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My metaverse is really short on villains. That's a problem as there are many characters whose heroism is defined by the enemy they fight.

A noble savage can't work in a setting where civilization and agriculture did more good for the overall morality of humans as they don't have to fight over resources anymore.

The same goes for those who fight monsters. If the best I can offer is a dragon who likes playing fetch with sticks, reads fantasy books, and occasionally steals apples from a lord's garden, no matter how strong he is, kicking his ass won't be cathartic because he isn't diabolical, just misbehaving.

Lizard people obviously won't make great villains, the Icon of Simp is too strong, etc...

So, I decided to offload the evil into a single character, a member of the major arcana Bondrewd Best Dad, the user of Death 13. His abilities allow him to infect up to 100 people with nanomachines. He, depending on how long the machines have been in the victim's body, can control a person's muscles and even blow them up. This ability is a gorier version of Hokuto Shin Ken with at-convenience remote activation and ranged attack added. However, that most likely won't be enough.

As you probably guessed, Best Dad is based-off of Bondrewd from Made in Abyss. That guy is hands-down the best villain ever. Despite being the epitome of evil and turning children into literal moe blobs to attain Scientific Triumph, he has been memed to pieces (spoilers) and was, you guessed it, nicknamed 'Best Dad' by the fans. Here's a short vid to catch you up on why Bondrewd is a monster.

I want to emulate his character, but I don't know why he became so popular, avoided becoming the next Umbridge, and attained meme status. How can I write a similarly engaging but clearly and irredeemably evil character?

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    Perhaps you should instead / also ask yourself, what should a hero do / be without a villain to fight? What would Batman be if Gotham only had common muggers and petty crime? What does a Knight do when the dragons have all been slain? What do Essential Workers do when COVID-19 has been cured? – Chronocidal Apr 27 '20 at 11:14
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The best villains, for my money, are fully-fleshed out individuals who have a clear logic behind their actions. Nastiness for the sake of nastiness wears thin quite quickly.

Say I have a villain who has killed dozens or hundreds of innocent people. That is bad. But let the villain have a turn on the stage where he justifies those deaths by claiming that the dead are better off not living in the vile corruption of the modern world and we shudder at the evil. Or let the villain say that he, the villain, is the chosen one and that the harvested vitality of the victims makes the villain more powerful and we respond with disgust. Or let the readers get to know some of the victims and then have them watch as the villain takes their lives for trivial reasons.

The best villains have a reason for what they are doing. It might be greed. It might be power over others. It might be glory. It might be religious. And if that reason leads them to destroy others in novel ways, all the better. It is not enough that they die, they must die in abject terror in order to extract the maximum vital essence. A seven-year-old child is best because they can understand what is happening to them and are powerless to stop it.

What you want is for your readers to wake up next week and scream in terror. Perverted motives of clever villains are the way to go.

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    Even if not "clear logic", then at least consistency. The actual logic may be twisted, warped, alien or otherwise obscured, but they need a Motive and Driving Force. There's (more than one) reason why Joker in "The Dark Knight" is more a compelling character than in "Suicide Squad" - and would remain so, even if they had been played by the same actor, in the same costume. – Chronocidal Apr 27 '20 at 11:20
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    By "clear" I meant visible. And Motive and Driving Force. Yeah, that's the ticket. In short, I want villains that have internal narratives that "explain" what they are doing (or failing to do). No more "cardboard cutout" villains for me, thank you. – JonStonecash Apr 27 '20 at 12:37
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A noble savage can't work in a setting where civilization and agriculture did more good for the overall morality of humans as they don't have to fight over resources anymore.

Yes because "civilization and agriculture" totally stopped humanity fighting over resources. Oh wait, they didn't. If these are what is preventing you having conflict between groups of humans I'd gently suggest that you're doing it wrong., resources are always finite and if you've created a setting where to all intents and purposes they aren't your worldbuilding is faulty.

Lizard people obviously won't make great villains, the Icon of Simp is too strong, etc...

Or rather it isn't obvious at all. You can make more or less any anthropomorphized creature a great villain.

So, I decided to offload the evil into a single character, a member of the major arcana Bondrewd Best Dad, the user of Death 13. His abilities allow him to infect up to 100 people with nanomachines. He, depending on how long the machines have been in the victim's body, can control a person's muscles and even blow them up. This ability is a gorier version of Hokuto Shin Ken with at-convenience remote activation and ranged attack added. However, that most likely won't be enough.

This sounds like reasonably "horrible" power for a villain to have - but it doesn't mean jack without a an actual villain to use it in villainous ways. It's not the power that makes the villain - it's how they go about using it, what their plans and goals are.

As you probably guessed, Best Dad is based-off of Bondrewd from Made in Abyss. That guy is hands-down the best villain ever. Despite being the epitome of evil and turning children into literal moe blobs to attain Scientific Triumph, he has been memed to pieces (spoilers) and was, you guessed it, nicknamed 'Best Dad' by the fans. Here's a short vid to catch you up on why Bondrewd is a monster.

I hadn't guessed, mostly because I'd never heard of Bondrewd. I had a look on a few "top x villain" lists for various mediums and no mention of him. So much for "hands-down the best villain ever", maybe "best villain no-one's heard of"?

I want to emulate his character, but I don't know why he became so popular, avoided becoming the next Umbridge, and attained meme status. How can I write a similarly engaging but clearly and irredeemably evil character?

So far you make it sound like you've done nothing but an off-brand imitation. So I don't know but maybe avoid doing that? Looking at an existing character and saying you want to emulate them - particularly in the way they affected readers is fine in of itself, but if you're starting out from a place of not understanding even the basics of why you want to emulate them, if you're just saying "wow this character is really popular, I'll take one of them please" then I'd suggest you're looking at this from the wrong direction and you're dooming yourself to fail.

Since I'd not heard of this guy I did a quick google and from what I could glean from the villains wikia entry it's not hard to understand why the character would be seen as a particularly "evil" villain, they seem to be the familiar trope of the evil mad-scientist who conducts horrible experiments on children and anthropologically speaking most people are going to agree that doing nasty things to children is worse than doing nasty things to adults. Especially where the role would traditionally be a caregiver (or at least caregiver-adjacent). Adult readers/viewers don't want that to happen to their children and kids don't want it to happen to them. Horror for all the family!

At first glance there doesn't appear to be anything particularly special or unique about them, perhaps there's something deeper that requires one to be a fan of the manga to understand but I can't say I have any inclination to find out.

And I have to say that if you're going off the amount a character get's memed about as being some kind of barometer for a character being successful I'd exercise caution. Because along with being cringeworthy forgettable drek 99 point whatever percent of memes have very little to do with the source material beyond a shared familiarity with the character and a perceived humorous play on the character and something else, in short no serious content creators are out there writing stuff going "how to we make this meme-able?", they don't drive the popularity of something because they are either intended as stand-alone jokes that you can "get" without know the source material or they're in-jokes between fans of the material. There can be a correlation between a well-done character and them being a meme-subject but that doesn't mean there's a causation.

Irredeemably evil and engaging characters are certainly do-able - but as I alluded to above the roots of this lie not so much in what powers they do or don't have and more in what they do with those powers and their motivations. So start there, what dastardly objective is this villain trying to achieve and why are they trying to do it. Check out "Evil plans - how do you come up with interesting ones?" for some guidance on how to go about this. If you want to seek inspiration from existing villains then seek out what made them great villains, how did they make the reader feel? Why were they a particular challenge for the protagonists? What character development did they have? What character development did they drive in others? Not "did some weebs make memes about them?"

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  • Made in Abyss only came out about a year or two ago, it's possible most of the lists you saw were written before that. At the same time, while Made in Abyss is quite popular in the anime community, it's very much unknown outside of that. – F1Krazy Apr 27 '20 at 12:07
  • @F1Krazy 3 years ago for the Anime, 2 years ago for the English translation of the Manga, or 7 years ago for the Japanese Manga. I admit, I don't stay completely up to date on Anime trends, but I'd never even heard of it before this question, despite it only being a year younger than "Mob Psycho 100" & "The Rising of the Shield Hero" – Chronocidal Apr 27 '20 at 12:58
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    @F1Krazy 2017 for the anime according to wiki - most of the lists I checked were after that. Aware of western blindness towards anime I also checked a couple of anime-specific villain lists (which were also recent) and Mr Bondrewd didn't get a mention. I'm sure Made in Abyss is a fine anime - but the OP appeared to be under the impression that Bondrewd was at "iconic villain" status which at an (admittedly cursory) glance doesn't appear to be the case. – motosubatsu Apr 27 '20 at 12:59
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    To be fair, while I have heard quite a few people talk about Made in Abyss before, I myself had never heard of Bondrewd until this question. – F1Krazy Apr 27 '20 at 13:02
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    @Mephistopheles PS: Also can you knock it off with the not-so-subtle inferences that people who don't align with your own tastes must have "sh#t" taste and/or be stupid. It's not the first time you've done that and it's still neither big nor clever. Be nice. – motosubatsu Apr 27 '20 at 13:54

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