Top 20 Anime Betrayals Of All Time, RankedThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Whether it’s in Hollywood movies or anime, a betrayal has always played a crucial role.
If you play it right, this revelation can raise the stakes in the story, encourage fervent discussions, and perhaps entice new people to watch your series.
But that’s the thing:
Not all moments of deception work their wonder. Worse, it can backfire and ruin viewing experiences, appearing cheap or merely pulled out of thin air.
In contrast, the anime betrayals I’ve compiled below have done their job with flying colors, ensuring that fans will keep talking about them for years to come.
20. Malty Ruins Naofumi’s Reputation
Anime: The Rising of the Shield Hero
Malty S Melromarc is the crucial element that kickstarts The Rising of the Shield Hero.
She ruined Naofumi’s optimism and love for all good things in life, highlighting the fact that some choose to lie and act like victims when they’re the real criminals.
It’s terrible for Naofumi Iwatani to be falsely accused of assaulting Malty. Still, his initial downfall shaped him in a way that easily distinguishes him from the rest of the male isekai MCs.
Also, he eventually meets (or rather, buys) the adorable Filo and the fan-favorite Raphtalia anyway, two women morally superior and cuter than the impossibly selfish and manipulative Malty.
19. Sailor Neptune and Uranus Join Sailor Galaxia
Anime: Sailor Moon Sailor Stars
Okay, this was a huge deal where I lived because Sailor Moon (along with Dragon Ball) were household names.
Sailor Neptune and Uranus always effortlessly looked the coolest. But no one was expecting the two to side with Sailor Galaxia, one of the biggest villains in the entire franchise.
Did it hurt when they killed Sailor Saturn and Pluto?
But then came the truth:
The two did the unthinkable so they could have a better chance at finishing off Sailor Galaxia. So it was a double-cross, which honestly made them much cooler in my eyes.
They failed to kill Sailor Galaxia, but Usagi (who became Princess Serenity) finished the job in the end.
18. Archer Vows to Kill Himself
Anime: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
The Fate franchise can get confusing — and I’m not just talking about the watch order. But one thing is for certain: The twist about Archer’s true identity was amazing.
Who knew that Rin’s servant in Unlimited Blade Works is the alternate, older version of Shirou and that he wants to kill him (i.e. another version of himself)?
Suddenly he was no longer just this chill white-haired dude that’s good with melee weapons:
He was a man with a plan, and he had the brains and brawn to achieve his goal. It never bothered him to betray not only Rin, but also Caster, and her master.
Now he didn’t defeat his younger self. But there was beauty in their clashing of blades and ideals.
17. Haruki Cheats on Setsuna
Anime: White Album 2
I hate and love this anime.
If anything else, it should be proud of being the only romance series on a list dominated by sci-fi, fantasy, and shounen titles.
For the most part, White Album 2 never felt like it was heading to any sort of betrayal.
But the last few episodes (especially EP 10) did a mad and defiant sprint to hurt both the main trio and the viewers.
Yet no matter what anyone says, I still believe that you couldn’t completely root for any of them. Haruki, Setsuna, and Kazusa all contributed to the big mess they were in.
16. Annie Leonhart is the Female Titan
Anime: Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan took the world by storm with its first season — and the anime community was stunned at Annie’s titan reveal.
Granted, I had an inkling that the female titan maybe her because of the hair. But I also didn’t want it to be true. Eren and the rest were ill-prepared (and didn’t deserve) another surprise onslaught.
But this was Attack on Titan:
People were going to die regardless of how seemingly important they were, often in brutal ways and at the hands of the towering freaks.
The female titan was extra terrifying because she was smart and athletic.
So fans witnessed Annie Leonhart murder people in the field and forest as if they were flies. At one point, she was flinging someone around like a yoyo. And let’s just say I’m still not over Petra’s death.
15. Villeta Nu Shoots Kaname Ohgi
Anime: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Villet’s change in personality after her memory loss serves as a great reminder that people aren’t born with hate in their hearts — it’s their upbringing and society that cause prejudice and discrimination.
Thanks to her otherwise traumatic experience of being shot, she begins a new life as Chigusa with her savior Kaname Ohgi.
They fall in love.
Then a riot occurs, and Chigusa becomes Viletta once again as she (sadly) remembers everything again.
Now she’s disgusted that she’s with an Eleven, so she shoots Ohgi, the person who saved her life and didn’t worry about who she was or how she thought of people like him.
Of course, the second season makes things better. But this particular moment in Season 1 was painful.
14. Moeka Kiryuu Kills Mayuri Shiina
Similar to Malty from The Rising of the Shield Hero, Moeka is what forces Okabe to start his arduous time travel shenanigans, hoping to prevent Mayuri’s death even if it meant witnessing her die repeatedly until he found the correct answer.
Yet Moeka didn’t seem like a threat at all before the shooting incident.
In contrast, she appeared to be someone who disliked socializing, except if it involved email, which gave her the platform to be much more expressive.
Yet her reserved demeanor in the real world perfectly concealed her true identity. Okabe didn’t expect her to kill anyone, let alone Mayuri, but he and the rest were quickly proven wrong.
13. Itachi Murders His Own Clan
Itachi was responsible for the near annihilation of his own clan (including his parents), literally sparing only his little bro Sasuke.
That’s a terrifying case of betrayal.
If this series was like Attack on Titan (or Berserk), viewers would have probably witnessed a visceral and intense visual retelling of the event.
But even without the gruesome details, anyone could see how much Itachi’s deed changed Sasuke’s life.
If you saw Naruto: Shippuden, you likely hate Itachi less now (some may even think of him as someone like Voldemort). But that doesn’t erase the terror he brought upon those he shared the same blood with during that one particular night.
12. Kaede Kayano Reveals Her True Name
Anime: Assassination Classroom
Assassination Classroom took more than a few episodes before I really got hooked. One reason why it now has a special place in my heart is Kaede Kayano — or should I say Akari Yukimura?
It turns out, she’s no ordinary student:
She was a black-haired actress and had a big sister named Aguri. Sadly, her sibling passed away. But one thing Kaede distinctly remembered was a tentacled entity near her sister.
Yep you guessed it. That creature was an early form of Korosensei.
And so Kaede plotted her revenge, changing her name and hair color, using some sort of tentacle cell liquid on herself, studying at Kunugigaoka, and letting Nagisa make herself inconspicuous.
Did she succeed? No.
But it was still a pleasant surprise (she had tentacles on her nape) — and I love how she was beaten in part by Nagisa giving her a 15-hit kiss.
11. Reccoa Londe Joins the Titans
Anime: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
This is a pretty old title, but this 1985 series showcased the unforgettable Reccoa Londe. Her life was far from peaceful, having been part of the resistance and witnessing the deaths of many peers.
Reccoa is formidable and can do things on her own. But she also has a gentle side. Yet she can’t find a balance between her identity of being a woman and a soldier.
This makes her susceptible to the clever and charismatic Paptimus Scirocco, eventually leading to her defection to the Titans, the show’s antagonists.
But that move didn’t prove to be wise in the long run:
She had to shut her eyes from the horrors they were orchestrating to retain her bond with Scirocco.
In the end, Reccoa convinces herself that all men are manipulative of women, and she dies during her battle against Emma Sheen (who also dies due to shrapnel).
10. Anthy Pierces Utena
Anime: Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena is a highly acclaimed series with tons of surrealism and symbolism, which are hallmarks of a Kunihiko Ikuhara project.
It’s unafraid to explore and critique notions of gender identity, gender roles, and the fairytale tropes that shape what children think about men and women.
Utena is a girl, but she doesn’t aspire to be a stereotypical princess who will then wait for a prince or her knight in shining armor. No, she wants to be a prince to the Rose Bride Anthy Himemiya.
Yet Anthy herself has her own issues.
Her brother harasses her, all other duelists want to win just so they can use her for their own selfish reasons, and she has a negative self-perception. Also, Anthy is both a princess and a witch — and all these eventually compel her to betray and stab Utena, the female prince who wants her to be free.
Their relationship does heal in the end, thankfully.
9. Aizen Deceives Soul Society
Almost everyone knows by now that Aizen is the central antagonist. But try to recall his appearance at the start…
He looked like an intellectual who taught philosophy or metaphysics in university.
He was seemingly gentle-mannered, strategic, and highly respectable.
In reality, Aizen was indeed calculating, but he was also more than willing to deceive and murder anyone if it meant achieving his sinister goal.
With his outstanding intelligence and Arrancar Army, especially the Espada, he was a key threat. If he got his way and dethroned the Soul King, the flow of souls in and out of Soul Society would become unstable and the worlds would collapse.
8. Sasuke Joins Orochimaru
Sure, Sasuke also betrays Naruto at the very end of Shippuden so that they could have their long-awaited final battle. But this is the first major betrayal.
He and Naruto were rivals, but they were also good friends — at least that’s what Naruto believes.
Plus, they can empathize with each other, having experienced a great deal of loneliness with no typical family supporting them in their younger years.
Think about it:
Orochimaru is a diabolical individual who won’t stop at anything to achieve eternal life. He’s also led the attack on Konoha that resulted in the death of the Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi.
Plus, two of the three Sannin (Orochimaru being one of them) are in Konoha: Tsunade and Jiraiya.
Lastly, everyone from Naruto to Shikamaru, Choji, Neji, (drunk) Rock Lee, and even Gaara’s team fought hard in the hopes of rescuing Sasuke — yet he still refused and chose to be Orochimaru’s apprentice.
7. Satsuki Kiryuin Fights Her Mother
Anime: Kill la Kill
Satsuki went from being the main antagonist (who had one of the best fight scenes ever with Ryuko) to being a deuteragonist once it became clear that it was her abusive and evil mother who needed to be vanquished.
Thus, this was a betrayal that benefitted Ryuko and the rest of humankind.
Ragyo Kiryuin treated both her daughters, Satsuki and Ryuko, as mere test subjects to fuel her curiosity on Life Fibers. Thus, she was only their mother in the biological sense — she never saw them as a family to cherish.
It took a while, but I’m proud of Satsuki for finally standing up to her oppressive and downright insane parent, and working together with her dear younger sister.
6. Canute Realizes Askeladd’s Intentions
Anime: Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is a fairly recent anime adaptation of a relatively old yet on-going manga — and it got the critical acclaim and popularity it deserved.
The particular betrayal literally happens in the very last episode titled “End of the Prologue”, but it’s so worth it.
Askeladd was put in a difficult spot by Canute’s father, King Sweyn:
Either he kills Canute or he lets the King wage war against Wales. He doesn’t want to choose, so he opts to behead the king instead.
Problem solved, right?
Nope. Canute instead takes matters into his own hands and kills Askeladd, declaring dominion over the Vikings and England.
This was already a shocking turn of events. But then you consider how Thorfinn felt upon witnessing Askeladd take his last breath. He was utterly ruined.
5. Slaine Troyard Ends S01 with a Bang
I know Season 2 shouldn’t have happened, but I don’t completely hate it.
Then again, it’s never going to match the heart-stopping moment of Slaine’s final act in the first season.
You see, chaos was all around:
Inaho just fought Count Saazbaum and was badly injured. Princess Asseylum approached Inaho to report that everything was over, but then Saazbaum shot her.
This drove Slaine into madness — he deeply cared for her.
He furiously shoots at Saazbaum. Then he sees Inaho crawling toward Princess Asseylum. Slaine orders him not to come any closer to her, so Inaho points his gun to him — and then Slaine shoots him, the MC.
With Season 2, it was revealed that neither Princess Asseylum nor Inaho died. It felt like the show itself betrayed its fans, so I understand why most would rather think the sequel never existed.
4. Kaworu Betrays Shinji
Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Do you know why Kaworu’s betrayal is extra painful? Shinji already felt deeply betrayed by his own father, Gendo. He didn’t deserve another bout of deception.
But then came Kaworu, who arrived at both the best and worst time in Shinji’s life:
Shinji needed someone, anyone, to stop him from succumbing to the darkness. His friends were all far away due to the evacuation, and both Asuka and Rei were very difficult to approach at the time.
Kaworu quickly made him comfortable enough to speak about personal matters. They even went to the bathroom together, and Shinji stayed at Kaworu’s place for the night.
But Kaworu isn’t a normal person — he’s the Fifth Child and the 17th Angel. He uses the Unit-02 to enter the Terminal Dogma and delay Shinji’s pursuit of him, only to find out that Adam isn’t there, just Lilith.
Shinji captures and kills Kaworu at his request, but not before telling him how hurt he was. Kaworu said their brief encounter was meaningful, but how should that make Shinji feel now that he’s gone?
3. Griffith Becomes Femto
If I’m judging only by how traumatic the scene is, this would be on top.
Griffith’s descent into hell (and rise in power) as Femto is plagued with horrific imagery.
In the last part of the movie trilogy (or EP 25 of the 1997 series), you witness the exact moment Griffith spelled doom on the Band of the Falcons. Guts failed to stop him — and the Eclipse had commenced.
The landscape instantly changed. Suddenly, hordes of gigantic demons surrounded and outnumbered the Falcons.
Griffith, whom Guts and Casca saved from this yearlong imprisonment and torture, made the conscious decision to bring doom to them all. It was a one-sided battle with much human bloodshed.
Yet the most painful watch was undoubtedly what Femto did to Casca — all in front of her lover Griffith, who slashed away his own arm and had his eyeball pierced as he raged to no avail.
2. Reiner and Bertholdt Reveal Their Identities
Anime: Attack on Titan
How many times have I watched their reveal in EP 06 of Season 2?
I don’t know, but it never fails to send chills down my spine. Especially when Eren lets out his anguished and furious scream.
Here’s the thing though:
Thanks to Google’s keyword suggestions, I accidentally saw the identity of the Armored Titan. So while I wasn’t entirely surprised, Wit Studio’s outstanding animation (and Sawano’s hype-inducing music) made my jaw drop and my heart race.
After years of waiting, non-manga readers finally saw that Reiner and Bertholdt were the Armored and the Colossal Titan, respectively.
The two monsters responsible for what transpired in the very first episode and whom Eren was seeking revenge on were right with him all along, making good memories with him as his friends and comrades — or so he thought.
These two guys changed Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and everyone else’s lives forever. They murdered countless numbers of people and wreaked havoc on humanity.
It was a monumental betrayal — and one of the best and most exhilarating moments ever in anime.
1. Kyubey and His True Intentions
Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Before I watched PMMM, I always thought that the small and adorable-looking creatures in anime (such as Cerberus in Cardcaptor Sakura and Mokona in Magic Knight Rayearth) were always on the good side.
Then Kyubey happened. Thanks, Gen Urobuchi.
On a more serious note, Kyubey was the perfect main antagonist for the series. It looked harmless and it was portrayed as such early on, but I knew something was off just because of the ominous red eyes.
Those weren’t the eyes of a creature trying to kawaii or moe:
It was the color of blood, representing all the girls throughout history whose lives Kyubey and the rest of its race ruined with their enticing wish-granting abilities and their need to produce energy.
Madoka, Homura, Mami, Kyoko, and Sayaka weren’t living like the magical girls you often see in anime.
Once they accept Kyubey’s offer, they’ll spend their lives fighting witches (and each other), only to end up either killed, or as a witch themselves if their soul gems get too stained.
It’s an abhorrent cycle. But to entities like Kyubey, it’s an essential and efficient method to prevent the universe from falling apart.
Emotions aren’t part of their vocabulary. And the same goes for what’s good or evil.
They aren’t driven by selfish goals, political beliefs, ideologies, or any hunger for personal power, much unlike all others on my list.
In contrast, they just want to keep the universe running (i.e. do what’s best for the majority, and not just for humankind) no matter what.
It’s terrifying because it makes sense. But it’s utterly dehumanizing.
Thank goodness for Madoka’s ultimate sacrifice — and Homura’s unflinching dedication to her as well.