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It's Personal with the Dragon

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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 some abstract force of 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.

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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 it's also The Dragon.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In 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.
  • In Kill la Kill, Ryuko's personal vendetta is not directly with Ragyo Kiryuin, 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.
  • 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 a 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 acts as The Dragon to Jamitov Hymem, Bask Om, and finally Scirocco.
  • 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.
  • F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu: 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 killed Ryu 150 years ago, while Miss Killer turns out to be Misaki Haruka, his brainwashed girlfriend.
  • One Piece: In the One Piece: Whole Cake Island Arc, while the 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 

    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).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Arguably the most famous case of this is the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. 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 a fairly standard The Corrupter/We Can Rule Together type villainy. In the initial plans, the Emperor was even going to just be a Puppet King while figures such as Vader and Tarkin had a role along the lines of Dragon-in-Chief.
    • 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 knows 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 Dungeons & Dragons, to Ridley the Big Bad Evil Sorceror Profion is just another scheming mage in The Magocracy looking to seize power. On the other hand, Profion's dragon Damodar is the guy who killed his best friend 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 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 killed their former teammates.
  • 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 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.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy:
      • Nebula was trained by Thanos alongside Gamora, is the one hunting her specifically through most of it and when she goes to let the other Guardians in to face Ronan, Nebula is the one who tries to stop her, at one point commenting that she was the one that Nebula hated the least out of their "siblings".
      • Played with in the case of Drax. He's going after Ronan to avenge his family, thinking Ronan is the Big Bad. In the end, he realizes Ronan was just a Dragon to Thanos, and the vendetta hasn't been settled, it's just been transferred to Ronan's boss.
    • 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 her former mentor Yon-Rogg, whom is directly responsible for her becoming a Kree hybrid to begin with.
  • An interesting inversion happens in Die Hard, where 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 facade 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.
  • 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 the 1993 film version of The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan has a personal vendetta against Cardinal Richelieu's Dragon, Rochefort, who killed D'Artagnan's father.
  • In the 1996 film version of The Phantom, 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 The Patriot, General Cornwallis is the highest-ranking British officer opposing the Southern rebels, but American Colonel Benjamin Martin respects Cornwallis' military genius and at one point 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 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.
  • Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride cares little about Prince Humperdinck, but really wants Count Rugen dead, because he killed Inigo's father.
  • 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 RoboCop (1987), RoboCop considers OCP Vice-President Dick Jones to be just another criminal to detain or eliminate. However, his hatred for Jones' hitman, Clarence Boddicker, who 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 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.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman is initially out to stop the mob and discounts the Joker, but is later forced to shift his attention towards catching the Joker instead as the Joker continues murdering Gothamites and engaging in terrorism as part of Joker's 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Asset from Jason Bourne, who killed Bourne's father on orders from Dewey.
  • 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 making him partially obsolete.
  • Jack Reacher, in both the first movie and its sequel Never Go Back.
  • In Rob Roy, The Marquess of Montrose James Graham is the highest ranking character on the enemy side, and he is the one that fully forces Robert into action when he threatens to arrest him because he refuses to give false testimony against one of his rivals in exchange for the alleviation of his debt. However things are more personal with one of the men in his service Archibald Cunningham. He was the one in the first place who put MacGregor in debt by stealing the loan Graham was giving him whilst on route, murdering one of his clansmen in the process. He would then be the one tasked by the Marquess to hunt Rob down and in that pursuit would burn down his home and worst of all sexually assault his wife. The big climax of the film comes down a one-on-one swordfight between the two characters.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • In Frederick Forsyth's book Icon, the protagonist Jason Monk, an ex-CIA operative, has no personal grudge with 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.
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter: Averted with Voldemort who is the Big Bad of the series, and whom Harry is dedicated to bringing him down due to the destruction he's caused also personally. 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 on terms of personal contact, Harry deals with Snape much more often who is a much more direct and immediate source of hatred only rivaled by Draco and Umbridge.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 its revealed that Snape was secretly working for Dumbledore the entire time after that revelation, so Harry buries the hatchet.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 and gives him a much more personal punishment, eventually ending with Morden's head on a pike in the courtyard (a present to his Number Two Vir, who expressed his wish for that exact situation earlier).
  • 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.
  • In the Kung Fu "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.
  • 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 climatic 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.

    Music 
  • This is how The Megas' 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.

    Video Games 
  • A very common trope in Final Fantasy titles:
    • In Final Fantasy IV, The Heavy is Golbez, who also turns out to be brother of The Hero, Cecil. Golbez, however, was brainwashed and controlled by Zemus, who is the main antagonist of the entire game proper.
    • Final Fantasy VI has Kefka, one of the Emperor's Co-Dragons who's the on-screen villain who drives most of the plot and makes a personal enemy of himself with several of the protagonists, in contrast to Emperor Gestahl who doesn't even face the heroes until at least the mid-way point of the game. Subverted when Kefka reveals he has his own plans, takes out the emperor, crowns himself the new Big Bad, and is about a million times worse than Gestahl could ever be.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII the Big Bad manipulating events is a sorceress who stays offscreen the entire time, except when she's possessing other mages to do her dirty work. The biggest clashes are with the hero's Rival Turned Evil Seifer, who fancies himself as playing the knight to the sorceress' lady.
    • In Final Fantasy IX, the main villain, Kuja, turns out to be The Dragon of an even more powerful villain named Garland. However, Kuja is a personal nemesis for several of the protagonists, including Vivi (whose people Kuja created and then used as cannon fodder), Freya (whose country he destroyed), Garnet (whose kingdom he destroyed and mother he killed), and most importantly Zidane (who is Kuja's younger brother and personal target of most of Kuja's hatred and contempt). Later, Kuja kills Garland and takes over as the true Big Bad of the game.
    • Final Fantasy X both averts this and plays it straight. The closest to a straight-out Big Bad, Seymour Guado, has a personal and mutual grudge with Yuna, whose journey the game is built around. However, the viewpoint character, Tidus, doesn't have a personal stake in that; his troubles are with his father Jecht, who's currently the incarnation of Eldritch Abomination Sin (the defeat of which is the goal of the game). This is why Jecht is the "villain" representive for FFX in Dissidia: Final Fantasy instead of Seymour.
      • To take it yet another step further, Jecht is corrupted and controlled by Yu Yevon, and the spirit of Yu Yevon is actually the final enemy fought in the game.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, one of the major villains of the game, Judge Gabranth, turns out to be the twin brother of Basch, one of the central characters. Gabranth also killed the brother of Decoy Protagonist, Vaan, and framed Basch for killing the king of Rabanastre.
    • In Final Fantasy XV, All There in the Manual reveals that Ardyn is actually the Dragon to Ifrit and is the one whom Noctis' personal vendetta is directed against..
  • Warcraft III: Arthas pursues the dreadlord Mal'ganis all the way to Northrend, being convinced that he is the biggest culprit, despite Mal'ganis not being directly responsible for the plague of undeath crippling Lordaeron (that was the Lich King's doing, Mal'ganis was just accelerating the process). Arthas ends up taking a cursed sword that puts him in the Lich King's thrall so he can kill Mal'ganis.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • Most of Twilight Princess is spent running after Zant, an usurper given power by the true villain, Ganondorf.
    • For most of Skyward Sword, Ghirahim is the one to hinder Link's progress, with the main villain fought only after Ghirahim's final defeat.
  • The Fire Emblem games often do this, with the main villain either being Orcus on His Throne or only fighting in The Great Offscreen War until the final chapters of the game.
  • Dragon Quest V: In the DS remake, Bishop Ladja is the one directly responsible for the main character's woes, from murdering his father in front of him at age 6 to his subsequent imprisonment for several years, turning him and his wife into self-aware statues for a decade leaving their children behind, and murdering his mother just as they were reunited after twenty years.
  • The murderer in Persona 4, Tohru Adachi, is the main mover of the game, and by the time the party finally confronts him, it has gotten very personal, what with Nanako having been kidnapped and nearly killed by Namatame, who it turns out was trying to save people from Adachi but was unwittingly playing right into Adachi's hands by throwing them into the TV world; and every member of the party has a major "The Reason You Suck" Speech to give to the killer when he is finally exposed. The actual Big Bad isn't even seen unless you manage to find the path to the True Ending, and is someone who isn't really known to the protagonists until the end.
  • This is a staple in the Ace Combat series, as the true masterminds behind the series' many conflicts rarely take to the air in person, leaving their respective Dragons to fight the playable characters in their stead.
    • In Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, the Erusean generals and politicians who started the war are never encountered in-game and surrender off-screen in the penultimate mission. Much drama, however, surrounds the conflict between the Player Character Mobius One and his Worthy Opponent, the Erusean ace Yellow Thirteen.
    • In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, The Conspiracy of the Grey Men, which goaded the Strangereal superpowers into a war, remains entirely off-screen and may actually get away scot-free in the end. The main recurring enemy of the Wardog Squadron throughout the game, as well as the Final Boss, is the "8492nd", a.k.a. Grabacr Belkan Aggressor Squadron.
    • In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, you actually kill the final Big Bad (or his right- or left-hand man, depending on your Karma Meter) in the penultimate mission. Then, in the final mission, you face the Big Bad's main trump card, who is none other than Pixy, your own former wingman, so the dramatic tension between you two is particularly high.
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation follows the template of AC04 in most things, but its Dragon, Ilya Pasternak, is killed about two-thirds into the game, and in fact, his defeat marks the turning point in his superiors' fortunes, leading them to an inevitable, but off-screen surrender.
    • In Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, Andrei Markov is William Bishop's Arch-Enemy all the way (even before they meet in person, thanks to Bishop's prophetic dreams) and turns out to be The Dragon to the game's Big Bad, General Stagleishov. In a twist, Markov pulls a Klingon Promotion-slash-Dragon Ascendant on himself by killing Stagleishov and becoming the Big Bad in the final mission.
  • Taken to the Logical Extreme in Mega Man Zero 3: Dr. Weil's Dragon, Omega, turns out to be using Zero's old body, with the one Zero's using being a copy. Weil pretty much taunts Zero whether he has the balls to defeat "himself". The backstory also shows that Zero and Omega were the hero and the spear-header of the Elf Wars respectively and that Zero (along with X) took Omega down before he reappears in this game.
  • In each of the Rocket Knight Adventures games, Sparkster's arch-rival and Evil Counterpart, Axel Gear, is always The Dragon to whoever the game's Big Bad is. Axel Gear also survives every battle he loses against Sparkster, whereas Sparkster always kills off the Big Bad afterwards. The manual for the first game explains the rivalry between the two Rocket Knights; Ten years before the events of the first game, Axel Gear permanently disabled Sparkster's mentor, Mifune Sanjulo, when Sparkster was made the new leader of the Rocket Knights instead of him.
  • In Oniken, Co-Dragon Hackan comes from the same home town as the hero Zaku and was responsible for the death of Zaku's father. Big Bad Doozor is a more standard mad scientist who wants to conquer the world.
  • In Metroid, Ridley is rarely ever the Big Bad, almost always serving as The Dragon (literally). He is Samus' most hated enemy, as their first encounter ended with him trying to kill her and slaughtering her family when she was four years old.
  • BlazBlue: Ragna the Bloodedge and Yuuki Terumi/Hazama. At first, Terumi seems like the Big Bad, but the ending to the second game put an end to that with The Reveal that true Big Bad is Izanami, the goddess of death and possessing Ragna's younger sister Saya. Regardless, Terumi is the bastard who chopped off Ragna's arm and left him to die in a burning church and kidnapped Saya in the first place and therefore, at the top of Ragna's hit list for most of the series.
    • The same extends to Noel Vermillion, also targeted at Terumi. As it turns out, not only was Noel the inheritor of much of the original Saya's consciousness, but her "younger sister" Nu-13 reveals that Terumi explicitly made Noel just to fuse with her and become Kusanagi (the fusion would have resulted in the Black Beast, but Kusanagi was his goal); the remnants of Saya within Noel wanted none of that, which stalled the fusion long enough for Takamagahara to abort it via Take-Mikazuchi, which annihilated Ibukido in turn.
    • On another tangent, we have Carl Clover's grudge with his father Relius, who took his daughter/Carl's sister Ada into his lab, installed her into the Nox Nyctores Deus Machina: Nirvana, and had Carl come in to finish the job, only to later do the same with his wife/Carl and Ada's mother. To say Carl is pissed would be an understatement.
  • In Fallout 3, Colonel Autumn murders the Player Character's father and is in general responsible for much of the agony during the main storyline. He spearheads all the assaults on the player and their allies, generally speaks in a condescending and cruel manner, and otherwise makes himself very easy to hate. The Big Bad, President John Henry Eden, is nothing but a voice making grandiose pronouncements in favor of the Enclave, a supposed continuation of the American government, and is much harder to personally dislike. Then it's revealed that President Eden is an AI doing what it was programmed to do while Colonel Autumn is just an evil, cruel man. How personal the showdown with Autumn is is up to you.
  • Appears one-sided In Batman: Arkham Knight: Both the Dragon (Arkham Knight) and the Dragon's Dragon (Deathstroke) are after Batman for personal reasons, but Batman sees them as nothing more as ordinary (albeit influential) criminals. Played straight with the former once the Arkham Knight reveals himself as Jason Todd, who turns out was Not Quite Dead.
  • In MOTHER 3, the Masked Man, not Porky, is the final battle of the game. He's Lucas's brother Claus, and Porky has brainwashed him to pull the seventh needle no matter what.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, this trope can occur if the player selects the Human Noble Origin story. In that case, they'll witness firsthand as Arl Rendon Howe, their father's best friend, betrays and murders their family and household to usurp their lands and station. By the end of the origin, the player's mother, father, sister-in-law and young nephew will all be dead by Howe's hands, making him a much more personal adversary to the player than his boss, Loghain, who ironically serves as personal enemy to Alistair, The Lancer of the party.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic has fought against Shadow, who served as The Dragon to Dr. Eggman (until the Last Story when it was found out that Shadow used Eggman's help to further his goals for revenge), and was the sole reason why Sonic was framed for stealing a Chaos Emerald from a bank. This is also due to the game solely focused on the heroes battling their gameplay counterparts, meaning that Tails battles against Eggman.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Connor has a personal vendetta with Charles Lee for burning his village, which led to his mother's death. Lee is merely the right-hand man of the Templar Grandmaster Haytham Kenway, who is revealed to be Connor's father. While Connor ends up learning that his own allies, the Colonials, gave Lee the order to burn his village, he never lets go of his vendetta though he cuts ties with the Colonials afterwards.
  • Body Harvest: The Hivemind is just another stinking alien to Adam; its servant the Man in Black, who is a clone created from Adam's DNA, is his true enemy.
  • Darksiders: War is going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the illusive architect behind the Apocalypse that destroyed mankind and pined the blame on the Horseman. While he has no idea who it is initially, he certainly got unfinished business with Straga, the demonic general responsible for slaying War during the Apocalypse who now serves the Destroyer as his strongest minion.
  • Lunar Knights: The main protagonists Aaron and Lucian hold a grudge against the vampire duke Dumas, due to having killed the former's father and the latter's girlfriend (on top of trying to turn her into his bride). While he is the most powerful vampire around, Dumas himself is merely an underling to Polidori, an emissary from the Immortals and the real Big Bad of the game.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Rean has more personal stakes in wanting to bring Crow back to the academy rather than dealing with either Duke Cayenne or Vita.
  • In the Time Crisis series, the VSSE has a long-standing feud with Wild Dog, who at most has served as hired muscle for the series' various Big Bads. In fact, at the end of Time Crisis 4's Crisis Mission mode, Time Crisis 1 protagonist Richard Miller, who disguises himself as Wild Dog as part of the your final test before becoming a full-fledged VSSE agent, states to you that one day, you will face Wild Dog yourself.

    Web Animation 
  • The main 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.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Despite not being 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 Avatar: The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko is consistently put at odds with another villain from the Fire Nation:
    • Season 1: Zhao serves as The Dragon to Fire Lord Ozai for the season as his primary military leader. Since Zuko is still loyal to his father he will not fight him, but Zhao and Zuko have several violent encounters as they compete for bragging rights to hunt the Avatar. It becomes personal when Zhao tries to have Zuko assassinated shortly before the Siege of the North and when they cross paths as the Siege turns against Zhao, Zuko is determined to kill him, only letting up when the Ocean Spirit attacks and drowns Zhao.
    • Seasons 2 and 3: Azula takes over Dragon duties after Zhao's demise. Zuko and Azula have always had an antagonistic relationship, but Zuko and Iroh hide in the Earth Kingdom to escape Azula, with Iroh teaching Zuko lightning bending and lightning redirection specifically to counter Azula. When Zuko chooses to defect to Aang's side during the Day of Black Sun and Ozai challenges him again, Zuko refuses because it is not his destiny to fight his father. Finally during the finale, Zuko faces off against Azula for the title of Fire Lord.
  • 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 the true threat after learning her origins as the Avatar, Korra has it more personal with her Evil Uncle Unalaq because he lied to her and framed her father, twice.
  • 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 personally delight in trying to be the one who defeats her in combat.
  • 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.

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