All great heroes need equally great villains to make the best possible stories and fights — and to build the greatest amount of suspense possible for the viewers. This is exactly what we’re going to be talking about today — some of my absolute favourite villains!
For me, villains aren’t just characters that are valued purely on strength, they need to be smart, cunning, ruthless, and sometimes actually turn out to be a good guy — shout out to the Kaiki Deishuu fans.
This list will consist of my top three favourite villains. Each one is a little bit different, but there is most definitely a common theme amongst them: they’re all pretty damn smart. I will say that there are two widely adored villains who won’t be present on this list — the main antagonists of Urasawa’s MONSTER and Psycho-Pass — primarily because I am currently 70 chapters into MONSTER, and Psycho-Pass is in my anime backlog. (We’ll call them honourable mentions – Ed.)
Light Yagami (Death Note)
Now immediately, depending on your perspective, you might be wondering why on earth the main character of Death Note is on this list. Well, it’s because Light Yagami is totally and completely the villain of the story. Light Yagami is a cerebral genius who one day gained access to an otherworldly book known as the Death Note. This book originally belongs to a Shinigami, or Reaper God, and in this book, they can write down exactly how someone will die.
Ryuk — a particularly fun-loving Shinigami — “lends” his Death Note to Light so that he can enjoy the spectacle of a mortal being suddenly gaining the power over life and death. In the five days after gaining the book, Light has already listed pages and pages of “evil” people’s names. As his self-proclaimed acts of justice gain the interest of police and special investigators, this is where Light dons the title of “Kira” and truly begins his descent into becoming a complete villain.
L, a world-renowned detective who takes on the task of finding this mass murderer, starts to take action against Kira. Light starts to experiment with the power of the Death Note by writing prisoners’ names down, but specifying that they complete a seemingly incriminating action before dying — such as “draw a picture of L’s face on the wall of the prison cell”. Light is playing with the lives of others to gain information.
Within the first five episodes, Light has killed numerous innocent FBI agents. Probably his worst crime concerns the newly widowed Naomi Misora, for whom Light obtains some personal information. He then proceeds to use this information to write her name in the Death Note — with her cause of death being “untraceable suicide” — then proceeds to tell her who he really is. Light may well be the main character of the story, but he most certainly isn’t a good guy.
Sosuke Aizen (Bleach)
Aizen is a character that I personally found very enjoyable to watch — the guy was always steps ahead of everyone else! Aizen is extremely smart, disgustingly manipulative, and ruthlessly cold. The way he set up his own death and manipulated Soul Society into fighting one another was something no one was expecting.
Aizen was the Captain of the 5th Division within Soul Society’s 13 Court Guard Squads. He was always considered a calm, soft-spoken intellectual who even addressed his subordinates by their given names. He was a Captain looked up to by many as someone kind, caring, and inspiring, and this was especially so for his lieutenant, Momo. It’s these parts of him that made his reveal as a villain all the more shocking.
Aizen was born strong and was always seeking a rival that could be considered an equal to him. It’s from this point that Aizen seeks further power, believing that there is more to gain than the powers of a Soul Reaper alone; that there is some form of further evolution. His Shikai reflected his manipulative personality perfectly, as it would create illusions in the eyes of others, allowing Aizen to act in the shadows and do as he saw fit.
His actions from Hueco Mundo, the land of the hollows, were thoroughly planned as well. By kidnapping Orihime — a close friend to series protagonist Ichigo and someone with the ability to reject all forms of injuries — he managed to split up Ichigo from Soul Society, thereby stripping them of a valuable military asset. He created an army of loyal Arrancar (evolved Hollows) to assist him in his invasion — he even created specific Arrancar to deal with particular Soul Reapers, such as the leader of Soul Society himself. Say what you will, but Aizen was a ruthless planner who was always steps ahead of the game.
Want more BLEACH? Check out the best girls here! Spoiler: it’s Yoruichi. Duh. (You’re supposed to make them want to click – Ed.)
Meruem (Hunter x Hunter)
Meruem is the main antagonist in the Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter, and he is the king of the Chimera Ants. These are unique species of insect-hybrid that reproduce through devouring; the characteristics of these devoured species are then passed along to the offspring. It’s through this repeated process that Meruem, the king, is eventually born.
Meruem is very different from the other two characters on this list; whereas Aizen and Light slowly developed into villains, Meruem was essentially a newborn who was told he was a king from the moment he was born. He believed it was his right and duty to rule over all others and devour any who stood in his way.
What’s unique about this character is that he is something of a blank canvas to begin with, and we see the entire process of him developing into a fully fleshed-out painting over the course of the complete arc. A significant part of this occurs via Komugi, a sickly young girl who also happens to be a world champion player of Gungi, a fictitious board game. Meruem seeks to constantly display his dominance in everything, and when he finds himself unable to defeat Komugi, he begins to experience numerous emotions. Rather than reject these emotions as most villains typically would, Meruem begins to explore them.
As a being constantly told that he is “greater than others” and “born to rule” he became fascinated by this young human whom he could not manage to defeat. His inability to win forced him to accept humanity’s strength, despite it still being weak in comparison to his own. Meruem was born evil — but we were still able to see him become something more human than we might have initially thought he was.
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