's far from ineffectual.

    Web Animation 
  • Bung Chronicles: At one point in 'Her(bivore)', Aphrodite makes fun of Bung not having any friends, thus no love interests either.
  • Dreamscape: Aseir's solitary nature often leaves him Locked Out of the Loop about things going on around him.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Killer is honestly pretty cool, but doesn't get along with others because of his Brilliant, but Lazy and snappy attitude.
  • Red vs. Blue: Agent Tex is great at winning individual fights and battles, but when it comes to an overarching objective, she always falls short.
    • Agent Carolina is a highly skilled fighter but in solo fights, she will push herself beyond her limits in order to prove herself (with disastrous results). When fighting with a team (either the other agents of Project Freelancer or the Blood Gulch Crew), she performs much better.
    • Inverted with Agent Maine; as part of Project Freelancer he was The Big Guy, but on his own as the Meta, he became one of the most terrifying things in the entire series
  • This is a recurring element of RWBY: The Power of Friendship is a theme of the series, so those that push others out are often less likely to succeed in whatever they are doing;
    • Discussed between Blake and Yang. When Yang asks Blake to stop running herself ragged in order to find Roman Torchwick, Blake cries "I'm the only one that can do this!", prompting Yang to shove Blake to prove that she was in no condition to take Torchwick on by herself and that she'd have to trust her team to help her fight Torchwick.
    • James Ironwood's competence and success are proportionately linked to how well he works with others; When he chooses to trust only in his own judgement and blocks others, his methods fail. Even his "inner circle" consist of subordinates who cannot understand his burden, nor call him out for his worst acts. The biggest Hope Spot of Volume 7 is when he is convinced to work with Robyn Hill and with her help manages to capture Watts and Tyrian. However, once he gets wind that Cinder has gotten into Atlas and Salem is on her way to attack the kingdom, he falls back and redoubles his usual measures; He declares martial law, orders the arrests of the heroes, and the ensuing chaos more or less undoes everything he tried to accomplish.

  • In "Army of One" from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Frans Rayner fights Dr. McNinja as well as a bunch of the Doctor's clones, but being outnumbered only turns out to be to his advantage thanks to the Inverse Ninja Law, since their universe clearly contains some silly kind of Narrative Causality. Because even the original Doctor becomes too weak to fight Rayner because of this, he decides to start acting like he's Rayner's friend and Rayner is a character refusing his help in fighting all these ninjas, which activates this trope in turn and causes Rayner to start losing, so his only choice is to team up and fight the clones together until it's just him and the Doctor again.
  • Antimony from Gunnerkrigg Court used to be self-sufficient. She's apt to become good pals with any beings from psychopomps to the Minotaur to a trickster god but didn't interact with living humans on her own initiative. Even Kat is her best friend only because she approached Annie first. From Chapter 19 or so, she occasionally noticed the problem and tried to communicate. By 28 and 30, her failure to cooperate even with the teacher whose help she'd request when things went wrong or fellow Mediums-in-training was an obvious crippling flaw.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Vaarsuvius, the elven wizard, is normally a functional, if condescending team player. In the fourth story arc, however, when the party has been split, they grow fed up with their half's inaction and eventually abandon Elan and Durkon. A Deal with the Devil, several Break the Haughty moments, and a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown later, Vaarsuvius finally understands that a person doesn't need to win to be a valuable contributor and rejoins the rest of the party.
    • Also, Girard Draketooth, whose approach to guarding his gate was to entrust his family, and no one else, with the duty. This distrust of in-laws almost led the Linear Guild right to them (as the Guild tracked down a woman who had born a child for and then been abandoned by a Draketooth), and left no one to guard the gate after they were Familicided by Vaarsuvius. They also distrusted paladins to the extent that they would not let a Lawful Good cleric revive them. This left no one to protect the gate, resulting in its destruction.
  • Ever the Jerkass, ever the Con Man, Nenshe from Rumors of War is an off-again, mostly-on-again Ineffectual Loner.
  • The title character in Scout Crossing is a post-Heroic BSoD loner who was a former "Legend about town" along with his deceased brother.
  • Jake from Weak Hero fights alone, both to protect his friends and at the behest of his brother, who once told him that "men walk alone". This contributes to his defeat at Ben's hands; Ben has the experience of fighting to the death for someone he cares about, which gives him the subtle edge he needs to remain the last one standing.

    Web Original 
  • Subverted with Paultin in Dice, Camera, Action! because either Nate, his player, is absent doing his own thing in which case the GM has him drunk and/or brooding in a corner somewhere or, and he has a disturbing habit of this, he gets kidnapped and forced into someone else's agenda.
  • Dimension Heroes: Wyn from the web fiction serial is unwilling to join with the other Dimensional Guardians until he finds himself in over his head.

    Western Animation 
  • Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Darkwing Duck starts off this way, with Darkwing spurning Launchpad's offers to team up, and disregarding Gosalyn's well-meant advice. By the end of the two-part pilot, he comes to accept the two as True Companions, but the trope of rejecting assistance comes up again and again in the course of the show, in episodes like "Slime Okay, You're Okay" and "Jail Bird". The strongest manifestation was in the show's only other two-part episode, "Just Us Justice Ducks", where Darkwing's rejection of allies leads to his summary defeat, an Aesop about the importance of teamwork, and an immediate comedic subversion of the Aesop, after which the battle royale between the Justice Ducks and their collective raison d'etre, the Fearsome Five, can proceed.
  • This, as it turns out, is the Author's problem in Gravity Falls, best described in the Defictionalization of Journal 3; While he was Properly Paranoid in regards to his dream-demon arch nemesis possessing people, his solution to keep everyone away created more problems than they solved. Not giving his assistant all the details on his research caused that assistant to leave him, and his attempt to use his estranged friend to hide said research backfired with him being trapped in another dimension for 30 years. As he admits in Journal 3, if he had opened his circle just a little bit more and gathered The Chosen Many, the Big Bad would have been defeated, but instead he focused on launching a one-man assault that failed and led to his capture.
  • Mr. Incredible mostly insisted on working alone. This partially lead to Syndrome's Start of Darkness (he was a Hero-Worshipper for Mr. Incredible until Mr. Incredible snapped at him for trying to help apprehend a criminal- though to be fair, the guy was being The Load at the time). Interestingly enough, this seems to partially be a product of an Inferiority Superiority Complex- the reason he gives for fighting the Omnidroid alone in the Final Battle is that he's "not strong enough" to protect his family (His wife's answer? "If we work together, you won't have to be").
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: Wolf continually insists that she works alone, is a lone wolf, and isn't interested in friendship. But her facade is very easy to see through thanks to the fact that she passes up chance after chance to leave Kipo to her fate.
  • Cera in the first The Land Before Time movie nearly got herself killed by a Sharptooth and went hungry so that she wouldn't have to ask for help from the others. Eventually, she joined the rest of the group in a somewhat touching scene one night. She's pretty integrated into the group immediately after that.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Twilight Sparkle starts out as this. More interested in studying than spending time around anyone who isn't her Mentor Princess Celestia, she's less than thrilled when she's sent off with the none-too-subtle suggestion that she should meet new ponies and try making friends. Doesn't help that she thinks she's the Only Sane Pony around...
    • This is also one of the main flaws of The Great And Powerful Trixie. She usually assumes that she doesn't need anypony else. She ultimately learns otherwise in No Second Prances when her faux friendship with Starlight Glimmer (which was meant to mess with Twilight Sparkle) becomes the genuine article.
    • The moral of "Gauntlet of Fire". Garble was a very capable competitor in his own right and was one of the first three dragons to make it to the end of the Gauntlet, but, like most dragons, he did not believe in The Power of Friendship, and went through the Gauntlet by himself. In the end, Spike and Ember working together proved much more effective both in the actual race and in the fight at the end, and handily beat Garble.
  • Jasper from Steven Universe is, on her own, a terrifyingly strong super soldier. Unfortunately for her, she's fighting against the Crystal Gems, who have no problem fighting her two-or-more-on-one and utilizing The Power of Friendship (embodied by a Fusion Dance) to kick her rear. Being beaten by fusions tends to drive her up the wall, since she regards fusion as 'a cheap tactic to make weak gems stronger'.
  • Peppermint Fizz from the 2002 Strawberry Shortcake series. She generally only shows up when the lesson of the day is something the nicer characters don't need to learn (like "don't be a xenophobe") and is usually depicted as looking down on the others.
  • Depth Charge from Beast Wars is this trope, but with enough firepower to back up most of his attitude.
    • Same goes for Blurr in Transformers: Armada.
    • And Prowl from Transformers: Animated. He's skilled enough but often screws up due to a tendency to try to take on things that would require the entire team.
      • Prowl rises out of this for a few episodes early in the first season, seeming to have no problems working with Bulkhead... but seems to have a case of Aesop Amnesia, probably brought on by having to put up with Bumblebee.