10 greatest anti-heroes in shonen anime, ranked from best to worst

Vegeta, arguably the greatest shonen anti-hero (Image via Toei Animation)
Vegeta, arguably the greatest shonen anti-hero (Image via Toei Animation)

Anti-heroes in shonen anime, and in general, tend to be the types that don't play by the rules. Whilst they are heroic or generally have heroic goals, they do so in ways that don't normally feel very classically heroic.

Anti-heroes are more prone to violence in the extreme, meaning they're willing to kill or use subterfuge to stop the villains instead of more traditional heroic methods. An antihero may gun a villain down instead of bringing them in to authorities, Jason Todd from DC's Batman universe is a perfect example.

For whatever reason, antiheroes tend to be beloved in fiction, and shonen anime is no different. This article will document the 10 greatest antiheroes in shonen anime, ranked from best to worst in terms of their personalities and ultimately where they end up.

Note: Spoilers are contained herein for all the anime discussed and all the characters discussed. This list contains only the author's opinion.


10 best shonen anti-heroes including Vegeta and Sasuke Uchiha, ranked

1) Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z to Dragon Ball Super)

The prince of all Saiyans, and a narcissist, Vegeta debuted in the Saiyan Saga of the longrunning Dragon Ball Z as a villain. His villainy was all but assured when he killed Nappa, as well as taking glee in the destruction of East City and the prospect of killing Goku. This villainous, selfish attitude extended to Namek, only beginning to fade into anti-hero status come the Android Saga.

Vegeta's anti-hero status has gone all over the map, from only caring about himself to being fixated on Goku, to only caring about his family, and to finally becoming Earth's protector and caring about everyone. Vegeta remains a very iconic shonen anti-hero.


2) Giorno Giovana (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind)

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The future mob boss of part five of the shonen anime JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Giorno Giovanna started off by stealing Koichi's luggage and generally scamming money for a local mafiaoso. Giorno killed that swindler, killed his boss, and then joined Bucchirati to become better than the corrupt Italian mob that let drugs and other vices run rampant.

All in all, Giorno Giovana is not like the other Joestars. Other Joestars fought monsters like Dio and the Pillar Men, and only fought to retire human opponents. Giorno is far more willing and able to kill outright, torture, and generally be more ruthless towards human enemies.

It helps that human enemies are trying to kill him likewise, but the point still stands! His heroic status comes in that he cares about the people he works with, trying to save them multiple times, even killing Diavolo in the name of his fallen comrades.


3) Killua (Hunter x Hunter)

A more serious counterpart to lead protagonist Gon in the shonen anime Hunter x Hunter, Killua Zoldyck is an assassin that started off having no real purpose in life during the Hunter Exam arc. Killua was willing to murder people for minor annoyances, only being a good guy due to being on Gon's side. He ripped a man's heart out during the event, just to prove a point.

Killua, however, began gaining a better sense of morality throughout the series. Thanks to having to survive the Heaven's Arena event alongside Gon, and escape his wretched family, Killua began to become less of a murderer and more of a hero. Though he still retained his anti-hero traits, he arguably became more heroic than Gon during the Chimera Ant arc.


4) Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist + Brotherhood)

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Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood deal with a lot of heavy subjects, such as the consequences of experimentation, military dictatorships, and massacres. As a survivor of the Ishvalan Civil War, Scar had only one thing on his mind: vengeance. This came via killing at least 10 State Alchemists, who he blamed for the deaths in Ishval, continuing to slaughter his way through.

To some, Scar's savagery and multiple murders are the acts of a cold-blooded killer. To others, he's a religious extremist pursuing his own brand of vigilante justice against those who wronged his people or those whom he deems guilty by association.

It would take quite the turnaround for Scar to stop killing, including multiple encounters with the Elrics and Winry, and eventually going on his own quest to find the truth of the matter.


5) Sasuke Uchiha (Naruto to Boruto)

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Sasuke is arguably among the most polarizing anti-heroes in shonen anime. While his tragic past does lend him some sympathy, his flagarantly foolish actions during Naruto in pursuit of vengeance didn't help his case in the eyes of many fans. Sasuke's situation as a shonen rival and anti-hero tends to spring from his lack of teamwork and myopic outlook on life.

This came to a boil post Chunin Exams, where Sasuke fell deeper into the rabbit hole of crime and betrayed his village by going with Orochimaru to achieve vengeance on his brother.

Sasuke's entire character was focused mainly on his goals, his vengeance, and anyone that proved useless or otherwise detrimental was ultimately cast aside until he finally made a turnaround. It took having to help stop the Shinobi World War, losing an arm, and a few months or so in prison, but he made the turnaround.

In Boruto, Sasuke has lightened up considerably, having become a father and mentor in the process.


6) Mugen (Samurai Champloo)

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Rude, lewd, and tempermental are all good words to describe Mugen, one of the main protagonists in the samurai-focused shonen anime, Samurai Champloo. His position amongst the trio of himself, Jin, and Fuu is unique in that he's the loud, foul one and contrasts against Jin's quiet and collected behavior and Fuu's optimism.

He heavily despises authority, owing to a childhood where he had to take up a life of piracy in order to survive and was nearly executed by the government for it.

His attitude appears to stem from a rather abusive childhood until the vile Mukuro, who routinely abused both Mugen and Koza when they were children. Mugen also hates losing, and will challenge anyone to a fight wherever and whenever.

To be fair, Mugen is very much like shonen rival Katsuki Bakugo in that he scorns villainy and holds his traveling companions as true friends by the end of the series.


7) Hyakkimaru (Dororo)

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What if you lost your limbs because your father sold you off to demons in exchange for prosperity? You would have almost no choice but to become an anti-hero, or at least hellbent on vengeance.

Hyakkimaru of the dark fantasy shonen anime Dororo is definitely worthy of the title in spades. He kills demons with reckless abandon and does the same to the humans in his way.

Yet, for all that slaughter and brutality he's not even close to the bottom of the list. Why? It's because his father, the king, sold him off, the samurai and demons he fights slaughtered people en masse, and he regained his humanity by the end of the series.


8) Levi Ackermann (Attack on Titan)

Levi Ackermann is the Captain of Special Operations in the Survey Corps, and a major pain in Eren's neck. He is probably one of the other anti-heroes among many in the shonen anime Attack on Titan, which ultimately shows how much of a step up things get following Trost.

Levi doesn't hesitate to talk down or back to anyone, including superiors or civilians, in harsh tones. He refers to himself as an "aberrant human" because of how life in the criminal underground shaped him, including his standards of what's acceptable.

Despite his cold attitude and overwhelming sense of cleanliness, Levi still vows to do everything in humanity's name. That includes killing fellow corrupt humans like Kenny or accepting Erwin Smith's squad's sacrifice to potentially kill The Beast Titan.


9) Katsuki Bakugo (My Hero Academia)

Believe it or not, shonen rival Katsuki Bakugo is a deconstruction of the anti-hero trope. To clarify, at first he seems rewarded for his efforts and abilities, with the ego boost coming in from being declared the victor and champion at the U.A. Sports Festival.

The League of Villains even kidnapped him for his power, and his cocky attitude, but he told them to shove it. In doing so, he reaffirmed his desire to be a hero by stalling them until All Might and the raid team were able to save him.

The other shoe dropped, however, when the hero licensing exam occurred and he was denied his hero license (one of the only two in Class 1-A), heroes refused to work with him, and his peers hardly respected him.

He may have the skill, intelligence, and drive, but his constant villainous acts hampered all that. It took quite a while for Bakugo to simmer down and apologize to Deku for bullying him, but he did do so eventually.


10) Light Yagami (Death Note)

Light Yagami (Image via Studio Madhouse)
Light Yagami (Image via Studio Madhouse)

Light Yagami is a shonen villain protagonist played completely straight. But, to be extremely fair, he did start out as an anti-hero. Before the protagonist of the shonen horror anime Death Note started killing innocent people, his first victims were complete monsters with one of them being a rapist.

This isn't exactly news, but he's at the bottom of the list due to fully embracing that mad delusion of becoming a God. Some may say it's expected when you dabble in the dark arts, but others say it's worse for L to be so unheroic likewise in trying to deal with Light. Light still makes it over Mello and L though, for the straight fall into darkness.