Reluctant Warrior

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Miyagi always look for way not to fight. Miyagi hate fighting."

A lot of heroes fight for peace, love, friendship, justice and all that sort of stuff. Occasionally they believe in violence as a last resort, following the path of the Martial Pacifist and falling back on their prodigious martial training only as the very last resort while avoiding unnecessary deaths. The Reluctant Warrior isn't quite so blessed, he lacks the Improbable Aiming Skills that could make his dealing with them bloodlessly possible. What's more, he will find himself constantly facing enemies who mean to hurt or kill him and his friends, and who won't pick up a Villain Ball and dispose of themselves.

Nonetheless, they stand by their Actual Pacifist ideology and continually try to give peace a chance, even when doing so verges on being a Horrible Judge of Character when offered to irredeemably evil opponents. Sadly, they will still rack up a body count. Even so, they won't give up trying to hold to their Heroic Vow, even if it's functionally a Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow. They keep trying since they know that pure pacifism will cause more problems than solve, even if it means having to fight and kill again.

Because of these conflicting impulses, straight heroes who are Reluctant Warriors will spend a lot of time agonizing over their choices and circumstances, but somehow manage to keep the Angst under control (well, until the villain tries a Hannibal Lecture about their similarities). An Anti-Hero or Anti-Villain who is a Reluctant Warrior (it can happen) likely has some underlying good goal and means well—for loose definitions of "well"—and nonetheless laments but will not hesitate to use force.

Contrast Suicidal Pacifism.

Examples of Reluctant Warrior include:

Anime and Manga

  • Saint Seiya has Andromeda Shun, who after four seasons and at least three movies refuses to give up on the idea of non-violently settling problems, and talking to his enemies in the hopes of reasoning with them. He has the unfortunate tendency to combine this noble character with Martyr Without a Cause and almost giving away his life on a few occasions... but when push comes to shove and the enemy proves they are a Complete Monster, he will fight and kill them if need be. To his credit, he's managed to cause at least one Heel Face Turn among his opponents, and held back and throtled a body stealing god through sheer love of peace.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima: So how's the teaching job going, Negi? As the series progresses, he's getting less and less reluctant, getting dangerously close to the edge.
  • Goku from Dragon Ball is this (especially the horrible judge of character part) seeing as how he loves to fight but never sets out to kill, even when he is forced to. He actually has the lowest body count in the series, on important characters at least, lest we forget the time he went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and destroyed the entire Red Ribbon Army when he was a kid (thoiught they DID piss him off real bad by killing Upa's dad, among other stuff). And of course, he kills plenty of people in the movies, though those aren't canon.
  • Hiiragi in Psycho Staff is this. Also, he just wants to be normal and hates fighting.
  • Vision of Escaflowne: Van Fanel is constantly told he needs to attack more aggressively -- at first...
  • Haku of Naruto hated fighting and killing, but also desired nothing more than to see Zabuza's wishes fulfilled. In his final battle, despite having many opportunities to do so, he never struck a fatal point with his senbon despite it significantly extending the battle.
  • Shizuo Heiwajima from Durarara!! takes this trope to it's logical extreme: he's a vocal violence-hating pacifist who happens to have Super Strength and a very severe rage disorder that leads him to respond to the mildest irritation with - you guessed it - violence. He is fully aware of the hypocrisy of that statement.
  • Gundam Wing: Quatre Raberba Winner doesn't like fighting and doesn't believe in it, but will do it if he has to.
  • Gundam Seed: Kira Yamato starts out as a Reluctant Warrior, who tries to spare his enemies, but ends of killing a lot of them. He's eventually able to upgrade to Technical Pacifist, much to the improvement of his mental health. Athrun may qualify in Gundam Seed Destiny.
  • Bleach: Kira Izuru believes the true essence of combat is "despair". As such he despises battle, despite the fact that when he actually does fight seriously he's a complete gangster.
  • Blood+: Poor, poor Saya Otonashi...
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari. At first, he pilots so that Rei wouldn't have to. Then, he pilots because he want recognition from his estranged father. After Bardiel, he quits because he's afraid of hurting innocents but shortly afterwards, he pilots again because if he doesn't, people will get hurt anyway. Therefore, he has no choice but to sit in that fucking cockpit he hates like no tomorrow.

Rebuild 2.0 makes it somewhat better: he comes back because Zeruel made the big mistake of eating Rei. No-Holds-Barred Beatdown ensues.

  • Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo parodies this trope with Bojiggler, a Bishonen warrior that expresses his hatred for fighting by pounding the living daylights out of his enemies.
  • In Freezing, Kathy Lockhearte is a sweet, rather meek girl who wants to one day become a novelist and raise a loving family. Too bad for her that she naturally possesses the potential to become the one of the most powerful Pandoras on the planet, and her Jerkass father constantly pressured her into becoming the "world's savior" more for to boost his own political career than to actually, well, save the world.
  • Simon from Gurren Lagann starts out as one of these. He's only content with working as a miner and isn't happy with Kamina sending him on adventures. Then Kamina dies, leaving him to fend for himself, and by the end he's piloting a mecha capable of opening fire on every point in the space-time continuum simultaneously. Which it does.
  • Akito Tenkawa starts off as one, only wanting to serve as a cook aboard the titular ship.
  • Yang Wen-li of Legend of Galactic Heroes hates war and violence. However, he is a genius tactician, and living in a turbulent time means he is thrust into action time and time again. Several characters have remarked on the contradiction between his attitude and action.

Comic Books

  • Batman is one these. He has a code against killing and uses exclusively non-lethal weapons and tactics. On the other hand, he does deliberately go out looking for trouble. And it does often result in the occasional pile of bodies, but only a main villain has the potential for death (though he does try hard to prevent it). He would be happier if he didn't run into any trouble during a nightly patrol. Since it's Gotham, those nights are few and far between.
  • Superman tends to try talking things out before resorting to violence, even if it seems clear that the enemy cannot possibly be talked down. Being Nigh Invulnerable helps with this sort of philosophy.
  • DC Comics' Western character Bat Lash. He's a fairly cheerful Reluctant Warrior, though, who doesn't anguish much about beating up villains, instead maintaining a steady stream of banter about how he did try to avoid a confrontation, and, really, all he wants is to be about his business, but they've forced the issue. And he means it.
  • Most Western superheroes fit this trope. They typically despise violence but are often forced into the role of Badass because it's the right thing to do.


  • Shane
  • Daniel in Karate Kid.
    • Ditto his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. "Fighting always last resort."
  • The Guns of Navarone: Corporal Miller. He's seen one too many examples of the human cost of the war.

Miller : "Well, right now I say to hell with the job! I've been on a hundred jobs and not one of them's altered the course of the war! I don't care about the war anymore, I care about Roy!"

  • Brother Gilbert in Dragonheart had a minor dose of this trope. He agreed to fight against Einon because he was so evil, but kept his shots non-fatal. Then, when he was presented with Einon himself as a target, he drew a bead on the tyrant's heart but hesitated while growling out "Thou... shalt... not... kill..."
  • Eli from Book of Eli.
  • Star Wars series: Yoda. His's comment that "Wars not make one great!" was later elaborated upon with Form Zero, a sort of Jedi philosophy that stressed the importance of finding a non-violent solution to problems.


  • Shane
  • Faramir in Lord of the Rings. The Hobbits as well.
  • In Twilight, the older vampire, Carlisle, is considered less dangerous than those several hundred years his junior because of his reluctance to harm a living being, even if it's trying to kill him.
  • Cassie in Animorphs ranges between this and a Technical Pacifist.
  • Camaris in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, a classic Knight in Shining Armor and one of the greatest heroes the land of Osten Ard has ever known, hates battle, fights only when compelled, and prays for the souls of his vanquished foes. It helps that he's such a fearsome warrior that no sane enemy would take the field against him. This duality leads him to copious amounts of angst, including a full-scale Heroic BSOD; once he snaps out of it (twenty years later), he becomes a Shell Shocked Senior, but no less of a Badass.
  • Eragon of The Inheritance Cycle, regardless of interpretation, was supposed to be this.
  • Over the Wine Dark Sea: Menedemos and Sostratos; while they constantly have to defend themselves against pirates, warlords, and assorted blackguards they prefer to avoid a fight. In their case it is less from idealism and more because it interferes with their primary mission
  • Sam Temple in Gone (novel) doesn't want to step up and become the leader of the FAYZ. In fact, he doesn't at first, letting Orc, and later Caine, take over. Only when he sees how evil Caine is does he finally take charge.
  • Leland de Laal in Helm doesn't like fighting or, especially, killing, and avoids it assiduously wherever he can, even after being made the captain of a unit of mounted infantry. Up to and including engineering a peace treaty with the nation his unit was originally formed to fight.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's The Damned, every soldier in the Weave is this. Most of the Weave races abhor even the thought of violence, and the ones that can bring themselves to fight do so with much distaste. Their foes, the psychic influence-wielding Amplitur, do not like to fight either, but their fanatical belief in uniting all species beneath the banner of "The Purpose" drives them to do so, and they don't hesitate in genetically modifying species under their rule in order to make them better fighters. The only species that enjoys fighting is humanity. The Weave manages to recruit humankind, and the only thing that frightens them more than having humans as allies is the possibility of humans falling under the Amplitur's control.
  • Matteo in Someone Elses War. Well, arguably the entire cast, given that they're all Child Soldiers and none of them actually want to be there.

Live Action TV

  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: Parodied in a snippet: "I'm starting a war for peace."
  • Stargate SG-1: Daniel Jackson often has to reconcile his diplomatic ways with the more militarist ways of his friends. Sometimes he wins, sometimes they do, depending on the episode.
  • Doctor Who: Before the Last Great Time War, the Doctor was a Science Hero for whom lethal force was the last resort but still a valid one. After the war...he still is. During the war, on the other hand, he fought on the front line until he had no option but nuking both sides to save the rest of the universe.
  • Firefly: Both Dr. Simon Tam and Shepherd Book. River also qualifies. She may be a horrifically brutal and efficient killing machine, but she doesn't want to be one, and is terrified of her abilities.
  • Spock on Star Trek. The Federation as such would also fall under this category.
  • Lee "Apollo" Adama on Battlestar Galactica. He's a crack pilot and tactician, second only to Starbuck, but finds it difficult to carry out out orders he has ethical problems with, and actively questions the decisions behind them on occasion.
  • Babylon 5: Sheridan's mantra is "We will not start the fight, but we will finish it!" He lives up to it, as in almost all battles he commands, he allows the enemy to make a first shot.

In a novel Sheridan's predecessor Sinclair said during his introductory speech to the recruits of the newly found organisation of Rangers, that those who'd joined to have revenge on Shadows are not welcomed there, as the ultimate goal of the organisation is to save lives, all lives, including those of Shadows, if it's possible.

Web Comics

  • Piffany in Nodwick is perhaps nauseatingly nice, but can and will fight alongside her teammates when faced with the forces of naughtiness.
  • Our Little Adventure: Julie, the heroic protagonist hates fighting, especially humans and other humanoid races. She got deeply annoyed when her friends celebrated her popping her 'kill cherry' in this comic page.

Video Games


"I'm no hero. Never was, never will be. Just an old killer, hired to do some wetwork."

  • Flonne the Love Freak in Disgaea not only annoys her demonic friends and teammates with her endless prattle about "Love" and "Peace", but is quite a powerful magician and caster and helps out in fights.
  • Iji starts out as one. She may get less reluctant later in the game, depending on the player's actions. Ansaksie is definitely one, but Vateilika and Yukabacera may also count.
  • Shirou in Fate/stay night starts with the goal of only stopping Master's who are being actively disruptive and is absurdly forgiving of the likes of Shinji or Ilya. He tries diplomacy whenever practical, even with Kotomine and Caster. Unfortunately, when these efforts invariably fail, his only means of fighting back or even self defense involves putting swords in people's faces. Really, that's a very effective method of self-defense.
  • Zone of the Enders: Leo Stenbuck is intially extremely reluctant to fight even when his entire colony is being destroyed around him. Only near the end, when his 'girlfriend' has been shot, does he willingly continue fighting, even though a way out was staring him right in the face.
  • Mega Man X: The original reploid, he spent about a dozen games and a century (alone and offscreen) fighting incredibly difficult battles despite feeling compassion for his victims. Even when he realized that he was beginning to no longer care about the people he was having to kill, instead of giving up he just found another way to keep trying to protect the world.
  • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World: Emil is not only a reluctant warrior, but incompetent at that. He can only do any good in a fight when 'possessed' by Ratatosk, who obligingly does so before every battle (except at certain parts of the game).
    • Luke in Tales of the Abyss becomes one of these as one of the earliest stages of his rather extensive Character Development. At first he's downright traumatised by the experience of killing a fellow human being in self-defense. It's only when his hesitation puts himself and his companions in danger that he begins to accept that it is kill or be killed on the battlefield. And while he does eventually learn to let go of his reluctance and face his enemies without hesitation or regret, it's stated that even then he's still toubled enough by it that he's left lying awake shaking at night.
  • Mass Effect: Through certain dialogue choices, Commander Shepard can come off as this.
    • In the third game, Shepard can admit to feeling like their entire life has been enslaved by warfare and expresses the hope that after the Reapers are defeated, they can finally be free.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, a game set during the dying days of the Wild West, John Marston becomes this. John was trying to give up his old life as a gang member in the Wild West by living on a ranch with his wife and son earning a humble living as a farmer. This plan is ruined when government agents kidnap his family and tell him that he will never see them again if he doesn't kill the members of his old gang. John complies and takes up his gun again for the sake of his family.
  • In Soul Calibur V, Pyrrha Alexandra is this to the extent that her default stance is leaning back with her shield pressed up against her. She's quite the fighter if pushed, but she really doesn't want to.
  • Hawke in Dragon Age 2 with a sarcastic personality definitely can come off as this, just wanting to live a quiet life, provide for their family and not deal with all the insane politics in Kirkwall.

Real Life

  • Post-World War 2 Germany as a whole. After the shock of what Just Following Orders can lead to, the new German constitution gave every German citizen the right to refuse military service, to prevent instrumentalization of German people by the occupying powers. In the face of the Cold War, the creation of a new german army was highly controversial and required a legal loophole to reintroduce conscription, despite violating the consitution. It wasn't until the Yugoslaw Wars in the 90s, when genocide was happening right next to EU borders, that German aircraft engaged in combat action, and even that was extremely controversial. Caught in the frenzy of late 2001, Germany supported the invasion of Afghanistan with equipment and technical specialists and later took control of the mostly pacified Northeast in a mission to "provide security for the population and projects for the development of local security forces". A landmark was reached in 2009, when the Minister of Defense first admited that German troops in Afghanistan were dealing with "conditions similar to war", which was criticized by many other politicians, who went to great lengths to reassure that german troops were not involved in any war. At the same time, Germany has the worlds 7th largest defense budget and is the worlds 3rd largest weapons exporter after the US and Russia. While Germany hates to use military force, it's really good at making weapons.