In most cases, it's the villain in an anime series that makes the story uniquely interesting and worth watching. They're the ones who push our heroes into tough corners and force them to think hard, compromise, and grow into stronger people.
But not all anime villains are self-made antagonists. Sure, some are evil of their own intent (e.g. Light Yagami in Death Note), but many so-called evil anime characters are the way they are because they were manipulated by greater evils who took advantage of their weaknesses.
Here are some of the most notable evil anime characters who were merely puppets for bigger, badder villains pulling their strings. There are spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk!
7. Orc Lord Geld (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
Due to the famine that ruins their land, an orc leader falls under the influence of a sinister character who calls himself Gelmud. Gelmud would later give that orc the name Geld and order him to consume everything as he becomes a demon lord for Gelmud.
Unfortunately, during the battle with Rimuru Tempest, Geld turns around and eats Gelmud, which turns him into Orc Disaster: Demon Lord Geld. It's one notable case of the manipulator's manipulations blowing back and biting him in the rear.
6. Nagato (Naruto Shippuden)
Nagato is one of the founding members of the ninja mercenary group known as Akatsuki in Naruto Shippuden. Together with Yahiko and Konan, along with the powers of his Rinnegan, Nagato works to restore peace to their village and peace with the other nations.
But when Yahiko is killed, Nagato is blinded by hatred and lust for vengeance, which makes him susceptible to Uchiha Madara's influence. Madara manipulates him into capturing the Tailed Beasts around the world with the help of the Akatsuki members.
Although Nagato failed in capturing the Nine-Tailed Beast of Konoha, he became the vessel that cultivated the Rinnegan for Madara. He's also the one who unseals the captured Tailed Beasts from their vessels, which also brings Madara closer to his own goals.
The irony is that while Nagato can control other bodies with his Rinnegan, he can't see that he's being controlled by Madara.
5. Hendrickson (Seven Deadly Sins)
Hendrickson is a Great Holy Knight who becomes the primary villain in the second season of Seven Deadly Sins.
With his greed for power, he turned himself into a demon that he once fought as a Holy Knight of Liones. Thinking the demon clan would be by his side, he breaks the seal on the Demon Clan only to find out that he was just used to complete the ritual.
4. Estarossa (Seven Deadly Sins)
Another tragically exploited character from Seven Deadly Sins is Estarossa. When the original Gowther manages to alter the memory of Mael—one of the Goddess Clan's Archangels—he turns him into one of the Demon Clan's Ten Commandments, Estarossa.
Along with Mael's memories, the original Gowther's magic also altered the memories of those who knew him—even the memories of the Demon King, causing him to forget that he's one of his sons.
So even though the original Gowther managed to stop the war 3,000 years ago, he in turn gave birth to a more dangerous enemy: a villain who has the powers of an Archangel as well as a Commandment.
3. Uchiha Obito (Naruto Shippuden)
Uchiha Obito, first known as Tobi of the Akatsuki, disguised himself as Uchiha Madara for a good chunk of Naruto Shippuden. He's the one who manipulated Nagato and used him for his own evil machinations—but Obito himself was manipulated by another.
While on the verge of death, Obito was taken care of by the real Uchiha Madara, who cured him of his wounds, his broken body parts, and even restored to him his lost arm. This brought him to his side.
Madara then influenced events leading to the death of Obito's love interest (Rin) at the hands of his best friend (Kakashi)—which Obito witnessed with his own eyes.
Rin's death catalyzed an immense hatred and despair in Obito's heart, who so desperately sought vengeance that he became vulnerable and accepted the path Madara laid for him.
2. Patolli (Black Clover)
In Black Clover, Patolli is a young elf who witnesses the massacre of his clan at the hands of humans. In the aftermath, Patolli sees who he believes is Licht—the leader of the elves—cast a resurrection spell to bring back his fallen clan.
But Patolli fades out and wakes up 500 years later, reincarnated in the body of man who resembles Licht. Believing that humans wiped out his clan, Patolli vows to get his revenge on humans.
On his final move, when he's about to truly resurrect the elves into human bodies (and destroy their souls), he learns that he's been the pawn of a devil who schemed everything with one goal: to turn Patolli's grimoire into a corrupted five-leaf clover.
1. Uchiha Madara (Naruto Shippuden)
Uchiha Madara, tagged as the God of Shinobi, is one of the most evil anime characters and truly the most dangerous villain in Naruto Shippuden. With his overwhelming abilities, even the five Kages of the Allied Shinobi Force are no match for him.
Despite the fact that Madara was manipulating Obito, and Obito was manipulating Nagato, it turns out that even Madara himself was being manipulated by an even greater force of evil.
Madara believes that what he's doing will bring true peace to the world, but everything leads up to the birth and unsealing of an ancient demon. Black Zetsu, who convinced Madara that he was borne from Madara's will, is the one behind Project Tsukuyomi.
It was Black Zetsu who, eons ago, altered the writings of the Sage of Six Paths. This caused Madara to dance with Black Zetsu's plan, believing it would result in the true peace he wanted.