Author’s Note: Previously this post lacked notation indicating which version of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure I was referring to. This has now been remedied.
We’re taking a break from Disneytober this week to talk about villains!
Whether they want to take over the world or just mess with the main character, I love to hate villains. And anime has delivered some of the most memorable for sure. Today we’re taking a look at my top 10 favorite anime villains.
This post will contain spoilers for
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, My Hero Academia, Gurren Lagann, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Trigun
10. Dio Brando (2012-2013 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Come on. What self-respecting anime fan wouldn’t have this JoJo villain on the list?
I haven’t delved far into the ridiculously over-the-top world of JoJo, so I’m sure I’m missing some fantastic villains later on, but I think anyone who’s watched this series can agree that Dio is the classic recurring villain of the JoJo franchise.
Dio was born bad, lusting for power and prestige. He commits his first premeditated murder at a young age, poisoning his abusive father. When the generous, kind, but naive Joestar family then takes him in, the psychopathic Dio plans to steal the family fortune by worming into the Joestar patriarch’s good graces. The fact this plan entails tormenting the biological son, Jonathan Joestar, is a nice bonus for Dio; he gets a sick pleasure out of turning Jonathan’s father against him, all while painting it as a friendly sibling rivalry when it’s anything but.
The “friendly rivalry” Dio has against Jonathan turns into a generations-long bloodfeud when Dio gains powers from a mystical Mayan artifact that turn him into a vampire, granting him super strength, crazy reflexes, and magic abilities. No matter how hard the Joestar family tries to get rid of him, Dio just keeps coming back, even when he’s reduced to a disembodied head.
Dio is grandiose, flamboyant, and completely full of himself: all the things you love to hate about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast plus the power and intellect of a master supervillain. All that combined with his relentless persecution of the Joestar family makes Dio a great recurring villain.
9. Hero-Killer: Stain (My Hero Academia)
Despite being subdued after only a brief appearance in the My Hero universe, Stain creates a lasting impression that changes the world as the viewers—and heroes—know it.
A long-time admirer of the world’s number-one hero, All Might, Stain started out as a relatively normal person. However, Stain became disenchanted with the hero world when he saw societal constructs were encouraging hero work for money or power rather than saving people. In Stain’s eyes, the hero world had become utterly corrupt, leaving only All Might operating as a true hero. Determined to “restore” society by becoming a villain himself, Stain launches a crusade against “pretender heroes,” killing anyone who falls short of the standard All Might sets.
Both Stain’s appearance and the extent to which he holds his convictions are terrifying to behold. No hypocrisy here; Stain never once calls himself a hero, and he openly desires justice to be delivered upon him, almost welcoming his eventual demise—though it must be at the hands of the only hero he deems worthy to kill him: All Might himself.
Stain’s presence and worldview completely shift the paradigm in My Hero Academia. Fully-fledged heroes find his conviction so moving (and terrifying) that they’re frozen in fear when combating him. Long after his arrest, Stain sparks discussions among heroes, civilians, and villains about the true nature of the My Hero society and what it means to bring justice to the world. Through this exposure, Stain’s beliefs begin to seep into society: after all, what good is a society that trains and rewards heroes if they aren’t upholding true heroism? The ripple effect of Stain’s presence affects the microcosm of UA High, who are forced to alter how they handle their students’ security and instruction, as much as it does the world at large as a new generation of villains comes out of hiding to mold the world in the way they see fit. How many other villains can boast that level of influence?
8. The Spiral King/Lordgenome (Gurren Lagann)
This guy is a royal nasty bad.
Though Lordgenome was once a protector of humanity, he became the puppet king of the world-destroying Anti-Spiral race, promising to cull humanity so the Anti-Spirals would spare Earth from utter eradication. Lordgenome then raised up an army of sub-humans called the Beastmen and waged brutal war against humanity, forcing any survivors to hide in underground cities—all allegedly to ensure Earth’s population never grow past the Anti-Spirals’ specifications.
Try as he might to justify his actions, Lordgenome’s hypocrisy is quite clear. While the rest of humanity struggles to survive in their subterranean prisons, unable to dwell under the sun due to Lordgenome’s ever-patrolling mech-wielding Beastmen, Lordgenome himself lives in decadence on the surface, enjoying his fill of women and power. He does whatever he wants to amuse himself, even creating genetically-modified “children” until they no longer please him and then casting them aside to die in prettied-up caskets.
His inflated ego and pretentious posturing along with his sick and twisted actions make it all the sweeter when one of his cast-off daughters fights alongside the heroes to end his reign once and for all.
7. Kagetane (Black Bullet)
As suave and debonair as he is ruthless and intimidating, Kagetane mysteriously masquerades in a tuxedo and theater mask, concealing more of his identity than just his face. But what you don’t know only highlights the truths you do about Kagetane: he’s someone you don’t want to mess with.
|Black Bullet 2014
With an almost Joker-like delight in violence, Kagetane kills as easily as he breathes. He wipes the floor with his opponents, making sure everyone in the room knows his strength. He’s always a step ahead and delights in showing off his intellect and skills.
He also has a sickeningly sweet-psychotic relationship with his equally murderous daughter, a tiny killer named Kohina, who gets irritated every time he warns her to keep one of his combat playmates alive. It’s adorable and horrifying as they tag-team to kill anyone who gets in their way.
6. Führer King Bradley / Wrath (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
A fascinating villain, King Bradley is the result of a science experiment using alchemy, an attempt to purge series antagonist Father of his seven deadly sins. Father’s wrath was introduced into a number of human specimens with the goal of creating a vessel to become Führer of the country. King Bradley was the first and only one to survive the deadly experiments. His brutal philosophy and unflinching brute force make him a terrifying opponent on the battlefield, but his exceptional intellect, keen observations, and uncanny reflexes make him an even more dangerous opponent in a mental game.
Though originally an ordinary human being, with the introduction of Father’s wrath, King Bradley became a homunculus—an artificial being and servant of Father—and sees himself as such. However, King Bradley’s contradictory creation seems to come with contradictions of its own.
For instance, while Bradley shares the other homunculi’s disdain for humanity—regularly calling them weak, feeble-minded, and pathetically flawed—even he admits that he has some human-like qualities. Despite living to serve Father’s designs, King Bradley openly admits that his selection of a wife was his own decision, indicating he possesses the human quality of free will.
This is hardly the only human quality King Bradley possesses, and they all contrast sharply with his homunculus traits. King Bradley is cold and calculating but has a deep-chested laugh. He lives to serve Father’s purposes, but he also has a distinct will of his own. He answers to no one and yet serves Father loyally. Despite his overflowing wrath, King Bradley also has a complex sense of respect, always commenting when he stumbles across a worthy opponent—before cutting them down ruthlessly. He’s a complicated villain I love to watch.
5. All for One (My Hero Academia)
I’m a sucker for the all-powerful, all-confident, completely overwhelming and totally wicked mastermind villain. And boy does All for One deliver.
His ridiculously overpowered ability—one that allows him to collect others’ superpowers and give them to whoever he wishes—makes him a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. But it’s not just his carefully-cultivated set of skills that make All for One a villain to end all heroes. In addition to his overwhelming confidence, All for One is incredibly intelligent, constantly considering all possible outcomes and creating contingencies for them. He’s always three steps ahead of the heroes, and he revels in it.
|My Hero Academia 2016-2019
All for One is also sadistic and cruel, and he loves to twist the knife into any hero he comes up against, whether it be crushing the spirits of top-tier heroes or belittling his nemesis All Might any way he can. Every action All for One commits is meant to inflict pain on All Might, even down to All for One’s choice of protege: Shiguraki Tomura, the son of All Might’s former mentor. All for One revels in the fact he’s effectively turned the young man against the one person who would care for him more than his biological parents.
Even after All Might defeats All for One in combat, it’s unclear who the true victor really is. Behind bars, All for One still manages to get under All Might’s skin, jeering and gnawing away at All Might’s confidence… all while his secret contingency plans roll into motion without him even having to lift a finger.
4. Douman (Tokyo Ravens)
Remember what I said about super-powerful, all-confident villain masterminds? Douman is all that mixed with the creepiness of a four-inch long spider.
|Tokyo Ravens 2013-2014 / Photo from My Anime Shelf
This wicked old man has an affinity for the macabe and the supernatural. Wielding incredibly powerful magics, Douman is a literal disaster phenomenon, rated at the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the Tokyo Ravens universe. He easily outclasses almost any magic-user who goes toe-to-toe with him, even cornering the powerful instructor Jin Ohtomo in the past, forcing Jin to cut off his own leg to escape.
Like an unstoppable plague, Douman descends upon the magic-instructing Onmyo Academy, attacking teachers and students alike in order to obtain a legendary artifact that once belonged to the most powerful magic-user in the world.
Every creepy bit of the occult mixes with Douman’s insane power level to form this gleeful, terrifying villain. But power comes with a price: worthy opponents are so rare that Douman delights in finding a magic playmate who can withstand his abilities, and he’ll treat them with intrigued respect. His simultaneous lack of care for human life combined with this honor system makes him a fascinating villain. This unpredictability adds to the danger he poses but also makes it all the more interesting when Jin finally beats him in a dramatic showdown, after which Douman pledges to serve Jin with all the arcane magics at his disposal.
3. Medusa Gorgon (Soul Eater)
I don’t think there has ever been nor will there ever be a villain I loathe more than Medusa. She’s nasty, she’s sadistic, she’s scheming and conniving, and she can’t wait to ruin lives in order to accomplish her goals. Manipulative, persistent, and dangerous, Medusa is a force to be reckoned with and by far the best villain of Soul Eater.
Medusa is a scientist and researcher at heart, and she seethes at what she perceives to be the world’s stagnantion.1 Determined to shake things up, Medusa works to unleash the power of the first Kishin, an insane being with incredible power gained by taking the lives of innocent souls.
In her lust for the first Kishin’s power, Medusa will do whatever it takes to succeed, including turning her own child, Crona, into a weapon for her use. Heaping scorn and abuse upon Crona seems to work wonders for Medusa’s plans.
Medusa is an exceptional actress and seductress, regularly fooling almost everyone around her with her clever disguises and gilded lies. The heroes consider her a tremendous threat even while holding her in a maximum-security prison cell. With how clever and cunning Medusa is, the viewers know it’s only a matter of time before she escapes again to cause greater chaos than before.
2. Envy (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
My feelings for Envy are as complicated as the character himself. Charismatic and funny, sarcastic and savvy, Envy is tough to hate. With an almost Loki-like trickster attitude, Envy can charm the fang off a snake. However, Envy is also brutal, sadistic, and gleeful as he inflicts pain and sparks violence. Envy is yet another homunculus and the embodiment of Father’s jealousy. As is apt for such a vice, Envy has the ability to shapeshift.
Always eager to show humans how foolish they are, Envy leaps at any opportunity to trick humanity into displaying their worst qualities and to rob them of hope. Envy loves to manipulate and taunt, like when he gleefully murders Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes while under the guise of the man’s beloved wife.
|Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 2009-2010 / Photo from Netflix
But while Envy is a brutal murderer, he is also a pathetic being that lives up to his name: he is, deep down, envious of humanity and secretly wants to be like them—a prospect that equally disgusts and intrigues him. As he wriggles and writhes in his final moments, he beholds the best humanity has to offer and marvels that he can’t defeat their spirit, knowing full well that he is, in fact, inferior to them. When he’s offered mercy and a chance to redeem himself, rather than admit defeat to “pitiful” humans, Envy takes his own life, warbling and whining to his last breath.
Pathetic, eerily relatable, snarky, and brutal—it’s these varied elements make Envy such an enjoyable villain to watch. Even if he is a sick murderer whose death avenged Maes Hughes.
1. Legato Bluesummers (Trigun)
Sometimes you just want a villain you can completely and utterly hate. A villain so cold and rotten to the core, they only exist to be loathed to the bitter end.
That is the definition of Legato Bluesummers in the Trigun anime adaptation.
There’s nothing redeemable about Legato. There’s no sad backstory in the anime to justify his actions—to himself or to the viewer. He’s a sick, twisted individual who loves to see protagonist Vash squirm and suffer.
Legato is as intellectual as he is sadistic. And with his incredible powers, Legato is almost more dangerous to Vash than Vash’s nemesis. Legato always maintains his cool composure, knowing Vash can never pose any threat to him. This isn’t some facade that shatters during his final moments either: Legato is always in control—of himself, of Vash, and of the situation—and he knows it.
Legato serves as a messenger and torturer to Vash, summoning him to a final confrontation with Vash’s psychotic brother Knives and working to get Vash to break his own code of ethics before the brothers’ showdown.
Throughout the entire series, Vash upholds the ideal to defeat any villain without killing them. This has brought incredible pain and consequences to Vash, but he holds onto this ideal… until his final showdown with Legato.
Legato is the one to get Vash to break his code for the very first time—not Knives, not any other villain. Just Legato. He’s the one clever enough and powerful enough to finally trap Vash, forcing him into a situation where there are no other alternatives: Vash must either kill Legato… or allow Legato to kill innocents. Legato pulls off this entire complex trap without breaking a sweat. As he urges Vash with eerie calm to shoot him, he smiles, knowing he’ll die having accomplished his goal.
Long after the bullet fires and Legato’s lifeless corpse collapses to the ground, Legato’s influence lives on, haunting Vash with guilt. Legato’s cool demeanor, his irredeemable psychosis, and his smooth grin even as he breathes his last—all these qualities work together to make my number-one anime villain.
Notes and References:
- “Medusa Gorgon,” Soul Eater Pedia, Fandom, September 13, 2019, accessed October 16, 2019.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Trigun photos from officially-licensed DVD. Unless otherwise specified, all others from VRV.co.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and all related terms are the property of/licensed by Viz Media and Warner Bros. Entertainment; My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ravens, Soul Eater, and Trigun licensed by Funimation; Gurren Lagann and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood licensed by Aniplex of America; Black Bullet licensed by Sentai Filmworks. And I am not affiliated with any of them.