Rather than focus this Bloggers Wanted response on a specific group of meddlers or even one specific meddler, after a bit of deliberation, some a bit more personal than I'd care to admit, I settled on a different way to approach the topic: A type of meddler. A certain kind of character that appears in stories of good versus evil, from the serious sorts to the not. A kind that, like it or not, I can relate to and empathize with a lot more than I wish I did.
So, just what kind of character am I talking about, you ask? Well, read on and see, my friends.
[Disclaimer: This blog will contain (in some cases outdated, in some cases only a couple of weeks old) spoilers for the following: Kamen Rider Drive, Pokémon Gold & Silver (and their remakes), Sonic the Hedgehog, Persona 3, Tales of the Abyss, Devil Survivor, and Disgaea 3. The spoilers will be mentioned either in passing, used through images, or heavily elaborated on. You have been warned!]
... the amount of people that would have read this...
Often, the heroic little scamp that inevitably foils the plans of the dastardly villain has absolutely no connection to the fiend at all, or at least they had none prior to their encounters throughout the story.
They might have been just a regular youth living a regular life. At best, maybe the villain did something particularly villainous to the little tyke, or someone or something they care about, that got the ball rolling. Maybe the villain kidnapped someone, destroyed something, turned their animal friends into robots...
You know, typical villain behavior.
It's not always like that, though. After all, if the villain is truly someone so terrible that they need to be taken down by a Chosen Hero (TM) and their ragtag group of buddies, isn't it entirely possible they've hurt others along the way? People far, far closer to them than a simple adventurer could even imagine existed?
Whether it's the hero of the story, a member of their party, or even the troublesome rival or antihero character who seems to only exist to foil your attempts at stopping the hero's attempts at saving the day, it isn't rare to find someone in a story who's going after the villain or the enemies at large as though they've got a grudge, an agenda, or just their own plan, regardless of what the other characters want.
They might be open about it, they might be hiding it, they might only hint that they have this... thing against the bad guys until it's time to unleash it on the monster(s) in question... Truth be told, it doesn't matter how they express it, really, the point is that they seem to have taken the whole "getting rid of the bad guy" thing a little too far.
Maybe they've just got a stick up their bum. It's not the strangest thing in the world, some people are into that I hear. Maybe they're just an egotistical jerk, a narcissist that only cares about getting things done their way. Maybe they just don't like the other characters, and they're being especially tsundere about the whole thing and the villain just happens to be in the way of them expressing how they feel about the others. Maybe the villain stepped on their favorite video game console off screen, and they're just really petty.
Or maybe... Just... maybe...
Maybe it's much, much more personal than all of that.
Sometimes you have characters who have a personal, even familial connection to the villain. Sometimes the "villain" isn't even an outright villain, but becomes one through circumstance. In a game with multiple endings or paths, you might find situations where your "villain" becomes your "ally." Regardless, these ties remain true all the same.
Whether this villain was the character's mentor (Van to Luke in Tales of the Abyss), the person who looked after them in lieu of their actual parents (Geoffrey to Mao in Disgaea 3), an older sibling figure who might as well have been an older sibling (Naoya to the protagonist in Devil Survivor), or one of their actual parents (Giovanni to Silver in Pokémon Gold & Silver and their remakes, Gerald Robotnik and B-Movie villain Black Doom to Shadow the Hedgehog from the Sonic series), the villain has a tie to these characters that is unlike any other.
Perhaps they were grooming these characters to be pawns down the road, perhaps they were simply raising/helping raise these children simply because a family/student made their cover that much more genuine; there are many reasons a villain takes in or looks after the young. Sometimes these reasons might start off genuine, and as for those other times...?
Well, we are talking about the villains, remember?
Other times, their reasons for raising, taking in, or even creating others are rotten from the very beginning.
A character with a personal connection to the villain might mean they can't be trusted by their allies. It might mean they've been manipulated into actually doing things that make them untrustworthy, which is, or becomes, their very reason for fighting in the first place. It might mean they can't trust themselves with the cast, with others, given their history.
Such was the case of Luke fon Fabre of Tales of the Abyss. Raised in a life of luxury, taught swordplay lessons by his beloved Master Van for as long as he could remember, he would have followed that man to the ends of the earth... and so he did. He led innocent people to meet the end of their lives in the "end of the earth," so to speak, finally learning he was a pawn in a much greater plan only when it was too late.
Though he was able to turn himself around and challenge Van throughout the events of the game that followed, and though he was even able to regain the trust of the comrades he betrayed in the process, it's undeniable he was driven in many ways by how he had been betrayed by the man he idolized.
Another example is Mitsuru Kirijo, of Persona 3. Likewise raised in a life of supposed luxury, her "villain" wasn't a relative in a literal sense. She was the heir to a family that had dealt the world a great blow, her relatives playing a hand in unleashing the enemies the players face throughout the game, and this was a burden she carried on her shoulders personally.
Unfortunately for her, despite her own good intentions, the world is not so quick to forgive the sins of her family, or her for sharing a last name with them.
In tales like these, characters might not even realize until too late that they're even related to someone on the wrong side of the team. Luke, obviously, was a character like this. He's hardly the only one, however.
In Devil Survivor, not only is it unclear that the protagonist's cousin has been using him until towards the end of the game, but you can even join forces with him to unleash hell onto Japan and the rest of the world if you so desire. Of course, you can also fight against him, and in the other routes of the game, you can bet you darn well will for all the things he's tried to do to the protagonist and the rest of humanity.
In Disgaea 3, Mao's parental issues take on multiple layers, to the point where the cast actually travels inside his heart to deal with them. At first glance, it seems like Mao is holding a petty grudge against his father for crushing his PSP and plans to kill him over it. Typical Disgaea stuff, right?
As it turns out, players will learn that there's something else afoot if they stick through the game to the end. Mao's real father has actually been dead since before the game even began, as a result of Mao's own actions no less. Wracked with guilt, Mao blocked the memories out, and was taken in by the one who did the deed, a human masquerading as a demon butler. The human-turned-demon butler raised Mao for years in the hopes of grooming him into a suitable foe, Mao none the wiser all along.
By the time the game reaches its climax, Mao is battling not his own inner demons, as he was throughout the early portions of the game, or even humans (if you don't go down the wrong path), but the one who's been with him all this time, almost like a second parent.
It's not always an easy case of being manipulated or being betrayed, mind.
In Persona 3, one of the motivations of Junpei Iori stems from dealing with his perfectly normal, average father. His normal, average, alcoholic father. In this case, though his "villain" is not one that he fights alongside his comrades or with his Persona, it's still one that he must face. Perhaps no plot is foiled here, but he, the child, is still facing the demons left behind and placed into his life by his parent.
In Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, Shadow strung most of the cast along in an attempt to wipe out most of humanity. In this case, Shadow himself played the role of mastermind, consumed with grief and seeking out vengeance for himself and for his creator, in part at the bidding of his now deceased creator, who had gone mad with grief. He struggles with the present and past throughout the game, the imprint his creator has left on him among the pieces of that past, finally mending his ways and helping prevent the genocide he nearly caused before the credits roll and he falls to his demise... sort of.
The point is, whatever a character's story is, chances are, they're going to be butting heads with their demons.
In some cases, like Mitsuru's, this gets to be taken to a delightfully literal level, while other characters, like Junpei, have to deal with their demons internally like the rest of us typically do. Even Silver, of Gold and Silver, for all his assholery, was still butting heads with his father's evil team of gangsters and thugs.
So however they do it, you can bet these characters will be challenging their "villain" head on, internally or otherwise.
It's "otherwise" a lot of the time.
Multiple endings and alternate scenarios aside (Devil Survivor, Shadow in Shadow the Hedgehog, even Disgaea 3), they stand up and fight against those that once they might have felt safety and security from, choosing a path that not many people would be able to take.
It might appear easy from the outside looking in, like just another case of good versus evil, but for these meddling kids, if they haven't hardened their resolves and prepared for the inevitable consequences, victory will still be a loss for them. It still will be even if they have.
They're not just fighting "the bad guy" here, after all. To them, this "bad guy" is something far more. Even as just the "meddling kids," the plans they're meddling and mucking up aren't just the plans of some evil devil with pointy horns and nasty schemes.
They're fighting their family.
Could you do that?