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15 Anime Characters Who Are Morally Ambiguous

Updated September 29, 2019 5.5k votes 1.4k voters 25.1k views15 items

List RulesVote up the enigmatic characters whose motives can't be easily classified as good or bad.

While anime villains are capable of profoundly unsettling acts of treachery, not every antagonist is easily understood as good or evil. Some characters are constantly oscillating between sides, and following up horrible deeds with incredible acts of kindness. Others exist in a perpetual gray area, as they commit atrocities in the name of an unarguably noble cause. Morally ambiguous anime characters are complex, multi-dimensional figures who keep viewers guessing (and arguing) about their true intentions.

  • The titular character of Princess Mononoke is Lady Eboshi's mortal enemy, but that doesn't mean the leader of Irontown is bad to her core. She's definitely power-hungry, and is willing to destroy the environment and turn gods into demons to maintain her grip on her settlement. However, she also dedicates her life to helping the less fortunate. Before she gained power, she was enslaved, so she's deeply empathetic to the poor and downtrodden.

    She's specifically invested in helping women, and provides femmes in need with employment and shelter. Eventually, she even agrees to stop destroying the forest. If your loyalty lies with the Forest Spirit (who Eboshi shoots dead), then the head of Irontown is the film's main antagonist. However, if you empathize with the humans, she's a paragon of virtue. 

    Is this character morally ambiguous?
  • 6

    Gakuhō Asano — Assassination Classroom

    Gakuhō Asano, the board chairmen of Kunugigaoka Junior High School in Assassination Classroom, appears to be straight up evil. He runs his school using cruelty and emotional abuse, and forces most of his students to look down on a small group of rejects, Class 3-E. Desperate to maintain the school's structure, he even tries to sabotage Class 3-E from improving their grades and entering into more advanced classes.

    However, Asano didn't always teach this way. At the start of his career, he was a kind man who cared deeply about his students, and his primary goal was to teach them to be good people. That changed when one of his students was bullied into suicide. Instead of being good, Asano now wants his students to be strong, which is why he created a painful educational gauntlet. When his students survive, they'll come out powerful enough to take on anything. 

    Is this character morally ambiguous?
  • Sasuke Uchiha is one of the most controversial characters in Naruto. His family was murdered by his older brother, Itachi, and he dedicates his life to exacting revenge. Once he kills his brother, he realizes Danzo — a particularly nefarious member of the Konoha government — forced Itachi to commit the atrocity. When he recovers from shock, he becomes an enemy of Konoha, hellbent on taking down the state that took his family away, even if he has to kill innocent people to do so. 

    Sasuke ultimately overcomes his desire for revenge, and spends his adulthood traveling the region on various missions. His work causes him to leave his daughter alone for so long that she can only recall his face with the help of a photograph. 

    Is it wrong for Sasuke to be consumed with revenge? Is it wrong for him to try and dismantle an obviously corrupt government? Considering his own trauma, is it realistic to expect him to be there for his daughter?

    Is this character morally ambiguous?

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  • As an Amestrian soldier, Roy Mustang of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood walks a fine moral line. His job caused him to participate in the genocide of the Ishvalan people. While at the end of the series, he agrees to use his powers to lead and protect the remaining Ishvalans, it's difficult to say whether this good deed makes up for his past complicity. 

    To further complicate the matter, he uses a Philosopher's Stone — which is composed of the souls of countless dead Ishvalans — to restore his eyesight. Without a Philosopher's Stone, he'd have been permanently blind, yet the stones can only be created through mass suffering. Mustang didn't create the stone, but he unarguably benefits from its existence. 

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