Character Spotlight: Count Saazbaum, Aldnoah.Zero.
I did not expect to like Saazbaum as much as I did when I started watching Aldnoah.Zero. He was a very obvious villain: Coiffed, dressed in regency fashion, smugly drawling about war in a way so obvious that even the characters around him were like 'Dude, Saazbaum, shut up, man.' Even his main underling was obviously villainous, a man with a bowl cut who spent his time laughing maniacally and referring to people around him as rats.
At the beginning of the series, at least, Saazbaum was a Saturday Morning Cartoon villain, rubbing his hands and being thwarted by Those Goshdarn Kids. He was the main face of the villainous Martian conspiracy, directing a genocidal war with the manner of an imperialist aristocrat.
It isn't really until episodes eight, nine and ten that he becomes interesting. Faced with the prospect of a very minor thorn in his plans being killed, Saazbaum puts his own health and his entire plan at risk to swoop in and rescue said thorn, straight up murdering an ally in the process. As that trio of episodes goes on, Saazbaum proceeds to eat a meal with this minor inconvenience, revealing his motivations - to use the war he started to improve the lives of the citizens of Mars (who live, for the most part, in abject poverty with little water and food), and depose the royal family who he feels is at fault for Mars' problems.
It's not the most original motivation, but it is an understandable one, especially given that the series is built around the principle of 'Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.' To Saazbaum, his plan must be good: He is bringing down justice upon a corrupt emperor and a planet that abandoned his people, and balancing a debt that both those parties owe the people of Mars. To that end, any amount of sacrifice, bloodshed and violence is correct. That is, after all, what those words entail - justice achieved at any cost.
|You okay there, dude?|
Then he goes on to free said thorn in his plans, citing a debt that he owes the boy's father. He's aware that this may well come back and bite him later, and he acknowledges such, but it's the less important matter: His principles demand a course of action that he knows is impractical, and he doesn't hesitate in taking it.
To me, that's a lot more interesting than a villain that always does the smart thing. A villain who is principled, and obsessed with his principles, is both more fun to watch and more dangerous for the protagonists. After all, any smart person would just give up after being thwarted over and over again, but someone who is driven by principle will just keep trying. But Saazbaum makes mistakes, gets flustered, does things he knows he shouldn't, and, at least once, fails and has to pick himself back up again.
Saazbaum is proud, and I like that. Pride, portrayed properly, is a lot more interesting to watch than a perfect manipulator.
Also, he has a really cool giant robot.