The 20 Most Manipulative Anime Characters (Guys + Girls)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Just like in real life, you can see the best of people and the worst of people in anime.
Some will risk their life to protect a random bystander – while others will frame you for murder and blackmail your family.
The true manipulators tend to fall into that latter category.
So let’s take a look into some of these characters whose tongues are as sharp as a blade & could play you like a fiddle with their manipulative ways.
20. Malty Melcromarc
Anime: The Rising of the Shield Hero
There isn’t a person alive that likes Malty.
Although Naofumi was facing a pretty uphill battle from the start (because of the stigma surrounding Shield Heroes), it was Malty that made his life hell.
Not only does she frame Naofumi , and thus turns the entire kingdom against him, but she also plays the Spear Simp like a puppet – constantly egging him on to cause Naofumi even more trouble.
You would think that Naofumi killed Malty’s parents or something, considering how dedicated she is to ruining his life. But no.
She just hates his guts because he’s a Shield Hero.
Anime: Naruto: Shippuden
Zetsu was the most out of left field mastermind ever.
Sure, he was present throughout the story and helped the other Akatsuki out.
But he never seemed too important…
He was the mastermind that literally molded the vast majority of ninja history to resurrect Kaguya.
Every major conflict in the show is tied to this dude. And no one even suspected him!
He might be an absolute garbage antagonist that stole the spotlight from the superior Madara. But you have to hand it to him, he knows how to control human emotion.
18. Sosuke Aizen
And since we’re on the topic of surprise antagonists who shaped a better part of history for their own selfish means, let’s talk about Aizen.
Unlike Zetsu, his reveal was brilliant.
Not only did he fake us all out with his supposed death, but the dude also flexed like no other.
Few characters can stop your theme song with a single finger.
And when the truth bomb drops and you realize this dude has been directing Ichigo’s life from behind the scenes, you just go “yeah, that sounds about right”. Because is there anything Aizen isn’t capable of realistically?
17. Angelo Lagusa
Anime: 91 Days
Angelo is such a good liar that I wouldn’t be shocked if Angelo wasn’t even his real name.
Going undercover to take out your enemy is nothing new. But this dude really pushed the envelope.
He was so good at getting close to the enemy that he ironically became the biggest pillar of support Nero had in his life.
He never even batted an eye when lying, subtly guiding the mafia from the shadows to get the answers that he wanted, and to assure that their heads roll when the time comes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if even he started believing his act by the end of it.
16. Dio Brando
Anime: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Even long before he became a vampire, Dio was just downright nasty.
Not only did he basically steal Jonathan’s father, but he also killed him and tried to steal Jonathan’s love interest.
Nothing is too low for Dio. And when you’re as well-versed in manipulation as he is, you can get away with some nasty stuff.
Immortality only further developed this skill, as he was capable of recruiting dozens of Stand users to die for him by making them believe in his absolute supremacy.
He’s soft spoken, calculated, and powerful.
A truly deadly combination.
15. Illumi Zoldyck
Anime: Hunter x Hunter (2011)
People always bring up how manipulative and unpredictable Hisoka can be. But have you seen Illumi?
Sure, Hisoka seems to always have ulterior motives and can backstab you at any second. But at least he doesn’t literally brainwash people.
Illumi on the other hand looked at his little brother and just thought: “this seems like a fun project” and then proceeded to dictate his entire childhood.
You could say that he did it so Killua could survive.
But no motive will ever justify full-on brainwashing.
And don’t even get me started on the Hunter exam stuff.
14. Laurent Thierry
Anime: The Great Pretender
I get that being a conman requires dishonesty. But Laurent really takes it too far.
I’m not even talking about all the people he scammed out of millions, but rather his very own comrade, Makoto.
This dude wanted to get out of the business on multiple occasions. And yet Laurent always spun his web and forced him back into it.
At some points it just seemed unfair, like Makoto didn’t even have free will anymore.
Sure, he got him back in the end.
But I would still give the “liar of the decade” award to Laurent because of how consistently he does it.
13. Natsuki Subaru
Anime: Re: Zero
This is the only case where being manipulative isn’t necessarily all that evil.
Subaru is a good guy. But because of the nature of his power, he kind of has to take the reins of destiny and manipulate his friends and enemies alike to get the best ending.
He can’t even come clean about it, since he gets drop-kicked right in the heart whenever he tries.
Be that as it may, he does basically control people’s lives without them even knowing it.
Which is a prime example of manipulation.
12. Misaki Nakahara
Anime: Welcome to the N.H.K.
Welcome to the N.H.K. is without a doubt my favorite psychological show, and it doesn’t pull its punches.
The outside world can be scary. Your dreams might never work out, and that girl that swore she was helping you might be doing it out of completely selfish reasons.
I still can’t say that I hate Misaki. But she was beyond dishonest in the first half of the show, basically using Satou as a plaything to make herself feel better.
She did step up when all the chips were down.
But that doesn’t change the past now does it?
11. Eren Yeager
Anime: Attack on Titan
Prior to the last season, Eren would never even come to mind when talking about manipulative characters.
He was just this loud-mouthed kid that really wanted to kill some Titans.
But boy does the last season change gears.
Suddenly, he’s the main player of every game.
He forced everyone’s hand into going to war, he started his own movement to achieve his goals, he spat upon all those who have helped him in the past, he did it all.
And depending on how much the anime adapts from the manga, we might even see that it wasn’t just the present that Eren affected.
10. Takumi Ichinose
Now we’re getting into the real psychos…
Takumi is probably the best representation of real life manipulators, because his selfishness known no bounds.
You can’t even call him evil since he does do some good things here and there.
But seeing how he plays with Nana’s heart should leave a bad taste in your mouth.
He knows exactly what to say and when to say it to achieve his goal, regardless of who he hurts along the way.
Whenever he and Nobuo were in the same room, I cried a bit on the inside. But I can also understand why Nana found his lies to be so comforting.
9. Ougi Oshino
The Monogatari series is at no shortage of manipulators.
But I found Ougi to be the most proficient.
With just short chats, they molded entire seasons of the show, setting up villains and digging up dirt on just about everyone.
Deishuu Kaiki is also a very strong contender for a spot on this list.
But since Ougi had a bigger impact on the story overall, while also not needing much time to get the ball rolling, I’ll have to give it to them.
But I see you Deishuu, with your oddly terrifying yet charming voice.
8. Ryou Asuka
Anime: Devilman: Crybaby
We honestly should have known this guy was trouble from the very first time we saw him.
Who just comes to pick up a friend while packing serious heat?
But as she show went on, we saw just how much influence Ryou had over the story.
From that fateful party to the massive riots and murders, all the way to the fight that would destroy the planet, Ryou was behind it all.
He knew just how to present things to get a rise out of people. And his capability of controlling the masses through fear is dictator level.
Anime: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Clayman literally wears the title “the Marionette Master”.
Do I even need to go on?
He spent so much time pulling strings from the shadows that he became whiter than mayonnaise. And his influence is just immense.
He can end entire kingdoms through his manipulation, be it through a calculated conversation, or good-old brainwashing. He’s bound to make tropes moves.
And it’s not like he’s just brainwashing some random villagers, as he has Demon Lords and majins under his command.
The anime hasn’t gotten to that point yet – but I can’t wait to see Rimuru kicking his butt.
6. Yoshino Takigawa
Anime: Blast of Tempest
Although it’s admirable that Clayman managed to brainwash a Demon Lord, he still has nothing on Yoshino.
He does put up a very believable good guy façade, yet he is an absolute psychopath.
He made a goddess fall for him, and then became so influential through her that a hit was put out on his head.
And I can’t really blame people for wanting him dead. Because he did have a long history of screwing people over when it suited him.
He did come out later in the series, but his influence was so deeply rooted that a goddess hand-puppet became his everyday life.
5. Izaya Orihara
It felt like Izaya was just a metaphor for the writers of Durarara, because nothing in the show happened without him somehow being involved in it.
Like seriously, even his puppets had other puppets, slowly controlling the pace and flow of virtually all major events.
To no one’s surprise, he usually set up the pieces for chaos, relishing in all the happenings from somewhere high up.
If there’s no major chaos to start, he’ll just have a casual chat with someone and make them question everything they held true up until that point.
Or jump off a building.
His tongue is a lethal weapon and should be treated as such.
4. Shougo Makishima
What makes manipulative people so dangerous is that they can often understand you well, while you can’t understand them at all.
Shougo is on a whole different level here. Even the central government can’t seem to understand his morals.
He abuses this fact to the fullest, guiding the general populace into havoc and teasing the police force to come and get him.
Shinya was the only one who could get a peek inside of his head.
And even then it took an entire season to catch this slippery snake.
3. Lelouch Lamperouge
Anime: Code Geass
We’re closing in towards the top of the list, and these are a doozy.
We’ll start off with Lelouch here.
It’s not easy living two lives, as you’ll have to convince both sides that their side is the only one.
Not only did Lelouch manage this, but he even excelled at it.
As a normal student, he managed to fool his close friends for years before they caught on. And as a rebel, he started (and won) an entire revolution.
But even that wasn’t good enough.
He looked towards the future and determined the best outcome, playing the entire country like a fiddle to achieve the peace he had long sought after.
It was a noble goal. But man does it lie on a road of deceit.
2. Light Yagami
Anime: Death Note
Light lies as easily as he breathes.
Not only did he live a double life, but he had tea with his enemies every day, never breaking character and revealing his true intentions.
Even in the end, it wasn’t him that messed up.
You can watch him all day and night and he would still find a way to fulfill his duty without getting caught.
Even a bag of chips is made into the ultimate undercover gadget when in Light’s capable hands.
His own father couldn’t even figure him out!
And when it comes to the throne of deceit, there’s only one character that I think can outmatch the man who manipulated the Shinigami.
1. Johan Liebert
If you have not watched Monster, you might think “there’s no way this random bland-looking dude is a bigger manipulator than Light”.
However, rest assured that Johan is on an entirely different level.
This show is entirely based in reality – and yet Johan still managed to be as dangerous as the dude with Shinigami by his side.
He can make the most dedicated, kind-hearted person jump from a roof within minutes – just by speaking.
He can unhinge a normal everyday Joe and turn them into a mass murderer.
He can talk to some normal kids and have them relish in battles to the death.
Every word out of Johan’s mouth is no less dangerous than a bullet. And this is why I believe him to be the biggest manipulator we’ve ever seen in the anime world.