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"So long as there are children who can smile innocently as they happily eat sweets, I have a positive opinion of this world. To that end, I have deceived, betrayed, and spilled blood. And I'll likely continue to do so. If that isn't enough, I'll resort to higher reason. "
Cardinal Moldeen Ogus Gyunei, Dances With The Dragons

The following have their own pages:

Individual works:

  • Black Lagoon: In this dark criminal underworld, a few manage to thrive and even direct the chaos:
    • Rokuro "Rock" Okajima himself has grown steadily darker as the series goes on. Proving his tactical acumen in the first few episodes by coming up with a genius plan to wipe out a pursuing anti-tank aircraft, Rock later shows his skilled manipulative side by becoming a flawless negotiator to the point that all the most powerful players in Roanpur genuinely like and respect him. During Roberta's rampage, it is Rock who manipulates Roberta and her master Garcia into a deadly confrontation to end the bloodshed, nearly getting both killed, but ending in Roberta recovering her sanity and leaving in peace. Rock continues to demonstrate his ability to use and manipulate others, even if for ostensibly desirable ends, as possibly the single most dangerous and skilled player of the criminal game in the darkness that is Roanpur.
    • Balalaika, born Sofiya Pavlovna, was cast out of military service to the Soviets for saving a child in a refugee camp. Now the head of Hotel Moscow in Roanpur with her old unit, Balalaika loves war above all else and maintains control of her section of the city with an iron fist. When she heads to Japan on business, Balalaika casually manipulates a gang war simply to enjoy the excitement with no side ever coming close to even touching her. Earlier, when two of her beloved soldiers are killed by the assassin twins, Hansel and Gretel, Balalaika lures Hansel out to his death and delivers an utterly chilling Breaking Speech as Hansel bleeds to death. Frequently displaying a tactical brilliance, Balalaika shows again and again why she is one of the single most powerful and dangerous people in the world.
    • Eda, supposedly a flirty criminal nun from the so-called Church of Violence smuggling operation, is actually a skilled major player in her own right. A CIA agent who also completely dominates the Triad boss Mr. Chang, Eda is in effect the true secret ruler of Roanpur. On the field, Eda also freely manipulates the hapless Janet Bhai into a safehouse that will be invaded, with enough instructions to escape so Eda can extort her for protection, and later shows that she casually plays all sides in Roanpur while setting up an end to the insane battle maid Roberta's rampage.
  • Blade of the Immortal:
    • Anotsu Kagehisa desires a world where "the sword excuses all". Creating the Itto-Ryu, Anotsu begins to hunt down dojos to eliminate them in order to abolish the stifling sword styles from the world in favor of a world of pure determination. Cleverly eluding his pursuers via having prostitutes disguise themselves as him and lead his hunters into ambushes, Anotsu's utter tenacity sees him through other attempts on his life and rallying the itto-Ryu against the shogunate, culminating in a dynamic assault on Edo castle itself. Even to the end, Anotsu remains a complex figure, stopping at nothing to achieve his dreams despite all the wrongs he has committed on his path.
    • Habaki Kagimura, secret master of the Mugai-Ryu and the shinbangashira—a major figure in the Shogunate—forms the Mugai-Ryu to secretly destroy the Itto-Ryu before luring the organization's strongest members into a trap and destroying them. Capturing series Protagonist, the immortal man Manji, Habaki subjects him to experiments to perfect immortality for the sake of the Shogun. When ordered to commit seppuku, Habaki uses his time to try to destroy the Itto-Ryu, dealing a series of decisive blows before engaging Anotsu himself with surprising good humor and mutual respect, with his only regrets at the end being the loss of the two loves of his life and his dead children.
  • Claymore: Isley, the Silver King, was the first of the Creatures of the Abyss, the first Number 1 of the first and only male generation of Claymores. Upon meeting the powerful Priscilla and learning her power, Isley submits to her, intending on manipulating her to bring the world under his control. Bringing about a war in the North with his former comrades now as Awakened Beings, Isley splits his forces in half to sacrifice them against another Abyssal One and the Claymore Organization while he heads South to defeat the third Abyssal One and take her lands. Bonding with The Heroine Clare's former companion Raki, Isley truly grows to love him and Priscilla as family and even sends them away when the monstrous Abyssal Feeders come for him to save their lives. Even post-mortem, we learn Isley only ever Awakened to begin with voluntarily to stop his former comrades and instilled Raki with a plan to help stop Priscilla if she became a monster, a plan that Raki manages to pull off thanks to his teachings.
  • Dance in the Vampire Bund: Alphonse Medici de Borgiani is the Bund's master of intelligence who, for the sake of the Bund, will have a child kidnapped and bitten to blackmail the boy's politician grandfather. Constantly putting pressure on the hero Akira to better himself and become a strong companion for Princess Mina, Alphonse later orchestrates the betrayal and takeover of Mina's evil Doppleganger, before repenting and making plans to have Mina return to the throne via a series of clever contingencies. Finally, Alphonse allows himself to be destroyed and leaves a recording blaming himself for all of the Fake Mina's crimes so none of it will reflect upon the true Mina, protecting her, as Akira says, all the way to the bitter end.
  • Dances With The Dragons: Cardinal Moldeen Ogus Gyunei is the mastermind behind the series events, seeking to unite the Alshok Territory with the Seven-Cities Alliance and prevent the catastrophic Holy War from occurring. Arranging for the assassination of his own decoy, Moldeen uses this to expose and then kill the traitor in his organization. Hiring two assassins to use as bait to lure out a defector, Moldeen is also revealed to be responsible for the failure of the first treaty, which he did to create favorable conditions for Alshok. Admitting to be willing to deceive, betray, spill blood and even support oppressive regimes in the name of his end goal, Moldeen will stop at nothing to create a world where future generations can live in happiness.
  • Darker Than Black: The elusive, mysterious Amber betrayed MI-6 to work for The Syndicate, eventually leading the deadliest squad of Contractors in Heaven's War. Realizing the Syndicate's true intentions and using her powers to see and rewind the future countless times, Amber manipulated the Syndicate and her own side to seal off Heaven's Gate, which caused a massive disaster that rendered most of South America uninhabitable. Returning in modern day Japan, Amber orchestrates a series of bombings while kidnapping the scientist behind the Saturn Ring project, manipulating her former lover Hei and the world's intelligence agencies to place Hei close to Hell's Gate so he can seal it as well and prevent the Saturn Ring project from killing all the world's Contractors. After settling things with Hei, Amber sacrifices herself to rewind time and give him a chance to choose a third option, later revealing she had foreseen that possibility and left guidance in the new world Hei had made.
  • Devilman: Ryo Asuka, in truth the fallen angel Satan, is the one who connives to have Akira Fudo become Devilman by tricking him into being possessed by the demon Amon. Upon regaining his memories as Satan, Ryo exposes the existence of demons and sets the world into a full-blown panic to make humanity turn on itself while he sweeps in with his demons to eliminate them, eventually facing and killing Akira himself to his great sorrow. Even after God resets the world, forcing Ryo to relive losing Akira over and over, Ryo shows hints of subtly altering things to eventually change the fate forced on him, showing why he is both Akira's greatest friend and deadliest enemy.
  • ERASED: Gaku Yashiro is a psychopathic mastermind who brings excitement into his everyday life by murdering children and expertly framing innocents for the crimes. His genius extending all the way to childhood, where he effortlessly murdered his abusive older brother and made it look like a suicide, he carries his depraved intelligence into adulthood, where he spends years perfecting the art of charming and manipulating others, especially his preferred targets. Be it noticing signs of abuse or taking advantage of their innate naivety, he always gets his target, and in a notable instance, murdered one of his male students who resembled a girl, knowing it would eliminate him from suspicion as a killer who solely targeted females. Despite Satoru's time travel abilities, Yashiro one-ups and outwits him at every turn, never even knowing of the man's powers, just being so naturally adaptable that nothing slows him down. Yashiro is a truly terrifying killer, having not only the smarts and charms to kill whoever he wants with ease, but also the fast-thinking to ensure that he's never caught, no matter what opposition arises.
  • Fairy Tail: Zeref the Dark Mage is known as the most evil wizard of all time. In truth, a tormented genius cursed with everlasting life after he tries to resurrect his beloved younger brother, Zeref plotted to send the future Dragon Slayers into the future to one day combat the evil dragon Acnologia. Upon surrendering to darkness, Zeref clandestinely founded the Alvarez empire as Emperor Spriggan and used them to wage war on Fairy Tail, seizing the ultimate magic Fairy Heart for himself, intending on using it to wipe out the current timeline and go back to correct all his mistakes in the hopes of forging a better world.
  • Fist of the North Star: Raoh himself, Kenshiro's eldest brother disciple in Hokuto Shinken styles himself as Ken-Oh The Conqueror. In a series of brilliant and ruthless campaigns, Raoh carves out his own empire in the wasteland while defeating any martial artists who challenge him and sending them to the prison Cassandra while stealing their scrolls for his own usage and advancement. While sometimes at the disadvantage thanks to Kenshiro or rival forces, Raoh is infamous for pushing back to be stronger than ever through sheer force of will and tenacity. Possessing a strong form of honor, Raoh does not hesitate to execute any in his army who terrorize or violate his citizens and when he faces the warrior Fudoh, Raoh orders his own men to kill him should he take a step back, a request he is furious they ignore. When he finally faces Kenshiro and loses, Raoh embraces his brother with true affection and uses the last of his energy to purge the radioactive toxins from the atmosphere, declaring proudly that he lived his life without regrets as he dies standing proud.
  • Gankutsuou: Once an innocent man sentenced unjustly, Edmond Dantes returns as the ruthless, charming Count of Monte Cristo to destroy his enemies. Rescuing the son of his former best friend Fernand and his fiancee Mercedes, the young Albert Morcerf, it is later revealed the Count set up the kidnapping to begin with to gain Albert's trust. Manipulating his old enemies into trusting him with investments that ruin them, the Count also reveals he rescued a young alien girl named Haydee so she could expose Fernand as a traitor and the murderer of her father. Edmond also introduces one enemy, Villefort's, mentally unstable wife to poison so she will commit murders and further disgrace her husband while later having his ally, the bandit Andrea, reveal he is Villefort's illegitimate son to ruin him further. Finally, the Count plans to harden his own heart and kill Albert to destroy Fernand, not satisfied until he has given Fernand the same unending despair Fernand once gave him, before finally letting go of his hatred thanks to the love of Albert, ending his life with a final plea to remember that his name was Edmond Dantes. A charming, sophisticated manipulator, none around him ever saw the Count coming until he struck.
  • Golgo 13: Master assassin Duke Togo, better known as Golgo 13, spends most of his stories coming up with a complex gambit to fool his target and get him in a position to take his shot. A master sniper, Togo has been active decades with incredibly few failures and a sterling reputation as a professional. In one instance, he tricked a CIA traitor into leading him to her boss while wearing a red coat against the snowy background to snipe them both in one shot. In another, knowing a mobster was faster on the draw than him, Golgo fooled him into being occupied with his dominant arm holding on to a woman so Golgo could outdraw him. Throughout every story, what characterizes Golgo 13 is cold charisma and unreadable expression, always having a plan to take out his target, no matter who it is.
  • Gundam: In a franchise featuring endless wars, these villains truly stand out for their charisma and intelligence in the field of battle:
    • Universal Century:
      • Char Aznable, born Casval Deikun, joins the Zabis by hiding his face behind a mask to lure the Zabis to their demise. Famed for his combat prowess and tactical brilliance, Char lures young Garma Zabi to his end, and later forms a deep enmity with Amuro Ray, compounded when Amuro kills Char's beloved Lalah. Breaking from his fight with Amuro, Char teaches Kycilia a lesson on underestimating him by eliminating her, and years later joins the earth resistance forces against the Titans. Rising to the leadership there, Char gives an impassioned speech to convince the world to rise against the Titans and to believe in the value of space travel. Finally, in Char's Counterattack, Char manipulates young Quess Paraya and all of Zeon to try to drop Axis on the helpless earth to force a great migration into space, planning one final battle to achieve his ends. Finally convinced to surrender his life in Gundam Unicorn, Char makes a final gesture to leave the world to a younger generation, being one of the single most memorable and archetypal villains in the Gundam franchise.
      • Mobile Suit Gundam: Kycilia Zabi was the last member of her family standing for a reason. Fully aware of her elder brother Gihren's moral depravity and mismanagement of the conflict with the Earth Federation, Kycilia uses the One Year War as a cover for a coup d'etat against him, gathering resources and allies, while undermining Gihren's loyalists. Upon discovering through Colonel Killing's betrayal that Gihren had infiltrated her faction and was preparing to frame her for treason, Kycilia moved swiftly, leaking Char's identity to Gihren's fake conspirators and transforming a sham plot into an actual revolt against his rule. Aware that Zeon could no longer win the war, and that the Federation would never make peace while her brother lived, Kycilia journeyed to A Baoa Qu and, on finding out that Gihren had murdered their father, executed him for patricide and assumed command of what was left of Zeon. Killed when Char Aznable unpredictably betrayed her, Kycilia was nevertheless the only Zabi, or indeed, Zeon Admiral, with both a realistic appreciation of their circumstances, and the ruthlessness and will to act accordingly.
      • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: Titans Lieutenant Paptimus Scirocco is an Enigmatic Minion who graduates to taking over the organization. A brilliant tactician both in and out of a mobile suit, Scirocco excels at reading potential in his subordinates and outmaneuvers the Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG) to capture the strategic stronghold of the lunar city Von Braun. Leaving the day-to-day operations of the city in the hands of his antagonistic superior, Scirocco divulges the man's schemes to the AEUG and arranges for his death to gain more dominance within the Titans for himself. Forming an alliance with Haman Khan of Neo Zeon, Scirocco bolsters the strength of the Titans with the Axis military and personally assassinates the Titans leader, Jamitov Hymem, assuming command over the syndicate and blaming Jamitov's death on Haman, rallying his forces to fight against her. Giving a former AEUG pilot he corrupted to his side an eloquent lecture on his ambitions for humanity, Scirocco engages the AEUG personally and reveals he has kept his alliance with Haman to revitalize the strength of his fleet. Even with his armada destroyed by the blast of a colony laser, Scirocco continues to fight Kamille Bidan and even in his dying moments, destroys Kamille's consciousness, unrelentingly unwilling to accept his vanquishment. Emotionally manipulative yet charming, charismatic and stylish, Scirocco proves himself to be every bit as brilliantly Machiavellian as he is mysterious.
      • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ: Axis warlord and Neo-Zeon Regent for Life Haman Khan came closer to conquering the Earth Sphere than any of the despots to come before or after her in the UC timeline. Intervening in Zeta Gundam's Gryps Conflict on the side of Paptimus Scirocco's Titans, Haman helped turn the battle between the AEUG and the Titans into a full scale civil war within the Earth Federation, from which she emerged as the one true winner following Scirocco's death and the obliteration of the Titans and most of the AEUG. Invading the Earth before the Federation could recover from the war, Haman occupied huge swathes of the planet, and used the Dublin Colony Drop to terrorize Federation officials into surrendering to her, all while employing sheer force of personality to mask her myriad personal issues and hold the backstabbing house of cards that was Axis-Zeon together. Betrayed at the zenith of her power by Glemmy Toto, and faced with internal rebellion by his supporters, Haman quickly moved to quell the descent, meeting Glemmy in open battle. Confronted by series' protagonist Judau Ashta, Haman was persuaded that humanity did not, in fact, need her jackboot on its throat to stop them from killing each other. The only UC Big Bad self-aware enough to come to grips with what she had become, Haman killed herself in the name of giving the world a better future.
    • After Colony:
      • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Treize Khushrenada, the leader of OZ, is a brilliant military leader with a chivalrous spirit. Masterminding a purge of his rivals to rise even higher, Treize learns of the Colonies deploying the Gundams against the Earth Government, and conceals their existence to better use them as an advantage, even tricking Gundam pilot Heero into killing the leader of the earth alliance who was planning on making peace with the Colonies. Rebelling against OZ when the Romefeller Foundation takes over and institutes the AI mobile dolls, Treize systematically plays the entire war with his best friend Zechs Merquise to put themselves on opposite ends of the war and create a final, cataclysmic conflict to traumatize humanity off war forevermore. Combining a brilliant mind with a sense of chivalry, Treize is even able to recall the names and faces of every man who has ever died to make his dreams a reality and considers no price too great for peace, even his own life.
    • Correct Century:
      • ∀ Gundam: Guin Sard Lineford is the former lord of the Principality of Inglessa, falling into disgrace with the defeat of his country, though managing to keep his influence thanks to his friendship with the Luziannan princess Lily Borjano. A young, ambitious and visionary lord, Guin successfully leads the forces of Earth against the technologically advanced Moonrace and study their advanced weapons. One of the heroes' smartest allies, Guin eventually betrays them to join Gym Ghingham, taking a role as the leader of a new technological revolution, which only fails because of the barbaric behaviour of the latter. Accepting his defeat at the hands of his former friend and political ally, Lily, Guin saves the protegee of Gym and escapes with her.
    • Cosmic Era:
      • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: No one hides their true intentions quite like Rau Le Creuset, ZAFT Commander and defective clone. Lacking his own sense of identity, and seeing the face of his "father" every time he looks in the mirror, Le Creuset believes the rest of humanity is suffering just as much as he is, and sets out to put the entire species out of its misery. Playing the role of Patrick Zala's right-hand man, Le Creuset sells ZAFT secrets to Blue Cosmos headman Muruta Azrael, prolonging the Bloody Valentine War, and ensuring that the conflict ends with mutual attempts at genocide, as Azrael tries to nuke the ZAFT colonies and Patrick fires his Wave Motion Gun at Earth. Successful at masking his encroaching madness until the very end, Le Creuset dies smiling, convinced that the entire world will shortly be following after him.
      • Gundam SEED Destiny: ZAFT Chairman Gilbert Durandal sees himself as the saviour of Earth and nearly persuaded most of the planet to go along with it. Presenting himself as a moderate and a pacifist, Durandal made use of Lord Djibril and Blue Cosmos' blatant evil to launch an invasion of the Earth Sphere disguised as a liberation, using his own reputation for honesty and the services of Lacus Clyne impersonator Meer Campbell to camouflage his intentions, and scattering agents of FAITH throughout the ZAFT military to keep an eye on its loyalty. Preying on the emotional insecurities of those in his service, Durandal turned Decoy Protagonist Shinn Auska into the very thing he hated most, and kept veteran characters like Kira, Athrun, and Lacus out of the picture or unsure if they should oppose him for most of the series. Only killed when he loses the faith of his most loyal enforcer, Rey, Durandal dies convinced that he was right and that without his Destiniy Plan the world is doomed.
    • Post Disaster:
      • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: Rustal Elion is one of the Seven Stars who lead the military police force Gjallarhorn. A charismatic nobleman and brilliant military strategist, Rustal has the complete trust of his subordinates. When Rustal's rival in the Seven Stars, McGillis, moves against him, Rustal engineers a small scale war to turn McGillis' allies, Tekkadan, against McGillis. While the war fails to break McGillis and Tekkadan's alliance, it does force Tekkadan to shut down their Earth branch, weakening the organization considerably. When the tensions between Rustal and McGillis lead to civil war, Rustal has one of his subordinates infiltrate McGillis' forces, fire an illegal Dainsleif railgun at Rustal's fleet and commit suicide, giving Rustal justification to annihilate McGillis and Tekkadan. While political tensions ultimately force the Seven Stars to disband in favor of democratically elected leaders, Rustal still comes out ahead as he is elected leader of Gjallarhorn. Rustal remains a hero to the public and becomes the first Big Bad of the franchise to win in the end.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Leader of the Phantom Troupe, also known as the Spiders, Chrollo Lucilfer is a handsome, charismatic young man who masterminds elaborate heists and mass murders, only to get bored of the objects he obtains and sells them away again. Coming to the mafia-ruled Yorknew City, Chrollo masterminds the heist of the century where the Spiders infiltrate the mob and steal all the items from a high profile auction while Chrollo targets and steals the power of one mob leader's daughter. Completely outwitting the mob, Chrollo learns there is a contract on his head from the Twelve Godfathers and instantly hires different members of the same assassin family to target the Godfathers before having the Spiders fake their deaths and escape completely free. Chrollo also deeply values the other members of the Troupe, offering the lives of multiple mafia soldiers as a "requiem" for the fallen Uvogin, and when he faces off with the ruthless killer Hisoka, he also shows what a brilliant tactician and combatant he truly is by completely outplaying and seemingly killing the skilled fighter. A charming, philosophical man who freely admits he places no value on his own life, Chrollo is one of the most memorable villains in all of Hunter x Hunter.
  • Jackals: Lee Meilang, the head of Tennouren, is the most intelligent and devious gangster in all of Cicero City who takes over Tennouren solely to destroy the gangs in the city and come out ahead. Meilang manipulates their rival mob Gabriella into a war where she proceeds to play the hero Nichol Heyward and his allies into doing everything she wants. When Don Salieri is overthrown by his depraved underling Vampire Franco, Meilang simply works it into her plans and comes out ahead, selling out the other gangs and establishing a legitimate organization with the government after their defeat, completely untouchable to the end.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond Is Unbreakable: Yoshikage Kira is a suave, handsome Serial Killer who wants nothing more than to have an "average" existence and live without any distress or worry in his life. Having spent his life specifically seeking third place in any competition or test he took, even planting himself in inconspicuous positions in group photos, just to remain under the radar as neither particularly gifted or flawed, Kira then used his appearance as a normal person to mask his serial killings, murdering women to then take their hands and treat them as "dates" so as to satisfy his hand fetish. Using his Stand, Killer Queen, Kira easily eliminates all evidence of his victims, murders all those who could even possibly stand in his way, and sets numerous traps for Josuke and his friends as they close in on the killer. When seemingly beaten, Kira escapes, kills a man and steals his identity, and gains Bites the Dust, a time-rewinding ability that he uses to murder everyone who could possibly stop him. Even when killed and sent to the afterlife, Kira happily accepts his new "peaceful" existence, only truly losing when the souls of his victims lash out at him and curse him to an eternity of suffering. Though spending much of his time on the run from Josuke, Kira stays one step ahead the whole time, and has such sheer willpower to survive that he unlocks entirely new Stand abilities, a feat nearly unheard of throughout the world.
    • Stone Ocean: Enrico Pucci is a charming priest who was plunged into despair after racists murdered his sister due to his own mistakes, and the extremely unfortunate set of circumstances that brought about her demise drove Pucci to hate the idea of an unforeseen future and "fate." Coming to idolize DIO, Pucci collects the man's thoughts and plans for a new way of life called "Heaven," and, after handily pulling the strings of everyone in Green Dolphin Street Prison—taking time to try to genuinely help the prisoners there even as they attempt to rob him blind—Pucci uses his upgraded Stand "Made in Heaven" to begin his final plan: To force every human being to live out their whole lives, and see the entirety of the universe's lifespan, then relive their lives knowing their and everyone else's fates, this enabling them to never be surprised or broken by life's events, knowing beforehand all that will happen. Pucci is easily the most well-intentioned and genuinely caring Big Bad in the franchise, wanting to simply end the pain that comes with not knowing one's fate, and even while dying a torturous death tries to ensure his "Heaven" will carry on, even at the cost of his own life.
  • Jormungand: Koko Hekmatyar is a brilliant young Arms Dealer who runs her organization with ruthless efficiency. Constantly making advantageous illegal deals and dictating the course of conflicts, Koko adopts the young former child soldier Jonah as a way to keep herself shackled to her humanity, frequently taking on those who attempt to undermine or kill her while leading them to their own demises in breathtakingly impressive fashion. Koko is revealed to despise the arms trade despite her skill with it, and puts Project Jormungand into play: a plan to use a satellite system to seal the skies from humanity, destroying all aircrafts in the sky at once to force world peace, believing herself to be the one to create a true peace for the world, even successfully pushing Jonah into agreeing with the plan at the end, declaring her personal soldiers will be the final soldiers left.
  • Killing Bites: Evilutionary Biologist Reiichi Shidoh organizes the underground "Killing Bites" fights between the Half-Human Hybrid Therianthropes. Utterly unscrupulous, Shidoh uses shady tactics: tampering with the rules of the ring and manipulating the Zaibatu's conglomerates to allow for his experiments on Therianthropes. Betraying and arranging the murder of Mitsukado Zaibatsu's chairman, Yozan Mitsukado, Shidoh sets it up to look like an accident; then ordering his Therianthropes follower to murder her own investor to eliminate the witness to his crime. In spite of his unfettered nature, Shidoh truly believed his experiments on Therianthropes would fix the struggling Japanese economy and genuinely cares for Hitomi, even risking his own life to save her when he found her as a child.
  • Kindaichi Case Files: The Gentleman Thief is really a cunning woman and Master of Disguise with a penchant for stealing precious items and leaving notes to her next targets. Disguising herself as a young journalist, Diago Maki, the Thief targets Gamou Gouzou's residence to steal his painting, "My Beloved Daughter". Although almost outwitted by Kindaichi, the Thief disguises herself as and old woman and ties him to a basket of heavy rocks, leaving him stranded in the middle of a busy street. Later appearances show the Thief uses the same ploy to trick Kindaichi and get away with her stolen goods, saying she hopes to meet her challenging rival again.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes: Paul von Oberstein is the most ruthless of Reinhard von Lohengramm's inner circle. A man infamous for his Dissonant Serenity and ruthlessly pragmatic advice, Oberstein devotes himself fully to Reinhard and his new dynasty, using his tactical and political brilliance to help entrench Reinhard as the rightful ruler of the crumbling Empire. Seeking to destroy the Goldenbaum dynasty, Oberstein hears that its mad prince Braunschweig is planning to nuke the rebellious colony Westmoreland, and intentionally delays Reinhard from hearing the news to let the attack happen. This has the effect of the entire empire unifying around Reinhard in revulsion, just as Oberstein planned. Oberstein makes himself a hated figure to keep any loathing directed from Reinhard, manipulating other admirals as he sees fit to keep Reinhard's empire safe and even uses himself as bait to lure out the last of the Terran cultists in the final episode to eliminate the final threat to Reinhard's rule, seemingly aware the empire he has forged has no place for him.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Both the protagonist and antagonist are viciously efficient operators:
    • Series Anti-Hero Ogami Itto is a stoic, charismatic warrior unjustly framed by the Yagyu clan. On the run with his three year old son Daigoro, Itto constantly showcases his strategic genius in his assassinations. In one instance, he allows himself to be captured by the enemy to get close to a target, revealing that the warning they received was written by him. In another, he uses Daigoro drowning as bait to trick a target's bodyguard into trying to save him so Itto can kill him. Itto singlehandedly brings down the powerful Yagyu clan on his own, showing why he is a man who walks the road of demons, the Path of Meifumado.
    • The series Big Bad Yagyu Retsudo is a charismatic old man with the soul of a samurai that contrasts with the hard ruthlessness of an assassin. After the Yagyu lose the post of Shogun executioner to Itto, Retsudo uses a seemingly innocuous sparring match to trick Itto into knocking his staff into a man who could pose a threat to him, leading to the man's death. Later framing Itto for treason, Retsudo is revealed to be manipulating the entire Shogunate from the shadows and even when exposed for this, manages to connive his way back to power, having his rival, the poisoner Abe no Kaii, eliminated by setting a fire on a date that will force Kaii to commit seppuku. Retsudo then uses a legion of ninja to face Itto, having them focus on breaking Itto's infamous sword, so he has the advantage for their final battle. A ruthless genius, Retsudo continuously shows why he is Itto's greatest enemy.
  • Lupin III:
    • Lupin III, the titular thief, is a debonair rogue always ready with a plan for a brand new caper. A thief who savors the rush and thrill of the theft far more than any monetary value, Lupin also delights in paying karmic justice to deserving victims. Throughout multiple anime incarnations, Lupin is characterized by choosing seemingly impossible ventures or is thrust into inescapable situations, only to execute a cunning plan and escape completely free, in one instance even outsmarting an ancient brain supposedly beyond any human being's. Rarely ever losing his playful grin, and always ready with witty repartee, Lupin remains one of anime's most successful examples of a Gentleman Thief who is constantly capable of twisting a situation to his advantage.
    • Lupin's occasional lover, rival and ally, Fujiko Mine, is his equal in brilliance and audaciousness. A skilled thief who lives for the rush of the theft, Fujiko is able to perform as many complex schemes as Lupin while constantly outwitting him and everyone around her to get her big score. In one instance in The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, she poses as a tutor at an all girls' school, allows one girl to seduce her, only to reveal she knew the girl was a cop in disguise, to fool him and steal the codes she needed. Equally capable of ruthlessness, Fujiko once escaped prison by seducing a guard and sending him to execution in her place, never hesitating to weaponize her sexuality. At the end, Fujiko allows nobody but her to define herself and stops at nothing to achieve her goals, no matter who she has to manipulate or fool, while always maintaining the same charismatic style as Lupin himself.
  • Made In Abyss: Bondrewd the Novel, Sovereign of Dawn and one of the legendary White Whistles, is also one of the most brilliant and ruthless among them. To research the Abyss and its Curse, Bondrewd experiments on orphan children while sacrificing his own humanity to create his White Whistle and creating complicated ways to navigate throughout the Abyss through his technology with no physically adverse effects to himself. Even in spite of his objectively monstrous actions, Bondrewd still sincerely loves and cares for the children under his care and takes pains to remember their identities even as he sacrifices them for his experiments, taking one of them as his own daughter and raising her to become genuinely well-adjusted and innocent. Though undoubtedly an amoral Humanoid Abomination dedicated above all else to scientific triumph regardless of the cost, Bondrewd still demonstrates he understands love and family in his own warped terms and operates with perpetual affability and style, comfortable to abandon even his own ambitions to see those with brighter aspiration succeed where he couldn't.
  • Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic: Sinbad, King of Sindria and leader of the Seven Seas Alliance is a heroic, charismatic ruler who wages war against the evil organization Al-Thamen. Unknown to most, Sinbad is halfway fallen into depravity and all his seeming benevolence is a front with alternative motives, cultivating allies and pawns alike to use against Al-Thamen, even using mind controlled sleeper agents in other nations to spy through and seize control of them at advantageous moments. Later taking over the world, Sinbad seeks to rewrite reality itself to make a perfect world, even plotting to return everything to raw energy and recreate it the right way. At the end, upon realizing his crimes, Sinbad opts to stand with Alibaba and Aladdin to save the world from the depraved King David, showing himself, whether the hero or villain, to be the best at what he sets his mind out to.
  • My Hero Academia: 'Sensei', better known as All For One, is a incredibly powerful villain, the arch-nemesis of the heroic All Might. Secretly ruling the country from the shadows for generations, All For One was seemingly killed by his enemy, but survived and rebuilt a group of villains in secret. Wanting to hurt All Might, All For One tracked down All Might's mentor's long-lost grandson, and raised him as the villain Shigaraki tomura, knowing this revelation would be the one thing to crush All Might's heroic spirit. Even in his final battle with All Might, All for One is pleased even if he loses, knowing his loss will inspire Tomura to become the greatest villain in history to oppose All Might's own successor.
  • Pandora Hearts: In a dark world with a complex plot involving many master manipulators, the Big Bad Ensemble manage to stand out:
    • Glen Baskerville, real name Oswald, is the mysterious leader of the Baskerville family. Having ordered the slaughter of the population of Sablier to spare them the horrifying fate within the Abyss centuries in the past, Glen returns in the present time by taking over the body of his reincarnation and assumes direct leadership over the Baskerville clan once again. Able to force skilled schemers like Rufus Barma and even fellow Magnificent Bastard Jack Vessalius to the limits of their wits, Glen ultimately almost attains his goal of altering the timeline by killing his own sister to prevent the events of the series from occurring, only stopping when he realizes his own hypocrisies and hollowness of his goals hidden behind good intentions.
    • The aforementioned Jack Vessalius is the true mastermind behind the events of the work. The illegitimate son of a noble, Jack fled from his home, living on the streets until he met a girl from the Baskerville family. Wanting to meet her again, Jack uses his noble family's name to be able to see her. When the Baskerville girl was sacrificed to the Abyss, Jack obsesses over seeing her again, deciding to throw the whole world into the corrupted Abyss to bring it to her. Causing the catastrophic Tragedy of Sablier, Jack blames the Baskerville and Nightray families while painting himself as the hero, going on to seek a chance to recreate it. Manipulating Oz's entire life to fulfill what Jack believes is the wish of his beloved, he is an ultimately Tragic Villain, even finally redeeming himself after accepting the errors of his own acts.
  • Princess Mononoke: Lady Eboshi, the ruler of Irontown is a woman with a backbone made of steel. Forging a mining community with nothing but her own will and strength, Eboshi made it a refuge for lepers, outcasts and the downtrodden, even buying the freedom of many women from brothels and giving them a new home, training them to work and fight. Coming into conflict with the gods of the forest and local warlords, Eboshi leads her people to fend them off and fight back, even luring out the Great Forest Spirit to destroy it, in hopes of reducing the forest animals to just normal beasts, claiming her trick to killing a god is to not fear it. Even after losing an arm to the bite of the decapitated wolf goddess Moro, Eboshi merely grins and reminds herself that a wolf's head still has a bite, being one of the most morally complex and strong-willed antagonists in a Hayao Miyazaki film.
  • Princess Resurrection: Silvia von Phoenix, the ultimate Big Bad is described by her youngest sister Sherwood as a "natural born swindler". Hellbent on winning the Royal battle, Silvia plays her own siblings endlessly, having spent her sister Hime's childhood toying with and testing her for fun and to strengthen her. Using her brilliance to stay a step ahead of her siblings and eliminating her strongest brother Emile by making him her enslaved Blood Warrior, Silvia defeats and absorbs their eldest brother Fuhito to gain his power before attempting to defeat Hime and claim victory for herself, with one Bad Future having her utterly victorious.
  • The Promised Neverland: Archduke Leuvis is a demon who lives for the thrill of combat. Latching on to Emma as his worthy adversary, Leuvis shows himself to be fully willing to offer up his own weaknesses and to arm his opponents to equal the playing field and once his comrades are dead, engages Emma and her friends with a shockingly display of combat instinct and battle tactics, completely seeing through everything Emma's team does while countering until he is finally cornered. Even upon dealing Emma a seemingly fatal wound, Leuvis is courteous and respectful to her, thinking how much he loves humans for their ingenuity, unlike his fellow demons who consider them lesser beings and only fit for food. A demon of shocking charm and charisma, Leuvis proves why he is the most deadly adversary yet encountered by Emma and her friends.
  • Psycho-Pass: Both seasons' Big Bads prove to be as charming and intelligent as they are threatening to the status quo of their society:
    • Shogo Makishima is a ruthless Serial Killer obsessed with the darkness of human nature. Swaying others into becoming serial killers as well to help to damage society and eliminating them when they disappoint him or serve their purpose, Makishima begins cultivating inspector Shinya Kogami as his nemesis as he schemes to destroy the oppressive Sibyl system. Forming multiple plans to tear the system down, it is revealed the system in fact wants Makishima to join its hive mind, which he lethally rejects by murdering their emissary, declaring is loyalty is to his own individuality and he will keep playing his games by his own will. Cultured, charming, manipulative and ruthless beyond measure, Makishima will stop at nothing to impose his vision of freedom upon Japan and revel in the resulting chaos.
    • Kirito Kamui was surgically made into a collective being as a child after he alone survived a plane crash indirectly caused by a precursor to the Sibyl System and now seeks its betterment for humanity. A master psychotherapist, Kamui gets his followers' crime coefficients below judgeable levels, making them all the more threatening. Engineering a series of daring attacks, Kamui surmises the physical location of the Sibyl System and forces it to remove a number of corrupted brains from itself so that it can judge his collective mind. Though killed in his quest, Kamui is happy to have forced Sibyl to reconsider its position and leaves Akane Tsunemori with his ideals to carry forward for a brighter future.
  • Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace: The original Twenty-Faces, Namikoshi, pioneered the Serial-Killer Killer phenomenon after he spent his childhood bullied by his classmates and abused by his parents, before making friends with the brilliant Kogoro Akechi, together creating the "Dark Star" formula. Accelerating the coding of the formula as the abuse he suffered worsened, the Dark Star was set to murder both his abusers and those in society who take advantage of their power. When Akechi realizes their formula is lethally unstable, Twenty-Faces fakes his own death, then teams up with a medical examiner who works with Akechi to avenge the death of her brother. Kidnapping Akechi's assistant, Twenty-Faces takes him and ten children to the top of a clock-tower, planning to murder them all by having them jump in five-minute intervals. While he may be ruthlessly unfettered in his goals, Twenty-Faces truly believes his doings will be what creates a just and fair society.
  • Record of Lodoss War:
    • Karla, the Grey Witch, was the only survivor of an ancient magic civilization who implanted her consciousness into an enchanted circlet that possesses whoever kills her host body Seeking to prevent one side from ever growing too powerful, Karla has manipulated almost every war in Lodoss's history to bring about the ruin of any nation that may grow too powerful, even secretly fighting as one of the Six Heroes to stop the Demon God from destroying the world years ago. In present, Karla serves as the adviser to Emperor Beld of Marmo, guiding his nation to the top, ending with Beld slaying the Emperor Fahn of Valis- only for Karla to intervene and cause Beld's death herself to decapitate Valis and Marmo alike. Constantly escaping death, Karla stops at nothing to ensure Lodoss's balance remains as she wills it, no matter what she has to do.
    • Ashram, the Black Knight of Marmo, is seen by many as Marmo's true ruler and the heir to Beld himself. Once a young man fighting a war against the Thieves' Guild who allied with Beld, Ashram helped Beld to unify all of Marmo while vowing to one day surpass the emperor. Enraged at Beld's death, Ashram takes his demonic sword, the Soul Crusher and masters it, destroying the ancient dragons of Lodoss to find the Scepter of Domination and control the world. While seemingly dying, Ashram returns to depose the corrupt governor Rabido and manipulates him to his death, taking over all Marmo himself with his lover, the dark elf Pirotess at his side. Seeking to create a new home for the people of Marmo, Ashram ends up achieving all he sets out to do before departing Lodoss for a new home.
  • Rookie Policewoman Kiruko-san: Seemingly respectable business director Jean Smith is really a powerful criminal trying to expand his operation by using the small town of Nagashima for smuggling. Knowing The Heroine Kiruko and her allies are infiltrating his cruise ship to capture him, Jean has his men prepare for the attack while he personally greets the police in a jovial and personable manner. Ordering his men to take Kiruko's senior officer hostage, Jean escapes the cruise ship along with his hostage before trying to sink the boat. Eventually captured by the police, Jean nevertheless remains cordial to the cops and calls a rescue jet as a backup plan to escape. Genuinely friendly to both his enemies and allies, Jean remains the suavest criminal Kiruko has faced.
  • Rosario + Vampire:
    • Alucard is the true Big Bad of the series, using multiple aliases to achieve his goals. As the Masked King, Alucard formed the Miao Triad family, bidding the evil vampire Gyokuro Shuzen to form the anti-human terrorist organization Fairy Tale while also joining it under the secret name of Miyabi Fujisaki. Manipulating the heroes into a confrontation with Gyokuro and her squadron leaders, Alucard reveals himself only after the fighting to hijack her plans and awaken his true body, easily overcoming the other heroes and setting to attack the human world. Upon his final destruction, it is revealed that Alucard's full intention was to make himself the villain and create a group that had to be opposed by an alliance of human and monster, exposing the monster world to humankind, even making provisions to ensure his final subordinates survived the fight.
    • Hokuto Kaneshiro was once a human who left an abusive father to attend Yokai Academy. Finding only pain and suffering until he met Kiria Yoshii, Hokuto resolves to tear down the barrier between worlds and expose monsters to humanity. Playing at being Tsukune's friend, Hokuto reveals he is truly the leader of the rebellious group Anti-Thesis, letting himself be defeated so he will be placed in front of the headmaster in order to attempt an assassination attempt and steal a rosary to destroy the barrier. The only reason his plan fails is Hokuto deciding at the last moment to assist Tsukune instead. Even in part 2, Hokuto returns to help manipulate the end of Fairy Tale, aiding Tsukune one last time against even Kiria.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Ruthless Social Darwinist Makoto Shishio was once the feared Hitokiri of the Shadows during the Bakumatsu. Betrayed by the government and left for dead, Shishio survived and by virtue of his overwhelming power and charisma creates a powerful organization consisting of loyal soldiers he effortlessly manipulates, with one named Usui even ostensibly wanting revenge against Shishio for blinding him, unaware Shishio is well aware he's lost all hope of vengeance and is just manipulating him by using his pride. Shishio then sets up a complex plan to burn Tokyo, only for it to be revealed this is a ruse as he attacks Kyoto instead. Despite being foiled here, Shishio proceeds to have the heroes fight his men in single matches, all for the purposes of weakening or eliminating them before they face Shishio himself when he gains greater understanding of their abilities through the fights. Even after his defeat and death, Shishio shows no sign of complaint and instantly sets off with his deceased lover and most loyal follower to begin conquering Hell itself.
  • Seven Mortal Sins: Main character Lucifer, Fallen Angel turned Demon Lord of Pride, can achieve anything she sets her mind to. Deciding to take over hell, Lucifer has a policy of challenging the Demon Lords known as the Mortal Sins at their own games on their own turf, constantly getting the better of them and winning no matter what venue they choose, constantly coming up with new plans and strategies. It is later revealed that for all her haughtiness and deep pride in herself, Lucifer was the only angel to object to God's plan to wipe out hell and the earth, having been protecting humanity from the start, and manages to get the better of both her arch-rivals, the demon lord Belial and the new leader of the Seven Lively Virtues, her old partner Michael via a few clever gambits, culminating in Lucifer embracing her love for her human companion Maria and claiming her rightful throne as the ruler of hell and queen of pride itself.
  • Shakugan no Shana:
    • Bel Peol, known as the "Arbiter of Reverse Reasoning" and "The Strategist", lead Bel Masque in the first two seasons. In the past, Bel Peol sacrificed her right eye as part of a plan to retrieve her master's body; later convincing a Denizen into going for a dangerous mission, resulting in his death for her cause. Trying to destroy Misaki City, Bel Peol nearly succeeds in all her attempts thanks to her tactical brilliance and pushes the heroes to their limits. Joining her master, the Snake of the Festival upon his revival, Bel Peol acts as his Dragon and together they usher in the creation of Xanadu, a paradise for Denizens and humans alike, fighting fiercely for it. A ruthless, goal-driven woman, Bel Peol nevertheless showed fondness to her underlings and exceedingly intelligence thinking in the field of battle, proving herself a worthy leader of Bel Masque.
    • The aforementioned Snake of the Festival or "The God of Creation", is the original leader of Bel Masque. Summoned in ancient times by the Denizens of the past, the Snake tried to create a paradise for them before being sealed in the Abyss. In present convincing Protagonist Yuji Sakai to become his vessel, the Snake retakes leadership of Bel Masque, giving a speech so powerful it gains him the complete loyalty of all the present Denizens. Leading the Denizens in the devastating Second Great War, the Snake oversees the brutal combat to have his body recovered from the Abyss. Returning to Misaki City to create Xanadu, the Snake uses his own body and a member of the Trinity as sacrifices to create his new world. Realizing the Denizen's wish for peaceful coexistence, the Snake completes his mission despite massive opposition and returns to sleep, wishing his vessel success for the future.
  • Shaman King: Big Bad Hao Asakura was once a shaman in heian-era Japan where he lost his beloved mother at the prejudices of humanity. Manipulating future events and even his own reincarnations to empower himself, Hao is reborn again in modern times as the twin brother of hero Yoh Asakura. Absurdly powerful and intelligent, Hao remains a step ahead of the heroes, defeating all challengers and enemies in an attempt to become the Shaman King and destroy humanity. At the end, Hao succeeds in his goal, becoming Shaman King, but proves open to reason and opts to watch the world for himself, being as brilliant a villain in victory as he was in the attempt to get there.
  • Shut Hell: The Dreaded, ruthless Khan; Genghis Khan himself. Born Temujin, and branded with the Tangut letters on his back marking him as a slave forever, the Khan seeks to destroy the Tangut script and the people of western Xia to forever remove knowledge of the brand on his skin. Utterly dominating the Mongol tribes through his dark charisma and power, the Khan sweeps through Western Xia and Jin, devastating all in his path with his brilliance and strength. Ever quick to turn any disadvantage back to his side, the Khan even handles the death of his son and commander Tolui by enslaving the young prince Yurul and forcing him to take Tolui's identity. A man who rose from nothing to become the greatest warlord the world had ever seen, the Khan decides he will burn all in his path, no matter how much fire it takes.
  • Slayers: Xellos the Trickster Priest is a Mazoku, and the most mysterious member of the cast. Hiding his true self behind a veil of smiles and pleasantries, Xellos ruthlessly manipulates Lina and friends into carrying out his wishes and destroying his enemies. Frequently arranging situations to benefit himself no matter what the outcome, Xellos helps destroy his Mistress, the Grand Beast Zelas Metallium's rivals and other Mazoku should it benefit him. Xellos tends to change his schemes on the fly as well, making it impossible to tell what was part of his plans from the start, even if he admits he feels some affection for Lina and her team. Xellos is so charming and affable, it's very easy to forget that he is a demonic being under his friendliness.
  • Soul Hunter:
    • Though spending much of his time observing the major events, Shinkohyou proves himself to be one of the strongest and most compelling rivals of Taikoubou. Defeating Taikoubou for mocking his fashion sense, Shinkohyou leaves his Worthy Opponent ecstatic at facing challenging combat. Trying to stop the crown prince of the Yin Empire from fleeing, Shinkohyou gives him and his brother a Motive Rant so enlightening that they betray Taikoubou. Though seemingly villainous for much of the story, Shinkohyou is truthfully a neutral Trickster who switches sides based on which he finds more entertaining.
    • Chou Koumei is one of the strongest Kingo Island Sennin under Youkai Tsuten Kyoshu and the instigator behind a battle between the aforementioned and Kongrong Mountain to test his super paopei, destroying the relationship between the two groups. Teaming up with Dakki, Chou Koumei puts a series of maneuvers in play to stop the Zhou Empire from revolting against Choka. Kidnapping Taikoubou's companions to get him to fight, Chou Koumei takes advantage of the former fleeing from combat to turn his spirit beast into stone, forcing him to confront him. After seemingly defeating Taikoubou, Chou Koumei attempts to change the story by making another manga to replace it and when Taikoubou is resurrected, Chou Koumei turns himself into a plant and tries to drain the Earth of its nutrients. Even when finally defeated, Chou Koumei remains cordial, proving himself to be one of the most respectful and interesting opponents of the series.
  • Space Battleship Yamato: Albelt Dessler is the charming, sophisticated supreme ruler and dictator of Gamillas. Desiring a peace in the galaxy through ultimate control, Dessler has expanded the Gamillas empire but keeps new conquered races happy by allowing them to prove themselves equal citizens in the empire on pure merit. When earth proves more difficult to conquer, Dessler deals with the matter by assigning a failed commander to either give Dessler more knowledge of the earthlings' tactics, or removing an incompetent without him lifting a finger. Dessler also outplays any who attempt to usurp his authority and when defeated, he promptly reemerges to take the Yamato over to restore himself to glory, convinced that his success is the glory of Gamillas itself.
  • Speed Grapher: Choji Suitengu is a man who flaunts his extensive wealth via using expensive yen notes as cigars, believing everything 'has its price,' especially human life. In truth, Suitengu is dedicated to overthrowing the social order of Japan, manipulating all the upper echelons of society with his Roppongi Club that caters to a variety of fetishes. Constantly planning ahead of series hero Saiga, Suitengu also manipulates his lover, Shinzen of the powerful Tennozou Group and later disposes of her when she attempts to betray and kill him.Revealing his tragic past to his arch enemy, the prime minister, when the man tries to kill Suitengu and take over the Roppongi Club, Suitengu kills him and enacts his master plan: completely erasing the corrupt upper class and causing a massive financial crisis to completely break their hold on Japan forever.
  • Sword Art Online: SAO designer Akihiko Kayaba, a pioneer in the field of Virtual Reality (VR), traps 10,000 players inside his game, killing them in the real world if they die in the VR one. Disguising himself as Big Good Heathcliff and guiding the players through the dungeon floors of Aincrad, Kayaba intends to betray and kill them in the last dungeon, acting as the Final Boss of his own game. When Kirito is able to deduce "Heathcliff's" true identity, Kayaba praises the boy for his observance before challenging him to a duel, promising to end the game of Kirito wins. Keeping his word and freeing the players, Kayaba seemingly commits suicide, though actually copying his Fluctlight onto the internet to continue existing. Reappearing in the next arc, Kayaba helps Kirito defeat the Arc Villain, Sugou, whom even he finds repellent. Entrusting Kirito with his last invention, Kayaba encourages him to go on to share it with the world, leading to the creation of many innovative VR games. Though utterly sociopathic, Kayaba never strayed from his strict moral code and stood out as one of Kirito's most noble foes.
  • Tokyo ESP: The Professor, formerly Hokusai Azuma, was an archeologist who discovered the Holy Ark containing the Super Empowering Glowing Fishes. Becoming one of the first espers of the modern era, the Professor was betrayed and attacked by the General of his country and the Ares organization, which left his entire crew dead. Crafting his persona as "The Professor", he went back to Japan, adopting the son of one of his deceased crew-mates and begins plotting his vengeance against Ares, founding the terrorist group known as the Esper Liberation Front. Successfully opening the Ark atop the Tokyo Tower, the Professor causes a Mass Super-Empowering Event and despite his subsequent imprisonment, completes his revenge on Ares by leaving the heroes with instructions to take them down and free his beloved daughter. Driven to avenge his comrades, the Professor ruthlessly advances on his goals with care for none save his own child.
  • Vinland Saga: Askeladd Olafson introduces himself to the audience sacking a fort and robbing it of its riches with a series of clever schemes, barely shedding a drop of blood. Leader of a group of Viking raiders, Askeladd was born the son of a slave and a lord. Murdering his father years later after his mother's death, Askeladd framed one of his brothers after ingratiating himself to his family. Playing the cutthroat court of King Sweyn with clever gambits, Askeladd has the caretaker of the weak prince Canute murdered to build Canute into an ideal candidate for the throne. Also driven by his desire to protect his maternal homeland of Wales, Askeladd finds himself briefly outplayed by Sweyn who demands he kill Canute or see Wales invaded by the Danes. Askeladd instead chooses to kill Sweyn and allow Canute to kill him, achieving all his goals posthumously by making Canute a beloved, respected King and knowing the young man will forge Askeladd's ideal kingdom and defend Wales out of gratitude.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Original series Manga and Anime:
      • Dark Bakura/Yami Bakura is the malevolent spirit of the Millennium Ring who seeks to gather the seven Millennium Items and use them to resurrect Zorc, his ancient alter-ego. Beyond this he has no set plan and just plays Xanatos Speed Chess as opportunities present themselves; he attacks a weakened Pegasus to take the Millennium Eye, he cuts deals with Marik to get his hands on the Millennium Rod, and infuses a piece of his soul in the shattered Millennium Puzzle so he can enter its complete form. He does all this while either (in the manga) faking a Heel–Face Turn and fooling even his own host Ryo Bakura into letting him help, or (in the anime) pretending to be his host so well almost no one realizes which Bakura they're talking to. Any defeat or setback he suffers never sticks, Yami Bakura always finds his way back from the shadows and gets his Ring about Bakura's neck to take control of him again and keep scheming. He's such a good schemer that he ends up being the final villain of the series, surviving up to the final story arc when he initiates his final game against Yugi and his friends, the Shadow RPG, and almost destroys all of them.
      • Maximillion Pegasus was one of the series' most fondly remembered Big Bad. The inventor of Duel Monsters and CEO of Industrial Illusions, Pegasus used the mind reading powers of his Millennium Eye to control the few things his billions of dollars could not. Making a deal with the Big 5 of KaibaCorp, Pegasus set up a plan to defeat Yugi as a means to gain control of the company and use its technology (and in the dub Yugi's Millennium Puzzle) to resurrect his deceased loved one. Stealing the soul of Yugi's grandfather, Pegasus lured Yugi to his Duelist Kingdom Tournament, where he pitted him against other Duelists and his handpicked team of Player Killers/Eliminators, designed in a way that would leave Pegasus the winner of the tournement no matter what. When Seto Kaiba came to the island for his brother Mokuba, Pegasus used him as a catspaw to damage Yugi's confidence before claiming the former World Champion's soul as well. Only narrowly defeated by Yugi and Dark Yugi/Yami's tag-team dueling strategy, Pegasus set a high bar for subsequent villains to aspire to, and whether as a duelist, corporate raider, or user of Shadow magic, always seemed to be holding all the cards.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
      • Sartorius is the head of the Society of Light, corrupted to evil by the Light of Destruction. Born with the power to see the future, he seeks out promising duelists with the power to defy fate and turn them to his cause so they can't stand in his way and derail his plans. He does this through a combination of lectures and brainwashing, telling his victims that only he can help them get what they want, convincing them they want to join the Society. Through these methods he takes over the top dorm of Duel Academy, makes all of its students his loyal followers, and plans to use a Kill Sat to destroy the world (mind control humanity in the English dub) in the name of cleansing, purifying light. Collected, affable, soft-spoken, and using his prediction powers to stay ahead of the game, Sartorius proves himself the most charismatic and intelligent enemy Jaden and his friends ever faced.
      • Yubel is a demonic Duel Spirit and the mastermind behind the seeming main villain of Season 3, Professor Viper. Making a deal with Viper to revive his dead son in exchange for gathering Duel Energy to regenerate her body, she disposes of Viper and transports Duel Academy to another dimension to continue her plans herself, possessing the body of student Marcel as a host. She orchestrates Jaden's horrific Trauma Conga Line in order to awaken his dormant alter-ego, the Supreme King, so Jaden can complete the Super Polymerization card and then she can take it for herself and use it to fuse the twelve dimensions into one. Why? Because she was in love with Jaden's alter-ego in his past life, and she will do anything to rule over the multiverse with Jaden and keep him all to herself. Yubel is what happens when a love sick Stalker with a Crush decides to conquer what they see in the name of proving their love to someone.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Rex Godwin is the head of Sector Security and a member of the secret society of Iliaster. He rose to this position after being stranded and forgotten in the slum of Satellite, and has single-handedly turned Neo Domino City into a classist technological utopia under his control. Using his power he begins gathering the prophesied Signers and awakening their powers, then presents himself to them as a mentor and benefactor who would aid them in their war against the Dark Signers led by his brother Roman. However, Rex is playing both groups against each other to make his own play for power, allowing Roman to kill him so he can become a Dark Signer, and then using Roman's severed arm bearing his Signer Mark to make himself a Signer. Transforming himself into a Yin-Yang Bomb with the power of both groups, Godwin seeks to destroy the world and remake it in his image, and almost succeeded if not for The Power of Friendship overriding his willpower to force the Signer marks to obey him.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • Sakyo is a charming, charismatic member of the Black Black Club who came up from nothing. A born sociopath who despised his honest, loving family, Sakyo graduated from torturing animals into high stakes gambling where he amassed a fortune to join the demon-trafficking and torturing Black Black Club. Deciding to advance even further, Sakyo plays the group's founder Gonzo Tarukane by secretly paying off the Toguro brothers when Tarukane hires them as bodyguards, rigging the gambles he makes with Tarukane by having the Toguro brothers take a dive against Team Urameshi. Setting up his team to fight in the Dark Tournament, Sakyo takes a curious liking to Shizuru Kuwabara and protects her during the events while also manipulating and eventually disposing of the rest of the Black Black Club, before gambling his own life on Toguro's victory in order to insure he can see a portal opened to the Demon World out of sheer morbid curiosity. When Toguro is defeated, Sakyo immediately offers his life without complaint, bidding a last fond farewell to Shizuru first.
    • The Younger Toguro brother sold his soul 50 years ago to become a powerful demon after winning the Dark Tournament in despair over the deaths of his students and the knowledge of his impending mortality. In present, having grown disillusioned with his life, he manipulates the events with Gonzo Tarukane to see if Yusuke Urameshi is a worthy adversary and forces him and team to join the Dark Tournament. Toguro manipulates Yusuke into becoming stronger while also keeping him from making Toguro's mistakes before the final match. After killing Yusuke's mentor, his former teammate and lover Genkai, Toguro is dissatisfied with Yusuke's strength and seemingly murders his friend Kuwabara to force him to fight all out, only to reveal he faked Kuwabara's death. Unlike his twisted elder brother, Toguro never sold his pride along with his soul and displays a true sense of honor, grateful to give his all against a final worthy adversary.
    • The "Black Angel", Shinobu Sensui was once a brilliant young Spirit Detective whose idealistic view of humans was shattered by the Black Black Club. Years later, he uses the depraved Chapter Black tape to recruit a group of psychics to his side as Team Urameshi goes after him, manipulating all his enemies and allies alike to achieve his goals and weaken Yusuke's team. In one instance, Sensui forces Kurama to duel in a game against a little boy, with the boy not knowing he will die if he loses. Sensui is aware Kurama will do it, but knows it will shake him up too much to be of use in fighting Sensui at his best later, while also knowing a guilt-stricken Koenma will use up too much power restoring the boy to life. Sensui also uses his multiple personalities to bear the burdens of his crimes, revealing his true self in time to defeat and even kill Yusuke before opening a path to the demon world. His true goal? Is an elaborate suicide attempt to die at the hands of a powerful demon to atone for taking so many demon lives in the past. Passing as a dark mirror to Yusuke himself, Sensui remains one of his most sympathetic and fascinating enemies.


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