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The 5 Most Fantastic (And Terrifying) Anime Villains

light yagami is a lil bitch death note anime final episode

Everybody loves a villain.

It’s true. Deny it all you want, but a good villain is what makes a good story. It’s my firm belief that a narrative is only as strong as the obstacle it overcomes. And when that obstacle is laughing manically and trying to murder you, you’re probably on track for a good yarn. A villain can be created in a variety of different ways, from fucked up superpowers to the discontinuation of the Choco Taco, but they all have to share one thing in common: they gotta be scary. Really. I think that the finest villains must create a sense of dread in the viewers. After all, existence itself is simply a battle between love and fear, no? The protagonists bring the love, and the villains bring the fear. Well… that’s usually the case. The worst is when you get a villain who loves, too. Then shit gets complicated, and usually, all the scarier. You’ll see what I mean.

Light Yagami

(image credit: Madhouse)

Light Yagami is the personification of the fear of God. More specifically, a jealous “thou shalt have no other gods but I” Old Testament deity who would be happy to send you to hell via lightning bolt for a petty crime like jaywalking. Sure, Light starts out “punishing criminals” (by that I mean “summarily executing people who were already sentenced to serve time in prison”) but eventually, he just starts killing anyone who opposes him. Light is a craft cocktail of the worst traits of a human being. He is arrogant, merciless, cold, narcissistic, and power-hungry. He’s also a… teenager *shudder*. Not to hate on the kids, but kids can sometimes be the worst. Light falls into the ugly trap of youth, in the sense that he thinks he knows how the world works, and has a “better idea” for how it should work that is actually a really bad idea. He is a potent combination of ignorance and arrogance, and the darker side of wide-eyed naïveté. At his best, he thinks of the world in black and white terms, rather than shades of grey. And he thinks that it’s his job to be judge, jury, and executioner for the people he deems to be “on the wrong side.”

Don’t get me wrong, young people are certainly not the only type of people who can fall into black and white thinking, but the inexperience, that is simply part of being a teenager, can make people of that age group especially vulnerable to it. However, as the series progresses and Lights grows up, he sheds this “good and evil” thinking and reveals an even darker nature. He simply wants to be God, and anyone who stands against him must die. What sucks is that Light is also really good at being bad. He’s a literal genius. He’s always 12 steps ahead. Dealing with Light is like playing chess against a prodigy who will kill you if you lose. He’s the worst. Fuck that guy, I don’t wanna play anymore.

Madara Uchiha

(image credit: Pierrot)

Alright, so I kinda love Madara Uchiha. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a baaaaad dude. But he does things that are just so damn badass it’s kinda hard not to respect the guy. I’m talking, of course, about the fight scene between him and the entire Shinobi Alliance. For those who don’t know, yes, you read that correctly. Madara singlehandedly takes on an army of ninjas made up of multiple nations. And that army includes Naruto and Gaara, who each possess the power of a literal demon. So how does Madara deal with this ninja D-Day assault? Well, first he just charges in and defeats like 100 guys using only hand to hand combat. Then he backs off and summons Susanoo, a massive humanoid golem made of his own chakra to throw some people around. Then when he’s had enough of that, he makes a few hand seals and drops a fucking meteor on the Shinobi Alliance. And why does he do all this? Is it in a quest for ultimate power? Nope. He does this for world peace.

I’ll explain, Madara Uchiha intends to cast a reflection of his hypnotic Rinne Sharingan eyes onto the moon in order to trap the world’s population in a dream—in order to end all violence (and with it, free will). Unlike Light Yagumi, who in the end, wants to be God for that hell of it, Madara (like some of the best villains) actually possesses noble intentions. The problem is that he falls into the trap of the Machiavellian “the end justifies the means” maxim. Not a good look, Madara.


(image credit: sunset)

Vicious is simple. He wants power for power’s sake. But what he lacks in substance, he makes up for in style. I personally think Vicious possesses some of the finest character designs of any villain in anime. He has pale, corpse-like features, pupils the size of pinpricks, and (in the English dub) a voice that sounds like a block of ice that learned to talk. Vicious is a reptile. A serpent of a person. He is simple in the way a poisonous snake is simple. He exists to kill and consume. There is absolutely nothing behind his eyes. He sells out comrades, murders his superiors, and uses his subordinates as canon fodder. All for the pursuit of power. No noble ideals, no just cause, nothing.

The scary thing is, I don’t think that he pursues power for a sense of safety. I don’t think that he would “finally be satisfied” once he reaches the top. He seeks out power like a cold-blooded animal seeks out a heat lamp. He is content to sit in it for a little while, but eventually, he’d find the need to seek out an even bigger, warmer heat lamp. And on and on he goes, seeking out throne after throne, heat lamp after heat lamp, for no reason except that it is simply his nature to do so.


(image credit: studio trigger)

Trigger warning: Sexual abuse

Ragyo breaks the traditional “brooding young man” villain mold and serves up an entirely new flavor of horror. She is a mother. But not a mother you want to have raise you. Ragyo dreams of world domination through fashion. She attempts to achieve this goal by using Life Fibers, a threadlike alien species that can be stitched into clothes, and then used to control the minds and bodies of the wearer. It’s a deviously creative idea, and one that requires no bloodshed or violence to carry out. That is, until her daughters try to stand against her.

The most vile part of Ragyo’s character is her treatment of her daughters. She sees them as her successors, herself in younger form. Stemming from her own narcissism, she also possesses a sexual fascination with them. Yes, it’s really fucked up. She sexually abuses her eldest daughter, Satsuki, in the show, and it is implied that Satsuki has been a victim of this abuse for years. In a series that continually allegorizes the pressure that youth, and particularly Japanese youth, are subjected to, she serves as the ultimate terror for a child: a domineering parent who can never be pleased. An often overlooked anime villain, Ragyo’s ick factor puts almost every other villain on this list to shame. All but one. A character who is perhaps the most despicable anime villain of all.


(image credit: Madman Entertainment)

Trigger warning: Discusses plot points that involve rape

Griffith is the ultimate anime villain. He is perhaps the most complicated villain on this list. Why? Because he starts out as the hero. Orphaned as a child, Griffith was nothing but a street urchin with a dream for a better life. In his adolescence, he began to form a mercenary group called The Band of The Falcon. After rescuing a twelve-year-old girl named Casca from an assault at the hands of a nobleman, his mercenary group began to grow in power and status. He sold his body to a nobleman, who lusted after him, in order to finance his army, and he quickly gained respect and recognition as a skilled commander on the battlefield.

While serving in combat, he met another mercenary, named Guts, and after beating Guts in a duel, he conscripted the young swordsman into his army. The two eventually become close friends, and Guts becomes an esteemed captain in Griffith’s army. Griffith is loved by his men. He is beautiful, charismatic, intelligent, brave, and ferocious in combat. He is the perfect leader. When watching Berserk‘s early arc, you root for this guy. He seems like he’s on top of the world. Nothing can stop him.

And then he makes a fatal mistake.

After Guts leaves the Band of The Falcon at the height of its power, Griffith seduces and sleeps with the daughter of a king. And not just any king, but the king that Griffith has sworn fealty to. The king becomes enraged and has Griffith tortured, leaving him disfigured and unable to walk. Griffith is rescued by Guts and Casca, but in a strange twist of fate, it is revealed that Griffith has been chosen by a demonic prophecy to become a dark god. At his lowest point, Griffith is visited by four demonic spirits that promise him power in return for a sacrifice. So what does Griffith sacrifice?

His own men.

Griffith allows his men to be devoured by a demonic horde in order to gain the powers of a god. And that’s not the worst part. There’s a shockingly vile scene, in which, after finding out Guts’ feelings toward her, Griffith rapes Casca, leaving her in a state of catatonia. Guts and Casca are saved only by the intervention of an ancient spirit, and left to wander the now demon-haunted world under the shadow of Griffith, who now goes by the name Femto. Griffith’s actions culminate in a hideous, Judas-like decision that betrays, not only his friends and subordinates, but the viewer as well. It is a truly devastating bit of villainy, and a decision that stems from the darkest form of love: the love of oneself above all else.

(featured image: Madhouse)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.