Who are the best anime villains? They say a story’s only as good as its villains, and while we’re not quite sure that’s entirely true, we do know that one of our favourite things about anime, in general, is how over-the-top and wild the villains can be.
All of the best anime series have great villains but let’s be honest, there’s definitely a pecking order of animated arseholes. So who’s the best at being bad? Well, we’ve been through all of our favourite animated series, including Dragon Ball, One-Punch Man, Demon Slayer, and more, to work out who we think are the best anime villains.
Who are the best anime villains?
- Shou Tucker
- All for One
- Muzan Kibutsuji
- The Major
- Eren Yeager
- Donquixote Doflamingo
- Yagami Light
Shou Tucker – Fullmetal Alchemist
Shou Tucker isn’t the main villain in Fullmetal Alchemist. Hell, he’s not really a physical threat to the Elric brothers. What he is, however, is an absolute scumbag who, in one of the most disturbing scenes in Fullmetal Alchemist, is revealed to have fused his daughter with a dog just to maintain his privileged position as a State Alchemist.
While villains on this list have committed mass murder and destroyed entire planets, few anime characters are as callous and vile as Shou, a man willing to sacrifice his own innocent flesh and blood for fame and fortune. We’re not alone in hating Shou.
Writer Hiromu Arakawa clearly despises him, as well as he’s the only character and villain in any of the Fullmetal Alchemist ‘In Memoriam’ omakes listed as going to hell rather than heaven.
All for One – My Hero Academia
Some anime villains are evil not because they believe in some grand purpose that brings them into conflict with our heroes but instead because being bad feels good. All for One from My Hero Academia is this type of villain, a bad guy whose plans are literally inspired by the ostentatious villainry of comic book bad guys.
As such, like The Joker and other iconic villains, he can’t be reasoned with or convinced to change because he’s a hedonist with no allegiance to any cause other than his own whims. This makes All For One the perfect foil for our favourite My Hero Academia characters, who are more selfless and principled.
Pain/Nagato – Naruto
Some villains are on this list because they’re wonderfully hateable (we’re looking at you, Major), but others are here because, for lack of a better word, they’re incredibly cool. Pain, the leader of the Akatsuki in the anime series Naruto, is one such villain.
With his unique rippled eyes, multiple body piercings, and black cloak, Pain – or, to use his proper name Nagato – is basically a teenager’s idea of what a badass looks like, so it’s unsurprising he’s a lot of people’s favourite Naruto characters.
It helps that he’s unbelievably powerful, described in the series as a shinobi god who uses a unique fighting style that uses five separate bodies, each of which has its own powers and abilities. Is Pain the deepest of anime villains?
No, like a spoiled teen, he wants to hurt the world that hurt him, but he gave us one of the series’ best fights, and the mystery surrounding his identity makes up for his slightly adolescent philosophy.
Garou – One Punch Man
Everyone loves a trier, and few anime villains try as hard as poor Garou. Garou’s a martial artist who’s desperate to become the most powerful monster in the world so he can unite humanity against him. There’s just one problem, he’s in a gag anime and exists to be shit on by the various pro-heroes in the world of One-Punch Man.
Still, his indomitable spirit and huge ego mean he’ll never give up on his goal (even if Sitama barely knows he exists). If you liked Garou in season 2, make sure to watch One-Punch Man season 3. Trust us, Garou’s growth in the new series should be ‘cosmic’.
Muzan Kibutsuji – Demon Slayer
Not to be mean to heroes, but everyone knows that villains have the best drip, and few villains can compete with the sheer swagger of Muzan Kibutsuji. I mean, just look at him.
He’s a ruthless demon king who wears a shirt and tie and uses his arms as deadly flesh whips. What’s not to love? Here’s to seeing more of him in Demon Slayer season 3.
The Major – Hellsing Ultimate
One thing we can all agree on is that Nazis suck. What’s worse than Nazis? Supernatural Nazis with an army of artificial vampires. What’s worse than supernatural Nazis with an army of artificial vampires? The guy leading those nazis and vampires, aka The Major from the horror anime Hellsing Ultimate.
Seriously The Major sucks (nope, that’s not a vampire pun). He’s a literal trash person who was good friends with Hitler. He exists to be a hate sink, exemplifying every trait that society has taught us is wrong. He’s a racist, murdering sociopath with nary a scrap of empathy.
So why have we included him on this list? Well, because he wins. Yes, The Major manages to complete his goal of killing Alucard and proving to himself his own humanity. Even when Integra kills The Major, he dies with a smile, believing himself vindicated. What a bastard.
Eren Yeager – Attack on Titan
Eren Yeager started life as an idealistic hero who wanted nothing more than to defeat the titans and see the ocean. That young man is long gone, though. His optimistic spirit burned away by the fire of war.
All that’s left is a cold, calculating warmonger who’s willing to commit horrific war crimes if it means saving his own people. Eren’s a warning about the corrosive nature of hate. It doesn’t just hurt your enemies but also your friends, family, and even yourself. Can Eren be redeemed? We’ll have to watch Attack on Titan season 4, part 3, to find out.
Donquixote Doflamingo – One Piece
Donquixote Doflamingo’s proof that you don’t have to be the series’ final villain to be the show’s best villain. Like all the evil doers in the world of One Piece, Doffy’s the antithesis of the hero Luffy. He’s cruel, callous, and we never see him eating meat (a great sin in the eyes of Luffy).
Still, with his String-String Fruit and immaculate sense of style (where did he get those shades?), it’s impossible to deny that Doffy is one of the more memorable One Piece characters.
Yagami Light – Death Note
Great villains are the heroes of their own stories, and few anime characters fit this description as well as Light Yagami. Light genuinely believes he can make the world better by killing criminals with his magical notebook.
What starts as a noble campaign quickly becomes a murderous bid for self-protection as Light convinces himself he’s the god of a new world who must be protected at all costs.
Frieza – Dragon Ball Z
Dragon ball has had plenty of memorable villains. From Emperor Pilaf all the way to Jiren, it feels like Akira Toriyama had an endless parade of fiends marching through his head, yet the most evil of them all is, without a doubt, the galactic overlord Frieza.
Frieza’s a murderous and brutal bully who uses his overwhelming unnatural power to dominate the galaxy. The only thing bigger than Frieza’s power level is his ego, which is why it’s so cathartic when Goku finally becomes a Super Saiyan and mops the floor with the tyrant.
Even after his death, Frieza loomed large over the series, and it’s why the next big villain, Cell, was figuratively and literally a Frieza clone. This eventually culminated in Toriyama just giving in and resurrecting Frieza once and for all so that Goku and Vegeta would finally have a nemesis worthy of them again.