Anti-Villains in Anime: The case of Garou and Stain

Heroism is a common topic in anime and while it can be adapted into different forms, with different names, narratives, and ideologies. However, One Punch Man (OPM) and My Hero Academia (MHA) have decided to maintain its most original form, creating two worlds where there are people with superpowers and proper national systems, associations are established to support their heroic careers.

And of course, what are heroes without a purpose to fight, to save people? and so the villains are born.

But this is also where things started to get complicated, at least for me, when I can actually sympathize with the villains, when, actually, the presence of villains is to point out the flaws in the whole idea of being heroes, of being on the ‘good side’. And when we, as the audience, have to question their evilness, what do we call them?

“An Anti-Villain is the opposite of an Anti-Hero — a character with heroic goals, personality traits, and/or virtues who is ultimately the villain. Their desired ends are mostly good, but their means of getting there range from evil to undesirable. Alternatively, their goals may be selfish or have long-term consequences they don’t care about, but they’re good people who might even team up with the hero if their goals don’t conflict.” – TVTropes 

In season 2, OPM introduced Garou, a dude who masters martial arts and hates heroes to his guts as he aims to become the strongest monster who cannot be beaten by any hero.

Regardless of his short-lived appearance in season 3 of MHA, Stain has left an impactful impression for both the viewers and characters of the anime. He has made it his mission to purge his society of fake heroes, whom he believes to have selfish motives instead of being selfless as true heroes should be.

Both characters came to terms with their goals after experiencing profound psychological traumas. As a kid, Garou has always been bullied by others, in the name of heroes. He was always forced to be the monster because the role-playing game of hero vs monster gives other kids legitimate reason to pick on him. Garou, hence, sympathised with the monsters and later on embrace this as his own identity. On the other hand, Stain was once aspired to be a hero. But he soon realized not everyone who aims to become heroes is selfless and genuinely wants to make the world a better place. Being utterly disappointed, Stain tried the ‘heroic’ way to encourage everyone to do good, but all he got was ignorance.

At the point where they feel the most helpless and with the profoundly powerful abilities, Garou and Stain turned to the violent method of killing, and it was personal, brutal, and extreme.

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It’s not just their ideologies that make me sympathise with Garou and Stain, but it’s also because of the encounter with the heroes. For some reasons, when dealing with these two unorthodox ‘bad’ guys our ‘heroes’ tend to show their flawed thinking and selfish motives. And all of a sudden their hatred, brutality make sense! So now that they’re right, are they still bad?

Such complexity isn’t just made up but is rather inspired by our own human behaviour and it is the reason why it’s difficult to clearly define good and bad. These definitions become relative, especially to different people from different circumstances. While maybe we haven’t witnessed or encounter such violence in real life, we sure have that one friend who lost their faith in love and decided to never fall in love again after a terrible, hurtful, messy breakup.

Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, we often find the debate between these duos endless, just like in the case of Stain and Garou. and that’s why the definitions for those that are both heroic and evil are established, and for me, I see it as the beginning of sympathy.

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3 thoughts on “Anti-Villains in Anime: The case of Garou and Stain

  1. It’s interesting to shed light among the anti-heroes we see in Japanese anime and how their personality traits, along with how their virtues are envisioned for the characters and the audience. In saying that, I remember watching Naruto Shippuden in the Pain Arc where Nagato and Konan reveal their pasts, allowing for my own sympathy to springboard onto those anti-heroes. Your example of Stain especially really stood out for me, as I recall his character only consisting of a small slither of screen time and only contributing to the plot ever so slightly, however he made the greatest impact for me when watching MHA in terms of portraying an anti-hero. Another anti-hero and protagonist which I really enjoyed on-screen was Light Yagami in Death Note. His descent into madness and uncontrollable power is captured in his transition of character as the series progressed. I recommend looking into his persona and analysing his foil character, L, as they interact with each other when studying the ‘anti-hero’. If you decide to use this as your DA I’ll be definitely looking forward to these reads! I’ll leave you with a blog post on awesome anti-heroes in anime for you to look over: https://www.cbr.com/anime-antiheroes-cool/

    Great blog post, wishing you good luck for the semester!

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  2. Hi there, as soon as I saw the title of your blog I immediately knew it was the one I wanted to comment on. Although I guess it could be seen as the easy option as I already love anime and will take any opportunity to discuss it, nevertheless I think the ideas you are presenting are very fruitful and are definitely worth diving into with reference to the shows themselves and their comments on society, economics and politics. I also found that when I’ve watched such anime as One Punch Man and others of the sort, I do notice their ability to effectively ground the show in realities identical or similar to that of our own whilst maintaining the exaggerated action, dialogue and themes that anime is so well known for. This creates a platform that allows audiences the ability to more easily relate to and sympathise with the characters and their world. This is an article that details how anime influences reality and I found it enlightening! https://jpninfo.com/31964

    Anime is largely known for its expert handling of adult themes, societal issues and influences of governments. This is present heavily in OPM, Full Metal Alchemist and Death Note, and as you explained the anti-hero and villain are both key pieces to expressing and presenting these themes. I really enjoyed your focus on the anti-hero and villain, the way their personality traits and decisions can be mapped onto our own minds and make us relate to or distance ourselves from, I think are extremely important and powerful tools in providing lessons to ourselves and the wider audiences. It would’ve been cool to see you delve into the political systems that underride and command the decisions of the characters within shows like OPM, as they are integral to the flow and direction the show takes. I always have thought it interesting the power and actual weight governments, armies and politics have in anime, as in comparison, your usual western shows with super-powered heroes always seem to reside way above the law, doing as they please with no influence or repercussions from anyone other than themselves i.e. the justice league and the avengers (though some alternate stories such as civil war in marvel do try to ground themselves and take responsibility, but still very rarely). Overall interesting blog and thanks again for the opportunity to relish in the world of anime!

    Liked by 1 person

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