Selfish jerks are not a new thing in anime, nor are the ones with good intensions or redeeming qualities. Vegeta (Dragon Ball) has been a total jackass for literal decades but he's still a good dad, cares about his loved ones, and is loyal almost to a fault; Gintoki (Gintama) is greedy and mistreats his friends on the regular but he lives to defend and protect them, and Levi (Attack on Titan) acts like he cares more about cleanliness and following rules than his friends but we all know he'd do anything for his Survey Corps family. 2021, however, has introduced us to a couple of seemingly unredeemable jerks who make these three look like angels but who actually end up being pretty caring in the end. (Spoiler: they're at the top of the list!).
Now that we've given the classics a mention, let's check out some more recent anime jerks with a heart of gold!
Some Spoilers Ahead!
5. Katsuki Bakugo from Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
We all know this short-tempered, ill-mannered, loudmouth, selfish hero in training. Bakugo cares about nothing other than being the best, the strongest, and most importantly, beating Deku at everything. Some of us even thought he would turn into a villain when MHA first started! He "refuses" to join in celebrations or help at first but then begrudgingly does it anyway—and enjoys himself even if he acts like he doesn't. In most recent seasons, Kirishima has broken through to Bakugo to the point that he seems to be the only one who can calm him down and, of course, as a hero in training, Bakugo truly cares about his teammates and the people he has vowed to protect at any cost, though he works really hard to hide it. Now, if only someone could get him to stop screaming all the time…
4. Ban from Nanatsu no Taizai (The Seven Deadly Sins)
Ban is the sin of Greed so it's no surprise that he is selfish and, well, greedy. Ban focuses on himself and getting what he wants like going after immortality from The Fountain of Youth, Melodias' sword, and even more petty acts like stealing all the teddy bears in the kingdom just for fun. Ban is overconfident, passionate, cocky, and will have a one-track mind when he wants something but his intentions are—mostly—good now and he is merely a product of his rough upbringing. When he wanted to drink from the Fountain of Youth, Ban gave up on the idea when he found out it would kill the forest and, though he only joins Melodias to continue their "exciting" fight, Ban later on shows he actually cares for him and the others, even if he acts like he doesn't. All this selfish jerk needs is a little love so we're glad he's made such good friends.
3. Naofumi Iwatani from Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero)
Naofumi trusts no one, he is cynical and is generally hostile towards most people—especially women, who he pushes away and has an even deeper mistrust of. He will only allow those who will enter a slave contract with him to join him so he can have control of the situation and them, he asks for payment when he helps others, and he disciplines his slaves if he feels it's needed. However, like with Ban, this is due to a past life experience; the shocking betrayal he suffered at the hands of Princess Malty who framed him and ruined his life and reputation. He can also be a bit sadistic when attacking those who do him or his party members wrong, sending monsters after them without mercy. Naofumi's deep grudge has shaped his attitude and way of life, but slowly, his true trusting, caring, and positive personality starts showing through. Naofumi now treats Raphtalia more like a daughter, he's willing to share with others, is a bit more trusting, and even finds ways to help people without asking for payment if possible. Our heart kind of aches every time Naofumi is a jerk because we know he was hurt so badly.
2. Kinji Ninomiya from Meikyuu Black Company (The Dungeon of Black Company)
Talk about a one-track mind! Ninomiya is an overconfident, ruthless, greedy jerk who will literally do ANYTHING to ensure his success, fame and fortune, and that he can just take it easy. In his quest to succeed in the new black company he ended up in when isekai'd, he lies, cheats, and steals—and that's just for starters! Ninomiya considers everyone to be below him and uses whomever he can as pawns in his plans, like getting monster ants to form a union—to save his own hide and then use them to take over the corporation he is a slave to—drugging laborers to manipulate them to work harder, taking advantage of the first friend he makes, and blackmailing Shia, his supervisor.
Then again, Ninomiya also calls in Rim the dragon to defend Ant A—his favorite monster ant—when Shia charges with the intent to kill, and he later helps Shia get over her obsession with being better than her father and even scolds her for putting herself in danger showing he actually cares about others. Ninomiya also takes good care of Rim, making sure she always has enough food and is always looking for the best working conditions for his employees once he climbs up the corporate ladder.
Ninomiya may be ruthless and his intentions selfish at first, but he shows that he actually cares about others to a certain extent and uses his ruthlessness to get rid of even worse people in the higher ranks. Working for Ninomiya would be great! But don't try to screw him over or get in his way towards success or you'll regret it!
1. Agent Six from Sentouin, Hakenshimasu! (Combatants Will Be Displatched!)
Here we go, now we're getting serious! If you thought Ninomiya was bad, add unabashed perviness and a desire to be an a-hole and you've got Agent Six. In his defense, though, he does work for an evil corporation… Much like Ninomiya, though, he has no respect for his superiors, or anyone else, really. Six is loud, obnoxious, questions everything he is ordered to do, and does things like setting the password for a much-needed rain machine to "dick festival" just for the fun of making the princess say it out loud.
Six also hates children and working with them, has very little patience, and even exposes the panties of Grimm, a girl in a wheelchair! Speaking of lewdness, this is what sets Six at the very top. He does not know when to quit! He gropes and exposes his female teammates constantly and fantasizes aloud about doing the same to his superiors, takes lewd pictures of any sexy woman he can find, and he enjoys forcing lewd acts on his female teammates to get evil points—a currency he uses to acquire equipment for their missions. There's more but we'd be here all day...
So where's the heart of gold? Well, Six could be worse, as hard as that is to believe. While perverted, he seems to actually harbor genuine feelings for his beautiful superior Astaroth and wishes to marry her one day, he feels saddened when a giant crawfish he befriended gets killed—though he forgets about it completely later—and has been known to low-key make sacrifices or put himself in danger to protect his teammates and even those he doesn't know very well. As far as we're concerned, Agent Six is the biggest jerk with a—tiny—heart of gold and we love him for that!
We have to say, it's always a joy to see these guys be so overly confident, mean, selfish, and rude just to show their true colors later on. And in Agent Six's case, things backfire on him often, which is satisfying in its own way! Who's your favorite? Did we miss any other jerks with a heart of gold? Let us know in the comments!