The grim, volatile foe of the protagonist, who, through a series of inexplicable events up to and including attempted murder, gains grudging respect for said hero/heroine (and may even save them) going from intolerable ass to tolerable ass. Frequently a Foil for the hero, who's ultimately Not So Different. Often they show what the hero could have become if fate was just a little bit different.
If fate is unkind, they might turn evil. On the other hand, the rival might develop a genuine friendship with the hero and perform a Heel–Face Turn can somewhere down the line. If he is forced to team up with the hero over a common threat expect much awesomeness to ensue.
They may begin the series with a leg up on The Hero which is often the catalyst for the hero's character development as their desire to best the rival inspires them to improve themselves, which may in turn inspire the rival to do the same once he finally meets someone who gives him a challenge or worse subject him to an Embarrassing Rescue after surpassing him.
Even if they never perform a full Heel–Face Turn they may develop into an Aloof Ally who is primarily concerned with being stronger than the hero, and since they see themselves as The Only One Allowed to Defeat You this means they will oppose other antagonists attempts to kill the hero. Occasionally, a regular villain might go through a similar process and become a Friendly Enemy.
In the event that the rivalry is one sided they are the Unknown Rival.
Compare with the Arch-Enemy and Sitcom Arch-Nemesis, which may or may not overlap. The Lancer, is similar in personality but on the same side as The Hero, The Rival may turn into The Lancer and vice versa through character development. Could be one of the Opposed Mentors. See also Fandom Rivalry. For a specific rival in anime, see Stock Shonen Rival.
Contrasts with Friendly Rivalry.
- Cereal mascots Count Chocula and Frankenberry have always been rivals. Depending on the Writer, their rivalry has ranged from friendly to ugly. (Both often consider Boo Berry a rival too, but he's only interested in promoting his cereal.)
- Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Germany and Japan were each other's rivals over Italy. Their jealousy towards each other escalated to the point they got caught in a cock fight. Until Italy asked them both out.
- Advice and Trust: Since they met Asuka always regarded Shinji as her rival, a challenge to beat, the one could best her. After getting together their rivalry becomes more friendly but she still encourages him to push himself so that she keeps feeling challenged and driven to improve her piloting and fighting skills.
- Alex: Alex to Marceline.
- Evangelion 303:
- Shinji to Asuka. Several characters comment on it.
- Later Mari becomes Asuka's rival. Word of God states that Asuka needs a rival because she is fiercely competitive.
- HERZ: During the Angel War Asuka regarded Shinji like hers. She really wanted to beat him. In this story she thinks of Kurumi like a rival: she was a pretty woman who was after her husband, had deflowered him and whom Shinji owed his life. Asuka felt threatened by her, but Kurumi was a challenge and she did not run from challenges.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: Asuka felt that Shinji was her rival. She's pretty bitter because she worked hard and getting beaten and mind-raped was everything what she got, whereas Shinji –as far as she knew- was picked from the streets and surpassed her without even trying it.
- In Once More with Feeling Asuka regards Shinji as her rival because he's the higher synch rate and has performed brilliantly in all of his engagements with the enemy.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: From the get-go, this is inevitable. Interestingly, even though Ash is still traveling through Kanto, the story has given more focus to his rivalry with Paul, who is introduced earlier than in canon, while Gary Oak is acting more as a rival to Red, losing to him in every encounter they've had.
- The Ponies Of Olympus series:
- Ran Biao to Rarity, out of jealousy of being Always Second Best. Though it turns out to be more complicated than that.
- According to Atlas Strongest Tournament, Luna's bodyguard Argent Javelin has one in Tom the boulder. No, seriously.
- Scootaloo invokes this in Somebody to Love, drafting Spike into the role for her training with Rainbow Dash.
- In the Tamers Forever Series, after Takato takes a level in badass, Rika becomes determined to prove herself the better Tamer no matter the cost.
- Hefty is this toward Empath.
- Sakura and Ino in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, naturally; they're rivals in everything from academics to school sports to street fighting to Sasuke.
- In Wonderful!, Squealer and Bakuda are the chief Tinkers of their respective gangs. Squealer regards Bakuda as her rival, and built one of her tanks to fight her, specifically.
- crawlersout: Even though they haven't interacted in decades, Gellert Grindelwald still views his former best friend Albus Dumbledore as a rival, to such an extent that thought of Dumbledore beating him in anything angers him. It's decidely a one-sided rivalry though, as after the death of his sister Dumbledore wanted absolutely nothing to do with Grindelwald. Then there's the fact that prior to that event, Dumbledore was madly in love with him.
- King Brian to Darby in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
- Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to eachother in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
- In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Charlie serves as one to Eggsy during their time training to be the next Lancelot.
- In Jurassic World, Vic Hoskins is this to Owen Grady, at least in his own mind. As the raptors' primary caretaker and imprinted alpha, Owen is the only person they won't kill on sight and has a great deal of say in what happens to them. He also respects that they're animals and have feelings, personalities, and control over their own actions. Hoskins, on the other hand, desperately wants to use the raptors as weapons of war and sees Owen as nothing more than an irritatingly soft-hearted obstacle that's keeping him from making this dream a reality.
- Randall Boggs from Monsters, Inc. is not only the rival to James P. "Sulley" Sullivan, but is also The Dragon as well.
- Iceman for Maverick in Top Gun, who doesn't like Maverick's habit of abandoning his wingmen. Ice wins the Top Gun trophy, but Mav eventually earns his respect in the Final Battle when he at last learns to never abandon his wingman thereby saving Iceman's ass.
- Aubrey James should be this to Stroker Ace, but Stroker cares so little that Aubrey might as well be rival to a brick wall. It avoids Unknown Rival status since Stroker will occasionally acknowledge this thing with Aubrey and take potshots at him when he can remember at least Aubrey's number (remembering Aubrey's name is out of the question).
- Orson Krennic and Wilhuff Tarkin are this in Rogue One at first, but this firmly escalates into Eviler Than Thou territory when Tarkin fires the Death Star Superlaser onto Scarif, simply for the purpose of killing Krennic, and in the process also kills thousands of imperial personnel and destroying a small chunk of the planet.
- Oberon and Theseus are this to each other in the Alterien series.
- Devlyn and Set are definitely rivals in the Astral Dawn series, even though they work with each other for common goals.
- Cokie from The Baby-Sitters Club. Also, one book featured the girls facing off against a rival babysitting club.
- In the Back Story of James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, Rafen and Sachiel were rivals. Lends an edge to their clashes, and their Foil status.
- In Space Marine Battles novels Fall of Damnos and Veil of Darkness, Captains Sicarius and Agemann are described as such. Both are renowed and accomplished captains and equal candidates for the next Chapter Master, but their understanding of the Big Book of War differ greatly (for Sicarius, it's tips and guidelines, but for Agemann, it's the Bible).
- Sammael of The Wheel of Time turned to the dark side because he was jealous of his rival (the former incarnation of the protagonist).
- Demandred has essentially the same motivation, but much, much stronger- he was born (birth name Barid Bel Medar) one day after Lews Therin Telamon (aforementioned prior incarnation) and his life followed that pattern from there on, with him being second to Lews Therin in almost every way, including skill with magic, political success, good looks, and even height. They even both courted the same woman, but she preferred Lews Therin. Then the War of Power broke out, and Barid Bel found out he was better than Lews Therin at one thing- war. Unfortunately, the powers that be made Lews Therin their top general anyway, and that final straw snapped Barid Bel's mind completely so that he became obsessessed with killing Lews Therin and joined the Shadow to better accomplish it, changing his name to Demandred in the process and quickly becoming its most feared general note . In the last book of the series, Rand (who now has memories of his life as Lews Therin back) reflects on how he encouraged this rivalry and expresses regret that he drove Demandred to madness and evil when he could have been one of the greatest heroes of the age- had he not been born at the same time as Lews Therin.
- In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, Kevin's attitude toward Roger and Donna.
- In Robert E. Howard's The Scarlet Citadel, Conan the Barbarian rescues Pelias, rival to Evil Sorcerer Tsotha-lanti.
- Draco Malfoy is this to Harry, going out of his way to antagonize him at least once per book (excluding the last one).
- Gabriel Lightwood presumably to Will Herondale in The Infernal Devices. They gradually learn to respect each other in The Clockwork Princess. Will doesn't have much of a choice, as his younger sister ends up marrying Gabriel.
- Iseult to her mother's other student in The Witchlands. The other girl is a perfect Truthwitch and Iseult can't catch up, causing her to dislike the student a lot more than she admits she should.
- In military science fiction Victoria, Leader von Braun's neo-Nazi state sort of becomes this to the Confederation. They are obviously enemies, but engage in a struggle more reminiscent of the Cold War than an open military conflict, and while the Nazi ideology is evil, the protagonists come to respect at least some of the individual enemy leaders, even as they resent and fear their state's Germanic Efficiency and growing strength.
- Tower of God - Novick sees himself as a rival of Koon's half-brother Ran, who in turn sees him as nuisance.
- In Faeries' Landing, Miranda (Medea) hates Fanta and frequently tries to one-up her, but Fanta really doesn't care much. Also, Yuri sees Fanta as a rival for Ryang's affections.
- Yeong In from Hot Blooded Woman.
- For Lotto, Aradon in Yureka.
- Ah-ra towards Ma-ri for Jae-min's affections in Orange Marmalade.
- Clay and Candide in Safe Havens are competitive with each other since right before birth-in fact, who could be born first was their first competition. (Candide claims victory, Clay maintains she only won cause she was four inches shorter than him.)
- In Full Throttle, the player's rival is the reigning World Champion, Francisco "The Scorpion" Valentino.
- Each episode of The Magnus Archives takes the form of a character's statement to the Magnus Institute, a paranormal research organisation, usually read by Jonathan the archivist. The episode "Skintight" has Jonathan record a statement directly from its subject, the producer of an online Paranormal Investigation show, but it takes the two of them a while to get started as they scathingly argue about their respective organisations' methods and credibility.
- During the territorial era of USA pro wrestling, it was very common for a promoter to invite two long time enemies in another territory to act as a tag team in his own. While less common in later years, the practice never quite went away, WCW openly admitting that Air Paris and Air Styles were fierce adversaries before it put them together. Not only will the two know each other well, and thus have one step to cohesiveness down already, but it makes your territory seem really important when two enemies put aside their differences to find success in it. The partners tend to go right back to feuding upon return to their original area too (such as the Style and Paris in NWA Wildside).
- This was not exclusive to the USA either. While Los Hermanos Shadow (Black Shadow and Blue Demon) were most famous for feuding with El Santo, they eventually performed heel face turns and teamed up with him, Black Shadow actually being on his team during the debut of Santo's other famed arch enemies, Los Misioneros de la Muerte.
- Sinn Bodhi stated that he considered Techno Destructo to be his Arch-Enemy when asked to team with him in Vendetta Pro Wrestling, but agreed to do it anyway. This was just one example in a series that was openly acknowledged. Despite it's name, Vendetta Pro commonly turns long time enemies into tag teams.
- Team Hell No. The only reason Daniel Bryan and Kane even ended up as a tag team is because their mutual former love interest, then-General Manager of RAW AJ Lee, decided to send them to anger management together in spite of the fact they had been feuding for the last couple of months. It eventually culminated in them winning the tag team titles, and using their matches to one-up each other whenever given the chance.
- A light-hearted comedy example can be found in the long-running "feud" between comedians Jack Benny and Fred Allen. The two would frequently appear on each others shows to harass one another and trade barbs, leading to a Crowning Moment of Funny when Jack Benny, who had taken an assumed name to appear on Allen's new game show, finds out his "big prize" is to have his pants pressed — right then and there.
Jack Benny: You haven't seen the end of me, Allen!
Fred Allen: It won't be long now!
- A little history to how it came about — in 1936, Allen had a child prodigy violinist on his program. Knowing that part of Benny's schtick was playing the violin "horribly", he made some good-natured ribs about Benny's playing. Benny and his writers decided to take up the gauntlet, and the two carried on the "feud" for the next few weeks, having a ball trading barbs back and forth, finally culminating with the two squaring off on the same stage. When they found that the public loved it and may even have thought that this was a real celebrity catfight going on live every week rather than an Overly Long Gag, they decided to make it a continuous part of both the characters. The "feud" didn't end until Allen's sudden death in 1954, after which Benny gave a very heartfelt eulogy for his friend.
- Warrior Lady of the Wasteland and Warrior Dai Grepher are two rival warriors who each has adventures of their own. Warrior Lady of the Wasteland eventually becomes D.D. Warrior Lady and Warrior Dai Grepher can either become the righteous Knight Day Grepher or the evil Dark Lucius. D.D. Warrior Lady and Dark Lucius would continue their animosity.
- White Magician Pikeru and Ebon Magician Curran are supposed to be rivals. The two are even shown fighting on the Trap Card A Rival Appears.
- Master Guide 4 confirms that Alchemic Magician and Slacker Magician are both rivals and best friends, given the situation on this card, where Alchemic Magician is trying to get Slacker Magician to stop slacking. This later card suggests that Akashic Magician is a rival to both.
- This is an alternate title for Leonardo de Montreal, Nightmares' Angel, in Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, to be used when he's focused more on his enmity with Chuubo than on his mad science.
- Warhammer 40,000: A big part of why the Horus Heresy happened was down to feuds between the primarchs. Most famously, Perturabo of the Iron Warriors, who despised Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists. Both legions were siege specialists, but the latter got the privilege of being asked to design the Emperor's Palace while Perturabo and his legion were pigeon-holed into digging trenches and garrisoning planets, with no glory and no thanks. When Horus turned traitor, Perturabo followed him, and took great delight in destroying what their rivals built.
- Ace Attorney
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, we have Miles Edgeworth, who was a childhood friend of Phoenix, but is now his rival. He eventually becomes Phoenix's friend again — while remaining his rival in court. Phoenix himself says that one of his primary motivations for becoming a lawyer was so he could face Edgeworth in court.
- Franziska von Karma steps up to the bench for the second game. She violently wants to defeat Phoenix because she wants to succeed where Edgeworth failed.
- She also shares this position with Shi-Long Lang in Ace Attorney Investigations, specifically in the flashback case four, where she's a thirteen-year-old obsessed with beating Edgeworth in everything. Edgeworth mostly ignores it.
- And for the third game we have Godot who really hates Phoenix's guts and won't explain why. He blames Phoenix for Mia's death.
- In Apollo Justice we have Klavier Gavin, the brother of Apollo's former mentor. He is way more helpful than the other rivals though.
- Yanagi and Hiroki have this relationship in Canvas 2 after reconciling.
- Battler has two through the course of Umineko: When They Cry. On the first four arcs his rival is most likely Beatrice; while Battler tries to prove that all the murders happened by human methods, Beatrice opposes him stating that all were made with Magic, and they fight for a last time at the Hidden Tea Party of the fourth episode, with Battler victorious over a resigning Beatrice who already got tired of the game. On the Chiru arcs his rival turns out to be Furudo Erika, a piece placed by Bernkastel to serve as the detective, effectively hijacking Battler's role. Both clash numerous times and their conflict finally ends in the famous chained closed room deathmatch.
- All three of the main visual novels of the Dangan Ronpa series has one of these as part of the main Power Trio. Each of them are very useful in the investigations and trials, but have conflicting viewpoints with the rest of the cast, especially with their respective protagonists.
- The first game has Byakuya Togami. He's a Jerkass Aristocrat who admits to intending to kill someone and win the killing game at the first chance he gets. His arrogance and Lack of Empathy make him unpopular, not that he cares, but he's forced to concede that Naegi and Kirigiri get more results than he does.
- Super Dangan Ronpa 2 has Nagito Komaeda. He is a hope freak with a bizarre morality, finding everything done for the sake of "hope" to be okay in his eyes even if it includes having people be murdered. He's quite fond of challenging Hinata in the trials, because he wants to see if Hinata's hope is stronger than the murderer's.
- New Dangan Ronpa V3 has Kokichi Oma. He is a Card-Carrying Villain who admits to being a manipulative liar that runs a Nebulous Evil Organisation. Unlike the first two rivals, Oma actually is on Saihara's side, but is constantly frustrated with the rest of the cast, and makes himself an antagonistic force to make them all focus. He just has way too much fun doing so, and gleefully pisses everyone off with his jokes and pranks.
- Captain Gamer's nemesis (Czar Gamer) regularly swings from friendly rival to bitter enemy and back again.
- In Sluggy Freelance, Lord Horribus considered himself to be Torg's rival, though Torg didn't take this too seriously for much of the series. After Horribus killed Alt-Zoe, Torg still denied him the chance for a final showdown.
- Bun-Bun also has a Rival in the form of Santa Claus, who tries to kill him each Christmas. An odd version of the trope, since Bun-Bun is a sociopath, and Santa is generally portrayed as a decent (if slightly obsessed) guy just trying to see that justice is done.
- Lance has a rival in Gold Coin Comics named Blake, who has traits from Seifer in FFVIII.
- Sixx and Butterfly, and to an extent Ginger and Laura in Collar 6.
- Dante in Uber Quest seems to have it in for Sesame, in her first appearance she steals a kill and loot drop from Sesame.
- Langstrom for Schtein in String Theory.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd and The Nostalgia Critic had a rivalry, that finally got resolved in the That Guy with the Glasses video TGWTG Year One Brawl.
- They Made Me Watch This and The FanFiction Critic are rivals in that when one sends on a crappy work to look at, the other retaliates in kind.
- Pokemon Pals: Just as in the series it is parodying, Gary Oak is the rival to Ash. Made worse when he starts dating Misty.
- DSBT InsaniT: Alex and Seth, who even call one another 'rival' as a nickname. They are always making a competition of almost anything.
- Dreamscape: Vampire Lord and Izane become rivals later on. This is what gets them pumped for their match in 'An Unofficial Tournament'.
- Soya and Vladmare. Their equal footing in combat skill, despite using very different tactics, is what makes them practically celebrities.