Like most fiction, anime often relies heavily on character archetypes. There's the well-known bishonen (an effeminate male) and the tsundere (person who is cold or hostile outwardly in order to hide their more sensitive and affectionate side), along with a multitude of other well-developed archetypes. For this article, I wanted to write about the yangire and its very closely related counterpart, the yandere.
So what are these archetypes? Without digging too deeply into this in the introduction, a yangire is a seemingly normal and even adorable character who is likely to snap into a psychotic state without warning, usually when triggered by something specific. A yandere is very similar except that a yandere's mental instability is driven by romantic love, and their violent actions are often motivated by a desire for the object of their affection.
Unfortunately, due to gender stereotypes, the vast majority of yangire and yandere characters tend to be female. When writing this article, I considered adding in some male characters for better representation, but the ladies here steal the spotlight. And now, without further ado, I present my top five picks for the best yangire/yandere characters in anime.
Roberta (real name Rosarita Cisneros) is a maid who works for the aristocratic Lovelace family. However, her maid job is only a cover for her true job as a bodyguard. Before starting her life over by accepting employment from the Lovelace family, Roberta used to be an assassin for the narco-terrorist group F.A.R.C. Trained in Cuba, she honed her skills as a professional killer. After becoming disillusioned with the cause, she chose to leave that past behind her. Unfortunately, her psychological scars never quite went away.
She is very protective of the Lovelace family, and it is the murder of Diego Lovelace that causes her to snap in the five-episode third season that is aptly named "Roberta's Blood Trail". After Diego's murder, she goes on a psychotic killing spree against the U.S. military, F.A.R.C., the Russian mafia, and anyone else who gets in her way of revenge. The whole power structure of the underworld in the South China Sea region is shaken up by the epic bloodbath she leaves in her murderous rampage.
Minatsuki is a 17 year-old girl serving a life sentence in the most sadistic prison on the planet, where inmates are dismembered by prison staff for fun. Obviously, it's unrealistic to expect her to be in good psychological health. As expected, she has her share of issues, including a very wicked sadistic streak that actually causes her to become sexually aroused by human suffering (a fictional version of Irma Grese).
The yangire designation may be a controversial one. While she does act sweet and innocent at first before revealing her true depravity, her innocence seems to have just been an act to trick Ganta into letting his guard down around her. However, after reconciling with her brother, she seems to have undergone a remarkable improvement in the state of her mental health, leading me to speculate that perhaps her sweet and innocent act wasn't entirely fictional. Perhaps she really was that way before the cruelty she has been exposed to wounded her spirit.
First, it should be said that choosing just one character from this show was difficult. Shion Sonozaki was a close second choice due to the sheer brutality with which she tortured her victims to death. However, the reason I chose Rena is that her dual nature seems to be at least partially caused by her life experiences as opposed to the alien parasite infestation that drove the other characters to become deranged.
While characters like Keiichi and Shion lost their minds to a parasite and killed people in an altered state, Rena knew exactly what she was doing when she lured two people into a trap in the town landfill, killed them, and chopped them up into little pieces. After her murders were done, she made the decision to put the bad thoughts behind her and be happy from that point on. Unfortunately for her, the darkness inside of her lingered until finally being confronted.
Considering that the series begins with Lucy brutally slaughtering a lot of people, it's easy to see why she is viewed as a monster who must be put down or recaptured. But one of the themes of this series is overcoming prejudice, so a more nuanced view is presented.
After escaping from a research facility that performed inhumane experiments on her and her fellow Diclonius (evolved humans who have horns and special powers), she injures her head. When she regains consciousness, she has lost her memory and most of her language ability. She is found by Kouta and Yuka who take her in and name her amnesiac alter ego "Nyu" after the only word she seems capable of saying.
Throughout the series, Nyu gradually starts to regain her memories and her true identity as Lucy begins to emerge. She is a yangire by technicality, since her dual personality is due to a head injury. Her friendship with Kouta eventually helps to reform Lucy once she regains her memories.
Yuno is the only truly yandere character on this list. Full-fledged yandere are often used mainly as comic relief, but not Yuno. While she isn't the protagonist of the series, she is definitely its star. As the series progresses, the layers of her mind are gradually peeled back to reveal more and more depth. Viewers may alternate between seeing her as a villain and seeing her as a sympathetic character.
While it's easy to dismiss the Yuno Gasai shown early in the series as a psychotic killer, her real story is much more depressing. By the end of the series, she is shown to be a sweet person who has been victimized repeatedly by a world that seemed to be stacked against her. There is much more to Yuno Gasai than meets the eye.