Welcome one and all! I appreciate you stopping by. An antihero is defined as “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.” There are quite a few good examples of anti-heroes in anime. I chose 7 of them to talk about today. I tried to gather some variety in types of characters. Entries are listed in alphabetical order. Ready, set, rant!
(Note: Lelouch Lamperouge and Light Yagami from Death Note are the most well-known and wonderfully written antiheroes in all anime. I was originally going to include Light as well, but everyone knows about Light, so I chose to include another female antihero for the list. I kept my entry Lelouch since he is probably my very favorite antihero, personally.)
1. Ciel Phantomhive (Black Butler)
Ciel Phantomhive is the protagonist in Black Butler. His parents were murdered and he was beaten and abused in various ways, leading him to make a deal with a demon. In exchange for Ciel’s soul, the demon Sebastian would put all of his powers and resources toward fulfilling Ciel’s wish. And that wish was for vengeance. Ciel is a bright child, and he understood that selling his soul meant being consumed by a demon. But it was an easy choice for Ciel, because he was completely consumed with wrath and lust for revenge.
Throughout the series, and especially in the angels arc, Ciel rejects the concepts of acceptance, forgiveness, closure, or the idea of moving on with his life. Even when offered total spiritual healing by an angel, this boy refused, choosing to be driven by revenge. The standard shounen/shoujo protagonist would try to heal from the trauma and hate, and perhaps choose not to enact vengeance in kind. In Ciel’s mind, “moral” traits like grace, hope, and recovery do not exist. This is a great example of an anti-hero.
2. Elias (The Ancient Magus’ Bride)
I’ve written a lot about Elias, one of the two main characters in The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Forgive me if you’ve already read something similar to this on my blog. Anyway, Elias is not human and thus does not feel normal human emotions. He also cannot comprehend most value systems and ethics. Over the course of the anime, Elias grows and changes, to a point where he is able to feel a few emotions like loneliness, jealousy, and genuine concern for another. But by and large, this creature acts as an anti-hero.
Importantly, Elias is not the villain, lacking malicious intent, and constantly working to prolong Chise’s life. Neither is he “heroic.” Rather than freeing Chise, he participated in the mage auction and bought Chise. He tracks her using a magical pendant, purposely not telling her upfront, but giving the pendant as an extravagant gift. Elias is a creature who used to eat humans in the distant past, and there is evidence that he on two occasions considered eating Chise. This is not a prince charming who freed the captive, gave her a new life, and showered her with friendship and love. Elias’ anti-hero nature is obvious.
3. Lelouch Lamperouge (Code Geass)
Lelouch is the protagonist of the famous anime universe Code Geass. He is an exiled prince of the world power, the Empire of Britannia. With his mother shot to death, and his father a literal tyrant who rejected him, Lelouch lives in Japan with his dear little sister Nunnally. The two seasons of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion tell the story of Lelouch’s rise to power over world. Originally, the goal was to make a safer, freer world for Nunnally. But as the anime continues, Lelouch’s real goal changes; he wants to stop all the fighting between countries, and make the world better for everyone. The only way to do that is with mass violence.
Along his two year campaign, Lelouch causes the deaths of millions of people. He indirectly causes even more deaths than that with the battles he starts. This man will stoop very low to get the desired results. He lies, murders, and uses mind-control Geass power on people to force them to obey. Even though he secured the final goal at the end of the show, it doesn’t feel right to call Lelouch a hero. He does possess some standard heroic qualities like strong charisma, confidence, and powerful love for his sister and his friends. Nevertheless, Lelouch is antihero, and the perfect one, at that.
4. Satou Matsuzaka (Happy Sugar Life)
Satou is pretty clear-cut example of a female antihero. She grew up without any love that felt fulfilling or healthy. As a teenager, she searched, hooking up with a number of guys and hoping to find her one and only love. But she never felt anything significant for– or from– those boys. A dramatic change happened when Satou found an abandoned young girl named Shio. Satou fell madly in love Shio, not in a physical way at all, but romantically and existentially. Taking Shio in without telling the police, Satou started a new life with the girl. Even when Shio’s brother started appearing and searching for his little sister, Satou kept Shio to herself.
That isn’t all. Satou injures people, lies to people, and even kills someone to protect her life with Shio. Now, in my opinion, there are ways in which Satou is a sympathetic character, but she’s not remotely heroic. As the protagonist of the story, she’s fits the definition of an antihero perfectly. For more thoughts on Satou, take a look at my post, A Look Into Yandere Love Part 1.
5. Tanya Degurechaff (Youjo Senki/ Tanya the Evil)
The main character in Youjo Senki, Tanya is one of my top personal favorite antiheroes. In terms of personality and presentation, Tanya has almost no “heroic” qualities. She’s a devious, self-absorbed sociopath with a nasty temper and very little regard for other lives. She may be considered either evil or heroic by fighting for her country and leading battalions in a worldwide war. But in as far as her true intentions and thoughts during said war, Tanya is rotten to the core. She’s a prime example of a female antihero. For further information about Tanya, check out my Thoughts on Youjo Senki article.
6. Twelve (Terror in Resonance)
With his real name unknown, Twelve works together with his brother, Nine… as a terrorist. This young man is cheerful, mischievous, with a cute face and a natural, boyish charm. And he’s a terrorist. He becomes attached to a human girl (Lisa) and risks foiling the terror attack plans to save her. But he’s still a terrorist. He has no real regard for law and has worked on small scale terror attacks before. He even worked together with Nine to steal a nuclear bomb for their ultimate plan. Twelve is a terrorist.
In a way, this is an example of both a mild antihero and an extreme one. Twelve is mild in the sense that he has the charisma and cheer of a hero, and he saves the girl and all that. He’s an extreme case in that… he’s a terrorist. Now, Twelve and Nine’s reasons for their ultimate plan may not be “evil;” they wish to be the whistleblowers who alert the people to the government’s secret manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction. Still, terror is terror, and Twelve puts many lives at risk in his work. Since this young man is a quite different from the typical brooding antihero, I thought he would make a great addition to the list.
7. Yumeko Jabami (Kakegurui)
Ask anyone; they will say that Yumeko Jabami is an unusual and eccentric protagonist for an anime. She is a transfer student in a private academy where most students are loaded and spend their time gambling. Without knowing anything, Yumeko charges into the fray and shows that she’s crazy about gambling. (Kakegurui means “gambling madness.”) This young woman is great with games and even greater with mind-games, so she wins a lot. But even when she loses, Yumeko takes it in stride, and immediately begins gambling again. She gets excited about the risk and the reward, often going on crazy, dramatic rants about it. She even looks like gambling turns her on sexually to some degree.
A typical hero has some self-control, a larger goal beyond pleasure, and usually learns to improve decision-making. Yumeko shares none of this. She’s a wild, hedonistic woman who makes absurd bets and even puts health and safety (of self and others) on the line. Clearly, she’s not the morally heroic type. Since Yumeko doesn’t seriously injure or kill anyone, she’s a relatively mild case, but an antihero all the same.
Those are all the antiheroes for today! Thanks so much for reading!