Almost every credit for the success of an anime series is given to the main protagonists. Although it’s true that anime characters like Naruto, Son Goku, and Monkey D Luffy gather the most fans because of their lovable appearance and unique personality, it can’t be argued that their villain counterparts play a huge role in molding them into the characters we all enjoy to watch. Can you imagine Naruto without Pain and Uchiha Madara? Will he become the strong and competent Hokage he is now if they were not there to test his limits?
The best protagonist can’t exist without an equally good antagonist. And the best anime antagonists deserve all the praise they can get for playing a crucial role in the success of the anime series they came from. The anime villains featured below are the best I’ve found after being an anime fan for more than a decade now. All of them annoyed me at one point yet I appreciate these antagonist anime characters as they made their respective anime shows unpredictable and very exciting to watch.
1. Yagami Light from Death Note
What if you’ll be given the chance to control someone’s death by simply using a notebook? Death Note revolves around the story of Yagami Light and other chosen people who were bestowed with the cursed notebook used by Death Gods. It started just because a Death God was bored and interested in humanity’s limitations. Yagami Light responded by killing convicted criminals around him and he acted as the new face of justice. He is a top student in his class and even considered a genius so it was not hard for him to understand the situation and come up with ideas on how to fully utilize the cursed tool he acquired. He is acted both as a protagonist and antagonist in this anime show. Whether you’ll see him as a villain or not depends on which perspective you’ll look. Somehow, he provided a direct path in punishing wrongdoers but the fact that he has the ability to kill anyone in an instant makes him a grave threat to humanity. Are you a fan of Yagami Light and his perception of justice? Or do you believe L’s reasoning that our current world is not ready for his idea of justice? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
2. Don Quixote Do Flamingo from One Piece
Monkey D Luffy’s dream of becoming the pirate king is slowly turning into reality. He managed to acquire a strong and loyal crew. The straw hat crew started their journey in the grand line with hopeful spirits but they were clueless back then about the enemy they’ll face outright. He is one of the most corrupted members of the Shichibukai, Don Quixote Do Flamingo. For his clan, he is the reliable leader who would do anything for the sake of family and to be a step closer to his ultimate goal. He cares less even a country is destroyed as long as his plans succeed. To many, he is the reincarnation of the devil himself and is the root of their suffering. Even the government is afraid of his twisted personality. He thinks no one as his ally and would turn his blade to anyone who blocks his path regardless of their affinity. This is why Monkey D Luffy and his paths crossed. They are destined to fight to the death because they carry opposite morals and effect to the people around them. Do Flamingo strives in destruction and betrayal while Monkey D Luffy fights for new beginnings and loyalty.
3. Hisoka from Hunter X Hunter
Clowns are often seen in birthday parties entertaining children and making sure they leave the event with a big smile. But even though they dress up to look as colorful and funny as possible, many still fear them. Some consider clowns as their greatest fears and this is not just applicable to children. This fear most likely stemmed from famous horror movies and TV shows which feature a killer clown as the main antagonist. Hisoka from Hunter X Hunter is one of them. Despite being an antagonist, he is surprisingly very popular. He’s definitely evil but there are several points in the anime series where he helped Gon and Killua, the main protagonist of Hunter X Hunter. Although his intentions in doing so are crooked, he still manages to assist them during dire predicaments which makes it hard to entirely hate him. But don’t be too comfortable around him because Hisoka is merciless and would kill anyone including the ones he considered allies in the past just to satisfy his craving for a good fight.
4. Shishio Makoto from Rorouni Kenshin
Many would easily forgive after being wronged but not Shishio Makoto. To his defense, the government which he loyally served all his life betrayed and treated him like trash so his vengeance can’t be considered unjustifiable. He was killed and burned to hide government secrets as they try to transition to a new era of peace. However, they fail to consider the resilience of a man who has survived countless death battles. Shishio came out burnt and in the process gained the ability to conjure fire which he can use to heat up his weapon. He can also overheat if used in excessively so it’s basically a double-edged weapon. After being burnt, his role as the government’s assassin was given to the young and naïve Kenshin Himura. They did almost the same acts for the government but followed different path afterward. The two of them cut their ties from the government after realizing that their actions were pointless in attaining real peace. However, Shishio decided to take matters into his hands and create a government that follows his ideals while Kenshin wandered and chose a peaceful way of living away from the sword.
5. Toguro from Yu Yu Hakusho
What is true strength? Is it the ability to overpower anyone that challenges you? Or is it measured by how you protect the weak and be irrepressible even against a mightier foe? Toguro sees optimal strength as his sole goal in life. He wants nothing other than to be the strongest. This caused Toguro a lot including his only comrade who treated him more than a friend but a true brother. He crossed path with Yusuke and his friends when he was acting as a bodyguard for a wealthy underground businessman who kidnapped Yukina, Hiei’s sister, for her crystal tears. Yusuke somehow defeated Toguro with the help of Kuwabara during their first encounter. Nevertheless, it can’t really be counted as a win because Toguro was going easy on him and the outcome was what his employer wants. Their second meeting is in an otherworld martial arts tournament. Can Yusuke defeat Toguro if he decides to go all out? If you’ve never watched a single Yu Yu Hakusho episode then you are surely missing half of your life as an anime enthusiast!
6. Team Rocket from Pokemon
Villains are expected to be ruthless and cunning. They are merciless and relentless in coming up with evil plans to either defeat their rival hero or finally attain their most coveted goal; world domination. However, this is not applicable to Team Rocket particularly one of their teams composed of Jessie, James, and Meowth. It is a huge organization which aims to abduct Pokemons and uses them in wrong doings but this team is so bad in their job that they’ve never won an encounter against Ash and his friends even though they’ve been pursuing for several years now. Their failures are the main source of humor in the anime series. It’s entertaining to see Team Rocket blast off every time they are defeated but sometimes I feel bad for them. They do deserve credit for not giving up after countless futile efforts. And I know every Pokemon fan would agree that the Pokemon anime series won’t be complete and will never achieve the fame it is enjoying today without the quirky and funny Team Rocket.
7. Ainz Ooal Gown from Overlord
You might be wondering why the main protagonist of the anime series Overlord is included in this list but please hear me out first. Despite having a good sense of justice, we still can’t deny the fact that Ainz is an Overlord. His character is the manifestation of evil and is designed to hate the living. Of course, he is a villain but he turned out to be a special one because he is a former human being. All of his subordinates are clueless about his situation and all they see is the mighty Momonga who rules all the supreme beings so they expect him to be wise and evil. He saved a couple of humans along the way but his subordinates only see such actions as a way of showing mercy towards inferior beings. Ainz also lost a lot of his humanity including the ability to experience intense feelings and the need to sleep and eat. He became a monster not just in the outside but also inside as he does not feel even a little remorse after killing humans given such action comes with a justifiable reason.
8. Hao Asakura from Shaman King
Brotherhood is supposed to be eternal. Brothers should not fight but instead, support each other. Yoh Asakura harbors no ill feelings toward his brother Hao Asakura. Nevertheless, he simply can’t work together with his older brother as he plans to rule over the world after acquiring the title “Shaman King”. It is the ultimate dream of every Shaman across the world so everyone is aiming for it with the help of their respective guardian spirits. Hao, the current “Shaman King” is merciless and will easily let his Spirit of Fire consume anyone who would dare cross his path. He also managed to gather strong subordinates making it harder for Yoh to stop his wicked plans. Will Amidamaru, Yoh’s guardian spirit, be strong enough to match Hao’s Spirit of Fire? Can their duo achieve what is thought to be close to impossible, subdue a Grand Elemental Spirit?
9. Sosuke Aizen from Bleach
The most dangerous villains are not those with inhuman strength or speed but those who are wise and tricky. These villains carefully lay out their plans and make sure they would succeed in the end regardless if certain parties try to stop them or not. Sosuke Aizen belongs to this rare breed of villains. What’s more disturbing is that apart from being clever, he is also strong enough to become a Captain of Squad Five. Ichigo and his gang were left clueless as Aizen’s plan went forward from one phase to another. They only realized that they were all dancing in his palm when it was almost too late. It took Ichigo’s final Shinigami form to defeat Aizen and he had to sacrifice every ounce of his power to do so. After their match, Ichigo was left without any spiritual power turning him into a normal human being. This only proves how powerful and dangerous Aizen is. He cornered Ichigo in a tight spot. Although Ichigo’s appearance in the Shinigami world was a part of his plans, it ended up as its major flaw because he never thought about the possibility of Ichigo becoming strong enough to defeat him.
10. Pain from Naruto Shippuden
It is said that pain shapes us. It brings out the diamond hiding within all of us after we overcome it through sheer will and the help of people around us who truly care. But it does not go towards a positive outcome every time. There are also some cases where pain leads a person to the brink of disparity until he loses hope and succumbs to darkness. This is what happened to Pain. Jiraiya, his previous master, tried to save him but it was already too late. He lost every reason to live after witnessing the death of everyone dear to him. Jiraiya was not there to save them so he also held an irreversible grudge towards the only person who tried to reach out to him. It’s truly a sad story but Naruto simply can’t leave Pain be just because of all the sufferings he had to endure. Naruto needs to stop Pain from destroying Konoha. Pain believes that doing so would make him feel better as he considers Konoha as the main reason for his sufferings. Despite Pain’s inclination to evil, in the end, Naruto managed to reach the innermost of his heart. Pain realized that the people who are suffering from his actions has nothing to do with what happened to him before and agreed to undo the destruction and death he caused at the expense of his own life. Is he truly a villain or just another victim of the world’s cruelty? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
Other Villain Characters Worth Mentioning
Majin Buu from Dragonball Z
It’s hard to hate on someone who is chubby and cute. But the Dragonball Z world was left with no choice when Majin Buu was summoned and he started destroying one city after another. Son Goku was not ready to fight him back then because he was still dead so the world was left in the hands of Vegeta, Son Gohan, and the rest of the Z fighters. They were easily defeated by the seemingly indestructible Majin Buu. He might act like a spoiled child but his power is the real deal. Gohan was trained by the Great King Kai to surpass a Super Saiyan but it was still not enough. It was only until Son Goku and Vegeta worked together when they got a fighting chance against Majin Buu. The Kid Buu appeared and trapped the fat Buu inside him. When Son Goku’s Spirit Bomb, carrying the power of everyone on earth, killed Kid Buu, Majin Buu was released and they spared him. He became the new member of the Z fighters and for me, it’s a really good bargain. As a villain, he is merciless and dangerous because he can’t be killed but as an ally, he is loyal and very dependable.
Kureo Mado from Tokyo Ghoul
Monsters should be hunted and killed. Anything that is a danger to humanity should be eliminated at once. This is the mindset of the people behind the Commission of Counter Ghoul. They are tasked to investigate cases of Ghoul attacks an act accordingly. Hunting Ghouls is a very dangerous way of living so their best agents are equipped with high-tech weapons known as quinque. Kureo Mado is one of their most renowned members. He successfully hunted down even the most dangerous ghouls with his wits and fighting prowess. Mado might act and look weird but his subordinates respect him. He is so dedicated in eliminating Ghouls to the extent that it has become an obsession. Age and sex won’t matter to him when it comes to Ghouls. He seems them equally as monsters that should be killed on sight without further negotiations. Kureo Mado was killed by Touka when he tried to sneak an attack towards Hinami, the daughter of the Ghoul he killed in cold blood.
Naraku from Inuyasha
Is immortality really a gift or a curse? What’s the point of living forever if you don’t have anyone to spend all this time with? These questions are irrelevant for Naraku, the rival of Inuyasha. He is among the many yokais who was born from the human, Onigumo. He is the one responsible for the death of Kikyo and the seal placed on Inuyasha. He desires the Shikon no Tama, a jewel which could make him the most powerful yokai. Throughout the anime series, he raced with Inuyasha in collecting the shards needed to form the jewel. He successfully completed it later on but he was slain by Inuyasha right after. He transformed into his real form and gained the power he long wanted but his selfish purpose and lack of trustworthy allies made him weak. His failure is a reminder for all of us that no man, or in his case monster, is an island. No matter how rich, powerful, and influential you are, these advantages will always fall short against the existence of real friends and family when it comes to being happy and successful in life.
Titans from Shingeki no Kyoujin
Science is both amazing and scary. History has already proven that scientific breakthroughs are not just limited to technologies that are beneficial to all humanity. Remember the Atomic Bomb? Science paved a way to its development and it wiped out an entire city in just a few seconds leaving thousands dead and millions sick. This is very similar to what happened in Shingeki No Kyojin. The only difference is that the experiment gone wrong in their situation does not involve bombs but oversized humans who developed an insatiable desire for human flesh. They were referred to as Titans and ever since then humanity has been fighting them off with tall walls and military forces specifically trained to go up against them. These giants are formidable opponents not just because of their size. A few rare ones also have the intellect that can match humans. They are also very agile. One wrong move and you’ll end up inside their belly in an instant. Topped up with their weird body proportion and scary faces, the Titans definitely deserve a spot in this list.
Ryo Mashiba from Hajime no Ippo
Intimidation is a crucial skill in boxing. Mastering it would make it easier for a boxer to close in an opponent and chop off a huge chunk of his confidence especially during the early rounds. And it does not really require a huge body and a scary face to be good at it. The main ingredients to have an intimidating presence as a boxer are attitude and confidence. But I’m no expert so maybe there are more. If you’re really interested in this aspect of boxing, you should meet Ryo Mahiba. He is the second formidable opponent Ippo Makunouchi met next to Miyata, his rival. Ryo’s intimidating presence stems from his desperation to win. He can’t afford to lose because his sister depends on him. He is also willing to do even the nastiest tricks in the books just to grab the win making it seems like is nothing more than a ruthless and merciless wild animal inside the ring. It’s different from his sister though. She sees his brother as a hardworking man who sacrificed everything just to make a living and support her.
Judar from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
It is said that your childhood shapes you and all the experience you’ll gather when you’re just a kid will affect your overall personality as you grow up. Judar is a living proof that this is true. He had a dark past but managed to get out of it and became one of the most powerful Magis in his generation. The bad experiences he had to endure and his absurd ice magic made him arrogant. He is the type of person who would not mind killing bystanders during a fight or using innocent people in his plans. Judar is a villain any hero would not want to face. But is he beyond saving? Like everybody else, there is still hope to redeem Judar. Deep inside him is a boy who simply wants to be cared for and loved. He might violently deny this but Judar’s only wish is to have comrades to fight along with as well as something precious that is worth protecting with his power. Once led towards the right path, Judar has the potential to be a loyal and trustworthy ally.
Zeref from Fairy Tail
How can I disregard Zeref Dragneel, the most powerful and evilest Mage in Fairy Tail, while making this list? He is Natsu Dragneel’s big brother and mortal enemy. For Zeref, Natsu is nothing more than a tool which can free him from a sad and lonely life brought upon by his cursed body. His powerful and destructive magic and spread death to everything around him in an instant. He is so powerful that entire guilds fear him while others who are a bit daring exclaim that they are willing to do anything just to make him their ally. Zeref’s duel with his brother Natsu is one of the best fight scenes in Fairy Tail. Since Natsu will suffer the same fate as Zeref, our beloved mage is basically forced to sacrifice his own life for the good of all. To the eyes of his friends and guildmates, it’s a battle that would lead to no other path than seeing their comrade die. How can Natsu get out alive from this ordeal? Will Fairy Tail’s firepower be enough to stop Zeref and his plans to end an era? You should start watching Fairy Tail now if you want to catch up to the hype!
Gin from Detective Conan
Shinichi Kudo is always vigilant against the syndicate who is responsible for turning him into a kid. The organization boasts a wide influence scattered across the globe and their operations vary from manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs, smuggling and dealing of guns, and even assassination. Gin is one of their most loyal and influential high-ranking executives. Despite his rank, he makes sure crucial missions are done smoothly by personally leading his men on the field. He is skilled in both armed and unarmed combat. But probably the most dangerous thing about him is his wit. Gin easily evades police traps and thinks several steps ahead while strategizing. These are the reasons why even the genius Shinichi Kudo can’t catch him or gather enough information about his origin and the current structure of the organization.
Sea King from One Punch Man
Saitama is unrivaled in almost every aspect as a superhero and is considered as the most popular bald anime character by far. He is super fast and ultra-strong. Inflicting damage on him if ever you land a lucky punch is seemingly impossible. If it does happen, it’s a good idea to immediately check the hand or foot that landed the blow because it will be most likely injured. That’s how tough Saitama is. Nonetheless, he still comes with several flaws and one of them is the inability to fly or teleport to a location he desires. This gave Sea King, a strong monster who claimed to be the most powerful creature living beneath the sea, enough time to wreak havoc in the city and injure several heroes who responded first. Zenos, Saitama’s disciple, was one of them. As an advanced battle android, he managed to fight toe-to-toe with Sea King for a while but it was completely over when the latter decided to get serious. He can turn a droplet of water into a bullet-like projectile weapon by simply flicking it. He is also fast enough to out-run escaping heroes and has the strength to mow down cement walls with a single punch. But is he a formidable foe for Saitama? Well, the answer is obvious but I don’t want to spoil the show even more so why not watch One Punch Man? I guarantee it’s definitely worth your time!
Tomura Shigaraki from Boku No Hero Academia
There are several types of villain anime characters. Some specialize in pressuring the protagonists with a huge army which they can order to attack at will. Others work alone but boast superior strength and other special abilities which make it almost impossible for the main character to win a duel against them without the help of trusted allies. A few rare ones only rely on their wit and have little to no power on their own. This type of enemy is the hardest to deal with in my opinion. Tomura Shigaraki belongs to this rare breed. Yes, he has the ability to decay anything he touches and has boosted strength and speed but these abilities fall short compared to strong professional heroes in Boku No Hero Academia. What makes him truly dangerous is his ability to command his allies as their leader and strategize. He has no qualms about killing the innocent and involving them in battles just to gain the upper hand.
Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti from Re: Zero Starting Life in Another World
What if you accidentally take the life of the most special person in your life? Would you ever forgive yourself? This is the predicament that caused Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti to lose his mind and turn wicked. He had a tough and gentle look a hundred years ago but everything flipped when he accidentally killed Fortuna with the use of Pandora’s Power. The pain was too much for him to bear and now he has become an active member of the most feared Witch Cult. They met path with Subaru, the main protagonist in the main series, and he managed to kill Subaru and even infiltrated his body. It took everything going perfectly before he and his crew successfully defeated Petelgeuse.
Nobuyuki Sugo from Sword Art Online
Love is patient and kind. The definition if far from how Nobuyuki Sugo thinks of love. He is the main antagonist in the hit anime series Sword Art Online. After defeating the final boss, Kayaba Akihiko, Kirito woke up after more than a year of being trapped inside the game. He immediately searched for the real Asuna but was confused and worried when he found out that she did not wake up like him and the rest of the players. He did his best to solve the puzzle and was able to find hits of Asuna being trapped in another game. And he was right. All along, Asuna was being held captive by Nobuyuki Sugo, the man his family wants her to marry. He plans to further develop the game and weaponize it. And it’s up to Kirito and his new allies to rescue Asuna and stop Sugo from starting another Virtual Reality nightmare.
Seijuro Akashi from Kuroko’s Basketball
Basketball is a team sport. No matter how good you are, winning without the help of your teammates is impossible. But this common thought can be argued if we talk about extremely talented individuals like the captain of the famous generation of miracles, Seijuro Akashi in the famous sports anime Kuroko No Basket. He is the one who thought most of the generation of miracle members their abilities and his leadership ability is at the level of professional basketball players. He plays basketball not per quarter but as a whole. Against him, it would seem that everything that will happen in every ball possession is going according to his plan. And if by anyway something unexpected happens, he can easily carry the whole team with his own superior scoring and defensive skills. Seijuro gave Kuroko and the whole Seiseki Team the hardest time in their basketball life as they all need to play at their best in order to stand a chance against his team Rakuzan High.
Hendrickson from Seven Deadly Sins
It’s ironic to see a holy knight being corrupted. They are supposed to be the protectors of peace and justice. Nonetheless, in the anime series Seven Deadly Sins, they are cruel and unreasonable. Hendrickson to be specific turned to his demonic powers just to achieve his selfish goal which is to rule over the land along with the Holy Knights. Mediolas and his group suffered a lot of loses just to subdue Hendrickson in his demon form. But this is a far cry from his personality way back when he was just a loyal knight of the kingdom. He always scolded his comrades who are slacking and is also extremely loyal to his masters. He is gentle, respectful, and just. But people change right? And sad to say, his change leaned toward the bad side. Do you know someone close to you who undergone the same change? Have you tried urging him to come back to the right path? Share your experience in the comment section below!
Azami Nakiri from Food Wars!
How far would you go to achieve perfection in cooking? Azami Nakiri took it to the next level by conspiring with top chefs and selfishly deciding for his subordinates. He was once the director of Totsuki Culinary Academy after manipulating the Elite Ten back then to oust his own father-in-law. Everyone hates him including the wealthy owners of famous culinary businesses. And this is not surprising because only a few understand and accepts his meaning of culinary perfection. He cultivated God Tongue through abusive means despite the fact that the guinea pig is his own daughter, Erina. This goes without saying that he only thinks of her daughter as a tool for him to achieve his selfish goals. As a result, Erina developed a rooted fear towards him which she struggled to overcome.
That’s a wrap! Did you like the list? Do you also think that anime villains should be credited as well? They truly make the anime series more fun and exciting. The stronger and eviler the villain the better, right? Or do you have better anime villain characters in mind? Don’t be shy and share your thoughts in the comments section below! Who knows you might convince me to tweak this list and of course give you a shout out for coming up with an awesome suggestion.
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