10 Most Iconic Anime Villains Of All Time

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Heroes definitely get a lot of well-earned glory in anime. They have fought hard and struggled to save the world time after time, and they’ve given fans someone to cheer for in their favorite stories. However, without great villains, the world would never have needed those heroes to begin with.

RELATED: 10 Most Underrated Naruto Villains

Anime needs villains just as much as heroes, and some of the greatest anime series of all time just wouldn’t be what they are without anime’s most memorable antagonists. Though the hero often gets the most attention, some villains are so inseparable from a series’ success that they are even as popular as the hero.

10 Gilgamesh Is Anime Royalty


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Gilgamesh is the most famous villainous representative of the anime powerhouse that is the Fate franchise. His entitled demeanor and dismissive attitude would seem misguided if he didn’t have the strength to back them up. However, he is often one of the most powerful Heroic spirits in the series, swiftly taking down his enemies without so much as lifting a finger.

There’s really no other character from Fate aside from Saber herself that is more recognizable than Gilgamesh. Pop star Lil Nas X even donned Gilgamesh’s iconic golden armor on the red carpet at the 2021 Met Gala.

9 Vicious Lived Up To His Name

Cowboy Bebop

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Vicious in Cowboy Bebop.

Cowboy Bebop is regarded as an animated television classic partly because of its great cast of characters like Spike, Jet, and Faye. While all the protagonists have interesting backstories and development throughout the series, Spike’s story, in particular, is most potent in large part due to his complicated history with the series’ main villain: Vicious.

RELATED: 10 Most Successful Anime Villains, Ranked

Vicious’ personality is just as his name suggests: a merciless man bent on gaining power by any means. The final altercation between Vicious and Spike has gone down in history as one of the most emotional in all of anime; it’s a shame Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation of the series couldn’t stick around long enough to truly do it justice.

8 Aizen Had Everybody Fooled


<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Aizen Sousuke in Bleach.

Bleach is one of shonen anime’s crown jewels and was immortalized as a member of Shonen Jump’s Big 3. While a lot of the hype had to do with Ichigo’s incredible powers and mysterious backstory, he wasn’t the only character that hit fans with a twist.

The show’s biggest twist, by far, was the betrayal of the Soul Society from the inside by one of its own captains, Aizen. Not only did he catch the entire Soul Society off guard, but Aizen had shonen anime fans all over the world deceived by his nefarious plot.

7 Hisoka Is Only A Villain When He Feels Like It

Hunter x Hunter

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Hisoka from HxH.

While Meruem certainly has the most complicated and emotionally charged arc of any villain in Hunter x Hunter, Hisoka is arguably the more popular of the two due to his sheer likability as a character. Hisoka is more complex than the average shonen antagonist — often acting out of his own complicated and changing motivations than in the interest of any definitive goal.

Hisoka’s design and powers haven’t been missed by fans of the series, and his strangely creepy personality has stuck with fans of the show even after it abruptly ended in 2014. Gon and Killua will always get the most love as the heroes of the series, but arguably no one loves Gon and Killua more than Hisoka himself.

6 Sesshomaru Is Everyone’s Favorite Dog Demon


<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Sesshomaru draws Tenseiga in Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon.

Inuyasha’s full demon brother, Sesshomaru, was the main protagonist of Inuyasha and a fan-favorite character in the series. His mysterious aura and cool and collected demeanor earned the admiration of fans, even as he continued to wreak havoc on Inuyasha in pursuit of his ultimate goal of stealing the Tetsaiga.

RELATED: 10 Anime Villains Who Were Ruined By The Sequel

Though he remained a demonic villain bent on solely gaining power throughout Inuyasha, Sesshomaru began to soften up thanks to the influence of a human child named Rin. Eventually, Sesshomaru would quell his differences with Inuyasha, and his daughters would even join forces with Inuyasha’s in the series’ sequel, Yashahime.

5 Itachi Is The Most Tragic Villain In Anime


<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Itachi activates his Sharingan in Naruto.

Itachi is, by far, one of the most complex and well-written villains in anime. In fact, by the end of his story, he really can’t be considered a villain at all, but a tragically misunderstood man who would do anything for his younger brother and his village — even if it means living on the run for the remainder of his life.

Itachi’s emotional story has touched the hearts of anime fans and made him one of the most beloved anti-villains in the medium. His story of redemption inspired a generation of fans, and he remains one of the most beloved characters in anime, let alone the Naruto franchise.

4 Frieza Inspired All Shonen Protagonists Who Followed Him

Dragon Ball

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Frieza in Dragon Ball.

While Vegeta is by far the most recognizable of any Dragon Ball villain, it would be impossible for fans of the series to continue calling him a villain after he turned his life around and had a wife and kids. Frieza, on the other hand, has never been the type to become reformed.

Not only is Frieza a recurring threat in the Dragon Ball franchise, but he was also the main opponent in one of anime’s most influential fight sequences ever: his original battle against Goku in Dragon Ball Z. As he returns once again even stronger in Dragon Ball Super’s latest arcs, Frieza has proven himself the greatest existential threat to the Earth the Dragon Ball universe has ever seen.

3 No Face Is One Of Anime’s Most Recognizable Faces

Spirited Away

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Chihiro and No Face from Spirited Away.

Even those unfamiliar with anime as a medium are likely to recognize No Face’s unique mask design. Anime fans all over the world still continue to don No Face’s likeness on all forms of merch and memorabilia, even over 20 years after Spirited Away first hit screens in 2001.

Studio Ghibli is famously known as the Disney of Japan, and Spirited Away is their most enduring work to date. Not only is it Ghibli’s most popular and successful film, but it’s also the highest-grossing film ever in Japan’s history, and No Face is undoubtedly one of the most memorable parts of its story.

2 Team Rocket Blasted Pokémon To New Heights


<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Pokémon's Team Rocket.

Whether Pikachu likes it or not, the Pokémon anime would be nothing without Team Rocket. Jesse, James and Meowth’s ridiculous antics made Pikachu and Ash’s exploits all the more interesting, and they undoubtedly became as integral to the show as Pikachu himself.

RELATED: 10 Most Underrated Pokemon, Ranked

While they could never seem to pull off a successful heist, Team Rocket succeeded in providing Pokémon fans with some of the most comedic and endearing moments in the series. Ash and Pikachu are one of anime’s most memorable dynamic duos, but sometimes 3 is better than 1, and Team Rocket’s triad of trouble is just as iconic.

1 Without Darkness, There Could Be No Light

Death Note

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Light Yagami holding Death Note.

Light Yagami from Death Note is simultaneously one of anime’s most infamous heroes and its most notorious villain. His complicated character, questionable goals, and even more questionable methods to get there make him both beloved and hated by anime fans everywhere.

Light wants to rid the world of evil, and he’s willing to become the evilest person of all in order to make that happen. Fans couldn’t help but respect his incredibly meticulous planning while also cheering for his arch-nemesis, L, in hopes that he would finally bring Light to justice.

NEXT: 10 Anime Villains Who Could Be Devils In Chainsaw Man


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