It’s no secret that Pokémon is geared mostly towards younger audiences. In fact, I consider it one of the best PG anime out there.
Of course, it’s also a well-known fact that family-friendly anime often gets flak for having bad, one-dimensional antagonists for the sake of keeping things simple.
Pokémon though? Not so much.
Fortunately for us anime fans, Pokémon is one of those very few PG series that handles their villains creatively, in a mostly non-cartoonish way.
So which villains in the anime are the greatest when it comes to creating memorable antagonists? Here’s our picks.
15. Baron Alberto
Alberto is the one-off antagonist of Pokémon: The Rise of the Darkrai and is among the few villains in the series who got what they deserved in a hilarious way.
He’s an overly romantic guy (to the point of coming off as a major creep) who’s also very arrogant, opinionated, and condescending.
Of course, these traits shouldn’t really be all that surprising – since he was presented as your stereotypical “tyrannical noble” character.
But I have to say, the payoff from him turning into a Pokémon as a form of punishment (a Lickylicky, no less) definitely offsets his character’s cliché-ness.
Tough luck, bud. That’s what you get for simping too hard.
Paul is not so much a villain, as he is an uncaring, abusive jerk towards his Pokémon – and people in general.
He’s one of the more “bitter” of Ash’s rivals because of his unpleasant personality and the grudge he holds against Ash, and it shows every time they interact.
He often ridicules Ash and his Pokémon, calling them ‘pathetic’ and ‘weak’, simply because he doesn’t approve of Ash’s way of training.
But then again, it must also be said that he’s willing to work with Ash whenever the occasion calls for it — just like when they team up against Team Rocket, for example.
In addition to that, his overall attitude has also been showing signs of improvement in the later episodes of the anime. Good for him (and his poor Pokémon!)
13. Butch and Cassidy
There’s just no way around it.
These two are your bargain bin Team Rocket grunts who’ll never reach the level of popularity as our beloved TRio.
Despite that, Butch and Cassidy do have their moments in the anime. And they’re definitely not shy when it comes to taking the spotlight once in a while.
Needless to say, their often over-the-top and show-stealing appearances often spark their rivalry with Jessie and James, which is always a hoot to watch.
Also, it can’t be denied that most of their evil plans seem better and more well-thought-of than the ones their white-uniformed counterparts could ever come up with.
They are, after all, some of the best members of Team Rocket.
Too bad that didn’t save them from having little-to-no screen time in the later episodes of the anime.
Lysandre is the first “conventional” villain in this list so far, and is among the many antagonists in the anime who has larger-than-life ambitions.
And by that, I mean he planned to eradicate most of humanity to “save” the earth, effectively giving it life anew and restarting it.
Hmm, remind you of someone?
A big, purple space guy with a penchant for sitting in fabulous chairs and stone-collecting, perhaps?
His similarities with a certain mad titan aside, Lysandre, simply put, is the most intense anti-human and environmental activist out there.
Fortunately, Ash and his friends were around to stop him and his sinister plans — just like always whenever a new baddie pops out of nowhere.
If Lysandre is the tyrannical totalitarian who desires to rule, then Colress is the mad scientist behind every ruler who’s willing to push the boundaries of morality.
All for the sake of what he calls “progress”.
In order to aid Team Plasma’s leader — Ghetsis — he designed a device that can be used to control any Pokémon’s anger levels (with Ash’s Pikachu being one notable exception).
This essentially “awakens” their inherent potential, at the cost of turning the afflicted Pokémon into aggressive mindless slaves.
10. Hunter J
You either love her or hate her, but you have to admit that her character design is pretty darn cool.
Hunter J, as her name suggests, is an infamous Pokémon Hunter who will catch any Pokémon (even legendaries) for the right price.
She’s cold, cruel, and chillingly sociopathic.
To her, Pokémon are nothing but commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. And allies are nothing but tools that she could throw away and replace.
Naturally, these nihilistic traits often put her at odds with Ash, who thwarted some of her Pokémon-napping attempts before her untimely (and bizarrely not-so-PG) demise.
Very few villains have the same style and swagger as Guzma.
He also has a bit of an unconventional reason as to why he became a villain.
He’s the leader of Team Skull, and debuted the episode aptly titled: “The Dealer of Destruction!”
From the very beginning, Guzma was shown to be a very capable trainer — albeit his ruthless, arrogant, and sometimes cowardly nature got the best of him.
And even though he did offer refuge to other “outcast” trainers like him, it barely makes up for his transgressions towards his master, Kukui, Ash, and even his own pokémon.
It did work out for him in the end though, as he finally learned a valuable lesson in courage and humility after being defeated by Ash.
Who said Pokémon can’t be compelling villains themselves?
Mewtwo, who’s rightfully pissed off after being experimented on and tortured by humans, easily became one of the most memorable villains in the history of the anime.
Mewtwo came from an ordinary Mew’s DNA, which was manipulated and spliced for years by a group of scientists.
After destroying the facility where it once resided, along with its creators, Mewtwo was then free to sow chaos and disarray wherever it went.
It eventually ran into Ash and is famous for “killing” the latter by turning him into stone — only to be revived by the tears of the other Pokémon that mourned him.
As you can see, Mewtwo can be every bit as menacing as the human villains on this list.
That’s most likely why he was picked as one of the antagonists in the live adaptation as well.
Speaking of evil and villainous Pokémon, there are very few of them who actually look the part.
I mean, all it takes is one look at Giratina for me to figure out that it isn’t exactly among the friendliest Pokémon out there.
And to be honest, I find it rather terrifying.
After all, it is the physical manifestation of death and the underworld in the series.
True to its violent nature, Giratina has antagonized Ash and his companions on more than one occasion – and has feuded with the likes of Dialga and Palkia numerous times.
6. Cyrus (Team Galactic)
Cyrus is everyone’s favorite genius, billionaire, philanthropist, and all the other good stuff you can call a guy.
That is, until he wasn’t.
He kept his “rich businessman” persona pretty well. But under all that fluff, he was revealed to have been the boss of Team Galactic all along.
And for the most part, he succeeded with his goal of making an entirely new dimension after somehow taking control of two of the most powerful Pokémon in existence.
Too bad he went out right after achieving his dream.
Not exactly a “win”, per se, as his dimension didn’t even last an hour before being destroyed by Palkia and Dialga.
Ghetsis is yet another one of the most dangerous villains out there.
After all, he’s the leader of Team Plasma, which is arguably the evilest organization in the entire anime series so far.
And although Team Plasma isn’t necessarily the strongest villain group, they more than make up for it by being downright diabolical when it comes to their plans.
Ghetsis, being their leader, is the baddest of them all – and is the finest personification of a tyrant who craves power and control.
Oh, and he’s also someone who’s pretty far from winning a “Father of the Year” award by a long mile.
I feel sorry for you, N.
We’ve gone through several villains who probably know that they’re villains, and are overall just simply malevolent… but what about someone who like that?
Enter Lusamine, a hopeful, kind, and loving mother that was corrupted by her fusion with Nihilego.
This brought her darker side to the surface — turning her against Ash and even her daughter Lillie.
Ultimately, however, she was defeated and recovered to her previous state.
Surprisingly enough, Lusamine is actually a full-on villain with much more pronounced motivations in the games.
And even though her role in the anime was fine and all, I have to admit that I wanted to see her as the villain –she could have been the most complex antagonist in the series.
Everyone knows Giovanni as the very first “Big Boss” that was introduced way early in the show.
He’s cool, classy, and always with a confident smirk on his face.
His demeanor is that of a well-composed mafia boss who could bring chills down anyone’s spine.
In fact, he’s so awesome that he’s one of the few recurring main antagonists in the show, along with being the only trainer in the anime to have subdued Mewtwo.
And even though he’s not that active in his role as a villain, the mystery that still surrounds this guy to this day is enough to make any Pokémon fan raise an eyebrow.
Some say he might even be Ash’s father… and for all we know, he might just be!
2. Jessie, James, and Meowth (Wobbuffet!)
This TRio of misfits has been at it with Ash and his companions ever since most of us can remember.
And through it all, I guess we can safely say that there’s indeed a reason why they are the most recurring villains in the series.
It’s because they fit the show’s theme perfectly.
They’re goofy characters who are all cartoonishly evil at best.
Moreover, they have consistently been shown to have not fully embraced the dark side, least of all straight-up do truly malevolent things.
Simply put, they’re one of those groups in anime that just works because of their chemistry.
Heck, some fans even argue that they make the show more interesting to watch than Ash himself!
Very few anime can boast about making the “creator” or the “god” of its story’s universe a villain.
Pokémon is one of them.
Arceus was once a generous supreme being who doted upon Pokémon and humans alike — only to eventually fall victim to humanity’s greed.
It’s no wonder that it became spiteful of humans to the point that it once desired to destroy humanity.
In fact, it almost achieved its goal, if it weren’t for the Creation Trio teaming up to stop it – and for Ash saving the day once again.
Their actions eventually made Arceus see that there’s still hope left for humanity after all.
Let’s just hope it stays that way – for the sake of every Pokémon character that’s had the misfortune of being human…