I loves me an anti hero… I think… Turns out there’s no real solid definition of an anti hero. It’s essentially a hero that exhibits non heroic traits but doesn’t fall into villainy. However as what makes a heroic or non heroic trait sort of changes from one culture and one era to the next, the exact same character could be considered a hero at one time then an anti hero then back again with no actual change to their character. Like all marvel super hero are sort of non conformist wise guys and that’s heroic now but would even the current Captain America would have been considered an anti-hero a couple of decades ago.
So this list is pretty much arbitrary and I’m feeling around for what would be considered non-heroic traits by comparing to majority of anime I’ve seen. Ok, now that I’ve spelled it out it does seem like a really useless list but.. I really like anti-heroes and I want to make a list of them…. And here it is!
5. Vegeta (Dragon Ball et al.)
Ok, so we’re starting off easy. Vegeta does get introduced into the series as an antagonist so it was normal for him to have some less admirable qualities. Such as being a super arrogant, full of himself, brutal jerk. The thing is, even after his face turn he doesn’t change those particular traits all that much. And that’s what makes him awesome.
The series really needed a character like Vegeta to balance out the blinding goodness and let’s call it innocence of main man Goku and I always thought the two were really fun together. Falling in love and having his own family may have softened the Saiyan prince a little but he keeps just enough of his edge to make him not quite your typical hero.
4. Alucard (Hellsing)
In a way you could say that Hellsing has no heroes in it. I ran into a similar problem when thinking of including Berserk in this list somewhere. But Alucard is the closest thing to a hero and he’s an irredeemable bloodthirsty monster. Literally. It seems particularly pointless to list the less heroic traits of a centuries old vampire who survives on the blood of others and takes pure joy in murder and destruction, so instead let me try to find the few qualities that stop him from being an outright villain.
Alucard may have lost his respect for life but he does still have a very healthy sense of loyalty even when there’s very little to actually force him to stay true. He takes care of his own and sticks to his word. And since his allies happen to be the protagonists, it makes him one of our good guys… I guess…
3. Tanya the Evil
The great thing about Tanya is that she never wanted to be a hero. In fact she is more or less actively trying to be a villain. It purely incidental that she happens to continuously save people and protect her fellow men. It’s one thing to have less than pure attributes, it’s another to try and develop them on purpose! In many ways Tanya should be a villain but she just failed at it and ended up an anti-hero.
I always loved the sarcastic touches and dark humour of the Saga of Tanya the Evil, and the eponymous protagonist perfectly embodies both. The other characters on this list may think of themselves as misunderstood heroes on some level. Even Alucard has a tragic and noble backstory to fall back on. Not Tanya though. She never wanted any of the goody goody mumbo jumbo but what are you gonna do. Sometimes the world needs savin’….
2. Nine and Twelve (Terror in Resonance)
Terror in Resonance is one of those shows I’m mad at for not being better. I only feel that way because it was good. In fact in some aspects it was very very good. To me, it was a show that was flirting with greatness but just failed to grasp it. This said, the parts that disappointed me are getting dimmer with time and I think back on it more fondly each time that I do.
But one thing I always considered a strength of the series was the representation of tortured protagonists Nine and Twelve. The characterization was similar to V (from Vendetta). These were sympathetic boys completely warped into villains by deeply unfair circumstances beyond their control. Traumatized from childhood until they lost the ability to deal with the world normally. And although the series did romanticize them a lot, to the point of almost turning them into actual heroes, it also managed to create sympathetic antagonists to balance things out and remind us that the actions of Nine and Twelve have repercussions on very real and innocent people.
In the end, Nine and Twelve were never evil. They weren’t the villains of the story. But by the time we got to know them, they were just too damaged to be true heroes.
1. Gon (Hunter x Hunter)
I might get some flack for this one. Hunter x Hunter is a very popular show and one of my very favourite, but I haven’t seen many people share my opinion on this. Gon is my favourite anime anti hero and I think one of the best written anti-heroes out there.
Hunter x Hunter is a great show with some truly impressive character development. Everyone grows so much….except Gon. He is a purely static character that remains true to himself and is pretty much the same on the last episode as he was in the first. And that is someone with some seriously not heroic traits. Gon is extremely selfish, he can be rather unfair, occasionally he is brutal to a point that’s difficult to justify and his moral compass is guided mostly by his personal interests. He has no big qualms about allying with questionable characters or doing some iffy things is it means getting to his ends. These are borderline villainous…
But the amazing thing is, even though these traits are there from the very first moment, it took me over 100 episodes to notice! Gon is kid who befriended and chose an unrepentant murderer as a companion because he looked like fun. He is a kid that decided to idolize an unfit father while refusing to ever forgive an absentee mother. Unlike Killua he was open to the idea of teaming up with Hisoka, never even tried to help his good friend Kurapika who was in obvious pain and regularly disregards the feelings and concerns of others with hand waving and an optimistic everything will be fine, just to do whatever he wants to. But he’s friendly and charming and such a happy optimistic kid that I didn’t even realize any of it until it was shouted so loudly it became impossible to ignore.And by then, I was so deeply invested in the character that the revelation was mind blowing. I just .stood there, slowly reevaluating everything I had ever held for truth… Brilliant!
It’s fine if you disagree but to me, Gon is and will probably always be the best anti hero ever. And that in itself is one of the elements that makes Hunter x Hunter remarkable for me.
I was right! This was a super fun list to put together. Do you have a favourite anti-hero? How about a character that you think is an anti-hero but no one else considers them as such? maybe the other way around, someone everyone calls an anti-hero but you don’t see it? Let me know, I love this stuff.