Although Eren Yeager and Light Yagami are from two separate worlds, the pair share a common goal of wanting to balance the books of an unjust system. More often than not, this often leads to death; hence, the titling of the Death Note series — and Attack on Titan is, of course, no stranger to that concept as well.
But now the question remains: Who is the true evil protagonist between the two legendary anime? Could it be the infamous Kira, or will the new Founding Titan wielder be the one who reigns supreme? The only way to determine the winner of this battle is by looking at their arc as a whole and the reasoning behind their sinister acts.
Let’s start with their origins and how the characters were inspired to cause the downfall of their respective worlds. In our introduction to Light, we see a brilliant teenager who is incredibly bored with his life, almost making it too easy for Ryuk to tempt him with the Death Note. His first instinct is to exterminate all the filthy criminals of the world, which could be seen as a heroic act.
However, you could say the same for Showtime’s TV series main protagonist, Dexter, who has the same ideology as Light. Given that Yagami already has tendencies of a blatant serial killer, things don’t look too good for our genius boy wonder. His expressions also don’t do him justice because, well, he just looks evil (at least, that’s what I’m seeing.)
When it comes to Eren’s reasoning, he didn’t outright start with the need to kill, as opposed to Light. Yes, he wanted to eradicate the Titans due to the death of his mother and the rest of the Shiganshina residents, but it wasn’t something he initially began with. It was a belief that was developed throughout the years until it eventually came into full fruition the moment he saw the dystopian future from Historia’s hand.
So, we have Light, who immediately gives in to dark urges right from the start, while Eren is more of a slow burn. Nevertheless, you can still consider the fact that Yeager’s evilness was with him all along, but honestly, I don’t think this darkness was there until the end of AoT Season 3 and the rest of Season 4.
Viewers can also acknowledge the fact that Eren knows that he cannot change the future, as he’s tried this before, and he doesn’t necessarily have a choice in his decisions. It’s still morally wrong to do, yet it’s challenging to grasp if you were in his shoes.
Beyond the reasoning, we need to examine the two characters’ guilt, given that most true villains don’t experience this emotion. Light initially feels this after he commits “murder” with the Death Note, but then he ultimately disregards it as something that is right and can only be done by him, the great ruler of the world.
While Eren may seem like he’s the same way, with his multiple instances of heartless emotions, he’s shown his guilt a few times in Attack on Titan’s final season. You can see a perfect example of this when he apologizes to the young Ramzi, knowing he would be the one responsible for his death. It doesn’t exempt him from his actions, but it does show his compunction for it.
The only time I’ve really seen Yagami display some form of sadness was during his dad’s death. Even then, I’m not entirely sure if the tears were real since he did say he was using it as a tactic to get his father to write in the Death Note.
Now that we’ve reviewed their reasoning and guilt, let’s talk about the horrible things they’ve actually done. In hindsight, we can see that Eren is the winner here for the most atrocious acts since he, you know… wiped out 80 percent of the world through the Rumbling. Based on this alone, I would say Yeager would be considered anime’s most evil main protagonist.
On the other hand, we can’t solely depend on this reasoning, as plenty of other factors can still come into play. Light isn’t even scott-free either due to his linkage to an enormous amount of deaths. According to the fans, Yagami has roughly killed more than 200,000 people with the Death Note. Of course, that’s nothing compared to Eren’s terrible feats, but we should still keep it in mind.
When it all comes down to it, Eren and Light’s final moments can help us determine the outcome for the real evil main protagonist by looking into their impact on other characters. True villains, both fictional and non-fiction, tend not to have anyone grieve for them unless a group or an individual believes in their corrupt ideology.
Once Light reaches the end of the road, the remaining members of the Task Force feel betrayed and turn against him, similar to what happens to Eren. However, the two characters’ deaths are significantly different despite their shared occurrences. While Yagami dies alone, Yeager continues to be surrounded by those he loves despite what he’s done. His friends also don’t outrightly take his side after his death, and more so come to terms with understanding why he did what he did.
We can see that during the Attack on Titan epilogue scenes, all his friends visit him frequently. For me, someone truly evil wouldn’t have people still caring for him, like Eren has, which is the polar opposite of Light’s journey. No one really mourns him, with the exception of Misa Amane, and that proves to me that Yagami is the clear winner as the evilest main protagonist.
Everything about Light has always been linked to morally wrong acts, starting from the show’s beginning and right until the end. He’s shown no guilt throughout the series and never cares about his actions or how they affect everyone around him. That doesn’t mean he’s a poorly written character; it just proves he is the real evil one here.
At the end of the day, you can form your own opinions on this matter since Eren could undoubtedly hold the villainous mantle from specific perspectives, primarily due to his part in his mother’s death. Nevertheless, it’s not like Light was that innocent in his own father’s demise, so that’s not a huge leap either.
We could probably go back and forth for an eternity on who is the most evil anime main protagonist, but I believe what really matters is the impact these two series have made. I mean, just look at how Death Note is still talked about even today, regardless of its release all those years ago. The same could probably be said for Attack on Titan in the future through its dedicated fanbase.
There will likely be more evil protagonists to come, and it demonstrates the ongoing changes to the classic heroic main protagonist. It certainly keeps the thrill going and solidifies that storytelling in anime is genuinely remarkable, no matter how wicked it may be.