"It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."
By the end of Fruits Basket, the only person who can even be considered a villain at all is Ren, and she's certifiably insane. Even she garners a little bit of sympathy with her Angsty Backstory.
Shugo Chara: The X/? - Eggs/ Chara are just Heart's Eggs/ Shugo Chara that have been corrupted, either via magical means from other people, or their bearers simply rejecting them to the point where they refuse to take it any - more, and as for the human, more dangerous enemies, Nikaidou is desperately attempting to convince him - self that he averts this trope, when he actuallydoesn't, Yukari is partly there for a promotion, but also there because she honestly wants to see Utau succeed as a vocalist, Utau her - self partly does what she does as jealousy for Amu taking Ikuto's interest, but also to keep both Ikuto and her (And his.) mother from being hurt, Ikuto acts like a villain both for that and to stop the people he cares about from becoming any more close to him, as towards avoiding his enemies attacking them, Kairi is basically forced into his position by his sister, The Scientists at first are mostly in it for, again, corporate advancement, but eventually begin to show doubt, and eventually find their apparent "victory" near the end bittersweet, Lulu is in there to help her mother star within the high - range productions she used to (Without actually telling her what she feels, or asking if se actually wants it, at least until her final attempt, after which... well...), Kazamu, despite utterly refusing to imagine that anybody could not want to be the head of a huge coorporation, with every - thing given to them at merely a request, essentially did everything that he did for his grandson, ironically, whether he asked for it or not, and Gozen him - self? Said grandson, who resolved the entire issue of crushing loneliness by simply sealing his feelings altogether... which only made everything worse for every - one. Essentially, he's just a scared, lonely little child.
Princess Mononoke beautifully carries out this trope. The humans and the forests all harbor understandable, sometimes irrational hostility against each other. Yet they have intentions that see for the better.
Vision of Escaflowne has the good guys and the Well-Intentioned Extremist antagonists. It does have Dilandau but he is the inverted personality of Celena Schezar, Allen's "dead little sister". Which makes Celena, the opposite to Dilandau in every way, likely the nicest person in the entire world, while Dilandau cannot be counted since he is not a human being found normally in nature.
Dr. Tenma operates on this principle at the beginning of Monster. The main conflict of the series is Tenma's idealism versus Johan's nihilism. In the end, Tenma's idealism wins out, as he saves Johan's life.
Yoshiyuki Tomino's Brain Powerd is a series in which no one is truly, completely evil. The Reclaimers are dangerous, but misguided, and people always have a reason why they act a certain way. Yes, even the show's resident Smug Snake Jonathan has some good in him that can be brought out. If Victory Gundam was the work of a depressed man, Brain Powerd is the work of a man who has overcome his depression.
Elfen Lied plays this as straight as possible: all of the main characters have Dark And Troubled Pasts, and each of them have had some falter in their relationships and friendships with others. The only truly evil characters are the Unknown Man and the Kakuzawas (Of whom said unknown Man is implied to be a part of), who abused their power and took it to a ridiculous extreme.
And even they have a Freudian Excuse, although though it fails to make up because of their needlessly sadistic and often idiotic behavior towards Lucy: They were bullied miserably by the orphanage, so they decided to take their misery upon people more miserable than themselves (in this case, Lucy), ultimately turning her into the cold-blooded, heartless, vicious mass murderer that we know.
At least a few episodes per series of the Pokémon anime, as well as the first movie, are devoted to the theme of "there are no bad Pokémon, only mean/abusive/neglectful trainers." The implication is that bad people as well are just the result of a bad upbringing.
With The Light has a lot of this. While there are people who are insensitive or antagonistic towards the autistic Hikaru or his mother's struggles in raising him, you can count the people who do so entirely out of spite on one hand. Most everyone else is just uneducated about Autism.
Mashina Hiro's next work, Fairy Tail, largely continues these trends (minus the mooks thing). Perhaps best demonstrated in the Cursed Island Arc, which ends with the main villain getting past the baggage he had from his former master and fellow students and reforming along with his entire team.
Mahou Sensei Negima! fits the trope. Many people like fighting, but the only really Evil person seems to be Chachazero, a powerless doll of Evangeline's. Even demons are quite decent people. Poor Communication Kills and Cycle of Revenge provide a steady supply of conflict, through. A lot of antagonists could've pulled Negi to their side if they bothered to explain their goals. Although even Chachazero has been able to show restraint, at the end of the Kyoto arc she just scares Chigusa so badly that she faints, as opposed to using her freaking huge knife to actually do some damage. Special mention goes to the Lifemaker's puppets, who geniunely believe they are doing the right thing because all except Fate are programmed to be loyal to their creator. The only one who is kind of a dick about it is Secundum, who got on the Lifemaker's nerves so much that he specifically created Fate without unlimited loyalty and zeal. The only character who's outright evil with no Anti-Villain tendencies or Freudian Excuse of some kind is Psycho Lesbian / Blood Knight Tsukuyomi, who has some seriousissues regarding Setsuna (and is generally Joker-level insane).
Most of Kimi ni Todoke's supporting characters are popular girls and jock guys who befriend the shy, outcast protagonist without any ulterior motive (unless there's an out-of-left-field scheme coming)
Kero Kero Chime comes pretty close. There's only one human in the entire series that's actually evil, with most of the conflicts coming from misunderstandings or well-meaning efforts. The track record is similarly good for non-humans: Although his minions are pretty nasty, even the Demon King himself turns out to be not that bad — he's completely reformed by the time the main cast meets up with him.
Neon Genesis Evangelion. No, seriously. The series may be best known for its ruthless cynicism, bleak tone and disturbing content, but some reading between the lines reveals the conclusion to suggest that all human beings really want is to be loved and accepted, and that the things they do, no matter how twisted, are merely the result of fear, self-hatred and lack of understanding for themselves and others.
Sailor Moon lives and dies by her belief in this. She will never allow herself to believe that someone is beyond saving. She proves it true time and time again as it is a rare villain she can not redeem.
Note that this really only applies to the anime — in the original manga, a good portion of the villains are just outright evil, and it's the rare villain who gets redeemed rather than summarily killed.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, this trope is featured numerous times with Yugi Muto repeatedly believing that goodness resides in everyone and that their dark side needs to be defeated for this to become free. Examples include Dartz, Raphael, and Marik Ishtar while characters that independently seemed to change their ways and become good having been previously evil would include Pegasus and Valon. Seto Kaiba also tends to be obnoxious and mean a lot of the time while actually being shown to have decent values at heart, not least his love for his little brother Mokuba:
Even the absolute worst of the villains play this trope straight. Yami Marik is the Ax CrazyOmnicidal Maniac split personality of Marik. While there's nothing sympathetic about his character, his origin is: he was born from the pain and anger Marik felt having his back carved by his own father. Yami Bakura is an Omnicidal Maniac trying to summon Zorc Necrophades, ultimately to avenge his entire town being murdered. Said Zorc is summoned by the Millenium Items, which ARE the collective group of townspeople that, while criminals, still didn't deserve the fate they got.
There are two major villains in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and both of them have good intentions: Lordgenome suppresses the growth of humanity in order to avoid getting the attention of the Anti-Spirals, who, in turn, want to destroy humanity in order to prevent them from destroying the universe through overuse of spiral energy.
Even though they have similar names, this is not Rossiu. Though it might be a call out, as Rossiu eventually learns a lesson and starts to believe more along the lines of this trope.
With the exception of the organ traders, this is pretty much the main tragedy of Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. This fact makes the ensuing spiral of vengeance even more tragic.
The Venus Project, thoroughly discussed in the second Zeitgeist movie, is built around the assumption that greed, corruption, and ignorance are not intrinsic human qualities but were instead drilled into us by the harsh primeval environment and later, by our obsolete social institutions.
Which is kind of ironic, considering the movies themselves allege almost everything that ever happened is part of an evil conspiracy.
Even though it's not apparent in the first film, the combined message of movies is that conspiracies like those mentioned in the first film are naturally occurring in the world, due to the system based on people and groups fighting each other for every and any advantage they can get. And honestly, that view is actually quite logical. While it is insane to believe in every conspiracy out there, we should understand that secrecy, subversion, and sabotage are a big part of the world, and they pretty much always have been.
Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in Boys Town: "There is no such thing as a bad boy."
This is the entire point of The Lives of Others: The main character is a Stasi agent named Wiesler in early 1980s East Germany, spying on a playwright suspected of Western sympathies. Wiesler is portrayed as torn between his loyalty to his job and his fundamental human sympathy with the target of his spying, and when the playwright conspires to write an article for the West GermanDer Spiegel about the high rate of suicide in East Germany, Wiesler does all kinds of things to keep his bosses from knowing.
The Green Goblin seems to think Humans Are Evil in the first Spider-Man movie, but is proven wrong when some very irate New Yorkers come to Spidey's aid.
In a bit of accidental Fridge Brilliance, the movie depicts NYC just after 9/11, where it was ill-advised to mess with New Yorkers.
He's not the only one. Count Dooku was a former Jedi, and thinks the Empire will be better for the galaxy. The Separatists have their own reasonable gripes with the Republic. General Grievous has had his planet devastated by the Huk, and the Republic didn't help his planet out because it was of little use to him. Even Darth Maul has excuse of being taken as a baby and forced under extreme circumstances to be living weapon. The only main villain exception is Palpatine.
Star Wars again, specifically Grand AdmiralThrawn, who despite trying to conquer the galaxy and more-or-less single-handedly supporting the Imperial Remnant militarily speaking, was really just trying to unify the galaxy before the Yuuzhan Vong came.
The Yuuzhan Vong in turn; they were mostly peaceful before the war between two mechanical races (the Silentium and the Abominor) fought a war that ravaged their home world of Yuuzhan'tar. This gave the Yuuzhan Vong a crippling fear of machinery, and allowed them to build up a resistance, but at the cost of being cut off from the Force when they went too far.
Ben Bova's Voyagers II: The Alien Within: After waking from cryogenic suspension and rescue from an alien ship, astronomer Keith Stoner goes to a war-torn part of Africa, gathers the local leaders and hammers out a peace that's seemed impossible so far.
This is a huge theme that resonates through Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture.
Patricia A. McKillip's novels seem to feature this a lot, with The Tower at Stoney Wood as a particularly strong example.
Terry Pratchett has said that he doesn't believe people who can actually tell the difference between right and wrong would ever choose wrong. As a result, many if not all of his villains, particularly in the Discworld, are in some way deeply disturbed, if not outright insane.
"It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people."
Arguably, the Lord of the Rings. It appears to be black and white morality at first, but several points in the story suggest otherwise. Tellingly, Elrond's comment that no one is born evil, not even Sauron, and when they see the dead eastlander and wonder what caused them to do what they did. Moreover, in the appendices it clearly shows Sauron thought, at least at first, that he was in the right, which reeks of Rousseau Was Right.
Also, in Tolkien's universe, evil cannot create, it can only corrupt. Therefore, orcs are corrupted elves, trolls are corrupted ents, etc.
In the novel Miracle Monday, Superman faces Saturn, an agent of Satan who is trying to break his morals by tricking him into killing an innocent girl. The hero responds by stating these beliefs - about the demon! Whether he was serious or was just Talking the Monster to Death (or both) isn't clear. (The demon was in fact, very much evil, but Supes still won the "game".)
The Coral Island. It's the book Lord of the Flies was basically written in response to, where the three boys stranded on the island live in perfect harmony, defeat a shark, stop some pirates, convert natives to Christianity and everything works out well (in fact, two of the main characters are called Ralph and Jack, the same as two main characters in Lord of the Flies).
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern novels have a couple of evil characters (Fax, for one), but just about everyone is a decent human being (and all dragons are invariably good).
To Kill A Mockingbird: Although it's arguable whether this trope applies to the book as a whole, this conversation between Scout and Atticus at the very end is an example:
Scout:(talking about a book read to her) Atticus, he was real nice...
Atticus: Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.
Most of the human inhabitants on the titular island of Dinotopia are nice, accepting, happy, hardworking and productive members of society. Only two malcontents are seen; one of which wasn't is a Gentleman Thief who gives everything he steals from a previous victim to his next victim, and the other of which wasn't born on the island and doesn't even rate much worse than a Jerkass, despite being the Big Bad of two books.
Even more apparent in Dinotopia Lost, in which a crew of cutthroat pirates reform the very instant they come into contact with Dinotopian society.
Live Action TV
Doctor Who - The Doctor believes this... most of the time. Occasionally, the humans around him prove him wrong. Doesn't seem to stop him giving the Patrick Stewart speeches, though.
In LOST, the character Rosseau is not mentally well, and later dead. She is also extremely mistrustful of... well, everyone. Take that as you will.
She is probably named Rousseau in honour not of this idea but his concept of the Noble Savage.
In Season 6, this idea is expanded upon. If Jacob is to be believed, part of his job on the island (aside from containing the Man in Black) is to demonstrate that yes, Rousseau Was Right, and people ultimately make good decisions.
This is basically true across the board in Kingdom, and it works well.
In Warehouse 13H.G. Wells was originally a person who believed that humans were brilliant and the future would be an amazing place, but when her daughter was murdered she stopped believing in humans but still believed the future would be a utopia, only again to lose that faith when she wakes up in the 21st century and saw that things were worse.
You know that I foolishly believed that if I could find a way to travel through time then things would have improved, a utopia would have emerged, but here we are over a century later and things have actually gotten worse!
More an illustration of the character's mental instability and fickleness than the character actually believing Rousseau was right, especially since most of her grounds for condemning humanity on the down-swings are, in fact, areas in which humanity has unarguably improved massively since the 1800s.
In Season 5 of Supernatural, Gabriel gives a speech to this effect to Lucifer, telling him God was right about humans being the greatest of his creations, since unlike demons and angels they know they're flawed and try to overcome them.
Any character in Community who seems like a jerk acts that way because of some form of rejection in the past, and possibly also in the present.
The Chills' "Look fo the Good in Others." One of the most sincere and positive songs ever recorded by an indie band.
Pokémon generally goes off the idea that people are basically good and even evil masterminds can reform. (This is, after all, a world where parents apparently feel safe sending their 10-year-olds off into the wild blue yonder with only a single Pokémon to defend them.)
In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Sky, this is Guildmaster Wigglytuff's personal belief: though there are plenty of criminals, there is no such thing as a truly bad Pokémon. In a way, he's proved right each time. Grovyle was good all along, Drowzee, Dusknoir, and the Sableye pull Heel Face Turns, Primal Dialga was just insane and very grateful to be returned to normal, Team Skull's last act is to return what they stole, Armaldo was really not all that bad, and Darkrai shows a capacity for good (after he gets amnesia, that is).
The first Mega Man Star Force game follows this trope to an extent. While there are some truly bad people (all but one of them are humans), including an unnamed person who took advantage of Brother Bonds just to steal somebody's invention, Chrys Golds, and Gemini, the Big Bad isn't one of them. The motivation of his actions stem from everybody on his planet, including his family, wanting to kill him to over take his throne. As a result of this, he was (with some assistance from Gemini) convinced that those from all other planets wanted to destroy him as well. Once Geo Stelar became his friend, he decided to repair the planet that he destroyed.
In Knights of the Old Republic, a LS character with a high persuade can pretty much prove this trope works 60% of the time, as you can convince plenty of the Dark Side characters you speak with to put down the shiny red saber. Some, like Kel Algwinn and Juhani don't take much work at all, while others like Yuthra Ban and Bastila are a bit more of a crapshoot.
The default assumption behind the Sakura Taisen series seems to be that people are innately good, although they can end up going astray without the proper guidance — the Humongous Mecha teams are also actresses so they can promote and nurture the innate goodness within humanity through the magic of musical theater. The real villains are forces external to humanity, such as demons or undead Japanese warriors.
This is a philosophy used a few times in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, notably at the end of both of the titles in the SonicAdventure series (Tails and Amy, respectively).
Metal Gear has this as a running theme. No matter how depraved a villain, they will either be a Well-Intentioned Extremist, or have a very elaborate Freudian Excuse. Psycho Mantis? Burned down his hometown as a child, and then was 'infected' by the mind of a serial killer. Vamp? He was traumatically forced to drink his family's blood, and then his lover and the father of his best friend was murdered. Fatman? He was bullied all his life to the point where the only person he cared about was his bomb disposal instructor who he then sought to surpass. Ocelot tortures people and does what he does for love of Big Boss. The only truly evil character who doesn't have a tragic backstory explaining their villainy is Volgin, and even he has some leading dialogue about his relationship with his father, the inheritor of a cartoonishly large sum of money. Then there's Coldman who is a complete psycho who plans on inciting a nuclear war just to prove his point on human behavior.
As revealed in the NG+, almost all of the conflicts in NieR are a result of tragic misunderstandings, with several foes just having been trying to protect themselves/loved ones. In fact, the Big Bad who kidnapped your daughter/sister? He was just trying to save his. And was responsible for keeping the remnants of humanity sane.
In Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave, the culprits as it turns out were actually not bad people, they had just fallen on some bad times and tried to speed up the terms of an inheritance that would state that they would get land and money if the Hilihili research centre were to close, and had thought up a very thorough plan to cause the Hilihili research centre to close. Upon completion of the game, they immediately turn themselves into the authorities, and according to Nancy's monologue, it takes awhile for them to figure out just what exactly they did that was illegal.
The Haunting of Castle Malloy also likewise doesn't feature anyone genuinely evil, and is so far the only game that doesn't really have a culprit, as the culprit is a 70-or-so-year old feral woman flying around in a jetpack.It Makes Sense in Context.
Shadow at the Waters Edge. The culprit wasn't motivated by greed and while Rentaro's creations can potentially cause Nancy's death when they malfunction and pin her underwater, he only intended to scare her away so the Ryokan would close. He didn't want to do this out of malice, he simply felt the Ryokan was holding Miwako back and that they would have a better shot doing something much bigger. It's also implied that he has an Ambiguous Disorder, so he would have found it socially harder to tell Miwako his feelings.
Little Busters generally argues this, but Kud and Haruka's routes make it explicit - Kud holds firm to her belief that there are no inherently bad people in the world even while chained up as a human sacrifice, while Haruka's route was largely driven by her hate for the people she believed had wronged her but in the end it turned out that, apart from the faceless people of her extended family, everyone around her was a good person and that all the terrible things that happened were unexpected consequences of well-intended actions. Realising that no-one around her is to blame is what finally allows her to accept her family and move on from her past.
In El Goonish Shive, After Tedd calls out half the school for making fun of Susan when she's the only one trying to change the uniforms, most of them are quick to apologize, with one saying that "we aren't a Borg Hive Mind." Earlier, when Grace runs out of class (due to not having heard of WWII) and is very embarrassed upon coming back, the other students are quick to offer their condolences over her leading such a sheltered life, and are angry at the people who subjected her to that rather than her. In fact, this comic demonstrates in many places that, with a few exceptions, high school students aren't the bastards that most media would have us believe. They're just normal people, with basically good natures.
At one point the Alpha Bitch (who seemed to be a textbook case of that trope) showed genuine concern for one of her henchgirls.
Freefall is set on a planet where artificial intelligences (mostly robots) have unexpectedly become sapient without the humans around them being aware of it, as the planet is still being terraformed, and most robots live their lives with fairly minimal human supervision. There's a great deal of worry among them about how humans will react when it all comes to light, and a Corrupt Corporate Executive who is trying to do away with them entirely for his own reasons. But most of the population is oblivious to the entire conflict, and much like in this strip, most other humans seem pretty reasonable about the whole concept.
Most of the villains were in it for the money, just in grandiose and often impractical ways. Two of the major recurring villains, Sly Sludge and Hoggish Greedly, actually pulled Heel Face Turns in the final season.
Gargoyles, though it's never explicitly stated, brings the Rousseau principle home through making each of its recurring characters as complex and 3-dimensional as possible. Even the Spin-Off comic, Bad Guys, calls its team of former ne'er-do-wells the "Redemption Squad."
Doofenshmirtz' ex-wife explicitly tells her daughter Vanessa that "No one is evil".
Villains in Batman The Animated Series, and, to a much lesser extent, its Sequel SeriesBatman Beyond, almost always start out innocent, until some horrible tragedy befalls them. Batman will inevitably try to bring them back onto the side of good before fighting them. This had always been the case for some characters, like Two-Face, but the concept is taken to an extreme. Mister Freeze is the most obvious example. The character had always just been a Card-Carrying Villain. In the show, he was a scientist trying to save his wife, but an evil executive destroyed his research and turned him into a monster. Other characters (including Harley Quinn, The Ventriloquist, The Penguin, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Baby Doll and Killer Croc) are all given their own episodes where they give up their evil ways and start to become productive members of society, only for some twist of fate to send them back to the dark side.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Almost everybody, pony or otherwise, has at least some spark of decency tucked away somewhere and can potentially be redeemed even if they start out antagonistic; exceptions for whom this statement is at the very least questionable are pretty rare and usually Big Bads. (And even among those, Nightmare Moon/Princess Luna is practically the poster pony for the trope.)