In spite of (or perhaps because of) their ruthlessness, brutality, cunning, and utter lack of empathy, the murderous villains of anime are often incredibly compelling characters. Whether they border on the megalomaniacal or are simply misunderstood individuals with a twisted moral compass, they’re just as integral to a series as the best protagonists.
Here are our Top 10 Anime Killer.
10. Lucy – Elfen Lied
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2004 – October 2004
Part heroine, part villain, Lucy views her world in shades of gray. That is, when it’s visible through the bloodshed. She is essentially a sympathetic character; as a Diclonii, a horned humanoid race with extra limbs called “vectors,” (which double as terrifyingly brutal weapons capable of eviscerating flesh with ease) Lucy has spent a traumatic amount of her life in a lab, treated no better than an animal by humans. Like other Diclonii, she is partial to extremely violent outbursts and occasionally dreams of eradicating humans entirely through the proliferation of the “vector virus.”
While capable of acts of kindness, especially in her more benevolent, childlike persona Nyu, when the flip switches with Lucy the only thing capable of calming her down is spilling the blood of those around her. Not satisfied to merely kill her enemies, she often leaves them mangled or crippled, helpless and bleeding out in slow agony. Definitely not someone you want to be on the business end of.
9. Vino – Baccano!
- Episodes: 16
- Aired: July 2007 – November 2007
Claire Stanfield is a man who goes by many names throughout the course of the Baccano! series, but the alias that suits him best is that of Vino, the legendarily ruthless assassin. Word on the street is he adopted the name because of his penchant for violence; not content to simply kill, he mutilates his victims leaving them coated in blood, looking almost as if they were soaked in the world-famous wine varietal.
Despite being adopted into the Gondor family in his youth, he ran away to join a circus, where he became an acrobat. The skills he acquired in the circus gave him the leg up in his future trade, and helped him hone his physical abilities. Occasionally his brutality is in the service of the greater good, like when his beloved train, the Flying Pussyfoot, is hijacked, and he devastates the would-be rail thieves so badly it’s as if they were brutalized by a monster. Definitely a man worthy of his reputation.
8. Yuno Gasai – Mirai Nikki
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2011 – April 2012
Yuno Gasai is one half of a pair of star-crossed lovers that make the tragedy that follows Romeo and Juliet look like something out of a fairy tale. As a contestant in the “Diary Game,” a fight for survival amongst holders of magical diaries that predict the end of the world in 90 days, she seeks to ensure the survival of herself and her beloved, Yuki, in the hopes that they can win the game and become the new God of Time and Space.
If the premise sounds insane, just wait until you see Yuno in action. Her efficacy at eliminating anyone that stands between her and Yuki, speaks to the madness that drives her. The pressure for perfection put on her by her parents, and the abuse that followed, twisted her into the obsessive murderess. Despite her almost utter lack of empathy, the feelings she has for Yuki are real, and the lengths she will go in order to have their love realized literally transcends time and space.
7. Gaku Yashiro – Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
Gaku Yashiro is a man who literally murdered his way to the top. At a young age he realized the thrill manipulating others provided, and that the only feeling that could surpass it, was taking the lives of others, most despicably, children. His role in society as a kind, fatherly school teacher provided him the perfect cover for his nefarious deeds, and the misplaced trust of the parents of the students he cared for afforded him opportunity after opportunity.
Gaku is heartless, and murders anyone who gets in his way, or risks compromising his fun. While he is unwittingly the tool of his own downfall, the time-hopping story of the series proves the sick and twisted thrill he gets from murdering unwitting children time and time again. He is a fascinating, difficult character, no matter what angle he is viewed from.
6. Annie Leonhart – Attack on Titan
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
While the mindlessly smiling, titular titans are horrifying to watch as they brutally devour helpless civilians and the military that try to defend them, they pale in comparison to the mysterious and deadly female Titan. In the end, she is revealed as none other than soft-spoken MP and former trainer to series protagonist Eren Yeager, Annie Leonhart.
What makes Annie stand out as a ruthless killer in a world ravaged by giant, man-eating fiends? It’s not simply her intellect, revealed in and out of combat, as she bloodily and dispassionately dispatches legions of her comrades in arms, proving she possesses a situational awareness far beyond that of a childlike titan. Or the way she hides in plain sight. It’s not even the way she betrays her closest friends, all the while putting the last vestiges of humanity at risk.
What seals the deal for Annie as a stand out to viewers, and a murderer to boot, is that when she’s finally backed into a corner and asked to explain the motives behind her barbaric actions, she refuses to offer anyone even the simple relief or understanding, or an answer. Instead she encases herself in crystal, robbing anyone a chance at closure, or her former comrades the chance at justice.
5. Hibana Daida – Deadman Wonderland
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2011 – July 2011
The world of Deadman Wonderland is home to a cast of characters that could easily fill a list of memorable killers in its own right. A cruel prison-turned-amusement park where inmates, often there for unthinkable crimes, are forced to perform in macabre, bloody sideshows for the enjoyment of others is the perfect place for a true killer to shine. And Hibana definitely shines.
Hibana is a psychotic killer, serving as the leader of the 3rd platoon of Undertakers, a group of secret police known for their brutality and lack of humanity. Like others on the list, Hibana was subjected to gross negligence and torture as a child. But even from a young age, when she murdered her classmates and was caught burying their corpses in the schoolyard, she demonstrated her penchant for bloodshed. Time, as well as the giant-sword that easily out-measures her demure stature, have only increased her aptitude, which she demonstrates time and time again.
4. Shogo Makishima – Pyscho-Pass
- Episodes: 33
- Aired: October 2012 – December 2014
Society in the dystopian world of Psycho-Pass is the result of the Sibyl System, which actively scans the brains of citizens in order to detect an individual’s likeliness to commit a crime. Shogo Makishima, the psychopathic murderer who revels in bloodshed and embodies the inherent evils in human nature, is the result of that society.
Shogo is proof that the Sibyl System is inherently flawed, as he is able to orchestrate crimes and commit unthinkable acts of violence with perfect calm, and remain completely undetected. Perhaps his ability to fly under the radar is the result of his inhuman lack of empathy; killing people isn’t “wrong” to him, since he would rather live in a world of words than humans. His murderous instincts are so ingrained in who he is that he tosses aside a chance at redemption for a chance at revenge, which is ultimately the cause of his downfall.
3. Griffith – Berserk
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 1997 – March 1998
Griffith was poised to be a hero and a king; his charisma and military leadership demonstrated by his handling of the mercenary troupe, the Band of the Hawk, helped him achieve great renown. Although he helped end a century long war between warring kingdoms, when his right hand man Guts decided to leave, he lost his favor with the king when he assaulted the princess. A year of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the monarch changed him forever.
Griffith’s activation of the behelit, a magical object in his possession, allows him the power he craved to reveal his true, sociopathic nature. He changes his name to Femto, and his dastardly deeds include murdering his followers, and the rape of one of his best friends (which results in a miscarriage, and her subsequent madness), while his other best friend watches. He murders his way to achieving his dreams of rule, establishing a kingdom under the pretense of protecting the citizens of Midland from monsters, despite the fact that he is in fact one of them. Regardless of which side of right or wrong he was on, Griffith left bodies in his wake.
2. Light Yagami – Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
Light Yagami is the perfect example of good intentions gone wrong. In what seems like a rather responsible use of a notebook that bestows the bearer with the ability to kill indiscriminately with the powers of a death god, Light sets himself on a mission to rid the world of evil, by dispatching one criminal at a time. But the story of his desire to become the just ruler of a crime-free utopia is enough to make any viewer question whether the ends truly justify the means.
That’s because it isn’t long before Light becomes enamored of his role as judge, jury and executioner, and starts abusing his power. This, unsurprisingly, attracts the attention of Interpol and the impossibly anxious detective wunderkind, L, beginning a devious game of cat and mouse that leaves several (mostly) innocent bodies in its wake, and countless dead criminals.
Eventually, Light’s almost indiscriminate use of the Death Note catches up with him, but not before he has burned all of his bridges. In the end, Light became no better than the criminals and killers he sought to stop in the first place.
1. Johan Liebert - Monster
- Episodes: 74
- Aired: April 2004 – September 2005
The character that acts as the series’ namesake, Johan Liebert is the closest anime has come to capturing the cruel, terrifying intelligence of the iconic film/literature psychopath, Hannibal Lecter. Referred to by other characters as a monster, as the devil, or even the next Hitler, he is a remorseless killer whose intention is simply to revel in the suffering of others.
He was saved from death as a child by renowned and benevolent surgeon, Dr. Tenma. Unfortunately, the act of kindness started a fateful and bloody series of events that took viewers into a dark underworld, and explored what humans are capable of when they give in to their darkest impulses. Unlike some entries on this list, part of what makes Johan so frightening is the evil he is able to accomplish with nothing other than his calculating intelligence, and disarming charisma. But he also lacks any of their redeeming qualities.
He’s capable of cruelty and violence to the people he claims to love, like his sister, and even children. The orchestrator of countless traumas, both physical and psychological, as well as massacres big and small, Johan proves in the bloodiest way possible that no good deed goes unpunished. A more iconic, Machiavellian murderer has yet to grace our TV screens.
With that, our bloody stroll through our Top 10 Anime Killer comes to an end. As stated before, there is something intriguing in trying to understand the driving force behind these arguably evil, often misunderstood characters, beyond the simple contrast to our favorite protagonists and heroes. Are there any killers whose body count we’ve overlooked? Let us know who to watch out for in the comments section!