War, huh, what is it good for? Setting up engaging premises for anime.
Yes, we’ve all fallen in love with wars in anime, be it their high stakes, exciting battles or intense melodrama, they have something that can appeal to anyone. But a war needs an instigator and these can be just as interesting as the conflicts they create. A warmonger who is powerful, influential and a strong character in their own right elevates the story they’re in and adds some much-needed character to the central conflict.
To celebrate these wonderful warlords, here are the top 10 warmongers in anime.
10. Dorothy Catalonia from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
You know it’s going to be a great countdown when even the number 10 spot is an icon of anime. Through her cold, calculating pragmatism and intoxicating skills as an orator, not only does Dorothy Catalonia stand out as a great warmonger in a franchise full of them, but she does so at the age of only 15. Despite her age, she has tremendous skills as a leader, tactician and back-stabber, which she used to become the most influential figure to push for all-out war between the space colonies and the Earth Sphere United Nation.
There is one thing holding Dorothy back, however, which is that she’s putting on a façade during all of this. Yes, underneath Dorothy’s badass exterior lies an insecure, lonely and emotionally unstable young girl. This adds many interesting layers to her as a character, but also compromises her efficacy with achieving her goal of all-out war, leading to her ultimately becoming unsuccessful. But ultimately, it’s the journey that matters and not the destination and although Dorothy’s plans may not have gotten very far off the ground, watching her get there showed her to be one of the most fascinating war orchestrators in anime.
9. Croix Meridies from Little Witch Academia
Little Witch Academia is all about how great magic is and the importance of pursuing one’s passion and as professor of modern magic at the Luna Nova Magic Academy, Croix Meridies is directly tied to them. Throughout the anime, we see that the world’s supply of magic is being expended and that the general population mistreats the magical community with little regard for respect or fair treatment. Croix’s solution to these issues is to kill the two birds with one stone, by draining the magic-less masses of their spirits and converting them into refined magical energy. Her approach and motivation fits strangely well with the mentality the series has been promoting up to this point, so much so that protagonist Akko temporarily joins Croix’s cause because she wants to preserve magic, just like anyone else would, it’s only her methods that break the deal.
Another point in Croix’s favor is that she barely leaves any time for there to be a war at all, as the average humans don’t even know what hit them before they are defeated. At first, her plan proves to be an unimaginably successful tactic. Soon, however, her plan goes further than anticipated and her machines escape her control and hijack a nuclear warhead, intending to drop it on the country, killing everyone, Croix included. Needless to say, this massive misstep stops her from advancing further up the list. Nevertheless, she still accomplishes enough to justify overlooking her weaknesses.
8. Toru Acura from Hitsugi no Chaika (Chaika – The Coffin Princess)
In yet another interesting example of a warmonger in anime, we have one who also happens to be the hero of his story. Yes, you heard that right, Toru wants war, but he’s the hero. More accurately, Toru feels like he needs war. Battle quickly became an integral part of Toru’s identity, to the point where he looked forward to fighting because it allowed him to "leave proof that he lived."
Unfortunately for him, that part of Toru’s identity left him once the war ended, and he was without his main reason for living. Because of this, when he met the titular Chaika Trabant, he jumped to the chance to join her in her quest to potentially resurrect her late father. Partially because he likes Chaika and wants to support her and partially because her dad was the infamous warlord behind the war Toru was a part of. Toru sees this as a ticket to his ideal life and sets out with the hope of rekindling the flames of war.
Toru’s status as a warmonger is the centerpiece of his character arc and although he stays this way throughout the majority of the show, the fact that he finishes his development by abandoning this side of him, he loses points as a warmonger. But who knows, maybe a sequel will rectify this in the future.
7. Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
Two warmongering protagonists in a row, how about that? Lelouch vi Britannia was once the Prince of the Holy Britannian Empire, until his father exiled him and his sister to be political hostages for the rival country of Japan. When Britannia later attacked the land of the rising sun, Lelouch’s life was directly put in jeopardy by his own royal family. That’s just about all the motivation Lelouch needs to jump into a Knightmare Frame and fight back against those who have wronged him and he isn’t about to play nice.
Lelouch boasts many other hallmarks of a great warmonger, such as a massive following and an uncanny ability to bring people to his side. Combined with his skills in the cockpit, the estranged Britannian Prince is a force to be reckoned with in any war setting.
There is a lot of overlap between Toru and Lelouch, seeing as they’re both warmongering main characters with sad backstories. Where they differ is in how far they take their warmongering, as while Toru abandons his goals, Lelouch goes the whole nine yards; betraying friends and allies, lying to his numerous supporters and putting his few loved ones in danger all for the sake of furthering his goals. While Toru can be considered more of a flawed hero, it’s difficult to see Lelouch as anything less than an anti-hero, or even a straight-up villain and that’s why he has earned his spot on this list.
6. Nine from Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
The line between terrorist and warmonger is razor thin, but when someone’s acts of terrorism become as dangerous as those perpetrated by the Sphinx group, they can safely be categorized as frightening examples of both. Being one half of this group (and arguably its leader) it stands to reason that Nine would earn his spot here. He strikes fear into the hearts of people nation-wide and makes entire cities crumble with a calm, detached demeanor, all for initially unclear motives.
But beyond his impressive accomplishments it’s his characterization that makes Nine so great. Whether it’s because of the multilayered relationships he has with those around him or the subtleties in how he expresses himself, many will see Nine as one of the most engaging characters put to animation. The best part is that, like Toru, he is the protagonist of his series, so he has plenty of screen time to capitalize on that.
5. The Hero Killer Stain from Boku no Hero Academia 2nd Season (My Hero Academia 2)
You can’t have a great hero without great villains, so it stands to reason that the franchise that has given us many of the best heroes in recent anime will give us some of the best villains as well. The best example is undoubtedly Stain, someone who has become disgusted with the modern trends in hero work, seeing almost all of them as false heroes looking for nothing more than fame and fortune. His solution? Kill them all.
His ideology and striking design make him a fascinating character and he’s extremely strong to boot but it’s, his powers of influence that truly makes him fascinating. Stain only ever planned to fight a one-man-war, but after an unexpected tv appearance, he inadvertently starts a massive revolution with tons of people joining his cause overnight. Subsequent story arcs deal with the many different facets of his following, a testament to his lasting impact on the show’s world.
Stain wanted to fight a war and he not only succeeded but got one even bigger than he ever imagined thanks to the strength of his warmongering, thus sealing his spot on the list.
4. Marshall D. Teach (a.k.a. Blackbeard) from One Piece
How can one even explain why this guy is such a great warmonger? Well, one could point to the fact that Teach was once part of the group of top warmongers in his story, who were so war-hungry they literally called themselves The Seven Warlords of the Sea. These warlords work under the world government, which uses them in its war against One Piece’s many pirates. Further cementing Blackbeard’s status as a warmonger, he left the Seven Warlords by effectively declaring war on the government, making him someone who has warred against both the law and outlaws.
Blackbeard has been behind the most world-shaking events in One Piece’s story, such as the Summit War, the death of legendary pirate Whitebeard and much more and he did most of it himself. This is thanks in no small part to Blackbeard’s unique advantage as someone who is able to hold possibly limitless numbers of devil fruit powers, whereas the rest of the world can only have one per person. That’s right, he’s such a warmonger he can wage war on the natural laws of his universe. And he wins.
3. Ryo Asuka from Devilman Crybaby
*Major spoilers for the manga Devilman and just about every adaptation of it below!!*
Up until this point, we’ve been looking at people who have brought war to countries, planets and even galaxies. With that, it only stands to reason that Ryo Asuka stands above almost all of them, as the wars he has started have spanned all of reality itself and although his enemy initially appears to be his longtime friend Akira, the titular Devilman, his real target is none other than God himself. But how can a skinny blonde kid possibly pose a threat to the divine creator? Well, there’s no dancing around this… he’s the devil. No, really, he is actually the fallen angel Lucifer, the embodiment of every evil known to man, including war.
It was Ryo, or Satan, or whatever you want to call him, who created the demons that serve as antagonists throughout the story and unleashed them on Earth. He also gave Akira his devil characters, effectively playing both sides of the war. Ryo is not only great at war, he created the very concept and as a result, he has become a warmonger the likes of which only two can surpass.
2. Reinhard von Lohengramm from Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes)
Ryo may have waged war against God, but his powers as Satan make that feat more understandable. Regular humans can’t fight God, after all, and showing them doing so in your story without some fictional supernatural power would probably look kind of stupid. But this begs the question, what would be the greatest accomplishment a normal human could feasibly attain through a war? What about absolute control over all of humanity? What about absolute control over all of humanity in a future where most have left Earth and spread themselves across space? Enter Reinhard von Lohengramm.
Reinhard started life as a boy born to an upper-middle-class family, he didn’t have any immediate resources that would help him make a start as a warlord, but that didn’t deter him from revenge when the Goldenbaum Dynasty kidnapped his sister. He joined the military and quickly rose through the ranks thanks to the incredible skills he displayed in the war against the Free Planets Alliance, eventually defeating their prodigy Yang Wen-li in direct combat and conquering all the human settlements in space and declaring himself Kaiser.
Reinhard achieved an accomplishment with a scope that doesn’t even exist yet and he did so only using skills that exist in real life, such as clever political maneuvering and good military tactics. Such an unbelievable accomplishment with a believable skillset is far more impressive than powerful feats from supernaturally powered characters and that is why Reinhard deserves his spot above the likes of Ryo, as much as we all love him (or hate him, depending on how you look at it). Plus, let’s be honest, Reinhard rocks the wavy blonde locks way better than he does.
1. Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam
Whether he goes by Casval Rem Deikun, Char Aznable, The Red Comet, Edouard Mass, Quattro Bajeena or whatever other aliases, there’s no arguing that this man is the greatest warmonger in anime. The most central quality to a warmonger is how rooted they are in war and how closely they hold it to themselves. Blackbeard only gained his ambition for conquest late in his life, Ryo sat around for who knows how long before beginning his war and Reinhard retired into the life of a privileged monarch. From the Universal Century calendar year 0068 to his death in 0093, Char only existed for war. Considering he died at the age of 33 this means that he would be focused squarely on the battlefield for 25 years, or 76% of his life.
As Casval Deikun, Char was the son of Zeon Deikun, founder of the Zeon, founder of The Principality of Zeon. He got his first taste of real conflict when his father died a suspicious death while announcing the principality’s separation from the Earth Federation, causing the population to blame the Earth government and enter war with them. Casval hid under an alias and joined the Zeon army, not to fight for their cause, but to climb up the ranks and get close enough to the Zabi family, his father’s real killers, to kill each of them indiscriminately. All may not have gone according to plan, but Char only found one goal after another worth fighting for. This driven attitude led him to be an active part in almost every major military battle that happened during his lifetime.
But fighting isn’t the only skill Char can bring to a war. He has major accomplishments as a tactician, a trainer and a political leader. He was so dedicated to each one of his causes that he never lived life off the battlefield. If he couldn’t get what he wanted without a war, then war was always his next step and that’s why he’s the best warmonger in anime.
War is like a train crash. It’s ugly, but we can’t help but watch and with great characters like this, who would want to look away? Anime has given us so many great characters to drive such wars forward and hopefully, we’ll get more characters that are just as good in the future.
Do you know of any such characters that didn’t make it onto the list? Let us know who your favorite warmongers are in the comments. Just don’t start a war over it.