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14 Anime Where The Villain Is More Interesting Than The Protagonist

Updated October 15, 2018 17.4k votes 4.1k voters 77.2k views14 items

List RulesVote up the anime villains who you think outshine their hero counterparts.

Just because an anime character happens to be the protagonist of a show doesn't mean they’re the most interesting person to focus on. Sometimes the most fascinating character is a compelling villain, the one trying to upset the status quo by introducing some calculated destruction. 

Some series have a multitude of horrifying anime villains, and it’s hard for the protagonist to even compare. Naruto turned Itachi Uchiha from a blood-thirsty villain into one of the most empathetic characters in anime history. Let's be real, Naruto Uzumaki has nothing on Itachi.

Other times, a single villain makes a more memorable impression than the main characters - Dilandau’s arc in Escaflowne is far more dramatic than Hitomi’s.

It’s not that these protagonists are bad, it’s just that the villains are better. 

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  • Photo: Madhouse

    Hunter X Hunter has an excellent cast of characters, so it's a wonder that the villains can sometimes outshine the already pretty cool protagonists. Gon is in some ways a typical shonen protagonist, but he's also better at strategizing than most. He can be easy to ignore, however, when Hisoka Morow is around. 

    Hisoka is a fantastic villain because he's so absurdly evil that it's hard to feel any emotions about him other than stunned. He's completely lacking in compassion for other people and will readily betray former allies if he thinks it will be more entertaining to do so. Sure, it's great to have villains with consciences, but it's also nice to have villains that revel in pure evil. 

    On the flip side, there's Mereum, a Chimera Ant who starts out just as arrogant and cruel as Hisoka, but who forges a friendship with a young blind girl named Komugi. He dies before he ever has the chance to fully redeem himself, but his transition from a selfish person to someone with compassion and empathy is wonderful.

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  • Naruto Uzumaki is a typical shonen protagonist. This isn't inherently bad, and both the character and his series did help to define the genre. Nevertheless, Naruto is far from the most fascinating character in the anime.

    The villains in Naruto do some reprehensible things, but they are fascinating figures nonetheless. They're presented as fully-formed individuals with a range of motivations, which makes it easy for viewers to empathize with them. Few people can hear the full explanation for Itachi killing off the members of his clan without understanding his motives.

    Meanwhile, it's hard not to loathe the villain who put him up to it, Danzo - while simultaneously being fascinated by his role in Konoha's complex political system. Madara is breathtakingly cruel, but also hard not to admire for his sheer power, as well as his ability to transcend human limitations.

    Nearly every villain is far more interesting than Naruto, and the show could be improved by spending more time on them. 

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  • There's some debate in the Durarara!! fandom about whether the true protagonist is Mikado Ryūgamine or Celty Sturluson, but most tend to go with Mikado.

    Mikado isn't a boring character, but many people would call Izaya Orihara their favorite. Izaya is an underground information broker who loves manipulating other people in order to test their reactions and learn about the human race, which he claims to love.

    Both hilarious and mysterious, Izaya makes a major impact on the show that the naive Mikado, whose goal is to make his own life less boring, can't really hope to compete with.

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  • Ichigo Kurosaki is a complicated character who develops over multiple episodes, but neither his emotional arc nor his increasing supernatural abilities make him as compelling as some of Bleach’s villains - particularly Sosuke Aizen.

    Sōsuke pulled a fast one on Soul Society by pretending to be a loyal member, only to stage a coup and betray everyone in pursuit of power. He’s cruel and manipulative, easily persuading his underlings to risk their lives for him. 

    But Aizen isn’t just a brainiac who’s good at getting into people’s heads - he’s also a fierce swordsman with incredible powers - including a shield that kills anything that comes near it, and actual, honest-to-god immortality.

    That’s one impressive villain - and a more compelling character than Ichigo.

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