Reading some of the comments you Anime Vice lunatics have been making about my DEATH NOTE reviews has been interesting. There’s a lot of disagreement over whether or not it’s OK to root for Kira. Anybody who isn’t a DEATH NOTE fan needn’t worry - - this doesn’t pertain strictly to that show. Basically, Kira’s a mass murderer who’s utterly ruthless about protecting the vision of a better world he’s trying to actualize. You can call him an anti-hero because he’d really be portrayed as the villain in any other story. Since he’s the protagonist in this one, viewers follow the plot from his perspective and there are thus a lot of gray areas where they might feel like rooting for him, even when he’s doing horrible things. Of course, there have seem spirited disagreements about that.
The discussion reminds me a lot of why I never really like crime movies as a kid, especially mob movies. I just couldn’t get behind sympathizing with the mob or celebrating their culture, as fans of the GODFATHER or GOODFELLAS do. However, as I got older and started reading French comics, I discovered France’s tradition of genuine anti-heroes like Fantomas and Diabolik. While these characters were contemporaries of Arsène Lupin (whose fictional grandson, Lupin III, you might be familiar with) they were hideous sociopaths whose grand antics were a far cry from Lupin’s gentlemanly thievery.
And they were utterly compelling to follow.
Realizing that I was rooting for these French villains put a new perspective on American ones, for me. I think the difference is that as bad as Fantomas and Diabolik ever get, their crimes still far enough removed from reality. Kira has similarly been doing bad things with his Death Note - - a notebook which allows him to kill any criminal simply by writing his name in it - - which is so ludicrous a device, it may as well be a magic wand.
Maybe this is a less of question of where the rest of you stand on rooting for bad guys (though I encourage you to share your opinion) and more a request to list some other anti-heroes throughout anime and manga. I was trying to think of examples other than Kira and Lupin III for this and the only ones I could think of were the biker gang kids in AKIRA, and I realized that was pushing it. There’s got to be more, so let’s hear ‘em.