|“||I was just trying to make the world a safer place for children.||„|
|~ Sheila Broflovski, attempting to explain her evil actions.|
|“||Listen, what did Amon want? Equality for all. Unalaq? He brought back the spirits. And Zaheer believed in freedom. (Korra: I guess...) The problem was that those guys were totally out of balance and they took their ideologies too far.||„|
|~ Toph explaining to Korra that while her enemies did terrible things, they still had good intentions.|
An Anti-Villain is the opposite of an Anti-Hero; while the anti-hero often fights on the side of good, but with selfish motives; the anti-villain plays a villain's game, but for a noble cause... at least in their eyes, though sometimes in others', as well. They may be more noble or heroic than an anti-hero, but the means to achieve their ends are often considered exploitative, immoral, unjust, or just evil.
Anti-villains will occasionally side with their rivals (usually the protagonist) if a greater threat than themselves comes or it's in both of their best interests. Often times, if they do join the protagonists, they are distrusted, but can get along and eventually redeem themselves. On the other side of the coin though, is that they are easier to redeem than regular villains. What's more, similar to antiheroes, the most prominent personification of anti-villains is that they are kindhearted towards their opponents and treat them with equality, but it can be possible for them to treat other villains around them with brashness and rudeness, which is a very unusual trait for such a villain to have.
In essence, these are characters that, although technically villains, often serve in a noble capacity, which makes them sporadically heroic. It is possible and, in fact, very common to be both an anti-villain and an antihero at the same time, depending on the character's goal and their methods of attaining it. They also can be in the center of being in the Gray Zone, depending on their alignment (though an anti-villain is not necessarily in the Gray Zone and can be out rightly evil).
Alternatively, characters that are meant to be seen as villains in-universe or out, but are not really all that evil, such as certain Designated Villains or "Punch Clock Villains", may also be this.
Popular anti-villains include: Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam, Magneto from the X-Men, Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog, Mello from Death Note, Benjamin Linus, V from V for Vendetta, Jin Kazama from the Tekken series, Agent John Bishop from the TMNT franchise, Itachi Uchiha from the Naruto series, Pink Diamond from Steven Universe, and Severus Snape from Harry Potter.
IMPORTANT: Anti-villains can NEVER be Pure Evil, because Purely Evil villains are never presented positively, while you're supposed to sympathize with anti-villains, even if you do not approve their methods. Pure Evil villains who claim that their deeds are for a noble cause are merely Delusional, if not mentally challenged.
Also note that redeemed villains are not necessarily anti-villains if they didn't pursue a noble goal before their eventual redemption (e.g. Darth Vader redeemed himself, but was not an anti-villain while he was in the dark side).
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