Heroes are all well and good, but when it comes to great anime, there’s almost always an iconic villain bringing them to new heights. Whether they were a hitherto ally whose true agendas are laid bare, or a mustache-twirling tyrant without a hint of subterfuge, they are amongst the most compelling and intoxicating characters in any given narrative.
That’s why we’re here today to rank the best anime villains of all time. Like the medium itself, this list is always evolving and ever-changing as new seasons come and go, so be sure to check back in to see the risers and fallers of villainy!
*Please be advised, a significant spoiler warning is in effect.*
46. Shoei Baro (Blue Lock)
Including Baro on a list of villains may seem disingenuous at first. Just like his contemporaries, he is merely chasing his dream of soccer stardom, and the nature of Blue Lock means that he sometimes even works collaboratively with the protagonist, Isagi Yoichi.
He more fits the mold of a blowhard antihero, and yet, he makes such a major impact in his debut that you simply cannot look away. He presents the first hurdle for Team Z, showcasing brute force that allows him to dominate the field without any aid whatsoever. He scores all of his team’s goals in a 5-1 dismantling, establishing himself as the unrivalled alpha.
By the time the second selection rolls around, he is quickly realizing his own limitations and begins to lose his nerve. It’s completely unbecoming of someone of his stature — can the king retake his throne, or will he become a mere donkey like all the rest?
45. Vice Principal (The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, REALLY Love You)
Not every villain has to be taken seriously to leave an impression. The morally corrupt Vice Principal of Ohana-no-Mitsu High School is one such example, as her character is uproariously hilarious whenever she appears on-screen.
That being said, you would take her much more seriously if she were actually standing before you. Her bizarre visage, blinding speed, and capability to crawl up the walls would be bad enough, but she also has a wildly inappropriate desire to French kiss anyone foolish enough to run through the school hallways.
Once she’s got you in her sights, you’re pretty much doomed. She will chase you down, pin you to the floor, and send her serpentine tongue straight down your gullet. With all this considered, we would perhaps rather cross paths with some of the more respectable villains on this list if we had the choice.
44. Heathcliff (Sword Art Online)
When we first encounter the head honcho of the Knights of the Blood Oath, we instantly know that this guy is not to be trifled with. Possessing the strength and countenance of a fearless leader, he is able to overwhelm even Kirito in a duel that sees the latter forcibly enlisted with his guild.
As the players get deeper into the world of Aincrad, however, Heathcliff’s secret identity is unveiled: he is in fact Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of Sword Art Online and the one who has trapped everyone within the game world.
Considering his ability to make his avatar immortal if he so wished, the fact that Kayaba offered Kirito a chance to legitimately wound him — a steep task that the Black Swordsman is eventually able to achieve, putting his digital imprisonment to an end — shows that he at least had a chivalrous side to him.
43. Charles zi Britannia (Code Geass)
While he might not have held the same sense of unforgettability as other villains on this list, Charles zi Britannia of Code Geass is still one of the best anime villains around.
Cartoonishly imperialistic and cruel, this born and bred royal served as a perfect head of the militaristic Britannian Empire and its schemes. He ruled with an iron hammer of a fist, and saw no reason not to pound down ever problem whether it be foreign nations or his children’s need for love.
Granted, there was a reason for this: His childhood was fraught with assassination attempts, upper class infighting, and political maneuvering aplenty, all of which disgusted him. As such, he was desperate to create a better world, even if it came at the cost of millions of lives.
He was the perfectly overblown violence to Lelouch’s clever schemes, the series really did lose something important once his booming voice was silenced for good.
42. Tokushirou Tsurumi (Golden Kamuy)
The fact that Lt. Tokushirou Tsurumi stands out even among the insane cast of Golden Kamuy should be a dead giveaway to the fact that he’s one of the best anime villains around.
A scarred survivor of the Russo-Japanese War, he initially brings both his former subordinates and disillusioned soldiers under his command in order to create a new country for them. Eventually though, it’s revealed that he instead wishes to reclaim his former wife and child’s homeland so that they might finally rest in peace.
To that end, he’s willing to do anything to achieve his goals, and we do mean anything. This includes but is not limited to mutilating corpses, manipulating those with severe mental trauma, and staging a full-scale military assault against those that hold monetary assets he wishes to acquire.
It’s some heinous stuff, but his charisma and calculated insanity makes it a blast to watch play out. One can’t help but be pulled into his madness the whole way through, and his eventual comeuppance feels both satisfying and bittersweet given he’ll never be able to give another deranged monologue.
41. Izaya Orihara (Durarara!!)
In Durarara!!’s world full of gangs, supernatural entities, and humans that defy logic with their strength, Izaya Orihara is still one of the most dangerous and intriguing villains to be found.
Host to an unbroken streak of sinister dealings, this Machiavellian information broker is just as likely to help someone as he is to force them into a deadly game. He loves humans to the extent that they’re infinitely fun to toy with, and spends his life trying to find new ways to poke or prod them into doing something new and exciting.
Unfortunately, this usually means he’s responsible for creating all manner of hardships for everyone from kidnapped children to his scant beleaguered friends. The entire time, he’s cackling like a mad man, eagerly pulling new strings to see how his scheming will tear the city of Shinjuku apart.
If not for the fact that he finally gets smacked for his antics near the end of the series — and promptly runs away with his tail between his legs — he might have made it much higher on this list. Regardless, he’s one of the best anime villains ever, and will be hard to forget once you lay eyes on him.
40. Lügner (Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End)
Most of the fanfare during the skirmish between Frieren’s party and the demons invading Graf Granat’s Domain understandably goes towards Aura, the battalion leader and one of the Seven Sages of Destruction.
And yet, we are given more time to discover the charms of her underling Lügner, as he infiltrates the kingdom as an alleged envoy of peace in an attempt to make them lower their defenses. Like others of his kind, Lügner is cold and calculating, calmly negotiating his way through situations with his eyes firmly locked on his ulterior motives.
His pomposity is tastefully understated, and even though we know compassion is just a front for him, we cannot help but be intrigued by his gentlemanly demeanor. It is only in his dying moments that we see any true emotion, and it is one of absolute disgust.
39. Miranjo (Ranking of Kings)
While Ranking of Kings has plenty of villains to choose from in its first season, Miranjo is most the memorable thanks to her relatability.
Whereas others vie for power due to curses, feuds, and kingly responsibilities, this traumatized child-turned-malevolent schemer simply sought to achieve her own happiness. This was easier said than done though, as her desire to be with King Boss meant she’d need to not only help him achieve his dreams but also deal with anyone that came between them.
As a result, she made one poor decision after another, until she was enacting atrocities and evils that were just as bad as the ones brought unto her. Those she could have called allies fell to her schemes and murderous tactics until eventually even she was forced to face the lethal consequences of these choices. Even then, she was able to execute her schemes by placing her soul within a mirror, directing yet more plots and power grabs via her underlings.
It made the series’ first season that much more fun to watch play out, and the fact that it ended with her achieving a sort of redemption was all the more engaging. She was and is one of the best sympathetic villains out there, and manages to earn a place on our best anime villains list with ease.
38. Fyodor Dostoevsky (Bungo Stray Dogs)
Fyodor Dostoevsky is, to put it plainly, the worst villain possible in Bungo Stray Dogs.
Driven by a desire to see gifted eliminated from the world, he executes all manner of devious plans with a ruthless efficiency. There is no such thing as innocents during these operations either, as both civilians and the Gifted members of various organizations end up caught in the blast radius on multiple occasions.
His intellect and ability to manipulate others only further these ambitions, with several powerful figures joining his cause either due to similar views or careful manipulations on his part. And yet, he never sees any of them as more than pawns. He’s ready to dispose of them at a moment’s notice if they might threaten his success, and can do so with any number of schemes that he has set up for every occasion.
The fact that all of this is what makes him a terrifying villain, and not the fact that he’s a Gifted that can kill anyone with a single touch, should speak volumes. Time will tell exactly how far he’ll go before he’s finally stopped, and we can’t wait to watch the chaos unfold.
37. Tetta Kisaki (Tokyo Revengers)
While ambition is typically a positive quality to assign to a character, in the case of Tokyo Avengers’ Tetta Kisaki we can see the results of determination gone awry. Scheming and duplicitous, Kisaki possesses sinister motives as he infiltrates the Toman gang, with his eyes set firmly on ascending the ladder by any means necessary.
He is a brilliant young man with a keen understanding of how to manipulate others for his own nefarious gain, and capably out-maneuvers the well-intending Takemichi Hanagaki at every turn. Despite his best efforts, Takemichi returns to a future even worse than the one he had been trying to repair, having unknowingly furthered Kisaki’s agenda with his actions.
The brooding blond’s methods change from timeline to timeline, but one thing remains constant: his unscrupulous behavior will drag him to success, leaving a trail of bodies and dreams in his wake every single time.
36. Sakuma (Megalo Box)
As an anime that focuses on the futuristic sport of Megaloboxing, there is a veritable rogue’s gallery of potential in-ring rivals that could qualify from this list, with season 1’s champion, Yuri, serving as the most obvious.
It is not until NOMAD that we meet someone truly wicked, however, and he doesn’t even need to pick up a pair of gloves to stake his claim. Sakuma is a talented and enterprising inventor whose rapid ascension in the world of robotics has given him power and wealth. In the process, he has neglected the human aspect of his work, hiding critical information of potential dangers and risks to himself.
He is the definition of a sleazy techbro, grinning from ear to ear as he flaunts his public persona while secretly making cutthroat business decisions behind the scenes. In this pugilistic world, it is someone who couldn’t even throw a punch that proves the most dangerous of all.
35. Tsukasa Shishiou (Dr. Stone)
Initially revived by Senku Ishigami in an effort to provide some much needed muscle in his mission to restore the population, Tsukasa Shishiou soon finds the Stone World to be an opportunity to rid the world of evildoers. In his eyes, only a select few should be brought back, to prevent mankind from walking down the same path that had doomed it in his era.
Fundamentally his argument is a sound one, however to a scientific mind like Senku’s, dealing in such absolutes flies in the face of reason. It is only inevitable that the two would come to blows, and though Tsukasa treats his foe with utmost respect, he will not hesitate to strike a lethal blow against anyone who stands in his path.
Framed differently, The Strongest High School Primate could have been viewed as one of humanity’s greatest heroes. Unfortunately for him, history is written by the victors, and the flawed logic behind his world views blinded him from the treachery that was brewing within his own regime.
34. Touichirou Suzuki (Mob Psycho 100)
The saying that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” fits perfectly for Mob Psycho II’s Touichirou Suzuki. Ever since middle school, this powerful Esper succeeded in everything he did, all thanks to his natural magical powers.
These psychic powers only improved as time went on, causing Suzuki to rely on them more and more, giving him confidence along the way. The older he got, the more brash he became, acting the complete opposite of Mob, thinking that this power made him untouchable. This causes him to plot world domination, as he founds Claw for that purpose.
Over the next 20 years, he recruits, manipulates, and kidnaps Espers to form an army to accomplish his goal of world domination at any cost. Suzuki is the first real threat the show presents, as his fight with Mob is one that we aren’t sure the lovable young protagonist can actually win for once. There is also plenty of nuance to the character, as the show features plenty of backstory about his family that comes back around for a satisfying payoff in the end.
33. Riz (Beastars)
From the outset of Beastars, one of the major mysteries revolves around the grizzly murder of drama club member, Tem. The alpaca’s death on school grounds creates tension between the carnivorous students and the herbivorous ones, with suspicion brewing as to who could have done such a wicked thing.
His friend and fellow drama club member, Riz, doesn’t necessarily jump out as a likely suspect. He is kind and helpful, and a background character for the most part. As the tribulations of the carnivores become more clear, however, we learn that Riz has been taking government-mandated strength inhibitors that give him terrible headaches.
When he lapsed on these meds, he gave into temptation and devoured his classmate. Now trying desperately to justify this act in his mind, Riz’s mind has become twisted and perverse; he believes that eating Tem was the ultimate display of friendship, and unless he’s stopped, it’s only a matter of time until he does it again. The juxtaposition of his friendly smile with his sickening rationale makes for an intimidating foe.
32. Rachel (Tower of God)
The best antagonists in anime are usually the ones you never seen coming; doubly so when you not only consider them to be the protagonist’s friend but also his reason for living and possible love interest. That is what makes Rachel in Tower of God so deliciously despicable at the end of season one.
Throughout the entire season of Tower of God, we are led to believe that Bam will be able to find the person who saved him, as that is all he’s ever wanted. It doesn’t take long for him to do this, as he finds Rachel just a few episodes in. The weird part is she denies being the girl he is looking for until a bit down the line.
When Bam eventually finds out she is indeed Rachel, he not only forgives her but even puts his life and stake at climbing The Tower on the line for her to make sure she can climb it too. All of this, only to be pushed to his supposed death when they were on the verge of succeeding by Rachel, who was faking being crippled in order to lull Bam into a situation where he was vulnerable.
A flashback shows how unhinged Rachel had become since first meeting Bam, as she became jealous of his natural abilities with the magic of Shinsu and even his talent of making friends. Feeling he would leave her behind, she chooses to try and kill him while also lying about his death for pity. As the prologue ends, she states that she is now the protagonist, not knowing that Bam survived and will surely return looking for answers.
31. Garou (One Punch Man)
Garou is a classic example of what happens when society isn’t kind to children, turning them into monsters as a result. In Garou’s case, that is actually kind of literal.
When he was younger, Garou never ended up getting picked as a hero when he’d play Heroes vs Monsters with the other younger kids. Since the heroes always win in the end, the youngster would always be on the losing side of things. Due to this, he began to sympathize with the monster’s plight of always losing, even routing for them when watching TV shows, hoping they could pull out a win.
When he got older, Garou took this to a new extreme, honing his martial arts skills to the point where he is almost unstoppable and using them to become the ultimate monster. In a few episodes, we see him take down a ridiculous amount of top-tier heroes. He becomes so dangerous that a group of high-ranking heroes from the association band together and attack him while he is injured, yet he still comes out on top.
Like a lot of other villains on this list, Garou isn’t just a clear-cut bad guy, though. He’s shown to care for children, even putting his life on the line for one of them. Also, despite how much he talks about killing his opponents, just about everyone we’ve seen him fight doesn’t die, though he does brutalize them. This depth makes him one of the most interesting characters in all of One Punch Man.
30. Yano (Odd Taxi)
Odd Taxi definitely lives up to its name when it comes to some characters, as the show is filled with eccentric anthropomorphic characters that protagonist Odokawa interacts with throughout the show. No character is more unconventional than the villainous porcupine that is Yano.
While he may only come off as a minor villain at first in Odd Taxi, there is no denying that Yano steals the show by the end of it. This 27-year-old gangster is both clever and ruthless, not caring who he has to hurt to get his way in order to move up the ranks of the Yakuza.
His feats across the first season of the show includes running badger games, kidnapping, and torturing, just to name a few. Oh, and the best part? Pretty much the entire time he is doing all of this, he is making insane hand gestures and rapping about everything that is going on. It seems ridiculous, but it is actually pretty interesting and intimidating, as it shows that Yano cares so little about the pain he is causing that he can casually rap about it.
29. En (Dorohedoro)
On paper, Dorohedoro is a weird concept, as it is a show where a lizard-man, Caiman, is attempting to find out the wizard who cursed him so that he can get back to his old body. To do so, he must shove them in his mouth and have the guy who lives in there get a good look at them to see if they were indeed the one who did it.
Despite this weird premise, the show is still relatable, fun, and hilarious. A lot of this has to do with the characters, as Caimen, Nikaido, and every other resident of The Hole are well-written despite being a bunch of weirdos. The true beauty of the show, though, is that even the villainous Wizards have some down-to-earn personalities, especially En.
As the leader of the En Family and a man who can turn people into mushrooms using magic, you wouldn’t expect to actually like the villain of Dorohedoro at first glance. However, as the show goes on, plenty of time is devoted to this villain and his troupe of delinquents, to the point where they are almost as much the main characters as Caimen.
Thanks to this, we get an interesting perspective on En, showing that he has human qualities and traits despite being a monster. We see him care about and take in people like Ebisu and Fujita even though they are useless with magic and life, simply because he likes them.
En is one of those villains that you know you shouldn’t like, but you simply can’t help but enjoy, no matter what terrible things he does.
28. Washijo Tanji (Haikyuu!!)
It is hard to really say that anyone is a villain in Haikyuu, as even the antagonists are really just players that want to win, even if they can be annoying or blunt about it. If anyone fits the role of a villain in the show, though, it would definitely be Washijo Tanji.
Introduced for the first time during the finals, this Shiratorizawa is as ruthless as they come in volleyball, valuing height over anything. Now, that isn’t to say he doesn’t use his players that have skills to his advantage, but when it comes down to it, the tallest players will always get the most attention.
This mindset doesn’t even change when he sees how well Shoyo Hinata, who is considerably short for a volleyball player, does against them, choosing not to invite him to the All-Japan Youth Camp when it was clear he was deserving. When the eager Karasuno middle blocker sneaks into the camp, the coach doesn’t let him play, making him be ball boy to players he had already beaten.
27. Crocodile (One Piece)
Crocodile is such a fun One Piece villain. He’s got style and intelligence, and is pretty intimidating when he wants to be.
Unlike a lot of villains on this list, though, Crocodile actually gets points because he isn’t the worst guy on the planet. He is always laughing, isn’t entirely sadistic, and even saves Luffy and Ace from certain death during the Marineford arc.
Don’t get me wrong, he is definitely evil, always opposing Luffy and friends, but he isn’t the worst cliche villain that just wants to rule the world. That complexity has continued throughout his impressive run, as he’s managed to stay relevant throughout almost the entire series, making him an excellent choice for the best villains list.
26. Walter C. Dornez (Hellsing)
Throughout the entirety of the Hellsing series, fans came to love Walter Dornez, as the butler’s banter with Alucard and his loyalty to Integra made for an excellent character. As the show goes on though, we see that jealousy toward the vampire has grown too great, driving him to millennium and a path toward villainy.
Eventually, Walter ends up fighting against Alucard and Integra, doing his best to kill the vampire in a 1 on 1 fight with his new powers. At one point during the fight, he reveals that he foresaw Richard’s attempted coup and assassination attempt and did nothing to stop it.
This was just one of the many dastardly deeds Walter ended up committing, making him a villain in secret almost all along. His betrayal is still one of the hardest ones to stomach in all of anime, as he really was a likable character that just let a thirst for power consume him, turning him from an anime hero to a villain.
25. Bryan Hawk (Hajime no Ippo)
Belligerent, lazy, and disrespectful, Bryan Hawk is everything Hajime no Ippo fans learned to tolerate about series regular Takamura cranked up to 11.
Presented as Takamura’s barrier of entry to the world championship, Hawk revels in disrespecting his opponent and the sport at every turn. He slacks off on his training, attacks civilians at his leisure, and takes pride in offending everyone around him.
Worse yet is that he has the talent to back it up. As soon as someone is provoked by his antics, he quickly strikes them down with his natural strength and skills, laughing like a madman all the while.
It’s all strikingly similar to Takamura’s own bad behavior but taken that last step toward too far. As a result, it’s hard not to be wrapped with anticipation episode to episode as Takamura slugs it out with the smug bastard.
At the same time though, his tenure is short-lived. Yes, it was almost a given Takamura would have to beat him for the story to continue, but in the grand scheme of things, he becomes a footnote.
It’s a bit of a bummer, but he still manages to make a sizable impact in the time he has.
24. Ry? Asuka (Devilman Crybaby)
The sociopathic yin to Akira “Devilman” Fudo’s empathetic yang, Ry? Asuka is everything his friend is not. Caring only for Akira and driven by his own self-interests, Ry? revels in manipulating, killing, and otherwise hurting others because it’s what he wants and thinks is right.
For most of the series, this means dragging Akira and the rest of humanity into his unexplainable desire to reveal the existence of demons. This, in turn, sparks paranoia and carnage on an untold scale when he succeeds, all of which he barely bats an eye at.
Shortly thereafter, the reason behind this is revealed: Unbeknownst to Akira or even himself, Ry? is Satan and wished for nothing more than humanity’s extinction. Upon realizing this, he confronts his friend, believing it’s what he wants more than anything.
It’s downright evil, but also a little sad given the outcome. It’s not until after he succeeds that Ry? realizes Akira meant more to him than this goal.
Not only that but he is punished by God to relive the mistake for eternity, constantly revived, and set to repeat the same mistake.
It’s tragic, to say the least, and even if it makes him appear a bit hopeless in his endeavors, it certainly cements him as a symbol of evil that’s hard to forget.
23. Seijūrō Akashi (Kuroko no Basuke)
Though he is not nearly as physically intimidating as his former junior high teammates Aomine and Murasakibara, Teiko’s former captain was still able to rule with an iron fist thanks to his menacing presence and Emperor Eye.
Akashi believes his power to be absolute, dictating his team’s offense with a calm calculation. Though their quiet demeanors may bear similarities, Akashi’s philosophy on basketball proves an antithesis to Tetsuya Kuroko’s; where the latter works diligently to amplify and uplift the abilities of his teammates, the crimson-haired point guard merely uses those around him to satisfy his goals.
It is later revealed that the duality of his personality is a by-product of his own self doubt, serving as a veritable id that allows him to perform far past his natural acumen. In shedding this, he is able to see the potential that always dwelled within and regain the modicum of humanity he had forsaken in service of his ambition.
Much like the other sports anime cast members on this list, Akashi isn’t a villain in the truest sense, and even re-teams with Kuroko to defend Japan’s honor against Team Jabberwock. But you’d best believe that when you’re facing him on the court, he can intimidate and overwhelm you with the very best of them.
22. Kong Wenge (Ping Pong the Animation)
Kong Wenge wields neither sword nor firearm as his weapon. He carries only a tiny ping pong paddle and his sizable ego into battle. Despite this, his journey from conceited prodigy to fallen star makes him one of the most compelling antagonists you will ever see in anime.
When we first meet this Chinese athlete, he serves as a harrowing reminder of the dangers of arrogance. He is aloof, short tempered and self absorbed, and could be a potential view into the future for Peco himself. Because he has never been properly challenged, he estranges himself from others, treating even his teammates as below him.
His defeat shatters his whole world, and instead of rising to the challenge, he begins a disastrous fall from grace. Normally, overcoming the bad guy is something we celebrate in storytelling, however being taken behind the veil of Kong’s psyche shows just how he came to be this way, ultimately making us change course and cheer on his return to form.
21. Gendo Ikari (Evangelion Series)
A frequent contender and even winner of “Worst Anime Dad of All Time”, Gendo Ikari symbolizes everything someone shouldn’t aim to be as a father or person.
After abandoning his son Shinji following the loss of his wife, Gendo gets back in touch with him once he realizes Shinji is the key to piloting the EVA Unit 01 and fighting off giant alien monsters known as Angels.
Despite Shinji’s opposition to the idea and the danger he would be put in by piloting it, Gendo pressures him until he agrees. From there, he keeps up this emotional abuse to keep Shinji in the cockpit, slowly wearing away at the boy’s psyche.
Worse yet, it’s revealed he didn’t even care about saving the world. Instead, he wished to sabotage an evil plan by his superiors and reshape the world in his own image, sacrificing Shinji in the process.
Or at least, that’s the best idea most viewers have of his ambitions. Like the series he’s in, his plans can be a bit vague, and his final plot comes almost out of nowhere only to fail just as fast.
As a result, he’s easily one of the most self-serving anime villains around, with his poor parenting skills only worsening his image with time.
20. Kyubey (Madoka Magica)
On the surface, this small two-foot-long cat-like creature seems like an adorable little plush toy that you just want to squeeze. Anyone who has seen Madoka Magica knows that Kyubey is anything but cute, though, and that it is really a manipulative, selfish being.
His race, the incubators, essentially treat humans like farm animals, using their souls as the source of their magic. Sure, his intentions may simply be to ensure that the universe doesn’t entropy, which obviously isn’t evil in theory.
The problem is that Kyubey prioritizes the continuation of the universe at the sacrifice of the individuals that live in it. He also seems to be a bit of a sadist, torturing Sayaka to show why would gems are necessary for no other reason than that she was treating him with contempt.
19. All for One (My Hero Academia)
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, or at least it did for My Hero Academia’s big bad All for One.
Blessed with the quirk to steal any person’s superpower and repurpose it as his own, All for One used his abilities to take over the world and establish a near-insurmountable regime.
He then maintained it with his sharp intellect, outwitting his opponents with devious plans. Innocents were killed or left to live in fear, all while the world sunk into chaos most thought inescapable. They would have stayed that way too, if not for All Might and his mentors’ efforts to topple him.
Even after being defeated though, his plans remained in motion. Now, however, they centered around torturing those who defeated him.
So far, this has taken the form of raising the grandchild of All Might’s mentor into a villain and helping him form a league of Villains to disrupt the peace made in his absence.
Really, all that holds him back from ranking higher is the fact that he still has room to improve. With the series ongoing and his life still unextinguished, there’s no telling what else he has in store for the world of heroes.
18. Mahito (JuJutsu Kaisen)
While it is completely understandable that, like humans, cursed spirits want to live a full and free life in accordance with their own beliefs, that doesn’t justify the terrible actions of Mahito in Jujutsu Kaisen. Ever since this blue-haired, stitched-up spirit arrives on the scene in the show, nothing but bad things occur.
In a few short episodes, he places the Sukuna finger at Junpei’s house, getting the boy’s mother killed by an evil spirit. As soon as he finds her body, Junpei is then manipulated by Mahito into fighting Yuji and causing havoc throughout the school.
As soon as Mahito accomplishes his goal of luring Yuji and Sukuna to the school, he then transforms Junpei into a spirit right in front of his friend, effectively killing him. All of this and the villain has only appeared in like a quarter of the episodes of the series so far.
With more seasons sure to flesh him out even more, Mahito is going to be one scary anime villain. He shows little to no remorse for his actions, thinking of them more as a game, and it seems like he is only sure to get stronger the older he gets.
17. Johan Liebert (Monster)
Monster is the kind of series that lulls viewers into comfort before dropping the hammer, so it’s little surprise its villain Johan Liebert does the same.
Unassuming in almost every regard, Johan is typically ignored or forgotten by almost everyone he meets. Sure, some may have a passing memory of seeing him here or there, but he’s otherwise able to blend in and disappear at his leisure.
This is exactly what he prefers though. A psychopath raised as a secret government operative since birth, he escaped his captive life and sought to use his skills on the world’s populace in secret.
Sometimes, this means manipulating others into helping him commit murders. Other times, it means toying with their weaknesses and emotions until they’re pushed to the brink, going mad or killing themselves.
He does this all from the shadows, and almost as soon as his twisted games are over he vanishes again to avoid detection.
He may not have any grand ambitions or overarching evil plot for the world, but that only serves to make his behavior all the more twisted and off-putting.
16. Frieza (Dragon Ball Z)
A space tyrant that embodies the concept of Shonen Power Creep, Frieza has made his mark as the de facto villain of the Dragon Ball universe time and time again.
Armed with legions of soldiers and a nearly unparalleled potential to become more powerful, this cruel alien emperor revels in proving his might. He crushes the strongest warriors of a planet for leisure and destroys civilizations on a regular basis.
This includes the powerful Saiyans, who after cowering into submission were annihilated in an instant on the off chance one of them could have stood up to him.
Worse yet is that this brutal strategy proved effective. Blessed with natural strength and talent for growth, he easily mops the floor with almost any enemy he comes across, transforming and becoming more powerful at his leisure.
As a result, no one has a hope of defeating him… Until he meets the Z Warriors. After that, he’s killed time and again, caught in a constant struggle against them to regain his superiority.
It does diminish his terrifying ambitions a little, but given that he continues to spread his terrible influence across galaxies while this happens, it’s little wonder he remains the series’ worst threat and an iconic anime villain.
15. Sōsuke Aizen (Bleach)
Cunning, calculated, and always privy to a backup plan, Sōsuke Aizen is the definition of a scheming mastermind.
Initially portraying himself as one of Bleach’s more pacifistic Soul Reapers, this evil genius hid his ambitions of overthrowing the order of the Soul Society and escalating his own powers for nigh on decades.
All the while, he planned and plotted meticulously for every outcome and possibility. Even the birth and arrival of Ichigo Kurosaki comes as little surprise to him, with his plans factoring in his arrival to use the wild card to his advantage.
This admittedly escalates to the point of being convoluted and a stretch at times, but more often than not it distinguishes him as a true threat to the protagonists’ strategy of making it up as they go along.
In the end, it’s only through the entire cast of characters coming together against him that he’s taken down. Even then he’s only detained, with his powers too great to fully extinguish.
This leaves him to sit in solitude for eternity, watching the Soul Society continue to march on and plotting his next great vie for power.
14. Char Aznable (Gundam)
Char Aznable encapsulates a lot of what an anime villain is and should be, and has for basically the entirety of the Gundam series’ decades-long existence.
A master mech pilot with near-superhuman abilities, Char commands those around him with an almost supernatural presence. Those below him are rapt in deep awe and respect, while those he faces are overwhelmed by his confidence and skill.
He puts this to good use too. In the short time he serves as a pilot for the Principality of Zeon, he skyrockets to the top of the ranks, gaining prestige and power in abundance.
This is all done toward the completion of his own goals and ambitions, most of which end in the double-crossing of those who wronged him and his family years before.
It’s all a little stock and straightforward by today’s standards, but for its time — and especially for the Gundam series — it works wonderfully. Amid all of the war-time drama, Char emerges as a rogue player who controls and uses the conflict as he pleases.
It’s no surprise, then, that almost every villain in the series has sought to imitate him. He remains iconic and retains his reputation as an unforgettable antagonist.
13. Younger Toguro (Yu Yu Hakusho)
For the Younger Toguro, all that ever mattered was power. An unmatchable martial artist and demon hunter in his youth, Toguro was consumed by his fear of growing old and feeble the longer he lived.
This fueled his decision to betray humanity and wish for immortality and eternal youth from demons, joining the ranks of that which he once despised and hunted.
What followed were years of terror and torment at his hands, his strength unmatchable by all that he encountered. Humans and demons alike fell by his hands, all as he reveled in his eternal strength.
To be sure, his motivations are a little lackluster compared to other villains. Where others seek to destroy the world, he settles for worthwhile opponents, oftentimes sparing those he beats in the hopes that they’ll become stronger.
And yet, this makes him all the more enthralling as a villain. His motivations are clear, his goals are understandable and his threat is undeniable.
He’s a near-perfect enemy for the series’ protagonists, an obstacle to their progress, a foreboding specter of their own weaknesses and insecurities, and a warning of what could befall anyone if they were ever consumed by their fears.
12. Muzan Kibutsuji (Demon Slayer)
Anytime a character refers to themselves as the Demon King, there is a good chance that they’ll probably be an anime villain. Simply being a villain doesn’t even begin to describe Demon Slayer antagonist Muzan Kibutsuji, though.
Before we are ever even introduced to this character, his villainous acts pile up, as we learn that he is responsible for the death of Tanjiro’s entire family and for turning Nezuko into a demon.
When we do actually see Tanjiro meet the man who murdered his family, he simply turns a man into a demon to keep the slayer from getting in his way. He doesn’t care who he has to sacrifice or kill, as long as he stays on top.
His fearmongering and murderous rage isn’t simply limited to humans, though, as he is known to kill and curse demons simply for even uttering his name. You need to look no further than his meeting with the Lower Ranks in the first season to see this, as he slaughters all but one for not being bloodthirsty enough.
11. Knives Millions (Trigun)
Homicidal maniac? Or tortured product of his environment? Your perspective of Knives Millions can vary wildly based on your own interpretation of his history, but one thing is for sure: he will carry out his destiny with a cruel and twisted kind of satisfaction.
Raised alongside his twin brother Vash aboard a space craft intended to seek new settlements, Knives is actually a sentient Plant; a species harvested by humans for energy consumption. Upon learning of the inherent wickedness of homo sapiens, Knives resolves to wipe all mankind from existence. He views the human race as parasitic, and cannot believe how Vash does not share his viewpoint.
Contradictory to his altruistic claims, Knives very clearly enjoys inflicting suffering upon people, even revelling in the way he tortures his own sibling to prove a point. Unlike other villains with a justifiable agenda, there is no hint of goodness left within Knives. He operates plainly, methodically, and transparently, to rebuild the world in his image — woe betide any who would question his authority.
10. Zeke Yeager (Attack on Titan)
When Attack on Titan first started airing, it was hard to detest anyone more than Annie, Bertholdt, and Reiner, the three members of the 104th Survey Corp regiment that were the Titans responsible for all the carnage. That is until Zeke Yeager, the Beast Titan comes around.
On top of the fact that he just has a smug design, this cocky and smart young man is responsible for so much of what transpires throughout the show. Not only does he turn his father and mother in as restorationists, but he also comes up with the majority of the plans that kill the characters we care about in Paradis.
The rocks he hurled during the climax of the third season decimated almost the entire Survey Corps, killing supporting characters like Klaus, Marlene, and Marlo. His most unforgivable act is being the one responsible for killing fan-favorite character and leader of the regiment, Erwin Smith.
While we may have gotten a bit more of an understanding of why he is the way he is in the final season, it still doesn’t forgive what he has done and the way he has done it. Evil in the name of the greater good is still evil.
9. Dio Brando (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Given how over the top Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure can be, it’s little surprise that it gave birth to one of the most over-the-top and bombastic anime villains of all time.
Originally the son of a shameless criminal, Dio Brando was raised under one core belief: Do whatever ensures your own survival. Abiding by this creed, he lives only for himself, stealing, killing, and doing whatever it takes to get ahead.
These aren’t generalities either. In the first few episodes of the show alone, he throws a dog into a furnace, poisons his adoptive father for his inheritance and nearly unleashes a vampire horde onto 19th century England to advance his own ambitions.
And that’s only at the start of the series. Using his vampiric powers, he survives for generations and kicks off a new threat to the world over a century later; and, while he’s at it, unleashes the power of stands upon the world.
Really, his only downfall is that he’s always overconfident. Instead of dealing with the Joestars and their allies immediately, he always gets caught up in the theatrics of his plots and pays dearly for it every time.
Still though, when he takes center stage as the series’ villain, it’s hard not to be enraptured by his antics and absurd sense of ambition.
8. King Bradley (Fullmetal Alchemist)
Though he may have only been the pawn in his Father’s plot, King Bradley proved the better anime villain of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and beyond.
Raised from birth by the Homunculus Father for the position of Amestria’s ruler, Bradley’s abilities were enhanced past the point of being super-human by injecting him with the Philosopher’s Stone.
This boon granted him with the all-seeing eye, allowing him to see each and every detail around him whether he was negotiating with political opponents or dodging bullets on the battlefield.
However, this came at a cost. Gone were every other emotion in him except wrath, which he utilized to rule the country and expand its influence.
Ishvala and so many other nations were trampled and stamped with ruthless efficiency, all for the sake of his Father’s greater ambitions.
And yet, beneath this baleful demeanor, an unnervingly human personality resided. Where the other Homunculi looked down on humanity, the remnants of it left within him respected and envied what he once was and never could be again.
As a result, his eventual defeat is both vindicating and somber. For all of his evil deeds, he managed to hold onto some humanity to the end, souring the victory of the series’ protagonists ever so slightly.
7. Madara Uchiha (Naruto Shippuden)
The epitome of a shinobi warrior, Madara Uchiha embodies the spirit of his age as well as the defiance of outdated mindsets refusing to fade away.
Raised in an age of war and conflict, Madara embodied everything he needed to be to survive the world around him. Fast, cunning, and privy to god-like ninjutsu, he crushed almost all who came up against him.
This served him well enough during times of war, but when the world turned to peace, he found himself at odds with others on how to achieve it.
Where they sought to let people strive for it themselves, he sought to use his power to force them into submitting to his views on how peace should be achieved.
This led to his falling out with his allies, his defeat by their hands, and his eventual plot to rule the world through an endless jutsu, all while he manipulated and crushed any who opposed him.
Needless to say, he served as a great enemy for Naruto and his allies; or at least, he did while he served as the main antagonist.
Once he was outdone by the series’ “true” big bad, his ambitions and presence were diminished a bit, if only because his plans fell apart because of the trope of a bigger and badder anime villain being in the shadows.
For the time he was in control though, Madara proved himself an anime villain on par with the best of them and established the highest bar for Naruto’s long list of enemies.
6. Hisoka (Hunter X Hunter)
Everyone in Hunter X Hunter is searching for something, and though his pursuits may be twisted, Hisoka is no different.
A devious killer and master Nen user, Hisoka is driven by his desire to find and kill strong opponents. Be they young children or master criminals, he’ll pursue them to the ends of the Earth with a bloodlust on par with a wild predator’s.
Likewise, he doesn’t care what happens to himself or others in this pursuit. Mass civilian casualties, the loss of his allies, or even the loss of his own limbs barely phases him, so long as he gets to fight with someone that tests his limits.
As a result, he more often than not embodies chaos incarnate, wreaking havoc in his pursuit of battle and leaving a mountain of corpses behind him.
Needless to say, this puts him at odds with the series’ protagonists at regular intervals. Not only do Gon and his friends fit the bill for what he seeks, but they often take on enemies that prove to be exactly what Hisoka is looking for.
And yet, this also serves to make him all the more interesting.
Where other villains might strike out at the protagonists and heroes immediately, Hisoka schemes, allies himself with and double-crosses people regularly, always finding the best angle to work in order to reach his goals.
He may not be a world-ending anime villain with seismic ambitions, but he’s undeniably interesting to see at work.
5. Gilgamesh (Fate Series)
While the Holy Grail wars are meant to be fought by heroes of legend, Gilgamesh certainly makes the case for legendary villains being in the mix as well.
An ancient king who desired to own everything he could get his hands on, Gilgamesh is driven by greed and his own interests at any given moment.
This includes when he is summoned to fight in the Holy Grail War, with his “master” only able to control him by the barest definition of the word.
Worse yet, he’s vastly more powerful than most any other contender in the war. Able to summon weapons from his vault of possessions, he can rain down death in an instantaneous, bloody storm of destruction.
As a result, the life or death struggle everyone else sees themselves in is little more than a passing distraction for him. Instead, he bides his time and amuses himself with battle, confident he’ll come out on top.
This leads to his eventual downfall, but right up to that point it’s hard not to believe he’ll get away with his arrogance. He’s an anime villain that embodies overpowered adversaries and remains a near indomitable force to his dying breath.
4. Bondrewd (Made in Abyss)
Made in Abyss may be filled with Lovecraftian horrors out for flesh and blood, but they’ve got nothing on this sociopathic monster.
Acclaimed as one of the Abyss’ most renowned explorers, Bondrewd embodies the deepest depths one can go to in order to survive the Abyss. No option is too inhumane, no length is too drastic to take and no boundary is to be left uncrossed.
Case in point: He uses humans as test subjects for his research on the Abyss’ curse and effects, turning even children into pain-ridden lumps of flesh in the pursuit of ways to uncover the pit’s secrets.
As a result, he’s spoken of in hushed whispers and dire warnings to the protagonists, his influence felt even hundreds of thousands of feet above the facilities he commands.
On one hand, it’s easy to hate such a self-interested monster. Several dozen, if not hundreds of people, have suffered by his hands, and more still will continue to suffer as time goes on.
On the other hand, he simply found a way to do what every character in the show wishes to do. By whatever means necessary, he survived the Abyss’ horrors and struggles to continue to do so.
It’s a tough line to walk, but Bondrewd does it with a horrifying beauty, and with more to be seen of him in the series’ future there’s no telling how much higher he could rise – or lower he could sink as an all-time great anime villain.
3. Shogo Makishima (Psycho-Pass)
In a dystopian future where crimes are determined before they’re even committed, Shogo Makishima poses the ultimate threat.
An anomaly that the system can’t detect, Makishima is able to commit crimes without detection. This includes theft, conspiring to attack someone, and even cold-blooded murder.
He’s not shy about using this to his advantage either. Inquisitive as to why he is this way and determined to bring down the Sybil System, he tests the limits of his “gift” by orchestrating events that throw the world around him into chaos.
It’s for this reason that he temporarily brings down the digital law enforcement programs, driving all of Japan into a state of frenzy and panic as crimes are committed by anyone and everyone with little to no consequence.
It’s devious, to say the least, but it becomes unnerving when the core drive of his actions – freeing people up to make their own decisions again, without surveillance – becomes clear and, most terrifyingly, logical.
He’s the type of anime villain who found the worst way possible to try and improve the world, and for all of the pain and chaos he causes, there’s a horrible, lingering question left behind: Was there some good and truth to what he believed?
2. Light Yagami (Death Note)
When someone’s goal is to become a god through murder and deception, chances are they’re a pretty insidious anime villain, and Light Yagami is no exception.
A young man with a genius intellect, Light stumbles upon the Death Note at a young age and quickly realizes its power to kill anyone is no joke.
Instead of getting rid of it though, he hatches a plan. He’ll kill everyone he deems a criminal, becoming the ruler and god of the new world he creates.
It’s a fine idea on paper – at least in terms of ridding the world of crime and suffering – but in execution, this ambition quickly corrupts him worse than he already was.
In addition to criminals, Light also manipulates and kills almost everyone around him he deems a threat. Policemen, investigators, and even his own family fall victim to his plotting, all while he continues to advance his plans.
The worst part is, even after he’s brought down for his crimes, he gets his wish. Some in the world idolize him for his actions, making him a person of worship long after his death.
1. Griffith (Berserk)
Griffith did nothing wrong; at least, not by his own drives and ambitions.
A peasant who grew to become the leader of his own mercenary band, Griffith was a self-driven man who pursued his desires with unparalleled efficiency.
No matter the situation or obstacle, he found a way to overcome them, whether that meant facing down an army of thousands or assassinating a country’s leaders.
All the while, he amassed a legion of friends and followers who would follow him to hell and back, caring for him as much or more than he cared for them.
As a result, they were dragged down with him when his ambitions saw him imprisoned, tortured, and maimed. They cared little though, risking life and limb to save him and help him salvage a life with what he had left.
That wasn’t enough for Griffith though. When given the option to become a demon and continue the pursuit of his dreams, he wholeheartedly accepted it; even though it came at the cost of sacrificing the lives of each and every one of his friends and allies.
So yes, Griffith did nothing wrong by himself. By everyone else though, he did them the worst of injustices, and continues to do so with each breath he takes as arguably the worst anime villain of all time.