Everyone loves to root for a hero, right? Wrong! Heroes are a dime a dozen, but in most media you so rarely get to see things from a villain’s point of view. It is easy to make a villain that is two dimensional and whose only motivation is to be evil. However, when an anime series puts the villain of the series in the main character seat, it is an opportunity to show them as real (fictional) people with actual personalities and motivations for doing what they do. For those that need a little more villainy in their life, try these anime recommendations.
This series is one of two series we need to put on here just to get it out of the way. For many, Death Note was one of their first clear-cut anime series where the main protagonist was overtly the villain. Certainly he might not have started out that way, but the longer Death Note went on, the clearer it became that Light was not a good guy until it reached a feverish crescendo of crazy at the end. Light may have had good intentions at one point, but those intentions deteriorated quickly.
Second on our obligatory mention list of two is Code Geass. Like Death Note, this took a protagonist that may have had nice motivations in the beginning, but lost those along the way. However, Lelouch is a little more ambiguous of a main character villain than Light. He did things, ultimately that would benefit the country, but would also benefit him. Certainly a rebel is not always a villain, but some of the things that Lelouch carried out were nothing short of horrific.
Saga of Tanya the Evil
The title of this series promises a certain something, and it delivers in full. Tanya is not some misunderstood anti-hero. No, she is a straight-up black-hearted, ruthless, loli child soldier that will take any means to fulfill her goal. She a military mastermind and combine that with her cruelty, this series can come up with some completely messed up situations.
In Hellsing, the main character can be debatable, but most view it as Alucard. While the original Hellsing animation paints him as more of an anti-hero, Hellsing Ultimate sees him fulfill his manga role as relatively villainous. His attachment to the Hellsing Organization is likely the only reason he doesn’t just bugger off an go about his business. However, just because he has to obey certain commands doesn’t stop him from enjoying the sheer pleasure of killing. He likes it. He loves it. He lives for killing.
Higurashi: When They Cry
You might be scratching your head a bit here if you have already seen this series, trying to think of how the main characters are evil. However, the girls (and Kenichi) all have distinct moments of evilness for various reasons. Through the different arcs, each girl is placed in the role of the villain, and I think that is very unique and actually what makes the show such a fun watch.
Lucy may share the main character stage in the show, but she is a distinctly villainous characters. The show goes well out of its way to make you feel sympathy for her, but she does terrible things. She has reasons for why she does all those terrible things, but she has killed both evil people and relatively innocent children for really quite morally shaky reasons.
Michiko and Hatchin
This series focuses on the titular characters who share the main character role. While Hatchin is relatively good, if only by her sheer innocence, Michiko is not. Sure, she saved Hatchin from an abusive foster family, but she did so for the kid to track down her father for her own vengeance. She is also a criminal that broke out of prison and throughout the series continues to do criminal things.
Black Lagoon focuses on a group of mercenaries as its main characters, and as mercenaries, well, they don’t always do good things. While the sheer level of villainy per character in the group changes from arc to arc, all of them have their moments. They are mercenaries, so if their job calls for kidnapping a nice person, they are going to kidnap that sumbitch.
Terror in Resonance
In this series, the main characters are terrorists who bomb various locations throughout Japan. There is some debate on if these main characters are actually villainous. They are terrorists because of a corrupt and distinctly villainous system, and they actively go out of their way not to kill people. That is a distinctly hero quality, but what everyone needs to remember is they are still bombing things and that is still causing damage. Blowing up buildings and the collateral damage that it causes ruins lives.
Throughout most of Overlord, the main character is in conflict. He is a human in the real world and wants to be governed by human emotions, but has neutral Lich tendencies because of his avatar. He is almost the very definition of neutral-ness. He saves people, sure, but he also makes distinctly evil decisions too. In fact, as he only saves people and does good deeds for his own personal gain, can those deeds really be called “good” at all? Many regard him as the villain of the story, and in some respects, this is true.
The Devil is a Part-Timer
As a comedy series, you can’t expect a lot of heinous villainy, but they pull it off well. The main character was once Satan, but while on the brink of conquering his own world, he is transported to our modern one. With his powers severely weakened, he has no choice but to try and conquer our world through other means. His first step is to get a part-timer job in fast food and work his way up from there. This series is unique as throughout the series he is transformed from villain protagonist to an actual good guy.
This series is a mafia story, but Mafioso’s aren’t always evil. However, Angelo, the protagonist, displays so many villainous traits for a protagonist. He is out to kill the Canetti family after they killed his parents and brother. However, revenge is one thing, but his desire to make them suffer as much as possible is distinctly another. It is something that goes above and beyond simple revenge and straight to sadism.
Lupin The III
Lupin is a complicated series because it has so many different portrayals of Lupin and his associates. Originally, he was portrayed more black than morally gray, willing to do whatever it took to get to his goal, including killing his rivals. Later, he became more of the neutral-ish gentleman thief that most people know him as. However, make no mistake, a thief is a thief, and he is very much a villain in most portrayals.
Excel Saga is a parody series in the finest regards, and one of the things they are parodying is the protagonists. Excel is energetic and bubbly, but most of all, she is dedicated to installing her master and the ACROSS organization as the dictator of the world. Unfortunately, this organization is all about oppression of the people. Yet, because Excel is terrible at her job, they never truly win. Its comedy, but she is still very much the villain of their world.
We probably missed a few, but there is an important distinction between “villain” and “literal piece of human shit” when it comes to villainous protagonists. However, if you know of a villain protagonist that deserves to be here, let us know in the comments section below.