"...But I also came into existence, so you could go preserved and unscathed. I am the sole empty purpose of being a trash receptacle for everything you couldn't handle."Monsters and villains in works of fiction aren't usually made to invoke sympathy. Engaging a monster emotionally as someone would another person diminishes the terror and revulsion villains are supposed to evoke. However, this isn't the case if the villain has a Monster Sob Story. Basically, this is a villain who gets a moment when, to everybody's surprise, he's cast in a somewhat sympathetic light. His motivations and emotional state are explored, and the audience finds itself pitying (if not identifying with) the villain. They may be a Smug Snake or Magnificent Bastard, but the reader/viewer feels sorry for them. The heroes themselves may even feel pity. The experience ends up giving the villain a level of characterization that goes beyond what a villain doing things For the Evulz usually gets. Unlike the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, or the Anti-Villain, this villain was already evil long before— and will likely remain so, despite anyone's pity. May be an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. May also bring about Badass Decay or Villain Decay if not done well. This is not to be confused with a Villainous Breakdown containing a Motive Rant, which usually occurs after the villain has suffered a setback or is almost defeated. Here, the sympathy is more triggered by the villain's goals or feelings rather than any pain the villain is going through himself. If the villain simply chokes out "I had a terrible childhood!" and then dies, it's Alas, Poor Villain. See also Sympathy for the Devil (where the characters feel the monster's pain) and Cry for the Devil (where the audience feels the monster's pain).
— Dictator Pickles, Alfred's Playhouse
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- Told by both Souther and Kaioh to Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star right before their final battles, when there's no time left for the reader to watch them grow as characters or sympathise with them. Though the week-to-week short term plotting of the shounen manga industry is probably to blame here.
- He's never made 'pathetic' but Askeladd is made sympathetic in the revelation of his origins in Vinland Saga.
- In Monster, the revelation that Johan Liebert may just be the tragic result of military experiments and a seeming lack of affection on the part of his mother after all. Plus the redemption of any number of other characters throughout the series.
- Gendo Ikari after his Oh, Crap! moment in End of Evangelion.
- Both Jesse and James of Team Rocket gets quite a few in Pokémon.
- The aliens from Tokyo Mew Mew. Living in a world so inhospitable and full of natural disasters that they had to stay underground, with almost no food, all while they had once lived in Earth. After learning this, even the heroines can't help but feel sorry for them and see their side of matters. Zakuro points out how they can't blame the aliens for hating humanity, considering how little value humans seem to give the planet that was once theirs and how the aliens, like them, are fighting for the ones they love.
- During the Eclipse in Berserk, Griffith gets a childhood flashback scene as he's alone with the Godhand, which serves as one last moment of feeling sorry for him after everything he's been through up to this point — and which serves to make his Face–Heel Turn all the more hate-worthy.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, it's revealed that Envy hates humans because it's jealous of their ability to empathize with one another. He caused hatred and violence to fill their hearts so he could blot out that ability. When Ed expresses sympathy for it, Envy commits suicide.
- Sloth doesn't want to be one of Father's evil minions, he just wants to sleep all the time.
- The 2003 anime version's Lust gets an episode devoted to this. The anime Envy had one as well, but in the end it only reinforced what a truly vile being he had become.
- Yuca from Immortal Rain certainly does this, to the point of being a grade-A Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. He's a horrible, misanthropic, nihilistic sociopath; but then, he's lived for centuries through Reincarnation and experienced inconceivable pain in those many lives. He hates the world, simply because he's so sick of living in it.
- Suitengu from Speed Grapher.
- Yamamoto the Conwelian (and their race in the whole, really) in Level E. Having to eat your own females to fertilize their eggs is one thing, having the instinctive urge to do so triggered by romantic attachment — is another story completely. But continuing to do so after resettling on Earth as a refugee from the war that destroyed your own planet (and was fought over the cure to that urge, that some hard-liners viewed as abomination) with the local females — well, that's the prime The Woobie material.
- Katanagatari: Nanami life is one of continuous pain, alienation from her Martial Arts School, existential frustration and continued assassinations attempts (even from her own family!) that she would desire were successful. Even so, after seeing what she is capable of, is very difficult to empathize with her.
- Hansel and Gretel from Black Lagoon. They gleefully torture and murder through their story arc. They are also children who in the past were raped and forced to kill other children. They are eventually hunted down and killed.
- This applies to 4 of the original Seven Warlords of the Sea in One Piece. Boa Hancock's experience as being a slave and abused by male Celestial Dragons gave her a permanent distrust and disgust for men, saved later for Luffy. It also cause her to put on the act of a cruel and merciless tyrant in order to hide all her fears and weaknesses to others. Crocodile's dream got crushed in the New World, thus made him give up his dream and turn him into a bastard obsessed with military power instead. Gekko Moriah got it tenfold the nightmare. He technically watched his entire crew, companions and friends get slaughtered by Kaidou without being able to do anything. Such event crushed him so severely it turns him into the fucked-up bastard we know today. Donquixote Doflamingo had possibly one of the worst. After his family gave up the life of Celestial Dragons, they found themselves hunted down and ostracized by Noble-hating citizens of their new home, resulting in his mother's death, he and his brother being forced to eat trash, and they and their father being crucified to their burning house. He may be one of the biggest monsters in the OP world, but it's impossible not to feel sympathy for him.
- Arlong qualifies too. Although he was already a racist toward humans to begin with, Fisher Tiger and Koala's presence did shred a tiny light of hope for his attitude toward humans. Then shit happened. Koala's departure followed by Fisher Tiger's death totally busted all that hope and thus grant Arlong the motivation to unleash all his hatreds and cruelties on humans
- Many of Naruto's cast of villains, including Itachi, Nagato, Kabuto, and Orochimaru, have sympathetic backstories.
- Two-Edge the half-troll from ElfQuest spends half the time fomenting wars or designing death-traps and torture devices, and the other half soliciting (and sometimes getting) sympathy from the elves because of his mistreatment by Winnowill (his mother).
- Some versions of Scarecrow. He's a nasty piece of work, but geez, try to read about his childhood in Scarecrow: Year One without crying. He was abandoned by his mother, ruthlessly bullied at school, was dirt poor and his grandmother used him for child labor and locked him in an old church to be attacked by birds over and over again for "sins" such as reading books besides the Bible. She's been dead for years, but he's still freakin' terrified of her.
- Alan Moore's take on the third Clayface takes this Up to Eleven. The character falls in love with a mannequin, has his home burned down, deals with insane paranoid jealousy (from his perspective it seems like his inanimate love is cheating on him), is attacked by Batman, put in an asylum, and finally grows to resent the one (imaginary) romance he has. In the end it's implied that he has come to hate his new life to the extent that he's just waiting for his wife to die...which she won't. Ever.
- In a classic Silver Surfer story, the Surfer goes to a planet after receiving a call for help. He finds a group of natives being attacked by a monstrous dragon. After a brief battle, the Surfer is surprised when the dragon proves capable of speech. The dragon explains that his race was actually a peaceful one, and after escaping their doomed planet, they arrived here in search of fuel. The natives, for no reason other than the dragons' monstrous appearances, gave them a chemical that destroyed them all - save him, who was on a scouting mission. The last dragon then stayed on the planet and vowed to punish the natives, being the monster they feared he was in the first place. The Surfer, indecisive over who to side with, decides to end the conflict by removing the dragon's powers - which is ultimately fatal to the dragon. The natives cheer the Surfer and thank him for defeating the "evil monster". The Surfer gives them all an epic chewing-out and vows to never again to come to their aid, even if it means they all die.
- Norman Osborn, after the failed Siege of Asgard that ended Dark Reign, gets a Motive Rant (spoken to his alter-ego, the Green Goblin) about how he knows the Hulk, the X-Men, or some other superhuman is inches away from completely wrecking the world (it would be more sympathetic if he weren't one of those same superhumans endangering the planet).
- Transformers: Shockwave is, and remains one of the most powerful and dangerous of all Decepticons. He embodies the unfeeling machine, uncaring of everything but logic. He wasn't always this way. Transformers: More than Meets the Eye showed that before the war he was one of the few good Politicians, opposing the cruel and unethical treatment and persecution of the commoners, and he risks his life and reputation to save Optimus, then Orion. He's lobotomized and has his appearance changed, becoming the villain everyone sees today.
- If you're wondering how they pull this off, it's because we don't actually find out he's Shockwave until the Empurata process is done on him in MTMTE #11, at least three issues after we see him as a former Senator.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Bram Stoker's Dracula opens with Dracula's wife committing suicide, causing him to reject God and turn into a vampire as a result.
- Similarly, "Max Schreck" in Shadow of the Vampire, especially in his monologue wherein he explains why he identifies with the character he's playing.
- Brigadier-General Hummel in The Rock, who's something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist, takes over Alcatraz and threatens to kill most of San Francisco. He's not doing it For the Evulz or even for himself, but because he's lost a lot of men under his command who were sent on various covert missions and then abandoned when they got caught. He just wants the government to acknowledge that and give the families of the soldiers their dues. It turns out he was bluffing about nerve-gassing the city, but unfortunately some of the mercenaries he was working with didn't get the memo on that, and revolted when they realized he wasn't going to go through with it. Death wound up ensuing for practically everyone.
- In The Phantom of the Opera (2004), when the Phantom's backstory is revealed it makes the viewer sympathize with him Also when he allows Christine to go after showing that she is willing to stay in what would basically be hell for her to let Raoul live makes the viewer feel even worse for him.
- The Hunger Games: Cato gets one in before his death.
- Full Eclipse: Garou relates how his family was hunted down and that he hated being a werewolf at first.
- In Abarat, Christopher Carrion's backstory. His entire family, except for his grandmother and absent father, died in a massive fire, he was brought up to be a perfect villain by his abusive grandmother who had sewn up his lips for saying the word love, fell in love with a princess who used and then shunned him...and his life didn't get better since then.
- The Vord Queen, in Codex Alera. In the first five books she is not sympathetic in the slightest, but in the sixth we discover that she is attacking the Alerans because the Queens she has produced in Canea are trying to kill her, so she fled. She's still quite clearly evil, but it's very sad, in a way.
- Even all-around treacherous bitch Invidia Aquitaine gets treated with a little sympathy in the same book, as she's managed to screw everything up so badly that even Isana is feeling sorry for her. For reference, Invidia arranged to have Isana's husband killed, repeatedly tried to kill her son, and is helping the Vord Queen hold her hostage.
- Gollum's Character Development in The Lord of the Rings, though there were traces of this in The Hobbit.
- Older Than Radio: The "creature" from the original Frankenstein was an intelligent, gentle, fairly human person who happened to look like a hideous monster, so he was abandoned by his creator and rejected by society, making him lash out to become truly evil.
- Kallor from The Malazan Book of the Fallen was a son of a bitch long before he was cursed to a) live forever and b) fail at everything he did. Toll the Hounds however, spends a great deal of time demonstrating that not only did the curse fail to fix him, but the constant misery he has suffered over the millennia has only succeeded in making him even worse, transforming him from a standard Evil Overlord and into a Misanthrope Supreme who hates himself and all humanity with equal passion. An example of a character who you can both pity, and wish a horrible death upon all at once.
- In Ghost Story of The Dresden Files, Uriel says he kind of pities the Skinwalkers, as their rampages and the pain they cause is some desperate attempt to prove to themselves that everyone can be as screwed up as they are. His sympathies are far more toward their victims though.
- Virgil of Within Ruin spent centuries crafting a fake religion and setting nations to war against one another in order to harvest the souls of the dead. We soon find out that he did it to revive his Elven queen Ankaa whom he loved more than anything. Except she no longer loves the man he has become. He then falls in love with the soulless Descarta and continues doing evil in order to save her despite the fact that she hates him vehemently. It doesn't excuse his actions but it's clear why he ignores Descarta's wishes and goes through with the final process.
- Unusual for H.P. Lovecraft, in At the Mountains of Madness the protagonist only sees the aftermath of a horrific massacre at the hands of an ancient alien race. At the end, he finds several of the individuals responsible for that massacre dead, and finds himself comparing their actions to how humans would react in the same situation. They're still somewhat creepy, given they still look on humanity with cosmic indifference, but given an understanding of their motives makes it hard not to feel some sympathy for them. The same can't be said for the Shoggoths, though.
- Ney from the Story of Evil novels. She causes Micheala's death, spies for Prim, and ends up possessed by Conchita. It was all for her mother, Prim , who merely views her as a tool, to praise her. (She doesn't). And then she dies in one of the most tearjerking ways possible...
- In Victoria, the Azanians are obvious, even genocidal villains who run a racist, totalitarian state. But their POV makes their motives a little more understandable. They started out as traumatized women fleeing from horrible other regimes in a post-apocalyptic hell-world, and built a country of their own. A generation later, they have used the setting's sci-fi assets to make it a prosperous high-tech society, and remake themselves into a One-Gender Race of Amazons—Who in turn have begun to attack nearby male societies, because they are still paranoid and hate and fear anyone who might put them back under the yoke. Their behavior makes them intolerable, but it's hard not to feel at least a little sorry for them when they begin to lose their war—against protagonists who are very much unscrupulous heroes—and are absolutely terrified that all their worst fears are coming true, to the point of choosing mass suicide over surrender.
- Doctor Who:
- The original trope namer was the lone Dalek in the episode "Dalek", who tugged at viewers' heartstrings as it tried to come to grips with being the last Dalek left alive. A sorry fate for a being that believed absolutely in its race's superiority over all others. It started out as Narm when it seemed less upset about being the last Dalek in existence than about having no orders left to follow. But then it gradually got scared, which is a big jumping point since Davros programmed them to not feel any emotion but pride and hate. Even The Doctor felt sorry for this Dalek when he learned it had absorbed some of Rose's DNA and was impure — something it couldn't bear to live with when it found out. That fact makes it even more tragic: for the most part, the Dalek race is essentially damned to self-loathing, fear and finally suicide if it ever sees the light.
- Also from Doctor Who, The Master turned in this direction when it's revealed to him that he was driven insane (partially) by the High Council's plan to escape the Last Time War. And then he's cast aside, because he's "diseased".
- Invoked intentionally by Blon in "Boom Town". In her previous appearance she was just one of many Slitheen who planned to initiate a nuclear holocaust simply so they could sell the radioactive remains of the Earth as starship fuel. When the heroes meet her again, her motives haven't improved much; she intends to nuke Cardiff (tearing apart the rift) in order to escape the planet. She certainly never pulls any sort of Heel–Face Turn, but attempts to forestall her own execution by explaining how horrible her life has been (she would have been killed if she'd refused to be a killer like the rest of her family) and how unnecessarily cruel her death will be (dissolved in boiling vinegar). In the end she does get a sort of second chance, as she is regressed to an egg and can start her life over.
- In Smallville, Davis Bloome/Doomsday to Chloe in season eight, in a fashion.
- Veronica Mars: The season two Big Bad is like this - we all pay attention to the Freudian Excuse, and think about just how messed up someone like that would be, and if this villain ever really had a chance.
- Sylar, as of Volume 5 of Heroes. He hates what he is, he realizes that no one will ever love him and he'll spend all of eternity alone and miserable and after spending all that time gaining new abilities he now wants to be rid of them because he knows that he'll never stop killing while he has them. He's still pure evil, but it's hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for him... Like some takes on the vampire myth he's a wretched monster, controlled by his bloodlust and unable to change unless FORCED to.
- Total Monster Tate in American Horror Story: Murder House crying over Violet and making her puke because she's dying from too many pills.
- Kim Young of Dae Jang Geum. She did some unforgivable things to Jang Geum and Lady Han, but most of the time she was caught between a rock and a hard place and she was always miserable about her life and her situation.
- The Farscape episode "Incubator" is the Monster Sob Story for series Big Bad and Magnificent Bastard Scorpius. It didn't really work in persuading the neural chip copy of Crichton in the episode. However, when Scorpius later reveals his backstory to the real John, he seems fairly affected by it, though not enough to actually help Scorpius.
- This is practically the entire point of The Sopranos. Like it or not, we spend as much time watching these mobsters in moments of humanity and vulnerability as we do watching them violate nearly every moral code known to man. Most cross the Moral Event Horizon at some point (possibly even multiple times), but are still portrayed as human beings with relatable problems, which is what makes the show so fascinating and horrifying at the same time.
- Echidna, the otherwise utterly repulsive (and quite literal) "Mother of All Monsters" from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys got this treatment prior to her later Character Development. A loathsome she-beast with scaly green skin, snakelike fangs, a grotesque shriek of a voice, and tentacles that seemed to stretch out for miles, she nevertheless evoked sympathy: her hatred of Hercules was entirely justified, as he had slain all her children, even if it was in self-defense. She plotted Herc's demise on a number of occasions, but eventually underwent a Heel–Face Turn and enlisted the hero's help after her youngest child was kidnapped. Interestingly enough, she also married a fun-loving giant (who was very large but otherwise normal-looking), making their case an example of Hot Guy, Ugly Wife.
- The X-Files episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" made many a fan feel pity, if not sympathy, for the series' eponymous Big Bad, who has been until then presented as an utterly irredeemable Jerk Ass. It probably helped that it was the first (and only) episode where he wasn't seen from Mulder and Scully's POV and, thus, got a chance to show the more human sides of himself.
- Being Human has Cutler, who is revealed to have been tricked into drinking his murdered wife's blood by Hal.
- Teen Wolf’s Matt Daehler is a Jerk Ass Stalker With a Crush on the female lead and, once he becomes the master of a reptilian shapeshifter, murders several people along with taking over a police station and holding the parents of the main characters hostage. Well, as it turns out, his killing spree stems from a traumatic experience when he was only 9 or 10 years old – the 2006 swim team (his future victims) tossed him in a pool and ignored him when he started drowning. He was rescued by the coach only to be screamed at that his near-death was his own fault and to never speak of this to anyone. Still doesn’t excuse the stalking or killing all the cops, but you begin to understand his reasons for Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, and his murder (by drowning – the exact thing he fears most) is worthy of being a Tear Jerker.
- Peter. He may be a manipulative bastard but it's hard not to feel some sympathy towards the guy when you consider that nearly his entire family was burned alive and as a result of the same fire, he was stuck in a catatonic state for six years, slowly healing "cell by cell" and driven mad.
- Once Upon a Time: Most of the main villains have this, particularly Regina/The Evil Queen and Gold/Rumplestiltskin.
- A shape-shifting demon from the Supernatural episode "Monster Movie" gets this when he reveals how he was abused by his father and villagers, but he found refuge from the violence in old monster flicks that he re-enacted to a very serious degree (which involved killing people and kidnapping women).
- Demonstrated again when Sam and Dean head back in time in order to secure the remains of a phoenix to kill The Mother of all Monsters. Said creature goes on a killing spree against three local police officers once they arrive, only for Dean to find out it was a painful love and loss revelation against a duplicitous sheriff's deputy with his cowardly superior and the decadent judge taking his word over the persecuted and ended up burning for it.
- Several of the creatures on Grimm come across this way.
- Babylon 5 gives us Mr. Bester, a telepathic Magnificent Bastard of the highest order, who revels in tormenting and manipulating others to achieve his ends. Also enormously dismissive of any Mundanes. Midway through the series, he enters an Enemy Mine arrangement with the heroes, and learns that his former lover, a Rogue Telepath who refused to join the Psi-Corps, was captured by the Psi-Corps and handed over to the Shadows to be changed into a control unit for the Shadow warships.
- Queen of the Wave by Pepe Deluxé. The villain Mainin was already seeking forbidden knowledge and black magic, but it was a pointless tragedy (the execution of his lover, based on false evidence) that finally drives him to outright supervillainy.
- "Monster" by Meg and Dia. It tells the story of a boy who was abused during his childhood. When he grows up, he attacks and presumably rapes a woman. According to the short story that the song is based on, the boy then commits suicide in a bathtub full of kerosene.
- Both Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem can be played this way. In fact, the Time of Judgement book "Gehenna" for VtM specifically invokes this trope, to the point of mentioning in the introduction that two of the game designers imagined it ending with the last vampire on earth drinking himself to death in a random bar, depowered and all alone.
- The Yozis in Exalted manage to be somewhat sympathetic despite being insane god-monsters whose plan to break out of hell involves an obscene amount of death.
- Clive Barker's The History of the Devil. He is the devil, but he just wants to go home. He seems to win at the ending, being allowed to return to heaven on the condition that he can never leave it again, but in a massive Downer Ending it's revealed that heaven is completely empty, abandoned by God and all the other angels.
- Makuta Krika of BIONICLE, who only went along with Teridax's plans seeing as it would just be a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. He longs for the old days when the Brotherhood of Makuta stood for something and helped the people rather then trying to enslave them and usurp the Great Spirit Mata Nui.
- After finishing Resident Evil 4 and likely mowing down hundreds of ganados along the way, getting to see a slide show of the villagers before they became monsters living their lives peacefully and happily hits you like a bus. Especially since you recognize some of themnote . Give it a watch; It's remembered as the most terrifying part of the game for a reason.
- Walter Sullivan from Silent Hill 4. He's a creepy psychotic ritual serial killer, but his backstory is just so sad. How's this for a motive: he just wants his mommy.
- Pointed out in the parody series Noisy Hill when Henry is appalled to realise that the "Evil plan" he's trying to stop is this, declaring "I'm really not a very nice person, am I?"
- Silent Hill somehow turns this tragedy into a dark sort of tragicomedy by further revealing that he thinks his mommy is your apartment.
- This is Silent Hill. He might not be wrong.
- Capehornus from Knights in the Nightmare is what can be lightly called a douchebag obsessed with taking revenge on everyone and everything for the slights he's suffered in life, and many a player grows to dislike him intensely. Then Zolgonark, the demon he summoned to help him do so, turns his granddaughter—the only person he loves—into a harpy. And all of his plans slowly but surely come undone as Yellma cheerfully ignores his plight to pursue her own agenda and the Wisp's army dispatches his subordinates. After his last stand and his bitter death speech, even Maria and Meria admit that he's Not So Different from them.
- The Portal: Aperture Science Sentry Guns, otherwise known as just 'Portal Turrets'. They don't want to kill you, but they've been heartlessly programmed to perforate anything that isn't another turret. They'll even apologize for their behavior... once you've knocked them over and rendered them permanently incapacitated.
Turret: I don't hate you.
- The Big Bad of Tsukihime in Hisui's route gets one of these when it's revealed SHIKI has been experiencing the same psychic link Shiki has been coping with, and if anything has been feeling even worse than Shiki. He just wants to kill Shiki to sever the link and give his mind some peace.
- The whole thing about being disowned by his family, locked up in a basement for years and years because his family carries demon blood that drives its' members crazy, and unknowingly being the reincarnation of an immortal vampire, which amplified the effects of said demon blood when it "awoke" in him.
- Rule of Rose. It's such a Tear Jerker (still being survival horror) that it's hard to determine where to begin. Both villains have major sob stories: a Psycho Lesbian with a Freudian Excuse and an Ax-Crazy madman.
- Every single boss in the Metal Gear Solid series decides to have a 15-minute conversation before trying to kill you. Some try to justify their actions by telling you their motivations. Others just gloat about how screwed you are and that you have no idea what is really going on.
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, after you arrive at the final boss battle above sunken Hyrule, Ganondorf tells Link that he sought the Triforce to bring cooling winds to his people as they lived in the barren desert. Whether this is a Evil Plan or this trope is debateable, but damn did it invoke some pity for Ganon.
- In Amea, Mish, the title character's childhood friend is shown to have turned into a Humanoid Abomination that controls many monsters all because of his efforts to embrace the suffering that the others have tried to expunge by becoming slaves of the Master.
- With the Golden Sun franchise, in the first game you managed to defeat and kill Saturos and Menardi trying to stop them from lighting the lighthouses and save the world. Then in the sequel you find out that the world is slowly eroding because the lighthouses aren't lit, and they were only trying to light them because their village was falling off the face of the world.
- What makes these characters this is that their methods for their very sympathetic goals include kidnapping, death threats, underhanded manipulation, smug attitudes, and generally trying to kill young teenagers for getting in their way without even attempting to explain why they're doing what they're doing.
- In Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance you kill Ashnard the king of the country of Daein, and all that remains is his vicious dragon mount. It turns out that he had Izuka, the mad scientist, warp and twist the mind and body of the missing dragon Laguz prince Rarajion. But its too late for him to survive.
- Invoked in The Evil Within: the ninth chapter of the game sees Ruvik twist his Mental World to show Sebastian (and the player) his past to try and elicit Sebastian's sympathy for his goals. It turns out he was born an albino named Ruben Victoriano, whose father despised him and whose only friend was his beloved elder sister, Laura. One day, while playing in a barn on the family property, a bunch of disgruntled local farmers set fire to it — deliberately ignoring the fact they heard Ruben and Laura playing there. Laura helped the horrifically burned Ruben escape through a window, but was trapped inside and burned to death. After this, Ruben's father locked Ruben up in the family estate's cellar and lied to his mother, claiming Ruben was dead. After his parents died and he was free, Ruben befriended the scientist who used to treat him in his youth, Dr. Jimeniz, and starts work on a machine that he believes will allow him to recreate Laura's mind from his own memories of her when he perfects it. And then Dr. Jimeniz betrays him and has him murdered, reducing him to a Brain in a Jar that is installed into his own consciousness-linking machine.
- Averted In-Universe and almost certainly with the player; Ruvik's visions also show the various atrocities and insanities he was prone to before and after his tragedies, such as abducting and murdering people to provide raw materials for his research, leading people to torturous deaths in sadistic Death Traps for his own amusement, murdering both his father and his loving mother, who had no idea he was being kept in the basement by her husband, and killing unknown hundreds of people in the process of perfecting his STEM Machine, and this leads Sebastian and player alike to condemn his efforts to elicit pity for his past.
- Higurashi: When They Cry's final arc was Monster Sob Story. This was one the arc where Everyone Lives, yet ended with the sense that one tragedy couldn't be avoided.
- Saya no Uta is a vicious Deconstruction of Cute Monster Girl and Magical Girlfriend and also generally a crazy piece of writing. Yet it manages to make the two protagonists, Fuminori and the titular Saya, appear very tragic and likeable despite their actions, simply because due to circumstances outside their control they just cannot have the one thing so important to them - each other.
- Syphile, Ariel's abusive stepsister / governess in Drow Tales. She was once the proud heir to the clan, but lost her status immediately after she took on demonic tainting as a requirement for her studies at school. In attempt to redeem herself she continues her studies underneath Sillice, whose other job and hobby is torturing the tainted. Constantly being abused by Sillice and looked down upon by the rest of the clan, has lead Syphile to take out her anger on Ariel, the current heir.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!—Fructose Riboflavin, when his most recent evil scheme fails in a really silly way, collapses in tears, and the strip's hero (still tied up!) tries to cheer him up a little.
- This trope is played much more straight when we finally learn Fructose's origin story, starting here.
- This comic here. View once and you are almost guaranteed to cry.
- Roommates is this (it has almost exclusively Villain Protagonists), but especially to Jareth, who got two arcs made from this trope. The Kid!Jareth one which deals with his terrible childhood and current (unwanted) crush on a heroine, and later Such Stuff... when the rest of the cast met his parents... let's just say in comparison he is positively cuddly. He, uncharacteristically for someone blessed with this, also tries to redeem himself, but unfortunatelly has very little clue, how the being good thing works.
- The villain in The Tomb of the Stone Clock claims she's doing what she's doing to restore her civilisation. We'll see whether it's true.
- Vandal Savage in the Justice League episode "Hereafter," where the immortal megalomaniacal conqueror has become the guilt-ridden last man on Earth... because he won.
- Gargoyles Demona lived a long life full of betrayal and suffering, losing everyone and everything she ever cared about one by one until all she has left is revenge. When the "City of Stone" story-arc is wrapping up (where-in she turned every human to stone and went around blowing them up one by one with a laser gun) it is next to impossible to hear the reveal of her fail-safe password ("…Alone") without feeling some measure of sympathy for her even if she is beyond redemption.
- Lucius from Jimmy Two-Shoes is normally a completely unsympathetic Caligula. But you'd be hard-pressed not to see his flashback in "Happy Birthday Lucius" and not feel just a little sorry for him.
- Mr. Freeze from Batman: The Animated Series was splashed with cryogenic chemicals while fighting with his boss, from who he'd been stealing resources to find a way to cure his terminally ill wife Nora. He was even willing to kill innocent people to get revenge and/or find a cure. Things only get worse for him as the series continues.
Terry: You gotta get out of here, Fries. The whole place is gonna go!Freeze: Believe me, you're the only one who cares.
- In The New Batman Adventures, Freeze's condition had worsened, reducing him to an immortal head without a body. Nora was revived but left him for one of her doctors. A comic tie-in expands on this. Nora's new husband, jealous over her love for Victor, hid the letters that Victor wrote to her. When Nora found out, she tried to return to Victor but could not accept his criminal past.
- By the time of Batman Beyond, his wife's gone, a woman he was falling in love with betrayed him, he's been rejected by society for the last time, barely surviving a battle with Blight, and he just wants to watch the Wayne-Powers Corporation go before he does. His Famous Last Words with Terry, the new Batman, are one of the best done Alas, Poor Villain moments ever.
- Igole in Wakfu. He was once a family pet. Then, he and Nox found the Eliacube, and Nox went mad over the thing. He stayed behind when Noximilien's wife and children left, and then they were killed in Ogrest's Chaos. He then spent the next two hundred years while Nox worked on gathering Wakfu for his plan, subject to his ramblings and having his life extended unnaturally and being treated only a little better than Nox's minions. He still remembers his time as a family pet and it's rather sad seeing just how much he really does remember.