Villains can be some of the most interesting characters in a story. Whereas saving the world seems like the common sense option, seeing someone different attempt to rip everything apart and justify it through some distorted belief or philosophy can, in certain instances, alter how we perceive and understand the world around us. Most Assassin’s Creed games pit you against the Templar, and for all the bad and terrible things they do, it is possible to understand their final goals and why they would want that end, even if it doesn’t sit right with you. A villain need not necessarily reshape the lens through which you view the world, but they do need to make their motivations transparent so that you’re not left thinking, “Why are they doing this?” the way Our Blood Oath’s villains do.
Our Blood Oath has bad villains, and I don’t mean that redundantly. I mean bad as in ineffectual and bad as in terrible and lazily written. In a series where battles are the peaks on a pacing chart, they make sense, but in a world where vampires lurk amongst the larger human population and largely leave them alone, they’re harder to justify without a proper motive.
As is the usual case, vampires are the apex predator in OBO, so trap one in a room with a human and within three days, they’ll suck on the human until they’re dryer than an Egyptian mummy. Coexistence seems like a pie in the sky pipe dream, which is what OBO’s villains—whose clique doesn’t provide itself a name, so from here on out I’ll be referring to them as the Goon Squad—are out to prove. However, I have to ask, and this is the question which can make or break a villain, why?
By their very placement on the food chain, a coexistence between humans and vampires is impossible, since one has the tendency to lick their chops when ogling the other. But throughout the series, this is proven to not be the case, since vampires can obtain their sustenance from blood donations, which are doled out to those in need. Therefore, through this welfare program vampires are able to live in peace and even befriend other humans. So then what do the Goon Squad have to prove, and, once more, why?
As I said in my review, their “proof” of the impossibility of coexistence involves kidnapping and placing their victims in extreme situations designed to produce a certain outcome—situations which don’t exist in the real world. Once you strip their experiments of their credibility, all that’s left are bad guys who are bad for the sake of being bad. It seems that the Goon Squad don’t endorse vampire-human segregation to protect one species over another, but because they’re chauvinists who believe themselves superior to humans and go out of their way to hurt others to prove their baseless belief.
For as horribly as OBO handles its Goon Squad, their existence, as well as the series’s very identity, reminds me strongly of, you guessed it, Tokyo Ghoul’s CCG, which is the first long-term gaggle of antagonists in that series. Their similarity is their opposition to vampires/ghouls mingling with humans, but from there, it’s nothing but differences, beginning first and foremost with that the CCG is competently written.
Unlike the Goon Squad, who hate humans because reasons, the Commission of Counter Ghoul, or CCG, and its members hate ghouls because they cannibalize people and are an active threat to the public well-being, which they are. The very first chapter is Ken Kaneki taking a pretty lady out to dinner only to discover she’s planning on making him dinner, and its second and third chapters have him struggle against his newfound appetite for human flesh. Contrast this with OBO, which doesn’t make any argument for why humans and vampires can’t go to the same college or watch a film together. We get one scene where a random vampire lady is about to attack two dudes who cornered her, but she’s quickly stopped, and it’s difficult to know the circumstances of her thirst. Had she not drunk in days? Did being harassed trigger her appetite? How much blood does a vampire even need to get by? Do they have to drain a person dry, or can they get by on a little? Presumably, they have to drain a person dry, as one vampire girl kills her friend when her thirst becomes too unbearable, but beyond that, there’re no news reports or headlines of rampant vampire attacks. In fact, it almost seems like nobody aside from vampires themselves are even aware of the existence of vampires.
To prove that its writing is better, Tokyo Ghoul moves on to integrate the CCG naturally into its world. OBO didn’t last long enough to dispense details on its Goon Squad, and it failed to provide any during its run, so its villains came off as nothing more than rebels hurting others because reasons. They had no place in the world and no cause for existing other than to be the bad guys to fight. Kaneki and his new ghoul pals may fight life-or-death battles with the CCG, but not because its investigators are evil. The one looks and acts like a deranged madman, but the organization as a whole is an official government branch founded for the specific purpose of tracking down suspected ghouls and killing them before they can claim more victims. It’s the exact response you would expect in a society with such dangerous and hostile creatures lurking in plain daylight. And as for that madman, when you learn that he holds such a sadistic grudge against ghouls because of how he lost his wife to one, his facade peels away and you can see that he’s a person doing what he believes to be right, even if that righteousness is leaving a trail of blood.
When I set out to write this post, I thought this was a matter of villain motivations, but that’s not entirely the case. It’s a matter of worldbuilding, because, without ghouls, the CCG wouldn’t exist, which is the ultimate lesson here: that worldbuilding comes about as a result of consequences. Ghouls plague the world, so governments establish pseudo-military forces to combat them, and you go from there, which is how Aogiri Tree comes into play. Tokyo Ghoul gets a lot more complicated, with its varying factions, but it’s expected when you blend the black and white from the world, painting everything a complex gray, which is only natural in a world filled with flawed people and clashing interests. It’s something the Goon Squad can’t hope to match, since, without solid beliefs, they’re nothing more than vagrants on a soapbox.