The anime industry has a good load of great villains such as Muzan from Demon Slayer, All for One from My Hero Academia, Jiren from Dragon Ball, Madara Uchiha from Naruto, and the list goes on. All of these characters have a massive amount of traditional power and none whatsoever have any non-traditional troops, this is where Johan Liebert differs from these villains.
Johan Liebert is the main antagonist of the Monster series created by Naoki Urasawa (20th century Boys) back in 1994. This character has really stood the test of time and is still considered as one of the creepiest antagonists of all time. Author Urasawa has done a great job writing exceptional characters and dictating the monster that resides in Johan.
The Monster tells the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a surgeon from Japan working at a hospital in Germany around 1986. One day he saves the life of a young boy injured by a bullet to his head. However, the boy Johan Liebert turns out to be a psychopath and reveals himself to be capable of murder. Sickened by sending a man like that back out into the world Tenma decides to hunt down Johan and kill him to undo his mistake.
Through the contrasting views of its characters, the series explores some pretty hefty questions. Are humans born inherently good? Or are they born inherently bad? Or is their nature completely shaped by the world around them? Moreover, are all people born equal or born with a disparity of worth based on circumstances? Though the setup of the classic “good vs. evil” paradigm is inclusive, the contradicting philosophies of the characters make it worth it. The entire dichotomy between the two main characters, Johan and Tenma resemble the difference between Joker and Batman.
Johan Liebert is on a journey to reaffirm his own beliefs and his beliefs are the complete opposite of Tenma’s. Tenma is a pure embodiment of the beliefs of an eastern philosopher Mencius. He is much of a belief that humans are born with the nature of goodness. He tries to find goodness in people. He may be journeying to kill Johan but he is also doing this to reaffirm his beliefs that all people are born equal and good.
However, Johan Liebert believes humans are born evil and unequal and death is the only thing we all are equal in. Clearly, Tenma’s views are not accepted by all, not even the boy he saved through those views. And indeed, this was the author’s motive.
Johan Liebert: Best Antagonist Ever
“I am not racist, I hate everybody equally”. This one sentence is a key essential thing that pretty much sums up all Johan Liebert as a character. It would not be wrong to say that he is quite literally the anime version of the Joker. In the Monster manga, there is a tale named “nameless monster tale”, it’s something that was used for symbolism and a metaphor for who Johan Liebert was as a character.
Johan is someone who is trying to find his identity but through different attempts, goes through all sorts of chaotic moments and many failures and ends up feeling alone. There is also this feeling of tragedy learning upon all the traumatic events that led to him becoming the monster that he is. At the beginning of Tenma’s search to find and kill Johan, he starts looking into the boy’s past: his childhood home, orphanage, and city.
All to answer the simple question of “What did this to Johan?” When looking at Johan’s character you see nothing but pity. In this loneliness, despite seeming like someone who is just an innocent member of society turns into one of the greatest monsters ever written.
Johan Liebert is everything and definitely much more than you could ever wish for an antagonist. The first impression that we get from Johan’s characterize an innocent, nobleman but, as the story continues we find out that cannot be further from the case. He doesn’t possess any traditional quirks rather his charisma and the outward person drives other people to murder for him. Johan manipulated them to do his bidding and then kills them off when they get in his way. He is the embodiment of pure evil. Where he walks death follows because of that he is able to create this tension in the story whenever he is present you already known something big is gonna go down.
He pushes the narrative of the entire story He is someone who parallels and contrasts the protagonist amazingly just how Joker and Batman complements each other. Some antagonist design makes the audience argue that they are not necessarily doing anything wrong in their motives just the way they went about it was wrong, Johan doesn’t care about such trivial matters. Johan Liebert is an extremely nihilistic person who wants to see nothing but the world burn.
The series lays out various clashing philosophies on human nature but never manifests any of them to be correct. These questions are left open to the viewers only to be shaped by the individual. What was your take on the story? Feel free to share your views in the comments’ wing.