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A "beginner's" villain, lowest on the Sorting Algorithm of Evil (The heroes have to start off fighting someone.) He is the first true threat to the heroes, not just some common Mook who's there to let them show how Badass they are. Expect even the weakest member of the heroic team to eventually become more powerful than him (that is, unless he survives). The Starter Villain is not always associated with the intended Big Bad of the whole series, usually having a whole story arc to himself.

As writers can't always have the Starter Villain fighting the whole Five-Man Band at once, he'll sometimes have Mooks. These men are nearly always doomed to die. He has a sliver of a chance to survive, but none of his men will make it.

If the series is not based on a pre-existing work, and the writers are making it up as they go along, a Starter Villain can end up turning into a Breakout Villain if the fans and/or the writers end up liking them enough.

See also: Wake Up Call Boss. Sometimes, these may be the Disc One Final Boss. It's not uncommon for Starter Villains to be Token Motivational Nemeses as well.

Examples of Starter Villain include:

Anime and Manga

  • Emperor Pilaf from Dragon Ball (and thus the franchise overall), Raditz in Dragonball Z, and Don Kee in GT. Team Four Star made fun of this by measuring Power Levels in Raditzes.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Gouki, Kurama, and Hiei are a group of these. While Gouki plays this straight and Kurama was already planned to be a part of the main team, Hiei's status was ultimately supposed to fall victim to this trope, but his role was rewritten once he was discovered to be an Ensemble Darkhorse.
  • Jadeite from the Sailor Moon anime, the only of four subvillians who didn't have an obvious visual gimmick or theme, with his character's shtick instead being that he was, well, the Starter Villain. The live action adaptation, however, actually kept him around past the start, and thus tossed him "excessive toadying" as his theme (which was admittedly somewhat present in the anime too.)
  • Devimon in Digimon Adventure. Toward the end of the show, his status is lampshaded, with Leomon pointing out that Devimon was nothing compared to the threats that the heroes have faced since.
  • Rider/Shinji in Fate/stay night. Except in Heavens Feel where it turns out she is not weak. At all.
    • Likewise, Ryunousuke and Caster in Fate/Zero. Though they aren't defeated for good until about the halfway point.
  • Bleach: Grand Fisher — The Hollow who ate Ichigo's mom. He just sort of disappeared and was forgotten about until he showed up just to die against Ichigo's dad. A case could also be made for Renji and Byakuya, the first enemies to give Ichigo a serious fight.
  • One Piece: Alvidia and Ax-Hand Morgan both apply, as they were said to be extremely strong villains, but are nothing compared to just a few guys down the road.
    • They were barely better than thugs, and taken down with no trouble at all. The true example is Buggy the Clown immediately afterward, the first person introduced, other than Luffy himself, to have eaten a Devil Fruit, and the first to give him any run for his money.
    • And now after the Time Skip and thus Part Two of the series, we have Hody Jones. Sure, he's ages above Morgan and Alvida- they don't even come close to Hody- and he would have probably been a challenge before the timeskip to an inexperienced Luffy (Inexperienced meaning Luffy during Alabasta Arc and below, Luffy after the Skypiea Arc would probably have still taken him down with no problem). But after the timeskip, he's absolutely no threat to Luffy at all and only manages to get in one hit even after going One-Winged Angel , whilst Luffy basically spends the whole span of their fight beating down on him, showing off his new moves. Hell, even Zoro The Lancer manages to One-Shot Hody's pre One-Winged Angel form.
  • Udo Jine in Rurouni Kenshin is the first villain in the series that Kenshin has trouble defeating and is the first opponent that forces Kenshin to revert back to Hitokiri Battosai.
  • Father Cornello in Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • Isaac McDougal, the Freezing Alchemist, in Brotherhood.
  • The Baron of Koka Castle from the Black Swordsman arc of Berserk is the first major bad guy Guts faces in the manga. His first encounter with demons period is with none other than Nosferatu Zodd, who has gone on to be a recurring rival and occasional ally of the Black Swordsman.
  • Shin from Fist of the North Star, who doubles as a Token Motivational Nemesis, is the first rival martial artist that Kenshiro faces in the story. Shin was the one who defeated Ken, stole his beloved Yuria away from him, and engraved the seven scars on Ken's chest as a reminder of the humiliation. In the first story arc of the manga, Ken must fight against Shin's four playing card-themed lieutenants, each progressively more skilled than the last, before challenging his old rival.
  • Nrvnqsr Chaos in the Near Side routes of Tsukihime. Once he is dispatched, Arcueid can concentrate on her main task of finding and defeating Roa.
  • Daimonji from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Kenichi first got involved in martial arts in part to defend himself against bullies like him. Kenichi's defeat of him is what sets him on his path toward ever greater foes. When Daimonji later comes after him for revenge, Kenichi utterly trounces him, showing how far his training has progressed.
  • Bamboo Blade: Toyama and Iwasa, who were tormenting Dan in the first episode, prompting Tamaki to come to his defense and join the Kendo Club.
    • This is lampshaded at a later point, when the main group is well-established. Team captain Kirino Chiba has to come up with training regimens for the other members. Her realization that she forgot to make ones for them is quickly brushed off, since Toyama only came to practice to pick on the newbies and girls, and never showed up again after Tamaki taught him a lesson.
      • And subverted later still when Toyama gets into a fight in an arcade. The fact that he hadn't turned in a formal resignation meant that he was technically still a member, resulting in the entire team nearly being shut down over the incident.
  • Tekkaman Dagger in Tekkaman Blade, albeit he was a bit more resilient and annoying than average. He still was far weaker than the rest of villains, who even formed a proper Five-Bad Band.
  • Papillion is the first major villain of Buso Renkin, eventually succeeded by the LXE, the Alchemist Army, and finally Victor. Funnily enough, though, he manages to stay in the game as a major asset against all of these without ever explicitly making a Heel Face Turn.
  • Erigor in Fairy Tail. While Natsu defeated the two first villains - Bora and Vulcan - like they were nothing, he does have quite some trouble against Erigor, at least until Happy "helps" him by suggesting that they should let Gray take care of it instead.
  • While not a villain, Akune from Medaka Box is the first opponent who gives Zenkichi a challenge in a fight (specifically a judo match), and even comes close to beating him. The more proper version, however, would have to be Unzen Myori as he was the first antagonist that actually forced the protagonist to use physical force.
  • Naruto had Mizuki, a treacherous shinobi who attempts to use Naruto to steal Konoha's scroll containing their forbidden arts and then kill him, only for it to backfire on him when Naruto uses one of the arts within the scroll against him (though he later becomes an Arc Villain in the anime). A case might also be made for the antagonists from the "Land of Waves" arc: Zabuza and Haku are employed by Gato as a deadly fighting force and provide dangerous adversaries for the heroes at this point (Zabuza almost kills Kakashi in their first fight, while Naruto and Sasuke together are unable to defeat Haku until Naruto draws on the power of the Kyuubi); compared, however, to succeeding villains such as Orochimaru and the Akatsuki, they're small fry.
    • Akatsuki members Deidara and Sasori serve this role in Shippuden.
  • Haruka Suzushiro and the rest of the Ori-Hime unit in the Mai Hime manga, who are trying to get their rivals Mai, Natsuki and Yuuichi.

Comic Books

  • In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, The Shredder himself was a starter villain, getting himself killed rather humiliatingly at the end of the very first issue. A colony of intelligent worms would later assume the mantle of the Shredder (it's a long story), but even they only appeared in a few issues and played a fairly minor role in the comics' plot. However, due to his status as the first villain the Turtles fought and his It's Personal ties to their backstory, all subsequent versions (notably the three cartoon series and the first two movies) went and made him the long-running Big Bad.
  • Scott Pilgrim: Matthew Patel is the first Evil Ex-Boyfriend of Ramona that Scott encounters. He's mostly the equivalent of a Warmup Boss. In the movie, he has the lowest point value of any opponent short of out-and-out mooks.
  • The Lizard in Spider-Man gets this in a lot of adaptations. Mostly because he's not explicitly evil due to his Jekyll and Hyde nature and helps cement just how much being Spider-Man sucks.
    • The original comic is a little more iffy. The Chameleon is the first to show up, but due to Anachronic Order, the first super powered criminals he faced were Joey and the Supercharger, who never bothered him again while Chameleon did.

Fan Works

  • Luminosity: James and Victoria are the first intentional threat to Bella's life, and are killed fairly quickly via Summon Bigger Fish on the biggest vampires around.
  • Orochimaru in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, before Madara and later the Council come into the story.
  • Aggron and Meowth are this in the Pokémon (Fanfic) Garbage: A Pokémon Story. Aggron is a savage criminal and the first villain in the story who Trubbish can only flee from before he's defeated soundly by the high-ranking rescue team Team Earthshaker, and Meowth is a nasty two-bit criminal and Smug Snake extraordinaire who Trubbish and his partner Sableye must fight directly.


  • Dragonlance
    • The thuggish, cowardly hobgoblin Lord Toede, a mid-ranking minion of the Dragon Overlords. Though never a serious threat, he proved popular enough to get his own spin-off novel.
    • Also applies to his master, Lord Verminaard who served as the Big Bad for the first book.
  • Codex Alera: Atsurak the leader of a Marat barbarian horde. The novice spy races against time and an ex-mentor to Bring News Back to the local Legion's garrison before Atsurak can invade a valley in a rural part of Alera. The Farm Boy gets used as a pawn by another barbarian, an enemy of Atsurak. Five books later, Atsurak is an afterthought, all the Marat are allies to the Alerans and actually the least important faction in that alliance, and it's not just the valley that's at stake but all intelligent life in the world. If not for the fact that some Chessmasters from the first book are still around, the first book could be considered separate from the rest of the series.
  • New Jedi Order: Somewhat similar to the above, the first book introduces Prefect Da'Gara and his Praetorite Vong forces, terrifying aliens from beyond the Rim bent on galactic conquest and possessing powers and weapons far beyond anything the galaxy has ever seen. They live precisely one book- it turns out the Praetorite Vong are only one (largely unimportant) political faction among the Yuuzhan Vong Empire and Da'Gara was just kickstarting the invasion to grab some glory for himself. His troops weren't even particularly well-trained by Vong standards, and the nightmarish Eldritch Abomination he had on a leash as his secret weapon was defective compared to others of its kind. Da'Gara's main purpose was to give the Galaxy a taste of its new threat before being killed off to make way for the real bad guys.
    • However, the same book also introduces Da'Gara's political ally Nom Anor, who not only survived, but would go on to continue making trouble for the Jedi and the New Republic all the way until the final book in the series. Hell, he outlives both the Big Bad and The Man Behind the Man (though not by long).
  • Chamdar, alias Asharak, from The Belgariad is an Evil Sorcerer and high-ranked priest in a Religion of Evil who killed The Hero's parents and follows him around for a while in the early part of the series making a general nuisance of himself but is killed spectacularly midway through the second of five books after goading The Hero into unlocking his powers.
  • The Dresden Files: Evil Sorcerer Victor Sells is the first bad guy to give Harry Dresden a serious challenge on-page, but doesn't make it past the first book (and there are much more dangerous things than him out there, anyway). Of course, from Harry's perspective his real Starter Villain was Evil Mentor Justin Du Morne, but as Justin's been dead for years by the beginning of the first book, the reader doesn't really experience him that way.
    • Unlike most Starter Villains, it turns out that Victor Sells was connected with the series' Big Bad (or at least, one of the Big Bads) the Black Council, or at least with the Red Court. Someone had to teach him that heart-exploding spell, after all....
  • Harry Potter: Draco Malfoy. One of the first wizards Harry meets, and whose general unpleasantness shows how wizards can be be as big of jerks as muggles. Dealing with him is a large part of the early books, but even though he repeatedly tries to Take a Level In Badass, he never manages to be anywhere nearly as powerful or evil as the true villains of the piece.
    • In a way, Quirrel in the first book. Despite being posessed by Voldermort himself, he is fairly easy to defeat by The Power of Love, and it's even implied that Dumbledore set up their confrontation as a test for Harry and a warmup for what lay ahead of him.
  • Ishamael in The Wheel of Time.
  • Darken Rahl in The Sword of Truth.
  • Durza in Eragon.
  • Brokenstar in Warrior Cats. Although some of his underlings do make it...

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The parasites in the episode "Conspiracy" were intended to return, but weren't for budget reasons. They were "replaced" by the Borg and Romulans as the Big Bad.
    • More to the point, the Ferengi were initially conceived as TNG's Big Bad, getting a Name Drop in the pilot as a race with a terrifying reputation (complete with the suggestion that they eat the people they conquer). Then they showed up and turned out to fall far short of the hype. So they were abandoned as the archnemesis of the series, eventually resurfacing as occasional comic antagonists, and getting a more sympathetic portrayal on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Enterprise: The Suliban, genetically augmented Gecko-Men, initially filled this role. A lukewarm reception had them soon replaced with the much more credible Xindi as the series' main enemy race.
  • Firefly had an undercover Alliance agent as the villain of the pilot episode. Although he seems to be built up as a potentially recurring villain, the ending of the episode subverts multiple tropes when, during a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away / We Will Meet Again moment, Mal simply walks up and shoots him in the head.

    Word of God is that had the show continued past the first season, he would have turned out to have survived the shooting and would have come back (with a cybernetic eye!) to seek revenge on the crew. In fact, this is exactly what happens in "Those Left Behind," a comic book set between the series and the movie.
  • Farscape had Bialar Crais, a Peacekeeper captain whose brother accidentally died in the pilot episode when his ship ricocheted off Crichton's, which had accidentally gone through a wormhole and emerged in the middle of a space battle. Crais went into Captain Ahab mode and spent the rest of the first season chasing Crichton and his new friends. At the end of the season, Crais is replaced as by Scorpius, a Peacekeeper scientist intent on getting information about wormhole technology that had been implanted in Crichton's brain. Scorpius went on to be the show's Big Bad, while Crais underwent a Heel Face Turn.
  • The first season of Babylon 5 featured the Raiders and the Home Guard as the primary recurring villains. The Raiders got almost completely wiped out as part of The Reveal of The Shadows, the shows' primary villains. The Home Guard pretty much dropped off the radar and became irrelevant after President Clark came into power, and never turned up again.
  • A almost annual rite of passage for initial villians at the start of about half the seasons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Anointed One gave way to Spike who gave way to Angelus in the 2nd, Mr. Trick--->The Mayor and Faith in 3, and The Trio begat Dark Willow in 6.
    • The show also had one-shot villains for the first episode of each season; an enemy who was reasonably threatening, but who was ultimately defeated by Buffy before the credits roll: Luke in season 1, Absalom in season 2, Keith in season 3, Sunday in season 4, and Dracula in season 5. The last two seasons changed the formula around a little.
  • David Robert Jones from the first season of Fringe.
  • Nimueh from Merlin, the titular character's main adversary in the first season, before she's Killed Off for Real in that same season's finale.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons: Any single enemy with a challenge rating of two or three. Anything less would need a group to present a serious threat to even a level one party (Assuming four players, of course).

Video Games

  • Final Fantasy
    • Garland from the original Final Fantasy I, who turns into the Big Bad, Chaos, at the end.
    • Kefka from Final Fantasy VI is a notable aversion, in that he's definitely Starter Villain material for most of the game, only to evolve into the game's true Big Bad.
    • President Shinra from Final Fantasy VII, the main villain for the first five hours or so of the game before he's killed off by the real Big Bad, Sephiroth.
    • The Three Black Waltzes from Final Fantasy IX.
    • Judge Ghis from Final Fantasy XII, the first noteworthy villain the party confronts directly.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Clayton is the first Disney villain you fight, and the first enemy who isn't just Made of Evil or a vicious animal. In a series where the villains include gods and evil sorcerers, he's just a stuck-up guy with a gun who needs a Heartless ally to put up a good fight.
  • Dragon Age: Two of the origins have the player character face off with a Starter Villain. In the Dwarf Commoner origin, the character will have to take down the crime boss Beraht. In the City Elf origin, the PC will come up against Bann Vaughan in a "right of the lord" scenario. In an aversion, the latter may survive the story if the hero takes his bribe.
  • Lord Crump in Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door takes on Mario almost as soon as the game begins. He tries to defeat Mario a few times later on, but he becomes increasingly outmatched even as Lord Crump himself continues to improve.
  • The first foe you fight and win against in Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse is King Frost. Compared to the other villains you face, he’s a greedy Jerkass. Earlier however, you encounter Adramelech, who is rather nasty, if not as nasty as Shesha ultimately.
    • Speaking of Mario, Bowser has a trend to be the starter villain in the older RPGs. Newer ones make him the Big Bad as he is in the normal platformers.
  • Lundgren from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, Lyn's great uncle. His plot to take over Caelin has nothing to do with the overarching Black Fang plotline, but he's the final boss of Lyn's Story, the first ten chapters of the game, and a dangerous villain and schemer in his own right.
  • The Beast in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, who is your main antagonist for the first ten missions before succumbing to The Virus secretly planted in him by Caulder, the game's actual Big Bad.
  • This is actually pretty commonplace in a couple Tales (series) games; but it's most prevalent with Barbos in Tales of Vesperia, and Cedric/Celdic in Tales of Graces.
  • The Al-Samaad group in Alpha Protocol. Almost exclusively found in the first area, they're mostly poorly-trained and equipped.
  • Purity First, the anti-augmentation terrorist group in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Being ordinary humans with crappy weapons in a game where you end up mostly fighting transhuman spec-ops Private Military Contractors does that to you.
  • The Danganronpa series tends to have its Starter Villains be scapegoats for a more important character in the plot, though these scapegoats aren't wholly innocent themselves. Leon Kuwata, master of stuffing Sayaka's corpse into the shower, while in the end, he may have gone out of his way to kill her, most of the scene had the two of them as co-belligerents, with Sayaka starting the fight out of desperation. Teruteru Hanamura was trying to hit Nagito Komaeda but killed "Twogami" instead. Then again, he's also a slimy pervert who's love for his family is largely a sham.
  • Fitting its Monster of the Week structure, the Sly Cooper games have one of these each. While Dimitri Lousteau from the second becomes a Chekhov's Gunman, there's also Sir Ralegh, Don Octavio, and El Jefe.

Western Animation

  • Batman the Animated Series: The main villain of the two-part premiere episode of was Canon Foreigner Red Claw, a terrorist leader. The villain of the pilot "On Leather Wings" was Man-Bat, a lesser member of the Rogues Gallery.
  • Ben 10: Doctor Animo was the first proper villain Ben took on. He doesn't die, but in subsequent appearances, it's pretty clear that he's nowhere near as dangerous as other threats Ben has faced.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003: Baxter Stockman and his mouser robots. This has the effect of immediately setting the tone of the series, as in the original cartoon Baxter was a goofier mad scientist best known for being mutated into a fly (a role which he reprised in the 2012 series), whereas now he's a legitimate threat even at the bottom of the villain hierarchy.
  • Exo Squad: The Pirates Clans in the Five Episode Pilot, before the Neosapien wars break out. They eventually become the reluctant allies of the fleet.
  • Admiral Zhao from Avatar: The Last Airbender. While Zuko showed up first, he is initially ineffective against the Gaang, while Zhao is a consistent threat to both the Gaang and Zuko for the entire first season. He's still too confident in his abilities, and is ultimately replaced by the far worse Princess Azula.
  • Mr. Wink and Mr. Fibb in Codename: Kids Next Door, the first villains Sector V ever faced. They later appear in the series as hired thugs, but they spend most of their time minding their own business otherwise and only attack if provoked.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic started the series with Nightmare Moon kidnapping Princess Celestia and trying to cast Equestria into eternal night. While certainly a great way to start off the series, her attempts to impede our heroines (The best she did was shatter the dormant Elements of Harmony) come off as weak compared to the more threatening season 2 villains Discord and Queen Chrysalis, both of whom caused discord amongst the main characters, prevented them from using the Elements of Harmony (The one thing that defeated Nightmare Moon), and very nearly conquered Equestria.
  • While Spider-Man was shown to have experience in taking down petty criminals in the first episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man including pre-Sandman and Rhino Flint Marko and Alex O'Hearn, The Vulture was his first super villain he fought, Tombstone's Enforecers also count to a lesser agree as they both appeared in the same episode.