The charm of bad boys or evil organizations is undeniable, we are naturally attracted to darkness and our dark side.
Anime do a great job of highlighting this guilty pleasure and many of them feature a cast of evil or criminal characters.
The archetypical good protagonist is what you won’t find here, even though in some cases we are in front of morally grey situations and they aren’t always evil.
This listicle will show you the best anime that feature this theme, according to our experience and opinions.
Table of Contents
25. Great Pretender
A recent anime released in 2020, consisting of 23 crime-themed episodes with lots of action.
Makoto Edamura is Japan’s biggest swindler, or so he says. Together with his partner Kudo they put a Frenchman in their sights, but get fooled themselves.
The Frenchman is Laurent Thierry, a man far more capable than they are and who controls the mafia and its rings, including drugs. This is where trouble will begin for the charismatic duo.
An anime that pulls the viewer along thanks to its crisp pace, charismatic characters, very distinctive graphics, and spectacular music.
But while charismatic and lively, the main characters, including the protagonist, are still members of the underworld.
24. Michiko and Hatchin
Series from the late 2000s marked by a recognizable imprint of those years, both as animation but also in terms of themes and costumes.
The story, set in a Latin American country, revolves around two women. Michiko, who has just escaped from a maximum-security penitentiary prison, and Hatchin, an orphan girl adopted by the family of a local clergy member.
The tranquility of the two, however, is not destined to last.
The right anime if you want to plunge into the 2000s and experience some warm Latin atmosphere while the charismatic duo makes crimes.
23. A Certain Scientific Accelerator
A spin-off of A Certain Magical Index directly starring Accelerator, one of the most popular characters in the series due to her dark and sometimes unlawful behaviors.
Accelerator, the most powerful psychic in Academy City, is quietly recovering from his injuries when trouble begins.
A group of fanatics calling themselves DA threaten the city and create chaos. Although unwillingly, he will be forced to intervene.
A vision that needs context to be understood, so if you are interested, be prepared to catch up on the whole series starting with the main product.
Although as a spin-off in itself this product is nothing much, Accelerator is a very good character, charismatic and bad enough to make him an excellent anti-hero.
22. Assassination Classroom
Very popular series, perhaps one of the most in recent years based on a manga by Yusei Matsui, believed by many to be one of the best shonen of 2013.
The series tells the story of a middle school class that is forced by their teacher Korosensei to find a way to kill him by the end of the year.
And if they fail they fail to do so, the teacher will destroy the entire planet Earth.
A rather questionable and borderline inclusion, not because of the motivations but rather because KoroSensei is not exactly the main character in the events.
Of course, the real main characters are the class, charged with saving the world, but the real beating heart of the events is undoubtedly the bizarre sensei.
21. Lupin III
Lupin III is a hugely popular anime based on the works of Monkey Punch.
The iconic protagonist Lupin III is the grandson of Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief. He is following in the footsteps of his grandfather by becoming a world-famous thief who is both feared and admired.
Many people decide to join his gang, such as Daisuke Jigen, a skilled gunman, and Goemon Ishikawa, an expert samurai. Lupin is also hunted down by the law, represented by Inspector Zenigata, who is always left speechless by the cunning of the thief.
Lupin goes round and round and is a thief, beloved by all and extremely charismatic, but he is still a thief, who therefore switches to the side of the villain.
But we shouldn’t be the ones to tell you, Lupin is a legendary work that you absolutely must see if you like charismatic protagonists and beautiful soundtracks.
20. Guilty Crown
Guilty Crown is set in a pandemic-stricken post-apocalyptic Japan controlled by a multinational corporation known as GHQ.
The main character, Ouma Shu, is a 17-year-old boy who possesses a very special ability, the Power of the King, which allows his right hand to extract weapons or tools from the bodies of his friends.
The boy has always tried to keep himself out of trouble and hides his gift, at least until he meets Yuzuriha Inori, a girl member of the resistance, in which he will join the fight to violently liberate Japan.
Here starts their vengeance. Guilty Crown is an all-in-all interesting anime, combining action with mecha and an excellent story of rebellion, all in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The only problem is that it ends up being quite clichéd in the long run, and the characters are not too complex.
19. Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon is an anime series that aired in 2006 and it tells the story of a regular businessman named Rokurou Okajima.
One day he is tasked to take a business trip to the crime-riddled island of Roanapur where he is taken hostage by a mafia-pirate gang called Black Lagoon.
He won’t be saved by his employer who refuses to pay his ransom so Rokurou will join the gang and will turn from an average man to a ruthless criminal.
Black Lagoon is capable of combining action, charming characters, and one of the best mature stories about the criminal world.
Don’t miss it if you are a fan of the genre and great soundtracks.
18. Akame ga Kill!
Akame ga Kill! follows a young boy called Tatsumi, who comes from an impoverished village and decides to join the Night Raid led by Akame in his quest to help his hometown.
This is a group of assassins that is supporting the cause of the Revolutionary Army and is trying to overthrow Prime Minister Honest who is manipulating the child Emperor.
Although they do it for good, the Night Raid is still an organization of murderers, and as such, it can’t be considered totally good.
During their journey, the members of the group will commit several murders and heinous acts, even though their ultimate goal is noble.
Akame Ga Kill! is a very interesting and complete vision. It has action, sad moments, gore, and even romance, and we absolutely reccomend it if you’re a fan of the girl obsessed with MC trope.
17. Tokyo Ghoul
One of the most famous and talked-about anime of recent years, which has been at the center of attention for a variety of reasons, mainly because of its fluctuating animated adaptation.
The story revolves around Ken Kaneki, an ordinary college-going boy who lives in a town where strange and violent murders are happening.
According to the police investigation, these deaths are caused by Ghouls, mysterious and unknown creatures that feed on the bodies of their victims. No one has ever seen them even in passing.
Other than this, Tokyo Ghoul is a questionable inclusion, which will cause many to disagree and others to agree with us.
Kaneki has good character development, which will also lead him as a result of certain events to ally himself with the bad guys and do some not-so-good deeds to protect his loved ones.
Here we appeal to your subjectivity and judgment, but we had to add Tokyo Ghoul into this list.
16. Angels of Death
Angels of Death is a cryptic horror/thriller genre anime released in 2018 based on a video game of the same name.
Rachel is a 13-year-old girl who wakes up finding herself in the basement of an abandoned building. With no recollection of how she ended up there or any clues as to her whereabouts, she wanders the building looking for a way out.
During her search, she comes across a man covered in bandages, who she says is named Zack, and wields a scythe.
Zack is not exactly the archetypal good-focused protagonist, and indeed he doesn’t disdain actions of great violence, even when not exactly necessary.
Other than that, Angels of Death is an interesting show because of its dark atmosphere and good character design.
15. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
This anime is set in a dystopian version of the United States where the Mafia is a regular occurrence and the main actor is an organization called Inferno that acts behind the scenes thanks to its agents called Phantoms.
They are very powerful beings, trained to be near-invincible killing machines.
One day a Japanese tourist called Reiji accidentally witnesses a Phantom and tries to escape but he is quickly knocked unconscious.
He will wake up in a warehouse where a young woman named Ein will train him and brainwash him to make him the latest puppet in the hands of the organization.
Being held captive forces the boy to make a choice: immediate death or become an assassin in the service of the organization.
Reiji will also be stripped of his name and called Zwei. He must survive if he wants to try and get some hints about his past life.
Gangsta is an anime based on a seinen manga that doesn’t skirt around it and ignores taboos. It in fact centers unabashedly around drug dealing, crime, and other illicit activities.
These are accomplished by Nicolas and Worick, the handymen who specialize in jobs that normal people would never do, of course, all illegals.
They have been friends for years and tying them together is a mysterious and violent past.
An award-winning anime both for its characters and its soundtrack, a must-see if you are a fan of the crime genre.
The characters are very interesting, engaging and well written, and you will feel as if you are experiencing firsthand the illicit activities that the characters will do.
The plot, action, and dynamics are also very cool.
Jormungand is a 2012 anime divided into 12 episodes that has gone decidedly under the radar.
It makes a thriller that will keep you on your toes and action scenes its strong point.
The story is based on organized crime, and stars an illegal arms dealer and his accomplices. Not exactly the archetypal good guys, let’s say.
The plot, however, will begin and shift with the arrival of a young boy who apparently hates guns and has a dark past.
Jormungand is an interesting series, basing all its charm on action, soundtrack, and character design. The animations are unfortunately nothing much, but not too bad, since that is not what it is based on.
12. Blast of Tempest
Blast of Tempest is a 2012 anime consisting of 24 episodes. It’s a mystery fantasy series featuring a lot of Shakespearean quotes that you will appreciate if you are a fan of the author.
The plot follows two friends, Yoshino Takigawa and Mahiro Fuwa, as they search for the unknown murderer who caused the death of Aika, Mahiro’s beloved sister.
The latter, to achieve his goal, will be willing to learn magic, becoming an assistant to a powerful sorceress, Hakaze Kusaribe. But the protagonist will have no problem committing crimes to get his revenge.
Blast of Tempest is a good anime, which in addition to combining supernatural elements with the story gives a new perspective on the classic resolute and dedicated investigator.
11. Talentless Nana
A group of boys with special powers attends a school located on a remote island. Here the students live and train day and night, with the intention of one day fighting monsters.
One day as many as two new students move into the classroom: Nana Hiiragi and Kyouya Onodera.
Both seem to be hiding something, and the lives of all the students are destined to change completely precisely because of their arrival.
Thus will begin a series of mysterious and bloody murders at the hands of Nana, as she is tasked to eliminate all the students on the behalf of the government.
Protagonist or not, she is the real villain of the story, no questions.
10. Terror in Resonance
A captivating anime released in 2014 which consists of only 11 episodes, with an extremely fascinating thriller and detective component with one of the best male lead duos you can find.
Tokyo is under attack, and a group calling itself Sphinx has begun planting explosive devices around the city and posing riddles via the Internet daring the police to solve them or the bomb will explode.
But who are these Sphinx, why do they act this way, and will the police be able to keep them at bay? To answer these questions, you need only embark on this watching.
In this case, there are no various interpretations; the Sphinx, the protagonists, are villains in their own right, traceable to real terrorists.
9. 91 Days
91 days follows the steps of Angelo Lagusa, a boy who witnessed the murder of his entire family at the hands of the Vanetti mafia family.
After the tragic events, he decides to leave the town of Lawless and change his name to Avilio Bruno. Seven years later he receives a letter and realizes that he has the chance to come back to Lawless and have his revenge on the Vanetti family.
To do so he decides to infiltrate the Vanetti family by befriending Nero, Don Vincent Vanetti’s son, and then work his way to implement his vengeful plans.
His revenge will be anything but moral, with the boy leaving behind a veritable pile of corpses, and committing actions that are anything but good.
8. Vinland Saga
One of the most interesting and followed works of recent years, animated in two seasons still running by Wit Studio and based on the manga of the same name by Makoto Yukimura.
The plot follows the life of the warrior Thorfinn, in a precisely Viking world inspired by real historical events.
He’s a warrior who became one to avenge the death of his father Thors, who was killed by the pirate Askeladd on behalf of King Sweyd because he had deserted years earlier to retire to a quiet life.
An anime with very psychological traits dwells on the choices that must be made when on the battlefield, such as raids, murders, and betrayals.
The protagonist is at the center of this dark stage and he will commit the typical evil deeds that you can expect in war.
7. Code Geass
A famous anime released between 2006 and 2007 by the collaboration between Sunrise studio and the very famous female mangaka group CLAMP.
Japan became a colony of the empire of Britain and is now known as Area 11, putting the country at war.
Lelouch gets caught in a crossfire and can escape after receiving the Geass by C.C., a mysterious girl. This power allows him to have absolute power over others by direct eye contact, allowing him to control their mind.
Lelouch’s use of it will be aimed at his character, which is as charismatic and full of leadership as it’s cold and calculating at extreme levels.
Indeed, he won’t have the slightest problem making use of his power to control and subjugate people to him simply for his benefit, with even immoral actions.
6. Elfen Lied
Based on the seinen manga of the same name, Elfen Lied is one of the most talked about works of the 2000s, for better or worse. It is certainly marked by its visual elements, both violent and sexual.
The story begins in a base, where experiments are conducted on beings called Diclonius. Beings capable of creating vectors, weapons that resemble arms capable of destroying a human being’s body from the inside.
In one of the labs, a guinea pig manages to escape from captivity by exploiting the incompetence of the guards. But just as she is about to leave the base for good, she receives a violent blow to the head, causing her to fall from a cliff jutting out to sea.
Elfen Lied is a courageous work, which does not mind being raw and violent without putting any censorship on itself. This is mainly because Lucy, the protagonist with powers, when loses control, and she does so in a big way, using her powers to commit real carnage.
Overlord is an anime based on another light novel series written by Kugane Maruyama and illustrated by So-Bin in 2012.
A great Isekai classic, it takes the basics of the genre and reworks them into a dark fantasy atmosphere all its own. Although the initial premise is the same as much other anime in the genre, here the protagonist Momonga is not reincarnated into a weakling, but rather into what is considered the most powerful being in his world.
The great virtue of Overlord is the rawness of the actions performed by Momonga and the natural and tangible weight they have on the people of the world.
Indeed, we aren’t dealing with the classic Isekai protagonist, weak and generous, but a ruthless and one of the best demon lords in anime.
4. Attack on Titan
A very questionable inclusion that will find many people agreeing and many will end up being inevitably doubtful.
We all know the plot of Attack on Titan, one of the most touted series in recent years, and anyone who is a fan of it knows about the incredible twist at the end of season three/beginning of season four.
After the time-skip, we will indeed see a changed Eren, turning to revenge to protect his loved ones, not disdaining real genocides.
Is he right or wrong? This is a very subjective answer, but the inclusion of this anime in the list was inevitable since he makes decisions of a true villain mind, making him one of the best male leads in a fantasy anime.
3. Saga of Tanya the Evil
Saga of Tanya the Evil is a 12-episode anime based on the light novel of the same name written by Carlo Zen. The protagonist of the story is a cynical salaryman who, after firing one of his employees, will be killed by the latter.
Finding himself facing God, not believing in it, the man for punishment will find himself catapulted into a parallel world at war in the guise of Tanya, a young girl.
He will have to redeem himself here to have his sins forgiven. Thus begins his military career.
A real breath of fresh air for its genre, Isekai, which offers a whole new vision in a realistic war scenario with one of the best female protagonist in a fantasy anime, who is anything but heroic.
On the contrary, Tanya is gradually revealed to be an increasingly ruthless and evil protagonist, departing from the archetypal isekai protagonist.
2. Hellsing Ultimate
The name of the series comes from the homonym secret organization Hellsing, whose duty is to hide the existence of Vampires and to keep the population safe.
It’s financed and supported by the British government and its current leader is Integra Hellsing.
The main character Alucard works for Hellsing as a vampire exterminator, being himself a member of the vampire race. That’s because of his dark past, which you’ll discover by watching this series.
He is supported by his new assistant Seras Victoria, a former policewoman who he saved in the past.
Integra Hellsing, the current leader of the organization, is worried about a new wave of vampire attacks and the problem seems much bigger than she expected.
The mysterious group called Millenium is plotting to throw England into disarray, and maybe threaten even the entire world.
Alucard, while acting for a goal that can be considered just and aimed at the good, doesn’t present exactly kind and conventional modus operandi.
Rather, he will have no qualms about resorting to acts of unprecedented violence, with powers that make him threatening even in the eyes of the viewer.
1. Death Note
If you are a fan of psychological confrontations or the detective genre, Death Note is a must.
The work is the perfect example of a psychological thriller, able to perfectly tie together elements of the fantasy and gothic worlds.
Light Yagami is a young model student, who nevertheless harbors strong disgust and disappointment with the world around him.
His life will change drastically when one day he sees a mysterious notebook, the Death Note, fall from the sky, capable of causing the death of anyone simply by writing his name.
Light’s plans are clear, to use the notebook to kill as many criminals as possible to purge this world of evil.
But soon he will have to deal with L, one of the greatest private investigators, hired to unravel the mystery of the continuing deaths among criminals. And this will set the ground for one of the most epic confrontations between two of the best genius MCs ever made.
Light is the perfect example in general of a protagonist who performs evil deeds, who can perfectly be placed according to points of view as the villain of the events.