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How to Design the Antagonist or Villain for Your Manga and Anime?

"Character Design & Development demand the insanity of your own personality. You don't just imagine one, you've to become one" - PS Tavishi

Antagonists (or villains) come in all shapes and sizes. In most of the stories, there are a limited number of antagonists, so designing is easier than the protagonist or deuteragonist. However, manga and anime like Attack on Titan, Monster, Black Clover, Cardcaptor Sakura, and many others don’t have any clearly defined antagonist. The characters’ personalities are based on circumstances and are liable to change later in the story. So, how to make a perfect antagonist? What does an antagonist behave like? What will make an antagonist likable and unlikeable to the audience? Like these, there can be many more questions you may have in your mind while designing the character and his/her background story. Before answering them, let’s look at a few examples of different kind of antagonists:

Different Kind of Antagonists

Shogo Makishima from Psycho-Pass Season 1

Shogo Makishima from Psycho-Pass Season 1

1. Shogo Makishima from Psycho-Pass Season 1

Shogo Makishima is cruel and a psychopath. He is the main antagonist and a shrewd mastermind of Psycho-Pass season 1. His personality and string will also make him the most beloved character in the entire anime history despite his merciless killing instincts.

Reason behind wrong deeds: He despises the fact that the people of his country are controlled by a mechanical system and yearns to free them so they can live on their will.

Johan Liebert from Monster

Johan Liebert from Monster

2. Johan Liebert from Monster

Johan Liebert is good looking, soft-spoken, and has a chivalric personality. It’s impossible to hate someone like him. However, he is a monster and an emotionless serial killer. He uses his intelligence to manipulate others and carry out all the evil deeds without getting his hand dirty. He does have a soft side for his sister and also for Dr. Tenma, who saved his life twice.

Reason behind wrong deeds: He is a victim of cruel experiments conducted on him and his sister when he was young. Now free from the evils, he longs to take revenge on the wrongdoers.

Griffith from Berserk

Griffith from Berserk

3. Griffith from Berserk

Griffith is one of the most dangerous antagonists. He is a skilled leader and a swordsman known for his invincible battle strategies. He used to be a protagonist’s friend in Berserk but due to unavoidable circumstances, he ends up becoming a heartless villain.

Reason behind wrong deeds: After witnessing his crush and his friend together, he is filled with rage. As a result, he falls into the dark world and is reincarnated as an inhumane evil.

Team Rocket from Pokemon

Team Rocket from Pokemon

4. Team Rocket from Pokemon

Team Rocket is a group of three in which one is a cat-like Pokemon. Together they are trying to steal all the strong Pokemon from the world and become better than the best. Interestingly, all of their endeavors result in failure. They are not just antagonists but also the comic relief of the anime.

Reason behind wrong deeds: Due to their individual failures, they are completely worn out. But after meeting each other, they find hope and gather the courage to become the Pokemon masters. Unfortunately, they are not skilled enough to collect strong Pokemon, so they try to steal that of others whenever they can.

Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass

Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass

5. Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass

Lelouch is a heartthrob. He is the protagonist as well as the antagonist of the show. I know if you search online it’s his father Charles Zi Britannia mentioned as the antagonist, but if you have watched the series you know what I mean. He is a friendly college guy but after gaining the power of Geass, he begins to live a dual life and kills many people in disguise. In the end, everyone believes him to be a villain, though he is indeed a hero throughout the series.

Reason behind wrong deeds: At a young age, he and his crippled sister were sent to exile by his father. Since then, he has vowed to take revenge and obliterate his father’s empire once and for all.

These are just a few examples among many. You can also refer to Harry McDowell from Gungrave, King Piccolo from Dragon Ball, and Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Each of these antagonists is entirely different from each other. They have different personalities, motives, and methods of accomplishing their goals.

Long gone the days when the antagonists were just some delinquents who were featured as evil characters throughout the series. Now, they are supposed to have a story so the audience can understand their demeanor and relate to their actions.

How to Make a Memorable Antagonist

The five antagonists, I mentioned explicitly, are known to all anime lovers. It takes an in-depth study to design such characters who are on the wrong side, motivated with a strong-will, thrashes innocents mercilessly, and are still liked by the masses. To make your work a little bit easier, below are six helpful ways you can use to make such an antagonist:

Shogo Makishima and Shinya Kogami in Psycho Pass

Shogo Makishima and Shinya Kogami in Psycho Pass

1. They have to be cool and competent

The antagonist must have a unique style. They are self-obsessed and are confident in themselves. They are compatible with the protagonist and share similar strengths for example Shogo Makishima and Shinya Kogami in Psycho-Pass. They are good planners. They sometimes leave the main characters alive even when they have the opportunity to kill them and that for a very good reason. All these factors will make your antagonist look cool and competent.

Soo-Won in Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)

Soo-Won in Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona)

2. They must be understood by the audience

All their actions need to have a clear purpose. For example, if they are a heartless psychopath, then there has to be a background story to support their behavior. While protagonists are unaware of the reasons, the audience must know it all. For example, Soo-Won in Yona of the Dawn (Akatsuki no Yona). Soo-Won kills Yona’s father and the emperor of the country, but for a good reason (to avenge his father’s death) such that no one in the audience despises him despite his cruelty.

Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender

3. They should have moral strengths

No one can be completely bad. Your antagonists need to have something good in them to make them look a little humane. They keep their word, help the needy, or share a loving relationship with someone special. They can also have a pet friend that they deeply adore and always keep them by their side. When you embed moral strengths in your antagonist, it shows what they are doing wrong is actually right in their perspective. For example, Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In this series, there are moments when Zuko could kill the protagonist but indeed helps him to survive so he could defeat him later in a war fair and square.

Hendrickson from The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)

Hendrickson from The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)

4. They have a struggling past

No one is born bad or good, it’s the circumstances that drive these characters to behave in a certain way. Most often, their bad behavior is a result of a tragic past. Take the example of Hendrickson from The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai). As a result, he was treated cruelly and was given the responsibility to watch over dead bodies. His job was to ensure that the dead remains dead until they turn into skeletons. Despite his fear of dead bodies, he was forced to carry out this job. He was despised as a coward and cursed child in his village. Due to which he ran away from his homeland and later, joined the Holy Knights of Liones, a group of warriors in a fictional Liones kingdom.

Chizome Akaguro aka Hero Killer: Stain from My Hero Academia

Chizome Akaguro aka Hero Killer: Stain from My Hero Academia

5. They should have justifiable motivations

I have covered similar factors in 2 and 4 as well. However, each of these factors differs a bit as they convey a different mindset of a character. In point 2, the antagonist must be relatable to the audience even if the protagonist finds them confusing and revolting. In point 4, the antagonist’s history is explored which might be responsible for his present day’s personality. Now, at this point, I am trying to state that you should reveal the reasons for which the antagonist feels motivated to harm the protagonist in every way possible. They feel they are doing the right thing and rest everyone is wrong and thus, has to be killed at once. One such example is Chizome Akaguro aka Hero Killer: Stain from My Hero Academia. Stain is motivated to kill fake heroes and prevent society from further debilitation. He yearns for peace by killing the wrongdoers and preserving those who are beneficial to humanity.

Raji Shenazard from Akagami No Shirayukihime (Snow White with the Red Hair)

Raji Shenazard from Akagami No Shirayukihime (Snow White with the Red Hair)

6. They can be a sore loser and serve as comic relief

You can design antagonists who are nothing but sore losers and yet they try everything to piss off the protagonist. Team Rocket from the Pokemon series is a perfect example under this category. Such antagonists suffer pitiful situations and are overflowing with selfish desires. The audience may feel sympathetic for them and hope to let them win against the protagonist at least once, but that’s never going to happen. These characters are barely threatening and are in fact, adorable. A fine example is Raji Shenazard from Akagami No Shirayukihime (Snow White with the Red Hair). Raji is the heir to the throne of the Tanbarun kingdom. He is nicknamed “Stupid Prince” because of his selfish and below-than-average attitude. Instead of an anti-hero, he is more of a source of comedy in the anime. He also goes through a huge character change later in the series which can be really helpful for your own story.

Drawing the Antagonist

Though you may find many sources suggesting how to draw the antagonist, you shouldn’t completely rely on them. As you have learned just now that antagonists come in all shapes and sizes, there’s no particular way to distinguish them from the protagonist with regards to drawing. However, in certain stories such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, the antagonists are given quite an appalling appearance. This means it all comes down to the type of story you are planning to write. If it’s a horror, the antagonist is easily identifiable. But if it’s an adult genre such as Monster or Psycho-Pass, then the antagonist has to have a normal appearance with a relevant background story.

Anyway, I have still added a video below so you can grab an idea of how such characters are actually drawn. The video demonstrates the method of drawing Lelouch vi Britannia from Code Geass.

Conclusion

So, these are some basic suggestions you can look upon to design your first ever anime and manga antagonist. Always remember, depending on the story, the characters can have any outward appearance and they can sometimes act as protagonists and sometimes as antagonists. In the end, it all boils down to your infinite imagination.

© 2020 PS Tavishi

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