Friday’s Feature – Destroy the World

This week I want to discuss villains and their motives.

When I first discovered anime, Sailor Moon in particular, the fact that Beryl wanted to rule the Earth didn’t seem at all problematic. As you get older though, you realise that to rule the earth, she actually means she wants to suck the energy out of everyone on Earth and there won’t be anything left, pretty much what happened to the Moon Kingdom and we all know what a dead rock the moon looks like these days.

Super_Beryl

So what exactly was Beryl hoping to get out of all of this even if she succeeded? You could argue that Beryl wasn’t exactly in control of her own actions and was being used, but what did that higher power get out of any of this? And then the next four seasons of Sailor Moon gave us increasingly hostile villains with motives that made even less sense.

Moving on from Sailor Moon, there are a lot of anime villains out there that seem to want to destroy the world. From the ridiculous Planetary Gears in Captain Earth:

captain-earth-2

To the equally ridiculous student council in Cute High Earth Defense Club:

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To the slightly more serious attempts at actually ruling the earth and becoming a god found in Death Note:

Light.jpg

I wonder if they actually know how much effort it would take to rule the world? Or if they have thought through what will happen once they destroy the planet they are standing on?

It’s very hard to take villains with such a grandiose vision seriously because it just seems so improbable. Far scarier are the villains with clear and concrete plans that you can actually see happening. Villains who are cold and calculating and absolutely rational are terrifying and can add far more tension to a plot than that maniacal “I’m going to destroy the world” declaration followed by the obligatory villains’ laugh.

Then again, frequently villains don’t exist in plots to add tension or fear. They are regularly just there to make the protagonist act. For that purpose their motive could be anything and it wouldn’t matter as long as our protagonist objected strongly enough to try to stop them. Wouldn’t that bruise the ego of most villains.

“Sorry, you only exist as a catalyst for someone else’s actions. Your plans will never come to fruition and any success you experience will be fleeting.”

Of course, all of this only applies in stories that have a binary opposition of hero and villain and they are clearly defined in terms of black and white. There are plenty of stories out there that don’t have a clear villain or hero.

My question this week: If you were a supervillain, what would your end goal be? Or, what do you think of the goals of some of anime’s best known supervillains?

8 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature – Destroy the World

  1. I can’t really comment on most of those villains, but I thought that Light did alright. His goal seemed to be that he wanted to be Kira in the shadows, always watching to judge the criminals of the world. It’s not like he wanted to completely take over the world (as like a visible ruler) or destroy it. And his motives made a lot of sense given the way he’s introduced as this guy who sees himself as so much smarter than everyone else.

  2. I definitely prefer a villain with a more complex or interpersonal motive. Ambiguity always trumps straight-up machinations, so grey characters beat the out and out black.

      1. At the moment, maybe Rumi from Perfect Blue. But that might be because I’ve watched it this week haha.

I'd love to know what you think.

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