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10 most pragmatic antagonists in seinen anime

Charles vi Britannia is one of the more pragmatic seinen antagonists (Image via Studio Sunrise)
Charles vi Britannia is one of the more pragmatic seinen antagonists (Image via Studio Sunrise)
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Joshua Corvington

Unlike in shonen anime, antagonists in seinen anime are more pragmatic. Their plans are usually on the mark more often than not.

From erasing the main protagonist's memory to building an entire system around itself to getting up close and personal with a sword, all these seinen antagonists have some practical way of doing things. At least, certainly more practical than laughing maniacally in a tower and sending a minion to do the job.

These are 10 of the most pragmatic antagonists in seinen anime.

Note: Only one example per series is allowed. Spoilers for all anime involved. These are all the authors' opinions. Plans don't need to succeed, they need to be practical from their perspective.


The 10 most pragmatic seinen anime antagonists

10) Griffith

Griffith by Naranbaatar Ganbold https://t.co/8zadYlTp0u

The fallen hero and former best friend of lead character Guts in Berserk. Griffith is the least pragmatic about his dream of a newer, more perfect kingdom of his own. He is callous and cold, placing success fairly higher than anything else, even when he does question his intent. It cracks and chips away the more people die, and he sees them as tools.

Unwilling and unable to see past his own needs when Guts left the band of the Falcon, Griffith invoked a demonic eclipse that slaughtered all but Guts and Casca and rebirthed him in darkness as Femto.

He goes on to be hailed as a savior for deposing a wicked emperor. But he will never stop aiming higher, as Guts cryptically notes. He'll keep going higher like a hawk because he has nothing else but his dream.


9) L Lawliet

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The hero antagonist to Light Yagami's villain protagonist in the seinen anime Death Note. L is rather infamous for his practical use of subterfuge, misinformation, and analyzing human nature to lure suspects into false senses of security, with drastic measures often being taken.

A very pragmatic and early example had convicted death row inmate Lind L. Tailor introduces himself as L on television, declares Kira evil, and then dies on the spot. This proved that Kira was behind the rash of heart attacks and L deduced Kira's location and occupation since it was only broadcast to the Kanto region and coincided with after school hours.

It would only get odder and odder as Light and L engaged in mind game after mind game in an eternal mental chess game.

He would ultimately prove correct that Light was Kira, but he'd die before being able to catch him.


8) The Laughing Man

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The anarchistic anti-hero hacker of Ghost in the Shell. The Laughing Man kidnapped the CEO of Serano Genomics 6 years prior to the series, intent on exposing the corruption within. It spawned multiple imitators and allowed a broader conspiracy to take more and more control of the public flow of information and cyberspace.

His pragmatic methods included hacking, corporate sabotage, and kidnapping to force the CEO to admit his corrupt behavior. It worked, mind, but there was a lot of collateral damage born from the laughing man symbol and the various imitators.

He does make up for it by supplying Major Mokoto Kusanagi with valuable intel on the Conspiracy and saving her life on a couple of occasions.


7) Sybil System - Psycho Pass

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The system is incarnate from the Seinen anime Psycho Pass. The Sybil System seems benign at first, being a superior computer system to any human concept of justice. The truth is far more horrifying than a simple all-control AI.

The Sibyl system is comprised of criminally asymptomatic individuals, all of who share the same wavelength of thought: sacrifices must be made to preserve and protect its vision of a happy and orderly society.

This includes such pragmatic tactics as forcing planes to crash, shurring the internet down, and overriding the dominators to go lethal whenever despite parameters ordinarily disallowing it. The System’s control is total, logic undeniable, decisions perfect, and the hive minds it controls is sociopathic.

It doesn't appear to be so rigid that it cannot be changed. The mass killings in Season 1 and the bloody uproars in Season 2 seem to force it to reassess its positions in Season 3. Time will tell if it has changed or not.


6) The Major

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Head of the Nazi Vampires code-named Millennium in the seinen anime Hellsing Ultimate, the Major is at least 1000 years old. He's as deranged as he is devoted to the rise of a new, more bloodthirsty Third Reich. He's also quite pragmatic developing, kidnapping villagers and people and experimenting on them.

He is monstrous and clever, getting all in the organization to throw their lives away for his dream of endless bloody conflict. He's not even a vampire himself, but a cyborg, and he dies thinking his plans are complete and that war will wage forever.

It doesn't. Not even close. His "war" was written off as a terrorist attack at best. He almost did bring Alucard down, so there's that.


5) Gendo Ikari

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The schemer and head of NERV, member of SEELE, and one of the worst parents alive, from the seinen anime Neon Genesis Evangelion/Rebuild of Evangelion. This glass-wearing stern man is responsible for using his son and surrogate daughter as human guinea pigs to revive his wife, Yui, at whatever cost he can.

To that end, he mentally abuses Shinji by walking away from him, encourages Rei to replace him, and boxes Shinji into a corner where he cannot but help do as he asks. He manipulated everything, down to the last detail on the near Third Impact in Rebuild and the actual Third Impact in the original series.

Was it all as pragmatic as he thought? Yes and no. He ended up butchered by his wife in the original series, reborn and ultimately rejected. In Rebuild? It takes his son and him dueling in their mindscape and Misato sacrificing herself to get Gendo to realize how horrid he had been all along.


4) Charles Vi Britannia

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The Emperor of Britannia from the seinen anime Code Geass. Charles Vi Britannia gets a spot on this list for his use of his Geass. Unlike Lelouch's, Charles' Geass gave him the ability to wipe memories and deaden Nunally's sight after her mother got shot in front of her. It was an incredibly pragmatic one that caused no end of suffering.

His final plan, less than pragmatic and more dictatorial, was to fuse everyone into one existence, much like Gendo. He failed because Lelouch put an end to his insane plans. A consummate manipulator towards the end, Charles tries to warn Lelouch that if he doesn't, the world will only stay cold and cruel.

Lelouch understood that and made it less cruel.


3) Dio Brando/DIO

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A vampire lord with a time-stopping Stand from the seinen anime JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Dio Brando's particular brand of sadistic and narcissistic cruelty began in the original anime and never stopped.

From easier and more pragmatic acts like stealing a kiss from Johnathan Joestar's beloved to burning Johnathan's dog alive in a furnace to trying to poison his adopted father to gain the family fortune, Dio Brando tries every trick in the book to get his way.

His pragmatic tactics only increase after being found out and becoming a vampire. Using eye lasters, turning his arm to pure ice, or freezing his enemies' blood, even being decapitated failed to stop him as he mortally wounded Johnthan with his eye lasers and nearly took over London via vampirization!

When he's revived in Stardust Crusaders, he makes it a point to test The World's time-stopping abilities by having people shoot at him and stopping time to dodge bullets, among other things like gathering henchmen to his cause.

The world's time-stopping abilities led to Kakyoin's death, the (temporary) death of Joesph Joestar, and the near-death of Jotaro after Dio went god mode. All the while, Dio kept being smart (hypnotizing and draining people, using knives, not overdoing the time stop) and never overextended.

Well, until he got outsmarted several times by Jotaro.


2) Char Aznable

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The Zeon army's enigmatic and traitorous ace pilot and Gundam's most iconic antagonist. Char Aznable was born Casval Rem Deikun and survived several assassination attempts on his life. His pragmatic tactics included confusing enemies, pushing his Zaku to its limits in speed at the battle of Loum, and constantly engineering "accidents" for the Zabis.

Though he's probably fondly remembered for firing a bazooka into a ship's window and killing a Zabi commander, his more pragmatic idea of dodging an assassination attempt was when he swapped a rigged to explode briefcase with the real Char. He let the enemy kill Char's best friend after abandoning him in a tank as an extra effort.

He's always careful not to push 100%, a quality he loses coming from Char's Counterattack, where he abandons pragmatism and reason for madness.


1) Nui Harime

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Ragyo Kiriyuin's assassin and a creepy little girl from Kill la Kill. Nui Harime is the very definition of unhinged and a pragmatic pain in the heroes' sides. She killed lead protagonist Ryuko Matoi's father after losing an eye, drove Ryuko to sheer utter rage and nearly killed her multiple times. She was also responsible for shredding Ryuko's beloved Senketsu to shreds, preventing Ryuko from fighting at her fullest for a while.

The other thing making her more pragmatic than all the other villains here? She offs herself to fuel Ragyo's final attack and plan, which isn't something other villains would even consider. A twisted way to end a twisted person's existence.


Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of the writer.


Edited by Srijan Sen
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