The labels of heroes and villains are not always appropriate to every character in any medium, and antihero and anti-villain can help to further categorize their intentions. Yet in anime, there are still several complex characters who blur these lines. Antiheroes and anti-villains are terms that many people may not completely understand or be able to pinpoint.
While antiheroes don’t show the conventional heroic traits that are expected of them, anti-villains tend to stay true to their villainous plots or beliefs while showing contradicting heroic or admirable qualities. These traits can still be accompanied by villainous ones, but they prevent a character from being viewed as a full villain.
10/10 Claudia & Soren Followed Their Despicable Father’s Orders
The Dragon Prince
The Dragon Prince may well be western animation, but it holds the best example of an anti-villain duo out there. The brother-sister duo of Claudia and Soren have both been likable characters since the beginning, even in spite of their evil father Viren and what he asked them to do.
Viren asked his children to capture or kill princes Ezran and Callum, with Soren and Claudia starting to question themselves along the way. Soren eventually had enough and left his father, but Claudia stayed and did Viren’s bidding out of love for her father. She has retained her humor and likable traits, even in serving a dangerous villain.
9/10 Harumi Kiyama Would Do Anything To Save The Children
A Certain Scientific Railgun
Harumi Kiyama was considered to be the primary antagonist of A Certain Scientific Railgun. The doctor was roped into covering up a botched experiment on children by Gensei Kihara. She was driven by her guilt and determination to help the kids wake up from their comas, which led her to make the Level Upper.
The Level Upper could link minds and boost powers, but would be dangerous if not used correctly. Kiyama was eventually taken down by Mikoto, and her noble reasons and misguided actions were explained and understood. She put up a good fight against Mikoto, but ultimately just wanted to help the children.
8/10 Garou Got Respect By Sticking To His Morals
Garou is often talked about as the main villain of One-Punch Man, but his status goes much deeper than that. Garou despised popularity, and ultimately just wanted to beat up and defeat some heroes. It was rarely his aim to kill anybody, even if he did seriously injure the likes of Mumen Rider.
Garou showed that he did have some morals, despite popular belief. He had just been bullied by those who preached the names of heroes, which drove him down this path. It is especially rare to have villains that show any sign of restraint or code, stopping them from full-on massacring their foes.
7/10 Kagemitsu Daigo Sacrificed His Son’s Body For The Prosperity Of His Lands
Dororo‘s Kagemitsu Daigo is about as villainous as a character can get. He traded his firstborn son’s limbs and organs to some demons, in exchange for saving his lands and making them prosperous once again. This can be taken either as a selfish play for power at the cost of betraying his son, or a sacrifice made for the good of many.
The latter doesn’t quite fall into Kagemitsu’s despicable character, but it still leaves the lingering idea that there was still hope left for him. This act ultimately saved thousands of people from starvation and suffering. He showed a father’s love to his second son Tahomaru, but still resented Hyakkimaru despite already betraying him. This simply reaffirmed his terrible nature.
6/10 Askeladd Was Seen As Villain By Many But Hid His Honorable Intentions
Vinland Saga‘s Askeladd is considered to be one of the best but most confusing anime characters of all time. He can be described as an antagonist, protagonist, villain, antihero, or anti-villain, with each having valid points of proof. Thorfinn viewed Askeladd as a villain as he was the one sent to kill Thors, Thorfinn’s father.
Yet therein lay the issue: Thorfinn’s presence there also played its part in his father’s death, meaning that guilt, grief, and vengeance merged together to form his feelings towards Askeladd. Askeladd did plenty of bad things, as did most Vikings, and they all made him seem like a villain. But Askeladd’s likable charm and his overall aims to save his beloved Wales are heroic traits that made him more of an anti-villain.
5/10 Suzaku Kururugi Would Do Anything For Peace
In Code Geass, all Suzaku Kururugi claimed to want was a peaceful life away from any warfare. He kept this in mind as a means to justify making sacrifices and questionable decisions. Suzaku killed his father in an attempt to stop further bloodshed, and even opposed Lelouch because he was looking for a violent end to everything.
Unlike Lelouch, Suzaku didn’t take any responsibility or accountability for his actions. Instead, he felt guilty, and used that guilt to never experience it again. Suzaku showed some heroic capabilities that ultimately countered his flaws and painted him as an anti-villain.
4/10 Shogo Makishima’s Opposition To The Sybil System Was Justified
Shogo Makishima was easily one of the best characters in Psycho-Pass. While he appeared to be a straight-up villain whose charisma and charm simply made him even more dangerous, he actively opposed the problematic Sybil System.
With the corruption stemming from the Sybil System, Shogo Makishima’s defiance and campaign against it can be seen as a force for good. This is all that earns him status as anti-villain however, as he was a terrifying and sadistic character who enjoyed causing or witnessing someone else’s suffering. Fans feel bad about liking him, but ultimately can’t help it.
3/10 Stain Had Oddly Noble Intentions Muddied By His Murdering Intent
My Hero Academia
Stain generated a lot of discussion following his death in My Hero Academia, both in the anime and for those watching it. Chizome Akaguro, also known as Hero Killer: Stain, appeared initially as a frightening killer, establishing his skills by seriously hurting the original Ingenium. However, it was made clear that Stain was targeting those he deemed to be “fake heroes.”
In a bizarre twist on a killer’s motives, Stain claimed to love real heroes like All Might, which only served to increase his hatred for those in it for money or fame. Stain had a code where he preferred not to go for those who weren’t guilty of besmirching the hero name unless provoked. Stain was a villain, but his noble intentions made everybody think twice.
2/10 Reiner Showed He Could Be A Hero & The Armored Titan
Attack On Titan
When Reiner and Bertholdt’s betrayals were unveiled in Attack on Titan, fans were shocked and instantly saw the pair as villains. They were Titans, the powerful Armored and Colossal respectively, which had been shown as the main villains at that point. As the story progressed, more of the world outside the walls was shown — including Marley, what Reiner was fighting for.
Reiner faked emotion and compassion with Eren and the others at the beginning, filling the role as “friends.” Yet upon clashes later on in the anime, Reiner showed moments of hesitation and empathy towards his former allies.
1/10 Itachi Played The Role Of Villain To Protect His Brother
Itachi Uchiha was initially viewed as a villain in Naruto, with Sasuke thirsting for vengeance on his brother for massacring their entire clan. This vengeance drove Sasuke forward, so when he did eventually kill his brother and the truth was revealed, Sasuke essentially lost his purpose.
Itachi did what he did to stop a coup and an ensuing war while saving the life of his brother. Itachi had leaned into looking like the villain in an attempt to catapult Sasuke towards becoming a hero. Itachi had been given no choice but to commit the atrocities he did for a greater good, and was not the big bad his brother believed him to be.
NEXT: Naruto’s Konoha 11, Ranked By Relevance