|“||Listen, what did Amon want? Equality for all. Unalaq? He brought back the spirits. And Zaheer believed in freedom.||„|
|~ Toph explaining to Korra that while her enemies did terrible things, they still had good intentions|
|“||I'll ensure the blood I spill in Fuyuki will be the last that humanity will ever shed. If that means I must stain my hands with every evil in the world, I don't care. If that will save the world, I will do it gladly.||„|
|~ Kiritsugu Emiya|
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. 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.
Sometimes, they may simply be a villain with gentlemanly qualities or with some sense of justice. 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.
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 anti-hero 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 Grey Zone, depending on their alignment (though an Anti-Villain is not necessary in the Grey Zone and can be outrightly evil). Alternatively, characters that are meant to be seen as villains in universe or out, but are not really all that evil, such as a Designated Villain or a Punch Clock Villain, may also be this.
Examples of popular anti-villains include Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam, Magneto from the X-Men, Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog, Mello from Death Note, Hector Barbossa from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean, Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, Benjamin Linus, V from V for Vendetta, Jin Kazama from Tekken, 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 in a positive way, while you're supposed to sympathize with anti-villains, even if you do not approve their methods.
If Pure Evil villains claim that their deeds are for a noble cause, then they should fall under the category Delusional instead.
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