- What is an anti-hero?
- What makes the characters of Overlord and Goblin Slayer anti-heroes?
- 1. Toaru Kagaku no Accelerator
- 2. Akame Ga Kill!
- 6. Death Note
- 7. Yoju Senji (The Saga of Tanya the Evil)
- 8. Cowboy Bebop
- 9. Rising of the Shield Hero
- 10. Code Geas
At first glance, Overlord and Goblin Slayer are two very different anime with two separate genres: One is in the Isekai transport-to-new-worlds genre, and the other is more adventure-based.
For the most part, Overlord is about politics, magic, ambitions, and leadership. Goblin Slayer, on the other hand, is about killing goblins, friendship, finding happiness, but, most importantly, killing goblins.
If there is something that makes these two anime very similar to each other, it’s the fact that both the main characters of the two anime series are not conventional heroes. In fact, I wouldn’t call them heroes at all. Their behavior is the antithesis of conventional heroes. The main characters of Overlord and Goblin Slayer are, in fact, anti-heroes.
What is an anti-hero?
An anti-hero is a protagonist who lacks traditional heroic qualities such as morality, courage, and integrity. Anti-heroes are often unsympathetic characters who are driven by self-interest, greed, and power. Although they may ultimately do the right thing, their methods are often unethical or illegal. The anti-hero is a relatively new literary archetype that has only gained popularity in recent decades.
What makes the characters of Overlord and Goblin Slayer anti-heroes?
Overlord’s Ain’s as anti-hero
For starters, the character of Ains (the MC of Overlord) is an undead king who rules among heteromorphic races – a race that enjoys torturing humans and other weaker species. Ain’s idea of mercy, based on the concept of his race (and kingdom), is swift death.
While Ains still has a human soul, his body doesn’t allow him to feel any kind of conscience whatsoever. Thus, most of his actions are based on what he considers “logical” or “beneficial to his kingdom and subordinates”. This remains true even if it means having to commit mass genocide. Surely this is something a true “hero” would never even consider?!
Goblin Slayer as anti-hero
On the other hand, Goblin Slayer’s actions often do result in “heroic deeds”. But he doesn’t really think of the “goodness” or “value” of those around him. He simply wants to stop the spreading of the goblin kind. He doesn’t feel “happy” or “sad”, per se, in having to kill goblins. He just does what he thinks should be done on a pragmatic level, even if it means doing it in the most brutal and savage way.
Their behavior, not typical of an ideal person, is what makes them so loved by the fans. It’s not surprising that these “badass” characters are many of the Otakus’ favorites. These characters embody the true nature of humans: flawed and perfectly imperfect. People can relate more to these types of characters than the more all-perfect self-righteous heroes.
List of anime similar to Overlord and Goblin Slayer
You could be forgiven for thinking these characters from Overlord and Goblin Slayer are of a unique existence within the oeuvre of anime heroes. It feels like the vast majority of anime feature goodie-two-shoes main characters with absurdly upright moral standards.
Well, if you’re looking for something darker, there are actually several animes that have appeared throughout the years that have main characters with weird characteristics and could be considered anti-heroes.
Here is my list of the best anti-hero anime that you should watch:
1. Toaru Kagaku no Accelerator
Anti-Hero rating: 9 out of 10
Not all heroes are good people. Is there anything more anti-hero in the anime world than when the villain becomes the main character and hero himself?
Having wicked and selfish means of achieving his goals, Accelerator has done so many nasty things. He kills without flinching, and his sadistic personality makes it worse. Despite being a villain in the main storyline of the series, he also manages to come off as one of the good guys (the irony). This comes about not because he wants to be good but because his goals happen to align with the more recognizably “good” characters in the anime.
Even after asserting himself as the central character of the narrative, by doing good deeds and saving the world from destruction, he still thinks of himself as the “true villain.” He even manages to teach his enemies how to “become one” by torturing them. He does this brutally, to the point of despair and hopelessness. If that isn’t a true anti-hero, I don’t know what is!
2. Akame Ga Kill!
Anti-Hero rating: 3 out of 10
‘Akame Ga Kill’ tells the story of Tatsumi, who intends to join the army with his childhood friends to defend the empire’s capital. Tatsumi and his friends get separated and lose their way. Tatsumi is the only one who makes it to the empire. As the story unfolds, he discovers that his childhood friends have been captured and tortured to death by a certain noble.
He gets enlisted in a revolutionary army, a group of assassins, to avenge his friend’s deaths. The group aims to overthrow the corrupt government running the country and kill every one of them.
While their goal could be considered a heroic act, their means of making it happen is not very heroic. Heroes don’t just ruthlessly kill. But the Characters of “Akame ga Kill,” especially Akame, will not think twice about killing. In fact, even Tatsumi was almost killed by Akame when he got in the way of assassinating the corrupt noble in question.
3. Attack on Titan
Anti-Hero Rating: 6 out of 10
Attack on titan is an interesting anime that exhibits plenty of character development. It starts with the protagonist’s family being decimated by giant people-eating humanoids. After losing a loved one to these monsters, the protagonist vows to avenge their deaths. He joins the army to fight the Titans.
After joining the survey corps, Eren Yeager becomes one of the essential characters in the group, moving from being one of the weakest to one of the strongest. He is able to use the special power of the monsters he is fighting.
Eventually, Eren learns more about the truth of the world they are living in, which triggers a change within him. In the anime’s later seasons, Eren goes as far as beginning to act like a villain in order to save the people he loves.
His transformation is from being a do-gooder, to being a ruthless man who will do anything to eradicate the world of hate against his people. It is the transformation from a true hero into a true anti-hero. That’s not something you see every day…
4. Hellsing/ Hellsing Ultimate
Anti-Hero rating: 9 out of 10
The anime’s title, Hellsing, is the name of the organization the anime’s main protagonist operates. Hellsing is bathed in gore and violence, mainly perpetrated by the protagonist himself, Alucard.
The story of Hellsing/Hellsing Ultimate revolves around this war-loving maniac Alucard, the strongest vampire in the world. He joins the “Hellsing” group to kill his own kind and prevent them from devastating human civilizations.
What makes this interesting is that Alucard struggles to fight on two fronts: his own kind that kills humans, and the people in the organization he is working with who hate all supernatural beings.
Despite being the main character and supposedly the “hero” of the series, Alucard’s behavior is anything but heroic. His very appearance makes you think of him as the “villain” more than the main character. He is also very sly, and his recklessness is borderline psychopathic.
Alucard’s sadistic, bloodthirsty, ruthless, and unforgiving character traits make him another quintessential anti-hero.
Anti-Hero rating: 6.5 out of 10
Berserk is one anime that has really left its mark on otaku culture, especially because of the main character’s characteristics and struggles.
Just like Goblin Slayer and Ains, the main character, Guts, is neither good nor evil. Many viewers have been misled by the idea that Guts is not a good person, which makes many wonder why the story should revolve around him.
Eventually, we all realize the truth: he is ruthless and doesn’t hesitate to kill, but he is not the true bad guy in the story.
His behavior is neither heroic nor evil; he is simply how he is because of his struggles. Unlike most of the characters in the series, Guts has a better understanding of life’s impermanence and deals with every struggle whichever way he can.
Guts is a true anti-hero, a lone wolf who fights to survive and stands up for himself more than what may be considered “right”.
6. Death Note
Anti-Hero rating: 5.5 out of 10
Death Note’s Light Yagami, a.k.a. “Kira”, has a noble intention guiding his hand. He wants to eradicate all the evil in the world. Light acquires a ready means to achieve this when he discovers the power of the “Death Notebook” (the word “Notebook” is shortened to “Note” as “no-to” in Japanese, which then gets somewhat confusingly translated back into English as “Death Note”, a word that means something quite different in English).
Any person’s name that he writes in the magical notebook becomes destined to perish. Light duly goes about writing down the names of any and every criminal perpetrator he can find.
His means may not be ideal, but his goal is actually not too far from many other heroes you know. He wants to make this world a “better place”. But, in doing so, he risks becoming the very evil he nominally wants to destroy.
As he schemes and plots every assassination he makes, his character changes for the worse. One day, from being the story’s main character, he becomes the villain others are trying to eradicate.
His story is an example that having too much power, in spite of good intentions, can easily turn to disaster leading to chaos and one’s own destruction.
He is another MC that starts as a hero and who turns into something much darker.
7. Yoju Senji (The Saga of Tanya the Evil)
Anti-Hero rating: 9.5 out of 10
The nine-year-old Tanya Degurechaff was once an ordinary “salaryman” in her previous life. But she has become a smart and cold-blooded character. Originally a man, he is reincarnated as a young blonde orphan girl in a world riddled with war. As someone who is hired to terminate company employees, his ruthlessness becomes an asset in the new world he is in.
Tanya quickly rises to the rank of regiment commander as she shows her skills in managing people in spite of her young age. Her mercilessness is known, and her achievements pave the way to more frontline battles as a leader of a special platoon.
Despite her achievements, her goal is to stay away from the frontline as much as possible and survive the war comfortably. But because of her relentless defiance against god, she struggles to achieve her goal of surviving the war and ends up in life-threatening situations. Her hatred against god grows even stronger.
Her character embodies chaos and insanity, making Tanya one of the true anti-heroes in the anime world.
8. Cowboy Bebop
Anti-Hero rating: 4.5 out of 10
Most main characters in anime plots have weird quirks that make them unique and loveable. Spike Spiegel’s moral ambiguity is one of the reasons he has left a mark on many Otaku fans.
His character is very peculiar: his actions lead to good and bad results at the same time.
There is no doubt that he has a good heart. His intentions are good for the most part, but his greediness and selfishness can get in the way of his heroic acts.
Being a bounty hunter, his desire to chase after a bounty can sometimes be overwhelming for him, to the point that he unconsciously puts many people in danger.
His erratic behavior has certainly given him his own unique spot in the anime pantheon as an anti-hero.
9. Rising of the Shield Hero
Anti-Hero rating: 7 out of 10
Once an innocent and very trusting teenager, Naofumi Iwatani started well when transported to another world as one of four cardinal heroes. He’s able to put together a party, has money to go on an adventure, and most of all, has the backing of the entire nation. He has it easy. He is an ideal “hero” with a hero-like circumstance.
That is, until circumstances intervene. He’s accused of rape by the princess of the kingdom he is supposed to protect. He learns that being a shield hero is the worst! Everyone comes to hate him, and his personality slides downhill from there.
From being a nice and trusting person, Naofumi becomes a hateful, untrusting, and sly hero whose goal is to get back home to earth. Because he doesn’t trust anyone in the new world he is in, he takes slaves as his party members.
While he poses as someone selfish and uncaring, the results of his actions say otherwise. Eventually, many people see the true him despite the overbearing facade he shows to everyone he encounters.
Despite having the title of a “hero,” Naofumi surely is actually much closer to an anti-hero.
10. Code Geas
Anti-Hero rating: 10 out of 10
If you are in for a roller coaster ride of plot twists, then Code Geas is your anime. The whole plot is a battle of wits and power filled with outrageous turns of events and betrayals.
The eleventh prince of the Holy Britannian Empire was Lelouch vi Britannia, son of Charles zi Britannia.
Despite being the eleventh prince of the Holy Britannian Empire, Lelouch wants to liberate Japan from the cruelties of the Empire, especially from his father, Charles Zi Britannia. While Lelouch’s intentions are noble, there are moral questions about his actions.
When Lelouch finds himself caught in the crossfire between the Holy Empire of Britannia and Japan’s Area 11 rebel armed forces, he somehow escapes with the help of the character C.C. This character also gives him the ability to have control over others, called a “Geas.”
Using the incredible wit and the power of his Geas, Lelouch is able to overcome the seemingly impossible. He marches on his quest to achieve the goal of creating a new world.
In order to accomplish this, Lelouch makes himself out to be a villain. He does this so that the world would hate him and conspire to get rid of him. As he struggles to reform the world, Lelouch becomes one of anime’s greatest antiheroes.
Lelouch is, perhaps, something like the Batman of anime!
Overlord and Goblin Slayer have unique plots. But many elements of their narratives are not unique. There are actually quite a few anime that have anti-hero MCs out there. Some of these anti-hero MCs are either good characters who turn bad. Or, conversely they are sometimes also bad characters that have come good.
Either way, they make interesting plots and relatable characters.
Anti-hero characters often have a wider fanbase than many hero-like characters. Anti-hero characters make you feel better about not being a perfect human being.
Try some of the anime from the above list if you are after something a little more warts-and-all “human”.
Article by John Salinas.
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