We’ve ranked Disney villains, and we love anime, so it just seemed like the logical next step was to talk about the best anime villains! There are so many to choose from with so many motivations, but I feel like I made a pretty compelling list for the absolute best.
These villains are the most fun to watch and the most devious when they need to get rid of something in their way. Major spoilers ahead, by the way, so be warned!
Tanya von Degurechaff- Saga of Tanya the Evil
Tanya is the least known of the anime villains on this list but also my personal favorite. To give a quick summary, she was a Japanese businessman who wanted to climb the corporate ladder and live a cushy life with a good job. Unfortunately for him, he was pushed in front of a train and reincarnated as a little girl.
To get the comfortable life he’d wanted in Japan, Tanya takes advantage of her newfound magic abilities and joins the military to try to climb the ranks and retire. War breaks out, though, and she often finds herself on the frontlines fighting for her life. Now that you know her background, it’s time to talk about the villainess herself.
Tanya is a sociopath. No way around it. She doesn’t care about anything other than living the cushy life she was denied in Japan and will do whatever it takes to get it in this life. It doesn’t help that she often has to fight the manipulations of “Being X,” which pushes her further into madness.
She will make whatever sacrifices she needs to as long as it’s profitable to her. Though she has the respect of her immediate comrades as a competent commander, the higher-ups in the military regard her as something more like a mad dog – which is a strange way to view a literal 12-year-old girl, but since when is anime realistic.
Kira Yoshikage- Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4
As pointed out by the person who got me into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, the great thing about Kira is that he’s kind of just a guy. He could actually exist in the real world as a serial killer. He’s (mostly) missing the ridiculous traits that make the rest of the series and characters part of the Jojo universe.
The thing about Kira is that you almost expect to see a documentary about his rise and fall a la Ted Bundy or something. Yes, he has superpowers, but the crux of his character isn’t about those powers. He’s lacking the crazy poses and actually does his best to be reserved around everyone else.
Kira is a pretty standard serial killer stereotype, doing his best to appear mild-mannered on the outside and never stand out. When he does show his true colors in violent, brutal outbursts, you better pray you aren’t a witness because you probably won’t live to tell the tale. As far as anime villains go, he’s the most realistic by far.
Lelouch vi Britannia- Code Geass
The crazy thing about Lelouch that really makes him memorable to me is that he never expected to enjoy his victory. He’s incredibly smart, and his elaborate plans spare no one. Anyone who stands in his way either needs to step aside or fall prey to his vengeance, friend or enemy. In the end, though, he knows he can’t have a happy ending after all he’s done.
So even his own demise is part of his plans. He brings an entire nation to its knees and gets rid of almost his entire family like the whole thing was a game of chess, but at the end of it all, he knows he can only do so much to get rid of the resentment people rightly feel toward him.
Lelouch is a complex character, and out of all the villains on the list, he’s the one you want to root for the most. The added element of the geass is a cherry on top to an already incredible story where morality is gray at best.
Kyubey- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, which definitely applies to this little monster. In the show, often shortened to Madoka Magic, Kyubey appears to young girls and offers to grant their wishes and turn them into magical girls.
The trick here is that the purpose of magical girls is to fight witches, who are actually corrupted, magical girls. The fate of all magical girls is- by the way- to turn into a witch and be defeated by new magical girls. Once a witch is defeated, it drops a “grief seed,” which stores energy. These grief seeds are the ultimate goal for Kyubey, who is simply looking for energy to send back to its homeworld.
The thing about Kyubey is that it is totally emotionless and doesn’t seem to feel anything. It doesn’t see what it’s doing as wrong, just the most effective way to collect energy, and it doesn’t care about the girls whose lives it’s destroying either.
The cute design and complete flip from the normal magical girl formula is what makes Kyubey such a memorable villain. And also, what makes any fan’s blood boil as they remember the big reveal.
Light Yagami- Death Note
This list wouldn’t be complete without Light “Kira” Yagami. Death Note is an amazing anime with fantastic characterizations and a compelling plot. Even when Light doesn’t know who he really is, the struggle between Light and L is just perfect. I’ll admit that after L is gone, the show goes downhill, but Kira and L’s chemistry up to that point is a defining relationship in anime.
With the power of the Death Note, Light becomes an arrogant and ruthless villain who believes himself to be infallible. He does whatever it takes to achieve his goals, even if that means sacrificing the people who care about him.
The fascinating part of Light’s story is what happens when he doesn’t have the Death Note. He actually becomes a genuinely good person. He even becomes friends with the person most determined to bring Kira to justice! The story of Death Note is literally the story of absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Shou Tucker – Fullmetal Alchemist
*deep breath* Okay, so I feel like I need to at least mention Shou Tucker. If you’ve seen Fullmetal Alchemist, you know exactly who this guy is. His character isn’t all that fleshed out, his story isn’t all that interesting, but I think out of everyone on the list, his actions are the evilest.
If you somehow missed watching one of the most popular animes ever and don’t know who he is or how a normal-looking guy could be considered such an evil villain: you should really watch Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s super popular for a reason. And, spoiler alert, Shou Tucker is on this list because he performed human experimentation on his own daughter.
Any fan of the show will have a violent reaction if you show them a picture of his stupid face or even just say “Ed… Ward”. The reveal of what he had done was traumatic to both characters in the show and audiences alike.
Team Rocket- Pokémon
Team Rocket are definitely the most harmless villains on the list. Honestly, I’m not even sure if you can qualify them as villains at this point. Like sure, they try to steal pokémon all the time but do they actually succeed? No. Plus, they’re actually kind of helpful sometimes, and they treat their own pokémon pretty well.
They’re just a fun team of goofballs who are terrible at their jobs and have been trying for over 20 years. Also, did you know their Japanese names are Musashi and Kojiro? The names Jessie and James were created for the American adaptation of the anime.
If you wanted to watch (or re-watch!) any of the series these anime villains are from, head on over to Crunchyroll.com. Crunchyroll has thousands of titles you can watch for free with some ads including subs, dubs, and simulcasts for new anime, which air mere hours after they’re release in Japan.
You can also go check out our list of the best Disney Villains for more nefarious content from us!
Which villain is your favorite?