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Stock Shōnen Rival

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If your series has a Stock Shōnen Hero, he's going to need a recurring opponent. Enter the Stock Shōnen Rival.

This character is usually the Privileged Rival, The Lancer (a rival who is also your teammate can make for good stories, hence why Fighting the Lancer is a thing), or even an enemy. Unlike the optimistic Stock Shonen Hero, who believes in The Power of Friendship and easily amasses True Companions, the pessimistic Rival will believe in the power of his own strength. The Rival usually starts off stronger than the hero. As the hero grows stronger and the gap shrinks, the rival may become openly adversarial or even pull a Heel–Face Turn, fearing that his supremacy is being threated. Alternatively, he may believe the dark side will increase his power which often leads to an one-on-one fight between the two. Often, the Hero's optimism and strong sense of justice will make the Rival question his own reasons for fighting, which may trigger their own Character Development arc.


There's a great chance that the Hero will triumph over the Rival in ideals if not in power. In keeping with the shonen Coming-of-Age Story about making friends and overcoming obstacles through sheer willpower, the Rival represents something contrary to these messages that the Hero must overcome for the story to hit home.

An encompassing trope that's usually some combination of an Anti-Hero, Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, Instant Expert, Jerkass —> Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Blood Knight, Heel–Face Revolving Door, Inferiority Superiority Complex, Reformed, but Not Tamed, Revenge, Byronic Hero, Grumpy Bear, Perpetual Frowner with the occasionally Smirk, and Evil Sounds Deep. In some cases he may also be a Char Clone. He also tends to be a Chick Magnet and Mr. Fanservice. It may also include visual tropes such as a Blue Is Heroic (Sort of), Evil Wears Black, Tall, Dark, and Handsome, or Red and Black and Evil All Over. He tends to have ice, fire, or lightning powers and more often tends to wield a blade of some sort. His dynamic with the hero tends to be the the blue to the Hero's red, Shadow Archetype.



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     Anime & Manga 
  • Bakugan:
    • Shun from Bakugan. Shun is one of the calmest and quietest characters in the franchise. He is also a loner who wishes to become a ninja. He trains with his grandfather. Along with Dan, he created the rules of Bakugan and thus is one of the best players out there. Unlike most, Shun uses wind attributes. Shun has long, black hair and dresses in either purple or green depending on the season. Shun has a troubled past due to having an Ill Girl mother. In the Japanese version she dies but the English dub censored it and had her fall into a coma instead.
    • Magnus from Bakugan: Battle Planet is a Composite Character of various characters from the original continuity, including Shun and Mascarade. He acts as Dan's aggressive main rival. Magnus is a deep-voiced boy with a mainly black color palette (in contrast with Dan's bright red one). He's associated with black-colored snake and spider bakugan.
  • Beyblade:
  • Grimmjow from Bleach, despite his limited appearances. He always had a desire to defeat Ichigo at his strongest after getting scarred by his Getsuga Tenshou and briefly fought for the good guys in order to fight him one more time.
  • Shaoran Li of Cardcaptor Sakura is a Deconstruction. He starts off as this to Sakura, though as time passes more dents in his stoic antisocial attitude start to appear. Midway through the series he actually starts to gain a schoolboy crush on Sakura, with his rivalry towards her slowly fading in favor of him becoming a Dogged Nice Guy.
  • Dragon Ball:
  • Fairy Tail has two:
    • The first is Gray Fullbuster, who is introduced as Natsu's first rival. They would constantly bicker and fight before being broken up Erza.
    • The second is Gajeel Redfox, who is introduced as a villain. He's also a straighter example as his origins are very similar to Natsu, as both were raised and taught by dragons.
  • Haikyuu!!: Subverted with Kageyama. Compared to friendly, energetic, inexperienced Hinata, Kageyama is an acknowledged prodigy who thought himself better than his teammates, has an antisocial personality, and a terrible temper. He decimates Hinata's team in the prologue and Hinata swears revenge upon him. However, when they end up on the same team (rendering their rivalry pretty much moot), he defrosts and learns The Power of Friendship alongside Hinata, eventually becoming less of rivals and more of close friends with him. Their hair colors and names even contrast.
  • Subverted with Killua from Hunter × Hunter. Killua has elements of an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy and is very much a Blood Knight who enjoys fighting. He was raised to be a Professional Killer but wants to quit and have a more normal life. Killua used to be a Sociopathic Hero and was a Tyke-Bomb but since meeting Gon he has learned to be less violent. He fits most of the criteria, but is actually Gon's best friend rather than a rival.
  • In My Hero Academia, where Midoriya is a subdued Stock Shōnen Hero, he has his stock rivals:
    • Bakugo is first as Midoriya's childhood friend turned bully. He is very arrogant and initially looked down on the quirkless Midoriya through reasons that border on Insane Troll Logic (Midoriya is Quirkless so he deserves pain... he once helped Bakugo stand up after he tripped so Bakugo thinks that Deku was looking down on him always... and when Deku finally gets a Quirk (because of All Might passing the sword to him) Bakugo instantly theorized that Deku always had that Quirk and spent ten years not using it in front of Bakugo and taking in his bullying as some sort of prank). However he's the Hot-Blooded one (and so rude that he actually fails his hero tests because he gets close to brutalizing the people he's supposed to be saving) and wears orange in contrast to much more calculating, dark green wearing Midoriya. Interestingly, while he's pretty blatantly set to follow the "Rival Turned Evil" path a la Sasuke Uchiha below from the get-go (to the point even the people In-Universe point this out and treat him like a ticking time bomb), he completely defies it when the villains' organization offers him membership early on. When the time comes for a full-blown no-holds-barred fight between them in the Provisional Hero License Arc, it's because Bakugo is trying to force Deku (and himself, who is teamed up with Izuku) to fail the test as a sort of Seppuku for for their involvement in the events that forced All Might to retire.
    • Todoroki is the son of one of the second-best hero in Japan and is pressured to follow in his father's footsteps, has a Dark and Troubled Past, possesses tremendous power that Midoriya can barely match, and has a broody, loner personality to contrast Midoriya's friendlier one. Midoriya acts as his Warrior Therapist during their fight, and Todoroki starts to work towards amending his familial issues and becoming more social. He becomes one of Midoriya's closer friends and friendly rivals in the process.
  • Naruto:
    • Sasuke is the another notable example and is a Trope Codifier amongst modern manga, much like Naruto is for the Stock Shōnen Hero. As a Privileged Rival, he unconsciously felt superior to his Naruto until he slowly closed the gap. Amongst his true target being more interested in his rival while dismissing him as nothing which lead to a Face–Heel Turn. Also after his journey as a villain and a final fight with Naruto. He goes back to be a good guy. Sasuke has black hair in contrast to Naruto's blond, his clothes are usually black or blue, and he's known for using fire and lightning.
    • Neji also shares many of the traits, being a "lesser" family member from one of Konoha's most prominent clans. In order to Screw Destiny and rise above his birthright, he trains religiously and snubs everyone else in his life, which has made him jaded and condescending. Unlike with Sasuke, Naruto manages to break through to him and bring him down a few pegs, making him more sociable and less cold by the time they're in their mid-teens.
  • Pokémon:
    • Gary Oak, Ash's first rival, was introduced as this. Gary was arrogant and loved to rub it in Ash's face however eventually that was toned down. He has his own fan club (of fully grown women at that) that followed him around. Gary has since become a budding Pokemon Professor, much like his grandfather, and has lost his attitude. A good portion of his behavior was actually dub-exclusive. In Japan he was more friendly and respectable for the most part (much like his current personality), while Creator/4KidsEntertainment made him more similar to his game counterpart, Blue Oak, and thus closer to the archetype.
    • Paul is an expy of the below-mentioned Silver of Pokémon Gold and Silver, and it shows. He is an overconfident trainer who openly boasts about how superior a trainer he is compared to others. He doesn't care for socializing or making friends, just training. Paul has very harsh training methods but most of his Pokemon are loyal to him and he treats them well enough. Chimchar was the exception. He verbally abused it and forced it past its limits in order to harness the Blaze ability. This spurred Chimchar to defect to Ash after Paul released it for disappointing him.
  • Pokémon Adventures:
    • Blue was originally more like his game counterpart but after a few chapters changed into a more serious and stoic character. He and Red originally didn't get along well but later became friends. Blue's clothes have changed from mainly purple, to mainly black, to mainly brown but they're always darker than Red's bright red attire. Blue's starter is a Charmander, which is a fire type.
    • Silver has shades of this but in a different way from his game counterpart due to Adaptational Heroism. Silver is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold instead of just a Jerk Ass like in the games. Similarly to Blue, he's rather stoic and can play The Comically Serious. He has a Dark and Troubled Past of being kidnapped as a very young child.
  • Black from Pokémon Golden Boys is a counterpart to Silver from Pokémon Gold and Silver. He shares all the qualities of his game counterpart. He's a jerk who only cares about strong Pokemon and goes as far as to abandon his Chikorita for being too weak.
  • Ren from Shaman King is a haughty, aloof aristocrat to contrast the cheerful, laid-back hero Yoh. He's the first real threat Yoh faces, and initially outclasses him in raw power. While Yoh believes in treating his spirit partner as a friend and equal, Ren views his spirit as no more than a tool before inevitably being pulled into Yoh's group of friends.
  • Ryōga Hibiki from Ranma ½. To contrast his rival, Ranma Saotome, who's happy go-lucky, larger than life, and carefree, Ryōga is very melancholic, stoic, and brooding. For a long time there was nothing Ryōga was concerned with more than getting even with his rival and dedicated his life to training rigorously, but eventually he comes to see there is more to life than this, once he experiences love. Over time the two of them become more akin to friends and even Bash Brothers, although they still retain the rivalry and treat one another as Worthy Opponents.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba likely shares Trope Codifier status with Vegeta. Conditioned by his Dark and Troubled Past to consider victory as the measure of one's worth, he became an arrogant, asocial, and utterly ruthless Duel Monsters tycoon. He was Yugi's main rival throughout the series ever since he gave him his first loss, acting as the "cliche emotionally void antagonist" most of the time, yet often working with him to oppose a greater threat.
  • Karin from Yuki Yuna is a Hero contrasts with the Stock Shonen Heroine Yuna by being this way (with a pinch of tsundere added in). She's introduced as a well-experienced and powerful Hero who rejects the friendship of the other girls. Karin hates how carefree the rest of the Heroes are because she worked hard for years to be chosen and get out of her older brother's shadow. She acts as a standoffish and sarcastic Smug Super for a while, but all that was moot as Yuna shrugs off Karin's animosity and befriends her.
  • Before we even had Killua, we had Hiei from YuYu Hakusho, a cold, cruel, arrogant and pragmatic little guy who started out as an antagonist, eventually evolving into a begrudgingly respectful rival figure to Yusuke.
  • Subverted with Yuno in Black Clover. He's introduced as this type of character (tall, handsome, cool-headed, aloof, smart, very talented) but it quickly turns out that he just became very reserved and stoic in an attempt to leave behind his weak crybaby past, and not only does he care deeply (and, by genre standards, pretty openly) about his rival and childhood friend Asta, he's also one of the few people who actually believe in his ability to make it big and views him as his main motivation.
  • Asuka Langley Soryu of Neon Genesis Evangelion is both a rare female example and a deconstruction of the trope. She is introduced as an abrasive presence for series protagonist Shinji Ikari (who is about as far from a Stock Shōnen Hero as one can get), and her main goal in life is to prove herself the best through her EVA piloting skills. She prides herself on being The Ace, and thinks of herself as the hero, with her color scheme driving the point home. However, as Shinji begins to surpass her abilities, Asuka does not become that much friendlier towards those surrounding him, but instead loses her self-esteem, shuts herself out, and crosses the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Viral of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. An abrasive Ace Pilot, Viral starts the series as a recurring antagonist with a personal grudge against Kamina and later Simon, becoming The Rival to both. Throughout the series, he undergoes Villain Decay, but performs a Heel–Face Turn when an even greater threat shows up. To drive the point home, his name is an anagram of "rival".
  • While the show is for a seinen demographic and is a deconstruction of shojo series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has two characters with shades of this trope.

  • In The Grace of Kings, one of the two main protagonists, Mata Zyndu, is the grim honor-obsessed Blood Knight Mata Zyndu, who wants to avenge the slaughter and betrayal of his noble family. The other protagonist, Kuni Garu, is not a Stock Shōnen Hero, because he's a clever and somewhat book smart Guile Hero. However, he is very cheerful and good and making friendships. While Kuni and Mata start out as friends, as Kuni accumulates greater power, Mata comes to resent him and become a Rival Turned Evil.

  • BIONICLE: Kopaka is the stoic, intellectual, ice-wielding Lancer who frequently butted heads with Tahu, the bold, hot-headed, fire-wielding Leader. Although neither of the two were particularly open to the importance of Unity, Kopaka was clearly the lone wolf of the Toa. Even after Character Development set in and they grew better at cooperating, Kopaka still preferred to keep to himself otherwise.

     Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: Dark Pit is Pit's Evil Knockoff / Shadow Archetype intended to serve in the Underworld Army, but refuses to declare loyalty to any side. He wears black, wields a prototype of Pit's Sacred Bow as his Weapon of Choice, and is known for his lack of respect for the gods and disdain for Pit's Black and White viewpoint. He spends most of the game determined to defeat Pit and prove he's not a mere copy, but just as often takes swipes at the Underworld forces, hinting that he's not as bad as he seems. He ends up making a complete Heel–Face Turn after Pit's three-year imprisonment in the Chaos Ring, during which he was "less than nothing", leaving him unable to deny his nature as Pit's doppelganger.
  • The King of Fighters: Iori Yagami is one, for the hero Kyo Kusanagi. He comes from the Yasakani clan who themselves are rivals to the Kusanagi clan, and Iori himself seems to be obsessed with nothing but killing Kyo with his own hands. The two share several techniques, as well as flame powers, but Iori's cursed due to his ancestors making a pact with the mystical entity Orochi. Iori sees his rivalry with Kyo in a deep personal level, but Kyo himself doesn't think of Iori beyond a person that he'll fight over and over. Several characters in the story even question Iori's rivalry or make fun of it. On rare occasions, however, Iori is often forced to cooperate with Kyo under Big Good Chizuru Kagura's urging.
  • Riku fits the archetype in the first Kingdom Hearts game. At the beginning of the game he's the stronger, prettier, aloof best friend who competes with Sora constantly and ends up pulling a Face–Heel Turn out of resentment. He mellows out considerably in later installments of the franchise, but remains Sora's angstier foil.
  • Kirby: Meta Knight is a stoic Dark Is Not Evil Challenge Seeker who has been both The Rival, Aloof Ally, and Stealth Mentor to Kirby, oftentimes all in the same breath.
  • Mega Man (Classic): Proto Man is the Flawed Super Prototype of Dr. Light and Mega Man's Aloof Big Brother. He is known to have a more independent mind in comparison to other robots of his time, which is implied to be connected to his faulty power core. He left Dr. Light's service long ago and chosen to accept his eventual demise rather than risk losing what makes him who he is. He was first seen as one of Mega Man's enemies in Mega Man 3, but made a Heel–Face Turn near the end, acting as an Aloof Ally but still preferring to strike out on his own.
    • In the Alternative Continuity Mega Man Battle Network, there's Eugene Chaud, who treats Lan and MegaMan.EXE's determined teamwork with snobbish derision while he himself isolates himself from his friends to perfect his netbattle technique and duty as a net official. Fittingly, Chaud's Navi is ProtoMan.EXE.
  • Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog is one of the most well-known cases of this (and is likely some level of a Shout-Out to Vegeta), to the degree where he's heavily mocked for how much Darker and Edgier he is compared to other Sonic characters. Shadow is an Anti-Hero (though originally treated as an Evil Counterpart to Sonic) and an Anti Anti Christ created to destroy Earth. His mostly black-and-red color scheme contrasts with Sonic's blue. Shadow is one of the strongest characters in the franchise and can easily turn into a Person of Mass Destruction if given enough Chaos Emeralds. While he doesn't have a traditional family due to being an Artificial Hedgehog raised by humans, the closest thing he had to family were murdered in front of him which resulted in his Dark and Troubled Past and bitter personality. Even when he's happy, he still maintains some level of grumpiness and he's very serious (Characterization Marches On aside). Despite his stoic behavior, however, he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who cares about his friends.
  • Asch from Tales of the Abyss is angry individual and hates his clone Luke for unwittingly taking his life away from him. While he's technically not a rival, he's more of a Wild Card. He loves deriding him with insults.
  • Seifer Almasy in Final Fantasy VIII, although his and protagonist Squall Leonhart's personalities are flipped from the usual dynamic (Squall is aloof, quiet, and antisocial while Seifer is smug, crass, and arrogant).

     Visual Novels 
  • Miles Edgeworth from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Phoenix is a scrappy defense attorney who gets no respect and often suffers the abuses of the snobbish and condescending prosecution. However, that never deters him from getting a victory for his client and professing the belief in a client's innocence and true justice. Edgeworth starts off the series as the diametric opposite, being a haughty and cold-hearted prosecutor who has had several accusations of corruption behind the bench and legal ruthlessness. After being unbeaten for several years, Phoenix comes along and undoes everything, leading him to reconsider his path in life for the better. It also helps that they were once childhood friends before a traumatic event in Edgeworth's life set him on the course that brought them back together as adults.

     Western Animation 
  • Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender acts as the rival to the (somewhat) Stock Shōnen Hero Aang. Considering the heavy animesque nature of the series, Zuko fits quite a bit, his character arc resembling the rival's arc in all but name. Introduced as an older, more aloof antagonist who wants to capture Aang, over the course of the series he learns to become less angry and more nice. He is a firebender who normally wears red clothes and has black hair, later adding dual swords to his arsenal. Zuko is the prince of the Fire Nation and son of the Fire Lord, however he was exiled and now desires to capture the Avatar so he can return home with honor. He has a Dark and Troubled Past due to having an emotionally distant and abusive dad, a cruel and unloving little sister, his mother running off, and being a White Sheep in his Big, Screwed-Up Family. Despite his angry demeanor who spends most of the series being a Perpetual Frowner, it is really an act that wears off over the series. He becomes The Atoner after his Heel–Face Turn and joins Aang and his friends.

Example of: