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Should every villain be sympathetic/have a tragic backstory?

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Jul 25, 8:44 AM

Joined: Feb 2017
Posts: 350
Being evil by nature.. now thats something interesting to watch. Villains with tragic/relatable backstory that made them who they are and must ultimately be defeated by the hero for justice or ending their misery is common. This goes on to show that villains can be redeemed either by defeat or death.

But sometimes, there comes a villain who is just pure evil just because they were either born or grew up that way. Kotomine Kirei and Gilgamesh from Fate/Zero are great examples. Despite holding sacred/noble positions, they thoroughly understand the reasoning of evil and are not afraid to admit their darker secrets.

Of course, just a mad murderer who tortures and kills people is not a classy villain. He needs to be a guy who delights in evil with a novel way. Manipulating people, brainwashing them, playing tricks on the hero, and using his intelligence to pose a formidable threat. Thats what i need!

Someone summed up the nature of evil very succintly. "Evil is an inability to feel for the fellow man. A complete lack of empathy".
Modified by FrozenLich, Jul 25, 8:50 AM
Jul 25, 9:22 AM
Grim Anime Fan

Joined: Jul 2008
Posts: 2173
I mean most don't care anyways.

Purpose of "bad guys" anywhere is killing/beating the bad guys.

But yeah. Backstory is needed to grow into character and then see whenever like or not.

I usually like either chaotic or smartass villains.

Aizen from Bleach is one of my favorite villains.
Jul 25, 9:34 AM

Joined: Oct 2017
Posts: 540
People have their personal tastes, and some will only want their villains to be sympathetic. But I think, for most people, it's a lot more complicated. What makes a character good is such a mysterious thing. It's like alchemy. Different elements get mixed together and sometimes the shit just works.

These elements can include:
-Depth of personality
-Depth of backstory
-Thematic purpose / depth
-Voice acting
-Artistic design

But I think a common thread is, as with all good stories, there has a to be a clear, passionate vision from the creator(s).

Apologies for this not being anime-related, but I have to give a shout out to my favourite villain of all time: Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. The dude is just insane and he's one of the few villains that actually achieves something truly... hmm I have to be careful with my words as I don't want to spoil the game, but yeah... Kefka is my favourite villain from any story ever.
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Jul 25, 11:03 AM

Joined: Dec 2015
Posts: 2216
A villain should fulfill its role in the story, and some stories don't need a lot of backstory. Someone like Aizen from Bleach for example is fun to watch but calling him sympathetic is going too far. Urado is a great villain in its arc but no backstory is ever given. On the other hand you have someone Monster where the entire story is basically uncovering Johan's backstory. He will never be sympathetic but he is absolutely frightening at times.

All three of those examples are good villains because they convey what the makers want to convey. Put any of them in the story of another however and you'll have a fish out of water. Johan would be a terrible villain in Bleach, Urado won't be able to carry Monster in such an efficient manner as Johan and Aizen would simply be too flamboyant for both. And none would be able to fulfill the role of a good sympathic villain. Said sympathetic villain would not be able to instill the pure dread that at least two out of the three I mentioned do because he is, well, too sympathetic.
Jul 25, 11:27 AM

Joined: Feb 2018
Posts: 297
Hisoka didn't have any yet is one of the best villains
Jul 25, 11:28 AM

Joined: Apr 2016
Posts: 10255
I find it terrifying when a villain is "evil" without an actual reason, as that is when one possesses true evil.
Jul 25, 5:41 PM

Joined: Mar 2016
Posts: 2184
Certain anime benefits from having a villain whose motivation and beliefs were molded by past experiences, while others don't necessarily need any engrossing motivations but just being entertaining and fun to watch (the main villain from Persona 4 or Freeza from DBZ for example). It variates from series to series, however in most cases a sympathetic villain can be more memorable than a purly evil one that can be easly forgotten in a matter of days.

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Jul 25, 8:06 PM

Joined: Nov 2018
Posts: 310
I dont think its about having a tragic backstory or being very likeable, its more about having an actual reason for what they are doing. It's about understanding their reason. That reason should also not be absolutely stupid, I mean Hitler hated Jews because his mothers doctor wasnt able to save his mothers life, would you consider that reasonable? Probably not and yes I know its an extreme example but its the best example because noone agrees with him.

Jul 25, 11:15 PM

Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 574
Not at all, a genuinely evil or psychopath of a character can be definitely be entertaining to watch it all really depends on how they antagonize the protagonists.
Jul 25, 11:49 PM
Joined: Apr 2017
Posts: 275
Possibly because I've seen it too many times, but I've grown tired of the "wah wah villain has a tragic backstory so he really isn't a villain WAAAHH", it takes away a lot of the oomph of a proper villain.

Makishima shougo was utter scum and I hated him very much but I could very well understand where he was coming from, I guess my biggest problem was the way he went about "fixing" stuff. Didn't need any stupid "oh I was beaten daily as a child, oh I lost all my friends and family cry me a fucking river" kind of backstory to be awesome.

There's a time and place to pretend that all people are born equal and no one is really baaaaaaahd, it's just the circumstances and other similar bollocks (and in some anime it's definitely the road to take, wouldn't make sense otherwise) but unless it meshes extremely well with the setting and tone of the anime, I'll probably be miffed more often than not by the "crymeariverbackstory"-villain.
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