10 Anime Villain Tropes That Aged Badly

10 Anime Villain Tropes That Aged Badly

Anime villains run the gamut from awesome to ridiculous, and the best villains are the ones that perfectly fit the worlds they’re written in. An effective villain portrayal in one anime can be laughable and distasteful in another. Given this, it’s hard to make blanket statements about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating antagonists.

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Still, there are certainly a number of villain tropes that more or less fail to land across the board. For every tried-and-true trope that helps define these central characters, there’s another that’s outdated or misunderstood.

10/10 Crimes against fashion only work for some shows

Pannacotta Fugo in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Many villains dress like fashion icons, but in anime there are just as many who really can’t dress. Although this can be funny, as it often is JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureSometimes the villain’s gaudy sense of style is used to replace actual character nuance and motivation. Black ButlerSebastian’s true form is said to be horrifying and incomprehensible, but all readers see of it are dubious stilettos.

Lelouch’s vampire collar outfit everywhere Code Geass is hard to take seriously, especially considering how seriously he takes himself. Envy’s choice of a crop-top-and-brief combo has always baffled Full metal alchemistfans. While it wouldn’t be fun to do away with ridiculous villain outfits, bad fashion design works better when its creators know they are ridiculous.

9/10 Shiny glasses should not automatically mean evil intent

Shou Tucker from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Some tropes are so on the nose that it becomes literal. Take, for example, creepy characters with reflective glasses. As symbolism goes, the intention is pretty clear. The eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, and when one’s eyes are hidden, that soul is questioned.

Few could forget the glint of Shou Tucker’s glasses fullmetal alchemist, but he is far from the only example. Additional offenders are Aizen of BleachDr. Heinemann of PatternZeke Jaeger by Attack on Titanand of course Gendo Ikari by Evangelion.

8/10 The only thing worse than maniacal laughter is a creepy giggle

Light Yagami laughs at L's funeral, Death Note

Much has been said about the evil laugh of ne’er-do-wells, but anime has the market cornered when it comes to creepy giggles. Orochimaru off Naruto is prone to this particular habit, as well as Izaya of Durarara!!.

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But no one giggles like Light Yagami, who is more or less meant to be an embarrassment by the end of Death note. For all his cunning scheming and self-righteousness, his arrogance always comes to the fore, leading to his ultimate end. Perhaps more annoying than his choices is the evil little giggle that begins to escape him periodically during his precipitous descent into cruelty.

7/10 Not everything has to go according to plan

Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion

Evil omniscience should have its limits. A villain who is too confident of beggars. When every hiccup in a scheme, every attempt to thwart a plot, every wrench in the villain’s workings is met with a handsome laugh, neat fingers, and a smug declaration that “everything is going according to plan,” that’s just plain lazy writing.

Gendo Ikari always claims that things are going to plan, though that plan is too often cryptic. When someone tries to outwit Light Yagami, he is two steps ahead and mocks them for falling into his trap. But if the audience doesn’t know the extent of the villain’s scheme, there’s no telling if this is true or if the writers are just making things up as they go along.

6/10 Being evil for the sake of it is boring

Some villains lack any real sense of motivation. God’s hand in Berserk are evil because they serve evil. As motifs go, it doesn’t get much milder than that. Similarly, Piccolo claims that he is evil because he “hates peace and justice.”

My Hero Academia‘s League of Villains misbehave mostly only because they have powers that cater to villainy, rather than because they are united by a clear goal. All too often, anime villains exist only to challenge the heroes, rather than entities in their own right.

5/10 Yandere girls are a tired archetype

Five Unmistakable Signs of a Yandere Anime Character

The flipside of the manic goblin dream girl trope, the yandere character archetype is getting really tired. From Yuno onwards Mirai Nikki to Nui by Kill la Kill and Toga off My Hero Academia, an entire subset of female villains relies on being lovable as well as evil. The fact that there are already so many poorly written female characters in anime makes this trope more than a little disturbing.

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Female villains are often written to appeal to the male gaze. It’s almost impossible to name a female antagonist who isn’t fetishized in some way, to say nothing of the damage the yandere character archetype can do to mental health awareness. These characters are stuck in a box as villains, lusting after the heroes they fight.

4/10 It is far too easy to write villains as abusers

Akemi Hinazuki

Sometimes a villain’s outlandish cruelty completely shatters a story’s credibility. If writers are too heavy-handed, it becomes much more difficult for viewers to suspend their disbelief. Deleted drops this particular ball in a brutal manner. Initially, the series received accolades for its nuanced storytelling, which includes science fiction, nostalgia and true crime-inspired elements.

But after not one, but two adult characters are revealed to be overwhelmingly 2-dimensional abusers, the realism of the story is wasted. In an anime otherwise focused on thoughtful characterization, flattening the villains punctures the illusion. Subsequently, Fruit basket makes a similar mistake with its heavy-handed characterization of matriarch Ren Sohma.

3/10 Abuse should not be trivialized and used for shock value

Griffith in Berserk.

Griffith was once an admired character in the anime canon until a very specific moment lost him every fan. Griffiths’ attack on Casca, the series’ female lead, is a controversial stain on the series Berserk cannon. Unfortunately, Berserk is far from the only anime to use it as a means of demonstrating a villain’s evil.

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More often than not it’s cut into anime for shock value at the expense of the victimized characters and is hard to reconcile with the better aspects of the series. Other anime that make similar mistakes in rating are Basilisk, Bleach, The Elf Lied, Fushigi Yuugi, and Black Butler.

2/10 Queer characters are often made into twisted jokes

Clone Clone Fruit Bon Clay

While queer representation in anime has come a long way, LGBTQ characters have too often been written as creepy antagonists. Conversely, villains who cross paths are often played for laughs rather than being depicted as genuine threats. Few examples are as obvious as Lupine IIIHermann Von Diett, originally called Herr Maphrodite, a queer caricature if there ever was one, and a Nazi to boot.

Mrs. Robinson of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Fish Eye by Sailor Moonand Niko off Tokyo Ghoulare other obvious examples. Queer fans have done their best to reclaim a handful of these characters. For example, they have adopted One PieceBon Clay is an icon thanks in part to Oda subverting expectations, but the anime still has a lot of growing to do.

1/10 Too many disabled characters are written as villains

All for one in My Hero Academia

All too often in anime, an evil mastermind is eventually revealed to be a disabled person hiding in the shadows. While Full metal alchemist subverting this trope, given that the leaders are disabled themselves, other shonen series often write disabled people as malignant, resentful antagonists. Take pain away Naruto, who uses corpses as puppets to do his bidding while his own body is almost immobilized. Shigaraki off My Hero Academia is disabled after a battle and later plans from afar, maintained by machinery and defiance.

In the case of mental or psychological disabilities, this trope is even more prevalent. IN Soul Eater, for example, mental illness, roughly called “madness,” infects people like a virus, causing them to attack and murder others. If the bulk of disabled characters continue to be written as villains instead of heroes, then disabled people are being done a disservice.

NEXT: 10 Shonen Anime Tropes That Aged Badly

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