Top 10 Anime Anti-Villains
Written by: ClayDragon & Shiggins
On the opposite side of the coin from anti-heroes, you have the anti-villains. Whilst these characters are very definitely bad guys, they still have some heroic goals, virtues or morals that other villains lack. They tend to be the most interesting villains, as they have a more human aspect to them that doesn’t appear very often. Plus, they’re really, really cool.
Thanks to the anonymous reader who requested this Top 10!
As is this the case with many of these lists, SPOILER ALERT. You have been warned.
10.) Android 16 (Dragon Ball Z) (Written by Shiggins)
“You two made too much noise. You scared the birds away.”
When Android 16 was created by Dr Gero, I’m sure lots of questions were wondered. Can a machine feel love? Can a machine feel hate? Do machines have souls? Is A.I the next step of humanity, or is it just the inevitable end to the human race when the machines will take over and we’ll have to live off of the scraps of mutated meat to survive in a desolate world of death and destruction? All those questions and more were never asked because this Dragon Ball Z is far too manly and badass to care about your precious philosophy, goddammit!
In Dragon Ball Z’s defence, 16 was quite a unique and interesting character that many forget when remembering the great ones. Unlike the other cyborgs… I mean “androids”, 16 is 100% mechanical and has no human blood or DNA inside him. His personality is almost like a ruthless learning child who only has one goal and will stop at nothing to achieve it: kill Son Goku! What makes this character interesting though isn’t how he changes his goal as time goes on, but what he discovers about himself during the journey to find Goku.
A character that is meant to feel nothing but hate for Goku shocked many readers by having one of the best developments in the entire franchise. Alongside the greats like Vegeta, Piccolo and Gohan, Android 16 developed his own character and became impossible to hate, all thanks to a love of birds and nature. A creation built to destroy became a man who loved life. It just ended up making his ending all the more tragic, but we can never forget the android that never returned.
9.) Harumi Kiyama (A Certain Scientific Railgun) (Written by ClayDragon)
“You don’t understand! I won’t let them repeat that tragedy ever again. And in order to ensure that, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Once a respected scientist in Academy City, Kiyama was asked to become a teacher by her boss, Gensei Kihara. Whilst she taught a class of Child Errors (orphans who were left in the city), she continued her research on Esper powers and their connection to the human brain. After spending a number of months with her pupils, she began to bond with them more and more, which made it all the more heartbreaking for her when they ended up in deep comas due to one of Gensei’s experiments going wrong.
Desperate to save her pupils, Kiyama started a massive amount of research, and eventually developed the Level Upper – a program that can link the minds of many Espers together and boost their powers. The side effect of such a program is that anyone who uses is falls into a coma, but since every affected Esper’s power would be routed through Kiyama, she doesn’t let that bother her. Using this power, she intends to search for a way to save her pupils, regardless of the consequences. However, she did develop a cure for the comas induced by the Level Upper before she even released it, so that counts for something.
Whilst Kiyama is the main antagonist of the first story arc, she’s one of the only ones in the series that has a genuinely noble goal, and she takes great care in trying to cause as little harm as possible to the victims of the Level Upper. After being defeated by Mikoto and taken to jail, she comes back in the anime-exclusive Poltergeist arc, where her pupils are freed from their comas and she finally gets her happy ending in one of the most heartwarming moments in the show.
8.) Greed (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) (Written by ClayDragon)
“The name’s Greed, and I want to be your friend.”
There are technically two different Greeds in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The first one is introduced when a group of his chimera kidnap Al, and is killed off by Father around halfway through the series. The second Greed is created when Father forces a Philosopher’s Stone made from the remains of the first Greed into Ling Yao, creating a new personality. Whilst the second Greed is definitely an anti-hero, the first one falls squarely into anti-villain territory.
Despite the fact that he kidnaps Al, Greed is actually pretty decent. He’s polite, he cares about his subordinates, and he doesn’t look down on humans like the rest of the Homunculi. Granted, he is extremely selfish (his name is Greed, after all), but that works in his favour, as it’s this personality trait that causes him to stop working for Father and live life on his own terms.
It’s no surprise at all that Greed later becomes an anti-hero, as the only thing that makes him a ‘villain’ to begin with is the fact that he isn’t on the side of the good guys. He’s easily the most likeable antagonist in the series, and it’s a shame that he didn’t get more screentime before getting turned into the second Greed.
7.) Satsuki Kiryuin (Kill la Kill) (Written by Shiggins)
“I won't be ashamed, if it means I can fulfil my ambitions, I will bare my breasts for all to see! I will do whatever it takes! For I know that my actions are utterly pure!”
Kill la Kill is one of those series I could just sing about… in the shower when nobody is around because openly admitting you liked this series can be awkward due to all the “outfits” displayed throughout. The truth is though, the characters are great and one of the all-time best characters is Satsuki Kiryuin, who rules the academy and is the main antagonist for the first half of the series. She’s a nice person though… basically… Mostly.
With the goal of overthrowing her own mother, Satsuki is prepared to lie, cheat and destroy everything in her path to accomplish her own ends. She created an entire academy of soldiers, uniforms of awesome power, gained control over her own evil wedding dress (it makes sense in the series!) and pretended to be the murderer of Matoi’s father just to make herself and her forces stronger for the final showdown. To put it simply, this leader is truly a force to be reckoned with.
It’s hard to decide which position Satsuki is in. Is she an anti-hero, pure villain, pure hero or anti-villain? Personally, I go for anti-villain because of the first half of the series. If the character is prepared to show her breasts to the entire world and feel no shame whatsoever, all so she can kill one tyrannical monster, then I think we should consider her an anti-villain until further notice.
6.) Zeref (Fairy Tail) (Written by ClayDragon)
“I had no reason to come to this age. I’m not an ally to anyone. I’m not an enemy to anyone. But still, if an age is about to end right now…I might awaken once again.”
Zeref is a complicated case. On one hand, he has the not-so-noble goal of driving humanity to extinction. On the other hand, given the life he’s been forced to lead, it’s easy to understand why he wants to do so. Born 400 years before the story starts, Zeref was a young scholar studying magic at a university when his younger brother died. Unable to come to terms with his death, Zeref set his sights on finding a way to use magic to see his brother again, either through bringing him back to life, or using time travel.
Unfortunately, the gods don’t like it when you, well, play god. Zeref was cursed for his actions, in one of the cruellest ways imaginable. When Zeref places any value on the lives of those around him, his curse kicks in and instantly kills every living thing around him. The curse only stops when he stops caring about life, which – coupled with the fact that it pretty much made him immortal – warped his personality to the point where the only thing he wants to do is die, even if he has to start a war with humanity to achieve it.
The sad thing is, when we see Zeref during his more peaceful moments he actually seems like a nice person. He’s calm, polite, and genuinely cares about the people around him, which just makes it worse when his Death Magic instantly goes off. It’s easy to get the impression that Zeref isn’t wanting a war with humanity because he likes the idea, but he honestly believes that it’s the only way he’ll find peace. And after learning about his tragic backstory, it’s hard to feel anything but pity for him.
5.) Fate Averruncus (Mahou Sensei Negima!) (Written by Shiggins)
“If you try to save everything, you will merely end up losing everything.”
NEGIMA FUCKED ME UP! No, I’m not joking. Negima fucking destroyed me! I read and adored every chapter of this damn series and if it wasn’t for the horrible ending chapter, I’d walk away in a satisfied manner that I hadn’t achieved since I finished my damn college course and escaped its walls! (I finished college last week by the way). The story is great, the romance is great, the battles are great and Fate is great.
First appearing as a mysterious mercenary for the first real “Shonen” arc of the series, Fate was probably the most prominent antagonist of the entire series until its ending. Constantly appearing and providing trouble, Fate and his gang managed to shake the very foundations of the series and the characters just through words and logic alone. Negi Springfield, the main character, had a lot of trouble handling Fate and we can see why.
I’m doing my best to avoid spoilers here since I really do want you to find out for yourself, but let’s just say that Fate is doing his best to avoid a horrible… well, fate. The world he lives in has dark, complicated secrets and he has to prevent an inevitable problem that is coming in the future. In typical but enjoyable villain fashion, he’ll do anything he has to, provided it keeps his goals afloat. In fact, he’s the type of villain who can almost convince the hero to join his side. No matter what series you’re in, that’s an impressive feat to pull off.
4.) Coyote Starrk (Bleach) (Written by Shiggins)
"I'm not alone. I'm not alone. I'm not alone any more..."
Bleach is a series filled with far too many “they died too soon” moments, where you see a character fall and feel disappointed because you know they could have done so much more. And arguably, Coyote Starrk is the best example of someone who deserved more, in every way. The number 1 Espada and laziest asshole around, Starrk is basically the leader of the Arrancar and never really used the power he was given because he couldn’t be bothered with it.
Born so powerful that nobody could even be near him for too long, he split himself up so he could have someone to talk to… and this somehow created the little girl Lilynette Gingerbuck to be his companion for the rest of his life (this does raise the question of what his original “whole” form looked like but it’s best not to dwell on a question that will never be answered). Alone with her for an unspecified amount of time, they were finally found by Sōsuke Aizen and given new clothes, a new home and most importantly, a new “family”.
One of my favourite motives for a character in a story is loneliness, where a character knows the pain of being alone and will do anything to prevent it. To me, that’s an extremely powerful and relatable motive that has many possibilities and I love seeing it create an anti- villain like Starrk. He’s not a bad guy or even an especially violent guy. He’ll fight when he has to and he’ll protect what he has to because Aizen took away the loneliness and Coyote Starrk never wants himself or Lilynette to be alone ever again.
3.) Mewtwo (Pokémon) (Written by ClayDragon)
“I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.”
Originally cloned from a DNA sample of Mew, Mewtwo was created by Dr. Fuji in order to advance his research on cloning in the hopes that he could eventually clone his dead daughter. As Mewtwo grew older, he began to question his purpose and place in the world. Upon breaking out of his containment, Mewtwo found out that the entire point of his creation was to become the strongest Pokémon in existence, as Team Rocket had forced Dr. Fuji to follow their orders. Mewtwo took this poorly, and destroyed the entire laboratory in a fit of rage.
Sometime later, Mewtwo created an elaborate castle and issued a challenge to all strong Pokémon trainers to see who could defeat him. When the trainers arrived, he used his own technology to steal their Pokémon and create clones of them, which he then pitted against the originals in order to see whether the clones or originals were more powerful. Thankfully, the battle was halted by both Ash and the original Mew, after which Mewtwo came to the realisation that everyone was equal, regardless of whether they were a clone or not.
Despite claiming that he was testing the superiority of the clones, it’s obvious that Mewtwo was worried about his own place in the world, and he used the battle as a method of seeing if his method of creation made his own life any less valuable. Even though he’s incredibly powerful and violent, he only wants to be told that his life has meaning, and the development that he undergoes as he searches for an answer makes him one of, if not the, most memorable Pokémon characters.
2.) Pain (Naruto) (Written by Shiggins)
"Peace… I don't know how to get there… but… but someday I'll break the curse. If there's such a thing as peace, I will find it!”
The temptation to put Obito here instead was a big one as like I said in my previous addition to this list, I love the theme of being alone without any hope. However, Pain just managed to tip the scales in his favour by embracing the series’ theme of war and making it such a central part of his character. For the longest time, he was considered the primary and most dangerous antagonist of the series and while many have probably forgotten him by now, it’s amazing to consider the fact that he has nothing to do with Uchiha whatsoever! Other than working for them I mean.
With a home destroyed by war and his own pet dog killed, “Nagato” grew up alongside his two friends: Yahiko who is some sort of annoying cocky git that just shines perfect out of his ass, and Konan who is… a female. And I think that was pretty much her personality because she never did anything except change sides whenever the other two did… Anyway, the trio trained under the great Jiraiya until they left and formed the Akatsuki together. With Yahiko’s death due to Hanzo and other traitors during the war, Nagato adopted the role of “Pain” and his life of destruction began.
In the span of two-three arcs, the character of Pain really made an impact. After staying in the shadows for so long, he threw away the theory that he was Minato and took centre-stage to become one of the series’ most memorable characters. He’s deep, he’s tragic and he’s angry yet people can understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. People would be enraged or cynical in his situation and we’d all want to do something about it if we had his power. In fact, let’s be honest here. We’d all wipe out a few countries after going through the shit Pain went through.
1.) Meruem (Hunter x Hunter) (Written by ClayDragon)
“Because of Komugi...I've learned that there are different forms of strength... Even on my way here... I killed a child. That child may have had the talent to surpass me in something... I trampled over that seed. For no reason at all... I trampled over it."
The strongest Chimera Ant ever created, Meruem was born with the best traits of everyone that his mother had consumed. At first, he was a completely ruthless leader who would kill anyone who even thought about disobeying him, even his fellow Chimera Ants. Deciding that ruling over a nest wasn’t enough for him, Meruem and his Royal Guards moved to a nearby country and took over the Palace, making it a place fit for his ruling.
Desperate to prove his superiority over all living things, Meruem brought in champions of many board games such as chess, shogi and go. However, he met his match in a blind girl called Komugi, who consistently wiped the floor with him at a game called gungi. Over time, he came to respect her, and eventually developed feelings for her that were at odds with his Chimera Ant nature. Sadly, life is very rarely kind to villains, and Meruem was forced to say farewell to Komugi in one of the most touching scenes in any anime ever.
The reason why Meruem is such an effective anti-villain is that his development is done incredibly well, and his feelings for Komugi grow in such a believable way that you wish for the two of them to get a happy ending. In fact, even though Meruem performed so many horrific acts during the series, by the end of the arc you’re willing (and probably able) to forgive him simply because of how much he’s grown as a person.
|Lord Darcia (Wolf's Rain)|
|BlackWarGreymon (Digimon Adventure 02)|
|Monkey D Garp (One Piece)|
|Joker (Black Butler)|
Is there an entry you feel we missed out? Or do you have any suggestions for another Top 10 list? Let us know in the comments below!
|Just in case you forgot these guys are actually villains...|
Thanks for reading!
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at email@example.com. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. So very tired...
Shiggins enjoys many strange forms of communication, especially those including cosplayers or presents or videos. However, until that wonderful day comes when people care enough to give him things for being him, you can contact him on his Skype; shigginsishere. He can also respond to you if you contact him through GMails at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere.