They don’t act like a traditional anime protagonist. They can use any means necessary to ensure their victory but somehow anti-heroes are quite celebrated. Furthermore, they are more popular now than ever. Anti-heroes are prevalent in the anime and manga industry too. There have always been appreciations for characters whose imperfections halt them from coinciding with the traditional definition of heroes. They don’t fit the archetype of either hero or villain.
The rapid rise of the number and variety of characters that fit the definition of an anti-hero is a reflection of a culture that is bored with knights and shining armor. They are interesting because their internal conflicts feel real. They are both believable and unpredictable. The following list involves some of the excellent anime anti-heroes, you dare not to avoid.
Bleach (Kenpachi Zaraki)
Fighting is a Holy Grail for Captain Zaraki. He is known as a child “bathed in the blood of his enemies” and most violent of all in the Soul society. As one of the 13 captains that oversee and provide defense for the afterlife, one can say he is more of a good guy that is unless there is a strong enemy involved. Screw the rules and bust out the sword friends, associated, enemies Kenpachi will slice them all up just for the thrill of it.
Code Geass (Lelouch vi Britannia)
Lelouch staged a rebellion against his own kind and he is the mastermind of strategy and warfare. Despising his birthright as Prince of the oppressive Britannian Empire, Lelouch lived a quiet life studying and caring for his disabled sister Nunnally. This changed when he was bestowed with the power of Geass. He took up a vigilante life in order to protect those he loves and give Nunnally can live peacefully.
He staged a revolution and battled against his family, homeland, his heritage, former comrades, and finally his own power-hungry desires. At last, he gave his life to world peace. His love and righteous personality made him one of the most beloved anti-heroes out there.
Cowboy Bebop (Spike Spiegel)
The space western anime typically deals with cosmos teaming with intergalactic pirates and astronomical mercenaries. Naturally, it’s a hotbed for anti-heroes like Spike Spiegel. He is a reformed criminal having escaped the Red Dragon syndicate by faking his own death and becoming a bounty hunter. He is accompanied by another bounty hunter Jet Black and an interplanetary ship Bebop. His dark past and field of work create a morally complex character whose actions are justifiable in classic antihero fashion.
Spike is a lazy, apathetic, confident, and extremely cool character who is haunted by the demons of his past. His modern cowboy-like demeanor makes him extremely likable. But he treats his life like living in a dream. He preaches to others to let go of their past but finds it really hard to do so. He is normally sarcastic and lacks any qualms about killing people when bounty hunting.
Death Note (Light Yagami)
Like every other straight-A student Light Yagami also took upon him the responsibility to rid the world of evil or at least what he perceives as evil. Thanks to Shinigami’s Death Note that has the power to take a life. One day he stumbles upon the lost treasure and declares himself a god. Not only has he’s been granted the power to kill but manipulate the cause and time of one’s death. He’s a deity for sure unless the fair-game turned not-so-fair.
His compromised morality and gradually sinking humanity led him to kill anyone who gets too close to uncovering his secret. As he falls in a precipitous spiral of unhealthy God complex and gains the identity of Kira we start getting one of the most infamous anti-heroes out there in the anime industry.
Psycho-Pass (Akane Tsunemori)
Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass might be an unusual example of anti-heroism. She is not a villain personally but working for a villainous organization that is taking down our humanity with a very new target. In a world where a mysterious organization called the Sibyl System has the right to kill anybody who it assesses to be a potential threat to society, Akane works for the police department.
Though she quickly realizes the futility and cruelty of such a system she is unable to dismantle or even completely resist it. Her opponents tend to go through villainous means when it comes to taking down the Sibyl system. In the process of removing these threats, she continues to work with the organization and takes down seemingly well-intentional characters.
A Certain Scientific Accelerator (Accelerator)
Taking place in a metropolis known as Academy city, a city that is known for its technological and scientific superiority we find the main character as a dark antagonist of a sort, Accelerator. He is one of the level 5 espers (reality-altering superhuman species) with deadly powers and has an intoxicating taste of taking a life. He was a lone wolf until he found Last Order.
Struggled as an anti-social in his childhood, he always feared that his extraordinary abilities won’t harm thus, he can let loose neither inherently good nor evil side. However, through the series we find him transforming from a deadly antagonist to a complex anti-hero and finally redeems the qualities of a protagonist.