Why do they suck? In short, it is because the writers have no respect for the villains, let me explain why this matters.
I spent my day reading Nidome no Jinsei wo Isekai de, an Isekai manga. The protagonist hero is alright but his character is wasted because his villains so far have been one-dimensional evil rapists. The story keeps ridiculing them so they are not scary.
I don’t care about the main character’s struggle because there isn’t one, because the hero’s adversaries don’t feel threatening in the least bit. I get that the reason the villains are ugly-looking rapists is to make the protagonist look good in contrast.
There is nothing wrong with this set up in principle but the problem comes when hero defeats the one-dimensional evil rapist, what happens is that the anime humiliates the villain as a boastful weakling (compared to the protagonist).
This shows the anime has no respect for the villain, and if the anime has no respect for the villain then neither do I have any respect for the protagonist defeating this villain(who is the real underdog). The only thing I feel towards these villains is disgust but that is not good enough to create tension or to push protagonist forward to his limits.
I don’t care much that this Anime-Rapist/Ugly-Bastard trope is there for pandering because all fiction is pandering – the most pandering anime are usually the ones like Evangelion & Welcome to the NHK which hypocritically criticize the pandering while pandering all the same – and yet this doesn’t make them bad anime.
First person video-games have certainly made anime protagonists more like self-inserts for weebs/otaku but that isn’t in itself wrong. The wrong thing is what it has done to the villains opposing these self-insert protagonists. I can’t remember a single memorable villain in anime from the last ten years.
Before this you could more easily get away with making interesting villains than heroes because the villains don’t have to be likeable. The villain still doesn’t need to be likeable now but because the hero is a self-insert it has become necessary to make the villain pathetic, so pathetic that one wonders why the hero was necessary at all to defeat the villain.
The way isekai anime gets around this is by making everyone in the world dumb and weak – unable to solve anything without the protagonist’s broken powers. The reason I am singling out isekai anime is because it is in those kinds of stories, usually adapted syosetu web novels, that this form of cancer is very common in.
Even kid’s anime like Dragon Ball had better villains than this! I don’t like a lot of things about the isekai genre, like the fan service, the video-game stats, the fantasy settings etc… But so far I have been disappointed with the villains… So let me know if you know any isekai manga/anime/novels with good villains...