Favorite Toxic Book and Manga Characters We Love but Shouldn’t in Real Life

Some of our favorite characters aren’t always the good ones. Sometimes, it’s those who are toxic to their core, and in real life we’d never want to meet.

Graphic Novels Recommendations Young Adult
Three book covers with different characters and patterns on them. They are set side by side. The first cover has two boys on it, the second cover has the title with branches set against a white background, and the third has an animated little girl holding a candlestick in her hand. The books are: My Hero Academia, The Cruel Prince, and Coraline.

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.

A book cover covered in branches with a crown hanging off one of the branches. It's sets against a white background. The title is large and set in the middle of the cover. The author's name is smaller and set at the bottom of the cover.

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.

There's a blue stag with large antlers. The title is in yellow lettering at the top of the cover. The author's name is in yellow lettering at the bottom of the cover. The background is blackish blue with yellow, black, and blue pattering on the edges of the cover.

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.

There are wavy red lines at the top of the cover and a the bottom. The title is in large, white lettering with a blue star in the middle of it. The author's name is in smaller white lettering at the bottom.

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.

A animated girl holds a candlestick. She is wearing a white shirt, and her expression looks surprised and/or baffled. The background is brownish black. The title is in red lettering above the girl's head. The author's name is in yellow lettering above the title.

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.

A grayish background with crow's wing and feathers in the foreground spread down the center of the cover. The title is in large, red lettering in the center. The author's name is in small, white lettering at the top of the cover. A "Netflix" tag is in a red circle in the bottom right corner.

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.

Two boys stare at each other. One looks menacing, while the other looks nervous and fearful of the other boy. One one is dressed in green, orange, and black. The other one is dressed in green and white. One has blond hair, while the other has an emerald shade of hair. The background is a fierce red with a splotchy black down the center. The title is in yellow lettering at the top. The author's name is in small, white lettering at the bottom.

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.

A smiling boy with green, spiky hair sits on a smiling frog. The title is in green lettering at the top and is duplicated in yellow-orange lettering in the background. The author's name is in yellow lettering at the bottom.

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.

The cover is neon green triangles, black, and purple. A male's profile sits in the center of the cover. He wears a purple suit with a patterned scarf and bowtie. He has purple hair and a stern look on his face. The title is in large, white lettering at the top. The author's name is in faded white lettering across the lower middle of the cover.

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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