People aren’t always what they seem.
Sometimes the protagonist turns out to be a sociopath, and other times the evil overlord just wanted a friend.
Well that’s our topic for this ranking as we count down the most misunderstood anime characters to have ever graced our screens.
To call Hyakkimaru’s story tragic would be quite an understatement.
Upon birth, he was barely alive and basically stumbled through life for a decade, never knowing what it was like to be a real boy.
But instead of a giant whale, Hyakkimaru had to deal with his own flesh and blood.
His brother blamed him for the misfortune on land, and thought that Hyakkimaru was out to destroy everything. This is quite off base considering the fact that Hyakkimaru just wanted a normal life.
And while they found understanding for each other by the end, the road that led up to that point was drenched in blood and misery.
Anime: Hunter x Hunter (2011)
Although Meruem started off as a true monster, that didn’t last long. After meeting Komugi, Meruem genuinely sought to build a better world.
But he was misunderstood from all sides. His own followers believed that Komugi was just a negative influence that needed to be dealt with, while the Hunters just saw him as a threat.
Regardless of how many times Meruem tried to put diplomacy on the table, Netero wouldn’t listen, and kept insisting that they fight.
Quite the shame really – as Meruem was arguably the most human character in the show by the end of the Chimera Ant arc.
18. Satsuki Kiryuuin
Anime: Kill la Kill
From the very beginning, Kiryuuin felt like your typical villain.
She had underlings that worshiped her every word, she was on top of a hierarchy, and her ideals directly clashed with the protagonist’s.
Pretty cut and dry right?
But man did she have a lot more going on underneath the surface. It suddenly became clear that people follow her not out of fear, but rather genuine admiration.
And when it came to her end goal, it was as noble as a goal could be. She even showcased quite the soft spot after all the fighting was over.
Anime: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Sinbad is somewhat of an oddball on this list. Because he’s neither a surprise antagonist nor a twist protagonist.
He’s just complex.
But man did he not seem like it at first. His introduction makes him out to be some random, kind-hearted goof. And subsequent episodes just showcase the fact that he’s also quite powerful.
He always seemed laid-back and simple.
Spoiler warning – he wasn’t.
He isn’t exactly evil. But he’s a lot more cunning than people give him credit for. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and it’s safe to say that he didn’t get to where he was through positivity alone.
16. Shigeo Kageyama
Anime: Mob Psycho 100
When you hear that someone has psychic powers, you naturally think that they’re rather stoked about it.
In fact, you intrinsically associate that person with their power as it’s quite an uncommon sight.
However, Mob wouldn’t agree with that mentality. He just wants to be an average dude and live an average life. He doesn’t want to be the next overpowered MC.
So time and time again he tries to better himself without relying on his powers.
But people keep pushing him back towards a life in the supernatural spotlight.
I honestly feel really bad for the little dude. At least he had a circle of the most helpful bros to aid him in his journey.
Anime: Gurren Lagann
When it comes to villains, Lordgenome is as clear of an example as you’re ever going to get.
He’s been around forever, has a menacing title, lives in a castle, and treats people like property.
Definitely not the type of dude you’d exactly be rooting for.
However, his decision to make humanity live underground became a lot more reasonable when it was contrasted against the bigger picture.
Above all he wanted humanity to survive. Even if it meant going Machiavellian in order to do it. And that’s something that I can kind of understand.
14. Katsuki Bakugou
Anime: My Hero Academia
Although I wouldn’t really call My Hero Academia high-brow, they do a good job of subverting expectations. For all intent and purposes, Bakugou just seemed like your typical anti-hero.
He was loud, obnoxious, aggressive… Not really the type of dude I’d expect to have any deeper emotions.
But low and behold, his character arc made me cry.
Even though people genuinely thought he’d side with the League of Villains, he showcased just how righteous he was.
And his conversation with All Might in the aftermath is one of my favorite character moments of all time.
Who knew this chihuahua of a dude had so much vulnerability?
13. Kodaka Hasegawa
Anime: Haganai: I don’t have many friends
Kodaka is your typical case study of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Since he’s foreign, everyone in the show seems to just assume that he’s some type of delinquent.
The slightest frown is understood as a threat. And for the most part, people completely avoid him out of fear.
When in reality he has the personality of a cupcake.
Luckily, he does end up with a group of people that know the real him. That being said, they’re quite the outsiders themselves – so they’re all benefitting from that friendship.
12. Tsukasa Shishiou
Anime: Dr. Stone
With Tsukasa, I can’t even blame people for assuming he’s just another villain. Because man did he come on strong.
But as the series went on, we saw that his end goal (although extreme) came from a good place. He wanted the world to be more just. Not only for himself, but also for his sister.
He saw everything that was wrong with the world and simply thought that drastic measures needed to be implemented for there to be results.
He also had a traitor among his ranks, but that’s neither here nor there. At least he parted ways with Senkuu on the grounds of mutual understanding and respect.
Although we as the viewer immediately know what Ainz is all about – the rest of the world is not privy to that information.
Seeing how he’s an all-powerful skeleton with an army that could conquer the world, you can see why people weren’t exactly trusting.
But even his followers thought that Ainz had great ambition for ruling the world. In reality, he was just trying to find a fellow player and somehow get back home.
Although I will say that every misunderstanding he has with Demiurge is comedy gold.
10. Subaru Natsuki
Anime: Re: Zero
Have you ever thought about how weird Subaru seems within the plot of the story?
One moment he’s all cheerful. And in the next, he’s bawling his eyes out and raving like a lunatic.
But it makes sense from his perspective. He’s died so many times. And witnessed so many atrocities, that you can’t blame him for being a bit messed up now and then.
That being said, I’d be extremely creeped out if I were in Emilia’s shoes – because from her perspective, they really shouldn’t be that close that quickly.
9. Kusuo Saiki
Anime: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Although his family knows what’s going on, the general public could never really understand Saiki.
And how could they? Being a psychic isn’t exactly relatable.
This leads to Saiki being somewhat of a mystery in his group. From Kokomi thinking that he’s not human for resisting her charms, to Nendou believing that Saiki needs protection – they’re all in the dark.
And that’s not even mentioning the grand narrative of the story later on, where Saiki has a lot more to worry about than just his friends.
At least they love him either way, so he never really feels alone.
Anime: Vinland Saga
Hands down Askeladd is one of my favorite characters from the past few years. Although he starts as just a generic antagonist, his character arc is a masterpiece.
Within a few episodes, we see that there’s more than meets the eye. But even then, we can’t fully understand where he’s coming from.
In fact, up until the very last episode, I never really knew what he was going to do.
And yet it all made sense once he did it.
I don’t want to get into specifics (as this show should absolutely be on your radar) so I’m just going to repeat “everything isn’t as it seems”.
7. Amatsuyu Kisaragi
Anime: ORESUKI Are you the only one who loves me?
Jouro is just a straight-up manipulator.
The series starts with him lying to anyone and everyone in order to achieve his “promised” high school experience.
So although we as the audience immediately know what he’s all about, the rest of the characters are quite taken aback.
But then the show does something interesting – as it then shifts his character once more. Now that we think he’s just a lying bastard, we actually start seeing a redemption arc.
You don’t often see double-takes like this, but it was quite enjoyable in the end.
Anime: One Punch Man
In the eyes of almost everyone in One Punch Man, Saitama is some low-level wannabe hero that probably won’t amount to much.
In the eyes of Genos, Saitama is a literal god that holds unimaginable power.
But in reality, Saitama is just a dude going through an existential crisis. Nothing brings him joy anymore and all he wants in life is a challenge.
Safe to say that the other characters are quite off base when it comes to his character.
I’ve always felt sorry for Louis.
Although it was by his own will, the pressure placed onto his shoulders seems so suffocating. Everyone looks at him and expects literal perfection.
Even he looks at himself and expects perfection. But life isn’t that simple or forgiving.
Time and time again Louis is faced with adversity, with no one but Legoshi ever stopping to ask whether he could do this all by himself.
4. Lelouch Lamperouge
Anime: Code Geass
In the world of Code Geass, Lelouch would go down as the most hated man who had ever lived. Mostly as a war criminal who massacred the innocent and raged war for his own profit.
Only a few know exactly how noble he truly was.
But even in those days, understanding the machine that Lelouch had set into motion was not easy. From his fake identity to his supernatural power – it’s safe to say that there weren’t many who could relate to his predicament.
3. Naofumi Iwatani
Anime: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Naofumi was set up from the very beginning.
Although he came to this new world by force, and reluctantly accepted the position of a hero, he quickly found out the dire circumstances he was in.
Almost in the blink of an eye, Naofumi was tossed out and despised by everyone in the kingdom for something that he hadn’t even done.
Even when he grew stronger and started making a positive impact on the world, the ill intent towards him remained.
And I’m honestly impressed that he still found it in himself to trust anyone after that.
2. Eren Yeager
Anime: Attack on Titan
Since the final season is currently still airing (as of this writing) I’ll have to be extremely vague about this one.
In seasons 1-3, Eren seemed like a pretty simple chap.
He wanted revenge on the Titans and that was about it.
But with season four, everything started to change. It was now impossible to gauge exactly where on the moral scale Eren laid or what his plan for the future truly was.
Even his closest friends had no idea of the plans Eren had, and so he was completely alone in his journey. That’s all I can say without spoiling something – but man was his character written perfectly.
1. Itachi Uchiha
Anime: Naruto: Shippuden
Although Itachi’s character has been analyzed to death in the years since Shippuden ended, it’s still one of my favorite stories of all time.
A lot of characters in this show are misunderstood: Nagato, Sasuke, Obito, and even Sakura.
But none of them made quite the same impact as Itachi.
Initially, he was built up as the biggest villain Sasuke would have to face. But once their clash actually occurred, something didn’t feel right.
We then learn about his backstory, and everything gets flipped on its head.
He had both the characters and the audience fooled for years – and is now one of the most recognizable characters in all of anime.