The character on the right is called the Jack the Ripper. For some reason, anime keeps using the moniker. Usually for bad guys, but this time it’s for a good guy. Name aside, I found something odd about him when he showed up in the anime. He uses ‘Severing Magic’, which slashes at his targets . . . That’s fairly violent. He’s on the hero side as well even though he’s a third tier supporting. Strange?
Typically, a violent or ‘evil’ power is given to either a villain or an antihero. Ripper would fall into the latter category since he’s bloodthirsty, but has a sense of justice. Other examples would be Spawn and Hellboy with demonic powers. The list gets really long and you’ll find that they’re primarily antiheroes with similar personalities:
- Gruff demeanor
- Dark or nonexistent sense of humor
- Few and limited relationships
- Traumatic past
There are outliers, but that’s what you normally see. Ripper actually stands out a bit because he’s a loud personality. He’s not so much a loner and doesn’t brood, but does threaten even his allies with death. It’s unclear if he’s serious though. This might be why his use of a very lethal and violent power caught my attention. His personality didn’t match the ‘evil’ of his abilities when compared to what I was used to. It made the contrast even more apparent because he was almost friendly in a way that reminded me a little of the Joker. Yet, again, he was a hero and respected one from what I could tell.
It makes me curious about these ‘evil’ powers and the personalities of those who wield them. Does having them mean that the character has to be dark and an antihero? I guess it could be if the power is something that forces them to be isolated. That could be what creates a darker personality, which means the character’s mindset is dictated primarily by their abilities. It could also be that their darker personality is what attracted the power, which gives you the opposite. Either way, you have darkness creating another aspect of darkness here. It’s done without any thought to there being alternatives.
One could argue that ‘evil’ is in the eye of the beholder too. A power is neutral and only goes to one side if the user makes it so. If a hero and a villain have the same power then they’ll use it differently because their objects are different. For example, a telekinetic hero would catch and gently place a falling person on the ground. A villain with that power may throw them into the atmosphere or tear them in half. Same power with the same limits, but different uses. Even something with a lethal name like ‘Severing Magic’ could be used in a heroic way. The name certainly throws one off, but it’s possible if the user has a less aggressive personality than Ripper.
Personally, I’ve had a character on the backburner for a long time who falls into this category. He has blood-based powers, which wasn’t that common when I first came up with him in 2001. I’m talking able to turn his blood into weapons, armor, wings, and other uses. It was gross and felt ‘evil’ on the surface due to the horror-like imagery. I wanted to counter this with a personality that was friendly, naïve, and almost child-like during all of this character’s incarnations. This isn’t what caused the problem, but I think of him every time I see a dark antihero with a violent power. Makes me wonder if I was fighting against myself because he didn’t fit the tradition. Not that I would change him, but I get curious about how a happy character with horror powers would be accepted in general.
So, what do you think about this odd and niche topic?