This is an updated article to the original Top 10 Anime Anti-heroes article. Be sure when you are done enjoying this one, to check out the original that is directly underneath!
Anti-heroes make for an interesting character category in anime. Whether the main protagonist or not, an anti-hero can easily steal the spotlight as they represent an area of intrigue for the reader. Things are not black and white in an anti-heroes storyline, and in their moral quandaries we generally find things a little more relatable. Maybe, it’s just the fact that we find their complexity appealing or perhaps we just like our characters to have a little bit of a naughty side. Either way, anti-heroes provide shows with a great opportunity to explore more interesting, if not controversial, topics. With that said, let’s get into anime’s darkest and most convoluted heroes.
10. Katsuki from Boku no Hero Academia
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr. 2016 – Jun. 2016
Boku no Hero Academia finally got an anime adaptation this year and it perfectly captured the beginning adventures of Izuku Midoriya, as he becomes the greatest superhero ever. However, such growth is not easy, especially when Izuku Midoriya was born without a quirk and he has a prodigy like Katsuki breathing down his neck.
Now Katsuki was one of the first kids in class to develop his quirk and immediately began earning praise for it. It seemed the type of quirk that would easily lead him to success and a chance at becoming a legitimate superhero. All of this was simply more fuel to the ego of a hot-headed and bold child. This confidence of his, however, leads him to act rather antagonistic to most people. Either he finds them below his level and not worthy of his time or someone he simply has to defeat. He’s not one to admit being inferior in any situation.
9. Archer from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct. 2014 – Dec. 2014
Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works follows the participants of a magical war that allows the winner to make one wish through the Holy Grail. In this war, seven magi, mythical heroes with incredible powers (such as Hercules), are summoned by seven magicians. The magicians can be of various rank and status and each hero belongs to a very specific class, with its own strengths and weaknesses.
This particular war focuses on Rin Tousaka with her Archer spirt and Shingi Emiya with his Saber spirit. Now, Rin’s Archer is an interesting mix of insubordinate, callous, sly, and powerful. In fact, upon their very first meeting, Archer causes Rin to use one of her three seals, which are a sign of her control over him. That’s not all that this “heroic spirit” does of questionable integrity. At one point he abandons Rin in order to join the team comprised of the Caster and Assassin class, because they seem to have the best odds. Admittedly, this is a ruse, but by the very end he does try to kill off Shinji, who is both one of the main protagonists and a force of good.
8. The Handymen from Gangsta
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2015 – Sep. 2015
Ergastulum is a city filled to the brink with thieves, crooks, hustlers and basically anyone partaking in rather questionable professions. Ingrained into this community are the “Handymen,” Nic and Worick, who will take on the jobs that no one else really wants to deal with.
Investigations, hit jobs, and selling certain goods are all things that Nic and Worick take on without much resistance. On the side of such unsavory business, Worick also acts as a gigolo and Nic takes an immense joy out of fighting. Despite their harsher qualities, it’s quite hard to not care deeply for Nic and Worick as their friendship and care for many of the city’s inhabitants is deeply touching. Rather or not they care to admit, it becomes clear that these two have hearts of gold behind their extremely rough skin.
7. Koko from Jormungand
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2012 – Jun. 2012
Jormungand follows the exploits and adventures of the international arms dealer, Koko Hekmatyar, and her crew of misfit bodyguards. Included in this team, and acting as a constant juxtaposition to Koko, is the child solider Jonah, who absolutely detests weapons. Strange alliances are made and stranger relationships form in this world where just about everything Koko and team does is illegal in one way or another despite trying to achieve world peace.
You really don’t have to go far beyond the premise of the series to understand just how much of an anti-hero Koko is. She is very much the definition of the ends justify the means as she breaks all the rules in her hope for peace. She will gladly use threats and deadly force in almost any situation if she deems it necessary or just the easiest the way to overcome an obstacle. Despite all of this, her heroic side does come out from time to time, as she has been shown to spare people that she’s already beaten.
6. Ai Enma from Hell Girl
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct. 2005 – Apr. 2006
Hell Girl takes viewers into a world where people are able to access a website called the Hell Correspondence. To write someone’s name into this website will send them to hell immediately, where the writer will join them upon their own normal death. Such is the price for using the website.
Enacting the desires of the users for Hell Correspondence is Ai. A seemingly young girl who culls people into hell through nightmarish mazes. What makes her such an interesting anti-hero is that it doesn’t matter whose name is written down or why the name is written down. Though none of her targets are per say innocent, it is quite clear that she wouldn’t lose much sleep over killing someone who has committed maybe a minor offense or is hated unjustly by someone. In the end, all that is required for her to take on the job is for her sympathy to be incited. Thus, she kills through her own desires and whims.
5. Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct. 2008 – Mar. 2009
In Academy City, two things take precedent: technology and psychic abilities. It is, after all, 30 years ahead of the world when technologically and over 75% of the city’s population are students perfecting their esper ability. Well, one such student, who happens to have an extremely unique ability finds himself mixed in with the dealing of a dangerous organization after meeting Index, a young girl who was able to memorize all of the forbidden grimoires.
Amidst all the dangerous, underground activities of Academy City is the first ranked Level 5 esper, Accelerator. To put things simply, he can basically destroy anyone as his powers allow him to create a thin field of AIM around him, which allows him to modify the vector values of anything he touches.
Throughout his life he’s been targeted and thus understands just how much pure, unadulterated power can affect the world. Thus, he seeks power for the sake of it. However, there’s also this slight side of him that sees ultimate power as the best way to prevent others from even challenging him, which suggests a gentleness. This part of him contrasts with how excited he becomes when finding a strong opponent that he can unleash his powers on. Overall, he’s a conflicted character, who tends to challenge our main group of protagonists, but at the same time refuses to give into systemic corruption.
4. Guts from Berserk
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct. 1997 – Apr. 1998
Berserk primarily follows the warrior Guts as his fate weaves itself with the formidable troop of mercenaries known as the Band of Hawk. It’s a gritty tale that never really presents characters as right or wrong, but just living in a world where what matters most is survival.
For Guts, it helps that staying alive often means killing others and that he delights in the opportunity to hack apart anyone who stands in his way. What makes him such a fun character to watch is the fact that he starts off with almost zero redeeming qualities. The only thing that really pulls you towards him is his immense battle prowess. However, as the show progress and he becomes part of something bigger than himself, he begins to understand more of the human condition and struggles to figure out how his position correlates to that of his comrades.
3. Revy from Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr. 2006 – Jun. 2006
Black Lagoon shoves a regular office type worker into the mad underground and black market dealings of the mercenary group Black Lagoon. Teamed up with the crass and gun happy Revy, calculating and iron-armed Dutch, and carefree computer whiz Benny; Rock finds himself discovering a whole new reality from the life he had experienced so far.
Out of all the group members of the Black Lagoon, Revy is the most antagonistic hero you’ll ever find. She doesn’t give a shit about anything except her guns and booze. She enjoys killing, sometimes finding herself most at peace when she’s threatening to shoot someone, if not actually shooting them. She has zero manners and even those who she respects, such as Shenhua and Eda are fair targets for her merciless wit and crosshairs.
2. Lelouch from Code Geass
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct. 2006 – Jul. 2007
Code Geass depicts a universe where Holy Empire of Britannia has conquered a large amount of the world. One country that has been subjugated under their rule is Japan, what was renamed Area 11 to signify their submission. Due to the oppression that the Japanese now find themselves dealing with in their own country, a resistance faction has formed to fight against Britannia. Joining up in this fight is Lelouch Lamperouge, an exiled prince who suddenly earns the Power of Kings.
Lelouch is one of those characters who will do whatever is necessary to achieve his end goal. It doesn’t help that a lot of his actions are driven primarily by his desire for revenge as well. This is why for the better half of the series, many people will actually probably hate Lelouch as he seems rather callous and cruel in his actions to liberate Japan. Constantly, it appears like everyone else that is part of the resistance is merely a pawn to be used. Of course some are knights, but they are all disposable if it means winning the war. This is displayed in many battles and ultimately when he betrays the resistance in order to set up his own dictatorship in Japan. However, his ideal is pure and, by the end, we even see that he’s even willing to sacrifice himself for the cause.
1. Alucard from Hellsing Ultimate
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: Feb. 2006 – Dec. 2012
Hellsing Ultimate portrays a world that is being torn apart and saved by people who relish in chaos. The people receiving the most delight from such destruction are a group of vampire Nazis and then the protagonist of the story himself, Alucard Hellsing.
When the main character has parallels being drawn between him and a crazed Nazi force, then there are clearly some rather brutal, if not downright disturbed qualities, comprised within our hero. Though at times these qualities are downplayed as he is mainly killing other vampires or people trying to destroy Britain, whether that is the Vatican or the Nazis. However, it’s hard to ignore the blood lust that engulfs his killing spree in South America, when he begins limb tearing and nick biting human forces in a gory declaration of war.
However, he wouldn’t be at the top of this list if it was just for the fact that he relishes in killing. This nightmarish hero from hell is also extremely manipulative and cruel in almost each of his relationships. Even with his technical master, Integra, he loves to pry open her feelings and test her mettle at almost every occasion. He does after all force her to permit his rampages, essentially drawing her into the muck with him.
Anti-heroes provide creators with a chance to embellish a more unique character. Obviously, the goody goodies of the anime world can have conflicts and will undergo change. However, they rarely leave us questioning what’s right and what’s wrong. An anti-hero can make you wonder and question an act, because there’s always something hidden between the lines when a decision is made. A lot of the times this is simply because an anti-hero to a certain extent has achieved enough power to enforce his/her point of view upon others. It’s with such characters that ethics can be more realistically explored.