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Black And Gray Morality / Anime & Manga

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  • AKIRA. You know something's screwed up when the members of a biker gang who take drugs, vandalize property and violently attack their enemies with no remorse are the main good guys.
  • In Highschool of the Dead, the protagonists are Heroic Neutral on their very best of days, True or Chaotic Neutral on a good day, and Apathetic Citizens on a normal day. The Big Bad Koichi Shido and the Zombie Apocalypse, on the other hand...
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  • Everyone is violent and insane in Deadman Wonderland. Whether you're in the 'black' or the 'gray' bit is determined by whether you torture anyone. Or take away anesthetic. That's it. If you give someone painkillers, you're a good guy.
  • In Elfen Lied, we have a tragic mass-murderer, an overly aggressive hitman, and an excessively pragmatic executive up against a slew of mad scientists, psychopathic assassins, and sadistic children.
  • Ghost in the Shell
    • The members of Section 9 rarely show any reservations about using theft, murder, blackmail, and invading people's cybernetic brains, all outside of legal regulations. Although they are mostly good people at heart and often save lots of innocent people from harm, while the antagonists can be found at any points on the scale of blackness.
  • Most Universal Century Gundam series use this, wherein the heroes work for the lesser of two evils. It really kicked into full swing with Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ, where The Federation was portrayed as corrupt and hegemonic, but still preferable to Zeon (or in Zeta's case, the Titans) who were Space Nazis.
    • The One-Year War (the conflict from the original Mobile Suit Gundam) was mostly Black and White, but after later shows gave the Federation its dark side, stories that went back to the OYW (like The 08th MS Team and Blue Destiny) were more apt to show corrupt and amoral Federation officers. Gundam 0083 took it a step further by showing the genesis of the Titans with some Federation factions allowing Zeon remnants to pull off a Colony Drop so they could get the support they wanted to start an anti-colony Secret Police organization. In recent years the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, showing heroic and noble Zeons while downplaying past villainy in order to accommodate those fans who prefer Zeon.
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    • Later works that revisit the One Year War also tend to depict the Federation in a not-so-positive light, even though Zeon still remains the major antagonistic force. The prequel OVA of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin shows the Federation cracking down on protesters crying out for spacenoid independence in ways that mirror the 1989 Tienanmen Square demonstrations, while Zeon carries out a poison gas attack on a colony which is subsequently used in "Operation British". The seinen series Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt, which takes place during and immediately after the war, show the Federation sending an entire platoon of Child Soldiers to die, while Zeon conducts morally ambiguous (at best) research that leaves soldiers maimed and scientists traumatized. Even then, both sides come out looking better than the third faction which appears later in the series which employs Mind Rape on a massive scale.
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  • Apart from Puck and the Elves, you will be very hard pressed to find anyone who's genuinely good in Berserk who isn't doomed to a horrific fate. In fact, it borders on A Lighter Shade of Black, due to how crapsack the world is.
  • Death Note oscillates between this and Grey and Gray Morality. The authors have declared that L (who sacrifices the life of a death row convict to get some clues, and only takes on cases if they interest him) is a little evil and Light (who kills thousands of criminals, along with many other otherwise innocent people who get in his way in order to create a perfect world) is very evil. The cover of the first live action movie adaptation even has Light against a black backdrop and L against a gray one.
    • Soichiro, his wife, and his daughter are described by the creators as being the only good characters. The other task force members seem decent as well, even if Matsuda runs into some Not So Different issues.
  • The Hellsing manga and OVAs, where the protagonists include a viciously sociopathic super-vampire and the master who has to sanction his actions. However, other sides include Knight Templar Church Militants, and Nazi baby-eating synthetic vampires led by a Straw Nihilist Omnicidal Maniac who wants to plunge the world into war and destruction For the Evulz. However, like Berserk, the series has several moments of A Lighter Shade of Black.
    • The TV show goes the opposite route, seeming like a milder case of the trope...but plays it straight in the end.
  • Baccano! to some extent. Every character is a criminal of some sort, ranging from petty thief/delinquent to Mafia assassin. The protagonists just happen to be nicer about it, usually with some sort of moral code. Even Isaac and Miria, who are the most innocent and purehearted ones of the lot, are robbers wanted by the FBI.
  • Bleach will not pull any punches on making you second-guess who you're supposed to root for.
    • The Shinigami are not nice protagonists. The Spirit King is a reclusive mystery, isolated from society. His Praetorian Guard doesn't intervene unless events are apocalyptic. The Central 46 is arrogant, paranoid and prone to extreme acts of law enforcement, such as punishing victims of illegal Hollowfication - and anyone who tries to help them. The Gotei 13 overlooks the crimes of their R&D division because of its usefulness and includes sociopaths and criminals among its leadership. The main character's mentor is a Guile Hero who'll drop his own allies into life threatening danger for the greater good. After Ichigo exposes the Government Conspiracy as Aizen's machinations, it's stated that Soul Society is now changing for the better.
    • Arrancars are true evil and make Shinigami look saintly. Among their number are included a cannibal, an expert in psychological torture, a woman-beater, and a mass murderer. They liberally engage in torture, kidnapping, dismemberment, decapitation, friendly fire, Body Horror and implied threats of rape. Their hierarchy can change based on backstabbing and murder. Even the most sympathetic of the Arrancar condone and support all this just because they want friends.
    • Quincies are driven to use their powers to protect humanity from Hollows whom the Shinigami are failing. However, their Revenge Before Reason approach disrupts the chain of reincarnation and destroys the balance of souls between worlds, threatening the destruction of existence itself. Their arrogant refusal to accept the truth of their actions led to a war that lasted a thousand years with the Shinigami who themselves refuse to accept they need help. After a Shinigami pogrom almost wiped them out, they toughened up their powers and attitude, shifting from a misguided Church Militant organisation to become xenophobic, hyper-militant imperialists. As with the Shinigami, there are protagonist Quincies.
  • One Piece is full of this, considering that the protagonists are pirates, most of whom are just as villainous as their real-life counterparts, and the Marines serve as antagonists despite many of them wanting nothing more than to keep peace and protect innocent people from pirates. It's handled by having the main character, Luffy, and his crew be more interested in adventure at sea than pillaging and plundering, and having most of the Marine villains be morally corrupt or extreme in their ideals. However, Luffy has explicitly stated that he does not do things to be heroic, and while the most depraved pirates are usually villains, Luffy has been perfectly willing to team up with people who have done questionable actions (such as Law, Buggy, and Crocodile, although the latter was so evil that Luffy only teamed up with him out of necessity), and on occasion even upstanding people will be victim to Luffy's onslaught so long as they're in between him and something he desires.
  • Black Butler occasionally falls into this, although Ciel and his demon butler seem nicer than usual examples.
  • Slayers: All of the villains are more villainous than the heroes are heroic. The majority of the villains hail from an Always Chaotic Evil race of demons, with its members being unable to feel positive emotions, hence their goal is usually in line with destroying the world (or taking it over, in the case of Xellos and his mistress). The only villain who diverts away from this is Duclis, who is more out for revenge and retribution of his neglected and plague-stricken kingdom, albeit through destruction (even then, this is only in the anime).
    • As for the heroes, Lina only goes out of her way to help others if it suits her own needs (and will wipe out entire villages if need be), Gourry, while genuinely kind, is flighty and otherwise apathetic, and Zelgadis is much like Lina, willing to murder, occasionally gloating about his intelligence, and shutting out sympathy that the others occasionally show him. Amelia is probably the only "white" character, despite being good friends with the ones mentioned above.
    • Even their rotating allies are not free from this; Sylphiel is too shy to speak out for herself, Martina is a classic Rich Bitch who can't defend herself, Filia is a snobbish and bigoted priestess who stubbornly refuses to help others at times, and Pokota rushes headfirst into situations without thinking a lot.
    • While Slayers TRY (an anime season) initially sets Grey and Gray Morality between the Golden Dragons (of the main Slayers world) and the Shinzoku of the Black Orb - they both want to save their own worlds by destroying the other - it ultimately devolves into this, as while the Black Orb Shinzoku, while pragmatic, show sympathy to mortals, the Golden Dragons couldn't care less about them. Also, late in the season, one of their own (Filia) finds out that the Golden Dragons themselves slaughtered the entire race of the Big Bad, Valgaav.
    • NEXT also has a certain amount of this, since the Disc-One Final Boss actually only wants to kill Lina to prevent his old boss from attempting to destroy the universe by forcing her to cast Giga Slave: Which is exactly what Lina does. Even the first season qualifies to an extent, as while the Big Bad is an evil sadist, he's operating under the mistaken impression that his plan's success would consist of him summoning and destroying a monster bent on the world's destruction, rather than being instantly possessed by it.
  • D.Gray-Man is a bit of an odd case, as while the protagonist is unquestionably a good guy, the Church Militant he works for displays a terrifying lack of reservations about doing anything necessary to stop the Omnicidal Maniac they're up against. The more we learn about them, the worse the Black Order looks.
  • Though the main characters of Maiden Rose never do anything that crosses the Moral Event Horizon, being able to see their motives and redeeming qualities excuses them for quite a bit. We have yet to see more of the antagonists than that they're remorseless and wicked (and cool and sexy).
  • Gungrave is a nice example of this, everyone (especially the heroes) are murderers, gangsters and criminals. Despite this, there are still a handful of characters that are either innately likeable or worthy of great respect. Maria Asagi and her young daughter Mika are probably the only characters who qualify for "white" status.
  • Equation of the Immortal has a kunoichi fighting against a drug-using cult with a literal Deal with the Devil. The fact that she's a ninja is not the bad thing (she only uses said lethal ninja skills on demons,) its her actual power and willingness/need to use it on any random guy that comes her way that puts her in the gray area.
  • The main conflict of Code Geass is a battle between a Social Darwinist regime and an Anti-Hero young revolutionary fighting for a more peaceful world, but is willing to resort to any necessary means. And this is actually an improvement: before Lelouch came along, the Japanese rebels were straight-up terrorists, including killing Britannian civilians and their own people in the name of the freedom of Japan; Lelouch convinced them that they needed to rebrand themselves as allies of justice and defenders of the innocent if they ever wanted to get anywhere.
    • And its worth noting that Lelouch's ultimate goal isn't the freedom of Japan, it's the safety and happiness of his little sister; which he plans to guarantee by starting a world war to take out all threats to her. And he jeopardizes the resistance's success multiple times during the series when he thinks she may be in danger. Character Development has him move past this during the course of the second season, but he becomes even more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist at the same time.
  • Black Lagoon. This show is a see-saw battle between evil and selfish mercenaries and people like Hansel and Gretel who LOVE to kill, and also between this and Evil vs. Evil. The Lagoon members have no regard for human life and the only "white" character is a Useless Protagonist, but the villains are Sadists with high body counts.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, as a parody on several Western Animation tropes, fits this one to a tee. The Big Bad is a masochistic Evil Overlord who wishes to unleash Hell on Earth, and uses his Co-Dragons as weapons, who themselves are oppressive tyrants, and ghosts and demons alike walk around with no one to stop them. The heroes? A pair of Jerkass angels kicked out of heaven for their own vices who are anything but heroic, a Pedophile Priest who finds pleasure in masturbation, molestation, and bondage, as well as being a former criminal, a Chaotic Stupid doll who only seems to be good at being killed, and a guy, while genuinely nice, is only really there to get some poon.
  • Lupin III often exemplifies this, pitting its titular burglar against ruthless international cartels, megalomaniacs and mass murderers. While post-Miyazaki installments tend to lighten Lupin's gray, having him often abstain from violence, the first series and movie often play up his more sociopathic tendencies, always quick to remind the audience that Lupin is a lech and a "master killer."
  • In Seraph of the End The vampires are mercilessly cruel and amoral beings who think of themselves as superior to humans. They keep humans contained like cattle for their blood and will spare them as long as they don't rebel. Those that rebels will be killed without any mercy. In addition, the vampires place little value in everything (except blood) and therefore don't care if some humans, and sometimes their own kind, die. However, the human organizations that fight against them keep vampires locked up to do experimentation on and are not above doing similar things to humans. Although humanity as a whole isn't as warped as the vampire race, the non-Muggles from various magic organizations who subtly control humanity behind the scene are willing to risk committing blasphemy and start an apocalypse just for the sake of power. It is heavily implied and later confirmed that humanity, specifically the Hyakuya Sect is responsible for the viral outbreak that eradicated 90% of human population due to a failed experimentation that is later resumed by the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. While the vampires can be unsympathetic, they at least want to preserve humanity as a whole, seeing as how they are actively trying to prevent another Apocalypse and have a rule against drinking directly from humans in order to avoid killing humans by sucking humans dry. In fact, two Seraphs, the angels based on the Book of Revelation, pointedly mention of wanting to smite humans for their sins, not vampires.
  • Kill la Kill had shades of it from the beginning, with its Nominal Hero protagonist and her rebellious allies fighting an Evil Overlord, but the best example of it is when Satsuki fights Ragyo. The former is the aforementioned Evil Overlord, who trapped hundreds of innocents in Life Fiber traps to fulfill her goal of revenge, being well aware that all of them could die, and the latter is her abusive and incestuous mother, who plans to kill every single human and blow up the Earth in the name of the Life Fibers. The only reason it doesn't count as Evil vs. Evil is because Satsuki was revealed to have been Good All Along. After that, the series shifts to Black and White Morality.
  • Space Patrol Luluco: On the heroes' side, we have a Reluctant Warrior, a Sociopathic Hero, a shameless Token Evil Teammate, and Da Chief. On the villains' side, we have a Space Pirate who auctions off entire cities and has no problems with beating the crap out of her daughter and an entire species that loves nothing more than taking worthless crap and stealing it anyway, and are perfectly okay with endangering an entire town and starting a wild goose chase to manipulate a young girl's feelings. And then destroy her worthless item afterwards.
  • City Hunter: Ryo Saeba is a criminal guilty of multiple counts of murder, perversion, vandalism, breaking and entering, theft, assault, and illegal carrying and ownership of guns (in Japan it's illegal to even hold a gun without licence, and you can't own pistols unless you're a member of the police or the Self-Defence Force), and Kaori, his accomplice, is guilty of the same crimes barring the first two (she only has a few counts of attempted murder). They are our heroes, and deal with worse people on a daily basis.
  • Attack on Titan is either this or Gray and Gray Morality. Which side is black and which is gray depends on which side you ask.


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