Anime villains are often complex and multifaceted characters that drive the narrative and create conflict for the heroes. From the brilliant Light Yagami of Death Note and the ambitious and power-hungry Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII to the sadistic and unpredictable Hisoka of Hunter x Hunter, these anime villains have left a lasting impression on viewers with their intrigue and evil deeds.
Each character is memorable in their own way and plays a crucial role in the stories they inhabit, making them some of the most captivating and enduring characters in anime films and literature. Their malice, intelligence, charisma, and psychological depth or quarks that serve as their redeeming attributes also seemingly contribute to their final retribution, a captivating dynamic that holds viewers’ psyches. This list explores some of the most enthralling villains in the anime space.
10 Zabuza Momochi – Naruto
Zabuza Momochi, also known as the Demon of the Hidden Mist, is a powerful and feared ninja from Kirigakure village. He is renowned for his deadly swordsmanship and ability to control water-based attacks. In Naruto, Zabuza is willing to go to any lengths to complete his mission, including killing civilians and attacking his opponents without mercy. He gained the moniker “Demon of The Hidden Mist” when he slaughtered every candidate in Kirigakure’s Academy, showcasing his aggression, arrogance, cruelty, and coldness.
Zabuza is known for his brutal and efficient fighting style, using his giant sword, Kubikiribocho, to easily slice through his enemies. Despite his ruthless efficiency, he has a code of honor and a gentler side, as seen in his loyalty to those he serves and his care for his apprentice, Haku, whom he views as a younger brother. His willingness to use his own men as pawns to attain his goals and a cynical view of the world make him one of the best villains in anime.
9 Orochimaru – Naruto
Many agree that Naruto is one of the best anime films ever created. The complexity and richness of its characters make it a perfect show to binge and love. Orochimaru is one of the most formidable characters in this show, exemplified by his cunning, outrageous, and psychopathic actions. From betraying and attempting to kill his own mentor, Hiruzen Sarutobi, to gain more power and experimenting on living beings, including his own students and allies, to achieve immortality to committing acts of mass destruction and causing widespread suffering in his pursuit of power and knowledge, Orochimaru is one mindboggling and complexly mad character you’d love to hate or hate to love.
As a villain, he is driven by a deep yearning for power, control, and knowledge and his willingness to do whatever it takes as a means to an end. Orochimaru’s transformation and regenerative abilities, as well as his willingness to take on the appearance and abilities of others, add an element of mystery and intrigue to his character as an intelligent psycho, making him a formidable opponent.
8 Envy – Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series gave anime film lovers one of the most intriguing villains. With a complex personality and motivation, including jealousy, bitterness, grudge, resentfulness, and actions often out of a deep need to be loved and accepted, Envy is one strange but understandable character. As a shapeshifter, Envy can take on the appearance of any living being, giving him the element of mystery and intrigue. These attributes allow him to manipulate others, acting as a formidable foil to the main characters.
From sabotaging the relationships and efforts of the main characters, often out of jealousy or wanting to see them suffer, to killing people to create conflict and chaos, the character enjoys the suffering of others and takes pleasure in their misery. Envy’s actions often aim to sow discord, making him one of the best villains in anime films.
7 Hisoka – Hunter x Hunter
We cannot talk about multifaced and sadistic characters in anime while leaving out Hisoka from the Hunter x Hunter series, one of the most unpredictable and extremely skilled and deadly fighters in anime films. Hisoka has incredible strength and fighting abilities that are highly intelligent, strategic, and able to anticipate and counter his opponents’ moves. His lust for battle and killing: his obsession with finding strong opponents to fight and kill, taking pleasure in causing suffering and death, and his sadistic and highly manipulative and deceitful actions make him one strange character to contend with but highly enthralling.
From killing innocent people and causing destruction for the thrill of it, betraying and attempting to kill his own allies, and using others to attain whatever he wants or what he considers justifiable, including using his charm and charisma to deceive others. His ability to disguise his true intentions and motivations and a lack of empathy for others make him difficult to anticipate and counter and such a gripping character.
6 Sephiroth – Final Fantasy VII
A highly muscular character with long silver hair, parted bangs, glowing cyan cat-like pupils donning black pants, coat, and boots wielding a two-handed Masamune and a seven-foot-long ōdachi, Sephiroth is one riveting villain. His outwardly aloof and calm demeanor in previous episodes is overshadowed by his actions after madness, which was triggered by a combination of factors, including his troubled past, anger, resentment toward those who have wronged him, and his desire for power and control.
Once Sephiroth discovers that he is not human but a product of Professor Hojo’s experiments on Jenova, an extra-terrestrial life form, he becomes disillusioned and angry. He then begins to fuel his deep need for power and control.
Watching the transformation of Sephiroth, propelled by the cruelty and trauma that preceded his birth, into a power-hungry, conniving, and remorseless killer, killing his own mother, Jenova, and thousands of people to get whatever he wants, to an extent, feels understandable, relatable, and almost justifiable. Sephiroth is confident to the point that arrogance and magical powers make him one of the most intriguing and interesting characters in anime shows.
5 All for One – My Hero Academia
All for One, also known as Shigaraki, is the leading antagonist of the My Hero Academia manga and anime series, a founder and key benefactor in the League of Villains, and All Might’s arch-nemesis. A blind and scary-looking caricature with no visible nose, ears, or hair, a powerful and multifaceted villain known for his power and cruelty, All for One, in the series, can absorb and steal Quirks (special abilities) from others and use multiple Quirks at once, making him nearly unbeatable in combat.
Despite his power and brilliance, All for One is highly ambitious and power-hungry, willing to do anything to attain his goals, including committing acts of betrayal and destruction. He is also highly deceitful, using his charm and charisma to deceive and control others. His actions show the extent he is willing to go, regardless of the consequences for others, making him one of the best villains in the series and anime films.
4 Kyubey – Madoka Magica
Kyubey, also known as Messenger of Magic, is a small, cat-like creature in the Madoka Magica series with red eyes and golden rings around its long ears, an alien with the ability to grant wishes to humans but cannot understand human emotions and has no distinct sense of self. In exchange for granting these wishes, Kyubey asks the humans to become magical girls and fight against witches, powerful creatures that bring suffering to humans. Despite being emotionless, it exploits the thermodynamics-violating emotions of humans to create energy, thus blocking the Heat Death of the Universe.
As an Incubator, emotionally detached, indifferent, and deceptive, Kyubey does horrendous deeds to harvest the powers, believing that this is necessary to maintain the universe’s balance and prevent it from collapsing. From birthing Soul Gems, essentially a physical manifestation of a person’s soul, to teleporting and telepathic abilities, Kyubey’s aloof caricature exemplifies soullessness and malice at its peak, making it one nasty villain.
3 Meruem – Hunter x Hunter
Meruem is a villain in the anime series Hunter x Hunter, known for his qualities as a villain and outrageous actions. He is the leader of the Chimera Ants, humanoid ants that absorb the abilities and characteristics of other organisms they consume. Meruem is a powerful and cruel character in the anime and manga series Hunter x Hunter. He is the leader of the Chimera Ants and initially views humans as nothing more than food.
Throughout the series, Meruem is known for his pride and confidence in his abilities and his code of honor. He possesses powerful Nen abilities and is a formidable opponent in battle Meruem is also dangerous because of his ability to absorb the abilities and characteristics of those he consumes. This allows him to adapt and evolve, making him almost unbeatable in combat. Despite his evil actions and lack of empathy, Meruem has a softer side, as seen in his relationship with his companion, Komugi, attributes that add complexity and depth to his character as one of the most revolutionary villains in anime.
2 Lelouch vi Britannia – Code Geass
Lelouch vi Britannia is the main protagonist of the anime series Code Geass and is known for his intelligence, charisma, and aim for a world free of injustice. He initially presents as a calm, sophisticated, and arrogant young man. He later reveals his true nature as the leader of a rebellion against the Holy Britannian Empire, known as Zero. Lelouch is driven by a strong sense of justice and is willing to take extreme measures, including sacrificing civilians and soldiers, to justify his actions and attain selfish goals. However, he also has a deep love for his family, particularly his sister Nunnally, and is shown to have a softer side.
Lelouch possesses a unique power called Geass, which allows him to command the actions of others with his gaze. He is an adept strategist and can outmaneuver his enemies on the battlefield. Despite being a villain in the eyes of the Britannian Empire, Lelouch is driven by a desire for revenge against his father and the Britannian Empire for their treatment of his mother and sister. He uses his ability to strategize to achieve his objectives, often resorting to ruthless and unethical methods. He has a strong moral code and is motivated by a selfishly justifiable goal of creating a better world for his sister and the people he cares about. Lelouch’s complexity and moral sense make him an enduring villain in Code Geass.
1 Light Yagami – Death Note
Light Yagami is a villain in the anime series Death Note known for his intelligence, strategic thinking, and manipulation. As the main antagonist, he becomes corrupted by the power of the Death Note, a notebook that allows its user to kill anyone by writing their name in it. Believing the world to be “rotten,” Light uses the Death Note to rid the world of people he deems evil, intending to create a new world free of injustice and populated only with those he deems honest and kind. This makes him such a handful character, with polar opposite attributes and psyche.
Light is ruthless and unethical in his pursuit of this goal and hungers for power and to create a world that he sees as just and orderly. He transforms into an arrogant narcissist, going to extreme lengths to achieve whatever he wants to justify his skewed sense of order and justice, including killing innocent people. Despite his actions, Light has a softer side, demonstrating love and genuine concern for his family. However, his ego, hubris, and ruthless nature ultimately lead to his downfall when he falls to his main challenger’s bait.