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VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
They're way too good at being bad. Join Ashley as we count down the anime protagonists who commit heinous acts, as seen in series such as "Attack on Titan", "Death Note", "Overlord", and more!
Script written by Garrett Alden

#10: “The Saga of Tanya the Evil” (2017-)

I mean…it’s kind of right there in the name, right? When a ruthless Japanese businessman is reincarnated into a magical version of World War I, he becomes determined to advance through whatever means necessary - even if he’s a little girl now. Tanya’s coldhearted attitude and vicious tactics in battle certainly earn her a vile reputation, and her ambitions extend to killing the god-like being that dropped her into her war-torn new life. The series is full of incredible and brutal aerial fight scenes. Plus, Tanya’s charismatic, if devilish personality makes for some effective comedy as well. Now if only the studio would hurry up with season 2!

#9: “Talentless Nana” (2020)

This series is set in a school where kids with special abilities known as Talents hone their abilities to battle against the mysterious Enemies of Humanity. Nana Hiiragi is a transfer student with the ability to read minds. Except…not only is Nana not actually Talented, she’s been sent to the school to murder the real Enemies of Humanity - her classmates! It’s a psychological thriller anime with a supernatural twist, as Nana has to eliminate her peers, while also avoiding suspicion and grappling with the morality, or lack thereof, of her mission. “Talentless Nana” is essentially “Among Us” the anime, and Nana’s the imposter!

#8: “Bastard!! Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy” (2022-)

When evil’s knocking at your door, sometimes the only option is to fight with an even greater evil! The kingdom of Metallicana unseals Dark Schneider, the powerful immortal wizard sealed inside their head priest’s adopted teenage son, Lucien Renlen. The only problem is that ol’ DS is not only a selfish, womanizing asshole, he’s also the former leader of the villains now threatening the world with their plans. Thankfully, Lucien’s personality affects Dark Schneider’s for the better…sometimes. An unabashed power fantasy with a heavy metal twist, “Bastard!!” follows Dark Schneider’s journey to save and/or conquer the world again, using his incredible magic, and even more incredible rizz, to defeat everyone he faces in battle!

#7: “Black Lagoon” (2006)

Salaryman Rokuro "Rock" Okajima’s life is turned upside down after he’s taken hostage by the pirate crew of the eponymous Black Lagoon. Rock joins up with the pirates, and while he’s undoubtedly one of the less villainous crewmembers (at first), he and the rest of the gang are no heroes. Out for themselves in an unforgiving world full of crooks, pirates, and gangs, the Lagoon Company don’t really care who gets hurt in their quest for profit. The series is loaded with exciting action and tons of criminal activity, so if a darker, more realistic series is your bag, “Black Lagoon” is a great anime to get mired in.

#6: “Overlord” (2015-)

When most isekai protagonists go to another world, they’re heroes out to save the world. Ainz Ooal Gown is the other guy. After suddenly finding himself in the body of his undead video game avatar, in command of legions of loyal (and far more competent) followers, and lacking his previous human morality, Ainz sets out to conquer his new world - mostly by accident. “Overlord” features a well-realized fantasy world that’s fun to get lost in, as well as entertainingly villainous (and comedic) protagonists. It’s as much about Ainz’s effect on his new world as it is the world’s effect on him, with plenty of political maneuvering. As expected of Ainz!

#5: “Fate/Zero” (2011-12)

How far would you go to see your greatest wish come true? Well if you want something as insane as the Fourth Holy Grail War to go your way, then you’re going to have to play dirty. While we can somewhat understand the motivations behind why Kiritsugu played the game the way he did, it’s easy to see why Saber was so pissed at him for how he did so. Setting his wife as bait, trying to cheat the rules, assassinating the other Masters and Servants with incredibly underhanded means, this so-called Champion of Justice cut way too many corners while trying to save the world. Shame that the price turned out to be a tad too high in the end.

#4: “Hellsing Ultimate” (2006-12)

Sometimes the best way to fight monsters is with another monster! That’s the philosophy of the Hellsing organization, which employs the magically bound vampire, Alucard, as their heavy hitter. As an ancient bloodsucker, Alucard has done plenty of evil in his day - and continues to do so throughout the series, even if he becomes more of an anti-hero over time. But, when he’s pitted against literal Nazis and homicidal priests, it’s not hard to root for him instead! “Hellsing Ultimate” delivers bloody thrills and action galore. Even after it’s over, you’ll be hungry for more!

#3: “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion” (2006-08)

We were on the fence about including this, but, if we’re honest with ourselves, Lelouch vi Britannia is no hero. The disgraced prince in hiding not only uses cunning strategies and his Geass ability to command others in his campaign against his homeland of Britannia, but he also treats everyone around him like chess pieces - and he’s willing to sacrifice most of them. Lelouch’s goal may be to create a better world for his sister, but the ends don’t always justify his means. Whether you agree with the protagonist or not, “Code Geass” delivers an addictive combination of mecha action, intricate strategy, and character development that makes for a phenomenal show.

#2: “Death Note” (2006-07)

When teenager Light Yagami acquires a notebook that lets him kill anyone anywhere, provided he knows their name and face, he was basically fated to become a villain. Light may claim to want to create a world without crime, with only the righteous living in it, but his petty, vindictive behavior is fairly evident throughout. It’s arguably his greatest downfall in his battle of wills against L, the genius detective. “Death Note” remains an endlessly fascinating and gripping thriller. And sure, Light’s a mass murderer and clearly evil, but we’d be lying if we said that we didn’t enjoy seeing him outsmart and outmaneuver his enemies.

#1: “Attack on Titan” (2013-23)

Eren Jaeger’s quest for revenge against the giant beings lurking outside his walled homeland puts us firmly in his corner from the start. However, over time, Eren’s darker impulses develop to the point where he’s the unquestioned villain of his story. Eren aside, “Attack on Titan” revels in showing that even the most heroic characters have shades of gray. Packed from beginning to end with epic action scenes, mind blowing twists, and unforgettable characters, “Attack on Titan” is among the most popular “villain’s journey” anime ever made.

Is there a villain-led anime we’re oh-so-bad for forgetting? Let us know in the comments below!