Failure Knight

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Snow: I'll finish this Focus... and keep Serah safe.
Lightning: Great job so far.


A character with an empathic, almost embarrassing, level of devotion to another character they may not have known very long. Such a character will often matter-of-factly explain it as chivalry, destiny or whatever. Everyone who knows the other character will envy the situation, or tolerate it with minimal embarrassment.

For all intents and purposes this is a Satellite Character and often left at that... until we find out the tragic Backstory about Their Greatest Failure. Sometimes this isn't the first person they've pledged devotion to, and the former died, left or outright rejected them; it may have happened repeatedly. In some cases this role was a job of some kind, which gives the added punch to the gut to make them feel useless. So the Failure Knight keeps trying even harder now.

Bodyguards, Battle Butlers and Samurai can fit the bill too. Some (literal) Magical Girlfriends are Failure Knights, but are perceived as a lot more cloying about it. Many knights will find promotion: their boss treats their failure as a Career-Building Blunder. In particularly grim examples, the new object of devotion may be a Replacement Goldfish for the lost one.

Examples of Failure Knight include:

Anime and Manga

  • Saber of Fate/stay night has shades of this, which become more evident as the story progresses. As King Arthur, she failed to save the country she lived to serve, and perhaps even led to the civil war which tore it apart. Her sole wish is to erase her own existence, in the hopes that a different king will wield Excalibur, and succeed where she failed.
  • Manji is this in "Blade of the Immortal". Although he has been hired as Rin's bodyguard, he repeatedly shows that protecting her is more than just his duty. It is later suggested that he cannot bear to let her die since she looks so much like his sister who had died under his protection.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono's fierce devotion to Rosette and saving Joshua is due in part to the guilt he feels for killing Mary Magdalene through their contract in a misguided attempt to protect her.
  • Setsuna from Mahou Sensei Negima (Ashamed of her failure to save her ojou-sama, Konoka, from almost drowning when they were kids.)
    • It should be noted that this is more apparent in Negima!?. While Setsuna was basically Konoka's lapdog in the first manga she still possessed her own personality and independence - both were eighty-sixed in the second anime.
    • Mana evidently failed to protect her partner, but continues to carry around his now inert pactio card. The circumstances regarding it are still unexplained, however, so exactly what happened is anyone's guess.
    • Negi never did get over failing to save his village. He was 4 years old, of course, but that didn't stop him from trying.
  • Shao the Moon Spirit from Mamotte Shugogetten was shown to suffer from this in a flashback episode. Her masters who were actually good all eventually die anyway, and most of her powers are seen as rather useless in the modern world.
  • Mahoro from Mahoromatic not only was unable to protect Misato Suguru's father, but had to kill him in the line of duty. When allowed to spend the rest of her (shortened) lifetime as she wants, she chooses to become the Misato family's maid and goes to serve and protect Suguru.
  • Ellis McGaren from the Triangle Heart 3 ~sweet songs forever~ OVA channels her failure not only into protecting Fiasse, but also into trying to show up Kyouya and Miyuki so they'll stop protecting her and leave them alone. Since Katanas Are Just Better, the opposite happens, and Ellis has to face her past as their Forgotten Childhood Friend.
  • Fakir from Princess Tutu fits this trope so well that villains actively mock him for it. He fiercely tries to protect Mytho from danger—partially for fear that he'll repeat the mistakes of the Knight from the original fairytale, whom he's the reincarnation of. In the story, the knight had tried to protect the Prince from the evil Raven, but was torn in two before he could strike a single blow on his enemy. As if that's not bad enough, it turns out that his desperate need to protect Mytho is compounded by suppressed guilt for his parent's deaths, who were killed trying to protect him when an attempt to use his powers to make stories come true went horribly wrong.
  • Balsa of Seirei no Moribito agrees to protect the prince despite the danger (and the attempted trickery) because she feels she has to atone for nine lives her Mentor took to keep her safe; furthermore Chagum is also a Replacement Goldfish for herself, as he is in pretty much the same situation she was in as a child.
  • From Code Geass: Sir Jeremiah "Orange-kun" Gottwald was the guard in charge of the imperial palace the day when Empress Marianne was murdered and never could forgive himself for such a terrible failure. This is the basis for his Heel Face Turn.
    • That's the Hand Wave more like it. In reality it's because it is frigging awesome.
    • From the same show there is General Bartley who blames himself for the death of Prince Clovis, he spends the rest of the series trying to atone for it, finish their research and avenge the prince?s death. His last words are even him calling out to his slain master.
    • Suzaku is also a fairly textbook example of this trope even before he actually becomes Princess Euphemia's knight. Her tragic death only exacerbates things, and by the time he gets to Nunnally's (apparent) death, Suzaku has hit the Despair Event Horizon.
  • The hero of Flame of Recca immediately pledges his eternal loyalty as a ninja to his "Princess" Yanagi (a sweet healer) despite the fact that he had sworn only to do so for someone who's proven themselves stronger than him. This, of course, pisses off two characters who have a long history of trying to defeat him in order to make him their subordinate. And the whole reason why he does this? Because of a dream that was eventually revealed as his father's failure to protect HIS master, Sakura-hime.
  • In My-HiME, part of Mai's reason for being protective of her younger brother Takumi stems from her belief that her negligence led both him and their mother to almost drown in a raging river when they were young, leading to his current heart problems and their mother's death.
  • In Kure-nai, Yayoi seems to be stalking Shinkurou and Murasaki to the point of obsession. At first this is put down as just her being jealous that Shinkurou got assigned the job to protect Murasaki. However, it is later revealed that Yayoi once failed in her duty as a bodyguard to protect another client from murder, so this time she's extremely protective of Murasaki.
  • In the Basilisk TV series, Gyoubu Kasumi, from the Koga ninjas gets his backstory expanded so he's shown as a tragic, sad anti-hero who, as a child, was traumatised after seeing his beloved father Renbu die as a result of an Iga ninja attack.
  • Akito from Martian Successor Nadesico was traumatized by being unable to protect the people he was in a shelter with from a Jovian attack at the beginning of the series—especially the little girl named "Ai" he befriended.
  • The death of her old boyfriend Emilio Ribisi is hinted to be what caused Leesa Kujo aka Sumeragi Lee Noriega's alcoholism in Gundam 00. She is more of The Strategist than of a knight, but it still fits well.
  • Ex-private detective, now Hitman with a Heart Youji Kudoh from Weiss Kreuz is permanently haunted by his failure to protect his girlfriend and former partner, Asuka Murase, from being shot down during a job that went horribly wrong.
  • Hanamichi Sakuragi from Slam Dunk was badly traumatised by the death of his father. What makes it worse is that he was prevented of saving his dad's life by a bunch of bullies, who ambushed him when he was running towards the hospital, searching for help, in retaliation for him having beat them up earlier.
  • It has been revealed that Hayate the Combat Butler's strength and devotion comes from having failed childhood friend Athena when he himself was a child.
  • G Gundam has George De Sand and the "Versailles Tragedy", where his opponent, Mirabeau, fired at the audience and killed several people
  • Knight Zest of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. The constant guardian of Lutecia and Agito, who before the events of the season had lost his entire squad in a failed attack on one of Jail's research facilities. A squad that included the mother of Lutecia, Megane, as well as the mother of Subaru and Ginga..
    • Vita seemed to take on some of this trope after Nanoha is almost fatally wounded between seasons.
    • Also, Hegemon Claus Ingvalt from ViVid flashbacks, who has failed to save the Saint King Olivie.
    • There's the possibility that Signum becomes one of this after failing miserably in stopping Cypha of Huckebein from kidnapping two kids at the beginning of Force.
      • Confirmed as of chapter 20, Signum apologizes twice to Tohma and Lily for not being able to save them and also talk about the unavoidable guilt she feels about it.
  • Hayate's rather complicated attitude toward Himeno in Prétear - including his harshly critical behavior toward her but also more particularly his almost stalkerish protectiveness (especially in the anime) - is the result of his guilt over the previous Pretear, Takako, becoming the Princess of Destruction because of her unrequited love for him.
    • Sasame has elements of this, too, particularly in the manga version--because of HIS unrequited love for Takako. At one point when Himeno is in danger he panics, saying "I failed to protect the Pretear again!"
  • Xerxes Break, formerly Kevin Regnard has this as a somewhat complicated backstory in Pandora Hearts.
  • In Bleach, Rukia Kuchiki. In childhood, she swore to always stand by and protect her friends; all of them except Renji died and she chose to become a Shinigami. As a Shinigami, she was forced to kill the man she admired and perhaps even loved. Finally, she gave Ichigo the power to protect his family and guided him only to see him cut down by her own brother, Byakuya. By the time her execution rolled around, she was almost looking forward to oblivion.

Ichigo: "I loved my mom. (...) She filled up the center our family revolved around. From that center, I stole mom from them, I did...!"

  • In Naruto, Haku. His father killed his mother and then turned on him afterward all due to both of them possessing a rare bloodline ability. Poor Haku's will to live saved him by killing his father and the rest, leaving the child a vagrant orphan in a village stuck in perpetual winter. When Zabuza offered him the opportunity to serve him and be useful, Haku accepted and became Zabuza's loyal servant.
  • Ingrid in Freezing, having lost her friend Marine, becomes a Blood Knight version of the trope.
  • In the Skypeia arc of One Piece, former ruler Gan Fall, after being unable to make peace with the Shandians or stop Enel from turning his kingdom into an Orwellian Dystopia, he puts on a suit of armor and dedicates himself to saving as many people as possible as the Knight of the Sky.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, we have two of thwse in opposite sides of the war. Allen Schezar, Knight of Astoria, feels guilty for not being able to protect his deceased Missing Mom and his long lost sister Selena, kidnapped as a young girl.. Whereas in the Zaibach empire, Jajuka the Beastman feels guilty because he also was unable to save Selena... from forcibly becoming Dilandau, thanks to the Mad Scientists of the group.
  • Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion devoted herself to piloting from a very young age. The reason for that is later revealed to be very tragic: on the day she was accepted as a trainee, she ran to tell her mentally unstable mother Kyoko the news only to be the first to find Kyoko's body after she hung herself. To add insult to injury, Kyoko, even while alive, rejected Asuka for a doll and Asuka's father openly cheated on Kyoko with the woman's nurse and neglected Asuka as well. The real reason she wants to be the best pilot is because she feels it as justification of her existence, essentially adopting her Eva as a Replacement Goldfish. Once it becomes painfully clear that Shinji is better, Asuka feels she has no reason left to live. When she realizes that her Eva isn't a Replacement Goldfish but the real deal, she instantly recovers... only to lose again due to circumstances out of her control. This time she crosses the Despair Event Horizon and stays that way.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akemi Homura is an unusual example in that the person she's going out of her way to protect is the same person she failed to save. It's revealed that in another timeline, Madoka was a Magical Girl and died protecting Homura. Overcome with grief and guilt, Homura made a deal with Kyubey, wishing to be able to go back and protect Madoka in exchange for becoming a Magical Girl herself. Her wish was granted, and she became a Magical Girl with the power to control time, only to watch Madoka die or turn into a witch again several times over. Nonetheless, she remains determined to save her.
  • Conrad Weller from Kyou Kara Maou has only been this for the last twenty years of a roughly hundred-year life, but it's really deep-set. The main character, Yuuri, is the reincarnation of the woman he loved very much, Susanna Julia von Wincott, and Conrad handled the soul transfer personally and assisted in the birth. He does pretty well at not treating Yuuri or thinking of him as a Replacement Goldfish, but he is definitely a replacement.
    • Oddly the failure that seems to have hit his psyche deepest, or at least the one he acknowledges, has nothing to do with him—the entire command structure of the country is apparently held responsible for Julia applying her Healing Hands to battle wounded until it killed her, and at the time he was off surviving a suicide mission while all but one of his best friends fell and died about him under his command. Technically, however, Rutenberg Pass was a victory, and nobody but he and Yozak really cared about the other Half Human Hybrids who fell there, betrayed by the nation to which they had sworn their loyalty. Probably Julia's loss, which hit him quite hard in its own right, was the safe one to feel, since really processing what happened at Rutenberg would require confronting the incredible betrayal by his nation and his family that allowed the battle of Rutenberg Pass and his credentials as a hero to even happen. He appears to have completely sublimated all his personal feelings to this overreaching mission to dutifully serve his king, which gives him his Stepford Smiler vibe.
      • Note that the best friend who survived Rutenberg with him is still someone whose life he is willing to threaten for messing with Yuuri after knowing the kid a few days, and those not being heroic or successful days for the most part.
      • He also wound up betraying everything he was and loved because his nation's god told him it was the best way to help Yuuri achieve his goals. To twist the knife, Shinou appears to have pulled that just as much to torment and mess with Yuuri as to get an inside man into Daishimaron. Their relationship never quite recovers, which is probably a good thing since Yuuri tended to rely on Conrad for everything.
    • Conrad needs somebody to live for. Once it was Wolfram. Wolfram rejected him for being half-human shortly after his father died, he had a very justified nasty cynical adolescent phase, and then wound up fixated on Julia, as well as country and almost certainly his comrades. When most of that was shorn away and his Julia attachment was adroitly transferred to the new king, he became patriotism in a brown uniform. Even though it was a country in which no one had protested sending him to die, or moved to punish anyone for getting soldiers killed stupidly...but exiled a high-born general on a Snipe Hunt because his We Have Reserves tactics wound up setting off a popular blind noblewoman's Chronic Hero Syndrome, and getting her killed. Emotionally, that is the loss it is acceptable for him to mourn, so he assigns all his negative emotions to that, rather than risk hating everyone he has left in the world.
  • Lancer of Fate/Zero (a.k.a. Diarmuid Ua Duibhne) lost the trust of his lord Finn mac Cumhaill when he (accidentally) stole Finn's fiance. He joins the Holy Grail War for one reason: to successfully serve his Master through the War, thus atoning for his past failure. Unfortunately, his new Master's fiance falls for him much like Grainne did, poisoning the attempt right from the start.
  • Tachibana of Gate 7. His Big Brother Instinct towards Hana is justified once it's discovered that he fails in protecting his own twin sister and she ended kipnapped by Iemitsu.

Comic Books

Fan Works

  • In the Bleach fanfic Winter War, Kotetsu Isane becomes this. After her captain, Unohana, surrendered Seireitei and was taken captive- after ordering Isane to escape along with the critically wounded Captain Ukitake rather than try to fight- Isane focuses all her energies on keeping him alive, even as she becomes too apathetic and convinced of her own weakness to take an active role in organizing La Résistance (despite being one of the few surviving lieutenants). She manages to put her guilt aside and fight effectively when she has to- but she's still strongly focused on protecting Ukitake, to the point of refusing to let him try a Heroic Sacrifice at one point.


  • During World War II, Capra volunteered for the Army, where they assigned him to making training films. In his first film, he wrapped the information in a little story: a captain had lost his entire company, and was drilling his new soldiers to survive what had killed the last one. They hated him, until it happened, and they all survived. The Army found that soldiers who watched this remembered what to do much better than from most training films.
  • Sir Didymus of Labyrinth
  • Frank Horrigan of In the Line of Fire holds himself responsible for not stopping the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Someone taunts him with the possibility of history repeating itself.
  • Jason to Kelly in Mystery Team.
  • Sir Knolte of Marlborough in Black Knight (the one with Martin Lawrence), who used to be a respected knight in the service of the Queen, until King Leo usurped her throne. His greatest failure is preventing this. When Jamal finds him, Knolte is living in the woods and spends much of his time drunk. He is later convinced to lead La Résistance against the false king and kills The Dragon.

Jamal Walker: Oh, you're upset. I ain't got no beef with you, dawg.
Sir Knolte: (drunkedly) Kindly address me with the proper respect. I am Knolte of Marlborough, and I am not a dog.



  • Subverted in A Song of Ice and Fire with Ser Dontos, a literal Failure Knight who is saved from execution by young Sansa Stark and helps her escape the Lannisters in return, but is really a greedy drunk working for Littlefinger, who has him killed.
    • In fact, the Song of Ice and Fire is rife with these, as you might expect from a dark medieval fantasy. To name a few:
      • Jorah Mormont's wife Lynesse left him; now he is massively overprotective of Daenerys, who looks like her
      • Sandor Clegane's past failure is unspecified, but may have something to do with Gregor killing their younger sister; now he protects Sansa
      • Barristan Selmy carries the guilt of being too cowardly to stop Mad King Aerys's from starting a civil war, failing to protect Prince Rhaegar at the Trident, and failing to protect King Robert from a Hunting Accident. After getting forcibly retired by Joffrey, he threw his lot in with Daenerys Targaryen.
      • Brienne of Tarth was in love with Renly Baratheon, who was the first man to treat her with something other than scorn, and swore to guard his life with her own; when he was murdered by his brother through supernatural means, she was devastated. While she doesn't seem to be in love with Jaime Lannister, the fact that he was the second man to treat her with something other than scorn plus her single-minded devotion to fulfilling the oath she made to him smacks of this trope.
      • Deconstructed with Robert Baratheon; he never got over Lyanna Stark's death, and trying to fill this role for his new wife Cersei earned him her undying hatred (starting when he called her "Lyanna" on their wedding night,) while he built up more and more resentment over her not being more like Lyanna.
  • In The Wheel of Time series, Bonded Warders can go a little crazy if their charges die - they are typically Driven to Suicide, Walking the Earth in an Unstoppable Rage against evil forces until they get defeated.
  • Miles Vorkosigan, when Ekaterin starts to slip down a slope in Komarr, has a flashback to a rescue operation in an earlier book. In the previous incident, as the Drop Ship was leaving, one of the female prisoners who helped him organize it from the inside fell out the back. Miles tried to catch her, but he missed the grip and she fell to her death. This time he catches her...and promptly slides into the pond with her, as he's not anchored to anything and she outmasses him. This helps him accept that he couldn't have saved the other woman.
  • The Bloodguard in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant probably fit this trope.
  • Sturm, from Dragonlance.
  • Araris Valerian in the Codex Alera has a lot of this going on thanks to his failure to protect Septimus. He gets a second chance with his son, Octavian.
  • Snape has a twisted version in the Harry Potter series. His failure, and motive for his subsequent behavior, doesn't become clear until late in the final book.

Live Action TV

  • Angel: Vampire Hunter Holtz, to a certain degree.
  • News Radio: Office spaz Matthew Brock looks up to Phil Hartman's Small Name, Big Ego character no matter how much abuse he suffers.
  • The Office (UK): Gareth, towards David Brent.
  • The Office (US): Dwight and Andy, towards Michael Scott.
    • Debatable since neither of them are motivated by some sort of past failure; they're just sycophants.
  • Lateline had one of these, a snarky sassy secretary type who idolized the jerky lead anchor character. I'd fill in the names, but there's so little in the way of Lateline material on the web, that you'll just have to take my word for it.
  • On NCIS, it's implied that Gibbs's devotion to his team is at least partly due to the murder of his wife and daughter several years earlier. This may be especially true of Abby, who serves as something of a surrogate daughter.
  • The Mentalist: Patrick Jane, while not helpful in the traditional sense, always saves his beloved Lisbon and her team after the death of his wife and daughter.
  • Shoutarou, in Kamen Rider W, is intensely devoted towards protecting his clients no matter what. This stems from the teachings of his dead mentor. The sentiment is shared by Akiko in her more heroic moments.
  • Finch to Reese in Person of Interest. He holds himself responsible for the people whose lives were endangered but he did not, or could not, save, including Reese's love. Reese returns this to a degree, seeing Finch as the man who gave him a purpose in life and a way to save people.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • The Tales (series) has a few different Failure Knights in its ranks of heroes.
    • Most notably is Asbel from Tales of Graces, who fails to protect his friends during a childhood incident that left them all inches from death. He joins the Knight Academy to attempt to become stronger so he never fails again, but then promptly fails over and over. To his credit, he keeps trying, but several characters call him out on this.
    • Senel from Tales of Legendia goes through quite the Trauma Conga Line when it comes to protecting Shirley and Stella. He inadvertently gets the village they live in destroyed, gets Shirley kidnapped by Complete Monster Vaclav, fails to save Stella in time, and then breaks Shirley's heart to the point that she pulls a Face Heel Turn and attempts to flood the world with water. On top of all that, his repeated "not my problem" attitude grates on the other party members' nerves to the point they go on without him, and the Quiet Nerifes doesn't give him sacred eres until he realizes what a complete Jerkass he's been to everyone. Tough break.
  • Final Fantasy has a few examples:
    • When he first meets Terra in the opening sequence of Final Fantasy VI, Locke acts the knight-errant protector, and there are hints of a painful past. However, shortly thereafter he transfers his devotion to Celes, and that goes for the jugular. Locke swears to protect her, mentions a promise he had made to someone, other characters ask if he's "thinking of...her," and eventually we get the story: Locke was reminded, by both women, of his girlfriend, who lost her memories trying to save him, and later died momentarily after regaining them. He swore to find a way to revive her. Eventually he finds it, but it only brings her back long enough for her to forgive him, give her blessing to Celes and Locke's burgeoning romance, and die for good.
      • Cyan also falls under this when Kefka poisons the water surrounding Doma castle, killing everyone inside, including Cyan's wife and son. Later on, after beating the Phantom Train boss, Cyan sees his wife and son depart to the afterlife, telling him that they love him and they thank him for all he has done for them. Though he tries to put it behind him, Cyan still blames himself for not being able to prevent the tragedy. In fact, during the World of Ruin, those negative emotions haunt him and causes a spirit fiend named Wrexsoul to appear in Cyan's dreams and feed off Cyan's soul. After the party defeats the monster, the spirit of Cyan's wife and son appear and they tell him to be strong and to keep living. This finally gives Cyan the strength to carry on, which causes him to fully master all of his Sword Techs.
    • Cloud and Aerith in Final Fantasy VII. It's because she is killed by Sephiroth and Cloud was unable to do anything.
    • Steiner from Final Fantasy IX is a literal failure knight. His platoon (The Knights of Pluto) is the laughingstock of the Alexandrian military, his attempts to help or protect the Princess are undermined by everyone else in the cast (including the Princess herself), and he eventually watches his own beloved Queen die, hoist by her own power-hungry petard. Fortunately, once he's hit rock bottom, things start to get better.
      • Well although his men are all incompetent idiots, Steiner himself seems to be respected enough by the kingdom and aside from a fairly large stick up his ass he's the 2nd strongest swordsman in Alexandria. He fulfills the trope perfectly though after the events of early Disc 3.
      • When Bahamut attacks Alexandria, his men start to redeem themselves when they perform specialized duties like readying the cannons, gathering information, protecting the citizens, and sending for reinforcements. You learn about which knights specialize in each area when one of the Knights of Pluto gives information (in the first Disk) that this knight is a great fighter, these knights are great cannoneers, that this knight knows all the women in town, and things along that line.
    • Lulu from Final Fantasy X tried and failed to protect two other summoners before joining Yuna's party in the game.
      • Auron from the same game, however, is a Failure Knight because he succeeded in protecting his summoner (since the Final Summoning results in the summoner's death anyway). Being a guardian just kind of sucks all the way around.
    • Noel from Final Fantasy XIII-2 feels he failed to protect Yeul and everyone else in his world. He also fails to protect Serah, who dies in his arms right after they beat Caius. And then it turns out that he didn't even succeed in protecting the future, as killing Caius allows the world to be destroyed. Damn...
  • Ratchet and Clank Future A Crack In Time's Alistair Azimuth is this until he goes a bit crazy and tries to reverse his failure.
  • Occurs frequently in Knights of the Old Republic. Depending upon your character interpretation, Carth, Jolee, and Juhani in the first game and Atton, the Disciple, Mandalore, and Visas in the second all qualify.
  • As his charge is killed during the opening of the second Baldur's Gate game, Minsc becomes unable to return to his homeland of Rasheman, as he would be utterly humiliated for his failure to protect her. This makes Minsc's devotion to the survivors of the first game's party (canonically, the PC, Jaheira and Imoen) all the stronger, as well as giving him a highly protective streak concerning Aerie, Nalia, Mazzy and Keldorn should they join you.
    • A more literal Failure Knight in the same game can be found in the graveyard. Near the top of the screen a Paladin mourns his deceased adopted son, while near the bottom of the screen a priest searches for a guardian for the orphaned little girl he's looking after...
  • In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, Adrian Andrews is stubborn and very matter-of-fact due to her former mentor, Celeste, committing suicide. Doesn't help that the guilty party AND the victim were directly responsible, and Adrian Andrews suffers from severe self-esteem issues..
    • In the first game, you could make the case that Phoenix himself is Edgeworth's failure knight. Think about it: he allowed his entire career choice to be determined by his desire to help a guy he'd known for about a year when they were both nine years old.
  • Prince Shanan from Fire Emblem 4, as a child, failed to stop his leader's wife kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the enemy, who later killed almost everyone Shanan cared for. 17 years later, he's a badass and handsome swordsman who still feels horribly guilty after that mistake.
    • In FE8 we have Gerik, who tells Innes in their supports that he's always felt like crap for not preventing the death of an old friend who motivated him to become a mercenary. And there's also the matter of him finding out that the killer... was another good friend of his: Saleh, the Badass Bookworm. Who killed the other guy by accident and also considered it his greatest regret.
    • Lady of War Fiora goes through this twice in FE7. First, she had a huge fight with her middle sister Farina that almost split up the family, and then her whole Pegasus Knight squad is slaughtered, so her youngest sister Florina must talk her out of going into a suicidal Foe-Tossing Charge. YIKES!
    • Don't forget Harken from the same game, who obsesses over his failure to protect Lord Elbert from Nergal.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Glenn is this way around Cyrus during Frog's backstory.
    • In fact, getting over this event was the major point of a sidequest at the end of the game. This upgrades your Masamune to 200 Attack Power, making it Frog's best weapon.
    • Lucca is also something of a Failure Knight. Having witnessed a horrific accident involving machines in her childhood, when we meet her as a teenager she is fanatical about technology and science, and shows particular compassion towards Robo.
  • Sork from Treasure of the Rudra even though the Knight Captain says that he is the best Swordsman of Cryunne.
  • Dias Flac, from Star Ocean the Second Story. Though we can't really blame Dias for his family's deaths, being as he was a little kid at the time.
  • In Bionicle, Toa Vakama got stuck in this rut as a result of what happened to Toa Lhikan, becoming a Leeroy Jenkins around the time the Visorak invade Metru Nui.
  • In Phantom Brave, Ash protects Marona to make up for failing to protect her parents. Nevermind that he died right along with them.
  • In a way, Persona 4 has Yosuke, who loved Saki Konishi only to subsequently have her die. This is more subtle in that he didn't really have the power to protect anyone until after she died, but her death definitely drives him. The game kind of slaps him in the face by revealing that Saki hated his guts - she worked at the department store run by Yosuke's father, which was putting Saki's family's liquour store out of business, and despite her claims to the contrary, she secretly resented him for it.
  • Mickey Mouse, of all people, is like this in Kingdom Hearts. In the first games he prefers to work behind the scenes on his own and doesn't seem to want to get Sora and company too involved with what he's doing, only directly helping out when he has no choice. That's because in the prequel game, he does the opposite, running off to heroically join Terra, Aqua and Ven in battle and fight on the frontlines with them. However, he winds up accomplishing nothing and can only watch as Ven is rendered comatose, Terra and Aqua "disappear" and the Darkness starts to destroy worlds a year or so later just like they feared. Apparently he doesn't want Sora and co to end up like their predecessors.
  • Greg from Wild ARMs 5 certainly qualifies. Dropping his entire war on Golems and becoming a ride along babysitter/bodyguard, all for a kid he met twice that on one occasion was more than ready to shoot him in the back is a pretty far jump for a violent, outlaw drifter. Until you find out that Dean reminds him of his murdered son, whose death he blames himself for. Arguably the main villain could be considered one as well, considering that his entire crusade was prompted by his own failure to tear down the wall between Veruni and Humans. The same goes for Nightburn, to a lesser degree.
  • Archimedes in Suika, who is depressed that he didn't come into existence to fulfill the wish of the little girl who made him until after she had already died. But he gets to make up for it by sacrificing himself for the local Ill Girl sister.
  • Dragon Age II has Aveline, who meets the Hawke family while defending her husband from Darkspawn, declaring "They will not have you, not while I stand." A matter of minutes later, it's revealed he's infected with the Blight, forcing either her or Hawke to Mercy Kill him. She spends the game's seven-year timespan juggling her roles as Captain of the Guard and Hawke's adventuring companion, and is an equally fierce Team Parent in both. To put this in perspective, she's still in the running for most well-adjusted character in Kirkwall.


  • Girl Genius: Gilgamesh Wulfenbach is a variation; instead of having lost his Great Love, he just thought he did. Tarvek Sturmvoraus, however, had it bad: despite rather devious efforts, he repeatedly failed to keep safe the few relatives whom he considered worth saving (his family provided many examples for contrast, after all). Which is why he really flips out when something seriously threatens his sweetheart or best friend/rival.
  • Nigel Dantalian of Fey Winds is a war golem who failed to protect his master, the Alchemist, from the comic's resident Big Bad. The last order that the Alchemist gave Nigel was to find Sylphe and help her. He devotes himself to Kit because of the echoes of Sylphe's magic in her body.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court Kat suggests this as a possible motivation for the mysterious bird robots. Specifically, that their creator lost his lover on the bridge so he built the birds to defend court students trying to cross the bridge. It now looks unlikely that this is the case however.
  • Chief of Goblins seems to feel this at times. At birth he was chosen as chief in order to prevent a civil war that would have destroyed his clan, but it cost the clan their glory and honor. As a result he has shown a strong loyalty towards his warriors and when Kore found them, he chose to stay behind so the others could escape.
  • Ruby in Nuzlocke Comics during season 2, after he loses his entire team in the Hoenn Champion battle at the conclusion of the first season.
  • Grace of El Goonish Shive, becomes one after failing to stop Damien when he killed everyone at the lab she grew up in. Grace also blames herself for not being able to help Nanase stop Abraham. Abraham himself is one because he failed his mentor in creating the Dewitchery Diamond which compounded his already serious problems and resulted in the deaths of at least five people.
  • Katia of Prequel is this to everyone who is nice enough to be her friend, aside from random guards.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Murtaugh, formerlyspoiler! a major in command of Sanctum Adroit company's rent-a-cop unit (and as such a Hero Antagonist for one arc). At least, according to father of Captain Tagon:

Karl Tagon: I've got her pegged down as a knight errant, a ronin. She's a sullied paladin questing for redemption.


Western Animation

  • Twist: Depth Charge from Transformers: Beast Wars isn't a Failure Knight... He's more of a Failure Vampire Hunter. He used to be a loyal, good natured, reliable Maximal, an all-around good guy. What happened? Protoform X happened. The sadistic, violent experiment gone wrong pretty much literally ripped Depth Charge's life to shreds, and bringing the monster to justice is all Depth Charge has left. He has a way of showing up when he's needed and then telling whoever he just saved where to stick it which stems from him being more of a loner than most Failure Knights... but considering what happened to his last group of pals, maybe that's understandable.
    • Arguably, much the same thing happens to Silverbolt in Beast Machines, when Megatron turns him evil, removes his code of honor, and he likes it. Afterwards, he splits his time between brooding over his fall, seeking revenge and spurning the affections of his former lover, Black Arachnia
  • Sean Napier from Exo Squad reversed this trope; his goal is to "fix his mistake": saving the life of Phaeton.
    • Interestingly, there are indications that Phaeton is a variant of this. He must bring about Neosapien domination of the Solar System because he helped the Exofleet crush the first Neo revolt, albeit under duress; not to mention that the Neos were losing anyway.

Real Life

  • Older Than Radio: In a sense, The 47 Ronin who pulled a huge Xanatos Roulette to kill the evil nobleman who got their master killed and still ended up as the heroes, allowed to kill themselves honorably via Seppuku rather than be executed and die in shame.
  • George III's second son Frederick, Duke of York was so conscious of his disastrous experience in Flanders that he devoted himself entirely to being a better officer; Britain got its first serious army reform in the bargain.
    • Unfortunately for Britain, this devotion also impacted his health and marriage: his bad marriage added to the uncertainty of the succession (the reign of George IV was a race among the previously-dissolute princes to produce a legitimate heir), as he wanted nothing to do with his wife; and his ill-health eventually killed him before his older brother died, leaving third son Prince William to take the throne—and while "Sailor Billy" was hardly a bad king given the circumstances, it's widely believed that Frederick would have been better.