As it is in real life, book and manga characters have traits that border on both good and bad and somewhere in between the two extremes. They are just as complicated as humans, maybe even more so. So, it’s no surprise that we book lovers may gravitate toward those characters who are toxic, treacherous, and downright despicable. We may connect with them due to their tragic pasts or their secret nature to be good. Or we may love them despite their terribleness. After all, they’re not real, so it’s okay.
But what if they were to make it off the page and into our reality? We may not feel too keen on getting to know them, no matter their tragic pasts or deep-down big hearts. In fact, we’d probably travel to the other side of the world to make sure we’re nowhere near them, just as a precaution. So, here are eight toxic characters we may love but shouldn’t — and wouldn’t — in real life.
1. The Cruel Prince’s Prince Cardan
We can all agree that faerie Prince Cardan is quite the toxic villain. A highborn prince who despises humans and views them as lesser beings, Cardan does not shy away from teaching them a thing or two about being in his world. Humans don’t belong, and Cardan makes this abundantly clear as he tries to make human-born Jude’s life a living hell, casting cruel spells upon her, humiliating her during their classes, and wreaking havoc on her whenever he has downtime.
But deep down, can Cardan actually be this terrible? Or is he masking his true nature? For a prince who’s as vain and self-indulgent as he is, we can only guess. What can be determined is that he may be toxic, but we still love him as a character. In real life, he’d most likely be marked with a big, red X, telling us to steer clear of him at all times.
2. Shadow and Bone’s General Kirigan/The Darkling
With a tragic past and swoon-worthy looks, that is only part of why we love General Kirigan, better known as The Darkling. With the ability to wield darkness as a weapon, it’s no wonder this wretched soul makes this list. He’s already had a rough go at life due to his Grisha abilities, which only strengthened his powers and fueled his rage. A once-loveable, sweet child, his heart grew colder and more corrupt as he witnessed a world that never seemed to love him back.
Most deadly are his charm and smile, sure to leave you second-guessing his villainous actions. While we all love a smart, steely-eyed, headstrong character willing to fight for what they believe in, it may be best to keep your distance, lest you get caught up in The Darkling’s manipulative and power-craving ways.
3. Caraval’s Julian
I’m sure many fans of this wondrous book have never truly stopped to think about how toxic Julian is. He’s a charmer with a great smile and muscles to make readers melt. But the other side of him is less than savory. Upon first meeting him, he’s lip-locked with Scarlett’s sister, so it’s a wonder how Scarlett fell for him so quickly. His best trait is lying, while his worst trait is manipulation. He’s got secrets that only come out after our MC Scarlett catches him in his lies.
No amount of charm could cover the whoppers he tells or the hurt he causes once you realize you’ve been duped. I guess the good thing is that he never says he’s a good guy. He admits to being quite the opposite. The only truth he ever reveals. The world of Caraval may be mixed up in extravagant fantasy, mystique, and possible doom, but Julian doesn’t have to be. Yet he is, and maybe that’s why we can’t help but love him. Be forewarned: getting mixed up with him in the real world spells a one-way ticket to heartache.
4. Coraline’s The Other Mother
She exists in a parallel world. Her voice is sweet, kind, and oh-so-motherly, unlike our real mother, who never seems to have time for us or pay us any attention. She’ll give us any and everything we want, so long as we don’t try to leave her. But don’t be swayed by The Other Mother, for she is not what she appears to be. Under the veneer of the mother you think you know is a creature of a ghastly nature with black sewn-on buttons for eyes.
She has but one goal: to lure children in and steal their life force. Like Coraline, we all fell for The Other Mother’s charm and sweet nature, but we also found out that she’s nothing like the mother we want. In real life, we wouldn’t want to be in the same room with her, let alone in the same reality. Stay far, far away from her. Your soul will thank you.
5. Six of Crows’ Kaz Brekker
Hailing from the same world as The Darkling, Kaz may not be a Grisha, but his talents lie elsewhere. He’s a mastermind at manipulation, scheming, and sleight of hand. Jaded from an early age, Kaz has no time for proper friendships. Even his ragtag crew, The Dregs, who would follow him to the ends of the earth, hold no weight of trust with him. With a nickname like Dirtyhands, he is no one to get mixed up with, as those hands are already mixed up in the dirtiest of deeds.
Kaz is cold, unfeeling, and as distant as the sun. All by design. He can’t get hurt if he doesn’t allow even the one person he’s in love with, who would never betray him, to get close. With a methodical mind and a steel-plated heart, he’s not built for the happy ending we all dream of. In real life, it’s best to steer clear of this iron soul because he will never let you in.
6. My Hero Academia’s Katsuki Bakugo/Kacchan
Oh, Deku, when will you learn? Kacchan is not our friend! Still, that does not stop us from loving him — toxic traits and all. While our sweet, loveable MC Deku may see the good in Bakugo, we, the people, can spot the glaring issues he has with everyone. Bakugo is quite temperamental and explosive. Like his quirk, “Great Explosion Murder God Dynamite” (his chosen name), his mood is constantly a fire hazard to us all.
Still, we love Bakugo because he values being a hero above all else. And (though it’s not because he truly cares), he’s willing to jump into the fray to save his fellow classmates from the true villains of MHA. Someone who aspires to be a hero can’t be all bad, right? In Kacchan’s case, we can only hope so. In real life, it may be better never to cross his path at all. Hero or not.
7. Hunter x Hunter’s Killua Zoldyck
Part of an elite, powerful family of assassins, Killua is trained from birth in various killing techniques, his favorite being the rhythm echo technique. He may be a child of twelve but dare to get on his bad side, and you’ll meet your fate at this young one’s hands. One side of him is sweet and cheery, and indulges in childlike games and wonder; the other side of him brings out a red-eyed fury and animalistic claws that can end you in a blink.
We first meet Killua (“Kill” for short) at the hunter exams, where he breezes through them without issue. But Kill’s skills aren’t the reason why we love him. His friendship with fellow kid hunter Gon is. Killua is quite protective of Gon and truly loves their friendship. Never truly being able to have a friend, it’s no stretch to understand why Kill comes across as toxic or why we can’t help but love him as a character. In real life, most of us would certainly keep this kid away from our own children.
8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Dio
If there’s one toxic character we should stay away from in real life, it’s Dio. Still, we can’t help but love his villainous ways, how creative he is when he’s doling out what he assumes to be a punishment to the Joestar family, who he feels have wronged him, and how unapologetic he is while doing so. It makes him *chef’s kiss* perfect as an antagonist. And he’s a vampire to boot. But not your run-of-the-mill vampire. No, Dio does things with flair and style mixed with spite and determination.
He has abilities beyond your average use of telepathy and glamouring. Able to fashion creatures out of his own body, we get vampire-zombie minion hybrids that are equal parts awe-inspiring and grotesquely terrifying. Yet Dio is like a beautiful torrential storm — you can’t look away. For this reason, we can’t help but love and loathe him.
While we are drawn towards toxic characters and even try to find a seedling of good in them, they are bad candy for us. Some of them have let their worldviews jade them. Others have grown weary of being mistreated. Then there are those characters that are simply no good. No matter the level of toxicity, they come with red flags and warning labels and are not to be encountered. We may adore them and all of their wretchedness in the books we read, but in real life, we undoubtedly, most assuredly, shouldn’t.
For more about the villains we love, check out this article here.
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