A story is only as good as its villain, so that explains why the upcoming manga are some of the best of all time. We all hold different concepts of what makes an ideal antagonist, depending on the type of entertainment we are seeking. In some cases, a more comedic and non-threatening villain can better serve a narrative than a diabolical and sadistic one.
Manga does not lack memorable antagonists, ones capable of instilling fear in the target audience. Unlike anime, which can often be restricted by what can be shown on television, mangaka are free to create the most detestable and nauseating characters, with the only limit being their imagination. With this list, we will take a look at the best of the worst.
**Please note, SPOLERS are all over the place!**
10. Billy Craig from Usogui
- Mangaka: Sako, Toshio
- Genre: Game, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 46
- Published Date: 2006 – Ongoing
Gamblers are willing to travel to the end of the world for a thrill and a shot at glory, or at least, that is what Sako’s manga suggests. In Usogui’s universe, there are gamblers willing to put it all on the line, taking part in life-threatening games, like trying to escape a collapsing building while someone actively tries to stop them. These games are overseen by a powerful organization known as the Kakerou, who send specialized referees in an attempt to maintain the integrity of these events.
Billy Craig works for the American Embassy and is part of IDEAL, a crime syndicate stationed in America. He is an ambitious, racist, and ruthless gambler, who aspires to take over Kakerou. A murderer who believes in overpowering and humiliating his opponent, Craig stands as the most detestable character in a manga filled with shady individuals. His violent nature is not limited to official games either, as time and time again, he demonstrates a complete disregard for human life and women especially.
9. Mitsuko Souma from Battle Royale
- Mangaka: Taguchi, Masayuki (Art), Takami, Koushun (Story)
- Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 15
- Published Date: 2000 – 2005
We cannot deny that Mitsuko Souma is a victim. For the first nine years of her life, she was a relatively happy and normal young girl, before her mother met Mitsuko’s would be stepfather. At that point, the real Mitsuko died and a twisted version arose from the remains. After being physically and sexually abused by the new man of the house, Mitsuko transformed into a sociopath that existed to manipulate and punish any man that got in her way.
Only 15 years old, the naturally beautiful Mitsuko earned a deservedly nasty reputation at school, which meant that most of her classmates feared or hated her. Once her class was selected to take part in the Battle Royale, Mitsuko quickly decided to commit to the program and set her sights on killing off her fellow classmates. Although it is easy to sympathize with her upbringing, it does not justify the atrocious acts she commits later on in her life.
8. Anzai Mako from Bloody Monday
- Mangaka: Kibayashi, Shin (Story), Megumi, Kouji (Art)
- Genre: Action, Drama, School, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Psychological
- Volumes: 11
- Published Date: 2007 – 2009
At first glance, Anzai Mako appears to be your average student, one that spends most of her time helping out at the newspaper club. Her energetic and approachable personality makes her instantly popular, as she even became friends with Fujimaru Takagi, Bloody Monday’s protagonist. Yet, this person is nothing more than an illusion, one created with the goal of destroying Fujimaru.
Bloody Monday follows the adventures of a super hacker, Fujimaru, who uses his skills to expose corruption. After a deadly virus is stolen by a mysterious organization, and Fujimaru’s father is framed for a murder, the famous hacker must find a way to solve both cases before the destruction of Japan. Anzai Mako is presented as a background character for most of the comic; but in reality, she is K – the leader of the cult that stole the virus. After her true identity is revealed, she demonstrates an unflinching trust in the cult’s fascist beliefs and a willingness to do anything to rid the world of any non-believers.
7. Sicks from Demon Detective Nougami Neuro (Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro)
- Mangaka: Matsui, Yuusei
- Genre: Mystery, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 23
- Published Date: 2005 – 2009
Neuro Nōgami is the demon equivalent of Shinichi Kudo, a detective that can solve nearly any mystery in the blink of an eye. After realizing that hell's cases no longer offer any challenge, he migrates to the human realm and forms a detective agency with a high-school girl. Neuro is ridiculously overpowered throughout the manga, with no human even coming close to offering him a challenge. Once Sicks shows up, that quickly changes.
Sicks is the leader of the New Bloodline, a group that strives to erase humanity from the face of the Earth. Each member has received enhancements, with some gaining elemental-based abilities. They are governed by Sicks, who is considered to be the ‘absolute evil’, and the only person to force Neuro to actually get serious. When it comes to his sadistic nature, Sicks does not hold back. He is willing to cruelly punish his subordinates if they happen to have outlived their usefulness.
6. Mitsuko Tanaka from Goodnight Punpun (Oyasumi Punpun)
- Mangaka: Asano, Inio
- Genre: Drama, Slice of Life, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 13
- Published Date: 2007 – 2013
Some villains that stand the test of time are designed so a reader can love to hate them. These antagonists are detestable yet charming. They are so good at being bad that even after they are deservedly killed off, a part deep down in the reader still kind of hopes that they survived. Mitsuko Tanaka is not one of those characters. In a medium were Fruits Basket and Clannad exist, Mitsuko stands tall as the worst parent of all time.
A brilliant coming of age story, one of the main themes of Goodnight Punpun is the discrepancy between a child’s perspective of their parents and reality. After being abandoned by her stepfather, Aiko Tanaka remains with her stepmother, who happens to be obsessed with a cult. Mitsuko forces her daughter to take part in the group’s activities, which instantly labels her as a freak at school. Completely isolated and dependent, Aiko gives in to Mitsuko’s verbal and physical abuse. When her stepmother ends up crippled and confined to a wheelchair, the submissive Aiko would personally walk towards Mitsuko to receive her beating. She explains that her beatings are not too bad, as they usually calm Mitsuko down.
5. Rachel from Tower of God
- Mangaka: Jong-hui, Lee
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: 2010 – Ongoing
Technically speaking, Rachel is not an antagonist and might even be described as an anti-hero. Tower of God has multiple protagonists, with Rachel serving as one of them. She is defined by her lack of impressive characteristics, serving as one of the least spectacular and capable entrants in the Tower. She is not attractive, physically impressive, or even all that intelligent. In most ways, she serves as the most relatable human in SIU’s webtoon. She is not pure evil, by any stretch of the imagination, and is largely driven by jealousy.
The Tower is a mysterious entity that houses a seemingly infinite amount of levels. The higher levels are associated with better living conditions, but the only way to be promoted is to overcome an array of challenging tests. Twenty-Fifth Baam, one of the main protagonists, enters the tower in search of Rachel, his best friend. On the other-hand, Rachel is terrified of the dark and wants to make it to the top of the structure to stand beneath the light of the stars.
There are very few altruistic characters in Tower of God, but nearly all demonstrate a certain degree of commitment to their friends. Rachel’s only tool is how far she is willing to go in pursuit of her dream. As she does not have the physical strength or intelligence to defeat her opponents directly, she manipulates those around her and then quickly discards them. To avoid spoiling too much, as this manga is definitely worth reading, Rachel is a fantastically written character that will leave the reader screaming for her to die.
4. Misogi Kumagawa from Medaka Box
- Mangaka: Nisio, Isin (Story), Akatsuki, Akira (Art)
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Ecchi, Martial Arts, Parody, School, Shounen, Super Power, Psychological
- Volumes: 22
- Published Date: 2009 – 2013
Medaka Box is a deconstruction of shounen manga, with an incredibly overpowered and bland protagonist, Medaka, who earned all her strength due to the fact that she is the main character. In a series that exists to play with our expectations, no other character manages to exemplify that narrative choice like Misogi Kumagawa. Although he does eventually develop into somewhat of an anti-hero, Kumagawa is the main villain of the Kumagawa Incident Arc.
Describing himself as a born loser, the direct opposite to Medaka, Kumagawa is one of the most overpowered characters in manga and even has the ability to erase all of reality. As the Student Council President, he gets into a confrontation with Medaka after attacking the council’s vice president. What makes Kumagawa such a fascinating villain is his contradictory nature, as it is impossible to predict what he will do next. He is vicious and willing to kill or hurt anyone, yet does not hesitate to heal the wounds of his enemies. He hates Medaka but repeatedly declares his love for her.
Kumagawa ended up being such a hit with readers, that he received his own spin off manga set before the events of Medaka Box.
3. Griffith from Berserk
- Mangaka: Miura, Kentarou
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Demons, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural, Military, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 39
- Published Date: 1989 – Ongoing
If there is one manga, or anime, villain that requires no introduction, it would have to be Griffith. As the main antagonist of Miura’s long running and popular series, the former leader of Band of the Hawk holds an almost intimate relationship with the reader. This is not a potential threat lurking from the shadows or an overpowered monster that is nothing but the personification of evil. No, Griffith is someone much more real.
An uncommonly attractive man, Griffith is a master tactician capable of winning any war. Due to his enigmatic personality, thousands flock to join the Band of the Hawk, offering their lives in his service. Although Griffith seems to genuinely care about his companions, it is not until his friendship with Guts that he starts to disregard his own future. After the soon-to-be black swordsman leaves the group, Griffith falls apart and ends up giving himself over to the darkest of forces. Eventually, he becomes a monster capable of fueling our worst of nightmares.
20 years later, only fragments can be found of the original Griffith. Still, once in a blue moon, we get a glimpse of the man he once was.
2. Friend from 20th Century Boys
- Mangaka: Urasawa, Naoki
- Genre: Mystery, Drama, Historical, Sci-Fi, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 22
- Published Date: 1999 – 2006
20th Century Boys is one of those series that is always included in articles listing best manga that need an anime adaptation. Spread out over a few different timelines, Urasawa masterfully created a shounen comic that avoids all the cliches of the genre. The manager of a convenience store, Kenji Endo spends his days trying to fight off poverty. After a childhood friend commits suicide, he becomes aware of a powerful cult, led by a man called ‘Friend’, who are slowly increasing their influence over the masses and even government officials. Fearing that something terrible is bound to happen, he decides to take action.
One of the greatest elements of 20th Century Boys is discovering how Kenji’s past intersects with that of Friend’s cult. Like Urasawa’s previous manga, Monster, Friend is a realistic threat and seems to be inspired by modern day cult figures like Charles Manson. Realizing that people are desperate for a savior, he uses cheap magic tricks to convince his followers that he possesses supernatural abilities. As he grows in power, Friend descends deeper and deeper into madness, eventually deciding to kill off all of humanity.
1. Johan Liebert from Monster
- Mangaka: Urasawa, Naoki
- Genre: Mystery, Drama, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 18
- Published Date: 1994 – 2001
There is nothing scarier than a person that acts without reason, with no end goal in sight. Their actions are not governed by a selfish desire for money, sex, or power. They are willing to destroy someone’s life, a person that they might barely know, because they believe their actions do not matter. Urasawa created the perfect monster in Johan Liebert.
The result of a eugenics experiment, Johan is intelligent, handsome, and a capable leader. He is often described as perfect and pure, and he is capable of using that false image to manipulate his allies to do his bidding. As he believes that death is normal and life holds no meaning, he does not hesitate to murder anyone as, in his eyes, he is doing nothing wrong. Unlike some other villains who experienced hardship before becoming their twisted selves, Johan’s personality remained consistent throughout the series. He was born a monster.
Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there dozens upon dozens of memorable manga villains. One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Bleach could easily fill up an entire list by themselves, while characters like Dr. Roosevelt from Pluto deserve to be spotlighted as well. A manga is only as good as its villain, and there are hundreds of great publications out there.
Who is your favorite manga villain? Or which do you secretly wish was the protagonist? Please let us know in the comment section below.