Is Destroying the World Actually A Decent Motive?

Current Feature 2

Destroying the world, eh?

Villains, and particularly badly written villains, are a dime a dozen. They crop up as a main plot point, part of a sub-plot, or just as a minor diversionary secondary character all over the place. And quite often they seem motivated simply to take down the protagonist. Why they want to do this is largely explained away by some slight or basic jealousy but doesn’t really hold up to a lot of scrutiny about the excessive nature of their actions.

Then we have the type of villain that just wants to destroy the world.

I wonder what it is about destroying the world that villains find so appealing?

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 when Beryl states she wants 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 Beyl - destroying the world is her goal, only she actually wants to rule it so how does that work?

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? Sure they absorb a lot of energy and then have huge amounts of power but the power isn’t a means to an end. Gaining that power is the end. What do they do then when there is no one left to absorb power from and they don’t even have any henchmen left because they killed them all off too? What’s left?

And then the next four seasons of Sailor Moon gave us increasingly hostile villains with motives that made even less sense.

I get that from a narrative point of view having Sailor Moon defending the earth from destruction gives the hero a great motive and makes the overall stakes quite high. However the villain seems to get little out of the deal even if they succeed. While one or two of the villains legitimately had a grudge with the planet and genuinely wanted to take it down, the majority seemed to just want power to rule but in the process they were going to destroy the very thing they wanted to take over.

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:


These guys again didn’t really have much of a plan and it turns out it wasn’t even their plan. They were also just tools being used by another higher power that also wanted to destroy the world for reasons that were even less clear. Then again, the fact that they were called ‘gears’ probably should have made it clear that they weren’t the mastermind in the story.

What is even more tragic about Captain Earth is how often the villain’s got incredibly close to succeeding at their plan. All life on earth could have been snuffed in an instant because some teenagers didn’t pilot a robot good enough or worse… the inter-agency fighting could have prevented them from even launching a defence and we would have been killed by bureaucracy. That would have had a definite message as a story but I doubt we’d find that a satisfying conclusion.

However we also have the equally ridiculous student council in Cute High Earth Defense Club:


“The earth will fall to ruin.” You mean the earth you are currently standing on? I mean, I guess they thought they’d get to go live wherever the weird hedgehog guy came from so at least there was the potential for another place to go, but still… was there nothing on the planet that they liked? Seriously, I’d keep the planet around for chocolate even if nothing else could convince me not to destroy it. And there’s a lot of other things worth saving. Love if we are going with the Fifth Element solution. Anime, for those of you who like me are obsessed with it.


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


At least Light wasn’t trying to blow anything up. He was just purging all the people who lived in a way he disagreed with. The rationale makes a lot more sense even if he is still a psychotic murderer in the end.

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?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Captain Earth Series Review: Earth is Doomed and As Usual Only a Group of Teens (And Robots) Can Save Us

Captain Earth has a basic set up of the Earth is in danger from planetary gears (that name makes no sense) and only a giant robot piloted by a teenage boy can really use to save the day. Okay, it is more complex than that but at the end of the day, this is just a standard mecha plot with some good ideas and some things that just fall completely flat.

There’s something about mecha anime that for whatever reason make me super critical before I start even watching them. It isn’t as though I dislike the genre given there are plenty of mecha anime I’ve enjoyed. I think the real issue is that the genre is a little hit and miss for me and as a general rule I go in expecting not to end up enjoying the show so the ones that work end up pleasantly enjoyable.

Still, Captain Earth balances perilously in that inbetween area where I find myself enjoying it enough even as I laugh at the once again ineffectual adults who ultimately shove the entire fate of the earth onto some emotionally traumatised kids (admittedly, only two of the kids are human if that makes the concept any better).

Captain Earth may not be a good anime, but it is still enjoyable.

Captain Earth at its core accepts what it is and what it is presenting. The planetary gears who act as the face of the villains for the majority of the series (before the real bad guys step forward – where have I seen that before) are as over the top ridiculous as you would expect and their motives more or less amount to being kids fighting over the largest scoop of ice-cream. About as effective too, because while they are squabbling the ice-cream probably melted and no one ended up with anything.

There’s technobabble, there are the bureaucrats that get in the way, and then there are the troubled teens that all just want to help and be free and maybe pair up and live happily ever after.

This anime embraces that and makes it work. So while there is certainly plenty to mock if you are in the mood to mock, if what you want is another one of ‘those’ kinds of stories, you could do far worse than Captain Earth.

Captain Earth - the kids are ready to save the world.

One of the best things about Captain Earth is the way the characters are presented.

Admittedly, all of the characters are barely fleshed out archetypes and copies of characters who have appeared in other mecha anime or the like and taken individually they don’t amount to much. However, when you step back and look at the whole cast as an ensemble and just the small touches given to them you start to notice how much thought was put into balancing the archetypes and roles.

There’s no excess and some of the details are really fantastic. For instance, in the picture above the two ‘human’ characters in the group (Daichi and Akari) don’t zip their uniforms all the way whereas the two ‘non-human’ characters wear them completely zipped. It’s those little touches that show the individual attitudes and natures of the characters that are fun to spot throughout the series and they are consistent and actually meaningful.

The Planetary Gears from Captain Earth

Though while I’m giving the characters props, I’m going to give the planetary gears the rant they deserve. Our villains are the most cliché driven and useless creatures in creation. Their motivations are actually endlessly explained. Why are they attacking the earth? Because humans are weak and insignificant and we can devour their libido. They tell us this over and over again. Whether it is the humans discussing the threat or the villains discussing their plans.

Other than that, they just seem like highly sexually charged teenagers playing with toys and their planning sucks. Let’s try repeating the same sequence of events again. Oh, that didn’t work. Maybe if I try the exact same thing? How about you try it now?

Finding out that the planetary gears were also being manipulated from above was not a surprise. Given their singular lack of a master plan other than eat everything and the fact that most of their advice came from an outside source, the betrayal is pretty inevitable and by that stage you more or less have written off these guys as pathetic.

On the most recent rewatch, I started to like some of the planetary gears a little bit more as some of their interactions weren’t as over the top as I remembered, but they are still terrible villains and they really do let down what is an otherwise fairly competent cast and realistically, a lot of my rant should be saved for Salty Dog.

Salty Dog - Bad character in Captain Earth

These guys are the most nonsensical element of the whole of Captain Earth. It is like the writers knew they didn’t have enough conflict or drama with the planetary gears (given that they were useless and they needed recharging after every encounter so couldn’t attack next episode) so they threw in some of the most repugnant human beings they could find and gave them a position of authority.


Delete all Salty Dog characters, cut down the number of episodes, and the anime still works and is probably the better for it. And realistically, this is probably the sticking point. Everything else in this anime is fine or actually quite good, but Salty Dog are neither interesting enough as villains or menacing enough to actually serve any purpose other than filling screen time.


Moving away from the characters, this anime is pretty. And while prettiness isn’t reason enough to watch, it is enough to hold your interest in the down times between attacks and the like in this series. Some of the sequences on the space station are truly gorgeous and that’s probably a good thing given little else happens on the space station (a few major plot points aside). 

The animation is competent and each setting has its own unique kind of feel. They certainly go out of their way to romanticise the island setting and even the trip into space has a distinct look and feel about it.


And of course, because we’re dealing with teenagers we’re going to go for a romance in Captain Earth.

It doesn’t matter that the world might end as long as we find out who ends up with who (okay, that’s a little depressing so we’ll move on from that thought). I’ll admit Daichi and Hana are adorable together but it is nice to see Akari and Teppei really grow as characters and help each other overcome their personal hang-ups.

A lot of shows would have just kind of thrown these two together or left them as the friends of the actual couple we were supposed to be interested in, but these two really get the chance to shine throughout the mid-way parts of the anime. They get a little sidelined at the end, but they aren’t the protagonists so it kind of had to happen. Still, Akari’s magical girl act and Teppei’s slow growth to becoming more human, is one of the real strengths of this anime.


However, watching Captain Earth again for this review just reminded me of how big of a plot failure there is in this anime. For all the positives this series has, it is hard to argue with someone who tells you Captain Earth just kind of falls apart as it rides borrowed plot points to a final climax that makes limited sense on any kind of thought.

Wow, I gave Darling in the Franxx some smack talk and yet this anime probably does just as much wrong from a plot point of view and yet I remember it affectionately. Amazing what seeing something when you are younger and more impressionable will do for your view on it.

After a barrage of half-hints and the like during the first few episodes the story then eschews all sense of mystery and just kind of hits you with enough made-up jargon to drown you in it. Following that, we settle into a rinse and repeat battle of attrition with the planetary gears.

During this, a betrayal occurs (and I’ll leave that one a mystery) that leaves a new villain to move behind the scenes to set up a final confrontation that still doesn’t seem to have all that much in the way of purpose, and to distract us from this we have the Salty Dog group hindering our heroes for no apparent purpose other than ‘because’.

Finally, we all get in a space ship and fly to Uranus for a smack down that happens but doesn’t and then some of us race back to earth where an even more confused smack down occurs and then somehow we all end up okay. Right.

So nothing wrong with that convoluted mess of a plot.

If you don’t think about the details it is straight forward. Kid admires father. Becomes hero in his own right. Get’s the girl.

Unfortunately for Captain Earth, the details plastered on that are persistent and very hard to overlook and why should we even try. There’s also enough jargon and babble thrown at you that you keep feeling like perhaps there should be a decent plot under all of that and yet really it is the kid becomes the hero, saves the world and gets the girl plot made convoluted because its fun to try to be pretzel?


This all brings me back to my original point. This is not a particularly good anime. The story does not hold up when judged objectively on its own merits.

And yet, I like Captain Earth. I’ve watched it more than once and will watch it again.

I genuinely enjoy it for what it is and I enjoy the cast enough that even when they are taking the absurd far too seriously I can just kind of go with it. The kids get into dangerous situations and at times sustain injuries, but it isn’t angsty for the sake of it and even though these kids all have their own traumas they are genuinely fairly happy teens (all things considered). It makes a refreshing change and they bring a bit of warmth and charm to a concept that isn’t new in any way.

Sure, this won’t work for everyone but there is fun to be found in Captain Earth.

If you’ve ever had the chance to see it, I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James