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Top 10 Anime Villains Who Had Justifiable Motives

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Mark Sammut
Good idea, terrible execution! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Anime Villains Who Had Justifiable Motives. For this list, we’re looking at anime villains driven by understandable reasons. In a different timeline, these antagonists could have been heroes. Please note spoilers will be unavoidable for the included series.
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Top 10 Anime Villains Who Had Justifiable Motives

Good idea, terrible execution! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Anime Villains Who Had Justifiable Motives.

For this list, we’re looking at anime villains driven by understandable reasons. In a different timeline, these antagonists could have been heroes. Please note spoilers will be unavoidable for the included series.

#10: Shogo Makishima

“Psycho-Pass” (2012-13)

In this alternate reality, the Sibyl System acts as the judge, jury, and executioner. Capable of determining a person's crime coefficient before any actual wrongdoings are carried out, this law enforcement enterprise shapes Japan's entire civilization. Despite embodying the cruelest traits imaginable, Shogo Makishima lives free of Sibyl's scrutiny, a fact that convinces the villain to destroy the obviously flawed system. Basically, Makishima's goal is to liberate the nation from Sibyl's authoritative control and force people to start scrutinizing their own behavior. If it was not for all the senseless murder, Makishima would be almost inspirational.

#9: Stain

“My Hero Academia” (2016-)

Improving society, one dead pro hero at a time! Garnering a reputation as a violent vigilante, Stain detests the way society has commercialized and cheapened the concept of a hero. In the villain's mind, All Might is the only one who embodies the altruistic and pure traits required to be accepted as a true hero and believes that everyone else is only interested in using their Quirks to gain power, fame, or riches. Determined to eliminate fake heroes, Stain seems aware these actions are undoubtedly wrong; however, the villain believes such measures are necessary for the greater good.

#8: Shishio Makoto

“Rurouni Kenshin” (1996-98)

Appointed as Kenshin's successor by the Meiji government, Shishio Makoto assassinated anyone deemed to be a threat to the regime. The swordsman was invaluable during the Boshin War, but the government realized Shishio knew too much and needed to be eliminated. Burned alive by the samurai's so-called allies, Shishio, somehow, managed to survive. Understandably upset by this turn of events, Shishio dedicated the next decade to plotting the government's downfall. Now, in all fairness, Shishio was always ruthless, sadistic, and power-hungry; even if the betrayal never occurred, the villain might have still eventually tried to seize the throne.

#7: Kyuubey

“Puella Magi Madoka Magica” (2011)

What is a magical girl anime without an adorable mascot? As a deconstruction of the genre, "Puella Magi Madoka Magica" subverts expectations by villainizing the sentient plush toy who originally endows the girls with magical powers as a way to fight Witches. Belonging to an emotionless species known as the Incubators, Kyuubey's true goal is to transform magical girls into Witches, as this produces a great deal of energy that can be harnessed to postpone the universe's destruction. Kyuubey is beyond detestable, but the Incubators are genuinely striving to protect everything.

#6: Shinobu Sensui

“Yu Yu Hakusho” (1992-94)

A former spirit detective, "Chapter Black Saga's" antagonist rigidly believed in one universal truth: humans are innately good while demons are born evil. Driven by this narrow world-view, Shinobu Sensui thoughtlessly slaughtered countless demons, but this all changed when the Black Angel stumbled upon a ritual where humans pointlessly tortured demons for entertainment. Unable to accept this revelation and overwhelmed by guilt due to possibly killing numerous innocent demons, Sensui's mind shattered into various personalities as a means to cope. On the surface, Sensui wished to trigger the apocalypse, but the villain's true goal was to seek atonement by dying at the hands of a demon.

#5: Lordgenome

“Gurren Lagann” (2007)

Stuck between a rock and never-ending waves of powerful aliens seeking to eradicate humanity, the Spiral King decided to prioritize salvation above anything else. As long as the last few remaining colonies remained underground, the Anti-Spirals agreed to not completely wipe out humanity; consequently, Lordgenome established a tyrannical army to slaughter anyone who pierced through to the surface. During "Gurren Lagann's" initial episodes, the Spiral King comes across as a power-hungry dictator desperate to subjugate any and all people; by the end of the series, Lordgenome is regarded as a valuable ally in the war against the Anti-Spirals.

#4: Squealer

“From the New World” (2012-13)

This Monster Rat is the living embodiment of "do not judge a book by its cover." Taking place in a universe populated by a tiny portion of super-powered humans who outlasted everyone else, "From the New World" boils down to a war between humans and suppressed creatures known as queerats. As the leader of the revolt, Squealer talks about craving equality for all races but believes such a feat cannot be accomplished if humans were allowed to live. The anime's final episode reveals queerats are actually ordinary humans whose DNA was forcibly mutated, and Squealer wished to destroy a cruel regime built on lies.

#3: Light Yagami

“Death Note” (2006-07)

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that is before a magical death-granting book is added to the equation. The son of a detective and loved by all, Light Yagami sought to use the Death Note's powers to forge a world free of crime or injustice. Initially, the protagonist only writes down the names of people deemed to be evil; putting aside whether such a decision should be left to a teenage boy, Light's utilitarian motives steadily subside in favor of ruthless self-preservation. While Light manages to significantly reduce the world's crime rate, this outcome was achieved by instilling wide-spread fear rather than promoting a sense of justice.

#2: The Principality of Zeon

“Mobile Suit Gundam” series (1979-)

Despite regular comparisons to the Nazis, this nation's initial goal was essentially the complete opposite of an oppressive regime. Succumbing to a heart-attack seconds before announcing the Autonomous Republic of Munzo's liberation from the Earth Federation, Zeon Zum Deikun inadvertently leaves the nation in the hands of Degwin Zabi, who eventually announces the Principality of Zeon's independence and declares war on the Federation. Degwin's methods may have been questionable, but the dictator's son was responsible for truly pushing Zeon into villainous territory. Seeking to destroy all human life on Earth to make room for the nation's so called superior race, Gihren was even compared to Hitler by Degwin.

#1: Scar

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2009-10)

Craving justice for a cruel civil war that led to the slaughter of an entire nation, the serial killer's hatred is perfectly understandable. Identified by an X-shaped facial wound, Scar sought retribution against State Alchemists, who were responsible for the vast majority of deaths during the Ishlavan Civil War. While the villain's efforts may have been driven by grief, Scar exterminated State Alchemists without discrimination and the serial killer's actions hardly benefited the remaining Ishvalan refugees. But, if anything this act of revenge has some grounds of justification for the Ishlavan survivor.
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