As the cliché goes, every hero is defined by their villain(s). The villain is supposed to represent the opposite of what the hero stands for, or in some instances, claims to represent what the hero stands for but expresses a different extremity to carrying out those beliefs. Due to those differences, it can create exciting and enduring conflicts. For example, Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch-nemesis, does not have any of Superman’s powers so he’s just a normal human being. If he can’t beat him physically, then he’ll use his scientific genius in order to try and defeat him. From 2018, who represents the best in villainy in anime from multiple angles? Read our top 10 picks to find out!
10. Sister Jill from Cutie Honey Universe
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: April 8, 2018 – June 24, 2018
Though Panther Zora is the true leader to the Panther Claw terrorist organization, it is Sister Jill who does most of the dirty work. What makes her a great villain is how she stays ahead of the curve by disguising herself as Inspector Gene of Interpol, an ally to the titular Cutie Honey. Though Panther Claw has the power to seek world domination, they tend to be more “old school” by simply being motivated by robbing money and jewelry and nothing more. As Sister Jill, she is cold, calculating, and commanding. She knows how to get the job done and despite her physical prowess, it’s her mind and not her brawn that makes her a worthy addition to this list.
9. Lord Joker from Ninja Batman (Batman Ninja)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Air Dates: June 15, 2018
So, what happens when Batman and Joker get warped into Feudal Japan? Then you get Batman Ninja! And how does Crown Prince of Crime accommodate himself to his new surroundings? By staying true to his purple, green, and white colors but dressing up like the Shogun of Harlem like in the classic martial arts blaxploitation flick, The Last Dragon. Plus, he makes a robot castle; how cool is that? A great percentage that has made the Joker villain an icon for the last 70+ years are still present in this movie, but by what liberals would call “culturally appropriating” in his unique environment. Hell, he does give the Caped Crusader a run for his money in a sword fight, and the numerous ways he challenges Batman physically, psychologically, and morally shows why he’s always been his greatest villain. If you watch it in Japanese, Wataru Takagi, who you may recognize as the voice of GTO, does a great job of playing The Joker but further deepens and cracks his voice to capture the character for Japanese speaking audiences, or for those that prefer watching Japanese.
8. Tomie from Ito Junji: Collection (The Junji Ito Collection)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: January 5, 2018 – March 23, 2018
While the Tomie character has existed in manga and live action form for the last 30 years, she didn’t exist in anime form until just 2018! Along with Sadako from the Japanese Ring movies and Kayako from Ju-on, Tomie is another face on the Mt. Rushmore of Japanese horror. She’s another female ghost in a white dress but has some opposite distinctions. Instead of taking the form of a ghoul with her hair covering her ugly face, Tomie tends presents herself as a beautiful woman and can make any man fall in love with her. Beyond that, she can make men go crazy enough to kill each other for her, or make them (allegedly) kill her just to come back again. Plus, she can assume that ugly ghost form when she chooses to.
While we understand the origins of Sadako and Kayako, Tomie in comparison is still a mystery. It seems that she enjoys what she does. What makes Tomie even more frightening and bizarre is that she can clone herself, but even the clone Tomie’s hate each other! Tomie is just one of those characters that is like the Joker from the Dark Knight, not only does she want to see the world burn, but she wants to enjoy doing it. The way she expresses her malice and without any clear reason is why she’s a frightening villain.
7. Satan from Devilman: Crybaby
- Episodes: 10
- Air Dates: January 5, 2018
How would you feel if your best friend turned out to not only be your worst enemy, but the incarnation of Satan himself? That’s what Akira Fido, the alter ego of the titular Devilman, has to confront when Ryo Asuka, his best friend, happens to be that very being. In this adaptation to the iconic Go Nagai manga, it is more directly implied that Ryo even falls in love with Akira due to his strong ideals of protecting the weak (while the manga emphasizes it with both Satan and Ryo). But when Satan takes over in Crybaby, that goes out the door.
Everything you can think that the Biblical Satan would do, this Satan does as well. He is only driven to wipe out humanity and shape the world in his image. The Satan in this series is very difficult to explain and has a unique complexity to him that you have to see for yourself to understand why he is such a great villain. He is somewhat faithful to the original manga, but has some new qualities that reflect how society and the industry has changed the past 40 years.
6. All for One from Boku no Hero Academia 3rd Season (My Hero Academia 3)
- Episodes: 25
- Air Dates: April 7, 2018 – September 29, 2018
For the past couple of seasons, the mastermind of the League of Villains and its field leader, Tomura Shigaraki, happens to be All Might’s greatest foe, All For One. Just like how All Might sees Izuku as his successor, All For One sees Tomura, the son of All Might’s mentor, as his own successor. As to his namesake, his quirk is also called All For One, which allows him to absorb the quirks of other heroes and villain, and make them his own. Thanks to absorbing numerous quirks, he can go toe-to-toe against All Might. As a matter of fact, it was him that gave All Might the injuries that limited his use of it (and All Might did a number one him, too).
All For One is pretty much the classic definition of a comic book villain, and he excellently fits the world of My Hero Academia. He is the exact opposite of everything All Might stands for in terms of morals. Not only is he strong and possess many abilities, he also has his own unique charisma and leadership qualities, and is shown to be a master strategist and he coordinated most of the villains attacks in the previous seasons. Though his screen time in this series is rather short, his presence is still huge considering he was the one who forced All Might to use the last of his strength and retire as a hero.
5. Dracula from Castlevania Season 2
- Episodes: 8
- Air Dates: October 26, 2018
Compared to other villains on this list, Dracula from Netflix’s Castlevania (whether or not you call this anime is something we can explore for another article) has sympathetic motivations as to why he wants to kill humans. He is willing to be good (or at least leave humanity be) and he actually tried. Like in the games this series is based on, he fell in love with Lisa Tepes, and they would have a son, Alucard. When Lisa returned to the real world to resume her role as a doctor thanks to the knowledge Dracula shared with her, her practice would consequently be labeled as witchcraft and she was burned at the stake.
Angered by losing his wife, he declares war against humanity. Though his actions are extreme, but when you look at things from his point of view, how would you feel if someone innocent that you loved was taken from you? He may be a monster, but when you consider his situation (which happened to be at the hands of humans themselves), it makes you re-evaluate that we’re capable of being the very thing we fear.
4. Akane Shinjo from SSSS.Gridman
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: October 7, 2018 – December 23, 2018
Like Dracula, Akane represents a different spectrum in the world of villains. She’s an ordinary school girl who can walk the path of good, but she’s in a difficult spot in making that choice for herself. She’s cute and popular at her school, but deep down inside, she’s lonely and is anti-social. Her only “friend” is a monster in a computer who feeds on her negative emotions, and he brings her monsters (or Kaiju) to life to wreck havoc in the town she lives in just so she can make people who pissed her off disappear. What makes Akane frightening and yet relatable (in a twisted way) is that we all feel we could make people who piss us off disappear. In the case of Akane, she has that power that is close to godhood!
High school and the real world can be tough, and people are going to deal with others who they consider to be jerks and so on. Just because you have to deal with them doesn’t mean you should kill them, and the fact Akane resorts to going as far as unleashing monsters on them shows how much of an emotional wreck she is, which is why she’s a unique villain.
3. Frieza from Dragon Ball Super: Broly
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Air Dates: December 14, 2018
Frieza is about as gangsta as you can get when it comes to villainy in anime and manga. He has wiped out countless planets and exterminated billions of lives. Even when Gokuu still gives him another chance, he’ll stab him in the back. Just shortly after being brought back to life after helping Gokuu save their universe in the Tournament of Power, he resumes his quest for revenge against Gokuu by wishing he was a little bit taller (insert Skee-Lo’s I Wish here).
During his search for the Dragon Balls, he is introduced to Broly by some lowly (and yet sympathetic) minions. Though his presence lessens as the movie progresses, his actions do stand out and sets everything in motion. What makes Frieza sick in this movie is when he recalls killing Krillin which caused Gokuu to go Super Saiyan the first time, on a whim, he kills Paragus, Broly’s father, just to see if Broly would go Super Saiyan hoping it would benefit his revenge and for his own amusement. Though Frieza doesn’t physically do much in this movie, it reminds us of how manipulative, cowardly and petty he really is, which is why he has been an enduring villain throughout the Dragon Ball saga.
2. Alexander Leskinen from Steins;Gate 0
- Episodes: 23
- Air Dates: April 12, 2018 – September 27, 2018
If you watch the Japanese version of Steins;Gate 0, don’t let Leskinen’s very broken and comedic accent fool you (just like how English speakers have their way of making fun other people who speak their language, Leskinen is a means of how Japanese make fun of how non-speakers speak their language). It does a great job of making you think he’s friendly and childish due in addition to how he expresses his enthusiasm. When you get to the third act, you learn that he’s the main villain of Steins;Gate 0!
Thanks to his unassuming demeanor, when it’s revealed he’s the main villain, it can be shocking for both our heroes and the audience that he can be manically manipulative and homicidal. How he treated Shiina as a child and the manner he brainwashed her into trauma truly demonstrates how much of a monster he truly is. Even when he speaks Japanese in a silly accent after the plot twist is revealed, you can’t help but also feel the darkness in his soul when you see his true face.
1. Kenny Ackerman from Kyojin no Shingeki 3 (Attack on Titan Season 3)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Dates: July 23, 2018 – October 15, 2018
At number one, we have Kenny Ackerman, the uncle to Attack on Titan’s most popular character, Levi. As you can see, he also has the same last name as the franchise’s female lead, Mikasa. As to the nature of their relation, that has yet to be explored in anime form. Though Kenny’s presence is short, it is still big and could have long term ramifications. He is living proof that there is an internal threat to humanity beyond the titans. Shortly before the series, he was just a myth, but Levi knew he was real until he saw some of his men dead and instantly recognized his MO.
What makes him deadly is that he’s trained to eat Survey Corps soldiers for breakfast, and not only is he good at it, he’s a leader of a unit dedicated to that very mission. As opposed to using blades like the Scout Corps does with their vertical maneuvering equipment, they use firearms which are more appropriate for taking out regular human. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not good with a blade so if you want to fight him with swords, he’s ready to take you on. Like some villains, he’s motivated by wanting power and considering that he came from nothing, that’s understandable. Besides being a cold-blooded killer, he is manipulative and cares about nobody and finds humor in the notion that the world is at stake when he decides to free Eren from Reiss’ control. He’s angry at the world and the system, and he wants to break it down even if it means taking everybody with him, which is why he’s a frightening villain.
Villains can be frightening and relatable. We are now living a world where we don’t have to tell stories that are black and white, and the fact that some villains don’t get that is why they make interesting characters. Some villains are motivated by power, others think they’re doing good, and there are others who just get a thrill out of being bad. We fill with our top 10, they represent some of these core qualities. If you disagree with our list, that’s cool. Which villains from 2018 do you think are worthy of mention and why? Leave your thoughts in the comments.