Everyone enjoys a good villain in a story, especially if he/she is a well-written one. Villains cause havoc, do unspeakable horror to other people, and are rarely bothered by their conscience. What makes them intriguing is how a mind of a villain works. Their unpredictability and ruthlessness makes them a ticking time bomb waiting to explode, and standing back to wait for it to happen is what leaves you seduced by them.
A villain who is plain evil without a motive or a back story explaining why they are who they are makes the character forgettable and inaccessible. Once justice is dealt on the villain it just becomes a case of, “Well, he/she had it coming. Good prevails over evil. The end.” If you are like most people, you want your villain characters to be multi-faceted and not one-dimensional. I can think of the Disney villains as being one-dimensional for the most part. They are fun to watch and only serve the purpose of being the foil to the hero/heroine until their comeuppance happens at the end.
When thinking about villains in anime/manga, there is really only one villain who stuck out in my mind out of all the ones I’ve watched and read who is captivating and has a lot of depth. The villain I’m talking about is Nakago of Fushigi Yugi.
Nakago has a lot of what I’m talking about when it comes to well-written villains. When you meet him in the anime/manga, there is no denying he is the main villain Miaka and her Suzaku warriors have to contend with. His deceptively angelic, gentle, pretty boy looks masks a manipulative and twisted human being inside. He is the leader of the Seiryuu warriors and the mastermind behind all the manipulative machinations he executes against Miaka and the Suzaku warriors. Nakago leads and commands with an iron fist, and he has no problem proving this point to his other fellow Seiryuu warriors if they fall out of line or fail in their latest mission to destroy Miaka and her protectors.
His list of atrocities are endless. In one instance, Nakago uses his master manipulator skills to make Yui believe she was raped by a gang of thugs in an alleyway when she gets sucked back into The Universe of Four Gods without Miaka. He plays on Yui’s shock, fear, shame, and vulnerability by using the incident to somehow pin it as Miaka’s fault for not coming to her rescue. Nakago further drives a wedge between Miaka and Yui by using Yui’s feelings for Tamahome as a weapon against Miaka.
When Yui is happy to know her best friend has come back for her, Nakago twists the happiness into hate by falsely claiming that Miaka didn’t really come back for Yui but came back for Tamahome. Yui resists this claim at first until she witnesses Miaka and Tamahome declare their love for each other and then seal the declaration with a kiss. Jealous, angry, and betrayed Nakago has succeeded in bringing Yui fully over to the dark side and has pushed her to embrace her role as the Priestess of Seiryuu hellbent on making Miaka’s life and the lives of the Suzaku warriors a living hell with Nakago pulling the strings.
Nakago is selfish for the most part, and will use and discard people without even blinking. When I first got introduced to Nakago, I hated the guy with a passion. The things he does leaves you stunned and disgusted. He is the type of villain you love to hate as well as want to see killed. But as the story progresses, it introduces other shades to his character as well as where Nakago is coming from when it comes to how he turned out the way he is.
When I say he is selfish for the most part, there is a slight indication of him being capable of thinking and caring about someone else. Soi, one of the seven Seiryuu warriors and Nakago’s right hand woman, is the only person he actually cares for aside from him looking out for #1. If she’s hurt or exhausted, Nakago tells her not to push herself too hard. When she dies during the big showdown between Seiryuu vs. Suzaku in the epic climax of the series, he cradles Soi’s lifeless body and departs briefly from the big battle to bury her properly. These small acts toward Soi show his capacity to be something other than evil.
This brings me to why Nakago is a tragic type of villain: circumstances made him the way he is. His childhood is rife with tragedy and pain. Nakago belongs to a tribe known as the Hin, a tribe that is greatly hated by the people of Kutou. When Kutou soldiers invaded and attacked the tribe, soldiers overtake him and his mother. Nakago, as a young boy is forced to witness the rape of his mother by the soldiers. Horrified and angered by what the soldiers have done to them, particularly to his mother, his powers as a Seiryuu warrior are awakened. Uncontrolled and fueled by anger and hate for the soldiers, Nakago uses his strange, new power in that moment to wipe out his mother’s rapists. It isn’t without another tragic consequence––he accidentally kills his mother in the blast.
The emperor of Kutou witnesses Nakago’s ability and takes him into the palace. Growing up in the palace is no better for Nakago either. He is enslaved and forced to become a concubine to the emperor because of Nakago’s unearthly, feminine-like features. Eventually when Nakago becomes an adult, he becomes a soldier in the service of the emperor. Nakago’s new high rank and the appearance of the Priestess of Seiryuu gives him everything he needs to start his revenge plot against the emperor and the people of Kutou who have badly mistreated him, his mother, and his tribe. You can tell this revenge plot of Nakago’s is something he has been constructing since the death of his mother and his enslavement. Nakago was an innocent boy who was forced to grow up and learned what it is to truly hate.
If I remember correctly, in the anime and manga, Tamahome actually ends up sympathizing with Nakago before Nakago himself is defeated and dies. I forget how Tamahome arrives at feeling sorry for his tormentor, and forgive me because it has been a long time since reading the manga and watching the anime, but I think Tamahome understood Nakago in his final moments. Tamahome must have sensed the pain, rage, and hatred Nakago had to carry with him all these years. Death for Nakago is kind of like a release of everything he has held onto for so long. This doesn’t condone anything Nakago has done by any means, but it gives a sense of peace to a man who has been broken all his life. He had nothing else to live for except revenge.
Nakago is my favorite villain from an anime/manga I have ever encountered so far. There is such a rich layer to his character which makes him complex. He has been the only villain so far to switch my feelings from absolute hate to sympathy where I feel such sadness and loss for his situation and how those situations have changed him forever. If Nakago wasn’t given the bad hand he was dealt with, he could have turned out to be a good person. Maybe he could have been a warrior for good for his tribe or a peacemaker between his tribe and the people of Kutou. Who knows for sure?
Considering how much he cared for Soi also shows Nakago’s heart isn’t all black as it appears to be. It is possible for him to feel something else other than hate. If circumstances were different, him and Soi could have been in a loving relationship. I truly believe Nakago was very much in love with Soi as much as she loved him. Their experiences are very similar, which is why I think the two end up drawn to each other aside from their Seiryuu warrior duties of course. Nakago, despite whatever feelings he may have for Soi, won’t allow himself to love her as a man should. His priority is his agenda and it doesn’t leave room for much else. Soi understood this, but it doesn’t stop her from giving everything to him until the end.
Does anyone else have a favorite villain that has left an impression on them? Does this character have you thinking about them long after you have finished the story?