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It's Personal with the Dragon

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Emperor who? It's all about Luke vs. Vader.
Matrix: How much are they paying you, Bennett?
Bennett: They offered me a hundred grand. You want to know something? When I found out I'd get my hands on you, I said I'd do it for nothing.

In many stories, the Big Bad and The Hero have a very direct and immediate relationship. The big bad is personally responsible for all the hero's woes, burned down his hometown, killed his father, and even kicked the hero's puppy! In those sorts of stories, there's a very clear conflict between the two and often all of the bad guy's minions are just so many obstacles the hero has to overcome.

Sometimes that dynamic gets changed up, and the hero's Arch-Enemy and most heated rivalry is not with the Big Bad himself, but rather his top enforcer. This is especially likely in stories where the Big Bad is either a Non-Action Big Bad or spends all his time being Orcus on His Throne, and thus it's his enforcers who spend all the time out terrorizing The Chosen One and their loved ones. Another scenario where this is particularly likely is if the Big Bad is an Unseen Evil or an Eldritch Abomination, but has a more human Mouth of Sauron or chief disciple who is carrying out its wishes and interacting with the heroes. A third common scenario is where the Big Bad is the Arch-Enemy of either The Mentor or a Big Good type figure, and thus that person is the one who engages with the Big Bad, while The Hero faces The Dragon, whose actions are often what kicks off the plot.

Tends to overlap with Dragon-in-Chief, and may lead to a Dragon Their Feet situation, where the hero and the dragon only settle their score after the Big Bad has already been killed or defeated. Naturally, a subtrope of both It's Personal and The Dragon. Compare with The Heavy where a villain other than the Big Bad has the biggest villain role, and Rival Final Boss in which The Rival is also The Dragon. Also compare Lancer vs. Dragon when the second most prominent members of each team faces each other.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill! has an interesting situation where the title character's personal involvement with the villains is with The Dragon of The Dragon. Her little sister Kurome works for Esdeath, who in turn works for Prime Minister Honest. Akame and Esdeath only meet once or twice, while she guns for her sister every time.
  • In Arachnid, Alice is told that if she wants to destroy the nameless insect-based crime syndicate, she needs to defeat Suzume Bachi, the front man of an unknown Shadow Dictator. Later on, Alice also finds that Suzume Bachi is her Disappeared Dad who arranged for her to lose her family and turn into an assassin in the first place.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, while Tanjiro has his sights set on the Big Bad Muzan Kibutsuji for destroying his peaceful life by killing almost his entire family, Tanjiro also developed a very personal grudge against Muzan's third best demon, Akaza the Upper-3 Kizuki, for being the one who killed Kyojuro Rengoku the Flame Hashira whom Tanjiro bonded with so quickly. Tanjiro vs. Akaza by the Infinite Castle arc ends up being a fight where Tanjiro reserves his ire to the fact Akaza killed Rengoku and keeps spouting his Might Makes Right ideal, unlike many other instances where Tanjiro brings up the fact demons are terrible for preying on humans in general; made more poignant with the fact Tanjiro never gets know why Akaza became such a twisted demon, the man has one of the most tragic backstories in the series by far, but Tanjiro who often feels some pity for tragic demons has none to spare for Akaza, he just couldn't know.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur: The film's main villain is Dolmanstein, a 22nd-Century billionaire funding the Dinosaur Hunters, but Nobita's main enemy is Dolmanstein's lead enforcer and dragon, Black Mask, who spends most of the adventure menacing Nobita and friends.
  • Fairy Tail: In the Phantom Lord arc, while Natsu is raring to go to take on Phantom Lord for starting the guild war, his ire is particularly directed not at Phantom Lord's guild master Jose Porla, who instigated the war to obtain Lucy for a job, but Gajeel Redfox, Jose's strongest fighter who trashed the Fairy Tail guild hall, beat up Team Shadow Gear and crucified them in the park to force Fairy Tail's hand, hurt Lucy after she's recaptured, and is a fellow Dragon Slayer. Ultimately, Gajeel is Natsu's final opponent for the arc while Makarov deals with Jose.
  • F-Zero: GP Legend: While Black Shadow is the Big Bad of the anime (as expected), Ryu Suzaku's main opponents are his Co-Dragons Zoda and Miss Killer. Justified, as Zoda is the one who nearly killed Ryu 150 years ago, while Miss Killer turns out to be Misaki Haruka, his brainwashed girlfriend.
  • Hunter × Hunter has a particularly dark example. After Pitou mutilated and kidnapped Kite, Gon had a Heroic BSoD, then grew a considerable hatred for the Chimera Ant when he discovered his mentor's mutilated body. This hatred horrified the main concerned when they were surprised trying to heal Komugi: defied in his expectations, Gon actually threatened to kill the poor girl if his demands are not satisfied. This led to another Heroic BSoD when Pitou had to confess that Kite can't be saved anymore, resulting in Gon's horrifying transformation.
  • In Kill la Kill, Ryuko's personal vendetta is not directly with Satsuki Kiryuin's mother Ragyo, but rather with Nui Harime, the one responsible for killing her father. Though this becomes subverted when she finds out that Ragyo is her mother and the one who orchestrated her father's death.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Nanoha's conflict with Fate (and her desire to befriend her) make up the bulk of her motivation in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Her interactions with Precia, on the other hand, boil down to a single conversation over a video screen (and Precia isn't even paying attention to her at the time).
    • Nanoha faces off against Quattro in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS in the finale instead of Dr. Scaglietti, the Big Bad, since she's the one who was holding Vivio hostage. Although, she does share the hero role with Fate, and Fate does have a personal conflict with Scaglietti and she's the one who ends up facing him.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam has Char Aznable, Enigmatic Minion and The Dragon to the Zabi family as Amuro Ray's longest-running and most personal nemesis. Averted in Char's Counterattack, where Char has become the Big Bad in his own right.
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: Kamille Bidan may hate Paptimus Scirocco, but his most enduring enmity is with Titans' ace Jerid Messa, who killed Kamille's mother early in the series and acts as The Dragon to Jamitov Hymem, Bask Om, and finally Scirocco.
  • In My-Otome, while Duke Nagi is the Big Bad, Arika's primary opponent is her rival/friend of sorts Nina, who acts as Nagi's primary champion. It also helps that since Nagi is a Non-Action Big Bad, she does much of the fighting for him.
  • Naruto: Sasuke begins as the main character's rival, later becoming a Rival Turned Evil, and is manipulated by the schemes of various villains and becomes the henchman of one after another. However, no matter who the current Big Bad is or what world-breaking scheme they're pursuing, Sasuke is always Naruto's most enduring rival.
  • One Piece: In the Whole Cake Island Arc, while Emperor Big Mom serves as the Arc Villain and is easily the most dangerous member of her organization, her second son and Sweet General Katakuri presents the most immediate danger and his relationship with Monkey D. Luffy is much more fleshed out than one between Luffy and Big Mom, due to their similar characteristics when it comes to powers, fighting style, and love for their "families". Ultimately, it is he who Luffy must defeat by the arc's end, and not Big Mom herself.
  • Parasyte: With his plan to turn the city into a feeding zone for parasites, Mayor Takeshi Hirokawa is responsible for much of the plot of the manga, but he and Shinichi/Migi never actually meet and Shinichi has nothing to do with his death, nor is he even there when it happens. The main characters have a lot more interactions with Hirokawa's men, including Tamura Reiko who is The Heavy in his organization and has a lot of Character Development, and The Dragon Gotou who personally hunt down the heroes after Hirokawa's death and provides the climactic fight of the story.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • In Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale, Shigemura is the Big Bad, but never develops any personal relationship with Kirito. It is Eiji who instead fills this role, being Kirito's Evil Counterpart and the two of them clashing many times, with Kirito especially hating him for what he did to his friends.
    • In Alicization, PoH/Vassago becomes this to Kirito, being firmly established as one of Kirito's Arch Enemies from his time in SAO, where he was part of a Big Bad Ensemble. However, come Alicization, he now serves as Gabriel's second-in-command, yet remains the one Kirito and really all of the SAO players have the most animosity with. By contrast, Kirito lacks personal connection to Gabriel with the two of them simply being the Big Good and Big Bad as well as the most powerful threats on the field to one another.
  • Tribe Nine: Since Tenshin Otori is a Non-Action Big Bad who dies before the series is over, the heroes largely have a personal grudge against his enforcer and son (and eventual successor) Ojiro. It's especially personal in Kazuki's case, since he and Ojiro grew up together and his primary goal in the series is to save Ojiro from himself.
  • Vinland Saga:
    • The first arc has an inadvertent version: for over a decade, Thorfinn keeps up a murderous grudge against Askeladd, the leader of the viking band who killed his father Thors, having no clue that Askeladd was in fact hired to do the deed by Floki. Thorfinn only encounters Floki in passing as a young boy and again at the end of the arc and had no reason to realize that Floki was the real cause of his woes. It won't be until the Baltic Sea War arc two story arcs later that Thorfinn finds out about Floki's role in causing his father's death. Despite having become a Technical Pacifist by then Thorfinn is so furious that he is sorely tempted to break his vow not to kill. He ultimately spares Floki, despite struggling with himself over it.
    • Hild witnessed Thorfinn kill her father in a raid that wiped out her village back in the days when he worked for Askeladd. Despite knowing that Askeladd was the leader of the band and Thorfinn trying to spare her from being abused by the other Vikings in the group, Hild reserves all her anger for Thorfinn.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batwoman (Rebirth), this is Batwoman's dynamic with Knife, one of the Dragons of the Big Bad of the series.
  • Blake and Mortimer: Inverted with Olrik: He's always The Dragon to the Big Bad of the book but has a personal never-satisfied grudge against Blake and Mortimer (who, being the heroes, don't take it personally).
  • Blaze of Glory: The leader of Riley's gang recognizes Reno Jones, and throughout the series, the reader will discover they have quite a bit of reason to hate each other.
  • In The Losers, a Black Ops team is betrayed by their handler Max. Later, Roque leaves the team and becomes Max's right hand. To Clay and Pooch, Roque's betrayal is felt just as much, if not more, than what Max did to the team.
  • In King Sombra's My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic chapter, it's revealed that he is ultimately a servant acting to free his mother, Rabia, the ruler of the Umbrum. In the follow-up, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Issue 34 to 37, Rabia takes over as the Big Bad, but the heroes still have the most interaction and focus with Sombra until his Heel–Face Turn, at which point he defeats his mother, with Sombra being the target of most of Twilight's anger.
  • Vampirella: Von Kreist always works as a henchman for someone else, whether it's another vampire lord or an Eldritch Abomination, yet he is a strong contender for Arch-Enemy to Vampi due to his depravity and has caused so much suffering to the people she knows.
  • In Who is Superwoman?, Supergirl has not even meet General Sam Lane, even though he is plotting against her race's last survivors... but his Co-Dragons Superwoman and Reactron are personally responsible for her father's death, hence they are who she really hates.

    Fan Works 
  • The Dark Lords of Nerima: The sequel The Dark Lords Ascendant have the big bad as a Corrupt Corporate Executive, who is also a powerful martial artist, but his right hand is a man named Zhang, who Mousse knows personally. Zhang was the son of the master who taught him the Hidden Weapons Technique, and eventually killed his father and all the other students except Mousse himself. When Mousse realizes who he is, he attacks him in a blind rage, leaving Ranma and Konatsu to separate the two of them.
  • In The Immortal Game, King Titan is the main antagonist, but has very little interaction with the heroes until near the end of the story. On the other hand, there's his lieutenant, General Esteem, who has personal grudges with two of the Mane Six — Rarity (his daughter who he physically and emotionally abused in an attempt to toughen her up) and Twilight Sparkle (whom he transformed into Nihilus at Titan's orders).
  • Lost In The Storm: While the Happy Huntresses aren't aware of it yet, Salem's right-hand woman is none other than their former friend May.
  • Marionettes: Starlight learns that Mindwipe was responsible for altering and erasing the memories of all of Teddy and Ace's friends in order to make them forget about them. This hits her especially hard after how she had Sunburst ripped away from her. She's so determined to ensure he doesn't hurt anyone else that she teams up with Discord after the Stallions in Black are defeated in order to personally hunt him down.
  • A Moth to a Flame: In this AU where Marcy is voluntarily working with Andrias and the Core, Anne and the others all understandably take her betrayal much worse than Andrias being revealed as Evil All Along.
  • In the WWE story The Return - Remixed, they have an "It's personal with The Brute", as DEAR was led by a Big Bad Duumvirate rather than a Big Bad/The Dragon combo. Kelly Kelly has it in DEAR's muscle girl, Victoria, as she was the one who sent Kelly's best friend, Eve Torres, to the hospital by power-bombing her on the exposed concrete floor. Kelly even goes so far as to declare herself the only one who gets to eliminate Victoria from the climactic battle royal.
  • In the Daredevil (2015) fanfic The Sins of the Father, Wilson Fisk hires Bullseye to kill Elektra Natchios's father after Hugo refuses to continue smuggling heroin for Fisk. Elektra is very fixated on finding both the assassin and the person who hired him, and it's clear that she has more animosity for Bullseye than she does towards Fisk. Matt, meanwhile, doesn't consider things personal between him and Bullseye until Bullseye approaches him in person and kills a member of the Enforcers in front of Matt just because he can.
    It's fun. The man's drawl bounced around in Matt's head. A week ago, it would have been difficult for him to imagine someone worse than Wilson Fisk, but it seemed there might be such a person after all. A man who saw people as prey, who found it 'fun' to toy with them, who viewed his victims like a trophy cabinet.
    Darnell wasn't a particularly upstanding citizen, but he didn't deserve to die. Matt assumed his body had been found and hoped the old woman had been able to give police more information about the shooter - if she was bright enough to connect the dots.
    The only good part of this situation was that the sniper had chosen Daredevil as his next target, and so Matt only had to worry about protecting himself - which was kind of a large concern in this particular case. He was confident of his ability to hold his own in hand-to-hand combat, even to dodge typical firearms, but this was a man who could kill from thousands of feet away, using massive, high-velocity rounds that were certain to pierce even the strongest parts of his suit.
    Still, Matt thought, he came to me. Matt didn't know the man's name or anything about him, but he knew his voice, what he smelled like, the confident way his boots echoed off the pavement. He could pick the man out of a crowd now, the man who was working to get Fisk out of jail, who had murdered Elektra's father. The man Matt wanted to destroy. He'd be lying if he said it wasn't personal. He'd be lying if he said no part of him wanted to see the man dead instead of behind bars.
  • Take a Stand: In The Broken Mirror, Dragoness has a personal vendetta against Andi for how she killed Aleks. Later on, Luna also seeks revenge on Andi for murdering Captain America.
  • The Villain's Hero: After learning that the new Hero Killer is none other than Izuku, Ochako feels that it's her responsibility to take him down. Fuyumi and Tensei also both want to take Izuku down, since he's following in the footsteps of the man who murdered both of their siblings, along with leaving Tensei paralyzed.

    Films — Animated 
  • Monsters, Inc.: Randall Boggs is the lifelong rival of James P. Sullivan, and shows nothing but contempt for him and his partner Mike Wazowski throughout the entire film, while his employer Henry J. Waternoose is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes his actions are necessary for unawareness of a better way, and expresses genuine regret over his efforts to eliminate Sully and Mike once they discover his plan and try to stop it, which doesn't happen until The Reveal very late in the movie.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2020 Texas Gladiators: Black One is an Evil Overlord of the sort the Rangers fight all the time. Catch Dog, on the other hand, is a former Ranger himself who was expelled for raping somebody and is also much more sadistic than his boss.
  • The Bodyguard From Beijing has an example where the dragon swears vengeance on the hero (an inversion of how this trope's usually portrayed). The main villains are an unknown syndicate who wants Michelle dead, leading to the titular bodyguard John being hired as her protector. The film's dragon, a ruthless killing machine named Wong, is their lead enforcer who swears vendetta on John - because John killed Wong's unnamed younger brother in an earlier shootout.
  • In Blade Runner 2049, K's investigation to find the missing Replicant child puts him at odds with Big Bad Niander Wallace, who wants to exploit this discovery for his own ends, but K never meets Wallace and doesn't feel the need to oppose or rebel against him. Things only get personal for him when Wallace's Replicant henchwoman Luv crushes the portable emitter housing his virtual girlfriend Joi, effectively killing her.
  • Luke's Dragon Patric in Children of Men develops a personal vendetta against Theo after Theo knocks his cousin off the motorbike he and Patric used during Julian's assassination, killing him.
  • Initially, the hero and dragon of City Warriors had nothing to do with each other, the hero being an ex-soldier trying to rescue his sister from a Human Trafficking ring. But then, the film's Corrupt Politician main villain who's secretly the leader of the trafficking syndicate ordered his dragon to silence everyone aware of his activities to win an upcoming election, one of them being the hero's sister who recently escaped the ring, at which point the movie turns into this trope.
  • In Commando, Big Bad Arius is something of an afterthought compared to the intense rivalry of hero John Matrix and his Evil Counterpart turned Arius's Dragon Bennett. While Arius is just one more would-be dictator to Matrix, Bennet is a traitor who helped kill their former teammates and kidnapped his daughter. On Bennet's end, he hates Matrix for getting him thrown out of the military and their special forces unit back in the day while also having a twisted sense of respect, which combine to want him to prove himself better than Matrix. He outright refused payment once he learned his target would be Matrix.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman is initially out to stop the mob and discounts the Joker (originally brought in as the mob's Psycho for Hire to dispose of Batman), but he is later forced to shift his attention towards catching the Joker instead as the disfigured madman continues murdering Gothamites and engaging in terrorism as part of the Joker's extracurricular obsession with Batman. This culminates in the Joker killing Rachel Dawes, Batman's love interest, and turning his ally Harvey Dent (who Batman had begun to hope could Clean Up the Town legally) to evil.
  • In Die Hard, it's a bit more like for The Dragon, it's personal with the hero. While Hans Gruber and John McClane work as excellent foils to each other, there's always at least a façade of politeness and rather general snark when they speak to or encounter each other. Because McClane killed Karl's brother, Karl is out for blood when he tries to hunt McClane down, and their encounters are much more intense, hate-filled, and generally nasty.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons (2000), to Ridley the Big Bad Evil Sorceror Profion is just another scheming mage in The Magocracy who is looking to seize power. On the other hand, Profion's dragon Damodar is the guy who killed his best friend in front of him and has been hunting him throughout the movie, and it's Damodar that Ridley fights at the climax while Profion and the Empress clash.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, while Sofina is the main antagonist, the party's personal animosity is largely with Forge himself due to his backstabbing nature in the case of his former party and tyranny.
  • In Fire Birds, Eric Stoller is a Psycho for Hire for the Bisante Cartel, and most of the conflict is against him. He is also the only villain to appear onscreen in the movie.
  • In Gangs of New York, Amsterdam Vallon's main quest is to kill his father's murderer, Bill Cutting, who happens to be serving as muscle for Boss Tweed.
  • Jack Reacher, in both the first movie and its sequel Never Go Back
  • The Asset from Jason Bourne, who killed Bourne's father on orders from Dewey.
  • In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Eggsy is out for Charlie's blood after learning that he's responsible for providing the locations of Kingsman bases for Poppy to blow them all up and killing his closest friends and allies. When he finally beats Charlie, he then snaps his neck in cold blood to avenge his friends.
  • This is the case of the first two Lethal Weapon movies. Especially the second movie, since it's revealed that Vorstedt, Arjen Rudd's Dragon, was the one who killed Riggs's wife long before the events of the series.
  • The Lone Ranger (2013): Tonto is the one who has real personal enmity with Cole. Reid's nemesis is Butch Cavendish, who killed his brother and ate his heart.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the eponymous Winter Soldier is the enemy's top enforcer, taking orders directly from the man at the top. Taking down the enemy leadership is just a duty to Cap, but the conflict with the Winter Soldier becomes personal after the Soldier is revealed to be Cap's old friend Bucky Barnes.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, Tony develops a personal vendetta with the Winter Soldier for killing his parents while under HYDRA's control. Tony never even meets Vasily Karpov, the agent who ordered the hit, and Karpov is killed by Zemo before any of the heroes can encounter him.
    • Captain Marvel (2019): The Kree Supreme Intelligence is the Big Bad of the film, but Carol barely interacts with it. Instead, her more intense conflict is with Yon-Rogg, her former mentor who is directly responsible for her becoming a Kree hybrid to begin with.
  • The Mask of Zorro: As far as The Hero Alejandro is concerned Don Rafael is another greedy and thieving official in a long line of them, but he really has it in for Rafael's top enforcer, Captain Love, who killed his brother, took his head, and then put it on display.
  • In Once Upon a Time in the West, Harmonica interferes with railroad baron Mr. Morton's efforts to take Jill McBain's land, but his primary goal is to kill Morton's henchman Frank, who killed Harmonica's brother decades earlier.
  • In The Patriot (2000), General Cornwallis is the highest-ranking British officer opposing the Southern rebels, but Martin respects Cornwallis's military genius and at one point interacts quite civilly with Cornwallis while he negotiates his men's release with the General. Martin's real enemy is the vicious Colonel Tavington, the field commander of the Dragoons, who murdered one of Martin's sons, burned down his home, and, as Martin and his band become a greater threat to the British, does everything he can to make it even more personal, including burning down a church containing many of his and his family's friends and neighbors, and then killing another of his sons.
    Martin: Before this war is over, I'm going to kill you.
    Tavington: Why wait?
  • In The Phantom (1996), Xander Drax has no previous history with the Phantom, but his top enforcer Quill has fought the Phantom before, with the scars to prove it — and a belt which he stole from the current Phantom's father after stabbing him in the back.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Colonel Herman Dietrich is in charge of the quest for The Ark of the Covenant, but his advisor, Dr. Rene Belloq, is Indiana Jones' longtime nemesis. Indiana also sees Dietrich as just another Nazi among many, but Belloq as what Indy himself could have become with no moral scruples.
  • In RoboCop (1987), RoboCop considers OCP Vice-President Dick Jones to be just another criminal to detain or eliminate. However, his hatred for Jones's hitman, Clarence Boddicker, who (nearly) killed Alex Murphy before he became RoboCop, is so strong that his desire for revenge against him clashes with his programming to uphold the law, and eventually surpasses it when he rejects Boddicker's surrender.
  • In Rob Roy, The Marquess of Montrose James Graham is the highest-ranking and most powerful enemy the main character Robert Roy MacGregor has, and he is the one that fully forces Rob into action after threatening to arrest Rob because cannot pay his debt to Montrose and will not slander one of Montrose's noble rivals in exchange for the debt being forgiven. However, things are more personal with Archibald Cunningham, one of the men who serve the Marquess. Cunningham was the one who put MacGregor in impossible debt in the first place by stealing the money Montrose was lending Robert whilst it was en route, and he murdered one of Rob's clansmen and closest friends in the process. Later Cunningham would be the one tasked by the Marquess to hunt Rob down, and in the course of that pursuit would Cunningham burn down Rob's home, oversee and order the killing and harrying of much of Rob's clan, and rape Rob's wife. The big climax of the film comes down to a one-on-one sword fight between Rob and Cunningham, while Montrose watches from the sidelines, going almost entirely unpunished for his role in the whole affair.
  • In Scanners II: The New Order, the hero David Kellum has a more intense animosity with his evil psychic counterpart Peter Drak than with the scheming mastermind Commander Forrester. While David eventually decides to let Forrester live and be taken into custody to prove that he's better than him, Drak is a sadistic psychopath who gleefully murdered David's mother and dies painfully at David's hands in retribution.
  • Zig-zagged in Shanghai Grand; Madam Yiu, the dragon to the main villain Boss Fung (and a Dragon Lady to boot!) is introduced as the hero Hui Man-Keung's main nemesis when he saw her machine-gunning twenty of his friends to death as an intimidation, and much of the film's action involves Madam Yiu sending her minions after Man-Keung. But Madam Yiu's final scene have her targeting Man-keung's best friend and lancer, Ding-Lik instead, trying to have him devoured by her pet boa until Ding-Lik breaks free, resulting in a Lancer vs. Dragon when Ding-Lik causes Madam Yiu's beast to attack her before subsequently mauling her to death.
  • This is common in most movies directed, written, or produced by Shane Black, as he usually makes The Dragon the de facto main villain to the Big Bad. Such examples include the aforementioned first two Lethal Weapon movies, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and The Nice Guys.
  • Soldier: Todd doesn't particularly care about Colonel Mekum, but he does have a genuine rivalry with his opposite Caine 607 for replacing him as the new soldier of the future. This feeling is mutual, as Caine hates Todd for costing him an eye and gimping his combat readiness.
  • Special Female Force: While "The President" is the Big Bad, his lieutenants Lung and Tung Yi get special enmity from the protagonists for being personally responsible for the deaths of the first Special Female Force as well as their teammate Honey.
  • Star Wars:
    • Arguably the most famous case of this is the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, as pictured above. After all, it's Vader who kills Luke's mentor, pursues him across the galaxy, cuts off his hand, and is Luke's Fallen Hero father. By comparison, there's very little going on between Luke and the Emperor other than the Emperor going for a fairly standard attempt to corrupt Luke to The Dark Side and then saying We Can Rule Together. In the initial plans for the series, the Emperor was just going to be a Puppet King while figures around him such as Vader and Tarkin played a Dragon-in-Chief sort of role.
    • Played with in the new trilogy, where it's personal between new Dragon Kylo Ren and his parents Han and Leia and uncle/former Jedi Master Luke. Then it becomes personal with Rey and Finn too when Kylo kills Han, who had been serving as their Mentor/Parental Substitute.
    • Also Played with in the prequel trilogy, though Obi-Wan and Maul only fulfill this trope during the last ten minutes of their fight thanks to Maul murdering Obi-Wan's mentor Qui-Gon Jinn. Count Dooku also quickly earns the enmity of Anakin Skywalker, both as the supposed leader of the Separatists (few know he's only the Apprentice to Sidious) and for taking his hand. And then, ironically, both Obi-Wan AND Anakin get hit by this again for each other when the Sith make their move against the Jedi, while the respective Big Bad and Big Good, Sidious and Yoda, go after one another.
  • In The Three Musketeers (1993), D'Artagnan has a personal vendetta against Cardinal Richelieu's Dragon, Rochefort, who killed D'Artagnan's father.
  • Total Recall (1990): Quaid's enmity with Richter is much more vicious than the one with his boss Cohaagen. This is because Richter's wife had to pretend to be Quaid's wife for a while so they could spy on him, and later dies at Quaid's hands. He's therefore far more willing to resort to deadly force than Cohaagen, who wants to keep Quaid alive for his plans to infiltrate the Martian resistance.

  • Night of the Necromancer: The titular Necromancer, Chancellor Unthank, is merely the pawn of the demonic Shadow King, but he's the player's sworn enemy for the entirety of the adventure; for manipulating the player hero into going on a three-year crusade, and then taking over the hero's castle and using it as a base for his necromantic activities, causing the forces of evil to plague the hero's hometown of Valsinore, having an entire village under the hero's rulership massacred as a sacrificial ritual, and then assassinating the hero upon returning causing the hero to become a revenge-seeking Revenant, before kidnapping the hero's younger sister for a deadly ritual.

  • Throughout The Elenium, Martel is the enemy who pops up most often and causes problems for the protagonists, although he often does so by proxy via his two henchmen. He's The Dragon, though it's not clear who he's Dragon to until near the end of the story, and in many ways, he's closer to the main character, Sparhawk, than his allies since they shared an education together. When he's finally defeated, it's a strong Alas, Poor Villain moment.
  • Gods and Warriors: The most personal and recurring enemy of the main heroes Hylas and Pirra is Telamon. He's Hylas's best friend and reluctant enemy until the climax of the second book turns them into bitter enemies, while he shares with Pirra a mutual relationship of hatred with hints of a Villainous Crush. In the pecking order of the House of Koronos, though, Telamon is the most inexperienced member of the Co-Dragons of his grandfather Koronos. Hylas gets to meet Koronos exactly once in the first half of the series, while Pirra sees him only after his death. It's Telamon who ends up being their Final Boss.
  • Harry Potter: Averted with Voldemort, who is the Big Bad of the series and whom Harry is dedicated to bringing down due to the destruction he's also personally caused. When Harry delves into the tragedies of the people around him, he concludes that most of them can be traced to his feet and makes a solemn and calm vow to destroy him not just out of revenge but even more to stop him from ruining any more lives. To a lesser extent and in terms of personal contact, Harry deals with Snape, who is a much more direct and immediate source of hatred only rivaled by Draco and Umbridge, much more often. And then he learns that Snape told Voldemort about the prophecy that led to his parents' murders. When Snape kills Dumbledore, Harry hates him as an extension of Voldemort's will and wishes as much to deal with him personally. Eventually, it's revealed that Snape was secretly working for Dumbledore the entire time after that revelation, so Harry buries the hatchet.
  • In Frederick Forsyth's book Icon, the protagonist Jason Monk, an ex-CIA operative, has no personal grudge against the Big Bad Igor Komarov but with his right-hand man Colonel Anatoli Grishin, who had the Soviet double agents that Monk was running tortured and executed.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Eragon's mentor Brom had a long-standing feud with Morzan, King Galbatorix's right-hand man. Much of this has to do with Morzan being Brom's Evil Former Friend and fellow pupil who killed Brom's dragon in battle years ago.
  • While Kronos is the Big Bad of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy spends most of the series fighting to stop Luke from resurrecting him. The personal enmity between Percy and Luke also stems both from Luke's betrayal of Camp Half-Blood, as well as Percy's Love Interest Annabeth's apparent feelings for Luke.
  • In Teenage Wastelands Craig's nemesis is Chavayress Syvier, Tal Raquin's second-in-command. Because she killed Craig's girlfriend after Craig accidentally mortally wounded her husband in the second book, the fight is deeply personal for both of them; and neither one can rest until the other is dead.
  • In The Three Musketeers, the Musketeers thwart Cardinal Richelieu's schemes as a matter of course, but there's no personal animosity; Richelieu even arranges for D'Artagnan to get a promotion at the end of the novel in honest appreciation of his ability. Instead, D'Artagnan has a running rivalry with the Cardinal's dragon Rochefort and makes an intensely personal enemy of his agent Milady de Winter.
  • In True Grit, Mattie's whole mission is to get men to bring in Tom Chaney, the man who killed her father, even though he's only a henchman to the outlaw Ned Pepper.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This seems to be the case in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. No matter who the main villain is, if Ward is involved, the agents hold nothing back. Being The Mole will do that to you.
  • Babylon 5: In the first part of season four, after having been (with varying degrees of willingness) a pawn of the Shadows for several seasons, Londo turns against them, especially as the war between the Shadows and their arch-rivals the Vorlons escalates and the Vorlons destroy entire planets solely because those planets have Shadow influence or presence on them. Being that a large number of Shadow ships are stationed on his homeworld, Londo wants to kick them out or destroy them regardless, but around the same time he finds out that the Shadow's spokesman Mr. Morden was responsible for poisoning his lover Adira, and then blamed Londo's rival Lord Refa in order to manipulate Londo and ensure his loyalty. Londo deals with the Shadows by nuking the island their ships are based on, but he captures Morden alive and gives him a much more personal punishment, which is implied to have included offscreen torture and mutilation, and eventually ends with Morden's head on a pike in the courtyard.
  • Blake's 7: Travis (The Dragon) and Blake (The Hero) hate each other because Travis killed many of Blake's followers during the previous rebellion, and Blake inflicted the injuries that led to Travis losing one hand and eye.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season 3, the Mayor is the Big Bad, but Buffy's animosity towards him extends only as far as her desire to stop his evil plans, and in fact he's an Affably Evil guy who doesn't really have a grudge against Buffy at all. His Dragon, the dark Slayer Faith, has a much more personal feud with Buffy as her Evil Counterpart and a former member of the Scoobies, especially after she poisons Angel, which leads a furious Buffy to attempt to outright murder her in violation of her usual rule against killing humans.
  • Daredevil (2015): In season 3, Matt continues to hate and despise Big Bad Fisk just as he has always done, but his disdain for Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter becomes equally strong after Fisk has Dex dress up in a Daredevil costume to commit crimes that tarnish Matt's reputation.
  • In the Kung Fu (1972) "Besieged" Whole Episode Flashback, the Big Bad is a warlord with a cannon who wants to destroy the Shaolin temple, but it's personal between the warlord's dragon and Caine — the dragon wants a girl that Caine is in love with.
  • Luke Cage (2016): In Season 1 although Luke definitely despises Cottonmouth and later Mariah, things are much more personal between him and Shades since they met in prison, and Shades was one of the inmates who beat him to within an inch of his life, resulting in the lifesaving experiment that gave Luke his powers. Averted in the second season, when Mariah is the Big Bad and Luke reserves all his true venom for her.
  • In Madan Senki Ryukendo, while Daimaou Grenghost is the Big Bad, Madan Fighter Ryujinou develops an intense personal vendetta against his Dragon Bloodspray Baron Bloody after learning that Bloody caused the death of his parents.
  • In Peaky Blinders, this is the case with Michael Gray and Father Hughes, who raped him as a young child.
  • In Person of Interest's fourth season, Greer and Samaritan operate behind the scenes, while Martine is the one to oppose the heroes in the field, making her relationship with the heroes more personal. This is intensified when she (apparently) kills Shaw; afterward, Root is particularly driven to kill her in revenge, succeeding in the season's penultimate episode.
  • A common theme in Super Sentai is that the Red Sentai hero has a personal rivalry with the Big Bad's strongest general. It usually lasts for the majority of the season until close to the end where they have a final climactic duel, which ends with the red hero victorious and his rival ending up like any other Monster of the Week.
  • Tin Man: While it's Queen Azkedellia more accurately, the Witch possessing her that's the true Big Bad, it's her chief henchman Zero that really managed to piss off Wyatt Cain (the titular Tin Man) by not only betraying the Tin Men, but hunting down Cain, torturing him and his family, and then imprisoning Cain in a Magitek stasis chamber with nothing to watch but an endless loop of his family's torture for years on end.

  • This is how The Megas's History Repeating: Red frames the Mega Man 3 storyline. While Blue centers around Dr. Light and Wily's rivalry, the non-Robot Master songs in Red mainly feature Mega Man and Proto Man's conflict and their attempts to break and redeem each other.

    Web Animation 
  • The major villains of No Evil are Charles, the Big Bad, and Amaroq, The Dragon. Most of the main cast have had antagonistic relationships with Amaroq for more than a decade: he bullied Huey before the Black Tezcatlipoca crisis, bullied most of the cast during it, until it reached the point of near-guaranteed disaster, and continued being a jerk to most of them after it until Kitty tricked him into shredding his tail and got him to leave them alone for a while. Charles, meanwhile, is a new factor, and it takes them a while to figure out who he is and what he's up to, and even then, most of the time, it's Amaroq who's out doing the dirty work.
  • Zig-zagged in Puffin Forest's Curse of Strahd series - it is very clear the party hates Big Bad Strahd Von Zarovich with passion and he gave them a lot of reasons to....but they also utterly despise his right-hand man, Rahadin, seemingly only because he keeps showing up to kick their butts.
  • The Chorus Trilogy (seasons 11-13) in Red vs. Blue has the Non-Action Big Bad of Control, aka: Malcolm Hargrove. His top Lieutenants are revealed to be Felix, and Locus (who were the respective heroes to the two sides of the civil war), causing some definite hatred from the entirety of the war-torn planet of Chorus. The two had been sabotaging peace efforts, supplying both sides with weapons, and otherwise intentionally increasing the death toll of the New Republic and the Federal Army's war for years. Felix and Tucker's and Locus and Agent Washington's ongoing philosophical disagreements in their fights only further cement that It's Personal.

  • Despite not being the actual leader of his gang, Talzo is the one who the Kirby Adventure Squad is focused on capturing in Kirby Adventure, mostly because his unseen boss prefers to stay in the shadows. Our heroes don't even become aware of his superior until towards the end of the comic, so for the longest time, they thought Talzo was the Big Bad.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: In "Mindnet," the Queen of the Crowns hired Killbane, a renegade Supertrooper (and Shane's long-term rival) to steal the titular device from Earth. The Queen has half, the Rangers have half, but the Queen already figured the Rangers were coming and trapped them. With the Rangers on the ropes, Shane invokes this trope, challenging Killbane to a one-on-one fight with the winner taking both halves. The Queen figures she'll have both halves no matter what, so what's the harm in seeing just how good these genetically engineered super soldiers are? But the fight gives the other three Rangers time to think of an escape plan.
  • In Kim Possible, while Arch-Enemy Dr. Drakken definitely has personal scores to settle with Kim for routinely foiling his plans and otherwise humiliating him, and in some episodes has schemes that revolve entirely around revenge on her (or her father, who used to be friends with him), his Dragon Shego equally has a personal rivalry with the hero as she is basically Kim's Evil Counterpart with equal fighting skills and a similar if darker personality, and Shego takes personal delight in trying to be the one who defeats her in combat.
  • In Book 2 of The Legend of Korra, this is the case between Korra and Unalaq. At first it looked like Unalaq was the Big Bad, only for it to be revealed that he is The Dragon to Vaatu, the real Big Bad and the ancient spirit of darkness. While she does acknowledge Vaatu as the true threat after learning more about her origins as the Avatar, Korra has it more personal with her Evil Uncle Unalaq because he lied to her and tried to frame her father and destroy his life. Twice. Ultimately, though, Unalaq and Vaatu merge into one enemy anyway, rendering the point somewhat moot.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina: Percy feels that It's Personal with all five of the people on his kill list, the Briarwoods and the ones who worked with them to destroy his entire family. However, it's made clear, even more than in the source material, that the one that he hates the most is his former teacher, Professor Anders. Unlike the other four, Anders had been seemingly a longtime personal and loyal friend to his family, before he sold them out to the Briarwoods for his own ambitions, going so far as to personally sell out Percy and his baby sister to be tortured and murdered when they had trusted him, above anyone else, to see the two of them to safety. Percy relays this to Anders right before he delivers the killing shot.
    Percy: We trusted you. You were our teacher. We would have done anything you asked. And you betrayed us when we needed you most. You're the face I saw when murder entered into my heart!
  • In The Owl House Emperor Belos is a Greater-Scope Villain who runs a coven system and enforces the rules and the one who wants Eda to be captured or forced to join his coven. But the one who actually spends most of the first season antagonizing Eda directly is his right-hand, Eda's sister and rival, Lilith who also turns out to be the one who cursed Eda and destroyed her life when they were kids.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, while Lord Hordak is the Big Bad (until the Greater-Scope Villain Horde Prime takes an active hand in things and become the new Big Bad in the final season), Adora has no real relationship or particular feelings about him (indeed, they barely interact through the entire run of the show), but she does have very personal relationships with both of his Dragons; her abusive adoptive mother Shadow Weaver and former best friend Catra.
  • Storm Hawks: The Big Bad of the series is Master Cyclonis, leader of Cyclonia. But the one Aerrow really dislikes personally is her right-hand Dark Ace, who betrayed the previous Storm Hawks team and possibly killed his father. The feeling is mutual. This trope is also inverted with Master Cyclonis herself, as she personally has a vendetta against Piper, both being top-notch crystal users who had a brief friendship. Though Cyclonis would rather see Piper join her team than kill her.
  • The Transformers: Inverted with Galvatron, whose enmity seems to be more with Autobot second-in-command Ultra Magnus than leader Rodimus Prime. This begins in the movie, as Magnus is originally named the successor of Optimus Prime (before Rodimus emerges as the true leader) and is (temporarily) destroyed by Galvatron. By their next meeting in the series, Galvatron seems to hold a grudge against Magnus's survival.