A good villain can capture a fan’s attention in a way that a hero or neutral character can never hope to emulate. Whether it’s because villains reflect something twisted and depraved about the human condition or simply because they’re cool, villains are complex characters that can elevate the quality of a series if they are suitably likable.
From monstrous Titans to sadistic psychopaths, the villains in Attack on Titan are as diverse as they are terrifying. Despite their cruel behavior or history of violence, some of these villains contain likable qualities that have made them fan-favorite characters.
Updated on July 29th, 2022 by Jom Elauria: Fans are patiently waiting for the final part of Attack on Titan season 4, which will wrap up the anime series. The beloved anime show has kept fans entertained for almost a decade and has followed the courageous and determined characters, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackermann, and Armin Arlert. Aside from the terrifying, man-eating titans, the show also features nefarious villains, some of whom remain likable despite their questionable decisions and agendas.
14 Sergeant Major Gross
While Sergeant Major Gross is a minor character in the series, his limited amount of screen time provided all fans needed to know about him. Gross was a sadistic commander in the Marleyan military and enjoyed exploiting his position of power.
He was an avowed racist, and felt little pity for Eldians, as evidenced when he ordered his dogs to viciously rip apart Grisha’s 8-year-old sister, Faye. His lack of empathy ultimately proved to be his downfall, as he was betrayed by Eren Kruger before being eaten by a Titan.
13 King Fritz
Most of the problem the current Eldians face is due to the greed and selfishness of King Fritz. Without him, the cycle that caused the destruction of empires and deaths of people would never have existed. What’s more, King Fritz heinously forced his daughters to eat the body of their mother Ymir.
King Ymir also showed little humanity that he was more annoyed that he lost Ymir as a weapon than as the mother of his children. If there’s one character in Attack on Titan that deserves all the hate of the fanbase, it’s King Fritz.
12 Dhalis Zachary
Much like Sergeant Major Gross, Dhalis Zachary had few redeeming features. Despite his vaunted position in the military, Zachary had little interest in protecting humanity. He told Erwin that he valued his own life more than others, and his only motivation in participating in the revolution against the former government was his deep hatred of the monarchy and nobility.
Zachary was a borderline psychopath who enjoyed torturing his enemies for fun, and his respectable persona was ultimately revealed to be nothing more than a well-crafted mask for his sadistic tendencies.
11 Dina Jaeger
The first wife of Grisha Jaeger, Dina Jaeger is less of a villain and more of a victim. Little is known about Dina from her life prior to becoming an Abnormal Titan other than her belief in the cause of the Eldian Restorationists.
What is known is that after she was transformed into a Titan, Dina proceeded to eat two beloved characters, Carla Jaeger and Hannes. Those facts alone are enough to make most fans despise her, even though she cannot really be held accountable for her actions as a Titan.
10 Rod Reiss
At first glance, Rod Reiss appeared to be a mild-mannered man. In actuality, Reiss was a cunning schemer who manipulated everyone around him in order to further his own aims. Not only did Reiss abandon Historia as a child, but he was also willing to turn her into a Titan to regain the power of the Founding Titan from Eren.
He balked at the idea of taking the Titan serum himself, but when his plans were foiled by Historia, he stooped so low as to turn himself into a Pure Tian, signifying that he would go to any length to earn and maintain power.
9 Willy Tybur
The head of the powerful Tybur family, Willy Tybur had all the makings of a likable villain. He was charming and intelligent and appeared sincerely troubled by his Eldian ancestors’ atrocities against the Marleyans. His decision to reveal the truth behind his family’s rise to power and their pact with King Fritz was undoubtedly noble and required a great deal of courage.
That said, Willy’s motivation for revealing the truth was ultimately a power play to sway the world into waging a war of extermination against the people on Paradis Island. Eren’s surprise attack on Liberio cut Tybur’s story short, so fans will never know what might have been if he had eventually become a primary antagonist.
8 Zeke Jaeger
Zeke Jaeger’s likability is largely predicated on his cool persona and sad backstory. Zeke was effectively abandoned as a child and forced into service in Marley’s Warrior Unit. Due to this upbringing, Zeke developed extremely negative views of Eldians, and he went on to believe that it would have been better if all the Subjects of Ymir had never been born.
While Zeke does not take pleasure in killing and expresses remorse for losses of life due to what he views as futile resistance, he is also one of the scariest characters in the show as he’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his mission, and often acts in a cold and detached manner even to his comrades.
7 Gabi Braun
Despite being an Eldian, Gabi serves the Marleyan military and even aspires to inherit the Armored Titan. While she was initially liked by the fans of the show for her headstrong and compassionate attitude, she makes the mistake of killing a beloved character due to her ideals and principles.
Sasha Braus, who has been with the Survey Corps since the start of the series, was killed by Gabi due to her desire to exact revenge on the Eldian soldiers. While some fans understood Gabi’s intentions, some found it hard to forgive her due to Sasha’s likable personality.
6 Pieck Finger
The owner of the Cart Titan has long been a mystery for fans of the show. In Season 4, it was revealed that Pieck Finger, a Marleyan Warrior, is the wielder of the Cart Titan. Just like the other Marleyan characters, those who support the Eldian soldiers think that Pieck is a villain due to their actions against the Eldian people.
However, Pieck is one of the few characters in the series who want peace for both the Eldians and Marleyans. She believes that the Eldians should be given more freedom despite the actions of the former King and aims to put a stop to Eren’s extreme plans. That’s why fans believe that Pieck is a heroic character despite being on the villain’s side.
5 Annie Leonhart
Annie Leonhart is a villain who desperately does not want to be a villain. She struggles with her dual desires to both live a normal life and to accomplish her mission to capture the Founding Titan. Annie is aware of her own faults and weaknesses and can be very self-deprecating, such as when she calls herself evil and worthless to Marlowe Freudenberg.
While she is willing to kill anyone in order to accomplish her mission or survive, she still feels remorse for killing her former comrades, as seen when she apologized to corpses in the streets of Trost after the Battle for Trost District. Her fight scene with Eren’s Attack Titan is one of the best visual feats in the show, though.
4 Bertholdt Hoover
Like Annie Leonhart, Bertholdt Hoover struggled with low self-esteem and his role as a Marleyan Warrior. Bertholdt was absolutely devoted to Reiner and Annie and was willing to do anything to keep them safe. While he valued his fellow Warriors’ lives over the lives of others, he did not look down on his former comrades in the cadets and went so far as to tell Armin that he viewed them as cherished friends.
He rationalized his actions by acknowledging that the world was a wicked and cruel place, which highlights just how sensitive he was and how much he suffered from the consequences of his actions.
3 Kenny Ackerman
The only man who could challenge Levi Ackerman for the title of most dangerous man on Paradis Island was Kenny Ackerman. Kenny ruthlessly sought after power and did not let anything get in his way of realizing his goal. However, he also admired those who earned his respect, such as Uri Reiss and his more competent subordinates, and he genuinely cared for Levi and his late grandfather.
He hated himself for his lack of empathy and did not view himself as a suitable surrogate parent for Levi. Kenny saw himself as a tool whose only worth was in his ability to kill, and that haunted him throughout his life.
2 Eren Yeager
Eren started off as a passionate Eldian soldier who aimed to avenge his mother and his people. But the more Eren saw his friends suffer, as well as learned of the truth behind the Titans, the more he was pushed to the dark side. What’s more, Eren became hopeless as he saw what the future has in store for him after touching Historia’s hand.
Despite his villainous acts, Eren Yeager is still considered one of the best characters by fans of the show. It also helps that fans are sympathetic to Eren’s cause and they know why the lead character is acting the way he is. However, that doesn’t erase the horrible things he did to both the Eldian and Marleyan people.
1 Reiner Braun
Even though he betrayed his fellow cadets and purposefully acted in a way that caused the deaths of thousands of civilians it’s hard not to like Reiner Braun. Reiner initially saw the people of Paradis Island as devils, but his experiences as a cadet changed him drastically. His confidence in himself and in the mission of the Warriors was seriously shaken by those experiences, and he struggles to reconcile his identities as a person and as a soldier.
Reiner eventually grows to bear no grudge against the people of Paradis Island and lives with the demons of his past as best he can while trying to protect his comrades.
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