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Little Hero, Big War

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"Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."

There's a big war going on. Lots of people are going to fight, many will die. It's the setting of a big epic. And in the midst of all this is...?

Some ordinary guy who can't fight really well, doesn't necessarily get involved in the war, and spends most of the story going on solo adventures while the war rages mostly in the distance, far away.

Come again?

This is a very common type of plot used mostly in fantasy. Fantasy tends to involve main characters who go on adventures of their own, traveling the land and seeking out what they look for. Yet, to add an interesting backstory and create the feeling that the hero is part of something much bigger, a conflict is usually used as the backdrop. This means that while the hero is snooping around and seeking out clues, dealing with individual perils and being chased by mostly minor villains, a big war will eventually be shown. The hero will usually not partake in it, yet, to make the hero's actions feel important in the long run, the hero will often be the one who somehow defeats the villain or whose actions result in the side of good winning, even if someone else ultimately kills the villain.

Sometimes leads to The Greatest Story Never Told. A Pinball Protagonist story takes it further, by not even letting the character make a major difference in the outcome.

When this happens on a smaller scale, it means The Meddling Kids Are Useless, especially if the main character isn't the one who actually solves the problem in the end.

Contrast The Chosen One, who is committed to single-handedly Saving the World.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while the titular Gundam and the battleship White Base were state-of-the-art Super Prototypes, they were still just one ship; the story focused not on the Gundam single-handedly destroying Zeon, but rather trying to survive while the Federation forced them into being decoys and eliminating enemy elite units, while they assembled their Redshirt Army to ultimately win the war. The various OVAs set during the One Year War are full of this.
  • Crest of the Stars is like this. While one of the two protagonists, Lafiel, is the Imperial Princess and third-in-line for the throne of a galaxy-spanning empire, her actual military rank is nothing special (commander of a single attack ship, though later she's promoted to vice-commander of a squadron), and the accomplishments she and Jinto achieve ultimately have little impact on the overall war. The story is more about her and Jinto's personal struggles during this time of strife.
  • The Promised Neverland: One of the main challenges for the main characters and their group of escapees. They're small, and everyone who wants to kill them is so much bigger and stronger than them. And in the end they're the population of one farm against an entire world that isn't interested in letting the status quo change. Even their own kind.
  • Played up for a joke in the first episode of Space☆Dandy; the narrator talks at length about an ongoing civil war between two alien races that spans the galaxy... before mentioning that it has nothing to do with our heroes and never brings it up again.

    Comic Books 

  • Even the Evangelions are tiny compared to the scale of Aeon War in Aeon Natum Engel. Most evident in Operation CATO where after the initial beachhead assault they get a little Out of Focus.
    • Ditto in its rewrite Aeon Entelechy Evangelion, where the Evangelions are strategically impractical, even if they can slaughter almost any enemy they encounter. When the 5th Harbinger Mot, the reskinned Ramiel, shows up, it does gets lots of attention from the High Command, but mostly as a result of it nearly destroying the status quo on the eastern front.
  • In Sugar Plums the fan fiction spends a lot of time building up to actual social and political causes of the Land of Water, however the moment it starts all the main characters promptly leave the country and do other things. In setting it's justified because they are building up their resources so they can meet up with and help bolster the rebellion which they do eventually return with.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy: There's a border conflict happening in the second movie's backdrop, which is represented by two isolated enemy soldiers trying to take each other prisoner before they end up helping Xi rescue his children.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly takes place against the backdrop of The American Civil War. The eponymous characters, however, are only involved with it in a tangential sort of way for most of the story.
  • Kelly's Heroes is a bank heist movie set against the backdrop of World War II. The fact that a war is going on has its effects on the story, sure, but if it weren't for all the tanks and guns and Nazis the protagonists run into, you may as well be talking about Ocean's Eleven.
  • Red Dawn (1984). Obviously the protagonists are involved in the war, but their insurgency is a very minor thorn in the Russian army's side with the regular US Army doing the bulk of the fighting. Made explicit in a scene where they visit the frontlines and get mixed up in a large-scale tank battle.
  • Dunkirk depicts the titular historical event (the rescue of over 300,000 British soldiers from northern France during the second world war) from the perspective of three small groups of characters. One such group are made up of pinball protagonists who are just trying to survive and don't make any plot-relevant decisions.
  • The Hidden Fortress is set against the backdrop of a feudal war in Ancient Japan. The story is told from the perspective of Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara), who are bribed into helping a princess (Misa Uehara) and her general (Toshiro Mifune) make it to safety.

  • The Balanced Sword is set at a time when the demon king Kerlamion launches an attempt at world domination, leading to a war between the army of the Hells and the massed defensive forces of the Dragon King and the God-Emperor of the Mountain — which takes place entirely off the page, while the protagonists track down and confront a Big Bad who is using Kerlamion's invasion as a springboard for his own scheme.
  • Consider Phlebas is all about this — it's a minor sideshow in a vast interstellar war that, according to the end footnotes, is rather insignificant itself on the galactic scale of things.
  • Terry Brooks's The Elfstones of Shannara has the hero Wil Ohmsford protecting The Chosen One while she makes the journey that will ultimately save the world. In the background, badass Druid Allanon and Ander Elessedil lead the combined forces of Men, Dwarves, Trolls, and Elves against the Demonic hordes of The Dagda Mor.
  • This is a theme of much of J. R. R. Tolkien's work. Part of the subtext of all his Middle-earth stories are that what looks important to mortals is not necessarily what is actually important, and the world is so big and complicated and subtle that really, only God knows (literally!) what is and is not important, and how much so.
    • Bilbo is the main character of The Hobbit but actually spends the entire climactic final battle unconscious, having been accidentally hit in the head with a rock. On a larger scope, while it looks like the most important thing to come out of the war is the reestablishment of Erebor and Dale, the really important thing is eliminating Smaug as a potential ally to Sauron. And of course, Bilbo's discovery of the One Ring and pity on Gollum are both more important than even that.
      • And while all this is happening, the White Council fights an entirely offscreen war against the Necromancer and forces him out of Dol Goldur. A simple tactician might consider this more important than anything that happened around Erebor.
    • Frodo from The Lord of the Rings is the primary main character, but he does none of the fighting, and does not get involved in the war directly at all. What he gets is the equivalent of a behind the lines assassination attempt. Even he only manages to succeed because his gardener tagged along.
    • Even in the First Age, the story looks at first glance like a war story in which the angry Noldorin Elves march to war against the Dark Power, there are armies and sorceries and great cities and fortresses...but in the end, what really mattered in the Elven war against Morgoth was to bring Men into indirect contact with the influence of the Valar for good and wisdom, and to bring Beren into contact with LĂșthien, and Tuor with Idril, bringing a strain of each race's inheritance into the other race.
  • In the Grey Griffins books, the main characters are four kids who mostly snoop around and attempt to solve mysteries and figure things out. Other than a few times they save themselves with their own wits, it's usually adults who save them from danger. When the kids stay in a castle that comes under siege in the second book, adults do all of the fighting, while the kids simply run and try to stay alive.
  • Tad Williams enjoys this trope, a good part of the cast of the Otherland novels are little heroes in a big... conspiracy and the main character of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn keeps repeating how he is just a little scullion until cast and readers alike want him to shut up about it.
  • The Taltos novels also have a definite aspect of this, where Vlad always seems to run into a small manifestation of some larger conflict between powerful Dragaerans and/or Living Gods. Arguably, this occurs because an audience wouldn't be interested in heroes who would be expected to solve problems easily, not to mention that it wouldn't be a very long book with them as main characters.
  • Larger-scale example from Warhammer 40,000: the Gaunt's Ghosts novels, where the Tanith First is mostly engaged in secondary theatres of war during the Sabbat Worlds campaign, though their side missions are usually vital nonetheless.
    • Hell, this happens all the time in Warhammer 40,000, and particularly with the Guard in general. Acts of heroism will likely go unrecorded and unremembered because they are happening all the time.
    • It should be noted that, due to the scale and typical over-the-top approach in nearly all setting aspects of 40K, the definition of "little" is scaled up as well with the trope remaining in effect nonetheless. Basically, considering the sheer size of the Imperium and the fact that it is has been waging a war for survival on hundreds of fronts for several millenia, any sufficiently local struggle is a side-show to the overarching war. The little hero, by 40K standards, is not a single person or group of people, not even a company or regiment, it literally can mean that the life-or-death struggle of an entire planet with billions of inhabitants and several tens of millions of actual combat troops (more than, say, real-world China and North Korea simultaneously could muster) is an insignificant footnote in an Imperial war report, without any impact on the Imperium as a whole, frequently unremembered and, well, irrelevant.
  • Discworld:
    • In Jingo, the main plot has Vimes and the City Watch trying to solve an assassination attempt on a Prince, while, pretty much in the background, Ankh-Morpork slowly gets ready for a war with Klatch. Of course, it's all connected, and Vimes is able to solve the case, buying the Patrician enough time to prevent the war, Just in Time.
    • Monstrous Regiment - the eponymous regiment is obviously part of the army, but an untrained and very minor part, which over the course of the book never actually gets involved in a battle - what it does is much more important than that.
  • The Fighting Fantasy book The Crimson Tide follows the life of a boy seeking his mother, against the backdrop of the war from Black Vein Prophecy.
  • Found in the second trilogy of Emberverse books, with Rudi Mackenzie and his band trekking across America while the Church Universal and Triumphant is trying to conquer or subjugate everything west of the Rockies.
  • Though most of the series doesn't fall under this trope, The Silver Spike from the The Black Company series arguably fits this. It's a side story that follows the leftover side characters (including The Chosen One oddly enough) mopping up the aftermath of the first arc after the main crew has moved on.
  • A lot of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe books fit this bill. Amidst the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, Richard Sharpe and his Chosen Men are dispatched on missions by the Duke of Wellington that see them fighting spies or hunting traitors or whatnot, with only brief background mentions of the larger war being fought. Most books would climax with some kind of battle between Sharpe's troops and some usually-fictional enemy (often a French unit), but sometimes the action finale would take place during some big historic battle.
  • Even though the war with the Red Court is a major part of the Dresden Files and Dresden himself played a major role in the war starting when it did, he only directly participates in one battle over the course of the entire war - the last one - though many of his cases that take place during the war are somehow connected to it.
  • Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy plays on this theme, in a story about a World War III fought only with conventional weapons, with multiple small groups of military personnel having some small impact on the overall progress of the war in various ways that collectively get more coverage than the supposed "big men" commanding the respective militaries.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has this dilemma with Jon Snow and the Night's Watch. At the climax of Book 1, when his brother Robb Stark calls his banners, Jon makes a break to leave the Watch (to which he is sworn, and from which desertion is punishable by death). He feels the War of the Five Kings to avenge his father's death is the greater conflict than the Night's Watch, only to be corrected by Lord Commander Mormont and his fellow Watch-friends. As the story advances, the drama for the series is that the real conflict is being fought by the neglected and underfunded Night's Watch who is neglected by all Southron rulers except Stannis Baratheon who comes to aid the Watch in its hour of need in A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: This is pretty much the bread and butter of the Disney EU novels. Most are set within the timeline of the original trilogy, where the major turning points and battles are already very well know, as are their key players. Instead, many of the novels that don't follow minor adventures of the major characters follow new or background characters undertaking missions that seem very important to them but do little in the scale of the grand conflict.
  • In The Chronicles of Prydain, protagonist Taran spends most of his time on the periphery of the main events, frequently crossing paths with important characters but never quite being the one to take decisive action. Twice he is an observer while Prince Gwydion wins the big battle, and on two occasions he even finds himself in the same position as Bilbo - knocked unconscious and only finding out how the good guys won afterwards. It's only in the last book that he really becomes an influential character in his own right.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons this is the explicitly recommended way to run games in a wartime setting. Mostly it's because with the given systems large battles are an administrative nightmare.
    • Although you can run them as being a particular minor encounter within the larger fray, such as holding a trench against the zombies while the cavalry are out on the flanks...that are just coincidentally far enough out that they don't fit onto the battlemap.
      • A very effective way to run this kind of scenario is to let the players be the ones who fulfill this trope. Let them take out the vital bridge, knock out the crucial communications array, or stop the evil ritual which keeps reanimating the dead to fight for the Big Bad. The common grunts of the Red Shirt Army are suffering the attrition and winning the battle, but the players are doing the thing that makes their victory possible. Video games use the same trick.
    • Averted in Exalted, which actually has mass combat rules. They're still something of an administrative nightmare because the units have way more stats than the characters do, but you can run a major battle with it.
    • GURPS has a similar system that (nominally) makes it possible to run a major battle. However, much like Exalted above, if a few PCs can take on an army the "little" qualification is rather lost.
    • Scion Companion provides rules to make running a war scenario a bit easier... largely by turning units of soldiers into "single" characters, system-wise, a little like Nintendo Wars.
    • Mutants & Masterminds uses the same system as well, by once again turning a large army into a single character.
    • Averted in Death Watch, where the characters are Super Soldiers whose Training from Hell and Power Armor makes them insanely powerful compared to the common grunts of the setting. The players, when thrust into a war, are expected to undertake the mission which turns the tide and leave the attrition to the Red Shirt Army. For example, the players might go in secretly to cripple a key dropship the Scary Dogmatic Aliens are using to ferry troops just in time for the big offensive against them. Players are expected to deal with the highly dysfunctional and fractious commands of their allies' forces. War is extremely common in this game, seeing how it's set in Warhammer 40,000. Large hordes of weak enemies - which really represent a mob, platoon, or maybe company, not an army - are treated as a single creature, like the examples above.
    • Of all Dungeons & Dragons settings, none played this as straight as Planescape. The Blood War could involve multiple armies, each of them a variant of The Legions of Hell. Each side fields millions of assorted demonic or devilish horrors. Allies, mercenaries, and interfering groups could make the battle even bigger. Through all this wandered a small party of 4-6 player characters. When plot lines called for the players to make a big difference in the war, they usually did it by being a Spanner in the Works or a pawn in some insanely powerful being's plan. They would completely alter the course of fates of beings which - based on power level alone - by all rights shouldn't even notice the player characters exist.
  • BattleTech campaigns often run on this trope, as the major actors are already known in the fiction, the players' team tends to get assigned to smaller objectives rather than fighting directly in the major battles. Especially since the game's core rules make running large-scale battles practically impossible, and the rules for large-scale combat (Alpha Strike) aren't conductive for heroics.

    Video Games 
  • Video games which have a war in the background usually put the player character in this role. By letting the player be the one to take out the crucial target which lets the Red Shirt Army advance, the player feels like they won the battle, the game maintains its large scope, and the story can be made dramatic. In military shooters, this partially explains part of the reason why the player is so often part of a special operations force; those groups usually get those kinds of missions.
  • The original Neverwinter Nights. Aside from gathering the lost Words of Power, the PC is free to indulge in countless crypt ventures, werewolf hunts, and goblin cave raids while the war between Luskan and Neverwinter rages on. This is made even more painful by the fact that in the end, the Ancient Evil baddie still manages to get her hands on the most important Word of Power before you do, thus enabling her to do the very ritual you were trying to stop her from doing by getting the Words of Power first.
  • Assassin's Creed
    • Assassins Creed is set during the Crusades, with Richard the Lionheart's army of Crusaders fighting the Saracen armies of Saladin. However, with the exception of a scene at the end of the game where Altair hacks his way through half of both sides' forces all on his lonesome most of the action is relegated to the background, with the Assassins fighting the Templars covertly in the cities supporting the war. These aren't the standard Cruasader Templars either; they basically form a fourth independent faction (the Assassins are the third).
    • Assassin's Creed II, on the other hand, decided to go the other way, with Ezio meddling directly in the affairs of a number of important Renaissance figures, from Lorenzo di Medici to Niccolo Machiavelli to Leonardo da Vinci to the ENTIRE BORGIA FAMILY.
    • The latter continues in the third numbered game, where RatonhnhakĂ©:ton/Connor interacts with several key figures during The American Revolution and even participating in important battles.
  • Inverted in Defense of the Ancients. For what is supposedly a large-scale final battle between the Sentinel and the Scourge, each side only fields a maximum of five Heroes and an oddly small number of Mooks.
    • Pretty much the way Warcraft III works period. It's hard to raise a large, useful army when you've got a food cap of 100(90 before the expansion), going over certain food limits taxes your gold supply and there are units that can use 7 food (8 with neutral dragons); this probably stems from the fact that the game was originally planned to be much closer to what DotA is. It is also justified by engine limitations: the game can only support about 200 units per player before slowing down.
  • Played straight with Wing Commander: Privateer. Although several mission sets have interaction with the local part of the military fighting the Big Honking War, and a few random references by bartenders about said BHW, for the most part the Gemini Sector has limited practical contact with the rest of the war with the Kilrathi.
  • Final Fantasy XII. Most of the game's story concerns Ashe going into hostile territory with very little backup in order to procure the Green Rocks that the enemy wants to power up their mechanized forces. The true, major battle is being led by Marquis Ondore and the remnants of the Dalmascan army.
    • Likewise is Final Fantasy Tactics. Ramza doesn't care about Ivalician politics or the War of the Lions. He just wants his sister back, which incidentally means kicking the Lucavi out of Ivalice. His actions are vitally important to the course of the war, but not intentionally; he just kills off several claimants to the throne while fighting the Lucavi, allowing Delita to wipe the rest off the map and end up with the Princess and the throne.
  • In MechWarrior 2, which side you're on and how well you do in your missions has no impact whatsoever in the story scenes between missions that describe how the war as a whole is going. This continues no matter how high in rank you get (With the highest possible rank being supreme military commander of your faction).
    • Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries takes place a bit earlier, against a backdrop initially of escalating hostilities of a new succession war, and later the Clan invasions. The canonical ending is that the player ended up as an important force in the big battle that resulted in the Clan's defeat, and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the various wars throughout the game, but as a mercenary it's entirely possible to avoid all the major storylines and just choose randomly generated contracts that have no connection to the main events of time.
  • A whole civil war is going on in the background while you fight for the highest bidder in MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries. Although towards the end you do start to get missions throwing you into some of the fighting of the Fedcom civil war.
  • The Witcher remains this through most of the game. The principle of neutrality is often emphasized, up to the point where the player must make a choice that will put Geralt against one or all sides of a war. In the novels, maintaining neutrality becomes a greater and greater dilemma for Geralt of Rivia.
  • Starcraft II has the backdrop of a new great Zerg/Human war, with billions of casualties on both sides. Raynor's Raiders stay out of most of it, spending their time MacGuffin-hunting and taking potshots at Mengsk. That is, until the final three missions, when he gets hired into participating in the human invasion of Char.
  • Tales of Innocence has a big war going on between two countries in the background, but besides crossing a couple battlefields, you rarely see to much of it and spend a decent amount of time doing your own thing.
  • Bungie's Myth series also utilizes this kind of narrative. Gradually inverted as the endgame approaches, since the good guys suffer such a devastating Pyrrhic Victory your unit are pretty much all that's left.
    • There is also compelling evidence that both narrators are also incredible badasses, as they survive every battle of the campaign and are then hand-picked for small elite teams that decide the fate of the world in the finale.
  • Titanfall: The most popular game mode Attrition averts this trope by making the objective to win a match not by killing more players on the other side, but by influencing the course of a whole battle between two whole armies with reinforcing infantry. Most FPS multiplayer modes have teams of just 6-12 players on each side about the size of a couple of fireteams, Titanfall has two whole battalions of infantry (assumed battalion size due to numbers being in the hundreds) and they are not useless because troops can actually kill each other (or careless players, to many peoples embarrassment). Players are expected to function like special forces by inflicting mass casualties, converting enemy robotic infantry, hacking artillery turrets, and calling in Titans (Grunts are trivial to a Titan, you can literally walk allover the enemy). Though killing enemy players, and reducing enemy Titan support helps, inflicting more player kills than the other team does not ensure victory.
  • Valkyria Chronicles is the story of a valiant militia band fighting at the front to defend their country. Well, Valkyria Chronicles III is not that kind of story: The Nameless mostly do the jobs that will never be recorded in history, some of which deeply undermine the moral legitimacy of the Gallians' struggle.
    • In fact, even the original game is this in-universe; the Gallian conflict is only a tiny part of the massive Second Europan War, which continues to rage on for years after Gallia itself is completely free of invaders.
  • In 95% of the Castlevania games, you are either controlling a Belmont, a member of a Belmont branch family, or someone they have personally interacted with in their struggle against Dracula (like Hector or Shanoa). Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, meanwhile, is focused on a completely unrelated group of vampire hunters, including hero Nathan Graves, who also want to help keep Dracula sealed up in their own way.
    • More literally in the case of Bloodlines and Portrait of Ruin, which take place in the middle of World War I and II respectively.
  • While Class VII does play a key role in resolving the war in the second game of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, the game makes it quite clear that the Imperial Army is doing the lion's share of the fighting. In many cases, the only reason Class VII can do the critical action they perform in that campaign is because the Army is drawing off enough of the rebel forces so that a strike team composed of six teenagers can attack the enemy stronghold from another direction without getting instantly wiped out. And their actions have absolutely nothing to do with the resolution of the southern and western fronts of the war, as they're busy fighting in the north and east.

  • Schlock Mercenary focuses on a few dozen mercenaries in a galaxy of trillions, who often get caught up on the edges of events that impact most of those trillions. As the introduction to one story puts it:
    "The Milky Way galaxy is a big place. So big, in fact, that attempting to tell its story would be a job for God, or maybe Robert Jordan. It's the smaller stories that interest us, the galactic mega-epic is just an out-of-focus backdrop for individual heroes and villains."
Of course, the main characters do have more of an impact on galactic affairs than a random sample of a few dozen sophonts, and wind up getting caught in the middle of many important conflicts, or at least having a decisive impact at a key moment. It's worth noting that the above quote continues...
Of course, there was this one time when the fate of the entire Milky Way hung on the actions of a few undercompensated people... This was one of those rare cases where a little story had a very, very big ending. Or maybe where the big story has a very, very small beginning.
  • Last Res0rt has this with Jigsaw; it's pretty clear that Jigsaw is SUPPOSED to be important as she's the only non-human vampire in the galaxy, but she's still traipsing around on the reality show trying to save Daisy, even if her adventures are broadcast clear across the galaxy (in-world and otherwise). It's justified a little since she's still learning how to use her powers, and if she were any more of a threat, Veled likely wouldn't keep her alive for the entertainment value.
  • In Weak Hero, there's a whole territorial dispute going on between the two halves of Seoul, with Eunjang High (the protagonists' high school) right at the centre of it. The protagonists are largely unaware of this, however, and are only involved insofar that they have their own, unrelated conflict with the southern half.

    Web Original 
  • Across the various storylines of Red vs. Blue, the Red and Blue simulation troops aren't even fighting in the war against the UNSC and aliens. They're just the bottom-of-the-barrel failures they've asigned in backwater planets to test out various combat scenarios. As a result, the amount of aliens the Red and Blue teams have actually encountered can be counted on one hand, and most don't even realize the war's been over for a few years in an uneasy peace. While the super soldiers that took part in Project Freelancer were combat-ready troops outfitted with armor enhancements and AI implants, they're still only a costly fringe experiment that are dealing with inter-human infighting and not actually part of the war either. Through implication, they did act as the blueprints for the later Spartan soldiers and thanks to the Director drastically changed Artificial Intelligence testing, so not entirely a footnote in human history at least. Even when the Reds and Blues do get involved in a proper war, it's still on the extremely remote colony world of Chorus. The civil war that's been going on for a generation has killed off much of the already small population and it's now a few thousand exhausted men and women locked in a tired cycle of vengeance.
  • Critical Role's second season sees the Dwendalian Empire and the Kryn Dynasty officially go to war with each other in Episode 18. The Mighty Nein pointedly avoids getting directly involved the conflict, instead taking mercenary jobs and pursuing personal goals that specifically take them outside the Empire, to avoid the possibility of a draft. By Episode 57, the fighting has escalated to a point the Nein feel they can no longer ignore the war, and Caleb proposes that they set themselves to the goal of preventing the war, or at least minimizing the casualties and damage caused by it. In the end, they prove instrumental to bringing both sides to the negotiation table and reach a truce.

    Western Animation 
  • One of the most well-known examples: Avatar: The Last Airbender: A century-long, genocidal conflict between every nation on Earth/wherever (admittedly, there are only four, well, three, now). The main cast? Teenagers riding around having magic adventures on a flying bison. The Hero? Twelve years old (at least, biologically). Avatar is an interesting case; part of the premise is that Aang really needs to get involved in the war in order to bring it to a desirable conclusion, but he needs to master the four elements before he can really make an impact on it, and needs to stay out of the way of the major fighting until he is ready for it (not to mention his personal hang-ups about being the Avatar.) The beginning of the second season even has an Earth Kingdom general showing Aang wounded soldiers and trying to convince him that he needs to partake in the fighting. As the series progresses, they get more and more directly involved with the war effort (with much of the second season revolving around getting vital intelligence to the Earth Kingdom high command, and the third season revolving around implementing each side's endgame strategies.)
  • Downplayed in Steven Universe. While the Crystal Gems did fight in a war against Homeworld Gems, flashbacks and accounts given suggest that the Crystal Gems numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands of Gem troops, and the very few that have survived it are just the friends their leader Rose Quartz was able to save at the last second from something akin to a Drone of Dread crossed with a Fantastic Nuke. More generally, while the war for Earth was a turning point in Gem history, it was still only one of several colonies Homeworld has conquered across the universe over a period of several thousand years.

    Real Life 
  • There is some semblance of truth in this. In the medieval era, it wasn't uncommon for travelers from one nation to interact with citizens from another nation that they're ostensibly warring with. The rise of nationalism and industrialization mostly put an end to this, so it's a strange idea for modern readers.
  • As far as specific people go, there's Marco Polo. At a time when the Mongols were the dominant power of the Eastern Hemisphere and Europeans, Muslims, Japanese, etc. were working really hard not to lose their independence to The Horde, Polo went on a trip all the way to the court of Kublai Khan himself (or at least claimed to have gone that far) and eventually had a record of all that he saw there put together. His account sparked a deep interest in the East among Europeans, and the resulting efforts of Europeans to consume any goods and knowledge from China, India, and elsewhere helped jump-start the Renaissance and the discovery of the Americas.