10 most manipulative shonen anime characters, ranked

Light, Makima, and Aizen. An unholy trinty of manipulative shonen anime characters. (Image via Sportskeeda)
Light, Makima, and Aizen. An unholy trinty of manipulative shonen anime characters. (Image via Sportskeeda)

Manipulation is not a positive trait to possess, especially in shonen anime. The most manipulative shonen anime characters tend to turn events, or sometimes even people, in their favor.

Some of the most manipulative shonen anime characters have been in the story right from the beginning, always plotting, always waiting for the right time to reveal themselves. When that time strikes, they usually do so with flair.

Here, we will list 10 manipulative shonen anime characters and rank them by the sheer amount of manipulation and the impact of their plans.

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for all the anime discussed. Content warnings are included for discussions of violence, death, child abuse, and genocide.


10 most cunning and manipulative shonen anime characters, ranked by amount, success, and impact

10) Illumi Zoldyck (Hunter x Hunter)

Illumi Zoldyck is one of the most manipulative shonen anime characters (Image via Studio Madhouse)
Illumi Zoldyck is one of the most manipulative shonen anime characters (Image via Studio Madhouse)

Illumi Zoldyck ranks at the bottom of this list because his amount of manipulation is very minimal compared to that of others. This is mostly confined to Killua, but that's still enough for him to be counted as a manipulative shonen anime character, since he did implant a literal needle to block Killua's fighting instinct.

Of course, this isn't the only example. The needle hypnosis isn't just for one person. Illumi Zoldyck can hypnotize and disable many people with it. That apart, there's also the corpse control, which allows him to literally control deceased individuals. His tenuous "friendship" with Hisoka also counts, since it seems they're using each other.


9) Medusa Gorgon (Soul Eater)

Medusa Gorgon (Image via Studio Bones)
Medusa Gorgon (Image via Studio Bones)

One of the candidates for worst parent in anime, Medusa Gorgon from Soul Eater has quite the record as one of many manipulative shonen anime characters.

Starting off, she created Crona and groomed them to be the ultimate weapon via being Asura's vessel. She likewise turns the heroes against fellow witches to further her schemes.

The only reason she is not higher up in this ranking is because of how her plans ultimately fail. While she made a huge impact with the grooming of Crona and the release of Asura, she dies in both the anime and the manga. Crona kills her in the manga, as intended, but they also end up stopping Asura thanks to unlocking their true potential. In the anime, Medusa's soul is eaten and Asura is likewise destroyed.


8) Eren Yeager (Attack on Titan)

Eren Yeager, circa Season 4 of Attack on Titan (Image via Studio MAPPA)
Eren Yeager, circa Season 4 of Attack on Titan (Image via Studio MAPPA)

Much as Zeke Yeager gets flack for being manipulative, Eren eclipses his brother-in-law by leagues when it comes to being a manipulative shonen anime character in Attack on Titan's final season. To wit, Eren caused Grisha Yeager to attack the Reiss family, caused the events of the series, caused practically everything up to and including his mother's death, the fall of Wall Maria, and more.

As it turns out, being in the Paths and seeing the Founder Ymir's suffering gave Eren perspective. Eren had trauma himself the moment he got a combination of past and future memories from Historia, and was never really in control of things, as he even said that the past, present, and future blurred together.

The impact was that over 80% of the world's population died in The Rumbling, Paradis was converted into a military power and while it was ultimately destroyed, it implied that the world left Paradis alone for many years.


7) Obito Uchiha (Naruto)

Obito Uchiha (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Obito Uchiha (Image via Studio Pierrot)

After being nearly crushed by a boulder, Obito Uchiha was found and rescued by Madara Uchiha. For several long years, Obito healed and debated Madara's insane Moon's Eye plan. He was only truly convinced when Rin Nohara died. Following that, Obito became Madara's chief partner-in-crime.

Despite Obito being a patsy and being manipulated himself, the events of Naruto would've played out differently had he not become entrapped in Madara's schemes.

One of the most manipulative shonen anime characters, Obito has had a number of successes - his attack on Konoha led to Minato and Kushina's deaths, he played the fool for a long time as 'Tobi,' ended up swerving the Akatsuki into serving his whims, and was ultimately instrumental in restoring the Ten Tails.

However, Obito eventually ended up being redeemed or at least helped the heroes out against Kaguya. He sacrificed his life and eyes so that Team 7 could end Kaguya's threat.


6) Dio Brando (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure)

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Sometimes the worst manipulative shonen anime characters are the ones closest to home. Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure definitely qualifies this list, given how Dio manipulated his way into the Joestar Family and arguably had a lot of success with his plans.

To be fair, his hostile takeover of the Joestar Family fortune was thwarted. Unfortunately, his post-vampirism plans have had more than a few successes. To summarize, he killed Jonathan, lived for well over a century, mastered The World's Time Stop ability, killed Kakyoin, and temporarily killed Joesph. And all this is before getting into the spread of Stands via Stand Arrows and his manipulation of Father Pucci into literally opening Heaven itself and creating an alternate universe.

While it was extremely cathartic when he ended up dead at Jotaro's hands, Dio ends up being one of the most manipulative shonen anime characters for having plans even from beyond the grave.


5) All For One (My Hero Academia)

The main villain of My Hero Academia more than belongs on a list of manipulative shonen anime characters. Starting off as the polar opposite of One For All, All For One has generously stolen quirks and ruled the Japanese underworld from the shadows for years. Despite All Might severely injuring him five years prior to the series, his influence remained and ultimately bore fruit in the form of the League of Villains.

All For One's presence is felt in many forms throughout My Hero Academia, from Tomura Shigaraki to Nomu to even the fact that All Might was forced to choose a successor. All For One considers himself a god and has stolen multiple Quirks in order to achieve his goal of Demon King.

He has literally been grooming Tomura and the League as pawns up until the final arc, where his plans go into motion and now faces down One For All in the form of Izuku Midoriya and the remaining Heroes.


4) Makima (Chainsaw Man)

Makima ranks high among manipulative shonen anime characters (Image via Studio MAPPA)
Makima ranks high among manipulative shonen anime characters (Image via Studio MAPPA)

The machinations of the top five manipulative shonen anime characters reach no less than god-level. Case in point, the literal Devil of Control from Chainsaw Man.

Makima is first presented as a beautiful and enigmatic head of the fourth Division of the Public Safety Devil Hunters Bureau, and was quite helpful to the heroes since she appeared calm, dignified, and kind.

As it turns out, that is a cover. Her manipulations as the Control Devil have been planet-wide, and using Denji is just a bonus. Of course, violently ripping away Denji's happiness was part of her main plan to get the Chainsaw Man to love her. This plan failed, but she still killed quite a few heroes and villains and used the Gun Devil as part of her plot.


3) Light Yagami (Death Note)

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

Arguably one of the most manipulative shonen anime characters, Light Yagami of Death Note is notable on this list for not being a supernaturally powered being. He's just a regular guy who stumbled upon the titular Death Note and began using it for his own purposes.

To clarify, using the Death Note gave Light power over death itself. But that's not the only reason why he's one of the most manipulative shonen anime characters. It's how he manages to fool people and throw them off his scent. Over the course of the anime and manga, Light is able to dodge and slay FBI agents, manipulate L into thinking he's an ally, and even make others pretend to be Kira.

While a few missteps that eventually sealed his fate, even that took five years to happen.


2) Souske Aizen (Bleach)

As far as godly ambitions for manipulative shonen anime characters go, one would be hard-pressed to find someone more manipulative than Souske Aizen of Bleach. Aizen is practically the definition of a manipulative shonen anime character. Starting out as one of Soul Society's most trusted captains, Aizen had been planning his eventual takeover for centuries.

The scariest part was how convincing he was until he stabbed one of his Lieutenants. Even then, it took Ichigo and the rest of the Shinigami practically a few arcs to catch up with Aizen. Even Gin's betrayal only slowed Aizen only a little bit in his machinations. He was prepared for even his own death, faking it as part of hypnosis.

Ichigo finally caught up with him and killed him, but only after much strife.


1) Father (FMA: Brotherhood)

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While the other manipulative shonen anime characters in this list committed many acts and had many ambitions akin to gods and demons, Father managed to absorb God temporarily and even created a miniature sun.

He tops this list because every important event in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood could be traced back to him.

The backstory with the first Philosopher's Stone? The result of him manipulating the King of Xerxes and sacrificing the entire kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of souls split between him and Hohenheim. Not content with that, he founded Amestris and intentionally sculpted events to perfect what happened at Xerxes. The Ishvalen Civil War? A cover for the nationwide transmutation circle. The Promised Day? When activated, it nearly compressed millions into a Philosopher's Stone.

The only reason why he failed was that Hohenheim and others worked together to defeat him. It took a long time, however, since Father absorbed many, including "God," when he ripped the Gate of Truth open.