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No Antagonist

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Sometimes your inner demons are all the conflict you need...
"It's not an evil plan? I don't really know what to do when it isn't an evil plan."
The Twelfth Doctor, Doctor Who, "Twice Upon a Time"

The Big Bad is supposed to help drive the plot, right? They provide the biggest obstacle for the hero to overcome. They give the audience (as well as Moral Guardians) something to channel their hate towards with terribly evil actions such as genocide, committing crimes for immortality, kidnapping (or even worse), world-conquering, and kicking of puppies, even they can scare the audience (and children) by being the horrid monster they are through screentime. Usually, this is the case... except, of course, when they don't happen to be present at all.

Since all fiction essentially narrows down to conflict between two or more opposing forces, it is typical to represent these forces in the story's Main Characters, with the story's focus character called The Protagonist —usually (but not always) being the "good guy" (from the perspective of the work, at least)—and another in opposition to the protagonist called The Antagonist, who is usually (but not always) the "bad guy" (again, from the perspective of the work).

Some stories, however, are cut from a different thread. Rather than representing the conflict as the "good guy" against the "bad guy", the central conflict is caused by other forces and does not feature characters in direct opposition to each other. Instead, the forces at work are more intangible and not bound to a set of characters.

This doesn't mean that there is no conflict or tension — otherwise there wouldn't be a story. It simply means that the central conflict of the work has no characters who are a defined source of friction. This could mean that the conflict comes from an internal struggle, such as with addiction, or it could arise from tensions that must be resolved between the well-intentioned main characters. It could also be that the conflict arises from some sort of natural/scientific disaster, or from simply trying to survive in a hostile environment. As long as there are no "bad guys", this trope applies. If villainous characters do appear in this kind of story at all, they will be a case of Villain of Another Story and/or Greater-Scope Villain; they will not hurt, in any way, any of the story's main characters, even if they do horrible things to other unseen people.

It's possible that one of the characters will be the Hate Sink: not actually a Big Bad, but someone who makes the characters' lives more difficult to give the audience an outlet for the bad-guy hating. For example, if Bob is seriously addicted to heroin and the work focuses on his battling his addiction, then a drug dealer that constantly supplies Bob would not count as the antagonist, even though the dealer is certainly not nice unless there is conflict generated between Bob and the dealer. In the case where it is not, the work would have No Antagonist. Therefore villains are technically allowed, but they can only cause harm indirectly.

In other words, if the central conflict is Bob vs his own drug addiction, it is this trope, but if it is Bob vs the evil drug dealer who secretly adds extra addictive chemicals to Bob's cannabis, then it is not.

The trope does, however, require an actual conflict taking place within the story—works with no real conflict, such as sandbox games, would not apply. Most Slice of Life works have No Antagonist, due to the conflict being life itself, but that doesn't apply to all such series, where the antagonist can easily be someone damaging the life of the protagonist (for instance, the local school bully). This trope is also common in Lit Fic, where it is usually broken down into the categories "character vs nature", or "character vs themselves". Utsuges, games focusing on sorrow and tragic events, also tend to lack any real villain, instead having the tragedy appear from intangible forces that the characters cannot just defeat through combat.

Not to be confused with Imaginary Enemy, where there is also no antagonist at all, but the protagonist thinks there is. Compare Plot-Irrelevant Villain, where there is a villainous antagonist but is of little to no importance in the big game. If the story has neither an antagonist nor a conflict, it most likely takes place in a Sugar Bowl.

Important: "No Antagonist" means Exactly What It Says on the Tin. If one or more sentient beings get in the way of the protagonists/main characters, however well-intentioned they are and however justified their actions, it is not an example.


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    Comic Books 
  • Tales of the Jedi: The final arc, "Redemption", takes place during peacetime and the conflict is around personal struggles left over from the wars.
  • Captain Marvel: In the classic graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell's mortal enemies the Skrulls did show up, but not as antagonists - they were there to mourn him, along with all the other heroes by his side. He died after losing a fight to the one foe he simply couldn't defeat - cancer.
  • Pierre Tombal: A Gag Series about a grave digger, with no real villains.
  • Gaston Lagaffe: A Gag Series about an employee in a publishing company, where there are tensions between Gaston and his co-workers and a police officer, but no real villains.
  • Final Night may be the only Crisis Crossover without an antagonist, and the focus is instead on attempting to survive a cosmic calamity. While the Sun-Eater is a threat, it is depicted more as a force of nature or a hungry animal going after its normal food source than an opponent.
  • Tintin:
    • "Red Rackham's Treasure" is more about Tintin and his friends looking for a treasure than them fighting villains. The closest thing to a villain is a shark that attacks Tintin while he's diving. There's also "descendants" of Red Rackham who turn up at the beginning, wanting a share of the treasure, but they are chased off by Haddock in the first few pages.
    • "Tintin In Tibet" has no villains, and in the end, even the supposedly monstrous Yeti is revealed to only be lonely and misunderstood.
    • "The Castafiore Emerald" has people showing off prejudices against gypsies, and a couple of underhanded paparazzi take pictures and write stories without permission. But if you compare it to the villains in other Tintin stories, it is really nothing. And as for the thief, who had stolen the emerald? (It was only a magpie).
  • Life Is Strange: The first arc has no villain, with the conflict coming from Max's uncontrolled jumps between timelines.
  • Benoit Brisefer album "Eglantine's secret": Benoit meets a girl with powers similar to him and has issues with his friends on a holiday camp. This counts as a Breather Episode and Oddball in the Series.
  • Superman:
    • Superman's Return to Krypton: Superman gets stranded in pre-explosion Krypton, meets his parents, tries to start an unsuccessful planet-wide evacuation effort, and prepares to die when the planet blows up. There's no real villain in this story unless you count Brainiac's brief and plot-unrelated cameo.
    • The Supergirl From Krypton (1959) is about Supergirl arriving on Earth after losing her parents and starting to adapt to her new life in the orphanage.
    • The Untold Story of Argo City revolves around Supergirl's attempts to rescue her biological parents, and afterwards, it focuses on Supergirl's conflicted feelings regarding her Kryptonian and Earth parents, and their struggle to do what is best for their child regardless of personal feelings.
    • Supergirl's Three Super Girl-Friends has no central villain due to being about Supergirl making new bonds as joining the Legion of Super-Heroes and then having some harmless adventures.
    • Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot revolves around Deadman feeling upset because his good deeds are not acknowledged and Supergirl giving him counsel as discussing the nature of true heroism.
  • Kinetic: No one in the story directly or indirectly victimizes the main character in any major respect, and he himself avoids embarking on a Protagonist Journey to Villain.

    Comic Strips 
  • Quick and Flupke: There's no real antagonist unless you consider the policeman who just does his job, or Quick and Flupke, who are just playing pranks.

    Fairy Tales 
  • "The Little Mermaid" is about a mermaid who turns into a human because she's fallen in love with a prince; if they marry, she'll stay human forever and get an immortal soul, but if he marries someone else, she'll die the next morning and get no afterlife. (And she can't tell him this, since she paid the Sea-Witch with her tongue.) Unfortunately for her, the prince has a Perfectly Arranged Marriage set up with someone else. Unlike in the Disney version, neither the Sea-Witch nor the other woman are evil (though the former seems amoral), and since none of the human characters know the mermaid's problem, you can't really blame them for not helping her out.
  • "The Elf Maiden": Unless you count the fisherman's rival who left him behind on the island and was forgotten right afterwards, there is no central villain.
  • "Good Day, Fellow! Axe Handle!" is a comedic folktale about a misunderstanding causing a conversation full of non-sequiturs.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bambi fanfic Creamed Cherries has no villain. The story (which is a Steamed Hams homage) is set into motion by some angry bees, but they aren't evil and are only acting in retaliation for Thumper trying to swat at them. Otherwise, the conflict is just a simple Slice of Life story about Bambi trying to keep his lunch date with Faline from going awry.
  • The Boredom of Yoto Yokodera has no villain, just a bunch of randomness.
  • Half Past Adventure:
    • Any given chapter is as likely to have an antagonist as not.
    • The closest thing to an antagonist in the first chapter is the Candy Corn Colonel, who enforces Princess Bubblegum's grudge against the Duke of Nuts, but that's only framed in opposition to Macy for one scene which he isn't there for.
    • The third chapter doesn't even have that, the main source of tension comes from Macy's insecurity about her place in her adopted family, which she projects onto the new ambassador.
    • The chapters Huntress Spirit and Natural Harmonies together form a sort of training montage for Macy, coming together into a single story about her becoming a huntress. There is no antagonist in either chapter.
  • Whenever Kalash93 writes romance, expect to see this. A non-romantic example of him doing this is the short piece, Songs Uncle Sings. It's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Flash Fog, a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic, is a straight forward disaster story with the battle against the titular fog providing the story's conflict.
  • Seeking Sato, a The Legend of Korra fanfic, lacks any villains besides unpleasant businessmen Asami has to deal with.
  • While Stroll is kicked off by Octavia being kidnapped, the conflict of the story revolves around her attempting to return to Ponyville.
  • Many of JapaneseTeeth's MLP fanfics all tend to follow this formula, being more about the characters and with no antagonists in sight. Examples include:
    • A Delicate Balance is a shipping fanfic focusing on Twilight confessing her love to Applejack, followed by the two of them dealing with day-to-day relationship troubles. Misunderstandings do occur and at one point the couple have a really heated and intense argument, but it's all character-driven and there's no antagonist to be seen.
    • Octaves is about Vinyl Scratch dealing with the pressures of Fame and Executive Meddling, with Octavia being the viewpoint character to her story. The closest the story has to an antagonist is Vinyl's boss who puts restrictions on how she can produce her music, but in addition to never actually appearing in the story he's also just doing his job and has no malicious intentions towards Vinyl.
    • Here Comes The Sun, a successor of sorts to FIM's Season 1 Finale listed below, is a Slice of Life comedy fic about the mane 6 trying to prepare for the Summer Sun festival and make sure nothing goes wrong. The conflict comes from various mistakes made by the cast as well as Twilight's paranoia. Trixie is present, but has reformed from her previous canonical appearance and is more of a nuisance who doesn't purposely cause trouble in the story.
  • There's no real antagonist in X-Men 1970, whose plot revolves around the original X-Men growing out of the team and going separate ways.
  • Kara of Rokyn's final story arc "Kal & Lyla" has no bad guy, as it's about the main character making a movie.
  • Us and Them: The sequel, Life Renewed, Love Renewed, has none of the epic elements of the first story, which dealt with the JENOVA crisis. The main thrust of the story here is Aeris' desire to return home and all the obstacles she has to overcome to get there.
  • The Darwin Chronicles revolves around comedic shenanigans, so there's no real villain or enemy to beat up.
  • A Very Kara Christmas is a story about a person experiencing Christmas for the first time. The closest thing to a villain are two meddlesome, nosy schoolgirls.
  • Futures Freak Me Out is about Shinji and Asuka growing up together and developing their relationship after the war. There are no humongous mecha, giant aliens, conspirations, or even noteworthy love rivals here.
  • Pokémon Strangled Red basically consists of a kid playing a video game.
  • In Jessica, Cameron has plenty of hardships in the story, but none caused by a specific person in opposition to him.
  • Role-Playing (Evangelion) is a comedy with hints of romance where the main characters engage in wacky antics.
  • Long Time No See is about Shinji going to Nerv's party reunion, fifteen years after the War, meeting old acquaintances, and reminiscing about his life.

  • My Beloved Mother is a sci-fi drama manhua about a human boy Raised by Robots who believes his biological mother is still alive, and repeatedly rejects his robotic mother's love and affections towards him while attempting to flee from home to locate his "real" mother. It doesn't have any antagonistic characters, with most of the conflict stemming from the protagonist's quest and assorted obstacles along the way.

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall is about Pink's inner struggle with the demons his life has brought down on him. While certain events and people did play a role in helping him build his "wall", there's no one you can point to and say that they're responsible for all of his issues... except himself.
  • Quadrophenia by The Who is about Jimmy's struggle to both fit in and figure out who he is (and who he should be). Although the Rocker-Mod riots are an important plot point, and Jimmy's relationship with the Mods underscores and enhances his conflict, it by no means causes it. This is quite a contrast to Tommy where the antagonist is seemingly everyone else.
  • Kids Praise: More albums than not have no actual villain — often there are characters who need to learn a lesson or two, but no actively malicious characters. When they need an antagonist, Risky Rat fills in.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Gerbert has no antagonist and is more similar to a slice-of-life show, with simple conflicts a child may go through.
  • Donkey Hodie has no antagonist. Instead, it focuses on the problems Donkey Hodie and her friends face in their everyday lives.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Dear Evan Hansen: There are literally no bad guys in this play. Instead, it's Evan's inability to escape from his lie, and the Murphys' quick acceptance of these deceptions as comfort, combined with Heidi's repeated attempts to please Evan, create most of the problems.
  • Peer Gynt has no defined antagonist, unless you count the main character, who screws up splendidly and is his own worst enemy. Even the trolls, although sadistically cruel, spout some wisdom, and the Mountain King shows himself as fairly decent, even trying to get Peer back on track in the end. Even his daughter the green-clad woman states that Peer brought his problems on himself: "don`t blame me for this!"
  • Waiting for Godot is simply about two guys waiting for their friend to show up.
  • The conflict of Harvey is people's misguided attempts to "cure" Elwood of seeing the title rabbit. Since Elwood is pretty much the nicest man on the planet, not once does he object.
  • The closest thing Next to Normal has to an antagonist is Gabe - but Gabe is just a recurring hallucination that Diana's mind has created, and the real "antagonist" is Diana's mental illness.
  • Iolanta is about a blind girl finding love and gaining her sight, and the rest of the characters helping her.
  • Carmen has the Yandere Don Jose, who picks a fight with Carmen's new lover Escamillo, and then murders Carmen in the end as Escamillo wins a bullfight. You wouldn't call him good, or allied with Carmen, but it's reductive to the story to label him an antagonist in the manner of a Scarpia or Iago.
  • Tsukiuta's 6th play, Kurenai Enishi, takes a step up from the 2nd and 5th by not having a villain. Instead, the fantasy world that the characters find themselves trapped in is plagued by a curse, and to lift the curse, and return to the human world, the characters must balance the light and dark energies by getting the leaders of the Black and White Tengu villages - who happen to be brothers - to put aside their feud. They do fight zombies, but the zombies come from a curse, not from a malevolent character. This also applies to the third play, but as Magical Realism, it goes with the territory.
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is more focused on fleshing out the six spellers and showing the progression of the competition, leaving very little in the way for an antagonist. The closest anyone comes to being a villain is one of Logainne's dads, who deliberately spills soda on the ground, intending to disable William's technique and get him eliminated. Even then, this is treated as more of an obstacle and the problem ends up being rendered moot since William ends up spelling just fine without his technique.
  • The Producers is about two Villain Protagonists trying to pull off a Zany Scheme to get rich with bad luck getting in their way.

    Theme Parks 

    Visual Novels 
  • Utsuge games often tend to lack a villain.
    • Most of the paths in Katawa Shoujo lack an antagonist. Shizune's father acts as one in hers, though he's mostly an ineffectual jerk, Lilly's parents put her and Hisao's relationship in jeopardy by having her move to Scotland, and the art teacher does inadvertently cause Rin's breakdown, but otherwise the characters deal with regular teen problems.
    • In Private Nurse, Hiroki is his own worst enemy, as it's implied that his sickness is as much psychological as it is physiological.
    • Kana: Little Sister. Kana's sickness and impending death due to kidney failure is the only "force" opposing the protagonist of the game.
    • Crescendo (JP) has the conflict be the characters' psychological issues and a possible splitting up at graduation.
    • A lot of Key/Visual Arts visual novels generally don't have an antagonist, as many of their works focus on Character Development instead:
      • Most routes of Little Busters!. Haruka's has her family and Kud's sorta has the islanders at the end, but the conflict in Komari's is all about her brother's tragic death to disease, Mio's presents Midori as the villain but the conflict is actually getting Mio to feel good enough about herself to want to live, and Kurugaya's is about the dream world breaking down. More than that, the main plot of the game itself follows this: while Kyousuke appears to be the villain for a while, he's merely reacting to the real issue, which is the bus crash that almost killed everyone except Riki and Rin, and the weakness of the latter two and their lack of ability to move on or take care of themselves afterwards.
      • CLANNAD's main conflict primarily focuses on how characters deal with their own troubled pasts and overcome their own flaws to become better people. More specifically, Tomoya is a cold person thanks to his abusive father and Nagisa has low self-confidence due to her illness, but when they both meet each other, Tomoya slowly becomes open towards his own feelings while Nagisa shows more confidence on herself. Tomoya even learning from his own mistakes and bad choices (such as neglecting his own daughter after Nagisa's death) he made during After Story route even allows him to push the Reset Button Ending that allows him to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. The closest Clannad has to an antagonist is a soccer team filled with Jerk Jocks, and that is mostly meant to set up Youhei's Character Development.
    • Both Narcissu and its prequel Narcissu 2nd have no antagonist, as their plots are about sick girls dying whilst musing about God and Christianity, fate, the fleeting nature of life, and the finality of death.
  • Aster Asks!: The story has some conflict, but it's driven entirely by Aster's awkwardness and insecurity.
  • Dream Daddy: In all routes to date every dad, there isn't anyone that seems to be particularly getting in your way. The closest thing to an antagonist is Robert briefly warning you against dating Joseph in the latter's route, which is very brief and hardly a conflict.
  • The Infinity series in general.
    • Never7 is mostly about the protagonist trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but all of the deaths he tries to prevent were the results of accidents, and where the main cause of everything is what was supposed to be a harmless science experiment Gone Horribly Wrong AND Right at the same time.
    • Ever17 has no real antagonist. There are some bad people alluded to, mainly Leiblich Pharmaceutical, but the cast does not really come into conflict with them. The story is directly about trying to escape the park before it is crushed by water pressure and indirectly about figuring out what is actually going on.
    • Kokoro's route in Remember11. Mayuzumi is a jerk and Hotori allegedly has a homicidal split personality, but ultimately any deaths are from natural causes, people freaking out in the bad endings, or caused by the twins, who, being infants, have no idea what they're doing. Satoru's route is a whole different story.
  • In Kindred Spirits on the Roof, there aren't any antagonistic figures or even romantic rivals; the main struggles for each couple are their personal conflicts and weaknesses. For example, while Miki Aihara's classmates often make her their errand girl, they're less of a problem than the fact that Miki can't say no to anyone. Similarly, while Miyu's traditional parents force her and Matsuri to keep their relationship secret, the main problem is that Matsuri has a hard time keeping to the rules they agreed on, while Miyu is unwilling to compromise.

  • The Bug Pond: Being a character-driven slice-of-life webcomic, it has no central villain. The closest it ever gets is the occasional predator who's not given any motivation or real personality outside being a temporary menace.
  • Dissonance: Two researchers deal with a new life form that challenges what they thought they knew about evolution, and their own Angst. Even the life form - a catlike creature that can walk on two legs - is friendly and completely non-hostile.
  • Dumbing of Age. Possibly to the frustration of fans, most of the conflict is derived from interpersonal relationships and inner demons. When an actual antagonist designed purely to be hated shows up, however...
  • Gunnerkrigg Court. The comic presents many opportunities for villains to cause mayhem, but they either never act out on it or are revealed to be misunderstood good guys. At least, until the coming of Walking Spoiler Loup...
  • Questionable Content is a Romantic Comedy at heart. There are no antagonistic characters present, with the conflicts mainly coming from relationship troubles. Except for Corpse Witch and her treatment of Bubbles.
  • Sunstone has no villain or other antagonist, with the main problems that Ally and Lisa face stemming from their own fears and failings and their inability/unwillingness to just spit it out.
  • Wapsi Square has a complex save-the-world plot without any antagonistic characters. Instead, the conflict comes from the difficulty in figuring out how to save the world, as well as difficulties in carrying the required plans out. Certain people can't be told certain elements of certain plans, but those people are still working towards saving the world. It's all very confusing.

    Web Original 
  • Minilife TV:
    • The only characters to cause any sort of conflict in "That's So Gay!" are two rude guys who make homophobic remarks towards Todd, but they have very minor roles and Todd isn't even aware of their actions until Chris and Ian tell him about them.
    • In "Trouble Ian Paradise", the conflict comes from Ian hiding from Chris that he's the mayor of Minilife City rather than an antagonistic force.
    • There's no villain in "The Lost Undead" and the conflict instead stems from Snowball struggling to accept the death of his friend, Rob.
  • Unlike other Story Arcs on the site that have the reviewers fighting bad guys like Mechakara or Dark Nella, most of the drama that The Nostalgia Critic deals with comes from his own issues.
    • While the participants of the First Anniversary Brawl are divided into teams (critics vs gamers), none of them are shown as more heroic or villainous than the others. In fact, none of them have much motivation beyond "beat the other guys up as much as possible."
  • The Green Wanderer is entirely about an orc trying to figure out what to do with his life and seeking redemption after committing several sins in his past. He only runs into three villainous characters during his journey, all of whom only appear for one scene, and none of whom drive the plot forward, have any personal connection with the protagonist, or are even relevant to the overall plot.