In general, most anime deliberately portray the heroes in a more sympathetic light than their antagonistic counterparts. It is to the author’s benefit that the reader takes the main character’s side, as the villain’s downfall will feel less regretful and bittersweet.
However, there are startlingly many instances where an antagonist is written to be so sympathetic that it puts the hero to shame. Whether having a better motive for their actions or actually being in the right, these villains add a layer of moral sophistication not frequently seen within the anime world, making them extremely compelling characters.
10 Biscuit Oliva Backs Strength With Love
Despite being the main antagonist of Baki’s prison arc, Biscuit Oliva has a much better reason for fighting than the titular hero. Instead of seeking to become the world’s most dangerous fighter or defeating his father, he simply wants to preserve the lifestyle his girlfriend enjoys.
Oliva spends almost every waking moment doting on her and ensuring that she lives as comfortably as possible. He will make any sacrifice to preserve her honor, including fighting Guevara or even Baki himself in the middle of the jail.
9 Pain Suffered Worse Than Naruto
A former student of Jiraiya, Pain’s message remains one of the most chillingly coherent of the Naruto series. He claims that people can only meaningfully unite with each other when they’ve experienced the same hardships in life.
After returning to the Leaf Village, Naruto defeated the villain and persuaded him that there was a better way to live. However, his sentiments were relatively hollow since Pain endured significantly worse tragedies than Naruto ever did. He may have felt differently if forced to watch Sasuke die in front of him.
8 Starrk Fought For Friendship
Bleach‘s Coyote Starrk was unlike any of the other Espada. He radiated such intense spiritual energy that it threatened everyone around him. This made it virtually impossible for the man to make friends, which pushed him into the arms of Aizen’s forces.
Ichigo may be fighting to preserve his comrades, but he’s never been forced into isolation for something outside his control. Unlike Starrk, he can overcome the darkest aspects of his being, even if both men are burdened with circumstances out of their control to change.
7 Masazo Got Killed By His Own Stand
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Although there are few JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure villains more sympathetic than the hero, Masazo is certainly one of them. His Stand, Cheap Trick, intended to kill him the second someone else saw his back, which made his life a living nightmare.
This made Masazo significantly more sympathetic than Rohan Kishibe, the man who would inherit his ability. Since Kishibe had previously brainwashed Koichi and attempted to strip him of his memories until he literally died, Masazo looks like a saint by comparison. Unlike the artist, he can’t control who his Stand hurts.
6 Amon Knew The Dark Side Of Bending
Legend Of Korra
At first glance, Legend Of Korra‘s Amon does not seem like a good person. He was a violent terrorist who attempted to radicalize vulnerable people to his anti-bending agenda and sabotaged events with high civilian attendance.
However, considering that Amon suffered from a life of abuse by his father, he has experienced pain that Korra is unfamiliar with. Since Korra is the Avatar, she is the most privileged person in all the nations and cannot relate to the struggles of the Equalists. Moreover, she has a personal interest in stopping them that does not necessarily reflect the common good.
5 Gentle Criminal Was A Symptom Of Society’s Flaws
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia‘s Gentle Criminal illustrated everything wrong with Hero Society. It is highly judicious, punishes people based on the circumstances of their birth, and disenfranchises most who enroll to become pros.
It was easy for Deku to defeat Gentle Criminal outside U.A. since he’s committed his entire life to preserving the status quo. The only thing separating Deku from Gentle Criminal is a single well-meaning mistake that cost the latter everything. Gentle didn’t even want to sabotage U.A.’s festival. He only sought to commit a few stunts.
4 Mad Pierrot Suffered Worse Than Spike
There’s no question that Mad Pierrot is the most despicable character in Cowboy Bebop. However, he has suffered so gravely that it makes Spike’s pain feel petty in comparison.
For years, Pierrot endured grueling experiments that warped his mind and body beyond recognition. He didn’t want to become a serial killer. Life just hollowed him into one. Considering that Spike gave his life for revenge, he and Pierrot have more in common than may seem immediately evident.
3 Katakuri Only Wanted To Protect His Siblings
Katakuri is arguably One Piece‘s most sympathetic villain for his straightforward and noble ambitions. He only wants to protect his siblings and maintain his reputation as their reliable big brother.
Although Luffy is equally invested in his crew mates, he will often cast them into harm’s way for the sake of becoming pirate king. To this end, Katakuri’s endeavors are more sincere because he isn’t willing to put his ambition before the lives of his brothers and sisters. It makes him an even more qualified leader of Whole Cake Island than Big Mom herself.
2 Unlike Eren, Reiner Knew When To Do The Right Thing
Attack On Titan
Attack On Titan is commonly known for its moral sophistication, and none is more sophisticated than Eren’s relationship with Reiner. At Liberio, he discussed their many similarities and how Eren would have done the same thing if tasked with destroying Shiganshina.
What makes Reiner more sympathetic is that he’s actually remorseful for his actions, to such an extent that he nearly took his own life due to guilt. When Eren began the Rumbling, Reiner saw it as the perfect opportunity to right previous wrongs and save the world.
1 Euphemia Was Made Into A Villain Against Her Will
Lelouch accidentally made Euphemia into a villain at the climax of Code Geass. By losing control of his power, he turned her against the Japanese in what became one of Britannia’s worst atrocities to date. Predictably, the Japanese and Black Knight forces rallied to defeat Euphemia’s soldiers.
Lelouch was responsible for shooting her personally, which caused widespread panic and disarray among enemy forces. It was particularly heartbreaking since Euphemia would never have caused any harm if the Geass had not been forced upon her.
NEXT: Attack On Titan: 5 Ways The Warriors Were Fantastic Villains (& 5 They Fell Short)