Anime is home to some of the most dastardly villains to ever grace our screens. Murderers, cheaters, and liars galore - it isn’t too difficult to harbor a burning hatred for these wicked characters. However, do you ever find yourself watching a supposed villain lay out his plans and think to yourself; ‘those were actually some good points...I am a baddie?’ It’s true; some antagonists are just incredibly convincing when elaborating on why they commit such atrocities. One such morally ambiguous fiend from a recent anime is Tsukasa Shishio from Dr. Stone.
Tsukasa awoke in a post-apocalyptic world where Earth’s population had been petrified in stone. With limited resources available for rescuing an entire planet of people, he decided to shoulder the burden as ruler of this stone world, deciding who was worthy of restoration and who would be ruthlessly culled. Tsukasa favors youth and simplicity, striving for a world in tune with nature where people rely only on what God has given them. He rejects science-user Senku, who wants to restore the world in its entirety, warts and all. Tsukasa makes some convincing points about these warts; namely the fact that war and the corporate greed of adults had poisoned the world of yesteryear. People rallied behind these motivations and it isn’t too surprising to see how he amassed such a large number of followers. Let’s take a look at antagonists with just as much persuasive power as Tsukasa.
1. Light Yagami from Death Note
Remember, we’re not talking about the methodology here. Any actions that these characters pursue will not inherently be justifiable. Light could fill a warehouse with the number of innocent people he has murdered on his route to deification. Like Tsukasa, upon receiving the death note, Light decides to accept the responsibility of purging the world of all its evildoers. Where Tsuaksa believes the world’s problems are rooted in boomers, Light sees evil manifest in criminality. As such, he decides to end the lives of every criminal in prisons across the world.
Light admittedly takes his actions too far, however, it does not take too much lateral thinking to see where he is coming from. Surely, if you rid the planet of those who commit sinful acts, those who remain could forge a society completely void of all wrongdoings. However, Light becomes more and more entranced by this Utopian concept, resulting in a lot of ‘ends justify the means’ behavior. Namely - KILLING EVERYONE WHO GIVES HIM THE STINK EYE!! Disclaimer: We at Honey’s Anime in no way condone the maniacal murdering of everyone on the planet. However, it’s easy to see that Light thought he was doing good from the outset. His motives floated around in a grey area before the ink from each name he wrote cemented his decisions in black.
2. Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass
Lelouch is another high school student turned international deity. Upon receiving the power of the Geass and the ability to issue one irrefutable command to anyone he chooses, Lelouch sets out to free Area 11 (formerly known as Japan) from the rule of the tyrannical Brittanian Empire. That’s great, right? Freeing a proletariat populace from a ruthless dictatorship? Top marks across the board!! Unfortunately, Lelouch has a second motive behind his toppling of Brittania - a bloodthirsty quest for revenge against his father.
Welp, we all know how this story ends. Yes, Lelouch strives to become a leader to the Elevens and guide them on the path to enlightenment. However, when people start to obscure his path to defeating his father, heads will inevitably start to roll. Like Tsukasa and Light, Lelouch must decide whose life is expendable for the greater good of both himself and societal progression. In hopes of freeing an entire nation of people, one or two deaths from nameless civilians are justifiable, right? RIGHT!? Feel free to draw your own conclusions of what you would do in Lelouch’s shoes. Just remember that his original motivations were grounded in morality.
3. Stain from Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
In a world full of superheroes, it’s easy to see how those still suffering could become disillusioned with the exploits of these celebrities. Stain claims that those who use their quirks to attain money or fame are nothing but impersonators—fake heroes sullying the name of the only true hero: All Might. Stain takes it upon himself to become the Hero Killer by purging the world of fake heroes in hopes of changing society for the better.
Once again, in no way is murder justifiable. However, Stain’s initial thought process is understandable. If someone had the power to help those less fortunate but, instead, only used it to further their own selfish goals, you would come to hate them. Stain admits that he does not enjoy needless bloodshed and does not want to kill those not inherently advancing his cause. Similarly, Tsukasa continuously explains to Senku that he does not wish to end his life, but will do so if he must. He offers Senku an ultimatum—giving up science in exchange for his own life. However, both Stain and Tsukasa are forced to come to blows with each show’s respective protagonists when they refuse to quietly back down.
4. William James Moriarty from Yuukoku no Moriarty (Moriarty the Patriot)
In a world where aristocracy rules over all, Moriarty becomes disillusioned with his life amongst the proletariat. With no methods for those living in poverty to ascend their social class, nobleman Moriarty works tirelessly as a consultant in order to help those on the lower rungs of life with any problems they may be experiencing. However, despite being a nobleman, deep within Moriarty lies a secret desire to topple the rigid regime currently in place. In order to achieve this goal, he will assuredly do anything it takes.
This mindset is very similar to Tsukasa's, who also came to despise the greed and monopolization that had become synonymous with the adults of the pre-stone world. Tsukasa’s goal was to create a perfect world for the youth of today to thrive without the need for the trading of money and the selfishness that comes along with it. While not exactly the same, Moriarty also wishes to create a better world for those who have been dealt a poor lot in life. Both characters also seem to have no qualms with spilling blood (or pebbles in Tsukasa’s case) in order to make this vision a reality.
All of these villains set out to do what they thought was right. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, meddling interferences, or just being clinically insane, they were forced to commit morally wrong acts. Surely, an antagonist with a justifiable motive who does not commit any grievous sins—would be nothing short of a protagonist, would they not? Regardless, let us know your favorite morally ambiguous villain in the comments below!