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Worthy Opponent / Anime & Manga

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  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Battle Tendency Wamuu is the only one of his group who has any semblance of a code of honor when it comes to combat and the only one to end up sharing mutual respect with Joseph Joestar. Additionally, after Caesar Zeppeli gives Wham one of the toughest fights of his immortal life, he promises to remember his name forever, and honors his memory by not interfering with the protective bubble in which Caesar put the antidote Joseph needed.
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    • Played with where Wamuu's comrade, Esidisi, is concerned - in the end, Joseph respects him because he's willing to not only sacrifice himself, but tarnish his name by resorting to the most degrading, dishonourable tactics in order to help out his friends.
    • After getting his ass kicked by Jonathan Joestar in Phantom Blood, Dio Brando eventually came to see Jonathan as a worthy adversary. Jonathan is notably the only person Dio ever shows any real respect.
    • In Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro acknowledges Daniel D'arby as one after bluffing him into a Villainous Breakdown. Jotaro claims that D'arby was too skilled a gambler for him to cheat with Star Platinum, and he praises D'arby for being brave enough to take on the entire group by himself. When Daniel's brother faces them later and mocks Daniel for being a cheat, Jotaro and Joseph respond by beating him with cheating, capping it off with Jotaro telling him that Daniel would have easily seen through it.
  • Yusuke Urameshi and Younger Toguro in Yu Yu Hakusho. Younger Toguro even has to pretend to kill Kazuma Kuwabara in order to greatly increase Yusuke's Power Level for him to truly become his Worthy Opponent.
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    • Many of Yusuke's enemies tended to fall into this trope, to the point that his beating them would often lead to them becoming his allies. Hiei, Chu, Jin, and Yomi were all particularly likely to think of Yusuke in this way.
  • Straw Nihilist Schwarzwald of The Big O, although initially antagonistic to hero Roger Smith, became an unspoken ally of Smith later in the second season. Both searched for the truth behind The Event: Schwarzwald preferred fear, aggression, and mass murder to spread his message, while Smith opted to protect the citizens of Paradigm City from Schwarzwald's attacks and was nearly killed by Schwarzwald in the process. Smith later spoke fondly of Schwarzwald, who left clues for Smith in an attempt to lead him to the ultimate truth behind The Event.
  • S Cryed is built around this trope, having two main characters who start off on opposite sides of the conflict and are bitter enemies, but actually have a lot in common, unite against a common enemy in the second half of the series, and become sorta-friends, though they still have an intense rivalry and can't have a conversation without it devolving into insults. But ultimately, they seem to like it that way; each time they step up their game, they just get more excited.
  • In the Mazinger series:
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    • Mazinger Z:
      • Kouji both despised and regarded Baron Ashura as a cunning, relentless enemy. When Ashura died, the main characters mourned him for a short while.
      • At one point, Dr. Hell reassured Ashura after a defeat, stating that he lost because Kouji was a great warrior and a worthy enemy.
      • Kouji also respected some Mechanical Beasts who proved to be a real challenge. When gladiator Robeast Spartan K5 got blown up, Kouji told that Spartan was a true warrior.
    • Great Mazinger: Although they are enemies, Ankoku Daishogun and Tetsuya Tsurugi respect each other as warriors, and when the first falls, Tetsuya gave him a salutation for being a Worthy Opponent. Obviously, this gets carried over in Super Robot Wars.
  • Nanoha and Fate quickly become Worthy Opponents of each other in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, complete with adorable, pre-teen Foe Yay and inevitable Heel–Face Turn. In the second season, Fate and Signum pair off similarly, maintaining a Friendly Rivalry even after the second inevitable Heel–Face Turn (never mind that Fate's Just a Kid when they meet and Signum is Really 700 Years Old, respect is respect). Nanoha and Vita, on the other hand, are more like rivals due to the latter's attitude.
    • Played for heartwarming in ViVid when Einhart and Corona face each other in the tournament. Everyone (Corona included) thought that Einhart was guarenteed to win the match... everyone except Einhart that is, who openly stated during her training that Corona was a fierce opponent who would beat her if she didn't go all out. And while Corona may have lost the match, she definitely lived up to Einhart's expectations.
    • Subverted in ViVid Strike!. Carrie wanted to be viewed as such by Rinne, saying that she hoped to give her a good match. Not only does Rinne wipe the floor with her, she doesn't even refer to her by name afterwards (instead opting to call her by her ranking). Poor Carrie is driven to tears.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Tsukumo Shiratori and Captain Akiyama seem to consider themselves the Worthy Opponents of the "heroic" mecha pilot Akito and the "brilliant" captain Yurika, neither of whom really seem to care. The pilot pair do become friends for a brief while before, yep, Shiratori gets offed by a scheming fanatic on his own side.
  • Eyeshield 21 has this kind of relationship between the Devil Bats and many of the members of the other football teams they play, but especially the Oujou White Knights. A couple of times, you get the feeling that Sakuraba and Monta, and Kurita and Otawara, could've been the best of friends if they were on the same team. On the other hand, Shin and Sena are probably as close as they'll ever get, as fiercely competitive yet friendly rivals with deep respect for one another.
    • Same with Sena and Panther. Both are from different continents, different cultures and speak a different language and yet have a deep respect from each other and are always in friendly competition.
    • Gaou regards anyone who has the guts to face him as a Worthy Opponent and expresses an open liking to them, particularly Banba, Riku and Kurita. In fact, Gaou's Berserk Button is if anyone insults those he considers to be his Worthy Opponent and he will go on a rampage to find said person to tear them to pieces.
  • Mugen and Jin of Samurai Champloo, from the moment they first meet. Within seconds of coming into contact, they fight to the (almost) death, then get arrested together and commiserate (half naked, too), all while swearing to murder each other once they escape.
  • Father Anderson and Alucard in Hellsing (at least, in the manga and recent OVA). In one sequence from the manga, Alucard watches admiringly as Anderson slices his way through an army of mooks Alucard summoned in order to have a final showdown with Alucard. And then, when Anderson invokes a Deadly Upgrade, Alucard shows genuine shock, then regret and even despair as Anderson turns himself into a mindless monster and in doing so loses his final chance to defeat Alucard; he becomes He Who Fights Monsters in a world where only humans can defeat monsters like Alucard. However, it's also shown that Alucard does still hold a great deal of respect and understanding for Anderson after he reverts back to his human form and dies peacefully. Alucard even gives him a genuine smile and quiet "Amen" after the priest's passing, something that he hasn't done for any other opponent in the series.
    • The Major initially regards only Alucard as this. However once Integra impresses him, he both calls her his arch-enemy and sincerely apologizes for having called her a mere amateur before.
  • Guts from Berserk and Nosferatu Zodd are this to each other, with a slight touch of Friendly Enemy, at least on Zodd's part. This is most likely because Zodd is the only notable long-running apostle in the series that has yet to do anything Guts would consider a truly personal attack, and most of Zodd's motivation for fighting Guts is simply because he likes to fight, and Guts gives as good as he gets. Zodd doesn't seem to be that high up on Guts's shitlist either, as Guts was willing to enter an Enemy Mine situation at one point, and the only time Guts really went after him was when he stood in the way of him and Griffith during the reunion on the Hill of Swords. Their interactions have mainly been straight up fights, and circumstantial at that, not personal or attempts at psychological torture and taunting, like many, many other apostles have tried and failed. It probably helps that Zodd didn't participate in the Eclipse, finding the ceremony decadent and dull. Zodd even compliments Guts on occasion, praising his sword and technique. Zodd even compared Guts' abilities to the Skull Knight and seriously considered finding and fighting him, right before he got drafted by Griffith. And being compared to the nemesis of the "God of the Battlefield", by the man himself, that is high praise indeed. Lampshaded by the psychic Sonia at one point, where she predicts that Zodd must choose to either fight or cooperate with "the one he admires". In the same fight, Zodd actually stops the apostles with him from attacking/killing a heavily injured and exhausted Guts, claiming they are there as warriors, and stating to Guts that their fight is on hold for now. Zodd takes extreme rivalry/bloodknight tendencies damn seriously.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, before Goku obliterates Kid Buu with the Spirit Bomb, he comments that the fight with him was so good and intense that he wishes he wasn't evil. He wishes that, maybe in another life, they'd get to do this again. Interestingly, his wish came true, as Buu was reincarnated into a human boy named Uub, and in the 28th Tenka'ichi Budokai, he loved the fight so much that he left his family, friends, and the most persistent rival of the series, Vegeta (who truly is a worthy opponent looking at what happened to the rest of Goku's rivals in the series) to help him master his abilities and fight him again. In Dragon Ball GT, this took ten years.
    • Applies best to Vegeta, who's Goku's rival/Lancer. He hates Goku with a passion through most of the series and spends half that time trying to kill the latest Big Bad purely so he can finally get his rematch with Goku. Near the beginning of the Buu Saga, he even goes so far as to join Babidi purely for the power boost he gives him. He then resists Babidi's orders, out of his sheer desire to fight Goku. First, he learns to respect Goku, then, he learns to understand Goku's motivations. Finally, ultimately, he makes his peace, recognizes that Goku is simply the better warrior, and, if you don't count Dragon Ball GT, may even have found peace in his life.
      • Goku reciprocates the sentiment as early as his first battle with Vegeta. Having finally bested the Saiyan prince, Goku tells Krillin to stand down instead of killing him as he wants a chance to do battle with him again.
      • In Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and its accompanying arc in Dragon Ball Super, the resurrected Frieza offers Vegeta a chance to stand by his side in his army in exchange for killing Goku. Vegeta emphatically refuses. Aside from the fact that Frieza was responsible for driving the Saiyan race to the brink of extinction, he also explains that he sees Goku as his best chance of getting stronger; quite simply put, he needs a rival like Goku in his life.
    • Earlier in the series, during the Namek arc, Captain Ginyu treats Goku as a worthy challenge for his skills and refuses to take advantage of Jeice's surprise attack. However, when he realizes that Goku is actually far more powerful than he is, this attitude goes out the window and he uses his body change technique instead.
    • Cell considered Goku to be a Worthy Opponent once the two go at it in the Cell Games. Cell finds himself enjoying the match so much, that he even offers Goku a chance to take a break and eat a Senzu bean to restore his strength so they can keep fighting.
    • Beerus's motivation for seeking out the Saiyans in Battle of Gods and the first arc of Super is that he had a prophetic dream that a being known as a Super Saiyan God would appear before him and become a Worthy Opponent even for his ultimate destructive power. After Goku (and later Vegeta) achieves this state and gives him a decent fight, Beerus decides that while Goku and Vegeta aren't his equals yet, they have the potential to become what Beerus is looking for.
    • For all their hatred of the other, Freeza and Goku are this to each other. Once Freeza pushed Goku to Super Saiyan, the latter forced the tyrant to use 100% of his full strength even after a failed attempt to completely destroy the planet in one hit. Goku likewise allowed this, forgoing leaving the dying planet twice to settle the score with him. While its later subverted on Goku's side (the first time) after with his newfound power, he decides that the fight no longer interested him, as even Freeza could not measure up to him in his state, and later seemingly kills him, it's worth noting that after Freeza is revived twice, he immediately heads towards Earth to fight Goku again, instead of going back to his (declining) empire - The second time he could have easily restored its former glory (and much more) with the godlike power he was able to achieve in just 4 months for training.
  • Vagabond has Miyamoto Musashi, who has this dynamic with various other characters even before they fight; in fact, in his first major fight, he survives because Yoshioka Denshichirou wants him to become this. (Unfortunately for Denshichirou, Musashi makes far better use of the year between their duels and ends up defeating him easily.) In'ei trains him specifically because he's the one for Inshun (no one else can threaten Inshun's life), but Musashi's two most clear Worthy Opponents seem to be Yagyuu Hyougonosuke and Sasaki Kojirou.
  • Although he starts out their match aiming to injury Tezuka (and succeeds), rival captain Atobe from The Prince of Tennis ends the match considering Tezuka a Worthy Opponent (and becomes it himself, in turn), to the point that once he finally wins the match after a ridiculously long tiebreaker, the first thing Atobe does is raise Tezuka's hand in a sort of shared victory.
  • Pokémon
    • In the Pokémon Adventures manga, Bruno is the only Elite Four member who isn't evil, he just wants a worthy opponent to fight with. He finds one in Red. It's confirmed midway through the Hoenn arc that he mentored Brawly as well. From one badass to another, it seems...
    • Pokémon anime:
      • Part of the Team Rocket trio's obsession for capturing Ash's Pikachu; After he bested them in their first face-off, the trio came to the conclusion he had exceptional power and sought after him. Nearly any time another rival squares off with Pikachu, the trio root for him and sometimes even rescue him from other villains. In contrast, Ash and his gang usually see the trio as little more than nuisances, though a side effect of their brief promotion to dangerous, larger scale villains in the Best Wishes series had the heroes admitting they had become this.
      • All of the rivals eventually play it straight as well. Paul was a major exception, as he refused to understand and respect Ash's training methods, but after their battle at the Sinnoh League he came around and admitted that Ash was a great trainer.
      • Alain is also a case of this turned Up to Eleven, as he had no interest in participating in the Kalos League up until his second battle with Ash. After said battle gave him a fun time, he collects the eight badges over the course of seven episodes and spends the entire League Curb-stomping all his opponents while impatiently waiting for his battle with Ash. When said battle comes, he outright admits battling Ash feels fun and makes him lose track of time.
  • Negi and Kotaro in Mahou Sensei Negima! start out this way with Kotaro as Negi's enemy.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, apparently Gauron feels something of this sort towards Sousuke. It's one-sided, though - Sousuke really, REALLY hates him. The first time they meet, Gauron even wanted to take Sousuke in. However, Sousuke refused. As an ally or as an enemy, Gauron has a great appreciation for Sousuke's stoic-ness and skill. His affection and obsession, however, may have actually deepened because they became enemies...
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • Kenshiro and Raoh. The ending of series one even credits Raoh as helping restore stability to the world.
    • Raoh has three other memorable opponents that he respects:
      • The first being his younger brother, Toki - who took to heart his promise to stop Raoh if he ever goes astray from the path of Hokuto Shinken, and whom Raoh openly regarded as his better, whose might was robbed by radiation sickness during their battles. Raoh felt such pity for Toki at his misfortune that he spared his life. Something he rarely does to martial artists (much less those using Hokuto Shinken) who stand in his way.
      • The second being Juza - the only opponent to get the better of Raoh, and was Crazy Awesome enough to steal his massive horse Kokuo. While having an effective self-taught style, he was no match for Raoh, but his defiance in the face of certain death and being such a Determinator that in the anime, he kept fighting briefly after he had already died earned enough respect from Raoh to order his men to bury him with full honours.
      • There was only one man in his life that Raoh feared (apart from Kenshiro later), and that was Fudoh. While he was just a child when he encountered the rampages of pre-Heel–Face Turn Fudoh, he considered him terrifying enough to use as a tune-up fight against Kenshiro after reinventing himself. As with Juza, Raoh physically proved too strong for Fudoh to do much about, but the fearless look in his eyes, and that of his dozens of adopted children made Raoh panic once more, and he took a step back, to his anger. Raoh may have broken Fudoh's body, but Fudoh had shattered Raoh's resolve.
  • Code Geass gives several examples of this relationship. The most obvious example is Suzaku and Kallen in their piloting skills. Lelouche and Schneizel have this in their Magnificent Bastardry.
    • Gino Weinberg sees Kallen as this; he's the type who enjoys a good, honest fight. She doesn't see it the same way, but she holds nothing against Gino personally; he's on the other side, she's going to beat him to get past, that's all. They eventually end up on the same side (against Lelouch) towards the Grand Finale.
  • One Piece
    • Vice Admiral Garp was the Worthy Opponent of none other than Gold Roger himself. So much so that Roger, knowing he would soon die, entrusted Garp with the life of his unborn child.
    • Luffy and Smoker acknowledge each other as Worthy Opponents. Smoker is the first Marine to realize and acknowledge Luffy's potential of becoming pirate king. Luffy, who usually fights an opponent no matter how strong he is, even if they are invincible Logias, chooses to run from Smoker every time he sees him, as he never managed to beat him, yet. Also, during their first meeting after the Time Skip, at which time Luffy had gained the ability to fight Logia users on even ground, Luffy chooses to postpone their fight, because Smoker was in Tashigi's body at the time, and was consequently much, much weaker.
    • Sentomaru is this to a much, much lesser extent. Case in point, he bashes the skull of Fake Luffy, and saying that the real Luffy is not a lying scumbag.
    • Luffy, Law, and Kid—the three most prominent Supernova captains—seem to see each other this way, starting from their first meeting at Sabaody. Maybe not Kid and Law as much towards each other, but both of them definitely see Luffy like this, and Luffy returns the sentiment. In fact, this is the reason Law gives for coming to save Luffy at Marineford; though they will be enemies someday, Luffy dying before they ever meet again in the New World would be a "damn shame."
      • This still sticks after the timeskip. Though Luffy and Law are currently in an alliance, they've acknowledged that they will ultimately be rivals as long as they're both looking for One Piece, yet they clearly have a strong mutual respect for each other. Based on Kid's reactions to the Luffy-Law alliance's exploits, it's clear that this trope still holds true for him, too.
    • Luffy and Coby are probably going to end up like this, now that Coby knows Soru and they are on opposing sides, yet remain best friends.
    • Mihawk to Zoro. In fact, Mihawk sees Zoro so much as his Worthy Opponent that not only does he decide to spare Zoro's life after their first battle, he also trains Zoro during the timeskip!
    • Before Zoro, Mihawk saw Shanks as his Worthy Opponent to the point of actively searching out the man for swordfights that were stated to have shook the Grand Line. And Shanks, for his part, always seems to be happy whenever Mihawk visits, even convincing the stoic swordsman to join in his crew's celebrations. And, despite the fact that Mihawk claims that Shanks is no longer a challenge after losing his dominant hand protecting a child Luffy from a sea monster, he still visits Shanks to speak with the man after meeting Luffy for the first time.
    • Fleet Admiral Sengoku and Whitebeard. The commander-in-chief of the Marines also says he was the best of the pirates.
    • Whitebeard and Shanks are both counted among the Four Emperors, reigning over the New World, but when another Emperor, Kaido, attempted to attack Whitebeard when the latter was distracted trying to rescue Ace from the World Government, Shanks stopped him. And later, after Whitebeard's death, Shanks stepped in and allowed the Whitebeard pirates to bury his and Ace's bodies without the Marines defacing them.
    • On a friendly level, the three strongest (the "Monster Trio") of the Straw-Hats- Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji- each consider themselves worthy brothers-in-arms and opponents (though it takes alot to get Zoro and Sanji to admit it). Luffy and Zoro have fought once seriously to determine if "swords or fists are stronger", and Luffy says he expects nothing less than for the future Pirate King to have the future best swordsman.
    • Senor Pink and Franky begin to see each other as this during their second fight. It gets to the point that they've agreed to never dodge nor block the other's attacks, instead proving their respective manliness by taking said attacks head-on.
    • Katakuri comes to see Luffy as one after Luffy not only holds his own in their duel (despite being badly wounded before it), but shows that he doesn't care about Katakuri's hidden deformities (which Katakuri got bullied and mocked by his own siblings for), only his skill as a warrior. Katakuri is so impressed that he wounds himself to make the duel more evenly matched (sibling interference had lead to Luffy catching a similar wound, which also meant they had to remove the interference before continuing) and tells Luffy straight up that he's earned his respect. Luffy feels the same way. To finalize this, when Katakuri is finally about to collapse, he asks if Luffy'll come back to take down Big Mom in the future. And when Luffy answers that of course he will, because he's the man that'll be Pirate King one day, Katakuri wholeheartedly thinks he has a very good chance and says so.
  • Ghost in the Shell is full with Worthy Opponents. Kuze Hideo from the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a prime example, though it gets more complicated in later episodes.
  • Azumanga Daioh plays this rather humorously as Kagura is transferred to the class midway through the series. She immediately decides to take on the tall and popular Sakaki as her rival, believing that the feeling of competitiveness will be reciprocated. However, Sakaki wants to do nothing but dream of cats and do cute things and doesn't even realize that Kagura believes that they are rivals.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes has Reinhard von Lohengramm expressing this sentiment towards Yang Wen-li for much of the series, even while he has yet to meet the man in person. Yang, on his side, does not have the personality nor the strategic luxury of being able to consider any of his opponents as 'worthy', but he does at least seem to respect Reinhart's tactical and political acumen. Yang does express sentiments of this nature towards Reinhart's second-in-command, Siegfried Kircheis, after the two met during a hostage exchange and cessation of hostilities agreement, but nothing more comes of it as Kircheis is assassinated not long afterwards. This trope is also deconstructed, with many characters remarking on the hypocrisy of respecting your foes while at the same time sending countless men to fight and die against them.
  • Sayoko of Ah! My Goddess seems to view Belldandy as this. When Sayoko finally wins and reduces Belldandy to her maid and personal plaything, she even declares it a pointless victory as she relied on the power of another to achieve this and didn't succeed in truly crushing Belldandy.
  • Rou Barabba Dom in Irresponsible Captain Tylor acts this part; his problem is that Tylor doesn't seem to be quite as worthy as Dom thinks he is.
  • Kisame towards Might Guy and, in turn, Guy to Kakashi in Naruto. Guy has trouble remembering who Kisame is, and Kakashi would rather not deal with Guy's idea of a rivalry.
    • In the Shinobi World War arc, we learn that Hashirama is this to a revived Madara.
      • Madara tends to lose his cool whenever he finds somebody that can give him a challenge. When Guy opens all eight gates he's absolutely thrilled and even declares him the greatest taijutsu user he's ever seen. After narrowly surviving Guy's last attack, he views delivering a finishing blow to Guy as a compliment.
    • Mifune and Hanzo were this as well.
  • Bleed/Jotaro Kaga towards Hayato Kazami in Future GPX Cyber Formula, especially in ZERO and SIN, in which the arc was focused on their rivalry. Near the end of the final episode of SIN, Kaga manages to beat Hayato once and for all, and the two shared a final hug.
    • Before Kaga, Randoll considers Hayato this. One for a Love Triangle problem with Asuka Sugo, second for the fact that he's the first one to beat him in a race.
    • Leon Earnhardt and Henri Claytor for secondary characters. Even though they hated each other's guts, Henri wants to find a worthy rival in Cyber Formula and he finds in in Leon.
  • Hisoka of Hunter × Hunter, being an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight, is always searching for a Worthy Opponent to fight and kill. He believes that Gon and Killua could grow up to become such opponents, and has taken steps to help them do just that. He is also trying to restore Chrollo's nen abilities in exchange for a chance to fight him.
    • A one-sided case appears in the latest chapters. The Chimera Ant King Meryem comes to admire the Hunter Association Chairman Netero's near flawless martial arts. Though the blows cause minimal damage, he cannot avoid them. Netero just sees Meryem as a monster that has to be exterminated.
  • Subverted, and played straight, in Black Lagoon's Japan arc. Chaka sees Revy as a Worthy Opponent...however, she doesn't see him the same way...and, later on, we find that Revy does see Ginji that way.
  • The Gold Brothers in Shippu! Iron Leaguer are introduced as ruthless sports player, but after being beaten by the protagonist's team for so many times, they end up throwing away their dirty methods of playing and end up as this.
  • In Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato, Desslok is a very honorable opponent. In the first season, when the Star Force escapes traps which he'd thought unbeatable, his reaction is typically to send them a message of congratulations rather than strike them again while they're wounded. The main reason for it, at that point, is that he doesn't consider them a serious threat, yet. In the second season, when he has been reduced to being Zordar's dragon, he takes them very seriously and is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge—but, in the end, when he has a wounded Wildstar and Nova at his mercy and can finally strike them down, he realizes that he's come to respect them too much to do it. He declares their conflict over, offers them a bit of advice on how to defeat Zordar, and departs in friendship.
    • In the movie on which the second season was originally based, the rolls are reversed — it is Dessler who is seriously wounded and faced off with a healthy Kodai/Wildstar. In this case, he becomes the Graceful Loser, telling them how to defeat Zordar before committing suicide.
  • In Lupin III, Inspector Zenigata and Lupin the Third have an intense rivalry that is based on their Criminal and Cop relationship. Zenigata views Lupin as a worthy opponent, because aside from Lupin, Zenigata is able to capture any criminal he sets his eyes on. Lupin has affectionate nicknames for the old policeman, while eliminating people who he actually considers dangerous. This doesn't stop him from mocking the cop at every opportunity, but he seems to do so more from love than from hatred, despite the fact that the two are near-mortal enemies. The respect between them forms an unstated Gentleman's Agreement where neither attempts to deliberately harm the other.
  • Bleach:
    • Kenpachi Zaraki constantly seeks an opponent who is capable of giving him a great fight. Anyone that can bring him to the brink of defeat or death is a worthy opponent. His greatest worthy opponent was 11th Division founder, Kenpachi Yachiru, who later became 4th Division's Captain Retsu Unohana. The feeling is mutual.
    • Edorad initially has no respect for Ikkaku, especially once he realises that Ikkaku only fights for fun instead of any serious resolve. His last act before he dies is to acknowledge Ikkaku as a worthy opponent.
    • Dordonni's initial reason for fighting Ichigo is to regain his original Espada rank. By the end of the fight, he's willing to sacrifice his life to save Ichigo's and when he's resurrected, his only desire is to see Ichigo again.
    • Aizen tells Ichigo he's been developing Ichigo's fighting power to make him worthy of confronting Aizen. Ichigo privately comes to believe that Aizen feels so isolated and lonely because of his great power that his only way to gain any kind of connection is by finding someone who has the same level of power as himself.
    • Byakuya was at first disgusted by Tsukishima for his M.O. of mind-raping people's friends to throw them off their game, and says he's just a monster to be slaughtered. They eventually have a one-on-one fight with no one nearby to mind-rape, making it fair. Once Byakuya wins, he thanks his opponent for allowing him to feel the thrill of battle for the first time.
    • Gremmy Thoumeaux comes to believe Kenpachi is his worthy opponent. He had never been pushed in battle before, nor had the limits of his power tested in any other fashion, until he met Kenpachi.
  • Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin of Sengoku Basara show nothing but respect for each other, and see the other as a truly destined opponent. Takeda's second-in-command practically quotes the trope, saying that the two warriors share a "worthy rivalry of the rarest kind". Even when Kenshin is beaten in The Last Party, Takeda compliments him for being such a great rival.
    • In fact, the whole series is one giant blend of this and Foe Yay.
  • In Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, the main antagonist Secret Identity Henrietta/Arsene guides and protects the Protagonists because she wants someone worth defeating, as she is bored of easily tricking the police.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • The duel between Heathcliff and Kirito impresses Heathcliff enough that when Kirito figures out Heathcliff is really Kayaba Akihiko in disguise, he offers him a chance for a rematch: a fair fight to the death, for the chance to clear the game early. By the end of the Fairy Dance arc, it's clear the respect is mutual.
    • Kirito tends to treat his opponents like this in Alfheim Online, earning him the respect of the Salamanders: In his first fight he lets the PK group leader Kagemune go, who later repays the favor by backing up Kirito's EPIC bluff to General Eugene. In the underground passage, after absolutely thrashing the Salamander force, he immediately compliments the survivor on giving him a good fight, noting that the Salamanders' strategy was excellent and he'd have quickly lost if he'd been alone. He then strikes a deal with the survivor to give back all the gear and money he looted off the other Salamanders in exchange for information. Having heard that Kirito had previously spared Kagemune, the survivor agrees. Finally, Kirito's duel with General Eugene where he reinvents his Dual Blade style in ALO through sheer determination and muscle memory is so spectacular that everyone (Leafa, Alicia, Sakuya, the Cait Sith delegation, the Sylph delegation, and the Salamander army) gives him a standing ovation. Eugene is so impressed that he not only calls off the attack on the treaty meeting, but later joins Kirito and the other SAO players in clearing the recreated Aincrad... and brings his army with him.
  • Lunatic towards Kotetsu/Wild Tiger in Tiger & Bunny. He promises to watch out for Kotetsu in the future and even does some research into Tiger's background. But most noteworthy was when Kotetsu was framed for a crime he didn't commit and being chased by his brainwashed friends, Lunatic saved him on the grounds that he only punishes true criminals.
  • Reiner Braun and Annie Leonhart towards Eren Yeager (and the other Trainees, to a lesser degree) in Attack on Titan. This results in them beginning to genuinely respect him regardless of circumstances requiring them to be enemies. That he turns out to be a Living MacGuffin doesn't hurt things, leading them to attempt to capture rather than kill him. Eren does not reciprocate.
  • Being a Genre Deconstruction of the Fighting Series Played for Laughs, Muteki Kanban Musume does this accordingly to the conventions of the genre:
    • Kankuro tries with all his might to invoke this trope with Miki. Sadly, one is the Idiot Hero and the other is The Bully, so he will never pass the Unknown Rival ceiling.
    • Episode 6a, Fight! Bark Bark vs. Nya Nya, chronicles how Idiot Hero Kankuro was recognized as one by Noble Demon Toshiyuky.
    • And Miki recognizes Toshiyuky as one, but fitting the Noble Demon, Toshiyuky doesn't respect The Bully Miki.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, Sabrac praises Wilhelmina Carmel's strength and skills as the only warrior in history who has ever survived a fight with him and escaped. The feeling is not mutual. She's terrified of him and fights each rematch solely to finally get him out of her hair.
  • In Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, the weaponsmith refuses to repair Balsas spear unless she explains why she is wanted for the death of the kings son and why he shouldn't inform the guards about her presence. As it will be much easier for her to protect the prince while everyone thinks he is dead, she can not give him a honest answer. Minutes later, her hunters arrive at the weaponsmiths house to pick up their weapons that had been damaged in their fight with Balsa, and tell the smith about the encounter, while Balsa and the prince hide in a storeroom. Though they were hunting her as a kidnapper and responsible for the princes death, they highly praise her skill as a warrior and her refusal to deal any serious harm to her persuers, even though they almost mortally wounded her. Hearing her enemies vouch for her integrety is good enough for the smith to trust her with one of the greatest weapons he ever made.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Yugi and Kaiba view each other this way, with Kaiba even considering Yugi the only duelist worthy of being his rival.
    • Odion and Joey also develop this during their duel. Unlike the rest of the Rare Hunters, Odion plays a completely fair game and openly respects Joey's dueling skills. Unfortunately for him, during this duel he's supposed to be impersonating Marik, the main antagonist of the season who has no problems whatsoever with cheating to win and had previously attempted to murder the main characters; the act of dueling fairly is enough to make Joey realize that Odion isn't really Marik.
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try: Wilfred Kijima, leader of the elite Gunpla Academy, refuses to go all-out against an opponent who isn't willing to do the same, and outright dismisses one opponent (Kei Karima) for this reason. Then Sekai steps up, and he engages Wilfred in a fight so intense that it ends with the (virtual) Moon being destroyed. Afterwards the two affirm their respect for each other and say that they look forward to meeting again in the National tournament; the episode in which this exchange happens is even titled "Worthy Rivals".
  • Dinoponera from Arachnid spends her days looking for such opponents in hopes to make friends, since she's unable to relate to normal people. She quickly grows bored of everyone's inability to give her a good fight, though, and after trying to actually sit and talk with Alice, whom she feels is similar to her, Dinoponera ends flying into a rage because Alice turning out to be a Born Winner Instant Expert is everything she stands against.
  • The title heroine of Cross Ange goes for half the series before encountering anyone who even remotely matches her combat prowess. When she does, however, it's a person who has been searching for a worthy opponent for just about as long (namely, Princess Salamandinay of the dragon people).
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Ken Kaneki develops this with Koutarou Amon of the CCG, asking him his name the second time they meet face to face, while on the other side, Amon is obsessed with being able to talk to Kaneki personally, their meeting having caused him to reconsider his previous belief that all Ghouls are evil. When a confrontation between the two leads to Amon getting seriously wounded, Kaneki mentally pleads for him to live. On the other side, when one of Amon's men is pleading for him not to die, Amon responds:
    Amon: Don't be absurd. If I die here, he'll be come a murderer.
  • In One-Punch Man, Boros earns Saitama's respect by being the first opponent he has faced to ever survive one of his punches. Saitama becomes this to Boros as well: Boros is a Galactic Conqueror who defeated all that opposed him and hasn't had any strong opponents in at the very least two decades, and probably much longer. Like Saitama, this has caused him to experience endless boredom and lose his passion for battling. When he faces Saitama, he gradually uses more and more of his full power until he uses his final form, which has amazing power but shortens his lifespan. This proves to be completely ineffectual as well, but Boros refuses to give up, using every last ounce of power he had in a last-ditch ultimate attack. Unfortunately, Saitama is still underwhelmed by the battle. While he is glad that he got to use more than just his standard punches and even tries to give Boros a respectful passing by lying and saying it was a fun match, a dying Boros comments that he knows Saitama was holding back and was nowhere near his full strength, and he never had a chance at winning. Saitama doesn't respond, but the look on his face just screams his sadness and disappointment that, yet again, his hopes for a good fight have been dashed by his overwhelming strength. In the anime adaptation, Saitama is even more disappointed when his next opponent fails to survive one of his standard punches.
  • Panzer World Galient: Jimzal Lambert to Jordy. He is so honorable that when General Rhodan interrupted his and Jordy's duel with an attack force, he refused to budge his Zauel during the ensuing invasion of White Valley.
  • In Endride, Demetrio sees Guidoro as strong warrior who has his own principles even if they are enemies which is why he invites him to join the Ignauts once the Truculent are slaughtered by Ibelda.
  • St. Gloriana Women's Academy from Girls und Panzer holds Ōarai's team in high regard after their training match (Miho managing to turn around a Curb-Stomp Battle at the hands of St. Gloriana's better equipped, highly skilled tankers though Darjeeling still defeats her in the final one-on-one duel), sending them tea as a sign of respect while Darjeeling eagerly attends all of Ōarai's matches in the tournament to see how they have grown as a team.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice has a few of these. Christophe always plays second banana to Victor, but enjoys competing against him so much that he loses all motivation when Victor retires. Yurio sees Yuri as this to the point where he's horrified to hear Yuri will retire if he wins the Grand Prix Final, and pushes himself to beat Yuri specifically to prevent this.
  • In Destruction Flag Otome Mary is engaged to Alan, but is in love with Katarina, the main character. Alan is also in love with her, but doesn't realize it at first. When he does, he tries to call off the engagement. Mary had been trying to call it off as well for some time indirectly, but at this point she begins taking Alan seriously as competition and declines to dissolve the arrangement. Of course, in the process of taking him seriously she also begins tricking him into working against his own interests.
  • Several villains hold Izuku Midoriya of My Hero Academia as this, among them Gentle Criminal and Hero Killer Stain, due to his motivations and morals. On a competition level, a number of prospective heroes view each other as worthy opponents with Bakugou in particular holding this view of Izuku and Uraraka.

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