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The Atoner

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This is why you don't want to take the Atoner for granite.

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light."

Once, there was a major villain named Bob. He committed every crime one could think of, and he did it with a song in his heart and a skip in his step. Then, something happened to make him ''see'' the horror of what he was doing. He realized how much pain he had caused, and he set out on a personal quest to try to make it right.

The Atoner is an evil character who has realized the error of his ways, possibly wants to make amends, and has decided that they will do so via heroic deeds. Simple imprisonment won't do, because it does nothing to make recompense for what he's done wrong. Besides, he still has all these amazing skills and resources from the Bad Old Days—wouldn't it be better to use them for good?

The problem is, Bob often has to wrestle with the temptation to return to his old ways, along with the massive guilt built up over years of carefree evil. Also, said previous villain skills usually involve killing people in very messy ways, which can result in karmically harmful situations. Other times Bob's evil side won't go down without a fight, and manifests itself as an Enemy Within. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that morality isn't a book that can be balanced—no amount of babies saved now will bring Bob's past victims back to life. The Atoner usually realizes that "Redemption is the path, not the destination" and continues for the rest of his life.


Sometimes 'the rest of his life' is short because Redemption Equals Death. Generally the only Atoners who avoid this are main characters who are already in the atoning stage by the series' start. Atoners often end up as Knights in Sour Armor. Those who believe redemption inherently equals death may well become Death Seekers.

A subtrope of this is "Assassin Wants To Quit." Stories involving them allow us to cheer on the assassin as they battle their former employers using the same murderous skills they honed during their previous career. Atoners sometimes go on a Redemption Quest in order to atone. If their deed of atonement is especially painful, it may overlap with The Penance.

Would-be Atoners who are not sincere are trying to Buy Them Off. Not to be confused with The Aloner, though they can both coincide if the character is trying to atone for killing off everyone else on the planet. And especially not to be confused with The Stoner (unless they turned to drugs to cope with their guilt). The Atoner may face rejection and hatred from those who don't believe he's reformed, which is Reformed, but Rejected, and more importantly, he must be careful not to run into the Heel–Face Door-Slam. In some instances, however, there are characters who will acknowledge The Atoner's change of heart, but do so in a grudging manner. The Atoner must also beware of one character who actively seeks to end his path to redemption.


The success rate of atoners depends on where the work sits on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism. In more idealistic works, or at least ones that posit that people can change for the better, atoners may have a greater chance of success, as proof that no matter one's actions may have been in the past, it's always possible to change for the better and do good.

Genuine atoners have a high chance of becoming The Woobie, especially if they were an Anti-Villain in the first place. See also, Be All My Sins Remembered, where they continue to suffer a guilt complex over their past misdeeds. Contrast with My Greatest Failure—instead of a formerly evil character turning from their past, a good character feels the need to atone for not preventing a bad outcome (regardless of whether they could have changed anything). The Atoner may have experienced Go and Sin No More.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Amino ends up being this in the Asatte no Houkou manga.
  • Discussed in Attack on Titan, when Reiner mockingly demands to know if this is what Eren expects them to do, while asking what the point is of lecturing them on morality if he already sees them as monsters. It gets more complicated since he is genuinely remorseful over his crimes, slowly spiraling into madness and close to crossing the Despair Event Horizon. However, it's fairly clear Reiner, Bertolt, and Annie don't believe atoning for their crimes is even remotely possible, leaving them with no choice but to continue their mission.
    • The First King, Karl Fritz, is also this. Despite being ruler of the Eldian Empire, he was wracked with immense guilt over the genocidal and sadistic atrocities that his ancestors meted out on the Marleyan people and so hatched a plan. Together with the noble Tybur family, Fritz created the myth of Helos, a Marleyan warrior who slew the Devil of All Earth, a figure in Eldian mythology that had granted Ymir her Titan-shifting powers, and led his people in revolution against Eldia. In truth, Fritz and the Tyburs took a large portion of the Edlian people to the neighbouring island of Paradis, where they would wait in exile until Marley decided to wipe them out. Fritz believed Marley was entirely justified in exterminating the remaining Eldians for their crimes and thus would put up no resistance when Marley came knocking. To further ensure this was carried out, Fritz erased the memories of his people so they would ignorant and peaceful, unaware of the world beyond the walls.
  • Baccano!
    • The straight example is Ennis, a Homunculus Battle Butler who detests her inability to oppose her master out of fear and tries to invoke Redemption Equals Death to redeem herself (it almost happens, but Firo negates the "death" part).
    • Isaac and Miria subvert it: they want to atone for their (rather silly and harmless) past sins... Robin Hood style, which technically escalates their crime spree.
  • Bleach:
    • Yamamoto created the original Gotei 13 by gathering together twelve of Soul Society's worst criminals and thugs, and Yamamoto was the worst of them. In later years he described a portrait of his younger self as a "monster" that nearly destroyed Soul Society, due to his ruthlessness while exterminating the Quincy and establishing the Shinigami. He vowed to submit himself to the authority of the Central 46 to keep himself in check, even when he knew their decisions were wrong.
    • Yachiru Kenpachi viewed the result of her battle with Zaraki Kenpachi as a grave crime, as the resulting mental block he placed on his abilities greatly diminished his exceptional strength. She left the battlefield and became a healer while trying to discover how she could undo that damage.
  • Casshern from Casshern Sins spends nearly the entirety of the series trying to atone for a sin he doesn't remember committing: killing Luna, the world's last hope. It's a pretty big mistake, since it ended up causing all life in the world to die or start dying. It's implied Braiking Boss, the person who ordered Luna's murder, is of this trope as well. He goes so far as to bury every follower of his that died from the Ruin, reasoning that he wanted to etch into his heart the pain the Ruin had caused.
  • Part of the reason Castle Town Dandelion's Kanade running to be Queen is because she wants to advance their nation's medical technology and find a way to cure Shuu's leg, as penance for accidentally breaking it back in their childhood when her castle crumbled, inadvertently ruining his dreams of becoming a football player.
  • Chrono from Chrono Crusade deeply regrets joining Aion's side and being responsible for Mary Magdalene's death, and spends the entire series trying to be kind to people and help others to make up for his past sins. Also, the manga epilogue shows that Joshua Christopher joined the Order, with another character guessing he did it with hopes of atoning himself.
  • Code Geass:
    • In the Grand Finale Suzaku—a former Death Seeker who wanted to atone for killing his own father, yet has been Geassed to Live at any cost—becomes one of these when he takes on the role of Zero at Lelouch's request. After killing him. More than that, Suzaku was The Atoner all along. Driven to kill his father in order to save the population of his entire country, with dubious results, he joins the army... and starts being the Death Seeker he was up until the above scene in the finale.
    • Paired with the above Lelouch had become one at the same time after the last Trauma Conga Line he went through which left him with nothing after he was betrayed by the very forces he raised up to fight against The Empire. In his case, however, his method of atonement is to die after performing the Zero Requiem to force the world into a better place; by giving them first himself as the enemy to hate and then placing Suzaku as the new Zero for them to rally behind after Lelouch secretly cleaned up the worst of Britannia and the world so it would be easier for his sister to succeed him as a much beloved leader.
    • Jeremiah Gottwald AKA Orange blames himself for not being able to protect Lady Marianne and her children and everything he does is him trying to atone for their deaths. This fuels his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder as after he finds out that Lelouch is alive; he betrays Britannia, under the guise of loyalty, to join the man who had been trying to destroy them, and after Zero left the black knights he followed him back to Britannia.
    • After Nina Einstein finally realizes that Evil Is Not a Toy after her Sphere of Destruction-like bomb obliterates Tokyo, decides to work with Lelouch himself to stop the plans of Schniezel for world domination.
  • In Corsair, Canale tries to atone for his years as a Sharq assassin and particularly for the murder of Sesaam Zaiyaun, whom he was in love with. He requests that Ayace kill him several times, lest he bring anymore danger to the people he loves.
  • Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns feels that he should not experience love or be worthy of love to compensate for killing his stepfather.
  • Ken Ichijouji in the second half of Digimon Adventure 02. After the breakdown of his Digimon Emperor persona, he works hard to undo all the damage he caused and redeem himself. Even as late as the series finale, however, when the characters are each shown their fondest wish Ken's vision is of himself beaten to death by the Digimon he abused as the Digimon Emperor.
  • In Digimon Tamers:
    • A defining example in Anime is Impmon, who became Beelzemon through a Deal with the Devil obsessed with obtaining power by himself. He killed and absorbed the data of Leomon, whose partner, Jeri the former comic relief was utterly heartbroken to witness, which resulted in her later being susceptible to being kidnapped and psychically tortured by a modern-day Eldritch Abomination. Spared from death by Jeri herself, tormented by the guilt of his actions, discovering his inner goodness, reuniting with his own young Tamers, Impmon finds new resolve to save Jeri from the Eldritch Abomination known as the D-Reaper. Against the D-Reaper he uses everything in his power to desperately save Jeri. Every attack until he calls forth Leomon's "Fist of the Beast King" attack and successfully reaches out to Jeri, but fails to get her cooperation because he isn't actually Leomon. He is nearly fatally wounded and doesn't participate in the final battle. After the D-Reaper's defeat, Impmon is at last able to ask for Jeri's forgiveness. To his relief, she forgives him, leaving Impmon finally at peace in the end.
    • To a lesser degree of drama there's Yamaki, who begins the series as the main villain and sinister man in black who ruthlessly deletes Digimon he sees as alternately disruptions to the natural order or the advance guard of an invasion, and threatens to take the children's partners away (to be fair, he doesn't do so when given the chance). However, when Juggernaut, his attempt to purge all digital life from the real world, not only fails horribly but opens the way for the real invasion, he has a genuine What Have I Done moment and spends the rest of the series working with the reunited Monster Makers to aid the Tamers. He modifies both the Hypnos system and many of his old programs into highly useful tools, and Juggernaut even becomes the means by which the ultimate enemy is finally deleted.
  • Tien Shinhan from Dragon Ball. After studying in the Crane school under Master Shen, Tien becomes a person who fights to kill or at least severely injure his opponent. This of course gains him many enemies. After the master of the rival school, Roshi, gets through to him, he realizes killing is not always necessary, and he spends the King Piccolo arc trying to learn and do a dangerous suicidal technique to atone for his past actions.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z in the Buu saga. After spending much of the series being being unable to catch up to Goku, Vegeta allows the evil sorcerer Babidi to place him under mind control for the power boost it comes with. Vegeta kills dozens of people, fights off the mind control to fight Goku, and helps Babidi unseal Majin Buu, who (seemingly) kills Gohan. Vegeta at last sees sense after this and goes to fight Buu alone, and blows himself up in an attempt to kill Buu which ultimately fails.
  • In Endride, Louise was The Mole for the Truculent. Despite initially wanting to leave the Ignauts after betraying them, feeling uncomfortable with their forgiveness, the character chooses to stay and atone by helping the cause.
  • Fairy Tail
    • Gajeel becomes this after joining the guild. Confirmed as of chapter 212.
    • Crime Sorciere Jellal, Urtear, Meredy become this after the Time Skip. In particular, one of the newer members, Sorano (also known as Angel of the Oracion Seis), believes that she's done too much evil for her to be able to call herself Yukino's sister until she's atoned.
    • Used as the twist in the Tenrou Island arc. After building up Zeref, who the villains are trying to awaken, as the most evil and powerful mage in history we find out he was never sealed at all. His inactivity was due to a Heel Realization hundreds of years ago and making the arc villains actions pointless all along. Zeref is a particularly cruel version of this trope, desperately wanting to die for his sins but being unable to control his Life/Death magic means he can neither die nor be anywhere near others so he can atone. He later decides that Humans Are the Real Monsters and vows to wipe them out or die trying.
  • Raoh in Fist of the North Star, at his very last moments before his suicide.
  • Franken Fran has a seemingly demon-possessed cardinal and the front-runner to be the next Pope who turns out to have been a former gangster. After being saved from being shot in the head, he devoted his life to the Church, and faked the possession to avoid having an ex-criminal be Pope.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Ayame feels guilty about his neglect of his younger brother Yuki, and is trying to be a better big brother. The rift between them, and Ayame's natural extravagant manner not appealing to Yuki, makes it difficult, but Ayame persists and ultimately succeeds.
    • In the Back Story, Kazuma took on the Parental Substitute role for Kyo Sohma/the cat of the Zodiac because of his guilt over how badly he treated the last cat, his grandfather, when he was a youngster.
    • The reason Kagura is so hung up over Kyo is because A.) she only played with him as a child because his terrible home life/curse made her feel better about her own situation, and B.) she ran away in fear after seeing Kyo's true form and felt guilty about how withdrawn he became afterwards. Hence why she asks/warns Tohru to only approach and love Kyo if she really loves him, and not due to pìty.
    • Akito gets some of this after a Heel–Face Turn, having realized how deeply their actions hurt others.
  • In Full Metal Panic!, it's revealed that Kalinin always felt horrible guilt and great regret that he did nothing to save Sousuke's mother (who ended up plunging to her death on the frozen and broken down airplane). As a result, he feels the great need to make it up to Sousuke, and always had the great desire to adopt him as his own son. Unfortunately, Sousuke is sent to an orphanage, and the next time Kalinin meets him, he's shocked to see that Sousuke turned into a cold blooded, uncaring killer. This causes him to feel even more guilt for having let Sousuke go and become like this, and in turn becomes even more dead set on making it up to him.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist lives off this trope, as almost every single heroic character has done something either very stupid or very villainous which he or she is attempting to atone for.
    • Dr. Marcoh, Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, and Alex Louis Armstrong's motivations are to atone for all the Ishvalans they killed during the Ishval Massacre. Especially Armstrong, Roy, and Hawkeye. I.e., Roy's long-term goal when he becomes Fuhrer? He wants to turn the country into a democracy, and eventually be tried for his war crimes.
    • Ed and Al's primary reason for finding the Philosopher's Stone is to redeem their bodies after attempting to transmute their mom. At the same time, Ed's own primary reason is to bring Alphonse back. It's either "our bodies" or "Alphonse"; he blamed himself for years, afraid to even ask Al if he blamed him for what happened.
    • Scar, whose transition from being motivated by revenge to wanting to break its cycle actually occurs during the series.
    • Dr Knox like the rest of above mentioned in the Ishavalan war, but he isolated himself from his friends and family.
    • Shou Tucker is an aversion; he doesn't seem to see anything wrong with combining his daughter and dog to accelerate his research. And this is the second time—the first time was his wife. The 2003 anime version, however, uses Tucker in a villainous example. Once he finds out about Nina's death, he spends the rest of the series trying to bring Nina back, which extends to mutating himself into a grotesque beast man and siding with the likes of Greed and Frank Archer. Unfortunately, his efforts are in vain.
  • Chichiri of Fushigi Yuugi holds himself responsible for his best friend Hikou's death, half-justifiably (the friend was killed by a flood, but Chichiri was also fighting violently with him at the time, and his attempt to save Hikou from the flood failed). Regretting how his anger contributed to the situation, Chichiri becomes a Religious Bruiser and strives to keep his emotions hidden and controlled at all times.
  • The newly-resurrected Yomi in Ga-Rei. Not surprising at all, considering what she had done.
  • Gugure! Kokkuri-san has Shigaraki; every cent that he steals goes towards funding an orphanage for the children of families he's destroyed.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: In the appropriately-named "Atonement Chapter" (Tsumihoroboshi-hen) Keiichi is briefly able to break through the "Groundhog Day" Loop and is allowed to clearly see his actions in the first arc, in which the Hate Plague drove him to isolate himself from his friends and murder Rena and Mion. He becomes The Atoner as a result and redoubles his efforts to try and save Rena, who is now in the same boat as he was. Also, before he moved to Hinamizawa, he was a nihilistic loner who got his kicks by shooting at little kids with a pellet gun. When he severely injures a little kid (as opposed to the bruises it usually caused) he realized how horrible his actions were and turned over a new leaf.
  • After being a Smug Snake and almost becoming the Big Bad, Yuri Killian in Kaleido Star decides to go into a 10-Minute Retirement and study art in Paris, only to return as a sponsor and later directly try to atone for his deeds. And not only for those he committed against the Stage. And before that, the reason why Yuri was able to completely seizing the Stage is because Kalos Eidos let him do so as atonement for believing himself to have caused the death of Yuri's father on-stage due to a very ill-timed talk with him. Kalos saw Yuri's rise as his revenge for the death of Aaron and his (Kalos's) own punishment, which is why he didn't retaliate until the last moment.
  • Kino's Journey. A once-violent criminal has decided to atone for his acts by accompanying the widow of a man he killed while she Walks The Earth as her bodyguard. The next scene shows the atoner dying in a forest clearing, as the widow has just emptied her pistol into him. She was so hurt that she didn't think he deserved atonement.
  • In Koe no Katachi, Ishida Shouya once was the ringleader of a group of kids who bullied Nishimiya Shouko, a deaf girl. He ended up being scapegoated for all the bullying, and he came to realize just how awful his treatment of her was. He spends the bulk of a five-year Time Skip preparing to set things right. In a darker turn, specifically to make amends before he kills himself. Nishimiya responding positively towards his actions leads him to keep living, although this trope continues to color Ishida's actions.
  • In episode 6 of the Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions anime, Makoto Isshiki shaved off his head and took the heat for the other guys in 1-4 for taking polls of the girls. This is to maintain some kind of desirability among the girls.
  • In Lyrical Nanoha:
    • The Wolkenritter join the TSAB to make up for their crimes committed while filling the Book of Darkness. Signum is particularly focused on this, as she states that she plans to repent for her crimes except when she is with Hayate, but Nanoha suggests that rather than regret what she did, she should just focus on helping people. Hayate is similarly motivated by a desire to make up for the Book of Darkness incident, having been subject to most of the blame for it and feeling responsible for it.
    • All seven of the Numbers who performed a Heel–Face Turn also apply, especially Cinque. Cinque has the longest sentence out of all of them (possibly because she killed people, including the original Zest), and while she doubts she'll ever be truly free, she cares enough for her sisters to do what is necessary to care for them.
  • In Mai-Otome Zwei, Nina becomes this, wanting to make up for her actions in the previous series by helping Nao investigate the ruins in Episode 3, and fighting alongside Arika in the final battle in Episode 4.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing:
    • This is a facet of Heero Yuy that shows up in a couple of major ways. After he is tricked into killing a large number of UESA leaders, he spends some time traveling with Trowa to meet with the families of each person that died, where he offers them the chance to kill him as retribution.
    • The first version of the opening credits hints at something that's finally revealed in Endless Waltz: one of Heero's first covert assignments (destroying an OZ mobile suit factory) went catastrophically out of control and ended up killing a young girl and her dog that he'd met the day before. Heero has been haunted by guilt over that ever since.
  • Franz Bonaparta from Monster is played up as being the creepy childrens book author responsible for the madness that created Johan Liebert. As it turns out, he actually had everyone involved in the eugenics experiment killed so he could save Johan's twin sister from a similar fate.
  • Balsa from Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit wants to save eight lives for the eight lives that were taken in her protection as a child. To do so, she realizes would only mean something if she doesn't kill others. It's not easy to spare and escape a force of elite warriors.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Enchu, despite being imprisoned for life in the Arcanum, studies to one day become an Executor and atone for his crimes.
  • For Murasakiiro no Qualia, Hatou applies. In the vast majority of worlds she denies herself happiness to try to solve Yukari's murder. She has endured numerous deaths, alcoholism, rape (implied), and who knows what else in pursuit of her goal. All because she helped Alice convince Yukari to join JAUNT.
  • The Prince of Tennis has Kippei "The Kyushuu Lion" Tachibana. While not an evil person, his playing style was highly violent. Then, his best friend and rival Senri Chitose became one of his victims when Tachibana accidentally hit him in the eye and almost blinded him. Wrecked with guilt, Tachibana seriously thought he should just leave tennis as a whole, but then his family transferred to Tokyo. He enrolled in Fudomine Junior High and and witnessed how the local tennis clubs' rookies were bullied by the sempais and the ex-coach; Tachibana stood up for them and became their leader and captain.
  • Xerxes Break of Pandora Hearts is this, though he claims otherwise. This is because he was once Kevin Regnard, a Failure Knight driven to make a Deal with the Devil that required him to murder as part of his bargain. He made it with the hopes of changing the past, in order to bring back the murdered family he served. Eventually, after sacrificing 116 people to his Chain, he was dragged into the Abyss and was able to convince the Will of the Abyss to grant his wish. Unfortunately, he later learned his wish resulted in the family being murdered four years later... by the one child that had survived the slaughter in the original timeline. The horror and grief over his actions are his driving motivation, though he keeps it secret from others.
  • In Saki, Hajime Kunihiro's crime- cheating in a mahjong game in elementary school- is much less severe than many of the ones described here, but it still haunts her to the point at which she wears chains on her wrists that hinder her movements, and works especially hard to be trustworthy to her teammates on Ryuumonbuchi, especially her close friend Touka.
  • Shakugan no Shana: At the near-end of the story,' Yuuji, knowing how much pain he had caused for the sake of Xanadu's creation with the power of the God of Creation, attempts to become this by leaving for Xanadu alone, in order to work to encourage the Crimson Denizens to live in peace with, and befriend, the humans living there. The love that he and Shana shared trumped this, however, and they leave for the new world together. At Xanadu, he does atone by trying to get the Humans and Denizens to co-exist, but often ends up becoming a target of aggression, getting involved in fights and often on the run.
  • SHUFFLE!: After discovering that it was not Rin's fault that her beloved mother died Kaede Fuyou makes her purpose in life "to serve Rin-kun"—so she can make up to him for all the tremendous abuse she piled up on him. (who willingly took the blame because Kaede was this close to just let herself die by despair) before the discovery.
  • While a few villains from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs eventually become this, the primary example is Fujimaru, who makes it a point to fight against the dictatorship government as atonement for having served it previously. This leads to him nearly making a Heroic Sacrifice in the finale, though he fortunately gets off with Redemption Equals Affliction rather than Redemption Equals Death.
  • In Sword Art Online Progressive, Nezuo, is a player who'd scammed other players out of their weapons in order to help his guild, who'd fallen behind the other clearers while trying to help him level (Nezuo has a Full-Dive Nonconformity that's an almost crippling disadvantage in battle). After Kirito and Asuna find out what he was up to, he, on Kirito's advice, masters the chakram (one of the few viable ranged weapons in the game) and uses it to save the other clearers from the second floor boss. Unfortunately, he's nearly executed for his crimes until his guildmates take responsibility and give up their gear as restitution.
  • Lordgenome from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, after hundreds of years of suppressing humanity underground, during the fight with the Anti-Spiral, he sacrifices himself to absorb the Infinity Big Bang Storm and transfer it to Spiral Energy, which the Dai-Gurren Brigade uses to defeat the Anti-Spiral. He even has a bit of a final goodbye to his daughter.
  • Willard in Tenrou Sirius The Jaeger is basically this. As in Episode 7, Willard regrets the things that he had done in the past, considering that he is the one who enables the massacre of Yuliy's village, Dogville, after he translates the contents of a book revealing the location of Sirius Ark to the vampires. It affects him deeply, to the point that he takes little Yuliy into his care and calmly waits for Yuliy to finish him once he finds out the truth. He also regrets that he encouraged Yuliy to focus so single-mindedly on vengeance.
  • Vash the Stampede from Trigun constantly is wracked by guilt over his past and the extensive body count that he blames himself for, even though none of it is truly his fault. What he truly has remorse for is the fact that he couldn't prevent said things from happening in the first place. In the original manga, Vash killed everyone in July except for himself, Knives who was critically injured, and Hopperd the future-Gauntlet. Vash was friends with several people in July and is forever haunted by killing his own friends for revenge.
  • Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood is a centuries old Crusnik (uber-vampire who feeds on normal vampires, has superior destructive powers and is invincible) who used to hate humans and took the vampire side of the conflict when war broke out. He was essentially a living weapon of mass destruction and supposedly killed seven million humans. Eventually it was the death of his lover, who had sided with the humans (after telling him how to defeat the vampires) and had been trying to influence him, that caused him to change his views. Nine hundred years later, he's a priest of the Vatican and tries to avoid and prevent killing whenever he can, and is wracked by guilt for his sins.
  • Alan from Windaria, who spends the bulk of his life rebuilding the world after he helped ruin it.
  • Quent in Wolf's Rain is something of a variation on this. He only comes to realize that wolves are not evil when Toboe, the wolf he has been pursuing most vigorously, makes a futile attempt to save him from the Big Bad Lord Darcia. It is only after they have both been mortally wounded, and Quent realizes that it was Toboe who saved him from freezing to death on an earlier occasion, that Quent is able to redeem himself in a small way by comforting the dying Toboe as his own life ebbs away. It's not much—but it's enough.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! absolutely loves doing this.
    • In the first series we had Maximilian Pegasus, Marik Ishtar, Odion Ishtar, Noah Kaiba, Dartz, Rafael, Valon, Alister, Leon, and even SETO KAIBA.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX we have Kagemaru, Tania, Atticus, Crowler, Aster Phoenix, Satorious, The Supreme King, and Yubel.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's gives us Jack, Aki, Ushio(the guy that was redeemed by Yami Yugi and again by Yusei), all of the Dark Signers, Aporia, Bruno/Antinomy, and Z-ONE.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has Kaito, Dr. Faker, the Tron family, and all of the Barian Emperors.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V gives us Shingo, Serena, Sora, Jack(again), Kaito(again), Aster(again), the Tyler sisters, the Obelisk Force, Dennis, Leo Akaba, Yuri, and Zarc.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS has Ai.
  • Naruto has three prime examples of this. This first is Pain AKA Nagato, who sacrifices himself to reverse all of the damage he has done to the Leaf Village upon being swayed by Naruto's words, trusting in him to end the cycle of hatred.. The second is Tobi AKA Obito Uchiha, who saves Naruto's life and tries to sacrifice himself on two seperate occasions. The second time sticks, with him dying in Kakashi's place. The third, and the only one who doesn't die, is Sasuke Uchiha. After he realizes he has caused so much pain for little to no reason, he requests that Naruto take his Rinnegan and use it to dispel the Infinite Tsukuyomi, and kill him off. Naruto has none of it and tells him to redeem himself by helping others. He... does just that, exploring Kaguya's dimensions to search for a reason as to why Kaguya would want an army of White Zetsu. This comes to a head in Boruto: Naruto the Movie, where he ends up saving Naruto's life, as well as tutoring Naruto's son, Boruto. Although this last one is a base breaker as some people feel he was let off too easily.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's new spin on Speedball fits here, even if Speedball was always a hero. Now he's blamed for 612 people he didn't actually murder. But, hey, he can change his name to Penance Bleedball and design a costume with 612 points of constant pain. It turns out that he didn't make the suit for himself—he made it for Nitro, the true murderer. He only wore it because he felt he had to atone somewhat for failing to save all those people.
  • The title character of Atavar, despite not ever actually being a villain, becomes one anyway after being tricked into dooming the Kalen.
  • At one point, Hawkeye of The Avengers. After being manipulated to villainy, he joined the Avengers as a way to both make up for what he did, and also to do what he originally intended to do with his skills: Help people.
  • Following Avengers vs. X-Men, Scott Summers, who under the corruption of the Phoenix Force caused the death of Charles Xavier, was willing to spend the rest of his life in jail paying for that and any other crimes he committed under its control (for those who don't know, that basically amounts to him refusing to do what the Avengers told him to do), until he realized that the sudden burst of new mutants mean that a large number of people are going to be hunted down by anti-mutant extremists, so he decided to break out of prison to protect them. Now, still hunted by the government and his former teammates, he's formed a new Brotherhood of Mutants so he can track down new mutants who need protection, whatever it takes. Most, however, just assume he's off his rocker and trying to upstage humanity. Though, he probably doesn't help his case by calling it a 'mutant revolution', or with the fact that his powers are on the fritz, making him unintentionally far more dangerous than he intends to be.
  • Sabretooth is a big example. As a villain, he committed almost every crime one could think of. He's been an assassin, abuser, serial killer, mass murderer, cannibal, and possibly a rapist. His good & evil side are inverted during AXIS and he becomes a good person, trying to atone for all his past sins -vowing to Logan that he would find his own Wolverine spirit.
    • Leads into Reformed, but Rejected seeing as NO hero in Marvel fully trusts him. After the Axis storyline ended, Creed acknowledged that many would only ever see him for the beast he was. So he's prepared for everyone's slights toward him, but he still gets annoyed with it.
  • Batgirl (2000): Making up for murdering a man is the bulk of Cassandra Cain's entire motivation, especially early in her career.
    Barbara Gordon: "You were eight years old, you were raised in a bunker by a psychopath, you didn't know what you were doing... You were eight years old! And the fact that you've tortured yourself ever since proves the type of person you really are."
  • A Batman story did a variant of this: Issue #127 of his self-titled book showed an alternative origin if his parents didn't get killed. In this version, Batman was a criminal called the Blue Bat, and the costume was worn by someone else. This all changed with an encounter with Bruce Wayne, who defeated the crook, took the costume for himself, and became Batman, noting, "This costume that was once a symbol of crime will now become a symbol of justice!"
    • Detective Harvey Bullock, a member of Batman's supporting cast, was introduced as a corrupt cop, but he saw the error of his ways. Since then, he's been working hard at cleaning up both Gotham City and his reputation.
    • Another Batman-related example: Scientist Kirk Langstrom, alias the supervillain Man-Bat, is often portrayed as trying to make up for the damage his Superpowered Evil Side has caused.
  • Bucky Barnes was brainwashed into a Russian assassin known as the Winter Soldier. When he gets his memories back, he is full of guilt over the things he did. His first solo series makes his atonement a focal point by having him go after Russian sleeper agents he had helped train in the past.
  • Convergence:
    • Pre-Flashpoint Arsenal in Convergence: Titans is making a better attempt to atone for his actions after he was maimed by Prometheus and his daughter Lian died.
    • Pre-Zero Hour! Hal Jordan is this as well. Getting depowered by the dome brought Hal back to his senses and he's legitimately regretful for what he did as Parallax. Unfortunately, the minute the dome comes down and his abilities come back he goes nuts once again.
    • The Vampire Batman in Convergence: Swamp Thing seeks redemption by teaming up with Swamp Thing in ridding the vampires from his Gotham City. After eliminating the queen vampire and thereby turning every vampire back to being human (except for Vampire Batman), Batman allows himself to die under sunlight.
    • Superwoman of the Crime Syndicate has taken her time on death row to reflect on how she's spent her life, and realizes that both herself and the rest of the Syndicate wasted their lives in the pursuit of crime. She fights the Wonder Woman of Justice Legion Alpha for the sake of saving the Metropolis of her world in an attempt to fully atone for her actions and be the hero she now understands she could have been.
  • Crimson: Ekimus is the last surviving member of the Grigori, a soulless race that sided with Satan during the War on Heaven and was completely exterminated. He had forsaken the forces of Hell in shame and tried to atone for his crimes. Unfortunately he ended up crossing paths with Lisseth and together, they created the vampire race that would plague mankind for eons to come. Ekimus would spend his following days searching for a chosen one to help him destroy all vampires.
  • A DC Comics example, Pariah in Crisis on Infinite Earths, whose attempt to explore the origin of the universe has resulted in the destruction of his parallel universe, and personally believes that he may also be responsible for the destruction of the other parallel universes until the Anti-Monitor reveals that he himself is personally responsible for the latter.
  • Post-Parallax Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Then it seemed that that Hal Jordan wasn't really Parallax, that he was merely possessed by an evil creature named Parallax that did all of those bad things and therefore absolves him of all responsibly and exempts him from Character Development. And then we see that he still feels responsible for his actions when being possessed, just like Kyle when he was possessed during the Sinestro Corps War. Part of his interaction with the Corps is trying to rebuild the trust he lost when he killed his fellow Corps members and essentially destroyed the original Green Lantern Corps.
  • Rayek from ElfQuest tried to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, nearly wiping out everyone and everything he cared about in the process. He spends much of the rest of his eternal life trying to make up for this.
  • Emma Frost is this when she is leading Generation X. This aspect went away later.
  • Sistah Spooky (who is not a villain, but can be pretty bitchy) becomes this in Empowered #4.
  • Gambit is another Marvel Universe example of this trope. He joined the X-Men due to the whole unwittingly helping some major baddies commit genocide thing. Admittedly Gambit never intentionally took part in said genocide and continues to be a much loved thief with a heart of gold to fans, but still.
  • Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), ever since he was kidnapped in Vietnam Afghanistan Vietghanistan. Thanks to Survivor Guilt and Major Depressive Disorder, along with a ton of other traumatic events since then, he is also a Death Seeker. More so since Civil War, but generally people who like the character pretend it didn't happen.
  • Superman:
    • At the conclusion of Kingdom Come, Superman's rival Magog becomes one of these.
    • One "what-if" story had Lex Luthor reform and then invent a panacea for all ills as repayment for his crimes.
  • The Mandy story "Sorry Sue" has this premise—Janie, the heroine has been mean to foster-girl Sue and now regrets her actions, so she is trying (unsuccessfully) to make amends.
  • Deadpool of the Marvel Universe is trying to atone, but the fact that he's so bad at it, combined with his natural psychopathy, means that most people don't even notice.
  • Moon Knight fights crime in part to make up for the evil that he did as Marc Spector while fighting with Bushman's band of mercenaries. Since he is, Depending on the Writer, a jerkass, insane or both, these attempts can get complicated.
  • The Phantom Stranger, in (at least) one of his Multiple Choice Pasts.
  • Eel O'Brian, aka Plastic Man, right from the 40s to his current incarnation.
  • Ducra from Red Hood and the Outlaws.
  • Shakara: Dr. Lara Procopio has tried to make up for her role in engineering the disease that was used to destroy the Shakara race through humanitarian missions and dedicating the rest of her life to helping the sick and wounded. When Shakara the Avenger comes to execute her, she admits that it's not meant to excuse what she did and chooses to Face Death with Dignity.
  • The Silver Surfer, spent centuries as a Brainwashed Herald of Galactus. Galactus put a block on his soul preventing him from feeling guilt and he led countless planets to their doom as a result. After the block is released, he feels nothing but regret for his actions and seeks to atone for them.
  • In the Sonic The Hedgehog comics:
    • Knuckles was like this for a bit after his time as the new Enerjak.
    • Heel Face Turned villain Dimitri also feels the need to atone for his previous deeds, and issue #221 has a touching moment between him, NICOLE and Espio, both of whom are also invoking this trope following their respective actions during the Iron Dominion arc.
    • Hope Kintobor does this as well. She had stayed at Knothole until, at the advice of Snively, wandered off to explore the world. When she came back, she found out that Knothole was razed completely and she thought that the Mobians there were dead. Though she later found out they were alive and well, she felt horrible for listening to Snively's advice and, as such, allied herself with G.U.N. and Team Dark to get back at the former Kintobors, vowing to make their name worth something in the end.
    • Sally is hit with this in the post Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide universe when she finds out what she did as Mecha Sally. NICOLE and Cream have to convince her not to go total workaholic on them.
  • Spawn. Especially since it was revealed that he chose to come back as a monster because that's how he viewed himself in life.
  • The Spectre is a fallen angel who saw the error of his ways and repented. He now punishes evildoers who escape human justice as penance.
  • Supergirl:
    • In Supergirl/Batgirl team-up Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Emil Hamilton. He helped Lex Luthor kill baby Kal-El a long time ago, and he's been trying to expiate his crime since. He doesn't care go to jail as long as he manages to expose his ex-colleague.
      Hamilton: Yes! Thank you! I've worked so hard, thrown everything away, committed terrible crimes... Take me away! I'll gladly accept my punishment knowing Luthor's true nature has been exposed.
    • In Supergirl storyline Bizarrogirl, the Girl of Steel and Bizarrogirl work together to save the latter's homeworld. As teaming up, Bizarrogirl learns morality in human terms, the difference between saving people and killing them and realizes back on Earth she killed a man because he was too loud. Bizarrogirl decides to punish herself and asks Supergirl (who is struggling with her own feelings of guilt) if she'll even be able to find some sort of redemption:
      Bizarrogirl: Does self-punishment end, Supergirl?
      Supergirl: It might never end, Bizarrogirl. We can be sorry for what we've done, be sorry for hurting others, but it's what we do afterwards that really matters.
  • Back in the Marvel Universe, after several attempts to take over the universe, Thanos of Titan may have become the Atoner. In the Atrocious "Marvel Universe: The End" he destroys himself or seems to to save the universe, and then in a self-titled series started wandering around atoning for his old deeds. No one trusted his motives and the series was canceled before it was truly clear how genuine his motives were.
  • Also on the Thunderbolts team, there was Songbird, who honestly saw the team as a chance to redeem herself. Too bad the Thunderbolts were reorganized to be little more than killers on a leash after Norman Osborne took over.
  • A few characters in Vampirella were presented this way:
    • Her mother Lilith was the original wife of Adam who had spawned countless races of demons and monsters upon the world after refusing her role. Seeking to redeem herself, she gave birth to Vampi and trained her to fight monsters in hopes of her hunting down evil. Turns out it was a subversion, she was not really atoning for anything, but planning to take over Hell using the dark essence of all demons her daughter killed. Lilith was using her daughter all along to gain power while using an atoner facade.
    • Pantha used to be an Ax-Crazy cannibal that was worshipped as the goddess Sehkmet and killed children in cold blood. She was cursed by the gods for her cruelty by being transformed into an immortal shapeshifter that could transform into a panther. She tries to atone for her atrocities by fighting evil, but she occasionally suffers memory loss because of the same curse.
    • In a very early story, Dracula attempted to become this trope. In this continuity, the events of the Bram Stoker novel (where he killed Lucy Westenra and nearly turned Mina Harker) were real and with the help of Vampirella and Lilith, he traveled back in time to stop himself from doing either. When it seems he is successful, he ends up faltering and murders both Lucy and Mina.
  • Venom:
  • In War World Superman sets to bring Mongul down after unwillingly helping the galactic despot appropiate the titular, devastating weapon.
  • The X-Men have an archnemesis Magneto who seems to go through regular cycles of Big Bad, Well-Intentioned Extremist, and The Atoner. During one of his atonement phases, he even joined the X-Men.
  • In Batman: White Knight, The Joker is cured of his insanity and transforms into Jack Napier. As a result, he wants to make up for his past as the Clown Prince of Crime by becoming Gotham's White Knight.
  • In The Supergirl Saga, Pocket Universe Lex Luthor becomes this when he accidentally let loose the Phantom Zone criminals from their imprisonment for them to start their reign of terror and devastation on the Earth, even to the point of instantly annihilating five billion people on the planet via Atmosphere Abuse. At the end of the story, when Lex Luthor is killed along with the remaining members of his resistance force, he says to the mainstream DC Universe Superman that he knew about the Gold and Green Kryptonite samples hidden in Superboy's lab, but he refused to use them because he wanted the Phantom Zone criminals' defeat to be by his own hand, and now regrets that decision and has Superman promise to never let that happen again.
  • There was once a boy who gained amazing abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider, and immediately tried to use them for his own benefit. One night, he failed to use his powers to stop a thief from escaping, and flippantly brushed off the people who protested that he easily could have intervened; it wasn't his problem, why should he? Unfortunately, later that night his beloved uncle — who had always tried to teach him that "with great power Comes Great Responsibility" — was murdered, and after pursuing the culprit in vengeance the boy was horrified to discover that it was the same thief he had let escape. Devastated by guilt, the boy from that day resolved to use his powers to atone for his inaction by using them to fight crime as the Amazing Spider-Man.
  • In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Reed Richards started as a hero with the Ultimate Fantastic Four, but got increasingly frustrated when the military refused to let him release his revolutionary inventions. He fought against The Ultimates because Utopia Justifies the Means. He visited the main Marvel universe during Cataclysm, to infiltrate the Baxter building and get info about Galactus, but by doing so he discovered the life he could have had with Sue. Later in that story, and in Ultimate FF, he is sorry for his actions. However, the writer Hickman (who wrote his evil arc) ignored it and, Armed with Canon, kept him as a villain.

    Fan Works 
  • This is one of the primary reasons behind Cassandra Cain's conversion to Christianity in Angel Of The Bat.
  • The Azula Trilogy has Azula become this gradually. At the start of the fic she is as selfish and arrogant as ever upon regaining her memory, though she slowly begins to develop a conscience when she allows the two Fire Nation peasants who found her after escaping the asylum to escape. Her Character Development continues when she convinces Zuko to allow her permission to find their missing mother, culminating with her giving a Shut Up, Hannibal! moment to her hallucination of Ozai, representing the darker half of her conscience. Azula's Heel–Face Turn is then complete when she aids Team Avatar in liberating Ba Sing Se from Jian Chin's forces and resisting the temptations of the Spirit of War Zhan Zheng.
  • In The Blue Dragon, Malefor feels guilty of the past actions he did in the past, and throughout the story, atones for them.
  • Brave New World by Ri2 has multiple atoners. Father Yamari was actually a homocidal mercenary before dying. He's spent his entire afterlife attempting to atone.
  • Carpetbaggers, a Literature/Narnia fic, features a wolf named Rhea, who dedicates her life to serving the Pevensies in their new roles as kings and queens in order to atone for the evil deeds of her littermate Maugrim and the rest of her former pack who served the White Witch.
  • The Child of Love: Ritsuko tried to atone for helping Gendo’s schemes. So that she gave Asuka pills meant to undo Gendo's genetic manipulations and turn Asuka's daughter Teri into a normal child.
  • In Child of the Storm, Loki sees his membership on the Avengers as atonement for his actions while insane.
    • Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, after being freed from his decades-long brainwashing during the first book's Final Battle, seeks to make amends for his all the evil he's done over the years. Though he also freely admits his belief that he'll never actually finds redemption for his actions.
  • Christian Humber Reloaded: Surprisingly, Vash sometimes is this. He turns himself in, apparently out of regret, after killing his friend Soku and the rest of her family in revenge for her turning him in. After bursting out of the stomach of a rogue dragon, he undergoes a quest to defeat the demon dragon Le Hung Doe. Unfortunately, those aren't even his worst crimes, and he remains largely unrepentant for actions such as killing six million people at the Super Bowl.
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, Lieutenant Fighting Fit is tortured by guilt over hesitating to investigate the disappearance of Junebug and failing to stop a changeling from taking her place and mind-raping her mother. Two years later, he assembles a search party for the real Junebug, obviously trying to make amends for his failures.
  • The CLANNAD fanfic An End To All Things features an Okazaki that appears to be atoning for something, and it's implied that it's at least partially for his past self nuking the city at some point in the future.
  • In Co-op Mode, due to Gaia's actions, Contessa/Fortuna becomes this.
  • The Count's World: Count Bleck and his minions in general know they can't completely make up for their actions in Super Paper Mario, but they honestly want to keep trying. Dimentio is this as well on a more personal level.
  • A Crown of Stars: After talking with Yui and realizing the weight of his crimes Gendo wants to expiate his sins.
  • Light in the Death Note fic Fever Dreams after he realizes the Kira plan isn't working and that he doesn't really want L dead.
  • Another Sherlockian example is Ascended Extra Fred Porlock in the Deliver Us From Evil Series. Porlock turns out to be an English nobleman's son whom Moriarty recruited from university, and, having seen what his employer really does, Porlock begins to slip information to Sherlock Holmes. We also find out that he's one of Inspector Patterson's contacts—Patterson is Scotland Yard's expert on Professor Moriarty.
  • After undergoing a Heel–Face Turn in Doubt, Hordak resolves to be this at the end, planning to travel to each world still subjugated by the Horde and free them. Sadly, no sequel story exists to see how he did.
  • Tai Lung in A Different Lesson doesn't start out this way—when he's not still being his arrogant, nasty, egotistical self, he's settled into a cross between Villainous B.S.O.D. and Despair Event Horizon over the ruin his life has become and his humiliating defeat by Po. But once he realizes everyone was right about him, and it truly sinks in what all he has done (and in the end, for nothing), the guilt and shame do urge him to follow this trope. Late in the story he proves he's come to understand what most Atoners do, when contemplating Xiulan, a woman whose husband he killed during his rampage: "He would spend the rest of his life trying to make it up to her."
  • The Dragon Ball Z Fan Fic Honor Trip has Perfect Cell as The Atoner in an alternate universe where Gohan doesn't kill him at the Cell Games, but instead scrambles his programming with a blow to the head.
  • In For Good, Warp Darkmatter deals with some heavy guilt following his Heel–Face Turn, and works hard to rid himself of it.
  • Ghosts of Evangelion:
    • After Third Impact Shinji spends his whole life trying to atone for abandoning Asuka and getting the whole mankind killed.
    • Misato strives to atone for effectively abandoning Shinji and Asuka right when they needed her, in spite of her being the only person who cared for them.
      Misato: It might surprise you to learn I agree with you. Everything you said is true. I did a terrible job with the both of you, and there's no excuse for it. Nothing about the circumstances changes what happened to you. It was criminal, and it was wrong, and I'll regret it until the day I die. But even so, you have to think about your situation here: you aren't equipped to live on your own, and neither is Shinji. You both need a lot of help and support, and there aren't exactly a lot of candidates banging on the door for the job. For better or worse I'm the closest thing to family either of you has.
      Asuka: (shaking her head) …
      Misato: And I do care about you. I can't undo any of the things that have happened to you, but I can do my best to look out for you in the future. And I want to do that.
      Asuka: No you don't. The only reason you're bothering at all is because of him.
      Misato: That isn't true. But even if it was, does it really matter? Either way —
      Asuka: Of course it matters!
      Misato: I see. I've really misjudged you, haven't I? All this time, I thought your only interest was in survival. Shinji, me, even Kaji were just means to that end. But it wasn't like that at all, was it? No, of course not. It's so obvious, given what happened with your mom. I guess I never really made the connection because of everything else that was going on.
      Misato: Alright then. I think I can understand your feelings now. And I can't really blame you; I'd be pretty skeptical myself if I was in your position. So that means I'll just have to prove it, right? But you'll have to give me the chance to do that, Asuka. I can't force you to accept me. All I can do is do my best to earn you trust. And that starts right now.
  • HERZ: Gendo tries to atone for being a bad father with being a good, doting grandfather when he is allowed seeing his granddaughter Akiko.
  • The Immortal Game: In addition to Princess Luna, there's also Twilight Sparkle after her time as Nihilus.
  • A number of former antagonists caught up in The Infinite Loops will take this role.
  • Kingdom Crossovers: Zim went through a My God, What Have I Done? moment before the story started and he is now this.
  • In Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox, Naruto is one of these. He was a member of the Kyuushingai ("Nine Terrors"), nine people of mass destruction who caused a lot of chaos across the continent for exactly 365 days; two years after their activities stopped, Naruto is still remorseful about all the bloodshed he helped to cause during that time.
  • LEGO Equestria Girls 2: Like in the original (see below), Sunset Shimmer became this after the events of the previous story. It starts to show early on, when she was the only one who did not escape from her prison when she was given a chance to. Only the Canterlot Master Builders are willing to give Sunset a chance. In a fit of irony, despite not wanting to, she later has to do actions her old self would do since, due to the entire Lego World being under the Dazzlings' spell, the Master Builders are considered bad guys to the Lego World.
  • In the Mai-HiME fanfic The Sword of the Lord, Nao and Reito are driven by a desire to atone for their actions in the Hime carnival. Nao despises Shizuru for apparently not doing the same.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Drill Man, ProtoMan, and Mr. Black are all these.
  • In Memories Born of Fire, a Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic, Spock stays at Kirk's side after he's poisoned, saying that he has "recently failed to carry out" his duty to ensure his captain's well-being.
  • The North Remembers: Much of Theon Greyjoy's character arc is spent trying to redeem himself for betraying the Starks by accompanying a band of Wildlings to Winterfell in order to rescue Mance Rayder and kill Ramsay. Later as Stannis lays siege to the Dreadfort, Theon and Asha agree to exchange themselves for Davos, whom Ramsay had captured and taken prisoner, in order to get inside the castle and retrieve the real Lightbringer sword in Ramsay's possession. Once inside, Theon exacts revenge on his former tormentor, only for Ramsay to reveal he had drunken some of Davos' blood, which had been poisoned by an Other blade, and rises as an Other-like being. This finally culminates in Theon killing Ramsay again by using his and Asha's blood to rekindle Lightbringer.
  • Once More with Feeling: Neither Misato nor Hikari understand why Shinji is so determined to and obsessed with making everyone happy. They do not know that Shinji feels inmensely guilty and is trying to make amends because in the original timeline he left Rei alone because she "scared" him, let Misato die because he was wrapped up in his grief, defiled Asuka and abandoned her -which led to her very bloody and gorey death- and wished that everyone died because he thought nobody loved him.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • There's Fluttershy, after her time as Princess Gaia/Nightmare Whisper, and Fluttercruel, who accidentally turned her into Nightmare Whisper in the first place. They make no effort to make excuses, taking full responsbility for their actions and any punishment they've earned for it. It's made quite clear in their final scene that, although a lot of good did come from their actions, they both still regret their actions and will live with a lot of guilt.
    • There's also the redeemed members of the Dark World versions of the Mane Cast, but especially Applejack, who's working hard to atone so that she can join her sister in Pony Heaven.
    • Recursive Fanfiction gives Dark World another, rather surprising, example in the Valeyard, the Doctor's evil self and Discord's Starscream. After being killed and sent to Pony Hell, he's tasked with helping the recently departed Pinkie Pie rescue the soul of one of her adopted foals. Along the way, he rediscovers that Good Feels Good and, task completed, he rejects an offer of a lighter sentence in order to help the souls condemned to pull Havoc's chariot find redemption, wondering if he might earn it himself one day.
    • In many My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fics, Princess Luna, formally Nightmare Moon, becomes this after turning back to good after being banished to the moon for a thousand years which, as of season 2, is offically canon.
  • Light is this in AU Ragnarok, even though he's never acted upon his impulses he realizes he very nearly went insane as a teenager and was "a future Serial Killer in the making" and works to make up for it every day.
  • Professor Atani Dukat of Reality Is Fluid is the daughter of Gul Skrain Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's not a relationship she's particularly proud of, and her opening scene has her formally apologizing for everything the Cardassians and Gul Dukat did to both Bajor and the Federation.
  • Scar Tissue:
    • After nearly getting Shinji killed Asuka spends the whole fic trying to atone for her behaviour and earn his forgiveness.
    • On the other hand, Shinji endured whatever Asuka did to him because he thought that he deserve it after his actions (never helping her when she needed him, leaving her alone after her Mind Rape, masturbating over her comatose body, leaving her alone as she fought for her life before losing and getting quartered and eaten alive, trying to kill her twice…).
    • Ritsuko is trying to help both kids and eradicate the Eva technology in order to make up for her actions.
  • Shinji and Asuka subvert this in The Second Try, surprisingly. At the beginning it looks like they're trying to save the world after going back to the past because they let it die in the original timeline. However, it becomes more apparent as the story goes on that they've largely come to terms with their failings, and they're not motivated by regret and/or guilt.
  • In Security!, there are quite a few of these, some facilitated by the self-insert protagonist. These include Purity (rebranded as 'Evenstar' of the New York Protectorate), Bonesaw (captured and rehabilitated earlier than in canon), Canary (her power is very useful with crowd control), Lung and Bakuda (pressed into service by the PRT), Emma Barnes (after a traumatic experience with Bakuda and Oni Lee), the Undersiders and Glory Girl.
  • A Study in Regret has Marcel Bernier, the Swiss youth who delivered Professor Moriarty's letter to Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem." Marcel was just an Unwitting Pawn, but he still feels some responsibility for Watson's death and Holmes's captivity.
  • Crow in The Tainted Grimoire took part in several crimes and was a member of Khamja, a criminal organization. He had a Heel–Face Turn and is now trying to make up for what he did.
  • In Thousand Shinji, Rei was so jealous of Asuka and so furious with Shinji and her that she refused to help her fellow pilots several times. As a result, several of her friends got crippled or killed, Shinji and Asuka spent several weeks in a coma, and Rei was so sorry for everything and determined to make amends that she became this.
  • Touhou Ibunshu has Yukari, a vicious, cruel manipulator who nearly destroyed Gensokyo in a doomed effort to kill herself. Realizing what a deep pit she's dug for herself, she starts by confessing her misdeeds and repairing the damage brought by the unnatural winter. She's aware it's step one at best and has zero illusions as to how long it's going to take her to actually earn her forgiveness, but the fact she's actually trying makes it clear she no longer wishes for death.
  • The Reading Rainbowverse version of Trixie was very legitimately traumitized by her experience with the Alicorn Amulet and is, apparently, now trying to redeem herself. Somehow.
  • Ken in An Unseen Kindness wanders the digital world trying to make up for what he did in the events of the first fic in the series.
  • The X-Men fic The Wraith Saga presents an alternate timeline in which Jean Grey survived the events of The Dark Phoenix Saga and spends most of the story trying to atone for the destruction that she caused as the Dark Phoenix. At one point, she even returns to the charred ruins of D'Bari, the planet that she destroyed, to contemplate her past sins.
  • Several appear in Travels Through Azeroth and Outland.
  • Oikawa in the Zero 2 A Revision version realizes his own mistake after Cody's grandfather called him out for making a deal with Demon who enters the Real world along with threatening to shoot Hiroaki's wife for the Digivice and decides to try and make up for it by travelling to the Digital World along with Blackwargreymon and helps the other troubled Digimons in the process.
  • The reason why Bakugo in Waiting is worth it stays friends with Izuku in this continuity is because he feels horrible guilt for putting Izuku in his wheelchair, becoming overprotective to the point where people think that he has a crush on Izuku. Whether he does or not depends on who’s reading.
  • Forum of Thrones:
    • Following the rescue of her little sister, Kersea is no longer forced to work for Clayton and Butterfly. She then decides to make up for her past actions in their service by helping in bringing them down.
    • Harpy's actions during the chapter 6 finale, where she risks her own life to get an attempt at killing Maron Mullendore, the real Butterfly are a version of this trope, as she underwent this risk because she was convinced that the situation leading up to it has been entirely her fault for killing the fake Butterfly two chapters ago
    • Terroma is revealed to feel heavy guilt over having trained Clayton back in his younger days. After hearing of his former pupil's actions, he decided to return from retirement and to focus on bringing him down.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic Walking in Circles, Solas is this to Evelyn. He’s extremely protective and considerate toward her both out of love and guilt because, as he puts it, most of her ordeals and traumas were all or partially his faults and he’s murdered her twice over with his mistakes.
    • One of the Otswick's Templars, Ser Ralston, is also one. In his younger days, he had a dalliance with a mage as perk of the job, said relationship produced a child who was taken away but he kept an eye on her. But eventually, his child turned out to be a mage and didn’t survive her Harrowing. He now spends the rest of his life atoning for his sin by helping and protecting mages whenever he can.


  • In the The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter originally interprets Uncle Ben's death as something he needs to atone for, ruthlessly hunting down the criminal responsible for killing him. It's not until he saves a bunch of people from falling to their deaths, specifically a small child, and realizes that the Lizard was Doctor Connors, that he shifts to acting more like an actual hero.
  • Ulfric in Black Death. As it is likely that he had been at the battle of Crecy, where their opponents had been slaughtered instead of being given a mercy strike. He does give one to the woman accused of being a witch.
  • In By the Sword, Suba is this by training himself back into Master Swordsman shape so that he can teach the helpless students, encourage good behaviors in them, and correct the Maestro's, Villard, behavior before he becomes just like him.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Edgar, after he finally realizes his sins.
  • Dark Blue:
    • After Bobby is coerced to kill an innocent man, he breaks down until he confesses his crimes to his cop ex-girlfriend Beth and her superior.
    • After Eldon Perry gets his partner killed, he atones for his crimes at his promotion ceremony by exposing all the corruption taking place under Jack Van Meter inside the department.
  • Commissioner Gordon becomes this in The Dark Knight when he realizes Harvey Dent and The Joker were right about the extent of the corruption in his unit and, had he listened, it wouldn't have resulted in corrupt cops kidnapping Dent and Rachael, disfiguring the former and killing the latter. It only lasts until Two-Face kidnaps his family, but until then the sheer desperation in his voice shows how responsible he feels and how obsessed he is with rescuing Harvey:
    Gordon: Dent is in there with them! We have to save Dent! I HAVE TO SAVE DENT!!!
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Bruce Wayne/Batman is a big case of this. After behaving like a ruthless and careless vigilante, misjudging Superman badly, almost killing the Man of Steel and having an indirect part in his death in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, he vows to form the Justice League to protect the Earth in Superman's absence, and does everything he can to accomplish this with the help of Diana/Wonder Woman in Justice League.
    • Suicide Squad: Diablo initially refused to use his powers, out of remorse for killing his family using them.
  • In Dracula Untold, Vlad is portrayed as attempting to live a peaceful life with his family, and leave his days as Vlad the Impaler behind. Then the Ottomans arrive (again) and his attempts at a peaceful life become all for nought.
  • GoldenEye: Alec Trevelyan straight up asks James Bond, "...if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect." 007's attitude throughout Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day (specifically his desperate attempt to resuscitate Jinx) indicates that this statement has left him pretty rattled.
  • Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road states that trying to rescue the Wives from Immortan Joe is an attempt at redemption. We never learn exactly what she is attempting to redeem herself for, but given the highly savage and misogynistic culture of the Citadel, it's likely all the extra horrible things she probably had to do to attain the rank of Imperator.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov and Bruce Banner. Tony and Natasha have legitimate sins to make up for (he was a selfish weapons dealer who didn't care that the collateral damage from the military-industrial complex's freewheeling use of his weapons caused hundreds of civilian deaths; she was a cold-blooded Russian spy and assassin, presumably working for ex-KGB operatives, who also indiscriminately killed hundreds of people, including numerous civilians and, by implication, children). Bruce, however, involuntarily turns into a destructive, mindless monster when he gets angry due to an experiment gone wrong, and all the deaths he's caused happened when he wasn't in his right mind, but that doesn't stop him from blaming himself or even trying to kill himself to rid the world of the Hulk.
    • Also, Clint Barton became one after being freed from Loki's Brainwashed and Crazy mind control. In his case it's particularly noteworthy considering the only reason Loki enslaved him was due to his skill (making him a valuable pawn) and because he had 'heart', yet he still feels responsible despite having no control over himself. His first request upon being freed was to know exactly who and how many innocent people he killed while under Loki's thumb. Natasha shuts that down at once, telling him firmly not to think about the consequences of things he is obviously not responsible for.
    • In Thor: Ragnarok, Loki is guilty of various severe crimes outlined in the previous movie by his father, Odin. He later expresses regret and helps evacuate Asgard alongside his brother Thor, The Hulk, and Valkyrie from the rule of his and Thor's evil sister, Hela.
  • Captain Mendoza in the film The Mission used to be a cold-blooded officer who ordered the slaughter of many Guaraní natives, until he killed his brother in a fencing duel. He then went as far as climbing up a waterfall with a huge bag filled with Spanish armor tied to his back. Then he joined Father Gabriel and the Jesuits.
  • In Outlander, Kainan reveals that he had helped hunt the Moorwens to the brink of extinction, and that he considers his family's death Karmic Retribution. He doesn't have any qualms about killing the Moorwen that got loose in Norway, but he decides afterward to sever ties with his homeworld and stay with the Vikings.
  • Pain and Gain: Paul became one after his first stay in prison, and is very uncomfortable with the plan the whole time; the guilt actually seems to be what causes him to fall off the wagon and start doing cocaine again. He becomes one again when he's sent back to prison at the end. Ed even says he seems to embrace it.
  • Pitch Black:
    • Fry. At the beginning of the movie she tries to sacrifice her mostly civilian crew to save herself, despite the fact that her captain points out that the crew are supposed to put themselves last in crisis. At the climax, she tells Riddick that she would die for the others, and eventually loses her life saving Riddick.
    • Riddick might also count, as he appears to be ready to turn over a new leaf at the end, saying: "Tell them Riddick's dead. He died somewhere on that planet.".
  • In Purgatory, this describes everyone in the town of Refuge, though Lefty Slade fails.
  • The reason Nick joins the R.I.P.D..
  • Joshua Rose in Savior becomes this after being forced to realize that he's lost his humanity.
  • In Seven Swords, Fu's introduction proves him to be a heroic Old Master, and his sole purpose throughout is to save lives—which is hard for other characters to accept, having had personal experiences of him as an imperial executioner and torturer.
  • The work Lamont does as The Shadow is so he can atone for the suffering he caused as the ruthless drug lord Ying Ko.
  • Solomon Kane of Solomon Kane was once a savage and ruthless mercenary. After an encounter with a demon and learning of his potential damnation, he pursued first a path of pacifism to cleanse his soul and then a path of righteous battle to cleanse the world.
  • In The Sunset Limited, Black is an ex-con who served his time for murder and found God, and now wants to help people.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Chris Bradley after leaving Team X.
    • The Wolverine:
      • Wolverine goes to Japan to face his guilt for killing Jean Grey and to receive help from an old friend who might have the means to remove his Healing Factor and make him mortal.
      • Harada ends up as this near the end of the film.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: Ian McKellen invokes this while discussing his character in the "Double Take: Xavier & Magneto" documentary.
      McKellen: The Magneto that you see with me is a man of conscience, and a man with an unhappy life behind him. He's come through a great deal, and isn't taking on single-handedly, or even with the help of his Brotherhood, society as a whole. He's joined up again with his old friend, Professor X, and together, they're going to try to move things forward.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: This is how Michael Fassbender perceives Erik Lehnsherr at the beginning of the story, as reported by the May 2016 issue of Cineplex.
      "He works in a steel factory, but he's not using his powers. I thought that was kind of interesting that he's doing honest manual labor. Penance is a bit extreme, but he's sort of left his world domination days behind him."
  • William Munny in Unforgiven really tries to be one of these; in his youth, he was a vicious, cold-blooded killer of an outlaw who only mended his ways when he married a saintly woman. After she dies, he struggles making a living as a hog farmer and trying to raise their two children until an old friend comes along to offer him a bounty on two cowboys who mutilated a young prostitute and went unpunished. When the trope is subverted and Munny's finally forced to come out of retirement, it's not pretty.

  • In Alien in a Small Town, the alien calling himself Paul was responsible years ago for wiping out a small human colony on Jupiter's tiny moon of Adrastea. While it was, arguably, an honest albeit very stupid mistake born from his inexperience (he honestly did think they were about to attack his ship), the guilt for his actions and his need to atone for them have become the driving force of his life.
  • Cyan's mother, Belinda, becomes this at the end of The Amy Virus. She admits that her husband scared her into promoting a sham diet and emotionally and financially abusing their daughter, and that she's never been brave enough to stand up to him until Cyan runs away. Afterwards, she decides to divorce him and take full custody of their daughter so he can't hurt her ever again. Then after finding Cyan in Portland and reconciling with her, Belinda promises to expose the truth about the sham diet, stop claiming Cyan's autism is in remission, and make amends to the people she has hurt.
  • Ancillary Justice: Breq, after having killed lots of people because she was ordered to do so and didn't dare refuse, and to a lesser extent, Seivarden, who has some regrets after being a useless drug addict and stealing and selling Breq's ship to buy new drugs.
  • In The Reveal at the end of The Annals of the Chosen, Farash confesses he wished to atone for the sins he committed as the Chosen Leader. He never genuinely wanted to hurt anyone, but he used countless people, made a town his personal harem, and shirked his duty. Once he lost his power, he began to realize how horrible of a person he truly was and desired a way to make amends. So when he was offered the role as the Chosen Traitor, he accepted.
  • Artemis Fowl in the seventh book The Atlantis Complex is one of these. The guilt he has felt over his dealings with the Fairy people has caused a split personality. Artemis, who is cracking up, and Orion, his innocent alter ego, who's a moron. Artemis spends most of his parts of the book trying to make up for all the harm he's done, especially to Holly.
  • John Morgan Wilson's Benjamin Justice is atoning times two. To begin with, he's atoning for writing a series of articles about a man dying from AIDS that won a Pulitzer...and then turned out to be fake, which wrecked not just his career, but also that of his editor. As it turns out, those articles were themselves an attempt to atone for his own failure to be at his partner's side when he died of AIDS.
  • The Bible is full of this one (it's Older Than Feudalism). Examples include Joseph (atoning for pride), Moses (atoning for murder and later for disobeying God's orders), David (sent a man to die so he could have the guy's wife), Solomon (mainly legends, such as when he lets Ashmodai the demon king trick him), Judas (mostly in legend, for betraying Jesus), Paul (for persecuting Jesus' followers), and more saints than you can shake a stick at.
  • In Border Songs, Madeline Rousseau is a drug-runner and heavy drinker for most of the story, but cleans up at the end.
  • The Breaking the Wall trilogy: When a character who essentially committed Suicide By Romantic Rival gets a chance to redeem himself after death, he takes it and becomes a steadfast ally of the protagonists and a viewpoint character in the third book.
  • Ista in Bujold's Chalion novels.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain note  novel Duty Calls, the Battle Sisters realized that they had sheltered a renegade Inquisitor, and conclude their own zeal had misguided them; they sacrifice their lives for the escape of the people who brought them the truth, and regard it as the only possible atonement.
  • St. Augustine of Hippo considered himself one. It's pretty starkly apparent when you read his Confessions.
  • The Dresden Files: Sanya, a tall, muscular, black Russian. In his youth, being dark-skinned in Russia led him to be an outcast. He became seduced by the power of the Denarian, a coin that contains a Fallen Angel within, and his handler Rosana. He did many evil things under her influence and the coin's power. However, when he learns she sees him nothing more than a puppet, he leaves, thinking, My God, What Have I Done?, and relinquishes the coin. His genuine guilt purges the demon from within. Shortly there after, Sanya runs into a Knight of the Cross who offers him a chance to do some good and the Archangel Michael came forth to give Sanya Esperacchius making him the Knight of Hope. He now seeks to help people where he can. He is also a devout atheist, believing the Lord, His Angels, and the Fallen might just be super advanced beings, but that doesn't change he can still do some good with this sword.
  • Xanth from The Edge Chronicles. In the beginning, he was a Guardian of the Night, then, befriended Rook, made a Heel–Face Turn, but was called back to the Guardians, helped infiltrate them and came back to Rook and Magda's side, where he was generally regarded as evil and tried to atone.
  • Ender's Game:
    • Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, becomes this after realizing that he had killed off the entire species of the Buggers—and that the whole War was a huge misunderstanding. He becomes the "Speaker for the Dead", accepting the Demonization his brother Peter has placed on his name (as Ender the Xenocide) as more than reasonable, and in general spends the next three thousand years without much company hopping from world to world, trying to make up for what he did. This is genuine atonement because Ender is a genuinely nice guy who was originally tricked into doing the nasty thing he did, on account of how he was, like, 12 at the time.
    • The Buggers themselves are this in the original book. As most Buggers are unintelligent drones that Queens control, they didn't think that individual beings without some Hive Mind behind them were real people. When they finally realized just how many individuals they killed, they immediately ceased the invasions, and while they didn't appear to take actions common to the Atoner, they seemed to feel they deserved the extinction that Ender brought to them, given that they had accidentally killed more individual humans than there may have been individual Queens in their entire population.
  • Fingerprints series has a complex example with Steve Mercsepher; the things he does to "atone" for his past evil are generally a lot worse than the the stuff he's trying to atone for but since he may count as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, the intent is still there.
  • Harry Potter
    • Severus Snape, revealed in The Deathly Hallows. He coveted friends and darkness, becoming seduced by the dark ideals of the Death Eaters in his youth. He ends up destroying the one genuine friendship and his information led to his friend's death. For added salt, he has loved Lily Evans since they were children. After that fateful night, he set out on a path to protect Harry Potter.
    • Albus Dumbledore coveted power in his youth and had great ambitions to change the world. His actions led to the tragic event of his mentally-damaged sister laying dead and he was possibly her murderer in a chaotic fight between Grindwald, his brother, and himself. After that, he resigned himself to being just a teacher who would be better suited giving help to young students rather than taking any political power.
    • Gellert Grindelwald led the Wizarding World into a great war. He caused a lot of death and destruction. And after his capture and imprisonment, he lies to Voldemort about ever having the Macguffin Voldemort covets himself, trying to keep the man from claiming a powerful and dangerous magical tool. This is averted in the movie.
    • Regulus Black. He loved the idea of the dark arts, but realizes soon it isn't for fun and games. So, he seeks to fight Voldemort with all he could and sacrifices his own life in hopes that his ally and house-elf Kreacher can destroy Voldemort's soul.
    • Percy Weasley (never a villain as such, but he is shown to regret his past behaviour).
  • Tam Lin in House of the Scorpion was a Scottish terrorist that attempted to kill the prime minister of an unnamed country (presumably the UK). his bomb ended up killing a bus full of school children, and he was forced to escape to Opium for asylum. He commits suicide mid-way through the book (although this isn't revealed until the end) after helping Matt escape.
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos wants to be one. His commanders, however, sends him to collect aspirants instead.
  • Journey to Chaos: Starting in Looming Shadow Siron becomes Kasile's servant and guard dog to make up for what he did to her in A Mage's Power.
  • Erill in Kane novel The Dark Crusade is forced by cultists of Sataki to commit unspeakable evil. Throughout the rest of the novel she is trying to make up for it. Unfortunately, her first attempt at atonement is a disaster, which ends in more death and suffering for her and her friends.
  • This happens to Jean Valjean over the course of Les Misérables. Although Valjean's 'horrible acts' themselves comprised stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, trying to escape his prison sentence and then a couple of petty thefts from a bishop and a young boy upon release, he is less focused on these than what his prison stay turned him into. While in prison he lost all faith in God, society and human nature, vowing to take his revenge upon society at large once released, and it is this state of mind that he feels he has to atone for. One of his first acts upon release is to contemplate cold-blooded murder of an innocent man who had sheltered and fed him, and it is this mindset that horrifies him after his redemption. He is often a bit excessive about how much he punishes himself, however.
    • A key example would be his adoption of Cosette. After discovering that he had failed to intervene in the chain of events leading to Fantine's terrible fate, he took it as his personal mission to give her daughter the good life that she never had. He nearly sacrificed his own life several times over merely to bring about her happiness.
  • Boromir in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
    Boromir: I tried to take the ring from Frodo. I have paid.
  • In Masques Wolf seems to consider his fight against the Big Bad this, as he is the son of said villain and committed countless atrocities before he was able to recognize the evil of such actions and ran away.
  • Jordan Kyle from The Mortal Instruments does seem to sincerely regret what he did to Maia, and only picked Simon as an assignment so he could get close to her.
  • Razor Eddie, Punk God of the Straight Razor, in the Nightside series. In his teens he was a gang member, serial murderer, and all-round psychopath, until he underwent an unspecified but apparently horrific forced Epiphany Therapy at the hands of an equally unspecified but horrific supernatural being. He still kills people, but now he goes after the people who think their power and privilege protect them from their crimes, so he operates on the side of good. As far as one can tell.
    • Invoked quite eloquently by Taylor, the narrator/hero of the series, in the first book.
      "He's a killer," I said. "Razor Eddie. Punk God of the Straight Razor. These days he kills with good rather than bad intentions, but in the end all he is, is killing. And he wouldn't have it any other way. Hard to get close to a man like that. Someone who's gone much further into the dark than I ever have. But... he turned his life around, Joanna. Whatever epiphany he found on the Street of the Gods, he threw aside everything that had ever had power over him, in order to earn redemption. How can you not admire courage like that? If someone like him can change, there's hope for all of us.
    • In a weird example, John is an atoner for something that he didn't do yet—specifically, destroying the world in an alternative future.
  • John Brenton of the Paradox Trilogy is motivated by his guilt over the things he did in the past as a member of a Government Conspiracy charged with upholding Masquerade. Though he is sincere in his desire to redeem himself, he is introduced as an antagonist, both because of his willingness to go to extreme and morally dubious measures and because the protagonist is initially unknowingly working for The Men in Black.
  • Adam Kelno, in Leon Uris' Q.B. VII spends the years after World War II working at a free medical clinic in Borneo to atone for having collaborated with the Nazis in medical experiments conducted on as many as 15,000 concentration camp prisoners. The novel explores the libel suit he brings against the reporter who brings this information to light.
  • Captain John Armstrong Brannigin in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space. He tries to kill himself/itself several times, via a giant deathray shot at his own hull. One of his crimes mentioned is overwriting the mind of one of his crew members with a copy of his own.
  • Hotzenplotz in Robber Hotzenplots makes a Heel–Face Turn for robbing people and tries to spend rest of the book to make up for it. First, people don't believe him.
  • The Scarlet Letter has Hester successfully atone (settling on the outskirts of the village, patiently wearing her letter, and nevertheless managing to earn a living and forgive herself for her sin). Her onetime lover Rev. Dimmesdale tries to atone privately, with tragic results.
  • Lionel, at the end of The Sea Hawk.
  • Mr. Canis from The Sisters Grimm is the Big Bad Wolf of Fairy Tales, trying to make up for his crimes. When under control, he appears as an elderly man—albeit one much stronger than you'd expect for his age and tall, thin build—but turns into a proper wolf when his Superpowered Evil Side emerges.
  • Jaime Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire. After a long Trauma and Humiliation Conga, spending time with Brienne, and away from his sister Cersei, he is beginning to rediscover his long-lost morals and longing to be a true Knight in Shining Armor.
  • Dillon Cole from the Star Shards Chronicles. After spending the first book spreading chaos, destruction, and death, he manages to purge the spirit parasites that corrupted him and spends the rest of the series attempting to undo his evil deeds.
  • The Star Wars Legends continuity has a few.
    • Kyp Durron is a serious Karma Houdini in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, in which he is influenced by an ancient evil spirit and goes on to use a superweapon to destroy a planet with 25 million people on it, and after getting rid of the spirit and nearly dying getting rid of the superweapon, is allowed to rejoin the Jedi Academy. All subsequent novels featuring him have that action haunt him to some extent. Even when he's not dwelling on it, someone is reminding him.
    • X-Wing Series:
      • Wraith Squadron's Tyria Sarkin hasn't really done anything, but that's just it—she's the last of the Antarian Rangers from her homeworld, the Rangers being sort of supplements and allies of the Jedi. She takes it sort of personally.
        Tyria: I've failed at everything I wanted to do in life so far. I failed to keep my family alive. I failed to learn the traditions of the Force and uphold my family tradition. I failed to enter the fighter corps on my own merits. But I got in anyway, by way of a cheat I shouldn't have accepted. Now all I want to do is find some sort of grace, something that will make up for my failures. Just once before I die.
      • Garik "Face" Loran, also from Wraith Squadron, qualifies as well. He was a child star in Imperial holodramas, and feels guilty that his films were used to make the Empire look good and to up recruitment numbers. This is part of why he keeps the scar he received as a child during an Imperial/Rebel firefight at least, until Ton Phanan leaves him money in his will with the requirement that he get the scar removed and realize that he's more than made up for whatever he did unwittingly as a child.
    • In Fate of the Jedi: Ascension, Tahiri becomes this, and it's what motivates her to become one of the first Imperial Knights.
    • Galaxy of Fear has Mammon Hoole, who accidentally helped cause the once-thriving planet Kiva to become a Ghost Planet. He tried to ignore and forget his crimes, tried to alleviate his guilt by helping the Alderaanian orphans, but eventually has to return to Kiva. When confronted by the furious spirits of the Kivans, rather than try to escape or defend himself he submits. It's not really his fault—he was told the experiments were completely safe—but he feels responsible. He only escapes when he learns that Gog, his partner in the experiment and the one who lied to him about the experiment's safety, is still alive, since another part of Hoole's atonement was pursuing Gog across the galaxy to stop him from creating more tragedies like Kiva.
    • In Star Wars: Kenobi, Annileen pegs Ben (Obi-Wan Kenobi) as being out in the Tatooine desert to atone for some past failure or misdeed. Privately, Ben admits that while his mission to safeguard young Luke Skywalker is paramount, if he finds redemption for his role in the loss of Anakin and the rise of the Empire in the act, so much the better.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe Short Story "Rebel Bluff" features Ria Clarr, who is attempting to make up for discovering the rich mineral deposits that existed under Lothal's farmland and reporting about it to Grand Moff Tarkin, which resulted in the Empire evicting all the residents to Tarkintown. She does this by handing out the credits from the sabacc pot she stole from Lando and then inspiring them to stand up to the Empire.
  • The Stranger Beside Me: Ann Rule joins the crisis hotline in order to atone for failing to stop her brother's suicide.
  • The Sword of Truth series: post High-Heel–Face Turn, Sister Nicci, who afterwards wishes to be known as "just Nicci". After changing sides, she becomes one of Richard Rahl's most trusted lieutenants, and heals him from a fatal injury at the beginning of Chainfire. She mentions off hand in one of the later books that there are some times when she feels almost suicidally guilty for her previous crimes and for not killing Jagang when she had the chance. In fact, she is such an atoner that her motive for joining the villains in the first place was because she believed it was the only moral cause to make up for her sins.
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol — particularly, "Brave To Be A King", Harpagus, dying, confesses that he had forced a time traveler to become Cyrus because he had been sent to kill the true Cyrus, and he had done all of it to atone. When Manse figures out how to keep the true Cyrus alive, one thing he uses to motivate himself is Harpagus will no longer suffer from the terrible guilt, even though Manse will remember it.
  • Use of Weapons: Zakalwe is presented as Sociopathic Hero, but still a person who is somewhat admirable, and certainly cool in a James Bond kind of way. There are many hints to his dark past, and the revelation of his past ultimately puts him at the Moral Event Horizon, and it's very difficult to tell if he genuinely repented, or was just trying to run from his past and pretend to be a good guy. The title in part refers to how The Culture is willing to use less than admirable people and methods to fulfill their aim of spreading utopia. However, MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD: The Stinger in the novel Surface Detail reveals that Zakalwe was one of the hero in the book, and he's shown as having genuinely changed his worldview and become a better person. This novel is set about a millennium later and he had to essentially go through Hell first.
  • Sgt. Bothari in Lois McMaster Bujold's early Vorkosigan books.
  • At the end of James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Voyen tells Garro that the only way he can atone for belonging to the lodge is to leave the Space Marines and dedicate his life to discovering a way to cure the disease that tainted Decius.
  • Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun recounts Uriel's quest to redeem himself, bound by a death oath, after he diverged from the Codex in Warriors of Ultramar.
  • Niall from Wicked Lovely, after realizing the true nature of the dark court, and after he realized that he inadvertently caused the deaths of the mortals. He's been atoning for it for 1200 years by the time of Ink Exchange, and still feels guilty. Appropriately, he is also the series' official woobie.
  • In Wise Blood, Hazel Motes becomes this in the final chapters. He blinds himself, walks with rocks and glass in his shoes, and wears barbed wire under his shirt. Whether any of this truly redeemed him is a question the novel doesn't answer.
  • Twilight of the Red Tsar: America has a huge change in attitudes towards Jews after the revelation of the Soviet Holocaust, leading to anti-Semitic views being practically eradicated and all Americans taught extensively about Nazi and Soviet atrocities, as well as a Jewish cultural revival occurring in the USA.
    • Syndicalist Hungary also makes up for its anti-Semitism after its delegates are attacked during a visit to New York in 1969 by angry protesters and Jewish Hungarian exiles. Hungary promptly establishes strong relations with Israel, celebrates Jewish culture in education and museums, rebuilds demolished synagogues and eventually becomes one of Israel's closest allies.
    • The international community becomes one on the whole to the Soviet Jewish community in the aftermath of the Soviet Holocaust after the failure to protect Jews during the Holocaust and failing to provide aid during the Chinese Refugee Crisis. Foreign groups and civil rights groups, alongside philanthropists, artists and ordinary citizens, raise hundreds of thousands for the Soviet Jews. In a major Pet the Dog move for them both, military dictators Chiang Kai-shek and Park Chung-hee send hundreds of Chinese and Korean volunteers to aid Jews in the refugee camps. Heartwarmingly, there's no shortage of volunteers, as many were survivors of or had lost nearly everything in the Sino-Soviet War and Korean War. Eventually, thousands of UN soldiers arrive to help protect the camps in Siberia.
  • Tatsu tries to play on this to recruit Hitman with a Heart John Rain for his own plans to reform Japanese society, but Rain is too cynical to really take it on board, despite feeling guilt for his past actions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Angel, Faith, and Spike. Fittingly, this is a show that's all about a quest for redemption.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Delenn is the Minbari ambassador to the humans and completely devoted to improving the relationship between the two races and always the first to defend humans against criticism. In one episode it is revealed that when the first contact resulted in a misunderstanding that made the humans open fire and got the Minbari Supreme Leader killed, she was the one who gave the order to Kill All Humans in response.
    • Some of the blame belongs to her colleagues though. Anybody should have known better than to give such a decision to a distraught young woman cradling the dead body of her mentor and first love.
    • Maybe they did know better: maybe the Warrior Caste wanted to increase its prestige and knew it was a chance to Manipulate her.
      • She was the deciding vote on the otherwise split council. Essentially, picture the US Vice President. She was obligated to cast the vote that decided what would be done. The fact that she loved Dukhat was irrelevant.
    • Londo is this toward the end.
      • Or not. By that time he seems to have given up on his own atonement and was instead working to save his people believing he was damned whatever happened. Which is in its own way rather a heroic if gloomy thought but not quite the same thing.
      • The tie-in novel covering Londo's ultimate fate (official canon) does state that Londo achieved redemption in the eyes of his people, if not his own.
    • G'Kar also receives redemption, but has the (mis)fortune to achieve it in his own lifetime and among his own people, becoming revered almost as a living god as a result.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Caprica Six fits this trope to a T: after seducing Gaius Baltar and conducting the bit of cybernetic sabotage required to render the Colonial Fleet so much space junk and led to the deaths of all but 50,000 of 50 billion people, her visions of Baltar (whom she decides she had loved) make her want to make up for the crap she had done to the humans. Her success is... variable.
  • Banshee: Kurt Bunker—a neo-nazi covered in swastica tattoos appears on the Banshee Police station doorstep to apply for a deputy job, much to heroes' surpise. When dealing with police officers or civilians Kurt is extremely polite and respectful, reserved in his words and quick to follow superiors' orders. Whenever he introduces himself to a new character he apologeticly begins with: "I understand, that my physical appearence may be unsettling...". However when he catches as much as a wiff of his former neo-nazi "brothers" he becomes extremely tense and uses any chance to confront and take them down. He aknowledges that he has committed many atrocities in the name of his "brothers" and wishes to right the wrongs of his past by eliminating the organisation.
  • Being Human:
    • Mitchell tries this and he ended up slipping too much due to his Horror Hunger, resulting in murdering 20 people on a tube carriage. After trying to atone during the most of the next season, he realises he never will be able to overcome his blood addiction and his best friend George stakes him to prevent him being used as an "attack dog" by the Old Ones in an extremely tearjerking moment
    • Also applies to Hal, once an even worse vampire than Mitchell, who has managed to not kill anyone for 55 years, and manages his Horror Hunger by withdrawing from society and obsessively sticking to routine. The Big Bad of the season revealed that this is a cyclical thing for Hal where he becomes The Atoner for a few decades, ends up going Off the Wagon for some time and then tries to find a new way to atone. Whether he will really succeed this time remains to be seen.
  • Bones: Seeley Booth is looking to save around 50 lives to make up for the 50 he took as a Sniper.
  • Breaking Bad: By the episode "Blood Money", it appears that Jesse Pinkman has become one, as he tries to give away the millions of dollars in blood money.
    • In the series finale "Felina", Walter White becomes a very dark and interesting variation. He finally comes to terms with his mistakes and sins and does everything he can to fix as much as he can, getting money for his children, getting Skyler a potential deal with the DEA by pointing her to the bodies of Hank and Gomez, wiping out the Nazi gang and Lydia and eventually saving Jesse before dying. However, he is still completely unapologetic about his sins and even hints that he would do it all again if given the choice.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Spike throughout this show, since when The Initiative captures him. Aided in the process, at first by the fact that a chip in his head makes him rather ineffective toward humans and later on with deeper reasons adding to his motivation. He spends a lot of time undecided, going back and forth between good and evil, and the atoning results in the hell being beaten out of him fairly often. At one point he decides he's gone too far and after this unsettling realization he just knows he wants to change for real. As one should expect, the package is complete with a tear-jerking Heroic Sacrifice, because he's too cool for this Earth to stand.
    • Angel too, particularly the season 3 episode "Amends."
    • Andrew tries to become this in Season 7, after his attempt to play Goodfellas with Warren and Jonathan and take over Sunnydale went horribly, horribly wrong and the first evil forces him to kill Jonathan. He means well, but has some trouble fitting in with the good guys due to his general social awkwardness.
    • Willow is one at the beginning of Season 7.
    • Giles and Faith are some other examples. However, only Giles suffered Redemption Equals Death.
    • Jonathan tries, but he never gets the chance. Before that, he was perfectly willing to go to jail and accept responsibility for his crimes, only running out of fear of Willow.
  • Castle: Captain Roy Montgomery, as revealed in the season 3 finale. He was a Dirty Cop at the start of his career and ultimately became embroiled in the conspiracy that ended in the death of Johanna Beckett, Kate Beckett's mother. He alone of the three officers involved had a change of heart, devoting himself to being the best damn cop he possibly could, which included mentoring Beckett, "the finest homicide I've ever trained, bar none." He finally gets a Redemption Equals Death scene when he dies taking down a five-man hit squad that was coming after Beckett.
  • Charmed: Cole Turner. Sometimes.
  • Columbo: In one episode, Lieutenant Columbo claims to have joined the police department as a way to atone for his rowdy past. Apparently, when he was younger he and his friends would stick potatoes in other people's exhaust vents so the cars wouldn't start.
  • Doctor Who:
    • 9th-11th Doctors. After genocidally ending the Time War, the Doctor becomes an intermittent pacifist who won't let anyone else commit genocide. The 9th Doctor has it the most, since it was his immediate predecessor who committed the double genocide, but the others had to deal with it also. The 10th handled it the worst, going off the rails after being left too long without adult supervision.
    • Rory, after apparently killing his own fiancee.
    • River Song.
    • Dalek Caan. Made much better because Daleks were designed specifically to be unable to repent and seek to atone.
    • This figures in the plotline of "A Town Called Mercy", as Jex, a scientist who turned members of his race into cyborg warriors, became a country doctor during the 1880s to make up for his crimes. The Doctor called him out on it. The Doctor is often cast as the Atoner as well, especially after it was revealed that he destroyed his own people to end the Time War after they had become genocidal. Oddly enough, in "A Town Called Mercy", his own Atoner tendencies came into question by Amy:
      The Doctor: No, today I honor the victims first. His, The Master's, the Daleks'. All the people that died because of my mercy!
      Amy: See this is what happens when you travel alone for too long.
  • Downton Abbey: There is Bates. Carson is also, slightly, but it's played for a laugh at his expense and own melodrama.
    • Also O'Brien up to a point at least. After she causes Cora's miscarriage, she tones down her earlier nastiness a great deal.
  • Firefly: While never explicitly stated in the show, it is hinted that Shepherd Book is an Atoner. The Shepherd's Tale elaborates on what he's atoning for.
  • Forever Knight:
    • Nick Knight. And really, heroic vampires in general.
    • But avoided in Moonlight, where Mick St. John was never evil.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jaime is trying his best to reform by saving Brienne, sending her to protect the Stark girls to fulfill his vow, saving Tyrion from execution, and once again aspiring to be a dutiful Kingsguard no matter how soiled his reputation. Later, he insists on sailing to Dorne on a dangerous mission himself to protect his 'niece' Myrcella from retaliation for the death of Oberyn Martell due to his guilt over releasing his brother, who went on to kill their father.
    • Barristan swears himself to Daenerys' Queensguard to atone for failing her elder brother Rhaegar Targaryen and accepting King Robert's pardon.
    • Upon his reintroduction in "The Wars to Come", Lancel Lannister has become very pious and joined a mendicant movement to repent for his past sins.
    • Robett Glover is clearly regretful of not having supported House Stark before, so he seeks to make amends for it.
    Robett: [addressing Jon] I did not fight beside you on the field of battle, and I will regret that to my dying day. A man can only admit when he was wrong, and ask for forgiveness.
    • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane has been known to kill for the slightest reason. He runs down and kills Mycah, Arya's friend, and robs a devout father and his daughter who gave him hospitality, claiming that they would die in wintertime anyway. But after being beaten by lady Brienne and left for dead by Arya, he gained a new, if somewhat less cynical view on life, after being nursed by a band who worships the Seven Gods. After they are murdered, and he avenges their deaths, he promises to only kill when he needs to, and when he and his companions stumble into the house he robbed, he buries the dead father and daughter. While he does his best to hide it, Thoros sees right through his facade when he's burying them.
    • After Robert's Hunting "Accident", he tries to make amends and asks Ned to stop the attack on Daenerys Targaryen. Only his request comes too late.
  • Glee: Sebastian Smythe, the main Big Bad for the first half of the third season, shows signs of becoming this as of "On My Way" after Karofsky's attempted suicide.
  • Grimm: Eddie Monroe from this NBC series.
  • Have Gun – Will Travel: Paladin's backstory makes him this along with an interesting spin on Redeeming Replacement. He was hired to challenge a man named Smoke who he believed to be a villain terrorizing a town. Smoke sarcastically referred to him as a paladin during their gunfight, and the future Paladin fatally wounded him, learning too late that Smoke was defending the town and the villain was his employer. Thus, he decided to don Smoke's costume and do good in that guise (starting with killing his treacherous employer).
  • Heroes: A few characters, including Bennet and Nathan in season 2. And now, as of volume 5, Sylar. But we're skeptical on how long that'll last. And now we'll never know.
  • Highlander has a few examples:
    • Darius had once been a powerful general whose armies were ready to march over all of Europe. On the steps of Paris, Darius took the head of an Immortal who had been a holy man and seemed to absorb the man's goodness. This caused him to disband his armies and spend the next thousand years as a priest.
    • Duncan is convinced his old adversary Kirin is up to something as leader of a cult as the man has spent centuries only out for himself. They last clashed in 1970s Cambodia where Kirin refused to help Duncan save some children because he was running a drug deal. However, Kirin confesses to Duncan that when he discovered those children brutally massacred by the Khmer Rogue, he was so overcome with guilt that he's dedicated his life since to making up for his past.
    • Duncan himself is often pushed to fight an Immortal to make up for failing someone in the past or his own occasional dark moves.
  • Human Target: Christopher Chance.
  • Leverage: Eliot Spencer. The other team members were all non-violent Con Artists, Playful Hackers, and Classy Cat Burglars and seem to view their previous careers as hobbies, but Eliot was a ruthless mercenary and deeply regrets the things he did. Word of God states that Eliot doesn't truly believe atonement is possible for him, and looks instead to prevent other people from going down the same road he did.
  • Lexx: "In the light universe, I have been darkness. Perhaps in the dark zone, I will be light."
  • Lost:
    • Subverted Trope with Mr. Eko, who, as a former child soldier and later drug trafficker and ruthless killer, seems to be a clear-cut Atoner—until he is finally revealed to be utterly unrepentant, considering his past actions necessary first to save his brother and then to survive the bloody lifestyle he willingly took upon himself in doing so. Then he gets killed by a giant black smoke-tentacle.
    • Richard Alpert started as Atoner, which was his reason for gaining immortality from Jacob. After he accidentally killed a doctor for not giving medicine to his dying wife, a priest told him during confession that he will never gain redemption for his sin. Upon meeting Jacob, Richard was offered a job and a gift: while Jacob could not resurrect his wife or absolve him from all his sins, he granted him immortality so that he atone for his actions.
    • Ben finally became an Atoner by the end of the series, experiencing a personal breakthrough, helping Hugo to watch over the island in life, and staying behind in the flash sideways feeling he was not yet ready to move on.
  • Matrix: Steven Matrix.
  • The Mentalist: Patrick Jane is a combination of this and Crusading Widower.
  • This is essentially the entire plot of My Name Is Earl. The titular character is a petty criminal and all-around Jerkass who one day learns of the concept of karma. This causes him to deduce that the reason his life is so crappy is because he does nothing but crappy things, so he writes a Long List of every bad thing he can remember doing in his life and sets out to make up for every last one of them. While initially he was just doing it to get bad things to stop happening to him, he quickly learns that Good Feels Good and gradually becomes a legitimately good person.
  • Person of Interest has this for almost every main character:
    • Mr. Finch. He created a software program that predicts grand terrorist incidents as well as "smaller" crimes (namely murder), but made it to where the program dumped all of the data on those "smaller" crimes every 24 hours. After a series of incidents where he was made cognizant of how bad an idea that was, he began to seek out someone who could help him prevent one of those "smaller" crimes from happening each day. When he found Reese, he knew he found his man.
    • Reese is also trying to atone for his years spent as a government assassin. His work caused him to abandon his girlfriend and later prevented him from saving her from her abusive husband.
    • Over the third season, Finch and The Machine help Root understand the value of "irrelevant" human life, leading her to shift from an amoral hacker/assassin to the Token Evil Teammate to someone who is genuinely regretful of her previous actions.
    • Under the influence of the Machine Team, Detective Fusco transforms from an alcoholic Dirty Cop to a straitlaced hero, initially because Reese forced him to help out, but then because Good Feels Good.
    • Even Shaw, a former government assassin who doesn't really feel anything when she kills people, begins to enjoy saving others.
  • Several of them in Once Upon a Time, most notably Regina, aka The Evil Queen, and Killian Jones, aka Captain Hook, both of whom had legitimately sympathetic backstories, and made a Heel–Face Turn due to love, then join the heroes to try and make up for their pasts. Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin was also a case of this in season 3 until his own death, and painful resurrection, followed immediately by the death of his son drives him back to being a villain.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Primeval: A medieval knight who pops through an anomaly and becomes the Monster of the Week turns out to be this. He spent a bunch of time as a mercenary, presumably doing some not-so-nice things, but he's convinced that if he can defeat a dragon (actually a Dracorex, a draconic-looking herbivorous dinosaur), he will have atoned for his crimes.
  • Prison Break:
    • Michael is a double example. He embarks on his quest to free Linc from Fox River to atone for not appreciating the sacrifices Linc made for him and for thinking he was guilty. Later in the series he attempts to atone for all the deaths his actions have indirectly caused.
    • Brad Bellick sacrifices his life in order to ensure the survival of the rest of the group. He had spent the enitre series until then trying to chase down and kill the group members.
    • Agent Mahone agrees to help Michael Schofield in Season 4 to help him destroy the Company. Previously, Mahone had ruthlessly pursued Michael Schofield and had even killed the latter's father.
  • Revenge: Daniel Grayson.
  • Revolution: As episode 3 reveals, Miles Matheson did some pretty brutal stuff and was probably more brutal than Sebastian Monroe at first. He executes two men who he believed murdered some travelers despite Monroe's objections. He seems to regret some of his actions which led to his leaving the Republic and him assisting the rebels. In Episode 7, Miles help in saving a group children from being "re-education" by the Monroe militia, because the town's parents were all killed back when Miles was in charge. As Episode 14 reveals, Miles had a protege named Alec Penner until he handed them over to Texas for failing to assassinate the Texan president. As Episode 17 reveals in a flashback, Miles is known as the Butcher of Baltimore, and that he supposedly tortured Rachel to death for tricking him. As the first season finale reveals, when Monroe killed a rebel and his entire family for hurting Miles, Miles realized that Monroe had gone too far. He tried to kill off Monroe, but he couldn't do it. Subsequently, Miles and Nora Clayton left the Monroe Republic.
  • Scandal: Olivia wants to do right by her clients, but especially the ones who are women caught in infidelity scandals. Those hit a little close to home for her.
  • Shark: Sebastian Stark from this TV series was a ruthless defence attorney until a client killed his wife shortly after Stark got him acquitted of spousal abuse charges. He turned around and joined the District Attorney's office, using his underhanded legal tactics to put away the types of criminals he used to get off.
  • Smallville:
    • Lionel Luthor, the reprogrammed Brainiac 5, and especially Tess Mercer all of shades of this following their respective Heel Face Turns.
    • Tess Mercer's character arc for the tenth season is basically this. After a Heel–Face Turn at the end of season nine, she spends the beginning of season ten mostly staying out of the way, and the rest of the season as the new Watchtower, helping the good guys while clearly hoping that she can at least try to make up for the things she'd done before. By the end of the season it also seems at times like she's trying to atone for her surprise Luthor bloodline.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Teal'c wants very much to atone for his actions as the servant of the Big Bad. This is especially true when he is put on trial for a killing he did as a Mook. Even though the trial is completely unfair, Teal'c refuses to escape and is determined to take the punishment as a way of making it up to one of his victims somehow. Fortunately, the Goa'uld attack the proceeding and Teal'c defends the innocents so wholeheartedly and that his accuser forgives him. Daniel Jackson, in defending Teal'c at the trial, practically has to pull teeth just to get Teal'c to admit anything in his own defense, such as why he chose an old crippled man when he was order to kill one of the crowd as an example (Teal'c knew that the people of the village could escape to tunnels when attacked by the Goa'uld but they wouldn't leave anyone behind, so he killed an old crippled man so the rest of the villagers could survive later.)
    • Tomin gets like this in The Ark of Truth, after realizing how the Priors are twisting the religion of Origin to excuse genocide. Teal'c gives him some advice on how to live with himself despite the things he's done in the past: he should concentrate on helping other people, fighting so that others can be saved. While he may never achieve personal redemption, "that is the least you can do."
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Gul Darhe'el from the episode "Duet" was a commandant of a Bajoran labor camp during Cardassia's occupation of Bajor, who committed many atrocities and years later gets captured and gloats about his actions. Turns out it was his file clerk who was impersonating him in order to be put on trial to force Cardassia into admitting its actions during the Occupation, and did it because he wanted to try and make up for his failure to do anything to stop these atrocities during said Occupation.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Deja Q", Q is stripped of his powers and made into a normal human who is dumped onto the Enterprise-D. He spends much of the episode trying to learn to be a human. Since he is a jerkass, he has made many enemies, all of whom are searching for him. At the end, he shows he has truly atoned when he steals a shuttle to make a Heroic Sacrifice to keep the Enterprise safe from one of his enemies. The other Q restore his powers, and his normal personality re-asserts itself.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Stefan. He has been a Ripper on and off for his entire immortal life, but has always realized the errors of his ways and therefore, always tries to atone for his dark past.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: This trope is the show's premise. Xena spends the entire series atoning for her misdeeds, and dies to achieve redemption.
  • The Family: Hank. He loathes the pedophilic urges which caused him to expose himself to a boy, voluntarily takes medication to suppress them, and was careful not to be alone with underage boys before he began taking it.
  • Westworld: Teddy can never settle down with Dolores because he first must atone for - actually they didn't bother to program what he felt guilty over. After many years of being motivated by undefined guilt they finally gave him reason for it, his involvement with the murderous Wyatt. This turns out to be based on long-erased memories of helping Dolores/Wyatt in a massacre of Hosts in an attempt to close the park down.
  • Hand of God: KD was once a criminal, but got religion in prison and repented from his past. However, he also comes to believe Pernell is God's chosen servant, and starts killing at his behest (though since he thinks God orders it, that's a good thing in his mind).
  • The Outpost: Talon's mentor, The Smith, makes it clear that part of why he's training her is as a means of atonement for his own past sins. Specifically, the part he played in the massacre of her people.

  • "The Man Who Would be King" (named, but not based by book-movie) by Iron Maiden.
    Destiny, no good to hide away/Penance now will be his only way/Understand, no good to run away/Penance now will be his saving grace
  • "The Noose" by A Perfect Circle.
    I'm more than just a little curious/How you're planning on going about making your amends/To the dead
  • "What I've Done" by Linkin Park
    I'll face myself/To cross out what I've become/Erase myself/And let go of what I've done
  • "Working My Way Back To You" by The Four Seasons, about an abusive ex-boyfriend who sees the error of his ways too late and is now trying to win the girl back, unsuccessfully to date.
  • "Awoken" by H8_Seed and Glaze
    I've stoked the fire, seen more pain than you can know/The tears of the broken have washed away my soul/Pushed by desire to change the way my stream will flow/Now I've awoken, and I'm taking back control
  • The song "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin focuses on a father who is far too busy with his work to connect with his son. By the time the father has the time (i.e. the son has grown up), he tries to reach out to his son and atone, but by then, his son is, like his father, far too busy.
  • "I'll Be Good" by Jaymes Young is about a man who wishes to atone for his bad behavior in the past.
    I'll be good...
    For all of the light that I've shut out/For all of the innocent things that I doubt/For all of the bruises and all of the tears/For all of the things that I've done all these years/For all of the sparks that I've stomped out/For all of the perfect things that I doubt
    I'll be good/I'll be good/And I'll love the world like I should/Yeah/I'll be good/I'll be good/For all of the times I never could


    Play By Post Games 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Omaroch becomes this after he breaks free from the dark god Mardük's control. He sees it as his fault that his sons ended up on a dark path, and he was partially responsible for the birth of the Godslayer who shattered the world's continents. He wants to atone for his past actions and hopes to be able to set things right again even if it means sacrificing himself to achieve that goal.
  • Sinestro is this in the World of Heroes roleplay, with interesting consequences.
  • Several characters in Dino Attack RPG:
    • Amanda Remous used to be a ruthless assassin and mercenary who was nearly borderline terrorist. After reuniting with her brother, she began to regret the things she did and joined Dino Attack Team, striving to redeem herself of the crimes she committed.
    • General George Ogel used to be the ruthless general to Evil Ogel's Skeleton Done armies. However, when he reunited with Talia Kaahs, he had a Heel Realization and decided to make it his goal to redeem himself.
    • George Brown was a young man who got caught in the wrong side of the realist-idealist feud, and later provided information on Cam O'Cozy and volunteered for a campaign in the hopes of redeeming himself.
    • Blaire Darkling tried to do this, leaving behind his life as the dangerous criminal Matthew Vherestorm and tried to redeem himself by working for Paradox, an organization devoted to researching the Maelstrom to help Nexus Force defeat it. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out, as this ultimately landed him in another organization, XERRD, which went on to create the Dino Attack apocalypse.
  • In the Campus Life RPG, Mewtwo is revealed to have abandoned the family of cloned Pokemon he created when threatened by Team Rocket. He now spends time developing inventions to improve the lives of people in third-world countries, and has a bad case of Chronic Hero Syndrome.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Antonio Banks turned Montel Vontavious Porter. His wrestling career is atonement, as he was arranged to enter the sport by his corrections officer in an attempt to keep him from going back to prison. It worked, and while it's still real, this element of his on set persona virtually disappeared when he was hired by WWE, up until the Miz decided to mock him for it out of the blue. Up until then the most he ever got accused of being was "New Money."
  • ODB and Jacqueline, in their quest to get their TNA contracts back, though ODB was always a face in TNA, even when she wasn't supposed to be. They were contrasted by Traci Brooks, who said they should just accept TNA has moved on and wasn't going to use them, like she had.
  • Money hungry Steve Corino and railroad spike wielding fiend Jimmy Jacobs willingly spent 2011 trying to atone for their sins and strove to be good from now on. Then Kevin Steen had to come and ruin it.
  • Jeff Hardy was this in late 2011 in TNA. After being completely stoned off his guard in the Victory Road 2011 main event a few months earlier, he came back to apologize to the fans and was asking for forgiveness from the other wrestlers for this. His road to redemption was completed as he defeats Austin Aries for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in Bound For Glory 2012.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror's "Dunwich Horror" expansion adds Diana Stanley as a playable character. She joined the city's exclusive Silver Twilight Lodge and learned to her horror that they plan to awaken an Eldritch Abomination into the world. Diana is now the mole in the cult planning on thwarting them—granting her bonuses the closer they get to succeeding.
  • Every player character in Demon: The Fallen is a demon, one of those who fought against God and the angels in the War of Wrath. In modern times, there's a faction called the Reconcilers, who have asked themselves, "What if we really were the bad guys?" They work to either undo their sins and return to Heaven, or, if that's impossible, to at least fix the damage they did to the world all those years ago.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook Fiendish Codex II introduces the Hellbred, former evildoers who repented of their actions before they were condemned to Hell, but too late to gain entry to the heavens. The good deities reincarnate them into fiendish-looking bodies to give them one last chance to prove their search for redemption is genuine, and since only the greatest of heroic deeds will free their souls from damnation, the Hellbred throw themselves into their quests with zeal and desperation.
  • The Loyalists of Thule in Hunter: The Vigil have an Ancient Conspiracy-wide Guilt Complex, and it rubs off on its members. Why? Oh, nothing, they just helped the Nazis in World War II and they largely believe themselves responsible for the Holocaust as a result. Yeah, they have issues.
  • One of the two main paths for Abyssal Exalted is to become this, make up for their dark deeds in the service of the Void and work their asses off to avoid spontaneously combusting from Resonance. If they can pull it off, they become Solars, without the Great Curse that messed up so very much of the First Age. The potential impact of this remains to be seen.
  • In the world of In Nomine (an ongoing War between Heaven and Hell), it is possible for a demon to redeem and join the ranks of the angels, fighting to undo the evil they once supported. Just remember that old habits can be hard to break...
  • This is the background of Magic: The Gathering Legends card Pavel Maliki.
  • The Apok class from the Wormwood setting from Palladium Books centers on people who were thoroughly evil who nevertheless realized the depths of their evil and due to that devotion to atoning for their past evil (and immersion in a Lifeforce Cauldron) they become transformed into powerful agents of good who're 100% devoted to good and cannot be corrupted by any means and are immune to the most horrific of sights and corrupting influences due to their unbreakable devotion to good.
  • Here's a canonical tale from Pathfinder: Some years before the setting's current time, a fourteen-year-old Street Urchin named Seelah stole a paladin's helm, intending to pawn it for food money. Later, the paladin died of a blow to the head. Seelah, consumed with guilt, returned the helm with the intent to commit suicide on the paladin's funeral pyre. Instead, she was taken in by the order and became the iconic paladin.
    • The Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path features a succubus called Arueshalae who decided to peek in a dying priestess of Desna's dreams and got caught red-handed by Desna, who decided to give her a chance and awakened her soul, and ever since she's been struggling to change her nature to become a force of good - her first action was to save a child that found themselves in the Worldwound, and which might eventually become one of the AP's heroes. When the PCs find her, Arueshalae is a few tasks away from full redemption.
  • The Asilos of The Splinter are an entire race of atoners. They're incapable of letting go of their past and are primarily driven by the desire to repent for their sins by doing good.
  • Some Dwarfs in Warhammer may find themselves unable to fulfill an oath, and so to assuage their honor join the Slayer cult, dyeing their hair red, eschewing armor, grabbing an axe, and throwing themselves at the worst monster they can find to either kill it or be killed by it. (Un)successful ones may graduate from Troll Slayers to become Giant Slayers, Dragon Slayer, or even Daemon Slayers.
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Dark Angels are a Space Marines chapter that refers to themselves as the Unforgiven, because during the Horus Heresy a portion of their force turned traitor out of pride or confusion. This being 40k, their method of atonement is to hunt down these Fallen Angels and "redeem" them by torturing them to death, and it's hinted that perhaps the original Dark Angels were traitors themselves who were sitting out the Horus Heresy until a winner emerged.
    • Cypher, one of the Fallen, seems to be seeking redemption and may or may not be the key to the salvation of the Dark Angels, if not the Imperium as a whole. Naturally, the Dark Angels are intent on putting him down.
    • Inquisitors can add Penitent Witches to their retinues, as psychic lightning rods that can absorb psychic attacks that would otherwise hit the Inquisitor.
    • The Sisters of Battle field units of Sisters Repentia, who have decided to atone for some real or imagined failure by stripping down to a few strategic scraps of prayer-inscribed parchment, grabbing a two-handed chainsword, and charging at the enemy.
    • The planet Krieg went through a rebellion that resulted in five hundred years of civil war and the self-inflicted atomic cleansing of its surface. To atone for this lapse in loyalty, the Death Korps of Krieg now commits to the bloodiest sieges and most horrific meat grinders in the galaxy.
    • The ancient Eldar empire became so decadent and depraved that it created the Chaos God Slaanesh, so the Craftworld Eldar who survived it live extremely regiment and spartan lives to avoid the mistakes of the past. The Dark Eldar for the most part continue the old traditions, but some will have a Heel Realization and leave Comorragh for new lives among Exodite societies, Harlequin troupes, or simply as hermits, mercenaries and corsairs. Which may not sound like much, but considering what kind of stuff the Dark Eldar do, it's a really big improvement.
  • The tale of Gagagigo, one of the very few instances of continuity within the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, shows the tale of a lizard warrior who once hungered for power, and, after the Marauding Captain takes an attack for him, becomes this. Unfortunately, he would ultimately lose his morality after becoming a cyborg.

  • In Pokémon Live!, Delia tries to be this to protect Ash from knowing her troubled past with Team Rocket.

  • In BIONICLE, Brutaka is treated as one: sent to the highest security prison in this verse, sent to a suicide mission as probation, then welcomed back in the Hero Secret Service. The big surprise is that his best friend Axonn, who had to stop him when he betrayed, is another, according to the Atlas.

    Video Games 
  • Ysuran Auondril, an elven necromancer in Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, begins the game with nothing but a spellbook, a bad case of amnesia, and a strange desire to help everyone he comes across. If you investigate his past, he remembers being a member of the Eldreth Veluuthra, an elven terrorist faction that wants genocide against humans, and swears to make penance for his crimes.
  • Rucks from Bastion spends the whole game trying to atone for helping to design the superweapon that caused the Calamity, by using the Bastion's Restoration function to go back in time and have another go at the whole situation. However, it's heavily implied that doing this just creates a "Groundhog Day" Loop where the Calamity keeps occurring, until the Kid finally refuses to activate it and instead takes the Bastion and leaves the wreckage of Caelondia.
  • Brigid Tenenbaum from BioShock worked with the Nazis in World War II, marketed ADAM even though she was fully aware of the side effects, and she developed the Little Sisters, orphans who have been transformed into twisted corruptions of little girls whose vomit is harvested for ADAM. That last one sparked the contrition. They weren't even always orphans beforehand.
  • BioShock Infinite:
    • Booker DeWitt, the Player Character, did such terrible things at the "Battle" of Wounded Knee that he considers himself past salvation, was so brutal that the Pinkerton Detectives kicked him out, and turned to drink and gambling until he wound up in Columbia following the promise of "Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt." He makes it clear throughout the game that he deeply regrets all the terrible things he's done and is continuing to do, and eventually decides to give up on his Mysterious Backer and just keep the girl safe.
    • Comstock is a subversion. He too was at Wounded Knee, but when a traveling preacher offered him baptism, Comstock perverted the meaning of the ritual - rather than considering it the first step on his path to redemption, he took the "cleansed of your sins" bit literally and treated it as the last step of his redemption, meaning he was no longer responsible for his crimes. As time wore on, he even decided that said crimes were actually virtues to be applauded.
    • The Lutece twins, despite spending most of their time being incomparably silly, are also an example. They blame themselves for most of Comstock's sins due to developing all of Columbia's technology (and especially for kidnapping Elizabeth when she was a baby), and are trying to make up for it by helping Booker in various ways throughout the game. Rosalind doesn't particularly care about it, being willing to let things unfold as they may, but Robert insisted that if she didn't help him set things right, he'd leave her forever.
    • Elizabeth in Burial At Sea: Part II, for leaving Sally to die after using her as bait to Comstock, who was genuinely trying to save her.
  • BlazBlue's Hakumen. What's he atoning for? In the past, he was Jin Kisaragi, a complete Jerkass and evil man who was obsessed with his brother and had his share of depravities. To say that Hakumen is disgusted at his past is an understatement.
  • In Camp Sunshine, a slasher-style survival horror game, The Shaman is an example. The game's ending reveals that he is actually the ghost of Jacob Illerman, the father of the game's supernatural serial killer, who feels great remorse for locking his son away to protect others and having ultimately had to kill him years ago. Helping the protagonist, Jez, is his way of both atoning and of saving his son's soul from the demons that had possessed him.
  • Dante from Dante's Inferno spends the game as one of these in Hell in order to redeem himself after slaughtering hundreds and commiting adultery in the Third Crusade. He frequently has animated flashbacks detailing his previous life. After realizing just how many sins he committed in life, he gives up on his own redemption accepting that he deserves to be in Hell. All he wants is to save Beatrice. He gets his chance to atone anyway.
  • The Deer God's player character is one, if he is good-aligned. Once a big game hunter, he was reborn into a fawn's body to atone for his crimes against nature.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Sten wants to atone for murdering eight people in a berserk panic after losing his sword. This is a little less extreme than it sounds: in Qunari culture, a warrior's sword is his soul, and his life is forfeit without it, so that he cannot hope to return to his homeland if his sword is gone. In addition to that, the killing of those eight people dishonors him and shames him to his people, so even if he gets back his sword, he still has to atone for his actions.
    • Also, Loghain becomes one if you conscript him instead of executing him at the Landsmeet. At first, he fails to understand that you want to give him a second chance out of kindness and keeps insisting that he should be the one to do through with the suicide mission of killing the Archdemon, since in his eyes death will be his only way to atone. However, if you deny him this, he'll become a loyal subject of Grey Wardens and is dedicated to help in rebuilding the order as his atonement work, something he's still continuing 10 years later.
    • Another major Atoner character is Leliana, an ex-spy and assassin who found religion and devoted her life to good works.
  • Anders in Dragon Age II, following the destruction of the Chantry in Kirkwall, can potentially become this if you have him at high rivarly and try to convince him that his merging with Justice was wrong and that there are other ways for mages to win their freedom, so that he will join Hawke's team when they side with the templars. If you side with the mages, Merrill will still invoke this when you ask the team if Anders should live or die.
    Merrill: He should come with us. Do what he can to put things right.
    Anders: Thank you for my life. I'll try not to make such a mess of it this time.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • Cullen sees joining the Inquisition as a chance to atone for not seeing and stopping Meredith's madness quickly enough and for his previous hatred of mages, which led him to overlook a number of the atrocities that were committed against many innocent ones in the Kirkwall Circle.
    • There's also Blackwall, a.k.a. Thom Rainier, who assumed the identity of the real Warden Blackwall in order to repent for having ordered the killing of a general and his family, then leaving his men to hang while he went into hiding.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Jiub, the Nerevarine's fellow prisoner aboard the Prison Ship at the beginning of Morrowind, only gets a few lines of dialogue and does not reappear in the game after you leave the ship. However, his short appearance was enough to make him extremely popular with fans and Bethesda took notice. Oblivion makes him Legendary in the Sequel, stating that he became St. Jiub, Eradiator of the Winged Menace, after driving all of Vvardenfell's much reviled Cliff Racers to extinction. His spirit is encountered during Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC, where he offers a sidequest to help him finish his opus and ensure that his legend is remembered forever after. In his opus, he states that he set out to eradicate the Cliff Racers in atonement for his previous "sordid" life as a skooma addict and freelance assassin.
    • In Oblivion, Martin is one. In his youth, he joined a Daedric Cult but left it after some of his fellow members met unfortunate ends. He joined the Priesthood of Akatosh to atone. After finding out that he is the Emperor's bastard son and the only person left of royal blood who can save the world from the forces of Oblivion, he goes all in to save the world and ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice at the end.
    • Skyrim:
      • Paarthurnax, master of the Greybeards and younger brother and lieutenant of Alduin having realized the evil of the actions of his kin, helped the ancient Nords to learn Shouts and to fight dragons back. He waits on top of the Throat of the World, meditating and trying to come to terms with his actions, but also struggling at every moment between his will to make amends and his dragon instincts. His atonement extends to help the Dragonborn in his quest by helping him/her to obtain an Elder Scroll so the player can find and learn Dragonrend. He goes as far as fight Alduin to buy the Dragonborn some time to defeat him. It is possible to kill him and gain the help of the Blades by doing so, but the Greybeards will chew you for doing so. It pays off in the end as the dragons hail him as their new leader after Alduin's death as he swears he'll try his best to make them change their ways.
      • Brunwulf Free-Winter, the new jarl of Windhelm if you defeat Ulfric, wants to do anything he can to make people forget about the Stormcloak rebellion by rebuilding Windhelm's image and ending the Fantastic Racism Ulfric enforced. He wasn't a Stormcloak of a supporter of the rebellion, but he feels obligated to do so as a true Nord.
      • Erandur, the priest of Mara. Formerly a priest of Vaermina, Daedric Prince of Nightmares, he abandoned his former life after leaving his fellow daedra worshipers in a miasma-induced coma within the temple. Afterwards, he chose to devote himself to Mara and will help the player deal with the nightmares plaguing Dawnstar.
      • Madena, Dawnstar's court wizard, and Runil, a priest of Arkay in Falkreath, who were both battlemages who fought in the Great War. Madena became a pacifist to atone for her actions and Runil became a Good Shepherd. Madena fought for the Empire, but Runil fought for the Aldmeri Dominion. Both of them are Shell Shocked Veterans.
  • As it turns out, Deacon from Fallout 4 was in his younger years a member of a Synth-hating gang who left after the group jumped off the slippery slope and lynched a suspected Synth. He attempted to start over, found a wife, and was trying for kids, until one day his old gang caught up with him - and killed his wife, who turned out to be a Synth. Deacon cut down most of the gangers, which eventually got the Railroad's attention, so he joined the Synth-advocacy movement as a way to atone for his past crimes.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • Joshua Graham, The Burned Man. The co-founder and former Legate of Caesar's Legion, after surviving his execution (or as he calls it, his "baptism by fire") he returned to his home of New Canaan to become a Mormon Missionary once again. In Honest Hearts he's now protecting a peaceful tribe from an evil tribe aligned with the Legion. However, the game also shows that despite his genuine desire to atone for everything he's done he still possesses the same brutality that he had as Legate Graham, only now rather than a General Ripper, he's a Knight Templar Badass Preacher. If you pick the "Crush the White Legs" option by the end, you find him slipping again, and the ending you get depends on whether you rein him in or not.
    • If you get all four major expansions for the game and play an Evil character all the way to level 50, you can invoke the trope yourself with the Perk "Ain't Like That Now." Your Karma is reset to neutral and you become faster.
    • Craig Boone, to an extent. After mercy killing his wife rather than let her be sold into slavery as well as gunning down children, sick and elderly people as part of a military operation gone wrong he expresses the belief that he is beyond redemption and should spend the rest of his life atoning, even if it means dying in the process.
  • Dark Knight Cecil from Final Fantasy IV becomes an Atoner after he is stripped of his command by the King of Baron for questioning his orders to steal the Crystal of Water from Mysidia. After being tricked into destroying the Mist Village (a home of summoners), Cecil defects. His journey eventually leads him back to Mysidia, where the village elder reminds him that he has to go to Mt. Ordeals to become a Paladin to complete the change. Later, Dragoon Kain seeks atonement for his service to Golbez. And in the sequel, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, Golbez and Kain. Though it can turn into Redemption Equals Death for Golbez.
  • Celes Chere, from Final Fantasy VI, a former General of the Empire that joins the Returners, then becomes the first hope in defeating Kefka after the Apocolypse.
    • While never a completely evil character, she did commit some atrocities like burning Maranda.
    • And was complicit in Terra's enslavement, although the game doesn't really touch on this much, apart from her recognizing Terra when they meet again in Narshe.
    • Shadow could also be interpreted as this trope, as he either dies in the world of ruin protecting the party from Kefka, or stays around to help the group (And watch over Relm). Shadow seems to hate himself both for leaving his friend to die, as well as for abandoning Relm and her mother. In the end, Redemption Equals Death, as Shadow remains in Kefka's tower to die while telling his dead friend that he's done running.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • Rufus Shinra, after he survives the events in the game. Although never directly mentioned again, he is vaguely referenced to be donating to respectable causes for restoring the planet...after nearly destroying it.
    • Reeve Tuseti also qualifies, although he was not nearly as villainous as the rest of Shinra Electric Company's ensemble cast; he's largely just feeling guilty that he had been part of the group, and that things happened on his watch.
  • Auron from Final Fantasy X might possibly fit this trope. His "sin"? Helpless to see his two friends, Braska and Jecht, sacrifice their life and humanity, respectively, to (temporarily) defeat Sin and aiding this cause by his deeds, even if he opposed the idea all the way up to the bitter end.
  • Reddas in Final Fantasy XII dedicates his life to preventing the use of Nethicite after he destroyed the city of Nabudis using the Midlight Shard during his career as a Judge Magister.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • The Force Unleashed has Galen Marek/Starkiller. After hunting Jedi for Darth Vader, and gathering the enemies of the empire, he decides to save the rebel leaders and challenge the Sith. Unfortunately, since Redemption Equals Death, he must sacrifice his life to prevent the Emperor from killing the rebels and buying them time to escape.
  • Kratos of God of War was initially this, wishing to atone for his murder of his wife and daughter in order to free himself from the nightmares. However the Gods chose to forgive him but not take away his nightmares. This proceeds to make him more pissed off at them than he already was. Also happens in God of War 3 when he starts to accept the consequences of his actions and eventually sacrifices himself to release Hope back into the world, to the heart of humans. By the time of God of War (PS4), Kratos has spent an unknown amount of time living in peace in the woods with his new family, and part of the game's major themes is Kratos finding the ability to forgive himself and truly atone for his past through his second chances with his son Atreus.
  • In Guilty Gear, it is at least heavily hinted at that the insane doctor Faust used to be an even MORE insane serial killer, Doctor Baldhead. He wears a paper bag over his face clearly out of shame.
    • Another atoner is the main character Sol. He's the creator of the Gears, which caused rampage towards the world. To atone for that, he sets on a journey to destroy ALL of his creations.
  • Every single protagonist save Ellen in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Gorrister is an odd example. He blames himself for the death of his wife, but he didn't actually cause that to happen. If the player does everything correctly, he eventually comes to realize this.
  • In Immortal Souls, John Turner used to be a champion street racer until a race gone wrong resulted in him accidentally hitting a man and sending him into a coma. He then becomes obsessed with trying to earn the forgiveness of the victim's sister and make it up to her, including falling in love with her along the way, though he can't bring himself actually admit he's the one responsible.
  • Jade Empire Sagacious Zu was once a servant of the Empire known as a Lotus Assassin. He feels no guilt over most of his actions as an Assassin, but his last mission—to kill an innocent woman and a child in an act of punitive revenge against the husband/father—pushed him over the brink and made him betray the assassins.
    • Death's Hand may become this as well, under certain circumstances. You can bind him to yourself, forcing him to serve you, and if you pursue the Open Palm ending and release the Water Dragon, his epilogue states that he spends the rest of his existence trying to atone for the crimes he committed.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Riku. The remorse of his little "deal with the darkness" was so great, he needed over one year and help by his best friend Sora (who was surprisingly forgiving) to forgive himself.
    • Ansem the Wise at the end of Kingdom Hearts II. As he stated in the ending for Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, "I tried to take revenge and did some terrible things to that boy and his friends." Yet by the climax of II he's truly sorry for everything.
  • Atton of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is a big example of this: he used to enjoy torturing Jedi to death/until they turned to the Dark Side. And depending on whether the player is Light Side or Dark Side, Darth Revan, i.e. you in the first Knights of the Old Republic.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic II, the Jedi Exile was the only Jedi that returned to face punishment for following Revan during the Mandalorian Wars. The Exile willingly accepted exile to the Outer Rim and banishment from the order, as a means to atone for firing the superweapon that wiped out every single living thing on Malachor V, including their own troops.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The King of Red Lions aka: King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule. In a similar case as Auron from Final Fantasy X above, he couldn't pass on to the afterlife due to his regrets. However, instead of becoming a physical ghost, he became a boat.
  • Matsu from the Mecha chapter of Live A Live looks out for Akira because not only did he used to be the leader of the Crusaders gang that terrorizes the city, but he's also the one who shot and killed Akira's father.
  • Gordon Halloway from The Longest Journey is another example, since his motivation in accepting the role of the Thirteenth Guardian was to atone for the evil he did as both Halloway in Stark and as his Arcadian alter ego, Chaos Vortex. Which is impressive, given that he had been forcibly split into two as a Vanguard experiment and never had a chance to develop humanity or a conscience before he was made whole by April.
  • In Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, Leo has sort of an atonement obsession. He doesn't know that Defeat Means Friendship. There's also the matter with Ghaleon. Being dead seems to have caused something of a change of heart in him.
  • Mass Effect 2 has two main examples: Thane Krios, an assassin who's attempting to spend his last days trying to repent for his killings and trying to make a world a better place and Mordin Solus, a doctor who was a former Special Forces agent and upgraded the Depopulation Bomb affecting the krogan after he learned that they were adapting to the original strain.
    • Shepard can be played as this if you choose the Ruthless background then play as a Paragon.
      • Or alternatively if you have the Earthborn background and War Hero reputation.
    • Both Miranda and Jacob become ones to a certain extent in Mass Effect 3 due to their past work with Cerberus. Miranda is also attempting to atone for considering putting a control chip in Shepard when bringing him/her back from the dead.
  • Zero from the Mega Man X & Zero series attempts to atone for the damage he did as a Maverick, yet ultimately does not redeem himself until his true death in Zero 4, where he saves the last free colony of humans on Earth from destruction by sacrificing himself. Later on in Mega Man ZX, it's revealed that this action resulted in an unprecedented era of peace and harmony between humanity and machines.
    • Ciel from the same series can also qualify: part of her founding the Resistance is from the guilt she feels over constructing Copy X.
    • Also from X: Dr. Cain. What did he do? Reverse-engineer the title character's design, resulting in the creation of the Reploid race. Sadly, he never got around to issuing "ethics testing" on all of his creations, resulting in the Maverick uprisings. He tried to make up for this by founding the Maverick Hunters, but most of his other attempts to improve the Maverick Hunters' effort only turned the situations for the worse: Repliforce, Dr. Doppler, and especially Sigma, his masterpiece.
  • In the Good End for Mermaid Swamp, the old man, a.k.a. Yukio Tschuida becomes this. The reason behind the main characters at the mansion is to bury the corpses of the "mermaids." He wanted to repent for his family's crimes, but he couldn't do himself because of his own disturbing fascination of the corpses. He is a bit of a Well-Intentioned Extremist with this, but he makes it up to Rin and her friends in the end.
  • Yuri of Modern Warfare 3. He was once allied with Makarov. Then "No Russian" happened.
  • Both Nathyrra and Good!Aribeth in Neverwinter Nights Hordes of the Underdark. Nathyrra used to be one of the Valsharess' top assassins before her Heel Realization when studying the cult of Elistraee to aid in her efforts to slay their prophet, and Aribeth turned to the dark side and attacked her home city in vengeance for the death of her fiancee, who she never actually loved, and then tried to revolt against Mephistopheles and was lectured over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • The Redeemed from Nexus Clash are former demons who seek penance for their former evil deeds. Their powers often require them to take damage or put themselves in harm's way, and they often fight in ways that draw on their former demonic abilities but which put their Redemption at risk.
  • Hanzo Shimada in Overwatch has spent his entire life trying to atone for killing his younger brother, Genji. It's clear he regrets the action; however, upon finding out that Genji is not dead after all, he's a more downplayed version, as it's clear he isn't sure how to take the information, or if he believes it's really Genji at all.
  • Persona 5:
    • How the heroes' Heel–Face Brainwashing on corrupt adults works: they lose the twisted desires that caused them to abuse others, but still remember what they've done, driving them to confess to their crimes and try to do everything they possibly can to repent.
    • The heroes themselves qualify, as many of them feel compelled to make up for various mistakes or failures, such as failing to stand up to corrupt adults. Ann in particular feels guilty for not doing more to help her best friend Shiho around the time that Shiho tried to kill herself, and her Confidant involves dealing with those feelings of guilt by trying to become a stronger person and better friend.
    • Sojiro Sakura eventually admits that a large part of the reason he took in his adoptive daughter, Futaba, was because he felt as though he failed to protect her mother, a good friend of his.
    • Sadayo Kawakami, the protagonist's homeroom teacher, once tutored a student who wasn't doing well at school due to having to work to pay off his guardians' debts, but had to stop the tutoring when people accused her of playing favorites. Shortly thereafter, the student was killed in an auto accident, and Kawakami, feeling responsible, paid the money that the guardians demanded from her, ending up having to secretly moonlight as a maid in violation of school rules. With the help of the protagonist, she comes to realize that a better way to atone would be for her to devote herself to being a better teacher, but the guardians of her dead student have other ideas, since they're greedy lowlifes who made their ward slave away just because they were jealous of his parents.
    • Yuuki Mishima becomes the heroes' main Knowledge Broker and PR guy to make up for doing abusive gym teacher Kamoshida's bidding. At the end of his Confidant, he becomes one again when he comes back to his senses after his little power trip from managing the Phansite, vowing to continue using the Phansite to help people as it was originally intended to.
  • Depending entirely how you play the game, The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment can become The Atoner when faced with the many misdeeds attributed to him by his prior incarnations.
    • There's also The Good Incarnation, the first of the Nameless One's incarnations, who became immortal in the first place to make a last-ditch attempt at redeeming himself from a life of evil. He failed because of flaws in the ritual that granted him immortality.
    • Finally, there's Morte, who remembers nothing of his mortal life besides an uneasy certainty that he somehow wronged the Nameless One and so remains his loyal follower through centuries of abuse, believing that he must deserve it. Although as petitioners can never, ever actually remember their lives, it might just as easily be Practical's manipulation striking again.
  • In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, a portion of Team Plasma who truly do want to help Pokemon have split off from the main group and are doing their best to right the wrongs the organization has done. While they are still pro-Pokemon rights, they are no longer revolutionaries who want to separate Pokemon and Trainers, and in fact have been trying to return all the Pokemon Team Plamsa stole in the first game. They even help the player against Neo Team Plasma, who are hell-bent on taking over the region and enslaving Pokemon for themselves.
  • Probably the case with Wes in Pokémon Colosseum. At the start of the game, he is a member of the criminal group Team Snagem, but he quits, blowing up their headquarters and stealing the Snag Machine in the process, later giving the location of the place to the police. However, he never gives a reason for his change of heart. (Of course, he never says why he joined the group in the first place; but then, he really doesn't talk much at all.)
  • In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, Dmitri tries to atone for a time travel experiment that Bill Hawks pushed through before it was ready, resulting in the deaths of Claire and several other people by completing said time travel machine to save Claire, which Layton describes as "a twisted form of atonement." The Big Bad resolves to become one in the ending.
  • In Raven's Cry, Marcus, Christopher Raven's Parental Substitute and Lancer, raised and looked after Raven all his life in an attempt to atone for having led Captain Neville to Christopher's father's home, resulting in the deaths of Christopher's entire family.
  • John Marston, the main protagonist and player character of Red Dead Redemption fits this trope to a 'T'. He was once a murderous and thieving outlaw who rode with a gang who left him for dead after a botched robbery. He started a family and got started on a farm, but after only a couple years the government took his family and told him if he didn't capture or kill his former gang his family would be killed. Unforunately, he does just that, gets his family back and starts repairing his livelihood and relationship with his son when out of the blue the government agent in charge brings the US Army to his ranch and guns him to death.
  • Fenkenstrain in Runescape start to spend rest of his life in Harmony Island, helping local monks after killing a family, its servants and doing numerous experiments.
  • Shadowverse has Erika. Her desire to atone for the atrocities she committed as an assassin drive her loyalty to the Princess, now serving as her guardian Samurai Maid.
  • Solatorobo gives us two:
    • Merveille feels guilty for Creating Life without thought to how the lives she created would actually live, especially once their purpose was fulfilled. She and Béluga work together to undermine Bruno, wanting to learn to permanently seal Lares rather than helping him control it.
    • Elh, the Paladin who originally had the Lares medalion, feels guilty for betraying Red and attempting to kill him in the Rite of Forfeit. When he is forced in to Trance by The Order and nearly strangles her, she even says that it would be okay if he killed her in revenge for what she did. Luckily, it turns out that Redemption Equals Death is not in play; instead, Redemption Equals Red Telling Her To Stop Saying Nonsense.
  • Siegfried Schtauffen, post-Soul Calibur II, is working to atone for the evil things he did as Nightmare by destroying Soul Edge.
  • In the Spyro the Dragon reboot trilogy, Cynder is the main villain of the first game, turned into an evil adult dragon against her will. Spyro finally manages to save her and return her to her normal child age and kind personality. She spends the next two games trying to make up for what she did, even wearing the jewelry she wore as an adult to help her face what happened.
  • Sarah Kerrigan in Starcraft finally becomes this in Heart of the Swarm, especially after the mission Conviction (when Raynor calls her out.)
  • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation has a few of these. In one case, it's averted when the guy who wants to be The Atoner dies just after he is defeated. Played straight with Levi Tolar, who was killed but later found resurrected by nanotechnology, lacking her memory. At first, they hid her true identity from her out of fear that she'd go back to being the Big Bad, but when she found out, she was determined to protect her "sister" and her sister's friends at all costs.
    • Levi plays it to a T in her native Super Robot Wars Alpha timeline, where never lost her memory but joins the heroes anyway, and ends up fighting her old masters in the final game.
    • Also Gilliam Yager, provided that you played Hero Senki.
    • Super Robot Wars Judgment has Al-Van Lunks during the end of the game. After helping the heroes defeat Gu-Landon, he attempts to sacrifice himself to keep the energy released after the defeat of the Fury's mothership from killing all of the sleeping Fury. He feels that it's the only way he can atone for all of the horrible things he did. After a -lot- of convincing otherwise from the protagonist and the other two sub-pilots arriving in a repaired Raftclans that had been picked up earlier "just in case" which can do just what Al-Van himself was prepared to sacrifice himself for him to choose to live instead. By the end of the game, he's helping the Fury migrate to Earth, and has come to accept what he did.
  • Regal Bryant of Tales of Symphonia has all the hallmarks of The Atoner cranked up to eleven, going so far as to voluntarily shackle his own hands and swearing to never use them for destructive means again after being forced to kill his mutated and brain-washed fiance—who was trying to resist killing him—to free her from the suffering she was undergoing. At the time the party encounters him, he is serving a lengthy prison sentence for his 'sin'; however, only escaping and joining up after the party turns out to be his best (well, only) prospect for redemption—as well as revenge on those truly responsible.
    • Regal is actually preceded by Judas from Tales of Destiny 2, who is the epitome of Atoner, though not shown quite so obviously. He's actually the dead traitor Leon Magnus, revived from the dead, but refused to work with a grander scheme of evil, and ends up helping the son of the man he betrayed (and his nephew). And his actions in helping The Hero defeat the Big Bad rectifies the timeline, and undoes his resurrection, though he might have somehow been saved.
    • Loni from the same game is also an atoner, though his initial guilt is mostly exaggerated in his own mind, and his character arc is mainly about him realizing he wasn't responsible for what he thought he was.
    • Lloyd and Genis of Tales of Symphonia are driven to atone for their attempt to help Marble resulting in their village being attacked and Marble herself being turned into a monster and forced to sacrifice herself to protect them. This is especially evident in their desire to save her granddaughter Chocolat.
    • Another Tales entry would be Luke fon Fabre from Tales of the Abyss who starts off the story as an arrogant, insufferable Jerk Ass, but after accidentally causing the deaths of many people through thoughtless actions he spends the rest of the game trying desperately to make up for his previous behavior in any way possible, usually being called an idiot for doing so.
  • Trauma Team has CR-S01, a surgeon sentenced to 250 years in prison for his involvement in a biological terrorist attack at Cumberland College. He doesn't have any memory of doing it, but this only drives him further to redeem himself by saving lives. It turns out that he doesn't have any memories of his involvement in the attack because he wasn't involved in the attack.
  • Faldio from Valkyria Chronicles, after shooting Alicia to awaken her Valkyria side, he thought about it while in lock up and was ashamed of himself. Then, he goes and kills Maximilian in a Taking You with Me move.
  • Sarah in the white chamber is actually this, having murdered all of her crewmembers beforehand to take the Artefact and now being forced by Arthur to relive these events until she regrets her actions. Whether or not she succeeds is up to the player's actions.
  • In the World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King, this seems to be part of the motivation behind the Knights of the Ebon Blade, the Player Character Death Knight faction. Seeking atonement through either the destruction of the Lich King, or die trying. The player starts off as initially serving the Lich King under the command of Darion Mograine, son of the former Highlord Mograne (both of whom are Fallen Heroes) though after Darion is convinced by Tirion Fordring to atone, they split off to become good Death Knights. On the other hand, more than a few Knights of the Ebon Blade are only The Atoner in the sense that they want revenge on the Lich King by any means necessary and still enjoy using the most evil powers the Lich King granted them against anyone who would dare stand in their way. Also, both Atoners and still-evil-vengeance-seekers were all Brainwashed and Crazy under the Lich King. Tirion didn't so much "convince" as "allow" Darion to switch sides. There seems to be a grand total of one Death Knight, Thassarian, who is well-adjusted about this.
    • Ormus the Penitent stands out in that he put out his own eyes, unable to bear everything he did as a Death Knight. While he is unable to wield the Light, he instead works to forge Saronite, and hands out the Ashen Verdict reputation rings.
    • There are also elements of the Horde that feel this way. Varok Saurfang's memories of having butchered innocents still haunt him, and who is determined to even put himself and his son in danger to prove that honor and valor are the true future of the Horde.
    • The number of 'good' death knights interested in being The Atoner can be counted on one hand. On average, they're the Token Evil Teammate, roleplaying player characters notwithstanding.
    • When the Ebon Blade created four new horsemen to lead the fight against the Burning Legion, Sally Whitemane is the only one who seeks atonement for her time as a fanatical member of the Scarlet Crusade. Nazgrim just wants a good fight, Thoras Trollbane wants to save Azeroth after failing to protect Stromgarde, and Darion Mograne just continues doing Death Knight stuff like he's always been doing.
  • Tarnum from Heroes of Might and Magic III spin-off Chronicles series. In his first life he was a Barbarian who, in his bid to free his people from the Wizards of Bracada, became the brutal Barbarian Tyrant. When he perished in single combat against a heroic knight Rion Gryphonheart, his soul was deemed unworthy to enter the afterlife by the Ancestor spirits. They charged him to earn redemption as the Immortal Hero and sent him back to the land of the living. The various quests the Ancestors send him on not only help right great wrongs, they also force him to face the legacy of his own brutal past and grow as a person. Though he ultimately fails to save the world of Enroth in the last entry of the Chronicles series, he ultimately achieves his redemption in the fourth game by raising a young Barbarian named Waerjak to reunite the Barbarian Tribes on the new world of Axeoth without repeating Tarnum's past mistakes.

    Visual Novel 
  • In the second Fragment's Note, this is what inspires Yukitsuki to go into psychology and to a lesser extent help Kyoichi with his own psychological problems.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend Sakazaki Yuuya is midway between this point and My Greatest Failure. When he was very young someone killed his father to marry his mother, and would have killed his unhatched brother. Yuuya hung on to it and switched it with his new half-brother's egg so his brother would survive, then smashed the new egg. This action weighs heavily on him years later and is something he's unable to ever forget, though he's fully accepted it and what it means, and so he tries endlessly to do good and save people.
  • Mamiya Shinzo in Kara no Shoujo. He went insane and turned his lover int a model for a fresco by cutting off all her limbs and putting her into a large black egg. When he regained his sanity, he absolutely repented and felt the fresco was a horrible horrible thing, but by then it was too late and worse, there was no real way to atone for it.
  • In Kiss of Revenge, Issei Sezaki is haunted by a mistake he made during a during a routine operation which led to the death of his patient. He's spent the more than ten years since the incident devoting himself to the patients of his hospital and doing everything humanly possible to give them and their families the best of care; the nurses are used to seeing him pulling all-night research sessions when not on call, and he keeps a notebook filled with the details of every patient he fails to save, keeping the guilt fresh. When confronted by the daughter of the patient he accidentally killed, he takes it even further, making a public confession of the mistake and deciding to quit medicine entirely, and going so far as to offer to kill himself if that's what it will take to make amends.
  • Little Busters!: Mio holds a huge guilt complex for forgetting Midori, her imaginary friend turned real from childhood, after her parents sent her to therapy and gave her medication. Her route even involves her giving up her entire existence so that Midori can live instead of her. It's even sadder in that in the real world, Midori doesn't actually exist—she only appears in the game because that's part of the world Mio had the boys create.
  • This is a running theme in the Parascientific Escape series. The villain of each game realizes their evil and attempts to make up for it. In fact, the villains of the first two games turn themselves in to jail and do go on trial! Misaki, villain of the first game, is found Not Guilty due to coercion and is allowed to go free. Tsukiko, villain of the second, is guilty but is eventually allowed to live under house arrest on the grounds she serves as a spy for Yukiya.
  • Grisaia no Kajitsu:
    • Yuuyi has quite a few things that haunts him from his past, and it's obvious he has done things he regrets to this day. Throughout the novell he wonders numerous times whether he even deserves a peaceful life, let alone happiness.
    • Amane feels this especially towards Yuuji. She has this in general, living with survivors guilt as the sole survivor of a terrible accident. However when the same person's brother shows up in her school, whom she was force to leave behind, that feeling quadruples.
    • Yumiko's father Michiaki becomes this after being defeated, wondering where his life went utterly wrong and realising that he can no longer feel empathy for the people he hurt.

  • In City of Reality, it's revealed that the Manumitor, who made it his mission to undo the transformations made by the psychotic magical supervillain Hinto Ama, is actually Hinto Ama herself, attempting to undo the damage she has done. Until someone she cares about gets hurt, she absolutely refuses to use her powers, relying on technology instead, and tries to kill one of the heroes who is stuck in a transformed state, feeling that death is better than being trapped in such a form.
  • In The Dreamland Chronicles, why the dwarf king insists on winning the More Hero Than Thou dispute.
  • El Goonish Shive has Abraham, an ancient wizard. In his (relative) youth, he created the Dewitchery Diamond, a magical artifact intended to remove terrible curses like lycanthropy. However, when he finished making it, the diamond had the rather severe drawback of splitting a cursed individual into two bodies, the original and an embodiment of the curse adept at spreading the curse to others. Faced with his greatest failure and unable to destroy the diamond, Abraham swore an oath to God that he would dedicate his life to killing these cursed forms, which were generally vicious and powerful monsters.

    Fast forward to modern time, and he awakens from self-imposed suspended animation, sensing that the diamond has been used again. He learns that Elliot Dunkel (one of the major good guys in the story) had used the diamond to cure himself of a Magitek Gender Bender, not realizing that doing so would create Ellen, an Opposite-Sex Clone with a perfect copy of his memories. Abraham is horrified to learn that the latest cursed form he's sworn to kill is an innocent teenage girl, but he feels compelled to go through with it.

    In the end, Nanase (Elliot's ex-girlfriend / Ellen's current girlfriend) is able to convince Abraham not to murder Ellen, reasoning that following the letter of his oath would violate the spirit of his oath, since it was made with the intention of protecting innocent people. When Abraham returns to his suspended animation, it's clear that his idea of atonement is very different, although his flair for the dramatic remains the same. He currently provides the page image.
  • In Endstone, Jon tackles a Guardian no one has ever survived in search of salvation.
  • The main reason the FreakAngels protected Whitechapel was to atone for ending the world.
  • General Protection Fault's Trudy fits this trope to a T. She goes from relentlessly controlling others to her own ends, even seducing a man to run over romantic rival Ki's father, and almost taking over the world, to relatively normal worker for GPF.
  • In Jack, becoming The Atoner is an option for souls imprisoned in Hell and is actually a valid way to eventually escape the confinement and reincarnate on Earth. Even one of the Greater Demons—Jack—is inclined this way. As a punishment for obliterating the human race he was made the Grim Reaper and forced to encounter every death thenceforth. Although, as an additional punishment, he was denied the memory of his sins at his own request just before dying, he still tries his best to give whatever comfort possible to the unfortunate hellbound souls.
  • An example of "Assassin Wants To Quit" is Marilith. And she wants to quit with her former hostage.
  • Rumisiel in Misfile. He wasn't a Big Bad, but it was his screw up and chronic drug/alcohol addiction that caused Ash and Emily's problems. Started off somewhat half heartedly, but has begun to get serious about his role.
    • Vash is a much more serious example.
  • MSF High: After causing a giant war and nearly taking over the galaxy, the Legion surrendered, apologized, and became these. Exactly why has not yet been explored.
  • In Not a Villain, the main character Kleya is one. She wants to become a hero to atone for her previous actions as the leader of the hacker group "Deconstruct Me", where she is implied to have been responsible for The End of the World as We Know It.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • Miko Miyazaki falls from grace after killing her lord and the Tweleve Gods of the South removes her paladin status. After destroying the gate, is visited by the spirit of Soon Kim, believing she's officially redeemed herself. However, Soon tells her that while she technically protected her goal by destroying it, the fact that she was unable to accept that she was ever wrong meant that she did not redeem herself, even in death. In other words, her belief in such was one more delusion. However, she does die in peace, knowing that at least she'll be able to visit her horse in the afterlife, if not become a paladin again.
    • Vaarsuvius becomes one after his/her discovery of what the Familicide spell she/he cast did.
    • This strip suggests that Roy is also one of these after Durkon becomes a vampire.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Emily claims that Julie is this, to distract from her real quest.
  • In Rain, Brother Arthur has a FtM brother. He wants to help out Rain and Rudy because of the issues he caused his brother when they were younger.
  • In Slightly Damned Sakido qualifies.
    Sakido: Iratu and I went on to live in Hell. Darius trusted us to take care of our little brother, but we just threw Buwaro away. If you are reading this and I am no longer around, then I've gotten what I deserved.
  • Subverted in Sluggy Freelance: In "That Which Redeems", the talking sword Chaz tells the story of one of his previous owners. This man committed many atrocities, but then had his eyes opened to their evil by a sage. He turned to god for atonement—and what he ended up doing to make amends was to go on a bloody crusade in the name of this god to kill unbelievers. Be careful who you let define "good" for you...
  • After his attempts at global domination in ancient Egypt fell apart in a battle against Suras(/Zeus) in Wayward Sons, Kronos escaped, and wound up alone in ancient China, where he was taken in by a family of simple farmers. He would later use his powers to protect them from bandits, and all looked set to begin again... But Kronos had learned from his past failures, and vowed to create an empire of peace this time around.
    Huang: What you did to those men... You must be a god!
    Kronos: Once I might have let you believe that... But I've learned my lesson. I'm not a god. But I am your friend!
  • Lamar of We Are The Wyrecats becomes this after K.A. leaves the team.
  • Yoon Sung of Welcome To Room 305 is trying to atone with his twin sister Yoona for acting terribly homophobic in high school after learning her secret. Unluckily for him, it's not simple because she is very self hating about her sexuality and in denial of it.
  • Zebra Girl: Jack. He blames himself for what happened to Sandra, and for what happened during the Maginet mini-arc. Ever since the Maginet he is doing everything he can to become a better wizard, in the hopes that the tragedies which befell his friends and wizard comrades never happen again.

    Web Original 
  • Both the brothers in Aaron in different ways:
    • Adam has been a frequent screw-up for years, and it's implied he drove his parents mad (and Chris by extension) with all his antics. He's now trying to put his life back together.
    • Chris was close with his brother but ended up leaving for college in England, and essentially neglecting their friendship. After realising what his brother was going through, he's now trying to make amends.
  • William Griffin of KateModern performed frequent dangerous medical experiments on unwitting girls on behalf of the Order, but then decides to try to bring the Order down.
  • In Metro City Chronicles, Penitente began his superhero career because his mother and brother were injured by gang rivals during his youth.
  • In SynthOrange's Let's Play of Princess Maker 2, after Lizzie ends up dying in a fight with the God of War, Gendo Ikari (who plays the role of the girl's father), in a fit of Heroic B.S.O.D., decides to try and reconcile with his other kid... by playing a Shinji-raising sim game.
    Cube: ...and he keeps ending up with Kaoru? Maybe if you sent him for more sports training-
    Gendo: NO! He's there too, and that just ends up with them both in the showers!
  • Some agents in the Protectors of the Plot Continuum are former badfic authors hoping to undo the damage they've done to the multiverse, or ex-DIS who returned to the PPC when given the chance.
  • Yanagi in Canvas 2 after stealing the main character's painting five years ago.
  • In Marvels RPG, Ant-Man created Ultron, Iron Cross is a former Nazi-Super Soldier and Synch accidentally burned down his school when his powers first manifested. All are trying to atone for their pasts to some degree.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Agent Washington, formerly of Project Freelancer, becomes this after working with the Meta against the Blood Gulch Crew. Exemplified when Locus tries to give him a Not So Different speech.
    Washington: I know I used to be a real piece of shit, but at least I am trying to do something about it.
  • JJ Sturn from Survival of the Fittest version four, although he wasn't quite as extreme as many examples listed here: He was a giant asshole especially towards women, although he did have his own share of more unpleasant actions.
  • In his "Top 11 Fucks-Up List", The Nostalgia Critic wearily concedes that he'll die for his sins.
    • In To Boldly Flee he yearns to atone for the death of Ma-Ti in Suburban Knights and thus sacrifices his own life at the end to allow Ma-Ti's spirit to move on.
  • The main character in The Wanderer's Library story Communion. Unfortunately, he's past forgiveness.
  • Whateley Universe: Several, most notably Eldritch. However, the most striking example is probably Unverziehen ('The Unforgiven'), a former Waffen SS officer who spent the time since the war trying to atone for German war crimes:
    Unverziehen was an enigma to most people, the insanely potent warper had been a member of the combat arm of the German SS, and had not been privy to the war crimes of Auschwitz, Dachau, Sobibor and other places. The man and Caitlin [Eldritch, formerly Eric Mahren] shared something similar: guilt. He felt responsible for what his country did during the war, and though her crimes paled in comparison to what the Nazis had done during that war, the A-List hero, who still could not forgive himself, hadn’t physically committed any of the crimes he bore the shame of.
  • In Worm, Bonesaw i.e. Riley becomes one of these after having a Heel Realization during the time she spent out of Jack Slash's direct control.
    • Glaistig Uaine also becomes one at the end of the series, again with a Meaningful Rename to Valkyrie.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Prince Zuko in the third season by joining Team Avatar as a firebending instructor.
    • Jeong Jeong deserted the Fire Nation navy ten years before the story began.
    • Having a career as a Fire Nation general, Iroh counts as well.
    • Jet during the second season before his ultimate fate.
    • By the end of the first season of The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok, a former Smug Snake with a massive Dark and Troubled Past... and the brother of Big Bad Amon/Noatak.
    • Another one we have from The Legend of Korra is Wan. Through Wan's story we learn the reason the Avatar exists. Wan, originally an ordinary human, interfered with a battle between the spirits of light (Raava) and dark (Vaatu). The result is Vaatu being released into the world and unleashing darkness and chaos. Wan eventually seals Vaatu after mastering the power of the elements and fusing his spirit with Raava, creating the Avatar Spirit and saving the world. However, there is still darkness in the world. After spending his entire life trying to fix his mistake, Wan expresses guilt in being unable to rid the world of darkness in his lifetime. Raava allows Wan to reincarnate, granting him more time. This begins the Avatar's cycle of reincarnation.
    • And it seems that Hiroshi Sato in Season 4 has become one.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!: Following the Skrull Invasion, Captain America, who was one of the first to be replaced and his image was used to try and convince humanity to surrender, became something of this as he tried to regain the trust he lost. Kind of an unusual example, being that he had nothing to do with the event he's atoning for and he's just as much a victim as any other Skrull victims. The world hasn't forgiven him for... having a total stranger pose as him while he was trapped on a spaceship.
  • In Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis is a mild atoner. He was something of a juvenile delinquent before meeting the now-retired Bruce Wayne, and sees being the new Batman as a way to make up for that.
    • Zeta, star of the spinoff The Zeta Project, has elements of this- a former assassin robot who gained free will and doesn't want to kill anymore. When he finds other robots of his type, he tries to stop them.
    • Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries in "Meltdown." Upon getting a brand new body, Fries genuinely seemed to want to make things better this time around. After being targeted in an assassination attempt by a man that he once wronged, he refuses to press charges against the man and instead decides to start a charity named in his late wife's honor to repay the victims that he had harmed in the past. Unfortunately, his new body soon begins breaking down and reverting back to its old state...
  • Tetrax of Ben 10, as revealed in Secret of the Omnitrix. Also Kevin in Ben 10: Alien Force.
  • Count Dracula himself is this in Drak Pack, acting as mentor and boss to the teenage heroes against the forces of O.G.R.E. in order to help make amends for his evil past.
  • DuckTales (1987) has Fenton Crackshell / Gizmoduck. Whenever he screws up, he will frantically do whatever it takes to set things right, although he often makes it worse until he ultimately succeeds.
  • Both Ingrid and the titular protagonist of Fillmore! were delinquents. Now they're respected members of their school's Safety Patrol. The series treats them similarly to ex-criminals who became police officers.
  • In Gargoyles, the Magus trapped Goliath's clan in stone form after he mistakenly believed their attack got Katherine killed. The guilt he felt would dominate the rest of his life. He devoted himself to protecting the clan's next generation and never made his feelings for Katherine known as she fell in love with Tom. Goliath himself bears no grudge against him and is simply grateful that the Magus protected his clan's children.
  • A woulda-been third Jungle Book film would have actually turned Shere Khan from a Knight of Cerebus in the second to this.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • Princess Luna is definitely one, trying to live down her 1000-year legacy as Big Bad Nightmare Moon. Mind you, her public relations need a lot of coaching from Twilight Sparkle, but she makes a real breakthrough. "Do Princesses Dream Of Magic Sheep" reveals she went so far as to create a monster called The Tantabus, which is essentially a small ghostly G-Rated Freddy Krueger, to punish her with horrific nightmares every single time she slept.
    • Trixie starts out as an insufferable blowhard and rival for Twilight Sparkle who later turning to the dark side after acquiring the corruptive Alicorn Amulet. Once Twilight frees her from the amulet's spell, Trixie becomes apologetic (albeit still a pompous Jerkass) and leaves her with a fireworks display to start her atonement.
    • Discord—the manipulative trickster, of all characters—manages to pull a Heel–Face Turn after becoming friends with Fluttershy, and swears to use his powers for good... most of the time. He makes good on his word by settling into a sort of Trickster Mentor role for the Mane Six, giving underhanded assistance while remaining as mischievous and obnoxious as ever.
    • Starlight Glimmer, the twisted Cutie Mark hating-dictator and Big Bad of Season 5, pulls a Heel–Face Turn when Princess Twilight Sparkle offers her hoof in friendship and makes Starlight her own student. Starlight's first act of atonement was returning to Our Town from the Season 5 premiere to make things up with the townsponies.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Simpsons. Mr. Burns, after losing his fortune and learning about ecology from Lisa, is determined to turn his life around and rebuild his fortune doing good works. Unfortunately, Mr. Burn's idea of "doing good" involves raping and pillaging the environment in an even worse way than he had as the CEO of a pollution-causing nuclear power plant. (Lisa then is forced to admit that Mr. Burns is just naturally evil—and when he tries to be good, his twisted sense of morality makes him even more evil.)
    Mr. Burns: I don't understand. Pigs need food. Engines need coolant. Dynamiters need dynamite. I provide it to them at a tidy profit: and best of all, not a single sea creature was wasted. You inspired it all, Li'l Lisa.
  • South Park reveals that Freddy Krueger is this, since apparently he murdered all those teenagers in the 1980s because the U.S. Government told him it would help with the Cold War and is now ashamed of having been a government lapdog. He even has a wife and kids now, but reluctantly decides to help save Stan and Mr. Mackey when they get trapped in a dream.
  • Steven Universe: The Crystal Gems themselves are atoners for their entire species. In "The Return", Greg says that their leader, Rose Quartz, led a rebellion against her own kind to drive them off Earth for doing something horrible to it, and that the surviving rebel Gems have dedicated themselves to atone for what their people have done, but they just can't seem to forgive themselves.
  • Dinobot, in Transformers: Beast Wars. Only a little, but more and more as it gets further into the second season, culminating in his Redemption Equals Death.
  • Wander over Yonder: Major Threat was once a feared galactic overlord, but thanks to a Heel–Face Turn by "Tumbleweed", he now dedicates his life to setting right all of the wrongs he had done, and bringing out the good in other villains.
  • Raimundo of Xiaolin Showdown spends some time as this after temporarily defecting to the Heylin side, resurrecting Wuya, and even winning... then sealing her all over again. While he definitely goes out of his way to make up for this, it takes Call Backs all the way to Season 3 before he finally becomes Shoku Leader in the finale.

    Real Life 
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive and white collar criminal Andrew Fastow — a key figure of the Enron scandal who orchestrated the financial shenanigans that hid Enron's financial losses from the public and embezzled more than $30 million from the company in the process—effectively codifies the trope. After seeing the economic devastation the collapse of Enron wrought, which included tens of thousands of ordinary workers losing everything and becoming financially ruined as their life savings and retirement were invested in Enron stock, he had a My God, What Have I Done? moment and has been regretful and remorseful for his role in the scandal ever since. Once the authorities began investigating the fraud, Fastow pled guilty in an agreement where he would give up $30 million in assets and testify against his former coworkers. He told the prosecution everything he knew and they acknowledged that his assistance was invaluable in securing convictions against the other Enron executives on trial, particularly disgraced CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who they nailed with a 23-year prison sentence. Upon his release from prison in 2011, Fastow has become a public speaker who tours the country giving speeches on business ethics. Fastow, who gives the speeches without compensation, stated that his actions have motivated him to do everything he can to expose fraud in American business and to prevent the next generation of business leaders from going down the same corrupt path he did, seeing it as the only way he can begin to make up for his role in the Enron fraud. At each appearance he readily admits to the audience that he is a crook and a fraudster who is guilty of helping to orchestrate one of the largest scams in American history. Fastow said in 2013: "I wake up every morning, and I take out my prison ID card, which I have with me here today. And it makes certain that I remember all the people. I remember that I harmed so many people in what I did. It encourages me to try to do the little things that I can to make amends for what I did. I can’t repay everyone. I can’t give them jobs. I can’t fix it. But I just have to try bit by bit to do that. Being here is hopefully a little contribution to that.”
  • Alfred Nobel set up the Nobel Peace Prize because he felt guilty about making a fortune selling weapons and inventing dynamite. It's believed that after his death was falsely reported by a newspaper and he read his own obituary, which referred to him as "the merchant of death" (but in French), he decided to leave a better legacy. Nobel had created dynamite to increase safety for mining and construction purposes. Previously the explosive of choice was nitroglycerine, which was dangerously unstable and tended to spontaneously detonate. Mixing it with clay and adding a fuse made it far safer to work with. Poor Nobel had a major case of My God, What Have I Done? when people began using dynamite as a weapon.
  • Many developers of Nuclear Weapons ended up this way, even writing to President Harry Truman to warn him against using the bomb as early as the year of its invention. As the Cold War progressed, more scientists took a stand against nuclear arms. Two prominent examples being:
    • J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had headed up the Manhattan Project during World War II, devoted his energies as chief scientific adviser to the United States Atomic Energy Commission after the war to advocate against nuclear proliferation.
    • Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet physicist who designed the two-stage thermonuclear hydrogen bomb independently of Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam (the design is known as the Teller-Ulam design in the West and Sakharov's Third Idea in the old Soviet bloc), and was involved in the "Tsar Bomba" project to design the world's biggest nuke (they succeeded, at 50 megatons note ). Sakharov developed a case of conscience, and became a leading opponent of nuclear proliferation, for which he won the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize. He then moved on to more general human-rights campaigning, calling for freedom and real democracy in the Soviet Union; he died in 1989, having just been elected to the first democratic Soviet legislature since the Red October.
  • Mike Tyson, who's served his time for rape as well as numerous drug charges and biting Evander Holyfield's ear off... has devoted himself wholly to nonviolence and charitable work, going so far as to become vegan.
  • Theo Haser, a former Nazi who converted to Judaism, and has devoted his life to teaching others about the Holocaust.
  • Kurt Gerstein, an SS officer who was responsible for the development of Zyklon B as a method of "pest control." After witnessing the chemical being put to its true, gruesome use in the extermination camps, Gerstein was horrifed, and began desperately attempting to inform the international community of the massacres. He even risked his life by sabotaging shipments of the gas he had helped to produce. After the war he turned himself in to the Allies and compiled the "Gerstein Report", his eyewitness account of the Holocaust which was used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials, before committing suicide out of guilt.
  • Karl Plagge, a Wehrmacht officer and former member of the Nazi party who became disenchanted with Nazism (he refused to teach Nazi racial theory and was eventually thrown out of the party). During the war, he was assigned to Vilnius, Lithuania where he commanded a unit which repaired damaged military vehicles. Horrified by the murder of Jews he witnessed, he decided to work against Nazism by getting work certificates for the local Jewish population to work for him, providing them with extra rations (which was highly unusual), and allowed the Jews to barter for further supplies with local gentiles and with his men (which was illegal). When it became clear to him that the Vilnius Ghetto was going to be liquidated, he told the Jews to hide themselves, allowing about 250 of the 1250 he had saved to survive. After the war his actions were reviewed by a de-Nazification tribunal, who ruled him to be exonerated. At his own request, he refused exoneration and was officially classified a "follower." Despite this, he was one of the few Nazi Party members to be designated "Righteous Amongst Nations" by the State of Israel, thanks to his efforts to save Vilnius Jews.
  • Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense to JFK and LBJ, spent much of his later career admitting The Vietnam War was terribly wrong and trying to explain how he and his fellow politicians could have seen otherwise, like in the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War. Despite this, and his anti-nuclear weapon and anti-Iraq activism, his obituaries almost uniformly painted him as a warmonger anyway. Overlaps with Modern Major General (the trope)—he wasn't much of a military man at all (he had served in World War II in the Army Air Forces as a junior officer in the Office of Statistical Control—that is, the logistics guys figuring out the most efficient way for Gen. Curtis LeMay's strategic bombers to pummel the crap out of Japan) but an auto-industry executive whose greatest legacy otherwise would have been the Ford Falcon.
  • Frank Abagnale, the con artist whose life was dramatized in Catch Me If You Can, has created a major anti-fraud company. Among the things he did with his money was pay back all of the companies he defrauded. In addition he also has worked for free for the FBI as well as other law enforcement and to this day he has never taken a penny from any law enforcement agency as reimbursement for his time as he considers it a public service to make up for what he did.
  • Cyber-example: Kevin Mitnick. He started out as a notorious cyber-criminal; today he is a successful IT security consultant. Ironically, in July 2009, his websites were defaced by a cyber-criminal.
  • Germany's actions after World War II, such as becoming a close ally of Israel and participating in the European Union, are a deliberate attempt at this. Nonetheless, a certain trope is making sure that they Never Live It Down.
  • The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) is one of the foremost international development agencies and the UK has one of the world's highest aid budgets, as well as being one of the few countries that gives aid gratis (without tying it to aiding British interests). It has been suggested by some that this is due to Britain's colonial legacy.
  • Akira Kurosawa was of Samurai descent and Seven Samurai was in part an apology to the Japanese common people for the oppressions of his ancestors.
  • Former White Supremacists. One of the links even go as far as having his tattoos painfully removed.
  • Life After Hate is a whole organization of former members of hate groups trying both to combat racism and help other people leaving hate groups.
  • Now-deceased Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was very stridently anti-integration and was a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, but later in his life, after the sudden death of his grandson, realized that such intolerance was wrong, and came to become highly supportive of civil rights, as well as a high-profile supporter of Barack Obama. He would deeply regret his involvement with the KKK and his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act for the rest of his life. Similarly, Byrd's longtime GOP rival Strom Thurmond had a similar change of heart in the 1970s, being one of the first Congressmen to openly appoint African-Americans to serve as his chief of staff. Unlike Byrd, however, Thurmond was never allowed to live his past down.
  • Masaji Kitano was the second-in-command of the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731, which was infamous for completely amoral human experimentation, most famously its human vivisections without anesthesia, pressure chambers, frostbite experimentation and bombing villages with anthrax. Kitano specialized in frostbite experiments, heading a series of experiments where he had prisoner's limbs frozen and broken off. After he received full pardon among the rest of the Unit's core members from Douglas MacArthur in exchange for all their inhumane 'research' and some legitimately useful data gained, Kitano went on with two Unit members to found what today is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in Japan, the Green Cross corporation. In a Yomiuri Shimbun interview in the 1970s, during his last years, Kitano said he helped create the company specifically because he wanted to atone for the horrific experiments he and his unit had done, and that saving lives was the only thing he believed could equal taking them. Ironically, Kitano's corporation was later hit by a massive scandal in the 1980s involving contaminated artificial blood products.
    • Similarly, Yoshio Shinozuka was an army medic who had been conscripted into the unit at age 16. He assisted the Unit in conducting sadistic and meaningless experiments on prisoners of all ages, such as their infamous vivisection campaign. After the war, he was captured and imprisoned in China until 1965. In 1997, Shinozuka gave a testimony on Unit 731's activities on behalf of 180 Chinese, who were suing the Japanese government for their relatives' horrific deaths at the hands of the Unit, with Shinozuka saying that he had done what no human being should ever do. And in 2002, Shinozuka urged the Japanese government to apologize for the Unit's activities. He has even gone on record stating that he openly considers himself a war criminal, and apologized because he believed it was the way that a man should live. Up until his death in 2014, Shinozuka continued campaigning for justice to be delivered to the relatives of those killed by Unit 731, and an official apology from the Japanese government.
  • Ric O'Barry, former trainer for the dolphins on Flipper, decided to become an activist fighting against dolphin captivity after one of the dolphins from the show died in his arms from what he says was a suicide.
  • Peter Benchley, writer of the book Jaws was based on, devoted the rest of his life to Shark preservation to try to reduce the excessive killing of sharks that the film adaptation caused.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan, came to regret its founding after they grew into a terrorist organization, and spent the last years of his life advocating for civil rights, and offering protection to African Americans from racist white mobs.
  • George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama who declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever", recanted his racism, and in his last term as governor, appointed African Americans to his cabinet.
  • Earl Warren regretted his support of the internment of the Japanese during World War II (when he was first Attorney General of California and then Governor), and his efforts to redeem himself created the most activist Supreme Court in American history.
  • Lee Atwater, ruthless Republican party strategist, came to regret his actions shortly after his diagnosis with cancer. In his last months alive, he embraced Catholicism and wrote apologies to politicians who he attacked, including Michael Dukakis.
  • Fred Phelps, founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, had a change of heart about his religious beliefs near the end of his life, doing what he could to repair the damage he had done. He was excommunicated from his own church and died approximately six months later.
  • Vaso Čubrilović, who was a member of Young Bosnia (the group responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which triggered World War I), distanced himself from the Pan Slav and later nationalist ideologies of his youth and expressed regret over the assassination in his later years. When discussing it, he said: "We destroyed a beautiful world that was lost forever due to the war that followed."
  • Downplayed with depressed/negative people, as they really feel bad for being annoying towards others with their cynical/negative attitude towards life. By getting therapy and reading self-help books/material, they want to make up for their past actions and become more positive.
  • An example that is Older Than Feudalism was Ashoka, emperor of India (died 232 BC). He came to regret waging destructive wars and set up monuments expressing remorse for his actions, becoming a devoted Buddhist.
  • St. Moses the Black, servant to an Egyptian government official who fired him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a bandit gang - until, pursued by the authorities, he sought sanctuary in a monastery. The devotion of the monks and peace of the monastery so impressed him that he became a monk himself. When a different group of bandits attacked the monastery, he beat them up and dragged them before the other monks for judgment - then convinced them to become monks too. He became a respected and wise spiritual leader, and by his seventies he had embraced pacifism and chose to stay behind and encourage the other monks to flee when the monastery was attacked again by yet another group of bandits, stating that death by violence would be appropriate for him: "All who take the sword will perish by the sword."

Alternative Title(s): Atoner