Anime fans worldwide tune in to their favorite shows to catch their beloved heroes saving the day. However, it could be argued that the best anime also have the best villains. Many anime villains are one-note and have a singular plan in mind. Yet the most interesting villains are those whose goals and ideas have truth and good intentions to them.
These complex villains challenge the protagonists (and audiences) to think critically about their beliefs. While they may not do moral things, their actions tend to have some justification. Fans may not be able to excuse all of their misdeeds, but these anime villains have at least garnered audience sympathy.
10 Damian Desmond Wants Attention (Spy x Family)
Damian Desmond is a prestigious family's second son in Spy x Family. His father, Donovan, is often absent, leaving Damian to his own devices. Though he has an otherwise privileged life, Damian tends to act out and bully his peers – especially Anya Forger.
Despite this, it is clear that Damian is simply lonely. He wants to be around his dad, and he especially wants to make him proud. This is evident by how hard he works to earn a Stella. Although he is mean to his classmates, fans cannot help but feel sorry for this little boy who just wants to be with his dad.
9 Isabella Does As She Is Told (The Promised Neverland)
While Isabella seems like the perfect mother to the children of Grace Field House, she is harboring a dark secret in The Promised Neverland. As her superiors demand, Isabella takes children from the house under the guise of adoption and hands them over to the monsters for food. Fans are appalled by her heinous actions, but there is more to Isabella's nature.
As audiences later learn, Isabella was once a child on a farm. When it was her time, she was given the choice to be sold or become a mother. She chose to live and was assigned to Grace Field House. While it is easy to judge her actions on the outside, many fans wonder if they would have done anything differently had they been in Isabella's shoes. Isabella did what she was told to survive.
8 Gentle Criminal Tries To Be A Hero (My Hero Academia)
Gentle Criminal is a minor villain in My Hero Academia. He creates videos to stir up a public outcry against oppression by the Pro Heroes. However, what he ends up doing is creating extreme inconvenience for everyone around him. Despite his indiscretions, Gentle did not set out to become a villain.
In his youth, he was charged with obstructing justice and was expelled from his school. This led him on a downward spiral that culminated in his resolve to become a villain. Although he is an evildoer now, audiences sympathize with the chain of events that took him so far from grace.
7 Queen Beryl's Love Is Unrequited (Sailor Moon)
Queen Beryl from the Sailor Moon franchise is well-known for her partnership with the Dark Kingdom, and her calculated destruction of the Moon Kingdom. Her villainy is far-reaching and nearly destroys the Sailor Scouts. Yet, she was not always a ne'er-do-well.
When she was younger, she fell deeply in love with Prince Endymion, yet he only had eyes for Serenity of the Moon Kingdom. When Beryl discovered that her beloved Endymion had fallen for someone else, her heart was understandably broken. While her subsequent actions are abhorrent, many fans sympathize with Beryl's unrequited love.
6 Yako Feels Excluded (Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun)
Yako is a fox spirit in Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. She is in charge of the second school mystery – the Misaki stairs. Her domain is dark and terrifying, as it is full of dolls. Anyone who enters her domain is asked to help her create a new "Misaki" – her lost love. If their creation does not pass her test, Yako will turn them into dolls.
While this is a gruesome fate, Yako's reasoning for such sinister requirements is tragic. She was a fox spirit that inhabited a statue outside a school. Every day, the teacher, Misaki would talk to and care for Yako, until his passing. Yako took up charge of the second school mystery and promised herself that she would create a new body for Misaki. While her actions are still horrifying to think about, fans can understand how alone Yako feels.
5 Izanami Longs for Company (Noragami)
Izanami is the goddess of the underworld in Noragami. Despite her status, Izanami is often alone. She changes her appearance to better entice people to stay with her for eternity. Yet her real form is a frightening skeletal visage. If any visitors try to leave, Izanami captures them and forces them to stay.
While many viewers do not approve of Izanami's friendship-making tactics, they do sympathize with her plight. Living alone in the underworld can become exceedingly boring, especially after living there for millennia. No one can fault Izanami for wanting some company in her solitary existence.
4 Scar Seeks Revenge (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Scar is a vigilante on a revenge-filled rampage of Amestris after his family was brutally killed by an Amestrian State Alchemist in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. By systematically hunting down every State Alchemist he can find, Scar hopes to eventually find his family's murderer: Solf J. Kimblee.
Despite Scar's terrible actions, his vendetta against Kimblee and the State Alchemists was justified. Kimblee's disturbing attack among all the other destruction was so awful that audiences can see why Scar would stoop to the same violent acts, though they are against it.
3 Cancer Cell Did Not Ask To Be Created (Cells At Work)
Cells At Work! is a show all about how the cells of the body work to help a human live a healthy life. However, that is changed when the presence of a Cancer Cell is discovered. After his friend is brutally destroyed by Immune Cells, Cancer Cell plots a scheme to destroy all the Immune Cells.
Cancer Cell is a sympathetic villain because he is not inherently malicious. It is only because of what he is that he is dangerous. He did not do anything wrong. While they knew he had to go, many fans felt remorse for Cancer Cell's passing.
2 Shishio Tsukasa Wants To Escape Authority (Dr. Stone)
Shishio Tsukasa was an ultimate prize-fighter until he was petrified for thousands of years in Dr. Stone. When he was awoken by Senku Ishigami, Tsukasa decided to rid their new world of all the weak and elderly people who would drain resources. Tsukasa worked toward only reviving people who were young and fit, and who would not rule unfairly above anyone else.
Though this seems like a dark vision for the new world, it is born from the unjust authority figures Tsukasa had to face growing up. Unfortunately, the adults who ran the hospital where his sister was a patient were cruel and greedy, creating Tsukasa's strong disdain for authority. Despite his terrible actions, many sympathized with Tsukasa's mistrust of unfeeling authority figures.
1 Reiner Braun Does What He Thinks Is Right (Attack On Titan)
Reiner Braun is an Eldian Warrior for the Marleyan Army in Attack On Titan. When he was first sent on a mission to gather intelligence about the Eldians on Paradis, a colleague sacrificed himself to save Reiner. Despite this, Reiner felt compelled to finish the mission. Reiner crashes through the walls of Paradis multiple times, tries to destroy Eren Yeager, and captures the Jaw Titan, Ymir, and brings her home.
Yet, for all his effort, Reiner never seems to catch a break. His original mission was compromised and resulted in the seizure of one of his comrades. He's also nearly beaten to death on multiple occasions. Plus, his attempts to keep other innocent people from inheriting Warrior Titans are in vain. Reiner has done innumerable terrible things in his life, but audiences cannot help but feel pity for Reiner and his unending cycle of misery.
NEXT: The 10 Most Sympathetic My Hero Academia Characters