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"These fellas won't ever get it. Winning's never been the real reason I fight him."—Kuwabara, on fighting Yusuke, in Yu Yu Hakusho
A character who lives for a challenge. It doesn't matter where they are or what lies at stake, what they really love is the battle, the challenge of going against someone who is a worthy opponent, no matter what the venue or the game is. Usually they hold no grudges, and have no one they'd consider their enemy (their rivals, on the other hand...). Instead, they have those who they relish challenging again and again, so that they can enjoy themselves.
These characters are mostly heroes, but, if they are antagonists, they are usually Punch Clock Villains and, even without that, they are almost always Friendly Enemies. They certainly make the best rivals.
These characters' main motivations are usually to find the ultimate challenge, the one who can truly match their skills, and sometimes, taking that to the extreme, their motivation is to find someone who can finally defeat them. Sometimes, they have no motivation other than to fight/have a challenge. In any case, they certainly don't mind losing.
Any series where the main focus is a form of competition, from martial arts to chess, has at least one of these.
If this character is really in it for the brutality and/or rush of a physical fight (and who will thus rush into any fight, big or small, just to get their jollies, and never back down from a fight), not the challenge, then he is a Blood Knight, not a Spirited Competitor (a Blood Knight will probably avoid a conflict that wouldn't challenge them or doesn't involve someone they feel is worth it). If he's in it for sadistic pleasure, then you've got a Psycho for Hire (or a Combat Sadomasochist, if he also gets off on receiving injuries). If the character wishes to face challenges while striving to be the best, then he wants To Be a Master (usually such characters become these after a while). If the character is completely laid-back or carefree about the challenges, or even nonchalant about them to the point of cockiness, then he's a Cavalier Competitor.
Subtrope of In Harm's Way
Anime and Manga
- Dragon Ball:
- Quintessential Example: Goku, which extended into Dragonball Z. Most of the other characters love to fight, but not the way Goku does. He's the only one who would resurrect the most evil adversary he's ever known (don't worry, he resurrected him as a good soul) in order to fight him again.
- On the other hand, Cell, after gaining his Perfect Form, constantly states that he is one of these, and wishes to find something that will finally challenge his power. After encountering such power, he immediately becomes a sore loser and desperately tries to find ways that he won't lose, including blowing himself up to spare a defeat and turn it into a draw.
- Majin Buu in his Fat and subsequent 'Good' Incantation is a prime example of a spirited competitor. He enjoys fighting almost as much as Goku himself, and even goes so far as to say that Goku is a strong fighter, and that he is having a fun time, and actually wants to continue their fight long after Goku's limit of using his power up. This subsequent spirited competition is later amplified when he waits for Gotenks to show up instead of blowing up the planet automatically.
His evil form on the other hand is much like Cell. Claims to be looking for a challenge from a strong fighter, but upon getting over powered immediately freaks out and becomes a sore loser. In his case "strong fighter" apparently means someone he could beat up on for awhile without dying instantly, rather than someone that actually stood a chance at defeating him.
- Many characters from Yu Yu Hakusho, especially Yusuke and Kuwabara. The number of such characters goes way up in the Dark Tournament Saga, where each team has at least one (for example, Chu, Jin/Gin, and Younger Toguro, who doubles as a Death Seeker).
The last saga, which deals with Demon World Tournament, has a ton of these. Both Raizen's old sparring partners and Yusuke's old enemies share this love of a challenge, the latter thanks in no small part to Yusuke's influence. In fact, this mindset is the subject of an entire episode in the anime, and it's inferred that such an attitude could actually bring in an era of honor and sportsmanship among demons, replacing bloodlust with a love of a challenge.
- Ikusabe from Busou Renkin is one of these. When his likes are listed as "winning battles, losing battles," you know the guy loves fighting.
- While Kenpachi from Bleach truly is a Blood Knight at heart, he still receives a great deal of pleasure from facing opponents strong enough to push him to his limit.
- Gao from Eyeshield 21 could easily be considered a football Expy of Kenpachi. Although violent and merciless, his true objective is simply to find a Worthy Opponent, god help any person who gets in the way of that. In fact, he's actually quite honorable, freely praising and admiring those he considers strong and brave even after he defeats them.
- And lets not forget that he'll viciously attack ANYONE who insults his fallen opponents, whom he'll consider a comrade. Apparently, challenging the strong is Gao's way of making friends.
- Not to mention, the thought of possibly being killed by Kurita makes him SMILE, much to his teammate's horror.
- Though he describes being defeated by Mr. Don as being humiliating and swears revenge. However unlike other opponents, Mr. Don WAS a racist Jerkass so it's understandable why Gao treated his battle with Mr. Don with equal parts spite and excitement.
- Signum of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, though as a knight, she doesn't let it get too much in the way of her duty. When she found out that the enemy she had soundly trounced before had gotten a Bigger Stick and can match her blow per blow, she reacted with sheer joy, and more than a twinge of regret that she can't let her heart out to play in the battle since she had a goal to achieve.
- Kotarou of Mahou Sensei Negima. His reaction when he learned that The Rival who had beaten him before could now do martial arts and match him in melee too?
Kotarou: Ahahaha... Chinese Martial Arts? That's nice!!
- Light from Death Note is like this. While he'll bang on about how he's going to be a god, and how the world will be far
better happiernewer under his divine guidance, what really drives him is the challenge from people who can match him. Watch and see.
- But he takes losing horribly, and reacts in the most pathetic way possible. On top of that, when he managed to kill L, he wasn't exactly a graceful winner either.
- Yu-Gi-Oh GX: Kaiser Ryo and Judai are both like this, but in different ways.
- Many characters in Hikaru no Go, but the strongest example would be Sai, who has been a ghost for centuries, striving to play the greatest game of Go ever ("the Hand of God", as he puts it).
- Hajime no Ippo: David 'Golden' Eagle is a good example of this as well, his main motivation in his fight with Takamura was to fight someone fun. He was also looking forward to fighting Bryan Hawk for the same reason. After losing he grinned and shook Takamura's hand, overjoyed he'd finally fought someone stronger than him. He is also fits the anti-villain mold of typical Spirited Competitors in that even though the series usually has the enemy boxers be non-villainous, Eagle stands out as being so honourable and likeable he actually got considerable support in Japan.
- Zangulus from Slayers, one of mercenaries and bounty hunters who tried to capture the party. After the first encounter with Gourry he flatly stated that for him it's about the challenge and his fee and his employer's orders don't matter much. He just wanted a duel to see who's the best swordsman out here, that's all, and reappeared as a Worthy Opponent until he got his final fight. Also, once he was persuaded to join the party just by mentioning that there's a strong opponent for him. Naturally, in such circumstances he didn't use underhanded tactics.
- Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Only exception is that she does mind losing.
- Brilliantly subverted in Slam Dunk by the coach of Kainan. Having deduced that The Hero gains his strength from playing against the best, he intentionally marks him with a player with a less imposing disposition. Feeling he's being mocked by a seemingly inferior player being assigned to him, The Hero loses focus and his game becomes sloppy.
- Rorona Zoro is definitely of the Spirited Competitor mold, always on the watch for worthy opponents, and seemingly bored when not fighting and/or drinking. His ultimate goal is to become the world's strongest swordsmen, and he plans to beat every single opponent that challenges him.
- The Riddler is a partial example; he lives for the mental challenge of his and Batman's battle of wits, but he also hates to lose. The Joker is a better example, and is one of the few examples of this kind of character who is also actively cruel.
- Paul Dini's character Roxy Rocket is one as well, really only liking the thrill of flying around on a rocket, stealing, and challenging guys who she flirts with even as they are arresting her.
- Elf Quest At one point in The Rebels spin-off, the main characters, still on the run from military agents due to their desertion and stolen spacecraft, drop by their home world of Abode to get some rest-and-relaxation. Scorch ends up participating in a major televised car race, and the Spirited Competitor here is the nephew of the Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist on their tails, who ends up helping Scorch out in multiple ways because he wants more than a mere race: He wants to beat the very best name in the sport.
- The Beast in Kung Fu Hustle fits this trope, partially, but whenever he finds the challenge he says he's looking for, he resorts to cheating to win instead of losing gracefully, as most examples of this trope would. Interestingly, when he tries to cheat in the climactic fight, and Sing thwarts him, he immediately bows down and calls him master, apparently with complete sincerity. It seems that The Beast considers cheating to be a valid combat tactic, rather than, well, cheating.
- Never Back Down was a mixture of this and Blood Knight, possibly with a touch of Psycho for Hire. Although the villain was looking for a worthy opponent, he would happily beat anyone within an inch of their lives. At one point he nearly killed the main character's best friend in a fight just to intimidate him into fighting.
- Predator: The Predator lives this trope. A creature that travels the galaxy looking for the best of the best to fight and kill, it lives off combat and is steeped in a code of honor so great that it would rather die then cheat or dishonor itself.
- Ryu, Ken, and Akuma from Street Fighter. Akuma, in particular, is a prime example of the Anti-Villain version. Other examples of such characters from Street Fighter include E. Honda, Alex, Sakura, and Makoto.
- This is Wolfgang Krauser's motivation for hosting the second, international King of Fighters tournament in Fatal Fury 2; he'd become bored after beating so many challengers that he finally decided it was time to fight the best in the world. Rugal Bernstein also hosts the tournament in '94 for the same reasons, but unlike Krauser (who is brutal in the ring but a nice guy otherwise) he just wanted to stroke his ego and maybe add a few more statues to his...collection.
- Fate Stay Night: Helllloooo Lancer! He intentionally gimps himself down to match his target instead of killing them just to make the fight last longer. When questioned about fighting Assassin, though, he gets somewhat irritated because while Assassin is very good and would be an excellent challenge normally, he's just not the sort of opponent that Lancer is suited to fight. He recommends sniping him instead. Boooooring.
- Assassin himself. He wants to challenge Saber to a swordplay duel, and takes winning and losing in equally calm measure. Simply 'fighting' anyone else doesn't seem to get his interest in the same way.
- Persona 3
- Akihiko Sanada embraces every dangerous new challenge as an opportunity to push himself to become stronger. At least three characters call him out on not taking the dangers of the Shadows seriously enough and not caring what secrets are being kept from the heroes as long as he gets to fight; it's a mark of newfound maturity when he starts taking the team's battles more seriously, although he's still resolved to meet all challenges - up to and including The End of the World as We Know It - head-on.
- A slightly less extreme example is Mamoru, the Star Social Link - a track star who really just likes to test himself. His Social Link concerns how to maintain this in the face of ever-growing family troubles.
- Asuka Kazama from Tekken
- This trait is the trademark of Gilgamesh in the Final Fantasy series, where he's always ready for a brawl with a Worthy Opponent. In Final Fantasy XII even after beating him twice and sending him running, he refers to the party members as his friends, and laments he doesn't have time for a third round. In Dissidia Final Fantasy he's on the lookout for The Rival Bartz, and makes mention in a few of his battle quotes that he likes the idea of a challenging opponent.
- Shizune Hakamichi of Katawa Shoujo likes to take everything from schoolwork, to recruiting people for the Student Council, to carrying a box up a hill or deciding what to do with a piece of veal cutlet bread a contest or a game. The fandom is split on whether this makes her charming and endearing or obnoxious and annoying.
- This is ultimately Deconstructed Trope, as this part of her personality drives away the rest of the student council, including her own cousin Lilly. In the bad ending, Shizune believes that this part of her is why Hisao and Misha are avoiding her, and breaks up with Hisao, but in the good ending, she recognizes the error of her ways.
- Misfile: Kate is like this with racing. So is Ash.
- The Jäger Generals in Girl Genius. They even argue with each other over which kills "counts". And request Combat by Champion as an alternative to surrender.
General Goomblast: (to half a dozen of Wulfenbach's spec-ops with poisoned dirks) Feh. Diz hardly seems fair...
Wulfenbach Commander: C'est le guerre, General.
General Goomblast: Hy dun mean for me.
- Stinkoman from the 20X6 Alternate Universe of Homestar Runner is a parody of this kind of Battle Junkie character. His main (and only?) hobby seems to be going around looking for "A challenge!"
- Chaka, in the Whateley Universe. She's always looking for anyone who can give her a good fight and stretch her abilities. She mostly keeps it to her martial arts classes.
- Some chess players are like this. Similarly, if a fencer isn't like this he won't last long in the sport.