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Grey And Gray Morality / Anime & Manga

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  • A Certain Magical Index: Neither the Magic nor the Science side are portrayed as entirely good nor evil. Both sides do very shady things behind public eye and do what they think is best for everyone. Some characters in each side are Anti Heroes at best while others are Knight Templar or Well-Intentioned Extremist at worst.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! really loves this trope.
    • In the Mahora Fest arc, Negi and his allies are unsure of whether they should allow the masquerade to be permanently broken. The boy eventually just accepts that he might be the villain in this case but decides to stop Chao either way, because she doesn't give him a good reason why he should let her continue. Later events, though, show unambiguously that Chao could've improved on the actual outcome if allowed to win. The risk of corruption and her constant downplaying of her intentions, however, ultimately influenced Negi to decide to fight for the present rather than look to an unknowable future.
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    • In the Mundus Magicus arc, it is revealed that all Fate wanted was to save Mundus Magicus... except his method risks lots of collateral damage (specifically, the Artificial Humans that comprise majority of its population). Simply put, Negi and Fate are basically fighting over who can do a better job of saving it.
  • Crest of the Stars. Both warring factions are morally ambiguous: Leaders of Humankind Empire Abh want to establish everlasting peace and prosperity, but they try to achieve it by conquering the Galaxy and subjugating humankind to their benevolent but authoritarian reign, which, among other things, deprives them of freedom of interstellar travel. On other hand, their enemies, United Humankind want to preserve their independence and freedom of space travel and trade, but they are prone to use underhanded tactics against Abh, are blatantly racist towards them and plan to enslave Abh after the war is over.
    • To clarify further, the Abh take control of all FTL vessels but still allow the locals to use them, not unlike a state-run airline service, even allowing for private rental of FTL craft if you have the money. Whereas the United Mankind's factions vary between wanting to enslave the Abh or exterminate them completely and institute a cultural assimilation program. While its still Grey and Gray, the Abh shade is definitely lighter than the human shade.
  • Tower of God: Sure, one could say that the people who betray and manipulate are the worst guys, but every single one of them has reasons that make then Not So Different. At the same time, the protagonists have to constantly crush the dreams of other people to advance. One could say that the black would be the system with it's inherent injustice, but then one would have to concede that the great conspiracy in the back ground has a noble cause. Also, the system has increased the chances of achieving ones dreams by several powers of ten, and many of it's members are pretty nice guys.
  • Studio Ghibli:
    • From Hayao Miyazaki:
    The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics is hopeless.
  • Dorohedoro. With all the Villain Episodes, you can't help but realize that the setting is filled with Punch Clock Villains and Anti Heroes in a Crapsack World.
  • The third season of Slayers. Slayers TRY, falls under this, especially compared to the other seasons and most media, although it shows shades of A Lighter Shade of Grey at times. This particular plot calls out the Shinzoku as self-righteous, hypocritical cowards, and the Big Bad and the greater being possessing him seek to destroy the world and then rebuild it so it will be free of the eternal battle between Shinzoku and Mazoku, something that was only started in the first place because the Lord of Nightmares found it funny, which affects the Mazoku and what they desire — namely, the total destruction of everything, period.
    • To a lesser extent, the ambitions of the Big Bad in the obscure video game Slayers Wonderful can be interpreted as this, as the scientist Viola (the antagonist) wishes to seal magic in order to stop the warring between humans and those above them. Once again, though, it shows A Lighter Shade of Grey.
  • Ao no Fuuin has the Oni and Human conflict. Humans hate Oni because they eat humans, though Oni are only doing so because it's in their nature to do so. Neither side is willing to properly listen and both sides are killing their opponents mercilessly. Soko sees this the most since she's an oni herself but only wants to be a normal human.
  • Gundam has made a point of this trope since the original series. Although the antagonists, Zeon, are generally seen as more evil than the Federation, Zeon's causus belli are understandable and realistic, while the Federation commits its fair share of atrocities across the series as well. In the end, no one side can claim to be exclusively good or evil.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing started off with the heroic Colonies rebelling against the evil Alliance and later OZ, but by the end, it was really hard to tell which side we were supposed to be rooting for. Ultimately Treize and Zechs (and a few others from OZ) are just as heroic as the Gundam pilots, even if their ideas clash; it's the Manipulative Bastards such as Quinze and Dekim who are considered the true "villains".
      • Even then, such characters are usually given sympathetic perspectives. Quinze, for instance, is among the disillusioned colonists and Treize followers who believe that Earth is the source of all armed conflicts and in the AC era, they've been given no evidence to the contrary. Duke Dermail and the United Earth Sphere Alliance essentially pursued the same goal as each other: unequivocal control over Earth and the colonies through overwhelming military presence, ensuring peace at the cost of control. The only recurring characters given no sympathy are Tsubarov and Dekim Barton. Tsubarov because of his callousness towards humanity and Dekim Barton because of his exploitative nature.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has a variation of the Enemy Mine situation, where some members of OMNI (Earth Alliance) and ZAFT (PLANTs) find out that their sides are not as gray as they thought, so they join forces as the Three Ships Alliance to fight both of them, now increasingly sliding into black under the leadership of a Politically Incorrect Villain and an Omnicidal Maniac, respectively.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 started out with Celestial Being more or less trying to force the world into peace. Unlike most Gundam series, none of the major power blocs are that corrupt or violent. However, in the second season, the various sides of the conflict become much more black-and-white, as the Gundam pilots started acting on freewill and the world seemingly uniting under the The Federation, which being deconstructed, has suddenly become much more evil, despite containing many of the sympathetic antagonists of the first season. Its sudden turn to villainy is ultimately revealed to be the machination of the Innovators, led by one madman with an outsized ego.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE starts with an attack by the Unknown Enemy on the long-since peaceful Federation... who abandoned hundreds of Mars colonists to agonizing disease rather than own up to the project being a terrible mistake, and they're still in the habit of rewriting history to be favorable to them. The UE are the descendents of those colonists, who want to return to Earth and get some revenge along the way. By the third generation, Flit and Lord Ezelcant want to exterminate the other side more than anything else.
  • The entire point of Legend of Galactic Heroes. This quote from Yang Wen-Li sums it up best:
    "There are few wars between good and evil; most are between one good and another good."
  • By the end of Martian Successor Nadesico, it has been revealed that Earth was the aggressor in the so-called "Jovian war", Nergal was the one who spearheaded and rewrote it, and the Jovian general is just as power-hungry and deceptive as you could ask for. The crew of the Nadesico gets backstabbed until they just don't care anymore and decide to cut the war short their way.
  • Noir, despite its name, actually isn't Black and Gray; it's fairly dark, but it's more like slate and charcoal than anything else.
  • Darker Than Black. Amber's organization, Evening Primrose, wants to seal off Hell's Gate to prevent The Syndicate from destroying it, thereby wiping out every Contractor in existence but also Japan. Hei is actually working for said syndicate throughout most of the series, as are most of the people who get in his way, since they're keeping the Contractors busy fighting each other unless they discover their superiors' real goal. Plus everyone's a Punch-Clock Villain.
    • In the end, Evening Primrose landed in more white territory — when they found out that there is a third option in which neither Contractors nor Japan are destroyed, they went for it.
  • Simoun, from the beginning. It starts with the POV of someone from one of the peripheral, heavily polluted nations talking about why they are invading Simulacrum, and it has examples throughout of both sides doing good and bad.
  • The battles between Marines and Pirates in One Piece depends on viewpoint character. Both sides have their fair share of good and evil members. Marines can be distinguished by their sense of justice — moral or absolute — while pirates either travel just for the thrill of adventure or to Rape, Pillage, and Burn. To drive the point home, the end of the Impel Down arc reveals that Hanybal was desperate not to let its inmates break free, knowing they are hardened criminals who still pose a threat to the world's security. The Straw Hat Pirates are one of the few relatively good pirates, and even then they'd rather stay away from the struggles between pirates and Marines so long as it doesn't affect their merry band of True Companions — which, unfortunately, given the world's state of affairs, more often than not does.
  • Steamboy explores the relationship between mankind and science, and aside from the O'Hara Foundation proper, none of the sides (Eddie Steam, Lloyd Steam, Scarlett O'Hara and Robert Stephenson) are shown to be entirely right or wrong.
  • Vinland Saga is about vikings. The main character could generously be called a Sociopathic Hero and doesn't actually care what side he's on. The sides in question change, merge, and are destroyed through various slaughters and assassinations. It isn't so much this as Gray Stew.
  • In Elfen Lied the cruel and inhuman treatment of the diclonii makes it easy to root for them and see the scientist who capture and experiment on them as the villains. But given the natural instincts of the mutants and their heartless brutality it's not that easy to say who are the true monsters.
    • The exceptions on both sides are Kurama and Nana who would rather avoid any more pain and death, but they are about the two most messed up characters in a story where every single person has serious problems with their mental health (and There Are No Therapists).
  • Heroic Age at first glance appears to employ Black and White Morality between the human protagonists and alien antagonists, but it eventually goes on to show some humans Kick the Dog a few times, while some aliens are portrayed sympathetically and others afraid that humans will kill them unless they Kill All Humans first, while both races appear to suffer from Blue and Orange Morality. Eventually, this trope is lampshaded and taken to its logical conclusion when both sides call a truce and eventually end the war.
  • Although Nabari no Ou initially appears to be a case of Black and White Morality, it's actually one of the rare cases where both sides are portrayed as more or less equally good — There's an equal number of heroes and villains on each side, and most of them change sides at least once. In the end, it turns out that Fuuma and Hattori have been working together all along.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena is a perfect example. The student council are all fighting for their own personal goals (none of which are truly good or bad), and this applies to most every other character. Even Utena herself falls into this through most of the story, fighting because she wants to be a prince, and struggling to find her identity amongst it all rather than out of a sense of justice or love.
  • Mushishi is often built around this: it's irrational to blame an animal for doing what nature made it to do, even if 'what it does' is eating eyes, parasitically living in people's ears or devouring fetuses and taking their place. The mushi are bizarre and sometimes frightful, but mindlessly innocent, and the mushishi who handle them can come off as Knight Templar or Well Intentioned Extremists for exterminating them.
  • Desert Punk definitely fits this. Initially, it's a case of Punk fighting against people who are not much worse than him (and occasionally are somewhat better), but the ultimate plot about a rebellion falls squarely into this too. The Oasis Government presides over a horribly inequitable system (which is partly Inherent in the System because of the wasteland setting) and is involved in various conspiracies to control Lost Technology and silence those who find out about it. The rebels initially seem to be A Lighter Shade of Grey, especially since sympathetic and idealistic government officials join them, but are made morally ambiguous because of a Utopia Justifies the Means attitude, which includes hiring unpleasant, even villainous characters to help their cause, one of whom has the outlook of an Omnicidal Maniac and is just manipulating them to advance his own goals.
  • Given Real Life history, the Moe Anthropomorphisms of the various nations in Axis Powers Hetalia are definitely this. As everyone's shown to be good-at-heart in their own ways, not one of them is portrayed as utterly evil, including Ivan/Russia. And if they're given enough time in the spotlight, almost every country is revealed to have a few jerkass traits.
  • Getter Robo villains are at best Anti-Villains, at worst Well Intentioned Extremists. The only villains that crossed the line are human, and really, it's hard too see how the villains are "evil" especially in the manga when most of them consist of the villain fighting for the happiness of their people, or trying to save the world, complete with several Heroic Sacrifice to save the world. The only explanation for their status as villains are the fact that they are not human.
  • The feuding ninja clans of Basilisk are equally honorable and treacherous. As are the heirs' nannies who instigated the contests with their own intrigues. The Treacherous Advisor/Big Bad wasn't in support of either side so much as conflict for the sake of pain and misery. In that sense, even though defeated, he won in the end.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo might as well be called Grey and Gray Morality: The Series. The incarnation of Ultimate Good murders the main character's princess wife in a fit of Black and White Insanity, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
  • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha deconstructs the Black and White Morality prevalent in many other fantasy works when the Demon Queen reveals the truth to the Hero about the human-demon conflict: neither side are wholly good nor evil, just the individuals and their actions. On one hand, the war helped unite feuding kingdoms against a common enemy. On the other hand, opportunists came in to exploit civilians and get rich off the war. Both the Demon Queen and the Hero, who can pride themselves of A Lighter Shade of Grey, now set off to cut through the war and find a more peaceful solution.
  • Applies to nearly every character and situation in A Cruel God Reigns. Does Jeremy kill his stepfather or does he continue to let himself be abused? How should Ian feel about Jeremy- does he forgive him or does he hate him for murdering his father? Is he in love with him or does he just want to atone? The series revolves around those two issues, but nearly every character has some situation like this at some point in the series. Not only are their situations Grey and Gray as well as Black and Gray Morality, but the way the characters deal with these situations is often muddled in good and bad.
  • The fight between both gangs in Yukine's arc of CLANNAD After Story fits this trope. Although it is never made particularly clear what the motives of both sides were, Yukine was willing to assist and nurse both sides, despite the fact that the leader of one gang was her belated brother.
  • In Blade of the Immortal it's hard to know who to root for sometimes, since the vast majority of the cast, even if they engage in questionable behavior (the so-called "villains" frequently moreso) usually have something understandable that they are fighting for and show that they are fundamentally decent people; most of the conflict in the series is merely due to someone's interests interfering in another's. There are a handful of exceptions, notably Shira, who is completely irredeemable.
  • K seems to take it a step further than this in that the conflict between HOMRA and Scepter 4 is never framed as a moral issue. Both sides attempt to protect the city from Strains, they just have different ways of going about it. Many viewers tend to think of HOMRA as the lighter shade, because their Power of Friendship side was shown in the first season - as well as Misaki's raging anger at Saruhiko's Hazy Feel Turn - and Saruhiko's less than helpful reaction. However, Scepter 4 gets those moments in season 2. The Green clan might look like a darker shade, and the other three clans do team up against them, however, they are more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist type. Likewise, the Silver clan might seem to be completely good, and the Silver King is framed as the Big Good, but then again, they could have avoided conflict if he hadn't run away from his responsibilities for so long.
  • Mother Keeper has this, on one side the people in the slums are rebelling because according to them Eden has ruined their lives and left them in a terrible condition. On the other hand, Eden says they've done nothing to these people and claim that they're just a bunch of terrorists attacking for no reason. Even the main character has reached a point where he doesn't really know who's side he should be on.
  • Attack on Titan: Chapter 55 drives this home repeatedly, showing just how blurred the lines have become. Ultimately, every group seems to believe their actions are necessary or justified, and getting their hands dirty for the sake of the greater good. Hange and Levi brutally torture a captured enemy for information, while Erwin and Pixis plot to overthrow the rulers and install Historia as a Puppet Queen. Armin openly considers the advantages of a False Flag Operation, and reminds the others that from here on out they will have to kill people for nothing more than because they are from another Branch — stating that they are no longer "good people".
    • Then you have the overarching story, where this is applied to the Marley vs. Eldia conflict. And then you throw Paradis into the mix....
  • Invoked in Parasyte as Shinichi debates to himself whether or not to finish off Gotou and if parasites are, in fact, the cure with humans being the disease.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS might be the strongest example of this trope in the entire franchise. Unlike previous protagonists, Yusaku isn't motivated by having fun or protecting his friends, he's out for revenge, yet this doesn't make him a bad person, he does still share noble and respectable moments. The villains, even if they aren't seen this way by our main lead, are more Well-Intentioned Extremist 's rather than paper thin antagonists. Dr Kogami's commits his actions because he really believes it is whats right for the great good and his son, Revolver, is just trying to help him make that happen. Also, SOL Technologies, the creators of Link Vrains itself is not entirely seen as on the side of good or bad.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is somewhere between this and The Good, the Bad, and the Evil. At first, it appears to be a Black and White Morality tale: Kyubey and the Magical Girls fight to save the Earth and the universe, while Walpurgisnacht and the witches are Omnicidal Maniac Eldritch Abominations. However, the magical girls are Anti Heroines at best, while the witches are fallen magical girls intentionally corrupted by Kyubey, who’s plan to save the universe is to extract humanity’s despair for energy. Madoka is the only 100% good character , and considering her witch form it’s more like 90% good. Everyone in the series has at least a little good and a little bad in them.
  • In Shigurui, the conflict is between a loyal samurai and a treacherous ronin. While it's easy to frame in terms of chaos vs order, both sides are willing to perform both despicable acts (Holding a woman about to be raped because your master said so, murdering random people for offending a beggar) and just acts (Honoring and protecting one's old master, refusing to rape said woman even if your master ordered you to do so).
  • In Suterareta Yuusha No Eiyuutan, the humans on the planet Randolia are all brought there from various worlds by goddess Claire, and have wildly varying ethics and motivations for joining the fight. The local demons, while defending their home, are also of a broad spectrum of morality. Aside from superficial differences, a truly impartial observer would have great difficulty understanding what the fuss is about.


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