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Anime Theory: Black Hair Is Good, Brown Evil

Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.

Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth

Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth

Hair Color in Anime

Anime and cartoons are well-known for their colorful depictions of life, often featuring vibrant hair colors that aren't seen without dye in real life. But when the shows opt for more-realistic tones of brown and black, there's an interesting habit of making the darker-haired character good and the brunette evil, or at least more ruthless.

Like every rule, exceptions exist, but you might be surprised just how many shows follow the trend—here are ten examples of black-hair protagonists and brunette antagonists throughout television! Spoilers ahead.

Okabe and Moeka

Okabe and Moeka

10. Rintarou Okabe/Moeka Kiryu

Anime: Stein's Gate

Okabe prattles on about being a mad scientist, but when push comes to shove, he'll go to any length to save his friends from the inevitability of time. Contrastingly, chestnut-haired Moeka acts shy and reserved, but she will sell out her comrades if ordered.

True, Moeka shows some remorse over her actions, but is still very much a villain who fits the trope.

Bob Belcher and Jimmy Pesto

Bob Belcher and Jimmy Pesto

9. Bob Belcher/Jimmy Pesto

Cartoon: Bob's Burgers

Of course, this one's a cartoon and not an anime, but the principle still applies. Bob Belcher plays the likable yet down-on-his luck chef who makes great burgers, yet he's financially surpassed by his immature competitor Jimmy Pesto.

Pesto isn't evil per se, but will take any opportunity to remind Bob of his financial woes and aging body.

Makoto and Sekai

Makoto and Sekai

8. Makoto/Sekai

Anime: School Days

Visual novel School Days is infamous for its bad endings, which don't just feature failed romances but jealous killers, the route the anime chooses to adopt. In it, protagonist Makoto is no saint, leading multiple girls on, but that doesn't mean he should be brutally stabbed by former flame Sekai.

Kirito and Akihiko

Kirito and Akihiko

7. Kirito/Akihiko

Anime: Sword Art Online

Thanks to Akihiko masquerading as guild leader Heathcliff, he and Kirito share more screen time than it first appears, and both hero and villain bear many similarities. They're each skilled programmers more at ease in a virtual reality than the real one, but Kirito's morals keep him in check while Akihiko will do anything to accomplish his goals.

Mikasa and Eren

Mikasa and Eren

6. Mikasa Ackerman/Eren Yeager

Anime: Attack on Titan

Eren transitions from protagonist to antagonist as the series progresses, but stalwart Mikasa retains her sense of right and wrong from start to finish. Being adopted siblings, the two often work together to survive their dangerous world filled with monstrous titans, but differ in how they let their surroundings affect them.

Lelouch and Suzaku

Lelouch and Suzaku

5. Lelouch Britannia/Suzaku Kururugi

Anime: Code Geass

Here's an interesting example of the trend. Lelouch fights the tyrannical nation of Britannia while Suzaku works for it; however, Lelouch often utilizes morally-questionable means while his childhood friend plays by the rules.

Thus, at times, Lelouch seems more villainous, but at the end of the day, he's the one audiences root for, using his immense intellect to topple a prejudiced nation.

Joker and Akechi

Joker and Akechi

4. Joker/Akechi

Anime: Persona 5

Whether you're playing the game or watching the anime, these two share a bond similar to Lelouch and Suzaku. Joker's Phantom Thieves gang will forcefully change someone's heart to make them more righteous, while detective Akechi considers such methods barbaric.

Still, the two form a close friendship, and by the end of the series, it's pretty obvious who to cheer on.

Ash and Gary

Ash and Gary

3. Ash Ketchum/Gary Oak

Anime: Pokémon

Of course, in a kid-friendly show like this, Gary Oak isn't evil. But throughout the first few seasons, he relentlessly taunts and belittles Ash. Gary often is one step ahead of his rival, but Ash manages to one-up him on occasion, progressing further in the first league and finally defeating his foe in the second.

Kiritsugu and Kirei

Kiritsugu and Kirei

2. Kiritsugu Emiya/Kotomine Kirei

Anime: Fate/Zero

Each Holy Grail War pits seven mages with seven heroic servants against each other in an immense free-for-all, but from the start, Kiritsugu and Kirei recognize each other's strength.

Both men will bloody their hands to win the war, but where Kirei fights solely for himself, Kiritsugu means to improve the world by any means necessary, revealing he maintains a conscience despite his brutality.

L and Light

L and Light

1. L and Light

Anime: Death Note

Light Yagami starts his killing spree with good intentions, aiming to rid the world of criminals vie his Death Note, but he loses focus, becoming more obsessed with dominating the world than helping its inhabitants.

Detective L sometimes bends the law to catch Kira, but only once he's sure he's got the right suspect, and in his defense, he's basically always right.

Other Trends in Anime

Realistic hair colors in anime often used with complex characters to liken them to us, showing that no one is infallible in real life. But it's interesting how often the brown=bad, black=good theme gets used.

It this just a string of coincidences, or symbolic of deeper meaning? You be the judge, but for now, share your favorite series and I'll see you at our next countdown!

© 2021 Jeremy Gill

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