It gets boring at a point when protagonists are generic. This is when the concept of anti-heroes and anti-villains drops in. The first thing that any anime watcher would attach to in a show is its characters. People always expect their protagonists to be strong or at least have a journey that makes them stronger. Since viewers spend most of the time with this protagonist, it is natural for them to expect someone indulging to watch. Anti-heroes like Lelouch Lamperouge are difficult to create but at the same time give the viewers a perspective to build. Characters that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist have so much character development in them that they immediately cease all amount of attention a person can pay to anything.
Such characters are hard to build for the complexities in their personalities. Moreover, the intense history leading to such change is yet another obstacle to cross. Maybe this is why such characters do not always make it to many stories. However, once they do make an entrance, these protagonists always pull off being some of the coolest characters. They raise questions over the basic morals of a human society compelling people to wonder what it means to be evil. Here are some of the best characters that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist. Of course, these characters are not ranked in a particular manner. Every character is twisted in their own way, making it difficult to judge based on their attributes.
Yuji Sakai: Shakugan no Shana
At the beginning of Shakugan no Shana, people were wondering if Yuji Sakai would ever stop being whiny. The answer lay not too far into the anime as the character started switching to a darker side. His kind and nervous nature were replaced by a colder version of him. He grew more and more distant from his once humane personality. Killing became easier for the same character who criticized Shana for her lack of sympathy.
Yuji Sakai turns into a sadistic anti-hero in season 3 of Shakugan no Shana after merging with the Snake of the Festival. He is a brilliant example of a character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist. Shakugan no Shana is a great series despite its slow development. The fact that it took three seasons to make Yuji its villain is proof of it.
Rimuru Tempest: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
This is yet another character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist, even if for a short while. Ever since season 1, one of Rimuru’s principles was to never harm humans. He has been a fun-loving and cute slime who was building an empire like an adventure game. However, there is only a limit up to which even Rimuru can let go. The second season of That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime showed us a side of Rimuru that we never thought existed.
Rimuru kills thousands of humans to evolve into a Demon Lord. True, the humans had it coming but it was still a moment when Rimuru breaks out of his bounding morals to do what is right irrespective of the method. Although Rimuru returns to being his previous self again, he does turn severely evil to avenge and save his subordinates.
Keyaru: Redo Of Healer
Anyone who has watched Redo Of Healer was disturbed by the content at least once. Redo Of Healer presents us with one of the most twisted protagonists ever. It hurts to call him an antagonist because he only harms people who have wronged him. Yet, he does not set an example worthy of being a hero either. Keyaru uses his healing ability to save the world from a disaster. Later he uses the same power on women he hates and builds himself a harem, but only after raping them first. Once again, it is true that the villains had it coming, but can it be ignored that Keyaru’s actions were completely psychopathic irrespective of the reason?
Keyaru might be out on a bloodlust (or just lust) to exact his revenge, but he also wants to save the world. His actions, although disgusting, make him a good anti-villain more than an anti-hero. Keyaru hangs in a sophisticated phase that lies in the middle of being a villain or a hero and too exotic to be called a commoner. However, I would rather label him an anti-hero merely for his portrayal of so in the series and for his ultimate goal of wanting to do well for the world.
Nine and Twelve: Terror in Resonance
What is an antagonist exactly? This is the kind of question you would end up asking yourself after watching the story of Nine and Twelve. There is no journey of Nine and Twelve turning evil. They are terrorists who bomb various buildings in Tokyo while teasing the police department with ridiculously difficult riddles. It almost seems like they are brats trying to play a very risky prank. However, there seems to be more meaning to the terror attacks that the two high school boys were throwing towards the world.
Terror in Resonance tells the story of two kids in masks wanting to speak to the world. To make their voices clear, they use bombs to silence the world first. This is one of the rare brilliant series where the protagonists are the finest anti-heroes I have ever come across.
Toshio Ozaki: Shiki
Shiki is a complicated anime that focuses on the grey area between right and wrong. It is difficult to point out what’s evil because sometimes things go beyond the measurement of black and white. This brings us to one of the best anti-heroes in anime history, Toshio Ozaki. For many viewers, he was a character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist in many parts of the story. Toshio Ozaki is a doctor in the series and like every other typical doctor, he is kind and caring towards his patients who have been victims of Shiki. Changes show up at the doors of his personality when he is unable to save his patients. The frustration of his personality leads him to do things that are questionable from a moral point of view.
As more people turn into Shiki, he takes it into his own hands to protect them. But, killing the changed ones only meant killing his own loved ones which depicts a rather evil side of him, despite his intention behind the act. Toshio Ozaki cannot be stated as an evil character or as a hero. Instead, all he can be seen as is a character with a human mind.
Ainz Ooal Gown: Overlord
Popularly known as Momonga is a character worthy of being on this list. He does not turn evil but fans have often questioned his ethics. Sure, Ainz is an epitome of a good leader and gives the wrongdoers what they deserve but no one can deny that Ainz was a cold person. He could kill without remorse to create the world he was seeking for. Whatever Ainz does is for himself. His followers might hate the humans more than him but it’s not like Ainz especially liked humans. He merely felt nothing, no indifference to their presence.
He is not hate-worthy but he definitely makes a great anti-hero. It’s all in the perspective of how one wants to see him. For me, he is a great character that changed from being a protagonist to an antagonist. Especially in season three as his violence grew harsher. Yet, he is a true leader and hero for the guardians he led. Once again, not all things can be clear on two sides of the coin as some remain on the blurry line between those two sides.
Tanya Von Degurechaff: Youjo Senki
It rarely puts me in conflict about how I should really feel about a character. But, Tanya Von Degurechaff definitely drops me in confusion as I wonder how I really should feel about her. Tanya was never a character I would want anyone to look up to in terms of personality. She is a psychopath blessed with exceptional magic abilities. She is sadistic and absolutely ruthless. But, she deeply cares for the lives of her subordinates. Her ideology roots deep down into the concept of freedom. For her, freedom is the luxury she wants to achieve even at the cost of despising God who she believes has taken over it.
Although Tanya scares me a bit for her sociopathic and sadistic ways, I also understand how she sees the world. She is one of the most complex characters that I’ve had the privilege to come across. While she is a protagonist, she has every intimidating trait of an antagonist and I love it. If people enjoy watching cruel anti-heroes more than generic heroes, Youjo Senki is a must-watch.
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Kaneki Ken: Tokyo Ghoul
It was a terrible fate for Kaneki Ken when he turned into something he hated: a Ghoul. He spends almost all of the first season trying to stay in touch with his human side. However, when he accepts the darker side of himself, he strolls down all the way into the dark to save the people he treasured. Kaneki Ken is a fan’s favorite anti-hero. Accepting Rize pulls him into a war between ghouls and humans, where he chooses to side with the ghouls. He goes to war with the CCG. The character changed from a protagonist to an antagonist pretty quickly over the second season but it’s not easy to dislike him.
Though we can see he has left his human side behind, we see the very reason he does whatever he does. It all comes back to square one when we watch series with such a complicated development. While it pushes us to take aside, it also lets us see what each side is fighting for and what is at stake. Tokyo Ghoul has had its share of controversies and mixed opinions. But, the very fact that Kaneki Ken was a great anti-hero remains unchanged despite how people felt about the story or the ending.
Akira and Ryo: Devilman Crybaby
Both protagonists in the anime Devilman Crybaby show a major decline towards darkness towards the end of the show. For Akira, as a human, he was a crybaby and weak. But, after being possessed by Amon, he takes control over his body but becomes incredibly strong. He decides to use his power against demons who were infiltrating the world but finds himself in a fix when he realizes that humans were turning violent towards demons as well as each other. An ugly side of humanity takes the viewers to see how it could destroy everything that we’ve built. We see him move more into the dark after the love of his life is killed by people who suspected her to be a Devilman.
Ryo too had his best interest for humans. He wanted to expose the demons and let people vary. Only in the end is it realized by him as well as the viewers that Ryo is in fact a manifestation of Satan.
Eren Jaeger: Attack on Titan
This could be the most well-known character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist. Eren Jaeger loathed titans. All he ever wanted was to kill every last of them. But he realizes that he is a titan shifter. However, while being a titan was bad enough, he realizes that things were way worse on the other side of the sea that he was longing to see. In the recent season, Eren has become the biggest threat. Undoubtedly, whatever he does is to save his friends. Everything that he has discovered over the years has led him to take charge of the Eldians and win the wars.
Eren goes beyond the point of being called an anti-hero. He is clearly the antagonist, despite whatever reason he turned out to be so. Isayama’s genius manga lets us have a perspective of the show. Once again we find ourselves in conflict as we try to understand what’s right and what’s wrong and how to differentiate them both.
Tatsumi: Akame Ga Kill
Before entering the city, Tatsumi aimed to be a knight. He traveled all the way out of his small village towards the Empire. Akame Ga Kill focuses on the socio-political issues and corruption of the empire. Tatsumi witnesses the cruelty of the upper class and their ignorance towards the poor. Tatsumi becomes yet another example of an anti-hero. He switches sides as soon as he encounters the Night Raid. The very empire he wanted to protect becomes his target of destruction.
There is no way Tatsumi can be called a villain of any sort. However, the complete turnover of his character cannot be ignored. He is still kind but as the story progresses, he does not feel remorse over killing the wrongdoers.
Slaine Troyard: ALDENOAH.Zero
Yet another character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist is Slaine Troyard from ALDENOAH.Zero. Slaine had a harsh childhood but he could have become someone better than a villain. He seems like a loyal person at first, and he truly was so. Looking out for the Princess was his priority and would have continued to be so. He enforces the political ideas into his mind and becomes the very evil that marks the end of him. On one half, I find this character poorly built but also at the same time I feel like his arc catches up to his father’s character. He betrays the Princess and lets everyone down while bearing the weight of corruption thinking it was the way to make the Princess’s dream a reality.
Slaine was simply a psychotic lover who let rejection take over his entire character development.
Berserk is a dark fantasy anime whose concepts reach out to dig out the darkest corners of its characters. Gryffith was a warrior, someone who brought peace to the Kingdom of Midland. After he is tortured, Gryffith rises as a Femto born from sacrificing his army, Hawks to the eclipse.
While Gryffith comes out to be a villain from a protagonist, his reasonings were understandable. Of course, his actions of rape and murder cannot be justified. However, viewers spend a lot of time with this character. He makes a brilliant villain because he has a motive. While as a viewer it feels relatable, it is also scary because Gryffith’s character shows us the circumstances that lead people to leave their morals.
This arch in his character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist provokes a lot of thoughts.
Kai Hiwatari: Beyblade
The former leader of Blade Sharks, Kai Hiwatari makes an entry to this list merely because of his similar character arc. If you are looking for an intense change, there isn’t any. However, Beyblade does make a fun series and thus I won’t lie this character that changed from a protagonist to an antagonist was definitely required to be mentioned.
Long story short, Kai Hiwatari’s reason for the switch was a shining spinning top. Nothing of the serious type but definitely worth mentioning.
Kyousuke Hyoubu: Zettai Karen Children
The protagonist here is not simply a common being but an overpowered ESPer. After being betrayed, he changes side and swears revenge on humans. His main aim is to protect the ESPer who are being mistreated by humans.
Kyousuke Hyoubu is yet another brilliant character who brings out the darker shade of its parent series, Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited.