I used to be a big anime geek when I was a teenager, and watched far more series than I care to admit to. I grew out of it after a few years, mainly because I got burnt out on most of the stereotypes and tropes — anime just got so anime, if you know what I mean.
I still watch it every now and then when the mood strikes, which is how I came across Inuyashiki Last Hero.
This is definitely a “after the kids have gone to bed” sort of show.
The basic plot is that 58-year-old Inuyashiki and high school student Shishigami are accidentally killed by inter-dimensional aliens, who replace their bodies with highly advanced combat robots to cover up their crime. Hilarity ensues.
I’m bringing this up because of the characterization of Shishigami was particularly noteworthy. He’s the main antagonist of the story, and the audience sees him do some pretty evil stuff. There’s no doubt that he’s a sociopath who is incapable of empathizing with strangers.
However, he’s not *all* bad. When he cares about someone, he deeply cares about them. More than once, he tries to quit doing evil for the sake of his loved ones, then gets pushed back into it when his loved ones get unfairly hurt.
It creates a genuine conflict in the audience. On one hand, you want to hate him because you see him do really terrible things; on the other, you can’t help but feel that some of his acts were justified. Not all, mind you, but definitely some. He would have settled down into helping society instead of hurting it, if society had been capable of leaving him alone — the audience knows this, and can’t help but feel bad for him because he’s demonized so thoroughly that he can’t change despite his best efforts.
The anime turned out to be a thought-provoking departure from the usual stereotype of the evil antagonist.
So the next time you sit down to start writing a novel, don’t be afraid to humanize your villain. It’ll be a change of pace from what everyone is used to.