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Anime is a medium through which vast number of stories has been told. These stories make use of so many elements and themes that it becomes difficult to even keep up, but this multi-layered, multi-faceted aspect of anime makes it brilliant because everyone can find that one thing they truly relate to. As expected, some of us relate pretty well to anime that are thrilling, gripping, action-fuelled, and explosive, or convoluted mysteries. These shows often have dark underworlds of crime and depravity – with characters as diverse as cheese, which brings us to today’s undertaking: infiltrating some of the most powerful criminal organizations in anime. Contrary to popular belief, criminals aren’t always evil and anime has a beautiful way of bringing in characters who are either Robin Hood, Pablo Escobar or something in between, so let’s check out these criminal organizations in anime!
10. Gekkostate – Eureka Seven
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 2005 – April 2006
14-year-old Renton Thurston is tired of living a boring life with his grandfather in the small town of Bellforest. His dream is to one day join the group of mercenary renegades known as Gekkostate, despite his grandfather’s insistence that he is to become a mechanic just like him. Renton’s only form of entertainment comes in the form of riding the Trapar Waves in an activity that greatly resembles surfing. His boring life; however, quickly comes to a close when one night, a Light Finding Operation – a robot capable of riding the Trapars, known as the Nirvash TypeZERO crashes into his house. Its pilot: a young girl called Eureka, a member of Gekkostate. This kicks off Renton’s involvement with Gekkostate as he leaves Bellforest as the co-pilot of the Nirvash alongside Eureka.
Renton, being the impressionable young boy that he is, finds every aspect of Gekkostate amazing; but reality hits him really quickly when one day, he goes on a joyride with the Nirvash, attracts the attention of the military mechs and ends up killing one of the military pilots in the ensuing battle. That battle drives it home that Gekkostate isn’t just a gang of rebels who do photoshoots and look cool for their magazine, they are a faction formed by people who deserted the military and became mercenaries, they often kill people in missions and their actions have definite, tangible, perceivable consequences that, until he laid eyes on the severed arm of a pilot he killed, Renton seemed to have no real understanding of that fact.
9. Apostles of the Stars – Black Cat
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 2005 – March 2006
In the shadows, a powerful organisation known as Chronos lurks unbeknownst to most. Under Chronos exists a group of 13 prolific assassins, but the most lethal is the one bearing the number 13, Train Heartnet, a killer known in the underground world as “Black Cat”. After meeting the enigmatic and spunky bounty hunter, Minatsuki Saya, Train develops an awkward friendship with her and as a result of her influence, he decides to desert Chronos and become an honest bounty hunter. This sudden change does not go down well with Train’s partner at Chronos, Creed Diskenth, who’ll do anything to bring Train back to the mysterious organisation.
Creed ends up identifying the source of Train’s new views on life and one night, under the sparkling illumination of the fireworks that went off as celebration of the festival Train and Saya were meant to attend together, Creed brutally murders Saya. The grief-stricken Train does not react in the way Creed expects and the incident catalyses Train’s exit from Chronos. Ironically, Creed himself defects in order to form the Apostles of the Stars; a renegade group of killers, mercenaries, small-time criminals and anyone willing, superpowered by the power of Tao which Creed harnessed and distributed in a special drink. This new faction quickly becomes an enemy of Chronos and, fuelled by his obsession with Train, Creed uses his power as the leader of the Apostles of the Stars to wreak pandemonium throughout the world and to set the stage for the final dance between himself and his beloved Train. He had a weird way of showing love…
8. Night Raid – Akame ga KILL!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2014 – December 2014
In an empire plagued by the corrupt ideals and actions of the Prime Minister Honest, a faction has formed in order to overthrow the current government and end the wide-scale poverty and suffering they have been subject to. They are the Revolutionary Army and in the covert assassination branch of the Revolutionary Army exists a group known as Night Raid, a group of experienced killers who lay their lives on the line for the future of the country. Their latest recruit: a naïve villager named Tatsumi who made his way to the Capital in order to earn money for his impoverished hometown, but saw first-hand the extent of the depravity which permeates through their society. With powerful weapons and enemies to boot, can Night Raid pave the way to a just future for the empire?
Having been identified for their ideals and actions which are contrary to the corrupt values upheld by the top brass within the empire, Night Raid has been labelled a dangerous rebel group and wanted posters of almost every member hang in almost every town throughout the empire. Their actions, no matter how noble, have been twisted and labelled as evil and treasonous by the Prime Minister, aristocracy, and the young emperor himself. Night Raid’s existence in the Akame ga KILL! universe, despite being completely outlawed, was instrumental in the final battle which saw the Revolutionary Army finally topple the government and usher in times of true peace.
They were never the bad guys.
7. Monstro – Michiko to Hatchin (Michiko and Hatchin)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2008 – March 2009
The night of March 9th. Alarms are going off at the Diamandra High-Security Prison because the then three-times escaped Michiko Malandro has escaped the prison for a fourth time in search of a man from her past. She tracks down his daughter, Hana Morenos, and rescues the nine-year-old from her abusive foster family. The two navigate the land of Diamandra in search of Hana’s father, Hiroshi Morenos, while inevitably being embroiled in the complex labyrinth of poverty, crime and betrayal that is Diamandra when the criminal syndicate known as Monstro Preto catches wind of the nationwide manhunt of the notorious Michiko Malandro. Now with the police and brewing gang warfare in the mix, can Michiko and Hana find the elusive Hiroshi Morenos?
The infamous Monstro Preto is a gang which has extensive reach over the slums in several towns and cities in Diamandra, using children as agents through whom they maintain their notoriety through brutal acts of violence. The current leader of Monstro is one Satoshi Batista, childhood friend of Hiroshi Morenos. As a child, Satoshi dared to defy the then leaders of Monstro, attempting to take control of the gang. His name strikes fear into the hearts of most and in the underground and he is ruthless, calculating and indifferent to betrayal, his influence permeating throughout the entire behemoth of a gang that is Monstro Preto.
6. Lagoon Company - Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2006 – June 2006
Okajima Rokuro is an average Japanese salaryman tired of a dull life. When his company sends him on a delivery trip to South-East Asia, his life dull life changes forever as the trip goes downhill when he’s captured by a mercenary group operating in the corrupt, crime-infested Thai city of Roanapur known as the Lagoon Company. They plan to use Rokuro as a bargaining chip in negotiations which ultimately failed, leaving Rokuro abandoned and betrayed by his former employer. Disillusioned, Rokuro joins Black Lagoon, struggling to maintain his humanity in the dark criminal realm that is Roanapur.
The Lagoon Company is the parent company from which the group Black Lagoon get their name. Led by Dutch, a former US Navy boat captain who went AWOL after the Vietnam War, the Lagoon Company is a for-hire service used by several criminal organisations to smuggle or retrieve items. Its members include the leader, Dutch, the dangerous gun slinging virtuoso known as Revy, their navigator Benny and of course, the new recruit, Okajima Rokuro, going by the name “Rock”. As the Lagoon Company, these four work with some of the most heinous criminal organisations and for at least two of them, killing is nothing more than part of the job.
5. Aogiri Tree – Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Tokyo, modern day. Humanity lives in constant fear of vicious creatures known as Ghouls, which eat human flesh and are able to masquerade as humans and participate in society. 18-year-old Kaneki Ken’s date with the beautiful bookworm Kamishiro Rize becomes more than he bargained for when she turns out to be a Ghoul. The aftermath of their encounter leaves Kaneki recovering in hospital and Rize dead, but as Kaneki recovers, he comes to the realisation that he has plummeted into the dark, violent world of Ghouls. Saved by the manager of a Ghoul-owned coffee shop, Kaneki comes to terms with his new state of being, living a secret life as a half-human/half-ghoul who must find a balance between the two identities.
The world of Ghouls is difficult, dangerous and violent as the Ghouls are hunted by humans for fairly obvious reasons and as such, their very existence is a form of infringement on the laws that humans have laid out. With their survival perpetually hanging in the balance, the Ghouls became masters of disguise and organisation, operating in a way which has seen them living under the very noses of humans for a long time. However, one Ghoul factions has not been content with simple survival: Aogiri Tree, a long-standing Ghoul criminal organization originating in Tokyo’s 13th Ward has amassed incredible numbers and boasts some of the most dangerous Ghouls and, not long after Kaneki becomes a Ghoul, Aogiri Tree wages a full-scale war on the Commission of Counter Ghoul, humanity’s main agent of defence against the Ghouls.
4. Black Organization – Case Closed
- Aired: January 1996 –
17-year-old Kudou Shinichi is well-known in his community for being a brilliant mystery expert and solving various difficult cases. One day, after spotting two suspicious men, he tails them and witnesses disturbing illegal activity. When they catch Shinichi, the men decide to administer their criminal organisation’s experimental drug and leave him to die. However, the drug does not kill Shinichi and it instead reverts his body to that of a seven year old. In order to protect the ones around him, Shinichi decides to hide his identity, even from his best friend Mouri Ran and her private detective father, Kogorou. He adopts the name Edogawa Conan and begins secretly solving Kogorou’s cases, while secretly investigating the criminal organisation responsible for his current physical state.
The Black Organization is the main antagonist of the series and the criminal organizations responsible for changing Shinichi into a seven-year-old, although that was not the intention. It is a secret criminal syndicate which commits various crimes in order to maintain secrecy, remove obstacles and gain much-needed funding for their mysterious research projects. With members given codenames based on alcoholic beverages, the Black Organization is able to operate under a veil of enigma and secrecy, the only proof of its existence being the current state of Kudou Shinichi.
3. Gen’ei Ryodan (The Phantom Troupe) – Hunter x Hunter
- Episodes: 62 (1999), 148 (2011)
- Aired: October 1999 – March 2001; October 2011 – September 2014
In a world where people who bear the title of “Hunter” exist to perform various adventure-filled, dangerous tasks. 12-year-old Gon Freecss wishes to become a Hunter in order to track down his father, a legendary Hunter who disappeared a long time ago. On his journey to becoming a Hunter, Gon meets Leorio, a doctor in training, Kurapika, a vengeful warrior and the ex-assassin Killua Zoldyck. Each with his own reason for doing so, the four take the Hunter Exam, known for its low success rate and high chances of death. Throughout their journey, Gon and his friends endure many hardships which see them meeting various different people and creatures.
One notorious criminal organization in the Hunter x Hunter universe is none other than the Phantom Troupe. We are first exposed to their criminal capability when Kurapika describes the genocide of the Kurta Clan at the hands of the ones who bear the mark of the spider. The Phantom Troupe is a band of highly powerful thieves from Meteor City, but despite their various crimes, they often operate to benefit the general populace, such as during the Chimera Ant arc when they fought against Zazan’s ant army.
2. Akatsuki – Naruto
- Episodes: 220
- Aired: October 2002 – February 2007
Moments prior to Uzumaki Naruto’s birth, a giant demon known as the Nine-Tailed Fox attacked his village of Konohagakure – the Hidden Leaf Village. In order to defeat the Nine-Tailed Fox, the village’s leader, the Fourth Hokage, sacrificed his life in order to seal the demon away inside the newborn Naruto. Now a little older, Naruto is the biggest troublemaker in all of Konohagakure and unfortunately, the other villagers shun him due to the Nine-Tailed Fox sealed away inside of him. Despite this, Naruto’s dream is to one day become Hokage, but this dream puts him on a journey leading him not only to great friendships but deadly adventures.
Akatsuki is a criminal organization of shinobi that existed beyond the usual system of hidden villages, lead by various people throughout history. Originally formed by Yahiko during the Third Shinobi World War, Akatuski was created in order to establish peace to Yahiko’s home country of Amegakure. His charisma and great leadership lead to Akatsuki becoming a famous organisation, but this fame attracted various characters and created unrest, leading to Yahiko’s death and Akatsuki’s eventual descent into twisted rhetoric and ideals under Nagato, who believed that the only way to cause catastrophic death and destruction so that the world turns away from all future conflict. The organisation began a three-step plan which ended in world domination, stamping Akatsuki’s notoriety and maligned intentions. Despite all this, the organisation was formed out of noble intentions.
1. The Strawhat Pirates – One Piece
- Aired: October 1999 –
Gol D. Roger was a man known as the “Pirate King”, the most infamous person to have sailed the Grand Line. However, his death at the hands of the World Government brought about change in the world, as in his final breath, he revealed the existence of the greatest treasure in the world: the One Piece. The revelation inspired scores of people to become pirates and try their hand at finding the treasure, with no luck. 17-year-old Monkey D. Luffy is an aspiring pirate who has ambitions of one day finding the One Piece and becoming the Pirate King. Following in the footsteps of childhood hero, Luffy forms a pirate crew and travels across the Grand Line, experiencing crazy adventures, mysteries and fighting formidable foes all for the sake of one day finding the One Piece.
Luffy’s pirate crew – the Strawhat Pirates, named after his trademark strawhat that he received as a gift from Red-Haired Shanks, is a highly notorious criminal organization of eccentric and highly capable members. From the powerful swordsman, Zoro, to the twinkle-toed thief and cartographer, Nami, to the very capable reindeer doctor Tony Tony Chopper, the Strawhat Pirates is a tight-knit criminal organization of some of the most notorious people in the world and as it stands, they have a combined bounty of 1,570,000,100, indicative of their influence in the One Piece universe.
What we come to learn and realise is that despite the many labels that people push onto each other, they are hardly ever a true description of the person behind the label. Despite being labelled criminal organisations, some of the factions on this list bear noble intentions and in some shows, they are only outlawed because they are doing the right thing. The others are actual criminals that we definitely wouldn’t mess with, though! Maybe we missed some of your favourite criminal groups, drop a comment below (if you dare), so we can be more careful on our noble journey to present anime to the world.