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Should every villain be sympathetic/have a tragic backstory?

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#1
Jul 11, 9:47 AM

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I feel like evil/psychotic/insane villains are generally shamed for being evil for just the fun of it. I believe it's hard for authors to create a likable villain without throwing in a tragic backstory on how they became that way. Not that it's a bad thing, it's not really. The reason I love villains like Medusa, Kiryuin Ragyou and Kirei is because they're just evil by nature and has a lot of moxie. Medusa's schemes in Soul Eater has continuously been foiled but she just keeps coming back and full of determination. It's such a joy to watch lol.
 
#2
Jul 11, 9:57 AM

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Some people thinks that a good villain needs to be, not likeable, but someone who you can empathize in some way , that you have to be able to understand his reasons.

But I think that´s not exactly right, because you can create a great villain based in just pure evil, if you think such a thing could exist, the problem with this kind of villain is that you have to make it complex, you have to construct some rarities in this personality, weird stuff he likes or feel and base his mindset in that. I find more interesting to dig in the psychotic mind, like some kind of nature force that cant be explained or understood.
 
#3
Jul 11, 10:05 AM

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Every villains should have standards.
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#4
Jul 11, 10:08 AM

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Well, Envy for example didn't have any backstory at all but is still a great villain
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#5
Jul 11, 10:10 AM

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Every villian needs reasons, if they dont have any its a shitty villian.

 
#6
Jul 11, 10:27 AM

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I prefer my villains to be evil just for fun. I mean sure there should be some motive, but it doesn't have to be along the lines of 'my parents didn't love me now I want to destroy the world'. I prefer more along the lines of 'hands make my dick hard'.



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#7
Jul 11, 10:35 AM

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They don't need tragic backstories, but I prefer my characters to not be cast as 'villains' in the first place. Whenever a story looks at a character as just the villain, then they are less likely to have motivations other than 'I need to do something to annoy the hero now.' My favourite 'villainous' characters are those who are difficult to classify as such, and yet have strong personalities and clear motivations. Examples include Hisoka, Kirei Kotomine (F/Z version), etc.
 
#8
Jul 11, 10:36 AM

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That might add a pyschological tag to it, which is unnecessary if the show does not require any complexity. To put it simply, if they have awesome fight/plan against the mc then they would be able to establish a good presence in the show as well. Voice actor plays a more crucial role for villains to shine in my opinion. I personally activate grimjow ultimate power in ps2 game just to hear his laugh which I felt awesome to hear.
 
#9
Jul 11, 10:51 AM

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Tohsaka_Rukia said:
Should every villain be sympathetic/have a tragic backstory?

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Jul 11, 11:07 AM

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I think there's value in having a variety of villain types. Some are sympathetic and may have misguided or even truly good motives, while others are just assholes that are very gratifying to hate.
 
Jul 11, 11:18 AM

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No because then they are usually antagonists not villains.
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Jul 11, 11:18 AM

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I don't think so. I think it's important to have some diversity in character writing and picking a good villain for the story. You could have your villains be relatable humans which makes them all the more terrifying when they do what they do, but a villain who is more like a force of nature can be just as threatening.
Think like Sauron or the Terminator vs more complex villains like Killmonger or Anakin Skywalker. All four are just as good.
 
Jul 11, 11:25 AM

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Pretty sure the most iconic villains are the ones who are just evil or are just distorted at the core. It's obviously okay for villains to be evil just to be evil, but it's not okay to use that fact to cop out of any development. A pure evil villain is still a character; they don't need a tragic backstory or a sympathetic motive, but they still need to be fleshed out.

I feel like it's not the lack of sympathy or tragedy that people complain about, it's just writers being lazy and not going all out with a pure evil villain.
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Jul 11, 11:27 AM

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Adding depth to the antagonist can add alot of enjoyment to a show, but it really depends on the nature of the show and the target audience.

Its not always necessary, sometimes you just want to see some evil ugly bastard get his head blown off by a cute girl.
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Jul 11, 11:30 AM

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It depends on the quality of writing but the answer is no it doesn't.

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Jul 11, 11:47 AM

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I don't think so, but I do think every villain needs to have more personality besides being evil. For example, Yoshikage Kira from Jojo is pure evil, yet there's more to him: he wants to have a quiet peaceful life, he wants to be socially isolated from everyone else.
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Jul 11, 11:50 AM

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Big NO. At least not in the way anime does it. A good villain should be believable, as in not just be another generic the strongest survives, or I'm going to destroy the world to recreate it, or I want to kill everyone for no reason. This could mean to demonstrate his personality in such a way that gives him dimension. But at the end of the day, the antagonist should be the bad guy. We should not be feeling sorry for him or it cheapens the drama. Especially if it's a throw away villain that will never again appear in the show. Secondly, the antagonist's reasoning should be built into the show through his actions, not a long flashback exposition right before the end. That's just sloppy story telling.

It's like telling a whole story and forgetting... like wait a sec! I forgot to tell you THIS! Plot twist! The villain was actually bullied as a child.

STFU lol
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Jul 11, 11:54 AM
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Jul 11, 11:56 AM
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In jojo or Bleach there are well written 100% evil characters.
 
Jul 11, 11:59 AM
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ChinskiaBajka said:
In jojo or Bleach there are well written 100% evil characters.
Diavolo isn't a well written villain in my opinion but the whole him having split personality concept is really interesting and his alter ego Doppio is really good.
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Jul 11, 12:01 PM

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It's not necessary to flesh out the villain too much, unless you plan to make them an anti-hero or reform them, but sometimes it can make the show better if it's done right. You are generally supposed to hate the villain and root for the hero to put them down anyway in most works though.
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Jul 11, 12:10 PM

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Themousen said:
Well, Envy for example didn't have any backstory at all but is still a great villain

I don't get why many people are so much positive for Envy. I personally liked Greed more, but way more interesting villains of FMA: Brotherhood were Wrath, Greed or Pride. If we are taking about backstory, of course.

As for the question asked in this thread's title, I think that a villain without a decent backstory is just a regular enemy, and if he is a main villain then he/she is just a bad main villain. Having some standards usually help in general, but for protagonists and antagonists having them is mandatory to watch or read or whatever a good quality product.
 
Jul 11, 12:24 PM
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It depends on their motivation. Let's say someone like Madara or some sh*t like that who wants to destroy the world, you won't find them interesting unless you know why they want to do that.

In the other hand, some villains might be great for where they are and not give them too much life story. For example, Hisoka from HxH is good for what he is, and Kira from Jojo as well. They did like what a normal human beings did, like the dark side of human beings. They don't need a tragic backstory that makes them to do that.
 
Jul 11, 4:01 PM
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ExodiaX said:
ChinskiaBajka said:
In jojo or Bleach there are well written 100% evil characters.
Diavolo isn't a well written villain in my opinion but the whole him having split personality concept is really interesting and his alter ego Doppio is really good.


I like Diavolo as a villain. He's a pure evil, killing everyone that stands in his way, he hates his own past, and he would like to erase it (that's probably why his stand's power is time erasing). Mayby he in not a great villain like Kira Yoshikage, but he is really good.
 
Jul 11, 4:34 PM

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The types of villain I like

One who has an ambition of sacrificing one or few for the sake of many or the majority,a villain that is ready to kill, knowing that he will also be killed, knowing that in order to fulfil his ambition he might have to sacrifice himself.

A villain with a sad backstory is justified no matter what he does, I do believe that.

An antihero is my favorite type because he is in fact both the protagonist and antagonist of the story.
 
Jul 11, 4:38 PM
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Quinella (SAO Alicization) is one of my favorite villain currently and she is just naturally evil, i imagine being her fat sidekick that lust her like in the anime lol
 
Jul 11, 4:44 PM

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It really depends. If you want an evil for evil's sake villain, they need to really steal the show, be larger than life, and do everything to make you either revel in their villainy or wanna beat the shit outta them. Most anime villains of this type are just so boring, just being there because "we need evil bad guy for smol arc" so they don't have any charisma or presence. We don't generally see them go full Terumi from Blazblue or go full classic Disney villain.
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Jul 11, 4:48 PM

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no not every villain because they shouldnt
 
Jul 11, 4:55 PM
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I feel like most of the times when the villain has reasons, it's always a shitty reason and people treat the villain as if they're geniuses.
I prefer when the villain simply just wants money or power. However, when done well, I think sympathetic villains are far better. The villain wouldn't necessarily need a tragic backstory, but they need to show some individualism. I'd say Meruem from HxH is a great example.
 
Jul 11, 5:03 PM

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Not a tragic backstory always, but something interesting at least. Something that makes you look back & remember..."Yeah, they were such a great villain."
 
Jul 12, 11:22 AM

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The thing is that it doesn't by any means have to be necessarily "tragic", but no one acts for no reason, even if those reasons are incompatible with what most people want or see as good or virtuous or are unknown and indecipherable to most people. There is always some motivation and no villain (in fiction or people who are written off by the majority as villains in real life) sees themselves as a villain. Even if their sole goal is to mete out cruelty, viciousness, and brutality at random, it's usually seen as vengeance, justice, or righteous punishment against some group of people or social ill or humanity at large. Every villain sees themselves as in the right.
 
Jul 12, 11:48 AM

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Villains can be unfathomable / pure evil / stoic / wisecracking / etc / etc and still be effective. It just depends on how the story is crafted, the characters and the context.

In general, a sympathetic villain is probably more memorable if nothing else. And by sympathetic, I don't mean in the sense that they have a tragic backstory.

Take Andrew Ryan from the Bioshock games. He was effective because his goal was ambitious and understandable, yet the way he went about it ended up going tits up, making him the bad guy. On the flip side to that coin take Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Pure malice with no physical form and yet he is still an effective villain.
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Jul 12, 1:51 PM
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Not necessarily. Villains who are evil just for the sake of it (or for some dumb reason like taking over the world) usually aren't that interesting. This usually results in a villain whose only purpose is to challenge the main character and serve as a character to hate.

Sympathetic villains are usually more than this but that doesn't mean every villain has to be like that. For example, Shougo Makishima from Psycho Pass doesn't have a tragic backstory. He's interesting for other reasons and lots of people love him because of that.

So, no, every villain doesn't need to be sympathetic or have a tragic backstory. But they should seem more human and less like the embodiment of pure evil. It's even better if they have an understandable reason for their actions. This results in a more realistic and somehow likable villain. Anime with villains like these are more likely to not only show good and evil but also the moral gray area that some actions cross into.
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Jul 12, 2:49 PM

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What's the term? Anti-hero?
character limit
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Jul 17, 12:00 PM

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Droids said:
What's the term? Anti-hero?
character limit


Nope. Anti-heroes aren't the antagonists in the story but the main characters who lacks the conventional qualities of a hero.
 
Jul 17, 12:12 PM

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No. Not all of them should be. DIO is an evil shit and he's pretty entertaining to watch. Sometimes a big bad needs to be just that, a really strong, really bad person.
 
Jul 21, 8:36 PM

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It depends. If you can write a believable psychopath, you absolutely can go for it as well.
Some others are better, when they are more humanized and are grey characters.
 
Jul 22, 12:47 AM
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Tragic backstories get boring after some time. It's interesting to just see a complex villian who might be evil for some other reasons with a really intriguing personality or a villian who simply has conflicting goals with the hero and doesn't have a sob story behind his motivations. It all depends on how the creator executes such villians to be honest.
 
Jul 22, 4:02 AM

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I think sympathetic villains have better room for development. With a villain who's "just" evil, following those tropes will be very difficult leading up to any backstory or explanation as to why he acts that certain way. It's just way easier to play on the viewers sympathy and that way establish him as a villain.

It's just difficult for that certain villain to come off as anything but bland when he's "just" evil. They're well written once done right though.
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Jul 22, 4:14 AM

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Having a backstory is necessary, but it doesn't mean it must be tragic though.

No backstory = less character development, imo.
 
Jul 22, 6:00 AM

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It really depends on the tone the writer is trying to set for the character, villains who are evil just for being evil can be done right if they have great character and are fun to watch.
So i don't think every villain needs backstory if it isn't necessary for the story.
 
Jul 22, 6:15 AM

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I love Dio, so I guess no need then. Even Kira Yoshikage doesn't have tragic backstory. They still make great villain.
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Jul 22, 10:43 AM

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No, variety is a good thing. Villains all having the same motives or personalities would be boring.

That being said, one of the reasons I love Naruto is because of a lot of the characters' (among which, villains) troubled and tragic backstories and thus affected minds. More easy to relate to than just a power hungry maniac, I'd say.
 
Jul 25, 7:44 AM

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I like villains that are just assholes for the fun of it.
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Jul 25, 7:51 AM

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i believe authors should give villains equal focus/char development as the hero or mc is getting. A great example is of Griffith from berserk. A great villains enhances the story, makes the story more interesting as the reader tries to relate to both mc and villain.

 
Jul 25, 7:54 AM

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No, I think a mix of villains who have both a tragic backstory and villains who are just plain evil is a good thing. I personally prefer the ones with a tragic backstory because I empathize with them more, but I think having villains who don't have a tragic backstory are important too. It's not realistic to give every villain a tragic backstory because there are people out there who are just evil for the hell of it. Not everybody had a terrible childhood/life that led them to be evil.
 
Jul 25, 7:58 AM

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Not really, I want reasons of why they were doing what they did, but it doesn't have to be tragic
 
Jul 25, 8:02 AM

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I think that's not the case. A good backstory can help, but if written badly it's not gonna help much. And a good written villain can be good with no sad backstory too. Sometimes it can even be advantage. It's really case by case imo.
 
Jul 25, 8:20 AM

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I don't think so, A bakcstory just telling you why he became a villain,IOW, a development for a character. But it not needs to be a tragic or sympathetic backstory
 
Jul 25, 8:31 AM

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Not every villain of course, that’s ludicrous. But A mixture of villains with tragic backstories, villains who do it because they’re truly evil on the inside, villains who have reasons for doing what they’re doing that are not really tragic etc is a lot better than every villain just being given a tragic backstory, that’s a bit boring. Also, tragic backstories are a lot harder to execute correctly and actually make the audience buy into them than you’d think; the reason being they’ve been done so much already that people don’t even take them seriously anymore.
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