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Just One Man

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"If an advisor says to me 'My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?', I will reply 'This,' and kill the advisor."
— #46 on the Evil Overlord List

In fiction, Conservation of Ninjutsu is powerful beyond compare. One ninja, or frankly any humanoid, will have no problem taking out an entire army. Unfortunately for the army's leader, they're Genre Blind. Of course the only thing they can think, and thus shout, when seeing the carnage laid out is, "It's just one man!" or, "What can one man do?"

All in all this tends to be a Stock Phrase used whenever a One-Man Army appears, or when the battle becomes One Riot, One Ranger. However, this trope applies to any time a character asks what one person can do, whether it be against his army of Mooks or just his own superior strength. See also Underestimating Badassery and We Do the Impossible. Or perhaps Tempting Fate.

Not to be confused with The One Guy. However he may well be The Only One.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Very common in One Piece, especially during Enies Lobby. The Marine guards mock Luffy for attacking the "fortress of justice" while outnumbered 10,000 to 1, and he proceeds to go on an absolute rampage. The most notable instance is when Luffy knocks out 50,000 fishmen with a glare. A Death Glare powered by awesomeness, but still-a glare.
    • An interesting example during the Baratie Arc; After "Hawk-Eye" Mihawk decimates Don Krieg's fleet, Krieg stubbornly insists that no ordinary man could wipe out fifty ships with just a sword, but reasons that Mihawk must have a Devil Fruit power that allowed him to do it. He's wrong.
  • Naruto:
    • At the conclusion of the Wave Mission arc, Zabuza's arms are rendered useless and he ends up attacking an army of mercenaries with just a kunai held between his teeth. A mercenary in the front line mockingly asks what one badly-injured shinobi can do against their numbers... right before Zabuza ventilates his chest and starts carving a path to Gato.
    • Near the end of the Invasion of Konoha arc in the anime, around 20 Sand Ninjas surround Hiashi Hyuga and remark that he's just one man. Hiashi then defeats them all with a very large Rotation jutsu.
    • Repeated with the Tobi/Obito arc after Kakashi kills Rin. Dead chunin and jonin are soon SMEARED on the battlefield.
  • In Code Geass, the Lancelot knightmare frame and its pilot Suzaku goes under this trope multiple times.
  • In episode 13 of Cross Ange, Julio is heard yelling this as the Vilkiss tears through his fleet of ships, and right before cutting through the hull of the one he's in.
  • Turns up in Dragon Ball, particularly during the Red Ribbon saga, when General Blue is hesitant to attack Goku and company.
    Soldier: B-b-but it's just three little kids!
    Blue: Just one of those kids wiped out both Silver Corps and White Corps! Now I've learned that Squad B was pulverized by the old man and the woman at the kids' base! And they didn't even have to unleash the turtle!

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • A Bug's Life: Hopper is very aware that while one single ant standing up to him isn't a problem on its own, that single ant can turn into thousands of ants, and that if the ant colony ever realize this, they would easily overthrow his gang of grasshoppers. He demonstrates this with three of his Mooks who dismiss a single ant by throwing a small piece of grain at each of them, each one used to represent a single ant, which they laugh off. He then proceeds to bury the three of them alive in thousands of pieces of grain to drive his point home to the rest of the grasshoppers.
    Hopper: You let one ant stand up to us and then they all might stand up! Those "puny, little ants" outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It's not about food, it's about keeping those ants in line. That's why we're going back!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade (1998): (1998): Deacon Frost, telling his security guards to capture the titular hero alive:
    Frost: Look, make it happen, all right? It's one guy, on foot...
    (Smash Cut to Blade crashing his motorcycle through the atrium and mowing down all the mooks with his machine pistol.)
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998): A mixed example where one villain is Genre Blind but the other has learned through bitter experience.
    Captain Harrison Love: After all, it's only one man...
    Don Rafael: It isn't just one man, damn it. It's Zorro!
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins: A variant when Batman first introduces himself to Gordon.
      Gordon: You're just one man?
      Batman: Now we're two.
      Gordon: ...we?
      Batman: Wait for my sign.
    • The Dark Knight: Batman (who should have learned from all the people who underestimated him) gives this line:
      Batman: One man or the entire mob? He can wait.
  • An Invoked Trope in the comedy Water. Sir Malcolm Leveridge is having to explain to the Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher how he let an American company get the sole rights to Cascara's mineral water. The Iron Lady decides that the solution is to secretly back a revolution that will nationalise the industry in exchange for granting the Brits the bottling rights.
    PM: I have learnt that there is a subversive element on the island, one Delgado Fitzhugh.
    Sir Malcolm: Oh, just one person...
    PM: There was only one Gandhi once. One anorexic little looney in a loincloth and we lost a whole subcontinent!
  • In The Matrix:
    Lieutenant: I think we can handle one little girl. I sent two units, they're bringing her down now.
    Agent Smith: No, lieutenant, your men are already dead.

  • In The Executioner: War Against the Mafia, Father Sergio has the following to say about his underlings running scared from Bolan's attacks:
    Father Sergio: Has the organization grown so soft? So soft that one man, one lone man, can send the entire organization scampering into holes?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7, though as the title shows Blake does have five True Companions and a Sapient Ship helping him.
    Supreme Commander Servalan: Gentlemen, I share the President's grave concern. And I am aware of the danger should Blake become a legend. But let us keep this matter in its correct perspective. It is true that Blake has command of a superb space vehicle, but he is just a man, backed by a handful of criminals, and that is all. He is not invulnerable, nor is he superhuman. He is just a man, who has been extremely lucky to evade capture... so far.
    Secretary Rontane: With respect, Supreme Commander, we are aware of the facts. They are simply that with all the resources that the Federation can call upon, this one vulnerable, lucky man is still frrree to cause havoc.
    • In the penultimate episode "Warlord", Servalan is a bit more candid about her concern.
      Zukan: You do not trust your own men, Commissioner?
      Servalan: It isn't a matter of trust so much as... matching ability.
      Zukan: Against one man?
      Servalan: Against Avon.
      Zukan: You make me wonder if I didn't choose badly. You fear him. He and I, together we could have been invincible.
  • Daredevil (2015) introduces the Punisher in this method in the second season, with Matt initially thinking a mercenary group is behind a series of mass murders of gang members.
  • One could make a drinking game out of every time the Monster of the Week on Doctor Who said something along the lines of, "He's just one man! What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Nobody could stop me now!" As it happens, the universe is littered with the bodies of people who underestimated the Doctor.
    • For context, take a look at one of his Badass Boasts from "Extremis":
      The Doctor: Do me a favor. The Fatality Index. Look up "The Doctor"...
      Executioner: You have an entry, like any other sentient being.
      The Doctor: ...under cause of death.
      Executioner: [device pinging] You do seem to have an impressive number of fatalities connected to you. [device keeps counting] A truly remarkable record. [device clicks faster, the guards begin leaving] Where are you going?! He's unarmed! You are unarmed?
      The Doctor: Always.
      Executioner: [device is now emitting a high pitched whine as it counts higher] You stand alone.
      The Doctor: Often.
      Executioner: [angrily] You're the one who should be afraid.
      The Doctor: Never.
      Executioner: [leaving; results are still coming] Have a nice day, then.
  • The Mandalorian: In the second season finale, our heroes are pinned down by an army of warrior robots... and a single X-Wing fighter arrives to help. Cara Dune sarcastically says, "One X-Wing? Great, we're saved." That one X-Wing belongs to Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. The rest is a Foregone Conclusion.
  • The Six Million Dollar Man had this as almost a stock phrase on many episodes. In one episode the same bad guy had a sequence of schemes ruined by Steve Austin, to the point that at the end, he gets a call from some mooks: "What? ONE MAN?... This has a depressingly familiar ring to it."

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
    The Joker: Come on boys! He's just one man! ...One man dressed like a lunatic and armed to the teeth. [chuckles] GO GET 'IM!
  • Breen says this about Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2. Breen is commenting not only on Gordon Freeman being a One-Man Army, but also on him being a Badass Bystander, "not some agent provocateur or highly trained assassin". The bullet-proof hazmat suit Gordon's wearing does help, though.
    Breen: The man you have consistently failed to slow, let alone capture, is by all standards simply that—an ordinary man. How can you have failed to apprehend him?
  • When Desmond claims this about himself in Assassin's Creed II, Lucy replies with: "Sometimes that's all you need."
  • Max Payne:
    • Nicole Horne describes the titular character this way:
      Nicole Horne: What do you mean, "he's unstoppable"? You are superior to him in every way that counts. You are better trained, better equipped, and you outnumber him at least twenty-to-one. Do. Your. Job.
    • Earlier on, Vinnie Gognitti has much the same reaction.
      Vinnie: Are ya freakin' kidding me?!! He's just one lousy cop! Ya better be freakin' kidding me! Whack 'im! What's the freakin' problem? Hello? Answer me! Hello?
  • Commander Lockhart says this about Alcatraz in Crysis 2.
  • Becomes Arc Words in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Price and Makarov repeat endlessly it against each other.
  • You can pick this as a dialogue option early on in The Godfather Part II about the Cuban rebels. Predictably enough, shortly afterwards El Presidente announces his abdication.
  • In Far Cry, enemy mooks say this about Jack Carver, speculating about how one person could not possibly pull off the stunts he does.
  • Repeatedly shouted in the First Encounter Assault Recon games by assorted human villains as the Point Man and Michael Beckett tear through their troops. Norton Mapes comments on it in the first game while you're blasting through the ATC troops in the Vault ("Come on, he's just one guy! What good are you jackoffs?") and Colonel Vanek berates his men repeatedly while fighting through the labs under Wade Elementary, before finally admitting to Beckett's One-Man Army status. The Phase Commanders and other ATC officers in FEAR 3 understand how dangerous the Point Man is, and instead of berating them for being overwhelmed, they just order their men to stay in position under pain of dismemberment.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, towards the end of Pit's rampage through a major installation for Viridi's army, she shouts: "Fight harder, children! He's just one little angel!"
  • In Mark of the Ninja, when his lieutenant expresses concern about the player character killing dozens of his men, Big Bad Karajan dismissively replies: "He is just one man."
  • In The Elder Scrolls Action-Adventure spin-off game, Redguard, this is frequently said by Imperial guards as Cyrus gleefully fences his way through dozens of them.
  • Said almost ad verbum in a dialogue of the Mooks you kill in a skirmish in Tomb Raider (2013).
    Mook 1: She's just one girl!
    Mook 2: That one girl is kicking our asses!
  • In Mass Effect 2, mercenary leader Jedore uses something to this effect as Shepard and his/her squad are slaughtering their way through her men.
    Jedore: There are three of them. THREE! Anything can be killed if you'd just do your damn jobs.
  • Star Fox Zero has the Salvadora's commander give this reaction when a single ship approaches with weapons ready. Said ship is an Arwing, piloted by Peppy Hare. No points for guessing how this one turns out.
  • Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has Commandant Mannheimer invoke this trope when talking to Frau Engel over the radio about "Terror-Billy"right as BJ is lurking behind him with a hatchet in-hand.
  • In Hitman 3, after you assassinate four of the targets in the Berlin mission, one of the remainder says "He is only one guy!" about 47.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Rose Guns Days, in the 1947 climax: when Maurice and his 40 men arrive at the hotel (as reinforcements to Caleb, who's fighting Rose a few storeys above), and find Leo sitting all alone in the middle of the lobby, their first reaction is to assume there are snipers hidden somewhere, because no one could be that suicidal. This allows Leo to take down a few of them, before Maurice finally realizes he's alone. The scene after that turns into a bonafide Mook Horror Show.
  • The Eden of Grisaia: At the climax of the story Oslo's right hand man Travis thinks it won't take long to capture Yuuji since he is severely outnumbered and is just one kid. He doesn't outlive that sentiment by much.

    Web Original 
  • Number 46 on the Evil Overlord List
    If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This," and kill the advisor.


    Western Animation 
  • Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Three Blind Archers". The general is trying to discourage Jack. If he actually had done the math, he would have realized that the samurai's victory over the archers was assured.
    General: There are only three archers, yet they decimated my whole army. You are just one man. Do the math.
  • Filmation's 1960's Justice League Of America, episode "Target Earth". While Green Lantern is smashing an invading space fleet, the fleet's commander says "Fools! He is just one man! Destroy him!"

    Real Life 
  • A subversion took place in the lead up to WWI, when pretty much everyone knew that war was just a matter of time. The commander of the British Staff College, Brigadier General Henry Wilson, was talking to his counterpart in the French Ecole Supérieure de Guerre, General Ferdinand Foch:
    Wilson: What is the smallest British military force that would be of any practical use to you?
    Foch: A single British soldier — and we will see to it that he is killed.