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The Noble Top Enforcer is an Anti-Villain Dragon who is considerably more virtuous than The Big Bad. Why they serve the villain can vary. They could be doing so out of loyalty to him, loyalty to their nation, or they could just be stuck in their situation through other circumstances. Expect this character to not do any of the real bad stuff his boss does or perform a Zeroth Law Rebellion if ordered to do something unpleasant as a way to Take a Third Option.
Generally one of the more dangerous types of The Dragon for two reasons. 1. These dragons are often VERY skilled combatants and/or very intelligent, mitigating their low position on the Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness by being very competetent, being at the very least "credible" on the Sliding Scale of Villain Effectiveness. 2. Should the Big Bad do something so vile that it truly pisses them off, the Noble Top Enforcer will be the first one to turn on them, triggering either a Heel Face Turn or an Enemy Mine scenario. Second most likely member of a Five-Bad Band (behind The Dark Chick) to turn on the Big Bad.
Subtrope of The Dragon. Sub type of Anti-Villain. Although the Noble Top Enforcer can be all over the place on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains, they commonly trend towards either type I or type IV. Dark Magical Girls that serve as The Dragon tend to be type II. Word play on Noble Demon, which some of them are. Similar to My Master, Right or Wrong, with one critical difference. While My Master, Right or Wrong is purely concerned with loyalty, the Noble Top Enforcer is a comparison of the morality of The Dragon and the Big Bad. The Good Chancellor serves as one if in an evil government. Related to Minion with an F In Evil.
- While it's left unclear for a long time if Athena in Appleseed is an Anti-Hero or an Anti-Villain, she is clearly not above using every dirty trick at her disposal to maintain the stability of the city Olympus, even if it means intimidating the parliament to do things her way. Her right hand Nike is much more civil and reserved and deals with problems discretely behind the scenes. To such a degree that she becomes even scarier than her boss.
- Haku, Zabuza's dragon from Naruto.
- Most Dark Magical Girls in general.
- Fate Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha before her Heel Face Turn.
- Desert Punk's Striker
- Abelia in Now and Then Here and There is SO MUCH of a better person than the outrageously, ridiculously Evil Big Bad Hamdo that eventually she just shoots him after she's had enough.
- Christopher Armalite in Scrapped Princess. Although his immediate superior is a virtuous Cool Old Lady, his orders ultimately come from the corrupt government.
- Freed Justine of Fairy Tail to Laxus Dreyar.
- Bismarck Waldstein is this to Emperor Charles Zi Britannia of the Code Geass fame. Bismarck, being the Knight of One, answers directly to his Majesty and Britannia's foreign policy consists of discriminatory imperialism under his rule. Bismarck himself, though, is shown to be a virtuous and honorable soldier; advocating negotiation as being "more practical" before going to all out war and chastising Suzaku for abandoning his compassion in exchange for vengeance. Tellingly, he pilots a Knightmare Frame called the Galahad, named after the most noble of King Arthur's Round Table.
- Ashram in Record of Lodoss War. He is completely loyal to Emperor Beld and one of his most capable generals, but after Beld's death he firmly opposes the actions of the other Marmo leaders and works hard to help the people of his country, while still remaining an enemy of the heroes.
- Folken de Fanel to Emperor Dornkirk in Vision of Escaflowne. He really did want to see less violence in the world, and eventually decided that the Emperor's Plan wasn't really working for him.
Film -- Animation
- Kronk from The Emperors New Groove.
- Although he never objected to Captain Hook's actions, it's clear that Mr. Smee from Peter Pan is considerably less evil than his boss, being more of a Punch Clock Villain.
- Mirage to Syndrome in The Incredibles. She turned on him after he ordered a plane known to have children on board shot down.
- Not to mention showing absolutely no concern for her life when Mr. Incredible had her by the throat.
- Cutter to General Mandible in Antz
Film -- Live Action
- El Segundo from Valdez Is Coming lives and breathes this trope, and openly regards Valdez as a Worthy Opponent.
- Damodara in Belisarius Series. Reconstructed Trope by making the dynamic among the leaders of the Malwa Empire into a major and central plot point.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the cold and ruthless Tywin Lannister has his strongest supporter in his brother Kevan, a family man and generally decent guy who supports Tywin unconditionally because he feels that Tywin's harshness is necessary for the good of their family/the realm. In A Dance With Dragons, he's killed by Varys himself and his little birds, Varys fearing that he might undo the trainwreck his niece caused.
- In the Doctor Who episode, Planet of the Ood, the baddie of the week's chief scientist was working to free the Ood the whole time.
- Villamax to Trakeena in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, who becomes pissed when Trakeena goes too far. He dies for it though.
- Before the events of Stargate SG-1, Teal'c was this to Apophis. Apophis had crossed the Moral Event Horizon well before Teal'c's birth, so his reason for betraying him was more "at last I can".
- Evil Spock in "Mirror, Mirror". He may be evil, but he's still a Vulcan, and therefore bound to act "logically". This makes him somewhat more honourable than his human crewmates.
- General Leo in Final Fantasy VI is probably the Trope Codifier in video games.
- Harpuia in Mega Man Zero compared to Copy X. Heavily implied that his reign in Neo Arcadia was considerably more fair than Copy X's.
- Craft to Dr. Weil as well.
- Garl Vinsland to Maiden Astraea in Demons Souls, though that's not to say that she's particularly vile either.
- Eltoshan and Ishtar in Fire Emblem Jugdral.
- Billy Kane, Geese Howard's right-hand man. He's not evil, and is more morally upright than his boss. It doesn't hurt that he has no dark ambition, and is simply acting as Geese's enforcer to ensure that his younger sister Lilly is accommodated for. In fact, he seems to harbor no ill-will towards his boss' nemesis Terry Bogard and is pretty civil towards Terry & co, unless Joe Higashi is hitting on his sister. (The only person he seems to be hostile towards is Iori Yagami, because Iori mercilessly attacked him and Eiji Kisaragi after the '95 tournament due to their loss.)
- Both Sanger Zonvolt and Elzam von Branstein start out this way in Super Robot Wars before their Heel Face Turn.
- Note, this applies more to Sanger, seeing as his debut game has him serve a batshit insane version of a woman he deeply cared for, and in subsequent appearances in the Alpha canon, she's back to being a good guy. In the Original Generation games, he worked for Bian Zoldark, who was actually a good guy (using a Necessarily Evil Plan ith his buddy Maier V. Branstein). Likewise, Elzam worked for both Bian and Maier (his father), and both guys turn out to be Good All Along once you get past the faux evil mask.
- Kratos to Mithos in Tales of Symphonia. The Dragon doesn't even agree much with his boss, but follows him for his own reasons. He eventually joins Lloyd after having his fatalism beaten out of him.
- Custom Robo Arena has Marcia's brother Sergei.
- Persephone, Elvis, and Fereydoon in Wild Arms 5 all prove to be honorable people who are only interested in saving their race from being eradicated by Filgaia. All three of them end up working with the heroes to stop the Big Bad Volsung in the final battle.
- Harle from Chrono Cross. She even becomes a temporary party member when Serge's party members leave due to plot reasons.
- General Morgahn to Varesh Ossa in Guild Wars Nightfall. He stays with her out of blind loyalty, refusing to believe that she's as much of a monster as you claim – until she desecrates the Font of Lyss, at which point he joins your cause.
- In Mass Effect, Benezia joined Saren to be this, hoping to rein him in a bit. It backfired and she ended up indoctrinated by Sovereign, and the best she could manage in the end was to shrug off the indoctrination as she was dying and give Shepard coordinates of a crucial mass relay.
- Milhaust Selkirk in Tales of Rebirth is one of the Big Bad's enforcers that will always need a good reason to attack Veigue or do harm to the people regardless of race. He also has a huge Bodyguard Crush.
- Solymr to his master King Magnus in Heroes of Might and Magic IV. Back when Magnus was still a good man, he freed Solymr from his prison. The grateful genie swore to serve Magnus for as long as he walked the world, not knowing that Magnus was immortal. Unfortunately, Magnus was unhinged by the destruction of their original world that forced the survivors to move to Axeoth. Blaming free will, Magnus devoted himself to perfecting Mind Control Magitek that would give him power over all of Axeoth to ensure that the tragedy that destroyed his previous kingdom and world would never happen again. Solymr disagreed with this course of action, but remained loyal to Magnus out of lingering gratitude, sympathy, and the fact that he was bound by his oath. In the "Price of Freedom" campaign, Solymr eventually realizes that Magnus needs to be stopped and uses the loophole that Magnus technically isn't walking on their original world but on a new one to break free of his servitude and join Emilia Nighthaven.
- Both Mr. Mach and Baryl are this in Mega Man Battle Network 6. Neither of them are evil, but they both owe a debt of loyalty to Dr. Wily; the former also serves out of loyalty to the latter.
- Yellow Thirteen in Ace Combat 04 Shattered Skies. Through the story told during the game, you find out that he didn't agree with the occupation, but fought because of the loyalty he had for his country. He protected a kid in the country that his had invaded, even letting him go when he found him aiding the Resistance. He watched over everyone in squad, and bragged about not how many planes he shot down, but how he never lost anyone in his squad. Until you show up. You shoot down his possible love interest Yellow 4, because her plane was damaged right before she went up.
- Fire Emblem Tellius: the Black Knight/General Zelgius thinks he's a Noble Top Enforcer, but despite his sympathetic motivations, he's still a crazed Blood Knight who cut down his teacher for no better reason than to see if he had surpassed him. His Co Dragon, General Bryce of Daien is a straight example, being an Antivillainous patriot who fights to the death to protect a monarchy that no longer represents his beliefs. Ike himself notes that Bryce, unlike every other Daien soldier he's faced, fought fairly and honourably. In the sequel, The Black Knight's own Dragon, Levail, is one of these, being a naive young man who suffers from Honour Before Reason and My Master, Right or Wrong, and honestly sees the Black Knight as a Knight in Shining Armour (something Levail himself is much closer to). Both of them are Optional Bosses and killing them is quite sad. Indeed, there are enough similarities (they even use the same Blade on a Stick as their Weapon of Choice) that one could argue Levail is an Expy of Bryce.
- The lightside Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic can come across as this, especially during the third chapter.
- Although he's hardly the 'Big Bad', Sengoku Basara has this sort of relationship between Otomo Sorin and Tachibana Muneshige. Sorin is a Jerkass Sissy Villain and the resident leader of a Path of Inspiration, while Muneshige is the ideal Samurai (and extremely mistreated).
- In The Order of the Stick, the Big Bad Xykon is only interested in power. His Dragon, Redcloak, is an Anti-Villain who wants nothing more than a better life for his people.
- Sort of. Redcloak's goals may be sympathetic, but he is more than willing to do everything Xykon is willing to do if it furthers the Plan. Start of Darkness also points out that Redcloak's devotion to the Plan is now primarilly because it allows him to justify all the goblins who have died in its pursuit, and less because of its potential to help the goblins.
- During his brief stint as Co-Dragons for Ozai, Zuko was a Noble Top Enforcer, complete with a defection as a result of Ozai going too far.
- Bruton from Dinosaur.
- Paige from Tron Uprising who serves Big Bad General Tessler out of gratitude for saving her life but does not condone some of his more extreme actions.
- General Erwin Rommel, Trope Namer for Magnificent Bastard, actually did quite a bit to protect Jews during Nazi reign, not to mention, his units having a much cleaner record than other Nazi units. He was so well respected as a military leader that when his treachery was discovered, he was allowed to commit suicide, rather than be painfully executed.