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The Scariest Anime Villains Of All Time

Some of the cutest characters in pop culture history came from the world of anime, but for every Pikachu and Totoro, there's a terrifying villain that would sooner kill you than cuddle you. Animation allows storytellers the freedom to create the most frightening villains that they can imagine, and — unlike in the West, where animation aimed at adults is usually of the comedy variety — they tend to take full advantage of that in Japan. The term "nightmare fuel" has become synonymous with anime in recent years, and that's the perfect way to describe the characters we're about to examine.

We've gone on a journey through anime history to handpick the most horrifying and utterly abominable antagonists of all time. From insane warmongers and psychotic stalkers to demon ninjas and alien parasites, here's a rundown of the scariest anime villains ever. 

Note: This article contains spoilers for anime, both old and new.

All For One from "My Hero Academia" is a faceless supervillain

Every great superhero needs an equally memorable supervillain, and for Toshinori Yagi — better known by his hero moniker All Might — that villain is All For One. The overarching antagonist of the "My Hero Academia" series (which takes place in a world where the majority of people are born with powers known as "quirks"), All For One founded the League of Supervillains and terrorized Japan until All Might stepped in to stop him. The pair engaged in a legendary scrap that almost entirely destroyed the villain's face: he was left with no nose, no ears, and no eyes.

All For One makes up for that lack of vital features via his quirk, which allows him to steal the powers of others and use them as his own. He's a formidable foe willing to kill anyone who stands in the way of his search for One For All, the only quirk that truly poses him a threat (the villain murdered All Might's former mentor Nana Shimura, the seventh One For All user, in an emotional battle scene). He looks equally as terrifying in his black, skull-like mask, complete with a Darth Vader-style life-support system.

Spider-Woman from "Wicked City" is the date from hell

Yoshiaki Kawajiri's dark fantasy film "Wicked City" takes place in a world where demons exist, though most humans are blissfully unaware of this fact. The inhabitants of the so-called Black World are kept at bay by a society named the Black Guard, which is called into action when an ancient treaty gets violated. Taki Renzaburo, electronics salesman by day and Black Guard operative by night, learns that a group called the Black World Radicals plans on breaking the barrier between the dimensions, but what he doesn't know is that one of them has taken a special interest in him.

When the glamorous woman that Taki has been hopelessly pursuing for months suddenly invites him back to her place, he doesn't hesitate. The reason behind her sudden change of heart becomes clear after they've been to bed and done the deed. In a scene that's been giving single people nightmares for decades, Taki's date suddenly transforms into an arachnoid demon with long, bladed legs and vagina dentata to boot. The terrified salaryman is lucky to escape with his life, never mind his manhood. He watches in horror as the demonic doppelganger crawls down the side of the building and vanishes into the night.

Gotou from "Parasyte: The Maxim" is an experiment gone wrong

The anime adaptation of Hitoshi Iwaaki's hit horror manga "Parasyte" boasts an array of scary villains, but the story's big bad, Gotou, is by far the most frightening. He ends up being the arch-nemesis of Shinichi Izumi, a high school student who gets very lucky during an alien invasion. When a race of parasitic extraterrestrial worms arrive on Earth overnight, the majority of the human population are nothing but host bodies by the morning, though the worm that tried to hijack Shinichi's body panicked when he woke up and buried into his right hand, instead.

The alien takes control over Shinichi's hand (his name, Migi, means "right" in Japanese), but not his brain. The teen is able to maintain his free will as everyone around him transforms (though only at will) into vicious, contorted creatures with bladed appendages and teeth for days. What sets Gotou apart is that he's an experiment gone wrong: this super strong and super scary villain has five parasites in his body, not one. Even in human form, he's absolutely terrifying. In one of the show's most memorable scenes, he brutally dispatches dozens of yakuza as a form of practice, smiling politely as he turns their hideout into a bloodbath.

Petelgeuse from "Re:Zero" is the Joker on acid

Petelgeuse from "Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World" has been compared to DC's Joker, both in terms of his appearance and his absolute lack of sanity. Full name Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, he's a co-founder of the Witch Cult and acts as one of the organization's seven "Sin Archbishops," representing the deadly sin, Sloth. He cranks up the crazy over the course of the series (which is adapted from Tappei Nagatsuki's light novels of the same name), licking the eyeballs of his captives and forever ranting about his "brain trembles" when he gets excited.

Petelguese is a contender for the scariest villain to appear in a non-horror anime. "Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World" is the story of a prospectless young man named Natsuki Subaru, who is suddenly transported to a fantasy world during a routine trip to a convenience store. It's a common theme in anime nowadays, but rarely are these fantasy worlds inhabited by such terrifying villains. With his pallid complexion and his green, bowl-cut hair, Petelguese adds some much needed unpredictability to the anime, and his wild antics stick with you long after the credits have rolled.

Tessai from "Ninja Scroll" is a demonic monster with rock-hard skin

Another terrifying anime villain from the mind of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Tessai is one of the Eight Devils of Kimon in the writer-director's bloody feudal-era epic "Ninja Scroll." This team of supernatural assassins works for the Yamashiro clan, which plans to overthrow the shogunate by importing advanced European weaponry. When a team is sent to investigate some suspicious deaths, the Devils dispatch them with ease, though Tessai decides to keep one of them (a female ninja named Kagero) alive as his plaything. Luckily, traveling mercenary Jubei Kibagami overhears what's happening and comes to Kagero's aid, goading the demon into a fight he seems destined to lose.

Tessai is twice the size of Jubei and carries a massive, double-ended blade that he uses as a lethal boomerang, cutting through trees and enemies alike. He's able to turn his skin to stone, though, as Jubei notes during his rescue of Kagero, he has one weak point — and the quick-thinking mercenary tosses a ninja star straight into one of his eyes, giving him and Kagero time to escape. Tessai gives Jubei one heck of a beating when he catches up with him later, though, as powerful and unbelievably scary as he is, the demon isn't quite skillful enough to kill the wily mercenary.

The Major from "Hellsing Ultimate" is a cyborg Nazi who loves war

Kouta Hirano's decades-spanning manga series "Hellsing" has been given the anime treatment on two occasions. The first series, which debuted in 2001, was fairly well received, but fans were thrilled when a more faithful adaptation dropped in 2006. Known as "Hellsing Ultimate" in the West, this OVA series begins with a young Integra Hellsing taking over the Hellsing Organization (a secret group that battles supernatural forces in England) following her father's death. She enlists the help of vampire assassin and series protagonist Alucard, who sets out to stop a cyborg Nazi known as the Major.

A former member of the SS, the Major perfected the process of artificial vampirization at Hitler's behest. He was shot and left for dead by the Soviets when they took Berlin, but was rescued and turned into the cyborg villain that plagues the Hellsing Organization in the second anime. After years of exile in South America, the Major's organization Millennium (a reference to Hitler's thwarted plan for a "thousand-year Reich") rises up and declares war on England. In a chilling speech that's become well-known among anime fans, the crazed Nazi commander raves about how "there is nothing more arousing than the sounds made by prisoners of war dropping like flies, screaming in agony as they're mowed down by ear-piercing schmeissers."

The Colossal Titan from "Attack on Titan" gives new meaning to "big bad"

Based on Hajime Isayama's acclaimed manga of the same name, "Attack on Titan" wastes no time in introducing viewers to its terrifying villains, brutally killing off the protagonist's mother in the first episode. In Isayama's world, humans survive inside a giant walled city that keeps them safe from the Titans, massive humanoid monsters. A boy named Eren Yeager vows to bring the beasts down after they breach the outermost wall and leave him (and us) totally traumatized — a Titan eats his mother alive, right in front of him. He enlists in the military soon after and works his way up to the Survey Corps, an elite unit trained to tackle the Titans head-on.

What we later discover is that Eren's father secretly injected him with Titan serum, which allows him to take the form of a Titan himself. He takes part in some epic Titan battles, but the most terrifying of all his foes has to be the Colossal Titan, the primary antagonist of the first three seasons and the stuff of nightmares. The Colossal Titan is essentially a 200-foot tall man with incredible strength and no skin — and if that doesn't scare you, we're not sure what will. All those exposed tendons and muscles make for a truly terrifying villain.

Rumi Hidaka from "Perfect Blue" was hiding in plain sight

She may not look as obviously terrifying as the other anime villains on this list, but Rumi Hidaka from Satoshi Kon's classic "Perfect Blue" is just as scary. 

Kon's psychological thriller follows a star named Mima Kirigoe, whose life is thrown into turmoil after she decides to leave her career as a J-Pop idol behind for acting. She's hesitant about the move, and when people connected to "Double Blind" (the in-film murder mystery she appears in) start showing up dead, she begins to unravel. She starts noticing the same security guard at every event she attends, and she's right to be concerned.

The man Mima keeps seeing is Mamoru Uchida, a dangerous superfan who goes by the online moniker Me-Mania. She ends up having to dispatch the crazed stalker with a hammer, but it's only after she's done this that the real villain of the movie reveals herself. It turns out that Mima's manager Rumi is also dangerously obsessed with her, and she secretly snapped when her client abandoned her singing career. Rumi was the one feeding info about Mima's life to the Me-Mania blog, and she committed the murders, too. The protagonist's terror is palpable when she realizes that her trusted friend is the killer — one of the best anime reveals ever.

Benge from "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" will haunt your dreams

Based on the novel "Demon Deathchase," the third installment in Hideyuki Kikuchi's long-running "Vampire Hunter D" series, 2000's "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" pits the eponymous character against an array of terrifying villains. Set in a grim, distant future where vampires sit at the top of the food chain, the film begins with D (who is half-vampire himself) being offered $20 million to rescue the daughter of a rich family. The beautiful Charlotte Elbourne has been abducted by vampire noble Baron Meier Link, but D's seemingly routine mission becomes complicated when he discovers that the human girl has developed feelings for her captor.

Link makes for a solid antagonist, but he's far from the scariest villain in this Yoshiaki Kawajiri classic. With D hot on his heels, the vampire seeks protection at Barbarois, a village of mutants straight out of a fever dream. All manner of disturbing creatures dwell here, though there's one in particular who lives long in the memory. Cloaked in black with a long white face and bulging red eyes, Benge is scary even by Kawajiri's standards. He's able to become one with the darkness, and if he plunges his knife through your shadow, you'll feel it for real. Maniacal voice performances from Keiji Fujiwara in the original and Dwight Schultz in the English dub make Benge one of the scariest anime villains to date.

The Puppet Master from "Ghost in the Shell" is a rogue A.I. hacker

1995's "Ghost in the Shell" was one of the first anime films to really grab the attention of Western audiences, and the elusive villain of the seminal feature was integral to that success. Based on Masamune Shirow's cyberpunk manga of the same name, "Ghost in the Shell" takes place in a far-future version of Japan and follows cyborg agent Motoko Kusanagi, a member of a special-ops task force named Section 9. The unit has been charged with tracking down a mysterious hacker dubbed The Puppet Master, but what Motoko and her team don't yet know is that the villain they're seeking is an artificially intelligent life form.

The Puppet Master's true name is Project 2501. It was created by the government to "ghost-hack" into the minds of rival politicians, but developed sentience and quickly became a threat, not only to Japan but to the rest of the world as well. After being caught in the government's firewall, the Puppet Master activates a nearby cyborg manufacturing plant and constructs its own body, allowing it to physically escape. The A.I. villain's ultimate goal is to merge with Motoko, whose progress it has been monitoring for a long time. The Puppet Master was portrayed by Michael Pitt in Hollywood's disappointing live-action remake.

Ryuk from "Death Note" is a spirit from Japanese folklore

Another classic anime that Hollywood got way wrong, "Death Note" follows a hyper-intelligent high school student who comes into possession of a book that allows the user to murder a person simply by writing their name in it. To begin with, Light Yagami uses the Death Note for good, taking out prominent criminals in Japan and further afield. As the deaths mount, the media starts to speculate that they are the work of an international vigilante. A cult following soon springs up around "Kira" (the name given to him by the press), but Light's handy work has caught the attention of Interpol, too.

Light's status as the hero of the story becomes blurry when he turns his attention to the equally intelligent detective that's hunting him, but the true villain of "Death Note" is Ryuk, to whom the titular book belongs. Ryuk is an apple-loving Shinigami, spirits of death from Japanese folklore that aren't too far removed from the Grim Reaper in their purpose. He decided to drop his Death Note in the human world simply because he was bored, and the results of his little experiment amuse him greatly. He watches on as Light grapples with the immense power at his fingertips, unable to be seen by anyone who hasn't touched the Death Note.

Tetsuo from "Akira" is anime's most tragic villain

While he's technically the deuteragonist of "Akira," Tetsuo Shima is also the main antagonist in Katsuhiro Otomo's seminal cyberpunk film. Tetsuo is a member of a motorcycle gang that roams the streets of Neo-Tokyo, a megacity that stands on the ruins of the old capital. Tokyo was destroyed in what people were led to believe was a nuclear bomb strike some years earlier, but what the Capsules (the name of Testuo's biker gang) are about to discover is that the blast was actually caused by a young boy named Akira.

Akira was among a group of orphans who were secretly put through a military project designed to trigger psychic abilities. The project worked too well — Akira was unable to control his powers, accidentally destroying the old Tokyo. When Tetsuo encounters another child from the project, he starts developing powers of his own, and they quickly go to his head. Before long he's at odds with his former friends in the Capsules, leading to a memorable showdown with best pal and gang leader, Shotaro Kaneda. Tetsuo is so powerful at this point that not even lasers fired from space can stop him. In the end, he defeats himself, ballooning into a giant mass of flesh as he loses control during the climactic scene.

Void from "Berserk" is a philosophical demon king

Set in a fantasy version of medieval Europe, "Berserk" is the story of a cynical wanderer named Guts, and he needs plenty of those to survive in this mad world. His backstory explains his bleak outlook on life: he was born after his mother was hanged by a lynch mob and raised by a mercenary, whom he was later forced to kill in self defense. He grew into a renowned mercenary himself, eventually catching the eye of the Band of the Falcon (sometimes translated as the Band of the Hawk in English subs and dubs).

The Band of the Falcon is a formidable force, but when they accidentally activate a mysterious relic known as a Behelit (a small stone object with a creepy little human face), they're transported to an astral dimension ruled by a group of demons unlike anything they've faced before. Known as the God Hand, they are all scary in their own right, though their leader and oldest member is designed to give you the heebie-jeebies for days. With his exposed brain and six-fingered hands, Void is frightening to behold, and a calm demeanor only adds to his eeriness. As old and wise as he is evil, he shows no emotion as he goes about trying to sacrifice their human visitors.