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Sorting Algorithm of Evil in Anime and Manga.


  • Dragon Ball:
    • Played Straight for most of the original Dragon Ball. The first major enemy Goku faces is Pilaf, who is laughably weak and incompetent. The Red Ribbon Army is more dangerous and powerful with General Blue being their strongest soldier who nearly kills Goku several times. They then hired Mercenary Tao who utterly beats Goku. After that, most of Goku's opponents were either a little weaker than Tao or a little stronger, with only Tien really pushing him. That is until King Piccolo comes, he is stronger than any enemy Goku ever faced and his final son Piccolo Jr is even stronger, closing out the original anime.
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    • Dragon Ball Z starts off by giving characters an explicit numerical "Power Level". note  This held out until the middle of the Frieza arc, when the devices that were used to calculate these combat ratings were destroyed; at this point, the Arc Villain's ] had a rating of around 1,000,000 in his second form, whereas just two months earlier the heroes had been hard-pressed to deal with an opponent nearly 56 times weaker (Vegeta, then at 18,000). The plot helps support the progression; Raditz arrived first, and called on a pair of stronger allies; the heroes went after their boss next; the next Arc Villain was created from said boss' cells, plus those of the powered-up heroes, and so on. The final villain was a mild subversion because, while its final form was not as strong power-wise as some of the other transformations, its unique physiology made it nearly impossible to kill and its nature became far more merciless. If you go back to watch the series again, you soon realize that even the first fight was equally as tough as the last. The numerical concepts of "power levels" were quietly dropped after the Frieza Saga, since the people who used the concept were all dead. Starting from Frieza and continuing onward, each Arc Villain was the most powerful and dangerous being in the universe, even more so than the previous most powerful and dangerous being in the universe. This was justified by the later Arc Villain being artificially created and not actually existing at the time Frieza was named as the most powerful, or was sealed away so long ago that people forgot the being even existed outside of one of the Top Gods.
      • Incidentally, Frieza, the Arc Villain with 1,000,000 power level in his second form, was actually significantly more powerful than every other character even in his own arc; Goku, who defeated him, was actually several million points weaker, and only won because he got a power boost in the form of going Super Saiyan for the first time at the 11th hour. Prior to this boost, Frieza could easily have killed Goku and every other Z fighter whenever he wanted; that he didn't was down to Bond Villain Stupidity as he was irked that Goku, while leagues weaker than Frieza, was still much stronger than any Saiyan he had ever faced, and Frieza wanted to crush him with as little effort as possible out of spite.
      • This was an explicitly Enforced Trope for each new Non-Serial Movie in the franchise: the new villain had to be stronger than the old one. One of the reasons that Broly, debuting in Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, was the only villain to appear three times was that the writers were having a hard time coming up with a villain stronger than him—Broly having been the only villain up to that point to completely No-Sell everyone's attacks, and the third one in a row to be defeated largely by Deus ex Machina, while the heroic cast broadly got weaker. It wasn't until Fusion Reborn, at which point a far more powerful afterlife-fueled Goku was on the table, that they were comfortable introducing a villain that seemed stronger than Broly.
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    • Subverted in the special Yo! Son Goku and His Friends Return!!, in which an alien menace arrives and is easily defeated, because it arrived a bit too late in the chronology, and everyone was so enormously powerful that it really didn't ever have a chance at all. Specifically, the two villains are noted to be as powerful as Frieza. Goku remarks that it should be a good match for the kids.
    • Subverted in Dragon Ball GT, where the first Arc Villain turned out to be pathetically weak, but had the ability to possess the bodies of the various insanely superpowered supporting characters surrounding the hero in order to increase its strength. It is later played straight after possessing Vegeta where he becomes much stronger than a Super Saiyan 3 Goku, and a Super Saiyan 4 was needed to defeat him. The next Arc Villain was Super 17, who forced Goku to go all out, and the final Big Bad, Omega Shenron was much stronger than Super Saiyan 4 Goku on his own. It took a fusion and an Universal Spirit Bomb to take him down, making him the strongest villain in the GT canon.
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    • Beerus from Battle of Gods is even higher in power than any villain in canon, being an official "God of Destruction" for his universe and is feared by all the gods in the universe. He curb stomps Super Saiyan 3 Goku without trying and the Super Saiyan God form, the strongest Super Saiyan state at that point, only forced him to go to 70% of his power and Goku still lost. That's right, Goku, famous for almost always winning, was outmatched by someone who will always be better than him. And the real kicker, his assistant Whis is actually much stronger than him and there are eleven other universe's Gods of Destruction who could be stronger than Beerus.
    • This trope is actually played with in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’, in that the main antagonist of the movie is once again Frieza. However, this time Frieza DIDN'T forget to level grind and instead "decided to train for the first time in his life". The results are... dramatic.
    • Averted for most of Dragon Ball Super.
      • Beerus is the first enemy the Z-Fighters face and he is so far above their level that Goku is still weaker than him even after training with Whis.
      • Frieza is a threat after coming back to life, training, and gaining an ultimate form that surpasses Super Saiyan Blue Goku, but he's still weaker than Beerus and would have been no threat at all if Goku and Vegeta worked together. His army is also easily defeated by the Z-Fighters who included Master Roshi and were missing several of their heavy-hitters like Buu, Android 18, and Gotenks only appears for a short time.
      • In the Champa Saga, while there is no villain per se, only Hit on the U6 team poses a threat to Goku and Vegeta in their god forms (3/5 of the team are comparable to their base forms, 1/5 comparable to their Super Saiyan 1 forms), and strength-wise he is at best a little above Golden Frieza. Skill-wise, however, he is far more dangerous. Champa himself may be a little weaker than Beerus, but he is still far above any of the heroes since he was ready to murder the entire U6 team despite all the power they showed and Goku is helpless to do anything about it. The next Arc Villain of an anime-only arc, Copy-Vegeta, is as strong as Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta, which makes him on par with Golden Frieza and Hit in terms of pure power, but much weaker than the latter skill-wise. The manga more explicitly averts this with both the four lower tier team members (Goku mentions even Fat Buu could beat them easily, and a rusty Piccolo does fine against their third-best) and Hit (Goku states that Vegeta easily could've defeated Hit if he wasn't worn-out and surprised by Hit's Time-Skip, making Hit a lot weaker than Golden Frieza, just not in terms of skill).
      • In the Future Trunks Saga, Goku Black is stated by Future Trunks to be only as strong as Super Saiyan 3 Goku (notable in the manga version as this Goku isn't much stronger than he was in the Buu arc, meaning manga Black is only around Majin Buu's lower forms). However, Black is able to improve rapidly much like Hit, and by the time Goku and Vegeta confront him in the future he is able to go toe-to-toe with Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta. Then it's revealed that he has a Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan Rosé, which he uses to overwhelm SSB Vegeta and he's still getting stronger. Then averted with Future Zamasu, who in the anime is at least weaker than the SSBs and in the manga is weaker than even Cell (he admits that Super Saiyan Goku is stronger than he is), but has a plethora of abilities that make him useful as support for Black. Then it gets taken Up to Eleven for the final four episodes of the arc where Black and Future Zamasu perform a Potara Earring Fusion to create Fused Zamasu, who delivers an effortless Curb-Stomp Battle to Goku, Vegeta, and Trunks all at once, all at their full power, forcing Vegito to make a return appearance to stand a chance against him, although whether Fused Zamasu stronger than Beerus depends on the version. In the manga, he isn't since Shin states only Vegito surpasses Beerus and Vegito crushes manga Fused Zamasu effortlessly, while in the anime he is because he can match Blue Vegito blow for blow. Then it's played horrifyingly straight for the first time ever when Fused Zamasu loses his physical form and becomes Infinite Zamasu. This entails becoming either an insane Eldritch Abomination with the ability to consume the entire future multiverse and break time to the point where he can devour the present timeline as well (anime) or an infinitely-duplicating version of Fused Zamasu with Complete Immortality (manga), something that Beerus could never hope to achieve (nor desire to achieve). In both versions, nothing hurts him anymore and it takes the Top God himself, Zeno, to end Fused Zamasu once and for all.
      • In the Universal Survival Saga, none of the competitors even come close to Infinite Zamasu in terms of danger (they are not allowed to kill in tournament rules and can all be killed at least theoretically, for one), and only three of them (Agnilasa, Top, and Kale/Kefla) are clearly above SSR Black (With Top as a Destroyer and Kefla maybe being roughly comparable to Fused Zamasu). Only one, Jiren, clearly exceeds Fused Zamasu.
      • That said, Jiren counts as another example of the trope being played straight (besides Infinite Zamasu). Whis explicitly says that he's stronger than a God of Destruction that's stronger than Beerus (it's implied said God is Belmod, who admits Jiren is stronger than he is). After seeing him show off a bit of power, Whis not only reaffirms what he said, but notes that Jiren may very well have surpassed the level of the Gods of Destruction in general. Beerus, in the same scene, is absolutely terrified by what he senses from Jiren's strength and wonders how any being could have so much power. The best part? All of that is before he actually goes to full power. When he does, not only is Beerus practically pissing himself, but even Whis seems a little alarmed. It's telling that the 11th-Hour Superpower needed to give Goku a bit of a chance against Jiren (he would straight up No-Sell anything else) can't be accessed willingly, even by the end of the Universe Survival arc. The narrative basically acknowledges that Goku being able to fight on par with Jiren completely throws off the Fixed Relative Strength previously established that necessitates Beerus being above the heroes.
      • Then came the titular antagonist of Dragon Ball Super: Broly. While fans continue to debate whether Broly at full power is stronger or weaker than Jiren, official merchandise labeled him as the strongest foe faced yet, and Goku asserts his belief that he is stronger than Beerus. After all, it does require Gogeta as a Super Saiyan Blue to beat Broly.
  • Robotech carried this off by declaring that Zentradi < Masters < Invid. Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles added The Children of the Shadow to this progression. However, it's not so simple, as in terms of raw power it's Zentradi > Masters > Invid > Children of Shadows:
    • The Zentradi are, in absolute terms, the strongest faction of all, having a force of six million warships capable of taking on all the other factions at once and winning. They're only defeated due a combination of their advance force of one million ships defecting (thus providing Earth with the numbers they need to take on the Zentradi), Earth's secret weapon depleting their forces even further and the Zentradi having an unexpected weakness, and even then they casually decimate Earth;
    • The Robotech Masters, creators of the Zentradi, have the most advanced technology of all factions, but lack the sheer numbers of their minions and can't make the most of their advanced technology due a lack of Protoculture. This allows the defenders of Earth (whose technology has advanced in the meantime and whose weapons don't suffer from Protoculture depletion) to score a Pyrrhic Victory;
    • When they arrive on Earth the Invid are at their weakest: they too suffer from Protoculture depletion, and their might suffers even more due only half their race arriving on Earth (the other half is busy attacking the Robotech Masters' former empire, getting destroyed by the Robotech Expeditionary Force in the process). However the defenders of Earth are too weakened by the battle against the Masters to stop them, and by the time the Robotech Expeditionary Force has rebuilt their own forces and returns the Invid have used the Protoculture on Earth to rebuild their own forces;
    • The Children of Shadows are weaker than the rebuilt Invid, and are a danger only due them having supplied the Robotech Expeditionary Force with boobytrapped technology and the Invid having left with all the Protoculture on Earth and the means to produce more, plus the SDF-3 disappearing with the only other mean to produce Protoculture.
  • Berserk plays this pretty straight for a while, especially if one goes in chronological order. Guts starts out as a teenager able to take on fairly skilled knights and mercenaries, with their skill or numbers increasing until he's fighting knights with Charles Atlas Superpower or hundreds of mercenaries. After he narrowly defeats the Apostle Wyald, his next major challenges become Apostles, scaling up from minor threats like the Master of Hounds and Snake Count to more formidable foes like the Slug Count and his spawn Zondark or Rosine and her army of spawn. In the following arc, though most of his opponents are spawn, they seem to be at least on par with Rosine (particularly Mozgus). His adventures in the Interstice culminate in him gaining the Berserker Armor and fighting Grunbeld, one of the strongest Apostles in the world. In Vritannis, he fights pretty much every side of the Kushan army, working his way up from demonically possessed soldiers and animals to much larger possessed animals (up to whales) to spirit monsters like the kundalini to a duel with the Kushan emperor Ganishka, who is possibly the most powerful non-God Hand Apostle on the planet. His next major kill after that is the Sea God, an enemy the size of an entire island.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX presented villains not only in ascending order by menace, but also, for some reason, effeminateness. For instance, the first Big Bad in season 1 of GX was a withered old man; Season 2's villain was a younger, more strapping adult male. Season 3 had a Hermaphrodite Duel Monster. The effeminateness of the villain ties directly into their personal interest towards the hero. At first, the Big Bad is usually just interested in a certain trinket or item carried by the protagonist, while the next is usually more interested in the protagonist's actual abilities and strengths. The biggest of the Big Bads always seemed to have some kind of intimate interpersonal relationship with the hero, which would border on Ho Yay (since both sides in this series were invariably male), if only the Big Bad wasn't trying to enslave/murder them for some deep, scarring betrayal they blame on the protagonist. There are only two exceptions: Dartz, in the Doma Story Arc, and the Big Bad of the Capsule Monsters arc, which, as far as the rest of the series is concerned, never even happened. Even the original series (never released beyond Japan and taking place before the anime we all know and love) has most of the villains being random thugs met in chance encounters, fitting into the algorithm perfectly.
    • This is played straight throughout the continuum of all three series so far, the first villains were merely bullies that wanted to abuse their authority, then came Seto Kaiba who was willing to kill the protagonists as well as being a very high-ranking member of the corporate world. Then came Shadi and Dark Bakura, both with magical powers, with the latter being far more malign and able to alter reality, then came Pegasus who was a more personal threat with Pegasus who wanted the Puzzle to revive his dead lover, and a much longer arc. Marik arrives and really raises the Cerebus Syndrome with far more deadlier stakes involved and more personal past to the Pharaoh. Once his dark side is revealed, it's either a Take Over the World or watching the world fall to ruin depending on which dub you watch. The biggest threats outside of Sieg who merely wanted to best Seto, were Dartz and Zorc, the one who was being summoned by Dark Bakura, with the former being even more dangerous as his ambitions to destroy humanity involving a dangerous Eldritch Abomination needed offerings from two worlds with life forms, while the latter wanted merely The End of the World as We Know It. GX comes around and while Kagemaru merely wanted youth, Saiou, or rather the Light Of Destruction, wanted universal dominance and was kind of responsible for everything in the series, while Darkness' Assimilation Plot was threatening, it was not on the same scale. 5Ds introduces Z-ONE who is implied to have complete control of the space/time continuum, Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has Dr. Faker, Vector, and Don Thousand, all with with the goal of destroying Astral World, and Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V had Zarc, who required a dimension and himself being split into four just to defeat him the first time, and who is content to rampage across all four dimensions in the show. Subsequent series Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS and (thus far) Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS avert this, having comparatively far lower stakes.
    • This is also played straight in regard to the villain's ace monsters, each of which is more powerful or at least more visually impressive (to invoke this trope) than the last. To recap:
      • Kaiba was the first Villain, and his ace monster was the "Blue Eyes White Dragon", a 3000 ATK beatstick. In the early days, where players had 2000 Life points, monsters also didn't require tributes and card effects weren't as common, that's all it needed to be a major threat. It sure didn't help Kaiba had three of them.
      • Pegasus, the second main Villain, had " Blue Eyes Toon Dragon", a more difficult to destroy version of Kaiba's ace, and once his toons no longer sufficed he brings out "Reliquished" and its upgraded counterpart "Thousand Eyes Restrict", which have 0 ATK and DEF but horribly broken effects that allow them to possess Yugi's monsters and negate their own destruction.
      • During the first Virtual World Arc, the Big Five's Ace monster was "Five-Headed Dragon", a 5000 ATK beatstick that couldn't be destroyed by anything other than LIGHT monsters. The show's 4 premier examples of dragons making a work better cannot defeat it, forcing Kaiba and Yugi to fuse their ace cards together.
      • During the second Virtual World Arc, Gozaburo Kaiba's ace card was "Exodia Necross", a zombified counterpart to the game's Instant-Win Condition. It started off with a respectable (at the time) 1800 ATK, could not be affected by card effects, could not be destroyed by battle, and gained 1000 ATK and DEF each turn. By the time Kaiba had figured out its Kryptonite Factor, it already had 5800 ATK, at the time the highest value any villain monster had achieved.
      • Meanwhile, the Big Five and Noah from the same arc have respectable aces of their own:
      • The Big Five bring back "Five-Headed Dragon" for their combined duel with Yugi and Joey, and when they manage to destroy it, they summon "Berserk Dragon" to replace it, which isn't as powerful as "Five-Headed Dragon", but is still a sizable threat with 3500 ATK and the ability to attack four times a turn (though it loses ATK after every turn), not to mention that beating "Five-Headed Dragon" put Yugi and Yoey into a vulnerable position and they couldn't use the same monster they used to destroy the Five-Headed Dragon.
      • Noah's deckmaster "Shinato's Ark" can summon monsters that were previously destroyed for every monster his opponent has or use them to recover his life points by a huge amount. And if it somehow gets destroyed, he can summon the even more powerful "Shinato, King of a Higher Plane", which has 3300 ATK, cuts his opponent's life points in half every time it destroys a defense position monster and gives the lost life points to him, and can remove itself from the playing field if it would get destroyed (which would make him lose due to the rules they were using), meaning that the opponent has to settle for winning the normal way by depleting the thousands of life points he'd accumulated.
      • During the Battle City Finals arc, and by extension the entire Battle City arc (which was interrupted by the second Virtual World Arc), Yami Marik is the main Villain and his ace monster is the "Winged Dragon of Ra", the strongest of the Egyptian Gods. If that description would not suffice, bear in mind that it is the shows premier offender of New Powers as the Plot Demands.
      • The next villain, Dartz, upped the ante even further with "Orichalcos Shunoros" which, because of the method by which it was summoned, had a whopping 20000 ATK points, although it lost ATK whenever it battled a monster. And then there is his "Divine Serpent Geh", which has infinite ATK points, but had no immunity to card effects, a powerful restricting effect, and would cause Dartz to automatically lose should it be destroyed (more of a side effect of him having 0 Life Points at the time it was Summoned). And then there was the Great Leviathan, an Eldritch Abomination, rather than a Duel Monster, so powerful the Egyptian Gods had to gang up on it outside the card game, and even then only barely won.
      • The same goes for the next and final villain, Zorc Necrophades. He, too, was an Eldritch Abomination rather than a playing card, and successfully defeated the three Egyptian Gods (which not even The Great Leviathan could do) to start his rampage, and then went on to defeat Exodia and the Blue Eyes Ultimate Dragon/Dragon Master Knight without any issue.
      • The KC Grand Prix anime filler arc (which comes between Dartz and Zorc) plays with this with Zigfried and Leon:
      • Zigfried, the Arc Villain, has a powerful One-Turn Kill combo, but if that fails, it leaves him vulnerable, and all he can really do is stall until he can get an offense going again. However, he's also an expert hacker, which he uses to mess with Kaiba, his company, and his tournament.
      • Leon, The Dragon and Final Boss, is a competent duelist with a deck filled with monsters with tricky effects. In addition, Ziegfried provides him with an illegal card that he hacked to be both playable and loaded with overpowered effects. However, the Final Boss is a Fair-Play Villain, and wanted no part in cheating, and would have thrown the match if it weren't for said overpowered effects preventing him from doing so, the card triggering a virus in Kaibacorp's systems, and Yugi's insistence on continuing the duel anyway.
    • While Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS averted this trope in regards to its placement with the previous series, it played it straight with each Arc Villain. In the first season, Revolver/Varis and Dr. Kogami wanted to wipe out the internet with a massive EMP to destroy the six Ignis to prevent them from destroying humanity, at the potential cost of millions of lives. In the second season, Bohman desires to absorb all of humanity into himself to create a perfect world, while in the third season, Ai effectively commits suicide to avoid destroying humanity if he were to continue existing. Their power strategies follow this too; Revolver used a series of powerful 3000 ATK Link-4 Monsters that he assembled into the first Extra Link in the series, Bohman used the 4000 ATK Link-5 Chimera Hydradrive Dragrid and then the 5000 ATK Perfectron Hydradrive Dragon (which he powered up to 100000 ATK at one point), and Ai used the Link-6 The Arrival Cyberse @Ignister, which was frequently above 10000 ATK and even briefly rose to 22000 ATK.
  • Sailor Moon: The opposition sorts itself out into ascending levels of power per season, starting with the Dark Kingdom (which could only field a single youma at a time) all the way up to Galaxia, who threatened the entire universe. The only exceptions seem to be Ail and En who, regardless of probably being weaker than the last villains, had unusually strong attacks when facing the senshi. It also seems to have been the original M.O. of the Amazon Trio, explaining their penchant for disguising themselves; likewise, they aren't real arc villains either. The strange thing is that the five Big Bads of the villain groups (Queen Metaria, Death Phantom, Pharaoh 90, Queen Nehellenia, and Chaos) are all portrayed as having the same dark power to destroy or conquer the universe which would mean they were at the same level of power. In the manga, it's because they're all the same villain being reincarnated over and over again.
    • Averted in the final arc of the manga: the first opponent they meet is Galaxia herself, and the only reason she retreats and sends in her minions is that she needs Sailor Moon strong enough to match her and they'll be a good training while also serving to take out her allies, and she's more than willing to step back in if necessary for the latter job.
    • Codename: Sailor V, set before Sailor Moon and telling the story of Sailor Venus before she became part of the group appropriately has a big bad who though a threat to Sailor V is an extreme small fry in the scheme of things. He's one step below the first arc's Quirky Miniboss Squad being an underling of Kunzite. Codename: Sailor V debuted before Sailor Moon but wrapped up shortly after.
  • Naruto initially averts the algorithm by including fights between characters much stronger than the main heroes throughout the first part of the series. The first major enemy, Zabuza, is so strong that the Genin can't be expected to hold their own against him (even his Battle Butler, Haku, is too much for them). In addition, the Big Bad, Orochimaru, shows up in the second major arc, and for the longest time, even the strongest characters could, at best, manage a tie against him. However, this trope shows up more and more as the heroes gain strength until they're able to hang with the big boys on their own, and once Orochimaru is defeated, we are introduced to a number of major villains who are even stronger than him. Granted, one of the later antagonists is an internal one with more of a threat for his political influence than his physical power, and a number of major villains meet their defeats for reasons other than the heroes being stronger (Orochimaru himself was at his weakest when he was taken out), but even then, when a number of previous antagonists are resurrected during the Shinobi World War arc, most of them fall victim to this trope (with Nagato being the main exception). The trope plays out this way mostly because in part 1, the main characters are fresh out of ninja school and there are several more powerful adult shinobi around; as the heroes catch up to their elders after the Time Skip, this trope shows up more and more.
  • Delicious in Dungeon: Seems to actually be part of the dungeon ecosystem, with powerful mid-level bosses preventing deep-level boss monsters from forcing lesser species further up and overrunning the easier levels.
  • In One Piece, this is mostly justified. The goal of the series is to reach a geographical destination that has been known but not yet reached for over 20 years, so a lot of pirates have gathered around it. Naturally, the strongest are the ones who have gotten the closest.
    • As Luffy and crew get further along the Grand Line, they discover tougher opponents. The series isn't above throwing the odd curveball though, like Mihawk first appearing and dominating Zoro very early in the series, and Bellamy showing up and going down like a punk after the defeat of Crocodile. In contrast to major arc villains, Eneru is a bit of a subversion in that he is the most powerful and dangerous opponent Luffy has actually defeated, his lightning powers giving him enough power to destroy entire islands and Nigh-Invulnerability, but the one thing that could make all of that power completely useless was being a Rubber Man, which Luffy is. Later on in the show's run, the Sabaody arc started with the Straw Hats dominating some lame pirates, then introduces nine pirate crews, some equal to the Straw Hats. It ends with the Straw Hats completely dominated again by some of the strongest characters introduced in One Piece up until now.
    • Subverted with the Marineford arc, with numerous high level Marines and pirates that are just too strong for Luffy. These include the Seven Warlords of the Sea like Doflamingo and Mihawk to the three Admirals and from the Vice Admirals to Sengoku. It's going to take time for the Straw Hats to overcome these opponents.
    • Also subverted by the Four Emperors. The first one we see is none other than Shanks, followed by Whitebeard. Then we hear about what Kaido did to Moria's old crew. And the first thing we see Big Mom do is eat one of her crewmates for no reason whatsoever and decimating islands for not giving her sweets.
    • It is played with, however, as each emperor to be shown on screen has been more evil than the last, going from Shanks (Nice Guy), to Whitebeard (Jerk with a Heart of Gold) to Blackbeard (Affably Evil to an extent), to Big Mom (Ax-Crazy, but also somewhat tragic), to Kaido (no redeeming qualities whatsoever (at least, none revealed so far)). Bounty-wise, Blackbeard has the lowest, followed by Shanks, Big Mom, Kaido, and then Whitebeard. However, Roger had a higher bounty than all of them when he was alive, which is also the highest bounty for a pirate in recorded history, and he was on a Friendly Enemies basis with Garp.
    • Subverted with the Seven Warlords as well, as far as the original group goes. The first member introduced is the aforementioned Mihawk, and he is arguably the strongest member. He was followed by Crocodile, Doflamingo, and Kuma, who all prove to be heavy-hitters in their own right and of whom only Crocodile was beatable to the pre-Time Skip Straw Hats. Then came Moria, who was surprisingly weak (relatively speaking. He still proved to be a huge thorn in the Straw Hats' sides). The last two Warlords introduced were Hancock and Jinbe, who, while not quite as powerful as the first four, were stronger than Moria, and were by far the most moral members. They both ended up allying with Luffy (Hancock as a result of falling in love with him, Jinbe due to his prior friendship with Luffy's brother Ace), with Jinbe officially joining his crew during the Whole Cake Island arc.
    • This is played straight post-Time Skip, but mostly justified, since each Arc Villain directly leads into another. Defeating and capturing Caesar Clown directly angered his employer, the Warlord Doflamingo, while defeating Doflamingo draws the ire of his biggest trading partner, the Emperor Kaido, on the Straw Hats. Hody functioned primarily as a Warm-Up Boss for the Straw Hats, existing to show off how they've gotten much stronger over the Time Skip, while Big Mom's two Sweet Commanders bridge the difficulty gap between Warlord and Emperor (Warlord -> Emperor's top underlings -> Emperor).
  • Bleach:
    • Played straight through the first three major story arcs (Substitute Shinigami, Soul Society, and Arrancar).
      • In Substitute Shinigami, the Monsters Of The Week start out as ordinary, non-sentient Hollows but steadily grow more powerful and cunning, culminating in the Gillian Menos Grande at the end of Ishida's introduction story.
      • Ichigo's near-instantaneous defeat by Byakuya in the prelude to the Soul Society arc shows that the Shinigami up the ante as antagonists. On their way to rescue Rukia, Ichigo and Company fight their way up through the Gotei 13 hierarchy, from seated officers to captains with released bankai.
      • Once again, the increased threat level is indicated by Ichigo being handily defeated by Ulquiorra and Yammy's scouting party at the beginning of the Arrancar arc. When the battle begins in earnest, the Arrancar attack the protagonists in line with their power levels: Fraccion first, then Privaron Espada, then up through the ranked Espada, then finally the Co-Dragons Gin and Tousen, then (after 5 LONG years of publication time) the Big Bad Aizen himself.
    • Subverted in the Fullbringer Arc. Tsukishima and Ginjou are far less powerful than Aizen or even the Arrancar (on the level of Ichigo's early Soul Society Arc opponents) but make up for it by being much more manipulative at a time when Ichigo is especially ill-equipped to deal with their mindgames.
    • Consciously subverted by the Vandenreich in the Thousand Year Blood War Arc. Yhwach is a Combat Pragmatist who uses a Blitzkrieg strategy true to his Nazi motif, by sending his most powerful fighters in first to steamroller the Shinigami and using the rank-and-file to mop up after them.
  • Monster Rancher is complex: Pixie is the first of the Big Bad 4, but stronger than Gali and Greywolf — it takes the entire team sans Golem to beat Pixie, but only Moochi or Tiger to beat Gali and Greywolf, though this was after the team got their strongest moves. They also meet Moo (the Big Bad) on the road quite early, and the encounter plays out like a Hopeless Boss Fight. Although it's played straight in a sense, since Naga is the strongest of the Big Bad 4, and after that it's Moo in his Dragon Body who is incredibly powerful. But is subverted again, because in the next series they're up against one of his captains, who is obviously much weaker than Moo was.
  • D.Gray-Man would justify this, since the Akuma all have specific Levels... except that, as the heroes get stronger, they start fighting higher-leveled Akuma in larger groups. Partially justified as the Big Bad was relatively inactive in the beginning, and they only appear in large groups when he gathers them.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, every villain is billed as the most powerful, strongest, blah blah blah. This begins with several D-Class Demons early on and ends with the heroes fighting S-Class demons at the end of the series. Somewhat justified in that the Spirit World set up a powerful barrier that prevented powerful demons from entering the living world.
  • Saiyuki inverts this with its seasonal big bads. The first series has Homura, the God of War. Reload has Dr. Nii's disciple Kami-sama, and Gunlock features Hazel, a mere priest from the west. It also plays with the trope by making the villains harder to defeat in other ways — Homura was unquestionably a bad guy, but is followed by Psychopathic Manchild Kami-sama, who just didn't work on the same level mentally. Then there was Hazel, who was in all appearances a good guy, creating a huge ethical backlash to fighting him.
  • The classic example of the technology creep variety would be the Zeon mobile suits in Mobile Suit Gundam. They go from the rather pathetic Zaku which was designed for fighting conventional vehicles rather than other mobile suits, to the fast, heavily armed and armored, though somewhat unwieldy Dom to the powerful and agile Gelgoog, which nearly matches the Gundam's performance, with a few Ace customs and Super Prototypes along the way for flavor. This would be a fairly realistic setup... if the war had lasted longer than a single year. The novelization is somewhat better about this as the war drags on for two years and the Gelgoogs never show up. It also subverts this trope, as the antagonists use a slightly less advanced Mobile Armor to fight the Gundam in the climactic battle due to supply shortages and though the Gundam defeats it, it proves to be enough of a distraction that a Mauve Shirt piloting a lowly Rick Dom is able to finish Amuro off.
  • The entirety of battle in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a combination of this and a Lensman Arms Race. The Anti-Spiral actually does explain, though, that he intentionally did it that way, the reasoning being that the harder the heroes have worked to get to where they are, the more crushing it'll be when they're finally defeated. That's, uh... not what happens.
  • Digimon uses a series of Evolutionary Levels: Baby, In-Training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, Mega. The team has to advance to the next level to face the next level of enemies. This gets a little ridiculous in later series, where every bad guy seems to be Mega level and some are just that much more powerful than other Megas.
    • Initially downplayed in Digimon V-Tamer 01 where the enemies went from adult/champion to perfect/ultimate to the then final level but it was explained partially by enemy and ally alike continuing to evolve while the protagonists were not and the big bad Demon had not gotten personally involved because he was winning. Then it went a step further and introduced Arkadimon, which was the "Super Ultimate" Digimon, a whole new level entirely. Among other things, it killed Sigma's Piedmon (a Mega level) while still at in-training level. In one hit. Its Champion level did the same to Seraphimon (a considerably stronger Mega) with about as much effort. In fairness to the Piedmon, he was already injured but until that point it was established in V-Tamer that a difference of more than one level was an insurmountable hurdle.
    • The Digimon Adventure has Devimon, an evil Champion-level Digimon. Then there was Etemon, who was purely comical as opposed to the serious Devimon, but was at the Ultimate level and thus considerably stronger. Then came Myotismon, an Ultimate of great strength who was the first Digimon in the show to evolve to Mega form. Then came the four Dark Masters, who were all Mega level. The last, most powerful enemy they faced, was Apocalymon, an insanely-strong Mega level, who beat the Digidestined at first, but was defeated in the Grand Finale by Deus ex Machina. Explained by the Dark Masters: they were heading up a mountain, through each of the Dark Masters' turfs one at a time and the Dark Masters rarely interfered in one another's matters. The four got progressively tougher the further up the mountain they got, the most powerful Piedmon reigning from the very top.
    • Also, in Digimon Tamers, the first several Digimon to appear are all Rookie or Champion level, and are easily beaten by the Rookie level Digimon used by the protagonists, that quite quickly unlock Champion level. Later, the Devas appear and nearly force them to unlock Ultimate level, after which they wind up in the Digital World and learn of the D-Reaper, which eventually results in the good guys unlocking Biomerge Digivolution. In the end, it all came down to 4 Megas against one Mega. Guess who kicked ass for most of the fight.
    • Digimon Data Squad averts this, in that the first major "villain" they encounter is of the Mega level. Then, however, it turns out that he's not actually a bad guy, and the main antagonist becomes Gotsumon (a Rookie level digimon), the human-hating minion of the aforementioned bad guy. He ends up manipulating another Mega level digimon into attacking the humans, and then it's revealed that everything bad and the reason why Digimon distrust humans is due to the actions of Dr. Akihiro Kurata — a human. Later, it appears that Kurata is going to be usurped by Belphemon, Kurata instead fuses with it and remains in control of it until his defeat. Yggdrasil rounds out the series as the penultimate antagonist, but considering his actions are due to Kurata's own misdeeds, Kurata still remains the main villain of the series.
  • Magic Knight Rayearth. The first enemy the Power Trio faces, Alcyone, is a powerful Ice Mage but easily dispatched. Then come Ascot, Caldina, Lafarga and, finally, Zagato himself. While their power levels are all over the place, they have specific skills that make them increasingly dangerous, and it would have been easy for any of the later foes to eliminate the Knights had they been dispatched earlier. In particular, one wonders why, since Zagato knew all about the Magic Knight legend, why he didn't go after the girls himself as soon as they arrived. In the anime, Zagato does show up for a few moments to show the heroes just a tiny portion of his power. Had he actually attacked them, they would not have survived. What Zagato wants to do Other than keeping his beloved Princess alive is never fully explained. He may not intend to kill the Magic Knights, regardless of what that will mean for him. The Ascot arc shows the trope in miniature: the first few "friends" are indeed strong enough to squish the Magic Knights into paste, but they have glaring weaknesses that the girls discover and exploit within minutes. However, his very last Summoned Monsters are titanic foes that can go toe-to-toe with the ancient Rune Gods, and continue to be powerful presences in the second arc whenever the Knights need rescuing. He always had access to them, so why he didn't call these right off the bat is a mystery to everyone.
  • Code Geass. Lelouch faces off with increasingly improving resistance from The Empire, but manages to cope because his allies also get better mechas over time. In the first major battle, he faces inept commander Prince Clovis and a bunch of regular Knightmares with his terrorist allies using mostly outdated Knightmares of their own, and they own the field...and then Suzaku shows up...algorithm leaps somewhat later when Lelouch tries to do this again against much better leader Princess Cornelia, and his (different group) allies are slaughtered. He later however turns the tables when he tries this again, only using the environment to his advantage, supported by the JLF, and with Ace Pilot Kallen in a better mecha. He nearly has Cornelia beat...and then Suzaku shows up...again. Eventually, his allies begin to power up faster than The Empire, and he's likely have won the war, if not for some extreme circumstances and misfortunes. Eventually, Kallen's able to easily turn Suzaku's mech to scrap, even after it gets an upgrade. By the end of the series however, his terrorist army has gotten so good, that when he's forced to fight them, this time commanding the forces of The Empire, he's no match. Unfortunately, the trope is subverted in R2, where Lelouch deals with the immortal V.V. (the target of his vendetta), The Emperor, and Schneizel when everyone thought it was going to be the other way around. Even worse, The Emperor kills V.V. before Lelouch even learns that V.V. was the one who killed his mother.
  • Played straight then subverted in History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, in the manga at least. The storyline covered in the anime plays it straight, with Kenichi fighting stronger opponents as his skill improves; high school bullies, Ragnarok mooks, the Eight Fists of Ragnarok, and finally their leader, Odin. Kenichi's struggle against YOMI, the next antagonist group subverts it. YOMI's leader Sho Kanou, touted as the strongest fighter of them all and inheritor of the styles of YOMI. the series' Big Bad organization...is the second YOMI member Kenichi defeats. However, Kenichi then gets his ass handed to him against another member of YOMI. Possibly justified since each of the YOMI members and their masters in YOMI believes that he or she is really the strongest. Some of the YOMI members believed that Sho was unsuitable to be YOMI leader. That and Kenichi's fighting ability is highly dependent on the circumstances involved. Even though he's practically superhuman at this point he's still slightly intimidated by high school bullies.
  • Eyeshield 21 and other such sports manga tend to increase in scope as the story goes on. Athletes face opponents from other cities first and other countries later. Played straight and subverted earlier in the manga, where the Devil Bats' first opponents are a very weak team, followed immediately by the uber-talented and powerful Ojou White Knights, then the moderately challenging but not all that Zokugaku Chameleons. But, naturally, once they get to the fall tournament, the easy games all happen first. It is a knock-out tourney so only the best get far. Subverted again in the Kanto tournament, where the match-ups are decided through a lottery. They do not go against the nine-times-in-a-row-champions Shinryuuji Naga in the finals, or in the semi-finals, but in their very first match. They then face their ultimate rivals, the White Knights in their second match, and fellow darkhorse team, the Hakushuu Dinosaurs in the final. All are very close, very tough matches, and which one was the best is a matter of debate among the fandom.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure both plays this trope straight and averts it. While the enemies fought in each series grow stronger the closer that you get to the end, the fact that each volume stars a different hero means that Big Bads don't necessarily have to be stronger than what came before. For example, while Dio Brando of Part 3 was quite dangerous, he wasn't an immediate threat to the world as the Pillar Men of Part 2.
    • This is arguable considering what his true master plan was revealed to be in part 6, which was to make a Perfect World for DIO. And although orchestrated by one of his minions and the Part 6 Big Bad Enrico Pucci, it was still a large threat either on par or greater than the Pillar Men. Especially since the Perfect World would not only have to remove the Joestar family, who are DIO's biggest threat, but also anyone who would ever pose a threat to DIO, including the Pillar Men and the Part 5 Big Bad Diavolo.
    • Given that above point, the only time it's really been subverted (without getting into technicalities) is with Yoshikage Kira from Part 4. Although to be fair, Part 4 is about simply protecting one town over protecting the world. He was merely one Serial Killer as opposed to a vampire or a mob boss.
      • While Kira most certainly did not have as much ambition or as many resources as any of the other Big Bads, he won the Superpower Lottery so handily that he was just as hard to beat as he should have been given his place in the series.
    • Played straight in-between Part 1 and 2. In Part 1, vampire Dio was the big threat of the series, with vampire zombies serving as the series' mooks. Come Part 2, vampire zombies have disappeared and vampires are downgraded to Mook status to make way for the Pillar Men. It helps that Jonathan, the first JoJo, had to learn Hamon to stand a chance against Dio, while his grandson Joseph, the second JoJo, was apparently born with the skills to use Hamon and his arc was learning to control it better.
    • Played straight in Part 5, especially regarding the second half of it : Tiziano and Squalo have Stands that while not particularly threatening on their own, especially Tiziano's compared to Squalo's, but manage to put Narancia in a bind, taking out Giorno briefly and briefly cause trouble to the entire group until Narancia removes his handicap to easily kill the two once he corners them- all through well-coordinated teamwork. Carne seemingly subverts this by dying instantly to Mista's Stand, but when his Stand's true nature is revealed- it's played dangerously straight, Giorno and Narancia are easily taken out and it takes Trish awakening her Stand to subdue the otherwise immortal threat since killing it isn't an option. Ciccolata with his devastating Green Day, manages the largest killing spree up to that point by taking out almost all of Rome's population with his Stand and nearly killing Giorno and Mista. Secco, while not on the same wide-spread scope as Cioccolata manages to prove potentially more dangerous than his partner, forcing Bucciarati to cripple himself in order to win, making him unable to fight until the Chariot Requiem situation.
  • Saint Seiya: By Law of Chromatic Superiority, the heroes must first battle their peers, the Bronze Saints (and, later, their Evil Counterpart Black Saints) in a local skirmish for the Gold Cloth; then, the Silver Saints, who hunt them down for said Cloth; and finally, the Gold Saints, who never leave the Sanctuary. Then come the Asgardian God Warriors, who can give Golds a run for their money; Marine Shoguns, likewise; and then Hades' Spectres. The last foes they encounter are actual Gods, and the teaser movie for Chapter of Heaven hints that the Bronze Boys are raring to take on the Olympian Gods themselves. Subverted in the manga when Gold Saint Virgo Shaka seeks out and nearly kills Bronze Saint Phoenix Ikki before the actual plot even begins. Their battle, such as it is, is shown as an extended flashback.
    • Also Subverted for Seiya: the first foe he fights is Cassios, a candidate Bronze Saint, but the second is Shaina, the strongest and sadistic Silver Saint available, and he only survives because, following the code, she had left behind her Cloth as it was a personal matter, and thus wasn't sure of winning once he managed to make use of his (plus other personal reasons); in the anime Seiya has another run-in with her before the Silver Saints are deployed and, as this time she's on official business and thus is wearing her Cloth, she almost kills him; and when the Silver Saints are deployed, the first one to come out is almost as strong as Shaina and much saner, and give Seiya the hardest non-Shaina fight until the Gold Saints.
    • Averted in its prequel Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas. The difficulty of the enemies varies ranging from simply strong Specters, the three Judges, to Thanatos/Hypnos, but a good deal of energy is put forth into defeating Thanatos/Hypnos before even finishing off the Judges; and many rankless strong Specters actually served as obstacles for the last arc, outlasting both the Dragons and mini-bosses.
  • Played with in Negima! Magister Negi Magi, where the first major antagonist that Negi faced — Evangeline — is the strongest character in the series, only winning the fight by a combination of luck and the fact that Eva wasn't really taking the fight seriously/more or less let him win. Played with because part of Eva's curse was still in effect, and when he first fights her without it, he can barely last three minutes...which is impressive in itself once you see how strong she really is.
  • This trope is straight out mocked in the second episode of Haruhi-chan. After being 'defeated', Asakura warns Kyon and Yuki that she is "the weakest of the Radical Four", which will now come after them. And above the Radical Four, are the top three leaders!
  • Played straight for most of Fist of the North Star. Shin, Ken's initial rival and the man who engraved the seven scars on his chest, isn't even the strongest of the Nanto Seiken masters. Rather, it's Souther, a character who is introduced a bit later and is shown to be immune to the effects of Ken's martial art at first. Jagi, the first of Ken's adoptive brothers to appear in the story, is a petty thug who never truly mastered Hokuto Shinken, but is still stronger than the average mook, in contrast to Raoh, the eldest and the last one to appear, who is the Big Bad for most of the first series and ends up killing most of Ken's allies. Then there's Kaioh, the ultimate Big Bad of the second series, who was the only villain that was actually immune to Kenshiro's ultimate technique of Musou Tensei and almost killed him during their first encounter. Subverted in the final chapters of the manga, in which the final villain, Bolge, was just an average wasteland thug far weaker than Shin or Jagi, and was only a threat due Kenshiro having lost his memories and fighting abilities.
  • In Buso Renkin, the series begins with the main characters fighting off animal- and plant-type homunculi. Then comes along a stronger animal-type homunculus, and then the humanoid homunculi, and then Victor, and then Victor AND the Alchemist Army, and then Victor in his third stage...
  • Star Blazers / Space Battleship Yamato. Initially, Dessler does not consider the Star Force a serious threat, and orders low-ranking shlubs Ganz and Bane to fight them. After Ganz and Bane's defeat, Dessler takes the threat more seriously and sends his best general, Lysis to fight them. After they defeat Lysis, then Dessler decides to take them on personally.
    • In the second season, first the Star Force fights some weak Comet Empire lackeys while Dessler's hanging out at the Comet Empire, then they fight Desslok who almost defeats them but is tricked to run away, then a tank battalion that almost destroys the Space Marines, then they fight Desslok again except this time he's ENRAGED, then they take on the Comet Empire, then the dreadnought inside the Comet Empire.
    • In the third season, Dessler's buddy-buddy with the Star Force. His generals do not understand this and keep throwing more and more power to capture the Star Force without telling him. He is not amused when he finds out.
  • While threat level varies in Fairy Tail the threat and strength of the more serious villains does increase each time, with lesser villains thrown in between them. This is mostly managed by the characters getting by on strategy, nakama power, of in some cases temporary power ups rather than non-stop training.
    • Threats thus far are an ordinary dark guild wielding a fairly weak soul-sucking demon, a rival turned evil who is on par with one of the main characters and wanted to unseal a similar demon, a rival guild whose master is on par with the Big Good who was trying to put Fairy Tail out of business, An old friend turned evil who was on par with the Big Good and wanted to revive Zeref (this was when all threats start to guarantee death), one of the larger dark guilds who wanted to start a guild war, a foreign king who had no powers beyond a Humongous Mecha who was willing to kill the guild for their magic, then a former guild member and his new, serious dark guild who easily Curbstomped the Big Good and were trying to create a world where only 10% of the population could survive. Then, there's also the Black Dragon of the Apocalypse who the entire main and supporting cast can't put a scratch on and only leaves once it assumes they're dead. The most recent arc seems to be toning it back down with a government official who only wants one guild member, supposedly for the sake of the country at the cost of her life, except it turns out that was a Red Herring and the true threat is one of the current dragonslayers from the future with seven dragons that can curbstomp most of the mages at the place, and even the dragonslayers are hard-pressed to hurt them. It gets toned back down when the next arc involves at worst a fairly average demon and another rival turned evil (though she was pretty nasty even before that), but it sets up the events for the final dark guild filled with genocidal demons who want to erase all the magic in the continent, all for the purpose of reviving their leader, who, from the words and actions of other characters in the know, is a demon on par with both Zeref and the previously-mentioned Black Dragon. The 2nd Time-Skip also has format to its villains. Orochi's Fin is only a problem for its rival guild Lamia Scale as Natsu with his off-screen training takes down its legions of monsters with ease.The black magic cult Avatar seems to be just as weak until Natsu sees Gray Fullbuster working with the cult until it's revealed to be a ploy to expose Avatar. An entire empire that wants to invade Ishgar for the Lumen Histoire, which has a Praetorian Guard with members on par with God Serena, who defected for unknown reasons and is led by some dude named Spriggan which is another name for Zeref, and finally the previously mentioned Black Dragon who is opposed to everyone else and wants to kill all the remaining dragon slayers.
    • It gets played straight with the Balam Alliance, though. You first have Oracion Seis as the weakest with both the fewest members and the most sympathetic villains aside from their Guild Master, then Grimoire Heart which is led by the Big Good 's mentor, and finally, Tartaros, a completely genocidal guild comprised entirely of Zeref's demons and led by the very same and previously-mentioned demon that once gave Igneel a hard ass-kicking. Keep in mind that non-Dragon Slaying magic does jack squat against dragons in the series.
  • Bakugan plays this straight.
    • S1: Naga, an egomaniac Bakugan whose plot is to absorb the power of the core of the Bakugan homeworld and conquer the universe.
    • S2: King Zenoheld and the Vexos. Zenoheld rules a planet and finally goes Ax-Crazy and tries to destroy the universe, creating a Bakugan actually capable of doing so. Despite being strong enough to beat Naga, they've got to get a few upgrades to be able to beat them.
    • S3: Emperor Barodius and the Gundalians are already on the winning side of a war with a peaceful planet and decide to invade Earth for kicks. Once again, the power that was able to defeat Zenoheld isn't enough to beat his forces and more upgrades are needed.
    • S4: Mag Mel has yet to show his actual power, but considering he's a Sealed Evil in a Can that was imprisoned for actually committing genocide, it's a safe bet.
      • Now that he has, it's been confirmed, with still more upgrades needed to face his strongest forces although technically he could simply be considered the same Big Bad but with new tricks, as he's actually what Barodius became after his defeat...
    • Finally, Coredegon is so powerful that damn near nothing can scratch him (he boasts that he doesn’t have a weak point), is smart enough to subvert Transformation Is a Free Action and actually requires a Reset Button and intervention from the show’s Greater-Scope Paragon to be put down for good. The only reason he has minions is because he gets rendered Only Mostly Dead along with his fellow Combining Mecha components and needs them to resurrect him.
  • Played a bit with in Slayers. The first major enemy Lina fights is the Nigh-Invulnerable Rezo the Red Priest, who happens to have a fragment of the world's Demon God sealed inside of him. Said Demon God is the most powerful of all evil creatures in the world, so, that's it right? Nothing can challenge Lina? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. The next major enemy Lina fights (in the anime) is a creature that's IMMUNE to magic attacks and has to be taken down in a rather unusual way. The next season has the Demon God's underlings show up and be enemies. Surely they can't be as powerful, right? Wrong. Even though they are less powerful than the Demon God at full power, the underlings are stronger than the fragment that Lina fought against in the first season. In the novels, the Big Bad of season 2 manages to freaking TANK the incomplete Giga Slave and managed to fight The Lord of Nightmares to a draw, though that was justified in that the Lord of Nightmares was in Lina's body and did not have access to her full power. Season 3 had a combined Demon God and God fusion from another world that needed a specific kind of spell to take him out. Season 4 had the same immune to magic enemy from season 1, though this one had no human controlling him, and thus was actually stronger. Season 5 brought back the Demon God fragment from season 1, but this one had more control over the human host and was able to use more of his power. If said Demon God from Season 1 had been at full power, that is, completely consumed the human host, Lina would not have been able to kill him.
  • Holyland: The first enemies Yuu fights are usually generic punks who know a bit of streetfighting. He starts coming up against more experienced fighters with genuine training in various disciplines. Eventually, he has to face prodigies and pros in combat-tested styles like kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts.
  • Ramen Fighter Miki, being a Deconstructive Parody of the Fighting Series, Inverts and subverts this trope because the opponents are not presented in order of menace to Miki, but in order of their Character Alignment: First we know Tough Love / Abusive Parent Miki’s mother, then Bitch in Sheep's Clothing The Rival Megumi, later Unknown Rival Idiot Hero Kankuro, finishing with Worthy Opponent Angry Guard Dog Toshiyuki, the only one of them who is not an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy.
  • Medaka Box: Played Straight with most of the antagonists. Medaka and her friends face an escalating threat of enemies from a justice-driven Creepy Child, a megalomaniacal Mind Control abnormal, her Reality Warper Arch-Enemy, and a Physical God.
    • It is briefly averted in the Jet Black Wedding Arc, where the suitors, despite their powerful abilities called Styles are nowhere near the level of Ajimu, the aforementioned Physical God or Kumagawa.
    • Played Straight in the final arc with Iihiko, who not only defeated Ajimu numerous times in the past, but is completely immune to abnormal or minus skills. Only the aforementioned styles provide a potential way to defeat him.
  • Each of the Zoids manga/anime has its own sorting algorithm of evil.
    • In Zoids: Chaotic Century, it goes in order of Saber Tiger to Geno Saurer to Death Stinger to Berserk Fury, with minor antagonists sprinkled inbetween.
    • In the anime, it went Saber Tiger, Geno Saurer, Death Saurer, Geno Breaker, Death Stinger, and Ultimate Death Saurer.
    • Zoids: New Century gave us the Elephander, and then the Berserk Fury, with lesser antagonists sprinkled inbetween.
    • Zoids: Fuzors went in order of the Buster Fury, Matrix Dragon, Energy Liger, Gairyuki and Seismosaurus as its primary antagonists.
    • Zoids: Genesis started off with the Bio Megaraptor, then the Bio Tricera, Bio Volcano and Bio Tyranno.
  • A Certain Magical Index is rather guilty of this. While not every villain is more powerful than the last, the Big Bads have become successively more powerful, to the point that currently there are multiple characters who are stronger than God.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro both demonstrates and subverts this trope. While the important bosses continue to increase in difficulty, the entire series takes place while the titular character continues to grow weaker. It is shown later in the series that two characters of similar strength, fighting at different times, have different levels of difficulty.
  • Played with in Kill la Kill, in which the Elite Four set up a series of battles for Ryuko based on the number of people they took out in the "student election" (a battle royale), in order from least to greatest. In theory, this would result in this trope...however, Gamagoori, who suggested the system, actually gamed it by deliberately fighting as few people as possible, hoping to take Ryuko out by himself. Consequently, even though he's fought first, he's not at all the weakest.
  • By design or happenstance, the characters in both Sword Art Online and Log Horizon have a Diegetic Interface that displays information about friends and enemies as befits their MMORPG game elements. Log Horizon is The Game Come to Life while the initial story of Sword Art Online is Win to Exit, making game information to beat a foe crucial to stories in both plots.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelionas is its customdeconstructs the scale. As the premise of the show sits atop an existential crisis, what is good and evil is subject to discovery. So, rather than idealize the heroes and vilify the villains, the hostile Angels consecutively lay siege to NERV HQ via ascending methods of potency and cruelty — remember that menace, rather than strength, is the unit of measure on the Sliding Scale. Basically, the Angels assault their opponent pilots in increasing increments of traumatic attacks that perfectly fit the most prominent flaws of each hero at the time of the conflict. The latter Angels seamlessly match their psychological attacks with a physical presence that successfully exploits the gap made in the AT-Field of the pilot under attack. The final Angel in the TV series — Tabris — marvelously seals the dual-pointed conflict with physical and ethereal enemies by being the strongest Angel in terms of physical effectiveness and also the most sympathetic as Kaworu, thinking for himself, decides that Shinji destroying him is the right outcome of their conflict and so encourages and enables him. After Shinji defeats Tabris and crosses the line he never intended to cross, the series brings the protagonist to the most important moment of his life. We are given two endings as resolutions, though the show's creators insist that whichever ending you pick — even both or neither — is the right ending for you. A special note goes to The End of Evangelion, in that the villain ( Seele) actually intends to enable Shinji to have that which he truly wants and succeeds. The movie also produces the series' straightest example of The Dragon in the Mass-Produced EVA Series, who enter a memorable and personally-climactic (for her) battle-to-the-death with Asuka and succeed.
  • Tiger Mask manages to both play this straight and avert it:
    • It's played straight in his conflict with Tiger's Cave, as the enemy organization holds back at first. The sequence is: Black Python, less talented but more experienced wrestler than Tiger Mask, Gorilla Man, the single strongest character in the series in terms of raw strength but with no technique at all, a group of five talented but inexperienced wrestlers and three trainers, using some of the most unbelievable fouls of the series (the trainees used a vinyl costume with a cannonball in the head, a costume with steel fangs and needles that inject a paralytic substance, a rather nasty trick that allowed two of them to attack together, and an armored mask with a powered bite that could tear an arm off, while one of the trainers had sleeping powder in his costume and their boss was just freakishly strong), Red Death Mask, their Hero Killer, Mr. Kamikaze, the champion of their underground fighting ring (as Tiger Mask went to their underground fighting ring first, he had to deal with the Nigh-Invulnerable Mapman and King of the Jungle with his trained cobra before dealing with Kamikaze), not as foulish as his fellow Tiger's Cave wrestlers but a lot stronger than even Red Death Mask, Miracle 3, a wrestler that excelled in excellent technique, overwhelming strength and cruel fouls (something impossible: an excellent technician would need to be too skinny to be incredibly strong, a formidable strongman would have muscles that slow him down too much to use fine technique in combat, and if someone somehow managed to achieve both excellent technique and superhuman strength, he just wouldn't have had the time to learn the fouls), actually three guys with the same costume and body build, one of which excelling in technique, one excelling in strength and one excelling in fouls, and as the grand finale, they use the fake Tiger Mask (strong but not as fearsome as Miracle 3) to lure him to a tournament with the most cruel heel wrestlers in the world.
    • Averted outside Tiger's Cave, as many wrestlers he dealt with early on remained powerful opponents even later, when Tiger Mask had become both stronger and more skilled with legal techniques, and in fact his worst opponents in the Tiger's Cave tournament are Dick the Bruiser and Killer Kowalski, who had been some of his early opponents and in this rule-less tournament could finally show what they could really do. Some, on the other hand, suffered The Worf Effect.
  • Deconstructed in Goblin Slayer. The Goblins are the weakest sapient villains in the setting, but are far more dangerous than that would suggest and often fatally underestimated, especially by the rookie adventures who most often deal with them. Goblins are smart enough to know their weakness and use all manner of methods to even the odds (including ambushes, attacking in numbers, terrain familiarity, faking death, faking pliability). What Goblins do, especially to females, makes them just as dangerous and reprehensible as the more powerful villains. Goblins are often overlooked by experienced adventures as unglamorous or not worth the minuscule reward (as their weakness often limits them to attacking small locals that can't afford better), leaving them to rookie adventures who often find themselves out of their league. This give Goblins experience, equipment to salvage, and means to grow their number, enabling them to become greater threats. Even the powerful, experienced heroine Sword Maiden fell victim to them by being careless and unlucky, an ordeal made worse as her thinking no one would believe of such happening to her meant she never got the help she needed for her trauma. A Central Theme of the series is that this trope, heroes saving the day from increasingly powerful villains, is only possible because Goblin Slayer was doing the unceremonious task of keeping the lesser ones from destroying everything or becoming powerful while said heroes are busy.
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