Be warned, contains spoilers for Pokémon Black and White. To anyone who hasn't played it yet and plans to, you've been warned.
There seems to be a sort of debate what N actually IS in the Gen V Pokémon games (well aside from his real name being really funny. Seriously look him up and you'll see that it's pretty bad if you have a sick mind). Some people say he's a villain because he's, on paper, the leader of Team Plasma, the evil team in Generation V. But here's the thing, technically HE ISN'T. You learn very late in the game (basically the end in fact) that Ghetsis was manipulating his "son" the entire time. Also, he seems to be awfully friendly towards the player for being the villain of the game But onto the actual subject of this blog post. What actually makes N a great anti-hero in my opinion? Well...
- N has a warped, but very interesting train of thought about Pokémon and their trainers. He thinks (or thought, before his mind was changed towards the end of the game's story) that Pokémon should be released from their trainers because they long to be free. Sure these ideas were brought on by Ghetsis basically brainwashing N for his own gain, but the ideas themselves are rather interesting. I mean think about it. We keep making them fight until they faint for our own enjoyment, we keep making them wear silly (but classy and cute) outfits to compete in contests for our own enjoyment, and we take them from their natural habitats and stuff them inside a little ball. But the problem with this train of thought lies in the assumption that N makes that all Pokémon are suffering and none of them are actually happy to do this for their trainers. Also, he doesn't think about how this will affect the trainers of the Pokémon. But this train of thought feels natural for him to have because the story reveals he was actually raised... by Pokémon and he shows his intelligence by how he argues his point of view, though occasionally he gets a little bit immature about it, but for reasons that actually make perfect sense considering his actual backstory. They aren't random outbursts, they are actually rooted to his lack of real contact with people.
- N is a part of the evil team, yes, but he actually has a heart. He throughout the game shows that he has legitimate concern for all Pokémon, and even to a degree the player. He occasionally will heal your team, show you the benefit of the doubt even when you disagree with his ideas, and even release his Pokémon after he loses battles to you (he is the only recurring rival or villain to never keep his team. The only Pokémon he DOESN'T release during the game's events is Reshiram or Zekrom (Depending if you play White or Black respectively), and even then he seems to avoid putting him in an actual ball unlike you who keeps theirs in the ball, whether it be your Master Ball, an Ultra Ball, or whatever ball you catch him with. He actually shows more concern for his Pokémon than you or anyone else does with theirs. Not to mention, he actually only serves Ghetsis because his adoptive father convinced him and everyone else that Plasma's mission is to free all Pokémon from their trainers. If he knew the real reason for Ghetsis' agenda against all of the people (including non-trainers even) in Unova, he would have immediately had scorn for Ghetsis and would never have went along with Plasma's takeover of Unova, especially being the king representing such a takeover.
- N's battles are generally difficult enough to put up a challenge for people who don't have a good understanding of Pokémon, especially the last battle you have with him in Black and White. His Pokémon are made deliberately two or three levels higher than your own, and without a proper amount of strategy it is potentially challenging especially for being a battle in a Pokémon game against a character that technically isn't the Champion or an Elite Four member. He has a variety of types in his teams and his trainer AI isn't going to make battling him too easy, but also not too hard for the tykes the game was initially designed for. I mean none of the trainers in Pokémon games are particularly challenging with a few notable and frustrating exceptions (WHITNEY AND HER FREAKING MILTANK ), but they aren't supposed to be. I think N's AI does this really well and I applaud whoever designed his AI specifically.
Well, I'm bad with conclusions, but those are my reasons. N is a kind person with somewhat twisted ideas that provides an adequate challenge for the player. Also, he looks kind of cute.
DAMMIT JAPANESE ARTISTS ARE SO GOOD AT MAKING PEOPLE LOOK CUTE Anyways, N in my mind, fits every criteria for a good anti-hero in a video game and he does it well in his own way, making him an interesting character to say the least and I think probably even one of the best characters in the entire video game franchise. Not the anime version of him though, because the cleverness of the character was taken out of the anime. But I say in Black and White, he was a cleverly written anti-hero that checked all of my boxes. Yeah I repeated myself multiple times here, but that is it.